AUSTIN -- Help is going out to the victims in West. The small community of about 2,800 residents is described as tight-knit. Officials say they've seen the community come out in force offering a shoulder for others to lean on.
Officials say the need in West is more emotional than material at this time. Mental health agencies have been deployed along with counselors. The Austin Disaster Relief Network, a group of more than 100 churches, is partnering with Red Cross’ Disaster Assistance Center to provide support. ADRN says their team includes volunteers trained in emotional and spiritual care as well as 50 trained chaplains.
Since much of the community is centered near the fertilizer plant that exploded, many in the town are suffering some sort of loss. Dozens of homes were leveled in the blast. Neighbors rushed to help each other. Their focus centered first on the injured.
“I offered my vehicle. It was parked right there. We loaded up. I could only fit one person at a time. I took three trips. [I drove] two [victims] to Hillcrest [and] one to Providence. The first one was in bad shape,” said Wesley Adcock.
Austin-Travis County EMS sent two of its commanders to West to help coordinate with rescue teams.
The Austin Fire Department also sent a team of seven to join Texas Task Force One.
In Abbott, just five miles to the north of West, donations are pouring in. The school gym was filled with cots, clothing, and food made available to any victims or first responders who need it.
"We did get some first responders this morning they were able to get some food, get some water. One even got some socks," Abbott ISD Superintendent Ricky Edison said.
"The goal is just to ratchet down the level of the trauma to make the turmoil in their minds and hearts decrease just a little," said Susan Martin from Austin Disaster Relief Network.
The volunteers said lending a hand in a time of tragedy is the least they can do.
Willie Nelson, Abbott's most famous native son, announced Thursday that his upcoming concert at The Backyard in Austin will now be a fundraiser for the town of West.
In Central Texas businesses are pulling together to help fill other needs. The Blood Center of Central Texas is taking in donations. The bank says it is in need of O+ and O- blood and platelet donors. The injuries are widespread.
“It was something that I never want to see ever again. There were people hurt everywhere,” said Adcock.
There are also groups accepting donations for victims including water and blankets along with household supplies including clothing, food and baby supplies.