WEST, Texas — Ever so slowly, residents driven from their homes by a powerful explosion at a fertilizer plant here were being allowed to briefly enter their devastated neighborhoods Saturday to retrieve possessions and to get a look at the damage inflicted by the blast as powerful as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake.
Brandi Cvikel, 17, was among those allowed back into her neighborhood and was surprised by what she saw. In some parts of town, the walls of structures were sheared off by the blast. In Cvikel’s neighborhood, most homes had their windows blown out.
But at Cvikel’s house, the windows survived.
“It was a lot better than I expected,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “For the most part it looks normal until you go inside.”
Inside she discovered that frames had fallen off the walls, and the entire house appeared to be askew and tilted. Cabinets were pulling away from a wall and ceiling.
Cvikel was accompanied by Allison Andrews, 23, a friend from Waco, the city 20 miles to the south where many West residents have sought shelter. Over a shoulder Andrews carried a black plastic garbage bag filled with clothes rescued from a washing machine. The garments had been in the machine since Wednesday night, when the explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. rocked the town. Cvikel carried a makeup bag with toiletries.
Authorities were still restricting access to the areas devastated by the explosion, though some residents were allowed into neighborhoods Friday. For hours Saturday residents lined up in their cars at the civic center for an access pass — a number written on their windshield with what appeared to be white shoe polish. They then drove to a checkpoint where they were allowed in for brief stays.
Fourteen people died in the blast, and authorities said they would release more information ask it became available.
Earlier Saturday, some residents expressed frustration that they still had not been allowed in.
“We just want to get home,” resident Pete Arias said.