WACO –West EMS Director Dr. George Smith says as many as 60 or 70 people died and at least 100 were injured Wednesday night in a fertilizer plant explosion in West.
A rescuer earlier said he knew of five deaths.
West Mayor Tommy Muska said at a news conference however, that he doesn’t yet know how many people were hurt or killed in the blast explosion, but said four or five firefighters are unaccounted for.
He said there was a fire at the West Fertilizer plant before the explosion.
To check on injured residents admitted to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center call (254) 202-1100
For family inquiries about patients at Scott & White call (888) 394-4947
Family inquiries about patients at Providence Health Center (254) 761-7200
Central Texas Urgent Care clinics in Hewitt and Lacy Lakeview will remain open all night to treat those with minor injuries
The Extraco Events Center will be setting up to take donations starting tomorrow at 9:00 am. For information call 254-776-1660
Carter Blood Care Center will accept donations beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday in Waco
HEB Pharmacy in the Woodway area is staying open all night to help accommodate West residents who may be injured and need prescriptions filled
First Baptist Church of Lott has room for anyone needing a place to stay. Call (254) 829-2321
American Red Cross crews from across Texas were sent to the site of an explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco where multiple injuries have been reported. Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster said her group is working with emergency management officials in the town of West to find a safe shelter for residents displaced from their homes.
The Aquilla ISD opened facilities for those seeking refuge. Please report to the gym entrance.
Blair’s Cove Apartments in Waco offering housing to any West residents affected by the explosion at 2425 S. 21st St. (254) 447-0810
Latham Springs Baptist Camp is open to displaced residents at 134 Private Road 223 in Aquilla
The Abbott gym is open to displaced residents
Valley mills Nursing Home has rooms available for nursing home residents if placement is needed for any of the West nursing home residents. Call 254-932-6288.
First Baptist Church of Gholson is open for anyone who needs a place to stay
Gholson ISD open for those seeking shelter
Brazos Meadows Baptist Church at 625 S. Hewitt Dr., adjacent to Castleman Creek Elementary will be open for anyone who needs a place to stay
American Legion Post 121 in Elm Mott is open for displaced residents
Sykora Family Ford in West has opened for residents who need a safe place to rest
Town Hall Estates in Hillsboro was taking in displaced residents
The Home Depot store in Bellmead will be open all night for those who need plywood, generators, etc.
Both Peas & Tots and Smarty Pants consignment stores in Waco are accepting clothing donations in all sizes for those in West
TSTC Student Recreation Center in Waco is open to take in those displaced by the explosion in West
Antioch Community Church at 501 North 20thStreet in Waco is open to displaced residents
Alliance Auto Auction between Elm Mott and West on I-35 is open to anyone needing a place to stay
Axtell High School will be taking any kind of donations at the school tomorrow! Please donate anything! The PALS organization is taking all donations and will be accepting tomorrow and Friday during school
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said state resources have been mobilized to help local authorities after the explosion. The governor released a statement late Wednesday night, saying state officials are “monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident.”
Meanwhile, emergency crews were pulling back late Wednesday night because of concerns about the possibility of a second explosion.
Emergency crews from throughout Central Texas responded just before 8 p.m. Wednesday after the first explosion at the plant in the small town north of Waco.
The explosion was reported at around 7:50 p.m. in a frantic radio call from the scene of the fire at West Fertilizer at 1471 Jerry Mashek Dr. just off Interstate 35.
The fire started in an anhydrous ammonia tank and spread to the building, authorities said.
The resulting explosion spread the fire to the Middle School and to a nearby nursing home.
The blast was felt throughout the city and as far away as Hillsboro, Whitney and Blum.
Most of the injuries resulted from debris being thrown from the blast, glass, doors and other shrapnel, authorities said.
Everyone within one mile of the fire was ordered to evacuate.
Numerous injuries were reported and multiple ambulances were requested.
About 60 people had been taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center by shortly before 10 p.m.
By 10:45 p.m. 61 injured victims had been admitted to Hillcrest, 44 of whom were in serious condition.
Scott & White said at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday it has received four patients, three at Scott & White Memorial Hospital, and one at McLane Children’s Hospital.
Another patient was en route to the children’s hospital.
Two of the four patients were in critical condition, the hospital said.
“The hospital remains open and operating while the Emergency Department staff make preparations to evaluate and treat arriving victims. As the Level 1 trauma center for the region, Scott & White Hospital – Temple is communicating and coordinating with emergency responders out of Waco to provide care for victims,” a spokesman said.
