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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Oklahoma Disaster Coverage; Britain on Edge After Possible Attack; Boston Bomber Implicated

Aired May 23, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Recovery mode. People in Moore, Oklahoma, sifting through the debris of where their homes once stood and figuring out how to rebuild as estimates of damage here continue to grow.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Linked to murder. New information that dead Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have been involved in three killings two years ago.

And terror in London. The country on high alert this morning after a deadly attack in broad daylight on a man who may have been a soldier.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Zoraida has the day off.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, May 23rd, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we're going to begin here in Moore, Oklahoma, where I am holding an umbrella because it is beginning to rain here. It's been three days since the tornado, that huge tornado, EF-5, tore apart this town. The search for survivors is now officially over. Emergency crews are sifting into -- sifting through rubble and shifting into full recovery mode. It's happening all over here.

First, I want you to take a look at this image right now. It's a Google Earth image. This is what Madison Drive -- Madison Place Drive looked like before this morning. This is what it looked like last week.

Let me show you what it looks like now. This is where I'm standing. This is Madison Place Drive right now.

What a difference a few days makes. It's a sobering reminder of how much people who live here have lost.

We want to remind you of the latest. The facts here, President Obama will be here on Sunday to assess the damage. Also, look at the relief effort. And, of course, he will be comforting the victims here.

State insurance officials tell us now that claims are expected to top $2 billion. The mayor of Oklahoma City says some 13,000 homes have been damaged, destroyed or affected in some way. And FEMA is making it clear resources, they are available for this disaster but if another catastrophe like a tornado or a hurricane like Sandy strikes the U.S. any time soon, the agency might not have enough money then to properly respond.

As we mentioned, this town really in full recovery mode. You drive down the streets, you see so many people working.

Everyone who is missing in the aftermath of the tornado, everyone who is missing is now accounted for. The official death toll stands at 24 people, 10 of those people children.

And the challenge ahead, it is so daunting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (voice-over): Officials now estimate the twister damaging or destroying more than 13,000 homes, causing up to $2 billion in damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God!

BERMAN: Volunteers from all over the country are now in Oklahoma to help those in greatest need, like this Pennsylvania man and his team who traveled here at the first sign of trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fortunately, we were monitoring weather patterns and realized that this storm was going to happen. When the storm happened, we were only two hours out and were able to bring in almost $2 million of equipment within two hours after the storm touched down here.

BERMAN: As survivors pick up the pieces, a memorial service is scheduled this weekend to remember the 24 lives lost, including the seven children killed at the Plaza Towers Elementary School.

The tragedy at the school is raising more questions about why schools don't have safe rooms for shelter.

MAYOR GLENN LEWIS, MOORE, OKLAHOMA: Anybody that lives in any tornado area should have one. But it's just a matter of cost. You know, there will be more people after this tornado that buy them and have them put in. So, we'll have more as soon as this is done.

BERMAN: The mayor confirms that all of the missing are now accounted for.

At the city cemetery, hundreds of volunteers gathered with shovels and rakes did clean up for upcoming funerals.

President Obama will visit the tornado-ravaged area on Sunday. At a White House event Wednesday night, the president reiterated his support.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While the road ahead will be long, their country will be with them every single step of the way. BERMAN: For every story of destruction, there are so many more of selflessness and heroism. At this day care center, flattened by the monstrous winds, all of the toddlers and workers survived in a bathroom.

Paramedic Lisa Lester (ph) described what she encountered as she drove up to help the wounded.

LISA LESTER, PARAMEDIC: They were just covered in mud from head to toe. All you could see was the whites of their eyes.

BERMAN: She squeezed them all in this ambulance, 18 people in all.

(on camera): Is that legal?

LESTER: No.

BERMAN (voice-over): Lisa reunited with one of the women she helped that day.

UNIDNTIFIED FEMALE: So glad I got to see you. I wanted to get your name.

LESTER: I couldn't remember yours and I looked at the paper. I'm so happy you're OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy to see you.

LESTER: I'm so happy, thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: There are so many acts of heroism here, everywhere where you look, and so many people coming together to help the rebuilding effort. You drive down the streets here, and you see armies of people now raking lawns and picking up rubble. It is such an inspiring sight to see amidst the tragedy here, because this, of course, where seven children, they were killed in the Plaza Towers Elementary School when that tornado struck. Really the school took a direct hit.

And CNN's John King toured the devastation with Moore Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): In terms of when people first responded here, I mean, where did everybody go?

