A LARGE EXPLOSION DESTROYED one end of a 5-story apartment building in Reims, France, Sunday morning.
Early indications are that it was a natural gas explosion that destroyed ten apartment units and has left at least two people dead and fourteen more injured at last count. Four others remain unaccounted for.
The blast occurred at 11:30 am local time Sunday and was both felt and heard over a wide area and shattered scores of nearby windows. About 200 firefighters and rescuers are on the scene searching for more victims that are likely to be trapped under the rubble. Search dog teams have also been brought in.
The local newspaper L'Union has the early report HERE.
The building was constructed about 50 years ago and had been renovated in recent years.
A FAST-MOVING FIRE SWEPT through a psychiatric hospital in Russia early Friday morning killing almost everybody inside.
Russian Emergencies Ministry image
The facility that housed and treated people with severe mental disorders was a 1-story wood framed, brick building with an open attic that was connected to a shed where the fire is believed to have started. The Associated Press is reporting:
The patients were under sedatives and most of them did not wake up, Yuri Deshevykh of the emergency situations ministry told RIA Novosti.
At least 29 people were burned alive, said Irina Gumennaya, a spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee.
Investigators said 38 people, including 36 patients and two doctors, have died. They said a nurse managed to escape and save one patient, while another patient got out on his own. The emergency services also posted a list of the patients indicating they ranged in age from 20 to 76. Gumennaya told Russian news agencies that most of the people died in their beds.
The nearest fire station is about 30 miles from the hospital, but the ferry needed to reach it is closed for the winter and the FF's had to take a 40-minute detour causing them to reach the scene after the building was on the ground.
UPDATE: As of late Thursday night the death toll has risen to 149. Scroll down.
A FACTORY BUILDING FILLED WITH an estimated 2,000 workers collapsed suddenly Wednesday morning in Savar, Bangladesh.
The 8-story building housed several garment producers where fabrics are cut and sewn into clothing that is primarily sold to U.S. retailers. The collapse was sudden and buried as many as 2,000 people, about 600 of whom were pulled out alive by passersby immediately after the collapse.
Workers in the Rana Plaza building said it had developed such severe cracks the day before that it had been reported on local news channels. They hesitated to enter the building Wednesday morning, said Abdur Rahim, who worked in a garment factory on the fifth floor. But a manager from the factory assured them there was no problem, so they went inside, he said.
"We started working. After about an hour or so the building collapsed suddenly," he said. He next remembered regaining consciousness outside the building.
Sumi, a 25-year-old worker who goes by one name, said she was sewing jeans on the fifth floor with at least 400 others when the building fell. "It collapsed all of a sudden," she said. "No shaking, no indication. It just collapsed on us."
Volunteer rescuers used rolls of fabric to jury-rig
rescue chutes for many survivors. (AFP)
She survived because she managed to reach a hole in the building through which rescuers pulled her out.
According to the PR director of a major hospital nearby, at least 87 people have been confirmed dead and he knows that approx. 600 others have been rescued.
The garment factories operated at full capacity 24 hours a day, so it is presumed that this building was fully occupied when it collapsed around 8:30 am.
The Telegraph has more HERE and provided this graphic raw video:
UPDATE 11 pm Thursday:
Late Thursday night (Eastern) the rising death count had reached 149 with many victims, both alive and dead, still trapped in the pile of concrete rubble.
Searchers worked through the night to cut holes in the jumbled mess of concrete with drills or their bare hands, passing water and flashlights to those pinned inside the building.
"I gave them whistles, water, torchlights. I heard them cry. We can't leave them behind this way," said fire official Abul Khayer.
On a visit to the site, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters the building had violated construction codes and "the culprits would be punished."
Abdul Halim, an official with the engineering department in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, said the owner was originally allowed to construct a five-story building but he added another three stories illegally.
Local police chief Mohammaed Asaduzzaman said police and the government's Capital Development Authority have filed separate cases of negligence against the building owner.
Those were the words of a survivor of last night's major explosion in West, Texas, at the town's primary employer, a fertilizer plant. Listen to his first-hand description of what he experienced on this video provided by NBC News:
As dawn crept across Texas this morning, the magnitude of the fertilizer factory explosion became more apparent and the massive search for survivors and other victims continues.
Firegeezer will be keeping this posting open all day and updated as more verified information is released.
Early reports this morning quote the county's emergency operations director as saying that he believes there are two EMT's that were killed and five firefighters are missing and presumed dead. They were all at the plant working the fire when the blast occurred. There were also several factory employees on the job (unconfirmed… FG) but nobody has been able to get into the blast zone yet.
The hulk of the West VFD firetruck positioned at the plant (Reuters)
NBC News has posted some eyewitness accounts:
Crystal Jerigan rushed outside her home about 15 blocks from the blazing West Fertilizer Company plant after hearing the sirens of emergency responders. She was in the driveway with her two daughters preparing to flee when the plant exploded.
"About the time that I got to the car, you could hear the boom and within seconds, it just sucked you in and just threw you to the ground," Jerigan told NBC.
* * *
Another local resident, Derrick Hurtt, who was sitting in his truck with his daughter Khloey taping the burning plant, caught the moment of the blast on camera. He estimated he was at least 300 yards from the plant, but that was still too close. In his video, Hurtt can be heard asking his daughter if she is OK.
"Please get out of here, please get out of here, dad please get out of here," the young girl can be heard saying. "I can’t hear anything."
"I’m pretty sure it lifted the truck off the ground," Hurtt said on TODAY. "It just blew me over on top of her. It all happened so quick that things just kind of went black for a moment."
* * *
"A nearby nursing home is really bad, there’s an apartment complex and the school that caught fire," Crystal Anthony, who serves on the town’s school board of trustees, told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "We’ve been moving patients out of the nursing home and taking them to the football field and gymnastics building on Davis Street."
UPDATE: REPORT NOW SAYING THAT FIREFIGHTERS WERE ALREADY ON THE SCENE WORKING A FIRE WHEN THE BLAST HIT. UNKNOWN NUMBER INJURED OR KILLED. PLANT WORKERS ON SITE ALSO. SCROLL DOWN.
