Return to Transcripts main page


Colorado Wildfires Turn Deadly; Deck Collapses at Miami Restaurant; Syria Cross Red Line; Power Shifting in Syria

Aired June 14, 2013 - 05:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly fire fight in Colorado. Wildfires killing two people, destroying hundreds of homes. And the flames are spreading. We are live.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Dozens injured this morning when a deck collapses at a Miami waterfront sports bar. Victims tossed into the bay.

LEMON: The king has returned. LeBron James helping lead the Miami Heat to victory over San Antonio. The NBA Finals all tied up right now.

ROMANS: Oh, it's so good.

Good morning, welcome to EARLY START for this Friday. I'm Christine Romans.

Hi, Don.

LEMON: And I'm Don Berman.


It's Friday, June 4th, 5:00 a.m. Really early. I mean --

ROMANS: But that's the way it's going to be for the rest of the four hours?

LEMON: Yes. Don Berman. Why not?

ROMANS: OK. Great.

Let's begin with some big news this morning. The Black Forest wildfire in Colorado Springs spreading out of control this morning. Now it turned deadly. There are 750 firefighters on the front lines. But they're in a losing battle right now. Winds are whipping and the flames are literally flying across tree tops, swallowing up homes in mere seconds.

Dan Simon live from Colorado Springs this morning.

Dan, we've seen unprecedented damage from these fires. And now lives have been lost.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Christine. We now have the first two confirmed fatalities. A heartbreaking situation. Two people found in what was a garage. The car doors opened. They were in the process of fleeing the flames.

Now here's something that's really important. Up until this point, this fire had spread through a forested area where people have big homes and wooded areas. But now with the fire inching towards Colorado Springs, it could put more homes at risk.


SIMON (voice-over): Listen to the crackling of the flames. This, just one of the 379 homes now reduced to rubble in what is now being called the most destructive wildfire in Colorado state history.

The Black Forest wildfire has scorched nearly 16,000 acres of land. Its flames widespread threatening neighboring cities like the densely populated Colorado Springs.

DALE MELKE, RETIRED FIREFIGHTER: It was extremely fast moving. I kept my family here too long because I thought we were safe. And then next thing you know it was crossing the street to the south of us within minutes.

SIMON: The inferno moving rapidly is now deadly, taking the lives of two people who were in the midst of evacuating. Fire officials say just 40 minutes after the victims started packing, the flames were on their doorstep.

MAYOR STEVE BACH, COLORADO SPRINGS: Our hearts go out to their loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the people who have been hurt by this fire.

SIMON: Thousands fleeing their homes. And for some, like the Coyne family, they are now facing the reality of losing their house.

JAENETTE COYNE, LOST HOME IN COLORADO WILDFIRE: It was probably the worst thing I have seen in my life. You have that moment where you say, is that really my house?

SIMON: Seven hundred fifty firefighters working tirelessly to contain the flames. And now we're getting a rare look from inside the fire lines. Watch as Air Force Academy firefighter (INAUDIBLE) Newbanks aids in the battle against the inferno.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me some water.

SIMON: Working diligently alongside his team to extinguish the flames.

The Black Forest is just one of several wildfires burning in the state. To the south the Royal Gorge Fire threatens the iconic suspension bridge that has hosted tourists for so many years. While up north, lightning has ignited a fire in Rocky Mountain National Park.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SIMON: Authorities have offered the first bid of hopeful news. The fire is slightly contained just 5 percent. But it means that they're starting to make a little bit of progress. Still you have 40,000 people evacuated and no word on when things might return to normal -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Dan Simon, we certainly wish them a lot of luck. Those 750 firefighters on the line again today. Thanks, Dan.

LEMON: A whole lot going on with the weather from east to west, flooding to tornadoes. Severe storms are taking their toll all across the country this morning. A tornado touched down in McMinnville, Oregon, near Portland, damaging several commercial buildings and tearing the roof off one home.

