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Trump call North Korea's leader "Rocket man"; Trump has called U.N. "weak", incompetent; Maria strengthens into a hurricane threatens Caribbean; Four Americans hit by acid attack in France; Protesters take to the streets of St. Louis for third day; Trump retweets video of him hitting Clinton with golf ball. Aired 5-6 ET
Aired September 17, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[17:00:00] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: ... for Ana Cabrera. We thank you so much for joining us. President Trump about to make his debut before the world body that he's called weak and incompetent, we're talking of course about the United Nations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: On Tuesday, when the U.N. General Assembly gathers in New York City, the president will speak to the group publicly and then meet with several world leaders privately.
The president letting his Twitter followers know that he is busy today posting this, look quote, important meetings and calls scheduled for today. Military and economy are getting stronger by the day, and our enemies know it. Of course he signs off with his signature hashtag make America Great Again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Athena Jones is with us from Somerset, New Jersey. We're also joined by Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott. Athena, first to you, North Korea and the renewed global pressure aimed at that regime certainly going to be a focus of the general assembly. In fact President Trump also tweeted this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Take a look, quote, I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night, asked him how rocket man is doing -- I guess that's a new name for Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Long gas lines forming in North Korea, too bad!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Athena, what can we expect the president's message to be at the general assembly on Tuesday?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris. Well, I think we can expect him to deliver more tough talk to North Korea especially after this latest missile launch, the second missile to fly over a key U.S. ally in the region, Japan, in less than a month.
This missile also went the furthest of any of the missiles that North Korea has tested. So this is going to be a topic. We heard from the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley on Friday who said she's seen the president's Tuesday address, she says it's written, it's completed.
She says he's going to hug the right people and slap the right people, and so we can certainly expect North Korea to be among the countries that he has negative things to say about.
But more broadly, the idea here is for the president to spell out what his administration's approach is going to be to the global community. Listen to his national security adviser H.R. McMaster giving us a bit more of a preview of what to expect in that speech. He was speaking on Fox this morning. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, he thinks the speech is a tremendous opportunity obviously to reach so many world leaders at the same time and to emphasize really three themes.
First is to protect the American people. The second is to promote American prosperity and the third is really to help promote accountability and sovereignty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So you heard General McMaster talk about how this is a tremendous opportunity for the president to address this huge gathering of world leaders. We're talking about 193 member nations who are taking part in this summit.
It's also a chance for world leaders to take the measure of President Trump and to hear from him how he's going to promote this America first agenda.
We've heard so much about, how he's going to promote that at a meeting that is of a global organization aimed at trying to resolve global challenges together.
It's of course important to note the president is going to have a series of meetings. He's going to host a diplomatic reception, various lunches. In fact on Thursday he has a lunch with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, where North Korea is going to come up.
There are a lot of big issues on the president's agenda, but certainly that speech on Tuesday, his first turn on this high profile stage before the world is going to be very, very closely watched. Boris.
SANCHEZ: Yes, the president's approach on Tuesday addressing the general assembly will be something all eyes will be on. We'll continue to discuss that further.
But for now, Elise, I did want to ask you about this bit of news just came out, that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is planning to meet with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The two of them have plenty to discuss I imagined.
ELISE LABOTT, CORRESPONDENT, GLOBAL AFFAIRS: That's right, Boris. And we knew this meeting was coming. I think they were just trying to work out the schedules but we've been hearing about it for some time.
But not only do Secretary Tillerson and Foreign Minister Lavrov have the issues of North Korea for instance, and Iran to discuss, they also have Syria to discuss, which you just had this incident the other day in which U.S. forces, U.S. -- the Russian Forces had actually shot and fired upon U.S.-backed coalition forces in the area.
Our understanding is that military officials told CNN's Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne over the last 24 hours that the Russians had, you know, asked -- the U.S. asked for Russia to be able to shoot in that area.
The U.S. said no, and they shot anyway, and they ended up hurting U.S.-backed coalition forces, so certainly they're going to be speaking about that. They're going to be speaking about the tension between U.S. and Russia.
[17:05:00] Lots of tension on various fronts, particularly those compounds on both sides that the U.S. -- Russia wants their compounds back, the U.S. has been facing a real cut in diplomatic staff in Russia, so not only those international issues but certainly they're going to discuss the tension between the two countries.
SANCHEZ: All right, Elise Labott, Athena Jones, plenty more to discuss. So please stick around but thank you for the time.
