A massive explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas, about 8:50 p.m. EDT Wednesday night, CNN reported. A photo taken after the explosion shows an enormous cloud of smoking rising into the sky.
The West Fertilizer Plant is about 20 miles north of Waco and neighbors a school and nursing home.
Tommy Alford, a man who works at a convenience store near the plant, told CNN several volunteer firefighters were in the store when they spotted the smoke. According to Alford, they headed straight to the scene and about 5 to 10 minutes later he heard an explosion.
WacoTrib.com reported that several firefighters were among the injured. The news site added that multiple buildings were on fire Wednesday evening, including a middle school.
Bill Bohannan, who witnessed the explosion and saw its devastating blast, told the Texas-based news site:
“I said, ‘This thing is going to blow’ ... and I told my mom and dad to get in the car,” Bohannan said. “I was standing next to my car with my fiancee, waiting for my parents to come out and (the plant) exploded. It knocked us into the car... Every house within about four blocks is blown apart.”
The WacoTrib.com also quoted an emergency dispatcher who reportedly said there were “a lot of injured here,” referring to the plant.
Carol Anthony, another witness, told the local Texas station the nursing home had to be evacuated:
“A nearby nursing home is really bad, there’s an apartment complex and the school (West Middle School) that caught fire,” she said. “We’ve been moving patients out of the nursing home and taking them to the football field and gymnastics building on Davis Street.
DallasNews.com spoke to a witness who explained a small fire got out of hand at the plant when water was sprayed on top of ammonia nitrate.
"The fertilizer plant down here exploded, “ an insider told the news station. “It was a small fire and then water got sprayed on the ammonia nitrate and it exploded just like the Oklahoma City bomb.”
Earlier reports claimed hundreds of injuries were likely, but the Associated Press said multiple injuries were sustained with an unknown number of fatalities.
Just as in the Boston Marathon Explosion, Twitter came out to support Texas with #PrayForWest and #WestExplosion.
One user wrote, “This past week has taught me that life is so very precious. Appreciate every moment of it. #PrayForWest.”
Another said, “I'm so selfish for complaining about the things I do. Things could be way worse. #PrayforWest.”