West, TX — A fertilizer plant reported a major explosion on Wednesday near Waco, Texas. Numerous injuries reported and emergency crews were ordered to bring in several ambulances.
Firefighters were called to the fertilizer plant in West, north of Waco, after an earlier fire was rekindled. The explosion was reported around 7:50 pm local time.
UPDATE 1:12 AM EDT:
D.L. Wilson of Texas Department of Public Safety spoke at a news conference late Wednesday night. Wilson confirmed that there were more than 100 people injured in the fertilizer plant explosion. He also confirmed there were casualties.
When prompted, Wilson said he didn’t know how many, but “it’s going to be a number.” The phrase is Texan for high. He added that the fire at the plant is still smoldering, but that they are focused more on getting people out.
For now, the plant is deemed unsafe and no one is allowed to go near it. There are still chemicals in the plant that could explode. More information is expected at a news conference at 6 am local time.
UPDATE 12:40 AM EDT:
Many of the missing are firefighters who were working to control the blaze at the fertilizer plant when it exploded. Officials are asking everyone to stay in their homes as they assess the situation.
Officials are also reporting 75-100 homes and businesses destroyed. More than 200 people are also reported injured. The air quality is also a concern, due to how the wind is blowing.
Responders do not anticipate any further explosions in West. Hospitals are asking that people wanting to donate blood wait until Thursday. Some media outlets have said that residents and emergency officials are worried for what they will see come sunrise. They added that some homes that were leveled had residents still inside.
The town’s mayor, Tommy Muska, has also lost his home. A press conference is expected soon.
UPDATE 11:40 PM EDT:
A rescuer reported knowing of five deaths related to the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. Meanshile, EMS Director Dr. George Smith estimated that as many as 60 to 70 people may be dead. He estimated that hundreds were injured in the incident.
Some residents reported seeing the fire at the plant before the explosion. Knowing the danger, Christy Kolacek, who lives three blocks from the plant, immediately left her home, along with family. She reported feeling the pressure build up in her ears in the moments before the explosion happened.
An information line has been set up for people looking to reach loved ones in the area. The number is: (254) 202-1100. People are advised to keep calling if they get a busy signal. There is still a concern that chemicals and unexploded tanks could cause further damage at the plant.
The video below was uploaded to YouTube and shows the moments before, during, and after the blast. Please be aware of strong language near the end of the clip.
UPDATE 11:25 PM EDT:
The explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer plant is believed to have been caused by a fire in an anhydrous ammonia tank. The fire then spread throughout the building.
Officials are still worried about a second ammonia tank. Because of this, the triage center was moved from the football field to the local community center, while all nonessential personnel have been ordered to evacuate at least one mile away from the plant.
About 60 people were taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center by 10 pm local time. There are conflicting reports of fatalities, including firefighters, though McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara could not confirm any casualties of the massive explosion. Children are among the victims, according to reports at the scene.
McNamara added that the area where the fertilizer plant exploded looked like a war zone. An approaching storm is expected to complicate the situation.
UPDATE 10:45 PM EDT:
Emergency responders are asking everyone to remain at least a mile from the fertilizer plant, in case of another explosion. The injured are being taken to West Trojans field.
Many of those injured in the blast are firefighters who were already at the fertilizer plant controlling a fire when the explosion occurred. Crystal Anthony, who serves on the West Independent School District board of trustees, added that the nursing home was in bad shape.
Anthony added that the apartment complex and school (West Middle School) were on fire. She went on to say, “We’ve been moving patients out of the nursing home and taking them to the football field and gymnastics building on Davis Street.”
The whole town is reportedly shut down and neighbors have left their homes to help out how they can. There is still no word on how many people have been injured or if there were any casualties in the fertilizer plant explosion.
UPDATE 10:25 PM EDT:
A field triage station is being set up by Hillcrest Hospital. They were told to expect 100 victims. There are so many injuries at this point that local police officers are transporting victims to the hospital in their squad cars.
Fire crews from almost every community in the area are headed to the scene of the fertilizer plant explosion. Waco firefighters and the department’s hazmat team were some of the first to respond. The Killeen Fire Department is also sending 10 firefighters and its hazmat team to assist.
Authorities were going door-to-door checking area residents. The triage station set up at the Haven and North Reagan Streets intersection was moved to Marabel Street and Meadow Drive because of potentially toxic smoke from the fire.
UPDATE 10:11 PM EDT:
Victims of the fertilizer plant explosion are being taken to two different area hospitals. One emergency dispatcher appealed for more help. She called out on the radio, “I need anybody and everybody.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety has confirmed that there were multiple injuries. At least 10 structures are on fire following the massive explosion. One source reported that a large portion of the town of West was completely leveled.
Nine military helicopters were waiting to pick up the worst explosion victims to the hospital. The town’s community hospital is located roughly four blocks from the burning plant, making it unclear if emergency responders will be able to use it or not.
The shock wave from the explosion was mistaken for an earthquake in several parts of North Texas. The town of West, Texas has a population of 2,8oo people.
UPDATE 9:58 PM EDT:
Emergency responders have called for six helicopters. They will land at the baseball field on Tokio Road, south of town. West Middle School is one building reportedly on fire after the massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in West.
The explosion also knocked out power to more than 1,000 Oncor customers in the community. Interstate 35 remained open, though scanner traffic indicated police may be working to temporarily block access to town. It is still not clear how many people were injured in the blast.
Several buildings in West, Texas were reportedly destroyed in the fertilizer plant explosion. A nearby nursing home was also damaged. A number of buildings are said to be burning as a result of the fertilizer plant explosion. Scanner traffic suggested that some residents of the nursing home, as well as a nearby apartment building, were severely injured in the blast.
A triage area was quickly established to assist the injured while medical help was on its way. There were also reports that people were trapped in both buildings. Witnesses nearby at the time of the explosion reported seeing a fireball 100 feet wide shooting into the air.
Others as far as 15 miles away felt the concussion from the explosion. Residents up to 65 miles away reported hearing the blast.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information comes in.
[Image via Twitter]