Volunteers reaching out to West victims



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Posted on April 19, 2013 at 6:55 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 19 at 7:43 AM

WEST, Texas -- A massive outreach is underway to help the victims and first responders in West.  Officials say there are both material and emotional needs.

Worldwide words of support are coming in to the community. Pope Francis posted a tweet on Thursday urging for prayers.
"Please join me in praying for the victims of the explosion in Texas and their families," posted the Pope.

The damage in West is massive. The explosion leveled much of the town. It's a community served by the Catholic Diocese of Austin. Bishop Joe Vasquez said he will visit West on Friday.

Right now, teams with the American Red Cross and the Austin Disaster Relief Network are in West.

"Everybody in this little town knows everybody. So they hurt for themselves and they hurt for their neighbors and they hurt for their friends and we just want to help hurting hearts," said Susan Martin of the ADRN.

Red Cross counseling teams will be on hand for the next 30 days, but the need will stretch out beyond those days. The Diocese says it will have volunteers available to take on cases helping victims rebuild at that point.

"Every one of us is in shock. We don't know what to think. Our hearts go out to the families, to those who are missing, those who lost their lives, our firefighters and EMTs," said Father Ed Karasek of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in West.

With so many injured in the blast, the medical community is also coming together. There is a need for blood. Blood banks are looking for O+ and O- blood along with platelets.

"It's been a really hard week for our nation in general,” said Austin donor Julie Ragins. “I honestly have a fear of giving blood, [but] given everything that's happened this week, what better time than the present to conquer that fear?"

The need for blood donations will last for weeks. Banks are asking anyone who can donate to make an appointment. 

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