Only three of 157 homes in West that were in the zone closest to the explosion site have been deemed safe by building inspectors, West City Council members were told Thursday.
Inspectors have placed orange, yellow and green tags on the homes to denote the level of damage.
Officials determined 70 of the homes closest to the blast were unsafe and uninhabitable, deserving of orange tags; 84 are damaged but with restricted access and obtained yellow tags, Frank Patterson, Waco-McLennan County emergency management coordinator, told council members in a Thursday morning briefing. Only three received green tags.
Registration for the residents to obtain permission to enter the final zone is ongoing, Patterson said. He added that tentative plans are to allow them back into the area to survey their homes and collect belongings Saturday.
Residents in this hardest-hit area will be allowed to bring trailers with them and up to four vehicles so they can haul away household items, Patterson said. Residents’ insurance adjustors also will be allowed to enter the zone with them at that time, he said.
The 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew remains in effect for the affected areas, Patterson said, adding many in the zone closest to the fertilizer plant whose homes were destroyed might just “look and leave.”
Mayor Tommy Muska wanted to make sure that mental health counselors would be available in the area to console those who lost their homes.
“We are in charge of the health of these people, and they are going to be very upset,” said Muska, who was making arrangements to meet with President Barack Obama after the Thursday memorial service to seek the president’s assurance that federal relief funds are on the way to help West rebuild.
There also are seven commercial buildings in Zone 3 that were damaged, including a nursing home, an apartment complex and a school.
Council members learned the Association of General Contractors in Waco has offered to build 10 to 15 homes for those displaced. That would boost the city’s tax base and possibly prevent longtime West residents from moving away from the city, members said.
The homes are proposed to be 1,800 to 2,000 square feet, but city leaders need to find some land available on which the homes could be built, they were told.
The hourlong meeting was fast-paced and included other updates from Karen Bernsen, who is heading efforts to organize volunteers, donations and a myriad of other chores, including debris removal.
Council members met hurriedly so they could attend the 2 p.m. memorial service for firefighters at Baylor University’s Ferrell Center.