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CNN BREAKING NEWS

A Montage Of New York During The Black Out

Aired August 14, 2003 - 19:40   ET

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

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You're seeing here a live picture again of New York City still grappling to deal with this massive power outage today. Among those helping us keep track, our Wolf Blitzer on the streets -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank very much, John. It's beginning to get dark here in New York City. Not dark yet, but momentarily, it will be dark. We'll see what happens once the lights can't be turned on in New York City. Hopefully, they'll be turned on soon.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is here in New York, as well. He's joining us on the phone. Anderson, first of all, tell us where you are.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the CNN bureau. So I'm on 33rd and 8th Avenue. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) vantage point of the entire lower part of Manhattan. And as you know, the sun is setting over the Hudson on New Jersey -- on the New Jersey side. So darkness is quickly falling. And I know I'm basically about a mile up from where you are, Wolf.

And I've been actually running around Manhattan the last three hours or so, all the way from midtown to downtown. And I got to say, the response of people on the street is really just extraordinary. I mean, there's this sort of -- this willingness to pitch in that a lot of people have really been showing today. I saw in Times Square -- we saw a charter bus filled with people. There was a guy outside yelling, Hey, anyone who's going to New Jersey, get on board. We'll take you there. They weren't charging money for it.

And as I look on the street right now, not only is traffic basically at a standstill here on 8th Avenue, but there are large numbers of people, about 100 or so people, sitting on the steps of the U.S. Post Office, just watching the scene on the street. There's a very strange, interesting atmosphere on the street. And New Yorkers are kind of reacting as they do to the everyday annoyances of living in New York, some with humor, some with frustration, some with anger, some with a sense of pitching in.

One man, as I was running down to get to the bureau -- you know, it was extremely hot. I was sweating. Someone was running by me, and they said jokingly, I'll never make fun of the Amish again, because the city has basically come to a standstill. And as I look over hundreds of buildings right now, there is not a light on inside any apartment that I can see from where I am right now.

I have a little bit of information. There are about 40,000 police who've deployed out on the street, according to New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg. As you may know, the entire fire department has been deployed. Earlier, we were getting reports and CNN has been doing a lot of calls here from the bureau that our computers are down, getting a lot of reports of people stuck in elevators, which is a common thing that happens in this kind of situation in New York. The fire department is out in force, trying to deal with that as well as they can.

I have some information also for you, Wolf, on some of the hospitals. St. Vincent's, down near where you are, is without power. Harlem Hospital apparently is packed right now, also without power still. NYU Medical Center and Beth Israel Hospital apparently finished the operations that they had ongoing at around 4:14, when this happened, finished the operations they had without power, and obviously, are not having any more operations, at this point.

But it is just -- it has been a fascinating several hours here in New York. The concern, of course, is what happens when night comes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, if you can hear me, stand by for a second. There are some fire engines, fire trucks going by. It's a little noisy. I'm lower in the lower part of Manhattan from where you are.

We do have on the phone Rich Freese. I believe Rich Freese -- Rich, are you on the 42nd floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan?

RICH FREESE, NEW YORK TOURIST: Yes. I was on the 42nd floor. I'm down on the street now and watching -- it's look like Mardi Gras here. The cars have been not moving for hours, and there's just a lot of people running up and down the streets. There's not a light on anywhere, although the hotel bar seems to be doing good business. There's one elevator working in the hotel, but you have to make an appointment to use it. It's a service elevator. They have somebody operating it. They're coming in, getting people and taking them down and issuing you a flashlight. And I think they put some food out.

But I was watching from my room on the 42nd floor, and for a couple of hours, I saw the same bus that didn't move an inch. So I don't know where the traffic's going. They don't seem to be going very far or very fast anywhere.

BLITZER: So you walked down all 42nd floors? Were you stuck in an elevator up there, Rich?

FREESE: No, actually, I was in another building when the power went off. And we had to walk out of that building down the stairs and then got over here. And no, thankfully, I was not stuck in an elevator! I'd be in real trouble then.

BLITZER: A lot of people are stuck. All right, Rich Freese, thanks very much.

I want to show our viewers what's behind me. I want -- I want you to take a look at something you rarely -- it take a long time to -- take a look. You'll see New York City. You'll see that there's a bus station. There's a fire -- a car over there. There's no lights, obviously, no street lights, no lights -- no lights on the street, no lights in this city at all. And it's beginning to get dark in New York City. We do see some long lines, people waiting for buses. They think they're going to get on those buses. They may or may not get on the buses. The streets now becoming somewhat deserted a little bit, people trying to get home. And by and large, they are getting home. But it takes a long time to walk these streets of New York City.

I want to also bring in a person we met here in Manhattan. Dida (ph), come over here. Dida Bargava (ph), you were in an unusual place when the power went off. Tell our viewers.

DIDA BARGAVA: Very unusual. I was actually having my teeth drilled by my dentist. She'd just finished putting some holes in my teeth, and the power went out. And there I was with holes in my teeth. She started panicking. She's like, Well, I can't let her go with holes in her teeth. So we actually went into another room, where there was some light, natural sunlight coming in, and she had to manually fill in the gaps and, you know, make me look presentable.

BLITZER: All right. Dida, hold on a second. I'm going to get back to you. But I think we're getting some breaking news. John King is standing by in Washington. John, tell us what you have.

KING: Wolf, one of the big questions, of course, how did this happen? Where did the power outage originate? I want to bring our viewers news at this moment attributed to the Reuters news agency. We're seeking independent confirmation. But the Reuters news agency quoting the office of the Canadian prime minister, Jean Chretien, saying that a lightning strike on a power plant near Niagara Falls, New York, was the cause of this massive power blackout that hit, obviously, parts of north America, Canada and the United States.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister's office telling Reuters that officials on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border have confirmed that lightning hit a power plant in New York state and started a cascading blackout over an area of 9,300 square kilometers in the United States, Northeast and Ontario. Well over 10 million Canadians affected by this. That number or more in the United States. We're trying to get independent confirmation of this, but Reuters, quoting a spokeswoman for the Canadian prime minister, is saying officials on both sides of the border in the United States and Canada believe all of this started today with lightning hitting a power plant on the New York side up near Niagara Falls.

For more on this now, to Leon Harris in Atlanta.

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