Deadly Fertilizer Plant Explosion Devastates Texas Town

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in his state "a truly nightmare scenario." Authorities have said as many as 15 people are feared dead and more than 160 others were injured in the explosion that leveled homes and businesses in the farming community of West, Texas.

Perry emphasized during a Thursday morning news conference that much of the information about victims remains "very preliminary." He said President Obama has offered a quick turnaround of declaring McLennan County an emergency disaster that is eligible for federal aid.

Perry said at least 75 homes were damaged in the blast. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the explosion Wednesday night knocked people "all over the town" back 10 feet, including some through windows. It caused a ground tremor to a magnitude 2.1 earthquake and was heard from more than 40 miles away.

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Department says one of its off-duty fire captains was killed while helping fight the blaze. Capt. Kenny Harris lived in West and wasn't on duty when he decided to lend a hand to volunteer firefighters battling the fire. Harris was a 52-year-old married father of three grown sons.

Federal regulators fined the company that operates the plant $10,000 last summer for safety violations. But the government accepted $5,250 after the company took what it described as corrective actions.

Records reviewed by The Associated Press show that the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration determined that the West Fertilizer Co. planned to transport anhydrous ammonia without making or following a security plan. An inspector also found that the plant's ammonia tanks weren't properly labeled.

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