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Huge explosion rocks Texas town

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More terrible news for an already grieving nation. A huge explosion at a fertilizer plant has laid waste or caused structual damage to everything in some 20 to 30 square miles in the town of West, Texas (West is the town’s name, it does not refer directly to the region of Western Texas) located 19 miles north of Waco, between Dallas and Austin, on Interstate 35. The air is rife with noxious fumes, casualties are estimated to be in the hundreds, the devastation is so great no one can really say yet.

WFAA DFW – “We’ve heard that figure of 60 to 70 dead that’s coming from the county’s emergency management office down here,” said WFAA reporter Todd Unger a short distance from the blast epicenter. “I can tell you that a couple of law enforcement soucres expect that number to go up.”

Mayor Tommy Muska said at 11 p.m. that most of the fires resulting from the explosion were contained. He could not confirm a death toll. Muaka added that 133 people at a nearby nursing home all had to be evacuated.

“It was like a nuclear bomb went off,” said one man who was looking for a lost relative on Willie Nelson Road.

This will not be like Boston, where emergency responders outnumbered the injured and area hospitals with some of the best trauma ER’s in the world were waiting for victims. This is a small Texas town, pop ~ 2500 … I was through this area just the other day.  I-35 is under construction in that region, in some places it was down to one lane. It must be a fiery clusterfuck from hell this evening.

Comments

  1. Ragutis says

    Just posted about this over at PZ’s. There’s video of the blast, and frankly, I don’t see how any emergency personnel on scene to deal with the original fire could have survived. This is really bad.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    OH SHIT! When I saw the image I first thought this might be a joke, with the mushroom cloud and all…I thought fertilizer plants and other factories that manufacture potentially unstable substances would be built so an explosion would be contained and not spread to affect more than a small sample at a time, but it does not take more than one mistake… I wold rather work near a nuclear power plant.
    And in a small town the social consequences of so many deaths will be stronger, it will be hard to look after all the bereaved people properly.
    I hope the roads can service the ambulances from Dallas and Austin. The long transport of critically injured people will increase the death toll.

  3. Rabidtreeweasel says

    I’m from Austin and have family North of Waco we’re still waiting to hear from.

  4. Trebuchet says

    Death toll is currently (8:45AM PT) given as 5-15. That’s surprisingly low, considering the proximity of homes. While it’s sure to rise a bit, it appears that things are not as bad as they might have been.

    Meanwhile, the reporting, as in Boston, is infuriatingly bad. Apparently (according to CNN) there’s virtually no difference between anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate/fuel oil. Because, you know, “ammoni”.

  5. eoleen says

    I’m not surprised… Not at all surprised.
    Fertilizer – ammonium nitrate to you common folk is – lets face it – one of the two ingredients that leveled the Murrah Building in Oklahoma…
    Fertilizer, or any other powdery substance: cotton lint, sugar dust, sanding dust (from woodworking) or even the powdery stuff produced when making chewing gum will, given the right circumstances, go BANG.
    The “right circumstances” are as follows: inflammable dust in the air at more than a critical level and an ignition source. The critical level is remarkably low in general, although it varies from substance to substance.

    I’m willing to bet that the dust control in the plant was lousy. After all, doing things right is expensive, and subtracts from profit$$$$$.

    Just another corporate “accident”, like the BP oil spill.

  6. eoleen says

    Ummmm… I don’t think so… I just read the wikipedia article on the explosion and it said…

    “That the facility was issued a permit after a neighbor complained about the smell of ammonia from the facility.”

    The facility had lots of ammonia gas and nitric acid – they made ammonium nitrate fertilizer… The permitting authorities have the horrible example of the Texas City Disaster in 1947, so I doubt they were too lax.

    On the other hand, the sort of people who would start such a facility near a town, and without a permit….

    On the third hand (shades of Moties…) the sort of permitting authority that would issue a permit to an outfit that was set up so close to town and didn’t apparently have a GOOD sprinkler system…. Maybe you are correct.

    However, dust control is so frequently overlooked…

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