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Secretary of State Meets with Russian Foreign Minister over Chemical Weapons in Syria; Fire Devastates Part of New Jersey; Flash Floods Hit Parts of Colorado; Kerry and Lavrov Meet Regarding Syria Deal; Is First Lady's 'Drink Up' Campaign All Wet?

Aired September 13, 2013 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Tough words from Secretary of State John Kerry who warns this is not a game. Right now he's in Geneva trying to work out a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis, all the while reminding everyone a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria still on the table.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And also coming up in the show, a medical student in Michigan mysteriously shot to death in a frat house. That was nearly two months ago. Now the case appears cold. We'll talk exclusively to Paul DeWolf's parents about their search for answers.

CUOMO: Plus, is this the best dad ever?


CUOMO: A father fed up with his daughter's short-shorts decides to embarrass her out of wearing them by sporting a pair of fetching daisy dukes himself.

BOLDUAN: That is quite a tan line.

CUOMO: He did it in public. Did it work? We will meet the father and daughter live, a story all families are anxious to see. I hope my daughter sees it as well.

BOLDUAN: But first, let's start off this hour in New Jersey. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie calls it an unthinkable situation. A massive fire along the boardwalk in two popular Jersey shore towns that were devastated by super-storm Sandy, and at least 30 buildings had been destroyed as heavy winds pushed the flames up and down the recently reconstructed boardwalk. CNN's Don Lemon is in Seaside Park in Jersey with more.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, as the sun comes up here on the Jersey shore, the daylight is revealing a situation that's much worse than the darkness showed -- 50 businesses, maybe more, could be demolished by this fire and what hurricane Sandy didn't take away, this fire certainly did.


LEMON: A state of emergency on the Jersey shore, hundreds of firefighters battling a massive intern know 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 super-storm Sandy, nearly one year ago.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: 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 AT KOHR'S FROZEN CUSTARD: 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 was 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 20-foot wide trench built by firefighters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within 15 minutes there was more flames I ever seen in my life. I got scared. It was amazing. It's terrible what's going on, it really is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's horrifying what's going on here. The whole town, 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 Fun Town Pier, one of the few stretches of boardwalk that survived Sandy, now has fallen victim to this incredible fire. The neighboring pier's rollercoaster washed into the ocean became a symbolic image of Jersey strength. Repairs to the boardwalk after Sandy completed in time for its summer season, re- opening this may, the state's resolve being tested once again.

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


LEMON: Hours after this fire started it is still going, but firefighters tell us it is contained. Every single piece of equipment from neighboring towns were brought out to help fight this fire, at least 35 different fire companies, 500 firefighters. There were injuries from smoke inhalation but no deaths. And what added insult to injury here, hurricane Sandy destroyed some of the water lines and they couldn't get water initially on the fire. Back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Don, thank you for the reporting this morning. Let's bring in town administrator Robert Martucci. He witnessed the very beginning of the blaze. He was in a meeting across the street when the fire began. He joins us along with Bill Akers, the mayor of Seaside Heights. Thank you for being with us this morning. I'm sorry for what's happening in your community.



CUOMO: Mr. Mayor, can you give us a status check? What's the latest on the situation?

AKERS: That's what I was in the process of doing this morning. I think that the good news is, everything has been contained as of 7:45 last night, where they put the break in on Lincoln Avenue, it held. We're about two-and-a-half blocks into our community, all the buildings are destroyed and, of course, the boardwalk. We're going to go up and do an assessment and put everything back together as soon as possible. I mean, if there's a silver lining, we just built it, we have the specs, we know what we're doing, and we'll get it out to bid and get it back up.

CUOMO: That's an interesting perspective, because of what you've just gone through, you are somewhat better prepared to go forward, obviously horrible preparation to need. Mr. Martucci, you saw how this fire started. Any expectation that it would grow as quickly as it did?

MARTUCCI: Well, our offices are directly across from where the fire emanated, which was Kohr's Ice Cream. When I went out to the front of our administration building, we saw the first, actually puffs of white smoke. Within minutes our responders were there, dousing the flames with water.

No, I don't think anyone could have believed that it could roll so fast. Problem is, we had a 20, 25 mile-an-hour wind that was blowing straight up the boardwalk and under the boardwalk which was fuel for this fire and drove it straight up the boardwalk. Before you know, you had everything engulfed in flames.

CUOMO: Firefighters were saying it was like it was being turbo charged by the wind whipping in. But they also said this fire could have spread more than it did if there wasn't so much community action of counties giving up resources. Was that your experience, gentlemen, in watching the first responders?

