Texas residents seek healing after blast

2013-04-22 12:02
Mourners attend a service at St Mary's Church of the Assumption a day after an explosion at a fertiliser plant in West, Texas. (File, AP)

Mourners attend a service at St Mary's Church of the Assumption a day after an explosion at a fertiliser plant in West, Texas. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

West - Hundreds of residents of this close-knit Texas town sought healing at church services on Sunday, as one school was readied to re-open and authorities located the centre but not the cause of last week's deadly fertiliser plant blast.

About 200 people in the town of West - including farmers, military veterans and migrant workers - packed into the Church of the Assumption in the centre of the town for Catholic mass early on Sunday.

Father Boniface Onjefu offered prayers for the 14 dead, among them local volunteer firefighters and emergency workers, and the nearly 200 injured in the blast that smashed several blocks of the small town, about 128km south of Dallas and less than 32km north of Waco.

"Let us be strong and move our beloved city ahead. God is with us," Onjefu said.

The blaze and ensuing explosion at West Fertiliser, a privately owned retail facility, gutted a 50-unit apartment complex, demolished about 50 houses and battered a nursing home and several schools. Dozens more homes were reported damaged.

A reporter allowed into the evacuated blast zone on Sunday said the roof was torn off the apartment complex. Large chunks of concrete hurled from the plant a couple hundred meters away littered the complex grounds, and a basketball court was unrecognisable except for the toppled goals, according to a pool report.

Large crater


The nursing home's brick exterior was cracked, and the roof had caved in.

"This is like a war zone," said Brian Hoback, a national response team investigator for US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, among more than 60 federal and state personnel working at the scene.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said a probe had identified a "large crater at the seat" of the blast, but neither the cause nor the location of the fire that preceded it have been determined.

Authorities have said there was no indication of foul play at the plant, which was last inspected for safety in 2011, according to a risk management plan filed with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials said the death toll remained at 14, although the victims have yet to be officially identified. McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said he did not know of anyone still unaccounted for, despite persistent rumours.

Matt Cawthon, chief deputy sheriff for McLennan County, said two of the dead were near or in the apartment complex. He was unable to give their age or gender.

Memorial service

A male resident from the nursing home died enroute to the hospital after being evacuated, although it appeared his death was not directly caused by the blast, Cawthon said.

Officials announced a memorial service would be held for the first responders in Waco on Thursday.

Larry Kaska, who lost his home on the north side of town, said the mass led by Onjefu brought "some healing" to residents as they started to rebuild their shattered lives.

"We're turning ... getting back to some normalcy again," said Kaska, who is now living at his nephew's home. "Just hearing his prayers and comfort, and [knowing] that people are being supportive ... help you out."

But for some at the church service, it was too early to speak of healing. Among them was Silvestre Duran, a Mexican migrant whose wife, Lucy, had suffered flashbacks since being injured as the blast tore through the nursing home where she worked.

Her face was marked by burns, and she had multiple stitches in her right ear. Their daughter, who worked at the nursing home, also was injured in the explosion.

"A lot of people have memories that will be with them for a long time," Silvestre said.

Another churchgoer, who identified himself only as a farmer who had lived in West all his life, was still struggling to come to terms with the toll on the town.

"I lost three of my best friends ... I should have been maybe there with" them, he said, clearly shaken. "I just consider myself and my family blessed ... If you don't have faith in the good Lord, you have nothing."

Read more on:    us  |  texas explosion

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.