The small town of West, Texas, is struggling valiantly to rebuild after a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant virtually decimated the entire community on Wednesday, a struggle that has been almost over-looked and forgotten by the nation at large as the focus has been on the equally horrific Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent death and capture of two suspects connected to the attack this week.
The powerful blast—which measured as a small earthquake on seismographs across the country—leveled the fertilizer plant and destroyed or damaged homes and businesses in a two mile radius and was felt and heard over fifty miles away. The official death toll in the explosion is now at 14, with at least 60 people still unaccounted for or missing. The number of people injured in the blast is well over two hundred, while 24 of those remain in critical condition. At least five of the people listed as missing were volunteer firefighters responding to calls of an emergency situation at the plant, which was cited in 2006 for not obtaining proper permits.
Witnesses at the scene describe the area as looking as if it were a war zone and extremely chaotic in the first hours after the explosion. Nearby communities were evacuated while the danger of toxic smoke coming from the explosion was assessed, with fear that yet more of the fertilizer stored in the factory could ignite another massive blast. One of the casualties was an elderly man who died while being evacuated from a nearby nursing home. Amateur video taken by local residents show the incredible force of the detonation, which emitted a deafening roar. A large mushroom-shaped cloud was photographed rising from the blast zone, prompting many residents to believe the area was under a nuclear attack.
While details of what precisely caused the blast remain sketchy, an undoubtedly lengthy investigation of the disaster has already begun in earnest. In the meantime, the 2,800 residents of the tight-knit community are pulling together as best they can to recover from the tragedy, virtually out of the national spotlight, as the US and world media feverishly reported on the terrorist attack in Boston and the sensational capture and killing of the prime suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Watertown, Massachusetts, on Friday.
Texas governor Rick Perry has toured the scene and declared the area a disaster zone, which immediately releases government funding and federal assistance to local citizens and businesses to rebuild and help cope with the aftermath and enormous clean-up effort. The tragedy raised fears of another U.S. terror attack just days after the Boston bombs that killed three people, and ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Waco siege of the Branch Davidian sect that ended with the death of David Koresh and 85 other people in 1995. Waco is only nineteen miles from the town of West, Texas. Public officials and authorities are assuring that there is no connection between the plant explosion and the anniversaries of both the Waco, Texas, siege and the Oklahoma City bombing, which were both on April 19: