West Plant Explosion
Plant Explosion Leaves Several Dead and Many More Wounded in the City of West, Texas
Tragedy struck yesterday in the small town of West, 20 miles north of Waco. A plant, West Fertilizer, had a catastrophic explosion last night (April, 17th). It has been confirmed that the blast claimed at least five lives so far, with ten more people missing. There are also as many as four firefighters who are still not accounted for.
In addition, over 160 people have been hospitalized with burn injuries, broken bones, lacerations, and crushing injuries resulting from the flames, falling debris, and collapsed buildings.
It has been reported that a small fire started which spread to a tank containing fertilizer chemicals, causing an explosion seen for hundreds of yards in every direction. An estimated 54,000 lbs of anhydrous ammonia was on site at the time of the explosion. One expert commented that while this chemical burns, it does not typically explode.
The explosion, which registered as a 2.1 earthquake, had a blast radius of several hundred yards. It completely destroyed the plant and damaged 50 to 75 nearby homes and businesses, one of which was a nursing home with 133 residents. A nearby apartment building with around 50 units was also completely destroyed. The amount of destruction was compared to scenes from Iraq and the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, many saying the city now looked like a war zone.
First responders searched the leveled houses and businesses for survivors, setting up a large scale triage area for those they were able to find. Medical personnel from the surrounding areas have come to volunteer any aid they can.
Officials are also concerned with a second tank that could potentially explode, as well as potentially toxic fumes spreading throughout the town, half of which has been evacuated. There is no evidence of criminal activity at this point, but it has not been completely ruled out. It has also come to light that in 2006, the plant was cited by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for failing to obtain or qualify for a permit.
The lives of many of the people of West are forever changed by this disaster, whether they themselves or a loved one was injured or killed, their home destroyed, or place of work. Our thoughts and prayers go out to any of the victims of this tragedy and their families, as well as the rest of the community.