Fertilizer Plant Explosion: Video Of West Texas Blast; Over 100 Injured, Dozens Feared Dead
Only a few days after the Boston marathon bombins, West, Texas, experienced a similar tragedy on Wednesday when an explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant.
The initial totals for the explosion include between five and fifteen dead and more than 100 injured. Six firefighters who attempted to fight the blast and two paramedics are confirmed dead and seven nursing home residents are missing as of early Thursday morning. One police officer has also been reported missing.
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Emergency crews from throughout Central Texas responded to the explosion at West Fertilizer after a frantic call was made reporting the explosion. The fire spread to a local middle school as well as nursing home that near the plant. An evacuation was ordered for those who lived within one mile of the blast. According to a member of the West City Council Al Vanek, the explosion "totally decimated" a four-block area around the plant, which witnesses around the area compared to a scene from the Iraq War and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
"We've got a lot of people who are hurt and there's a lot of people, I'm sure, who aren't gonna be here tomorrow," said West mayor Tommy Muska to reporters. "We're gonna search for everybody. We're gonna make sure everybody's accounted for. That's the most important thing right now."
Hours after the blast, residents of West, a town of 2,800, walked the streets looking for shelter and a place to stay. Julie Zahirniko was at the local school's playground with her son when the explosion occurred. The impact of the explosion threw her son four feet into the air and broke his ribs.
"The fire was so high," said Zahirniko, who said the school's roof lifted in the air. "It was just as loud as it could be. The ground and everything was shaking."
The main fire was controlled by 11 p.m. Wednesday night but residents were told to stay away due to fear of possible other explosions and ammonia leaks from the remnants of the plant. A series of smaller fires were still being fought throughout the night.
A spokeswoman for Texas Governor Rick Perry said the state sent personnel to help with the recovery effort in West. Among those in West is the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality. The agency cited the fertilizer plants in 2006 for failing to obtain or to qualify for a permit. This was after a complaint was logged from a resident after they reported a strong smell of ammonia coming from the plant.
The clean-up and recovery effort could be affected on Thursday as the forecast is calling for winds in excess of 35 miles per hour. CNN meteorologist Jennifer Delgado believes that a wind that strong could move some the smaller fires that are still burning. Along with wind, lighting and hail is also a possibility.
West is about 75 miles south of Dallas and 120 miles north of Austin. It Is referred to as "the Czech point of central Texas" due to the large number Czech immigrants that came to the town in the 1880's.
Here is what the explosion looked and sounded like:
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