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Paradise Lost as Irma Decimates Caribbean Islands; Houston's Long Road to Recovery After Harvey; Climate Change Debate Republicans Don't Want to Have; Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired September 13, 2017 - 7:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:31:48] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Chris Cuomo with CNN here in the Florida Keys. We're on Big Pine Key, it's the hardest hit area in the Keys. But it is not the area that was hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. The Caribbean took a beating.
We have Clarissa Ward on the island of Guadalupe.
Clarissa, if you can hear us, our transmission is fuzzy. We apologize for that. But there are no comms down here so we're using more primitive equipment.
Clarissa, if you can hear us, what's the situation in Guadalupe?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, the situation across this entire region is desperate. I think people forget that there are 40 million people living in the Caribbean across thousands of different islands. And authorities now estimate that 200,000 of them are in serious need of aid. A lot of these islands have no food, no running water.
There are concerns about clean water supplies for drinking water. There are also concerns about the huge amount of devastation and damage with some islands reporting as many as 90 percent if not more of the buildings have been damaged. Some of them just completely wiped out. And we have been talking to people who have been lucky enough to evacuate from some of these islands.
They are describing scenarios, Chris, not just of desperation in terms of losing their homes, not having enough food, not having enough drinking water, but also a serious security situation. Young men with machetes roaming around some of these islands. Take a listen.
WARD (voice-over): The island of St. Maarten. Last week one of the jewels of the Caribbean now a paradise lost.
"Not a day went by," she says, "without us thinking that we were very lucky to live on this idyllic island. Today it is just complete chaos."
Six days after Irma pummeled St. Maarten, officials say more than 90 percent of the buildings on the island are damaged or destroyed. Food and water are still scarce. Power remains out for most. Thousands of tourists were strapped for days.
LESLIE, EVACUEES: It was horrifying. Absolutely horrifying.
RICH, EVACUEES: Yes.
LESLIE: I've never been that scared in my life.
WARD: The desperation has led to looting and violence with reports not yet confirmed by CNN of armed men roaming the streets.
Doctor Lachlan and Kay Anne McClay were vacationing at this resort on St. Maarten when Irma struck. McClay spent several days caring for the injured but also found himself forced to stand guard against looters, sharing this text with a colleague back home.
"Military is trying to control chaos but nothing is safe after dark. Lots of looting. I was on patrol last night with machete until sun came up."
And the story is much the same all across the hard-hit Caribbean. On the British Virgin Islands one resident told CNN that the situation is only getting worse.
KENNEDY BANDA, HOME DESTROYED BY HURRICANE IRMA: The supermarkets here, they doubled their prices. The gas stations have doubled their prices. So we'll run out of cash. It's just scary. And I was at a gas station trying to buy gas when a guy on a motorbike came up and pulled out a gun.
[07:35:02] WARD: Help has been slow to arrive to many of the islands where people are struggling to go get by day to day. And long term officials say full recovery may be years away.
WARD: So we're hearing a lot of promises from a lot of different politicians, the French president, the British Foreign minister, the Dutch king, all who have come to visit their various territories here in the Caribbean. They're saying that they vow to rebuild. They're going to get the power on. They're going to get the electricity going. They're going to get running water back. They're going to rebuild these islands.
But the reality is, Alisyn, this could take years as you heard in that piece. It requires enormous expense, enormous infrastructure which simply put isn't there, and it requires the input of so many different countries. We are talking about Dutch involvement, American involvement, British involvement, French involvement. This is going to be a major international reconstruction effort. But for now the focus still on getting those aid to the hardest hit areas and getting people out who need to be evacuated -- Alisyn.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Clarissa. Honestly the numbers that you're telling us of the people impacted there are staggering. So thank you for reminding us the scope of it throughout the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, joining us now are two Americans who rode out the storm on St. John Island. Clint Gaskins owns a restaurant on St. John's. And that restaurant survived mostly intact with a generator. So he is feeding people with whatever food he has left.
We also have Rebecca Reinbold. She's with us. She rode the storm out with her husband and 4-year-old son. Irma destroyed their rental apartment so she evacuated to Puerto Rico while her husband stayed behind.
