Texas City, TX Disaster - Explosion and Fire, Apr 1947
When identification and embalming are completed a body is wrapped in a rough brown blanket and a numbered ticket is wired to a toe.
An ambulance is then called out of the long line in front of the garage and the body is passed out on a stretcher and taken to the gymnasium.
A mile away black smoke from six roaring fires billows 5,000 feet into the air and drifts southward out over the Gulf. A 50-acre area of devastation marks the scene where the twin explosions of a ship and a chemical works wrought the greatest tragedy this area ever knew.
I stood in the city hall and saw a woman find the name of her son on a casualty list. Her shoulders sagged, her arms fell limp at her sides and her face twisted with grief. Her husband, his face a dazed mask, caught her under the arm and led her out.
In the light of the towering blazes a few hundred yards from the grotesque mountains of twisted steel, I talked to PHILIP FLORES, young Army veteran.
"I was working in a warehouse 25 yards from the ship when it blew up, he told me." "The concussion knocked me down."
"I crawled over to some flour sacks and buried my head under them. Then a few seconds later the (Monsanto) chemical plant exploded. The roof and walls of the warehouse were coming down around me. I got up and ran for my life. Later I helped pull bodies out of the wreckage. It was the most terrible thing I've ever seen."
"One man with a leg blown off was screaming with pain. I couldn't tell you how he looked because he didn't have much face left."
"Most of the bodies were mangled."
JUAN TORRES lives in a house a quarter of a mile from the destroyed chemical plant. I found him sitting on a bed in the front room staring at the floor. In the back part of the house the walls had caved in and the place was in a shambles.
TORRES was away at work when the explosions took place.
"I came home," he said, "and found my brother, my father and my sister-in-law missing. They may be dead."
We went out into the back yard. It was pited[sic] with huge pieces of jagged steel. One piece weighed half a ton. It had buried itself three feet into the ground. The smoldering ruins of a small house was in the back yard.
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