AKERS: No doubt about it. That's what these guys do. And, remember, a lot of these companies are volunteer companies, not paid companies. If there's another silver ling in this, remember, this is the firemen's convention this weekend in wildwood. Had this happened two days later, there would have been nobody around to fight this fire. There would have been skeleton crews. They came from every crew, Burlington, Monmouth County, Ocean County. We've just so grateful for what these gentlemen do every single day. And putting their lives on the line to save life and property in other communities, not just their own.

CUOMO: How long did it take you to come back in that area from Sandy and how long do you think you're looking at going forward from here?

MARTUCCI: Well, it took us almost a year. Seaside Park, our goal was to be in shape for the summer season. And I think we made that goal, all of our businesses worked very hard. We worked very hard to try to pave the way with permitting processes to make sure they were able to do what they needed to do.

Again, what we'll do, and we'll do the same thing like Mayor Akers just said, we learned from the experience we've just gone through. And what we'll do is meet with the owners of the businesses, see what they plan on doing. Once they give us their plans we'll expedite we can everything we can through the township to make sure we can rebuild and be ready again for the next summer season for their business.

CUOMO: We'll check in with you both. I'm sorry to have to talk to you about this. When the good news comes that you're up and ready, let's get you back on to let everybody know it's time to go back down the shore.

MARTUCCI: Thank you very much, Chris.

AKERS: Take care.

CUOMO: All the best going forward, gentlemen. Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: They show such resolve. But it is just unfair.

Let's turn now to the emergency happening in Colorado. Flash flood warnings, rivers and creeks spilling into homes, on to streets and bridges, and sweeping away cars and turn something towns into islands. At least three people have died there so far and the rain just keeps coming. CNN's George Howell is in Boulder, Colorado, a city that's been threatened by a wall of water. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. So the good news here, the rain has stopped for the moment. That's great news, we'll take it. I'll step out here into the shallow parts. The water keeps coming here, the debris keeps rolling down. In many cases entire communities have been cut off.


HOWELL: Overnight, residents along Boulder Creek were warned to get to higher ground for fear of this -- fast-moving water carrying dangerous debris steadily rising. Emergency crews struggled with relentless rain throughout the night as historic flooding has devastated the area around Boulder, Colorado. Rescuers spent Thursday evacuating the worst-hit neighborhoods, getting people and pets to safety.

In the small town of Lyons, officials described the scene as a 500- year flood. Many residents were urged to stay in their homes. Dramatic scenes played out across the region, like this one in aurora, a partially submerged car and a woman stranded on top. This firefighter came to her aid. The entire neighborhood of Erie, evacuated, fire crews saving precious lives.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D) COLORADO: We have declared it was a disaster for the flooded areas and requesting emergency declaration from FEMA.

HOWELL: This washed out road in Jefferson County left residents in Jamestown completely cut off from the world, no roads and spotty communication. The trouble began Wednesday night after an usually powerful storm dumped more than half a foot of rain in a 19-hour period. You can hear the flood sirens blaring in this video taken by a student at Colorado University. In this video, water raging from Boulder Creek gushed on to campus.

Thursday, two people were rescued from this horrific scene, trucks twisted and dangled over rushing water. And then this heart-pounding rescue, a man trapped in an overturned car for more than an hour. It was a race against the clock, rescuers finally pulling him to dry land.

LT. ROB WILLIAMS, NORTH METRO FIRE RESCUE: Fortunately their windows were up and they had a good air pocket in the vehicles. And we were able to go over to it and break the window and get them out.


HOWELL: So one thing I want to point out. So I'm standing in shallow water. You're seeing a person drive through the situation. You can't really judge how deep the water is. Not a smart idea to drive through situations like this simply because when you get into -- say again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I get out down there?

HOWELL: I think so but I would get out of this area.

Again, this area is cut off some public access. I don't know how he got through. Hopefully he gets out. That's what people are being warned to stay away from, the officials want them to stay oust the floodwaters, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, George, thank you for giving him good advice, and appreciate the report this morning.

The flood victims and emergency crews in Colorado need relief from Mother Nature but it doesn't look like they're going to get any. Let's get over to meteorologist Indra Petersons. Indra, remind people how much water it takes afloat away a car. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Two feet. That is all it takes. One foot of water literally makes you weigh 1,500 pounds less. And for that reason six inches of water, that sweeps away a person. Please do not do that. They've seen anywhere from seven to 15 inches of rain in the area from New Mexico through Colorado. More rain expected, two to four inches in New Mexico, definitely going to be the hot spot today. A little bit shift in the wind direction in Colorado should help them out and they should see less rain.

