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Multiple Fatalities, Injuries in Texas Plant Explosion

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

UPDATE: 4/18/2013

HOUSTON (AP) - A Texas fertilizer plant that exploded, killing up to 15 people, was required by the state to have sprinklers and other safety mechanisms, but told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency it did not have such equipment.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality air permit chief Mike Wilson says the agency required sprinklers and safety barriers for the fertilizer storage and blending facility in West. The measures are required because the plant handles anhydrous ammonia, a flammable substance that can be used as a fertilizer.

But in a risk management plan the company filed with the EPA in 2011, officials said it did not have such systems.

It was unclear if state inspectors checked for the safety measures. The plant exploded after a fire Wednesday night.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal regulators fined the company that operates the Texas fertilizer plant that exploded overnight $10,000 last summer for safety violations. But the government accepted $5,250 after the company took what it described as corrective actions.

Records reviewed by The Associated Press show that the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration determined that the West Fertilizer Co. planned to transport anhydrous ammonia without making or following a security plan. An inspector also found that the plant's ammonia tanks weren't properly labeled.

The same plant just outside Waco, Texas, exploded Wednesday night, killing as many as 15 and injuring over 160. The blast had the impact of a small earthquake and was heard from more than 40 miles away.

It is not unusual for companies to negotiate lower fines with regulators.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in his state "a truly nightmare scenario."

Authorities have said as many as 15 people are feared dead and more than 160 others were injured in the explosion that leveled homes and businesses in the farming community of West, Texas.

Perry emphasized during a Thursday morning news conference that much of the information about victims remains "very preliminary." He says President Barack Obama has offered a quick turnaround of declaring McLennan County an emergency disaster that is eligible for federal aid.

Perry says at least 75 homes were damaged in the blast. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst says the explosion Wednesday night knocked people "all over the town" back 10 feet, including some through windows.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


WEST, Texas (AP) - Witnesses are describing the impact of the explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas that left as many as 15 people dead and more than 160 others injured.

Erick Perez was playing basketball at a nearby middle school yesterday evening when a fire started at the plant. He says he and his friends thought nothing of it, but then the smoke changed color. He says the blast threw him, his nephew and others to the ground, and showered the area with hot embers and debris.

Julie Zahirniako had been with her son at the school playground. She says the explosion threw her son four feet in the air, breaking his ribs.

She says she saw people running from a nearby nursing home, and that the roof of the school lifted into the sky.

The nursing home was also badly damaged. One man who arrived there before the first responders says he and his wife found residents in wheelchairs trapped in their rooms, amid dark hallways and ceilings that had collapsed.


WEST, Texas (AP) - Police in Texas say it's not clear how many people remain trapped in the rubble after a fertilizer plant explosion that killed as many as 15 people and injured more than 160 others.

Waco Police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton says early Thursday he doesn't know how many people have been rescued since the Wednesday night explosion in downtown West.

But he says officials on the ground remain in "search and rescue mode," going building to building in the largely decimated neighborhood surrounding the plant.

He says he knows some firefighters still are missing.

Swanton says a thunderstorm that rolled through the area early Thursday has helped in some ways, including tamping down chemicals released from the plant.


UPDATE 4/18/2013 6:05 A.M.

WEST, Texas (AP) - Police in Texas say between five and 15 people were killed in a fertilizer plant explosion that also injured more than 160 others.

Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said early Thursday morning that the death toll is only an estimate as search and rescue operations remain under way in downtown West.

An explosion Wednesday night shook the ground with the strength of a small earthquake in the community of 2,800 people located about 20 miles north of Waco.

Swanton says there is no indication the blast was anything other than an industrial accident.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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WEST, Texas (AP) - The Texas fertilizer plant where an explosion injured more than 100 people and killed an unknown number of others was cited for failing to obtain or to qualify for a permit in 2006.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated West Fertilizer on June 20, 2006, after receiving a complaint June 9 of a strong ammonia smell. Agency records show that the person who lodged the complaint said the ammonia smell was "very bad last night" and lingered until after he or she went to bed.

Wednesday night's explosion leveled the plant and severely damaged other area buildings. Authorities say people were killed, but they don't know how many.

Authorities were still trying to evacuate area homes early Thursday morning.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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