When the West, TX fertilizer plant exploded on April 17, it didn’t just emotionally devastate the small town located near Waco--the damage caused to surrounding homes and businesses is now estimated to have exceeded $100 million.
That estimate was released by the Insurance Council of Texas on April 24, and was based on conversations with on-site adjusters and reconnaissance crews, all working to sift through the wreckage of the devastating accident. Workers are still searching for victims, but to date, the explosion is known to have killed at least 14 people, injured 200 and damaged dozens of buildings. The cause of the blast is still unknown, but at least two lawsuits have been filed against Adair Grain Inc., the company that operated the plant with a spotty safety record.
In announcing the estimated cost of the blast’s damage, Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council, explained that the total figure included destroyed homes, personal property losses and the cost of relocating residents to nearby towns, since housing options in West are quite limited.
According to investigators, the explosion occurred approximately 18 minutes after first responders were called to the plant to deal with a fire that had broken out on site. Ten of the 14 victims that have been found were volunteer fire fighters.
Officials are still studying the fire and blast patterns to try to figure out what caused the plant to ignite and blow. While no answers have yet been found, internal safety lapses may point a finger to the cause of the tragedy. In 2011, plant operators filed emergency plan information with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), admitting that the fertilizer plant was not equipped with state-mandated sprinkler systems. While we all struggle to understand the true scope of the devastation in West, our attorneys can’t help but wonder if this gaping safety oversight might not have contributed to the explosion and unfathomable losses in this tiny Texas town. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy.