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Devastating Fire Hits Jersey Shore; Deadly Floods Hit Colorado; Explosion Hits Consulate; Searching for a Solution

Aired September 13, 2013 - 05:00   ET



GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is us. So, we're -- you know, as soon as this is over, we'll pick ourselves up, we'll dust ourselves off and we'll get back to work.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Spared by Superstorm Sandy, now, an iconic New Jersey boardwalk up in flames. Businesses destroyed, residents devastated. We're live.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is unspeakable and it's going to get worse, they say.


SAMBOLIN: Colorado under water. Entire towns are stranded and homes are destroyed. Thousands of people have been evacuated in some of the worst flooding the state has ever seen.

BERMAN: And could this derail a deal? New demands from the Syrian leader that could put talks over the chemical weapons crisis in jeopardy.

SAMBOLIN: Lots going on this morning.

BERMAN: Indeed.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

The good news, it's Friday, September 13th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

SAMBOLIN: Except for some people. You know, it's not just good news at all. So, we're going to begin this morning with a devastating scene on the Jersey Shore.

There's a massive fire that started really small and it swelled. It was driven by the wind consuming block after block of boardwalk. In Seaside Park and Seaside Heights, New Jersey, many businesses are damaged or destroyed and lives, again, are upended. And this all almost a year after Superstorm Sandy slammed into that same boardwalk, all but decimating it.

Don Lemon is live this morning in Seaside Park.

Don, what's the very latest there?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, it is unbelievable. You said that the good news that it's Friday. The good news is really that we've had downpour this morning to help the firefighters out.

Not sure how much you can see -- you see the hook and ladder trucks behind me. Many, many, many of them, more than 400 firefighters out here, are trying to battle this thing that started yesterday afternoon and destroyed about 30 businesses.


LEMON (voice-over): A state of emergency on the Jersey Shore, hundreds of firefighters battling a massive inferno that raged into the night. The fire finally under control.

The fast moving blaze destroying dozens of businesses in a six-block stretch in just hours, along the boardwalk between Seaside Park and Seaside Heights, two communities hit hard by Superstorm Sandy nearly one year ago.

CHRISTIE: I said to my staff, I feel like I want to throw up.

LEMON: This amateur video shows the fire erupting at this ice cream stand just after 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't go in there!

LEMON: Within hours, the fire engulfed block after block, spread by high winds gusting over 30 miles per hour.

CHRISTINE HEMINGWAY, EMPLOYEE: My manager came in the stand and told me to get out because there was smoke coming up through the boardwalk. We ran away and turned around again and there were flames coming out of the building.

LEMON: The inferno so big, first responders had to pump water from this nearby bay. The fire eventually contained by a 25-foot wide trench built by firefighters.

DOUGLAS IANNOTTI, RESIDENT: Within 15 minutes more flames than I had ever seen in my life. I got scared. It's amazing. It's terrible what is going on, it really is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's horrifying what is going on here. The whole down, the people that grew up here, people that work here are suffering a lot of damage.

SARAH GOMEZ, RESIDENT: After everything that we just went through for rebuilding everything, especially the shore, and to know that it's all burning down now. I'm sorry.

LEMON: The thick black smoke could be seen for miles. Governor Chris Christie urging the public to stay out of the area.

CHRISTIE: My advice to you, in fact, my admonition to you is do not come here. Do not travel. Stay away.

LEMON: This area near the Funtown Pier, one of the few stretches of boardwalk that survived Sandy, now has fallen victim to this incredible fire.

The neighboring roller coaster washed into the ocean, became a symbolic image of Jersey strength. Repairs of the boardwalk after Sandy completed in time for its summer season, reopening this May.

The state's resolve being tested once again.

CHRISTIE: And, listen. This is us. So, we're -- you know, as soon as this is over, we'll pick ourselves up, we'll dust ourselves off and we'll get back to work.


LEMON: Really the last thing that these folks needed here, I'm going to pull this down a little bit so you can see. This is not about me getting wet. But, look, you can see they are still spraying this thing. They're saying the fire is not out but it is contained and as we have said, it's devastating.

What they're doing -- they're fighting almost like a wildfire, like a forest fire. They're having to cut trenches into the boardwalk. We're told they cut two trenches into the boardwalk because the first one didn't hold here.

Again, the fire is under control. Contained now, but it is still going here -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It did look like a wildfire yesterday when it all broke out. It just consumed absolutely everything.

But the good news, as you mentioned, the fact there's some rain this morning. So, hopefully, they'll continue getting some of that.

Really appreciate having you out there. Thank you, Don.

BERMAN: After all they have been through. That is part that really gets you.

