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Interview With Michael Bloomberg

Aired August 14, 2003 - 16:53   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, ANCHOR: I'm told we have Mayor Bloomberg on the line with us.
Sir, I appreciate you coming on with CNN. What can you tell us, sir?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: (NO AUDIO) Niagara Falls, probably a natural occurrence, which disrupted the power system up there, and it apparently, for reasons that we don't yet know, cascaded down through New York state over into Connecticut, as far south as New Jersey and as far west as Ohio.

The good news is that the -- in New York City, while we've lost all the power, Con Ed's facilities have shut down automatically, which is what they're programmed to do. And people that saw black smoke coming out of the smokestacks at 14th Street, that is a natural thing that should have happened, and it did happen exactly as planned so that no damage was done to the Con Ed facilities.

At the moment, we don't know when Con Ed can start to power up again. But it clearly will take some time. And they'll have to wait to see what happens upstate.

So our advice to people is to go home. When you get home, make sure you open your windows, because it is very hot out and we don't want anybody to suffer from the heat. Drink a lot of liquids.

The police department will be out on corners throughout the city to direct traffic, because we don't have traffic lights. The MTA is safely and calmly evacuating people from the subways. But we are going to have a situation where a lot of people are going to have to walk a long-distance, and it is very hot, so they should be very careful.

PHILLIPS: So Mayor, let me just confirm that we did talk with a New York state official saying the Niagara Mohawk Power grid has become overloaded. Is that true?

BLOOMBERG: We have heard the same thing. But we'll have to talk to Niagara Mohawk Power, and they'll have to see. What we know here in the city and what Con Ed knows -- and I've been on the phone with Gene McGrath, the chairman of Con Ed. I've talked to the fire commissioner -- is here. Extensive talks with the police commissioner.

Everything is calm in this city. The New York City power grid was not damaged when it shut down as it should. It cannot function without outside power. And so it did exactly what it's supposed to do.

But the bad news is for the moment, we do not have power. And I think the likely expectation is a few hours at a very minimum and maybe well into the evening before power comes back on. So people should go home or stay with friends if they live far outside the city.

PHILLIPS: Mayor, you sound so calm. And, of course, that's exactly what people want to hear right now. But we can't help but wonder what's happening here. We look at these pictures and see thousands of people out on the streets of New York right now.

BLOOMBERG: What you can see -- I can tell you what's happening. You see what happens every time there's a crisis in New York City. People are coming together. They're helping each other. They're behaving maturely and calmly, and they are dealing with something that, let us all hope and pray, does not hurt anybody.

Inconvenience is one thing, but loss of life is what we want to prevent at all costs. The hospitals seem to be fine. There's no evidence that anybody -- any hospital doesn't have the power they need on an emergency basis to continue an in-process operation or monitoring devices that they need for people that are seriously hurt or ill. And as long as that continues, we'll be fine.

PHILLIPS: Mayor, can you tell us for sure, 100 percent, that this is not an act of terrorism?

BLOOMBERG: I can tell you 100 percent sure that there is no evidence at this moment whatsoever that there is any terrorism. But keep in mind, this did start up in Canada. And so we'll really have to depend on the information that we get from Niagara Mohawk Power or one of our other power companies up there.

But in terms of New York City, there is no terrorism whatsoever. The fire department reports there are no major fires. I'm sure you will have the normal things that go on in a big city every day.

But when you have a situation like this with people in the streets, people tend to be careful, and people tend to behave. So in a situation like this, we would expect very low or virtually no crime. We'd expect everybody to be on the streets and work together.

PHILLIPS: And Mayor, and, of course, everybody we know, that will happen. We saw it even happen on September 11, where people bonded together and helped each other.

BLOOMBERG: Tragically, you're right, we've had experience before.

PHILLIPS: Now, emergency management, there's been so much talk in the past couple of years about preparation for something like this.

BLOOMBERG: The emergency management center is open. They're going through their normal procedures. We're making sure that hospitals and police facilities and jails and the normal things that the city has to worry about are all getting what they need to function. They all have emergency plans. And as of this moment, everything is going according to plan.

Is it an inconvenience to people? Yes. Our great fear is that people will, with this heat, not drink enough water or will overtax themselves out on the streets. So they should just be very careful. It is a very hot day. And that at the moment is the great risk to the citizens of New York.

PHILLIPS: Mayor, are you looking for outside help right now outside of New York City?

BLOOMBERG: No. The only outside help we need is power from Canada.

PHILLIPS: And you're in communication constantly. Tell me how that communication process is taking place.

BLOOMBERG: We basically are in communications with the different power companies. I personally have talked to Gene McGrath, who is chairman of the board of Con Ed and the Office of Emergency Management is talking to all of the other power companies.

And now I've got to go. Thank you. But just have everybody drink a lot of water.

PHILLIPS: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. We thank you for your time, sir.

If you are just tuning in, we are now going to take a live picture via Detroit. First chance to look at pictures out of Detroit, Michigan. This is another city that is experiencing this massive blackout in addition to New York City, Cleveland, Ohio; parts of Toledo; also Toronto and Ottawa.

Right now we can tell you after getting of the phone with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, that right now this does not look like an act of terrorism. Most likely, this was a natural occurrence. Niagara Mohawk Power grid overloading. New York communicating with Canada right now, trying to get the power back on. The mayor saying possibly within a few hours.


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