Friday, September 22, 2006

Shuttle panic in Mexican village

he Space Shuttle Atlantis's return flight prompted panic in a Mayan village in Mexico, with local residents inundating police with phone calls about a "ball of fire" in the sky and the "sound of an explosion," authorities said.

The emergency calls came in Thursday at about 5:15 am local time (1015 GMT), six minutes before NASA's Atlantis shuttle landed at Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida, some 800 kilometers (497 miles) from Chunes, a small village on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

"They asked us to search the area. A military unit confirmed that no small plane had crashed," said Abraham Oliva, director of public security for the municipality.

It was not until the evening, when authorities saw the television news, that they realized the suspicious sights and sounds had been produced by the shuttle as it streaked overhead, Oliva said.

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