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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

After The Disaster; Surveying the Damage; Elementary School Rescue Mission; "We Will Never Stop Fighting You"; Britain Fears More Attacks After Soldier Killed; Boston Bomber Linked to 2011 Killings

Aired May 23, 2013 - 06:00   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 here in Moore, Oklahoma, sifting through the debris of where their homes once stood and now figuring out how to rebuild as the estimates of the damage here, they 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 this morning. I'm Christine Romans. Zoraida is off today.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday. It is May 23rd, 6:00 a.m. in the East. We are here in Moore, Oklahoma, again this morning because the search for survivors here, it is officially over less than 72 hours after that epic E-5 tornado tore through this town. This morning, the crews are officially shifting into full recovery mode. And there is a lot of work to be done and there is a lot to tell you about this morning.

First, I want to show you a really interesting, staggering image to see. This is Google Earth image of Madison Place Drive. This is what it looked like Monday morning, just three days ago, Monday morning.

This is what it looks like now. I'm standing on Madison Place Drive. You can see all the homes around me damaged, destroyed. Some simply flattened. The debris here is everywhere. It shows you the difference that an instant, just a single instant can make. It's a reminder here of all the lives that were lost and just how much work lies ahead.

Some of the facts this morning, we've learned that 13,000 homes here were damaged or destroyed by this storm or somehow effected. Thousands of people are waking up homeless this morning, staying with friends, family, in hotels here. State insurance officials tell us the claims here are expected to top $2 billion.

Plus, FEMA is making it clear that resources are now available for this disaster. They have enough money for this, they say, but if another catastrophe like a tornado like this one or a hurricane say another Sandy strikes the U.S. any time soon, that's when the agency says they may not have enough money to properly respond.

President Obama coming here to Moore on Sunday to assess the damage, to look at the relief efforts here and of course, to comfort the victims and there are so many victims, so much tragedy here. The official death toll here now stands at 24. Ten of those killed were children. The challenges ahead right now of this town of 60,000 people right now have a daunting recovery ahead.

(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. 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.

MICHAEL WELCH, BLANCHARD, OKLAHOMA: 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 them put in. So we'll have more as soon as this is done.

BERMAN: The mayor confirmed that all of the missing are now accounted for. The city cemetery, hundreds of volunteers gathered with shovels and rakes to 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 him 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 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.

(voice-over): Is that legal?

LESTER: No.

BERMAN: Lisa reunited with one of the women she helped that day.

LESTER: So glad I got to see you. I wanted to get your name. I couldn't remember yours and I looked at the paper, it was Shannon. I'm so happy. I'm glad you're OK. I'm so happy. Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Heroes around every corner right now in this town. Since the moment the tornado struck, a lot of the focus here has been on the Plaza Towers Elementary School. It took a direct hit from the tornado where seven children died.

CNN's John King got a chance to tour the devastation with Moore Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

SGT. JEREMY LEWIS, MOORE, OKLAHOMA 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. There 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: Classrooms on each side.

KING: Connected?

LEWIS: There was a wall there. That was a classroom straight ahead. There were 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 the tile --

LEWIS: You can see the door into what was the classroom.

KING: The back wall of the classroom, yes, the board. And that's the front wall of the school there?

LEWIS: Front wall would have been there, yes.

KING: Is there a place in the school where people faired better?

LEWIS: You can 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 haven't been tractors moving anything. This is how it landed.

KING: People have been through and reasonably certain no one is left?

LEWIS: It has all been searched. That's what has taken so long. This goes 15 miles the other way.

KING: It's 15 miles?

LEWIS: Of just like this.

KING: It's 15 miles of just like this?

LEWIS: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: There is a steely resolve here in Moore, Oklahoma, but even with that, a tragedy like this gets to you and recovering is really easier said than done. Our Pamela Brown spoke with a rescuer still trying to process what he witnessed, what he went through at the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Pamela is back with this story.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, right after the tornado hit, he rushed over to Plaza Towers Elementary School. He was one of the first people there on the scene and what he came across, the discovery that he saw he says will forever haunt him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Moore resident, Adam Baker 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, SEARCED FOR SCHOOL SURVIVORS: It's just devastation. 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 to -- in hopes of rescuing people.

