The town of West, Texas -- 20 miles north of Waco -- was shaken by devastation Wednesday night (April 17) when a massive explosion occurred at a fertilizer plant around 7:50PM local time.

CNN reported early that dozens were injured and at least two confirmed dead, but city emergency management system director Dr. George Smith says that realistically, there could be as many as 60-70 casualties. By Thursday morning, that projected number had been lowered to anywhere between five and 15 deaths.

"Nothing at this point indicates we have had criminal activity, but we are not ruling that out," Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police Department explains.

Volunteer firefighters shopping at a local convenience store headed toward the plant when they saw smoke. It was roughly 10 minutes later that the explosion occurred.

Area hospitals were told to prepare for a string of 100 or more injured residents coming in, while a triage station was set up on a nearby football field. Eye witnesses say the blast caused a gigantic fireball in the sky, and there have been reports of broken windows in homes as far as five miles away, with some saying the boom could be heard 45 miles from the town. According to ABC News, 75 to 100 homes and structures near the plant were destroyed by the blast. That source has the number of injured persons at 180 -- about 20 critical or serious.

Immediate residents were told to evacuate the area, and Tommy Muska, mayor of the small Texas town, expressed concerns about the air quality due to the chemicals. Several emergency helicopters flew to the site of the fertilizer plant -- which is surrounded by many buildings, including a nursing home and middle school -- to transport the most critically injured. Hazardous material teams were also said to have been sent to the scene, however by 6AM ET Swanton said air quality was not an issue.

"We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident," Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a statement late Wednesday evening. "We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene."

More as this breaking story develops. The town of West has a population of about 2,800.

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