WEST, Texas —
Among the damaged buildings was what appeared to be a housing complex with a collapsed roof, a nearby middle school and the West Rest Haven Nursing Home, from which first-responders evacuated 133 patients, some in wheelchairs.
"We did get there and got that taken care of," Muska said.
Erick Perez, 21, of West, was playing basketball at a nearby school when the fire started. He and his friends thought nothing of it at first, but about a half hour later, the smoke changed color. The blast threw him, his nephew and others to the ground, and showered the area with hot embers, shrapnel and debris.
"The explosion was like nothing I've ever seen before," Perez said. "This town is hurt really bad."
Information was hard to come by in the hours after the blast, and entry into the town of about 2,800 people was slow-going as the roads were jammed with emergency vehicles rushing in to help. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said state officials were waiting for details about the extent of the damage.
"We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident," Perry said in a statement. "We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene."
Dozens of emergency vehicles amassed at the scene and hours after the blast, fires were still smoldering in the ruins of the plant and in several surrounding buildings. Aerial footage showed injured people being treated on the flood-lit football field that had been turned into a staging area for emergency responders.
Al Vanek, a West City Council member, said first-responders were treating victims at about half a dozen sites, and he saw several injured residents from the nursing home being treated at the community center.