Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Fatalities, injuries after powerful fertilizer plant explosion in central Texas

Fatalities, injuries after powerful fertilizer plant explosion in central Texas, A powerful fertilizer plant explosion Wednesday night has reportedly caused widespread damage in central Texas with multiple fatalities and injuries.

KWTX reported the explosion occurred around 7:50 p.m. CDT Wednesday as firefighters were battling a small fire in an anhydrous ammonia tank at the West Fertilizer Co. in the town of West, about 19 miles north of Waco.

Authorities said the fire spread to the building and some nearby chemicals, resulting in the powerful explosion that spread the fire to a nearby middle school, nursing home and multiple homes.

There were reports of people trapped in a nursing home and in an apartment building.

"There was a huge shock wave," said Mark Licknovsky who works at the Czech Stop, less than one mile away on Interstate 35. "That's when we knew something was serious."

Structures and homes within a four mile block of the explosion were either leveled or severely damaged, according to reports. The explosion also caused a power outage to a wide area of the community. All gas utilities were turned off to the area as a precaution.

West EMS Director Dr. George Smith to KWTX earlier Wednesday night that as many as 60 or 70 people died in the blast, but Department of Public Safety spokesman D.L. Wilson said during a news conference late Wednesday night the number of dead is unknown.

Firefighters were reported "down" as a result of the explosion and more than 100 were injured.

Most of the injuries resulted from debris being thrown from the blast, glass, doors and other shrapnel, authorities said.

Spokesperson Gayle Scarbrough for the Department of Public Safety said troopers brought some of the victims to hospitals in patrol cars.

Environmental concerns from chemical fumes steaming from the fertilizer plant fire prompted officials to evacuate the entire town and surrounding areas until further notice.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he is aware of the explosion, a spokesman said, and was working to get resources into the area.

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