Explosion at West Fertilizer Plant
Live updates on the massive explosion at a chemical fertilizer plant in West, Texas just north of Waco has left at least hundreds injured and may have left dozens dead.
Updates throughout by TSM staff
6:10 p.m. CT At a press conference this evening, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott described scenes he witnessed of the devastation in West following an aerial tour of the site. Abbott described a nursing home devastated by the blast, a gymnasium roof destroyed, and the ruins of a school.
"Had this taken place during school hours," Abbott said. "There would have been mass [losses] of children."
When asked about the "appropriateness" of schools and homes next to a fertilizer plant, Abbott said "decisions were made by the people who bought those homes and built the schools [to be next to a fertilzer plant.]"
Abbott said he could not "go back and judge those decisions" at this time.
5:16 p.m. CT The Red Cross is asking people who live West who could have worried family members and loved ones in other parts of the state/country to register on its Safe and Well site. Family members can also utilize the site to search for relatives who have listed themselves as "safe and well."
3:43 p.m. CT Officials including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are holding another press conference for updates on West.
Matt Cawthon with McLennan County Sheriff said neighborhoods are devastated from the aftermath. He said the situation in the environment is volatile in and around the site of the explosion in West because there is a presence of ammonium nitrate in the air. Cawhorn said the TCEQ and the EPA are going into the site of the explosion now to determine if it is hazardous.
Jason Reyes with Texas Department of Public Safety declined to comment on the specific number of casualties at this time.
Reyes said the next press conference is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT
3:17 p.m. CT Another deceased firefighter, Morris Bridges, has reportedly been identified.
12:55 p.m. CT KTEM is reporting the first firefighter to die as a result of Wednesday's explosion is Buck Uptmor of Abbott, TX and member of the West Volunteer Fire Department.
Noon CT: Texas Governor Rick Perry is holding a press conference, with Zack Covar executive director of the TCEQ and other officials.
Perry said he was "not comfortable giving...a number" of casualties, citing family notifications and ongiong search and rescue operations.
Covar said West Fertlizer had been cited in 2006; however the plant had not been cited since then. He said the company had an "average compliance history" with the agency.
Officials said it was too early to speculate on causes or contributors to the blast.
11:50 a.m. CT According to a statement on the agency’s website, a large investigation team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to West. The CSB is an independent federal agency in charge of investigating industrial chemical accidents. The investigative team is scheduled to arrive in Texas on Thursday afternoon.
TCEQ spokesperson Andrea Morrow said the agency would be sending out an update on the situation in West soon. This station will update with the agency's statement as soon as it comes in.
11:41 a.m. CT Since the explosion, Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center has treated 101 patients, and admitted 28. Providence Health Center treated 56 people.
Scott & White treated five people. Two of patients are in critical condition, No further information about the others are available. Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas is treated nine burn victims who taken there from West.
9:13 a.m. CT The missing police officer has reportedly been found at a local hospital, being treated for injuries sustained Wednesday evening.
8:15 a.m. CT FOX News has posted a list of emergency resources available to those affected by this explosion.
6:30 a.m.CT Eight emergency responders, including six firefighters and two EMS workers, are confirmed dead this morning. Among the missing are one police officer and seven residents from a neighboring nursing home.
The explosion occurred at 7:55 PM Wednesday night as fire crews were battling a fire outside of the plant. At least 50 houses were damaged and an apartment building was destroyed as the explosion devastated a 4-to-6 block area. Tremors from the blast were felt up to 50 miles away and it measured as a 2.1-magnitude seismic event.
The fire continues to burn, but is considered under control.
So far this is being considered an industrial accident. Residents close to the scene are being evacuated and there are concerns about toxic fumes in the air. Area residents are being asked to remain inside their homes.
The neighboring town of Abbott, Texas is taking in evacuated residents to a shelter set up at the Community Center.
In 2006, the West Fertilizer plant was cited by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for failing to obtain or qualify for a permit. The plant was investigated by the agency after a resident complained about an ammonia smell.
Scott and White Hospital will open at 9 AM for those wishing to donate blood to victims.
To check on injured family members or loved ones admitted to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center call 254-202-1100. For Scott & White Hospital call 888-394-4947. For fam Providence Health Center 254-761-7200.