Rescuers search ruins of Texas fertilizer plant

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 03:57 PM.

While the community tended to its deep wounds, investigators awaited clearance to enter the blast zone for clues to what set off the plant's huge stockpile of volatile chemicals.

"It's still too hot to get in there," said Franceska Perot, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The precise death toll was uncertain. Three to five volunteer firefighters were believed to be among the dead, which authorities said could number as many as 15. But that was merely an estimate.

Swanton said he would "never second-guess" firefighters' decision to enter the plant because "we risk our lives every day." The many injuries included broken bones, cuts and bruises, respiratory problems and minor burns. Five people were reported in intensive care.

In the hours after the blast, residents wandered the dark, windy streets searching for shelter. Among them was Julie Zahirniako, who said she and her son, Anthony, had been at a school playground near the plant when the explosion hit.

The explosion threw her son four feet in the air, breaking his ribs. She said she saw people running from the nursing home, and the roof of the school rose into the sky.

"The fire was so high," she said. "It was just as loud as it could be. The ground and everything was shaking."



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