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Christians rally to help victims of fertiliser plant blast

Church leaders in the Texas town where an explosion at a fertiliser plant occurred are calling on Christians there to put prayer into action by donating blood and supplies.

Police estimate the number of dead is between five and 15 and at least 160 were injured in the blast at the West Fertilizer Co in the town of West outside Waco.  Some people are in hospital suffering breathing problems after inhaling chemicals in the air and emergency services are still searching for survivors in nearby buildings that were badly damaged. Officials say they are still pulling people out of buildings and police expect more deaths. Three to five firefighters are missing. Austin Tiffany from Baylor Baptist University in Waco tells Premier what they are doing to help each other:

Police in Texas say they are treating the scene of the explosion as a crime scene.

William Swanton, from the Waco police force, said:

"This is a crime scene, we are not indicating that it is a crime but we don't know. 

"What that means to us is that until we know that it is an industrial accident we will work it as a crime scene."

Mr Swanton also added that there have been a small amount of lootings in the town.  The blast has been likened to a "nuclear bomb" by the Mayor of West, which is home to almost three thousand residents.

Tommy Muska said:

"All residents in that area have been evacuated and are in safe locations.

"I do not have an exact number of casualties at this time, we took over 160 to the Waco hospitals, area hospitals, for treatment." 

An apartment complex and a nursing home have been destroyed and local residents are now in emergency shelters. Ambulance crews are using a nearby sports field as an emergency treatment area. 

President Barack Obama released a statement about the explosions on Thursday morning:

"Today our prayers go out to the people of West, Texas in the aftermath of last night's deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant. 

"A tight-knit community has been shaken, and good, hard-working people have lost their lives. 

"I want to thank the first responders who worked tirelessly through the night to contain the situation and treat the wounded. 

"My Administration, through FEMA and other agencies, is in close contact with our state and local partners on the ground to make sure there are no unmet needs as search and rescue and response operations continue.

"West is a town that many Texans hold near and dear to their hearts, and as residents continue to respond to this tragedy, they will have the support of the American people."

Pope Francis has alsp written to his followers on twitter appealing for prayers for the victims of the factory explosion. 

Writing on his @pontifex account, the Pope says:

"Please join me in praying for the victims of the explosion in Texas and their families".

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