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HOMELAND SECURITY EVACUATION BUS EXPLODES KILLING AT LEAST 24 ELDERLY

Up to 45 elderly Rita evacuees may have been killed by an explosion caused by a defective bus.
HOMELAND SECURITY EVACUATION BUS EXPLODES KILLING AT LEAST 24 ELDERLY
Islamic Community Net
September 23, 2005
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/islamiccommunitynet/message/8737

Up to 45 elderly Rita evacuees may have been killed by an explosion caused by a defective bus.

Please note that 3 articles follow:

*Bus carrying Rita evacuees ripped by explosions and fire; 24 feared dead
*24 Believed Killed In Evacuee Bus Fire, Explosion
*20 dead as hurricane bus explodes

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(1)

Bus carrying Rita evacuees ripped by explosions and fire; 24 feared dead at 10:09 on September 23, 2005, EST.
Associated Press
September 23, 2005
 http://www.940news.com/nouvelles.php?cat=24&id=92337

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photo:
Rodolfo Santana fills his gas tank on northbound Interstate 45 with fuel donated by other evacuees in Houston, Texas, Thursday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
 http://www.940news.com/cp/xml/world/w092337A.jpg
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WILMER, Texas (AP) - Hurricane Rita roared toward the Texas and Louisiana coasts early Friday, a major Category 4 storm that spurred a traffic-snarled exodus and fears it could cripple the heart of the nation's petrochemical industry. Authorities Friday advised Houston residents who were still at home who to stay there.

A bus carrying elderly evacuees from hurricane Rita caught fire and was rocked by explosions early Friday on a gridlocked highway near Dallas, killing as many as 24 people, authorities said.

"Deputies were unable to get everyone off the bus," said Don Peritz, a Dallas County Sheriff's Department spokesman.

Peritz said he believes 24 people were killed, but that the number could change.

The bus, with about 45 people on board, had been travelling since Thursday. Peritz declined to give details on who the passengers were except to say they were from a nursing home in Bellaire, Texas, an upscale enclave within Houston.

Early indications were that it caught fire because of mechanical problems, then passengers' oxygen tanks started exploding, Peritz said. He said the brakes may have been on fire.

The bus was engulfed with flames, causing a lengthy backup on Interstate 45, already congested with evacuees from the Gulf Coast. The vehicle was reduced to a blackened, burned-out shell with large blue tarps covering many seats. It was surrounded by police cars and ambulances.

Tina Jones, a nurse from Ennis, Texas, was driving behind the bus when she saw it start to smoke and pull to the side of the road.

"I saw the smoke and then there was an explosions," said Jones, who pulled over and helped treat cuts and bruises. She said she saw at least six bodies.

"I'll probably go home and have a good cry," she said.

Peritz said the driver survived.

"It's my understanding he went back on the bus several times to try to evacuate people," he said.

Interstate 45 stretches more than 400 kilometres from Galveston through Houston to Dallas. The crash site is roughly 25 kilometres southeast of downtown Dallas.

Gov. Rick Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said traffic on I-45 would be diverted at Ennis, about 50 kilometres southeast of Dallas. She said it was unclear how far the gridlock extended.

Forecasters said it appeared Houston and Galveston could avoid a direct hit as Rita veered slightly to the east, threatening its 140 mph winds at the Beaumont and Port Arthur area about 75 miles east of Houston. An 8 a.m. EDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center said the winds remained at 140 mph. The storm was expected to near the coast later Friday or early Saturday.

Friday morning, the freeways within Houston had cleared out, but it was still bumper to bumper traffic from the outskirts of Houston toward Austin and Dallas. The state Department of Public Safety had begun escorting tanker trucks full of gas to empty stations in small towns like Brenham, between Houston and Austin.

Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, the chief executive for the county surrounding Houston, told residents who had not left yet to stay where they were for the storm.

The unprecedented flight from the flood-prone Houston area Thursday left clogged highways at a near standstill, frustrating hundreds of thousands of people whose cars and tempers were overheating.