UPDATE #2: WACO TV REPORTING 60-70 DEAD, OVER 100 INJURED. Scroll down.
UPDATE #3: CASUALTY COUNT REVISED.
Thursday morning: Verified casualties are closer to 15 dead and 160 injured with more searching still to be completed. Scroll down.
THE SMALL TOWN OF WEST, Texas (pop. 2,800) has been near-destroyed Wednesday night when a fertilizer factory blew up and set dozens of buildings on fire. High numbers of injuries are expected.
The blast occurred just before 8 pm Central and heavily damaged or destroyed every home within four blocks of the plant. Throughout the entire town there are many buildings on fire in the rural community located about 35 miles from Waco on I-35.
Fox News is reporting:
Department of Public Safety troopers were using their squad cars to transport those injured by the blast and fire at the plant in West, a community north of Waco, Gayle Scarbrough, a spokeswoman for the department's Waco office, told television station KWTX. She said six helicopters were also en route to help out.
American Red Cross crews from across Texas are being sent to the site.Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster says her group is working with emergency management officials to find a safe shelter for residents displaced from their homes.
The blast at West Fertilizer plant, reported shortly before 8 p.m. CT, was confirmed by Waco police dispatch operators. First responders are dealing with numerous injuries and major damage to structures and vehicles, Scarbrough said.
Twohours after the initial blast there were many buildings still on fire.
Several buildings, some in residential areas, were reported to be burning, others destroyed, and a nearby nursing home was damaged. The blast at West Fertilizer plant, reported shortly before 8 p.m. CT, was confirmed by Waco police dispatch operators. First responders are dealing with numerous injuries and major damage to structures and vehicles, Scarbrough said.
Initial reports say people are trapped in a nearby nursing home and an apartment building. according to Reuters. A local school football field is being setup as a staging area.
WFAA-TV Ch. 8 Dallas had this early report before news crews arrived at the site:
CNN has just added:
A number of nearby residents were being evacuated because of the possibility of another explosion, officials said.
A hospital in nearby Waco, Texas, has been told to anticipate 100 injured people coming in from the fertilizer plant area, an official at the medical facility said.
Glenn Robinson, CEO of Hillcrest Hospital, said a field triage station was being set up on a football field near the plant some 18 miles north of Waco after the Wednesday night explosion.
Victims were pouring into the triage area as it was setting up.
"We have had a steady flow of patients coming in by ambulance as well as by private vehicles," Robinson told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
More than 40 patients were received as of 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET), Robinson said, suffering from "blast injuries, orthopedic injuries (and) a lot of lacerations. While some of the injuries are minor, others are "quite serious," he said.
This event is less than three hours old at the time of this initial posting. We will be updating continually. Check back.
UPDATE, 11:10 AM CENTRAL, Firefighters caught in blast: The Waco Tribune is reporting:
Firefighters were trying to put out a fire at the plant when the explosion occurred, said West Mayor Pro-tem Steve Vanek, who was on his way to help when the blast took place.
Shortly after 9 p.m., Vanek was talking to personnel near the scene, visibly upset with his head in his hands, bent over at the waist. One of the people speaking with Vanek said "he lost a lot of his buddies out there."
Asked if he knew if any of the firefighters were killed, Vanek replied, "I fear for the worst, but I’m praying for the best."
* * *
A stream of emergency vehicles, including ambulances, sheriff’s deputies, and other emergency vehicles, poured into the town shortly after the explosion. A Hill County sheriff’s deputy who was directing traffic said the explosion shook the windows of his home in Whitney. The deputy said a fire broke out at the fertilizer plant and the blast occurred while firefighters were trying to put it out. Many of the injured are firefighters, he said.
Crystal Anthony, who serves on the West Independent School District board of trustees, said she and her daughter were "knocked back" by the blast as they stood blocks away from the plant.
"A nearby nursing home is really bad, there’s an apartment complex and the school (West Middle School) that caught fire," she said. "We’ve been moving patients out of the nursing home and taking them to the football field and gymnastics building on Davis Street."
Denise Day, a nurse at the West Rest Haven Nursing Home, 300 Haven St., said she had arrived at her home 23 miles from West when she heard the explosion. At first, Day said, she and her husband thought it was thunder. But after turning on an emergency scanner, they quickly learned what had happened and she returned to help evacuate about 50 to 100 of the nursing home’s 140 residents.
Many of those evacuated from the home could be seen sitting in wheelchairs near the end of the high school’s football field with cuts on their heads from flying glass after the explosion. About 15 to 20 ambulances were parked on the football field at about 9:45 p.m.
UPDATE #2, 11:30 PM CENTRAL:
KWTX-TV Waco is reporting early casualty figures:
West EMS Director Dr. George Smith says as many as 60 or 70 people died and at least 100 were injured Wednesday night in a fertilizer plant explosion in West.
West Mayor Tommy Muska said at a news conference however, that he doesn't yet know how many people were hurt or killed in the blast explosion. He said there was a fire at the West Fertilizer plant before the explosion.
The explosion was reported at around 7:50 p.m. in a frantic radio call from the scene of the fire at West Fertilizer at 1471 Jerry Mashek Dr. just off Interstate 35.
The fire started in an anhydrous ammonia tank and spread to the building, authorities said. The resulting explosion spread the fire to the Middle School and to a nearby nursing home.
About 60 people had been taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center by shortly before 10 p.m. By 10:45 p.m. 61 injured victims had been admitted to Hillcrest, 44 of whom were in serious condition. Scott & White said it has received three patients, two at Scott & White Memorial Hospital, and one at McLane Children’s Hospital. Providence Health Center in Waco had received 22 patients by 11 p.m. Wednesday.
With dawn breaking over the town of West, Texas, the organized search and rescue operation is proceding. So far, the authorities are listing approx. 15 known fatalities and about 160 injured, many of them seriously. Both counts are expected to rise during the day as more of the devastation is uncovered and others who were previously unaccounted for start showing up.
This report will be continuing on a separate, updated posting this morning. This posting is closed.
The bombs that ripped through the Boston Marathon crowd appear to have been fashioned out of ordinary kitchen pressure cookers, packed with nails and other fiendishly lethal shrapnel, and hidden in duffel bags left on the ground, investigators and others close to the case said Tuesday.
