WEST, Texas (BP) — Seven chaplains from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) are working with emergency responders and victims’ families following a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas, in the central part of the state.
The blast at the West Fertilizer Co. plant killed between five and 15 people, authorities said — they were still trying to determine the number of dead on Thursday — and injured more than 160. Also, dozens of homes, businesses and a nursing home were damaged or destroyed.
About 130 residents from the nursing home were displaced, news reports said.
The blast reportedly was felt as far away as Waxahachie, Texas, nearly 50 miles north, and destroyed structures within four to six blocks of the plant.
Darryl Cason, chaplaincy director for SBTC Disaster Relief, said the seven convention chaplains in West on Thursday afternoon would be deployed there at least through the weekend, splitting responsibilities between ministry to emergency personnel and families affected by the blast.
A shower unit from Linden, Texas, will set up for emergency crews at First Baptist Church in the nearby town of Gholson.
West, a town of 2,700, is about 80 miles south of Dallas on Interstate 35.
Gov. Rick Perry declared the town a disaster area.
Cason said prayer for the families affected is the greatest need. Earlier in the morning, Wade Taylor, pastor of First Baptist Church of Alvarado and an SBTC chaplain, was able to counsel a family who lost a son in the blast, Cason said.
Also, chaplains will provide spiritual support or simply a listening ear to the many law enforcement officers on hand.
Cason said the Salvation Army has five feeding canteens set up. An emergency command post was established Thursday at a local Catholic church.
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, online at www.TexanOnline.net . Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress ), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp ).