Officials in the US have confirmed that at least 12 people were killed by Wednesday’s explosion at a fertilizer plant in the Texas town of West. They added that around 200 other people were injured.
Texas Governor Rick Perry called it “truly a nightmare scenario for that community”. He added: “We are blessed in this state to have the best emergency management team in the country and they certainly were at their best last night along with the citizens.”
The missing people include five volunteer fire-fighters from the town, an off-duty fire-fighter from Dallas, four emergency services medical workers and two local people who tried to help fight the initial fire at the West Fertilizer Co plant.
Despite being located within a short walk of a nursing home, school and residential buildings, the facility had no blast walls and had filed no contingency plan to the Environmental Protection Agency for a major explosion or fire at the site.
It remains unclear what safety measures, if any, were required of the company or whether West Fertilizer failed to comply.
The same type of solid fertilizer was mixed with fuel and used by Timothy McVeigh to raze the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168 people.
Sales of as little as 25 pounds (11 kg) of the substance are now tracked by the US Department of Homeland Security.
Investigators have said they remain concerned about volatile chemicals that may remain on the site, posing further risk.