Official: 5 To 15 Dead In Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion - KMSP-TV

Official: 5 To 15 Dead In Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

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WEST, Texas -

A fertilizer plant fire and explosion shook the small town of West, Texas, with the force of a small earthquake Wednesday night.

We still don't have an exact number on how many people are dead or hurt, but officials say preliminary estimates put the fatalities at five to 15 with at least 160 injured – dozens critically, including children. At least five volunteer firefighters and one police officer are unaccounted for.

Officials are comparing the devastation to a war zone. At least 50 to 75 structures are said to be damaged. And officials are worried about a possible chemical leak and another explosion. They warn that the numbers of dead an injured could go higher.

A father and his daughter captured the blast on their cell phone as it lit up the night sky.

As the sun comes up, we'll get a better picture of the mass destruction caused by the blast.

This is all happening in the town of West, which is about 20 miles from Waco.

The blast happened just before 7 p.m. local time, or 8 p.m. our time. Police say a fire started at West Fertilizer about an hour earlier.

Crews began working quickly to evacuate homes nearby, including a 50-unit apartment complex and nursing home.

But as crews were fighting the fire and trying to get people out of danger, the powerful blast shook the small town, leveling buildings for blocks in every direction.

Only a skeleton now stands where that apartment complex used to be.

Witnesses say the blast was so powerful it felt like an earthquake. It was so strong it actually registered 2.5 on a seismograph in Amarillo, Texas, which is six hours away, and it could be felt from 45 miles away.

Dozens of emergency vehicles swarmed the scene. Many of the injured were initially treated at a football field that was turned into a staging area and triage for emergency responders.

But they were then moved to a community center nearby for fear of another explosion. We're told it was a frightening and chaotic scene.

Investigators are still going door to door, house to house looking for survivors, looking for people who may who may be trapped. This is still very much a search and rescue effort, although officials says at some point it will turn into a recovery operation and cadaver dogs will be brought into to search the scene.

The small town of West is shut down.  Residents are being urged to stay inside.

Witnesses on the scene say the fiery explosion was like nothing they had ever seen before, and several are comparing the blast to the Oklahoma City bombing, FOX 29's Dawn Timmeney reported from our newsroom Thursday morning.

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