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Explosions, Fire at Hazardous Waste Plant in North Carolina; Former House Page's Family Asks Media for Privacy; War Support Waning?; Africa's Misery, The World's Shame

Aired October 6, 2006 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Explosions, a plume of smoke, someone knocking at the door in the middle of the night. That's how things played out in North Carolina after fire broke out at a hazardous waste plant. Thousands of homes were evacuated.
CNN's Amanda Rosseter joins us now from Apex, North Carolina, with more -- Amanda.


That fire is still burning, and that building has collapsed at EQ Industrial Services. That's a waste management plant here in Apex about 10 miles southwest of Raleigh.

It all started overnight when the fire broke out. There was a massive explosion, and the initial concern was not over the fire itself, but over the fumes and the smoke that rose into the air because that plant housed pesticides, oxides and chlorine. And there were plumes of chemicals and smoke that went up in the air.

So officials evacuated some 16,000 people, about half the town of Apex. They were moved to shelters, some went to family and friends. And we heard just a few minutes ago about the latest from Mayor Keith Weatherly.


MAYOR KEITH WEATHERLY, APEX, NORTH CAROLINA: They're on site. The hazmat people indicated that the building has collapsed, just as I said. And they're undergoing a more extensive review of the site.

But the fire is still under way. And that -- so a full evaluation of the chemicals that may, you know, be -- there could still be some potential hazard involved that has not been fully developed yet.


ROSSETER: Now, the good news, Kyra, is that the EPA just happened to be in town checking out another site this morning. They took an initial air quality test, and they found nothing alarming. That according to the EPA this morning.

The concern now comes with the good news. The good news is the rain is here now, it's helping to get rid of some of the fumes and smoke, but now there's concern about the ground water in Apex and around the surrounding area. So they're checking the ground water now as well.

We're live in Apex.

Back to you -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Amanda, tell us a little bit about the history of this company.

ROSSETER: This is EQ Services, Environmental Quality Services. They're based out of Michigan, and they actually have a little bit of history.

They were cited at this particular plant last March, March of 2006, for safety violations and they were fined $32,000. And they also had a fire at another one of their plants in Michigan last year.

The mayor, Keith Weatherly, here in Apex said this morning he had had an extensive with the president of EQ this morning, and they said they will begin discussions and set up a hotline with displaced residents about possibly reimbursing them for any inconvenience -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Amanda Rosseter, thanks.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The First United Methodist Church has been a Memphis landmark since 1893, but it was no match for the flames that toppled its steeple and sent the roof caving in. The cause of this fire has not yet been determined. No one was hurt.

Sparks ignited two buildings nearby, including the 22-story Lincoln American Tower, once the tallest building in Memphis. A developer who was converting the tower into condos is hoping it can be salvaged.

If you're on the scene in Apex or in Memphis and have always wanted to say, "I report for CNN," well, send us your video or photos from the fires and tell us your story. Just go to

PHILLIPS: One week into the Mark Foley scandal, it's becoming less about him and more about who knew, who did what, and what now? The speaker of the House was assured of the president's support last night in a phone call from the White House. Earlier yesterday Dennis Hastert promised to stay in his position despite damage done to the GOP.

Well, there are two sides to every story. Or in the Foley story, three: the former congressman, leaders in Congress who may or may not have known about him, and the teenage pages.

CNN's Sean Callebs is in Monroe, Louisiana, where one young man's family wants the world to look elsewhere.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've known for some time that the young man at the center of this controversy was a 16-year-old page from Monroe, Louisiana, sponsored by Congressman Alexander. The family has been quiet throughout the week but now is breaking their silence, issuing a prepared statement. I want to get right to that.

The family says, "As a young man with integrity who had the courage to question the intention of the e-mails, we respect and honor our son as a hero. Despise his courageous actions he is becoming a victim due to the harassment by some of the media. Please honor our request that we be left alone. There is nothing more that we can contribute to this ongoing matter."

"He is not" -- and "not" is bold -- "the story, and we feel this intense media scrutiny could endanger our son and our family. We have no intention of discussing this any further."

I want to be very clear about this. The young man we're talking about received e-mails from Foley. Things like, "What do you want for your birthday? When is your birthday? And "Would you send me a picture of yourself?"

