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Caribbean Reels After Irma's Devastating Punch; Trump to Host Bipartisan House Moderates Today; Houston Works to Recover After Harvey's Devastation; Residents Return to Destruction in Florida Keys; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 13, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:33:51] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly one week ago today, before Hurricane Irma took aim directly at Florida, it ripped through the Caribbean, making landfall as a category 5 hurricane, killing at least 31 people across the Caribbean.

On day one, Irma battled Barbuda, leaving the island barely habitable. In the words of the prime minister there, with 95 percent of its buildings destroyed.

On the island of St. Maarten, which is half French and half Dutch and considered a gateway to the smaller islands in the region, European leaders for both territories now vowing to rebuild amid scenes like the one you see on the right hand of your screen, the French portion of St. Maarten.

Just north of there, you have the island of Anguilla, where the British Foreign minister says, quote, "the full blast of Irma was felt."

And in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, a total of eight deaths have been reported thus far. You have extensive damage, including a huge hit to the island's communication system that has been reported from there.

And of course, as the storm Irma marched on, it lashed Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos, before bearing down on the Bahamas and Cuba. Severe flooding and widespread wind damage hammered Cuba. Ten people there died because of Irma.

[10:35:04] Cruise ships, though, now a welcome sight, assisting in the recovery efforts, evacuating those who are stranded across these islands, trying to get them somewhere closer to home and also bring in much-needed food and water. The supplies that are in very short order. Meantime, we are following the latest from the Florida Keys that have been smacked by Irma.

John Berman has made his way, way south, down to Big Pine Key. What's it like there, John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you know, Poppy, people want food, they want water, more than anything else, they want communications. So much of this island has been affected. Big Pine Key around me, the entire Florida Keys. But as you said, before the storm even got here, it went through the Caribbean. And our Cyril Vanier is on St. Maarten right now to get a sense of the devastation there.

Cyril, what are you seeing?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: John, what I'm seeing is an island that a week after the hurricane hit, and we've got to bear this in mind, it's been a full week now since St. Maarten has been hit. A week after, almost nothing has changed.

Look around me. This was a hotel, about 500 rooms. This was the dining area. This was the second floor, this was the patio area. I mean, I'm just imagining because most of it you can't recognize. And right here the building, the major building, about 500 plus rooms. All the windows are blown out. If you were there, that was dangerous during the hurricane.

All of this, none of it is functioning anymore. And it's been a week. I mean, I think, first of all, we need to start by scratching the word "rebuilding" out of our vocabulary. This island and these islands are not here yet. It's survival and it is clearing up the mess. Rebuilding will come second. And frankly I don't even know if it's possible to rebuild this.

And John, you were talking about needing food and needing water. That's the big thing. And you were talking about needing supplies and energy and power. And that's the big thing that people are looking at. And right now they're living hour by hour, day by day. There's -- Andrew, who's a local journalist who's helping us, who's just behind the camera right now actually.

Before he came to us this morning, he left his wife and kids, and he had to make sure they had enough to drink not for the week, not for the month, not for the year, of course, just for the day. And he will start that again tomorrow.

And it is the same thing with food. People are still living on the supplies that they stocked up on before the hurricane hit. So it's still a very fragile, very vulnerable situation. I mean, this pool, and this pool right here, we're seeing people come and drain some of the water from the pool, fill up their buckets, because they need that to flush their toilet.

So yes, that's not glamorous, but that is what life on St. Maarten is right now. And that's what you get when you've got this level of destruction to the infrastructure, John.

And I want to address one point. Our viewers may wonder, well, why do we choose to focus on a hotel when all the tourists or pretty much all the tourists are gone. They've been able to be evacuated, right? They had that privilege. And they're probably back home, for some of them, already.

Well, the reason I mentioned this is because this is where the island's dollars come in. So when this hurts, the engine of the economy is gone. This is what turbo-charges not just St. Maarten, but the economy of the entire northeastern Caribbean. So when this is gone, all the jobs that go with it are gone. So project yourself, thinking into the future, a couple of weeks into the future, where these people are going to find their jobs or how they're going to earn money going forward?

Once the handouts are over. Once, yes, they've got enough water and food. Where are they going to get their money? How are they going to live on? How are they going to feed their children? That question is what 80 percent, 90 percent of the people on this island and across the northeastern Caribbean are asking themselves right now.

And John, I'll make one final point. You see everything, you can guess at the scale of what's going to be needed to rebuild and restart. It's going to be extremely slow because like you, we are on an island. So everything that needs to be brought here needs to be brought by a sea bridge or by an air bridge. By boat or by plane. And that makes things not just more expensive, but extremely slow -- John.

BERMAN: Cyril Vanier, on St. Maarten, you know, you said it so well. People living there hour by hour, but nagging on them is what happens next week, next month, next year.

Just one thing I want to show you that I just found right here. It's a bottle of pair of brandy which survived the storm surge. Blew out from the house. It's still intact. And we're going to leave it here because when the owner of this house comes back, he's going to need it.

