Series of blasts forces residents to evacuate

More than 1,000 residents of a rural New Mexico county were briefly ordered to evacuate on Tuesday following a series of explosions and a major fire at a biofuels plant, county officials said.

The evacuation orders were issued after the blasts were reported shortly before 10 a.m. local time, Dona Ana County officials said.

Those orders were lifted several hours later, after firefighters contained the blaze, and residents were being escorted back to their homes as hazardous materials experts inspected the site, officials said.

The cause of the explosions and fire was under investigation. The Rio Valley Biofuels plant in Anthony, about 20 miles north of El Paso, was known to have large quantities of methanol, glycerin and sodium methylate as well as vegetable oil, hydrochloric acid and biodiesel fuel.

— Reuters

Conviction is costly for former mayor

A federal judge says that former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin will have to pay the government more than $501,000 as a result of his conviction on bribery and other charges.

U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan issued the forfeiture order Tuesday. Nagin was convicted in February on 20 counts including bribery, fraud, money laundering and conspiracy during his two terms as mayor. He served from 2002 to 2010.

Prosecutors say Nagin received more than $501,000 in money, goods and services from businessmen in exchange for lucrative city work. Nagin’s attorney says the amount should be less because Nagin shared liability with others.

Nagin is set to be sentenced June 11, but he is seeking a delay. The charges carry maximum sentences ranging from three to 20 years.

— Associated Press

Search for missing ranchers is called off

The search for three ranchers who disappeared after a huge mudslide in a remote part of western Colorado was called off Tuesday as authorities turned their attention toward monitoring for another potential slide.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said the slide remained too unstable to continue looking for the men.

The three men were checking on problems with an irrigation ditch caused by an initial slide Sunday when a large chunk of a ridge broke off, sending soggy earth spilling like wet cement for three miles.

The slide is about three-quarters of a mile across and several hundred feet deep at the center.

A depression created by the slide has been filling up with spring runoff since Sunday’s big slide, and it is unclear whether it will be able to contain all of it.

Hilkey has said the slide most likely was triggered by runoff from Grand Mesa — one of the world’s largest flat-topped mountains — following two days of strong rain.

— Associated Press

Bush has knee surgery: Former president George W. Bush had a partial knee replacement in Chicago on Saturday and returned to Dallas on Monday, his spokesman, Freddy Ford, said Tuesday. Ford said in an e-mail that Bush was “doing great” and was able to “get up, walk around, and go up and down stairs just a couple hours after the procedure,” and that he is “at home recovering quickly.” Bush is known as a fitness buff. Since leaving the White House, Bush has hosted an annual 100-kilometer mountain bike ride in which he rides along with those injured in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He participated in the ride earlier this month at his Crawford ranch. Bush had a heart procedure to ease a blocked artery in August.

— Associated Press