SAMBOLIN: I know. But you know what? I thought when I was watching this, I thought if anybody can survive this, right, I don't know if it's just Governor Chris Christie, that he just comes out, saying, "We will survive, we will rebuild."

BERMAN: Hey, look, it's us. We're going to recover.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. BERMAN: Good luck to all of them.

I want to go down to Colorado right now, another big story there. Parts of Colorado have been simply devastated by extreme flooding. At least three people now dead, one missing, after torrential downpours left cities and towns reeling. Some areas have been practically cut off and new evacuation orders are in effect in some parts of Boulder County.

President Obama has declared the region a disaster area.

Ana Cabrera is there.


ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Colorado, a state parched by drought, this was not the answer to anyone's prayers. A dramatic rescue in Boulder County, three cars partially submerged, three people trapped.

A rescue crew made it to this man in time to break his window and hand him a life jacket. Then just as he is about to get out, floodwaters flip the car onto its roof. After a few agonizing seconds, they pull the man free and take him to the hospital. He is expected to be OK, but others weren't so lucky. At least three people have died.

SHERIFF JOE PELLE, BOULDER COUNTY, COLORADO: We know we have lost lives. We anticipate as the day goes on that we may find that we've lost others. ]

CABRERA: Nearly 7 inches of rain fell overnight, triggering emergency situations like this across the state, but the biggest problem for responders, getting to the people who need help the most.

PELLE: In some of those places, there are nine and 10-foot debris walls with six to eight feet of water backed behind them. So it's dangerous to start digging into them without a lot of assessment and a lot of caution.

CABRERA: Block of houses are surrounded by water, firefighters stranded after their truck was swept away and helicopters grounded by the bad weather.

JACK LITTLE, RESIDENT: I've been around boulder for 25 years. Now, we haven't seen anything like this in that time period.

CABRERA: Jack Little stopping for just a minute to talk with us and back to work clearing a drainage area. But shovels and rakes are no match for Mother Nature's fury.

(on camera): You said there is a television here?

KEVIN MALONE, RESIDENT: It knocked that over. I mean, everything was kind of up-ended.

CABRERA (voice-over): Kevin Malone says several feet of water rushed through his windows to his family's basement, leaving behind a muddy, soggy mess.

This is that television, along with a desk and bags of basement belongings, now sitting in the garage.

MALONE: That's probably my wife's grandmother.

CABRERA: But the biggest loss, Kevin says, are old family photos.

(on camera): Some of these pictures are over a century old?

MALONE: Yes, yes, no question about that. I mean, this was a fellow. He was a pilot in World War I. He lost his life.

CABRERA: Pictures that remind Kevin of what's most important, after all, his family is safe.

Ana Cabrera, CNN, Boulder, Colorado.


SAMBOLIN: That is very true. As long as people are safe. But over a century old.

BERMAN: Yes, what a mess there. Those pictures were amazing.

SAMBOLIN: There is more rain that fell overnight in Colorado and as we understand, there's more on the way.

Indra, some of the folks were saying that they are worried about is that they have more rain coming to their area. Is it going to be as bad is the question?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. No, it won't be as bad, but at this point, it really almost doesn't matter at this point.


PETERSONS: Yes, I mean, I looked up how much rain is typical for that area for the entire year, they normally see about 15 to 20 inches of rain. Here what they have seen since just Monday. Some places seeing that entire amount. Colorado springs, almost 15 inches and in the last five days, really almost four. Today is only the start of Friday here.

Jamestown, about half of that looking at 7.4 inches. So, obviously, we can see how bad situation. But it's not just how much rain there has been, but it's in what short period of time, meaning not just the day or four or five days but within a half an hour, we're seeing rainfall rates of an inch for half an hour. Some place is seeing several inches per hour.

Here's what it looks like again. Here's the current radar. Still seeing those showers throughout the area. What has been going on, seeing that moisture coming out of the South. It's really enhancing the chances for that rainfall. Now, what was going on yesterday as they had something called slow flow. Remember, the Rockies are out there. All of that warm, humid air was going up the mountains and when that happens, it enhances what is falling down.

They hinted change that we are going to be having out there, is we're going to start to see this low actually move to the east. The reason that matters is it's all about that wind direction. A little bit more westerly and do the opposite. It will; be a down sloping wind, less rainfall instead of more rainfall. It's a little tricky as the direction of the wind.

Again, we are still talking about several inches of rain possible over the next three days.

BERMAN: I can't believe what you said. They have had a year's worth of rain in less than a week.

PETERSONS: It's really hard when you put a perspective like that. Yes.

BERMAN: Unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Indra.

All right. Nine minutes past the hour.