Rebecca, we'll be with you in a second but I want to start with Clint.
Clint, we spoke to your wife yesterday who was at your home in Charleston, South Carolina. But you went back to try to board up your restaurant and to protect it. And you rode out the storm there. So what's the situation now? How much food do you have left? How many people are you feeding?
CLINT GASKINS, RESTAURANT OWNER: The situation is getting improved every day. Yesterday we had FEMA and American Red Cross show up. We're working directly with them at this point to hopefully start getting some supply chain for the restaurant, local suppliers or stateside. So they come to the island and they're trying to (INAUDIBLE) visit the restaurant for facilities to be able to start feeding these people. So that's our main focus right now. Being able to get our supply chain back, be able to start feeding the community because right now we are running low on food. We are still working off of last week's inventory and what we're able to pull out of restaurants. All their foods went bad.
So the situation is it is getting tired but I think there is some light on the horizon for us. I think as soon as this weekend we'll be able to start working with the Red Cross and be able to feed thousands of people between a couple of restaurants so.
CAMEROTA: Well, that would be amazing, Clint. I mean, it's already amazing what you've done there by, you know, opening your doors and helping other people. But how long until you run out of food?
GASKINS: We probably have a week of (INAUDIBLE) what we're currently offering. We are doing a meal every other day just kind of stretch it out for the residents. So all the restaurants participating in the same manner that we are. They were all kind of spreading it out across all of us to make sure that we can at least do a solid meal each day and making it last as long as we can.
We do have National Guard on the ground now. The Army is here. In the last few days there have been tons of groups that are showing up that are here to obviously help us put the supply chains back in place.
GASKINS: The barges are running again. The ferries are running again. And that's always our key component. Everything that we do from St. Thomas and as you guys know they had construction over there as well so getting these pieces out together will soon be able to make us keep performing and offering what we can do.
CAMEROTA: From where you sit, Clint, what's the biggest need right now?
GASKINS: Supply chain. Fuel, water, food, chainsaws. People to come help us get these roads cleared. Once we can get electricity back in town (INAUDIBLE), that's going to obviously bring back a little bit of the town and the community and allows us to kind of get back to some normalcy.
CAMEROTA: And Clinton, I mean, as I said, we spoke to your wife yesterday. You have a child I believe in Charleston. And your wife is pregnant. So how long are you going to stay on St. John?
GASKINS: We have a manager off island right now. He's up in the States. As soon as he gets back home I'm probably going to be heading off there for a week, a week or so just to be back with them. Probably seven days or so. Probably early next week as long as the airport does come back up, I will get back to South Carolina.
CAMEROTA: Well, Clint, I know that everybody there appreciates all the help and the sacrifice that you're making to go feed everyone who is so desperate obviously for food at the moment. We really appreciate that and we appreciate you taking time to talk to us.
[07:40:10] I want to bring in now Rebecca because you have almost the inverse -- well, a similar story, I guess. You were on St. John. You were with your child, 4 years old, I believe. What was it like to weather the storm as it came roaring on shore?
REBECCA REINBOLD, ST. JOHN RESIDENT WHO RODE OUT IRMA ON THE ISLAND WITH FAMILY: It was definitely a harrowing experience. Compared to many on St. John, we got quite lucky. There are definitely some bone- chilling stories that friends and family went through during the storm to survive. And then of course the aftermath just heartbreaking. Seeing so many people without homes and, you know, losing everything that they ever worked for.
But the beautiful thing about St. John is that the community, so many people coming together day one to put together volunteer task groups to make sure that people were safe, doing roll calls, find family members, organizing groups to chainsaw roads and get to people. It's an incredible place. And I'm just so grateful for the people that are working hard to make sure that St. John can rebuild and stick together like we always do.
CAMEROTA: And Rebecca, when you said there were bone-chilling stories that you heard from other friends and neighbors, what were those and what was it like to have to protect your 4-year-old son while all of this was happening?