He did not receive the more lurid instant messages that Foley apparently sent from an AOL account. The family said had they known about those IMs, which happened a year earlier, the family said they may have handled this differently. But what they asked of Congressman Alexander was to keep the name private, to not turn this it into a media frenzy. The family hopes that this ends the focus on their son, but clearly the focus on this story continues.

Sean Callebs, CNN, in Monroe, Louisiana.


LEMON: President Bush likes what he sees in the U.S. economy, but a strong ally in Congress is raising new concerns about the war in Iraq.

Straight to the White House now and our correspondent there, Elaine Quijano -- Elaine.


That's right, just one month before congressional midterm elections, President Bush is out trying to shape the agenda. Today he was out talking about the economy. He visited a FedEx facility nearby here in Washington, D.C., where he touted some of the latest economic numbers, including the unemployment rate, which is now at 4.6 percent. But, of course, it is the ongoing violence in Iraq that continues to make headlines.

More than 2,700 Americans have died since the start of the Iraq war. Now amid some election-year politics and calls from Democrats for the administration to change course, some sobering words from a powerful Republican -- Senator John Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. The senator yesterday, just back from a trip to Iraq, gave a stark assessment of conditions on the ground there.


SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: It seems to me that the situation is simply drifting sidewise, and that while I believe the government is trying -- that is, primarily, Prime Minister Maliki -- and we had a long discussion with him -- the various departments and agencies of that government are simply not living up or are not able to meet the -- just the fundamental responsibilities of a government operating through agencies.


QUIJANO: Now, the White House says President Bush has not spoken to Senator Warner about these latest impressions, but today here in the briefing room, officials very much disagreed with Senator Warner's characterizations.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN: I don't believe that the president thinks that way. I think that he believes that, while it is tough going in Iraq, that slow progress is being made. We would like to see more progress.


QUIJANO: And Perino went on to note that Secretary Rice was in Iraq, of course, yesterday. She dismissed the notion, however, that Secretary Rice in any way was there to warn Iraqi leaders that they needed to move more quickly to come together politically -- Don.

LEMON: All right.

Elaine Quijano live at the White House.

Thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: A progress report today on the state of Iraq's police a cornerstone of the U.S. plan to eventually draw down troops.

For that part of the story, live from the Pentagon, CNN's Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, we had a briefing today from the top U.S. general in Iraq in charge of the Iraqi police training program. And you know, this briefing really underscored what we see coming from the U.S. military about the situation in Iraq.

The general talking about all of the significant progress, very upbeat about what is going on there, but then having to explain why earlier this week an Iraqi police brigade was taken off the streets, taken off duty, some of its leaders arrested because that Iraqi police brigade had been involved in militia violence and in sectarian violence. More loyal to the militias, if you will, than to the new Iraqi government.

The general, General Peterson, had a bit of detail to offer about exactly what transpired with that Iraqi police unit.


MAJ. GEN. JOSEPH PETERSON, U.S. ARMY: The 2nd Battalion of the 8th Brigade has been implicated on a raid of a meat processing factory wherein 22 individuals -- it was a little over 20 individuals -- were kidnapped and later seven of them were found killed. Again, the commander, because the unit and the organization was identified as potentially being responsible for committing this transgression, has been arrested.


STARR: So it's that type of activity by Iraqi security forces, of course, that is causing so much difficulty on the ground for everyone, including U.S. troops. And, of course, for Iraqi citizens.

One of the reasons the type of progress that people like Senator Warner and everyone else wants to see made in Iraq is simply not happening. But that is not to say that Iraqis are not continuing to sacrifice greatly on their own.

Just consider this new statistic out today from General Peterson. In the last two years, over 12,000 Iraqi policemen killed, wounded. Twelve thousand Iraqi police casualties in the last two years in that country. Four thousand Iraqi police have lost their lives in that country now, Kyra.

So you can see that Iraq security forces, while some of them are not acting appropriately, some of them are sacrificing a good deal -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: It's a struggle.

Barbara Starr, live from the Pentagon.


LEMON: A U.S. Navy corpsman charged with murder, larceny and kidnapping in Iraq enters a plea and testifies against his former comrades. Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson Bacos took the deal today at his court-martial in San Diego. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy, and could face life in prison.

