POSTED: 5:23 a.m. HST, Sep 14, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 6:36 a.m. HST, Sep 14, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas » Thousands of people streamed off the University of Texas campus today after a phoned-in bomb threat prompted an evacuation of all buildings and officials warned students and faculty to "get as far away as possible." No bombs had been found by midmorning.
The university received a call about 8:35 a.m. from a man claiming to be with al-Qaida who said he had placed bombs all over the 50,000-student Austin campus, according to University of Texas spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon. He claimed the bombs would go off in 90 minutes and all buildings were evacuated at 9:50 a.m. as a precaution, Weldon said.
North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., also ordered a campus evacuation after a morning bomb threat, but it was unclear whether the two threats were related. NDSU issued a statement shortly before 10 a.m. telling all employees and students to leave 14,000-student campus within a half-hour.
In Texas, police blocked off roads heading in to the UT campus as lines of cars sat in gridlock trying to get out. As a text message alert went out, sirens blared for about five or 10 minutes. Students said they were directed off campus by university staff.
"One of them said to me 'get off this campus as soon as possible,'" said Elizabeth Gerberich, an 18-year-old freshman from New Jersey.
The university issued another advisory by 10:30 a.m. saying buildings still were being checked and no decision had been made about whether the campus would reopen for afternoon classes.
Ashley Moran, a freshman from Houston, said she was waiting to get into class when word quickly began spreading among students to leave immediately. She described the evacuation as "orderly but tense."
"It makes me really nervous I just know we're supposed to get out," she said.
With rain falling, students stood under awnings and overhangs or went inside stores and coffee shops to wait out the alert and said despite the uncertainty, the atmosphere was mostly calm.
Associated Press writer Ashley M. Heher contributed to this report from Chicago.