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4:21 am
Sat April 20, 2013

Officials Seek Answers In Aftermath Of Deadly Plant Explosion

Originally published on Sat April 20, 2013 3:47 pm

With the house-to-house search over and the living and dead largely accounted for, the town of West, Texas, began the transition from shock and disbelief to communal grieving.

On Friday night, mourners gathered at St. Mary Church of the Assumption to remember the dead. Many of the dead were first responders who were fighting a roaring fire for 30 minutes before the explosion, which was felt 80 miles away in Fort Worth.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn caused a stir when he suggested that there might be many more people missing than thought.

"There's still about 60 people unaccounted for," he said. "We need to make sure that everybody who can be accounted for is properly taken care of."

That had reporters scrambling for official confirmation so that local law enforcement felt compelled to clarify the senator's remarks.

"There was a list that came out that had, I think, 60 was mentioned," County Judge Scott Felton said. "But really the way that list is put together, if someone called in from Dallas and said Aunt Suzie didn't answer her phone, then we put Aunt Suzie on the list of unaccounted for."

The disaster, which destroyed a section of West, has raised questions about why the facility was not inspected more carefully. The last inspection by OSHA came all the way back in 1985. In a press conference, Gov. Rick Perry tried to address those questions.

"Obviously, I think there will be a lot of both local, state and probably federal oversight to that at this particular point in time," Perry said. "But again, when you have local zoning, when you have state requirements and then you have federal requirements, those sometime mesh; sometimes they don't."

Now that the search is over, control of the town is being turned back over to the mayor and city council, and the citizens of West will begin to trickle home to what's left.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The search is over in the small town of West, Texas. On Wednesday, a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant there, killed at least 14 people. The mourning and the cleanup begin amid questions about the facility and its record. Here's NPR's Wade Goodwyn.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: With the house-to-house search over, and the living and dead largely accounted for, the town of West began the transition from shock and disbelief to communal grieving.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMAZING GRACE")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Leading congregation in singing) Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...

GOODWYN: Friday night at St. Mary Church of the Assumption, mourners gathered to remember the dead. Many were first-responders who were fighting a roaring fire for 30 minutes before the explosion, which was felt 80 miles away in Fort Worth. Texas Sen. John Cornyn caused a stir when he suggested that there might be many more people missing than thought.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN: There's still about 60 people unaccounted for. And we need to make sure that everybody who can be accounted for, is properly taken care of.

SIMON: That had reporters scrambling for official confirmation; so much so that local law enforcement felt compelled to clarify the senator's remarks. County Judge Scott Felton.

JUDGE SCOTT FELTON: There was a list that came out, that had the number. I think 60 was mentioned. But really, the way that list was put together, if someone called in - let's say, from Dallas - and said, Aunt Susie didn't answer her phone, then we put Aunt Susie down as on the list of possible missing people, when it really - Aunt Susie doesn't answer her phone most of the time, anyway.

GOODWYN: The disaster, which destroyed a section of West, has raised questions about why the facility was not inspected more carefully. The last inspection by OSHA came all the way back in 1985. In a press conference, Gov. Rick Perry tried to address those questions.

GOV. RICK PERRY: Well, obviously, I think there will be a lot of both local and state - and probably federal oversight to that, at this particular point in time. But again, when you have local zoning, when you have state requirements and then you have federal requirements, those sometime - mesh; sometimes, they don't.

GOODWYN: Now that the search is over, control of the town is being turned back over to the mayor and city council. And the citizens of West will begin to trickle home to what's left.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, in the town of West, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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