Friday, April 19, 2013
Death toll rises to 15 and SIXTY people still missing in Texas town devastated by huge explosion at fertilizer plant
Officials said that 25 houses in the blast area remain to be searched, as reported by the Star-Telegram. According to Senator Cornyn, authorities are currently checking hospitals and 'making sure they know where people are.'
On Thursday, it was reported that eight emergency responders, five of them West volunteer firefighters, were among the dead or missing.
Reyes said he could not confirm Friday how many of those killed were first responders. The mourning already had begun at a church service at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church the previous night.
'We know everyone that was there first, in the beginning,' said Christina Rodarte, 46, who has lived in West for 27 years. 'There's no words for it. It is a small community, and everyone knows the first responders, because anytime there's anything going on, the fire department is right there, all volunteer.'
Officials said there was no indication of foul play in the blast at West Fertilizer Co, which they said had not been inspected since 2006, was storing potentially combustible ammonium nitrate and was located in a residential area.
Rescuers expect to find 14 bodies in the the rubble of the plant and the wreckage of 50 to 75 homes that were destroyed in the explosion, Mayor Tommy Muska said.
Muska says there is 'no sign of life' left in five-block radius that was flattened by the blast. A 50-unit apartment building was gutted. A middle school and a nursing home with 133 elderly patients nearby were both destroyed by fire.
A fire captain from Dallas who lived in West and rushed to help his neighbors is confirmed dead.
The volunteers were battling a fire at the plant last night when a tank of anhydrous ammonia - the same substance that fueled the 1995 Oklahoma City bombs - exploded with such force that it was felt 50 miles away and registered as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake.
Several volunteer firefighters from other departments were in West for a training class when the fire at the fertilizer plant broke out and they heroically rushed to the scene, as well.
Six families have said publicly that they are missing loved ones, also. At least 179 people were injured in the explosion, 13 seriously.
As the dust settled on the small community of 2,800 people on Thursday morning, photographs revealed destroyed homes and debris-strewn roads in a four- or five-block radius around a massive charred crater where the plant once stood.
Later, Muska, who is himself a volunteer firefighter and was heading to the fertilizer plant when the blast occurred told the Dallas Morning News that the death toll might be lower - 14 to 16, which he described as a 'relief.'