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Several killed, and over 100 injured, in explosion at Texas fertiliser plant

A fertiliser plant in West, Texas, exploded following a fire – damaging buildings several blocks away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROrpKx3aIjA

(YouTube: zidyboby; explosion is featured at around 0:30)

SEVERAL PEOPLE have died, and over 100 have been injured, after a massive explosion at a fertiliser plant in Texas.

The plant at West, a in the east of the state close to Waco, exploded when a fire spread to its chemical stores at 7:50pm local time (1:50am Irish time).

Buildings several blocks away were damaged in the blast, and it is reported that residents of a nearby nursing home are among those who have been injured and trapped by rubble.

The explosion at the plant – which was based in the centre of the town, which has a population of about 2,800 – was so powerful that it registered as an earthquake of magnitude 2.1.

Dallas News reported that the plant was storage capacity for 54,000 pounds (24,500 kg) of anhydrous ammonia. By way of comparison, the 1995 bombing at Oklahoma City used 4,800 lbs of ammonium nitrate.

Firefighters are dealing with blazes at nearby buildings but are not being sent to the plant itself because of the presence of toxic materials in the air, and the possibility that other chemical stores at the plant could still explode.

The football field at a nearby high school had been converted to a triage centre to deal with the injured, but that too had to be evacuated because of its proximity to the burning plant and the airborne fumes. A grim mushroom cloud hung over the town as nightfall approached.

Town mayor Tommy Muska told the Waco Tribune that at around 5am Irish time, several firemen who were tackling the original fire at the plant are unaccounted for.

“We’ve got a lot of people who are hurt, and there’s a lot of people, I’m sure, who aren’t gonna be here tomorrow,” Muska told AP.

“We’re gonna search for everybody. We’re gonna make sure everybody’s accounted for. That’s the most important thing right now.”

Between 50 and 75 houses in the town have been damaged, and local authorities said buildings within four blocks of the plant were “totally decimated”.

Glenn Robinson, the chief executive of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Centre in nearby Waco, told CNN 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. The hospital has set up a hotline for families of the victims to get information, he said.

Information was hard to come by in the hours after the blast, and entry into the town was slow as the roads were jammed with emergency vehicles rushing in to help. Texas governor Rick Perry said state officials were among those waiting for details about the extent of the damage.

Lucy Nashed, a spokesman for Perry’s office, said personnel from several agencies were en route to West or already there, including the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, the state’s emergency management department and an incident management team.

Also responding is the state’s top urban search and rescue team, the state health department and mobile medical units. The US Chemical Safety Board said it was deploying a large investigation team to West. American Red Cross crews from across Texas also headed to the scene.

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.

More as it comes in; additional reporting by Associated Press

VIDEO: Live local TV news coverage of the Texas explosion

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Gavan Reilly

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