Witnesses say the storms and debris flying 100 feet into the air. Funnel clouds are also spotted in several nearby towns. No injuries were reported.

ROMANS: An amazing rescue caught on camera in Worth County, Iowa. Just south of the Minnesota border, look at that child in the front seat. Two women and a girl trapped in their SUV Wednesday after it went into a flooded ditch along Interstate 35 during a torrential downpour. Heartbreaking. It took rescue teams about 45 minutes to pull them to safety. Everyone was OK.

LEMON: My goodness. And the owners of a cattleman's steakhouse in the provisions in Belmont, Iowa, north of Des Moines, are vowing to rebuild after their restaurant was destroyed by a tornado. Deb and Dwayne Abel have owned the steakhouse for more than 30 years.


DEB ABLE, RESTAURANT OWNER: It's really hard to kind of comprehend when you walk in there and everything is just really tore up inside. You know, parts of it are untouched. And it's typical with a -- you know, with a tornado. But then you walk in other parts and it's just a shambles. And it really breaks your heart, you know?


LEMON: Well, Deb Able says she and one of her workers got out and drove away just minutes before the tornado struck on Wednesday.

ROMANS: She said about two minutes. After she walked up the door. She said she locked the door. Two minutes later.

LEMON: Two minutes later.

ROMANS: It was gone.

LEMON: It was gone. My goodness.

High temperatures continue out west making things very difficult for the crews who have to fight those wildfires on Colorado. But what about those storm systems that had been spinning off tornadoes all across the country?

ROMANS: That's where Indra Petersons comes in. She's been looking at that for us and she's our forecaster this morning.

Good morning.

LEMON: Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning. Yes. What a crazy last 24 hours. I mean, take a look at the storm system. It's the one that started off in Iowa between 2:00 and 6:00 yesterday. Look how large the swatch of the storm system was. Really the entire Eastern Seaboard.

Now take a look at that, and then we'll show you the amount of damage it did. Storms -- these are all wind reports, 645 of them. Tons of damage out there. A lot of downed trees, a lot of downed power lines. So therefore a lot of power outages yesterday. And everyone is still recovering from that this morning.

What we are looking at is that low now currently offshore so the backside of it, yes, we're still seeing some rain in the northeast this morning. But also some stronger winds are out there. So seeing some gusty conditions in Boston right now. Seeing about 20 in D.C., also about 25-mile-per-hour gusts this morning.

The good news the low has now moved farther down the south. A little bit of cooler air behind it. We're not looking at the severe threat for the East Coast but unfortunately we do still have the severe threat out there today and of course this looks to be in the Dakotas, right down through Nebraska. And even eastern portions of Iowa. But overall, a much better picture today, which we needed in comparison to the outside. Of course, we'll talk about the fires coming up in a few minutes, guys.

LEMON: OK. Thank you, Indra.

ROMANS: Frightening scene at a popular Miami sports bar. I mean, a waterfront deck packed with people watching the "NBA Finals" collapsed into Biscayne Bay. Authorities say two dozen people were pulled from the water. Three suffering critical injuries.

CNN's John Zarrella is live at Shuckers Bar in North Bay Village, Florida.

Good morning.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. You know, they're saying that up to 100 people were on that floating dock when it collapsed. The good news is that there are no people still missing this morning.

Now you can take a look behind me. Just look at that. You can see the mess of chairs and tables and the potted palm trees and the canopies. There is the white fence that kind of went around the entire top area of the deck there. Everything seemed to collapse from one side to the other. Fortunately the water is very, very shallow there. It happened officials say right about 10:00 p.m. And a lot of the people that went through this say, you know what, there was no warning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were sitting there, enjoying the view after dinner, and we heard people screaming. We didn't know where it was coming from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were walking in to the back area. And it was more of what we heard rather than what we saw because first we heard like a crack. And then it was within seconds that the whole deck had collapsed into the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people went to this bar trying to see the Heat's game and many of them got hurt. We were really coming from the -- from the beach. And we saw all of these lights are -- it appears to us actually figure out what was going on or wonder what was going on. We noticed that it was really close to our hotel. We were actually notified by some kid that the rooftop was open, so we got access to that and I was able to record this.


