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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Aired September 24, 2005 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Aaron, so what do you see over in your end? I'm sorry, I was...
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: That's OK. My end it's a heck of a lot more comfortable than it is at your end. And that's the truth.
Is it at that point in the storm where it comes and goes, where you'll go through a period of several minutes where it's really blowing and really uncomfortable, and then it kind of calms a bit, certainly doesn't calm? Or is it now just a kind of relentless beating on you guys?
MARCIANO: Well, this one - and as I said earlier, has been different than the other storms in that usually there's that lull you'll see. You know, you'll get an intense pounding of wind and rain and then a bit of a rest. Well, this storm, it's been increasingly windy and rainy or at least the velocity of the wind has increased and the amount of rain has increased slowly but surely throughout the night, Aaron.
Just that there was about an hour where it wasn't increasing that much. And I guess that was our lull, but now it's starting to pick up.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, let's check in - Rob, thanks very much. It's Anderson. Let's check in with Chad Myers, who is a good weather expert on the CNN Center.
Chad, just give us a sense now, at just a little bit past the top of the hour, where this thing is headed, because as Rob was saying, they're definitely noticing an uptake in the last 10 minutes or so right here as the winds are really starting to pick up. And it's becoming very unpleasant down there. (INAUDIBLE).
CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: You are now in this yellow area here behind me, Rob. I've stopped the radar because we know that it's looping. We know that it's moving this direction. And I'll start it again here, but with it stopped, you can truly see where the bands are.
One right through Beaumont. One right through where John Zarrella is. And another one about to come on shore, Port Arthur, all the way back over to Cameron and eventually right into Lake Charles.
We'll zoom around a little bit here. We can really see how this storm has developed. The eye wall itself, the northern part of the eye wall is now 30 miles. That says 3-0. 30 miles now from the coast.
Now that doesn't mean the center of the eye is that far - that close. Probably 45 miles for it, but it's moving to the northwest at 12 miles per hour. So we're looking at landfall of the eye wall in about 2.5 hours.
This is going to be the worst part of the storm for you. When that eye wall moves over Beaumont, that's when the storm is going to go as bad as it's going to get for you.
There are bands through here. And you were mentioning, at least Rob was, how the storm really hasn't been a come, go, come, go. It has been a come, all the way.
Here it is. This whole area that has been yellow is so large, it isn't like one of those outer bands that's only two miles wide. This is a large area of the wind field, blowing in from the east and from the northeast at about 45 to 50 with some gusts almost hurricane strength.
Baytown, you mentioned that. You notice all of the roads here around Houston. Baytown itself not that far from Galveston Bay. That's why it's called Baytown. And there are some cells there moving into that area, coming in from the east.
You can see that this wind is coming in from the east. And why is that from the east? Because this part of the storm comes in from the east. This comes in from the south. This comes around and blows offshore.
Well, there's the center of the eye right there, 30 miles. 30 miles from making landfall. And so, there's going to be one batch going through Beaumont now. About 15 minutes from now, you guys are going to be in between bands. And then the next, which could have been an outer band to the eye wall itself, will come through with wind gusts for you over 100 miles per hour.
So in about 20 minutes, you guys really need to batten down the hatches and get ready for this, because as the storm comes through, your weather's going to go downhill quickly.
I mean, it's not just going to all of a sudden go from 50 to 60 to 70. It's going to go from 50 to 90 in about 10 minutes.
There's the cell, there's the center, there's the eye, losing identity now. But you can still see a little bit of a light spot right there. It's going to go right over the Sabine River, right across and into the Port Arthur area with this biggest storm surge from Port Arthur over to Lake Charles.
Lake Charles, along those bays, along those headland waters, you could see wind gusts in excess of 100. And you also will see - in feet, you'll see storm surge at about 20 feet.
What we're doing now is we're losing a little bit of this inner eye wall of the hurricane. And we're getting into this outer eye wall now. The inner eye wall, the 120 mile per hour winds, the outer eye wall about 100, but you still have hours and hours to go out there, guys. Be careful.
COOPER: Chad, I just want to reiterate what you said. You said in the next 10 minutes or so in this area, the winds could go from 50 to something like 90. Is that correct?
