published: 18.04.2013, 11:11 | updated: 18.04.2013 11:13:30
Prague/Washington - Czech ambassador to the USA Petr Gandalovic is going to West, Texas, to find out whether he can help the Czech Americans who may have been victims of the Wednesday fertilizer plant explosion, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Johana Grohova told CTK today.
This mornin, gForeign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg asked him to do so, Grohova said.
The fire and subsequent series of three massive explosions in the factory have claimed at least 70 lives and over 100 injured.
The accident affected the life of the Czech Texas community, descendants of immigrants from Bohemia and Moravia.
Czechs were among the intervening firefighters, the wife of the local Czech honorary consul said.
"Schwarzenberg has asked Gandalovic to go to the site," Grohova said.
Gandalovic was assigned the task to find out whether and how the old homeland could help the possible relatives of the dead and the suffering.
West is a city with some 2,700 residents, one of the centres of Czech immigrants to the USA.
The accident flattened tens of houses including the local school and asylum for the elderly.
West officially became a city in 1892. Immigrants from the present-day Czech Republic, primarily from its eastern part, Moravia, contributed to its boom. They opened shops and businesses in the city and started farming in the area.
By the 1920s, Czech culture came to dominate in West.
The Bohemian and Moravian traces are clearly visible in the city. Baked goods can be bought in Little Czech Bakery, also offering the real "kolaches" (typical Czech cakes). Accommodation is provided by the Czech Inn, petrol can be bought at the Zatopek Oil gas station and a number of residents have Czech names such as Brezina, Kucera and Kolar.
Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center says at least half a million Texans are of full and partial Czech extraction.
However, the 2000 census says Texas has 155,855 Czech Americans, having the biggest such population of the 50 U.S. states.
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