Providence Health Center in Waco had received 22 patients by 11 p.m. Wednesday.
There were reports at around 9:45 p.m. that a second fertilizer tank was on fire, but authorities said that was the only fire still burning in the town.
Because of the threat of another explosion, emergency crews were being moved from the football field to another staging area.
An approaching storm was expected to produce gusty winds overnight that should dissipate any fumes, but that will fan the flames of any fires still burning.
Several buildings were reported destroyed in the blast and a nearby nursing home was damaged.
There were reports earlier that people were trapped in the nursing home and in an apartment building.
Scanner traffic indicated that some residents of both the nursing home and apartment building were severely injured.
Children were among the injured victims, according to reports from the scene.
Two children were reported to be trapped on the second floor of the damaged apartment complex.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said the area looked like a war zone.
He could not say whether there were any deaths and did not know how many people were injured.
Department of Public Safety troopers transported some victims to hospitals in patrol cars, said Gayle Scarbrough at the DPS Communications Center in Waco.
A triage area was first established at the intersection of Haven and North Reagan Streets, but it was later moved to Marable Street and Meadow Drive because of the potentially toxic smoke from the fire.
As many as a dozen helicopters were sent to the area and were landing at West High School stadium and at least two-dozen ambulances were waiting there to transport victims to hospitals.
The staging area was later moved because of the threat of an explosion from a second burning tank.
A number of buildings were reported to be burning, some in residential areas and evacuations were underway.
Authorities were going door-to-door checking residences in the area.
West Middle School was one of the buildings reported to be on fire.
Injured victims were being taken to area hospitals.
An officer was dispatched to provide crowd control at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, which issued a call to all staffers to report.
The explosion knocked out power to a large area of the community.
Oncor’s online outage site showed more than a thousand customers without power.
Interstate 35 remained open, but a number of emergency vehicles were on the highway headed to West and from West to hospitals.
The Texas Department of Transportation advised motorists to avoid the area.
“I-35 is likely to become clogged as the emergency vehicles come and go, and as the inevitable rubbernecking begins in passing traffic,” spokeswoman Jodi Whatley said.
“Please try to use alternate routes and leave I-35 as open as possible as the ambulances try to get the injured to hospitals and then come back to help more victims. Because of the force of the explosion, many businesses, homes, and possibly a nursing home and school are destroyed or damaged. Power and phone service is out in much of the town,” she said.
Fire crews from virtually every community in the area headed to the scene.
Waco firefighters and the department’s hazmat team were among the first to respond.
The Killeen Fire Department was sending its hazmat team and 10 firefighters to assist.
A woman who was passing through West on Interstate 35 at the time of the explosion said she and her boyfriend saw a fireball 100-feet wide shoot into the air.
A man who lives 15 miles northwest of Hillsboro felt the concussion from the explosion.
Army Sgt. Rocky J. Havens said in an e-mail he felt the shock in Italy, north of Hillsboro.
Tonya Harris of Groesbeck said in an e-mail she heard the explosion.
“My husband and l were cleaning up the kitchen after supper, and heard what we thought was someone running into our house. It shook our windows and doors. We immediately ran outside looking for the worst,” she said.
Crystal Dahlman of Blum said in an e-mail, “the explosion shook and rumbled my house worse than thunder.”
Brad Smith of Waxahachie said he and his wife heard what sounded like a thunderclap.
Lydia Zimmerman of Bynum was working in the garden with her husband and daughter at the time of the explosion.
“It sounded like three bombs going off very close to us,” she said.
Gulf war veteran Paul L. Manigrasso felt the blast in Waxahachie.
“Based on my naval experience…we knew immediately what it was, but cannot believe it occurred 40 miles away,” he said.
Chris Moore was at a Wednesday night prayer service in Navarro Mills about 35 miles from West.
He said the blast rocked the church.
“We are praying for our neighbors in West right now,” he said.
Waco lawyer Walter Skip Reaves lives about 3/4 mile from the fertilizer plant.
He said the blast sounded like a bomb.
All of the windows and doors in his house were blown out, as were the windows of the rest of the homes in his neighborhood, he said.
Gary and Donna Redding felt the blast in their home in Combine just outside of Seagoville.
“We heard what sounded like thunder that rattled our storm doors and shook the house slightly for a few seconds,” they said in an e-mail.
Freshman State Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-Bryan, issued a statement expressing sympathy to victims of the blast.
“While little is still known at this time regarding details of this horrific incident, we must continue to keep all those impacted in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.
“As we continue to gather details on this tragic event, I have full confidence in our first responders and stand ready to assist in any way possible,” he said.