For more on Ambassador Nikki Haley's conversation this morning, Elise had an in-depth profile in this month's issue of State the digital magazine from CNN politics. You can read the piece at cnn.com/state.
I want to bring in our panel now, Scott Jennings. He's a CNN Political Commentator and one-time special assistant to President George W. Bush, also with us Patrick Healey. He's political analyst and the deputy culture editor at the New York Times.
Scott, let's start with you. Donald trump as we mentioned earlier has called the U.N. weak and incompetent. He's also taking steps to pull out of the Paris Accords, the TPP.
He's also threatened to withdraw from NAFTA and undo the Iran nuclear deal. So how does this president reach an audience whose mission to bring the world closer together, he seems to disagree with?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what the president's trying to communicate is, is that the United States is going to invest massive amounts of our money and our credibility into international organizations.
We expect these organizations to be run efficiently. We expect ongoing reforms and we expect to get good bank for our buck. And look what has happened.
I think we've had -- after some initial discussions like what you mentioned about NATO, we've seen some tightening up of NATO. We've also seen now the engagement and discussions on NAFTA, making that network better for the United States.
I think the president has got the basic -- the same basic message for the United Nations, which is we want to see a reform and we want to see accountability and we ultimately want to see these things work better.
I've heard the president and the White House say many times, America first does not mean America alone, and I don't think you're going to see a go it alone message of the United Nations but I do think you're going to see a request and a demand really for reform in these big organizations.
SANCHEZ: Patrick, to you, administration officials have said that this speech on Tuesday is going to be business as usual.
PATRICK HEALEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
SANCHEZ: Business as usual so far has been fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen. It's been very aggressive rhetoric from the president specifically when it comes to North Korea. What are you expecting from his speech? Is he going to go that far?
HEALEY: Right. Business as usual for President Trump can mean a lot of different things. Fiery and fury was impromptu, that off the cuff sort of nature that we've come to expect from him on Twitter.
His comments about the London terrorist attack the other day that upset leaders in Great Britain where he was sort of wondering about the investigation kind of inserting himself, that's business as usual when he's kind of freelancing on his own.
What we're going to see at the U.N. I think is what a typical administration would say is business as usual, which is more of a conventional approach to foreign policy. It's meeting with allies.
SANCHEZ: Teleprompter Trump.
HEALEY: Teleprompter Trump. I mean what will be interesting is when he gives his big centerpiece speech on Tuesday, does he go off message? He loves to do that. He loves to actually insert points that are the ones that he really wants to make.
But of course, I mean the line-up for these days is mostly meetings with allies and lately we've seen President Trump acting when he's on the teleprompter.
And that more conventional way in terms of talking about at this point not withdrawing from the Iran deal, talking about working with allies, so if he decides to follow the wishes of his aides, it's probably going to be business as usual, like we're used to. SANCHEZ: Sure. Patrick mentioned something that I wanted to ask you
about, Scott, the Iran nuclear deal, something that the president has repeatedly said that he wants to tear up.
Though this week we saw an important deadline passed by without him taking actions to undo that deal. How aggressively do you think he goes after Iran?
JENNINGS: I think he going to go after them aggressively. I think he's going to continue to make the case that Iran is sponsoring terrorism and that Iran is destabilizing the Middle East and really the entire world.
So I expect him to go after Iran very aggressively. I think he's going to go after North Korea very aggressively. I think he's going to lay out why we have to get behind the president's new strategy on Afghanistan and as one of your reporters mentioned Syria is still on the table as well.
There's a number of hot spots around the world that the president's going to have to touch on that we're right in the middle of, that I think he needs to continue to build world cooperation on, so Iran is certainly at the top of that list, given the fact they've been bad actors over the last several years.
SANCHEZ: I'm taking a broader focus on North Korea specifically, Patrick, we heard from Nikki Haley this morning, she was on State of the Union speaking with Dana Bash and she said that the U.N. Security Council had exhausted every option.
[17:10:00] SANCHEZ: Yet we heard from China's ambassador to the United States this week saying that the U.S needs to do more. What exactly is China talking about?
HEALEY: Right, China and the Trump administration have been ping- ponging for a while now in terms of each saying that the other is the one that needs to take leadership.
But I think you find on foreign policy on the Republican side and the Democratic side, there is some consensus that it's really China that has the most leverage in terms of economic, in terms of financial and economic and business sanctions, and pressure that it can put on North Korea.
