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Families of U.S.S. Cole Crew Informed as Early as PossibleAired October 12, 2000 - 12:51 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: As we continue our coverage of events in the Middle East, also on what the Pentagon, apparently, believes is a terrorist attack on the U.S. destroyer, U.S.S. Cole, off the coast of Yemen. Apparently, the ship was in for an unannounced refueling and was attacked, in what they believe was a terrorist attack.
So far we know four sailors are believed dead, a number -- about 30 others injured, and some others are missing; and it's possible that casualty number is going to go up.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed; going to bring back in Alec Fraser, retired U.S. Navy captain with us here in Atlanta, now the president of Turner Properties.
Sir, once again, welcome back to you.
There have been family members calling our newsroom trying to get more information, possibly about their sons or daughters as sailors onboard this ship. What is normal protocol for the U.S. Navy in making sure the information gets out in a timely fashion, especially to those families who are concerned?
CAPTAIN ALEC FRASER, U.S. NAVY (RETIRED): Well, I think it's important to note, initially, that the entire United States Navy is now focused on taking care of the families and the friends back in Norfolk, Virginia and other locations.
The admiral in Norfolk has already announced what the procedures are, and that the information systems are in place, the 800 number has been announced; and, from my experience, there is not any concerted effort to try to withhold information. The concerted information is to try to push that information to families as fast as possible.
HEMMER: Is there a time frame that you work off of, or is it safe to say that every situation is different?
FRASER: I would say that the time frame is real time -- to try to pass that information on to the families as fast as it becomes known back in the United States.
KAGAN: And throughout the morning and throughout the day we've been putting that 800 number up on the screen. We will continue to do that for people trying to get information if they did, indeed, have loved ones onboard the U.S.S. Cole. Also want to put up on the screen a map of this area where the U.S.S. Cole was when this apparent attack happened; and you can explain to us what a ship like this is doing in this region and why it was important to refuel when it did.
FRASER: The U.S.S. Cole was transiting from Norfolk to the Persian Gulf as a part of the Middle East force. Our fifth fleet there maintains ships on station continuously. The Lincoln battle group is there right now, this ship was destined to augment that battle group.
It leaves Norfolk, Virginia, refuels somewhere in the Atlantic, refuels again in the Mediterranean, transits to Suez Canal, transits the Red Sea; and by that point you always try to maintain at least 50 percent fuel capacity in case you need to respond to an emergency. And so it needed to refuel at some other point along the way before it entered the Persian Gulf, hence stopping in Yemen or another location along the way.
HEMMER: If we can put that map just up there for a second. A brief thought came to my mind here.
Certainly, hindsight is 20/20, it is perfect. But there is also a place about halfway down the west coast of Saudi Arabia called Jeddah, and Saudi Arabia has been a very friendly country to the U.S., especially since the Gulf War. Yemen has been different from that, in terms of national security.
Is Jeddah a point that you would encourage to refuel, as opposed to taking a country like Yemen.
FRASER: My understanding is that Yemen was just opened up to refueling last year, and until that time it was considered to be...
HEMMER: Just a year ago.
FRASER: Just a year ago, early '99 was some of the brief stops for fuel, as they are called in the Navy, BSF; and that was the first time that that had been opened up as a safe port to do so in. Other refuelings prior to that had been done in other places, Chibuti (ph), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
KAGAN: Want to talk some more about this. Need to take a break. Stay right there with us and we'll do that -- take a break and be back right after this.
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