Washington, August 25, 2023 – A fire erupted on August 25, 2023, at an oil refinery in St. John the Baptist Parish, in the heart of Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. Human Rights Watch has been investigating the threats to human rights associated with the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry in Cancer Alley, which local residents call an “environmental and public health emergency.

A mandatory evacuation was ordered for thousands of people living within a two-mile radius after the chemical leak and fire broke out at a storage tank at the oil refinery, sending a massive black billowing cloud of smoke and flames into the air.

According to Antonia Juhasz, senior environmental rights researcher at Human Rights Watch:

“Such events are an all-too-common and an exceptionally hazardous reality for those living and working in Cancer Alley and other fossil fuel and petrochemical ‘sacrifice zones’ worldwide, contributing to the overwhelming necessity to phase out fossil fuels. Government officials should ensure the safety of residents, provide regular updates on air and water quality, and hold those responsible to account.”

Editor’s note: The mandatory evacuation order was lifted on FriDay afternnon.