Houston helps West after explosion

HOUSTON - Houston is helping West, Texas, recover from a massive fertilizer plant explosion.

The Houston Fire Department sent 19 members as part of the Texas Task Force 1 activation. Those members are experts in rescue, hazardous materials, suppression, arson and airport rescue.

Texas Task Force 1 is a statewide urban search and rescue team. They are the most active team of their kind in the country and have responded to at least one major disaster every year since it was first deployed in 1998.

Houston Red Cross volunteers are standing by and waiting for word to head to the city of West to provide relief and assistance.  Austin, Dallas and Waco Red Cross volunteers are already there assessing the situation.  At least two dozen volunteers from those chapters are in West and will tell our Houston volunteers exactly what they need. In the meantime, our Houston Red Cross officials said they are ready to help at a moment's notice.

"This is all sort of evolving, so we're going to determine what the Red Cross' response is going to be," said Cameron Ballantyne, a spokesman for the Houston Red Cross.  "They may tap into the Houston resources."

Anyone wishing to make a donation of money or time to the Red Cross may call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center sent platelets to Austin on Thursday morning. It takes about 24 hours to process blood donations, so the platelets sent were donated days before the explosion.

The blood center primarily serves 26 counties in the Gulf Coast region, but officials said they're prepared to help in West and the surrounding areas if needed.

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is not running a special drive for the victims in West, Texas, but its 16 donation centers will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday.

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