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Texas fertilizer plant explosion: Evacuees allowed to return home

Firefighter conduct search and rescue of an apartment destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013. (LM Otero)

April 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some residents who were under mandatory evacuation orders in Texas were allowed to return home following the fertilizer plant explosion, a town official said Saturday.

Officials said the fires caused by leaking gas tanks were all contained and the town was no longer in danger during a midday news conference Friday.

City Council member Steve Vanek said the first group of residents who fled their homes after the fertilizer plant exploded would be let back in their homes Saturday afternoon. He, however, gave no indication about when all evacuated residents could return.

Despite the good news, those being let back in would be subject to an evening curfew, and were warned to stay in their homes and remain cautious.

Public works crews used a crane to lay concrete pylons across the entrance to side streets in preparation for the limited re-entry.

Fourteen people were killed and about 200 others injured in the massive fire and explosion at West Fertilizer Co. Wednesday. The blast damaged 80 homes. Most evacuees have been huddled at a local hotel waiting anxiously for updates about their neighborhood and homes among the rubble.

Bryce Reed, a paramedic and spokesman for the town of West, told residents Saturday that leaking gas tanks had caused small fires near the blast but had since been contained.

"The whole place is still on fire, smoldering, all that kind of stuff. It could spark up," Reed said. "But there isn't really enough structure left to light up and burn."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.