MYERS: Yes, if you look back here, I know you can't see it so I'll explain it to you, here's a large band of weather that could have been an outer eye wall. There are many eye walls in a big hurricane, in a major hurricane like this. An outer eye wall is now just pushing into Port Arthur. And that's only a few miles down the road from you.
So as this outer eye wall comes through, it may be 20 minutes, but I want you to be ready for it in 10, because as the wind comes through, you are going to have to have everything really, really locked down.
COOPER: OK, I just want to - Tom, I don't know, if you can tell Kim (INAUDIBLE) the wind speed's going to double, they say. So (INAUDIBLE) about an hour. Right, I'm sorry.
Chad, thanks very much. I want to - we're going to check in with you again very shortly. And especially in the next 10 or 20 minutes, as we start to see this, we're going to bring you back into it, just to get a sense.
We're going to talk to the mayor of Baytown right now, who is joining us I believe on the phone. Mayor, how is Baytown doing? What are you hearing?
CALVIN MUNDINGER, BAYTOWN, MAYOR: Well so far, so good. And I think your reports are obviously very accurate. Things are picking up. Winds are picking up. We're starting to incur more power outages across the city. And so, we're obviously entering this realm of a more serious nature here, as we're going to endure the wrath of Rita.
COOPER: What is your greatest concern right now?
MUNDINGER: Our greatest concern is always life safety issues, to make sure that the citizens who remain in Baytown are going to be safe. We're not in a position to respond to issues right now because the winds are reaching a speed that will inhibit us from responding.
And so, things going to be going on out in our city that we can do very little about. And as those calls come in, we'll log them in. And then we'll try to respond to those calls just as quick as we can. So this is a time we hear the term a lot in these events of batten down the hatches and hunker down. And hopefully, people have done that and sheltered in place and are in safe places and will come out of this and wake up tomorrow and see a brighter and sunnier sky.
COOPER: Have you been receiving - I don't know if you can monitor this from where you are - have you been receiving 911 calls? Have you been getting calls (INAUDIBLE)? MUNDINGER: Very few that I know of. I have been out of - we're all in the EOC, but I'm not near where the phone bank is. I do know that we worked hard to get a lot of people out of town. A lot of people did leave.
The ones that stayed, that needed some help, we tried to get them out of town and did. And so, we've gotten very, very few calls. And I think people have taken this - the threat of this storm very seriously.
And there is one point I'd like to make. I think obviously a lot of lives were lost in Katrina. And I think due to what these citizens in Texas and Southwest Louisiana witnessed in dealing with Katrina, I think they're evacuations may have saved lives. And so, Katrina may have saved lives in this Rita event by virtue of everybody's willingness to evacuate and get out of harm's way.
BROWN: Mayor, it's Aaron Brown. Do you have any idea how many people are in your city tonight?
MUNDINGER: No, sir, we've been talking about, you know, how many may have stayed on a percentage basis. I think there's general consensus that 75 to 80 percent of Baytownians have evacuated. I've never seen this town just basically empty. I'm - this is the first time in the history of Baytown we've called for a mandatory evacuation. And I think it was timely.
BROWN: Just quickly, do you have power in any - all of the city?
MUNDINGER: Not in all of the city. We are starting to lose power in various places. We still have power at the EOC. We do have some back-up generators just for, you know, lighting and that sort of thing. We don't have air conditioning.
But we are starting to see an increasing number of power outages around this city.
BROWN: Do you have anything approaching reliable phone service in the city? If someone were to need to call a medic or anything, could they get through?
MUNDINGER: Our - you mean citizenry?
BROWN: Yes, sir.
MUNDINGER: Generally, yes. One of the problems is, though, most people have gone to portable phones.
MUNDINGER: And in the old land line phones are actually more dependable in that regard. And so, you know, we try to advise people to keep a land line - the older style land line phone as opposed to the portables that - because when you lose power, you lose those portables. BROWN: And sir, at the other end of that question, if someone - could you get an emergency vehicle to someone right now if they needed help?
MUNDINGER: I would have to check with - oh, we just lost power. Oh, are you there?
