TOXIC EXPLOSION RIPS THROUGH TEXAS SKIES – The sound of an explosion and a huge fireball filled the nighttime Texas sky early Wednesday evening. The devastating explosion occurred at the fertilizer plant in West, a small Texas town of around 2500 residents. A fire started in the building around 6 pm Wed. evening and despite efforts by the fire department, within the hour an explosion that equaled a 2.5 earthquake and was felt for a radius of 45 miles was seen and heard. As one resident who was about a block away reported, “It was like the whole earth shook.”
A truck with shattered windows and surrounded by debris sent flying from the explosion, as the fire continues to rage in the background
Priority for the fire department on arrival was to not only battle the blaze but to quickly evacuate residents from the area because of the toxic fumes that were being released into the air. The explosion sent flames, fiery debris and shrapnel into the air creating multiple fires, additional damage to homes and increasing the number of persons injured. A four block area around the block was totally decimated with homes being flattened by the blast while vehicles and homes further away experienced shattered windows, collapsed roofs and property damage caused by flying debris.
A secondary fire caused by flying debris
Fire, search and rescue teams worked through the night and into today locating the injured, evacuating homes and extinguishing secondary fires in the area. Joining them today were fire investigators, explosive experts, chemists and canine units. At this time, there is only speculation as to the number of deaths and injured since the numbers keep changing as crews make their way through the rubble and debris. Until the area has been thoroughly searched, any numbers would be estimates at best.
Sheriff Parnell McNamara said. “It looks like a war zone with all the debris.”
A nearby apartment building in West, Texas
The blast and effects of the explosion are being compared to the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995. In both cases, the base ingredient of the explosions was agricultural fertilizer, and as you compare the photos above and below from each blast you can see similarities in the massive damage this type of explosion/bomb can create to the immediate area. In the Oklahoma bombing, the blast occurred outside of the building rather than from within. In the case of the Texas plant explosion no foul play is suspected at this time.
The remains of the Alfred P. Murrah Building where the Oklahoma bombing occurred.
Within moments of the plant explosion, the surrounding area looked like a war zone. A third of the buildings had been reduced to rubble, with many floors flattened like pancakes. Dozens of cars were incinerated and more than 300 nearby buildings were damaged or destroyed. The blast radius reached an area of 45 miles and has affected hundreds of homes and buildings, leaving residents injured and homeless. Plans for relief efforts are underway as organizations join together to coordinate and concentrate their efforts.
As rescue and evacuation efforts cleared the area, residents and the injured were taken to the local high school stadium
As numbers of persons affected by the blast continue to climb, a major concern for fire and rescue workers are the estimated 35-40 people who are still missing and unaccounted for, including several volunteer firefighters who are listed among the missing people. As rubble of the plant and what was once homes are searched there is still hope that many of the missing will be found alive and treated at one of the three responding hospitals. It is important to note that search and rescue teams are still working and this has not yet become a recovery mission.
Satellite photo taken immediately after the blast reveals the “hot spot “ in yellow.
Most of us are familiar with satellite photos being included in our nightly weather report. It is rather unsettling to realize that the heat and blaze from the plant explosion was so intense that it registered on a passing satellite. If you still cannot grasp the significance, think of the hottest, contained fire you have ever witnessed. Do you think it could have been seen from space?
Currently ATF is running the investigation at the plant along with arson and fire experts to determine the cause and origin of the fire, and they are treating the explosion site as a crime scene until they can rule out all possibilities. This is a story that will evolve and continue to make headlines for days or weeks to come. We will bring you updated information as it is released.