tv America This Morning ABC April 18, 2013 4:00am-4:30am PDT
street watching the flames when this explosion hit. it felt like the whole road just picked up. >> reporter: the city's mayor says there is no longer concern about a second possible explosion. at this point no answers on what caused it, but a team from the u.s. chemical safety board is on its way to help in the investigation. preeti arla, abc news, washington. >> just a staggering scene of devastation. we saw those apartment complexes and nursing homes. a city councilwoman said a 4 1/2-block area of that town is decimated, and we, of course, have to wonder what happened to the first responders who were two miles away from that at the scene. >> that's right. firefighters and potentially law enforcement officials unaccounted for at this time according to the officials on the scene. a lot of people have been evacuated, and a lot more could be evacuated because officials on the scene are now saying that a big concern is these winds. right now southerly winds, but if they change direction to northerly winds, that means an entirely different group of people in danger because the ammonia chemicals that are in
the fertilizer plant are now being excelled into the air and that's one of the concerns. the other concern in the area is there is another tank of fertilizer at this plant which could go because the fire well under control is still burning. and there is a convoy of emergency vehicles and helicopters that ferried the injured to hospitals throughout the evening. >> abc's steve osunsami has arrived on the scene. he filed this report for us just moments ago. >> reporter: there is some concern about what chemicals might be in the air. there's a dust that you can feel in the air, but authorities aren't sure what that's coming from and whether there are any chemicals from the fertilizer plant. >> it sucked the doors out of the building. i lost some of my friends, i'm telling you. >> it looked like you remember seeing the atomic bomb, you know, that plume, well, there was right to the north of where i live. >> imagine what kind of damage we're looking at there. i know there was at least 50 to 75 houses damaged. there's an apartment complex that has about 50 units in it
that was completely just a skeleton standing up. >> they are now going now door to door and evacuating that area and searching for survivors, as well as for deceased. >> reporter: it will take some time for people to see in the daylight the extent of this damage, but we are certain that there are fatalities and that even a number of firefighters were hurt in the blast. john and diana. >> all right, steve osunsami for us this morning. thank you. and we've been hearing eyewitness reactions to the blast throughout the evening. one person said the force of it was like being in a tornado. >> a couple of other eyewitnesses describe the raw power of the blast with abc's terry moran. here's what they had to say. >> i was at ground zero. i seen things i don't want nobody to see because i ran over there because i lost some of my friends, i'm telling you. another place where i work, which is probably half a mile away, it sucked the doors out of the building.
>> wow. >> we hear -- it sounds like thunder or lightning, but then it feels like an earthquake, and our power went off, stuff was falling, and we didn't know what it was, so all of our neighbors on our street walked outside, and then we saw the big like smoke of it and stuff, and then people kept driving by and telling us what happened. stuff flying everywhere. so much stuff was on fire and -- >> just a giant explosion obviously. now, are you being evacuated from your home now? >> they're saying that we need to evacuate, so we are. >> to give you an idea of this blast, 2.1 on the richter scale. one guy 50 miles away says they heard and felt the explosion. they thought thunderstorms that were coming in later in the night came early, and that's what they felt. >> that was not the case. that was not the case, and we want to let you hear what the
mayor of this very small town, 2800 people, who also happens to be a volunteer firefighter who was on the way to the scene which started out as a fire before there was this explosion, this is tommy muska. here's what he had to say about it. >> what i do know is that at approximately 6:30 there was a fire at the west fertilizer plant on jerry mashek drive north of the city of west. approximately 7:00, that plant exploded. >> okay. >> the explosion propelled in a northwest direction. it damaged approximately a five-block area around that fertilizer plant. the fertilizer plant was fully engulfed, and that in turn caught the intermediate school on fire. a number of houses, a number of houses in that area are completely destroyed or damaged. we are evacuating now. we are doing a search and rescue at this time.
the nursing home, which was two blocks away, has been completely evacuated, and those patients have been accounted for and are moved to a safe location. we are now going through door to door and evacuating that area and searching for survivors, as well as for deceased. >> the mayor of west texas, he's also a volunteer firefighter. he wears two hats, it's that kind of town. it's a small american town. he described that mushroom cloud as something from an atomic bomb. that's what he said when he was looking at it. >> you know, and we want to recap the amount of people who were affected by this, 189 people we know now hospitalized at this hour. that number may be mounting because of the darkness of night. there's been no way to tell if the homes that were immediately next to the plant and close by, if there was anybody inside, if everybody made it outside. 24 of those people, this is from 5 area hospitals, 24 of those people are in critical condition, 9 of them burn victims, you know, and this number surely to continue to rise.
