WEST, Texas (AP) — The damage to surrounding homes and businesses caused by an explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant was estimated Wednesday to exceed $100 million, as crews continued to sift through a 90-foot-wide crater searching for answers.
The Insurance Council of Texas released its estimate after speaking to numerous adjusters and agents in West, Texas, where officials and displaced residents are working to rebuild after last week's blast. The explosion killed at least 14 people, injured 200 and damaged dozens of buildings.
Investigators have not determined what started the blast or whether it was intentional. At least two lawsuits have been filed against Adair Grain Inc., which operated the West Fertilizer plant.
Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council, said that total figure included estimates on how many homes were destroyed, the property inside and the cost of relocating residents. As many as 140 homes were damaged, he said. With housing limited in West, many families are living in nearby Waco or Hillsboro.
"When you put something together like this, you want to be on the high side," Hanna said. "When you go into a catastrophic situation, the last thing you want to do is lowball estimates like this."
Investigators said Wednesday that the explosion occurred at 7:51 p.m. on April 17 — 18 minutes after first responders, including volunteer firefighters from West, were alerted to a fire at West Fertilizer. Most of the 10 first responders who died in the explosion were found east of the main crater, Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said.
Officials continue to study fire and blast patterns to try to determine what ignited on the site and how, Kistner said.
"Right now, think of that coffee table where all 100 pieces are gathered around," said Brian Hoback, national response team supervisor for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.