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Fire at Central Texas chemical plant spurs order for thousands to evacuate

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Fire at Central Texas chemical plant spurs order for thousands to evacuate

An evacuation order was issued for thousands of Central Texas residents and the Texas A&M University campus was closed Thursday as a fire burned at a chemical plant and warehouse that processes explosive ammonium nitrate.

Black smoke settled over Bryan, a city of about 80,000 people about 100 miles northwest of Houston, after the fire started about noon at the nearby El Dorado Chemical Co., said fire dispatcher Andy Throne. The plant blends and packages fertilizer and other chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, a chemical also used to make explosives.

The fire continued to smolder but had been brought under control Thursday night. The evacuation order was lifted for most of the city, said Bryan Fire Chief Mike Donoho. A scaled-back order remained in effect for a small area surrounding the warehouse, including about 30 homes in Bryan.

A plume of smoke extended more than 60 miles from the plant and emergency officials took samples to test for airborne toxins, Throne said. No explosions had been reported and no cause of the fire was immediately cited.

St. Joseph Regional Health Center’s emergency room treated 22 people with respiratory ailments or eye irritation possibly related to the fire before it began diverting people to College Station Medical Center. Spokeswoman Melissa Purl said 12 people were treated for smoke inhalation there.

Evacuees were taken in at Texas A&M’s Reed Arena — used as a shelter during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — and a middle school and high school in College Station, which is south of Bryan. A&M’s Pearce Pavilion was reserved for pets.

Bryan city officials said about 900 people arrived at the university by Thursday evening.

Texas A&M spokesman Lane Stephenson said offices and classes were closed as a precaution, but expected classes to resume today.

El Dorado Chemical The company said in a statement that it would conduct an internal review and cooperate with investigations into the fire.

In 1947, 576 people were killed and 5,000 more injured when two ships loaded with 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in Texas City. The explosion was one of the country’s worst industrial accidents.

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Iowa caucuses: Romney pips Santorum

 He finished just eight votes ahead of former senator Rick Santorum in the Midwest state of Iowa.
Ron Paul came third, while Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann settled into a second tier of candidates.
Rick Perry indicated he was suspending his campaign after finishing fifth.
The caucus meetings were the first time voters had a say in the race to face Democratic President Barack Obama in November’s presidential election.

Tuesday’s contest launched months of caucuses and primary elections in 50 states, Washington DC and other territories, culminating in the Republican National Convention in August where the party nominee will be formally anointed.
Iowa was not expected to settle the contest – John McCain, the eventual Republican nominee in 2008, came fourth in the state’s caucuses that year – but it will help shape the race for the White House.

The BBC’s Mark Mardell says that in the end, this result has to be good for Mitt Romney, achieving it in a state he hadn’t bothered to fight until the last few weeks.
‘Game on!’
Hours after caucuses closed, Iowa party chairman Matt Strawn announced that Mr Romney had won by just eight of the 122,255 votes cast.
“Governor Mitt Romney received 30,015 votes and senator Rick Santorum received 30,007 votes. Congratulations to governor Mitt Romney, winner of the 2012 caucuses. Congratulations to senator Rick Santorum for a very close second-place finish,” Mr Strawn said.
Earlier in the evening, Mr Romney kept his sights firmly trained on Mr Obama rather than engaging his Republican rivals or claiming victory.
“The gap between his promises four years ago and his performance is as great as anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said, before crying: “On to New Hampshire!”
As early results came out pointing to a close race, Mr Santorum declared “Game on!” He praised his faith and his family in a speech which marked his own entry to the national spotlight.

Mr Paul, a Texas congressman, finished third and vowed to continue onto New Hampshire, which holds a primary election next week.
“This momentum is going to continue,” he told a jubilant crowd of supporters. “We will go on, we will raise the money.”

Negative advertising
Finishing fifth, Texas Governor Rick Perry said he was returning to his home state in order to “determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race”.Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who saw a brief lead evaporate under a barrage of negative advertising last month, pledged to remain in the race and challenge Mr Romney, “a Massachusetts moderate”.
“We are not going to go out and run nasty ads,” said Mr Gingrich, who finished fourth.
“But I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative that may be more of a comment on his record than it is about politics.”
Mrs Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman who won the Iowa straw poll last summer, finished sixth, and urged voters not to let the media anoint a Republican nominee based solely on the Iowa results.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman was on the ballot, but did not campaign in Iowa.

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Republicans begin 2012 US election

Republicans begin 2012 US election

 

Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum led in preliminary results, but the race remains too close to call with votes held in more than 1,700 caucuses.

Six Republican contenders spent Tuesday making frantic final appeals to voters.

The caucus meetings are the first time voters have a say in the race to face Democratic President Barack Obama in November’s general election.

Tuesday evening’s contest launches months of caucuses and primary elections in 50 states, Washington DC and other territories, culminating in the Republican National Convention in August where the party nominee will be formally anointed.
About 120,000 voters gathered at more than 1,700 fire stations, schools, public buildings and private homes ahead of the official 20:00 EST (01:00 GMT) start to the voting.

An Associated Press poll of voters ahead of the start of the caucus start confirmed that former Massachusetts Governor Romney, Texas Congressman Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum formed the top tier of candidates.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry are also in the race. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is on the ballot, but did not campaign in Iowa.

Preliminary exit poll results from ABC News indicated independent voters – who are allowed to register as Republicans and participate in the caucuses – had voted heavily in favour of Mr Paul.
Evangelical Christians were split between Mr Santorum and Mr Paul, and the half of caucus-goers describing themselves as “very conservative” were tilting to Mr Santorum.

Also, ABC’s exit poll showed Mr Romney doing well among older voters – a significant chunk of the electorate.
Small town affairs

In the caucuses, voters are allowed to speak on behalf of the candidates they support, followed by a vote, the results of which are transmitted on to the media and to the state Republican party.

Many of the caucuses are tiny affairs held in small towns in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

In Dawson, fewer than 20 voters gathered at a fire station to hold a caucus amid the fire trucks, reports BBC North America Editor Mark Mardell.

A hall in a school in Des Moines was overflowing with caucus goers, reports the BBC’s Steve Kingstone.

“It’s hard to spot a Bachmann fan, but other candidates all have support here,” he reports.

Iowa is not expected to settle the contest – John McCain, the eventual Republican nominee in 2008, came fourth in the state’s caucuses that year – but it will help shape the race for the White House.

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