He and seven Marines were accused of killing an Iraqi man in April, then trying to cover it up. Bacos testified today he watched as marines shot the unarmed civilian after taking him from his home. He was the first case to go to court to be court-martialed.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, the crisis in Darfur. Collecting food for Sudan's refugees isn't the problem. Delivering it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Abubakar Badikt feels like a sitting duck every time he makes deliveries along Darfur's dangerous highways. He says he's been hijacked more than a dozen times and knows who the bandits are.


PHILLIPS: Our Jeff Koinange reports live from Darfur.

LEMON: Plus, a decades-old nuclear accident, a community kept in the dark. Coming up, a new study says the meltdown could have caused hundreds of cases of cancer.

That story ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Just a horrible scene in Louisville, Kentucky. Four children, all less than 10 years old, found dead in a public housing project. Police say a man came in and confessed to killing his family. And they also found a wounded woman at the scene. She is expected to survive. The family is thought to be from Somalia, in eastern Africa.

PHILLIPS: A glimmer of hope amid the grief in Pennsylvania's Amish country. The last of five girls killed in Monday's schoolhouse massacre were buried today.

Mourners of 12-year-old Anna Mae Stoltzfus were met with a steady rein and a bit of encouraging news. One girl who survived the shooting but was not expected to live is showing what are called signs of hope. Her family, who had taken her home to die, have taken her back to the hospital. Four other girls also are hospitalized.

Ten students in all were shot by the 32-year-old gunman who killed himself as police moved in. There's talk that the one-room schoolhouse may be knocked down.

When it comes to forgiveness, Pennsylvania's Amish are practicing what they preach. Relatives of Charles Carl Roberts say the families of his victims in Monday's tragic massacre have reached out with compassion.


JACQUIE HESS, AUNT OF ROBERTS' WIFE: We just talked about what had happened and how it could happen, and that they have forgiven what has taken place and that there is no hard feelings. And they want us to just all pull together as a community and still just keep our trust in god to help us all get through everything.

RANDY FISCHER, ROBERTS' CO-WORKER: What Charlie did was wrong, and obviously he snapped. And I don't know what it is that caused him to snap, and maybe nobody ever will. But I remember Charlie for the Charlie that I know. And what Charlie did is not the man that I knew. And I don't know what caused him to snap. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Well, relatives say they saw no signs of trouble in Roberts just hours before he shot 10 young girls and turned the gun on himself.

LEMON: It's a nuclear accident that no one knew about for 40 years. Now longtime residents of Simi Valley, California, are wondering whether the fallout could have been decades of misery and death.

Reporter Willa Sandmeyer of CNN affiliate KTLA has that story.


WILLA SANDMEYER, REPORTER, KTLA (voice over): For years, some Simi Valley residents have wondered just what impact a nuclear reactor accident here nearly 50 years ago may have had on local residents. For some 40 years beginning in the 1940s, the federal government conducted nuclear research here. But in 1959, a test nuclear reactor had a partial meltdown.

Now a panel of scientists has released its independent findings. They believe radiation was released into the environment, that chemicals have contaminated some wells in Simi Valley, and that at least hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of cancer can be attributed to the facility's operation.

DAN HIRSCH, STUDY CO-CHAIRMAN: But it looks as though several hundred to several thousand cancers not only resulted, but some will continue to result because the latency period goes on for many decades. You can get cancer decades after the exposure.

SANDMEYER: The panel studied the impacts from the partial reactor meltdown, as well as impacts from years of testing at the site.

DAVID LOCHBAUM, NUCLEAR SAFETY PROJECT: It's my professional belief that approximately 15 percent of the radioactive contents of the reactor core in July of 1959 got out.

SANDMEYER: The panel also reported that the rocket fuel additive perchlorate has trickled down from the mountaintop location and into some wells. The study presented here the results of years of pressure by citizens.

BARBARA JOHNSON, SIMI VALLEY RESIDENT: In January of 1990, this situation became even more personal to me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

SANDMEYER: The Boeing Company, which now owns the site, disputes the findings. Spokeswoman Blythe Jamison (ph) telling me four studies failed to find any evidence of increased cancer rates around the site, including research by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal department.


LEMON: And that was Willa Sandmeyer of KTLA in Los Angeles.

