Scores die in Texas fertiliser plant blast
18 April 2013, 08:56
Waco - Some 60 to 70 people were killed and hundreds were
injured by an explosion at a fertiliser plant outside Waco, Texas, local media
reported late on Wednesday, citing the local emergency manager.
The report could not be immediately verified by AFP, but
KWTX television cited West Emergency Management Services Director George Smith
as confirming the death toll.
The explosion comes as the United States was on edge as it
pieces through deadly explosions that hit the Boston marathon on Monday, followed
by letters, apparently poisoned with ricin, sent to President Barack Obama and
a US senator.
'Many people down'
Firefighters responding to the scene in West were also
injured in a secondary blast, according to radio traffic by emergency managers
being broadcast by CBS News.
"There has been an explosion on the fire scene, there
are firefighters down at this time," a dispatcher said.
A man on the scene reported that "the restroom is
severely damaged we have many people down."
Firefighters also said they were setting up a triage unit at
an apartment building where people were trapped.
The explosion at the West Fertiliser plant occurred just
before 20:00 (01:00 GMT Thursday), Waco Assistant Fire Chief Don Yeager told AFP by
The cause was not immediately known but he said it was an
anhydrous ammonia explosion.
Fire departments from nearby jurisdictions rushed to the
scene in the small town of West, north of Waco, where the blast was so powerful
that it knocked down some nearby buildings, and set fire to others.
"An explosion has ignited adjacent structures to the
plant," Yeager said.
The injured were being rushed to local hospitals.
Neighbours told local media that their windows were blown
out by the force of the explosion.
'Just like the Oklahoma City bomb'
"It was a small fire and then water got sprayed the
ammonia nitrate, and it exploded just like the Oklahoma City bomb," Jason
Shelton, a clerk at the Czech Best Western Hotel in West, told The Dallas
"I live about a thousand feet (300 metres) from it and
it blew my screen door off and my back windows. There's houses levelled that
were right next to it. We've got people injured and possibly dead."
The Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 claimed 168 lives.
Bill Bohannan, who was visiting his parents in West, near
the plant, witnessed the explosion.
"It knocked us into the car... Every house within about
four blocks is blown apart," he told the Waco Tribune-Herald.
Crystal Anthony told the paper that a nearby nursing home,
apartment complex and West Middle School had also caught fire. Anthony said she
and her daughter were almost knocked down several blocks from the explosion.
"We've been moving patients out of the nursing home and
taking them to the football field and gymnastics building on Davis
Street," she added.
19 April will be the 20th anniversary of the Waco siege, a
deadly confrontation between federal authorities and heavily armed locals
there. After a 51-day standoff, a gun battle broke out with US agents and the
Branch Davidian religious group's compound burned.
Dozens of people were killed in an incident that many
far-right groups see as a symbol of egregious US government overreach.