Other big story, in the northeast, wow, what a cold front that moved through yesterday, a lot of severe weather. These temperatures are dropping significantly. We're talking about 15, 20 degrees cooler as we go into the weekend. So those 90s going down to the 60s. Yes.

BOLDUAN: The roller coaster continues. Thank you so much, Indra.

Let's turn now to the crisis in Syria, though, and tough talk coming from Secretary of State John Kerry. Secretary of state still in Geneva trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution, Kerry warning, though, a military strike against the Assad regime is still on the table if these talks stall. CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is traveling with the secretary of state in Geneva. Good morning, Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. That question of the use of military force is still the most fundamental disagreement between the U.S. and Russia, may very well be why they said they're going to have to extend the talks through the end of the month when they will meet again in New York around the U.N. general assembly. Secretary Kerry telling us this morning that both sides have homework to do in the meantime.

Here in Geneva, the morning session is over. As he left Secretary Kerry told us that their start to talks was good and constructive.


SCIUTTO: Day two of crucial talks aimed at a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis. And the U.S. and Russia still at odds over the time line for the Syrians to comply, but this morning, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry stressed that both countries are committed to finding a solution.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think we would both agree that we had a constructive conversation. We are committed to try to work together, beginning with this initiative on the chemical weapons, in hopes that those efforts could pay off and bring peace and stability to a war-torn part of the world.

SCIUTTO: U.S. officials say the burden is very much on Syria to prove it is committed.

Kerry: This is not a game. And I said that to my friend Sergey when we talked about it initially. It has to be real.

SCIUTTO: American and Russian experts are moving immediately to the nuts and bolts of cataloging, collecting, and destroying one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons. First test of Syria's commitment, say U.S. officials, will be whether it provides a full accounting of its stockpiles, including exact locations.

Syrian president Assad made his own demands in a new interview on Russian TV, saying, quote, "Syria will accept the Russian plan if America stops military threats, and if other countries supplying the rebels with chemical weapons also abide by the agreement." However, Secretary Kerry was quick to reiterate the U.S. reserves the right to take military action.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Should diplomacy fail, force might be necessary.

SCIUTTO: The negotiations most skeptical observers are the Syrian opposition, described by one U.S. official as upset and distrustful of the entire process. His doubts were magnified by rebel claims first reported on CNN that Syria has moved some of its weapons to Lebanon and Iraq, claims quickly denied by the Iraqi government, and looming over the discussions, a gaping trust deficit between the U.S. and Russia. A point highlighted in the seemingly lighthearted moment just as the talks began.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Can you give me the last part of the translation, please.

KERRY: You want me to take your word for it?


SCIUTTO: U.S. official tells me this morning that the focus of their talks now very much on the technical details, including the locations of these Syrian chemical weapons depots. That's of course essential with these accounts swirling of the Syrian military moving all these chemical weapons around, hiding them from U.S. or western military action. And this is the key test of Syria's compliance with this, how forthcoming will they be with all this information? Kate and Chris, we still don't know how well they're going to follow through.

BOLDUAN: That's really the basic question, if you can't answer that, then there's nowhere to go from there. Jim, thank you so much.

CUOMO: A lot of news developing at the hour. Let's get right to John Berman who's in for Michaela. John?

BERMAN: Good morning Chris. Making news right now, a massive explosion rocking an area near the U.S. consulate in Afghanistan's Heart province. This happened during an intense gun fight between militants and security forces. The blast causing major damage to the consulate's front gate. There were no U.S. casualties. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.

An Alabama man who joined a terror group in Somalia reportedly has been killed. Militants claim the 29-year-old Omar Hamami was ambushed by members of al Shabaab. Hamami was in the group at one time, may have been leading the group at one time, but later fell out with its leaders and criticized them on Twitter. That might have sealed his fate. The FBI put Hamammi on its most wanted terrorists list last year and offered a $5 million reward for his capture.

Police are trying to unravel a mystery after four people were found shot to death in an abandoned car in Tennessee. A passer-by found the victims on a road on Renegade Mountain. That's about 65 miles west of Knoxville. The area was once a retirement resort, but is now home to just a few families. At this time authorities say they have no motive and no suspect.

Check this out: an enormous waterspout on Lake Michigan, caught on camera off the coast of Kenosha, Wisconsin. That is amazing. Dean Smith (ph) the reporter with the Kenosha News captured this footage Wednesday afternoon. There were several other waterspouts spotted on Lake Michigan as well. At least one funnel cloud was reported on land near the lake. Amazing sights there.

