15 dead, 160 injured in US fertiliser plant blast

WASHINGTON: A massive blast at a fertiliser plant in central Texas Wednesday night killed 15 people, wounded more than 160, and damaged 50 to 60 homes, officials said Thursday.

The casualty count in the explosion in the small town of West, about 75 miles (120 km) south of Dallas, with a population of just 2,800, could spike to 60 or 70, CNN reported citing George Smith, the city's emergency management system director.

The explosion rocked the West Fertilizer Co. at about 7.50 p.m. local time. It's being treated as a crime scene until investigators determine whether it was an accident.

"Nothing at this point indicates we have had criminal activity, but we are not ruling that out," Sergeant William Patrick Swanton of the nearby Waco Police Department was quoted as saying.

Swanton estimated the death toll as high as 15.

The blast shook houses 50 miles away and measured as a 2.1-magnitude seismic event, according to the US Geological Survey.

It sent a massive fireball into the sky, CNN said. Flames leaped over the roof of a structure and a large plume of smoke rose high into the air.

"The windows came in on me, the roof came in on me, the ceiling came," Smith said.

Chrystal Anthony, a nearby resident, said she saw the flames engulf the nursing home and an apartment complex.

"It was an apartment complex that was devastated, the nursing home. The fire was close to a residential area," Anthony was quoted as saying.

"It was like a bomb went off," said Barry Murry, a resident who lives about a mile away from the plant. "There were emergency vehicles everywhere. It has been overwhelming." Agencies

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