Breaking news from Afghanistan, where a massive explosion has rocked the area near the U.S. consulate in Herat. That is in the western part of the country. That explosion happening after a truck sped toward a front gate, that is, launching an intense gun battle between militants and U.S. security forces. The Taliban is claiming responsibility here. Nine people were injured and none of them Americans.

BERMAN: And new threats this morning against the United States from the leader of al Qaeda. An audio message from Ayman al-Zawahiri calls on followers to strike the U.S. even if it takes years to achieve. He tells his followers to keep up the rhetoric so the U.S. can spend millions on security and, his words, bleed itself dry.

Zawahiri's Internet posting from an undisclosed location, of course, goes on to claim victory in Afghanistan and Iraq and Yemen.

SAMBOLIN: The in-laws of late Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev are testifying before a federal grand jury, they are the parents of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine. That's the picture of her there on the right. An attorney for Judith and Warren Russell wouldn't say why they were called or what they were asked, citing grand jury secrecy rules. He would only say they told the truth.

BERMAN: While this is happening, three friends of the surviving Boston bombing suspect is said to be arraigned today. The three knew Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth campus. And they're accused of obstructing the investigation into the bombings by disposing of evidence from Tsarnaev's room. They have already pleaded together to some other charges.

SAMBOLIN: NASA officials are calling it one of the most significant achievements in the history of science, folks, confirming that Voyager I has officially left our solar system after 36 years of space travel. Scientists say the probe entered interstellar space more than a year ago and the data shows Voyager I is now in the region of cold, dark space after exiting the heli-pause, a bubble of hot energetic particles surrounding our planets and sun.

BERMAN: Safe journeys, Voyager I.

You know, it's still going to send back data as long as it possibly can. But I read yesterday the next time it passes something, it will be a 40,000 years from now.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, well, we'll be talking about it then.

BERMAN: Exactly. Stay tuned. That's a deep tease.

SAMBOLIN: Very deep.

Coming up, a diplomatic deal to solve the chemical weapons crisis in Syria hits a major road block. Syria's president making some big demands of his own.

Phil Black is live in Moscow with how Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart are reacting. This is right after the break.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

It is a moment of high stakes diplomatic posturing as people continue to die inside Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad now publicly declaring he will not turn over his chemical weapons to international monitors until the U.S. drops its threat to attack. That comes at the same time as the American Secretary John Kerry is claiming that air strikes are very much still on the table. This as he meets with Russia's foreign minister to try to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis.

Phil Black is covering all of this. He's in Moscow for us this morning.

And, Phil, how do Assad's comments complicate the discussion that Secretary Kerry and the Russian foreign minister having right now.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, they really show just how big the differences are and really important issues and why still real doubts about whether this diplomatic process can actually lead anywhere.

The United States wants to keep the military threat in place as this diplomatic process unfolds. Russia and Syria are demanding they stand down. Neither side looks likely to budge on that at the moment. Another big difference, President al-Assad says that it is standard process the country is joining the convention against chemical weapons to be given 30 days to declare the details of their stockpiles. Secretary of State John Kerry says there is nothing standard about the process that is taking place at the moment.

Secretary Kerry has made it clear that he is attending these talks in Geneva with a great deal of skepticism. He's there to be convinced that the Russians and the Syrians are seriously about what it is they are proposing. And he's been repeating his pretty tough criteria, that any plan has to be verifiable, credible and, importantly, it has to be timely.

But it's still another key issue that could sink all of this, the United States is demanding that any agreement would include consequences for Syria if it doesn't live up to its commitments and hand over the weapons, and that could obviously include military action. But there is no sign at the moment that Russia looks ready to go to that sort of language and any sort of agreement that could go before the United Nations.

So, some difficult talks ahead, but the delegations of Geneva just a few minutes ago have already said they intend to meet again in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

Back to you, John.

BERMAN: That is in about two weeks. It gives you a sense this will drag on at least some, and not wrapped up, the discussions at least, in the next few days.

Phil Black in Moscow for us this morning -- thanks so much, Phil.

SAMBOLIN: It is 17 minutes past the hour.

A Montana woman who police say admitted pushing her newlywed husband off a cliff is out of jail this morning. Jordan Linn Graham was put on home detention until her trial. A judge also ordering that she'd undergo a mental health evaluation. Police say she was walking with her husband Cody Lee Johnson through Glacier National Park just days after their wedding when they fought and she pushed him off a cliff, and they say she lied about it when she reported him missing.

BERMAN: Yet another shark bite along Florida's east coast. Yes, it's true. This time, it's a 13-year-old girl bitten while surfing at New Smyrna Beach. Officials believe the shark was three to four feet long. The girl was treated for a gash on her foot.

There have now been seven reported shark bites along that stretch of coast. The spike is attributed to cloudy water and higher than normal amount of bait fish.

