Spanish town still haunted by its brush with Armageddon

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PALOMARES, Spain: The rest of the world has mostly forgotten, but the brush with nuclear Armageddon is seared on the minds of locals here and still niggles, 42 years later.

On the morning of Jan. 17, 1966, a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber returning from a routine Cold War alert mission exploded during airborne refueling, sending its cargo of B28 hydrogen bombs plummeting toward earth. One went into the azure waters of the Mediterranean and three others fell around this poor farming village, about 200 kilometers, or 125 miles, east of Granada.

Seven crew members on the air force planes perished in the fireball, while four parachuted to safety. No one on the ground was killed. The nuclear warheads, many times more powerful than those that fell on Hiroshima, did not go off - exactly....

But the past has resurfaced literally with recent findings of unusually radioactive snails and the confiscation of fresh tracts of land for additional testing and cleanup. Not exactly a selling point for the melons and tomatoes still grown in large-scale, plastic-covered greenhouses nearby, much less a carefree life by the sea.

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