There's a lot of table setting right now, in terms of setting expectations for this U.N. General Assembly. What we're hearing from Nikki Haley, from Secretary Tillerson, from others, basically going back to kind of the military option and making it very clear.
And they're rattling the sabers a little bit, going into the General Assembly session, saying that the military option is very much on the table, that we're not looking to the U.N. for a solution further than the sanctions that they've made. They made it clear to countries like China that -- that they're very serious and they're very serious about even talking about military options.
SANCHEZ: And Scott, very quickly to you. One of the options that's been discussed by the administration is cutting off trade with countries that do business with North Korea.
The White House has cited that about 90 percent of North Korea's trade is with China. Is this administration serious about cutting off our strongest trade partner, the second biggest economy in the world?
JENNINGS: That's not possible to cut off trade with China. It would wreck the United States economy in the short term, and it would be -- I mean the consequences of that would be worldwide. So I don't think that's a serious threat.
I do, however, think that there is more to be done with China. They have a softer economy right now. They have some political machinery moving this fall over there. The president of China has to deal with.
So I do think there's things that can be done to try to get China to be a little bit more engaged in the North Korean situation but cutting off all trade with China doesn't seem like something that could be done overnight although I do believe U.S. law gives the president broad latitude to do things like that.
But boy, oh boy, the American consumer would certainly see a major change in their day-to-day habits if that were to take place.
SANCHEZ: We'd all suffer quite a bit. Scott Jennings, Patrick Healy thank you both for sharing some time with us this Saturday -- Sunday. Appreciate it.
Coming up, breaking news. Maria strengthens into a hurricane with a storm-battered Caribbean in its path. So how serious is this threat coming just days after Irma? We'll get the latest forecast next.
[17:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SANCHEZ: We have some breaking news out of the Atlantic Ocean where a tropical storm Maria has now strengthen to become hurricane Maria. This comes a tropical storm warning have gone up on parts of the east coast for hurricane Jose.
And all meteorologists are now keeping a close eye on three storms churning in the Atlantic. You see Lee there, far in the east, making matters worse, Maria in the center appears ready to follow Irma's path. Meteorologist Julie Martin joins us from the CNN weather center in Atlanta. Julie brings us up to date on all the storms.
JULIE MARTIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Boris, you hear exactly right. Two of the three storms of these storms are now hurricanes, Maria becoming the newest member of the group as of the 5:00 advisory.
Now a hurricane expected to become a major hurricane as it moves through the islands, unfortunately much like Irma, taking a lot at Maria, right now, those winds at 75 miles per hour, a category one hurricane.
The movement is expected to be west-northwest in the coming days. The hurricane hunters have been flying this storm all day and they have picked up now on significant information indicating this is in fact a category one storm.
So those hurricane warnings are up, some of the same places that were hit so hard during Irma including places like St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbuda, which was basically decimated, now under a tropical storm warning.
So all of the Leeward Islands are going to be in play but also, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as the storm is expected to strengthen as it gains more steam and hits some warmer water.
So this is a look at the expected track, a category three storm as it hits the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and beyond maintaining that strength of winds in excess of 125 miles per hour.
Taking a look at that expected path, then comparing it to Irma. You will notice very similar tracks there. Hurricane Jose also something we don't want to forget about here off the east coast of the United States, those winds still at 90 miles per hour.
But this is also new, as of 5:00, due to the track itself, the National Hurricane Center has now issued tropical storm watches in yellow. So that's going to be from the Delmarva here up through portions of the New York City area.
And then out on to the cape, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, some of those coastal areas of Massachusetts, also now expecting some tropical storm force winds to be arriving.
And this would be in about that two to three-day period so still looking at some impacts here in terms of large swells and dangerous rip currents, from Jose, along the northeast coast as well as maybe three to five inches of rain, so a lot happening, Boris, in the tropics that we're continuing to follow here in the CNN Weather Center.
SANCHEZ: A busy hurricane season so far. It doesn't end until November 30th, so we may see more of this ahead. Julie Martin from Atlanta, thank you.
From the Atlantic to Europe now, we're learning more about the acid attack on four female American tourists at a train station in Marseille, France. The Americans are student from Boston College.
Two of those students were taken to a hospital. A French woman is in custody. CNN International Correspondent Melissa Bell joins me now from Paris. And Melissa, what is the latest that you've heard about the attacks?
MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing is more from Boston College itself where the students were enrolled, they were here in France.
