It is not yet clear how many have died, but as a fireball leaped into the sky, officials said last night’s explosion as a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas leveled homes within a two-block radius -- and the death toll is rising.
The West Fertilizer Plant, located about miles north of Waco, went up in flames at about 8:50 p.m. Wednesday night.
Up to 15 buildings were destroyed, and another 50 were badly damaged, emergency management system director Dr. George Smith told CNN.
Fire officials estimated the death toll could reach as high as 60 to 70 people. At least two emergency medical service (EMS) personnel were known to be dead, and three firefighters were feared to have joined them.
“It was like a bomb went off,” said Barry Murry, who lives about a mile from the plant. “There were emergency vehicles everywhere. It has been overwhelming.”
Officials are concerned that another fertilizer tank, as yet intact, may still explode. For that reason, residents are being kept from the area.
Firefighters have expressed special concern over the anhydrous ammonia used in the plant.
Anydrous ammonia is a gas with suffocating fumes, and is used as a fertilizer. It can cause severe burns if combined with water in the human body. In fact, exposure to high concentrations of the gas can cause death.
It is one of the reasons the State of Israel is so cautious about allowing fertilizer into the Gaza region.
The substance that can be so helpful in nurturing plants and growing food can also cause death, and is used by terrorists as an explosive component in bombs and rockets, as becomes obvious in the video shown above.
Roadblocks have been set up around the area, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set a flight restriction over the town, because the scene is so dangerous.
Schools have been closed for the rest of the week, but as the town’s Mayor Tommy Muksa told CNN, “This is not the end of the world. This is big ‘ol cut that we got across our hearts right now. But we are strong. We will rebuild.”