9/11 Rumor About Chemical Plant Explosion, Toxic Gas Release Goes Viral

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Americans are no strangers to the heightened national security sensitivity that’s accompanied every Sept. 11 since 2001, but this year, the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil was accompanied by an extra dose of anxiety when rumors spread across the web of a mysterious chemical plant explosion in Louisiana, which was supposedly venting toxic gas 100 miles southwest of New Orleans.

Local residents in St. Mary’s Parish, Centerville, La. reportedly received text messages Thursday that the local Columbian Chemicals Plant — owned by the fortune 500 metal and chemicals producer Aditya Birla Group — had suffered an explosion, and was releasing toxic gas near the town of more than 50,000 residents.

The contents of the emergency texts, which warned that residents as far away as Baton Rouge and New Orleans were endangered by carbon black additive chemicals, quickly spread via Twitter and Facebook.

Parish and plant officials deemed the texts a hoax in a later press release, which was distributed by the St. Mary Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security.

The rumor was helped along by a YouTube video purporting to capture video of the plant burning, which has not been verified.


Rumors grew so prolific Thursday, a Wikipedia page about the hoax was established to dispel rumors about the explosion. Officials have not commented on any subsequent investigations, and the source of the hoax texts remains a mystery.

Earlier this week an actual explosion ripped through a chemical plant located near Bremen in northwest Germany, which was heard for miles and sparked an enormous fire. The Tuesday explosion reportedly expelled toxic fumes, which forced the evacuation of thousands.

It is unknown whether the Tuesday explosion in Germany somehow prompted the similar-sounding Thursday hoax in Louisiana.

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