Czech Republic to provide aid to devastated Texan town

West, Texas, April 18, 2013, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic will provide aid to the Texan town of West, which has been devastated by a massive explosion at a local fertiliser plant. The country’s ambassador to the US has arrived in the town, which has a very strong Czech heritage, and says the Czech government will help rebuild the community. More assistance for West should also come from the north Moravian towns whose inhabitants settled in the town more than a century ago.

West,  Texas,  April 18,  2013,  photo: CTK
The search for survivors continued on Friday in the town of West in the wake of a massive explosion at the local chemical factory. The latest reports say that up to 15 people were killed and more 160 injured in the blast which occurred on Wednesday night. West-based lawyer Raymond Snokhous, who is the Czech Honorary Consul in Texas, describes the situation.

“It did a lot of damage, and caused a number of casualties. Several firemen were killed; I lost two cousins who were volunteer firemen and perished in the explosion. We don’t know what the number of deaths and the scope of the devastation is at this time.

“But tell the good people of the Czech Republic that this town is about 75 percent Czech. We are primarily Moravian Czechs, the mayor is Czech and most of the city council members are Czech, I think probably all of them.”

West,  Texas,  April 18,  2013,  photo: CTK
Texas Governor Rick Perry declared a state of disaster in the affected county, and said he would request aid from the federal government. Meanwhile, the Czech ambassador to the United States, Petr Gandalovič, who arrived in West on Thursday, said the Czech government was considering ways of helping rebuild the town, which has deep Czech roots.

“I don’t think this will be the kind of immediate aid offered in the wake of big natural disasters; the Czech Republic should provide assistance with the renovation of some of the damaged structures used by the expat community. Some 70 percent of the town’s population has Czech roots, so I think we should help.”

More aid for the disaster-stricken town should come from northern Moravia. West lies in the heart of Czech Texas, where thousands of Bohemians and Moravians settled in the 19th century, and the town became home to immigrants from Frenštát and Trojanovice.

Historian Vladimír Strandel who has authored several publications on Czech immigrants to the US and says two local associations and the two towns have promised aid as well.

West,  Texas,  April 18,  2013,  photo: CTK
“We decided to provide some financial support to our countrymen. I also spoke to the mayor of Trojanovice, Mr Novotný, and the mayor of Frenštát, Ms Leščišinová, and they promised to help them too. The actual amount will depend on the Frenštát and Trojanovice town councils.”

More details about the aid to be provided by both the Czech Foreign Ministry and the north Moravian communities to the Texan town should be released in the coming weeks.