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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Canadian National Defense Spokesman

Aired August 14, 2003 - 19:57   ET

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

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring in now on the phone Diane Grover. She is from, I'm told, the Canadian Department of National Defense, joining us on the telephone. Diane, tell us where you are, number one. I don't have that information. And number two, I understand you can explain to us what officials now believe is the ultimate cause of this, the beginning of this, anyway, this lightning strike on a plant near Niagara Falls -- Diane.
DIANE GROVER, CANADIAN NATIONAL DEFENSE SPOKESWOMAN: Yes. That's right. Well, I'm here in Ottawa, Canada. And in fact, I'm the duty officer for National Defense public affairs this evening. But my cell phone didn't work so, in fact, I'm over at my parents' place. They have an old-fashioned phone, and it seems to be working fine.

But in fact, I have been in discussion with the minister of national defense's office, and they have confirmed that this power outage was caused by, essentially, an act of nature, a lightning strike in the Niagara region, on the U.S. side of the border. So I guess (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this. It caused a cascading power failure affecting an area of approximately 9,300 square miles. And as you can appreciate, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) areas are being impacted, places like Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland, Ottawa, New York City. Millions of people are being affected.

At this point, our Ontario hydro power system -- we are in the process of decoupling our power grid from the American power system, to see if we can get ours up and running. And right now, our federal officials are working quite closely with state and provincial authorities to get power reestablished. And of course, we're continuing to share information as we do this.

KING: Diane, our viewers in the United States are watching pictures of New York City. Tell us, though, the impact -- you mentioned the impact on Canada. How many Canadians without power? And how many now? How many affected at first, and are they still all without power?

GROVER: Well, at this point, I am, as I say, sitting in my parents' home, and I've been listening to what I can garner on the radio. I know, certainly, the city of Ottawa, which is slightly under a million people, were all without power. There are no traffic lights. People are stuck in buildings, and so on. But in typically Canadian concerned (ph) fashion, people are jumping out of their cars and acting as impromptu traffic guards. So everything's actually quite calm. Certainly, in the Toronto area, with many more people, millions of people, in fact, in the Toronto area, it's causing more congestion, from what I understand. I sort of -- of course, haven't been there, but certainly, our reports are that everything is fairly calm.

KING: Diane Grover of the Canadian Department of National Defense. We thank you for that information. Please thank your parents for the use of their phone.

Again, Canadian officials now saying that they are in agreement, a consensus with officials in the United States, that they believe the cause of this power outage affecting tens of millions on both the Canadian and the U.S. side of the border caused by a lightning strike and a resulting outage at a power plant on the New York side, near Niagara Falls.

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