Residents of West, Texas, a small farming community located just north of Waco, are trying to pull their lives together this week even as state, federal and local authorities continue to search for the dead, missing and injured, following a fertilizer plant blast that destroyed homes, apartments, a nursing home and a school Wednesday night.

Already authorities place the number of deceased between 5 and 15 and fear the death count may rise rapidly as firemen and rescue workers search through debris at the West Fertilizer Company plant and surrounding homes, businesses and other facilities where the number of injured has reached 160 and continues to climb.

“We are still searching and assisting in the rescue of victims,” reported Waco Police Sergeant Patrick Swanton early Thursday. “Widespread damage has been reported across the community and we don’t know yet how many are still missing, injured or worse.”

Firemen, police officers and rescuers from dozens of communities joined state troopers and National Guardsmen after a blast that was so violent it registered a 2.5 on the Richter scale.

“There was a huge shock wave,” reported a clerk at a convenience store about a mile away from the plant. Other residents in the farming community of less than 3,000 said the blast was like “a bomb went off.”

Fire officials say the blast destroyed or damaged dozens of homes, raised the roof off the local school and dropped it back down, and caused the roof of a nursing home to collapse trapping some elderly residents inside.

“We are still engaged in search and rescue operations,” reported an unidentified rescue worker early Thursday morning. “We will begin recovery operations only after we can determine how many are still buried in debris and locate those we know are missing.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry authorized Texas National Guard units to help with search and rescue operations and to establish air quality monitoring around the community. Officials feared a second ammonia hydroxide storage tank at the plant may be leaking and were concerned both about air quality and the potential for a second blast.