Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Witness says blood in streets "ankle deep"; HIV-Mat Truck units overwhelmed.
ACRAMENTO, June 24 – What started out as a parade in downtown San Francisco turned into a horrific scene of death, destruction, and mayhem after at least twenty car bombs exploded nearly simultaneously at scattered points along its route. City officials estimate the death toll at around 2,600, but warn that figure may rise dramatically as more rubble and debris, much burying whole streets, is removed.
Sticking out from that rubble can be seen not only the remains of large floats, leather harnesses, and hundreds of sandals and beads, but several bodies as well as many parts of bodies.
Two blocks away from the still smoldering ruins of City Hall, the site of three particularly potent car bombings, San Francisco's mayor Gavin Newsom established a makeshift command post to coordinate rescue and recovery efforts in his city.
"It looks like a war zone out there; and you know how much I abhor war," he said. Mr. Newsom does not expect any outside help from the National Guard or any units of the country's armed forces due to a series of "no military allowed" referenda approved last year by voters.
Also complicating the city's ability to address this overwhelming tragedy is the decimation of its police force. Approximately a third of all its officers were patrolling the parade route when the explosions occurred. By early Saturday evening, only a few dozen of those officers had reported back in to their stations. The rest remain unaccounted for, according to surviving city officials.
In addition to the initial explosions, at least three neighborhoods in the city came under attack by groups of "hooded figures" who fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at both passing automobiles and people in the street or residents coming out of their homes. An area hospital reported 27 dead and wounded from one such attack before telephone communications were cut off to the city.
Eyewitnesses said the attacks on the neighborhoods appeared to be "coordinated," with some of the hooded gunmen breaking into homes and firing indiscriminately at anyone they found inside. "It was so horrible," said a woman who fled her own home after she saw six or seven gunmen breaking into her neighbor's house. "He and his wife had to turn their guns in last April, so I don't know if they were able to defend themselves or not," she added, referring to her neighbor.
On April 1, under another referendum approved last year by voters, all residents were required to turn in or destroy any handguns in their possession, or face serious charges and fines.
Another eyewitness whose automobile was damaged by a rocket-propelled grenade said he saw about two or three cars ahead of him burning in the street before his was struck. "They were massacring everyone in sight. Even anyone fleeing their cars after they'd been hit. It was a terrible tragedy. I was lucky just to get out of there alive," he said.
The mayor promoted a senior detective sergeant to acting police chief after it was determined that no higher ranking police official either had survived the initial attacks or was fit for duty because of injuries. The acting police chief reported via an emergency radio frequency that police officers had exchanged gunfire with a single group of attackers, killing three and capturing another. The identity of the captured attacker was not disclosed. It was also unknown whether any police officers were wounded or killed in that incident.
Officials in neither Sacramento nor Washington could be reached for comment about the bombings and attacks in San Francisco. A janitor at the state's Office of Diversity and Multicultural Harmony said that although it was "sad," he "just (didn't) care because it doesn't really affect any Americans."
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