WEST, TEXAS – There are confirmed fatalities from the explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, but not yet a confirmed number. According to some reports, the number could be as high as 70. Hundreds are injured.
The explosion occurred at West Fertilizer plant in West Wednesday night. Firefighters were responding to a fire at the plant when an explosion went off that rocked the small town. A four-block area around the explosion site is destroyed.
The blast caused fires and severe damage to nearby buildings. West Rest Nursing Home burned to the ground, but the 133 patients inside the building were evacuated. An independent school in the area was partially burned. A house was also destroyed.
West Mayor Tommy Muska, who is a volunteer firefighter in West, said the first explosion hit around 7 p.m. He said he was responding to a fire at the fertilizer plant when he felt “an enormous blast.” One window was blown out of his truck and his hat was blown off as well. The windows were also blown out of his house.
Some of the injured were taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco.
At the latest press conference, Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center CEO Glenn Robinson reported there were no fatalities at Hillcrest. In the press conference, Robinson said Hillcrest saw over 100 patients. Only 14 of those patients are in critical condition and expected to remain in the hospital.
Robinson said there were six choppers transporting injured to Hillcrest. The emergency room is being handled with the help of between 250 to 300 additional staff members who responded to the need for more assistance.
Arriving family members are instructed to go to Austin Auditorium on the first floor of Hillcrest Hospital.
Other wounded people are being taken to Providence Hospital, Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Hill Regional Hospital in Hillsboro and McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White.
The city has been evacuated because of concerns of a secondary explosion and exposure to chemicals from the plant. The medical triage set up in the West High School football stadium has been relocated.
Carter Blood Care will be open Thursday for blood donations for the victims.
At 11:33 p.m., an email was sent by BaylorNewsFlash to faculty and students of Baylor.
“The explosions tonight in West have shocked and saddened us all. We are eager to be of assistance,” the email stated. “Baylor is a cooperating organization with the McLennan County Office of Emergency Management, and we are prepared to provide services to those affected by this emergency. We remain in contact with emergency responders from the County and also with local emergency response organizations. We will notify the campus community of any forthcoming requests for University assistance.”
A student-organized candlelight ceremony for the victims was held in front of Waco Hall at midnight.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.