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Firefighters among those missing in Texas fertilizer plant blast

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WEST, TEXAS (PIX11) — A horrible scene unfolded overnight in Central Texas.  A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant rocked the small town of West which is located about 20 miles north of Waco.

Police say at least 9 people and maybe as many as 15 are dead. Some officials say they fear that number could go as high as 70 dead.

The fiery blast caused a huge amount of destruction and injured more than 160 people according to police.  Sgt. Patrick Swanton told PIX11 by phone that between 3 and 5 firefighters, 2 paramedics and 1 police officer are still unaccounted for.

Heather MacFarlane witnessed the aftermath. “It’s horrific. Some of the things I’ve been told. Some of the things I’ve seen are just unbearable.”  She added ” It’s completely a nightmare.”

Firefighters were battling a fire at the plant when it suddenly exploded at about 7:50 am.  The powerful blast registered as a 2.1 earthquake.  Homes shook 50 miles away and the blast could be felt as far as 70 miles away from the plant.

The town’s mayor Tommy Muska  told CNN ” The ball of fire went up, it was like a nuclear bomb went off, big old mushroom cloud.” Others said the town looked like something you would see in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Witnesses in the town say all of the windows were blown out in cars and homes, and that whole blocks of homes were leveled, There was a collapse at a nursing home, and an apartment complex was heavily damaged.

There were numerous evacuations and police say first responders were going house to house looking for the injured and the those who did not survive.