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Texas town after blast: like whipped by powerful tornado


13:33, April 19, 2013

WEST, the United States, April 18 (Xinhua) -- The quiet town of West in Texas has quite a fame among regular highway travellers for its delicious Czech pastries, but a massive blast Wednesday at a local fertilizer plant broke tranquility there, making it known by more in a painful way.

The explosion, which occurred at about 8 p.m. Wednesday local time, has rocked the town and left a landscape that looked as if destroyed in the aftermath of a powerful tornado, eyewitnesses said.

Some 60 to 80 houses in the vicinity of the fertilizer plant were torn down or severely damaged. The blast also reduced a 50-unit apartment complex to what one local official called "a skeleton standing up."

Shockwave from the blast also shattered windows of homes and shops in more distant neighborhoods, in which residents said they were really scared by the massive sound of explosion and the sight of billowing smoke afterwards.

The town, with a population of 2,800, have evacuated half of its residents after the blast, said D.L. Wilson, spokesman for the Texas Public Safety Department.

"We might even have to evacuate on the other side of town" if the winds shift, Wilson said.

The fire at the fertilizer plant has not been extinguished but put under control, Waco Police spokesperson William Swanton told Xinhua after a press conference at about 4 a.m. Thursday.

The rescuers were facing many challenges including searching the rubble in darkness since local power supply had been cut down after the fire broke out.

An incoming rain could also create inconvenience for rescuers despite the fact that it can dilute hazardous substance that may have been produced, he said.

Police has closed off all roads to the site of the blast and directed reporters from various media outlets to a makeshift press center about 8 km away from the fertilizer plant.

Authorities said Thursday that 14 people had been killed and more than 160 others injured in the massive explosion. The death toll could climb as the search continued.

"We've got a lot of people who are hurt, and there are a lot of people, I'm sure, who aren't gonna be here tomorrow," West Mayor Tommy Muska told reporters.

"The town of West needs your prayers right now," Muska said.

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