>> these are all hospitals 20 miles away in waco, and there will be more numbers. we, again, have fatalities confirmed, but we don't have that number, and that's something that everybody in that town is waiting for. these are people who have fathers and brothers and sisters who are volunteer firefighters. >> right. people who were very close to this describing this blast as what felt like being in a tornado or an atomic bomb, you know, and now there is concern about the people who have been evacuated, the other side of town now, the winds shifting direction possibly also affecting them because of the chemicals at this still burning plant. the fire under control but by no means out, and this is a small, small town. 2800 people, not a whole lot of resources, so there are a lot of resources being sent to them including state health department, mobile medical units, so hopefully by the time the sun comes out, they will have all the resources that they need. all right. coming up, more from texas. we're going to talk to abc's dr. richard besser about the danger in the air. stay with us.
recapping our top story now a fire at a fertilizer plant near waco erupted into a massive explosion. >> as many as 200 people are injured and an unknown number are dead and there is an ongoing concern about the release of gases from that still burning plant. >> with so many people hurt you can only imagine that many of those injuries are quite extensive. >> >> dr. richard besser shed some light on what we can expect to see after such a massive explosion that involved ammonia. >> with a blast you have to first think about the injuries from the blast itself, and so you'd be looking there for burns, you could be looking at
broken bones, injuries to soft tissue just from the explosion, but when you add in the chemical ammonia, then you worry about what kind of breathing protection people had who were really close to that blast. ammonia can have a number of different impacts on your body. it's very irritating and corrosive. we also know with ammonia how hard it is to smell it at low levels. at high levels ammonia can be very damaging to your respiratory tract, your nose and throat and cause swelling in your airways and that can be very destructive. at high levels you worry about lung damage and difficulty breathing and need for a lot of respiratory support. >> we're talking about hundreds of people being taken to the waco area for treatment as you mentioned, lacerations, cuts, those kinds of injuries. and these are people who were probably a couple miles from the blast scene. anybody at that blast scene, i don't know if you saw the video we just showed, any chance
somebody was fighting a fire and is right up there on those flames could survive something like that? >> well, you know, you never know, and so you want to keep your hope. i have not seen the video of what took place there, but you hope that people who survived the blast itself, if they're evacuated quickly, what you want to do with the exposure to ammonia is get people away from there very quickly, you want to remove any clothing that could have that ammonia on it and decontaminate people in that way so they're not getting ongoing exposure to the chemical. >> and once again, that was dr. richard besser who was talking about the exposure to ammonia in an area like this, which can be potentially lethal. >> absolutely. when we come back we're going to go to abc's jim ryan who is out there on the scene. we had never used a contractor before and didn't know where to start. at angie's list, you'll find reviews on everything from home repair to healthcare written by people just like you. no company can pay to be on angie's list,
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terrifying site in the skies over the town of west texas when a fire at a fertilizer plant erupted into a fireball. >> really incredible. a mushroom cloud there. some compared it to what a nuclear bomb would look like with a city councilperson from west texas said a four-block radius completely decimated. others compared it to the oklahoma city bombing and, of course, this fertilizer plant making the kind of ammonia-based fertilizer that was used in the oklahoma city bombing. >> interesting note. the oklahoma city bombing, the 18-year anniversary is friday. >> also the same week as the waco, texas, branch davidian situation. waco is about 20 minutes from west texas. some interesting, strange coincidences. >> coincidences right now. nothing that we can say is connected and hundreds of first responders from all over texas did rush to help, and we have abc's jim ryan among the first to arrive at the scene. jim, describe what you're seeing. >> reporter: well, it's obviously dark and it's dusty
and it's not smoky anymore. it was smoky earlier. of course, the wind is blowing in the opposite direction toward the plant and that's good news. it's blowing north, which is away from populated areas. if it shifts around to the south, as forecasters say it might, then that could cause problems down south of here, but the hope is that the flames inside the factory will die down and up and the firefighters can get in there. so far they haven't been able to because of concerns of a tank inside there containing ammonia that could still erupt. >> now, jim, you talk about getting inside the actual fertilizer factory. what about just outside the area where the nursing home was where that apartment complex is, we saw pictures of essentially what looks like a decimated four-block area. that still is within a couple of miles of the fertilizer plant. have the first responders or the actual rescue crews maybe been able to get into these areas yet? >> reporter: yes, and that's been their concentration is
trying to save lives, trying to get into those areas, those flattened houses, burned out buildings to see if any survivors are still inside there. that's really been the focus of this. not so much a search for a cause of the initial fire or even of putting out the plant fire, but getting in there and rescuing everybody who might be trapped at this point, and it's thought that and it's assumed i think that as they continue those searches for survivors, they're likely to find folks who did not survive. >> and, jim, you know, when we talk about the pictures we're looking at, i know you can't see them, but you're there so you've already seen some of these yourself, this is an incredible amount of damage. some people are comparing this to an earthquake. it registered on the richter scale 2.1 as an earthquake. also an atomic bomb going off. a tornado touching down. can you describe some of the eyewitnesses who have spoken to you about what they've seen and what they're living? this is going to become a story about the stories that people will be telling for years to come. >> reporter: sure. yeah, i think that the force of the thing really caught people off guard.