CNN's special live coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma continues right after this.


[10:43:46] HARLOW: New this morning, CNN has learned House Democrats wants Special Counsel Bob Mueller in the Russia investigation to take a closer look at a trip to the Middle East made by former National Security adviser in the Trump administration, Michael Flynn.

Now the top Democrats in the House Oversight and the House Foreign Affairs Committees sent this letter to Mueller. And what they say is that they see evidence that Flynn failed in their mind to disclose a trip he took to the Middle East in 2015, a trip where he explored a business deal with the Saudi government and a Russian government agency.

The Democrats allege that Flynn broke the law by omitting this trip while re-applying for his security clearance, meaning he didn't disclose it on those critical forms. If that's the case, then that would be breaking the law.

Manu Raju broke the reporting. You can see much more of it on

Meantime, the president in dealmaker mode inviting Democrats over to dine last night. Why? He wants their help pushing tax reform through Congress.

With me now, staff writer for "The Washington Post," Eugene Scott, and CNN contributor and "New York Post" columnist, Salena Zito.

So, Salena, you're good at a lot of things and one of them is getting in the mind of the president. You sat in the Oval Office, you've interviewed him, he opens up to you. Take me into the mind this morning because reading the responses from these Democratic senators who were there last night, Senator Donnelly, Heitkamp and Manchin, the words that they used to describe their meeting, good, productive, glad to join the president and hopeful. What do you see?

[10:45:11] SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one of the lessons I think that the president understood about why he won this election was people were tired of the politics of conflict, right? They wanted -- you know, you had conflict in the House, you had conflict in the Senate. You had the tension between President Obama and the Republican majorities.

What they were looking for is the politics of results. And it's one of the things that the president was very effective in communicating to people and winning over voters that might have been reluctant to vote for him.

With that in mind, I suspect he understands that it's important to sort of talk to the kinds of legislators, whether they're in the House or in the Senate, that would be willing and-or open to talk to him about the things that especially have economic results. So like tax reform or infrastructure.

And I think the three that he had dinner with last night are the first that sort of act as a bridge to possibly convincing others to join in on bigger bills, like tax reform or infrastructure.

HARLOW: Now, of course, they're from red states, so --

ZITO: Yes.

HARLOW: There's that, and that's a huge part of it.

ZITO: Right.

HARLOW: But maybe a bridge. Good point.

So, Eugene, to you, at the same time that this dinner was happening, Congress unanimously, the House unanimously passed this joint resolution condemning, of course, the hatred, the violence, the bigotry that we saw play in Charlottesville and urging the White House and the administration to speak out against it, specifically to call out these hate groups that espouse racism.

Now just the fact that Congress felt the need to do that is significant. On top of that, you have the president meeting a little bit later today with Republican senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Of course, the only African-American senator. So he has been critical of the president, especially after Charlottesville. What do you see here?

EUGENE SCOTT, STAFF WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, what we see is that people on both sides of the aisle recognize how significant of a problem the increase in white supremacy or at least the increased visibility of it in our country is.

There's a Gallup poll I believe that said about 42 percent of Americans view race relations as a major issue right now in the U.S. and lawmakers are looking to the president to do more than what he's done before, which is come out speaking about how white supremacy is problematic. But if you look at that resolution in depth, they've actually asked him to put resources from the White House behind monitoring these groups to make sure that their influence doesn't spread and that they don't continue to make this country a difficult place for many Americans to live.

I think what we see with Senator Scott is that he has a positive relationship with President Donald Trump, at least when you compare him to other black lawmakers. And he's hoping that somehow he can make some progress in communicating many of the challenges that black Americans feel in this country, in a way that some other black lawmakers don't feel like the president has been willing to listen to.

HARLOW: It's a good point. And he has said the president needs to spend more time with African-Americans and try more to look at things through their eyes and through their perspective.

We'll see what happens in that meeting today.

Salena, before you guys go, we've got Bernie Sanders -- Senator Bernie Sanders today rolling out this afternoon this Medicare-for-all plan. A single-payer plan that was not long ago an anathema to even many Democrats who saw the price tag at way too high. We're looking at $1.4 trillion a year, according to CNN Money.

But now you've got a lot of more mainstream Democrats signing on to this thing. You've got Senator Gillibrand, Senator Franken, Senator Warren. Yes, you know, yes, they are left, but these are also many, many people on the watch list for 2020. What do you make of it?

ZITO: Well, I mean, I think it's all part of what both parties are struggling with, with the current health care system. I mean, Democrats will admit to you that Obamacare has its flaws. Republicans have been about repeal and replace. So it doesn't surprise me to see a third option placed out there. I think we're going to -- I think we're going to struggle with this issue for a very long time.

It's complicated. It deals with the matter of our health, which is obviously the most important thing for us, but it also deals with cost and the government's role in health care. What is it supposed to be? I suspect this debate is going to go on for a while. I suspect both parties are going to be divided on this issue. And I don't see a solution very soon.

HARLOW: It's tough because, you know, it's American --

ZITO: Right.

