Community reeling after fertilizer facility explosion in West, TX

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 4/19/2013

Albert Elkins of West, TX, says he thought a bird had gotten in his house and was trying to get out when he woke up to the sounds of windows breaking in his house around 8:50 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.

Elkins, an OOIDA member, told Land Line his windows were shattered on the south and east sides of his house. He stepped outside and saw smoke and helicopters hovering overhead. That’s when he knew that something was seriously wrong in West, TX, which is about three miles from his farm.

Around 8:50 p.m., there was a major explosion at a fertilizer retail facility in West, TX, which rocked the rural community.

He was scheduled to leave on Thursday, but said he had to take a vacation day instead to board up his windows.

“Things could have been a lot worse, for sure,” Elkins said.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s daily briefing on Thursday, an unspecified number of people were killed in the explosion. The initial report is that many were EMTs or volunteer firefighters who were responding to the fire that preceded the explosion, which registered a 2.1 on the Richter Scale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

FEMA is reporting that as many as 200 people may have been injured in the blast, and between 75 to 100 homes were destroyed. Much of the town was evacuated after the blast because of the threat of anhydrous ammonia, which may cause people to become sick if inhaled, or fear that another tank filled with the gas might explode. Nearly 11,000 residents are still without power.

Eddie Hamilton, an OOIDA member from West, TX, told “Land Line Now” he was delivering a load when he heard the news that there had been an explosion near his home, located about seven to eight blocks away.

His said his wife and kids were at church a few blocks from where the explosion occurred, but were not injured and were staying with his mother-in-law in nearby Waco, TX.

“Our house wasn’t damaged, but some friends of ours that are about two to three blocks from me, their windows were knocked out,” he said.

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