Officials found that the bombs consisted of explosives put in common 1.6-gallon pressure cookers, one containing shards of metal and ball bearings, the other packed with nails, according to a person close to the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was still going on. Both bombs were stuffed into duffel bags, the person said.
At a news conference, Richard DesLauriers, FBI agent in charge in Boston, confirmed that investigators had found pieces of black nylon from a bag or backpack and fragments of BBs and nails, possibly contained in a pressure cooker. He said the items were sent to the FBI for analysis at Quantico, Va.
Pressure cooker bombs are popular devices used by Al-Qaida, but their plans on constructing them are widely available on the interenet after they were publish in the terrorist organization's English-language magazine four years ago.
The recipe – along with a rationale for post-9/11 terror – was printed three years ago in al-Qaeda’s English-language promotional online magazine, Inspire.
In an article, it instructed readers on how, as its headline writers put it, to "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom." It gave the types of explosive, timers and other ingredients needed – along with, it said, a pressure cooker.
* * * * *
The Richard Family / Zuma Press
Bill Richard's family were all gathered near the finish line to cheer several friends of theirs as they came to the flag. His young daughter had run in a kid's race on Saturday and was ecstatic over winning a prize ribbon. One of the blasts killed the oldest son Martin, age 8, (left, above) and his mother Denise suffered a brain injury. The little girl lost a leg and lived through it only for the fast and efficient work of a nearby paramedic.
"My dear son Martin has died from injuries sustained in the attack on Boston," father Bill Richard said in a statement released on Tuesday. "My wife and daughter are both recovering from serious injuries. I ask that you continue to pray for my family as we remember Martin."
Friends and neighbors in the Richards’ middle-class neighborhood of Dorchester, Mass. were stunned by the family’s loss.
The family was a "typical, all-American, lovely family," neighbor Margaret Admirand said, choking back tears. "It’s devastating. He was an adorable little boy," she said. "It’s very hard to talk about. He was a sweet little kid."
* * * * *
Also from NBC News:
Two brothers who went to the Boston Marathon to cheer on a friend each lost a leg in Monday’s bombing, their family said, asking the public for prayers.
NBC News via Facebook
Paul Norden, 31, and his brother, J.P., 33, were being treated at separate hospitals on Tuesday, their worried relatives rallying around them.
Paul’s girlfriend was being treated for burns at a third hospital.
The brothers, both roofers who had recently been laid off, were at the marathon to support their friend, firefighter Mike Jefferson, who escaped injury.
* TWO EXPLOSIONS AT FINISH LINE as runners are coming through.
* HIGH INJURY COUNT – POSSIBLE DEATHS – Reports of human limbs being blown off.
* BLASTS IN RAPID SUCCESSION around 2:50 pm about three hours after winner had passed by.
* MORE SUSPECTED EXPLOSIVE DEVICES found in area.
USA Today is reporting:
Witnesses said the blasts occurred in quick succession about 2:50 p.m. on Boylston Street near the intersection of Exeter Street, three hours after the winner had crossed the finish line. Some store fronts were blown out.
Bloodied spectators were carried to medical tent intended for runners. Several of the injured has lost limbs, and at least one police officer was hurt.
"Somebody's leg flew by my head. I gave my belt to stop the blood," spectator John Ross told the Herald.
Organizers immediately stopped the race and locked down the marathon headquarters.
The elite women runners started the race at 9:30 a.m. and the elite men followed about 30 minutes later. About 27,000 runners were in the field for the Patriots Day race.
"There are a lot of people down," one man, whose bib No. 17528 identified him as Frank Deruyter, told the Associated Press.
Smoke hung over the neighborhood as police cleared the thousands of spectators who had jammed the route.
The final 100 meters of the race is lined with bleacher seating, reserved for race officials and invited guests. The area on Charles River, on the north side Boylston Street is open to the general public. At the corner of Hereford and Boylston Streets, there is a Boston EMS Medical Tent and a fire station.
The Mandarin Oriental hotel on Huntington has been evacuated. A hotel employee who did not provide his name said all businesses on the block had been evacuated as a precautionary measure.
WHDH-TV had tape rolling when second bomb went off:
The New York Police Department has stepped up security around landmarks in Manhattan, including near prominent hotels, in response to at least one explosion near the finish line of the Boston marathon on Monday, said Paul Browne, deputy commissioner of the NYPD.
Browne told Reuters that New York police were re-deploying counter-terrorism vehicles around the city.
Video from WBZ-TV:
* * *
Raw video from WPXI-TV:
There have been reports of several suspicious packages, bags etc., in the area and at least one of them was destroyed by the police bomb squad.
There is an ongoing fire at the JFK Library several blocks away that may have involved an explosion. The police are currently deeming that description as accurate, however they do not believe it to be related to the other incidents currently.
An updated report from ABC News is saying:
Authorities in Boston have found other explosive devices that they were working to dismantle, a federal law enforcement source told CNN. The devices were "low flashpoint," and did not appear to have shrapnel inside them, the source said.
It was unclear who may have planted the bombs. There were no credible threats before the race, a state government official said.
Out of an abundance of caution, the Lenox Hotel was evacuated, the Boston Globe reported, as authorities looked into possible security concerns.
Massachusetts General Hospital said it was treating 19 injured people,six of them in critical condition. Tufts Medical Center reported that it was treating nine people. Combined, that brings the number of injured to at least 28. Police reported 22 people injured.
Crowds were in the area watching the runners when the blasts took place.
An emergency room doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital told ABC News that they have performed several amputations, particularly on victims whose legs were injured. Many of the victims are runners still wearing numbers on their shirts, the doctor said.
He described the injuries as "shrapnel-type wounds" as possibly caused by "pipe bombs," though police have not confirmed that description.
Earlier, trauma nurse from Massachusetts General Hospital told ABC News that medical workers had set up a temporary morgue at a medical tent at the road race and were treating patients with severed limbs and children with severe burns.
An unconfirmed report said that police have been assigned to maintain a presence at a hospital room containing a "person of interest" who is being treated for severe burns.
