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Eyewitness Account of Baghdad Blast

Aired August 19, 2003 - 11:34   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Our Jane Arraf there on the scene in Iraq, not far from the U.N. headquarters where this explosion took place.
Jane, I understand you have an eyewitness with you. Jane also having some -- OK, our technical situations are worked out. No longer via the satellite phone there.

Jane, can you hear us OK? What can you tell us, and who are you talking with?

I'm not sure if Jane can hear me.

OK, Jane, go ahead.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think we have a bit of an audio problem. I'm hearing a -- I'll tell you what, I am going to just assume that you can hear me, and let you know that we are standing here, obviously, in front of what was the U.N. headquarters. This is a place where there's a huge amount of chaos at the moment.

You can probably see behind me, there are ambulances. There are helicopters circling overhead. there are a lot of distraught relatives. And one of them is Kurdistani Hutani (ph), who is an employee of the U.N. She works for the WFP, the World Food Program, and her niece, she believes; she is worried about her niece.

Tell me what's happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know exactly, but when I am -- leave my office today, at this time, half past four, to my house, on the way, and when I arrived at my house, there are people come quickly, and they told me, you don't know what happened? I don't know. And they said, there is a bomb or rocket in the Canal Hotel.

When we tried to make operator (ph) for her, because she's late, nothing, nobody reply, as in the Canal. Then, by the way, some people come to us if something happens, suddenly I come to the Canal Hotel. They say the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They don't allow me to go in. I have my AIDD (ph) card. They say, no, it is for your safety, don't go out -- don't go in. And I try to say, this is nearly two hours or more. I will wait for something, I don't know.

But I hear that she is wounded. But how, where, I don't know. I will try to know.

And by the grace of God, I think it will be OK. ARRAF: Who do you think might have done this? Do you have any idea who could have done something like this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know exactly. But I will say to these people, the Canal Hotel, it is the U.N. organization, they are coming to help us, they are not politics organization. For our organization has come to help Iraqi people. They are nice people inside. I don't think they want to hurt our people. And I am sorry because we treat nice people this. Besides this, there are many Iraqi families, many Iraqi (UNINTELLIGIBLE) families, what will happen for them? They have nothing with the politics. They are human; we are human.

ARRAF: Did you ever expect anything like this could happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, because the U.N., I think something -- a safety place. Before -- through the war, they asked, there is something that happens to our family, we have a ID card, we can come to the Canal. I don't feel that's something abnormal (ph) in the Canal Hotel. And when I now look to the Canal Hotel, I feel sorry for the building, not only the Canal, for all our building in Baghdad and Iraq. We are Iraqi. I don't know. I don't -- we are the Iraq people. The Iraqi people do this ugly? No, I don't. And we have to support each other, because we have suffered too much, and I'm sorry for this, and I don't know how to express my sad feelings now, because I don't know what happened to our colleagues, to our boss, to our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) director. I feel sorry for them.

ARRAF: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for your help.

ARRAF: That was an employee of the U.N., the World Food Program, Kurdistani Hutani (ph), who is trying to get word of her niece, who actually has been working close to the special U.N. envoy to the secretary general. He is believed to still be trapped in that building.

Behind us, we have been seeing people going through the rubble, aid workers it seems, trying to go through the rubble. There is still, as you can see, the sound of ambulances coming and going.

It's not clear how many people have been killed. Several it seems. Many more wounded. But certainly, this is a situation that's developing whit more ambulances, more helicopters coming through, and we hope to find out more soon about what exactly happened and how many may have been victims of this.

PHILLIPS: All right. Our Jane Arraf on the ground there in Baghdad. Thank you so much. We'll continue to check in with you as you get more information.


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