Some residents allowed back home after Texas blast

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 20, 2013 at 8:41 pm •  Published: April 20, 2013
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Earlier Saturday, at a hotel where evacuees huddled, paramedic and town spokesman Bryce Reed told residents that small tanks were leaking and had triggered fires in one part of town. He said the fires were small and were contained, and didn't cause further injuries.

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

Reed described dozens of portable, white tanks at the site that are typically filled with anhydrous ammonia from larger storage tanks for when farmers request them. The tanks get weak when they are exposed to fire and bleed, he said.

The tanks are attached to plows pulled by tractors and feed streams of the chemical into the ground as the plow passes to fertilize. Reed said they resemble large, horizontal propane tanks.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said Saturday night that there's no sign of criminal activity in the explosion. Kistner said four tanks at the site that contain ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia would be removed to safeguard workers, but he stressed to reporters there was no danger to citizens.

Yet there were still tense moments. Ron Price, a 53-year-old construction worker, hastily parked his truck outside City Hall where dozens of reporters had gathered for a news conference, and warned journalists to get away from the windows. He said state troopers had just shooed him away from the barricade after they, too, "came flying down the road" from a half-block away.

Price said he was told to flee because there was another chance of an explosion. Authorities said there was never such a risk.

"It was pretty scary. Everybody just jumped and took off running," Price said.

Dorothy Sulak, who lost her home and her job when the blast went off, was among those hoping she could get back in. The fertilizer plant secretary fled with only the clothes on her back.

There's a hole in her roof now, and her medicine, cash, even her glasses, are somewhere in the rubble. She used reading glasses for three days, until she could get a ride to nearby Waco to be fitted for new prescription frames.

"Yes, it's just stuff. But it's my stuff," said Sulak, 71.

___

Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in West, Texas, and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston contributed to this report.



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