SAMBOLIN: I say stay out of the water there for the time being.

BERMAN: Probably.

SAMBOLIN: So, we have seen our share of cute animals and puppies and kittens and they are adorable, right? How about this?

Ah! Gross! This looks like a blob! It is! It's a blob fish! It's ugly. Really, really ugly. I hope you're not eating breakfast.

It's been declared the world's ugliest animal by a group dedicated to helping them. The Ugly Animal Preservation Society, yes, my friends, there is such a thing, will use the blob fish as its mascot. Very appropriate, folks. This creature lives near the bottom of the ocean near Australia and Tasmania. They only grow to be about a foot long.

BERMAN: Here's a great personality though.

SAMBOLIN: Look a little human, don't you think?

BERMAN: It's hideous!

SAMBOLIN: I'm telling you, that nose and those eyes, kind of looks like --

BERMAN: Should get some work done, right?


BERMAN: It does look a little bit like Ziggy. It's a good call. It's a good call from the Peanut Gallery here for a very ugly fish. He was going to get some work done.

SAMBOLIN: I love that, being the mascot for that organization. That is very, very smart thinking.

BERMAN: Something to hang his hat on. Maybe ugly but at least now he's got a job.

SAMBOLIN: He's kind of cute. You know how sometimes you're so ugly, you're cute?


SAMBOLIN: Sure you do.


SAMBOLIN: It's 20 minutes past the hour.

Coming up, the tweet seen around the world that has many investors incredibly excited! "Money Time", coming up next.


BERMAN: Now, that is the "Money Time" dance. It must be Friday!

SAMBOLIN: We got big money time news also.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I know. Announced in 140 characters or less, of course. Twitter saying that it's going to submit filings for an IPO, an initial public offering, and it did it on Twitter, of course.

This is the tweet from Twitter that has now been retweeted something like 10,000 times. "We have confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This tweet does not constitute an offer for any securities for sale."

What that means this company is going to go public. It is going to raise money from the public and by raising money from the public, that means it's going to offer shares for you to potentially buy.

This is something confidentially part of this is interesting because of the Jobs Act, it's allowed to go in and start the process without any of us seeing the paper work just yet, buys it some time. The actual IPO, you guys, will come as soon as the end of this year or early 2014.

BERMAN: The question, though, is, you know, we have been watching this a long time. Facebook was more than a year ago. Why did twitter decide to do this now?

ROMANS: You know, it's a great time for social media to go public. And Facebook, by the way, you're right, last year and it's a record high now Facebook is and so is LinkedIn. The stock now trading above the IPO price of $38 a share for Facebook.

It's got investors a little more excited again about social media and Facebook in particular about the mobile ad business.

I want to show you LinkedIn. That stock has a real run recently. The company announced it was selling another billion dollars in stock to investors. Otherwise known as secondary offerings. Look at that one.

So, there's some excitement about social media and there has been a lot of anticipation for when Twitter will join its colleagues.

SAMBOLIN: Back then when Facebook went public, the question is how does it make some money? And that is the big question with Twitter also.

ROMANS: That is exactly the same question. Twitter doesn't have as many followers. It has 200 million. Twitter is valued to maybe like $9 billion. Facebook when it went public was something like $100 billion. So, it's a smaller company and has to show how it's going to grow.

In 2010, our CNN Money reporter Laurie Segall caught up with a Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. She asked about, how are you going to make money?


DICK COSTOLO, CEO OF TWITTER: We are not profitable right now. I think the specific thing that I try to say over and over and stress is we have got plenty of time to take this model and grow it. We're not worried about having a certain number of advertisers or a certain amount of revenue by, you know, the end of this year.


ROMANS: That was 2010. Now they do have to be worried about that because that is how investors will judge whether it is a good buy.

Look, there are 200 to 300 million users. Sponsored tweets is how it makes money and $600 million in revenue now. $950 million expected in 2014.

It just bought MoPub. It's an advertising company. That was earlier this week. So, it's been acquisitions. So, there's a funny note. The next tweet that the company sent out after the one it announced plan to go public was a picture of Twitter workers with a caption, "Now go back to work!"

BERMAN: Until the IPO -- until it goes to public and we'll be billionaires.

ROMANS: Well, we'll see. But, you know, look, the IPO for Facebook was very rocky and investors, it was meant to be open to retail investors. You and me, regular people and those people really got slammed as the word I'll use, although that is not what I'm thinking in my head for the first year. But now, it has turned to you a good investment again.

What will happen with twitter and will they make sure that they don't have the same kind of rocky start that Facebook this year? I'm sure --

BERMAN: No one wants that.

SAMBOLIN: Growing pains. Thank you, Christine.

We'll be right back.