Explosion kills unknown number in Texas

WEST, TX (WACH-AP)â??First responders and the American Red cross from across Texas are being sent to the site of an explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco Texas.

A West Fire Department dispatcher said that the explosion happened Wednesday night, just before 8:00 p.m., and that many injuries have been reported. reports as many as 300 people were taken away from the scene with injuries.

West is a town about 20 miles north of Waco, with a population just over 2,600 people, and that the explosion could be heard as far as 40 miles away. West Mayor Tommy Muska said that volunteer firefighters, including himself, went to fight a fire at a fertilizer plant about a half-hour before a massive explosion tore through it and damaged surrounding buildings. The Mayor said that his helmet was knocked off his head by the explosion. Muska also said the blast badly damaged buildings for a five-block radius around the plant, including a nearby middle school and nursing home. He says the nursing home's 133 residents were safely evacuated.

Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Gayle Scarbrough told television station KWTX that DPS troopers have been transporting the injured to hospitals in their patrol cars. She says six helicopters were also en route.

Fox News is reporting that although it will be some time before they know the full extent of the loss of life, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman D.L. Wilson said just after midnight that an unknown number of people had died.

Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster says her group is working with emergency management officials in the town of West to find a safe shelter for residents displaced from their homes. She says teams from Austin to Dallas and elsewhere are being sent to the community north of Waco.

UPDATE: Waco Police Sgt. Willima Patrick Swanton said that beween five and fifteen people were killed, and more than 160 others were injured in the blast. Swanton says there is no indication the blast was anything other than an industrial accident.

(The AP and Fox News contributed to this report)