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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Nightclub Inferno: News Conference

Aired February 24, 2003 - 12:40   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Rhode Island, where the governor of Rhode Island is speaking to reporters about that tragic nightclub fire last Thursday night.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. DON CARCIERI, RHODE ISLAND: ... and that site when he stood on the rubble of the World Trade towers.

So he very much understands the emotional aspect of this. He was very complimentary in the way he felt that as a state, we were handling this. With many people around the country and the world watching he felt that we were handing it very well, and assured me that they're going to try and do what they can to help us. I would say he had the great balance of what you would expect having been through it, understanding the human side.

But then reassured me, as we all up here know and so many other people, at the same time, we have a job to do, which is to do every aspect of this in terms of the identification that you know I'm focusing on, the investigation, all the different parts of this thing.

So in that regard, I should report that we have filed a letter asking him for a declaration of disaster, and that has been received. We just got confirmation that was received. He was aware yesterday that both Senator Reed and I spoke with Andy Card, and he was fully aware that this morning, that Andy Card is looking at it, and they want to do what they can to help us, recognizing the kind of uniqueness of our situation.

Secondly, I want to come back -- I spent last night and this morning visiting two of our area hospitals, visited Rhode Island Hospital with my wife, Sue, Last night, and then we're at Kent County Hospital. Rhode Island has 34 patients there.

And I have to say as they went around the hospital just complimenting on the work that's being done, the reaction of the medical community to what they were faced with in those early hours and dealing with the influx of people that needed attention was just extraordinary. You can't imagine 187 people presenting themselves to hospitals in our state. And so the professionalism, the compassion, I know at Both Rhode island and at Kent, and I'm sure all the other hospitals. They brought in extra teams, they brought in nurses, because many of these patients require a lot of attention.

As I reported, at Rhode Island, 24 of those patients are still considered to be in critical condition. Many in the vast majority of those are intubated, which means they need breathing assistance. So these are sick patients that are getting wonderful, wonderful care, not only medical care, but emotional as well.

The stories that you would hear, just what you would expect. I think myself, I did not sort of anticipate that what we have is a number of situations. I just came from meeting with families before. A number of situations where we have families that have both situations. They're missing a family member, and at the same time, there's either another family member or an in-law that's in the hospital.

So we've got vigils going on at hospitals, as well as a vigil going on, if you will, at the Crown Plaza. So you can appreciate the enormity of the emotional impact on these families. As I walk through the hospitals, talked to the family last night, I have to say that most of the people that I saw at Kent County were less severe, which was good news. Many stories related as to how they got out of there, and the miracle that many of them got out of that building.

BLITZER: Governor Don Carcieri, the governor of Rhode Island, updating reporters on the latest of the aftermath of the tragic fire at that nightclub in Rhode Island last Thursday night, 97 people now confirmed dead.

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