BROWN: I'm still here. You still have phone service.
MUNDINGER: I'm talking to you in absolute darkness. What was the question again?
BROWN: If you had to get an ambulance or an EMC unit to a citizen, has the weather deteriorated to a point where you couldn't do that?
MUNDINGER: It is approaching that rapidly. 50 miles an hour is our cut-off. When we have sustained winds of 50 miles an hour, we may be there. We're getting close to that, I can assure you.
BROWN: Has the generator kicked in? Or are you still in darkness there?
MUNDINGER: Generator is yet to kick in, but I see flashlights running through the EOC. So we'll have generator up and running pretty soon. Of course, I'm an elected official. I can talk in the dark, daylight, or any other time of day.
BROWN: Well, we appreciate that under any circumstance. Thank you, sir.
BROWN: Anderson, you have a pretty good view of what's going on in Baytown. It's just kind of in and out, in and out.
COOPER: Yes, it is. And I mean, it's very ominous what Chad had just told us, that in the next 10, 20 minutes or so these wind speeds can double from 50 to 90 miles an hour. That is a significant factor, one that we are now taking very much into consideration. So we're probably going to, in the next five minutes or so, probably move about 100 yards to our fallback position just to be prepared for what may came.
These winds still coming from the north. We're in a little bit of a natural wind tunnel here. So I want to at least get the camera crew behind a wall and myself behind a wall as well.
But Gary Tuchman is also here in Beaumont. Want to check in with him. A, see where he is and make sure he knows this information.
Gary, if you can hear me, where are you right now in Beaumont?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, yes, I have heard all that information. We're in downtown Beaumont. We're using the video phone to get in and out of area that are a little less safe, a little less protection. But we're able to get in and out quicker because of the smaller unit.
And right now, we're in an area called Prockett Street. Prockett Street is the entertainment district here in Beaumont. Normally there'd be about 50 or 60 bikers here on this street. There are country music bars. There are fine restaurants. This is a place that would be very busy. And now it's desolate.
Just in the last 10 minutes, we've had window panes from office buildings blow off. We also had a canopy at a drive-in bank behind me also come crashing down a short time ago.
What's amazing, the power is still on here in Beaumont. You see that, too, Anderson. It's really incredible considering the winds that we've had here.
We spend the day in Port Arthur, 15 miles to the east of here. Port Arthur, great fear could be under 20 feet of water, the entire town of 57,000 people before this storm is over.
We could tell you at one point in the hotel we were staying at this morning, there was a woman running around in my floor yelling, very concerned. I didn't know whether she stayed in the hotel or not. We came up to her and we said, "Ma'am, can we help you? Can we give you some information about the storm?" And we told her - I said, "Who are you? Are you using this as a shelter?" And she said, "I'm the hotel manager. We're getting out of here."
Before we knew it, there was nobody left in the hotel running it, just us and some other guests who remained in it. And now we've moved here to Beaumont.
I want to show you something very interesting here, though, something out of the ordinary. There's a restaurant here called The Gushroom. It's called the Gushroom because of the oil heritage of this city. The Gushroom is staying open right now. This gentleman right here told to come out under the canopy right now. Matt Johnson runs the Gushroom.
And why are you staying open, Matt? Lots of glass in this restaurant?
MATT JOHNSON, THE GUSHROOM: Well, a few days back, the owners and I discussed the situation with the storm. And we decided after a time that we would go ahead and maintain a position here for the authorities, so that we could provide a service or a tool for them to bring people to either eat, either the law enforcement agencies, the fire department agencies. Just basically being available to help.
TUCHMAN: I think that's very nice of you. Are you concerned that you have all this glass around the restaurant? This is not a very protected area. We've had the gusts now to 75 miles per hour. It's going to get worse. You worried about it?
JOHNSON: Not worried, just prepared to do whatever we need to do to go to a more safe area. TUCHMAN: Good citizens here. We can tell you that everyone, and you've seen this too, Anderson had to evacuate from Beaumont. This gentleman right here in his restaurant staying open right now. Back to you.
