tv CBS Evening News With Katie Couric CBS September 10, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST
why they attacked this fire, why they had to wait in certain cases. that's coming up. answers to that at 6:00 tonight. until then, thanks for watching us at 5:00. good night. >> couric: tonight, scenes from a nightmare. an entire neighborhood near san francisco explodes in flames after a natural gas pipeline breaks. now rescue teams search the rubble for victims. i'm katie couric in los angeles. also tonight, it just keeps getting stranger. that pastor threatening to burn korans makes an ultimatum and now his daughter says she fears he's gone mad. changing the way cancer cells behave. a revolution in the fight against this deadly disease. and you can make a difference in the battle. join us tonight as we stand up to cancer. captioning sponsored by cbs this is the "cbs evening news"
with katie couric reporting tonight from los angeles. >> couric: good evening, everyone. we're here at the sony studios for tonight's special stand up to cancer program. we'll have more about that later. but first, our top story. a deadly disaster that wiped out an entire neighborhood here in california. it was just before 6:30 last evening people in the city of san bruno were just sitting down to dinner. then suddenly, without warning, a tremendous explosion. a natural gas pipeline ruptured, setting off a fire that burned 15 acres and destroyed 38 homes. 24 hours later, firefighters were still trying to contain the flames, rescue teams were searching for victims, and investigators were looking for answers. san bruno is a city of 41,000 in northern california just south of san francisco. look at this. claremont drive before the explosion, and now claremont drive tonight, in ruins. john blackstone is on the scene.
>> reporter: with terrifying suddenness at dinner time, a ten-block area of the suburban neighborhood erupted in walls of fire, flames shooting as high as a thousand feet in the air, explosions rocking the streets as if there'd been an earthquake. >> all of a sudden a real loud boom that shook the house. >> reporter: the heat was so intense several homes imploded as if they'd been dynamited. >> my dad had to open up the garage door and drive the car through the flames to get out. >> reporter: some first thought a plane had crashed into the neighborhood, but it was a gas pipe three feet underground that had ruptured and exploded, leaving a crater 30 feet wide with flames spewing out in every direction. >> we knew it was some kind of gas main because it just kept going. literally a hundred feet flames. it was amazing. the hole in the ground is as big as that intersection right there. it's huge. >> reporter: shortly after the blaze began, pictures showed up on twitter with lines like "it
looks like a bomb went off," and "this was so sad." today at an evacuation shelter, desiree barr found her mother maria who fled as the flames approached her house. did you grow up in the house? >> yes, from ten years old and my dad died in that house and all our memories are there. i saw our house was all flat and i thought she had perished in the fire. >> thank god we're alive. >> reporter: at least four people died in the fire, 50 were hurt with eight in critical condition. 38 homes were destroyed, dozens damaged. 25% of the neighborhood remains too hot and dangerous for firefighters to enter. cadaver dogs have been brought in to search for the missing. >> i hope that there is... are no more bodies to be found, but that's probably wishful thinking. >> reporter: antoinette vacarri and her family tried to see from a hilltop if their home was still standing. >> if you don't smile or laugh you're going to cry. >> reporter: some residents said recently they'd been smelling gas in the neighborhood.
>> the past week or so we've had the really strong smell of gas. >> reporter: had you smelled any gas at all? >> actually, we had, right at that house on the corner that had the beautiful little water fountain which is now all gone. that's where i smelled it. >> reporter: the utility that runs the gas lines to the neighborhood, pacific gas & electric, had one of their pipes explode on christmas eve, 2008, in a sacramento suburb. one man was killed. an investigation found the utility used the wrong pipe in a repair two years earlier. here at the evacuation center, the big question is what caused this high-pressure gas pipeline to explode. the national transportation safety board and state and local officials have begun looking for answers. no word on when these families will be able to return to their homes. katie? >> couric: john blackstone with the latest from san bruno, california. john, thank you. the explosion in san bruno sent shock waves all across the
country felt by anyone who uses natural gas. and this is a lot of people. more than half the homes in this country, in fact-- nearly 60 million-- use natural gas. so how safe is it? here's national correspondent dean reynolds. >> reporter: natural gas is everywhere in this country. it's drawn from huge north american reserves that contain an estimated 100 times the current u.s. annual gas consumption. the gas is transmitd from wells through processing plants where an odor is added to enhance detection. and then distributed by 1,200 local gas utilities to customers nationwide through a delivery system that includes some 1.5 million miles of pipe. it's quite an achievement. but, since 1990, natural gas leaks have been linked to 291 fatalities and almost a billion dollars in property damage. critics say safety regulation and inspection are not up to you have?
