Fertilizer Plant Explodes Near Waco, Texas: Country Artists Share Thoughts, Prayers
The town of West, Texas -- 20 miles north of Waco -- was shaken by devastation Wednesday night (April 17) when a massive explosion occurred at a fertilizer plant around 7:50PM local time.
CNN reported early that dozens were injured and at least two confirmed dead, but city emergency management system director Dr. George Smith says that realistically, there could be as many as 60-70 casualties. By Thursday morning, that projected number had been lowered to anywhere between five and 15 deaths.
"Nothing at this point indicates we have had criminal activity, but we are not ruling that out," Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police Department explains.
Volunteer firefighters shopping at a local convenience store headed toward the plant when they saw smoke. It was roughly 10 minutes later that the explosion occurred.
Area hospitals were told to prepare for a string of 100 or more injured residents coming in, while a triage station was set up on a nearby football field. Eye witnesses say the blast caused a gigantic fireball in the sky, and there have been reports of broken windows in homes as far as five miles away, with some saying the boom could be heard 45 miles from the town. According to ABC News, 75 to 100 homes and structures near the plant were destroyed by the blast. That source has the number of injured persons at 180 -- about 20 critical or serious.
Immediate residents were told to evacuate the area, and Tommy Muska, mayor of the small Texas town, expressed concerns about the air quality due to the chemicals. Several emergency helicopters flew to the site of the fertilizer plant -- which is surrounded by many buildings, including a nursing home and middle school -- to transport the most critically injured. Hazardous material teams were also said to have been sent to the scene, however by 6AM ET Swanton said air quality was not an issue.
"We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident," Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a statement late Wednesday evening. "We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene."
More as this breaking story develops. The town of West has a population of about 2,800.
Country artists react to West, Texas plant explosion:
West has been in my backyard all my life.My heart is praying for thecommunity that we call home. #westtx
— Willie Nelson (@willienelson) April 18, 2013
Our hearts and prayers go out to the Texas town of West. Been our favorite stop since our first road trip. If you've ever been, you know.
— EliYoungBand (@EliYoungBand) April 18, 2013
Omg I just woke up and read a out the fertilizer plant in West, Tx! Y'all this is so sad. May some peace be with the families. 353
— SUNNY SWEENEY (@GettinSweenered) April 18, 2013
My God...another explosion outside of Waco....lots of love and prayers going out to the folks in West Texas.
— Heidi Newfield (@heidinewfield) April 18, 2013
p>I'm so bummed about the explosion in West, TX. To think so many fire fighters, EMS, and others died tonight just hurts my heart. Praying
— Josh Abbott (@joshabbottband) April 18, 2013
Man... Thinking about all my Texas family and friends tonight. I love y'all.
— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) April 18, 2013
Wow!! Prayers and thoughts out to everyone in West Texas....Hope everyone is ok....
— Casey Donahew Band (@caseydband) April 18, 2013
Watching the unbelievable news coming out of Waco TX.This is surely going to end up being an event with large loss of life.
— Chely Wright (@chelywright) April 18, 2013
Man... just now seeing whats going on in TX... so bad. All my love to Texas.
— Chuck Wicks (@chuckwicksmusic) April 18, 2013
Tons of friends and family in West, TX. Sad night. Sad night. Please help all you can in the coming days and weeks
— WadeBowen (@WadeBowen) April 18, 2013