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We Don't Want to Die' - Tornadoes Hit Fort Worth

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - After hustling his frantic customers down 35 floors, Sean Finley described the tornado that struck his high-rise restaurant this way: "Imagine a large bomb going off."

Two tornadoes roared through Fort Worth shortly after the evening rush hour Tuesday, overturning cars and sending broken glass and debris raining onto city streets.

Four people were killed in the storms and more than 100 injured. Dozens of people were homeless today and some 30,000 across one of the state's largest metropolitan areas remained without power.

Authorities closed off the central business district and urged people who work downtown to stay home.

Mayor Kenneth Barr said rescuers would continue to go floor-by-floor through buildings looking for victims and to assess damage and safety. They had the aid of the Texas Urban Search Rescue Team, created after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to respond to catastrophes.

Preliminary searches found no other victims, "but we want to be sure," city spokeswoman Pat Svacina said.

The crash of glass breaking could be heard in the downtown area early today as workers began pushing pieces of windows out of their frames.

"Our biggest concern is getting the glass out of these tall buildings. That stuff, if it starts falling and we get winds here, it becomes flying objects," Svacina said.

Two people died in one of the tornadoes, said Lt. Kent Worley, a fire department spokesman. One was crushed inside a collapsed building, and another was hit by flying debris.

Strong winds blew two other people from their car into the Trinity River. Worley said they were missing and presumed dead. No names were released.

The storms struck shortly after 6 p.m., with one tornado churning to the north and the other through downtown Fort Worth, a city of 480,000 some 30 miles west of Dallas.

"The wind was blowing so fast and all the people were shouting, 'We don't want to die, we don't want to die,'" said Sanu Piya, a worker at Star City Fina gas station and convenience store, who huddled with others inside the downtown store as the tornado passed.

Finley said the storms destroyed Reata, a popular restaurant he managed on the top floor of the 35-story Bank One building.

"It got pretty hectic in here," said owner Mike Evans, who helped patrons and employees hurry down the stairs to safety. "We were doing some major yelling to get people out of there."

Robert and Wendi Sparlins were eating dinner downtown to celebrate their second wedding anniversary.

"The windows starting popping, people were running trying to get under the table," Sparlins said. "I saw a chair in the straight line winds going down the street."

One side of the Calvary Cathedral International suffered major damage. Pastor Bob Nichols said his damaged church looks like it had been "in a war zone."

About 175 people stayed the night at an American Red Cross shelter at Will Rogers Coliseum, most of them elderly, manager Richard Fall said. The American Red Cross also set up shelters at in Grand Prairie and River Oaks. Police said 82 people in Arlington were left homeless.

Jeffery Moore, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth, said another round of severe weather was possible today.

"This is spring in Texas. Unfortunately, spring in Texas means we do have a chance for severe weather all too often," he said.

AP-ES-03-29-00 0832EST


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