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After blast, Texas town looks to week ahead

West, Texas

After blast, looking to week ahead

Four days after a blast that killed 14 people and injured 200 others, residents of West, Texas, on Sunday prayed for comfort and got ready for the week ahead, some of them still waiting to find out when — or if — they will be able to go back home.

The explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. rocketed shrapnel across several blocks and left what Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kirstner described Sunday as "a large crater." A section of the flat farming town near the crater is still behind barricades.

One school campus was obliterated, and on the eve of 1,500 students returning to class for the first time since Wednesday's blast, superintendent Marty Crawford said the high school and middle school could also be razed.

Nearly 70 federal and state investigators are trying to determine what caused the fire that set off the explosion, Kirstner said. Authorities say there are no signs of criminal intent.

Serbia

Approval expected for Kosovo reconciliation

Serbia's ruling parties pledged Sunday to support a landmark agreement to normalize relations with former province Kosovo that could end years of tensions and put both states on a path to European Union membership.

Kosovo, considered by nationalists to be the medieval cradle of the Serbian state and religion, declared independence in 2008. Belgrade has pledged never to recognize the secession.

The EU brokered the tentative deal in Brussels on Friday in talks with the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo. The agreement would give Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership authority over rebel Kosovo Serbs. In return, the minority Serbs would get wide autonomy within Kosovo.

India

Condition improves for girl who was raped

The condition of a 5-year-old girl who was raped, tortured and then left alone in a locked room for two days last week has improved, a doctor said Sunday.

Protests continued in India's capital, New Delhi, over the authorities' handling of the case. A 24-year-old man was arrested.

China

Blackstone founder creates scholarships

A U.S. private equity tycoon announced Sunday the establishment of a $300 million endowed scholarship program in China for students from around the world, and billed it as a rival to the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

Stephen Schwarzman, founder of the private equity firm Blackstone, said he would give $100 million as a personal gift and raise $200 million to endow the Schwarzman Scholars program at Beijing's Tsinghua University. It will be the largest philanthropic gift with foreign money in China's history, he said.

Elsewhere

Syria: Government troops and paramilitaries killed at least 80 people, many of them civilians, in a five-day battle for the Damascus suburb of Jdeidat al Fadel, rebel activists and a pro-rebel group said Sunday.

Paraguay: Paraguayans elected tobacco magnate Horacio Cartes as president Sunday, returning the conservative Colorado Party to the office that it held for 61 years before former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo won the office in 2008.

Times wires

After blast, Texas town looks to week ahead 04/21/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 1:56am]

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