Recovery Leaves Displaced West Residents Frustrated
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WEST (CBS 11 NEWS) – On Wednesday, April 24 it will be one week since the devastating fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West. That date also means it will have been seven days since some residents were allowed anywhere near their homes.
Many people are upset, saying they just aren’t getting answers to their questions. And unfortunately, the news they are getting isn’t necessarily good.
While some displaced residents could soon be allowed onto their property to salvage valuables and mementos, on Tuesday night, CBS 11 News learned it could be three more weeks before some people have water service.
As it stands, city workers are still trying to figure out if the explosion damaged water lines.
When residents are allowed back in the northern end of the city, nearest the West Fertilizer plant, they can expect to see every home with a mark on it. A green-colored tag will indicate is okay/safe to enter. A red-colored tag means individuals will need an escort, even to retrieve sentimental items.
A town hall meeting held Tuesday night was packed and there were lots of questions. “Can we have it [our home] boarded up in the meantime,” one resident asked. Another resident asked about things that can’t be replaced. “Are we going to be able to save our personal facts and pictures and things like that?”
Some of the answers residents received did little to ease their worry. “If its not structurally safe, you’re not going to get in there… not going to get in your house,” one woman explained to others after speaking to building officials. Hearing the statement one resident asked, “Never?” She replied, “You’re not going to get in to get your cars out right now.”
For most of the questions asked, more often than not, the answer from city officials included the word “patience.”
Insurance companies have started combing through the 10 streets closest to the explosion. There’s no set time though on when the zone will open up. For now, teams of escorts are being put together to accompany residents when they do get back in.
“It seems as though there’s a lot of communication between different agencies, but all in all, we’re just holding on and waiting,” said resident Ruby Douglas, whose childhood home was destroyed in the blast.
At the West Fertilizer site Tuesday, heavy equipment continued pushing away debris. Investigators revealed that the blast left a crater measuring 10 feet deep, and nearly 100 feet wide.
While investigators haven’t determined the exact cause of the blast, they did rule out one theory. “The rail car that there’s been questions about, that was full of ammonium nitrate, is not the cause of the fire or cause of the explosion. It is a victim of the explosion,” Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner stated definitively. Investigators said they performed between 60 to 70 interviews in the last day trying to figure out what happened in West.
There is a sign that the recovery process is underway – there will be trash collection on Wednesday, at least on the south end of town.
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