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Morning Express with Robin Meade

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160+ injured, several dead in Texas plant blast

  • 'It was like a nuclear bomb went off'
  • Police official: 5 to 15 dead; total could rise
  • Blast hit fertilizer plant around 8:50 p.m. ET Wednesday
  • USGS: Blast registered as equivalent of a 2.1 magnitude quake
160+ injured, several dead in Texas plant blast

Explosion hits fertilizer plant in West Texas

Explosion hits fertilizer plant in West Texas

Scroll down for our live blog of this developing story. It will be updated with important information as we receive it throughout the day.

An explosion tore through a fertilizer plant Wednesday in West, Texas. More than 160 are hurt according to authorities.

Sources tell CNN that there are two confirmed fatalities in the explosion, but Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the nearby Waco Police Department said between five and 15 people had died. 

Fire officials fear that the number of casualties could rise as high as 60 to 70 dead, said Dr. George Smith, the emergency management system director of the city.

The blast reportedly happened around 7:50 p.m. local time (8:50 p.m. ET), sending a large plume of fire and smoke into the sky. 

Check out HLN affiliates KWTX and KTVT

Witnesses say the explosion "sounded like a bomb," and it was so powerful that it was felt in other nearby towns. This YouTube video purports to show a blast from the plant:

Residents near the plant are being told to evacuate amid fears that another fertilizer tank at the plant could explode. 

Are you there? Send pictures/video to iReport

Baptist Hillcrest Medical Center has set up a hotline for families looking for loved ones: 254-202-1100. You can also add yourself to the Red Cross list of those who are "safe and well" here. Friends and family can search for your name and get peace of mind.

People across the country looking for ways to help have already begun to contact the Red Cross:

Stay with HLN's Morning Express with Robin Meade for the latest details to this developing story, and check back here at often as we bring you important updates throughout the day below

4:41 p.m. ET: Officials said the blast occurred in a "highly populated" area. Reyes said there have been fatalities, but he said he can't give an exact number.

4:39 p.m. ET: Sgt. Jason Reyes of the Texas Department of Public Safety says emergency crews are still in the search-and-rescue phase.

4:37 p.m. ET: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says price-gouging laws are in effect. He said anyone who tries to wrongly profit from the Texas blast will "be on the wrong end of a lawsuit."

2:27 p.m. ET: CNN’s George Howell snapped a photo showing long lines at a blood donation location at Carter Blood Care in Waco, Texas. See where you can donate blood and otherwise help the victims of the explosion here

1:20 p.m. ET:  Gov. Perry said he appreciated a call from President Obama and his "gracious offer of support" for West, Texas.

12:55 p.m. ET: Officials say the Texas Gov. Richard Perry says this tragedy has "mostly likely hit every family" in West, Texas.

11:29 a.m. ET: According to Sgt. Swanton, "There is no indication of crime at this point" at the site of the fertilizer plant explosion.

11:21 a.m. ET: According to Waco Police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton, the swath of West, Texas, devastated by a fire and an explosion at the fertilizer plant is "very secure" with a heavy police presence, said. He said there was only one isolated incident where police thought there may have been looting.

10:07 a.m. ET: President Obama has released a statement:

"Today our prayers go out to the people of West, Texas in the aftermath of last night’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant.  A tight-knit community has been shaken, and good, hard-working people have lost their lives. I want to thank the first responders who worked tirelessly through the night to contain the situation and treat the wounded. My Administration, through FEMA and other agencies, is in close contact with our state and local partners on the ground to make sure there are no unmet needs as search and rescue and response operations continue. West is a town that many Texans hold near and dear to their hearts, and as residents continue to respond to this tragedy, they will have the support of the American people."

9:42 a.m. ET: According to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Mapolitano, federal and state authorities in Texas have taken steps to secure the scene of the fire and blast, including a temporary flight restriction over the area, air monitoring, a halt in rail freight service, and shutting down utility service in the area.

9:34 a.m. ET: Waco Police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton now says "three to four" volunteer firefighters still are missing. A law enforcement official who had been missing after the blast has been accounted for, and is in a hospital with "serious injuries," said Swanton, who added he didn't know the official's condition. That official also is a volunteer firefighter, he said.

8:51 a.m. ET: Also according to Sgt. Swanton, several firefighters still are missing after Wednesday's fire and subsequent blast.

8:40 a.m. ET: According to Waco Police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton, nails and other debris from destroyed buildings in West, Texas, will pose safety risks for investigators combing through the city.

8:12 a.m. ET: 


7:59 a.m. ET: According to Lt. Col Tom Crosson, Pentagon spokesman, the Texas National Guard has sent 21 troops from a civil support team to the site of the deadly fertilizer plant explosion to monitor air quality.

7:12 a.m. ET:


6:38 a.m. ET: CNN/HLN meteorologists: Line of severe weather moving into West, Texas, area.

6:35 a.m. ET: West, Texas, mayor: Next press conference will be held at 5:00 p.m. ET.

6:34 a.m. ET: West, Texas, mayor: Approximately 50-60 houses in a five block radius around plant "heavily damaged."

6:30 a.m. ET: At least 28 patients treated in the West, Texas, explosion will be admitted to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, Texas, Glenn Robinson, hospital chief executive officer, said Thursday.

6:27 a.m. ET: The mayor of West, Texas, Tommy Muska, is expected to hold a press conference at 6:30 a.m. ET.


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