[17:20:00] Three of them at least of the four, Boris, is part of the Boston College Paris program and they've been down in Marseille to enrolled in a program in Copenhagen.
So four very young women who are at Marseille Train station this morning when this 41-year-old attacked them with acid, two of them were treated for shock, another two for light wounds.
So according to Boston College, they're apparently OK and all is being done to stay in touch with their parents. But you can imagine the horror that would have been felt by those parents, by those family members before these identification came through, these four young women went through this horrific attack.
Now it is not terror related, of course that is the first question we ask these days here in Europe, not terror related. As the woman -- 41-year-old woman who's now under arrest attacked them with the acid.
No declarations were made to lead the French to believe that the motive was in any way terror related. So it is not an anti-terror investigation that's been opened. On the contrary the French authorities say that this is in fact a woman who was disturbed, that is the word they were using and who chose to attack.
I think one of the things that we'll have to be wanting to get answers to tomorrow morning is whether or not these women were attacked because they were American or whether this was simply four young women in the wrong place at the wrong time. Boris.
SANCHEZ: a horrifying incident, Melissa Bell reporting from Paris, thank you. Breaking news, we're following new protests erupting in St. Louis this hour, after the acquittal of a former police officer in the 2011 shooting death of an African-American man.
You're looking at live pictures from downtown St. Louis where protesters are taking to the streets. We've seen now continuous days of protest in that city starting on Friday night. CNN's Ryan Young joins us now from St. Louis. He was there Friday night. He was there again yesterday. Ryan, what are you seeing?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, every day another protest. These protesters say they want to continue to do this until they get the sort of information, the sort of justice they want. You can see how blended the crew is here in terms of the protesters that have come out.
Look, this happened every single day, the first part of the protest have been sort of I guess you would say peaceful, everybody's coming together, different nationalities and then it's the nighttime that you have to really worry about, because that's when things have kind of gone awry.
That's when we've seen like the aftermath of the protests where people kind of hang around and there's a small group that decides to start throwing things and challenging officers like we saw last night. They would throw up to Delmar Loop last night with about 25 to 30
protesters hung around, we're not sure the extra group kind of showed up a little bit later than we saw things being tossed at officers.
Today I'll show you where the officers are, they are standing in the distance over there. They are not interacting with the protesters at all. We'll also show you this. This is the police department.
They are making sure that they are occupying the space in front of the police department here in St. Louis, because they want their voices heard. This all goes back to the case here and we've heard people talk about Michael Brown and Ferguson.
The protest organizers say their goal is to remain here and occupy the space, and remain as peaceful as possible. We were here yesterday when they told everyone to go home. People did go home.
But it's that small group that stayed afterward that created damage for all those small businesses up and down the Delmar Loop which was painfully just disturbing last night to watch people getting run over and getting hit, and having windows being broken out. That was not what protest organizers wanted.
They were frustrated, some people in tears because they say that's not what they wanted to have this be. This is what they wanted. Boris, you can see this right now, we're seeing people holding the signs, yelling out loud, and this has been going on for about a half hour at this point.
SANCHEZ: As you mentioned Ryan, this is kind of a pattern here early in the day, the protests are peaceful and then late at night they get out of hand.
On Friday we talked about the mayor's home being a target and people throwing rocks at her home. Fortunately she was not there at the time, no one was hurt. Is there any message from city leaders today about these protests and what they may have planned for later tonight?
YOUNG: I think everybody has this sort of push and pull here, right, because we saw them go to malls yesterday, no damage was created there and you talk about what happened with the mayor's house.
I was standing right there when it happened and I will tell you, even though protesters were angry that someone would do this, so there's this mix, right, like you can't control everyone.
So what we've talked about over and over with the protest organizers is they want this to remain about the subject, not about the things that are going on the outside, Boris.
SANCHEZ: We certainly saw some ugly images last night and Friday. Hopefully things don't get out of hand tonight, Ryan Young reporting from St. Louis. We will keep checking in to see how things are there later. Thanks, Ryan.
Coming up, swing and retweets. The president posts a fake video of him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball. The reaction has been swift. Did he cross the line? We'll discuss.
SANCHEZ: President Trump of course is no stranger to Twitter controversies but a retweet by him this morning is drawing not just criticism but now accusations that he is again encouraging violence. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: The meme originally posted by a Trump supporter slices together footage of Donald Trump swinging a golf club with then video of Hillary Clinton falling over, to make it look like it was the golf ball that knocked her over.
