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WKEF-TV ABC 22 News :: News - Top Stories - UPDATE: 12 Bodies Recovered After Texas Blast
Friday, April 19 2013, 12:12 PM EDT
UPDATE: 12 Bodies Recovered After Texas Blast
WEST, Texas (AP) -- The bodies of 12 people have been recovered after an enormous Texas fertilizer plant explosion that demolished surrounding neighborhoods for blocks and left about 200 other people injured, authorities said Friday.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jason Reyes said it was "with a heavy heart" that he confirmed 12 bodies had been pulled from the area of the plant explosion in West, about 20 miles north of Waco.

Even before investigators released a confirmed number of fatalities, the names of the dead were becoming known in the town of 2,800 and a small group of firefighters and other first responders who may have rushed toward the plant to battle a pre-explosion blaze was believed to be among them.

Reyes said he could not confirm Friday how many of those killed were first responders.

Rescue crews spent much of the day after Wednesday night's blast searching the town for survivors, and Reyes said those efforts were ongoing. He said authorities had searched and cleared 150 buildings by Friday morning and still had another 25 to examine.

The mourning had begun at a church service at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church the previous night.

"We know everyone that was there first, in the beginning," said Christina Rodarte, 46, who has lived in West for 27 years. "There's no words for it. It is a small community, and everyone knows the first responders, because anytime there's anything going on, the fire department is right there, all volunteer."

One victim Rodarte knew and whose name was released was Kenny Harris, a 52-year-old captain in the Dallas Fire Department who lived south of West. He was off duty at the time but responded to the fire to help, according to a statement from the city of Dallas.

With search and rescue efforts continuing, what became immediately clear was that the town's landscape was going to be changed forever by the four-to-five block radius leveled by the blast. An apartment complex was badly shattered, a school set ablaze, and a nursing home was left in ruins.

Residents were kept out of a large swath of West, where search and rescue teams continued to pick through the rubble. Some with permission made forays closer to the destruction and came back stunned, and it was possible that some residents would be let closer to their homes on Friday, emergency workers said.

Garage doors were ripped off homes. Fans hung askew from twisted porches. At West Intermediate School, which was close to the blast site, all of the building's windows were blown out, as well as the cafeteria.

"I had an expectation of what I would see, but what I saw went beyond my expectations in a bad way," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott after his visit. "It is very disturbing to see the site.



Earlier coverage:

Cincinnati Area Fertilizer Plant Says Risk of Explosion There is Minimal

NORTH BEND -- The Texas plant explosion was hundreds of miles away but the echo is
hitting close to home. The Agrium Plant in North Bend makes
fertilizer and stores many of the same materials found at that Texas
plant.

Reporter Joe Webb from our sister station WKRC in Cincinnati spent the day in North Bend and has more on the concerns.

Neighbors
of the local fertilizer plant were naturally concerned after seeing the
carnage from Texas. But the plant and emergency
workers say there's no comparison between the two.

Rob
Niemann lives just down Brower Road from Agrium. The images from Texas
got him a little worried. " My house, family and everything around it.
Concerns...worries. You got children."

Agrium
uses anhydrous ammonia to make fertilizer and other products. It stores
and transports large volumes of anhydrous ammonia-a hazardous chemical
that crews were worried about leaking from the Texas plant. The plant
manager said it's too early to know what went wrong in Texas. But said
it won't happen here. " We do this every day. We have robust safety
programs, superior safety programs. Agrium does as a company we take
this extremely seriously."

Craig says the
processes here are not something that would lead likely to an
explosion....even in a worst case scenario. The local fire chief
agrees. "One of the things that gives us a lot of confidence is on an
annual basis we're down here training and our personnel are in their
facilities multiple times a year."

A community team
of firefighters, elected officials and residents meet every other month
to talk about issues. The old-timers say it wasn't always that way.
"They seem to be very responsible very upfront. It's not like the old
chemical companies that use to be here years ago that hid everything and
wouldn't let you in the front gate."

The worst-case scenario
emergency crews have worked on for the Agrium plant does not lead to an
explosion. It leads to a release of
anhydrous ammonia. Obviously a serious
environmental and safety hazard but not has immediately devastating as
an explosion of the scale we saw today in Texas.

The fire chief says in 32 years on the department there has only been one incident at the Agrium plant.
UPDATE: 12 Bodies Recovered After Texas Blast

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