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Chemicals Possible Cause of Manhattan Explosion

Aired April 25, 2002 - 13:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Want to get back to the streets of Chelsea again in Manhattan. Brian Palmer now joins us live with what he has learned from the scene there about two and a half hours ago. Again, an explosion rips through the streets of Chelsea. The numbers we have, at least 50 injured, six critically. To Brian now on the streets. Brian, good afternoon.

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Bill. We just got an update from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He tells us that up to 10 people are critically injured in this explosion, 30 people not injured as badly. So far, the fire department and the mayor saying it is not a suspicious explosion. They believe it was caused by volatile chemicals being used by a company in that building.

So, of the injured, those 30 people who aren't injured that seriously, the 10 people critically injured. The mayor saying about the critically injured people, it is too soon to tell whether all of those people will pull through. They have been taken to four area hospitals here in Manhattan.

It was originally reported that there might have been a boiler explosion in the building, but according to the mayor and according to the fire commissioner, those boilers have been inactive for a while leading them to suspect the volatile chemicals -- Bill.

HEMMER: Brian, do we know what the chemicals were being used for? We know the company makes signs itself and there is apparently some production going on there. Did they give a better description to you?

PALMER: Exactly, Bill. We are told that there is a sign-making company inside the building and that those chemicals are routinely used for etching. But again, the fire department, the police department, the fire marshals are investigating to determine what exactly caused that explosion.

HEMMER: And just to make sure we are on the same page, Brian, many times the numbers can change quite frequently. The numbers you have on the injured, again, stand at what?

PALMER: The most recent numbers that we got in this press conference from Mayor Bloomberg: Ten people critically injured, 30 people injured not as seriously -- Bill.

HEMMER: OK. How is the scene now? We are told about an hour ago things were winding down. What is your gauge of the scene there?

PALMER: OK. Bill, you are going to have to repeat yourself. I have got some traffic going back.

HEMMER: I clearly understand. How is the scene now? We were told an hour ago that things were winding down and clearing out.

PALMER: Well, the triage situation is over. Thankfully, they've cleared the wounded out. Apparently the building is completely evacuated as of now. That's according to the fire commissioner. He says the building is evacuated as far as they know it.

But there are many, many, many emergency services personnel still doing what they do at the scene. You've got fire department, police department, then you also have people from the Electrical Authority and from various other departments who take care of New York's infrastructure, looking into what caused this explosion.

HEMMER: And, Brian, did the mayor say what the injuries were most afflicted by, was what? Were they burns or was it other things, cuts?

PALMER: That's a very good question, Bill. That is a question that we tossed to the mayor. He says the most serious injuries now are in fact burns, burns from that explosion.

HEMMER: OK. And I don't want to put you on the spot here, but I just want to know. Have they detailed at all what type of chemicals are being used in that basement, Brian?

PALMER: We asked the mayor repeatedly. We asked the fire commissioner. And they wouldn't, at that moment, tell us what chemicals that were involved yet. Again, they are still investigating. That information could come out any minute.

HEMMER: You got it. Brian, thank you. And, again, thanks for hanging in there too. There are a lot of things we don't know at this point. You guys are doing a great job. Keep it up. Brian Palmer on the streets of Manhattan right near that Chelsea scene.

As Brian mentioned, 10 people now injured critically, 30 others injured as well, not nearly as severe. A number of those people we do know have been taken to area hospitals there. Chemicals apparently now being fingered as the cause of that explosion in Chelsea.

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