Officials said the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas has left between five and 15 people dead, according to reports. At least 160 people were injured.
“Six firefighters and two paramedics are confirmed dead and seven nursing home residents were missing,” reported KWTX, citing West EMS Director Dr. George Smith, who also said as many as 60 or 70 people may have died. Officials said they were struggling to tally casualties.
They also stressed that the estimates are preliminary because rescue crews still have many areas of damage to go through.
“There are homes leveled. There are businesses leveled,” Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton said in a news briefing early Thursday. “There is massive devastation in the downtown West business area.”
West Mayor Tommy Muska said 50 to 60 homes within a five block radius of the factory were heavily damaged. A nearby rest home was being evacuated at the time of the blast; its residents have all been brought to a safe location, Muska said.
Officials are treating the site as a crime scene:
“We are not indicating that it is a crime, but we don’t know,” Swanton said. “What that means to us is that until we know that it is an industrial accident, we will work it as a crime scene. ATF [the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] is conducting the main investigation.”
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