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Hurricane Dean Bears Down on Mexican Beach Resorts; Harrowing Escape from an Airliner

Aired August 20, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lisa.
Happening now, Hurricane Dean bears down on Mexican beach resorts. It could be a monster by the time it gets there. We're in the storm zone live standing by for a new forecast this hour from the National Hurricane Center.

Also tonight, they made it alive with only seconds to spare -- the harrowing escape from an airliner that simply exploded in a ball of fire.

And plucked from the floodwaters -- parts of the Southwest and Midwest are swamped right now. People are trapped. Rescuers are scrambling.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up first tonight, one official is calling it the kill zone, the areas where Hurricane Dean is likely to hit in the coming hours with ferocious power. Tourists have been fleeing Mexico's Caribbean Coast in droves as the Category 4 storm churns closer and closer and grows stronger and stronger.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is standing by in Tulum, Mexico, but first let us go to our severe weather expert Chad Myers. He's at CNN's Hurricane Headquarters. Chad, what's the latest forecast?

CHAD MYERS, CNN SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: The latest is that it's still on its same track, Wolf, still moving west at about 20, 21 miles an hour. The big towns that you've heard of from Cozumel to Cancun not in the clear but not in that kill zone, not in the eye zone, but Tulum and this is an area here 100,000 people live there. Not a great tourist destination.

The tourists all go up here along the beaches but the beaches will be seeing 10 to 15, maybe 20 foot wave there and if you're stuck in Cancun or Cozumel, you need to stay off of those beaches because those waves could come all the way up onshore and drag you back out there. It is going to be a dangerous surf situation, only the winds about 60, 70 miles per hour.

The winds will be fine up there. Down to the south, Category 5 expected, 160 moving over the Yucatan, eventually even into the Bay at Campeche and then maybe stronger again, Wolf, but into Mexico not turning north into the Texas coast. It still could happen but it is not in that bay, in what they call it that cone of uncertainty.

One last thing I want to draw your attention to, brand new literally just off the wire one minute ago, a 6.6 earthquake in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on that Mid Atlantic ridge there. This is South America. Here's Africa here. We don't know of anything to do, anything at all about tsunamis but it was a very shallow quake, only about seven miles deep. And Wolf, if we get anything from that we will let you know right away if there was any tsunami warning. Right now so far so good. No warnings -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chad, stand by because I know later this hour we're going to be getting an update from the National Hurricane Center on this Hurricane Dean and we're going to come right back to you as soon as you know what's going on, our viewers will as well. Mexican historical sites are in Hurricane Dean's path tonight including the sea side ruins of Tulum.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is there. How are they preparing for the storm where you are, Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Tulum, which is about 80 miles south of Cancun, is a very small little town. Only about 10,000 people, but it seems like each and every one of those people is preparing and boarding up their homes. The same feeling we get just before any hurricane, the imminent arrival of a hurricane. It's tense. People are hard working and they're doing what they have to do because this area is used to hurricanes.

They've gotten a lot of big ones including two years ago Hurricane Wilma which caused deaths and massive destruction here in the Yucatan Peninsula in the state, the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Many hotels were closed for months, but this is a small, quiet place around the Gulf of Mexico right now where the rain is just starting to fall as we speak.

And as you said, Wolf, the ancient ruins, the Mayan ruins in Tulum, it's a place where many people who go to Cancun and there are millions of people who go to Cancun every year go to visit for a day or two days. The ruins have been there for over a thousand years. It's a real historical site.

And they have survived all of these centuries but there's a lot of concern with this particular hurricane because Tulum, where we're standing could be near the center of this very strong storm, 150-mile- an-hour winds, perhaps more. So a lot of people are wondering what those ruins will look like tomorrow, but right now the people in the small town getting ready for the arrival of a giant hurricane -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they getting ready in the same way that they get ready in the United States when word of Category 4 or in this particular case a Category 5 storm is approaching? Is there a sense of dread knowing what the destructive capability of this kind of storm could produce?

TUCHMAN: Yes, for some hurricanes in the United States and no for others. For example, the preparation here is much more elaborate than I saw in Mississippi and Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina. A lot of people decided not to leave. But during Hurricane Rita which came after Katrina after what everyone went through, there was no so much preparation during Rita I have never seen more preparation anywhere than during Hurricane Rita in the United States. This I would say is right in between the Katrina and Rita examples that I give you.

BLITZER: All right. Be careful over there. We'll check back with you. Gary Tuchman is on the scene for us.

