WEST (CBSDFW.COM) - Rescue and recovery efforts resumed Friday morning in West, after a fertilizer plant explosion on Wednesday evening killed at least 14 people, left another 200 people hurt and destroyed at least 50 homes. The incident began as a fire at the plant, but turned fatal after the facility exploded. First responders who were working on the original blaze are now among the deceased. The bodies have been taken to a Dallas forensics laboratory for identification.
As many as 400 emergency officials from across Texas, including the DFW area, responded to the explosion, even without being asked. At least two of those killed in the explosion were firefighters. Of those, Kenny Harris lived in West and was a captain with Dallas Fire-Rescue. He rushed over to the scene as soon as he heard about the fire. Harris, 52, was initially reported missing after the blast. There were no detail however on how it was discovered that Harris did indeed perish.
Several agencies from across the state and nation have answered calls for help. Gov. Rick Perry has pledged full support to the victims and President Barack Obama has promised help from FEMA and other federal agencies. Perry called the explosion a “nightmare scenario” for the Texas town. “A very tragic, difficult 16 hours for all of us,” he said, “all of our friends, loved ones, and individuals who have friends and loved ones who watched this unfold from afar.”
The Governor declared McLellan County a disaster area. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are expected to tour the devastation on Friday.
West is a tight-knit community of less than 3,000 residents, and there is not a single person there who has not been impacted by the tragedy. “These people who have been affected by this blast are up to dealing with this challenge,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Thursday. “It may be a challenge today. It may be a challenge tomorrow. But, in the coming months and years, these Texans will piece their lives together.”
Many of the survivors turned to prayer on Thursday night. Hundreds of people jammed into St. Mary’s Catholic Church for a candlelight vigil.
As one might expect, folks across Texas have rallied to help the survivors and families of the victims. Willie Nelson grew up in Abbott, located about five miles north of the explosion site. He was already scheduled to perform in Austin on April 28, and has now said that all proceeds from that show will benefit the West volunteer fire department.
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