REINBOLD: You know, he actually did pretty well during the storm. We were playing games. It got a little crazy part way through when we were in a storage room underneath my mom's pool at her house since it was kind of like a concrete bunker. When the winds shifted, water started coming in and we kind of used everything that we could find in that storage room, including an air mattress that we cut and latched to pipes. Then used every box we could find to keep the wind and water out so that we could be safe in there.
But he fared pretty well until after the storm when I think it kind of all hit him. But again, so many people had worse stories. Our neighbor had just moved to St. John four days prior from Texas. And they, you know, not even an hour into the storm lost all their roof and all but one wall and actually tied themselves to the safe in their closet because that was bolted to the ground.
Other friends, prominent (INAUDIBLE) company had two brothers weathered the storm with, you know, a mattress over their head in the closet. You know, so many stories like that that we will hear for years to come that went into survival mode. And thankfully all survived. And, you know, the first day it was everybody talking about the fact that they were alive. It wasn't about what they lost but just that we had our lives.
CAMEROTA: Right. Understood. I mean, everyone that we're hearing from is so grateful to be alive. And now the real sort of realization, you know, hits of where they are going to live and where they're going to eat and where they're going to get water and where they are going to work and all that stuff. And I know that you're wrestling with all of that, too.
Rebecca Reinbold, thank you very much for being with us and sharing your personal story. We'll check back and make sure that you guys are OK. Best of luck as you put your life back together. And our thanks to Clint Gaskins as well.
So President Trump is tweeting about the recovery effort now under way in Florida. The president says, "I will be traveling tomorrow to Florida to meet with our great Coast Guard, FEMA and many of the brave first responders and others."
Meanwhile, many parts of Houston are still struggling after that historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey there. That was just three weeks ago. Many there are still out of their homes. Some there in Houston still don't have power .
That's where we find CNN's Martin Savidge. He's live for us in Houston.
I mean, obviously, Irma has, you know, eclipsed everything that happened in Houston. But what are you seeing now that you're back on the ground there, Martin?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. You can see that the lights are on in this community here but it only reveals just how bad things are. The people of Texas are certainly sending their thoughts and prayers to the people of Florida. Because if anybody knows about the heartbreak and headaches that lie ahead, it's the people here.
SAVIDGE (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: There is no way I could keep those.
SAVIDGE: The Tyty family like (INAUDIBLE) 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.
[07:45:01] 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. It 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: Houston, Texas, is really in some ways going to reflect what the hardest hit parts of Florida may look like three weeks from now. They'll have the electricity back on and just about everything that people had will be dumped out in their yards and those neighborhoods that were once thriving like this one are virtual ghost towns -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, Martin, I mean, just that scene behind you is so striking. Thank you very much for the reporting from Houston.
So with these two natural -- major natural disasters in the past couple of weeks, why do Republicans seem reluctant to want to even talk about climate change connected to these?
We'll debate that next.
[07:50:31] CAMEROTA: New this morning, CNN has learned House Democrats want Special Counsel Robert Mueller to take a closer look at a trip to the Middle East made by former National Security adviser Michael Flynn in 2015.
CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill with more of this reporting. What you have learned, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Two House Democrats, Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Elliot Engle of New York, say they have received information from Michael Flynn's former business partners about a deal that he tried to cut in the Middle East with several American energy companies as well as Saudi Arabia and a Russian nuclear energy company that would involve the building of 16 nuclear power plants in Saudi Arable as well as the purchase of military hardware in Russia.
Now why that's significant is when he returned back to the U.S. after the 2015 trip, when he reapplied for a security clearance form he did not disclose that he took this trip as required by federal law. Now it is a crime to knowingly falsify your security clearance forms and Democrats say this is something that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, should look at. They have sent information that they've gotten from their business partners confirming that this trip happened to the special counsel.
Now, Alisyn, this comes as Michael Flynn has come under enormous scrutiny and legal pressure because of his failure to disclose a number of other trips, including Russian-backed trips that he took back by the Russian television network RT in which he was pictured seated next to Vladimir Putin, as well as his contacts with foreign officials including the former Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, also under scrutiny on Capitol Hill, and from Robert Mueller.
