A deadly explosion ripped through a Texas fertiliser plant near Waco late on Wednesday (April 17), injuring more than 100 people, levelling dozens of homes and damaging other buildings including a school and nursing home, authorities said.

The blast, apparently preceded by a fire at the plant, was reported at about 8 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT on Thursday) in West, a town of some 2,700 people about 80 miles (130 km) south of Dallas and 20 miles (32 km) north of Waco.

"Right now we have tremendous amount of injuries -- probably over a hundred injuries at this time. At this time we do have confirmed fatalities. The number id not current yet it could go up by the minute. We are in there searching the area right now," spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, D.L. Wilson said.

He added that a nearby nursing home had collapsed from the explosion and that people were believed to be trapped inside.

"I walked through the blast area, I searched some houses earlier tonight. Massive -- just like Iraq, just like the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. The same kind of (inaudible) exploded, so you can imagine what kind of damage we're looking at there."

There was no immediate official word on what sparked the explosion as emergency personnel assisted victims and doused the flames. U.S. Representative Bill Flores, whose district includes West, said he doubted any foul play was involved.

The air in town remained thick with smoke more than two hours after the explosion, and the area around the blast site was littered with shards of wood, bricks and glass.

Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco reported treating 66 patients, including children, for injuries including lacerations, burns and broken bones.

A White House official said the Obama administration was aware of the situation and monitoring local and state response through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Presented by Adam Justice