COOPER: Well, Gary, again, let's just heed the warning Chad Myers just gave us that in the next, you know, 10, 20 minutes, the situation here could change rapidly for the worse. And anyone who is listening, who is in this Beaumont area, you know, let's get prepared for that.
We're actually going to reposition ourselves for the next couple minutes. And we'll probably be back up with you in about five or 10 minutes.
COOPER: But I just want to make sure - get these people about 100 yards or so from here to a new position, Aaron.
BROWN: All right. Get everybody in a place where they're safe. And we'll get back to you as quickly as we can.
Sean Callebs is in Galveston. Galveston's been dealing with a fire of some size, in fact. And the first signs that maybe some buildings, or at least one, aren't holding up as well as it might - Sean?
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we haven't - we haven't heard anything come from...
...lights went off down...
...one other news crew...
BROWN: Oh, we're obviously having a satellite problem. I'm amazed actually how few of those we've had.
Jason Carroll is in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is at the eastern end of this cone, basically, that we've been focusing on. And Jason, the last time we talked, you were at a hospital. Is that right? Are you still outside the hospital?
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am still here at the hospital. And I can tell you right now that what we've been experiencing is 70 mile per hour winds that have been whipping through here at this point.
In terms of power, there basically is none. And most of Lake Charles at this point, we've had an opportunity to reach out to the folks down at the command center. They are in downtown. They, at this point, are operating on generator power. That has kicked in there to help them out.
They're also operating on generator power here at Christo St. Patrick Hospital. There are four patients here, four critical patients, but they're being well cared for at this point. They are in good hands. The hospital wanted us to make sure that we got that word out.
In terms of the city here, really they are bracing for the absolute worst. One police chief here has said that we're really going to get a sock from this storm. And that's what we've been experiencing with the heavy rain that's been pounding us for the past several hours.
They're expecting several feet of flooding and pockets of Lake Charles. And what they've done is they've been under a mandatory evacuation for the past 48 hours.
Police chief says he believes most of the people at this point have gotten out of Lake Charles. But of course, we ran into people earlier who for some reason, or for whatever reason, could not get out of town.
One woman, she is holed up at her house with her husband. And two evacuees from Katrina, from the New Orleans area, they are holed up in their house. They could not get out in enough time.
And so, what police are recommending at this point is if people are unable to get out of their house, they're saying it's too late at this point. You really just have to stay where you are, and make the place as safe as possible.
If things do get worse, things - what they're asking you to do is to go the upper most part of your home and attic, whatever the case may be, bring an ax in case you have to use that, in case things really get bad.
What they're also asking is, is for people who are trapped at home at this point, or people who have chosen to stay home to put the number of people inside the home on the outside of the home. Spray paint it on the outside on a door, window, whatever the case may be. So if later on, emergency crews have to come in, they are able to know exactly how many people are inside that home.
Also, to point out, we're still away from getting the worst of what this storm has to offer. And already, again, most of the power is out in Lake Charles at this point. We have not experienced heavy flooding, but we have seen heavy rains and high winds. Back to you.
BROWN: Jason, thank you very much. Rob Marciano is in Beaumont, Texas. And obviously, we're at one of those moments, Rob, where this thing has sort of kicked up a notch.
MARCIANO: It has indeed. And I suppose it's going to kick up a few more notches before the night is done. You know, one of the reasons we're not - we don't have more correspondents in Lake Charles is because that area is looking to flood by 10 or so feet. That entire town doesn't rest very high above sea level. And then, the lake is right there in town as well.
Connection there, used to work there. And I tell you what. When I did work there, the residents - the old timers especially - would tell me about Hurricane Audrey back in 1957, how that storm came roaring through as a Category 4.
You know, in the late '50s, they were just getting the satellites up in the air, radar from - developed back from World War II was just getting utilized. And they really didn't have a whole lot to look out into the oceans like we do now.
So Hurricane Audrey came in, you know, with very, very little warning. And I remember the old timers telling me stories of how the water would rise and rise. And they would climb into the attics of their home. You know, sometimes their homes would be swept away. Husbands and daughters and fathers and sisters swallowed by a sea. It was - stories that I never thought I would hear again.
And then, Hurricane Katrina came through. I think, you know, with all the technology we have now, we can give people enough warning. And that would never happen again. But sure enough, that happened in Katrina.
