By Amelia Santaniello

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As many as 15 people are feared dead and more than 160 others hurt in a fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas.

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Gov. Rick Perry is calling it “a truly nightmare scenario.”

Emergency responders first thought it was a bomb when a fertilizer plant exploded with the force of a small earthquake. Some firemen never made it out. They were at the factory fighting the original fire when it exploded.

On Thursday night, rescue workers were still searching for survivors.

During the day, smoke poured out from the devastated buildings around the plant. The blast flattened a four block area, peeling away walls and rooftops.

“There are homes that are no longer homes, there are homes that have been flattened by the explosion,” said Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police Department.

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West, Texas, is the home of Gophers sophomore tight end Lincoln Plsek.

He says the explosion happened just 2 miles from his family’s home.

His cousin’s father is among the victims.

“I was shocked. I didn’t think anything like that could happen. When something like that happens, you don’t ever expect it to be in your hometown, especially a town of 2,600 people,” Plsek said.

Authorities say there is no sign of a crime, but they need to wait for the scene to cool so they can start their investigation.

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Police say the blast destroyed 75 houses, a 50-unit apartment complex, a middle school, and a nursing home.

Amelia Santaniello