UPDATED: Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 4:19pm
West, TX (KWKT) — Authorities searched through mounds of rubble in hopes of finding survivors of the huge, deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant that flattened much of a small Texas town on Wednesday night.
The blast, which residents described as "massive" and "overwhelming," left shattered homes and wreckage in a wide swath of West, TX, a town of only 2,800 people, according to CNN.
Police estimate five to 15 people have been killed, more than 160 injured.
On Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry has officially declared West a disaster area.
"The Texas department of transportation is handling traffic flow for the effected areas, and we have officials from the texas commission of environmental quality who are monitoring air quality," Governor Perry said on Thursday. "Pipelines in the area are being monitored closely. the gas distribution system to homes has been disconnected. and it is our understanding that those are being both double and triple checked before any service will go back onto those homes. the texas department of state health services has been on the ground with ambulance, buses with a mobile hospital and other resources. the Texas Education Agency -- because there was an intermediate school within close proximity is working with the local school district to coordinate any immediate needs in the district."
On Thursday afternoon, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw today issued the following statement regarding Wednesday’s fertilizer plant explosion in the city of West:
“DPS is continuing to work closely with our local, state and federal partners in response to the plant explosion,” said Director McCraw. “This is an ongoing process, and we are grateful and proud of the courageous first responders who selflessly and immediately responded to this incident last night. Those same responders worked through the night tending to victims of the explosion, and participating in search and rescue efforts.”
“DPS will continue to provide any resources necessary to assist the West community in response and recovery operations. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this tragedy,” he said.
DPS Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd stated the following:
“Texas is fortunate to have highly trained first responders who are second to none. These dedicated individuals from state agencies, local governments and volunteer organizations never hesitate to risk their own lives with the number one priority of protecting and helping others at all costs,” said Chief Kidd. “In moments like this tragic disaster, we are proud to recognize the courageous work of these men and women.”
“Like most small towns, West is a tight-knit community where neighbors look after each other and join together in times of need. Local firefighters – most who work on a volunteer basis – medical personnel, town officials, and countless others came together last night under the most difficult of circumstances.”
KWKT has been covering the incident since it happened, and will continue to provide updates as they come in.