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FEMA keeping tabs on deadly blast in West, TX

WASHINGTON –President Obama called Texas Gov. Rick Perry this morning from Air Force One, telling him his prayers are with the people of West, Texas, and offering any federal resources needed to respond to last night’s blast.

Obama also tried to call the mayor of West during his flight to Boston, but they haven’t yet managed to connect.

Federal emergency management officials have been keeping the president up to speed on the devastation in West, Texas, a White House aide said this morning.

“The administration is monitoring through FEMA,” which is in contact with the state and local authorities responding to the deadly blasts last night at a fertilizer plant, the aide said.

At a House hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers this morning that FEMA has been activated, air quality monitoring is underway, and she is concerned that other facilities may also be at risk.

The White House issued a statement from the president on the explosion as he flew to Boston for a memorial in the wake of the Boston Marathon attack:

Today our prayers go out to the people of West, Texas in the aftermath of last night’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant. A tight-knit community has been shaken, and good, hard-working people have lost their lives. I want to thank the first responders who worked tirelessly through the night to contain the situation and treat the wounded. My Administration, through FEMA and other agencies, is in close contact with our state and local partners on the ground to make sure there are no unmet needs as search and rescue and response operations continue. West is a town that many Texans hold near and dear to their hearts, and as residents continue to respond to this tragedy, they will have the support of the American people.

Aboard Air Force One en route to Boston, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the president was briefed on the West, Texas, blast “very, very early” Thursday morning. He called the devastation “quite significant” and reiterated the vow to make federal resources available.

By Todd J. Gillman of the Dallas Morning News