Texas Town Staggered By Massive Explosion

When volunteer firefighters in the city of West, Texas, about 20 miles north of Waco, arrived to battle a fire at a fertilizer plant, they encountered a disaster in the making. Steve Inskeep and David Greene have more details on the explosion that followed Wednesday night.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All this morning, we have been following the aftermath of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas last night. When volunteer firefighters in the city of West, Texas - that's about 20 miles north of Waco - first arrived to battle a fire at the plant, they encountered a disaster in the making.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're told this fire was burning at the site of a couple of storage tanks, each of which had the capacity to carry 12,000 gallons of ammonia.

GREENE: People took video of the flames from blocks away, and the cameras were still rolling when the plant exploded.

INSKEEP: D.L. Wilson, of the Texas Department of Safety, spoke with reporters early this morning.

D.L. WILSON: I can tell you I was there. I walked through the blast area. I searched some houses earlier tonight - massive, just like Iraq, just like the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City; same kind of anhydrous exploded. So you can imagine what kind of damage we're looking at there.

GREENE: Federal authorities have joined state and local officials on the scene. It is not clear yet how many people were killed in this blast. Police estimated between five and 15 people being dead. More than 160 people are believed to be injured.

Waco Police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said local officials are focused on the search for bodies.

SGT. WILLIAM PATRICK SWANTON: That will absolutely allow the fire marshals and ATF to focus on that fertilizer plant, to determine the cause of the fire and the cause of the explosion.

INSKEEP: And the damage here is extended well beyond that plant. Authorities estimate up to 75 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including a 50-unit apartment complex. Our correspondent John Burnett tells us there were fires burning in houses that were not put out until it rained this morning. A nursing home was evacuated.

GREENE: John Burnett also said - he described just an intense smell of burning chemicals hanging over the small town; and this town is clearly facing a very long struggle to recover.

INSKEEP: And we'll continue to bring you more developments from Texas.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.