April 19, 2013—After a powerful explosion Wednesday night at a fertilizer factory in Texas flattened homes and caused dozens of casualties, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) approved an emergency grant to the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church to assist in relief efforts.
While needs are still being assessed, those who would help are being urged not to go to West, the tiny town, population about 2,500, where the disaster occurred.
Instead, they may channel their assistance by donating blood at a local center or to assembling cleaning buckets, which will soon be in great need, and health kits. These relief kits can be shipped to any of the eight depots in the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network.
For updated information about how to help going forward, please call UMCOR’s toll-free number: 1-800-554-8583. Those who would help are urged, again, not to telephone the conference directly so that personnel there can attend to the needs at hand.
Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, of which UMCOR is a part, communicated Thursday morning with Central Texas Bishop Mike Lowry to assure him of UMCOR’s support for the survivors.
Lowry responded with gratitude and indicated that needs assessments were under way. In a blog posted Thursday afternoon, Bishop Lowry affirmed that “Prayer, Patience, and Hope frame faith facing tragedy.”
He called on the churches of Central Texas to receive a special offering dedicated to assisting the survivors of the explosion. He indicated that donations to assist in West could also be sent to UMCOR.
The extent of the casualties and damages in West is not yet entirely clear. As many as 15 residents—possibly more—are believed to have died in the explosion that occurred at around 8:00 pm (local time) on Wednesday. At least 180 people were injured, and four residential blocks were decimated.
Laraine Waughtal, disaster response coordinator for the Central Texas Conference, said in a message on the conference website, that local authorities are confident they have enough first responders on the ground to assist survivors, and she urged those who would help not to come to West at this time.
Waughtal thanked all who are praying for all the people of West and for offering their services. “Please be patient,” she urged them. “There will be A LOT of work to do.” She advised those seeking more information to revisit the Central Texas Conference website for updates.
Central United Methodist Church in Waco, about 15 miles from West, is offering temporary shelter to those whose homes were destroyed or rendered unlivable, and Gholson-Wesley Chapel, also in Waco, is open and offering spiritual care and comfort to those affected by the blast, Waughtal said.
Pastor Jim Sansom of First United Methodist Church in West reported that the parsonage had been damaged by the explosion and that the impact to the church itself is still being assessed. The church’s automated call system helped verify the well-being of nearly all of the families of the congregation.
Sansom reported that the homes of four church members had been utterly destroyed, while an as yet untold number of others had been severely damaged.
Your donation to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, will support UMCOR’s efforts to bring relief to the survivors of this and other disasters.