Hurricane Dean is a monstrous storm by any definition, roughly the size -- get this -- of Texas. Seen from space, you can get just a sense of how massive this storm is. This is Dean as seen from the international space station as it passed over Jamaica yesterday. The space shuttle Endeavour is expected to land tomorrow in Florida just after NASA worried this storm could cause bad weather at its mission control in Houston. Take a look at this -- an image of the eye of the storm captured by the shuttle over the weekend.

This is a huge, huge storm. Dean's winds battered Jamaica, ripping trees from their roots, tearing roofs off homes. Our Susan Candiotti is in Montego Bay. Susan, what are you seeing there now? It's been a destructive power over the past 24 hours but as bad as it was it could have been a whole lot worse.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true. I think they are still mopping up here, and there is a lot of both amazement and relief that things were not a lot worse across the island because of course the storm passed to the south. But anyway, tonight, the prime minister here, Portia Simpson Miller, has declared a state of emergency in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean. She says she wants to make sure that islanders are safe and secure. There is concern about possible looting.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Jamaica may have been spared a direct hit, but Dean dealt an especially punishing blow to the southern part of the island.


CANDIOTTI: At sun up, the capital city of Kingston already at work trying to clear debris from streets. Here, unblocking a road to the airport where disaster relief teams will bring in help as needed. Authorities say landslides occurred in mostly rural areas, but so far no deaths are reported. Sustained winds of 114 miles per hour peeled back roofs. In Montego Bay and Ocho Rios to the north, less widespread damage.

(on camera): Throughout Jamaica a curfew remains in effect. So even though everyone is out and about, the stores are not allowed to reopen as yet. It doesn't mean that people aren't walking around just to see how everyone fared after the storm, to exchange stories but some street vendors are back at work.

You have enough supplies to get by...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I had enough supplies from (inaudible) supermarket and I was well prepared.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): In Montego Bay, tourists unable to evacuate before the storm lined up at the airport to get on the first planes out -- this couple here to see their son get married. The wedding was Friday and then came Dean.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once it started it wasn't a big deal. We played cards, had some drinks. I mean you know made a party out of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) electricity went off and that was it.

CANDIOTTI: Five thousand people filled shelters. Electricity shut down before the storm remains out on the island with no estimates on when power will be restored.


CANDIOTTI: And at this hour, Sangster International Airport here in Montego Bay is a very, very busy place. Air Jamaica flights have resumed and in the morning American airlines goes back online. A lot of people lining up here trying to get out and there aren't enough flights at this time -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Well at least they weathered the worst of this. Give everyone in Jamaica, Susan, our best. I know we have a lot of viewers over there because we get a lot of e-mails.

Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File". You get a lot of e-mails from our viewers in Jamaican throughout the Caribbean.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All over the Caribbean, absolutely. Except for Cuba, they don't let them write from Cuba.

Our country, Wolf, is apparently in a lot of pain these days. The amount of five major painkillers sold at retail outlets rose 90 percent between 1997 and 2005 according to an Associate Press analysis of government statistics -- 200,000 pounds of the codeine, morphine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Methadrine were bought at stores in 2005 alone. That's enough to give everybody in America 300 milligrams of painkillers to all of us.

Oxycodone, which is used in OxyContin, is responsible for most of that increase. Its use grew six-fold in those years, the highest rates of sell in places like in suburban Saint Louis, Columbus, Ohio, Fort Lauderdale. They also found that in Appalachia sales of hydrocodone, which is mostly sold as Vicodin, are the highest anywhere in the nation. Some of the reasons for these huge increases include an aging population, which means more of a need for pain medication. Drug companies that roll out those unprecedented marketing campaigns -- I'm sick of seeing those commercials on TV -- and a change over the past few decades in pain management philosophy. It's become more likely that doctors who used to say that pain is part of the healing process now prescribe these drugs as a part of their treatment. And of course there's Rush Limbaugh.

So here's the question. Why is the use of painkillers in the United States jumped more than 90 percent in the last decade? E-mail your thoughts to or go to That's a lot of medication.

BLITZER: A lot of medication. I want to give our viewers a heads up, Jack. I'm here in New York with you. This is it. This is the book and our viewers can see it right now. It's called "It's Getting Ugly Out There" -- September 10. They can't really read the Jack Cafferty new book...


BLITZER: ... which is subtitled "The Frauds, Bunglers, Liars and Losers Who Are Hurting America". They can't read it until September 10. They can order it right now.

