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Irma's Path Of Destruction; Recovery Efforts Begin In Cuba; Bannon Blasts Firing Of Comey; North Korea Threatens Unbearable Consequences Over New Sanctions. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 12, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Florida Keys facing years of rebuilding after a devastating blow from Irma. The damage we see is simply awful.

There are areas still inaccessible. The power is out, the roads are impassable. New power outage numbers overnight, as well.

We have complete coverage.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And after a second record-breaking hurricane in weeks, climate change back in the focus, but the White House won't draw a connection between global warming and this outbreak of wild weather.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

Let's begin with Hurricane Irma, now a tropical depression moving to the north. The devastation it left behind become painfully clear here.

Rescue teams struggling to reach the Florida Keys west of Key Largo, where up to 10,000 people chose to ride out the storm.

BRIGGS: For now, accessing the lower Keys by boat is too dangerous because of all the debris in the water, and U.S. 1, which connects the Keys to the mainland, is underwater.

Later this morning, Monroe County officials will allow some residents and business owners back into this area.

ROMANS: The biggest threat this week will be river flooding in northern Florida. The city of Jacksonville reeling from a record storm surge and devastating floods.

BRIGGS: Same threat facing other coastal communities like Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina where a flash flood emergency was declared overnight.

ROMANS: Yes. So far, Irma is being blamed for five deaths, one each in Florida and South Carolina. Three deaths in Georgia, including two from falling trees.

About eight million customers still without power in the Southeast, the majority in Florida and Georgia.

BRIGGS: Reaching the Florida Keys right now difficult and dangerous. The lights are off, no gas. The scope of damage both breathtaking and really heartbreaking.

Our Bill Weir managed to reach Plantation Key. He has more this morning.


BILL WEIR, CNN HOST, "THE WONDER LIST": Dave, Christine, good morning.

As that sky turned from stormy black to paradise blue here in the Florida Keys all that anxiety and fear of the storm turned into shock and utter heartbreak as people began to survey what Irma has wrought.

This is a community in Plantation Key. This is mile marker here, 87, about 60 miles away from the eye of Irma, but it's hard to tell that it was any more gentle up here.

This home used to be right on the coast of the Atlantic, about 500 yards away. Now it is utter wreckage. It includes, you know, children's books, picture books. Look at this, a bingo wheel.

People lived here year round. This wasn't a transient or snowbird community. There were secretaries and boat captains.

I met a former fireman who walked around just sort of shell-shocked as he said yes, my couch is over there and my sink is over there.

But aside from all the stuff lost to Irma there is the human life and that's what most people are concerned about these days. And it's almost impossible to confirm who was lost and who was saved because communication is down, the cell towers are down. There's no power, no running water down here.

The road is impassable in many places as they try to inspect all of the 43 bridges that connect this necklace of islands all going to down to Key West there.

And another symbol. We've seen it in Katrina and they're doing the same, the poor folks in Houston. And look at the date, 9/11/17 at 2:30 they searched this home for bodies and the symbols confirm that none were found.

We're really interested to see how the folks down in the lower Keys have fared. I've been getting text messages from strangers -- people on Instagram and Twitter saying please check on my family.

If this is bad we can only imagine what it's like where the storm was the fiercest -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: Just a -- just a shame. Just a beautiful part of the country.

Another part of Florida still reeling from Irma's direct hit, Marco Island. That is where the storm made its second landfall -- winds 130 miles an hour. The island off Florida's southwest coast still without water, still with electricity.

CNN's Ed Lavandera takes a look at the destruction and one man's brush with death.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this is Goodland, Florida which is on the eastern edge of Marco Island. This is a small fishing community -- several hundred people who live here full-time -- and this is an area that really shows some of the most intense destruction that we have seen in the path of Hurricane Irma.

This tree that you see behind me crushed the home behind us. The people who own that house weren't here at the time but thankfully, the man who -- there was one man home just in the house next door. He was spared because on the north side of the storm when this tree fell over, the wind was blowing from the east to the west, knocking the tree down this way.

The man who lived next door, he told us that if the wind had been blowing the other direction he might not have been alive to tell the story of how he endured Hurricane Irma here on this island.

[05:35:09] Officials tells us that some 40 people rode the storm out here on this island. Incredibly treacherous stories that they had to share.

And as for the rest of Marco Island, a lot of trees, powerlines down, and that sort of thing. A lot of cleanup left to do.

And authorities are urging people if they can to stay away. The bridge onto the island is open but without power and electricity officials are urging people to stay away as long as they can until those services are restored -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: Ed, thank you.

A slow start to the recovery in Miami-Dade County.

At this point, 60 percent of the traffic signals still out. Trash and recycling centers are closed. Offices in the county shut down through Wednesday. Port Miami will reopen today.