SGT. JEREMY LEWIS, MOORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: We basically just surrounded the school and started running into different areas. Some of this has been cleaned out due to the search and rescue efforts. They're literally just climbing over debris.

People were yelling for help, so just pulling people out as quickly as possible. And that went on literally for hours.

KING: This was a hall of classrooms that led to --

LEWIS: There's classrooms on each side.

KING: That was connected, though. There was nothing?

LEWIS: That was a wall there. That was a classroom straight ahead.

KING: Right.

LEWIS: There was classrooms out here. You can see there's still tile.

KING: Right. This is gone.

LEWIS: This classroom is gone. These classrooms are all gone.

KING: There are more on the front side here, too. Anywhere we see there's tile a classroom.

LEWIS: Well, you can see the door leading into what was the classroom.

KING: That was the back wall of the classroom there, yes. With the board. That's the front wall of the school there.

LEWIS: Front wall would have been right there, yes.

KING: Is there a place in the school where people fared better, for a lack of a better way to put it?

LEWIS: Well, you can see just kind of see where there are still walls standing up. Obviously, that corner, the main part of the tornado came through this way. So this is the area that took the most as it went through this part here. So, that's -- you can just kind of see where the walls are standing and where they're not.

A lot of 460-something students. Unfortunately, we did lose seven. But by looking at the damage, it's a miracle that we didn't lose a lot more. And none of this has been touched. This is what it looked like. There hasn't been tractors moving anything. This is how it landed.

KING: The people have been through and that region will be certain there's nobody left --

LEWIS: Yes. This has all been searched. This is what has taken so long. We had to go through all of this. And this goes for 15 miles the other way.

KING: Just 15 miles?

LEWIS: Of just like this.

KING: Fifteen miles just like this.

LEWIS: Fifteen miles, yes. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: The damage there just so staggering.

Of course, the devastation at Plaza Towers Elementary School weighing so heavily on everyone, the loss of those seven young lives weighing on everyone here. But it is weighing particularly heavy on one tornado survivor who rushed to the Plaza Towers Elementary School with the hopes of saving some young children.

And Pamela Brown is here with that part of the story.

Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

You know, John, we've talked to so many people who right after the tornado, they wanted to help. They rushed wherever they could to help.

And I spoke to one resident in Moore, Oklahoma, who did just that. He went to Plaza Towers Elementary School hoping to save lives. What he saw still haunts him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Moore resident Adam Baker (ph) is giving a hand to a close friend whose home was flattened by Monday's catastrophic tornado. It's helping him cope after he found himself helpless in the face of tragedy at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

ADAM BAKER, MOORE RESIDENT: It's just -- utter devastation. I mean, I don't know if there's really a way to describe it.

BROWN: Right after the storm hit, he was one of many who rushed to Plaza Towers to find loved ones. He desperately searched for his nephew and any other survivors.

(on camera): And you went there in hopes of rescuing people?

BAKER: Yes. And I -- didn't really get to, I guess. I -- I tried, though. I mean, that's all I can do.

BROWN: Instead, he encountered unspeakable horror. Four children buried under the massive debris of the collapsed school. Suffocated by its shear weight.

BAKER: They probably would have made if they weren't pinned.

BROWN (on camera): How were they pinned?

BAKER: Pinned by different debris. Desks. Two by fours. Pieces of metal.

BROWN (voice-over): The students were not found in a basement as officials initially believed. (on camera): Do you think had there been an underground shelter, these lives could have been saved?

BAKER: Oh, yes, most definitely. I mean, underground shelters are some of the best things to have in a tornado.

BROWN (voice-over): Still, there are not enough of them. Even in tornado-stricken Oklahoma. Schools aren't required to have underground shelters. The main reasons: the high cost of retrofitting the schools and the porous soil.

LEWIS: It's about the money, and the statistics. An F-5 tornado is very rare, 1 percent to 2 percent of the tornados. They don't happen very often, same reason they don't have safe rooms for earthquakes. They don't work,, you know, all the time.

BROWN: A painful truth for Mickey Dixon Davis (ph) who lost her son Kyle at Plaza Towers.

MICKEY DIXON DAVIS, LOST SON: With us living in Oklahoma, tornado shelters should be in every school. It should be -- you know, there should be a place that if this ever happened again during school that kids can get to a safe place. That we don't have to sit there and go through rubble and rubble and rubble and -- and may not ever find what we're looking for.

BROWN: A feeling that Adam Baker knows all too well.

