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Explosion in West, TX

Perry urges all Americans to keep West in their prayers

Posted Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday declared McLennan County - home to West, the small community rocked by the deadly fertilizer plant explosion - a disaster area and announced that he's asking President Barack Obama for a federal emergency declaration as well.

The declarations will help free up funding to help those in the community impacted by the explosion with the massive recovery and rebuilding effort they face.

"West is a really small community - just a few thousand people," Perry said during a press conference at Texas Department of Public Safety headquarters in Austin. "Anyone who grew up in a small town understands that this tragedy will touch every family in West and the surrounding communities in some way.

"I urge all Texans and Americans to join me in keeping the people of West and our first responders in your prayers as this situation continues to unfold."

Perry said countless state officials from agencies ranging from the DPS to the transportation department - as well as Texas Task Force One and Two rescue teams and the Texas National Guard - are in West helping with everything from the active search and rescue effort to monitoring pipelines and environmental quality.

Obama called Perry Thursday morning from Air Force One as he made his way to Boston, offering prayers and anything he could do to help.

"My Administration, through FEMA and other agencies, is in close contact with our state and local partners on the ground to make sure there are no unmet needs as search and rescue and response operations continue," Obama said in a statement released early Thursday.

"West is a town that many Texans hold near and dear to their hearts, and as residents continue to respond to this tragedy, they will have the support of the American people," the president said.

"A tight-knit community has been shaken, and good, hard-working people have lost their lives."

Perry - who has bitterly fought with Obama as recently as 2011 to finally win disaster declarations needed for part of Texas ravaged by wildfires - expressed his gratitude for Obama's quick support and sympathy.

"We greatly appreciate his call, and his gracious offer of support, of course, and the quick turnaround of the emergency declaration that will be forthcoming, and his offer of prayers," Perry said.

Emergency help rolls in

In addition to those helping with the search and rescue effort, state workers arrived in West in mass - with DPS troopers are helping secure the area, environmental officials providing air monitoring, transportation workers helping with traffic and bringing two 300-gallon fuel trailers and personnel to help with mobile fueling, and railroad commission workers monitoring pipelines in the area.

Insurance department workers are trying to help those impacted by this tragedy, forest service officials are helping with planning and logistics and animal health commission employees are providing support personnel.

School is closed in West until at least Monday, although Perry said education officials may choose to reopen later than that if they prefer.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst pledged the support of state lawmakers in helping the residents of West.

"The Legislature will be absolutely supportive to do everything we can to provide resources and help," he said. "I've seen Texans move forward.

"We will move forward, but it's a painful time for the people in West and our prayers go out to them."

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, whose district includes West, called on all Americans to pray for the victims of this tragedy.

"The terrorists attack in Boston and the explosion in West remind us that life is sometimes cut short; accordingly I ask all Americans to pray for these communities," he said. "I am praying and hoping for the best in the wake of the disastrous explosion in West. It is heartbreaking to hear of the fatalities and numerous injuries.

"I am grateful for all of the police, fire, emergency responders and volunteers from our community and around the state who have come to aid those in need," he said. "Our offices will continue to monitor the aftermath and be on hand to assist our friends and neighbors throughout the recovery process. My thoughts and prayers go out to the community of West as they endure through this difficult period."

Seeking prayers

Other elected officials weighed in as well.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas released a joint statement saying they are among those grieving for those who were injured or lost loved ones in the blast.

"(We) are grateful to the firefighters and first responders who risked their own lives to keep others safe," they said. "We ask all Texans to keep West in their thoughts and prayers. We remain in communication with Gov. Perry's office and emergency management officials, and stand to offer whatever support we can."

And U.S. Rep. U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, called the West explosion "truly saddening and a terrible tragedy."

"As Congressman of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, my heart goes out to our neighbors only a few miles south of the 33rd Congressional District," he said in a statement released Thursday morning. "A ground team of police and fire departments, federal agencies, first responders, and numerous agencies have been working hard around the clock to assist those in the area.

"Let us keep the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers."

Anna M. Tinsley, (817) 390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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