Frustrations, though, mounting for residents who are still being told to keep out.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam live in Miami with the latest. Derek, you're looking even in Miami a couple of million people without power, some of them being told it could be weeks. How devastating is it there?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, as you can see behind me, we're looking at some of the worst devastation at this particular marina that they've seen in 12 years. You go back to 2005, we all remember that infamous year, Katrina and Wilma.

Well, now we're talking about Irma, of course, making landfall within the past two days and boy, it did not spare this area with the worst of some of the coastal storm surge on the east coast and the Florida Peninsula. It really thrust up the Atlantic Ocean and combined it with 100 mile per hour winds and tossed around luxury yachts, and boats, and sailboats like they were toys.

Unbelievable stories to be told here, including a gentleman who actually started a nonprofit organization. He actually took these sailboats behind me -- you can see some of the smaller sailboats. There are nine of them in total, six of which are actually on the shore here behind me. The other three are behind me in the marina sunk, with only the tops of the masts visible right now.

Unfortunately, that nonprofit is no longer operational with this being the case. Their boats have been destroyed.

And we have had the opportunity to talk to people returning to Miami Beach and the good news is the mayor says it is time to come home. He is lifting the evacuation orders at 8:00 a.m., Dave.

BRIGGS: Derek Van Dam live for us in Miami. Thank you, my friend.

Look, 60 percent of the state of Florida still without power -- devastating.

ROMANS: Yes, it really is. It's really hard to start moving forward when the lights aren't on.

The threat now from tropical depression Irma moves north.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joining us live from the CNN Weather Center.

We understand overnight there were some more flash flood warnings in South Carolina and now, you know, Georgia is going to get a lot of this, too.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. You had so much water coming down. Additional gusty winds could be seen in some of these areas, too.

So when you look at exactly how this is going to play out and, of course, you work your way towards the south where we know several million without power, look at this.

The heat indices this afternoon in Marathon, 100 degrees. And we're talking about a region that essentially year-round keeps the air conditioning in operation so you bet a very uncomfortable couple of days lined up here for Naples. For Miami, 101 degrees it will feel like into the afternoon hours.

You get around northern Florida it should be close to 90 into the afternoon as far is the heat index is concerned.

But look at this. This is a 1,300-mile cloud field stretching from northern portions of Louisiana. I just measured it up to around northern New York State with this storm system.

But also notice how you see the coloration here on satellite imagery begin to fall apart. That's a lot of dry air being entrained into the storm system.

Now, damage has been done. We know upwards of almost 40 gauges reporting flooding, the vast majority of them around central and northern Florida.

But how about six and a half inches of rainfall statewide. That's what it's averaged out to -- 7.5 trillion gallons of water or 11 million Olympic-size pools -- another way to look at -- for every person in Florida.

For every resident, 300,000 gallons of water fell from the sky in the last couple of days. So really, a remarkable amount of water when you consider what has occurred there.

But we know, again, 6.2 million without power. In Georgia, an incredible 1.5 million or so without power.

And talking about that, Georgia well-known for its pines, for its oak trees, as well. With all of that rainfall of course we know this is an area susceptible with the trees coming down. We had Hurricane Opal back in 1995 do much the same. A similar thing playing out.

Three fatalities so far in Georgia, guys. And the threat is the trees will come down --


JAVAHERI: -- additionally in the next couple of days as this, of course, kind of plays out over the next few days. Even with sunshine the soil will remain saturated.

ROMANS: So, a very dangerous situation these days after flooding and after a hurricane event there's a lot of debris and a lot of risk out there.


ROMANS: Everyone be careful.

Thanks so much, Pedram.

BRIGGS: And triple-digit heat index with no power -- no A.C.

Before Hurricane Irma made its way to Florida it caused widespread devastation across the U.S. Virgin Islands, including here in St. Thomas.

Look at what happened to this boat. It just tipped over near the U.S. Customs Border Protection Office at Crown Bay.

[05:40:04] The U.S. Virgin Islands, we're told, just devastated.

ROMANS: Yes, and the British Virgin Islands, too. And, St. John, you know -- some of these resorts in St. John just wiped away.

French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to the devastated islands of St. Martin and St. Barts today. The French control all or part of both of those islands.

Meantime in Cuba, the death toll now stands at 10. Cleanup efforts also underway there.

Let's get right to CNN's Patrick Oppmann live in Havana. You were there during the storm. Pretty much a direct hit.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it was an incredibly powerful storm, much more powerful than many Cubans expected. And so, while the Cuban government had a plan it just seems the storm overwhelmed their defenses.

