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Grim Searches Continue with Little Hope

Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM

New York officials said the death toll could rise into the thousands, but were careful to report only confirmed deaths. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said there had been 45 confirmed fatalities, and 259 members of the fire and police departments and the Port Authority police were missing and presumed dead.

At last three people had been pulled from the rubble alive. More than 1,100 people made it to the emergency rooms of the city's hospitals Tuesday in the aftermath of attacks on the 1,300-foot twin towers on the lower end of Manhattan.

The first attack came at about 8:45 a.m., as the world's largest financial center was warming up for another day. A hijacked American Airlines flight sliced into the upper quarter of the north tower and 18 minutes later, a hijacked United Airlines flight plowed into the top of the south tower.

As emergency workers rushed to the scene and began rescue operations, the massive glass and steel structures where some 50,000 people earned their living began to weaken. About 10:30 a.m. the north tower collapsed and the south tower followed shortly afterwards, trapping an unknown number of rescuers.

Rescuers feared buildings damaged in the collapse of the twin towers might contain additional victims.

Throughout the night, under intense lights powered by portable generators, heavy equipment picked through the rubble, seeking victims and survivors. Giuliani said 120 dump trucks had been used to haul away the refuse. As each bucketful of debris was grabbed, it was checked for human remains before being hauled away.

Wednesday dawned clear and sunny, but rescue efforts were being hampered by thick gray and white smoke that continued to pour from a 47-story building next to the towers, which caught fire and collapsed Tuesday afternoon.

Although there were 18 special search and rescue teams in the area, some were idle because conditions made it difficult to work.

Roger Tobias of Pennsylvania Task Force One was in New York when the attack occurred and rushed to volunteer.

"We can't go in until the smoke gets down," he told United Press International. He said the building had pancaked and teams were using specially trained dogs, special cameras and microphones to search for signs of life.

"We believe (the number of) survivors will be minimal, except for pockets and voids," he said. "But we don't want to leave here until every one possible is accounted for."

Authorities continued to appeal for assistance from doctors and nurses in neighboring communities and for blood donations.

At the Pentagon, search efforts were slowed Wednesday when spilled jet fuel re-ignited. Prior to the renewed blaze, firefighters and search and rescue teams worked to contain the spot fires and stabilize the section where the hijacked plane crashed into it.

Rescue teams planned to use a wrecking ball in the collapsed area to clear away unstable rubble so that Montgomery County and Virginia Beach Urban Search and Rescue Teams could begin searching adjacent areas.

While earlier estimates placed the death toll up to 800, officials leading the search effort declined to give an exact number of fatalities.

"We really do not have any casualty comments -- what we said yesterday, 100 to 800 - this was a ballpark figure," said Arlington County Fire Chief Ed Plaugher.

The Arlington county estimate was based on preliminary information provided by the Department of Defense, which the Pentagon refused to confirm.

But a Defense Department statement said, "Reconnaissance efforts conducted overnight indicate that there are no survivors in the immediate collapsed area. Listening devices that have been able to get in have proven negative, and it is doubtful that anyone in the immediate impact area survived."

Pentagon spokeswomen Tori Clarke said she had "no confidence in 800" as a casualty figure. Offices in the area of the building hit by the plane were under renovation. Officials at the Pentagon said they were reluctant to estimate the death toll because they had no way of knowing which offices were occupied at the time of the attack, as many people were moving in and out of them.

While efforts to contain the fire continued, Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee told UPI it was "highly improbable anyone survived" the attack due to the intensity of the blast. He stressed that workers will be mindful of the bodies trapped inside when they begin their search.

"We want to be as respectful as possible to the bodies," Carlee said.

He added that no personnel on the scene were seriously injured while containing the fire or stabilizing the building.

Meanwhile, survivors of the attack were being treated at area hospitals. Patients in stable condition at northern Virginia facilities were scheduled to be transferrred to Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "The overall plans involves bringing stable victims here for further care," said hospital spokeswoman Ann Ham.

At Virginia Hospital Center - Arlington, where many of the injured were taken, "things have quieted down a bit," according to hospital spokewoman Shay Raugh.

She said they had treated 44 attack victims, with 17 being admitted and nine in the intensive care. Raugh said most of the injuries they have treated were cuts, abrasions, burns and complications related to smoke inhalation.

Inova Hospital Alexandria said it had treated 22 victims, releasing 16 with minor injuries. The six admitted were five firefighters, four in fair condition an one in good condition. The sixth man a Virginia state trooper, Michael Middleton, has been upgraded to serious condition.

Middleton was lauded by local media for rescuing four people from the burning section of the building.

American Airlines Flight 77 struck the southwest side of the Pentagon about 9:39 a.m. Tuesday morning. The plane's 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots were killed in the crash. -- Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved. --

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New York officials said the death toll could rise into the thousands, but were careful to report only confirmed deaths. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said there had been 45 confirmed fatalities, and 259 members of the fire and police departments and the Port Authority police were...
Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM
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