West Texas, explosion injures more than 100; many feared dead
A massive explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas, injuring more than 100 and leaving many feared dead.
Authorities were bracing to find more victims in collapsed buildings, which rescuers could not approach because of the raging flames and dangerous chemicals.
The blast happened about 8 p.m. in West, a town of 2,800 about 20 miles north of Waco. It was unclear what had triggered it.
Mayor Tommy Muska, who is a volunteer firefighter, told CNN that he was responding to the blaze and was two blocks away from the plant when it exploded.
"I've just never seen an explosion like that before. It was just a ball of fire," he said. "It looked like a nuclear bomb went off; it was just a big old mushroom cloud."
D.L. Wilson, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at least 100 people had been injured and an unknown number of people had been killed. As many as 75 houses were damaged and a 50-unit apartment building looked like a "skeleton standing up," he said.
5:45 a.m. ET: Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the Waco, Texas, Police Department estimated 5 to 15 fatalities from the fertilizer plant explosion.
5:23 a.m. ET: Pope Francis tweeted on his official Twitter account, “Please join me in praying for the victims of the explosion in Texas and their families.”
4: 11 a.m. ET: ABC Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser says a continuing danger from the Texas fertilizer plant explosion and fire is exposure to ammonia.
“What you see with high level ammonia exposure is damage to your eyes, to your throat, to your nose, to your esophagus when you swallow,” Besser told ABC News Radio. “A blast that’s going in one direction, if you get a change in the wind, it can come to another neighborhood and be affected.”
3:52 a.m. ET: ABC News has confirmed there are a total of 179 people hospitalized with 10 additional people in triage. At least 24 are in critical condition, nine of which are burn victims sent to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
At least 38 people are in serious condition.
Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco: David Argueta, vice president of operations, says they currently have over 100 patients with lacerations, orthopedic and burn injuries. There are 12 people in surgery or have been admitted that are critical. More than 38 are seriously injured, but no fatalities have been reported.
Providence Healthcare Network in Waco: Spokesperson Heather Beck says they have currently treated 65 patients. Of the 65 patients, 12 have patients have broken bones, burns and head injuries. One patient is in critical condition.
3:38 a.m. ET: Sgt. William Patrick Swanton, spokesman for the Waco police expressed a concern of new explosions or leaks of ammonia from the plant’s ruins.
2:58 a.m. ET: After hearing firefighters were down, George Willoughby, a police officer in a neighboring town, rushed to help the injured.
“I wasn’t here (in West). I was in another town but yeah we felt up it (explosion) up there too,” Willoughby told ABC News Radio.
2:45 a.m. ET: A team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) will be heading to the scene of the West Fertilizer Plant explosion, according to a CSB news release. They are expected to arrive Thursday afternoon.
2:24 a.m. ET: Jonnie Payne of Aderhold Funeral Home in West, Texas told ABC News that she has not “received any calls as of yet about fatalities.” She said when the explosi0n happened her “whole house shook.”
“My son went out there to check on what happened and was injured in the explosion. He’s now in a hospital in Waco with a broken collarbone,” she said.
2:10 a.m. ET: There are a total of 172 people confirmed hospitalized with 23 more people en route/to be admitted. At least 24 people are in critical condition and at 38-40 people are in serious condition. Here is the breakdown from each area hospital:
Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco: Hospital officials said they have more than 100 patients — 101 registered but are currently assessing around 20 in triage area and are expecting another wave. They are seeing lots of patients with lacerations, orthopedic injuries and a few burns. Nine severely burned patients have been directly sent to Parkland hospital burn center in Dallas. They are reporting no fatalities.
Providence Healthcare Network in Waco: Hospital officials said they have treated 58 patients. They are in the process of triaging three. No word yet on whether they will get another wave, but are prepared. At least one patient is in critical condition Most of the injuries are moderate—broken bones, cuts, abrasions, scrapes, respiratory distress—most of these injuries were caused by flying glass or people knocked down by the force of the blast, according to hospital spokeswoman Heather Beck.
Hill Regional Hospital: Unclear
Parkland Hospital in Dallas: Hospital officials said they have nine severe burn patients.
Scott & White Memorial in Temple: Hospital officials said they received four patients, three at Scott & White Memorial Hospital, and one at McLane Children’s Hospital. Another patient is in route to McLane Children’s. At least two of the four patients are listed in critical condition at this time.
