Texas: Blast at fertilizer plant causes devastation

Firefighters check a destroyed apartment complex near the fertilizer plant that exploded earlier in

Firefighters check a destroyed apartment complex near the fertilizer plant that exploded earlier in West, Texas, in this photo made early Thursday, April 18, 2013. (AP Photo/LM Otero) - Credit: AP

A NUMBER of people have been killed in a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas.

State Department of Public Safety spokesman DL Wilson said it will be some time before authorities know the full extent of the loss of life and damage caused by the blast at the plant in West, about 20 miles north of Waco.

The explosion at West Fertilizer happened shortly before 8pm local time, could be heard 45 miles away and damaged buildings over a wide area.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said state officials were waiting for full details about the extent of the damage.

“We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident,” he said in a statement.

“We have also mobilised state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene.”

But aerial footage showed fires still smouldering in the ruins of the plant and in several surrounding buildings, and people being treated for injuries on the floodlit local football field, which had been turned into a staging area for emergency crews.

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Glenn Robinson, the chief executive of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Centre in Waco, told CNN that his hospital had received 66 injured people for treatment, including 38 who were seriously hurt.

He said the injuries included blast injuries, orthopaedic injuries, large wounds and a lot of lacerations and cuts, and the hospital had set up a hotline for families of the victims to get information.

More than two hours after the blast, there were still fires smouldering in what was left of the plant and others burning in nearby buildings.

Department of Public Safety troopers were using their squad cars to transport those injured by the blast, Gayle Scarbrough, a spokeswoman for the department’s Waco office, told television station KWTX.

She said six helicopters were also en route to help out.

American Red Cross crews from across Texas were being sent to the site, the organisation said.

Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster said the group was working with emergency management officials in West to find a safe shelter for residents displaced from their homes.

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