WEST, Texas - Witnesses said it looked like a tornado, sounded like a bomb and felt like an earthquake when describing a fatal explosion at a fertilizer plant that leveled a small Texas town.
“We were right there,” resident Bill Manolakis said. “Felt the car go sideways. We were right there.”
Five blocks were leveled, including at least 75 homes, an apartment complex and a nursing home in the town located about 19 miles north of Waco off I-35.
“I didn’t know what to think. I just knew it was bad,” resident David Dahirniak said.
Investigators said at least 160 people were injured and many remain missing. According to Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police Department, they include a handful of firefighters.
As many as 15 people are believed dead.
Swanton described the effort Thursday as a search and rescue and not a recovery. He said first responders were going door to door, marking buildings along the way.
“There is massive devastation in the downtown West area,” he said. At the same time, residents worried.
Roads remained blocked, and many people only have what they brought with them. There is no word on how soon the neighborhood may reopen.
“West will never be the same after this,” resident Crystal Ledane said.
Yet at the Czech Spot, a popular local bakery, business went on despite ceiling damage. Their trouble seemed to give them all the more reason to keep on going.
“Somebody’s got to look out for somebody,” cook Mark Lichnovsky said. “Might as well be us.”
Police said they are still looking into the fire that caused the blast as a criminal matter and not an accident.
They have received one confirmed report of a looting but made no arrests.