Officials have recovered 12 bodies after an explosion at a fertilizer plant rocked the small town of West, Texas, earlier this week.
The blast took place on Wednesday, ripping through the central Texas town and injuring scores of people. There are still 60 people unaccounted for, said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, adding that authorities are checking hospitals to see if any of the missing are there.
In total, more than 200 people were hurt and 50 homes destroyed from the West, Texas, explosion. It forced mass evacuations from the town of close to 2,000 people, including 133 residents of a nearby nursing home.
There were five West firefighters, one Dallas firefighter, and four emergency responders killed in the blast, the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas noted.
There are still few answers about what caused the earth-shaking blast, like what caused the explosion and whether it was the result of criminal activity.
Authorities also say they are unsure of the total number of people killed in the blast, but estimates have reached as high as 60 in the days after the explosion. In a news conference late Wednesday night, D.L. Wilson of Texas Department of Public Safety noted that that there were more than 100 people injured in the fertilizer plant at the time of the explosion. He said the total killed would be “a number,” Texas slang for high.
“We still are holding out some hope,” said mayor Tommy Muska, who also lost his home in the blast.
Recovery after the West, Texas, explosion is still difficult, as authorities said the area is still “very volatile.” The wreckage is contaminated with ammonium nitrate, a solid fertilizer used to make explosives.
Waco police Sargeant W. Patrick Swanton noted that the recovery effort after the West, Texas, blast was a “hard, gut-wrenching job.” Many people in the small town known each other, making the recovery especially sensitive and painful for firefighters involved.