Around 8 p.m. CST last night, an explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Co. plant 20 miles outside of Waco, Texas. It has been reported that between five and 15 people were killed in the blast, among them, three to five volunteer fire fighters and a law enforcement officer. There are believed to be more than 160 injured.
The explosion reportedly had the force of a small earthquake, and could be heard from surrounding cities as far as Arlington (80.9 miles). The explosion completely decimated the plant and leveled entire blocks of neighborhoods for miles around the site. Speaking to the Associated Press, Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said that responders are still in the search and rescue phase of the operation.
The West Fertilizer Co. plant was owned by Adair Grain Incorporated. In 2006, the plant was investigated after receiving a complaint from a neighbor that the facility was issuing a very strong ammonia smell. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality cited the plant for failure to obtain or qualify for a permit. Adair received an air quality permit as a fertilizer mixing and storage facility after the investigation in 2006.
Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.