Death Toll Rises Following Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast

The death toll related to a massive fertilizer plant explosion in Texas last week has reached 15, according to officials involved in the case.

At least 200 more people suffered injuries, said National Public Radio (NPR). Officials believe all of the victims have been found, said television station KXXV. “No more victims. Everything is searched,” said Mayor Pro Tem, Steve Vanek, in a recent news conference, according to NPR. Identification of those killed in the blast continues; however, most are believed to have been first responders.

The blast, which is being investigated, left a crater 93 feet in length and 10 feet in depth, said NPR. Natural causes—for instance, a lightening strike—have been eliminated as what would have sparked the fire that led to the blast.

Nearby residents were forced to flee from and evacuate their homes over safety concerns and the ongoing investigation. The first wave of residents from West, Texas, have been allowed to return to their damaged residences, said NPR. These initial returns are on the outer edges of the blast’s periphery and are meant for residents to collect possessions, said FoxNews. Insurance adjusters have been on site and crews are boarding up homes and clean up is underway. The Red Cross is also on site.

West, Texas has been declared a federal disaster area by President Barack Obama. A declaration of a federal disaster allows for up $5 million in federal assistance to be given to Texas, which can then pass those funds to local agencies to repair damaged structures, to conduct emergency repairs, to demolish structures, and to install barricades, said FoxNews.

“This falls under public assistance, which is more infrastructure,” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spokeswoman Stephanie Moffett, told FoxNews. “That’s what the focus is on and what is included in this particular declaration.”

Meanwhile, lawsuits against the fertilizer plant’s owner have been filed by a number of insurers and a single mother. Dozens of homes and an apartment complex were destroyed, said Reuters. The town is home to 2,700 people, said FoxNews.

Adair Grain, Inc. is the parent company of West Fertilizer Co., which has been accused of negligence, according to court documents related to just-filed lawsuits, said Reuters. The cause for the fire and explosion has not yet been identified, according to investigators and a damage estimate in dollars has also not been made. “It’s too early,” Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, told FoxNews.

Investigators continue to work at the site of the blast, according to Robert Champion, the Dallas office chief of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said FoxNews. Understanding what started the fire and where that began is expected to take several more days; however, a rail car carrying ammonium nitrate has not been ruled out, said assistant state fire marshal Kelly Kistner, according to FoxNews. “This is much like an archaeological dig that we’re going through,” Kistner added.

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