PHILLIPS: The spinach scare may be over or very nearly, but its grim toll has risen. A 2-year-old Idaho boy is now the second known death officially blamed on fresh spinach contaminated with E. Coli.

Kyle Algood died September 20th of kidney failure. His mom says he fell ill after drinking a homemade veggie smoothie. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 192 people in 26 states have gotten ill from E. coli. It's been traced back to three counties in California.

LEMON: Carol Lin in the newsroom tracking some developing news for us -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Don, just want to update you on the West Des Moines, Iowa, the two schools that are in lockdown right now. They're elementary schools, because a 41-year-old convicted drug felon who's wanted for violating his parole is on the loose.

You're looking at the face of Steven McNealy (ph). He's 41 years old, he's described as a white male with blond hair, 5'11" tall, weighing 160 pounds.

Westridge and Crossroads elementary schools are now in lockdown while police continue their searches around the perimeter. Police say that the students are free to move inside their schools. Parents should not go to the schools right now.

They're just trying to offer some assurance that the students are, in fact, safe. But this manhunt continues in West Des Moines, Iowa.

LEMON: All right, Carol. Thank you very much for that.

Coming up from the NEWSROOM, CNN's Anderson Cooper from the troubled heart of Africa. A special look at two African nations battling poverty, violence and the ghosts of the past.

PHILLIPS: Also, a chemical fire. Thousands of people have to evacuate. The latest from North Carolina from the NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Three straight days of record highs for the Dow. Good news for investors. Maybe not.

Cheryl Casone is at the New York Stock Exchange with a look at some of the nation's largest and most popular mutual funds.



PHILLIPS: Well, this week, a CNN focus on a forgotten part of the world.

LEMON: That's right, CNN's Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta have traveled to the Congo to investigate conditions in the troubled heart of Africa.

PHILLIPS: Our Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange is filing reports from Sudan, a scene of the ongoing killing that President Bush calls genocide.

LEMON: First, Anderson Cooper from Congo, a turbulent nation with a tortured past.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Nearly four million people have died from war-related causes in Congo in the past eight years alone, according to the International Rescue Committee -- many, many times more deaths than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, the world's deadliest conflict since World War II.

It's the continuation of violence that has raged for more than a century here. Congo expert Didier Gondola explains why.

DIDIER GONDOLA, AUTHOR, "HISTORY OF CONGO": The short answer would be that Congo has been cursed by its natural resources. And that's why -- one of the reasons why so much violence has taken place in that country.

COOPER (on camera): King Leopold II of Belgium was the first to exploit the rich resources, taking the Congo as his personal possession and leveling the land to cultivate rubber used to make tires.

(voice-over): In the late 1800s, Leopold's forces enslaved the Congolese people, cutting off limbs to enforce rubber quotas. Millions died of exploitation and disease.

Protests prompted the Belgian government to take control from Leopold in 1908, turning Congo into a Belgian colony. But the Congolese rejected colonial status and violent riots in 1960 led to Congo's independence. The fledgling country, though, got off to a rocky start.

Within months, the first elected prime minister was assassinated. After years of rebellions, U.S.-backed General Mobutu Sese Seko seized power in 1965, renaming the country Zaire.

GONDOLA: He was quite a corrupt leader. At one point Mobutu had -- his personal fortune was equivalent of the national debt of the country.

COOPER: His reign of corruption would last three decades, spawning the term cleptocracy, "rule by thieves."

Toward the end of his reign, violence once again rocked this country, as decades-old conflict between the rival Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups spilled over from neighboring Rwanda. Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo in 1996 under the pretext of stamping out Hutu militias. As the armies advanced, slaughtering Hutu refugees, Mobutu fled.

The invaders made a local rebel leader and brothel owner, Laurent Kabila, president in 1997. Kabila renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One year later, Uganda and Rwanda invaded again, in what became known as Africa's first world war. At least eight other African nations joined in the fighting.

Kabila was gunned down by his own bodyguard five years ago. His 29-year-old son, Joseph, took over as president, and the next year signed a peace deal with warring factions.

Now there are more than 17,000 United Nations troops in Congo trying to keep that peace, and the United States provides aid through relief agencies. Thirty-nine million dollars was budgeted this year. But still, the deaths continue.

