WEST, Tex. (www.incnow.tv) -- Up to 15 are dead and at least 160 are injured after a fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded.
According to USA Today, the blast rocked the facility on Wednesday evening as firefighters were battling an onsite blaze.
Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said early Thursday morning that the death toll is only an estimate as search and rescue operations remain under way in downtown West.
Swanton says there is no indication the blast was anything other than an industrial accident, but the ATF will be investigating.
"The injuries that we are seeing are very serious,'' said Glenn Robinson, CEO of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center. "There are a number of patients that will be going to surgery. ... It's a very, very unfortunate situation.''
Texas Trooper D.L. Wilson said he expected casualty numbers to grow as emergency workers go house to house in the area. Wilson confirmed at least 50 houses were damaged and a 50-unit apartment building was decimated. Another briefing was scheduled for 10 a.m. local time.
Wilson said the damage was comparable to the destruction caused by the 1995 bomb blast that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Mayor Tommy Muska said rescuers were doing house-by-house search and rescue in a heavily damaged area around the plant. He said the explosion sent up a ball of fire.
Muska, who is also a firefighter in the small town, said there was heavy damage in a five or six block area. There is concern, he said, about chemical fumes in an area north of the plant, and he urged residents to stay indoors.
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