Disaster: 60-70 Dead in West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast

Katie Pavlich

4/18/2013 12:54:00 AM - Katie Pavlich

According to EMS Director Dr. George Smith. More from KWTX:

West EMS Director Dr. George Smith says as many as 60 or 70 people died and at least 100 were injured Wednesday night in a fertilizer plant explosion in West.

A rescuer earlier said he knew of five deaths.

West Mayor Tommy Muska said at a news conference however, that he doesn't yet know how many people were hurt or killed in the blast explosion, but said four or five firefighters are unaccounted for.

Background from AP:

A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco on Wednesday night injured dozens of people and sent flames shooting into the night sky, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin following a blast that damaged buildings for blocks in every direction.

The explosion at West Fertilizer in West, a community about 20 miles north of Waco, happened shortly before 8 p.m. and could be heard as far away as Waxahachie, 45 miles to the north.

Tommy Muska, West's mayor, said at a news conference three hours after the explosion that he didn't yet know how many people had been injured or killed. He said buildings in a five-block radius from the plant were severely damaged by the explosion.

Among the damaged buildings was the West Rest Haven Nursing Home, from which first-responders evacuated 133 patients, some in wheelchairs. "We did get there and got that taken care of," Muska said.

Information was hard to come by in the hours after the blast, with even Texas Gov. Rick Perry saying state officials were waiting for details about the extent of the damage.

"We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident," Perry said in a statement. "We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene."

Aerial footage showed fires still smoldering in the ruins of the plant and in several surrounding buildings, and people being treated for injuries on a flood-lit local football field, which had been turned into a staging area for emergency responders.

UPDATE: According to West Sheriff, more than 50 to 75 homes have been damaged. He also describes the scene as just as bad or worse than the Murrah Building after the Oklahoma City bombing. He said during a press conference an apartment building with 50 units in it has been completely destroyed. Firefighters were on the scene at the plant during an initial fire and are fearing to have been killed in the second explosion.

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UPDATE II: Town of West, Texas being evacuated.

UPDATE III: Press conference scheduled for 6 a.m central time.

 

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UPDATE IV: The blast registered as a 2.1 earthquake. Thanks to @Dawgfan on Twitter. USGS confirms.
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