At least five people were killed after an explosion at a plant operated by West Fertilizer in the town of West, Texas, according to KWTX.com.
People were trapped in buildings after the blast just before 8 p.m. local time after a fire at the plant off Interstate 35 about 80 miles south of Dallas, The Dallas Morning News reported on its website.
“We’re seeing some folks that were very seriously injured this evening, unfortunately,” Glenn Robinson, chief executive officer of Hillcrest Hospital, told CNN. “They’re blast injuries, orthopedic injuries,” Robinson said. “A lot of lacerations, a lot of cuts.”
Several buildings were reported destroyed, a nearby nursing home was damaged and people were trapped in a damaged apartment complex, KWTX television said.
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Authorities were asking residents of the town to evacuate,
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, D.L. Wilson, said that the blast had resulted in “probably hundreds of casualties,” but that he did not know if anyone had died, Reuters reported.
“We’ve had a big explosion at a fertilizer plant,” said a woman who answered the phone at the Fire Department in West, but who declined to identify herself, citing department rules. “There are injuries, casualties; it’s terrible.”
James Miller, a West resident and volunteer firefighter, said people were trapped in the nursing home.
A high-school football field was pressed into service as a triage center, according to local reporters.
The Red Cross in the Dallas-Fort Worth region said it had crews on the way to help. Red Cross workers were looking for a safe place to shelter residents who had been displaced from their homes.
Images posted by The Dallas Morning News showed numerous ambulances, firetrucks and other emergency vehicles tending to groups of people huddled in blankets and on stretchers under the floodlights.
Television footage showed a sea of flashing lights near the plant and extensive fires burning into the night.
The cause of the fire was not immediately apparent.
“We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement late Wednesday. “We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West and the first responders on the scene.”
The West Independent School District said on Twitter that residents were being told to leave.