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King: 'It sounded like an earthquake'

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CNN's Larry King

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New York
Larry King

NEW YORK (CNN) -- An explosion and fire leveled a residential building Monday morning on New York's Upper East Side, fire officials and eyewitnesses said.

New York Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said a gas explosion appears to be behind the blast. CNN's Larry King, who was at a nearby hotel, described the aftermath shortly after the blast Monday for CNN anchor Miles O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: Larry, what did you see? (Watch King describe how the blast "sounded like a bomb" -- 2:16)

KING: Well, Miles, the first thing is what I heard. I have been in town for a week. I head back to L.A. on Wednesday.

I was in my hotel room, which is on the 15th floor, and it sounded like an earthquake. What a blast.

And I didn't -- so I ran right down to the lobby, and they sent me right around the corner. And this is right around the corner from my hotel. I'm standing right there now at the corner of 62nd [Street] and Madison [Avenue].

There's a lot of smoke, an awful lot of New York City police, fire, New York hospital, New York Presbyterian medical service stretchers. They've got people roped off. You can't get through at all on 62nd Street between Madison and Park [avenues]. Traffic is tied up for blocks.

This happened right at the worst possible time, which is -- I think it was about a quarter to 9 on a Monday morning. People going back to work after the weekend.

The building went right down apparently. There are people trapped underneath. I'm about a third of a block away.

O'BRIEN: Larry, what do you know about the building? I hear it's a three- or four-story building. Is it an apartment or office, or do you know who was -- who were the tenants?

KING: I'm told it's an apartment building with some doctors' offices in it. This was told to me by someone who lives next door.

And he was worried about the people underneath. He says there's a parking garage underneath, and he was worried -- are they getting to the parking garage?

They've got the hoses now to ... put out the fire. There's a lot of smoke.

The good part is it is a clear day, so visibility is clear for them to get through. There's no blockage of any kind. They've got the streets roped off.

You know, New York City is very quick reacting to this kind of thing. And the first thing you think of is, since 9/11, that's what you think of. And someone said something about a water tower coming down, but all that, of course, was speculation.

I will tell you this, Miles, I've never heard a sound like that.

O'BRIEN: So, your best guess that what you heard was an explosion which caused the collapse, or did you just hear the sound of the explosion? Do you have any way of knowing?

KING: No, I have no way of knowing. Except I heard it would have to be the sound of an explosion.

O'BRIEN: You think so?

KING: It sounded like -- it sounded like a bomb. I haven't heard -- my connection with bombs would be in movies.

O'BRIEN: Right.

KING: It sounded like a bomb.

O'BRIEN: All right. The scene -- it looks like a tremendous scene there and a desperate effort to find people. But given ...

KING: As I'm looking down the block now, you see a lot of smoke, ambulances crisscrossing, people coming by with stretchers. I haven't seen anybody on a stretcher yet. A lot of police.

The public is being very good about this. The bystanders are cooperating with the police. There's no one trying to get beyond the police "Do Not Cross" yellow lines, which are familiar to people.

A lot of cops. A lot of emergency people. A lot of rescue workers covering both Park Avenue and Madison Avenue.

O'BRIEN: And just to sum up, you said -- we're told it's a three or four-story building, or was, and that there is a parking garage beneath. And that's part of what they are after, to see if there might be people trapped there?

KING: That's what the man -- a man said to me. He lives next door, and he was concerned about the parking garage. He was saying, "Do they know that there's a parking garage, and do they know that there are people possibly trapped underneath?"

That's again possibly. This is very early in the event.

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