The good news tonight, we may be having the repeat performance of Hurricane Audrey in the way of a major hurricane coming onshore at Sabine Pass. But the warning is being given. And the people have gotten out.
Not only in Lake Charles, but in Beaumont and Port Arthur and Orange, and obviously down in Galveston and Houston as well. It has kicked up a notch here in Beaumont, Texas. Winds I'm guessing now gusting to hurricane strength, but intermittently so, Aaron. And a little bit more debris flying down the street, but not so much that it's dangerous to stay out here.
And rainfall just keeps coming down. You know, the other aspect of this storm, once it does head inland, and it parts itself up there around Texarkana, we're talking about flooding that could persist for three, four, maybe even five days after this.
So headaches on many fronts. And in some ways, Aaron, maybe history repeating itself for southwest Louisiana.
BROWN: Rob, we'll get back to you in a moment.
Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center. I'm not sure, Max, if you've been able to hear what our correspondents have been saying. But I suspect that it squares with what you believe, looking at the maps as happening, that this thing has kind of moved up a notch.
MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear that before you came on there, Aaron. But I think you had somebody there in Lake Charles. And they started getting some strong winds.
We also have a report this a couple of minutes ago from near Sabine Pass. Sustained 70 mile per hour winds, gust to 83. And that's really, you know, right on the outer edge here. It's going to get much worse before it gets better.
BROWN: Just for people who don't keep track of this, you consider what wind a hurricane?
MAYFIELD: Seventy-four miles per hour sustained.
BROWN: So you're right on the cusp of that. Is the storm behaving now pretty much as the model suggested it would behave two, three hours ago?
MAYFIELD: Yes, it is. It still looks like it's headed, you know, the center anyway is headed towards Texas, Louisiana border, but it's a very large circulation. And that's going to have a real impact on, you know, how far that storm surge spreads out there. And well out to the east, or where the center crosses the coast, we're really going to have the high storm surges up to 15 and 20 feet.
BROWN: And again, storm surge is a term we throw around a lot. And perhaps assume that everyone knows and understands what we're talking about. Can you explain it simply?
MAYFIELD: Well, it's really a dome of water that comes in near to where the eye makes landfall. And in this case, we're really talking about Sabine Lake and the Port Arthur area, and Cacachu (ph) Lake, including Cameron, Louisiana, very vulnerable, and pressing all the way up here into the Lake Charles area.
BROWN: And it is that storm surge that makes you most nervous right now. Is that correct?
MAYFIELD: That's correct. And it's real simple. If you're six feet tall and have 15 and 20 feet of storm surge, you have a problem there.
Fourthly, everything we've been hearing is that especially the folks down here in Cameron Parish, they for the most part have left.
BROWN: Is there anything behind this storm that we ought to be worried about? Or are we going to get a break after this one?
MAYFIELD: Believe me, the troops behind me here could use a break. We still have two (INAUDIBLE) cyclones in the eastern Pacific. We have a low pressure system south of Bermuda that we're watching, that could develop here over the next day or two. And a tropical wave in the Far East (INAUDIBLE) certainly has some potential to develop.
BROWN: Max, thank you very much. Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center. Obviously a busy night for him in South Florida. Busy night for Sean Callebs, who is in Galveston. Sean, we - let's take another run at this. We're talking about the hotel, which is off to the side there. You heard some sign that maybe over hang or a roof was coming off.
CALLEBS: Right. And I have some more information about that. Pieces have been flying off of that throughout the evening, but a large section of the - a guest who just basically got told it's time to get out of that area - blew off. It was something like 12 to 18 feet long. There's water coming in on some of the rooms on the very top level. Apparently, they have some real concerns about the very top floors at this point.
As this roof begins to get peeled back, more and more rain gets in. Certainly the integrity up in that area is going to be compromised to a certain degree.
And the lights just went out again. This is something that has been going on and off for the past hour, as officials try to keep power running as long as they can.
Also, we have some new information on the fire. Two historical homes and one business up in flames. Basically one just destroyed. The other two significant damage. They have it under control at this hour, but it's not completely out.
