WEST, Texas (AP/KXAN) — At least 14 people died in the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed Friday. Around 60 are unaccounted for.
Gov. Rick Perry, who toured the blast area by helicopter, told reporters that the images were devasting.
"It's pretty stunning (from) up above," Perry said.
Earlier in the day, Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jason Reyes put the initial death count at 12. Two more were added late in the afternoon..
The names of only four of the dead have been released: Dallas Fire and Rescue Capt. Kenny Harris; Buck Uptmor, Cody Dragoo, Morris Bridges and Joey Pustejovsky of the West Volunteer Fire Department; Cyrus Reed and Jerry Chapman of the Abbott Volunteer Fire Department; and Perry Calvin of the Navarro Mills Fire Department. A number of emergency medical technicians also died.
Search and rescue efforts are continuing in the neighborhoods surrounding the fertilizer plant destroyed in a devastating explosion that damaged blocks of homes and other buildings.
Reyes also said that emergency personnel are still checking structures in the vicinity of the West Fertilizer Co. The search has been slowed by some buildings that must be stabilized before search teams can enter. At least 200 people were injured in the explosion.
The bodies were being taken to Dallas for positive identification
One of the dead was a Dallas firefighter. Capt. Kenny Harris lived south of West and rushed to the fire to volunteer. Authorities have not yet released a firm death toll from Wednesday's blast.
Edward Smith, a volunteer chaplain for the Dallas Police Department, counseled firefighters at West's fire station Friday morning. Outside, firefighters from nearby Alvarado washed a truck that was used after the blast to put out the fires started by the explosion.
"Right now, the general public might be saying, 'Well, why aren't they talking about this?" Smith said of the firefighters. "They don't necessarily even want to talk about it. They're holding out hope."
In a town of just 2,800 people, everyone here knew someone affected by the explosion.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn told television station WFAA that search-and-rescue workers had a list of several dozen people who are unaccounted for and were checking that list against those people who are still hospitalized, staying with relatives or evacuated because their homes were destroyed.
"So, hopefully that number will come way down, hopefully to zero," Cornyn said.
The fertilizer facility stores and distributes anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer that can be injected into soil. It also mixes other fertilizers.
Plant owner Donald Adair released a statement saying he would never forget the "selfless sacrifice of first-responders who died trying to protect all of us."
One of the plant employees was also killed responding to the fire, Adair said.
The explosion was strong enough to register as a small earthquake and could be heard for many miles across the Texas prairie. It demolished nearly everything for several blocks around the plant.
Reyes said 50 homes in the blast zone were destroyed, as were three fire-rescue trucks and one ambulance. At least 25 homes still had to be searched.
Emergency workers say it's possible more residents will be allowed to venture closer to their homes Friday to assess the damage.
Meanwhile, federal investigators said they will begin inspecting the site of the devastating fertilizer plant explosion in an effort to collect debris and other evidence that may point to a cause of the fatal blast.
Franceska Perot, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said investigators will begin Friday at the perimeter of the blast and work inward toward the destroyed West Fertilizer Co.
The ATF is scouring the site along with the state fire marshal's office.
As investigators move inward in examining debris and damage, residents gradually will be allowed to return Friday to homes along streets that have already been examined.
The two U.S. senators from Texas will be in the small community of West to view the damage from this week's massive fertilizer plant explosion.
Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are set to get a briefing Friday while viewing the disaster up close and meeting with local officials. So will the Czech ambassador to the United States, Petr Gandalovic. A large number of residents in the Central Texas community have Czech heritage.
In a statement on the Senate floor Thursday, Cornyn asked lawmakers to pray for the town and said the nation is grieving with West as authorities search for remains of victims.
Investigators are being tight-lipped about the number of dead from Wednesday's blast, but authorities say more than 160 were injured.
Meanwhile, aid began arriving the small community north of Waco. The grocery chain H-E-B had semi-trucks a and a mobile kitchen set up to help provide for for the town.
Late Thursday, Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center officials said 28 patients were admitted and
seven of those have now been discharged. At least three of the patients were children and five of those patients were in intensive care.
Two pediatric trauma patients were transferred from our facility to the McLane Children's Scott & White in Temple.
Several firefighters and first responders were among those admitted.
Additionally, 12 elderly patients, who were reportedly nursing home residents from West, were able to be treated and discharged to alternate nursing home facilities.
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Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside a vehicle after the child's family was involved in a fender bender, DPS said.
Austin Police are looking for a missing woman.
APD is responding to a 25 vehicle accident near the 5400 block of Ed Bluestein near Thurgood Ave.
A man is dead after being hit by several vehicles in the eastbound lane of Highway 71 Saturday night.
A representative at the Fayette County Sheriff's office said that Fayette County is effectively shut down due to icy conditions.