Sixty unaccounted for, 12 confirmed dead in Texas blast

Washington – Twelve bodies were recovered and 60 people were unaccounted for, two days after a fertiliser plant in a small Texas town exploded.

Mayor Tommy Muska of West said 10 of the victims were firemen who were battling a blaze at the plant and were killed by the explosion Wednesday evening.

The blast wave was felt 80km away, registered more than a magnitude of two on earthquake monitors and claimed the lives of at least two residents of nearby homes.

Rescue teams were searching for survivors in the charred and destroyed homes.

US Senator John Cornyn said, yesterday, 60 people were still unaccounted for, the Houston Chronicle reported.

More than 160 injured people were taken to hospitals and more than 1 000 people had to be evacuated, including residents of a nearby nursing and retirement home, reports said.

US President Barack Obama yesterday declared the area a disaster site and ordered federal aid. He reassured the community that its victims had not been overlooked, despite the attention focused on the Boston Marathon bombings.

“They are not forgotten,” Obama said.

The explosion sent a 30m-wide fireball into the sky when it ripped through the plant in the town of 2 800 inhabitants, about 100km south of Dallas.

Witnesses compared it to an atomic bomb.

State officials were investigating the explosion amid questions about how firefighters handled the initial blaze, which involved anhydrous ammonia stored at the plant.

Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas division of emergency management at the department of public safety, told the Dallas Morning News that using water to fight a fire involving ammonium nitrate used in making fertiliser is a known hazard.

Ammonium nitrate is also a key ingredient in explosives, such as roadside bombs planted by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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