THIS REPORT WILL BE UPDATED periodically. Keep checking back.
A CHARTER BUS CARRYING about 45 passengers to a casino in Oklahoma was involved in a single-vehicle accident on a freeway near Irving, Texas, Thursday morning.
The accident occurred shortly after 9 am Central when the bus went out of control for an as-yet unknown reason. KTVT-TV is reporting:
"For an as yet undetermined reason, that motorcoach traveled off the righthand side of the roadway and struck what’s called an impact attenuator, those big rubber things that are on the side of the road," explained Sgt. Lonnie Haschel with the Texas Department of Public Safety. "After it struck the impact attenuator, it went back across the lanes of traffic into a grassy area and struck the concrete median. It rode up on top of that concrete barrier and it rolled on its righthand side, where it came to a rest."
A total of 36 41 passengers were injured and have already been transported to area hospitals, including 9 victims taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas by air ambulance. The others were tranported by ground ambulance or Dallas Area Rapid Transit buses that arrived for assistance. Two people died, according to Texas DPS officials on the scene. Most of the victims are elderly.
One victim was trapped in the wreckage and had to be extricated. It is reported that he appeared to be in serious condition. Sixteen patients are listet in "critical" condition.
KXAS-TV interviewed one of the passengers in this video report:
"Every 200 Yards Another Pileup … Endless Wreckage"
A SUDDEN, BLINDING SNOW STORM created havoc on the QE2 freeway near Edmonton, Alberta, Thursday just before noon.
CTV / Fildebrandt
According to the RCMP a multi-car pileup in the bad weather comprising about a dozen or more vehicles led to several other chain reaction crashes in the vicinity, eventually involving at least 100 cars and trailer trucks.
It still isn't known how many people were injured, but at least 22 were transported to hospitals for treatment and more than 80 others were treated on the scene.
The snow continued falling for several hours more, compounding
the rescue access and efforts, and the clean-up.
(CTV / Drew Forward)
The number of injuries was earlier thought to be around 300, but Alberta Health Services revised that number after people were assessed at the scene.
A "multi-casualty" incident bus was sent to the pileup and RCMP and fire crews went from vehicle to vehicle checking for the injured, said Alberta Health Services spokesman Kerry Williamson.
Four buses from Edmonton Transit were also on their way at about 3 p.m. to provide shelter and warmth to motorists who were stuck in their vehicles for hours.
A pair of Edmonton police officers were sent to the scene to escort transit buses that were being used to transport injured people, police spokeswoman Leila Daoud said. The police disaster and emergency operations service branch is on standby if more assistance is requested, she added.
A STAMPEDE AT THE ALLAHABAD RAILWAY station in India after overcrowding on a footbridge caused people to fall Sunday and sent hundreds of pilgrims into a panic. The Hindu festival Kumbh Mela began on January 14 and continues until March 10. The largest religious gathering in the world held once every 12 years brings literally tens of millions of visitors to the small city to ceremonially bathe in the Sang am – the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers.
Read the Firegeezer background article and video on the preparations taken by the local fire department, "Gearing Up For The Pilgrimage" posted last month HERE.
An overcrowded railway station footbridge buckled and a railing collapsed, sending some people slipping down the stairs and triggering the stampede, a top state government official told Reuters, not wishing to be quoted by name.
"I can confirm that 18 people have died and 13 have been injured," said the official.
In the two months from the start of the festival in January, officials believe as many as 100 million people will have passed through a temporary city that covers an area larger than Athens on a wide sandy river bank.
Hindu holy men and pilgrims bathe in the sacred Ganges to wash away lifetimes of sins. Sunday was believed to be the most auspicious day of the festival.
The stampede happened at around 7 pm on a footbridge between platform number 5 and 6 of the railway station. There were lakhs of people at the station, many on their way back from Allahabad after a holy dip in the Ganga at the Maha Kumbh Mela; today was 'Mauni Amavasya', considered the most auspicious day of bathing during the 12-yearly congregation.
According to eyewitnesses, the stampede happened after the police lathi-charged to control the crowd. Divisional Railway Manager Harinder Rao, however, claimed that people were not lathi-charged and the police only attempted to regulate the movement of the crowd by asking passengers to stand in line. A police officer said an estimated 4,000 people were present at one single point at the site of the stampede.
The relatives of the victims have complained that the authorities took more than two hours to act after the incident. They say there was only one doctor at the station attending to several people who were injured in the stampede.
"At least four to five people died at the station because they were not taken to the hospital for two hours," said an eyewitness. According to the Press Trust of India, bodies of 10 victims were lying at the station three hours after the incident.
(Officials blamed the tardiness of the police and rescue squads on heavy traffic….Ed.)
NewsX grabbed some video from the train platform that gives an indication of the triage challenge facing the rescuers. (Firegeezer says, What triage?)
The New York Times has more details and a later report HERE.
On January 28, 1986, NASA Challenger mission STS-51-L ended in tragedy when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after takeoff. On board was physicist Ronald E. McNair, who was the second African American to enter space. But first, he was a kid with big dreams in Lake City, South Carolina.
Graduated from Carver High School, Lake City, South Carolina, in 1967; received a bachelor of science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971 and a doctor of philosophy in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976.
Graduated magna cum laude from North Carolina A&T (1971); named a Presidential Scholar (1967-1971), a Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-1974), a National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-1975), a NATO Fellow (1975); winner of Omega Psi Phi Scholar of the Year Award (1975), Los Angeles Public School Systems Service Commendation (1979), Distinguished Alumni Award (1979), National Society of Black Professional Engineers Distinguished National Scientist Award (1979), Friend of Freedom Award (1981), Whos Who Among Black Americans (1980), an AAU Karate Gold Medal (1976), five Regional Blackbelt Karate Championships, and numerous proclamations and achievement awards.
While at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. McNair performed some of the earliest development of chemical HF/DF and high-pressure CO lasers. His later experiments and theoretical analysis on the interaction of intense CO2 laser radiation with molecular gases provided new understandings and applications for highly excited polyatomic molecules.
In 1975, he studied laser physics with many authorities in the field at Ecole Dete Theorique de Physique, Les Houches, France. He published several papers in the areas of lasers and molecular spectroscopy and gave many presentations in the United States and abroad.