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

BROWN (voice-over): Instead, he encountered unspeakable horror. Four children buried under the massive debris of the collapsed school, suffocated by its sheer weight.

BAKER: They probably would have made it 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: 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 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 tornadoes. They don't happen very often. It's the very reason they don't have safe rooms for earthquakes, they don't work all the time.

BROWN: A painful truth for Mikki Dixon-Davis who lost her son Kyle at Plaza Towers.

MIKKI DIXON-DAVIS, VICTIM'S MOTHER: 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 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 him in a room as respectfully as I could.

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

BAKER: It's 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: It's tough to hear that and you wonder how he's ever going to recover from being there and having to do that. John, in light of what happened, we could see some change. There are online petitions from residents pushing for requiring shelters in schools. There's a state legislator saying that they're going to push legislation, as well. We could see change, but also it's easier said than done. As we talked about, you have to think about the cost and the fact that there's a high water table, porous soil, a lot of hurdles before we see --

BERMAN: Very much a part of the discussion here. You see first responders like that who were there on the scene sifting through the rubble on Monday. They're back at work. It's not like that happened and they're resting now. They're back at work all day every day doing their job.

BROWN: He went back to work actually on Monday, he told me. I asked him, have you had a chance to let this sink in. He said he hasn't. He's been busy not only working, but also helping out his friends go through their homes and find their belongings. He hasn't had time to let it sink in.

BERMAN: They're all going through that together right now here in Moore, Oklahoma. Let's go back to Christine in New York for some more news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks, guys. It's 11 minutes after the hour. Coming up, London's mayor calling it a sickening and unforgivable act of violence. A soldier hacked to death in broad daylight and now the country on high alert. A live report from London next.

Plus, linked to murder? Why the FBI thinks Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have helped kill three people in 2011. The new details on that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Developing this morning, Britain on high alert fearing a terror attack after a soldier was run over and hacked to death in the street. Just minutes ago, officials confirmed the victim was active duty, but they have not released his identity. One possible suspect apparently with blood on his hands says the attack was to avenge the deaths of Muslims.

ITN's Paul Davies with more on the man who captured that bizarre scene.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL DAVIES, ITN (voice-over): The man with the bloodied hands is not talking to a professional cameraman. He has deliberately sought out a passerby who was filming with a phone camera. The man who filmed those dreadful scenes prefers not to be identified, but he told me about that unreal conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came straight to me. He said, no, no, no, it's cool, it's cool. I just want to talk to you.

DAVIES: The amateur cameraman said the bloodied man and second man seemed to be waiting by the body for the police to arrive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you run? You can run. It was the time the police was taking to come, that was 30 minutes. And in 30 minutes, the guys, they come running, taking the train, go away.

DAVIES: Instead, the two men talked to women, allegedly apologizing. Then according to this witness, charged towards the first police officers to arrive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why he brought the gunmen, city police, straight, run to the police. They run straight to the police and they start to change gun, bang, bang, bang, you know?

DAVIES (on camera): They didn't try and run away at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no, they didn't try. They didn't try.

DAVIES (voice-over): With the two men injured and restrained on the ground, the police moved the amateur cameraman away.

POLICE: Move back, please.

DAVIES: He asks them why they had taken so long to respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You come early.

POLICE: Please move back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't you come early? Look, the guy is dead now. That's the time you come. You take 30 minutes to come.

Soldier is dead. You guys --

DAVIES: The witness says he had been on his way for a job interview when the world seemed to go mad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's very sad for me to see someone die that, you know, because he didn't do nothing to die today, you know. And for me, it's very sad and strange thing for me. Very sad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Wow, and bizarre. OK. The alleged attackers shot and under guard at the hospital this hour as police this morning are back on the scene. They are searching for evidence.

