Muska said five or six volunteer firefighters were tackling a blaze at the site when the explosion happened. The mayor, himself a volunteer firefighter, said his hat was knocked off by the blast and the windows of his nearby home were shattered.
Wilson, who likened the scene to the Iraq war, said the 50-home apartment complex now resembled a “skeleton,” while a middle school and the West Rest Haven Nursing Home had both been badly damaged. Emergency responders evacuated 133 residents, including some in wheelchairs, from the nursing home.
Elizabeth Marquez-Perea, who lives in West about a mile north of the plant, said about 50 families lived at Tucker Apartments, the damaged block close to the facility. She and her three daughters fled after the blast shattered windows of their apartment. “It smelled like gas, a real terrible smell,” she said.