WEST (CBSDFW.COM) – The fertilizer plant explosion that rocked the town of West on Wednesday evening caused ripple effects miles away. There are reports of both people and animals, in other Texas cities, being knocked off their feet.
The force of the explosion at West Fertilizer, about 20 miles north of Waco, resulted in a 2.1 magnitude earthquake. That magnitude measurement is based on waves absorbed through the ground. The true force of impact was much greater above ground.
Before daybreak on Thursday morning people were being moved from triage areas at athletic fields to area hospitals.
Firefighters had been called to West Fertilizer around 6 p.m. and were trying to contain a fire when the explosion happened about an hour later. A number of the first responding firefighters were still unaccounted for Thursday morning. A CBS 11 News crew reported standing near a number of their personal vehicles, which had not been attended to or retrieved.
There has been a constant threat of additional explosions in the area. Before the blast there were at least were at least a dozen very large liquid tanks on West Fertilizer property. The company reported works with anhydrous ammonia at the plant.
Just after Midnight Thursday morning an official with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said the “dozens” killed death toll number was increasing by the minute.
There are also miraculous stories of survival. One elderly man, who was at his nearby home when the explosion happened, said, “Sheet rock fell on my head, then I saw the ceiling coming down. I thought maybe an airplane engine fell off.”
Somehow the gentlemen, who had undergone major surgery less than a month ago, was able to secure his safety and rescue his wife. That woman later told CBS News, “We thought something fell on the house and when everything, the ceiling and everything came down, all the insulation from the top, we were covered.” Then she said there were the most frightening moments. “I was trapped and I couldn’t breathe, because all that insulation was choking me.”
Through the rubble the woman heard her husband calling for her and asking about her well-being. Then she said, “He somehow managed to pull the ceiling off of me and I crawled out.”
The woman said the explosion was the worst thing to ever happen to her family, but she was grateful it wasn’t worse. “I think that God is looking out for us.”
Some of the residential areas near the plant were decimated. A DPS trooper said he had searched some houses in the area and saw, “Massive [devastation]. Just like Iraq. Just like the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.”
West resident Erick Perez was playing basketball in the area when the fire started and evacuations were ordered. Of the explosion aftermath he said, “It’s just something you probably would not ever want to see in your life. It was just a gruesome scene. There was just debris everywhere… buildings were almost falling over, caving in.”
Many of the blast victims, who weren’t severely injured, were transported to Providence Hospital in Waco. Spokesperson Heather Beck told CBS 11 News early Thursday, “We’ve treated 62 patients. We’ve got three in triage, just one in critical condition, and no confirmed fatalities at this point.”
Beck said the hospital was prepared for the dozens of patients that streamed into the hospital. “We have a very thorough emergency management plan,” she said. “We were able to call in our physicians, our repertory therapists, our nurses, in a very short amount of time. The response was excellent.”
The most severely injured patients were transported to nearby Hillcrest Hospital, which was designated the primary trauma care center. Some were even taken by air ambulance to other medical centers. High winds in North Texas impacted some of those helicopter arrivals, but there were no serious issues.
Hours after the blast heavy smoke still billowed from the plant and spotty fires still burned. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has deployed a large investigation team to West.
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