And the cleanup is just getting underway now. You look around Havana, a city I've lived now for almost six years, and I've never seen it quite so dark. And the principal objective right now is getting the power back on because if you don't have power your water pump doesn't work and tempers begin to fray.

We saw that yesterday as people were taking their flooded possessions out here in Havana and put them in the sun that had finally come out to start drying. Lots of lines for food, lines for people to charge their phones.

Only a little bit of Internet is returning so people trying to contact relatives abroad to have them send money to help them get through this very tough period.

Some good news, though. The airport is going to open, we're told, today so that a lot of tourists that have been trapped here can get off the island. A lot more resources to flow in.

But you're looking down the road you had so many hotels damaged where we were on the north coast and it's going to take a long time to repair those. And this is a huge source of income for the Cuban government. And so in the future -- the months to come, the impacts are still going to be felt.

A long way to go here in Cuba.

ROMANS: All right, Patrick Oppmann. Thank you so much for that.

You know, when you look at some of the satellite imageries in some of these islands -- these Caribbean islands, including parts of Cuba, they were lush and green a week ago. Today, there's no green vegetation. They are muddy, muddy messes.

BRIGGS: Yes. Some celebrities trying to focus attention on the U.S. Virgin Islands.


BRIGGS: Kenny Chesney, Tim Duncan, the former NBA star as well, trying to get some aid that way.

Ahead, when is the right time to talk about climate change? Well, not now if you ask the White House.


[05:46:30] ROMANS: The White House defending against criticism from President Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon criticized the decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. Now, the administration is pushing back.


CHARLIE ROSE, HOST, CBS "60 MINUTES": Someone said to me that you described the firing of James Comey -- you are a student of history -- as the biggest mistake in political history.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: That would be probably -- that would probably be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history.

I don't think there's any doubt that if James Comey had not been fired we would not have a special counsel, yes.



SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that Steve always likes to speak in kind of the most extreme measures. I'm not sure that I agree with that.


ROMANS: Let's bring back CNN contributor Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

Certainly, it was something that has dogged his presidency so far, but where do rank it on the worst moves in political history?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Yes, it's too early to tell if this is the worst move. There's a long list in modern politics from Watergate, to weapons of mass destruction, to Bill Clinton's mistakes. We'll see where this goes.

Remember, he fired James Comey because Comey was already conducting an aggressive investigation, so maybe the problem goes back further into what is being investigated rather than the firing.

BRIGGS: But it's interesting. If it was such a massive mistake -- if Donald Trump did nothing wrong --


BRIGGS: -- it's not a consequential mistake. So that might be -- that might beg the question why.

ZELIZER: Well, that's why we have to see it turns out. Obviously, if there's an investigation and it turns out nothing happened this would be the best thing to happen --

BRIGGS: Right.

ZELIZER: -- to President Trump. So the nerves are about what he might find or what went on.

BRIGGS: Yes, yes.

ROMANS: Another thing he said. He talked about how he thought Republicans -- the Republican establishment trying to nullify the 2016 election. Let's listen to what he said.


BANNON: The Republican establishment is trying to nullify the 2016 election. That's a brutal fact we have to face.

ROSE: The Republicans --

BANNON: The Republican establishment --

ROSE: -- want to nullify the 2016 election?

BANNON: Is trying to nullify the 2016 election, absolutely.

ROSE: Who?

BANNON: I think -- I think Mitch McConnell to the great Paul Ryan. They do not want Donald Trump's populist economic nationalist agenda to be implemented. It's very obvious.


ROMANS: Is he right and what is that agenda?


ZELIZER: I'm not sure he's totally right.

I think, in general, Republicans have been pretty easy in some ways on Trump and now, you have more criticism as he becomes more controversial and as he makes deals with Democrats. But they've been his biggest ally. They haven't actually been his biggest enemy to this point. What's his agenda? I don't think anybody knows.

What we do know is he's very hard line against immigration. This seems to be the heart of what he calls economic nationalism.

ROMANS: And more jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs is what the --

ZELIZER: But everyone's in favor of that --

ROMANS: Right.

ZELIZER: -- so it doesn't really define a distinct policy.

BRIGGS: Right. I think what we're learning is what he meant by deconstruction of the administration. He just wants to blow this whole thing up and that might include the Republican Party based on reporting confirmed by Jake Tapper that he wants to primary Republican senators that are incumbents.

But I want to move on to the other party, that they have their own issues because Hillary Clinton with some more news with an interview she did with "USA Today" about this book that's coming out. And she hits back at Trump about this Russia investigation.

[05:50:05] And what she says to the "USA Today" is "There certainly was communication and there certainly was an understanding of some sort. There's no doubt in my mind that there are a tangle of financial relationships between Trump and his operation with Russian money. And there's no doubt in my mind that the Trump campaign and other associates have worked really hard to hide their connections with Russians."

