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911 calls capture terror of Texas plant explosion

Published: Monday, April 22 2013 2:32 p.m. MDT

A sign is seen on a car window as residents wait to enter a damaged neighborhood Saturday, April 20, 2013, three days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. Wednesday night killed 14 people and injured more than 160.  (Charlie Riedel, Associated Press) A sign is seen on a car window as residents wait to enter a damaged neighborhood Saturday, April 20, 2013, three days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. Wednesday night killed 14 people and injured more than 160. (Charlie Riedel, Associated Press)

WEST, Texas — It started as just a fire. But 911 calls following the Texas fertilizer plant explosion show it took only minutes for dispatchers to become swamped in calls from terrified and hysterical residents.

Nearly all 50 calls that flooded in during the next 35 minutes came from within a mile of the plant. Some knew what happened. Others relayed a terror of the unknown, saying only that windows had suddenly shattered and houses several blocks from the site were on fire.

Some pleaded for help for themselves or others they found injured or bleeding. Others sought reassurance. Still others offered up their own assistance.

In the end, firefighters and EMTs would account for 10 of 14 people killed, and more than 200 people in the town of 2,800 were injured.

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