20 homes destroyed as fires flare up again in Okla.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Grass fires driven by high winds destroyed at least 24 homes and forced hundreds of evacuations in Oklahoma, which remained extremely dry despite snowfall earlier in the week. The worst fire raged in southern Oklahoma near Ratliff City, where it burned through at least 20 homes overnight, said Michelle Finch, fire information officer for the Oklahoma Forestry Department. Four air tankers dropped fire retardant on the area until dark Thursday and resumed the effort early Friday. The fire, which was four miles wide, burned 7,000 to 10,000 acres and was about 50 percent contained Friday morning, said Richard Reuse, an information officer for the state's fire response center. Statewide, 11 fires were reported Thursday and as many as 18,406 acres burned, said Cliff Eppler, an information officer for the state's fire response center. There were no reports of injuries, officials said.

Alaska's Augustine Volcano erupts again

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Augustine Volcano erupted Friday for the third time in a week, sending an ash plume toward communities on the southwest Kenai Peninsula. Tom Murray, scientist in charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, said the mountain on an isolated and uninhabited island about 180 miles south of Anchorage erupted for 45 minutes, starting shortly before 4 a.m. The eruption was stronger than a pair of eruptions Wednesday and lasted longer. Murray said additional eruptions are likely.

Police search for men who beat up homeless man

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Police say they will seek murder charges against the attackers who beat a homeless man to death and are suspected in two similar attacks a few hours later. The first attack was caught on a university surveillance video before dawn Thursday. Police were looking for two to four young men. "It's senseless. If you look at these kids, it was almost like it was fun and games for them," officer Scott Russell said. The video from Florida Atlantic University shows two men chasing and beating a man who had been sleeping on a bench.

Infant in U.S. for surgery released from hospital

ATLANTA -- The Iraqi infant who underwent surgery for spinal birth defects was released from a hospital Friday to recover at an Atlanta-area home where father and grandmother have been staying, hospital officials said. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta officials said Noor al-Zahra was released because there was no change in her condition. She will have to return to the hospital later for additional evaluation but no date has been scheduled, officials said. Surgeons on Monday removed a fluid-filled sac from her back and positioned her spinal cord in its proper place. Doctors had been monitoring the 3-month-old for any buildup of spinal fluid in her brain, which can lead to a dangerous buildup of pressure.

Sarasota, Fla., named the nation's meanest city

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Sarasota, which recently imposed a no-camping ban, is the meanest city in the nation toward the homeless, according to a national advocacy organization. The annual list of the 20 worst cities for treating the homeless in 2005 ranks Lawrence, Kan., as second meanest, and Little Rock, Ark., third. Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and Houston were also among the top 10.

-- From wire reports

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