This is amazing as well. A case of life imitating art. That's the movie, remember the animated kids film "Up?" Well a North Carolina man named Jonathan Trapp is drawing inspiration from the Disney Pixar film. He's attempting a transatlantic flight. Looks like the movie, using 300 helium-filled balloons. He lifted off from Maine Thursday morning. He posted on Facebook that he landed in a remote area on his way to Newfoundland in Canada. That's amazing and gutsy, I have to say.

BOLDUAN: I would say so.

BERMAN: Not how I would choose to do the transatlantic thing.

BOLDUAN: What is he in? Is he in a --

BERMAN: It looks like he's in a chair right there with balloons powering it.

CUOMOM: It looks like a little house.

BOLDUAN: A boat.

BERMAN: A little boat.

BOLDUAN: That is amazing.

CUOMO: That's very cool inspiration. By the way, how would you choose to do it?

BERMAN: I like a 747 and I like an aisle seat. Because if you have to get up to go to the, you know --

BOLDUAN: He likes orange juice right before takeoff.

CUOMO: Emergency row, I would assume, because you are J.B.

BERMAN: I need leg room.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the family of a University of Michigan medical student gunned down in July. The family still has no idea why that happened to their son. Now Paul DeWolf's parents are asking for the public's help. They're talking live, exclusively to NEW DAY. that's just ahead.

CUOMO: Plus, the first lady Michelle Obama says it's something simple we all can do to improve our health, drink more water. There's also more then a drop of controversy. We'll explain.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. The first lady has made a healthier America her mission. And her latest project, get people to drink more water. Just one extra glass a day. But some critics say Michelle Obama is overselling the benefits of H2O and she's facing criticism for this initiative. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now with more on this. What's going on, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sometimes people think if I drink eight glasses of water a day I'm going to be healthy. Now I'm supposed to drink one more. The reality is, there is no specific prescription when it comes to drinking water and that's what some experts say is part of the problem with the first lady's campaign.


COHEN: First lady Michelle Obama launches a new, seemingly innocuous, public health campaign.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to drink something. And what you drink is up to you.

COHEN: She wants you to drink more water.

M. OBAMA: Drink just one more glass of water a day and you can make a real difference for your health, for your energy in the way you feel.

COHEN: Advice she says that's worked wonders for her family.

M. OBAMA: The more water we drink, the better we felt.

COHEN: That advice has caused a splash of controversy among some experts who say the first lady is just plain wrong. They say most Americans are sufficiently hydrated, and so an extra glass of water isn't going to increase your energy or make you feel better.

DR. STANLEY GOLDFARB, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: There's no good evidence that drinking extra water is going to lead to a healthier existence.

COHEN: Another claim from the first lady that's all wet, according to the experts we talked to, drinking more water helps you have more energy to do more, longer, and with better focus. The experts say extra water won't do any of those things.

GOLDFARB: They decided to sort of support some of these urban myths that have been really debunked over the years.

COHEN: They do applaud the first lady's initiatives on diet and exercise.

DR. JOHN DOOLEY, INTERNIST: The first lady's health campaign is based on a lot of science, the claims about extra water itself leading to extra health benefits is a bit overstated.

COHEN: The bottom line, of course you should stay hydrated and water is better than soda, but don't think one extra glass is going to change your life.


COHEN: Our experts said the first lady missed a great opportunity, the opportunity to tell Americans, look, drinking water is much better than drinking soda which is full of sugar. Of course we have an obesity crisis in this country. It's interesting to note that this Drink Up campaign that the first lady is doing is being promoted by the American Beverage Association and the companies in that group, well, they sell soda, among other things.

BOLDUAN: All right, Elizabeth, thank you so much. It seems, though, that is the message she's sending in the film they played, it says you've got to drink something, why not make it water.

CUOMO: I get it.

BOLDUAN: You do?

CUOMO: I don't get the scrutiny. I'm with you.


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, it's been almost two months since University of Michigan student Paul DeWolf was killed with a single bullet. Problem is nobody knows why, who did it, no real evidence, no leads. The case is starting to grow cold. We'll talk exclusively with the young man's parents to keep this story in everybody's mind.

BOLDUAN: Here's another amazing story for you: people banding together to lift an SUV after that SUV hit a group of students. The desperate race against time to get them out.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching new day with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. Let's get straight to John Berman for all the top news you need to know.

BERMAN: Firefighters remain at the scene this morning of a huge blaze along the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.