(WEST, Texas) — A fiery explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant in a small town north of Waco sent about 120 people to hospitals, destroyed dozens of homes and businesses and prompted widespread evacuations.
Area hospitals reported treating slightly more than 120 people injured by the blast at the plant in West, Texas. Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Gail Scarborough earlier put the number of injured near the plant even higher — 200 people, 40 of them critically.
The blast also has caused fatalities, said State Trooper D.L. Wilson, another official with the Texas Department of Public Safety, though as of 1 a.m. ET he did not immediately know how many.
“We have tremendous amount of injuries, probably over 100 injuries at this time,” Wilson said. “At this time, we do have confirmed fatalities.”
Besides the injuries, officials said homes in a radius of about five blocks around the plant were heavily damaged — perhaps 75 homes or more.
Witnesses reported heavy damage to a nursing home, a middle school and an apartment complex in the area.
“It’s total chaos,” West City Councilwoman Cheryl Marak said, according to ABC News Radio. “There’s ambulances and fire trucks and police cars from everywhere.”
An official with Hill Regional Hospital in Hillsboro, Texas, reported the facility treated 66 patients, 38 with serious injuries.
Baptist Hillcrest Medical Center in Waco had treated 29 wounded, said the center’s CEO, Brett Esrock, and was expecting 20 more.
“They are coming in ambulances cars, vans, pretty much anything,” Esrock said.
Most of Baptist Hillcrest’s patients had minor-to-moderate injuries such as cuts, abrasions, broken bones and respiratory distress — though there was at least one critical injury, Esrock said.
Another patient was being treated at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the hospital said.
Marak told ABC News that the blast at the plant approximately 2 1/2 blocks from her home was so massive it killed her pet dog, and destroyed her house and those around it.
“With the explosions, the whole street lifted up,” she told ABC News. “It was like a massive bomb went off. It demolished both my houses, my mother’s and mine.”
“I think everything around us is pretty much just gone,” she added, according to ABC News Radio.
Keith Williams, a local resident, said his house also was completely destroyed, according to ABC News Radio.
“All the ceilings are out,” Williams said. “The windows are out. The brick’s knocked off the house. My big garage out back is half blowed in.”
He also saw “people with all their houses tore up across the street from me, on each side of me.”
The West Fertilizer Plant exploded around 8 p.m. local time, and there were subsequent explosions around 10 p.m., ABC News affiliate WFAA reported. The cause of the explosions was unconfirmed, but a dispatcher was heard warning crews to move away from chemicals in unexploded tanks.
The blast registered as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Wilson described the initial blast as “massive — just like Iraq, just like the Murray Building in Oklahoma City. The same kind of hydrous exploded, so you can imagine what kind of damage we’re looking at.”
Firefighters initially went to the scene of a structure fire at the plant.
“It was smoldering still and it still is active,” Wilson said in the early morning hours. “You know other ingredients [are] at the facility, so we don’t want that to explode again. So right now we can’t get firefighters in there. We’re worried about people right now, not property.”
“We’re gonna go back in and do another house-to-house search and see if anybody else, victims, are in the houses,” Wilson added. “That’s going to be going on all night.”
The town of West has a population of about 2,800.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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