WEST, Texas—City officials warned that hundreds of residents here could be without water for at least a week or more because pipes and other utility infrastructure were "severely damaged" in last Wednesday’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant.
"At this time, there is no access to water," Steve Vanek, a West City Council member and deputy mayor, said at an afternoon press briefing here.
He said the pipes for the city's water system ran near the site of the West Fertilizer Co., which was destroyed in the fire and subsequent explosion. He put the small number of residents in town who do have water on a "boil order," warning that officials aren't sure what environmental impact the explosion had on the city's water supply.
"We hope to know more later this week," he said.
The announcement came as investigators began taking 3-D photos of a large crater at the site of the destroyed fertilizer plant as part of their efforts to determine the cause of the blast, which killed 14 and injured more than 200.
Kelly Kistner, an assistant state fire marshal, likened the investigation at the site to an “archaeological dig”—saying that officials combing the site for clues are slowly going through the site “layer by layer.”
“This is going to be a slow, methodical process,” Kistner told reporters at an afternoon briefing. He refused to put a timeline on when officials might be able to determine a cause for the fire and explosion, emphasizing again and again that the search for a cause would be “slow and methodical.”
“We’re just trying to get the job done and get it done correctly,” Kistner said. “We’re going to be here a long time.”
At the same time, city officials announced they would reopen a small part of the five-block perimeter that had been closed since last Wednesday, allowing residents with homes that had not been heavily damaged to return. But with no water and most homes still without power, it was unclear how many residents it would help.
Vanek appealed to residents to have patience as the city tries to rebuild and pledged that officials would work as quickly as possible to help the city rebuild and get back to normal.
“We are all in this together,” Vanek said. “We are with you, and we will stand by you until the last nail is driven. This may be several months. It may be several years.”