Many casualties in Texas Waco fertiliser plant blast

Scores of people are injured and an unknown number are dead after a huge explosion at a fertiliser plant near Waco in the US state of Texas.

Dozens of homes and buildings have been destroyed, and several are still on fire, after the West Fertilizer plant exploded at about 19:50 (00:50 GMT).

Some people are thought still to be trapped in buildings and a number of firefighters are reported missing.

Emergency services officials said ammonia may have caused the explosion.

It has been reported the company had 54,000lbs (20 tonnes) of anhydrous ammonia on sit

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It was like being in a tornado. Stuff was flying everywhere. It blew out my windshield. It was like the whole earth shook.”

Debby Marak, witness

Firefighters had been tackling a blaze at the plant when the explosion in West, a town of about 2,700 people some 20 miles (32km) north of Waco, occurred.

Police said the half the town had been evacuated, amid fears of possible further explosions or a leak of toxic gas.

The plant is right on the edge of town, only a few hundred metres from houses, a school and nursing home.

Sgt William Swanton of the Waco police department said power to the town had been shut off to prevent further accidents.

He confirmed there were deaths, but could not give a figure.

Police have been conducting house-to-house searches to check for casualties.

‘Like a war zone’

TV images showed streams of emergency vehicles descending on the site and ambulance crews using a nearby sports field as an emergency treatment area. The injured were being carried to hospital not just in ambulances but in police squad cars and helicopters.

Glenn A Robinson, chief executive of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, told CNN that his hospital had received 66 injured people including 38 who were seriously hurt.

He said the hospital was seeing “everything from orthopaedic injuries to patients that are experiencing serious blood loss”.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said: “It’s a lot of devastation. I’ve never seen anything like this. It looks like a war zone with all the debris.”

A nursing home was caught in the explosion and some people were believed trapped inside.

Witness Debby Marak told the Associated Press news agency that she had seen smoke coming from the area near the plant and had driven over to see what was happening.

She said that when she arrived, two boys ran towards her screaming that the authorities had told them to leave because the fertiliser plant was going to explode.

She said she drove a short distance before the blast happened.

“It was like being in a tornado,” she said. “Stuff was flying everywhere. It blew out my windshield. It was like the whole earth shook.”The massive blast was heard from miles around

Another resident told KWTX-TV that she heard several explosions from 13 miles (20km) away.

“It sounded like three bombs going off very close to us,” said Lydia Zimmerman.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a statement: “We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident.

“We have also mobilised state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene.”

The Dallas Morning News reported that West Fertilizer had told the Environmental Protection Agency that it presented no risk of fire or explosion.

The newspaper said it had seen documents in which the plant said it stored large amounts of anhydrous ammonia, but the worst scenario envisaged was a release of ammonia gas that would harm no-one._67075622_texas_factory_explosion_624

By evakel Posted in News Tagged

Cameras help turn tables into touchscreens

Any paper document can be turned into an interactive touchscreen using a projection and camera system developed by Fujitsu._67032013_fujitsu

The system lets users instantly copy text and photographs by using a finger to draw a box around them.

The digital copies can then be moved, edited and manipulated as if they were on a tablet or large touchscreen.

Fujitsu said it hoped to release a commercial version of the imaging technology in 2014.

The camera and projector forming the system are built into a stand that sits on a tabletop and monitors documents and the fingers of users in front of them. The cameras spot where fingers are placed and uses software to interpret what people want to do to the map, sticky note, photograph or other paper document.

A projector projects virtual buttons on to the tabletop that people can press with a fingertip to start copying or to perform other actions. The projector also illuminates the sections people want to highlight and projects copies of the text or image they want to grab.

Virtual copies of items can be “stored” to one side of the table and then moved around, expanded, shrunk and manipulated by a user. Fujitsu said the system could be useful for helping to organise notes from meetings or research projects.

One key breakthrough, it said, was using cameras offset from each other slightly. This helped them get a much better idea of where fingers were in order to spot accurately what a user wanted to highlight or copy.

Fujitsu said its system could be used as a way to enhance current computer interface systems or, eventually, to replace the keyboard and mouse. Prior attempts to do this, it said, had relied on expensive sensors but its system used off-the-shelf projectors and cameras, even webcams, suggesting any commercial model would be easy to produce.

Apple computers ‘hacked’ in breach

Apple has said its computers were attacked by the same hackers who targeted Facebook.

The iPhone-maker said a small number of its machines were affected, but added there was “no evidence” of data theft.

Last week Facebook said it had traced a cyber attack back to China which had infiltrated employees’ laptops.

Apple said it would release a software update to protect customers against the malicious software used in the attack.

In a statement, the Cupertino, California-based firm said: “Apple has identified malware which infected a limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plug-in for browsers.

“The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers.

“We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network. There is no evidence that any data left Apple.

“We are working closely with law enforcement to find the source of the malware.”

Java vulnerabilities

News of the hack comes as a US-based cyber security firm claimed to have pinpointed a specific building in Shanghai that was being used to house one of the world’s “most prolific cyber espionage groups”.

Mandiant said Unit 61398, part of the country’s People’s Liberation Army, was believed to have “systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data” from at least 141 organisations around the world.

China denied hacking and questioned the validity of Mandiant’s report.

Apple said it had taken measures to protect users from vulnerabilities in Java, a widely-used programming language that was found to have serious security flaws.

“Since OS X Lion, Macs have shipped without Java installed, and as an added security measure OS X automatically disables Java if it has been unused for 35 days,” the company said.

“To protect Mac users that have installed Java, today we are releasing an updated Java malware removal tool that will check Mac systems and remove this malware if found.”

WordPress website targeted by hackers

WordPress has been attacked by a botnet of “tens of thousands” of individual computers since last week, according to server hosters Cloudflare and Hostgator.

The botnet targets WordPress users with the username “admin”, trying thousands of possible passwords.

The attack began a week after WordPress beefed up its security with an optional two-step authentication log-in option.

The site currently powers 64m websites read by 371m people each month.

According to survey website W3Techs, around 17% of the world’s websites are powered by WordPress.

“Here’s what I would recommend: If you still use ‘admin’ as a username on your blog, change it, use a strong password,” wrote WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg on his blog.

He also advised adopting two-step authentication, which involves a personalised “secret number” allocated to users in addition to a username and password, and ensuring that the latest version of WordPress is installed.

“Most other advice isn’t great – supposedly this botnet has more than 90,000 IP addresses, so an IP-limiting or login-throttling plugin isn’t going to be great (they could try from a different IP [address] a second for 24 hours),” Mr Mullenweg added.

Matthew Prince, chief executive and co-founder of Cloudflare, said that the aim of the attack might have been to build a stronger botnet.

“One of the concerns of an attack like this is that the attacker is using a relatively weak botnet of home PCs in order to build a much larger botnet of beefy servers in preparation for a future attack,” he wrote in a blog post.

“These larger machines can cause much more damage in DDoS [Distributed Denial of Service] attacks because the servers have large network connections and are capable of generating significant amounts of traffic,” he added.