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14 confirmed dead, 60 remained accounted for in Texas blast

By Chen Yu, Zhang Yongxing (Xinhua)

14:21, April 20, 2013

WEST, THE UNITED STATES, April 19 (Xinhua) -- Fourteen people were confirmed dead and 60 remained unaccounted for in Wednesday's fertilizer plant explosion, U.S. officials said Friday.

After touring the stricken area, Texas Governor Rick Perry told a press conference that all affected buildings in the Texas city of West had been cleared with possibly the exception of one burned home.

Perry said there was an "absolute devastation" in the blast area, adding that "there is going to be a long recovery" ahead.

Perry already declared a state of emergency for McLennan county, where West is located.

Search and rescue operations have been largely completed on Friday.

Earlier in the day, Jason Reyes with Texas Department of Public Safety said separately that they have confirmed 14 deaths from Wednesday's explosion.

Authorities had confirmed 12 fatalities Friday morning, and later they located two more fatalities, bringing the total deaths to 14, Reyes said.

On the same day, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, who also visited the disaster area, revealed that 60 people "remained unaccounted for."

Cornyn said that authorities are still checking hospitals and "making sure they know where people are." The number is expected to come down, he added.

Officials explained that people unaccounted for do not necessarily mean deaths. Some people may just have lost contacts with their families and friends for some reason after the blast, they said.

Noe Fernandez with Texas Highway Patrol told Xinhua that in an agriculture city like West, many people live a simple life and they do not have, or cannot afford modern communication tools like cell phones or computers.

Fernandez said the fire at the West Fertilizer plant was extinguished Thursday afternoon. Sky over the plant appeared clean on Friday.

Authorities said on Friday that the cause of the fire and blast, which also injured about 200 people in the city of 2,800, remained unknown.

The investigation was underway and may last for months, they said.

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