HARLOW: -- citizens who can't offered to, who suffer in the interim.

Thank you both very much. Salena, Eugene, nice to have you.

Be sure to watch tonight because our own Anderson Cooper off of his extraordinary coverage of Irma is back here interviewing, sitting down with Hillary Clinton for this sit-down interview about her new book on the election, "What Happened."

[10:50:08] You will see that interview tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern on his show, right here on CNN.

We do have some sad breaking news out of Florida. We know this morning five people have died at this nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. And more than a hundred have been evacuated in the wake. What caused this? You've got the police there launching a criminal investigation. How could this happen? Much more, straight ahead.


HARLOW: It has already been three weeks since Hurricane Harvey lashed Texas and there are over 20,000 people still living in temporary shelters there.

[10:55:02] Our Martin Savidge is in Houston with those Texans trying to rebuild after this storm.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside the homes in Houston's Lakewood area are the rotting remains of what used to be inside the homes.

TOSHA ATIBU, HURRICANE HARVEY SURVIVOR: Just look on the damage. There is no way I could keep those.

SAVIDGE: The Tyty family, like much of Houston, is on the road to recovery but barely.

ATIBU: Fortunately our stove is currently working like I can still cook.

SAVIDGE: Tosha, her husband and four children are still living in their gutted home in a devastated neighborhood.

ATIBU: I know it's not a safe place to be. But as I told you, I don't know where else I can go.

SAVIDGE: August 25th, the intensity of Hurricane Harvey explodes seemingly out of nowhere, delivering category 4 winds and never- before-seen amounts of rain. The nation watches in horror as America's fourth largest city goes under water. At least 75 people died. And almost three weeks later, over 20,000 people remain in shelters or FEMA hotels. Now most of the floodwaters is gone. But residents battle sickening

mold and disease-carrying mosquitoes. In hard-hit Port Arthur and Beaumont residents still struggle to find the basics like food and water.

Harvey's damage estimate is at $75 billion and climbing. But there is good news. Thanks to all kinds of heroes, the Texas Department of Public Safety reports a staggering 122,331 people along with 5,234 pets have been rescued or evacuated. Kids are back in school in Houston and beyond. Beaumont's water treatment plants are getting fixed. And busy Interstate 10 is open again.

But daily, Texans like Lathan Oliver are painfully reminded of what was lost.

LATHAN OLIVER, HURRICANE HARVEY SURVIVOR: As you can see, it's a total waste.

SAVIDGE: And forever grateful for what was not.

OLIVER: We didn't lose a life here. And everybody is trying to stick together.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Everyone on this street made it out alive.

OLIVER: Everybody made it out alive.


SAVIDGE: They are still finding victims from the storm here. The latest was a 3-month-old baby that was ripped from the arms of her parents as they were trying to flee the floodwaters over two weeks ago. The hearts, the prayers, the thoughts of the people of Texas are definitely with all the people of Irma because if anybody knows about the heartbreak and heartache, it's the people here -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

Here in Key West right now with Jen and Harry, rode out the storm. The house essentially destroyed. We don't have much time. Let me ask you this quickly, what do you guys need?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Down here we need fuel, diesel fuel, food, gas is paramount. Food, water, ice. Ice, ice, but fuel, I think fuel and diesel for construction equipment, especially the diesel and the fuel.

BERMAN: Harry, you guys chose to ride out the storm. You stayed in your house for a certain amount of time but you had to run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We had to leave at the last second. It was just getting too intense. The eye was getting too close. We were watching on radar and we decided to evacuate to the shelter down at Sugar Loaf. We did that with all our pets and animals and the menagerie we were watching and we came back here the next day after the eye had passed, probably about four hours later. And it was still a surge here, about 4 feet deep, but we made it down the street and -- to check out the devastation. We basically just broke down. We could not believe what we saw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was about -- we've been told from people that were actually on the street, were on Big Pine, actually, that it was a 10-foot storm surge with over 15-foot waves coming in.

BERMAN: And you guys, of course, it's your life to save animals. You have turtles and whatnot. When are you going to be able to get back to work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're probably getting back to work as soon as we can because there's still a lot to do. You know, with the deer and all the animals here. But, you know, first, we have to get a base going, you know, for our operation. You know and get our house settled and try to get some income coming in again from the bed and breakfast.

BERMAN: Have you felt like you've received the help you need so far from the state and federal government?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Locally, incredible. We -- the first people that made contact with us was search and rescue from Alaska. But we're still kind of waiting on FEMA. You know, I don't want to put a bad spin on things, but we know the supplies are here. We've seen all the planes, the helicopters, the C-130s. We know they're here. Distribution seems to be a little problematic.


BERMAN: All right. Jen and Harry, you heard from them right here.

FEMA, if you're listening, get the supplies out here to Big Pine Key. Food, water, especially ice. You can see the need. You can also see the spirit here of the people who have made this -- they're going to make it through, no matter what at this point.

Our CNN special live coverage of Hurricane Irma continues now with Kate Bolduan.