Local news

Rains quench devastating fires

MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2009

Rainstorms have drenched most of North Texas and parts of Oklahoma, helping firefighters contain several large blazes that have burned for days.

Wildfires have burned more than 192,000 acres across North Texas.

In a white-clapboard church spared by wildfires that ravaged rural Stoneburg last week, a pastor offered words of hope to his congregation on Easter Sunday.

“It’s devastating to see, but hope springs eternal,” the Rev. Larry Kennedy told about 40 people at Stoneburg Baptist Church.

Firefighters managed to save the church, which was built in the 1940s. The odor of burned debris lingered Sunday from the blackened fields and heaps of ashes and charred cars in town.

The blazes were finally contained Sunday after early morning rainfall, said Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham.

Wind-fueled fires in Montague County in North Texas engulfed 75,000 acres of parched pastures Thursday and up to 100 homes. Three people died and two were injured.

In neighboring Oklahoma, showers and thunderstorms helped exhausted firefighters extinguish blazes that flared Saturday in Carter and Stephens counties, officials said.

The rain came days after wind-whipped fires destroyed about 170 homes statewide and injured 62 people, two seriously.

Alton Bay, N.H.

Christian center homes burn

A massive fire damaged or destroyed dozens of wood-frame buildings, mostly unoccupied summer homes, at a 146-year-old Christian center on Easter.

The fire erupted at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, but the season hadn’t begun yet at the Alton Bay Christian Conference Center on Lake Winnipesaukee, and state Fire Marshal William Degnan said no injuries to civilians had been reported.

“Fortunately, it was at this time of year,” he said. “During the summer, it’s full.”

It was cold and windy Sunday, and Degnan said the strong winds off the lake, the state’s biggest, helped spread the flames through the many cottage-style homes at the center, about 30 miles northeast of Concord.

One firefighter was hurt when a propane tank exploded. Others were treated for smoke inhalation or exhaustion.

The fire was under control by about 8:30 p.m.

The center, founded in 1863, is on the southeastern corner of the lake.

Palm Valley, Fla.

Five killed when boat slams into tug

Five people were killed and seven seriously injured when a 22-foot pleasure boat crashed into the rear of a docked tug boat near St. Augustine on Sunday evening, authorities said.

The crash happened at about 7 p.m. on the Intracoastal Waterway in St. Johns County near the Palm Valley Bridge, about 20 miles northwest of St. Augustine, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Joy Hill.

Three of the injured were airlifted from the crash site and all seven were taken to area hospitals, she said.

The Intracoastal Waterway runs along Florida’s east coastline. The victims’ names have not been released.

The boat was carrying 12 people, according to Jeremy Robshaw of the St. Johns County Fire and Rescue. He told the Florida Times-Union newspaper that three of those injured were in critical condition, with the others in stable condition.

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Government calls two-day truce

Sri Lanka’s president ordered a two-day suspension of offensives against Tamil Tiger rebels to enable tens of thousands of trapped civilians to leave the war zone, his office said Sunday.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa directed the armed forces to restrict operations during the April 13-14 Sri Lankan New Year to a defensive nature and renewed his call to the rebel group to “acknowledge its military defeat and lay down its weapons and surrender,” a statement said.

He said the rebels must renounce violence permanently.

The president’s call came amid increasing international pressure on the government to protect civilians trapped along with the remaining guerrillas in a government-declared “no-fire” zone measuring just 7.7 square miles.

The U.N. says about 100,000 civilians are trapped in the war zone with dozens dying every day. The government and aid groups accuse the rebels of using civilians as human shields and have called for their release. The rebels and rights groups have accused the military of firing into the safe zone – a charge the military denies.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he would have liked to see a longer halt, but said the government plan was a “useful first step and an opportunity to move towards the peaceful and orderly end to the fighting now so badly needed.”

Bogota, Colombia

Motorcyclists rally for hostages

A caravan of some 500 motorcycles completed a three-week ride Sunday dedicated to hostages held by Colombian rebels, but fell short of securing the release of captives, organizers said.

Caravan leader Herbin Hoyos said riders were encouraged by the support they received along the nearly 3,000-mile route.

But he lamented not persuading members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to release at least one captive before the ride’s conclusion in the Colombian capital.

From wire reports


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