NM evacuees allowed home

Some 1,200 evacuees in Carlsbad, N.M., were allowed to return home.

BY SUSAN KIM | CARLSBAD, N.M. | March 15, 2004

Some 1,200 evacuees in Carlsbad, N.M., have been allowed to return home after four days out.

Fog had been preventing crews from capping a well that had been spewing natural gas since Thursday, when oil drillers accidentally hit the well.

City authorities evacuated some 1,200 people from 426 homes, four motels and several small businesses.

The accident occurred at an oil well drilling site. A crew of specialists from Midland, Texas, capped the well, and initially city officials had estimated the evacuation could last anywhere from one to four days.

Carlsbad is located about 30 miles north of the Texas border in southeastern New Mexico.

Several residents inhaled fumes before the evacuation and were treated by local medical teams.

Many evacuees stayed at the Carlsbad civic center, and the city also issued vouchers for residents to stay at local hotels.

The Salvation Army also helped to meet people's emergency needs.

Several local churches reported housing a few evacuees, and others reported they would open their doors if needed.

The Rev. Sam Lanham, pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, said the evacuated area was in an industrial area in the southern part of town. "I think it has really affected the poorer folks in town," he said, concerned that if the evacuation lasted for several days it could lead to economic hardship for some families.

There were no injuries reported.

Carlsbad Mayor Bob Forrest said the city would investigate the accident and would revisit its ordinances on drilling.

The drilling rig is owned by Houston-based Chi Operating Inc.

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