Following graduation from MIT in 1976, he became a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California. His assignments included the development of lasers for isotope separation and photochemistry utilizing non-linear interactions in low-temperature liquids and optical pumping techniques. He also conducted research on electro-optic laser modulation for satellite-to-satellite space communications, the construction of ultra-fast infrared detectors, ultraviolet atmospheric remote sensing, and the scientific foundations of the martial arts.
Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978, he completed a 1-year training and evaluation period in August 1979, qualifying him for assignment as a mission specialist astronaut on Space Shuttle flight crews.
He first flew as a mission specialist on STS 41-B which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on February 3, 1984. The crew included spacecraft commander, Mr. Vance Brand, the pilot, Commander Robert L. Gibson, and fellow mission specialists, Captain Bruce McCandless II, and Lt. Col. Robert L. Stewart. The flight accomplished the proper shuttle deployment of two Hughes 376 communications satellites, as well as the flight testing of rendezvous sensors and computer programs. This mission marked the first flight of the Manned Maneuvering Unit and the first use of the Canadian arm (operated by McNair) to position EVA crewman around Challengers payload bay.
Included were the German SPAS-01 Satellite, acoustic levitation and chemical separation experiments, the Cinema 360 motion picture filming, five Getaway Specials, and numerous mid-deck experiments — all of which Dr. McNair assumed primary responsibility. Challenger culminated in the first landing on the runway at Kennedy Space Center on February 11, 1984. With the completion of this flight, he logged a total of 191 hours in space.
Dr. McNair was assigned as a mission specialist on STS 51-L. Dr. McNair died on January 28, 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, also taking the lives of the spacecraft commander, Mr. F.R. Scobee, the pilot, Commander M.J. Smith (USN), mission specialists, Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Onizuka (USAF), and Dr. J.A. Resnik, and two civilian payload specialists, Mr. G.B. Jarvis and Mrs. S. C. McAuliffe.
Update #1: The estimated death count is now up to 245 victims.Scroll down for details.
Update #2: Additional details of the tragedy posted. Scroll down.
A POPULAR NIGHTCLUB PACKED WITH MORE than 2,000 patrons in Santa Maria, Brazil, caught fire early Sunday morning leading to a panic and subsequent deaths and injuries to hundreds of people.
The fire began around 2 am local time in the Boate Kiss Club when the band onstage set off a fireworks display inside the huge facility. That started a fire in the ceiling that filled the arena with heavy smoke and fast-moving fire. As often happens in these sorts of incidents, the massive rush to the exits caused a pileup of victims.
At the time of this posting the death count had passed 220 with more expected while searches are still ongoing at the scene. An indoor sports arena has been appropriated for a makeshift morgue and bodies have been reportedly arriving by the truckload.
Recent reports are stating that the latest estimate on casualties is 245 dead and at least 200 injured. Many witnesses are telling the press that the fire started when a performer lit a flare in an apparent effort at a fireworks display. The fire quickly got into the acoustical foam ceiling and pumped out suffocating, poisonous smoke. The Associated Press is reporting:
Most of the victims died from asphyxiation and smoke inhalation, police said.
Authorities in the southern city of Santa Maria spent the morning rescuing survivors and wading through the tragic aftermath of one of the most deadly fires in a decade.
"There are so many bodies that we couldn't get all the way to the back of the nightclub," Lieutenant Moisés da Silva Fuchs told local media.
Many of the victims were students at local universities, according to witnesses. Fire officials told the Globo television station that the main door was locked when the fire started, but that was denied by Lucas Cauduro Peranzoni, also known as DJ Bolinha, the resident DJ at the club.
"Everyone was pushing one another," Paranzoni said. "I breathed in some of that smoke and I felt woozy. I collapsed at the door and the security guards pulled me out."
At nightclubs in Brazil, it's common for patrons to accumulate a bar tab throughout the night, which they pay in order to be able to exit.
Update #2: Additional details have been posted by Associated Press:
Guido Pedroso Melo, commander of the city's fire department, told the O Globo newspaper that firefighters had a hard time getting inside the club because "there was a barrier of bodies blocking the entrance."
Teenagers sprinted from the scene desperately seeking help. Others carried injured and burned friends away in their arms.
"There was so much smoke and fire, it was complete panic, and it took a long time for people to get out, there were so many dead," survivor Luana Santos Silva told the Globo TV network. The fire spread so fast inside the packed club that firefighters and ambulances could do little to stop it, Silva said.
Another survivor, Michele Pereira, told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that she was near the stage when members of the band lit flares that started the conflagration. "The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward," she said. "At that point, the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak, but in a matter of seconds it spread."
Most of the dead apparently suffocated, according to Dr. Paulo Afonso Beltrame, a professor at the medical school of the Federal University of Santa Maria who went to the city's Caridade Hospital to help victims.
Beltrame said he was told the club had been filled far beyond its capacity during a party for students at the university's agronomy department. Survivors, police and firefighters gave the same account of a band member setting the ceiling's soundproofing ablaze, he said.
"Large amounts of toxic smoke quickly filled the room, and I would say that at least 90 percent of the victims died of asphyxiation," Beltrame told The Associated Press by telephone.
"The toxic smoke made people lose their sense of direction so they were unable to find their way to the exit. At least 50 bodies were found inside a bathroom. Apparently they confused the bathroom door with the exit door."
Santa Maria, at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay, is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.
A CANADIAN CHARTER BUS returning to Vancouver, B. C., from Las Vegas slid or spun on icy, snowy I-85 Sunday morning. The bus plunged 100- to 150-ft. down a steep hillside and appears to have rolled at least once going down the hill.
The accident occurred in a rural area just before 10:30 am Pacific. There were approx. 40 passengers on the bus, but an exact count hasn't been achieved yet.
The bus landed down a steep hill that is covered with snow and the LaGrande Rural Fire Department had to call out rope rescue team to get all the passengers, both alive and dead, back up to the roadway. The tedious task was finally accomplished at 5:13 pm. Fire and EMS units from two counties were on the scene.
