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In Pictures: Texan town decimated by explosion at fertiliser plant

Smoke rises as water is sprayed at the burning remains of the fertilizer plant Photo: REUTERS/Mike Stone

A fire at a fertiliser plant broke out at around 7:30pm local time on Wednesday evening in the small farming town of West in central Texas.

The local voluntary fire service responded to the fire, but less than an hour later there was a very large explosion at the plant.

An amateur photographer captured the blast from his car two fields away.

Three images captured by an amateur photographer shows the initial fire (L) and then the explosion Credit: EBU

The sound of the blast and the mushroom-shaped cloud it created were both perceptible miles away from the plant.

A mushroom cloud rises above the fertiliser plant Credit: EBU/Andy Bartee

Emergency calls made after the explosion and later reports suggest that a few firefighters were still in the plant when the explosion occurred.

Fires burn in the remains of the fertiliser plant in West, Texas Credit: REUTERS/Mike Stone

The force of the blast decimated an apartment block and nursing home in the immediate vicinity, and damaged houses within a five-block radius.

Most residents of the town were evacuated as quickly as possible.

Twisted metal amongst in the remains of the fertiliser plant in West, Texas Credit: REUTERS/Mike Stone

Emergency workers are fearful about the release of a chemical fertiliser called Anhydrous Ammonia, which can cause severe burns and breathing difficulties and is potentially fatal.

A tank for Anhydrous Ammonia in the fertiliser plant Credit: REUTERS/Mike Stone

Local residents worked with the emergency services to rescue residents from the nearby West Rest Haven nursing home and to perform door-to-door checks.

At least 160 casualties were taken to hospitals in Waco some 20 miles away.

Firefighters pick through the remains of a building in West Credit: APTN

A sports field at a nearby secondary school was appropriated as a makeshift first aid centre while residents gathered at the town's community centre in search of information.

Victims of the blast are treated in the sports field of a nearby school Credit: Reuters

In the town of Abbott, five miles up the road, a school hall was prepared to receive residents of West who lost their homes in the blast.

Camping beds in a gym at Abbott High School where evacuated people will spend the night Credit: APTN

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