The situation remains volatile at a Texas fertilizer plant, with ammonium nitrate still present, a police spokesman said. Rescuers have found no sign of survivors thus far in their search, said the mayor of West, Texas.
Authorities gave no new estimate of casualties, put at between five and 15. Mayor Tommy Muska told CNN that the search for survivors continued as crews go building-to-building looking for any sign of life amid dozens of destroyed homes and businesses.
"I ask for your prayers," Muska said, according to the Dallas television station WFAA.
The blast occurred at about 7:50 p.m. local time on Wednesday, some 50 minutes after first responders were said to have arrived at the scene of the reported initial fire. The explosion in West, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Dallas and 32 kilometers north of Waco, was heard over a wide area and sent flames and embers high into the night sky. The effect was variously described as having been like a tornado or earthquake.
"At some point this will turn into a recovery operation, but at this point, we are still in search and rescue," said Swanton.
mkg/slk (Reuters, dpa, AP)