The Associated Press reported:
By 4:24 p.m. Sunday the number of confirmed fatalities had risen from five to nine.
"We are continuing to try and confirm the total number of passengers and number of injured persons transported to area hospital or secondary locations due to severity of injuries," reports Oregon State Police in a news release. "St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton confirmed 18 patients were brought to their hospital with a range of injuries. Some of those patients were transported by air to secondary hospital locations due to the severity of their injuries."
State police is reporting that the bus driver survived the crash. However, "investigators have not be able to speak to this person because of severity of injuries and medical care," OSP reports.
(By 1:30 p.m. Sunday, all of the "viable" patients involved in the accident had been removed from the scene. Shortly after 5 pm all of the fatalities were removed.) However, police still aren't sure exactly how many people were on the bus when it crashed. Oregon State Police investigators remained at the scene; Interstate-84 also remained closed 18 miles east of Pendleton, at milepost 227, and at the intersection with the Whitney Highway.
At 6:05 p.m., St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Ore., reports that it has received 26 patients from this crash. Five of those patients were taken to a secondary hospital for treatment. The other 21 patients are still being treated there.
KOIN-TV has a good video report:
KATU-TV has some aerial footage taken from their helicopter:
AN EXPLOSION AND RESULTING FIRE in a Southern Germany handicapped workshop has killed at least 14 people Monday afternoon.
The initial explosion occurred around 2 pm in a storeroom from as-yet unknown causes, and started a fire that quickly filled the entire facility with thick smoke. There were approximately 120 people afflicted with mental or physical disabilities inside the workshop that processes wood into salable products. A monitored fire detection system sent the alarm and started the evacuations, but many occupants were unable to get out.
The first-arriving firefighters were met with a challenging rescue mission and were able to find and remove 20 victims who were still alive. However, at least 14 more perished in the smoke. Most occupants of the workshop were able to self-evacuate safely. Extra alarms were called bringing in more firefighters from the surrounding region.
Several rescue helicopters were dispatched to the scene near Neustadt in the Black Forest region.
This incident that began around 8 am Eastern time (2 pm local time) is still an active scene and no further information has been released yet.
Schwarzwaelder-bote has an early report and photo gallery HERE. Spiegel has more early info. HERE.
Yesterday afternoon I was eating jambalaya and red beans in a New Orleans dive. The television was in full hurricane mode.
The owner, bartender, cook and regular survived Katrina. Two patrons were from Florida and mentioned that they survived four consecutive hurricanes a couple of years ago. They all asked, where was the media then?
A City So Nice They Named It Twice
The iconic March 29, 1976, magazine cover from The New Yorker symbolizes the assertion that national news is NYC focused. Studios, headquarters staff and production employees are based in the city.
Maybe too much NYC-focused hype. Then Sandy made landfall …
A Catastrophe Unfolding in Digital Bursts
FDNY Incidents posted tweet and Facebook updates that left me slack-jawed.
Gregg Favre, a GWU Emergency Services alumn, made a great observation:
I have a bachelors and masters degree in Emergency Management. I teach the practice at the University-level.
I wrote the St. Louis Fire Department's 500-page SOGs on the topic. I feel like I am pretty knowledgable on the subject and grounded in my expectations.
All that said, I am amazed at what is going on in NYC/NJ/NE. This is going to get worse before it gets better. To all my New York friends and co-workers, please be safe.
Swimming to the fire
Before the Breezy Point conflagration in Queens, Favre was focusing on "The Beach House" - Engine 268 and Ladder 137 in Far Rockaway.
Tonight, the FDNY removed the majority of its units from the Rockaway neighborhood because of extreme danger. They left Engine 268 and Ladder 137 as the lone units.
Queens Boro Commander Chief Maynes directly to the officer of Eng Co 268
"The structures are not your concern. Your concern is the residents of Rockaway and your firefighters. Do you understand my order 268"?
Officer of 268 " I understand the orders of Chief Maynes".
That order was made about the same time Engine 268 encountered this situation, as posted by The New York City Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation:
268 Engine operating alone at this time at a Rockaway 10-75.
They are unable to make entry into the block and the officer in charge of 268 Engine has decided not to commit members. The fire is in an attached private dwelling and is extending to exposures.
Queens dispatch has just advised 268 Engine that they are unable to send them any assistance. The fire is located at Beach 114 St & The Boardwalk.
Followed by this report:
Members of Eng Co 268 have confirmed people trapped in a 10-75. The officer of 268 has just advised Queens that they are removing their bunker gear and are holding onto handlines in an attempt the make rescues.
This is at the scene of 2 fuly involved private dwellings. 268 members will attempt to swim to the scene and start rescues.
There are hundreds of other events that required courage, creativity and bravery from the last 36 hours.
A FIREFIGHTER IN HIMEJI, JAPAN, was killed Saturday while
attacking a fire in a chemical factory.
Kyodo News Service
The fire was in the Nippon Shokubai Co. factory and fire crews were using hose streams on a burning tank of acrylic acid. About 40 minutes into the operation a large explosion occurred that fatally burned the 28-yr.-old FF Nagahiro Yamamoto and injured at least 30 others including 18 firefighters, 2 police officers and 10 plant employees. Japan Times tells us:
A male employee from the plant called the fire department at around 2:05 p.m. Saturday to alert authorities that an abnormal chemical reaction had sparked a fire, and that workers were going to try to extinguish the flames, the officials said.
Nippon Shokubai said the first explosion occurred at around 2:40 p.m. as fire fighters were spraying the acrylic acid tank with water, and another shortly afterward. The blasts also set ablaze one of the fire engines dispatched to the scene, according to the officials.
Nippon Shokubai is one of the world's biggest makers of acrylic acid, the main ingredient of a resin called SAP, which is used in (disposable) diapers. The plant produces about 20 percent of the world's SAP and 10 percent of global output of acrylic acid.
Kyodo News / AP
Operations at the plant are likely to be halted for a long time and other makers of SAP resins are operating on a full-production footing, leaving little room for back-up production, the Nikkei business daily said on Sunday.
Nippon Shokubai controls the largest share of the world market for super-absorbent polymers, which is used in the production of nappies, and has been expanding its international sales network to keep up with demand.
