West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Rips Through Town, Killing 15
As many as 15 people may have been killed and 160 others injured after a fertilizer plant exploded last night in West, Texas.
Rescue workers are combing debris from the plant looking for survivors of the blast, which occurred at the West Fertilizer Co.
The plant was located in the heart of West’s downtown and blasted apart nearby homes, businesses and one apartment complex.
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The explosion occurred following a fire that began at the plant at about 8 p.m. It was heard more than 50 miles away and registered as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake.
Several firefighters are missing, and emergency personnel are searching both the plant and surrounding homes and businesses for survivors and bodies. Half the town has been evacuated in the wake of the blast.
The explosion follows a recent report submitted by the West Fertilizer Co. to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which claimed there was little risk of fire at the plant and that any fire that did occur would simply result in a limited release of gases.
Ammonia nitrate fertilizer, which is stored at the plant, is often used as a fuel for improvised bombs, but authorities say there have been no signs of foul play. The Oklahoma City bombing was caused by a bomb using one ton of fertilizer. The West Fertilizer Co. was licensed to store 25 tons.
The cause of the blast is unknown, but some speculate it could have been caused by simple water being sprayed on the fire by firefighters, which can ignite a gaseous by-product known as anhydrous ammonia. The explosion may have also been caused by fire spreading to tanks of stored chemicals.
President Barack Obama has offered Texas Governor Rick Perry any federal resources he needs to respond to the damage caused by the explosion.
In addition to injuries and property damage already sustained, many area residents of West, Texas have expressed concerns about their health and the long-term impact of the explosion on them and their families.
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