Explosions rocked a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas, Wednesday evening as
firefighters were battling a fire that caused multiple injuries and left the
factory a smoldering ruin, authorities said.
The blast at the plant in West, a community north of Waco, happened shortly before 8 p.m. and could be heard as far away as Waxahachie, 45 miles north of West.
Buildings nearby were also damaged and authorities set up a staging area on the local high school's football field. Ambulances and several dozen injured could be seen being taken away or in wheelchairs as they are treated and await transport.
A hospital in Waco reported receiving at least 66 patients. "The injuries that we are seeing are very serious," said Glenn Robinson, CEO of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center. "There are a number of patients that will be going to surgery. ... It's a very, very unfortunate situation."
Robinson said he did not know how many were in critical condition. He said helicopters were en route for more of the injured. More patients were being taken to at least one other trauma center nearby, he said.
Debby Marak told the Associated Press that when she finished teaching her religion class Wednesday night, she noticed a lot of smoke coming from the area across town near the plant, which is near a nursing home. She said she drove over to see what was happening, and that when she got out of her car two boys ran toward her screaming that the authorities told them to leave because the plant was going to explode. She said she drove about a block before the blast happened.
"It was like being in a tornado," the 58-year-old said by phone.
Dani Moore, a dispatcher with the Texas Department of Public Safety, said firefighters were battling a fire at the plant when "there was an explosion ... followed by a second explosion." Moore said she had no information on the cause.
The plant is about 20 miles north of Waco and just off Interstate 35.
Television station KWTX reported one of the nearby buildings damaged was a nursing home.
The explosion knocked out power to many area customers and could be heard and felt for miles around.
Brad Smith, who lives 45 miles north of West in Waxahachie, told the station that he and his wife heard what sounded like a thunderclap.
Lydia Zimmerman told KWTX that she and her family were in Bynum, 13 miles from West, when they heard multiple blasts. "It sounded like three bombs going off," she said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Video of explosion via YouTube:
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