WEST, TEXAS–A giant explosion ripped through a Texas fertilizer plant in the small town of West Wednesday night, injuring what officials say could be hundreds of people, killing an undetermined number of people, and destroying dozens of homes in a five- to six-block radius. The blast registered as 2.1-magnitude quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and was felt 70 miles away.
“We need your prayers,” West Mayor Tommy Muska said in a news conference Wednesday night. “There’s a lot of people that are hurt. And there’s a lot of people that I’m sure are not going to be here tomorrow.” The Mayor said that the blast blew his hat off and that he felt the explosion before he heard it.
“I went by my house and it’s pretty much a mess,” said Mr. Muska, adding that the windows and doors had been blown out by the blast.
The explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Plant, about 18 miles north of Waco, just before 8 p.m. CST. Pictures and video of the town show it overshadowed by a giant fireball that Mr. Muska likened to a nuclear mushroom cloud. The blast sent toxic anhydrous ammonia fumes into the air in the town of less than 2,700 people, damaging and destroying nearly a hundred homes.
A nursing home near the plant reportedly collapsed with people inside and an apartment complex received serious damage. A resident of the town told MSNBC that the blast was so powerful that it ripped the roof off a Sonic restaurant on the opposite side of town. She stressed that the damage was “everywhere.”
Authorities feared there was one fertilizer tank left intact inside the plant that could set off another explosion. Residents were being evacuated Wednesday night in case of additional explosions. Firefighters fought the blaze for three hours before getting it under control.
Mr. Muska said that volunteer firefighters went to the West Fertilizer Plant to fight a fire that broke out there about a half hour before the massive explosion. Authorities feared for a number of the firefighters missing.