CAFFERTY: They can order it. They can preorder. They can go to the nation's independent booksellers and preorder it there. Did you notice to reinforce the title they put my picture on the cover.


BLITZER: "It's Getting Ugly Out There". You're not ugly.


BLITZER: You're very handsome.

CAFFERTY: A very handsome man...


BLITZER: Something...


BLITZER: Stuff is getting ugly out there. All right, Jack. Stand by.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congratulations on the new book.

Hurricane Dean, bull's eye on Mexico. We're expecting a new forecast this hour. Also this...





BLITZER: Whoa, a plane explosion. Find out how everyone onboard actually made it out alive.

Plus a look at what you can do if your plane goes down.

Also, flooding from Texas to Minnesota, a dramatic rescue with an inexperienced crew, see how they saved a couple swept away by the storm.

And mine rescue outrage. Families of the missing miners turn on the company. We'll tell you what's going on.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.






BLITZER: Take a look at this video. It's video that's coming in from Okinawa in Japan. Believe it or not, everyone onboard this China Airlines flight from Taiwan escaped unhurt.

CNN's Kyung Lah tells us what happened.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A flight left Taiwan International Airport and landed on time in Okinawa's Naha Airport. All 157 passengers and eight crewmembers got out. Soon after landing, something went terribly wrong.



LAH: According to witnesses, it was the engine on the left side of the plane that exploded. Thick, black smoke billowed from China Air Flight 120. The fire so intense it cracked the Boeing 737 in two.


LAH: Everyone on the flight is safe said the airline. China Airlines, Taiwan's largest passenger air carrier, has had four fatal crashes in recent years, among them a crash in Hong Kong in 1999. All but three of the 315 passengers and crew survived. And in 2002, a Boeing 747 bound for Hong Kong crashed into the sea moments after takeoff. All 225 aboard died.

(on camera): The airlines fleet on 737 is now grounded. The airline promises it will fully investigate why China Air Flight 120 burst into flames, focusing now on the lucky survivors despite their harrowing close call.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.


BLITZER: And as just saw, only seconds could mean the difference between life and death if you're in a plane crash. So what do you need to know to help you get out alive?

Let's go to our Deborah Feyerick. She's here with us. What's the first thing, Deb that every passenger should know?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the first thing that everyone should know is that time is crucial. You have 90 seconds experts tell us to get out of that plane. That's easier said than done when your heart is racing even if it's only just a drill.


FEYERICK (voice-over): In this simulation soon after the flight starts, something goes wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The captain has just informed me that we have an engine fire and it's on this side of the aircraft.

FEYERICK: Everyone is quiet as the flight attendant tells us what's happening and what we need to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put your seat belts on nice and tight, very, very snug against your hips.

BLAIN STANLEY, EVACUATION EXPERT: Pandemonium and chaos and mayhem is not the norm per se. People look for direction. They get quiet. They look at the crewmembers. And they want to be led.

FEYERICK: Tracy Gross (ph), our flight attendant, shows me how to open the emergency exits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you repeat that back to me?

FEYERICK: I remove the cushions. I take the panel off, then I pull the handle and do leg (ph), body, leg (ph).

The next drill deals with smoke. That and fire are the two things many pilots and crewmembers fear most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most people who are alive but when the airplane comes to a stop, but end up dead die because of smoke inhalation. They are consumed by the smoke and fire because the evacuation does not proceed rapidly enough.

FEYERICK: Smoke fills our cabin top to bottom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody to bring your shirt up over your nose and mouth and breathe through that.

FEYERICK: Because of cabin pressure and airflow there's no safety zone. You can crouch but don't crawl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting really low in an aircraft to evacuate simply makes it so people start to trample over you.

FEYERICK: It's important to know exactly where the closest exit is the smoke is blinding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feel that. Just feel it so you know where it is and what it feels like in your hands. You got that...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... and the hand on each side of the door.


FEYERICK: What you wear when flying is important. Cotton is better than polyester since synthetics burn quickly and can melt on your skin.


FEYERICK: On commercial planes equipped with emergency chutes, you can't just sit and slide. You have to run and jump, says flight attendant Denise Gubin (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a time factor. You have to be able to exit an aircraft within 90 seconds and it requires everybody to jump and run away from the aircraft.

FEYERICK: And what if the plane rolls over?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to get out of your seat any way you can. Release the seat belt. You're going to fall to the floor or the ceiling, whatever the case may be, and then move towards what is obviously an exit. Be it a placarded (ph) exit or a big hole in the side of the fuselage.

