WACO, Texas — An explosion Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant near Waco sent flames shooting high into the night sky, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin, causing major damage at nearby buildings and injuring numerous people.
The blast at the plant in West, a community north of Waco, happened shortly before 8 p.m. and could be heard as far away as Waxahachie, 45 miles to the north.
Several fires continued to burn in West two hours after the blast. In aerial footage from Dallas' NBC affiliate, WDFW, dozens of emergency vehicles could be seen amassed at the scene. Entry into West was slow-going, as the roads were jammed with emergency vehicles rushing in to help out.
Authorities set up a staging area on the local high school's football field, which was lit up with floodlights. Ambulances and several dozen injured people could be seen being taken away or seated in wheelchairs as they are treated and await transport.
Department of Public Safety troopers were using their squad cars to transport those injured by the blast and fire at the plant in West, a community north of Waco, Gayle Scarbrough, a spokeswoman for the department's Waco office, told television station KWTX. She said six helicopters were also en route to help out.
The explosion at West Fertilizer was reported shortly before 8 p.m. in a frantic call from the scene, KWTX reported.
A West Fire Department dispatcher told The Associated Press that any casualties would be transported to hospitals in Waco, which is about 90 miles north of Austin.
The explosion knocked out power to many area customers and could be heard and felt for miles around.
Brad Smith, who lives 45 miles north of West in Waxahachie, told the station that he and his wife heard what sounded like a thunderclap.
Lydia Zimmerman, told KWTX that she, her husband and daughter were in their garden in Bynum, 13 miles from West, when they heard multiple blasts.
"It sounded like three bombs going off very close to us," she said.