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Two Explosions At Houston Area Chemical Plant; Destruction In Harvey's Wake; Trump Shifts Tone On Harvey's Victims; Japan, U.S. In Complete Agreement On North Korea. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 31, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They say they won't back down. They're not going to buckle to financial pressure.

There's actually a bunch of new propaganda posters up over the city ripping up the latest -- it shows us a pair of hands ripping up the latest U.N. Security Council sanctions.

We'll also have to see if North Korea responds to that flyover that happened on the Korean Peninsula. A total of 10 aircraft, including U.S. bombers and South Korean fighter jets -- Dave.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: That haunting music underway. It's 6:00 p.m. there in Pyongyang.

Will Ripley, thanks so much.

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: And, EARLY START continues right now.

Breaking this morning out of Houston, there is more damage from Harvey. Word of explosions at a chemical plant have sent police officers to the hospital. And overflowing dams are causing new evacuations. We are live in Texas.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's 5:30 Eastern Time, 4:30 in Houston, Texas.

And some breaking news right now out of the Houston area. Two explosions reported at the Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby, Texas. That's about 20 miles from Houston.

At about 2:00 a.m. Central Time, 3:00 a.m. in the east, a Houston county emergency operations center told Arkema that there had been two explosions. Black smoke was coming from the plant.

That plant produces peroxides mainly, which explode on contact with water but which will disperse naturally over time.

Officials say one sheriff's deputy taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the plant. Nine others drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution.

This morning, emergency officials will hold a news conference to discuss the dangerous situation at 10:00.

Meanwhile, a Harvey heads north it leaves many worries in its wake, even beyond that chemical plant.

The human toll keeps getting worse. The number killed in the storm jumped overnight to 37. It is still expected to rise.

That number includes the six bodies of the Saldivar family found Wednesday in their white van that had been washed away in the flooding. A heartbreaking story, especially with the young grandchildren.

MARSH: And at the reservoirs upstream from Houston, a controlled release is now happening at the Addicks dam to ease water spilling out around the ends of the reservoir. And now, a mandatory evacuation order has been issued in some areas around the Barker dam.

The last round of heavy rain taking a hard parting shot at Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas on the Louisiana border. We've just learned the city of Beaumont has lost its water supply after pumps failed in these floodwaters. Even official shelters where people had taken refuge started flooding.

Now, workers at the Texas Health Care Emergency Operations Center keeping a close eye on hospitals and nursing homes. Patients at one nursing facility in Port Arthur evacuated yesterday as hallways flooded.

MARSH: At least 16 hospitals in Texas remain closed. Already, strained medical centers are bracing for an influx of new patients as roadways begin to clear. Now, in some cases, that will take some time.

Take a look at that image on your screen. Believe it or not, that is Interstate 10 East. Yes, an interstate. You wouldn't know it if it wasn't for that highway sign that you're seeing there.

BRIGGS: Hard to believe.

We are learning more about the heroic rescue efforts taking place. You're looking at a human chain formed to save an elderly man whose SUV had been swept away by the flood. The man was saved thanks to this brave and spontaneous act of teamwork.

For the latest now let's turn to CNN's George Howell, live for us in Houston at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

George, 32,000 people in shelters across Texas this morning. Where you are, they expected 5,000. They, instead, got 10,000.

Good morning to you, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Dave -- Rene, as well.

So yes, a lot of people in these various shelters. In this shelter alone, we know that some 8,000 people are calling this their temporary home away from home. Many of them may not even have a home to return to.

And in a nearby shelter, the NRG Center, we do know that they have capacity for 10,000 people. They have 8,000 cots. But when you add these numbers up you really do start to understand how many people -- and these are just the people that we know of -- how many people are in need of extra help.

Let's talk a bit more about this storm now. It's moved out of this region. Good riddance to that, right? But at the same time, it's left a great deal of damage.

You talk about the city of Houston, alone. The city, one-third of it, remains under water at this point. A staggering statistic there.

One military official telling CNN that it's still unclear how many people are still in need of rescue.

[05:35:00] The fire department -- Houston Fire Department going door- to-door canvasing to find out if they have any more to do in these neighborhoods -- neighborhoods that are near rivers that continue to rise, neighborhoods near these bayous and also these tributaries. The flooding is still a problem.

Nearby Beaumont, Texas, that's another story where the U.S. Navy has been conducting search and air rescues. They airlifted 25 men, women, and children, and these rescues -- these search efforts continue day- by-day, hour-by-hour.