FEYERICK: With a water landing it's important not to inflate your vest until after you're out of the aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you get that vest on and you inflate it fully, it blows up to about twice your normal body size up front. Now as you move towards the exit if the exit is too small you can't fit through.

FEYERICK: As for us on our smoky plane...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten seconds. Ten seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, brace. Brace. Hold tight.

FEYERICK: As our plane crashes, we climb out the window, hearts racing even though it's just a drill.


FEYERICK: And one of the most important things is that if you have children and you're going out that window, it is important to hand your child off even if it's too a stranger because that will allow you and your child to both get out of the plane much more quickly and of course that means trusting somebody when it's a life or death situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This was only a drill. It looked realistic to me, but did you get the real sense that you were crashing?

FEYERICK: There's no question. There was a rush of energy. You lose direction. You're not sure do you go to the right? Do you go to the left? And so you are just swept along. It is only when you're away from the plane you can kind of process the information. So yes, even though it was just a drill it was still very real and still really adrenaline based.

BLITZER: Ninety seconds, that's the key...

FEYERICK: Ninety seconds...

BLITZER: You've got to get out of that plane. Everyone, 200 passengers, 300 passengers or whatever, you've got to get out in 90 seconds. All right, Deb. Thanks very much.

Hurricane Dean a possible, possible Category 5 monster storm. It's a Category 4 right now. We're expecting a new forecast momentarily from the National Hurricane Center. We're going to update you as soon as we know what's going on.

Plus, outrage at the mine, families turning against the company right now accusing officials of simply giving up on the rescue.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Right now in Utah there's a debate over whether to keep looking for those six workers trapped in the mine and some anger from the families, upset at the possibility that the search is ending, at least they are even talking about ending that search.

CNN's Dan Lothian is in Huntington.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the rescue operation continues up on the mountain but the family members of the six-trapped miners are not happy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LOTHIAN (voice-over): Family members of the six-trapped miners had been patient and mostly private but their mood has changed and their frustrations are now very public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel that they've given up and that they're just waiting for the six miners to expire.

LOTHIAN: This sudden shift comes after mine officials who have been hopeful since the underground collapse made this painful admission about the trapped miners.

ROB MOORE, V.P., MURRAY ENERGY CORPORATION: It's likely that these miners may not be found.

LOTHIAN: A grim assessment because oxygen levels from the fourth hole are too low to sustain life and experts say it's too dangerous to dig underground. The relatives through a spokesman expressed anger and accused miner owner Bob Murray of breaking a promise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the beginning Bob Murray reassured the family with promises that he would get the miners out dead or alive.

BOB MURRAY, CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORPORATION: I will not leave this mine until there's been a rescue dead or alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time to live up to that promise.

LOTHIAN: The families are frustrated too over what they say is Murray's recent absence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel that Bob Murray has abandoned us. Mr. Murray has not been present since the tragic accident on Thursday night.

LOTHIAN: At daily briefings Murray had often portrayed a unified front in full engagement with the families.

MURRAY: We meet with them two times a day. Their strength, their faith, is amazing.

LOTHIAN: A mine official says Murray is spending more time with experts who are attempting to see if there is a safe option to go back underground. And Murray released this letter vowing to continue the search and saying in part quote, "our efforts in the digging and recovering have left me such that I cannot be a good spokesman to the public media."


Family members want mine officials to dig a large hole and send down a rescue capsule, right now though that's not a consideration. Crews are working on a small bore hole, a fifth bore hole. They should reach the bottom by sometime tomorrow or early Wednesday morning. Mine officials aren't optimistic about what they'll find -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian reporting for us from the scene.

Take a look at this -- in China, angry calls and aggressive acts.




BLITZER: They're smashing windows, venting their fury. Relatives of some of the 172 coal miners trapped in eastern China simply storm mining company office. They're simply desperate for word on their loved ones but they say the company has been tight lipped about rescue efforts. The miners have been trapped since Friday when two shafts became flooded. Crews are trying to pump out the water amid fading hope that the men survived.

We're standing by for a new forecast momentarily from the National Hurricane Center. We're going to give it to you as soon as we get it. This as Hurricane Dean continues its rampage across the Caribbean. We're keeping you up to the minute on when and where the killer storm will strike next.

Also, rescuers try and fail and try again to save a couple caught in rushing floodwaters. We're going to walk you through what happened.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, angry protesters greet President Bush in Canada. Mr. Bush is in Quebec for a two-day summit with Canada's prime minister and Mexico's president. Demonstrators clashed with riot police outside of the resort where the gathering is taking place.