According to the company, demand is so high that its production facilities have been required to operate at full capacity and it has announced plans to set up production facilities overseas. The company was particularly keen to meet growing demand for disposable nappies in China.
The water-absorbing polymers soak up an infant's waste through hydrogen bonding with water molecules. Generally, nappies that utilise the technology are able to absorb 50 times their own weight of liquid. If the operation of the factory is suspended for a long time, it could affect production.
Before it was destroyed, the Himeji plant produced 320,000 tons of the super-absorbent polymer, according to the Sankei newspaper, about 20 per cent of the global share.
It took more than eight hours to put the fire out and there is yet no determination on what caused it.
NHK TV has some spectacular footage in this (English language) video report:
AN EXPLOSION TUESDAY MORNING at a Pemex pipeline distribution center killed 10 workers and injured at least 51 more, the state-owned petroleum company Pemex said today.
The facility is located in Reynosa, just across the border from Texas, and occurred while repairs were being made in one of the catalytic plants just after 11 am local time. The explosion started a major fire that brought all units from Reynosa and Rio Bravo to the scene where they worked for several hours extinguishing the fire.
Pemex officials have reported that the fire has been extinguished and the natural gas pipeline has been shut down temporarily.
KGBT-TV has a recent report HERE. The Monitor has MORE.
A PASSENGER BUS IN AFGHANISTAN COLLIDED with a fuel tanker Friday and both vehicles were immediately engulfed in fire. The high-speed crash took place on the Kabul to Kandahar highway and took the lives of at least 50 people.
Tanker purported to be involved in the collision. (AFP)
Police have discounted any form of terrorism or land mines as the cause of the wreck. They also said that the head-on collision happened at high speed. An eye-winess told BBC News:
Both hit each other like a bullet. I was working in my farm, and we saw the bus burn in front of our eyes," eyewitness Haji Daghu Jan told the BBC.
"Drivers on this road often kill people," he said.
Most of the bodies have been burned beyond recognition and the authorities are still working to remove some of the cadavers. The AFP has reported:
"At around 6.30am a passenger bus collided with a fuel tanker in the Spin Band area of Ab Band," Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, the deputy governor of the province, told AFP.
"As a result, the fuel tanker and the passenger bus caught fire and 51 people were killed and six others were wounded in the collision. There are women and children among the victims," he said.
Sardar, an 18-year-old survivor with head injuries, told AFP what happened.
"I was sitting in the back row and the driver was driving very fast when it crashed with the tanker. The bus caught fire, the passengers were screaming," he said in hospital. "I managed to throw myself out of the bus because I was sitting in the last row. I saw people burning, it was terrible," he added.
Gulf News has the most recent report via AFP HERE.
Understandably, reliable information is scant and slow to surface from that part of the world. If any further information gets out, Firegeezer will update.
A FURIOUS BLAZE IN A KARACHI, PAKISTAN, garment factory Tuesday night has claimed 290 lives so far with more victims expected to be found. At the same time, a fire in an illegal shoe factory in Lahore has a similar outcome but on a smaller scale with about two dozen victims known to have perished.
The clothing factory is housed in a five-story building and has about 1,500 workers confined with only one exit and security bars over all the windows.
The English-language Karachi Dawn reports:
"The death toll is 289. This is not final, search for more bodies continues," commissioner Karachi Roshan Shaikh told AFP. Karachi city’s police chief Iqbal Mahmood also said rescue teams were still trying to gain access to parts of the factory, which caught fire late on Tuesday, and the death toll could rise.
"We found dozens of people dead in a large room of the factory’s basement. It was totally burnt and parts of it were smouldering, which we put out before shifting the bodies to hospitals," Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim told AFP. "Our firemen are searching every nook and corner of the factory despite having limited resources to cope with such a grave situation," Salim said.
Rescuers used arc lights to work through the night. A steady stream of bodies were stretchered out, covered by white sheets.
Abdus Salam, a doctor at Karachi’s Civil Hospital, said "The bodies are badly charred," adding that at least 65 other workers had suffered broken bones after jumping out of windows to escape the fire.
Firefighters on crane lifts reached through the gutted building’s windows to rescue some trapped survivors, who were taken to local hospitals suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.
Mohammad Saleem, 32, who broke a leg after jumping out of the second floor, said he and his colleagues were hard at work late on Tuesday when flames suddenly reached their section.
"It was terrible, suddenly the entire floor filled with fire and smoke and the heat was so intense that we rushed towards the windows, broke its steel grille and glass and jumped out," Saleem told AFP in hospital.
"I fell on the ground and it was extremely painful, I saw many people jumping out of windows and crying in pain for help," he said.
The fire started around 6:30 pm Tuesday and was still smoldering Wednesday evening while rescue-retrieval efforts are underway. Officials say they are concerned with the stability of the building and it still has the potential of collapse.
Read the latest report from Dawn HERE. The Daily Jang (English lang.) has MORE.
BBC News has more HERE.
BBC News map
IN THE INDUSTRIAL CITY OF LAHORE A FIRE erupted Tuesday night in an illegal shoe factory leading to the deaths of at least 25 people. The factory is located in a residential area and the plant was in a 4-story residential structure and disguised as a private dwelling.
The fire started when an employee went into the garage area to start up an emergency generator when the domestic current went out. As he attempted to fire it up, some sparks shot out and ignited some nearby chemicals that started a flash fire that blocked the doorway into the house. Unfortunately that was the only exit from the building and the employees were trapped inside.
One of the workers, Muhammad Shabbir, said he had been working at the factory for six months along with his cousin. He said all the chemicals and the generator were located in the garage, which was also the only way out of the building. When the fire ignited, there was no way out. Shabbir said he had just gone outside the factory when the fire started, but his cousin was severely burned and died at the hospital.
A firefighter at the scene, Numan Noor, said the reason most of the victims died was because the main escape route was blocked.
“The people went to the back side of the building but there was no access, so we had to make forceful entries and … rescue the people,” said Noor.
Firefighters broke holes in the factory’s brick walls to reach victims inside. At the morgue, bodies were lined up on a hallway floor, covered with white sheets.
