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Apocalypse in smalltown Texas: dozens feared dead in plant explosion

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The death toll is expected to climb after a fertilizer plant explosion near Waco, Texas. Authorities fear that as many as five to 15 people may have been killed after the West Fertilizer Company exploded yesterday. As many as 100 people may have been wounded.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Surrounding buildings were destroyed in the blast. A school and nearby nursing home collapsed in the conflagration, and many people are feared trapped under the debris at the nursing home.

Authorities are conducting house-to-house searches. The number of fatalities would not be established until after daylight.

"The main concern right now is that wind gusts will have changed directions and that possibility of ammonia and other kinds of toxic fumes will endanger people in the other half of the town which has not yet been evacuated," a reporter at the scene said.

Five or six volunteer firefighters who were among the first on the scene in the blast zone were unaccounted for, according to West Mayor Tommy Muska. All residents have been evacuated and are in safe locations.

Spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety Dean Wilson said that 50 to 75 houses were damaged by the explosion and the resultant fire. A nearby 50-unit apartment complex had reportedly been reduced to "a skeleton standing up."

It will be some time before authorities can put a personal and dollar amount to the devastation wreaked on the Texas town of West, about 18 miles north of Waco.

A father of two who lives a mile away from the plant, said he heard fire trucks heading towards the facility five minutes before the explosion. He says he felt the concussion from the blast as he stood on his front porch.

"My windows started rattling and my kids screaming," he said. "The screen door hit me in the forehead ... and all the screens blew off my windows."

Tommy Muska, West's mayor, said buildings in a five-block radius from the plant were severely damaged by the explosion.

Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco reported treating 66 patients, including children, for injuries including lacerations, burns and broken bones.

"We are seeing a lot of lacerations and orthopedic-type injuries ... things you would expect in an explosion," Vice President of Hospital Operations David Argueta said.

Nine people suffered burns had been transferred to the Parkland Hospital in Dallas. A third hospital, Providence Health Center, reported receiving more than 30 patients from the disaster.

The air in West remains thick with smoke more than two hours after the explosion, and the area around the blast site was littered with shards of wood, bricks and glass.

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