It sent a massive fireball into the sky. Flames leaped over the roof of a structure and a plume of smoke rose high into the air.
"There are lots of houses that are leveled within a two-block radius," Smith said. "A lot of other homes are damaged as well outside that radius."
He estimated that between 10 to 15 buildings were demolished and about 50 damaged.
And the danger may not be over.
Residents are being evacuated because officials are worried that another tank at the facility might explode.
"What we are hearing is that there is one fertilizer tank that is still intact at the plant, and there are evacuations in place to make sure everyone gets away from the area safely in case of another explosion," said Ben Stratmann, a spokesman for Texas State Sen. Brian Birdwell.
Shortly after the explosion, more than 60 patients streamed intoHillcrest Hospital in Waco, suffering from "blast injuries, orthopedic injuries (and) a lot of lacerations," said hospital CEO Glenn Robinson.
While some of the injuries are minor, others are "quite serious," he said.
The West Fertilizer Plant is just north of Waco. A nursing home with 133 residents was near the plant.
Smith, the EMS director, said he didn't know whether there were casualties reported in the nursing home.
'It was intense'
Tommy Alford, who works in a convenience store about three miles from the plant, told CNN that several volunteer firefighters were at the store when they spotted smoke.
Alford said the firefighters headed toward the scene and then between five and 10 minutes later, he heard a massive explosion.
"It was massive; it was intense," Alford said.
Cheryl Marak, who sits on West's city council, said the impact of the blast knocked her to the ground.
"It demolished both the houses there, mine and my mom's and it killed my dog," she said.
Live Updates: West Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Injures More Than 100
Apr 18, 2013 1:02am
1:43 a.m. ET: Mayor of West Tommy Muska said in a news conference said they are concerned about the wind – which they expect to change direction about 3 a.m.
Muska told residents to stay in inside because of the hydrous gas that is still in the air.
1:25 a.m. ET: The explosion registered as 2.1 magnitude quake according theUSGS. Residents about 30 miles away in the town of Buffford told ABC News that they felt the quake.
AP Photo/Waco Tribune Herald, Rod Aydelotte
1:21 a.m. ET: VIDEO: Homes and business were completely destroyed around the West, Texas, fertilizer plant.
1:09 a.m. ET: Texas Department of Public Safety trooper D.L. Wilson said in a short news conference that there are more than 100 injuries with fatalities confirmed but did not specify how many deaths. Officials are searching for more people and are doing a house by house search. About 133 people were evacuated from a nursing home. About half the town has been evacuated. Between 50-75 buildings were destroyed or damaged.
“Massive. Just like Iraq. Just like the Murray Building in Oklahoma City… So you can imagine what kind of damage we’re looking at,” Wilson said in describing the blast.
12:53 a.m. ET: Blood drives are planned for Thursday in Texas. Linda Goelzer of Carter Blood Care, the primary blood support service supporting more 58 counties, largest blood provider in Texas told ABC News the people in the community of West are “heart of gold people, like a Norman Rockwell painting.”
“The whole town is being evacuated. We had our blood supply pretty well stocked in Waco as of today but now we are sending more than 300 units of blood from Dallas Fort Worth down to Waco, that’s where patients are going. Many are being care-flighted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas for treatment at their burn center,” Goelzer said.
“Tonight our message to our donors is don’t everybody come at once, we will have patients for who knows how long who will be needing blood. Especially O-negative are needed, universal donor, will likely be expended tonight. What we tell people is that the blood helping people tonight is what’s already on the shelves. What we’ll need most is for consistency. We have blood drives everyday and we will have them tomorrow, we just don’t want people flooding in, in droves, like they did after 9/11. We’re asking our regular donors to keep coming throughout the week because we expect there will be many survivors.”
12:33 a.m. ET: At least 124 people hospitalized, with one hospital telling us that 20 more are on the way. Of those, 38 considered serious.
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News
12:19 a.m. ET: According to the CEO of Baptist Hillcrest Medical Center, Brett Esrock (in Waco) officials are triaging the wounded. Baptist has treated, or is treating 29 wounded, mostly minor to moderate injuries: cuts abrasions, broken bones, respiratory distress, and one critical injury. Hospital officials are being told they are about to receive an additional 20 patients “they are coming in ambulances cars vans, pretty much anything.” Other wounded people are also being sent to Hillsboro Regional Hospital, which has apparently received another 60 patients. - Matt Gutman
11:48 p.m. ET: West City Hall suffered significant damage according to Gail Scarborough with Texas Department of Public Safety. The middle school also caught on fire due to a gas leak in the building.
11:00 p.m. ET: Texas Gov. Rick Perry released the following statement on the explosion in West, Texas: “We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident. We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene.”