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Unknown death toll in Texan fertiliser plant explosions

MUSHROOM CLOUD: An image caught of the initial explosion (PA: Andy Bartee)

MULTIPLE PEOPLE have been killed and injured in a large explosion at a fertiliser plant in a American near Waco, Texas.

Properties in the blast radius have been destroyed by the explosion which occurred 7.50pm local time yesterday (12.50am GMT today) on the edge of West, a town of about 2,700 which is 20 miles north of Waco.

Emergency services are tackling the blaze and other outbreak fires – scenes which eyewitnesses have described as a “warzone”.

Firefighters have been reported as missing while tackling fires.

No definite explanation for the cause of the explosion has emerged, but officials have speculated that ammonia could be a significant factor.

Used in the manufacturing process of industrial fertiliser, anhydrous ammonia has suffocating fumes when in its gaseous form.

The company running the site, reported had 54,000lbs (20 tonnes) of anhydrous ammonia stored within the plant.

Police said half the population of West had been evacuated due to fears of further explosions and poisonous leaks.

The plant is located on the edge of the town, a few 100 metres from residential buildings and a school.

Power had been shut off to the affected area, according to Sgt William Swanton of the Waco police department.

He added that he could not yet give a figure for the death toll.

Chief executive Glenn Robinson of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, told CNN his hospital is treating 66 injured people – 38 of those were in seriously conditions.

Associated Press were told by witness Debby Marak: “It was like being in a tornado.

“Stuff was flying everywhere. It blew out my windshield. It was like the whole earth shook.”

In a statement, Texas Governor Rick Perry said: “We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident.

“We have also mobilised state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene.”

More to follow

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