Corrupt military units and rebel factions still terrorize, rape and murder the Congolese people. The United Nations estimates more than 1,200 people die a day from malnutrition and disease, which is why it's been said that in Congo, this peace looks an awful lot like war.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, Goma.


LEMON: And our next report deals in extreme detail with a topic that's shocking to start with: untold numbers of women in Congo are being raped at will. And not just women, but children as well. We caution our viewers, this report from our Anderson Cooper is very disturbing.


COOPER (voice-over): At a busy hospital in Goma, a silent little girl sits on a stoop. She's five years old now, but still cannot speak of the terrible thing that happened to her. Two years ago, when she was just three, she was gang raped by soldiers.

(on camera): Children as young as three years old are getting raped?

DR. LUC MALEMO, HEAL AFRICA: Three years old, yes.

COOPER: That's -- it's crazy.

MALEMO: Very crazy. And we -- it's difficult to understand the social causes of this event. But we think that people are so disappointed that they've been in a dictatorship for 40 years. Now the war came, so they lost all the hope, and they started hurting like animals.

COOPER (voice-over): Dr. Luc Malemo has a hospital ward full of girls and women who have been raped have developed fistulas, holes in their vaginas or rectums that make it impossible to control bodily functions.

(on camera): Why do so many rape victims here develop fistulas?

MALEMO: We think that -- the first reason, that the rape is too violent. Some of them, they will use, after raping, they (INAUDIBLE) use maybe -- and they use weapons, a knife or even a piece of wood. And some of them have been shot on after being raped.

COOPER: So women aren't just getting raped and they're not just getting gang raped, they're often being shot internally afterward or people putting objects inside them, knives, clubs?

MALEMO: Yes. They are being raped, but some of them, many of those develop fistulas, tell that, after being raped, they'd been be shot on or just be traumatized by a weapon.

COOPER (voice-over): Dr. Malemo is able to repair the physical damage done by rape in some 70 percent of cases. But some wounds, physical and psychological, are impossible to heal.

ANGELA, RAPE VICTIM (through translator): I was raped by three men, soldiers. They also shot me in my right arm. When it was happening, I thought I was dying. I was seeing death in front of me. I didn't think I would live.

COOPER: Angela was raped in front of her children.

(on camera): This is all a burn?

COOPER: She says her attackers also burned her daughter, Godaliv (ph). We agreed to protect their identities because of the stigma still associated with rape in the Congo.

ANGELA (through translator): People in the neighborhood just point fingers and say, you're a raped woman, and you're infected with AIDS.

COOPER: Angela lives in a compound with her three children and other rape survivors who say they can't go home. They're supported by a charity called Heal Africa.

(on camera): This is the one meal that Angela's kids will probably have today. She and her children have been living here in Goma for the last five months. Angela would like to be able to return to her home village, but that's simply impossible. The men who raped her are likely still living in the area. They, of course, have never been brought to justice. And she really has no home to go back to. Her husband has now kicked her out of the house because she was gang raped.

ANGELA (through translator): Yes, he heard I was raped, and he just said, go on your own. I don't need you anymore. If we live together, you now might have HIV, so you might infect me.

COOPER: Like many rape survivors here, Angela's future is at best uncertain. ANGELA (through translator): The only thing I need is land so I can build a house. I might die, and I want my kids to have that castle. I'm hoping for a miracle.

COOPER: There are few miracles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The men who rape are rarely brought to justice, and the women who survive must simply try to heal.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


LEMON: Millions dead, millions homeless, millions on the brink. Emmy-award-winning reporters Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Jeff Koinange investigate. "Africa's Misery: The World's Shame," on a special edition of "360." That's tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Now, straight ahead, aid workers, a vanishing breed in the Darfur region of Africa.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not as bad as people may imagine. It can be just as dangerous, if not worse, in some of the big, major capitals around the world like New York and London.


PHILLIPS: CNN's Jeff Koinange reports next from the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Straight to North Carolina, the mayor speaking about those fires damaging that area. Let's listen in.

MAYOR KEITH WEATHERLY, APEX, NORTH CAROLINA: They believe that if that strategy is successful, they can extinguish those fires in roughly two hours. OK. They believe that they could extinguish the fires using the strategy that they've come up with in about two hours.

