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Explosion Leaves Many Homeless, Citizens Opening Their Doors

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WACO (CBSDFW.COM) – Residents, churches and businesses are opening their doors to those left homeless by the explosion in McLennan County, at the West Fertilizer plant.

At a 2 a.m. press conference Thursday morning, Waco police Sergeant William Patrick Swanton said, “We are evacuating homes in the area based on the ongoing danger from the fires that are still there.”

Swanton said first responders have seen “extreme devastation” at both homes and businesses. He said the evacution process has rescuers, “Going house-to-house and business-to-business. They’re having to be very cautious because there is structural damage to the homes and businesses.”

Reverend James Stevens with the First Baptist Church of Gholson, about 15 miles from West, is ready to house and assist anyone needing shelter.

“We have opened our doors and victims have started coming and the community has really rallied around,” pastor Stevens said. “People are bringing food, and water, and blankets, and necessities for these victims and we’re so thankful for everybody’s generosity in time of crisis.”

The blast at the West Fertilizer plant is believed to have killed up to 70 people and known to have injured more than 100.  As for homes in the area, Dr. George Smith, with West EMS, said, “We’ve got a lot of houses, on one street especially, there that look like a war zone. They’ve collapsed.”

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Pastor Stevens said some of the people who have already come to his church have lost everything. He said their house literally blew up. “All they have are the clothes that are on their back. They’re just thankful to be alive at this point.”

Officials say homes in a five-block radius around the West Fertilizer plant have been damaged. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is reporting that between 50 and 75 homes were damaged, including an apartment complex.

The First Baptist Church of Gholson is located in Waco, at 28 Wildcat Circle.

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