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News Extra: Texas releases West explosion injuries report

15 August 2014

The Texas state health department and health officials from McLennan County have produced a report giving details of the injuries suffered by the 262 people who sought treatment after the April 2013 fertiliser plant blast. Fifteen people were killed in the incident and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed in the town of West, which is 18 miles north of Waco, Texas. 

After the West explosion - Image: CSB
After the West explosion - Image: CSB

The explosion was registered as 2.1 on the Richter magnitude scale and left a 10 feet (3 metres) deep and 90 feet (27 metres)  wide crater at the site.

Among the 2,831 residents of the city of West, 10 residents were fatally injured and 197 residents were non-fatally injured. The injury rate among West residents was 7%.

About one in five people who went to the hospital after the explosion suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, according to the report. Other common injuries included hearing, vision and breathing problems.

Seventy-two people were injured in a nursing home adjacent to the fertiliser plant.

The report presents the types of injuries suffered and locations for some of the victims at the time of the blast. Health investigators were able to determine locations for 172 injured patients. They found that most were within 1,000 feet (300 metres) of the epicentre. None who were admitted to the hospital were more than 1,500 feet (450 metres) away.

The Dallas Morning News has claimed the report significantly underestimates the total injury figure because it only includes hospital visits within a month of the blast, and not injuries that came to light after that date or which were treated privately.

An earlier report by the US Chemical Safety Board found a failure at all levels of government to adopt codes to keep populated areas away from hazardous facilities. It found 1,351 facilities across the country that store ammonium nitrate, the substance implicated in the explosion at West.

The investigation looked at some of the other ammonium nitrate explosions that had occurred, causing widespread devastation. A 2001 explosion in France caused 31 fatalities, 2,500 injuries and widespread damage to buildings. In the United States, a 1994 incident caused four fatalities and eighteen injuries. More recently a July 2009 fire in Bryan, Texas, led to an evacuation of tens of thousands of residents, although no explosion occurred.

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