The Blood Donation Center will stay open until 2:30 a.m. to allow residents to come in and donate. The donors can get to the Blood Donation Center by coming in the main hospital entrance at 2401 S. 31st Street, Temple.
2:03 a.m. ET: ABC News’ Steve Osunsami is at a triage center in West, Texas: “As we drove into town we ran into firefighters who were getting gassed up outside of town who tell us the fire is still burning. It’s under control. But it’s still burning.”
1:43 a.m. ET: West Mayor Tommy Muska said in a news conference said they are concerned about the wind – which they expect to change direction about 3 a.m.
Muska told residents to stay in inside because of the hydrous gas that is still in the air.
1:25 a.m. ET: The explosion registered as 2.1 magnitude quake according the USGS. Residents about 30 miles away in the town of Buffford told ABC News that they felt the quake.
1:21 a.m. ET: VIDEO: Homes and business were completely destroyed around the West, Texas, fertilizer plant.
1:09 a.m. ET: Texas Department of Public Safety trooper D.L. Wilson said in a short news conference that there are more than 100 injuries with fatalities confirmed but did not specify how many deaths. Officials are searching for more people and are doing a house by house search. About 133 people were evacuated from a nursing home. About half the town has been evacuated. Between 50-75 buildings were destroyed or damaged.
“Massive. Just like Iraq. Just like the Murray Building in Oklahoma City… So you can imagine what kind of damage we’re looking at,” Wilson said in describing the blast.
12:53 a.m. ET: Blood drives are planned for Thursday in Texas. Linda Goelzer of Carter Blood Care, the primary blood support service supporting more 58 counties, largest blood provider in Texas told ABC News the people in the community of West are “heart of gold people, like a Norman Rockwell painting.”
“The whole town is being evacuated. We had our blood supply pretty well stocked in Waco as of today but now we are sending more than 300 units of blood from Dallas Fort Worth down to Waco, that’s where patients are going. Many are being care-flighted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas for treatment at their burn center,” Goelzer said.
“Tonight our message to our donors is don’t everybody come at once, we will have patients for who knows how long who will be needing blood. Especially O-negative are needed, universal donor, will likely be expended tonight. What we tell people is that the blood helping people tonight is what’s already on the shelves. What we’ll need most is for consistency. We have blood drives everyday and we will have them tomorrow, we just don’t want people flooding in, in droves, like they did after 9/11. We’re asking our regular donors to keep coming throughout the week because we expect there will be many survivors.”
12:33 a.m. ET: At least 124 people hospitalized, with one hospital telling us that 20 more are on the way. Of those, 38 considered serious.
Map locates the fertilizer plant that exploded April 17, 2013, in West, Texas.
With smoke rising in the distance, a law enformcement officer runs a check point at the perimeter about half a mile from the West Fertilizer Company on April 18, 2013 in West, Texas after a massive explosion at the fertilizer company. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A fire is seen following an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas,
on April 17, 2013. (Courtesy DFW Scanner)
A mushroom cloud is seen following an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on April 17, 2013. (DFW Scanner)
A person looks on as emergency workers fight a house fire after a nearby fertilizer plant exploded on April 17, 2013, in West, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald/AP Photo)
Elderly persons from a nearby nursing home are triaged in a parking lot before being moved to a school stadium following a fertilizer plant explosion on April 17, 2013, in West, Texas. The explosion near Waco injured dozens of people and sent flames shooting high into the night sky, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin and causing major damage to surrounding buildings.
(Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald/AP Photo)
Emergency workers evacuate elderly from a damaged nursing home following an explosion at a fertilizer plant on April 17, 2013, in West, Texas. An explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco caused numerous injuries and sent flames shooting high into the night sky. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald/AP Photo)
A fire burns at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas after an explosion on April 17, 2013. (Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News/AP Photo)
Ambulances assemble after an explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant on April 17, 2013. (WFAA/ABC News)
An emergency worker walks through damaged apartment building following a fertilizer plant explosion on April 17, 2013, in West, Texas. An explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco injured dozens of people and sent flames shooting high into the night sky, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin and causing major damage to surrounding buildings.
(Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald/AP Photo)
Rescue workers pass a damaged apartment complex after a nearby fertilizer plant exploded Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in West, Texas.
(Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald/AP Photo)
A fire still burns in a apartment complex destroyed near a fertilizer plant that exploded earlier in West, Texas, in this photo made early in the morning of April 18, 2013. (LM Otero/AP Photo)
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Description: West, Texas, explosion injures more than 100; many feared dead