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Last updated: April 21. 2013 2:36PM - 540 Views
Associated Press



A sign is seen on a car window as residents wait to enter a damaged neighborhood Saturday, April 20, 2013, three days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. Wednesday night killed 14 people and injured more than 160. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
A sign is seen on a car window as residents wait to enter a damaged neighborhood Saturday, April 20, 2013, three days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. Wednesday night killed 14 people and injured more than 160. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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(AP) On the first Sunday after a fertilizer plant explosion leveled much of a tiny Texas town, pastor John Crowder stood atop a long flatbed overlooking a hayfield and spoke to his congregation.


Crowder's First Baptist Church in West remains blocked off as investigators work on the scene of Wednesday's blast that killed at least 14 people and injured 200. So about 100 people sat in white folding chairs Sunday morning, while others carried their own.


"We have lost our friends and neighbors," Crowder told the audience. We have lost the safety and comfort of our homes. But as scary as this is, we don't have to be afraid."


Authorities have not yet identified what caused the blast, which was so powerful it registered as a small earthquake. Assistant state fire marshal Kelly Kistner said all fires have been extinguished at the explosion scene and the remaining fertilizer tanks at West Fertilizer Co. are not a danger.


The explosion destroyed about 50 homes and severely damaged a nursing home and other buildings nearby. Residents have taken in affected neighbors and volunteered around the clock.


Some of the people who attended Sunday's service wore T-shirts calling on others to "pray for West."


"Every time I close my eyes, all I can think about is the explosion," said Edi Botello, a senior at West High School. "People running around. People evacuating. There was one point I couldn't even talk. I just stuttered."


The town of 2,800 people was previously known in Texas for its deep Czech heritage from the designs of storefronts in the town center and the names of streets and businesses to the "Czech Stop" bakery selling kolaches and other pastries to drivers exiting Interstate 35.


At the largest Roman Catholic church in town, the Rev. Boniface Onjefu's congregation included firefighters and emergency workers who could be spotted in bright yellow jackets.


The explosion reportedly killed 10 first responders, many of them volunteer firefighters who came after initial reports of a fire at the plant. A memorial service for first responders is scheduled for Thursday on the campus of Baylor University in nearby Waco.


"I stopped at the nursing home," Onjefu said. "I noticed a lot of people trapped. I assisted. I prayed with some and held the hands of some that needed comfort. I saw him in the eyes of everyone."


"God heard our prayers and prevented another tank from exploding."


Associated Press
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