LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

WEST, Texas-- Federal investigators and the state fire marshal's office will be moving toward an inspection of the site of Wednesday's explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant, looking for evidence that may point to a cause.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says the investigation is starting at the perimeter of the explosion, and will work inward toward the destroyed fertilizer company itself.

As investigators move inward, authorities say, residents will gradually be allowed to return to their homes. But the town of West won't easily recover.

An apartment complex was badly shattered by the explosion. A school was set on fire and heavily damaged, and a nursing home was left in ruins.

Authorities confirmed today that the bodies of 12 people were recovered from the fertilizer plant and the surrounding area.

The victims are believed to include a small group of first-responders who headed toward the plant to fight the fire that would apparently touch off the explosion.