California Congressman Robert Filner faces misdemeanor assault and battery charges. Authorities say Filner pushed a United Airlines baggage claim worker while allegedly trying to enter a restricted area at Washington's Dulles International Airport yesterday. Filner is scheduled to appear in court October 2.

And an attorney for Michael Vick says the NFL quarterback will plead guilty to federal dog fighting charges. Vick will be in a Virginia courtroom next Monday to enter his plea. Sources say federal prosecutors are recommending an 18 to 36-month prison sentence.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Atlantic hurricane season is getting off to a fierce start with Hurricane Dean threatening parts of Mexico right now. And threatening to grow into a monster Category 5 storm in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Some are leaving. Many, though, are trapped. As Hurricane Dean barrels their way, residents and tourists are trying to escape out of fear for their lives. The travel options right now are clearly limited. Gary Tuchman is in Tulum Mexico. CNN's Jason Carroll is in Cancun. Jason, let's start with you.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... what the situation is like here now. The wind is just starting to pick up. Just a bit. And this is what people are starting to worry about, how bad things are going to get here because of Hurricane Dean. We were at the airport a little earlier. People are trying to get out as soon as they can.

Take a look behind me. You can see what the situation looks like. Right now all eyes are looking out at the ocean to see what is going to happen in the next several hours. Right now the surf looking pretty calm. But the worst of Hurricane Dean not expected to impact us here until about shortly after midnight.

On Friday, Wolf, Governor Felix Gonzales Canto was like most people here who believed that the eye of the hurricane was going to come directly over Cancun and so he said everyone should take a warning and get the heck out. Most did, 70,000 people, Wolf, have evacuated so far. There are anywhere between 25 and 30,000 people who are still left. Most of those people are held up in hotels that are pretty well barricaded because in 2005 Hurricane Wilma swept through here, Wolf, caused a great deal of damage. There were many lessons learned after that. Many of the hotels were retrofitted. What we are hearing now are officials tell us that most people believe that they can really weather the worst of what Dean is going to offer because the predictions are telling us that Dean is going to skew south of here and that Cancun will not get a direct hit.

Even so, as you can see, winds starting to pick up. Most people have left town. Those who are staying are staying in hotels that they feel are pretty well barricaded. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jason, have you got a game plan for yourself and our crew, our own people there? What are you guys planning on doing?

CARROLL: My game plan is that I have to work. So I'm going to be out here working. We'll be doing it safely. What we're going to be doing is reporting throughout the night. We have covered many hurricanes in the past. I covered Wilma, Rita, Katrina, so we're used to doing this. We're used to trying to do this as safe as we can. Of course when we're out here, we don't want people out here but we're going to do it as best we can.

BLITZER: Be careful out there. Jason Carroll on the scene for us out in Mexico in Cancun. Let's go to Gary Tuchman. He is on hurricane watch for us in Tulum, Mexico as well. Set the scene for us, Gary, where you are.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf we're 80 miles south of where Jason is and he just brought up a big point, that the hotels in Cancun which is the most important and major tourist destination in Mexico right now, a lot of them are like forts. They are really strong places to stay. It's a barrier island and that makes it dangerous but they're like forts. Here it's a whole different story. This tiny town of Tulum only has 10,000 people that live in it, but it's a real boutique place to stay and the hotels are kind of behind me. And they line the beach and many of them are bed and breakfasts. Many people sleep in hammocks outside on the water when they're sleeping.

And the water even on the best of days even when there's no storm comes right up to your hammock. It's a beautiful place for that reason but it's also a very vulnerable place for that reason. The rain is just starting to come down. We're hearing our first thunder claps right now. But the water is still relatively calm. There are still hours away before this comes here. But I will tell you, in this town they are taking it very seriously. There are a lot of poorer people who live here. This is a real pueblo, this is not a tourist town although some tourists do come here. But people are boarding up their home.

They know, they had the experience as Jason was telling you with Hurricane Wilma two years ago. And Hurricane Gilbert back in 1988 which is a Category 5 very similar to the one coming of this one, coming in the same direction. It killed 225 people in Mexico. They know to take it very seriously. And that indeed they seem to be doing here 80 miles south of Cancun. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Gary, thanks very much. Gary is not going away. He's covering this hurricane for us as well. Meanwhile, the island of Cozumel off the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula could be right in Hurricane Dean's very dangerous path. Tourists have fled, at least a lot of them. Shops and restaurants right now are boarded up. Ricardo Garcia is a scuba diving instructor at a resort on the island. He is joining us now on the phone from Cozumel. What's the situation, Ricardo, like right now only hours before Hurricane Dean expected to go over Cozumel?