This is a sign, Alisyn, of another example of Michael Flynn under legal pressure now at the disclosure of this new information as well -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Very interesting development, Manu. Thank you so much for bringing that to us. OK. Back to the storms and their aftermath. With Hurricanes Harvey
and Irma devastating two separate regions, there is now a new focus on climate change. So why do many in the Republican Party seem reluctant to talk about this?
Let's discuss it with our own Republicans. Ben Ferguson, he's the host of "The Ben Ferguson Show." And Ana Navarro is a Republican strategist.
Great to see both of you.
So, Ben, isn't now a good time to talk about climate change and whether or not the intensity and the succession of hurricanes that we're seeing is somehow connected to it?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't have a problem talking about it. I do think when people are talking about while the hurricane is literally hitting is insensitive. I think it's trying to score political points when you should be looking at directly helping these people and there seems to be a lot of people that say because there's a tragedy that we are watching, we see people, they're suffering. There are still evacuation orders coming out and they put their political ideology ahead of the safety and the response to people, saying we have to talk about climate change right now.
Now you can wait a week to talk about it. I have no problem having the conversation about climate change. I think most conservative don't have an issue having a conversation. But when you're trying to do it as people are in the path of the storm, when it's currently going on, this crisis, is incredibly sensitive because it's --
CAMEROTA: OK. But --
FERGUSON: -- about politics at that point.
CAMEROTA: OK. I understood. But now we're past the storm. So now is a good time to have this conversation, see if there's any connection?
FERGUSON: If people want to have that conversation, that's right. But if you ask the people that have been affected by Harvey and you asked people in Florida if right now this is something they want to sit down and have a long conversation about, or they even think the government should be focusing on. I mean, I have family members that have been dealing with flooding and ripping out literally floors and ripping out walls. They are not wanting the president or anyone in Congress right now to be having a Kumbaya on global warming. They want relief efforts right now.
FERGUSON: And the government needs to focus on that.
CAMEROTA: Look, I mean, Ben, obviously you're calling it Kumbaya on global warming, other people call it, you know, preventing the next one or trying to lessen the next one. But I want to bring in Ana, because this is -- you know, he's reflecting exactly what Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, said, let me read this to you.
"To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm versus helping people or actually facing the effect of the storm is misplaced. All I am saying to is to use this time and effort to address is very insensitive to the people in Florida.
Ana, your thoughts?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I am a Floridian, I am a Miamian. And if I can have a moment of personal privilege before answering about my, you know, party pretending to be so damn dense, I want to really thank the NEW DAY team, I want to thank my CNN family, my CNN colleagues for everything they have done for the last week to keep Floridians, to keep Americans informed.
I am so grateful for people like Chris Cuomo, like John Berman, like Rosa Flores, and the people behind the cameras who have been out there in pelting rain and howling wind for hours and hours and hours. And damned, did Chris Cuomo look good doing it.
[07:55:10] I want to thank him on behalf of all the straight women and gay men of America who got --
NAVARRO: Who got to see him in that tight T-shirt --
CAMEROTA: I think Ana is contributing to global warming right now.
NAVARRO: Listen, now back to global warming. Here's the bottom line. At some point we have to have the conversation and what we can't do, you know, and we're talking about politicizing it during a time of a storm, but we also can't politicize it when it's not a storm. And it has become a politicized issue. And it's one that many in the Republican Party are ceding to Democrats. And we have got to be part of the conversation. There are many Republicans including --
CAMEROTA: So why are they doing that, Ana? I mean, why are they --
NAVARRO: Because it's become a political wedge issue. It's become, you know, it's become one that's identified with, you know, tree- hugging, seed eating, Birkenstock-wearing, do-gooder liberals.
NAVARRO: And then there's, you know, on the other side there's folks who want to do everything opposite to that. But there's also some folks in the middle, I'm glad to hear that Ben is one of them. There's folks like, you know, Congressman Carlos Cubelo in Miami. There's people like John McCain. There's people in the Republican Party who have been talking about climate change for a long time.