if you've seen the video that someone shot from a vehicle, a man and his daughter apparently in a car shooting video, the noise was so loud that the girl is screaming that she can't hear. people losing their hearing at least temporarily. the firefighter who also is the mayor of west said his hat was blown off by the force of the explosion. just a really terrible and powerful explosion that rocked this entire community. you're right. i think those are stories that people will be talking about for a long time. >> no doubt. jim ryan for abc news, we appreciate that live report. all right, and coming up next, new audio from first responders just coming in. >> stay with us. the boys used double miles from their capital one venture card to fly home for the big family reunion. you must be garth's father? hello. mother. mother! traveling is easy with the venture card because you can fly any airline anytime. two words.
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welcome back. right back to that chaotic scene in texas after the massive explosion at a fertilizer plant near waco. >> 200 injured. two dozen critical this morning. some undergoing surgery as we speak. here's what it sounded like as the first responders arrived on the scene. >> oh, yes, i've seen it. load up and get right out of there. >> i see a day care of some sort. >> needs to know, i have my local unit en route. i need to know where they need to go. >> we have an apartment complex with people trapped and people trapped at west haven. 1200 north haven setting up triage. >> we do have updated numbers. a total of 189 people injured. 24 of those critical. 9 of them burn victims >> that's 189 people who have been hospitalized in five area
hospitals and the numbers will probably continue to rise because at this point we are now in a search and rescue mission which means they are trying to get to the homes that have collapsed because there is an area, a four-block area around the plant completely decimated. >> the number we're bracing for is fatalities. we know there are confirmed fatalities. they haven't gone there yet and don't have a number but you saw the force of that explosion. the look at "the waco tribune herald." waco is about 20 miles away and treating so many, just about all of those people, that's where the hospitals are. fertilizer plant explosion rocks west, injuries mount. >> there are people who are -- resources coming in from all over texas and the country. we're talking about, you know, in waco and in houston we have another headline and this one from "the dallas morning news." this one says casualties mounting in west plant explosion and that is jr. understatement. >> this is the mushroom cloud. there's no telling how far away
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>> abc7 news starts right now with breaking news. >> first, fire. then a powerful explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant in a small texas town. it leveled homes for miles. overnight the death toll climbed to between five and 15 people with the number of injured approaching 200. this morning, daylight will give resolution keyers the first good shot at fining survivors. >> it is 4:28.
crews will get a look at the extent of the damage. among the dead are three firefighters and several unaccounted for. it is happening about 80 miles south of dallas closer to waco, texas, 20 miles from there. we go to our news reporter. what is going on now? >> good morning, eric. officials are estimating between five and 15 deaths. the numbers are expected to go up. we know there are several missing firefighters. there are 180 injured. the explosion leveled homes and businesses. one official said it looked like a war zone. >> the massive explosion and fire of the fertilizer plant filled the night sky and could be heard and tell for miles. it was so strong it registered asen earthquake. there are reports of numerous deaths and 200 injuries.
(inaudible). >> there is slab knell -- shrapnel everywhere, the worst thing i have ever seen. >> it leveled 75 to 100 homes and businesses around the laboratory. officials are going home to home looking for victims. >> the most devastating thing that has happened to this community. a big cut on our heart. >> the blast leveled a nursing home forcing the evacuation of 130 parents -- patients in wheelchairs. >> in was a triage center at the football center of the school but concerns of possible chemicals or another explosion forces officials to leave the area. >> it is devastating. our house is leveled. i was standing outside on the
street watching the planes and the explosion hit. it felt like the road just picked up. >> the mayor says there is no longer concern of a second possible explosion at this point. there are no answers on the cause but a team from the chemical safety board is on the way to help with the investigation. eric? >> we mentioned there were several first responders who were killed in the initial blast but there are still some unaccounted for? >> the first responders were the first people on the scene when the explosion and the fire happened so you can imagine they are very concerned about what could have happened. they are saying two are likely dead and six others missing. this is adding to the heartbreak in a horrible situation. >> thank you from washington, dc. >> we heard that the blast shook the earth so hard it actually measured on the seismic event a
2.1 in magnitude. it was captureed by a earthquake machine. the first burst of energy were the ground waves and second was the sound waves traveling through the air. >> we have new images from the moments after the explosion. this is amateur photos showing the huge fireball rising like a mushroom cloud into the air from the fertilizer plant. >> the fire chief of menlo park has extensive experience dealing with seven and rescue operations worldwide and talked with abc7 news about challenges search-and-rescue teams are facing in texas. >> trying to find out who was in the homes. i can see a residential area in close proximity to the site. fortunately the school that is almost nex