Environmental risk clouds West recovery

West explosion

Credit: Greg Johnson / WFAA

A banner in front of the Old Czech House on Oak Street in West, Texas, the scene of a deadly explosion on April 17, 2013.

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by JIM DOUGLAS

WFAA

Posted on April 20, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 1:01 PM

WEST, Texas — Some residents of West, Texas were allowed to return to their homes starting at 3 p.m. Saturday after delays caused by concerns that chemicals at the West Fertilizer plant might still pose a threat.

"Everything is safe, safe and safe," Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek said at a mid-afternoon news conference.

But West residents whose homes are closest to the site of Wednesday's powerful blast that killed at least 14 and left more than 200 injured are not yet cleared to go in.

Officials did not address reasons for multiple delays on Saturday, nor did they discuss concerns about any lingering hazards at the blast site.

Law enforcement issued a warning earlier Saturday after tanks began leaking gas, causing small fires.

The fires were being contained, but a source said federal authorities want to make certain there is no chance for another explosion.

Vanek said residents who live between Oak Street and Walnut Street would be permitted to return in what he called Stage 1 of the reentry process.

Vanek said there are a number of stipulations:

  • a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew will be enforced
  • residents can remain in their homes at their own risk between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., but will not be permitted to go outside during those hours
  • no vehicle larger than a pickup truck will be allowed in the impacted area
  • no more than two vehicles are permitted per residential address
  • the Texas Department of Public Safety will assign a reentry number to each vehicle
  • only residents 18 years or older are permitted to enter the blast zone

Vanek  said the access point for residents would be at the corner of Reagan Street and Tokio Street faicng south starting at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The mayor pro tem said there would be a town meeting at the Knights of Columbus Hall in West at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Earlier on Saturday, city officials close to the blast site were told to move away from the area.

Paramedic Bryce Reed said the leaks on Saturday were caused by tanks damaged by heat and had triggered small fires. He said no further evacuations were necessary.

Workers were placing heavy concrete barriers across streets leading into damaged neighborhoods in West on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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