BAKER: I pulled them out, and basically just tried to put them in a row respectfully as I could.

BROWN (on camera): What was that like for you?

BAKER: Terrible for me. But it's my duty as an American. It's a hole in your heart. Just to see these little broken bodies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Just getting chills to hear that.

And the National Weather Service, by the way, has confirmed at this point the school is the only spot where they can confirm the EF-5 strength winds. Winds of 200 miles per hour or more, which isn't surprising when you see all of that devastation and what happened there.

BERMAN: Yes. When you heard from the city mayor saying, you know, that they would hope to have shelters in all these schools, I talked to parents of one of the victims, one of the little girls who died, they wish, of course, there was a shelter in that school. That's something everyone really here is talking about.

BROWN: And I think it's one of those things easier said that done, but in light of what happened, you're seeing online petitions from residents, you're seeing state legislators saying, look, we need to do something, let's propose some legislation. So, we could see some change.

BERMAN: Pamela Brown, thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.

All right. Christine, we want to go back to you now in New York.

ROMANS: All right. It is 11 minutes after the hour.

Still ahead, terror on the streets of London. A deadly attack on a man thought to be a British soldier, an attack in broad daylight. The country on high alert right now. A live report on that coming up.

Plus, the FBI linking dead Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev to a triple murder two years ago. Startling new information, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. About 15 minutes after the hour.

Fears of a terror attack in Britain have riot police in the streets and security beefed up at army bases this morning.

You're looking live in London where London police are searching for evidence in a bizarre and gruesome killing in broad daylight.

(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We swear by the almighty Allah, we'll never stop fighting until you leave us alone. We must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

We -- I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our land, our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe.

Remove your governments, they don't care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the streets when we start busting our guns? Do you think the politician is going to die? No, it's going to be the average guy like you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: CNN's Atika Shubert is there with the latest.

Atika, the government has just finished an emergency meeting. What do we know right now?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All we know at this point is that they're working on the investigation. Two suspects are now in custody. They're under arrest, in separate hospitals.

I'm right by the police cordon. This was actually the scene of the crime about 100 meters or so behind me. I apologize for the noise, a helicopter overhead.

But, basically, what we know is that the man -- young man who was killed, we believe is a serving British soldier. We do not know, he has not been formally identified, and we also don't know the names of the attackers yet.

All we have really is that video you saw, that incredible video where he seems to be asking bystanders to tape the murder and also to take his statement. So, it really is some stunning video footage.

I also have with us now a guest. And this is Graham Wilders.

Graham, you were an eyewitness to this, in fact, you live just three doors down from where this killing happened.

GRAHAM WILDERS, WITNESS: Yes.

SHUBERT: What happened?

WILDERS: Well, I mean, as I said, I come out from where we live just up the road there. As I turn, I see the actual car on the pavement. So I just carried on driving because I had to go where I actually live. And that's where I thought it was just a traffic accident because I see a geezer laying down against the wall and I see two people leaning over him. And I presumed they were trying to resuscitate him, that's what they looked like they were doing.

So, I went and parked the car up in the garage. And as I parked the car in the garage, we start to walk up towards where it was. And a lorry pulled up and a little car pulled up then he come out and started saying, phone 999, phone the police, or whatever. That's when he actually pulled the weapon, the handgun out, waving it about. I thought (INAUDIBLE) driver. The geezer in the car sped off.

SHUBERT: So there was a man with a gun.

WILDERS: Yes. He was dressed all in black. He was the tall, black guy. He was over 6 foot. He had the handgun.

So I backed off towards my back gate. As I was on the phone to the police on 999, I was talking to them. But then as I was talking to them a bunch of school kids come up through the alleyway, between the houses.

SHUBERT: Yes, it's a horrific scene.

(CROSSTALK)

WILDERS: Get in, there's someone up there with a handgun. And I know it was because I actually seen the handgun in his hand.

SHUBERT: Thank you very much. That's very vivid description of what happened. As you point out, he had a gun, and in fact, he fired it, I believe, and then he -- police were able to shoot both of the attackers serious injuring them and they're now in the hospital.

WILDERS: Yes.

SHUBERT: Thank you very much.

As you can see, I mean, this was an incredibly traumatic event that happened. Eyewitnesses seeing all this. It really is a very grisly, shocking event, Christine.

ROMANS: I know. Even looked like passersby didn't even know what was going on. I mean, the video of this man, one of the suspects, sort of ranting about, you know -- ranting about why he did that. A woman is walking by, pulling her groceries or pulling her bag. Just a very, very odd and disturbing scene.