Once the fire is extinguished, the EPA will be involved in making a quick assessment of the site and then be involved in looking at the perimeter of the neighborhoods that we've -- that have evacuated, and they will make some decisions at that time. Those people that have no risk to return to their homes can do so.

And there's reasonable expectation that that will be done this afternoon, but I don't want to give any false hopes because there's obviously some unknowns in that.

When they -- some of the fire is under the collapsed building and they say that there are some uncertainties at how quickly they could extinguish the fire, and then based on EPA's findings once they get in there, that there's no potential hazard for any further gases or fumes leaving the site, then they'll start assessing the folks who can go home.

QUESTION: Can you please state your name and spell it, and your title?

WEATHERLY: Yes, I'm Keith Weatherly, the mayor of Apex. Sorry, I've done this so many times, I'm ahead of you.

QUESTION: What is the strategy for extinguishing the fire?

WEATHERLY: Well, I'm really no expert in that, but I'll tell you, it was with a dry retardant would be the best way to do that without exacerbating any potential harmful chemicals leaving the site.

QUESTION: Mr. Weatherly, what kind of chemicals are we talking about, and in what volume?

WEATHERLY: Well, we have an inventory. Our chief -- there were -- we don't have the volumes, but I understand that the fertilizer was stored in this facility, some organic oxides.


WEATHERLY: So definitely -- didn't I say that? Pesticides.

QUESTION: Was there chlorine? There was a type of chlorine as well. Was that correct, or was that premature?

WEATHERLY: The evidence that the police officers and the firemen had at the scene and subsequent, based on the plume, was a chlorine odor, was a chlorine odor. But I don't think that's been chemically tested or analyzed that would substantiate that.

QUESTION: And the reactions to the firemen and officers themselves?

WEATHERLY: Yes, there were chemical burns on a couple of our policemen's faces which would indicate, obviously, that could be a potential cause of that. But folks are doing an analysis of the site right now, particularly the air, which obviously is the concern for letting folks go home.

The EPA, as I told you I think in our previous briefing -- the EPA people that were on site were doing some analysis of the air, and their findings were very positive up to this point.

Other studies that were done recently by folks contracted by the company also showed some positive results, but they certainly bear further testing and analysis before we can give the all-clear.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on the four? You said there were four fires. They're all on-site?

WEATHERLY: Yes. Well, some of them were under the collapsed building, possibly the roof. I think the size of those fires that were described as maybe one to two feet in height. QUESTION: Could you walk us through a potential scenario, if within two hours, like you said, you were able to put these fires out what you see happening?

WEATHERLY: Well, once the fires are out, that's the main concern, that there wouldn't be any more gases escape. That's my assumption from the briefing that I was given. And once the site is then stabilized -- and then if that's the case, the air analysis of some of the air samples taken would indicate that the all-clear could be given. But it might not be all at once.

Am I accurate in that, Mr. Rapport (ph), that they would -- the EPA would be really involved, then, with our professionals at the municipal level to assess that, and those neighborhoods that were clearly out of the way of any more potential air quality issues would be released to go home. But that might not be all together. Yes. Starting in the outward perimeter working in. That's exactly the way it was described.

QUESTION: OK. What about evacuees? When do you foresee them being able to get back into their homes?

WEATHERLY: Well, that's what we were talking about. That's part of the process with -- once the fire's extinguished, then EPA and our people would be involved in assessing, starting from the outer perimeter, working inward to say those neighborhoods that clearly pose no threat from air quality issues would then go home. But that night not be all at one time.

PHILLIPS: Mayor Keith Weatherly addressing reporters there in Apex, North Carolina, talking about that hazardous waste management plant near Raleigh, North Carolina that collapsed from an overnight fire. It's still burning. Residents not allowed to go home yet.

He still can't give the all-clear. Hazardous materials teams are trying to determine what chemicals and other substances were on this property to assess the risk for residents and firefighters right now. The mayor was able to confirm fertilizer, pesticides, and that some of the police officers received chemical burns on their faces.

The EPA is out there right now testing the air. They're actually -- the term is scrubbing it to try and find -- they're scrubbing the air to try and figure out what kind of impurities are out there. No serious injuries have been reported, though.

