Texas Area Rattled After Fertilizer Plant Explosion

A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco on Wednesday injured dozens of people and killed an unknown number of others. Authorities say it will be some time before they know the full extent of the loss of life.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, we are learning more this morning about the fertilizer plant that exploded last night, in a tiny city in Texas. At this hour, authorities are still searching for possible survivors. This is in the city of West - that's about 20 miles north of Waco. The blast there was so massive, it registered as a small earthquake.

Sgt. William Patrick Swanton, from the police force in nearby Waco, just spoke about the damage in the surrounding area.

WILLIAM PATRICK SWANTON: Fifty to 75 homes; numerous businesses; an apartment complex - a 50-unit apartment complex; lots of cars, vehicle damage; traditional. concussion-type damage; some homes leveled, some have windows broken out.

GREENE: Sgt. Swanton also told us that while fires are still burning at the plant, they are under control. And this is important - authorities do not believe there's any risk of more explosions.

SWANTON: The town is secure. There are plenty of law-enforcement officials that are stationed around the town. There will have to be some relief, at some point, because people can't stay here forever.

GREENE: Now, at this point, the death toll remains uncertain. Authorities have estimated between five and 15 people were killed, and more than 160 injured. The blast was set off by a fire at the plant. Firefighters who went in to battle that initial blaze are among the missing. Here again, Sgt. Swanton.

SWANTON: Those of you that have asked me earlier about the numbers, I don't know. It is a volunteer fire department, meaning that they probably have a very large contingent of people that are willing to risk their life for their neighbors and their community, at the phone call.

GREENE: This is a community that will be going through a long recovery. We will continue to bring you updates on this story throughout the day here at NPR, including later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, and also online at our website, npr.org.

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