Friday 31 October 2014

Up to 15 dead in Texas plant blast

Published 18/04/2013 | 04:11

Instagram photo showing smoke rising from a fertiliser plant fire in West, Texas (AP/Andy Bartee)
Emergency workers fight a house fire after a nearby fertiliser plant exploded in West, Texas (AP)
Emergency workers help locals following an explosion at a fertiliser plant near Waco, Texas (AP)

Up to 15 people have been killed in an explosion at a fertiliser plant in Texas, police said.

Between five and 15 people died and more than 160 were injured in the blast at West Fertiliser in the town of West, 80 miles south of Dallas, officials said.

The explosion left the factory a smouldering ruin, levelled buildings for blocks in every direction, and was heard as far as 45 miles away. It sent flames shooting high into the night sky, and rained burning embers, shrapnel and debris down on shocked and frightened residents.

A member of the city council, Al Vanek, said a four-block area around the explosion was "totally decimated". Other witnesses compared the scene to that of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Authorities said the plant made materials similar to that used to fuel the bomb that tore apart that city's Murrah Federal Building.

Waco police sergeant William Patrick Swanton said the death toll is only an estimate as search and rescue operations continue.

The explosion shook the ground with the strength of a small earthquake in the community of 2,800 people about 20 miles north of Waco.

Sgt Swanton said there is no indication the blast was anything other than an industrial accident.

The mayor of West, Tommy Muska, told reporters the town needs "your prayers".

"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," Mr Muska said. "We're going to search for everybody. We're going to make sure everybody's accounted for. That's the most important thing right now."

Dozens of emergency vehicles amassed at the scene in the hours after the blast, as fires continued to smoulder in the ruins of the plant and in several surrounding buildings. Aerial footage showed injured people being treated on the flood-lit sports field that had been turned into a staging area. Mr Vanek said first-responders treated victims at about half a dozen sites, and he saw several injured residents from a nursing home being treated at a community centre.

Press Association

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