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CNN BREAKING NEWS

New Yorker Street Heroes Of The Day

Aired August 14, 2003 - 18:38   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. Thank you. We want to thank you for staying with us on this breaking news story. Also our international viewers, we thank you for staying with us.
If you're just tuning in, once again, a massive power blackout that struck the Northeast just about -- just a little after 4:00 PM Eastern time today, cutting electricity to New York City and dozens of other cities stretching west to Detroit and north to Ottawa. Now we are told the power slowly is coming back on. These are the areas affected.

The Department of Homeland Security coming out, quote, and saying "initial reports indicate this is a power system failure not related to terrorism." But as our John King has pointed out, that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI would not rule out the possibility of terrorism, high-ranking FBI sources tell us. And they do not believe the outage is related to crime, sabotage or an act of terrorism. They just can't rule out terrorism, at this point.

We're going to go back to our Wolf Blitzer. He is on the streets of New York City. He was not in Washington today but New York. Wolf, and you are obviously caught up in the middle of it all. What's it like now? Have things calmed a bit?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Things are getting a little bit calmer, but I have to tell you, it's still daylight. Once it gets nighttime and there's no power and it's going to be dark all around, no street lights, no traffic lights, no electricity, it could get a little more complicated.

I have to tell you, I've just walked about 30 blocks here in New York City, and people are very, very calm. They're taking it in good stride. These New Yorkers know how to deal with these kinds of crises, and they're handling it quite well, even though a lot of people were stuck in elevators, a lot of people were stuck in the subways, there's gridlock on a lot of the streets, people are trying to get to their homes in the suburbs or some of the other boroughs. It's not a pleasant situation, but people are obviously dealing with it rather well.

We have a New Yorker who's here with us. Francis De Souza (ph), if you could talk to us during the middle of all the noise from the cars, you were stuck in an elevator, weren't you.

FRANCIS DE SOUZA: Yes, from 4:00 o'clock to about 5:00 o'clock this evening, in the building -- I think it's the Winter Garden Theater on 51st and Broadway. And the building maintenance guys couldn't help me out. The Verizon guys who were working on the street, they volunteered and they yanked me out from the elevator. And if they are watching, I would like to thank them for it.

BLITZER: What floor were you stuck on?

DE SOUZA: I was stuck between the first and the second floor, and it was right between the floors. So I couldn't -- even if they pulled the doors ajar, I couldn't move out. They had to take the top off, and then they had to use a ladder and then come up from the elevator.

BLITZER: So walk us through. They opened up the top of the elevator...

DE SOUZA: That's right.

PHILLIPS: ... and then you had to climb up?

DE SOUZA: Yes, that's right. I had -- they had to open the entire top of the elevator. They actually busted it up. And I -- then they put the ladder down. And then I walked up and came out on the second floor.

BLITZER: What went through your mind, all of a sudden, when the elevator stopped?

DE SOUZA: In the beginning, it was pretty -- I was scared. The lights just went -- the lights faded out, and then just darkness and the elevator stopped. And I didn't know what to do. I kept banging the door. And as I was banging the door, I could -- the door sightly opened ajar. So I pushed it. And then I could see some light because there was -- I was -- as I said, I was stuck between the two floors. So there was light coming from the bottom. There was a light coming from the top. And then I was OK. Then I just kept my cool. But it was scary. It was scary.

BLITZER: Francis, thank God everything turned out OK for you. Good work. Appreciate it very much.

And Kyra, I have to tell you, there are still people stuck in elevators in New York City -- a lot of high-rise buildings, very tall buildings. Power has not come back. A lot of these buildings don't have backup generators to enable them to use those generators to get the elevators going. So people are just suffering inside those elevators. They're going to be fine as soon as the power comes back. They'll be OK.

But we spoke earlier to some of those elevator operators, some of the people who run the elevators, and they've given us some information on the backup plans, how to save these people, how to get them out of these elevators. I'm sure it's a pretty frightening situation. It was also very frightening -- we spoke with a lot of people who were stuck in subways. The subways just stopped, they had to walk, obviously, to get out. They managed to get out. The subway system has come to a halt, airports in the area come to a halt, buses basically come to a halt because traffic is so bad, and it gets a little bit dangerous and there's no traffic lights.

Police are obviously in their emergency mode. They're doing everything they can to bring some sort of semblance to order. But to reiterate, the people New York, from everything that I've seen -- and I've walked a big chunk of Manhattan the last hour or two, I can tell you that they -- they're coping with this situation and they're doing the best they certainly can. Let's see what happens, though, when it starts getting dark and the power still remains out -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: No doubt. Our Wolf Blitzer there on the streets of New York. Wolf, thank you so much.

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