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The tragedy in West, Texas

Post by Cheryl Tucker on April 20, 2013 at 7:00 am |
April 19, 2013 5:29 pm
aerial photo shows the remains of a nursing home, left, apartment complex, center, and fertilizer plant, right, destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas. Rescuers searched the smoking remnants for survivors of Wednesday night's thunderous fertilizer plant explosion, gingerly checking smashed houses and apartments for anyone still trapped in debris while the community awaited word on the number of dead. Initial reports put the fatalities as high as 15, but later in the day, authorities backed away from any estimate and refused to elaborate. More than 160 people were hurt. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Aerial photo shows the remains of a nursing home, left, apartment complex, center, and fertilizer plant, right, destroyed by an explosion Wednesday in West, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

What a horrific tragedy in the Central Texas town of West: 14 dead as of this writing, mostly firefighters and EMTs responding to a call at a fertilizer plant that went about as bad as it could.

In all the coverage, I haven’t read or heard anyone explain why this kind of plant was allowed to be so close to residences and a school.

Look at the photo: Those twisted things in the circle: playground equipment, less than 1,000 feet from the plant, virtually across the street. The field in the lower right: a middle school ballpark. The rubble just to the left of the playground: a nursing home.

It’s not as if we aren’t familiar with the potentially deadly explosive power of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. Tim McVeigh only needed a Ryder truck’s worth to destroy the Oklahoma City federal building.

The worst industrial accident in U.S. history took place not all that far from West, in coastal Texas City. An accident aboard a ship transporting fertilizer killed almost 600 people in 1947. (Many believe the death toll was much higher.) Read about the accident here.

I don’t know how many other similar plants are out there, but I suspect property values nearby just plummeted. This accident should be a cautionary tale for other cities with this kind of plant.

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