Officials Seek Answers In Aftermath Of Deadly Explosion

NPR icon by Wade Goodwyn
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Charlie Riedel

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, at St. Mary Church of the Assumption, mourners gathered 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 Ft. 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," Cornyn 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," says County Judge Scott Felton. "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 local state and federal oversight to that at this time," Perry said. "But again, when you have local zoning 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.

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