NAVARRO: Who not only accept it, but say, look, forget about whether it's real or not, let's just say this. if there is anything that we can do as Americans to make this planet a little better --
NAVARRO: -- for ourselves and generations to come without strangling business, let's do it.
CAMEROTA: Well, here's another reason that perhaps some Republicans don't want to talk about it, and it's this pie chart that shows the amount of contributions that the coal mining industry gives Republicans versus Democrats. They give 97 percent.
CAMEROTA: Of their money to Republicans and 3 percent to Democrats. And so Ben --
FERGUSON: I mean, coal miners are smart. They understand that this political wedge issue has suffocated their industry and that there are people that want to destroy the coal industry and don't care about the fallout of American jobs.
FERGUSON: Because it's so political.
CAMEROTA: Understood. And on the other side they would that it's time to do something about climate change because obviously so many people are suffering in Florida and Houston, so let's have the conversation and see if there are any steps that we can take.
I remember reading, and it's one of my favorite articles I've ever read. "Newsweek" and "TIME" in 1974 and '75 both wrote articles saying that we're going to have massive food shortages and the top scientists are saying we're going through a global cooling.
We had five hurricanes and tropical depressions in '75 hit Florida. Four the very next year. Now my point is this. There are cycles. And I think we should be able to be honest about it and say just because we had two storms back-to-back doesn't mean that it's guaranteed 100 percent that you've got it, blame coal.
FERGUSON: Or blame this or we're not being responsible.
CAMEROTA: So just to be clear about you, so you are skeptical of climate change?
FERGUSON: I think it is not as simplistic as some have tried to make it up which is we have to blame coal and you've got to shut down every coal plant and you've got to shut down coal power. And clean coal and everything else. CAMEROTA: Understood. But do you believe that climate change is a
phenomenon and it is manmade?
FERGUSON: I think that there's certainly an impact that American can have and the word can have on the climate. There's no doubt about it, right?
CAMEROTA: Well, listen, if --
FERGUSON: And pollution. I think that's something that we should definitely talk about. But this is where it goes back to the politics. It is irresponsible. And if Democrats want to have a responsible conversation about this, then don't attack an industry and blame a sole industry for a hurricane which is unrealistic --
CAMEROTA: But I mean --
FERGUSON: -- to put all that on and say Irma happened because of coal.
CAMEROTA: If emissions are connected, why not mention that?
FERGUSON: It's coal but my point is if you're in the coal industry, if you're an American that works in the coal industry, do you think that you caused Irma? Do you think you caused Harvey?
CAMEROTA: But I mean, which Democrats are saying --
CAMEROTA: -- that anybody who's a coal miner --
FERGUSON: But there is no -- there is no area for a debate with people that are climate change individuals.
CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Ana.
NAVARRO: But look, we should not be focusing on one industry, right? There's a lot of things that all of us can do. All of us can do and take some personal responsibility to --
FERGUSON: I agree.
NAVARRO: -- decrease our carbon footprint. You know, there's things that the car companies can do and have done for fuel efficiency.
FERGUSON: EPA standards.
NAVARRO: But people can do on emissions. There's so many things. Sp let's not just focus on one industry. Let's focus on a comprehensive approach to this. And I would say a human approach to this.
Now I will tell you, look, part of what Ben is saying is right as in preparation for a storm you've got to focus on how to get your house ready and how to get yourself ready.
CAMEROTA: Of course. Sure.
NAVARRO: And try not to eat the 10 pounds of candy that I did watching CNN 24 hours a day.
CAMEROTA: That said.
NAVARRO: But at the same time when you see those satellite images of three hurricanes, one back-to-back, you know, you had this monster Irma. You had Katia, you had Jose and just a few days before you had Harvey. It's hard not to think to yourself what the hell is happening. Mother Nature is not happy with us and is sending us a message. Maybe we should listen.
CAMEROTA: Yes, on that note we have to wrap it up here because we do have so much news on Irma, but thank you both for having the conversation with us this morning. We appreciate that.
CAMEROTA: So we're following a lot of news. Let's get right to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never seen a hurricane like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started crying because I didn't realize how bad this was.