Evacuees go home to the ashes

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The Independent US

Residents of Los Alamos trickled back from a hastily organised evacuation yesterday to survey what was left of their homes. Whole streets had been engulfed and around 260 residential buildings razed. With 150 National Guardsmen to prevent looting, the scene was more reminiscent of Bosnia than a dormitory town for scientists at a top research centre.

Residents of Los Alamos trickled back from a hastily organised evacuation yesterday to survey what was left of their homes. Whole streets had been engulfed and around 260 residential buildings razed. With 150 National Guardsmen to prevent looting, the scene was more reminiscent of Bosnia than a dormitory town for scientists at a top research centre.

The fire had spread through the town with random cruelty - sparing a Ford sedan on one side of the street but consuming a Subaru on the other, devouring two houses along Arizona Avenue but not a third.

Some 25,000 people were evacuated from Los Alamos and neighbouring White Rock, emptying both towns. Many piled into their cars with their prize possessions in the middle of the night and sat in gridlocked traffic surrounded by yellow acrid smoke, wondering if they would make it to Santa Fe, the nearest large town.

In nearby towns, home owners and hoteliers offered cheap or free haven. "One large room with a queen bed, a double and a single futon," read a typical internet posting. "Will supply vegetarian meals only. Pets can be accommodated. Non-smoking".

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