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Breaking News

U.S.S. Cole Crippled But Stable

Aired October 12, 2000 - 3:52 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Captain Alec Fraser, U.S. Navy, retired, has been with us throughout the afternoon. Earlier you had taken the long view -- that photograph, you wanted to see a close-up picture.

You've now seen it, and as we take a look you have drawn some conclusions, have you?

CAPTAIN ALEC FRASER, U.S. NAVY (RETIRED): I would think it'd be interesting in looking at this picture from three separate standpoints.

No. 1, the size of the hole indicates a major explosion. That is not just a small, run-of-the-mill small bomb going off. That is a major explosion.

No. 2, as you'll note, around this hole, that there are no indications of a major fire. And I would attribute that to the fact that the fire-control systems that have been installed on modern ships, the automatic systems that automatically put out major fires, flash fires that occur from explosions like this, in fact worked in this case; and as a result, we probably have a significant saving in lives because of that.

And the third, as can note in the picture with the sailor walking across the top there, that this is a portable pump with a line that is dangling down into the water. That pump is used in a de-watering evolution. It's practiced frequently. It is one of the pumps that is -- stands on its own as it de-waters compartments and reduces the flooding and, therefore, the list on the ship.

So those three things indicate that the ship has the situation well in control. But this was a major explosion on the size of two or three surface cruise missiles hitting at the same time.

WATERS: And on that score, about the systems working, what was the crew -- how was the crew reacting at a time like this?

FRASER: As the chief of naval operations was saying, the crew is at a maximum state of readiness as they enter port. The only higher state would be at general quarters, which I'm sure was sounded immediately when this happened.

Those damage control teams, specifically designed, trained together with the equipment like you saw in this picture are immediately put into place, and they respond. Now, some of those may have been casualties in the explosion. That's why there are three teams onboard, so the other two can back up one that may be hurt in a hit.

ALLEN: Well, as you said, you would have high officers in that engine room at the time that the destroyer would be coming into port, right?

FRASER: The most senior engineering leadership are in these spaces when something -- an evolution like this is taking place.

WATERS: How about medical personnel on an Aegis cruiser.

FRASER: An Aegis ship generally carries two trained, independent-duty corpsmen. These corpsmen are well qualified to be able to stabilize patients -- they don't do major operations, but they are in place and are trained to handle casualties of this nature, stabilize them until the type of medical support that's being flown in can get there.

There are two separate, stocked, pre-set-up emergency-type rooms. Two separate operations could be held simultaneously on a ship like this along with all the oxygen, the lighting, the things that are necessary to do a full operating room.

WATERS: The Pentagon was talking about the loss of power -- well, they said that power has been restored, so we assume they lost power when the explosion went off.

How vulnerable was the ship during that period?

FRASER: The ship has three gas turbine generators that supply electrical power. They might have lost one or two and the third one took a while to get it back on-line after the explosion, the jarring; and so, the blast probably took out one of them. The other two are probably still functioning okay.

WATERS: OK, we have medical teams flying in now to Yemen. We have a report from the captain, even though the chief of the naval office hasn't spoken directly to him, that the ship is under control. They're working on damage control.

What do you expect the next few hours will be like for the captain and crew of this ship?

FRASER: The interior bulkheads of the ship, the walls of the ship on the inside, are not designed to withstand the sea pressure that, normally, the outside hull would have to withstand. And so what they are doing now is shoring up those inside walls with wooden battens, with various mechanisms that are already placed and pre- positioned to be able to support the walls so they don't give way inside the ship.

That's what they're doing right now.

WATERS: And then the ship -- what will eventually happen with the ship?

FRASER: Well, I think there will have to be a full engineering study done of what damage was inflicted and whether it's sea worthy or not. The hole on the outside will, obviously, have to be patched. Whether it affected the propellers and the engines, we don't know that yet.

WATERS: All right, Captain Alec Fraser, U.S. Navy, retired. We appreciate your help with this story this afternoon.

The U.S.S. Cole is under control. Families of those who have been killed or injured are being notified. There's a full naval operation underway in that regard going on right now, even though there are many operators on duty, many personnel assigned to keep track of that problem, there are still some weight -- there are some weights -- a special 800 number set up for families only.

So if you are one of the many thousands of people who have, in some way, a connection to those people aboard the U.S.S. Cole, you may have to wait a couple of minutes to get a direct answer. The U.S. naval operations chief apologized for that, but he said there was no other way.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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