A massive explosion at a fertiliser plant near Waco on Wednesday night injured dozens of people and sent flames shooting into the night sky, leaving the factory a smouldering ruin following a blast that damaged buildings for blocks in every direction.
The explosion at West Fertilizer in the town of West happened shortly before 8 pm local time and could be heard as far as 72 kilometres away.
Tommy Muska, West’s Mayor, said at a news conference 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,” Mr. Muska said.
Information was hard to come by in the hours after the blast, with even Texas Governor 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,” Mr. Perry said in a statement. “We have also mobilised state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first-responders on the scene.”
More than two hours after the blast, there were still fires smouldering in what was left of the plant and others burning in nearby buildings. In aerial footage from WDFW, dozens of emergency vehicles could be seen amassed at the scene. Entry into the town of West was slow-going, as the roads were jammed with emergency vehicles rushing in to help out.
Department of Public Safety troopers were using their squad cars to transport those injured by the blast and fire at the plant in West, a community north of Waco, Gayle Scarbrough, a spokeswoman for the department’s Waco office, told television station KWTX. She said six helicopters were also en route to help out.
Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster said the group was working with emergency management officials in West to find a safe shelter for residents displaced from their homes. She said teams from Austin to Dallas and elsewhere are being sent to the community north of Waco.