(WEST, Texas) — After small fires were contained at the site of the massive West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion, a town official said on Saturday that some residents are being allowed to return to their homes.
“Everything is safe. Any rumors you’ve heard today, forget about it,” West City Council member Steve Vanek said at a news conference Saturday. “Everything is safe, safe and safe.”
While the news was welcome for some of West’s displaced residents, those returning are under strict orders to stay in their homes and will also have to adhere to an evening curfew.
Evacuated residents have been waiting to return to assess the condition of their homes and belongings after they were forced to flee at a moment’s notice after a blast on Wednesday at West Fertilizer Co. killed at least 14 people, injured 200 more and carved a widespread path of destruction.
Firefighters responded at the plant on Wednesday at 7:29 p.m., and after realizing the severity of the situation, began evacuating people in the vicinity.
Approximately 20 minutes later, an explosion tore through a four-to-five block radius, leveling roughly 80 homes and a middle school and trapping 133 residents of a nursing home in rubble. The blast was so powerful, residents said it shook the ground and there were reports of people hearing it several miles away.
“At some buildings, walls were ripped off, roofs were peeled back,” Waco Police Department Sgt. William Swanton said.
The cause of the explosion is still under investigation
Donald Adair, the owner of West Fertilizer Co. and a lifelong resident of the town, said Friday his heart was “broken with grief.”
“This tragedy will continue to hurt deeply for generations to come,” Adair said in a statement.
“My family and I can’t express enough our deep appreciation for the loving service and selfless sacrifice from within and around our community responding to the urgent needs of those affected,” he said.
Adair vowed his company would “pledge to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community.”
As the town works to rebuild after the tragedy, Vanek said a large memorial service is being planned to honor the victims, many of whom were first responders.
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