Dozens feared dead, injured in Texas fertiliser plant blast

Rome. A huge explosion at a fertiliser plant in a Texan town near Waco killed an unknown number of people and injured scores more on Wednesday.
A man is silhouetted by blaze ravaging a home in the vicinity of the Waco blast zone. There were no immediate official comments on what may have sparked the fire or what led to the mas....
A man is silhouetted by blaze ravaging a home in the vicinity of the Waco blast zone. There were no immediate official comments on what may have sparked the fire or what led to the mas....

Rome. A huge explosion at a fertiliser plant in a Texan town near Waco killed an unknown number of people and injured scores more on Wednesday.

The blast, which sent up a ball of fire into the air and could be heard 70 kilometres away, levelled dozens of nearby homes.

“We do have confirmed fatalities,” Texas Public Safety Department spokesman D.L. Wilson said at a media briefing. “The number is not current yet. It could go up by the minute.”

The explosion in West, a town whose population is less than 3,000, occurred around 8pm local time. Several amateur videos on the Web show the deafening blast was preceded by a large fire.

West Mayor Tommy Muska, who also belongs to the local fire department, told reporters that five or six fire fighters on the scene remained unaccounted for.

Muska said the fire brigade went to the plant to fight a fire about 6:30pm, and the blast that followed knocked off his fire helmet and blew out the doors and windows of his nearby home.

“We’ve got a lot of people injured, and there’s a lot of people, I’m sure, who aren’t going to be here tomorrow,” Muska said. “We’re going to search for everybody. That’s the most important thing right now.”

Four-block radius flattened

A member of the city council, Al Vanek, said a four-block area around the explosion was “totally decimated,” while mayor Muska estimated that between 60 and 80 homes had been destroyed.

Other homes in West were damaged by the blast from the explosion and a fire that followed. Only the metal skeleton frame of a nearby 50-unit apartment complex had been left standing.

Wilson said 133 people had been evacuated from the badly damaged nursing home, but did not offer information about how many of them were hurt. A nearby middle school was badly burned.

Local authorities said much of the town’s centre had been evacuated, and that residences nearest the explosion had been flattened. Because winds picked up later in the evening, they feared more people would have to be evacuated.

Hillcrest Baptist Medical Centre in Waco reported treating 66 patients, including children, for injuries such as lacerations, burns and broken bones, according to Reuters.

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