This week keeps going from bad to worse: A massive blast at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on Wednesday night injured and killed an untold number of people and forced local authorities to evacuate many residents out of fear of a second explosion. The fiery blast occurred shortly before 8 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET), but given the size of the blast and the scope of the emergency response, we may not know the exact magnitude of the damage for some time. But one thing is clear: It looks bad. Very bad.
"It's a lot of devastation. I've never seen anything like this," said McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, according to Reuters. "It looks like a war zone with all the debris." Authorities still have not been able to take a full head count, but a hospital in nearby Waco was told to prepare to treat as many as 100 people, CNN reports. A spokesman for the local fire department went one step further, suggesting to Reuters that the explosion and ensuing fire has resulted in "probably hundreds of casualties." At a midnight press conference, local police officials confirmed that there have been fatalities, although they did not provide a number.
West is about 20 miles north of Waco and 80 miles south of Dallas.
At a news conference at around 11 p.m. local time, West Mayor Tommy Muska said that buildings in at least a five-block radius of the plant were severely damaged by the explosion, including a local nursing home, from which first responders evacuated more than 130 patients, according to the Associated Press. The Waco Herald Tribune reports that firefighters were trying to put out an existing blaze at the plant when the blast occurred. Local officials told the paper that anhydrous ammonia and other components at the plant contributed to the explosion.