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Texas fertiliser plant explosion update: 14 now confirmed dead

22 April 2013

The majority of those killed in the explosion of the West Fertilizer Co. plant in West, near Waco, were local volunteer firefighters, Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jason Reyes said on April 20. 12 bodies had been recovered by April 19 with another two on April 20. 

Other than Dallas Fire-Rescue Capt. Kenny Harris, ten of the other dead were West-based volunteers.The remaining four are also throught to be first responders.

About 200 people were injured in the explosion and resulting fires. Most were treated and later released, but a number remain in local hospitals, some in a critical condition.

Reyes said the explosion destroyed 50 homes, a 50-unit apartment building and heavily damaged West Intermediate School. Three fire trucks and one ambulance were also destroyed.

Reports state that the company told the Environmental Protection Agency that it had 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on site, but that there was no danger of fire or explosion. In fact, it also had large quantities of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, but had failed to notify the authorities about this.

The Dallas Morning News said the company‚Äôs fire and explosion risk report, filed with the EPA and local public safety officials, said there was no explosion risk. The worst possible scenario at the plant, the report said, would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one. The second worst possibility projected was a leak from a broken hose used to transfer the product, again causing no injuries. 

The plant, according to WFAA, was fined $2,300 by the EPA in 2006 for failing to have a risk management assessment that met federal standards (that risk assessment is a different report from the one quoted above, according to both sources). West Fertilizer Co. submitted plans to the agency later that year that included, among other things, daily inspections, a barrier to prevent vehicles from colliding with their ammonia tanks, and a water spray system in case of a leak. The plant hadn't been fined since then, according to reports.

AP says the plant was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1985, when it received a $30 fine for a serious violation for storage of anhydrous ammonia.
Texas fertiliser plant explosion death toll  rises to 14

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