"It can't get much worse, 100 yards an hour," steamed Willie Bayer, 70, who was trying to get to Sulphur Springs in far northeast Texas. "It's frustrating bumper-to-bumper."

The first rain bands were expected before nightfall Friday with the full fury of Rita expected into Saturday. Forecasters warned of the possibility of a storm surge of 15 to 20 feet, battering waves and rain of up to 15 inches along the Texas and western Louisiana coast.

Two communities that may bear the brunt of the storm are Beaumont, which is a petrochemical, shipbuilding and port city of about 114,000; and Port Arthur, a city of about 58,000 that's home to industries including oil, shrimping and crawfishing.

Texas officials scrambled to reroute several inbound highways to accommodate outbound traffic, but many people were waiting so long they ran out of gas and were forced to park.

"We know you're out there," Houston Mayor Bill White said of the congestion that extended well into Louisiana. "We understand there's been fuel shortages."

Texas Army National Guard trucks were escorted by police to directly provide motorists with gasoline. The state was also working to get more than 200,000 gallons of gas to fuel-starved stations in the Houston area.

By late Thursday night, the traffic was at least moving slowly, but was still backed up for about 100 miles in what White called "one of the largest mass evacuations in American history."

Nearly two million people along the Texas and Louisiana coasts were urged to get out of the way of Rita, a storm that weakened Thursday from a top-of-the-scale Category 5 hurricane.

"Hopefully, we will get lucky and it goes into a part of Texas or Louisiana where there is not a lot of people or any buildings," Houston businessman Tillman Fertitta said.

Hurricane warnings were in effect from Port O'Connor, Texas, to Morgan City, La., and the National Hurricane Center forecast the storm would make landfall as a "dangerous hurricane of at least Category 3 intensity."

Tropical storm warnings also were in effect east and north to include New Orleans, still crippled by Hurricane Katrina. Rita's steady rains Thursday were the first since Katrina and the forecast was for 3 to 5 inches in the coming days - dangerously close to the amount engineers said could send floodwaters pouring back into recently dry neighborhoods.

"Hurricane Rita is a very dangerous storm," said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. "We're not letting our guards down."

The Army Corps of Engineers added sandbags to shore up New Orleans' levees and installed 60-foot sections of metal across some of the city's canals to protect against storm surges.

About 5,000 soldiers and National Guard members remain in the city, along with about 1,400 police officers, Nagin said. "We should be in pretty good shape from a law enforcement standpoint as we move forward."

Oliver Lucius left New Orleans with his family after Katrina and was beginning to build a life in Corpus Christi. He and his wife had found jobs and their children were enrolled in local schools. Then came Rita.

"It was just settling in that I was there for the hurricane, and then I came here," said Ariel Lucius, 13, Oliver's daughter. "Now it seems like a dream."

The Texas and Louisiana coast is home to the nation's biggest concentration of oil refineries. Environmentalists warned of the possibility of a toxic spill from the 87 chemical plants and petroleum installations that represent more than one-fourth of U.S. refining capacity.

Petrochemical plants began shutting and hundreds of workers were evacuated from offshore oil rigs. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said state officials had been in contact with plants that are "taking appropriate procedures to safeguard their facilities."

The usually bustling tourist island of Galveston - rebuilt after as many as 12,000 people died in a 1900 hurricane - was all but abandoned, with at least 90 per cent of its 58,000 residents cleared out.

The last major hurricane to strike the Houston area was Category 3 Alicia in 1983. It flooded downtown Houston, spawned 22 tornadoes and left 21 people dead.

At Houston's Johnson Space Center, NASA evacuated its staff, powered down the computers at Mission Control and turned the international space station over to the Russian space agency.

Parts of Houston simply emptied out. Plastic grocery bags shrouding abandoned gasoline pumps rustled in the breeze. Freeways usually jammed around the clock were clear for miles. Acres of normally packed parking lots surrounding malls, schools and factories were bare.

