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Disaster in Texas: How to help

By Rebecca Angel Baer, CNN
April 26, 2013 -- Updated 1628 GMT (0028 HKT)
An explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, late Wednesday, injuring more than 160 people.
An explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, late Wednesday, injuring more than 160 people.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hundreds were injured in Texas fertilizer plant explosion
  • The Red Cross is helping to locate loved ones and collect blood donations
  • The Salvation Army is providing food and shelter as well as assisting returning residents
  • Several shelters have opened across the town of West,Texas

(CNN) -- A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant Wednesday night left much of the small town of West, Texas, in ruins. Even as the nation mourned the victims of Monday's bombings in Boston, the new disaster left hundreds of people in West injured, homeless, and in need of help.

"These are our neighbors, they are coming to help," Waco Police Department Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said Thursday. "You will find that in Texas. You will find that across the United States. We put everything aside when it comes to these types of situations."

Here's what you can do.

Give blood

With more than 160 people injured and others unaccounted for, the need for blood is great and will increase. Currently The Blood Center of Central Texas and Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster are asking primarily for O positive, O negative and type A blood. The Red Cross of Central Texas has a complete list of area locations currently taking blood donations.

Shelter, food and clothing

The Salvation Army quickly mobilized in Texas to provide food, drink and emotional and spiritual care to the survivors and first responders in West. It has set up several locations in and around the town.

In addition to nourishment and counsel, the Salvation Army has set up a Joint Assistance Center, where returning residents can register for case work and assistance with the Salvation Army and other agencies. The best way to assist The Salvation Army's efforts is through financial donation, which you can do here. In addition, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's website has a list of shelters currently taking in victims as well as a list of local organizations taking donations of clothing and other helpful items.

The Texas Rangers are also collecting donations and other items at some upcoming games.

Connect with loved ones

The Red Cross has activated its "Safe and Well" website locally in West, so if you are looking for a loved one you have not been able to reach, or if you are a victim and cannot reach your family to let them know you are OK, please use this website. In addition, the government has established a hotline for information on victims and survivors: 254-826-4115. There are also numbers for all of the local hospitals available on Perry's website.

Make Donations

Baylor University is fifteen minutes away from the town of West and consider all of its residents as their neighbors. University spokesperson Lori Fogleman said that thirteen students, forty-three faculty and staff and two hundred and sixty-two alumni call West home and so the university is pledging to support this town in its recovery. They've established the West Relief Fund and will collect donations for specific projects deemed necessary by city officials in West. "Absolutely 100% of the profits will go back into the city of West," Fogleman said. They will work together with city officials to determine what is needed and then students and faculty will lead groups in completing each project using the funds the university has raised.

The National Fallen Firefighters Relief Foundation has established a fund to assist the survivors and coworkers of those first responders who died in the tragedy. The local fire station and its equipment was also badly damaged and is asking for donations of gear. If you do have something you wish to donate, please contact them at www.firehero.org/contact

The Society of St. Vincent dePaul's is also collecting both monetary and material donations. They are sending disaster case management teams to meet with survivors throughout the recovery process.

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