The Mayor of West, Texas confirmed as many as 40 people have been killed in the blast and preceding fire at the fertilizer plant Wednesday night. Authorities are responding to the situation as a crime scene until they determine whether the explosion was an industrial accident or an intentional act. Gov. Perry says the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is monitoring air quality and the Center for Public Integrity reports the US Chemical Safety Board is sending a “large investigative team” to the site. Unfortunately the Chemical Safety Board has been criticized for not closing cases or issuing recommendations in a timely manner — they still have an open case on the Deep Horizon spill in 2011.
If you would like to help, Austin Food Bank is serving as the central distribution center for statewide donations and you can visit their website for more information.
In 2006 a complaint was filed with TCEQ about a strong smell of ammonia coming from the West Texas Fertilizer plant. It was then fined for not having proper permitting. The Dallas Morning News is reporting that state inspectors knew the plant with explosive capability was close to the school and homes that were damaged Wednesday night. As recently as 2012 the plant was fined for safety violations.
Lt. Governor Dewhurst told Sean Hannity today that they aren't ruling out anything including retaliation for the “Waco Siege” that ended 20 years ago tomorrow near the same town.
Today Governor Perry addressed the media saying,
President Obama called from Air Force One as he was enroute to Boston and we greatly appreciate his call and his gracious support of course and very quick turnaround of the emergency declaration that will be forthcoming and his offer of prayers. I have also spoken to local officials to make sure they have all the support and assistance from the state. To that end I am declaring Mclennan County a disaster.
State agencies arrived on the scene last night after the explosion and Perry says they will remain there as long as they are needed.
Texas Department of Public Safety is securing the area so that other law enforcement and first responders can attend to the emergency.
Texas Task Force 1 & 2 as well as Texas National Guard are assisting with active search and rescue operations.
Texas Department of State Health Services has brought in emergency vehicles and supplies, and set up a mobile hospital.
Texas Education Agency is working with the local school district to meet the needs of the “intermediate school” that is within close proximity of the plant.
TCEQ is monitoring the air quality. All pipelines are also being monitored closely and gas distribution to all residents has been disconnected until further notice.