RICARDO GARCIA, COZUMEL RESIDENT (on phone): Well, the situation here you can feel the effects of Dean. Right now it's cloudy. The winds start picking up. Raining as well. You can start feeling a little bit there. The last report was from the government was at 6:00 Central Time and they say everybody should to be home by now. And they recommend as well that everybody stay home tomorrow until 7:00 in the morning.

BLITZER: But, right now, Ricardo, people I assume are all inside. People aren't still walking around outside, is that what you're seeing?

GARCIA: Well, everybody right now should be at home. The government and army that patrol the whole island are recommending to people to go home right now.

BLITZER: They should go home. Ricardo Garcia, be careful over there. Good luck to you and all of our other friends in Cozumel getting ready to brace this storm. As Hurricane Dean is barreling toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. We're getting I-Reports sent into CNN every minute or so showing the storms impact on the Caribbean. Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton, she is standing by. Abbi, these latest pictures that we're getting, what do they show?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're getting pictures of where the storm is headed and also where it has been already. We're going to take you back to Kingston, Jamaica yesterday. This is where Jevaughn Hartley was experiencing there. Bear in mind that the storm passed to the south of Jamaica avoiding a direct hit. But still, this is what they were going through. Trees down. Rooftops blown off, says Jevaughn. Residents out today surveying the damage.

Then we're also getting the pictures of where the storm is headed. If we go over here, we look at Corozal. This is the northernmost town in Belize. This is right by the Mexican border where Douglas Podzun owns this result. Very calm right now. No winds. No waves he said from this video he sent in earlier. But they are preparing for the onslaught. He says that gas station around there are running short on gas and a curfew is about to go into effect in the next couple of hours. All of these videos coming, Wolf, at

BLITZER: We want to remind, Abbi, all of our I-Reporters out there be very careful. Don't do anything dangerous. Send us the pictures, send us the video but be careful especially as this hurricane picks up speed and it's picking up speed we're told. In fact we're expecting a new forecast from the National Hurricane Center momentarily. We could find out if this hurricane will be upgraded to a monstrous Category 5. The dangerous storm racing toward the Yucatan Peninsula right now.

And take a look at this. A heart stopping moment. A woman clinging for her life to a rescue helicopter loses her grip. We're going to tell you how the rescuers got her back to safety. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There are flood warnings in effect right now from Texas to Minnesota as remnants of Tropical Storm Erin are swamping parts of the Midwest. The flooding has driven people from their homes and caused millions of dollars of damage already. CNN's Susan Roesgen is in one hard hit section of Oklahoma.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after the floods you've got the mud. A huge mess from that tropical storm that just wouldn't go away.


ROESGEN (voice-over): It was the remnants of that tropical storm that led to this. Sixty-six-year-old Bernice Krittenbrink was with her husband when their pickup was swept off the highway into the flood. Their live depended on a helicopter crew that had never done a water rescue. With the local fire chief by her side, Bernice held on tight until her grip gave way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh no, that's exactly what I did not want to see. ROESGEN: The life jacket the crew had thrown her first gave her a second chance. Then it was her husband's turn. An equally rough journey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't get my hands around the skid on the helicopter and hang on so Randy here grabbed me by the arm and pulled me up high enough to where I could get my arms locked around that skid. And that took me up.

ROESGEN: Flooding hit hard from Texas to Minnesota and at least 13 people were killed. Some were drivers swept into sinkholes in the roads. And in Wisconsin, floods and mudslides washed out roads, bridges and homes. All some can do now is try to sweep away the mess.

LINDA SEWELL, HOMEOWNER: This is the kind of muck that we're going to have to clean up today that we didn't get to last night.


ROESGEN (on camera): And one more thing, Wolf. The local emergency management folks in Oklahoma are offering tetanus shots to anyone who was in that water. Wolf?

BLITZER: Susan Roesgen on the scene for us. Thank you. Very dramatic video indeed.

Remember, we're standing by for a new update from the National Hurricane Center. As soon as we get it, we're going to share it with you. That's coming up. Will this monster storm go from Category 4 to Category 5? We'll know in a few moments. We want to give you an update, though, right now on a story we brought you only a few moments ago. Some family members of the miners trapped in Utah are speaking out. Carol Costello is joining us once again.