One very interesting statistic, guys, that puts this storm into perspective. It broke a weather record.

It dropped 52 inches of rainfall from a single storm so you really do get a sense of how big, how bad this storm was. And, quite frankly, it will take weeks, it will take months, and quite possibly years for the Houston metro area and that area between Louisiana and Texas to recover.

BRIGGS: Yes. When you talk about the federal funding, Gov. Abbott said it will easily exceed $120 billion needed after Katrina.

Thanks so much, George Howell. We appreciate it.

MARSH: And Harvey is now just a tropical depression headed into the Ohio Valley, but flooding is still a major concern in its wake.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis has the very latest from the storm center. Good morning, Karen.


Yes, the effects -- even though we are looking at Tropical Depression Harvey, the effects of it are still continuing. These rivers and bayous, creeks, streams, reservoirs are continuing to rise. If we took all the aerial coverage of where the flooding was around

Houston, extending on over towards the Beaumont-Port Arthur area so devastated by the flooding there as well, it would equal the size of the state of South Carolina, and that's roughly 33,000 square miles.

Now, another problem. We heard that the water off in Beaumont. The Neches River is flooding. They say that they can't fix the pumps until the Neches River goes down -- starts receding.

Well, it's going to continue to go up even as we head into Saturday. Saturday is going to far exceed the record that was set back in 1994. That record was at 13 feet.

It looks like it's going to crest on Saturday at just about 19 and a half feet, and then it's going to take some days for it to go down.

So, in the meantime, all the residents of Beaumont-Port Arthur who have suffered with this one-day rainfall total -- 26 inches of rain -- well, it's going to take some time before that river goes down. There is some light precipitation in the area.

Another statistic to tell you. Of 88 river gauges, all the way from Corpus Christi over towards Lake Charles, the vast majority of them are at moderate to major flooding. And those in the purple-shaded areas there -- you can see that cluster -- right around the Houston area, as we well know.

Back to you guys.

BRIGGS: All right. Karen Maginnis in the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Thanks so much.

We mentioned the city of Beaumont, Texas has lost its water supply for pumps failed in the floodwaters.

For more, let's bring in Drew Griffin, live just outside Beaumont.

Drew, hats off to you going from reporter to rescue worker. But of utmost importance right now is this water supply. What do we know?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): The city sent out a notice last night about 12:30 a.m. that it lost its main pumping station right on the Neches River. The other two other main sources of water have already gone out. Those were groundwater wells.

So what's taking place -- well, first of all, when you woke up this morning you turn on your spickets and there was not even air coming out -- you couldn't even brush your teeth. So that is going to add to the misery factor for the 118,000 or so residents in Beaumont, plus all the evacuees who came to Beaumont.

Not much of Beaumont left, so all of those people are here and all of those people are dependent on the water supply.

Here's the -- here's the issue.

The main pumping station is in the Neches River. They can't get to it because of the flood.

They don't know if the pumps are broken there -- if repairs need to be made because they just can't get there until the daylight hours. It's still very dark here. So they're going to take a boat out to there and see what's wrong.

If any repairs do need to be made -- if this is more than just a quick fix -- then they are going to have to wait until, as Karen said, that river goes down, and that could be a long, drawn out extra misery in this event.

So far, the power and the water were on in Beaumont but now, people waking up this morning and finding out there is no water. And as I can tell after covering many, many hurricanes, when you lose water you lose sewers. When you lose sewers, people start to get real irritated, and this could be a long, long slog for them.

BRIGGS: Right, yes. The sewers a huge issue -- showers, bathing, cooking.

[05:40:02] Let's get to, then, drinking. Are stores open? Are people at least able to go and to purchase bottled water? What's the situation there?

GRIFFIN: There's been plenty of bottled water. Not many of the stores have been open because of the employee situation. That may change.

We've seen a lot of generators lined up. For instance, some drugstores -- CVS, I think -- has brought in just tons of their own generators to get their stores up and running so folks can get some medicines and supplies.

There does seem to be a lot of supplies around. It's just going to be a major inconvenience factor because of how people are going to have to start saying well, I've got to ration these supplies because I don't know how long this water emergency's going to take.

Beaumont has been functioning pretty well. The waters on many of the impassable roads have gone down so people are starting to get around.