Not clear if she's seen any national security documentation about it and if this is just an opinion.

What's the impact of these continued sour grapes from Hillary Clinton and these pointed remarks in "USA Today?"

ZELIZER: Well, there's many Democrats who will wish she was this hard-hitting back in the fall campaign rather than now when it's a bit too late.

The big danger is this continues to be a story about the 2016 campaign, about Hillary Clinton and it's essential for the Democrats to move to 2018 and 2020 to think of a new field of candidates. To think of a new set of issues that will animate the electorate so that they could retake control of Congress and the White House.

So the danger is you get too stuck in the past and they don't move forward.


ZELIZER: But I do think people wish she spoke this bluntly and unscripted back in the campaign. ROMANS: There's some Democrats who are just wringing their hands over the whole book in the first place, saying that it just brings up, you know.

The art section in "The New York Times" has a really great book review this morning on the book. They say this is a rant against James Comey, Bernie Sanders, the media, James Comey's letter, Putin, and James Comey.


ROMANS: So she's settling some scores in this book.

ZELIZER: But she has to also come to terms with what she did wrong and just as important, with the mistakes that the party made because some would say it should never have been this close. And even with all those issues that she raises she still should have had enough of a cushion --


ZELIZER: -- to defeat him.

ROMANS: Julian, nice to see you this morning.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks for dropping by.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, new sanctions against North Korea passed by the U.N. Security Council. How is Pyongyang reacting?

CNN, the only Western T.V. organization in North Korea. Will Ripley live in Pyongyang, next.


[05:56:30] BRIGGS: New sanctions against North Korea adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council one week after the North's largest nuclear test. The final resolution doesn't go quite as far as the U.S. had hoped, though.

Let's go live to Pyongyang and bring in CNN's Will Ripley, the only Western T.V. journalist reporting from inside North Korea. Will, good morning.

What is reaction there from this latest round of sanctions?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When we spoke with officials about this here in Pyongyang, Dave, they said look, North Korea already has nuclear weapons and so the United States demanding that they denuclearize is something that is completely a nonstarter for them. And so, predictably, they're outraged.

In messages over the past few days regarding these sanctions they have threatened unbearable consequences, pain and suffering, the extinction of the United States. Familiar fiery rhetoric for North Korea.

What we need to watch, though, is there going be a physical response. We know that South Korea has thought for several days now that North Korea is ready to launch yet another intercontinental ballistic missile. They thought it might happen over the weekend, it didn't.

It didn't happen immediately after the sanctions vote but that would certainly be one way that North Korea sends messages of defiance.

But these sanctions are not what the United States initially proposed. They're much more watered down to get China and Russia on board.

Gone is the total oil embargo in favor of just an oil cap. Kim Jong Un's name was originally going to be blacklisted. His name no longer listed in these sanctions. And the national carrier Air Koryo keeps flying.

All that this really does is prevent North Korea from selling textiles. Granted, it's $800 million. It's going to hurt their income but they have other ways of getting around sanctions in the black market, Dave.

BRIGGS: Hard to believe. As you pointed out, that economy continues to grow.

Will Ripley live for us in Pyongyang. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this Tuesday morning.

Global stocks higher after a big rally on Wall Street. The Dow up more than 250 points, the biggest rally in six months because Irma avoided a worst-case scenario.

The storm caused extensive damage but ensured losses will be less than predicted. Insurance company shares drove the gains.

Also helping the rally, relief over North Korea. The market calmed after the country did not launch another missile and the U.N. imposed those new, maybe softer, sanctions.

Apple shares jumping two percent in anticipation of the big iPhone redesign. The iPhone turns 10 this year so to celebrate Apple is expected to release a premium version for about a grand. A thousand dollars for an iPhone.

BRIGGS: Good lord.

ROMANS: Rumored features include a stainless steel body, an edged screen, facial recognition software. The new phone should debut at an Apple event today.

Thanks for joining us.

BRIGGS: A thousand bucks --


BRIGGS: -- my friend.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us.

BRIGGS: Come on.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

An update from the National Hurricane Center on Irma straight ahead. Chris Cuomo live in Florida on "NEW DAY."


TOM BOSSERT, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Right now, the message is not to rush reentry. There are still dangerous conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen it be like this. I've never seen, you know, this much destruction at all.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Streets flooded from the Florida Keys to South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were right on the oceanfront there and there's nothing left. It's completely gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no cell service, no electricity, and no water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's millions of people in Florida right now that are without power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got rescue teams with all sorts of equipment trying to make sure we don't lost anybody.

WEIR: It's impossible to tell who survived because communication is nearly impossible.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are storms of catastrophic severity. When Americans are in need, Americans pull together.