Friday, September 23

BUS EXPLOSION ALONG EVACUATION ROUTE -- 20 REPORTED DEAD

A gruesome story of a bus carrying Houston-area nursing home evacuees exploding on gridlocked I-45 has only added to the sense of mayhem surrounding an evacuation plan that appeared well-planned and well-organized earlier in the week, but has now descended into the perception of general chaos.

"Click2Houston" reports:

As many as 20 nursing home patients were killed early Friday when a busload of elderly Hurricane Rita evacuees from Houston caught fire then was rocked by a series of explosions 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. "We believe it's gonna be closer to 20 fatalities."A Dallas County Medical Examiner told KXAS-TV that they are expecting as many as 24 fatalities.


"KHOU.com" carries this Associated Press (AP) story on the accident:

The bus was engulfed with flames, causing a 17-mile backup on a freeway that was already heavily congested with evacuees from the Gulf Coast. By early Friday morning, the bus was reduced to a blackened, burned-out shell, surrounded by numerous police cars and ambulances.

“The early indications are this is a mechanical issue,” Peritz said. “The driver did survive the accident. It’s my understanding he went back on the bus several times to try to evacuate people.”

Rescue crews were trying to get to passengers trapped by the flames, but multiple explosions -- apparently caused by oxygen canisters -- kept them away.

“Deputies were unable to get everyone off the bus,” spokesman Don Peritz said. “We believe it’s gonna be closer to 20 fatalities.

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