The wind is still fanning the flames. At first continue to go up in the air. And we had a chance to go inside emergency operation center a short while ago. And it's hectic. I wouldn't call it chaos, but basically, you can almost describe it as a public servant's slumber party.
There are so many people in there and working different shifts. But now there's so much activity. People are coming downstairs in what appears to be the clothes they would be sleeping in.
And when the power went out, even on a night light this when chaos reigns, there are these light moments. They were handing out these little glow sticks that you snap and light up, because now the building is completely dark.
Well, one guy thought it was something to eat. Kind of like a Slim Jim or something and pulled it back and was ready to devour it, then realized - just kind of an indication of just how things are very tenuous inside.
Also, the fire trucks, we know now, were actually parked in a convention center a couple of blocks from here. So when the fire began, firefighters literally had to run down the street two blocks, open the garage door, and get the fire trucks out to take them down the street.
They parked in there because they're concerned about the storm surge and they're concerned about flying debris. They wanted to make them as safe as possible, but now it looks like they're going to be out most of the night, Aaron. BROWN: Well, we're just taking a look here, the first look we've had in this pass with you, Sean, of the fire. Three separate buildings, two historic homes I think you said, and one commercial building that firefighters were working.
Just as we look at those pictures, do you have any better sense of how many crews were dispatched, how many firefighters are out there doing their job?
CALLEBS: You know, I have been able to talk to our producer and crew at the scene, but I don't know exactly how many people are there. We are talking to the fire chief at this time, but all we know is there's a number.
First, it was large. And then they had to dispatch more. Obviously concerned about this whipping debris and the flaming embers. But at this point, I'm sorry, I just don't know how many crews are out.
BROWN: No reason to apologize at all.
The other thing you reported, but we can underscore here, is that they - at this point, believe they have - this is taped, pictures of the fire we got in some time ago. Not long ago. That they have it contained and under control, if not out, correct?
CALLEBS: Right. What the city just told us within the past five minutes, that the fire is under control. And when we talked to our producer who's seen - it certainly was in line with what he was saying, that the flames - it's completely knocked down. It's not totally out at this point. And certainly something that they're going to be keeping an eye on, but it's still a cause for concern.
Firefighters are still down there. And they are going to be working this for some time. It's not going to go up instantly. And the last thing anyone wants is a lull in between these bands, the wind to kick up with no rain, and just cause more and more problems.
BROWN: Sean, thank you very much. Sean Callebs in Galveston.
Anderson has been able to reposition a bit. That's what you left behind in Galveston this morning.
COOPER: Yes, I know. It is - you know, no matter where you go, I think in this whole area, you're going to see some sort of bad news. I mean, no doubt about it. And great efforts at trying to prevent things from being worse than they might otherwise be.
We're definitely getting an uptick in the wind here already. If you've been watching for any length of time, you know Chad Myers told us about it for like 10 minutes ago, that the wind speed could double in the next 10 to 20 minutes.
We are seeing definitely more winds than we are anticipating, a lot more in the next several minutes and over the course of the next hour. I want to check in with Rick Sanchez, who has also seen some pretty strong winds over in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Rick, what can you tell us?
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, uptick in wind to say the very least, Anderson. We're certainly experiencing it here as well.
We've seen the winds not only shift, but certainly increase in the velocity over the last several hours. And we've also been trying to monitor, because I know the big concern here. And we were listening to Aaron's conversation as well with Max Mayfield about the fact that that storm surge could come up through Sabine, into Lake Charles itself.
So we went over to Lake Charles a little while ago to check on a location where we were earlier. And what I saw was that because the winds were so strong, they're starting to knock over some of the trees.
One oak tree in particularly has now gone and fallen on top of Lakeshore Drive. Lakeshore Drive is the road that goes along the lake, into the residential area. So what that means for those people who are in that residential area, who have thought, well, maybe I can ride this out. And if the water comes up, I might be able to get out before it gets up too high.
Negative. They won't be able to get out, at least not that way, because - and that's the high side, by the way, because there's that big oak tree that's literally blocking Lakeshore Drive. So at least while this is happening, they're going to really be stuck in their homes at this point.
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