Carol, what are they saying.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're getting sound from families of those missing six miners. They have not spoken publicly until now. They feel the mining company has given up and they're urging rescue efforts to continue. Now, you are going to hear from Steve Allred. His brother Kerry is somewhere buried underneath that mountain in the Crandall Canyon Mine. Here's what he had to say.


STEVE ALLRED, BROTHER OF TRAPPED MINER: My brother is trapped underground. I'm hearing that they're basically giving up and that's unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. I can't live with that. His family can't live with that. One way or the other we've got to have closure and if the only way they can get down and get them men out alive or dead is from the overburden, through the overburden that's what I want. It needs to be done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe your brother could still be alive?

ALLRED: I honestly do. I absolutely do from the bottom of my soul. I felt it from day one. And I've never lost that feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been two weeks. Many say no way. Why do you still have the optimism that do you?

ALLRED: Because I know miners. And they're damn tough. And they don't give up easy. I've heard also back in China people survive for 21 days. I heard another story. I'm not sure. So, I won't name the place. But it was over 30 days that someone had actually survived underground without food.


COSTELLO: Now, the miners' families also mentioned Bob Murray, the owner of that mine disappearing them. They haven't really heard from him from five days now and they are wondering why. Has he given up as well? Earlier today as we told you in THE SITUATION ROOM, he sent out a press release. And I'm going to read a bit of that to you now. Murray says, "Efforts of digging and recovering have left me such that I can not be a good spokesman to the public media on behalf of our efforts to reach the original six miners."

So it doesn't say the rescue operation has stopped. It just says that he's no longer going to be the public spokesperson. However, there's nothing happening at that mine right now. And the families are very upset about that. They want answers and they want to know when the rescue efforts will continue. Wolf?

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story. We'll stay on top of this story for our viewers. Carol, thanks very much.

Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour. "God, Sex and Greed", it's a Roland Martin special. Roland is standing by to give us a preview. Roland?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN HOST: Thanks, Wolf. A lot of religious people see America as the poster child for corruption, materialism and lust. But are we really that bad? At the top of the hour we're looking at "God, Sex and Greed." Among my guests are a rabbi, an evangelical, a millionaire and a porn star. That's right, Wolf. A porn star. We're also taking your e-mails and phone calls. "God, Sex and Greed," this is an hour you'll want to see. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Roland. Sounds good. What a group you got coming up. We'll be watching. Thank you.

Deadbeat parents may find it tough leaving the country if they don't pay up for their kids. Why the federal government is now telling them no money for child support, no passport.

And Michael Vick's next move will be in court. Why his attorney says the star quarterback is now ready to enter a guilty plea to federal dog fighting charges. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're standing by for a new forecast on Hurricane Dean. Chad Myers standing by. We'll go to him shortly.

Other news we're following, the NFL quarterback Michael Vick could be leaving the gridiron for prison. He's agreed to plead guilty to federal charges related to dog fighting. Mary Snow is watching this case for us. What exactly happened today, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the latest is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges involving an illegal dog fighting ring. That word came from an attorney for Vick who says the football star reached an agreement with federal prosecutors after he consulted with his family over the weekend. He says Vick would accept full responsibility for his action and mistakes he made and he says Michael wishes to apologize again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter. Now U.S. attorneys in Richmond, Virginia had no comment on the guilty plea that could put Vick in prison.

Earlier today sources close to the case told CNN that federal prosecutors had offered a plea deal recommending a prison sentence for 18 to 36 months. Three of Vick's co-defendants have already accepted agreements to plead guilty in exchange for reduced sentences and Wolf, Vick is expected to be in court next Monday.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stay on top of this story. It has generated a lot, a lot of interest. Mary, thank you.

There's another story we're following right now. Some deadbeat parents are all of a sudden having to shell out thousands of extra dollars before they get their passport. Out State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is standing by. Zain, is this sort of an unintended consequence of that huge passport backlog?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in part, yes, it is. The government is saying that at least $82 billion are owed in child support and one program is making parents pay up.


JEANETTE DEAN, SINGLE MOTHER: Not doing so bad, am I?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not so bad.

VERJEE (voice-over): Jeannette Dean says she tried every move she could in Washington State to get her ex-husband to cough up the cash. Thousands of dollars in child support for their son, Scott.

DEAN: I cashed in all of my retirement and 401(k) and IRAs and everything just to be able to support him.

VERJEE: Then one day, boom, $36,000 landed in her account.

