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A massive explosion has rocked a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas. Dozens have been confirmed killed, while authorities are reportedly warning residents that they should evacuate town as soon as possible.
The explosion occurred around 7:50pm local time in the town of West, north of Waco. A fireball of nearly 100 feet high has been reported along with a massive power outage.
"Law enforcement is advising residents to leave town immediately," West's school district tweeted, potentially due to fears of another explosion.
Seventy people had been confirmed killed by the blast by late evening Thursday, as reported by KHOU, the local CBS News affiliate, with "hundreds injured." Local news KXXV reports that among the dead are five firefighters and one police officer. State officials have yet to confirm these numbers.
Sixty-one others have been confirmed as admitted to Hillcrest Hospital in Waco, just one of the multiple emergency facilities in the area. Twelve of those are in critical condition, Hillcrest's CEO told CNN.
West's EMS director told local KTVT late Wednesday night that he, a doctor, and Justice of the Peace are getting set to "pronounce many people dead" at the scene.
"We have not received any word on the number of fatalities," a Hillcrest official told CNN Wednesday night.
Between 75-100 homes and businesses have been completely destroyed with the number injured exceeding 200, as per ABC News.
The Federal Aviation Authority has placed a no-fly zone over the area.
West Mayor Tommy Muska told the local NBC affiliate that he had no numbers on injuries or deaths as of 12:05am EST, but that the factory was "fully engulfed" in flames before exploding.
The explosion destroyed a nearby nursing home, where it is thought that people may still be trapped inside.
Roughly 150 survivors from the damaged nursing home were evacuated and sent to a community center outside of town, while doctors and staff of the Hillcrest Hospital have been taking in the first wave of burn victims. Fire units were draining water from community pools to douse the flames.
More than 1,000 people are said to be without electricity, according to local ABC News affiliate KXXV.
A large swath of West was “leveled” in the explosion, according to WFAA-TV Dallas reporter Jason Whitely.
West's population was 2,674 at the 2010 census. The town is located 19.3 miles north of Waco, Texas and 70 miles south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area.
First responders requested a bomb squad to investigate a pervasive scent of flammable chemicals. Multiple barns in the area are engulfed in flames.
Nine emergency helicopters were reported to be en route to the local high school. Emergency officials were also trying to evacuate a neighborhood near the site of the explosion. Hospital officials told CNN they were anticipating as many as 100 victims.
Police officers were seen transporting the injured in their squad cars.
At least 10 other buildings are on fire, including the town middle school, according to local media outlets. Every available ambulance has been dispatched while fire crews from neighboring areas have rushed to the scene.
An emergency responder requested help over local radio with a “major collapse” on a second floor where children were thought to be trapped.
Multiple commenters on RT’s story reported feeling the blast from their homes, which in some cases were located dozens of miles from the fertilizer plant.
One witness told the Waco Tribune "every house within about four blocks is blown apart."
The football field that was being used as an emergency command center and helicopter landing pad has been evacuated due to fears of a second explosion.