Explosion at Texas fertilizer plant causes dozens of casualties

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In this Instagram photo provided by Andy Bartee, a plume of smoke rises from a fertilizer plant fire in West, Texas on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.  An explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco Wednesday night injured dozens of people and sent flames shooting high into the night sky, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin and causing major damage to surrounding buildings. (AP Photo/Andy Bartee)

In this Instagram photo provided by Andy Bartee, a plume of smoke rises from a fertilizer plant fire in West, Texas on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. An explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco Wednesday night injured dozens of people and sent flames shooting high into the night sky, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin and causing major damage to surrounding buildings. (AP Photo/Andy Bartee)

A huge explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, roughly 14 miles from Waco, caused massive damage Wednesday night, destroying more than 60 homes and forcing the evacuation of more than 1,000 people.

While at least 150 people were wounded, a definitive number of fatalities was unavailable as of press time. At least two people were confirmed dead as of press time, but estimates released throughout the night indicated that the number could be as high as 70.

A smaller fire was burning at the plant before it exploded at roughly 7:50 p.m. The explosion was described by some observers as similar to a “nuclear bomb” and could be felt from several miles away. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it measured 2.1 on the Richter scale, making it comparable to a small earthquake.

Officials fear the fumes of anhydrous ammonia, a noxious chemical used in the production of fertilizer, may also have dramatic effects on the health and safety of the community.

Gregory Filippo, a 2010 alumnus who lives in the area, is involved in the aid efforts currently underway.

“I am currently assisting the disaster response team from the Command Center at Providence Health Center (in Waco), where I work as the Biomedical Engineering Manager,” Filippo said. “Please keep the communities of Central Texas in your prayers.”

Filippo said he did not know of any other Marquette alumni in the area.

Andrew Phillips contributed reporting.

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