Katrina's death toll in Louisiana rose to 832 on Thursday, pushing the body count to at least 1,069 across the Gulf Coast. But workers under contract to the state to collect the bodies were taken off the streets of New Orleans because of the approaching storm.

In southwestern Louisiana, up to 500,000 residents along the state's southwest coast were urged to evacuate and state officials planned to send in buses to take refugees.

The U.S. mainland has not been hit by two Category 4 storms in the same year since 1915. Katrina came ashore Aug. 29 as a Category 4.

"Katrina. It's scared everyone," said Dianna Soileau, 29, who was fleeing the refinery town of Texas City with her husband and two children. "We don't want to be the same thing."

 http://www.940news.com/nouvelles.php?cat=24&id=92337


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(2)

24 Believed Killed In Evacuee Bus Fire, Explosion
TV Station Reports 24 Deaths
September 23, 2005
 http://www.thejacksonchannel.com/news/5010437/detail.html#

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photo:
 http://images.ibsys.com/2005/0923/5010564_240X180.jpg
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DALLAS -- Authorities now say 24 people were killed Friday when explosions tore through a chartered bus filled with Hurricane Rita evacuees near Dallas on gridlocked Interstate 45, a Dallas County Sheriff's spokesman said.

The bus loaded with 43 passengers was engulfed with flames, causing a 17-mile backup on a freeway that was already heavily congested with evacuees from the Gulf Coast.

"Deputies were unable to get everyone off the bus," spokesman Don Peritz said.

By early Friday morning, the bus was reduced to a blackened, burned-out shell, surrounded by numerous police cars and ambulances.

Peritz said it appears a mechanical problem aboard the bus caused a fire that reached oxygen tanks belonging to the elderly passengers.

Peritz said the driver and arriving deputies tried to rescue as many passengers from the bus as possible but couldn't save everybody.

He said the bus left a nursing home in the Houston suburb of Bellaire Thursday, headed for facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

State officials said northbound traffic is being diverted off of Interstate 45 onto U.S. Highway 287 at Ennis, about 30 miles southeast of Dallas.

Interstate 45 stretches more than 250 miles from Galveston through Houston to Dallas.

 http://www.thejacksonchannel.com/news/5010437/detail.html#


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(3)

20 dead as hurricane bus explodes
IC Liverpool
Sep 23 2005
 link to icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk

Dallas TV station WFAA has reported that 20 people were killed when a bus carrying elderly evacuees from Hurricane Rita caught fire on gridlocked Interstate 45 in Texas.

The bus was engulfed in flames, causing a 17-mile backup on a freeway that was already heavily congested with evacuees from the Gulf Coast.

The incident took place as nearly two million people along the Texas and Louisiana coasts were urged to get out of the way of Hurricane Rita, a 400-mile-wide storm.

"There were 45 souls on the bus. At this point we believe we have about half accounted for," a police spokesman said.

"The early indications are that this is a mechanical issue. The driver did survive the accident. It's my understanding he went back on the bus several times to try to evacuate people."

He said there were indications that oxygen used by elderly evacuees could have had a role in the fire. A large, burned-out shell of the bus was on the side of the interstate, where cars were backed up for numerous miles, surrounded by police cars and ambulances.

The evacuation has been a traffic nightmare, with vehicles streaming out of Houston and its low-lying suburbs as far as the eye could see. Highways leading inland out of Houston, a metropolitan area of four million people about an hour's drive from the shore, were clogged for up to 100 miles north of the city.

Meanwhile, Rita has weakened from a top-of-the-scale Category 5 hurricane to a Category 4, with winds of up to 145mph, as it swirls across the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm's course change could send it away from Houston and Galveston and instead draw the hurricane toward Port Arthur, Texas, or Lake Charles, Louisiana, at least 60 miles up the coast.

But it is still an extremely dangerous storm - and one aimed at a section of coastline with a large concentration of oil refineries. Environmentalists warned of the possibility of a toxic spill from the 87 chemical plants and petroleum installations that represent more than a quarter of US refining capacity.

 link to icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk

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