WEST, TEXAS (KWKT) — Dozens may be dead following a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, following a Wednesday evening blast, sending its residents fleeing for safety.
The explosion happened around 8:00 p.m. at West Fertilizer, Inc. A triage was initially set up at a nearby high school football field, but they were later moved from the football field to a location six blocks away for fear of a second explosion.
The entire city of West has been evacuated due to fears from authorities of a second explosion, and West Independent School District has informed KWKT-TV in Waco via Twitter that the schools will be closed until further notice.
A witness caught the explosion on camera (see above).
The Texas Department of Public Safety estimates that 75-100 houses and businesses have been destroyed in a two-block radius of the plant. Up to 1,000 people are without power in the area.
During first reports at the scene, West EMS director Dr. George Smith estimated 60-70 people have been killed. Since that time, several firefighters still are missing after Wednesday's fire and subsequent blast at the fertilizer plant, said Waco Police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton on Thursday morning. A law enforcement official who had been missing after the blast has been accounted for, and is in a hospital in critical condition, Swanton told the media present. Hundreds more are injured.
According to Swanton, the death toll currently ranges anywhere from five to 15. Around 160 people have been reported injured.
West Mayor Tommy Muska said 50 to 60 houses in a five-block area were heavily damaged.
Aircrafts flying below 3,000 feet high have been banned Wednesday night from going within a 3-mile radius of West.
Governor Rick Perry issued the following statement following the explosion: "We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident. 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."
The blast was so strong, it registered as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
West is a community of around 2,800 people, about 75 miles south of Dallas and 120 miles north of Austin.
According to reports, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website shows West Fertilizer had a complaint filed against it in 2006 for the smell of ammonia.
A hotline has been set up for an people looking for loved ones possibly injured in the explosion, (254) 202-1100.