Friday classes canceled after bomb threat at UT Austin

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by MARJORIE OWENS

WFAA

Posted on September 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 15 at 9:58 AM

AUSTIN -  Buildings at the University of Texas at Austin are set to re-open at 5 p.m. after a bomb threat led to an evacuation at the campus this morning.

While classes were canceled for the day, activities were to resume at 5 p.m.

"Through a variety of sources, we are very confident our campus is safe going forward," said William Powers Jr., the president of the university.

Just before 10 a.m., authorities and officials at the university sent out alerts asking people to evacuate buildings and get away from the campus as soon as possible.

"Evacuation due to threats on campus," read a text that officials said went out to over 69,000 people. "Immediately evacuate ALL buildings and get as far away as possible."

An official statement released later by the university read:

At 8:35 a.m. the university received a call from a male with a middle eastern accent claiming to have placed bombs all over campus. He said he was with Al Qaeda and these bombs would go off in 90 minutes. President Powers was notified and it was decided to evacuate all of the buildings out of an abundance of caution.

“We thought the prudent thing to do was evacuate the buildings," Powers said. "We did that through social media, we had sirens."

Officials said they met with the person who took the call and talked with agencies and since no specific area was specified, decided to evacuate the entire campus just before 9:30 a.m.

“We are very confident now, working with state, our officials, federal officials, we can’t go into details … but we are extremely confident that the campus is safe," Powers said. "... We are allowing people back into the buildings; we are ready to resume operations very expeditiously.”

At about 10:45 a.m., UT Austin officials reported that the time mentioned in the threat had passed, but officials were still working on a decision when to resume classes. Meanwhile, crews worked to check and clear buildings. Officials said no bombs were found.

Most students appeared to be leaving campus in an orderly and calm manner. Police blocked off roads to the 50,000-student campus as lines and lines of cars sat in gridlock trying to get out. The Austin Police Department assisted with traffic control.

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.

University officials said they will continue to work on improving the alert and evacuation systems.

"Safety is the first step," Powers said. "Making sure that the inconvenience and disruption to our students and staff, that will be something that we look at next.”

North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani said 20,000 people also were evacuated from his school's main and downtown campuses in Fargo after the school received its bomb threat Friday morning. Officials did not immediately release details about the North Dakota threat and its evacuation remained in place by early afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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