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Death Toll In West, Texas, Fertilizer Explosion Rises To 15

The number of people who died in a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, last week now stands at 15, officials said Tuesday. Some earlier reports had indicated that 14 people had lost their lives. At least 200 more were injured.

In Waco, TV station KXXV says that officials believe they have found all the victims, quoting Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek saying "No more victims. Everything is searched," in a news conference today.

The latest death toll comes as investigators continue to study the catastrophe and the fire that preceded it. The explosion left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep, investigators said Tuesday.

State and federal investigators working at the scene have eliminated natural causes — such as a lightning strike — as a potential spark for the fire, according to The Dallas Morning News.

As we reported Monday, authorities are still in the process of publicly identifying people who were killed in the blast; the majority of them were first responders.

After fleeing their homes in an evacuation and then being forced to stay away by safety concerns and a continuing investigation, the first wave of West residents were allowed to return to their damaged homes Saturday.

The White House announced Monday that President Obama will attend a memorial service for the explosion's victims, to be held Thursday at Baylor University. The president has declared the West, Texas, site a federal disaster area.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.