Thirteen police officers, one firefighter and one public information officer were ordered to undergo a decontamination process after complaining of nausea and trouble breathing. But we're going to stay on top of this, continue to tell you how the air testing is going at this hazardous waste management plant near Raleigh, North Carolina.

Stay with us. More from the NEWSROOM straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: Food is the WFP's middle name, which is why it's so excruciating for the World Food Program to get so much food so close to so many African refugees, only to be thwarted by bandits and killers.

Our Jeff Koinange reports from the Darfur region of Sudan.


SIMON CRITTLE, RELIEF WORKER: Yes, this is one of the trucks that was taken. It was stopped by an armed group last month.

KOINANGE (voice-over): Simon Crittle is one angry and frustrated relief worker. Last month, his organization wasn't able to deliver food to more than 100,000 starving refugees in north Darfur because its trucks have become the latest target of the Arab militia roaming and terrorizing this lawless land.

CRITTLE: When we got it back, the entire thing was painted gray. They actually smashed out these windscreens so that they can use it to fire guns straight out of it.

KOINANGE: In a land where every morsel of food is desperately needed, these food trucks may as well have been carrying gold bars.

CRITTLE: This truck was carrying 15 tons worth of grain. That's a lot of money to those armed groups sitting out there. You know, they can take that, they can feed their soldiers, and then they can use this vehicle as a tactical. They can carry troops. They can carry fuel. That's what they need. So we're sitting ducks, absolutely.

KOINANGE: Abubakar Badikt feels like a sitting duck every time he makes deliveries along Darfur's dangerous highways. He says he's been hijacked more than a dozen times, and knows who the bandits are. "The Janjaweed, of course," he says. "They've made our lives miserable. I've been shot at so many times I've lost count. The only thing I know how to do is drive, and all I can hope is that Allah guides me every time I'm on the road."

At a nearby WFP warehouse, it's food, food everywhere: sorghum, vegetable oil and corn blend from the United States and dried beans from the European Union. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid just sitting here.

(on camera): Now, it's not that there's a food deficiency in Darfur. There's plenty of grain in these warehouses, and plenty more being loaded onto awaiting trucks for the onward journey. The only problem is getting it to those who need it most.

CRITTLE: Insecurity is the biggest problem that we face. In July, half a million people went without food because it was just too dangerous for those truck convoys to get through.

KOINANGE (voice-over): So Crittle has decided he needs to go directly to the Janjaweed to try to work out a way to get food to starving people here. Along the way, he points out to us evidence of what's considered the Janjaweed's calling card: burned out village after village across this huge swathe of land. And this is what they use for air support: helicopter gunships courtesy, according to international groups, of the Sudanese government.

We make it to Khartoum, where Janjaweed attacks on rebel groups controlling the town stopped only after these African Union peacekeepers arrived. But the peacekeepers don't have enough troops or firepower to protect the aid convoys.

CRITTLE: In the month of September, we could not reach 155,000 people. The thing is, those people haven't had food for four months.

KOINANGE: We continue our journey toward the rebel stronghold of Kab Kabiya (ph), deep in north Darfur. We soon found out we would not get past the makeshift airport.

(on camera): Now, Kab Kabiya is the capital of the Janjaweed Arab militia. They must have known we were coming because as soon as we landed, they seized our paperwork, told us to get back in the helicopter, and head back to where we came from.

(voice-over): Crittle, too, was denied access to the Janjaweed stronghold. We are forced to head back to El Fasher, passing more burned-out villages darting the landscape. Crittle has little optimism left for Darfur's 2.5 million displaced people.

CRITTLE: We're staring at a catastrophe. We're staring at a human disaster. Darfur right now is one of the biggest problems this world faces, and this food is the only thing that stands between them and disaster. We have to get to them. If we can't, I don't even want to think what that means.

KOINANGE: Even with airplanes, relief workers have trouble easing what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis. And in their convoys, they are easy targets, still unable to reach the people who so badly need their help.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, El Fasher in north Darfur.


LEMON: Aid workers, a vanishing breed in the Darfur region of Africa.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not as bad as people may imagine. It can be just as dangerous, if not worse, in some of the big, major capitals around the world like New York or London.


LEMON: More of our special report, "Africa's Killing Fields." Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Jeff Koinange ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.



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