Atika Shubert -- thank you so much, Atika.

CNN has learned Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston marathon bombing suspect, killed in a shootout with police, he has been linked to a gruesome triple murder outside Boston two years ago. A law enforcement says a Chechen man who was killed by an FBI agent Wednesday in Orlando confessed to slashing those victims' throats in 2011 and that man claims Tsarnaev also participated in the murders.

John Zarrella is live in Orlando with the details on this.

Good morning, John. What can you tell us?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

Well, this is still a crime scene more than 24 hours after Ibragim Todashev was shot by an FBI agent and killed. And it turns out that the FBI had their eyes on him within days of the Boston bombings. The common thread between Todashev and one of the bombers appears to be Waltham, Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Sources tell CNN that this man Ibragim Todashev knew Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and that Todashev confessed to being, quote, "directly involved" in a brutal triple 2011 drug-related murder in Waltham, Massachusetts. A federal law enforcement official tells CNN that Todashev also implicated Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the murders.

But Todashev is dead, shot during questioning by an FBI agent and two state police officers in the kitchen of his Orlando apartment. Law enforcement sources told CNN Todashev had confessed to his role in the triple murder then became violent and attacked the FBI agent. He was then shot and killed.

A friend said Todashev knew the Boston suspects but that was all.

KHAUSUEN TARAMOV, SUSPECT'S FRIEND: He knew them two years ago when he used to live in Boston. He knew them. And he didn't -- he wasn't real close friends, just happened to know them. And I guess it was his fault, mistake. But he had not that they were up to something like that, like bombing and everything.

ZARRELLA: Now, dead Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev knew one of the Waltham, Massachusetts, victims. The FBI is now checking to see if they can match his and Todashev's DNA to the crime scene.

There were other decks between the men. Sources tell CNN they came from the same region of Chechnya. Todashev lived in Boston two years ago. Both men were in mixed martial arts at a studio in Boston and on a mixed martial arts Web site. Tamerlan Tsarnaev's phone number was found in Todashev's cell.

Earlier this month, Todashev was charged with aggravated battery after getting in a fight over a parking space at a local mall. While it appears Todashev was a violent man, his connection to the Boston suspects may go no further than a drug murder case and friendship.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: Now, Todashev had bought a ticket to go to Russia on May 27th. The FBI knew about that and before his shooting yesterday had told him, don't get on that flight -- Christine.

ROMANS: Wow, what an odd turn in all this. John Zarrella -- thanks, John.

Developing right now, a humongous sell-off of stocks in foreign markets and it will have an effect on you. I'll tell you what's driving the sell-off and what will happen to your 401(k) today. Details, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Minding your business this morning.

We're looking for a big sell-off in stocks today. Dow futures down 136 points right now. The NASDAQ, the S&P 500 also pointing to a solidly lower open.

Why? The Japanese stock market plunged more than 7 percent today. That's a big move for one day, 7 percent. This is after a weak manufacturing report out of China and European stock markets are now deteriorating.

Adding to the gloom, uncertainty over how long the Fed will keep pumping money into the economy. Mixed signals from Fed officials on how and when the Fed will taper off its massive bond-buying stimulus program. That stimulus has been a huge factor in the recent stock market rally.

The sell-off today after, of course, a stellar run for stocks, a run that has been very good for your 401(k).

Brand new this morning, Fidelity reports retirement savings accounts hit a record high during the first three months of 2013. The average in a retirement account, 401(k) account, right now is $80,900. That's up 8 percent from last year, and a whopping 75 percent increase from the market low in 2009.

And for employees aged 55 and older, the average account balance is now $255,000. That has nearly doubled over the past four years, great news for people who are close to retirement. Fidelity says you can thank the stock market for most of those gains, 65 percent of the increase was because of the rally, and 35 percent from employee contributions and company matches.

Fidelity looks at 12 million accounts for the survey, a pretty good gauge how much Americans are saving for retirement.

But, again, we're looking for a sell-off this morning on the heels of a big, big move lower in Japanese stocks.

Coming up, we're going to go back to Moore, Oklahoma, for John Berman's emotional interview this morning with parents whose 9-year- old daughter died in the wreckage of the Plaza Towers Elementary School.

And a key speech from President Obama today on terrorism and the use of drones, it comes right after the administration admitted that Americans have been killed by drones overseas.

The latest coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)