Number of deaths in Texas fertilizer plant blast determined

Los Angeles, Apr 20 (EFE).- After two days of speculation, Texas authorities confirmed that the number of people who died in the explosion of a fertilizer plant in the town of West stands at 14 as the work of searching the ruins comes to an end.

On Friday afternoon, the spokesman of that state's Department of Public Safety, Sgt. Jason Reyes, gave the official report on the dead whose bodies were taken to Dallas, 120 kilometers (75 miles) to the north, for forensic analyses.

The victims' identities are gradually being ascertained with the help of friends and relatives. Among them are at least eight firefighters, mostly volunteers like Jerry Chapman who recently celebrated his 26th birthday.

Reyes would only say that the bodies were recovered from around the chemical plant that caught fire and where firefighters were trying to extinguish the flames before it blew up.

Police had said previously that between five and 15 people might have been killed in the explosion, and on Friday Sen. John Cornyn, after a visit to the disaster area, announced that 60 people who were thought to be near the plant when it exploded were "still unaccounted for."

Some 200 people were injured, while included among the material damage, yet to be calculated, were 50 buildings that were blown to pieces by the powerful West Fertilizer explosion.

The blast at the West Fertilizer Plant in West, located about 20 kilometers (some 12 miles) north of Waco, occurred around 8:00 p.m. Wednesday and was heard up to 70 kilometers (43 miles) away, officials said.

The explosion leveled nearby houses and registered as a magnitude-2.1 seismic event on the U.S. Geological Survey's seismographs.