West notebook: Quest to aid pets, find owners intensifies after blast

Posted Friday, Apr. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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WACO -- As the search continued Friday for the nearly 60 people unaccounted for in the West plant explosion, a smaller but no less intense effort was underway to gather stray pets, treat them for injuries and move them to the Humane Society of Central Texas.

Animal control officers from West and Waco, along with the Waco suburbs of Woodway and Hewitt, were going house to house.

Texas A&M's Veterinary Emergency Team brought six veterinarians, four technicians and eight other assistants to triage animals.

On Thursday, workers with the SPCA of Dallas took on 65 adoptable pets from the Waco shelter to free up space for West animals.

"We didn't know how many pets we would be getting," Humane Society Executive Director Don Bland said Friday. "We wanted to be ready for a worst-case scenario."

Because nonemergency workers were not permitted into the restricted area around the blast zone, Humane Society workers parked at a gas station in West on Thursday to receive strays.

At least three were reunited with their owner in the parking lot, Bland said.

-- Patrick M. Walker

Visiting Czech envoy

offers condolences

WEST -- The government of the Czech Republic dispatched its top emissary in the United States to this battered Czech community to express its condolences after the explosion.

"I hope this will at least console the people here, that they will know that their motherland, the Czech people, are following this and they really are sorry for that," Czech Ambassador Petr Gandalovic told the Star-Telegram.

The Washington, D.C.-based ambassador said his nation's 1.3 million citizens share a strong link with the Central Texas community, which was founded by Czech immigrants in the late 1800s.

More than 70 percent of West's roughly 2,800 residents are Czech descendants, Gandalovic said.

"You see it on those storefronts. You see Czech names. You see words like kolache and polka," the emissary said. "They're very proud of their Czech descent."

-- Dave Montgomery

Church gets a hand;

Austin bishop to visit

WEST -- West Brethren Church's building was damaged so severely in Wednesday's explosion that the 135 or so members haven't been able to get into it since their last prayer meeting, said Dorothy Kocian, head of the board of elders.

So First United Church of Christ invited Brethren to join its 9 a.m. Bible study and 10:15 a.m. worship service Sunday.

At St. Mary's Church of the Assumption, Bishop Joe Vasquez from the Catholic Diocese in Austin will go to West to celebrate Mass at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. -- Terry Evans

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