DEAN: I was shocked. I didn't even know what to say. I didn't know what to feel. I wasn't sure if it was going to go away the next time I looked.

VERJEE: She didn't know then Scott's father was forced to pay the full outstanding amount because he needed a passport.

MARGOT BEAN, OFFICE OF CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT: I'm very happy that we have this tool and that we can use it.

VERJEE: The little known passport denial program says if you owe more than $2,500 in child support, no passport until you pay up.

BEAN: When somebody wants to go overseas they can come up $60,000, $100,000. It's truly amazing.

VERJEE: Margot Bean says one U.S. businessman living in China paid more than $300,000 to get his passport. The government says child support collections have almost doubled this year. States have reported getting $22.5 million so far. The money is then sent on to parents like Jeannette.

DEAN: It's nice taking a little walk, isn't it?

VERJEE: The road is much smoother for mother and son. Jeannette says so far so good, Scott's father has paid her child support for the last two months.

DEAN: In 10 years when he wants to renew his passport again, maybe there will be money that he needs to pay at that time. I don't know.


VERJEE (on camera): Wolf, we made an effort to reach out to Scott's father but he told child support officials that he didn't want to talk to CNN. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Zain, thanks very much.

I want to immediately go to our meteorologist Chad Myers. He's watching Hurricane Dean for us. We're getting some new information, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Wolf. We have an airplane in the storm right now. The Air Force plane flying around. They found 155 miles per hour. It takes 156 to be a Category 5. So it is still technically a Category 4. But the difference, Wolf, is that this is an ice skater bringing her arms close to herself. And all of a sudden she's spinning around.. The closer she brings her arms in, the faster the winds will go. The smaller the eye is the faster the winds will go. This is just as dangerous as a Category 5 when the eye is 16 miles. When the eye gets to be about 14 miles, it will be a Cat 5. That will happen before landfall.


BLITZER: We'll stay on top of it, Chad, thank you very much. Technically still a Category 4 but one mile further and it's a Category 5. That's the highest, the worst category for a hurricane.

When we come back, the use of painkillers skyrocketing in the United States. The question tonight, why? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. The question this hour is why has the use of painkillers in the United States jumped more than 90 percent in the last decade? That's an astonishing increase.

Sharon in Plano, Texas writes, "As a member of the medical profession, I can provide a partial answer to the reason that prescription painkiller use is on the rise. HMOs and PPOs mean each patient is getting less time with their doctor. If the patients are in pain, it's often easier to write a prescription for Vicodin so the exam rooms can be opened up to some of the other 10 people sitting in the waiting room."

Joshua in Pittsburgh. "Because it's the only health care I can still afford. A bottle of 'hospital visit' is too expensive."

Devon in Milwaukee, "Being a clinical pharmacist, I can tell you the impact of pharmaceutical companies direct to the consumer advertising has had an enormous impact and an exponential increase in the pill popping mentality of our society. Patients now think every problem, mental and or physical, can be solved with a pill."

Michelle in Somerville, New Jersey. "Jack in my opinion this dramatic spike in pain killer use is in part because of the insurance companies' preference for a quick fix rather than prolonged treatment. From pain to mental illness, insurance companies would rather pay for a run of pills than other treatments that can take longer and rack up costs."

Kathleen in California. "I don't know why the pain medication use has doubled in the last decade, but can you see that my fair share, 300 milligrams, is sent to me right away."

Grace writes, "It's getting ugly out there. Ergo more pain pills. Let's just kill the pain. It's too hard to get rid of the cause."

Mark in Bozeman, Montana. "Maybe the increased use of painkillers coincides with your program, Jack. Did you ever think of that?"

No, I didn't, Mark.

And Denise in Olympia, Washington. "Dammit, Jack, you stole my Rush Limbaugh joke."

If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to where we post more of them online along with video clips of the cafferty file.

BLITZER: And did I point out to you, I just went to

CAFFERTY: This is amazing.

BLITZER: Your new book, "It's Getting Ugly Out There," which isn't even out yet, September 10 is the publication date, has now jumped to number 24 on the bestseller's list. People are preordering this book because they're interested in the "Frauds, Bunglers, Liars and Losers Who are Hurting America."

CAFFERTY: Well, I couldn't be happier. I'm delighted. That's good news, right?

BLITZER: It's good reading.

CAFFERTY: Well thank you.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much. We'll see you here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.

We're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00, back for another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, until then I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. Up next, a Roland Martin special, "God, Sex and Greed."