federal law requires only 7% of the country's natural gas pipelines be inspected. most residential areas are served by low pressure lines which are not usually marked even though they may be just inches below ground. and there is no law to ensuring that building is done at a safe distance from the gas lines. in oak park, illinois, fireman scott dreyer says homeowners should act quickly at the first scent of trouble. if you smell it, should you call the fire department? >> absolutely. your first course of action should be to call the fire department. >> reporter: inside a house, gas leaks usually come from water heaters, furnaces or stoves. and firefighters use what's called a gas track that identifies leaks. >> if the tip rate increases it will alarm for us and we'll be able to detect the leak. >> reporter: it's a good safety tool to have, especially when you consider that more than 165 million americans use natural gas every single day. dean reynolds, cbs news, chicago
>> couric: now to a story that's dominated the news all week long, that florida ministers on-again/off-again plan to burn the koran to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11. yesterday he said he'd call it off if a new york imam agreed to move a planned islamic center away from ground zero. but kelly cobiella reports a new day brought a strange new turn. >> reporter: after daring to defy the president, top generals, and religious leaders, pastor terry jones now seems to have lost control of the bizarre showdown he set in motion. >> we have a short announcement and a challenge to give to the imam in new york. >> reporter: the pastor appeared with a new ally, dr. k.a. paul, a controversial evangelical christian who challenged the imam planning to build the islamic center near ground zero to arrange a meeting with jones. >> it will give him time until 3:20, next two hours, so that there is no cat-and-mouse game here. >> reporter: the deadline passed with no phone call, just
contradictory statements and confusion. are you adamant this protest will not happen? that you will not burn copies of the koran? >> we are very hopeful that we will be able to meet with the imam. >> reporter: there's no sign the meeting the pastor hopes for will happen. imam rauf feisal said in a statement: >> reporter: in afghanistan, there were new violent demonstrations against jones' threat to burn the koran. at least one man was killed, 11 injured. jihadi web sites are now calling on american muslims to kill jones. "by god, slaughter him" writes one man. jones' estranged daughter emma told german media today she believes her father has gone mad and needs help. the pastor's son luke promises not a single koran will be burned tomorrow. but with so many twists and turns the past four days, police are taking no chances.
>> we have no way of knowing exactly what will show up tomorrow, exactly what will happen here tomorrow. so we have to make sure we are prepared. >> reporter: and police say >> reporter: police are not talking about specifics in rarpdz to security, only say they'll have a large police presence here no matter what jones decides to do, katie? >> couric: kelly cobiella reporting from gainesville, florida, tonight. president obama weighed in on the controversy today at a wide-ranging white house news conference that also focused on the struggling economy. here's chief white house correspondent chip reid. >> reporter: the president today said burning sacred texts of someone else's religion is contrary to what this nation stands for, and he accused pastor jones of jeopardizing the safety of u.s. troops. >> we are saying today riots in kabul that threaten our young men and women in uniform. >> reporter: america, he said, is at war with a small number of violent extremists, not with islam.
