Residents await return to Texas homes after deadly blast

WEST, Texas (REUTERS) - Officials in West, Texas, made plans on Saturday to allow residents to return to their homes in parts of town blocked off since Wednesday night's deadly blast at a local fertilizer plant.

Since the explosion that flattened sections of this town of some 2,700 people, disaster teams have been working to ensure the homes are safe to enter, according to Sergeant Jason Reyes of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Authorities on Friday put the death toll at 14 and said 200 people were injured, and Reyes said Saturday morning that those numbers had not changed.

Steve Vanek, a volunteer firefighter and the mayor pro tem, said the town planned to set up a hotline to let residents know when they might be able to return to their homes.

"We are really working very hard to get it safe and get y'all back to your homes," Vanek told mourners Friday evening at a remembrance service at a Catholic church. "When it is safe, we will contact you to let you know what our plan of attack is."

The fire and ensuing blast at West Fertilizer Co, a privately owned retail facility, left a devastated landscape, gutting a 50-unit apartment complex, demolishing about 50 houses and battering a nursing home and schools. Dozens more homes were reported to have been damaged.

There was no indication of foul play, authorities said Friday.

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