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At Least Three Killed in Explosion

Aired August 19, 2003 - 09:24   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We've got a CNN employee on the telephone near the scene, too.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It looks like Duraid Isa, we're told, is near the scene and he joins us by phone.

Duraid, thanks for joining us.

Can you hear me?

DURAID ISA, CNN EMPLOYEE: Yes, I can hear you.

O'BRIEN: OK, go ahead and give me a sense of what you're seeing and at exactly what point you got there, so you can tell us when you saw all of this happen.

ISA: Well, I am here at the site of the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, which is the U.N. headquarters here in Baghdad, and I'm at the northwestern side of the building. And the northwestern corner of the build has been blasted apparently by an explosion. No one's yet confirmed what the explosion was, yet there's a lot of destruction to the facade of the building, and a lot of U.S. military are around. They are cordoning off the areas. So far, five helicopters have taken casualties and evacuated them out of the site.

There is -- there are a lot of U.S. military units, and there are a lot of helicopters. I can confirm four helicopters searching the area, and the U.S. military, along with the Iraqi police, have cordoned off the area.

O'BRIEN: Duraid a quick question for you, and I should tell you that we're getting confirmation from the U.S. military that there was a car bombing they say at the Canal Hotel. In addition, the are some reports, U.N. employees are saying that a mortar or some type of weapon was fired at the hotel.

Give me a description of this hotel. How big is it? What does it look like? When you say northwestern corner is damaged, to what degree? I mean, is it absolutely blown out? We can see part of it here that at least the wall is missing, but how deep is that damage?

ISA: Well, I can tell the damage is, let's say to the building that I see where the explosion had taken place, I can say that 10, 15 percent of the building has been completely damaged, while the rest, there's a lot of broken glass and shards. The building is not very large, but it's fairly accommodating, about 20 rooms per floor. It's a three-floor-, three story building with 20 rooms facing out toward the east.

And I see now U.S. military carrying out a victim, two victims actually now. They're being carried out of the scene on stretchers.

O'BRIEN: Give me a sense of the chaos around you. Are people, you know -- we're having a little trouble hearing any audio, so are people screaming? Are they shouting? Are things relatively calm? We see people milling about. But I have to imagine a little closer up, there's a lot more chaos than we're able to see. Can you describe that for me?

ISA: Well, no, it's not really a chaotic scene here, because I can tell the military are controlling these crowds, but they are cordoning off the area. They're not answering any questions to the relatives of those local employees who came over to the scene by now and started asking questions about -- I see many women crying around here, trying to find their sons or husbands, and that's an hour by now.

Right now, it's an hour from the explosion. And we've been here for about 35 minutes by now. And I can tell you that there is a fairly large crowd, but there's also a lot of military units that are controlling this scene. The scene is not chaotic, but there are a lot of people, a lot of media covering the ground.

O'BRIEN: You mentioned several Blackhawk helicopters flying above, and evacuating some of the wounded. Can you give me a sense of the numbers? How many folks have you seen, potential casualties, being taken out?

ISA: Well, I have seen five taken off, and there are still more. There are about four around different corders of the building, and all the casualties are being moved to them. There were some ambulances taking out casualties, too, from the scene. But there are five helicopters that are now in the air. Around me, there are four medical helicopters, military medical helicopters, flying around the scene, and there are three on the ground.

O'BRIEN: All right. Duraid Isa, thank you for updating us. We're going to continue to check in with you throughout the morning. And as he just mentioned, about an hour now since the blast happened.


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