At least two people have been confirmed as fatal victims of an explosion at West Fertilizer in West, Texas that happened in the late evening hours Wednesday night. The small Texas town, just 20 miles outside of Waco, was completely evacuated. All 2,600 residents were asked to find a place to stay and schools have been shut down for the rest of the week.
Regardless of the evacuation order, many West residents had no choice but to leave – the concussions from the blast leveled homes, including a two-story apartment building that used to be near the fertilizer plant. Emergency personnel fear that the death toll from the plant explosion could creep as high as 60 to 70 Texans before rescue and treatment efforts are complete. Injuries are expected to rise to well over 200 people. The injuries caused by the blast are all expected to be serious, with at least 40 people already listed in critical condition at hospitals around the area.
According to officials involved in the investigation, there is danger that a second tank at the fertilizer plant may also explode. West is not out of danger yet.
An additional problem specific to the type of plant involved in the explosion – a fertilizer plant – is the potential for toxic gas to escape and lead to exposure illnesses. Anhydrous ammonia is used as a fertilizer and its fumes can be suffocating as well as lead to serious burns. Extreme exposure can be fatal.
Source: CNN, “‘Like a nuclear bomb’: Fertilizer plant blast levels homes, kills 2 in Texas town,” April 18, 2013