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3 missing as Texas fireworks warehouse explodes

An explosion rocked a warehouse full of fireworks in this small Texas town Thursday, destroying the building with three people inside, authorities said.

The three workers were missing Thursday evening, Kilgore Mayor Joe Parker said. At least five people were hurt.

"It's pretty bad," he said. "We've got houses in the neighborhood damaged, people out of their houses, and we're still fighting a fire although we've got the explosives contained, we believe."

The blast destroyed the offices of Lamb Entertainment near downtown Kilgore, a small town about 115 miles southeast of Dallas. The company was preparing for a fireworks show in Kilgore today.

"There was a hell of a boom that I wondered if somebody ran into the side of the building. The floors shook and everything," said Jay Pemberton, who works at KTPB radio in Kilgore. "The walls, everything. It just vibrated the heck out of everything."

"It was bad, people were all running scared. This is a small town. This never happens here," said Justin Singh, owner of a convenience store a half mile from the warehouse.

Marti Mason, an administrative assistant with the Kilgore Police Department, said police evacuated an area around the explosion covering several blocks.

Bob Ellzey, chief executive officer of Laird Memorial Hospital in Kilgore, said the five injuries were mostly cuts and scrapes. But he said the extent of injuries was not known.

"Emergency workers are combing the area, but we've not gotten any assessment of any injuries out there, so we're kind of in a waiting mode right now."

Tropical storm remnants move into Virginia

RALEIGH, N.C. _ The remnants of Tropical Storm Bill moved from North Carolina into Virginia on Thursday after spawning tornadoes and pushing some swollen lakes over their banks.

Several counties in both states were under flood warnings Thursday morning.

In North Carolina, a 10-year-old boy drowned in a rain-swollen creek, and at least three tornadoes touched down. No injuries were reported from the twisters in the eastern half of the state.

Tornadoes in four counties caused minor property damage, turning a tree over onto a house near Fayetteville.

Average teacher salary now $44,400, survey says

WASHINGTON _ The average teacher salary hit almost $44,400 last year, according to a survey by the American Federation of Teachers.

That salary reflected a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year. New teachers were paid an average salary of $30,719, up 3.2 percent.

The figures were for the 2001-02 school year, the most recent available.

The better salaries for the first-time teachers and a slow job market in fields outside teaching helped shrink a national teacher shortage, the survey reports. But state financial woes have slowed pay raises in education. Significant teacher shortages remain in such fields as math, physics, biology and Spanish.

California had the highest average teacher salary at $54,348. South Dakota had the lowest average salary at $31,383.

Online World War II registry created

WASHINGTON _ Americans who served in World War II or supported the war effort at home can add their names to an online registry at www.WWIImemorial.com.

Organized by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Web-based list is an effort to extend recognition to as many as 16-million Americans who served in uniform during the Second World War. It is being launched almost a year before the dedication of the first national monument to World War II veterans, slated for May 29, 2004 _ Memorial Day weekend _ on the National Mall.

The registry is open not only to veterans, but to "any American that served in the armed forces or contributed to the war effort on the home front, whether in factories and shipyards or farms and neighborhoods," the commission said.

Sniper developments . . .

DELAY SOUGHT FOR BOOK: Attorneys for sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad asked a federal judge Thursday to delay the release of a book by the former police chief in charge of the manhunt, saying the account will cause a media "feeding frenzy" and prejudice jurors.

In a request filed in federal court, attorney Thomas Mann said former Montgomery County police Chief Charles Moose has "strategically planned the launch of his book just prior to Muhammad's trial in an attempt to obtain as much money as possible from the results of his official investigation."

Moose's book, Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper, is due to be released Sept. 15, according to a listing on Amazon.com.

GUN LICENSE REVOKED: A federal agency revoked the license of the Tacoma, Wash., gun dealers whose shop supplied the rifle said to have been used in last fall's Washington area sniper shootings.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it took the action against the owners of Bull's Eye Shooter Supply after a lengthy investigation of the shop's business dealings.

Elsewhere . . .

SPITTING EARNS LIFE SENTENCE: A rapist has been sentenced to life in prison for spitting on a police officer.

Creek County, Okla., Associate District Judge April Sellers White followed the recommendation of a jury for the maximum sentence against John Marquez under a law that makes it a felony to place bodily fluids on law enforcement officers.

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