A West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Has Exploded, Killing 5 to 15 (Video) [Updated]
Update, 10:24 a.m.: Scroll down for updates, including a statement from the President and information on shelter for the people displaced by the explosion. We'll be adding to this post throughout the day, as new information becomes available.
The above YouTube video claims to be of the explosion, and it's harrowing. The explosion occurs at about 30 seconds, as a father watches the plant burn with his child. No one gets hurt in the video, but still: Brace yourself.
The Morning News has reporters on the ground if you want to follow the story tonight. If you want to help, jump into the #West hashtag on Twitter and see what you can do.
Update, 6:10 a.m., Thursday: The official toll now stands at five to 15 people dead and more than 160 people injured, Waco police said this morning.
A nearby nursing home, which housed more than 130 residents, was badly damaged, as was West Middle School and 50 to 75 houses, according to the Morning News.
Most local news stations are offering live coverage of the aftermath online.
Update, 10:02 a.m.: President Obama has issued a statement on the West explosion. It reads, in full:
Today our prayers go out to the people of West, Texas in the aftermath of last night's deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant. A tight-knit community has been shaken, and good, hard-working people have lost their lives. I want to thank the first responders who worked tirelessly through the night to contain the situation and treat the wounded. My Administration, through FEMA and other agencies, is in close contact with our state and local partners on the ground to make sure there are no unmet needs as search and rescue and response operations continue. West is a town that many Texans hold near and dear to their hearts, and as residents continue to respond to this tragedy, they will have the support of the American people.
Update, 10:05 a.m.: There's housing available for those displaced by the explosion. Here's a Google doc currently being shared on Reddit, where people from across the region are offering room in their homes. The Waco Trib has a list of other available aid here.
Update, 10:15 a.m.: In a move that's both tasteless and deeply irresponsible, the New York Post is citing an unnamed "senior Obama administration official" to suggest that the explosion was "suspicious." Before the article was recently corrected, the Post repeatedly said the explosion had occurred in Waco, not West. At the very bottom, they manage to remember to mention that " there's been no suggestion of terrorism at this point," and quote an unnamed "senior Homeland Security official," who says, "There is always a possibility that it could be criminal or terrorist-related but that has not been suggested at this point."
Just as a reminder, this is the same paper that claimed that 12 people had died in the Boston bombings, and never actually made a correction.
Shut up, New York Post. Please, for once, just shut up.
Update, 12:17 p.m.: Carter BloodCare tweets: "The blood supply for area hospitals have been met." That doesn't mean you shouldn't check back in the coming days and weeks to make an appointment to give blood. If West doesn't need it, someone else does.
Update, 1:13 p.m.: A Facebook page has been set up in memory of the volunteer firefighters who died in the explosion. It's naming the victims as their identities are confirmed. So far, Buck Uptmor and Morris Bridges, both firefighters from West, have been named.
Update, 2:49 p.m.: Governor Rick Perry hasn't yet visited West, but he did hold a press conference this morning at the Texas Department of Public Safety headquarters in Austin.
"West is a really small community -- just a few thousand people," Perry said according to the Star-Telegram. "Anyone who grew up ... in a small town like West, they know this tragedy has most likely hit every family and touched practically every one in that town."
He also delivered rare words of praise for President Obama, who phoned him from Air Force One to offer the full support of the U.S. government.
"We greatly appreciate his call, and his gracious offer of support, of course, and the quick turnaround of the emergency declaration that will be forthcoming, and his offer of prayers," Perry said.
Of more immediate significance is the disaster declaration he signed, which will help free up resources to aid in the response.
Update, 4:45 p.m.: The City of Dallas sends word that Kenny Harris, a 51-year-old Dallas Fire-Rescue captain, was killed in the explosion. Harris, who had been with DRF since 1982, lived in West and was off-duty at the time. Although he wasn't fighting the fire at the time, the city says he was responding to the scene when he died.
Harris was married and has three adult sons; DFR Chief Louie Bright calls him " a great firefighter, great husband and great family man." Bright adds: "Dallas Fire-Rescue is wrapping its arms around the Harris family to provide comfort and support."
The full press release from the city is below.
Dallas Fire-Rescue (DFR) Captain Kenny Harris was initially reported missing after yesterday's fire/explosion incident in West, Texas. Captain Harris lived in West, was off duty at the time of the incident and was not believed to be involved in any firefighting activity.
Although Captain Harris was not a volunteer firefighter in West, when he became aware of the fire incident, he responded as a helper.
"Captain Harris rushed to the scene compelled to provide assistance to his community during this crisis," said Mayor Mike Rawlings. "I want to express my deepest condolences to his family, friends and co-workers," he said.
"Captain Harris' response is typical of all our first responders; night and day, no matter where they are, no matter if they are on or off duty they respond with the greatest acts of bravery," said City Manager Mary K. Suhm. "The City of Dallas and the citizens of Dallas have lost a real role model."
Dallas Fire Chief Louie Bright III responded to the news by saying "Our hearts are heavy and hurting with the loss of such a great firefighter, great husband and great family man. Dallas Fire-Rescue is wrapping its arms around the Harris family to provide comfort and support," he said.
The DFR Chaplain and other DFR members are currently in West, supporting the Harris family at this time.
Name: Kenny Harris
Born: November 21, 1960
Hired: June 9, 1982
Father of three grown sons