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Rescuers Recover 14 Bodies From Texas Blast Site

Members of the West Volunteer Fire Department gather after attending a service at St. Mary's Church of the Assumption, two days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, April 19, 2013.
Rescuers in the southern U.S. state of Texas have recovered 14 bodies while continuing to search for survivors in the ruins of a small town where a fertilizer plant exploded with the force of a small earthquake.

Residents in the farm town of West, Texas, say several of those killed in the Wednesday night explosion were firefighters and paramedics who went to the industrial site as a fire that preceded the enormous blast broke out.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, who toured the blast site Friday, told The Dallas Morning News at least 11 emergency responders remained missing and were presumed dead, and that 60 people were unaccounted for.

Local officials said they expected to find more bodies as they search about 80 houses destroyed in the explosion.

Investigators remained concerned Friday about potentially dangerous chemicals at the site. A National Guard team has been dispatched to monitor for hazardous emissions.

Texas Governor Rick Perry on Thursday called the situation a "truly nightmare scenario." He said much of the information on the victims remains "very preliminary."

Authorities are still working to determine how the initial fire started, and whether it detonated the explosion. Patrick Swanton, spokesman for the nearby Waco police department, said the site is being treated as a crime scene, but insisted there is no evidence to suggest it was anything other than an accident.

A nearby high school football field was turned into an emergency staging area to treat the victims. West's 2,800 residents were evacuated.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the massive explosion registered as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake. It was felt up to 80 kilometers away.