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OKLAHOMA CITY BLAST KILLS AT LEAST 8

An explosion believed caused by a bomb shattered a downtown federal office building Wednesday, blowing out a huge chunk of the nine-story structure and killing at least eight.

At least 200 people were injured. Mike Osburn, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Frank Keating, said the Oklahoma Civil Emergency Management Agency confirmed eight dead included six children.The explosion at the Alfred Murrah Building, which occurred shortly after 9 a.m., could be felt 30 miles away. Black smoke streamed across the skyline, and glass, bricks and other debris were spread over a wide area.

More than 500 federal workers are assigned to the building, which has a day-care center as well as a variety of federal offices.

An initial investigation indicated the explosion was caused by a large bomb, perhaps 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, located outside the building, perhaps in a car, said John Magaw, director of the federal Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"You can get that in a car," Magaw told CNN. "Clearly the explosion occurred outside the building, in front of the building."

As to whether his agency suspects terrorists, Magaw told CNN: "I think any time you have this kind of damage, this kind of explosion, you have to look there first."

Hundreds of federal workers are assigned to the building.

A second, unexploded bomb was believed to have been found in the building, authorities said.

"Public safety personnel on the scene think they have found an unexploded device in the building," said Jack Killorin, spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Washington.

"We believe this was a bombing and we are responding as if it was, but we do not have any forensic evidence yet to confirm that," he said. "The damage, however, appears consistent with a bombing."

Killorin added that investigators have not entirely ruled out possible other causes, like a gas leak.

After the explosion, emergency crews set up a first aid center nearby, and some of the injured sat on the sidewalks, bloodied on their heads or arms, awaiting aid. St. Anthony Hospital put out a call for more medical help. And at midday, officials at that hospital posted a list of more than 200 names of injured so worried relatives could look for loved ones.

President Clinton directed that emergency federal assistance be offered to help deal with the explosion.

Carole Lawton, 62, a secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was sitting at her desk on the seventh floor when the explosion hit.

"All of a sudden the windows blew in," she said. "It got real dark and the ceiling just started coming down." She said she then heard "the roar of the whole building crumbling." She managed to crawl down some stairs and was not injured.

Another worker who would not give his name told KFOR-TV: "I came out from under the desk and there just wasn't any building left around me. Our whole office area is gone."

More than two hours after the explosion, people were still trapped in the building.

"We have to crawl on our stomachs and feel our way and we're talking to victims who are in there and reassuring them that we're doing everything within the good Lord's power to reach them and get to them," Assistant Fire Chief Jon Hansen said.

"It's going to be a very slow process."

The fear there was a second bomb sent emergency workers scurrying from the building and others running from the area about 11/2 hours after the first blast.

Besides the local offices of the ATF bureau, the building houses such agencies as Social Security, Veterans Affairs, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Housing and Urban Development, a federal employee credit union, a daycare center and military recruiting offices.

In all, more than 500 federal employees assigned to building, said Anne Marshall, a spokeswoman for the General Services Ad-min-is-tra-tion.

The explosion occurred on the second anniversary of the fiery, fatal ending of the federal siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. That siege began with a raid by ATF agents on Feb. 28, 1993.

Oklahoma City FBI spokesman Dan Vogel said he wouldn't speculate if there was a connection. The FBI is not housed in the building downtown but is in an office complex about five miles away.

At the scene, the nine-story building looked like it had been rocked by a bomb. From top to bottom, floors caved in. The north side of the building was gone. Burning debris and burning cars lined streets.

People frantically searched for loved ones, including parents whose children were in a daycare center housed in the building. Downtown business stopped as other nearby buildings were evacuated.

"I thought we were dead," said Ginny Grilley, office manager for Trammel Crow Co. She was on the 30th floor of City Place, which is several blocks away. "I've never heard anything that loud."

She said she could see "a lot of damage all over" to nearby buildings.

"It was just terrifying," she said. "When you look up and see most of that building gone and cars destroyed and people hurt . . . it was just terrible."

The FBI was setting up a command center at its Washington headquarters to manage the investigation. Justice Department spokesman John Russell said, "We're doing everything we're supposed to, but we don't even know yet if the explosion was caused by a bomb."

The building is located at 200 N.W. Fifth St.