All Eyes Are On West, Texas, After Fertilizer Plant Explosion

The farming town and Czech community just north of Waco, known around the state for its kolaches, reels from last nights catastrophic fire and explosion, which left countless people injured and an unknown number dead.
Thu April 18, 2013 1:30 pm
AP/Michael Ainsworth, The Dallas Morning News

(Updates below)

When news first spread of an explosion in West comma Texas, before its magnitude was really known, most Texans thought of kolaches, the pastry the town is known for. Which is why this photo, taken by an Instagram user who had stopped for gas at the beloved Czech Stop—as so many Texans traveling up and down I-35 do—really drove the horror home. 

(Instagram, Andy Pardee)

Not long after that,  this YouTube footage of a father and a child, watching what began as a fire at the West Fertilizer plant tranform into something much, much worse, spread across the Internet.

(WARNING: this is disturbing footage, both during and after the explosion. The good news is, its maker was around to put it on the Internet soon afterwards.)

(Update: The Austin American-Statesman spoke to the man who shot the footage, Derrick Hurtt).

Just two days after the explosions at the Boston Marathon, what is still presumed to be a straightforward industrial accident gripped the nation. The incident was reportedly seen, felt, and heard as far away as Waxahachie, and  registered as the equivalent of a 2.1 magnitude earthquake with the U.S. Geological Service. 

The injury toll was at least 160,  according to Kirsten Moon of the  Waco Tribune-Herald. As of 5 a.m., officials  were saying between five and fifteen people had died, but that number could rise (see update below). Those casualties would likely be plant workers or first responders to the fire, though a fifty-unit apartment building and anywhere from fiftyto sixty houses were devastated by the explosion’s impact. It was not yet known how many people might have been inside those residences. A 133-person nursing home near the plant had been mostly evacuated before impact.

As Manny Fernandez and Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times reported:

“Right now we have a tremendous amount of injuries, probably over 100 injuries at this time,” D.L. Wilson, a state trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters at a press conference early Thursday morning. “We do have confirmed fatalities,” he said, but declined to say how many because a search of the area was being conducted.

He compared the destruction to Iraq war scenes and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, an act of terrorism using explosives made from fertilizer. “I can tell you I was there, I walked through the blast area, I searched some houses earlier tonight. It was massive, just like Iraq, just like the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.”

“We’ve got a lot of people who are hurt, and there’s a lot of people, I’m sure, who aren’t gonna be here tomorrow,” West Mayor Tommy Muska told reporters, as Betsy Blaney of the Associated Press  reported.

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