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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Rescuers struggle at Pentagon
Pentagon building on fire
Between 100 and 800 people may have been killed
Search efforts are continuing at the Pentagon in Washington which was partly destroyed by one of the hijacked planes in Tuesday's terror attacks.

The numbers [of casualties] will be calculated and it will not be a few

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rescue officials say it is not clear how many people died, although Pentagon officials say earlier estimates of up to 800 are too high.

After more than 24 hours, the fires - at least those visible from outside - have been extinguished, and four rescue teams are now working their way through the debris.

There is a stark hole in the west of the building where the passenger jet flew directly into the massive complex, and away from the immediate devastation, the walls are black with soot, the windows shattered and empty.

Open for business

Despite the damage and predicted casualties, the massive building - the heart of US military operation - reopened, interrupted briefly by another brief evacuation as rumours of further attacks circulated.

Washington monument
Roads leading to the Pentagon were blocked off
Half the structure is reportedly safe for use.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Pentagon officials were contacting people in their departments to determine who was missing.

"The numbers will be calculated and it will not be a few," he said.

World's largest office building

More than 20,000 civilian and military personnel work in the Pentagon, the world's largest office building.

All of a sudden we felt the rumble and we heard the boom and we knew that something very significant had happened

Pentagon eyewitness

Officials said it was difficult to say how many people were at work in the section hit by the plane because of recent renovations.

Arlington County Fire Chief Edward Plaugher, who is coordinating the firefighting operation at the Pentagon, told reporters it would take "many, many days" to search for survivors and recover the bodies of the dead.

One officials has said around 80 bodies have so far been pulled from the wreckage, but there has been no official confirmation.


The rescue teams are working slowly through the debris, faced with what the fire department calls "widow-makers" - overhanging beams and slabs of masonry that could topple at any time.

One team is inspecting the wreckage from a basket suspended from a huge crane.

A commander on the defence staff inside the Pentagon, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he and colleagues were watching the attack on the World Trade Centre on television when they realised that their own workplace had come under attack.

"All of a sudden we felt the rumble and we heard the boom and we knew that something very significant had happened," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It was almost like you were in a movie, and you were watching these panic scenes that you see in a movie happening before your eyes."

Mobile phone call

The plane used in the attack was American Airlines Flight 77 that took off from Washington's Dulles Airport bound for Los Angeles before being diverted.

It carried 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots.

One passenger on the plane rang her husband on her mobile phone to say that hijackers armed with knives had taken over the controls and had herded the passengers and crew, including the pilot, to the back of the plane.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack on the Pentagon or for those on the World Trade Center.

The BBC's Jon Leyne
"This is where they will have to work on any military response"
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