ZARRELLA: So now a lot of the folks here, the patrons and the people who work here, said it happened right at the time the Heat had scored a basket and everybody had gotten up to cheer. Now of course the investigation is going to begin. What happened? Were there too many people on the dock? What exactly caused it to collapse? But that certainly may take some time -- Christine.

ROMANS: It must have been terrifying. In the dark, completely by surprise, ending up in the water. We certainly hope all is well for those three in -- critically injured three.

John Zarrella, thanks.

LEMON: Other news now. The government insisting the top secret NSA program that collects Americans' phone records isn't just legal. FBI director Robert Muller says it could have prevented the September 11th attacks had the program been in place earlier.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Mueller said data mining could have identified one of the 9/11 hijackers and potentially foiled the attacks.


ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: The 9/11 Commission itself indicated that investigations or interrogations of Almihdhar once he was identified could have yielded evidence of connections of other participants in the 9/11 plot. Just the simple fact of their detention could have derailed the plan in any case, the opportunity was not there. If we had this program that opportunity would have been there.


LEMON: And as for the source of the NSA leak Edward Snowden, he is believed to be in a safe house somewhere in Hong Kong. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling for laws that would keep government contractors like Snowden from having access to sensitive information.

ROMANS: A court hearing today for a Texas woman accused of mailing letters tainted with ricin. Investigators say 35-year-old Shannon Richardson sent letters laced with the toxin to President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She was arrested last week. She claimed her husband did it. He denied any involvement. Richardson faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

LEMON: You want to know why my eyes are red? Because I fell asleep on this game. The NBA Finals all even now with their backs to the wall. The defending champion Miami Heat responded, beating San Antonio, the San Antonio Spurs, 109-93 in game four. Dwyane Wade had a big game scoring 32 points. As the Heat pulled away in the fourth quarter, LeBron James led Miami with 33 points --

ROMANS: He came back.

LEMON: He came back.


He's back. The king is back. The series now, the best of three, game five, Sunday night in San Antonio.

ROMANS: More red eyes.

LEMON: We'll be watching.

ROMANS: On Monday mornings for you and me.

LEMON: I know. I know.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, chemical weapons in Syria. New evidence the Assad regime is using them on their own people. Now the White House is taking action.

LEMON: And talk about a big price tag. Up to $100 million? What President Obama's trip to Africa may cost you.


ROMANS: New this morning, signs that both the government and protesters are seeking an end to political crisis sparked by plans to develop an Istanbul park. The prime minister of Turkey met overnight with protest leaders and indicated he may let voters decide the future of Gezi Park. A move protesters may support. But he insisted those still camped in the park must leave. Protests against government plans for Gezi Park began on May 31st. Clashes with police have left at least three dead, more than 4300 injured.

LEMON: Let's talk about Syria now. The White House now saying it is clear Syria used chemical weapons including sarin nerve gas on its own people killing as many as 150 rebels. The big question is, how forcefully will the White House respond? The pressure on the president building right now.

Here is CNN's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Obama administration is now confirming what was feared, that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons multiple times.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.

STARR: Pressure is growing on President Obama to act.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: So I applaud the president's decision and I appreciate it. But the president of the United States had better understand that just supplying weapons is not going to change the equation on the ground and the balance of power.

STARR: The White House says it will boost military support to the rebels but won't say exactly how. A leading option, arming the rebels. That could include desperately needed ammunition for rifles and machine guns, as well as new shipments of machine guns, shoulder- fired weapons to attack tanks, artillery, helicopters and jets, and mortars and rockets.

The White House does not plan to put U.S. troops on the ground in Syria and is far from ready to commit to a no-fly zone.