>> i've got muslims who are fighting in afghanistan in the uniform of the united states armed services. they're out there putting their lives on the line for us. >> reporter: with the recent polls showing 18% of americans think the president himself is a muslim and only 34% saying he's a christian, he took a moment to set the record straight. >> as somebody who relies heavily on my christian faith in my job... >> reporter: when he addressed the economy, the president shifted into campaign mode. >> if you want the same kind of skewed policies that led us to this crisis, then the republicans are ready to offer that. >> reporter: he argued that he's fighting for the middle class while republicans have a very different agenda. >> they're insisting we've got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires to
the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire. >> reporter: before the president even finished speaking, house republican leader john boehner fired off an angry statement accusing the president of "half-hearted proposals and full-throated political attacks" that boehner said won't do anything to create jobs. katie? >> couric: chip reid at the white house tonight. chip, thanks very much. now, in the past, the anniversary of september 11 has been marked by somber ceremonies free of politics. but in new york tomorrow, they could be overshadowed by protests. elaine, even the families of 9/11 victims are divided on this. >> reporter: that's exactly right, katie. for the families of september 11 victims, each anniversary brings pain. but this year, the politically charged fight over the proposed site behind me here of an islamic cultural center and mosque is bringing new heartache and division.
jim riches and donna marsh- o'connor share a terrible bond. riches lost his son jimmy, a firefighter, in the september 11 attacks. >> we carried his body out, march 25, 2002. we go back down to the same spot where he breathed his last breath. >> reporter: donna marsh- o'connor understands that anguish. she lost her daughter vanessa who was four months pregnant. >> i honor 9/11 families and their pain. i feel it all the time. >> reporter: but their grief has taken them in opposite directions. tomorrow, riches plans to protest the proposed islamic cultural center and mosque. >> i feel that my son can't speak for himself and i have that to speak out for him. we have to let america know and let everyone know, peacefully and the right way, that we would like the location of the mosque moved. >> reporter: donna marsh- o'connor plans to stay at home. she believes the islamic center site should not be moved. >> i don't want to live in an islamophobic america. i am not afraid of my neighbors. i don't want to be afraid of my neighbors.
>> reporter: tomorrow, thousands of protesters and hundreds of police officers will be on hand here. at least six demonstrations both for and against the cultural center are planned. >> couric: elaine quijano. thank you very much, elaine. in other news tonight, iran has postponed the release of an american woman who's been held on spy charges. yesterday the iranians said 31-year-old sarah shourd would be released on saturday. but today the chief prosecutor in tehran said the legal process has not been completed. shourd and two friend were arrested last year while hiking along the iran/iraq border. here at home, the medal of honor is this nation's highest military honor, awarded to those who risk their lives beyond the call of duty. today the white house said army staff sergeant salvatore junta will become the first living recipient from one of the current wars. three years ago, junta's platoon was ambushed in afghanistan.
he took a bull throat the chest but was saved by his body armor. then wounded and under enemy fire he pulled a fellow soldier to safety and rescued a second who had been carried away by insurgents. junta, 25 years old from hiawatha, iowa, is still serving in the army in italy. and still ahead here on the "cbs evening news," an unprecedented ending to the broadcast tonight. and for a very good cause: stand up to cancer. but up next, an exciting new way to fight cancer and it's already producing dramatic results. [ lisa ] my name's lisa, and i smoked for 29 years. the one thing about smoking -- is it dominates your life, and it dominated mine. i honestly loved smoking, and i honestly didn't think i would ever quit. ♪ it was very interesting that you could smoke on the first week. [ male announcer ] chantix is a non-nicotine pill
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quite possibly the world's smartest crossover. >> couric: back now in los angeles. we're here tonight, cbs and the other major networks will bring you the second stand up to cancer telethon, raising money for battle against a disease that has touched virtually every family in america. the $100 million you know dated in 2008 is already at work. it's being used to put together dream teams of doctors-- the best minds from institutions that normally compete against each other are instead working together on cutting-edge research. dr. jon lapook tells us about a revolutionary approach to stopping cancer in its tracks that's being funded by your donations. >> reporter: 59-year-old jerry morton dreamed of spending time with his grandson after a career fighting fires.