But again, you know, the water going out, there's going to be a major, major inconvenience for folks as they are going to be starting to clean up from this storm.

BRIGGS: You say people are getting out. It's surprising to hear that given the video we're seeing. Beaumont looks like one enormous, overflowing river.

We're also seeing some video of the many rescues in and around the area, one of which you participated in yourself. Share with us that story, quickly.

GRIFFIN: Yes. We were just setting up for live shot the other day and -- well, actually, it was yesterday morning. It just seems like a week ago. But we were setting up for a live shot. It was pouring rain. The waters were very high. You could not distinguish between a roadway, a ravine, a gully, and a drainage ditch.

And this fellow thought he was turning onto a road and he turned his truck right into a rapidly flowing drainage ditch and within seconds, he was in the water. He was floating downstream trying to swim out of that vehicle.

We, fortunately, were able to just get a rope, throw it to him, and grab him. His truck quickly submerged (INAUDIBLE).

BRIGGS: Drew, we're having some audio issues with the phone call. We understand that certainly happens in the midst of storms like this. But, Drew Griffin reporting live for us from Beaumont, Texas where they have a serious issue.

About that water supply, to his point. Sewers a major concern. Bathing, showering --

MARSH: Right.

BRIGGS: -- cooking and, of course, drinking water a major concern.

Drew Griffin will stay on top of that for us.

But this chemical plant, as well --

MARSH: Right.

BRIGGS: -- a major concern.

MARSH: That's all developing right now as we speak and we have those live images that you can see. Police there creating a barrier so no one gets too close.

The situation there is -- in Crosby, Texas, there's this chemical plant that we understand that there already have been two explosions there. The chemicals there, they have to be refrigerated at a certain temperature.

Obviously, with all the flooding that we've been seeing things aren't working the way that they should be working. And so, we know this morning -- we've heard word of black smoke, explosions happening.

This area has been evacuated about a mile and a half around here. This is a very rural area. But this is all developing right now, so on top of the flooding, on top of the rescues, you have this very volatile situation happening live there in Crosby, Texas.

BRIGGS: Arkema had expected this type of explosion. As you see at the bottom of your screen, one deputy taken to the hospital. We'll continue to update with the latest on all of this throughout this show and into "NEW DAY."

MARSH: All right. And coming up, the president with a shift in tone after coming under fire for forgetting the victims during his visit to Texas. We'll show you what he's saying now.


[05:48:00] MARSH: Well, President Trump quickly changing his tone after coming under fire for failing to focus on storm victims during his Texas visit.

BRIGGS: Now the focus will have to shift to funding the cleanup, rebuilding efforts, and already a thorny issue causing some heated tempers.

Let's bring in "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan, live in Washington.

A lot of money is going to be required, Tal, as a result of Harvey. Governor Abbott, of Texas, said it will easily exceed the $120 billion they needed after Katrina.

But there is some history here and that, of course, is because the Texas contingent, both in the House and the Senate, voted against Sandy funding just a few years ago.

We saw that come to the surface yesterday in a little cable news spat between Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz -- listen.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I see Sen. Cruz and it is disgusting to me that he stands in a recovery center with victims standing behind him as a backdrop and he's still repeating the same reprehensible lies about what happened in Sandy.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I'm sorry that there are politicians who seem really desperate to get their names in the news and are saying whatever they need to do that. My focus, and I wish the focus of others, would be on saving the lives that are being threatened.


MARSH: Strong words.

BRIGGS: It's going to come back to haunt those folks, like Ted Cruz.

But, Tal, will this be a political issue or will the president be able to get that clean funding bill without much of a fight in Congress? Where are we headed?

TAL KOPAN, REPORTER, CNN POLITICS: The answer is both, to a certain extent. I mean, everything is political and there will certainly be maneuvering about how to get this done.

But every indication is that Washington is lining up in order to pass some relief, perhaps in stages, for the victims of this just horrific hurricane and flooding that has hit Texas. [05:50:00] And, you know, keep in mind, September is going to be a very intense month for Congress but already there's some chatter about pushing the government spending deadline out to December. This is certainly the type of thing that could spur that decision for lawmakers to pass a short-term bill with a hefty package for FEMA.

And then, of course, keep in mind it's going to take weeks, if not months, for us to fully assess the damage that has happened. We were talking that some floodwaters are still going to rise into the weekend, let alone waiting for them to recede.

So this is going to be a long process but already, lawmakers seem to be gearing up to give Texas what it needs.

