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World/Nation Briefs December 20, 2010

| December 20, 2010 8:00 PM

A Christmas treat: A total lunar eclipse

LOS ANGELES - Weather permitting, sky gazers in North and Central America and a tiny sliver of South America will boast the best seats to this year's only total eclipse of the moon.

The eclipse will happen tonight on the West Coast and during the wee hours Tuesday on the East Coast.

The moon is normally illuminated by the sun. During a total lunar eclipse, the full moon passes through the shadow created by the Earth blocking the sun's light. Some indirect sunlight will still manage to pierce through and give the moon a ghostly color.

Since the eclipse coincides with winter solstice, the moon will appear high in the sky - a boon for skywatchers.

North and Central America should be able to view the entire show, which is expected to last 3 hours if skies are clear. Total eclipse begins at 11:41 p.m. PST tonight or 2:41 a.m. EST Tuesday. The totality phase - when the moon is entirely inside Earth's shadow - will last a little over an hour.

Mexico pipeline blast kills 27

SAN MARTIN TEXMELUCAN, Mexico - A massive oil pipeline explosion lay waste to parts of a central Mexican city Sunday, incinerating people, cars, houses and trees as gushing crude turned streets into flaming rivers. At least 27 people were killed, 12 of them children, in a disaster authorities blamed on oil thieves.

The blast in San Martin Texmelucan, estimated to have affected a three-mile radius, scorched homes and cars and left metal and pavement twisted from the intense heat and in some cases burned to ash.

Relatives sobbed as firefighters pulled charred bodies from the incinerated homes, some of the remains barely more than piles of ashes and bones.

Jose Luis Chavez, 58, who lives 10 blocks from the explosion, said he heard at least two loud booms and saw flames leap more than 30 feet in the air. He said it was as if a bomb had exploded underground.

Aside from the deaths, at least 52 people were hurt and at least 200 were in shelters after fleeing San Martin, which is about 55 miles east of Mexico City.

- The Associated Press

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