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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Fire at Staten Island Refinery

Aired February 21, 2003 - 10:27   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mary Ann Lang calling us now. I guess she heard an explosion.
Mary Ann, are you with us?

MARY ANN LANG, HEARD EXPLOSION: Yes, I am.

KAGAN: Tell us exactly where you are in relation to the fire pictures we're looking at.

LANG: I'm near the outer bridge in Staten Island, but it's obvious that the explosion was in Jersey, because I don't hear any fire engines. It shook my entire house. I thought my windows were going to break, and then there were flames shooting over the three- story house in the distance.

But it looks like the flames are gone now and the smoke is diminishing, but there's several helicopters over the site now.

I can't actually see what's burning.

KAGAN: Right, because the live pictures we see from the helicopter, I can tell you, these flames are far from diminishing, and there is a lot of black smoke.

LANG: Yes, they'll completely covered the sky now.

KAGAN: What time was that explosion that you heard and you felt at your house?

LANG: It was ten after 10:00.

KAGAN: Just about 20 minutes ago?

LANG: Right, I marked the time. I was watching CNBC. I'm sorry.

KAGAN: That's all right.

LANG: I heard the explosion and I immediately looked at the time. So, when I didn't hear any fire engines, I surmised that it was in New Jersey.

KAGAN: Do you know anything about this oil refinery plant?

LANG: Either than I know it's there. I mean, there's tankers in there all the time. KAGAN: Just that you see it.

And have you heard anything on the local news?

LANG: No, I'm standing out on my porch, so I can't even see my television.

KAGAN: So from where you're standing, you just see a lot of smoke?

LANG: Yes, black smoke has completely covered the sky. It's on its way to the Veranzano Bridge. I'm sure it can be seen all over by now.

KAGAN: All right, Mary Ann Lang, thank you for calling in.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Actually, are you still there, Mary Ann?

LANG: Yes.

HARRIS: I want to ask you before go, can you give us an idea of what kind of -- I guess the nature of the different kind of structures that are on this part of the island? I understand there's some kind of refineries and dumps and things like that there.

KAGAN: That's right. It's not actually on Staten Island. It's in New Jersey, and there's field of tanks, hundreds of them, but as I say, I can't see what exploded, because it' out of my reach.

HARRIS: But you're very clear about hearing that explosion.

LANG: Oh, yes. It shook my entire house.

KAGAN: How would you describe it? What did it sound like in.

LANG: It was huge. It just actually huge.

The police are going now.

It was -- it shook my whole house. I mean, I thought the windows were going to break.

KAGAN: And as we look at the live pictures, we just see kind of a tall, black, plume of smoke with the flames, but you say that smoke is spreading over the entire sky and making things really dark there.

LANG: Yes, it's actually going to block the sun eventually.

HARRIS: Can you smell anything yet?

LANG: Yes, it smells like oil.

HARRIS: No doubt you're going to be advised at some point probably to close all of your windows, because when these sorts of chemicals do start burning, these fumes can be quite noxious, and they can actually be quite irritating and maybe even harmful to your health. So you have to be very careful out there.

LANG: That was basically the reason I called in. I wanted to find out what it was.

KAGAN: We appreciate that. You told us standing out on your porch, but maybe Mary Ann, you want to go inside.

LANG: I'm sorry?

KAGAN: Perhaps you want to inside rather than hanging out your front porch.

HARRIS: Good deal. If you're on a cordless phone, go ahead and go back inside.

Can you see barely in the lower left-hand portion of your screen is a tank.

LANG: I'm looking at the TV now.

HARRIS: I'm sorry?

LANG: It looks like it's in the water. It doesn't look like it's a tank.

HARRIS: There's a tanker that is just to the -- we're looking at a television screen right now that has got the fire sort of in the center of it, and there's a tanker to the left of it, and you're right, it does looks as though...

KAGAN: The oil is spreading into the water.

HARRIS: Exactly. It looks like either the water is burning, or the oil on top of the water is burning. We have to think that's what it is.

We apologize for that audio problem there with that telephone call. And thank you very much for your help in setting the picture and what we're seeing.

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