West TX Mayor Tommy Muska: 50-60 Homes Damaged in the Fertilizer Plant Explosion

TEXAS FERTILIZER PLANT EXPLOSION HORROR:  West Mayor Tommy Muska said approximately 50-60 houses in a five-block radius from the fertilizer plant were damaged. A nursing home had evacuated and all patients were removed. There are no exact number of casualties at this time. Businesses have also been leveled in this small town of over 3,000 residents.

Tommy Muska said over 160 people were taken to area hospitals. A check of the neighborhood continues for those missing. A line will be set up at the West Community later today. There will be another press conference at 5 p.m.  There are reports the area looks like a war zone. Some said it even sounded as though a bomb went off. Buildings housing businesses, homes, schools and apartments are gone.

The numbers are fluid with search and rescue going on. News reports are that five firefighters are unaccounted for. The White House is aware and monitoring this situation. It is ironic that the fertilizer plant explosion occurred days before the anniversary of the ATF siege with the Branch Davidian cult in Waco ended April 19, 1983, with 76 men, women and children, including sect leader David Koresh dead.

There is no word that the fertilizer plant explosion was criminal, but Mayor Tommy Muska previously said he could not be sure. West is located near Waco. It was so powerful, it registered as an earthquake that measured 2.1 on the Richter scale.

West Fertilizer was cited in 2006 for failing to obtain or qualify for a permit.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated the plant after receiving a complaint June 9 of a strong ammonia smell.

More from the Waco Tribune on the West Fertilizer plant explosion:

Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton at about 4:30 a.m. said officials are confirming between five and 15 people were killed in the explosion, and more than 160 people were injured. Swanton said the severity of the injuries varied widely.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been called in to investigate the explosion, according to Swanton, who added that any deaths cause by the explosion will be investigated by the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office.

“I have been given no indication that this was anything but an accidental fire,” Swanton said.

What’s problematic in the fertilizer plant explosion is that anhydrous ammonia (without water).   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes it as a pungent gas with suffocating fumes that is used in fertilizers. It can be deadly in high concentrations. It can cause rapid dehydration and severe burns if it combines with water in the body. It’s ironic that one of the worst disasters in U.S. history involving a form of ammonia occurred on a ship loaded with ammonium nitrate that caught fire while docked in Texas City, TX, on April 16, 1947. That explosion damaged more than 1,000 buildings, according to the Texas Historical Association.