A huge explosion rocked a Kansas grain elevator and shot a fireball so high it could be seen in neighboring Missouri, leaving three workers dead and three other people missing, US authorities said today.
Trey Cocking, city manager in the northeast Kansas town of Atchison, confirmed the deaths and said three others remain unaccounted for after Saturday night's blast at the Bartlett Grain Co. elevator. Authorities also reported injuries, but were still trying to get accurate information and notify families.
Cocking said authorities planned to bring in heavy equipment to dig through the rubble today. "Once we get light, we'll go from there," Cocking told The Associated Press as he left the site before dawn on Sunday for a break after hours there. "From this point, they're going to have to do some excavation and bring in some crews." The shuddering explosion could be seen and felt across Atchison, shaking homes and businesses up to four miles away. The cause was not immediately known, though grain elevator accidents can occur after grain dust becomes suspended in the air and turns explosive. Bartlett Grain President Bill Fellows said in a statement that 11 workers were loading a train with corn when the explosion occurred about 7 p.m. Saturday. He said several workers escaped injury, but that there were fatalities and some injuries.
Across the nearby Missouri River, a dispatcher at the sheriff's department in Buchanan County, Missouri, said the office received numerous calls from residents saying they could hear the explosion deep into the county. Residents across the area said a fireball from the explosion could be seen well away from the site. Atchison has about 11,000 residents and is known as the birthplace of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.