Blazing floodwaters claim Egyptian town

The Associated Press

DURUNKA, Egypt Holding tight to his two children, Mohammed Abdel-Aal searched Thursday through the debris of his home, destroyed by the inferno that swept through this town in southern Egypt and killed at least 475 people.

Abdel-Aal and the two children escaped; his wife and a 2-year-old son may well have not. A day after a torrent of burning oil ravaged the town, they were still missing. The town was strewn with charred palm trees, decaying animal carcasses and still-smoldering cars and trucks.

"There are people it will take three months to find in all of this sand and mud," said Abdel-Aal, hugging his kids as they sat on his lap.

The tragedy in Durunka, 200 miles south of Cairo, came as the heaviest rains in 60 years lashed normally arid Egypt. More than 40 people were killed in floods that swept across the country, from the Sinai Peninsula in the east to the ancient temples of Luxor in the south.

In Durunka, a train carrying fuel oil derailed on track loosened by the torrential downpour. Electrical wires set the oil ablaze, and swirling flood waters carried the burning oil into the town of 22,000 people.

By Thursday afternoon, the death toll had jumped dramatically as officials said that in addition to 258 bodies already in morgues, about 220 other victims remained buried in the ruins. Those returning to Durunka feared the toll would rise even higher.

Standing in her gutted home, Lola Hilal described how the waterborne blaze engulfed her neighborhood.

"First we heard the water, and then it carried fire to all the walls," she said, surveying the debris that was her house. She said she and her five sons and a daughter managed to escape, but that 35 people died in the house next door.

Ahmed Sharaf Eddin, a taxi driver, said he looked out of his home and saw "a wave of people running to the mosque screaming: 'There is only one God.' They thought it was the day of judgment."

PENSACOLA, Fla. A jury recommended Thursday that a former minister get the electric chair for the shotgun slayings of an abortion doctor and his bodyguard.

Paul Hill, a 40-year-old who had claimed that killing abortion doctors is divinely sanctioned and had

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portrayed himself as a martyr to the cause, showed no emotion as the jury's recommendation was read.

The same jury took just 20 minutes Wednesday to convict Hill of murder. It took nearly four hours to choose between the death penalty and life in prison without parole.

Circuit Judge Frank Bell is not bound by the recommendation and could instead impose a life sentence. A sentencing date was not immediately set.

Barred by the judge from arguing that the slayings were justifiable homicide to save fetuses, Hill, acting as his own lawyer, offered no defense at his trial. He put no witnesses on the stand and asked no questions.

However, he finally spoke directly to the 12 jurors just before they began weighing his fate.

"In an effort to suppress this truth, you may mix my blood with the blood of the unborn and those who have fought to defend the oppressed," Hill said. "However, truth and righteousness will prevail. May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected."

Wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, Hill ambushed Dr. John Bayard Britton, 69; his bodyguard, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James H. Barrett, 74; and Barrett's wife, June, 68, as the three arrived at the Ladies Center clinic on July 29. Mrs. Barrett was wounded.

LA PAZ, Bolivia The moon snuffed out the sun's rays across a wide expanse of South America on Thursday, to the delight of everyone from schoolchildren to thousands of tourists and scientists who came from around the world to see the heavenly spectacle.

In the Andean mountains, Indians lit fires to warm and brighten the Earth as they have done during solar eclipses for hundreds of years. Musicians, artists, poets and intellectuals gathered to perform traditional music.

In Indian mythology, a puma devours the sun, a belief reflected in stone engravings dating to pre-Colombian times. To prevent the sun's death, the puma is frightened away by the screams of children and of animals beaten with sticks.

"The sun is sick and has lost its heat and power, but this will pass and it will get better," said Juan Chuquimia, 88, an Aymara Indian.

The eclipse darkened an area between southern Peru, northern Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina for several minutes.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon obscures the sun as it comes between the sun and the Earth. This one began over the Pacific, 900 miles west of the South American continent.

Thousands of tourists and scientists flocked to the region. "This event is not only for scientists but for all people," said Oscar Salas Guzman, a pharmacist in La Paz. "We are amazed by this event."

A total eclipse raced over a remote section of the Bolivian Andes at an altitude of 13,000 to 21,000 feet for two to five minutes.

From there, the shadow continued across northern Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina before disappearing over the Atlantic.

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