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Health district surveys City of West to research long-term effects of explosion

Health district survey
Posted at 5:34 PM, Apr 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-23 20:22:25-04

WEST, TX  — The scars remain for the people of West following a deadly blast in 2013.

West Mayor Tommy Muska has vivid memories of April 17, 2013.

"It seems like it was yesterday and it's [been] six years," Muska said. "I remember being a couple blocks from the fertilizer plant and the wave that knocked me down and the loud noise. I don't think I'll ever forget that."

The explosion killed 15 people, injured hundreds and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

The chaos surrounding that day caused Muska to experience symptoms of PTSD. He's not the only one in the community who carries that weight with them.

The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District is researching the long-term mental and physical health effects of the explosion.

On Monday, survey teams began going door-to-door asking residents to share their stories. The 10-minute survey takes a look at how people are feeling, and the problems they may be experiencing like anxiety, depression or breathing problems.

"We're asking questions about mental health, we're asking questions about physical, chronic conditions. Any physical injuries they may have had after the explosion," said Vaidehi Shah, senior epidemiologist with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.

Courtney Wollard is the public health planner with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. She's gone to dozens of homes over the last 48 hours.

"Some people are willing to tell you everything and anything," Woolard said. "They want to tell us stories. One lady we talked to yesterday talked about she helped a veterinarian take in loose animals after the explosion."

Muska is pleased with the work the health district is doing in his community.

"As mayor, part of my job is to have a complete recovery," Muska said. "So I applaud them for coming to West six years later and checking on the citizens."

Shah said the results will be used for further research that could improve physical and mental health services for the community.

"We will be assessing the date and providing a report for the public," Shah said. "If we do come across some concerns, then we can plan interventions and programs to address those concerns."

Over the last few years, Muska has been busy working with FEMA and other emergency management teams to rebuild his city. He knows they've come a long way, but there's still work to be done.

"Not only do you recover physically with streets and houses and buildings, but you have to recover mentally," Muska said.

Muska has already completed the survey. He said taking this step will lead his community further down the path of recovery.

"This point in time six years ago we had half the town locked down, damaged beyond belief," Muska said. "The citizens of West are so resilient and so brave and so strong. I would put them up against anybody."

Survey teams will be in West from April 22 to May 3. You can complete the survey online here.