MARSH: That's right.

And moving on beyond Texas for now, talking about the dreamers. I mean, there was this deadline that's coming September 5th. People are waiting to see what will the president do as it relates to dreamers.

What's your insight? Where -- how -- what direction do you think this goes in?

KOPAN: Yes, you know, it's going to take a few days to really assess that. The future is incredibly uncertain right now and the president is considering several different things going on here, you know.

The White House has to decide do they want to sunset the program altogether. Do they want to try to buy some time in the courts? Do they want to really have the situation be hashed out in the courts and perhaps defend the program? All these things are running through the president's mind.

But, at the moment, it looks like he's considering some sort of sunset, and if that were to happen that would certainly put the ball in Congress' court and that could cause, as we were just talking about, a difficult September to get even worse.

BRIGGS: All right. Follow Tal on Twitter for the latest on those 800,000 dreamers with their status up in the air for the next couple of days.

Tal, sorry to cut it short. A lot of breaking news down there on the Harvey front in Houston. Thanks so much for being with us.

Ahead, President Trump and two of his top cabinet officials not on the same page on North Korea.

CNN, the only Western news organization reporting from North Korea. Will Ripley, live in Pyongyang when we come back.


[05:56:15] BRIGGS: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he and President Trump have a plan for responding to North Korea's provocative nuclear and missile tests, they're just not saying what it is. Abe told reporters he and the U.S. president have quote, "completely agreed on their forthcoming response to Pyongyang."

This comes after President Trump tweeted Wednesday that "talking is not the answer" to reining in North Korea, a remark that seems to contradict statements by top cabinet officials.

MARSH: And, CNN's Will Ripley is the only Western broadcast journalist in North Korea right now and he joins us live from Pyongyang.

Will, we understand there was this other show of force by both the U.S. and South Korea and just moments ago a new statement from the North Koreans.

RIPLEY: That's right, that statement just coming out although likely not related to the show of force -- that bomber and fighter jet flyover the Korean Peninsula, involving 10 planes altogether from the United States and South Korea, including fighter jets and B-2 bombers.

This statement, though, does reiterate the North Korean threat that this intermediate ballistic missile that they launched this week is a prelude, as they call it, to future military activities targeting Guam -- containing Gaum, in their words.

This statement also includes a reminder. I'll read it to you. Quote, "It should not be forgotten even for a moment that the whole of South Korea can turn into ruins."

So clearly, North Korea not backing down with the rhetoric.

The question moving forward is will there be some sort of a tangible, physical response after that show of force by the United States? And don't forget the results of that successful test of a missile interceptor.

Meanwhile, there was yet another phone call this week between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Japanese prime minister saying that the two leaders are in total agreement about their strategy -- their plan for how to deal with North Korea, although not revealing any details about that plan.

We know that President Trump's top secretaries, Sec. Tillerson, Sec. Mattis -- they believe that diplomacy is still an option that should be on the table, even though President Trump tweeted that the time for talk is over.

Interestingly, here in Pyongyang, North Korean officials have said the same thing to me all this week that they're tired of talking and they're ready for action.

But realistically, both sides of this -- of this disagreement -- of this conflict do not want to see a military confrontation because pretty much all military analysts agree it would be absolutely catastrophic.

Back to you.

MARSH: Will Ripley live from Pyongyang. Thank you so much, Will.

And thanks for joining us. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

Explosions at a chemical plant and new mandatory evacuations as the devastation from Harvey expands in Texas. Also, the latest on a water issue in Beaumont, Texas.

"NEW DAY" has it all covered right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are watching NEW DAY.

It's Thursday, August 31st. It's 5:00 a.m. where I am here in Houston at the convention center.

And we do begin with breaking news for you because emergency managers here in Houston have now ordered a mandatory evacuation of several communities on the west side of Houston.

Officials are urging people to leave their homes as soon as the sun comes this morning, saying that there is water in this nearby reservoir and it has reached its peak. It is at a very dangerous level.

This order comes as the Houston Fire Department will now begin going door-to-door searching every home in the hardest hit parts of the city because, Chris, they still don't know how many people weathered the storm in their home, how many people are still stranded. So they need to look inside those homes today.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You're 100 percent right. They've just been overwhelmed by the need.

Now, we do have to remember, they always expected the water to crest later in the week. The question is can they handle that? We'll have to see.

Alisyn, we have more breaking news as well.