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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Governor George Pataki

Aired February 21, 2003 - 12:32   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Actually, we do have Governor George Pataki of New York on the phone. Governor, thanks so much for joining us. What can you tell us about the latest on this Staten Island fire?
GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, NEW YORK: Well, most of the spill occurred over water, so the lead in the jurisdiction is with the federal agencies, the Coast Guard and the EPA, but the city has the finest emergency management team in the country, and they have been activated, and the state is supporting them, and we're just hopeful that we can deal with this fire in a way that allows the people of Staten Island to return to their normal lives relatively quickly.

BLITZER: Do we know how this fire started, Governor?

PATAKI: I don't know at this point the specifics, but the preliminary indications are that it's not expected to have involved any sort of terrorist activity. It is simply an accident that happened, but of course, the office of homeland security will do an investigation, but at this point I'm unaware of any indication that it's anything other than an accident that occurred.

BLITZER: Just a simple accident, no foul play, obviously, short of terrorism, but no foul play as far as you can tell at this moment?

PATAKI: No indication at this point, and people don't think that's the case, but of course, there will be a complete investigation just to make sure.

BLITZER: Obviously, our worst fears immediately sprung to mind when we saw those pictures, as I'm sure yours did as well, given the history of New York City, but fortunately, it doesn't look like it was anything along the lines of terrorism.

Governor, the whole reaction, how did the community, the firefighters, law enforcement react, the initial sense that you get?

PATAKI: The sense that I get from -- I talked with the mayor and talked with the borough president and some of the other officials was that everybody just came together right away, and said, My God, we have a major, major fire here, and we have got to go fight it. I could have been -- and hopefully it won't get far worse, but it could have been far worse because it is adjacent to some tanks that -- and with the tremendous heat, there was concern that those tanks could catch, but the people of New York have tremendous spirit and tremendous capability, and the people, the first responders were out there immediately, making sure they did everything to prevent the fire from spreading. The people of Staten Island respond, understanding that the goal here is to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we also had certain ability to respond quickly, like right now our National Guard civilian support team is out there doing air quality monitoring. They wouldn't have been in New York City but for code orange, So New York is as prepared and as -- to deal with whether it's a natural occurrence or whether it is just an accident as we believe at this point is the case with the Staten Island ferry. New York is as well prepared as you can possibly be to respond to anything.

BLITZER: So some spillover benefit from going up from yellow to orange, from elevated to high in that the fire fighters, the first responders were much better prepared. Is that what you're suggesting, governor?

PATAKI: Well, I think they were well prepared before, but I think everybody is at a heightened level of alert, not just in New York but across the country. And so, when there is an incident, whether it is an accident, natural disaster -- when you have those first responders that are so well trained, so ready to go, it allows you to get on top of things a lot quicker than may otherwise have been the case.

BLITZER: And I know, Governor, you've been briefed. The latest information you have on injuries?

PATAKI: Well, I do have some tentative information, but it's very tentative, and I don't want to speculate until we have more hard facts, Wolf.

BLITZER: As of this point, no fatalities, is that fair to say?

PATAKI: I just don't want to comment until we have harder information as to whether or not everyone has been accounted for.

BLITZER: Well, that is fair enough. Governor George Pataki, thanks for taking a few moments, sharing some insight with us. Governor George Pataki, the governor of New York state.

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