Let's get straight to Atika Shubert in London with the latest. Good morning.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what we have some more details about the victim. We understand that he has been formally identified. It is confirmed he was a serving British soldier, but his family does not want his identity to be released at this point. That's what we have the latest on him.

As for the two suspects, the attackers, they are under arrest. They remain in separate (VIDEO GAP). Now I have an eyewitness to the scene. This is Lucky Awale.

And you actually arrived at the scene right there after the police were there. Can you tell us what happened?

LUCKY AWALE, WITNESS: At first, we see people running aside. I thought maybe there was an accident and I went along with my cousin. And then we see this blue car and thought (AUDIO GAP) this guy was standing in the middle of the road with blood and he was talking like crazy.

SHUBERT: What did you think this was?

AWALE: At first, like I said, I thought it was an accident. When I see the guy, he told a knife and saying call the police, call the police. He didn't scared or he wasn't running or doing anything.

SHUBERT: Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.

I mean, I talked to a number of eyewitnesses and they call this very traumatic, shocking.

ROMANS: All right. Atika Shubert, obviously, we're having a little bit of trouble with your mike there. But it is -- the video is just really sad and bizarre, and the suspect screaming that they wanted to start a war. We want to start a war tonight, they said.

All right. Stunning new information this morning about the killed Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. CNN has learned that he's been linked to a gruesome triple murder outside Boston two years ago. A law enforcement source says a Chechen man who was killed by an FBI agent Wednesday in Orlando that, that Chechen man confessed to slashing the victims' throats in 2011 and he claimed Tsarnaev also participated in those murders.

John Zarrella is live in Orlando with the details. And Tsarnaev was a sparring partner of one of these deceased men from 2011. After the Boston bombings they suddenly started to investigate that lead.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no question about it, Christine. There were a lot of things that brought them between the bomber and Ibragim Todashev. This is still a crime scene more than 24 hours after Todashev was shot and killed by authorities.

Now, some of Todashev's friends have said that within days of the Boston bombing the FBI were already looking at Todashev. And the common thread between Todashev and one of the Boston bombers might have been 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 now dead, shot during questioning by an FBI agent and two Massachusetts 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 back like two years ago back when he used to live in Boston. And 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 connections between the two 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, according to Orlando police, 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, he had also bought a ticket to Russia and he was supposed to leave on the 27th of this month. But the FBI had told Todashev not to get on that plane -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. John Zarrella in Orlando for us -- thanks, John.

Still ahead, new airline ratings are out this morning. Which airline is tops? The answer, you know what, it might surprise you. We're back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning.

Minding your business this morning, stocks are ready to drop. Futures pointing to a big sell-off. The Dow is down 140 points at this moment -- the Dow future is down 140 points at this moment. NASDAQ and S&P also pointing lower.

Overnight, stocks in Japan tanked. The Nikkei plunging more than 7 percent. That came after a weak report on manufacturing in China. Adding to the gloom this morning, uncertainty on how long the Fed will keep pumping money into the economy. That has been a major factor in the recent rally.

All right, air travelers -- the best airline in the U.S. is one of the newest airlines in the U.S. Virgin America tops "Consumer Reports" annual airline satisfaction rankings. The airline was praised for its seating, in-flight entertainment, baggage handling, even though it charges 25 bucks a bag.

Virgin America has only been flying in the U.S. since 2007, but it's quickly becoming a customer favorite. Virgin scored an 89 out of 100 on "Consumer Reports" scale and Southwest and JetBlue tied for second with scores of 85. Customers liked their check-in services and flight crews.

At the bottom of the list was Spirit Airlines. It scored just 50 out of 100. Customers didn't like its check-in, its cabin service, or its seating.

Coming up, a new black eye for America's military. A West Point cadet accused of videotaping women in the shower and the latrine. We've live at the Pentagon with that.

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