Fertilizer plant explosion in Texas 370.
(photo credit: CNN screenshot)
At least two people were killed and more than 100 people were injured in a fiery explosion on Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas, that damaged or destroyed numerous buildings including a nursing home, CNN reported.
"We have two EMS personnel that are dead for sure, and there may be three firefighters that are dead," CNN quoted Dr. George Smith, the emergency management system director of the city, as saying.
Fire officials said the number of casualties could rise to 60-70 dead, according to CNN.
The blast was reported at about 8 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT on Thursday) in West, a town of some 2,700 people about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Dallas and 20 miles (32 km) north of Waco.
There was no immediate official word on what sparked the explosion as emergency personnel assisted victims and doused the flames.
Residents in the area were evacuated in fear of another explosion and hazardous material teams were being rushed to the scene, CNN reported.
"What we are hearing is that there is one fertilizer tank that is still intact at the plant, and there are evacuations in place to make sure everyone gets away from the area safely in case of another explosion," CNN quoted Ben Stratmann, a spokesman for Texas State Sen. Brian Birdwell, as saying.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, D.L. Wilson, told Reuters the blast had probably caused "hundreds of casualties" and damaged many homes.
He added that a nearby nursing home collapsed from the explosion and that people were believed trapped inside.
The air in town remained thick with smoke more than two hours after the explosion, and the area around the blast site was littered with shards of wood, bricks and glass.
A Reuters reporter observed that a nearby middle school and several homes were severely burned. Dallas television station WFAA reported from helicopters that roughly a three-block area of West appeared to have been destroyed.
"It's a lot of devastation. I've never seen anything like this," said McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara. "It looks like a war zone with all the debris."
More than 100 people injured in the blast and fire were being taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, said vice president of hospital operations David Argueta.
Hillcrest CEO Glenn Robinson told CNN that the hospital was seeing "everything from orthopedic injuries to patients that are experiencing serious blood loss."
Governor Rick Perry issued a statement saying his office had "mobilized state resources to help local authorities" deal with the incident.
A White House official said the Obama administration was aware of the situation and monitoring local and state response through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.