Up to 70 people are feared dead and scores more are injured after a huge explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant near the town of West, Texas last night.
Dozens of homes and buildings have been destroyed and several are still ablaze after the horrific blast next to an old peoples’ home, at about 7.50pm local time.
Fire crews are desperately battling to rescue people still thought to be trapped and a number of firefighters are reported missing.
A towering plume of smoke was visible for miles around, after the explosion 20 miles north of Waco.
Texas Department of Public Safety D.L. Wilson said during a press conference at midnight that it will be some time before authorities know the full extent of the loss of life and damage.
The blast produced ground motion equivalent to that of a magnitude 2.1 earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
‘Fire officials fear that the number of casualties could rise as high as 60 to 70 dead,’ said West Emergency Medical Services director Dr George Smith.
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‘That’s a really rough number, I’m getting that figure from firefighters, we don’t know yet,’ he said. ‘We have two EMS personnel that are dead for sure, and there may be three firefighters that are dead,’ he said.
The fire broke out at the plant earlier on Wednesday evening and erupted into a huge explosion while firefighters were battling the flames.
Dozens of emergency vehicles amassed at the scene in the hours after the blast, as fires continued to smolder in the ruins of the plant and in several surrounding buildings.
Some 172 people have been hospitalized, according to ABC, 24 people in a critical state and 38 in a serious condition.