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Harvard paleontologist Stephen Ray Gould developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium:
… developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972.The theory proposes that most evolution is marked by long periods of evolutionary stability, which is punctuated by rare instances of branching evolution.
The theory was contrasted against phyletic gradualism, the popular idea that evolutionary change is marked by a pattern of smooth and continuous change in the fossil record. (Wikipedia)
The New York Times May 21, 2002 editorial on his death describes his impact:
The vast majority of the people who know Mr. Gould's name know him as a scientific essayist, not as a paleontologist or evolutionary theorist, let alone an expert on Cerion land snails.
They know him as a man who had an opinion on nearly everything and a way to turn nearly every opinion he had into a tour de force of analogy and historical example. His scientific colleagues found him almost as brilliant as his popular audience did, but considerably more exasperating as well. (link)
As organizations grow in size and complexity, they encounter challenges that force changes in structure and function in order for the organization to continue to thrive.
In fire departments, growth challenges requiring a rapid change include these four milestones:
From all volunteer to adding daytime staff
Expanding to 24 hour career staff
Career staff larger than active volunteer staff
Career staff exceeds 250 firefighters
Outside challenges also create the need for rapid change.
As we start the second decade after the September 11 attacks, we are in the throes of a persistent recession, public safety employees identified as the cause of municipal bankruptcy and experiencing significant change in fire company workload.
In most areas, a responding engine company is on the way to a medical call 70% – 80% of the time.
Fire stations have become Safe Houses, protected ATM location and where a teen can drop off an unwanted baby.
Metro cities are seeing a rise in arson with a decline in fire companies and shrinking of the size of surviving crews.
Metro fire companies are also dealing with a crumbling municipal infrastructure: defective water mains, collapsing buildings, decades of deferred maintenance on city properties – including the fire station.
What will the fire service look like by September 11, 2021?
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward
thanks to retired MPD detective (and Burke VFD Assistant Chief) Mike Brooks for the Rescue Operations Battalion picture.
AT LEAST FOUR PEOPLE ARE DEAD and about a dozen more were injured in a fire that swept through a night club in Phuket, Thailand, early Friday morning.
The Tiger Pub disco bar was packed with patrons at the time when several small explosions occurred that most people thought were part of the disco's sound effects.
There were several lightning strikes directly in that area and it is possible that one of them that hit a transformer on an electric pole right outside the club may have triggered the fire.
The four victims were burned beyond recognition and their identities and nationalizations are still unknown. At the time of this posting there was still a lot of confusion in the area and no credible information has come out yet.
Phuket is a heavily-visited tourist destination popular with British, French, and Australian visitors.
Earlier photo via Phuket Tourist Board
The Australia Northern Territory News has the early REPORT.
Reuters has MORE.
Update, 6 pm Eastern: One death confirmed so far. Scroll down.
A CHICAGO-TO-ST. LOUIS MEGABUS carrying a full load of 81 passengers blew a tire and crashed head-on into a bridge abutment Thursday afternoon.
The accident occurred on I-55 about 60 miles north of St. Louis at 1:25 pm Central.
There were 30 ambulances and 6 helicopters dispatched to the scene. Also, several school buses were used to transfer uninjured passengers to a nearby community center.
State Police are unable to confirm the exact number of injured yet, but they tell that at least 25 have been transported with perhaps half of them in serious condition. There are no reports of any fatalities. Four people were trapped and had to be extricated including one woman fatality. Several victims were flown to trauma centers.
KSDK-TV filed this early raw video from the scene:
A FIRE THAT WENT UNNOTICED FOR a long time swept through a sleeping car on a railway train early Monday morning in southern India. The Associated Press is reporting from Hyderabad:
A railway station worker noticed the burning coach as the overnight train from New Delhi to the southeastern city of Chennai passed through the town of Nellore at about 4 a.m., local official B. Sridhar said. Nellore is about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.
Once the alarm was raised, the train was stopped and the coach was detached from the rest of the train to prevent the blaze from spreading. Passengers were evacuated once the train was halted.
CNN – IBN
"Since the fire had engulfed one door of the coach, people had to rush to the other end of the coach to exit," Sridhar said by telephone from the accident site.
At least 28 other people were injured, two of them critically, from burns and the death toll is expected to rise.
CNN via IBN has posted this early video from the scene:
The government's official "started by a short circuit" pronouncer has already issued his announcement, but the cause is still unknown and the rescuers are still working to extricate some of the heavily-charred bodies from their berths.
NOTED MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER TONY ROBBINS was conducting one of his 4-day events that included a character- and confidence-building exercise of walking across a bed of hot coals.
ABC News image
However, a few people weren't quite ready for the personal boost as at least 21 of them suffered 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns triggering a mass-casualty response from the San Jose, California, Fire Department.
The Associated Press is reporting:
The injuries took place during the first day Thursday of a four-day event at the San Jose Convention Center hosted by Robbins called "Unleash the Power Within." Most of those hurt had second and third degree burns, said San Jose Fire Department Capt. Reggie Williams.
Walking across hot coals on lanes measuring 10 feet long and heated to between 1,200 to 2,000 degrees provides attendees an opportunity to "understand that there is absolutely nothing you can't overcome," according to the motivational speaker's website.
Organizers had an "open burn permit" and medical staff at the event, and there was also a fire inspector on the scene, Williams said. "Once they (the medical staff) became overwhelmed, our inspector called for us."
Witness Jonathan Correll was not attending the event, but when he saw a large crowd gathered on a closed-off surface street near the convention center, he got off the light rail he was riding to see what was going on.
"I just heard these screams of agony," he told The Associated Press. People were in pain. It sounded like people were being tortured."
While Robbins convinces his customers that it their inner mind over matter that is keeping them from burning themselves, this video report ABC News broadcast about the "firewalker fail" event explains the debunking of the "unleashed power of the mind" and how firewalking really works:
The San Jose Mercury-News explains: David Willey, a physics instructor at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in Pennsylvania, has published a text and video on the physics of firewalking and stated that it "does not need a particular state of mind."
"Rather, it is the short time of contact and the low thermal capacity and conductivity of the coals that is important," he wrote. He added that ash that builds up on coals can provide further insulation.