then lung cancer. >> non-cell cancer, stage four havment that means it already metastasized. >> reporter: his doctor told him cancer had spread to his liver. >> i said "how many years?" he said "i wouldn't think years, i would think months." >> reporter: after three rounds of chemotherapy failed, morton signed up for an experimental treatment at johns hopkins, using epigenetic cancer treatments to treat lung cancer. it influences how your genome behaves. it acts as a switch that turns genes on or off. in cases of lung cancer, the hope is an epigenetic drug can activate a gene that switches off that tumor. >> it's an explosion in science. and it's so relevant to cancer. >> reporter: this is a vial of lung cancer cells, this is the drug. the difference with epigeneral net i can therapy is instead of trying to kill the cancer cells they try to change their behavior so they don't act like cancer. to develop this new approach,
stand up to cancer awarded more than $9 million to a team led by johns hopkins dr. steven by alen and u.s.c.'s dr. peter jones. they believe reprogramming rather than poisoning cells will be less toxic to patients. what evidence do we have this treatment is working? >> he has a big mass in his lung here. it's gone 18 months after he started the treatment. he has a big hole in his liver here. it's also gone. >> reporter: jerry morton's response was dramatic, but this research is just beginning. >> some of these may be the bad-acting proteins. >> reporter: in a small trial, about 30% of patients had real benefit. >> there's nothing growing. i'm doing good. (laughs) feeling good and starting to get back to normal. >> reporter: where does this stand? >> i have huge hope and excitement with caution. that's where we are. >> reporter: morton's 12-year-old grandson tommy is just beginning to understand epigenetics and cancer. you're not killing the cancer cell, you're taking him, you're
fiddling around with him, and you're turning him into a cell that's a lot more normal with a lotless collateral damage. got it? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: make sense? >> yeah. >> reporter: what the family knows for sure is more time with grandpa. >> i don't think dying scared me as much as leaving. leaving my wife, we've been married 41 years. my kids, my grandson. don't want to leave them yet. i'm not ready to give it up. >> reporter: neither is this research team and it's now expanding trials to include breast and colon cancer. dr. jon lapook, baltimore, maryland. [ male announcer ] if you've had a heart attack caused by a completely blocked artery,
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>> couric: a tiny italian village is covered in mud tonight after a river burst its banks during heavy rain. you can see the mud flowing through the streets of atrani on the amalfi coast. it buried cars and filled the town square. one woman was reported missing, possibly swept away. the cleanup could take weeks. in wisconsin, a bank robbery turned into a brawl when a citizen hero jumped in. surveillance video show it had
masked robber confronting a tell we are a gun then suddenly being tackled from behind by a bank customer. after a struggle, the robber escaped but with no money and no one was hurt. my dad will like this one. a firm hand shake may be a sign of a long life. that's the conclusion of a british study of elderly people. it found death rates much lower among people with the strongest grip. other signs of longevity include walking fast, getting up quickly from a chair and being able to balance on one leg. now this broadcast has been on the air for more than 62 years, but we've never had an ending quite like the one that's coming up next. ♪ [ male announcer ] an everyday moment can turn romantic anytime. . .
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program that airs tonight, that's 8:00 p.m. eastern and pacific, 7:00 central time is really a celebration of all that we can achieve together. >> and it will give new hope to the 1.4 million americans diagnosed with cancer every year. >> and let's not forget the almost 13 million people who are living with it right now. so be part of this movement... >> couric: ...as we fight a disease that's taken far too many people we love far too soon. >> please join us tonight as the three of us and the entire nation share one common goal. >> let's all stand up to cancer. >> and we'll see you soon. >> couric: good night. captioning sponsored by cbs captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
i'm dana king. how did this happen? that remains the your realtime captioner is linda marie macdonald. caption colorado, l.l.c. 24 hours the explosion seen across the bay area, the stories of survival. >> i turned the other way, and i started running up the hill. next thing i know, my feet, my shoes are melting. >> the investigation. >> pg&e notified us about a year ago that they were going to test all of the gas lines. >> the outpouring of help. >> for me, it was the very least that i can do. >> and the neighborhood that will never be the same. >> part of me least to catch the bus on the corner that's not there anymore. good evening, i'm dana king. how did this happen? that's the big question tonight as an entire neighborhood tries to