미국 텍사스의 한 비료 공장에서 17일(현지시간) 대형 폭발사고가 발생해 최소 수백명의 사상자가 발생한 것으로 추정되고 있다.
ABC와 CNN 등 외신은 이날 텍사스 주의 도시 웨이코 부근에 있는 한 비료공장에서 오후 8시와 10시 정도에 두 차례 대형 폭발이 일어나수많은 사상자가 발생했다고 보도했다.
|17일, 미국 텍사스 공장 폭발사고 현장 부근에서 연기가 치솟고 있다. (AP-연합뉴스)|
이에 따라 최소 100명에서 200여명의 사상자가 발생한 것으로 추정되고 있으나, 심야시간인데다가 추가 폭발우려로 현장 접근이 어려워 정확한 사상자 숫자는 확인되지 않고 있다.
방송 영상 등을 통해 확인된 사건 현장은 시커먼 연기로 둘러싸여 있으며 공장 자체는 완전히 파괴되었다. 보도에 따르면 현장에서 약 8킬로미터 떨어진 건물들까지 피해를 입었다고 한다.
텍사스주 공공안전국의 게일 스카보로 대변인은 ABC 방송에 “현시점에서 200여명이 부상했으며 이중 40명이 치명상을 입은 것으로 파악되고 있다”고 말했으나 아직 정확한 사망자 수는 알 수 없다고 밝혔다.
한편 AFP통신은 현지 방송국 KWTX를 인용해 60~70여명에 달하는 사상자가 발생했다고 보도했다. KWTX는 현지 위기관리 담당자인 조지 스미스 박사를 인용해 이와 같이 보도했다.
그러나 CNN은 스미스 박사가 60∼70명까지 사망자가 늘어날 수 있다고 우려했을 뿐 구체적인 수를 언급한 것은 아니라고 전했다.
한편 텍사스 주지사 릭 페리는 성명을 통해 “현재 사고에 관한 세부사항이 들어오고 있으며, 상황을 계속해서 지켜보며 정보를 모으고 있다”고 밝혔다.
당국은 추가 폭발을 우려해 공장 인근 주민 2천600명을 대피시키고 학교에는 휴교령을 내렸다. 연방항공청(FAA)은 사건 현장 주변을 비행금지구역으로 설정했다. (코리아헤럴드)
<관련 영문 기사>
Dozens hurt in fatal Texas fertilizer plant blast
A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco in Texas on Wednesday injured dozens of people and killed an unknown number of others, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin and leveling buildings for blocks in every direction.
The explosion at West Fertilizer in the town of West, some 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Dallas, happened around 7 p.m. local time and could be heard as far as 45 miles (72 kilometers) away. It sent flames shooting high into the night sky, and rained burning embers, shrapnel and debris down on shocked and frightened residents.
Although authorities said it will be some time before they know the full extent of the loss of life, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman D.L. Wilson said just after midnight that an unknown number of people had died.
Dozens of emergency vehicles amassed at the scene in the hours after the blast, as fires continued to smolder in the ruins of the plant and in several surrounding buildings. Aerial footage showed injured people being treated on the flood-lit football field that had been turned into a staging area.
A member of the city council, Al Vanek said first-responders treated victims at about half a dozen sites, and he saw several injured residents from the nursing home being treated at the community center.
Vanek, said there is a four-block area around the explosion “that is totally decimated.” Wilson said the damage was comparable to the destruction caused by the 1995 bomb blast that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said early Thursday morning the injured were being taken to hospitals in Waco and a triage center at high school in nearby Abbott.
Speaking to reporters around 2 a.m., Swanton said authorities did not yet know if the fire and the subsequent explosion was an accident or intentionally set.
Glenn A. Robinson, the chief executive of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, told CNN his hospital had received 66 injured people for treatment, including 38 who were seriously hurt. He said the injuries included blast injuries, orthopedic injuries, large wounds and a lot of lacerations and cuts. The hospital has set up a hotline for families of the victims to get information, he said. He did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press.
West Mayor Tommy Muska told reporters that his city of about 2,800 residents needs “your prayers.”
“We've got a lot of people who are hurt, and there's a lot of people, I'm sure, who aren't gonna be here tomorrow,” Muska said. “We're gonna search for everybody. We're gonna make sure everybody's accounted for. That's the most important thing right now.”
Muska, who is also a volunteer firefighter, said the town's department went to the plant to fight a fire about 6:30 p.m., and the blast that followed knocked off his fire helmet and blew out the doors and windows of his home nearby.
Five or six volunteer firefighters were at the plant fire when the explosion happened, Muska said, and not all have been accounted for.
He said main fire was under control as of 11 p.m., but residents were urged to remain indoors because of the threat of new explosions or leaks of ammonia from the plant's ruins.
Among the damaged buildings was what appeared to be a housing complex with a collapsed roof, a nearby middle school and the West Rest Haven Nursing Home, from which first-responders evacuated 133 patients, some in wheelchairs.
Erick Perez, 21, of West, was playing basketball at a nearby school when the fire started. He and his friends thought nothing of it at first, but about a half hour later, the smoke changed color. The blast threw him, his nephew and others to the ground, and showered the area with hot embers, shrapnel and debris.
“The explosion was like nothing I've ever seen before,” Perez said. “This town is hurt really bad.”
Information was hard to come by in the hours after the blast, and entry into the town of about 2,800 people was slow-going as the roads were jammed with emergency vehicles rushing in to help. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said state officials were waiting for details about the extent of the damage.
“We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident,” Perry said in a statement. “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.”
Dozens of emergency vehicles amassed at the scene and hours after the blast, fires were still smoldering in the ruins of the plant and in several surrounding buildings. Aerial footage showed injured people being treated on the flood-lit football field that had been turned into a staging area for emergency responders.
Messages to Scott Clark, spokesman for Scott and White Hospital in Temple and Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, were not returned Wednesday. A spokesman at Providence Health Center was not available for comment, a hospital operator said. (AP)