Over 160 Injured, Dozens Killed After Explosion in Texas

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CNN – The search for victims is underway in a small Texas town that was leveled in a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant.

Emergency crews were first called to a fire at the fertilizer plant in West, a town north of Waco last night. At around 8:50 p.m. E.T., a massive explosion occurred killing up to 15 people injuring 160 more.

Witnesses describe seeing a 100 foot wide ball of flames.  Many first responders are still missing.

The blast leveled buildings and started fires for blocks in all directions.  Officials were forced to evacuate much of the town and the FAA has set up a flight restriction over West.

"There are a lot of people that got hurt," West Mayor Tommy Muska forewarned Wednesday night. "There are a lot of people that will not be here tomorrow."

The blast was felt more than 50 miles away and measured in at a 2.1-magnitude earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey.

"It was a like a nuclear bomb went off," Muska said. "Big old mushroom cloud."

City officials believe the number of casualties could rise as high as 60 to 70 dead

"(It's) massive, just like Iraq. Just like the Murrah (Federal) Building in Oklahoma City," said D.L. Wilson of the Texas public safety department.

The exact cause of the explosion at the West fertilizer plant was not immediately known.

West is a community of about 2,800 people around 75 miles south of Dallas.

Mike Vojtko April 19, 20134:25 am

(CNN – Lateef Mungin) — Some 35 people, including 10 first responders, died in a massive explosion Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Mayor Tommy Muska said, according to USA Today.

The number included five volunteer fire fighters, four emergency responders and an off-duty fire fighter from Dallas who lived in West, the mayor told the newspaper.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings identified the off-duty fire fighter as Kenny Harris, a captain in his city’s fire department. Harris “rushed to the scene as a helper,” Rawlings said on Twitter.

Officials at news conferences in West were unwilling to give any numbers on victims. They have only confirmed there have been casualties.

Shawn Dunn April 18, 201310:00 am

(ABC News – Leezel Tanglao) Sgt. William Patrick Swanton, spokesman for the Waco police, said at a press conference that one of the missing individuals has been found, a constable who is also a firefighter. He is currently hospitalized with “pretty serious injuries.”
“We’re still missing 3-4 firefighters,” he said. “No police or EMS are missing, as far as I’m aware.”
Swanton also said that a significant area the fertilizer plant had been destroyed, and that out as far as 5 blocks homes were leveled. Part of that community is gone, he said.
A small of looting had been reported in the area, Swanton said. There are some unidentified people in the area.
“I can’t tell you the number of looters or whether they have been caught … that is a significant concern for us,” he said.
Authorities are now doing a more methodical search — under beds, under in closets.
There is no word yet on the cause of the fire, Swanton said.