The caption quote, Donald Trump's amazing golf swing #CrookedHillary, reaction was swift, including this tweet from Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics.
He writes, quote, the president of the United States just retweeted a video vignette that imagines him assaulting his political rival.
The man is unfit." Joining me now CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy. Oliver great to have you here. What are the main criticisms that we heard from Trump supporters is that we the media take him literally and not seriously. They take him seriously, but not literally. They see this as kind of fun. They don't really see it as, you know, an urging his supporters to act violently against Hillary Clinton. Is he just trolling the media at this point?
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: I think that, that is certainly part of it and I think you have to look at it two ways here. One, Trump knows that this week he is taken a lashing from his base over his weakened or softened position on immigration. So this, seems to me like he is signaling them saying hey I'm the guy that you elected from the campaign. He is using the crooked Hillary moniker and that is one, but also, two, I think that this really shows us the limits that General Kelly has when he is implementing order in the White House. There's been reporting that suggests that he is, you know, making it more difficult for information from less credible sources to sit on the President's desk, but this kind of gets back, there's limits to that, and the President's going to be the President, and in this case he is going to be retweeting images of him, you know.
SANCHEZ: Swinging a golf club or WWE fighting a CNN logo or something.
SANCHEZ: It wasn't the only time that he tweeted about Hillary Clinton this week. Obviously she has a book coming out "What happened." she did an interview with Anderson Cooper, several media outlets. The President tweeted about that. I want to show you some of the tweets now, he writes, "crooked Hillary blames everybody and everything but herself for her election loss. She lost the debates and lost her direction." Clinton then in turn tweeted out "if you didn't like that book try this one, some good lessons about working together to solve problems, happy to send a copy." Of course it's another Hillary Clinton book "It takes a village." This arguing continuing from the 2016 election, seems like it's never quite ended, but are Democrats happy that it's Hillary Clinton being the face of the resistance, when many of them weren't very enthusiastic about her as a candidate.
DARCY: Well I think there has been reporting of this as well, Democrats probably wish she wasn't out there still representing the Party but the Party really is lacking for someone to take the lead. President Obama has come out and issued some statements in response to some of the moves Trump has made, but I don't know, you could guess, sort of argue he is leaving the Party but he was the past President of course so there is really a vacuum and I'm not sure Democrats like seeing Clinton fill that vacuum, but I'm also not sure who else is going to jump in and do it.
SANCHEZ: Right. Bernie Sanders was actually on some of the talk shows this weekend saying he did everything he could to help Hillary Clinton get elected. Very quickly though, I did want to ask you this, that tweet, that we saw from the president, that retweet, there are some reporting out there CNN is working to confirm it that the person that retweeted it had posted some questionable, let's say, content before, racist and sexist tweets. This wouldn't be the first time that the President has retweeted someone that posted that kind of content before. Does the White House need to look at who the President is retweeting a little bit closer? Is that their responsibility?
DARCY: I think the White House -- I'm sure if you asked General Kelly he would love to review all the tweets the President sends out. I think the problem is the President's going to be the President, and that means he is going to be, you know, scrolling through twitter I guess and retweeting random things. He must have found this funny. I doubt he went on the guy's account and looked at, you know his entire history, but this is what happens when you retweet random people as the President of the United States and you just push it out to his 40 million plus followers.
SANCHEZ: Certainly is a risk. Oliver Darcy we appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
Coming up, going home at last. Residents of the Florida Keys finally allowed to return, after hurricane Irma battered the region. So what is waiting for them, when they get home? We'll discuss, next.
[17:38:10] SANCHEZ: We are continuing on the follow breaking news out of St. Louis where new protests are breaking out, the third day of protest after the acquittal of a former police officer in the 2011 shooting of an African-American man. CNN Ryan Young is there for us. Ryan we understand things are heating up in the last few minutes. What are you seeing?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, most part they just did a die-in in the middle of the street, they wanted to do six minutes of silence and just talk about some of the victims that they want to make sure that people remember. Outside of that there's been discussion about whether or not there was going to be a march or not because they said they wanted to occupy the street. Seems like now we are marching up the street at this point so that is what's happening right now. But again, so far no confrontations with police. There's no one for them to confront. The police have a distance from these protesters. We have seen some police officers on the roofs around us, and there are some in front of the police station of course, but nothing that would have any sort of confrontation between the protesters and them. Look, organizers have wanted to make sure that is part of the reason why they've done that. As we walk here now, they just decided this, because they said weren't going to march there, so you can see how just fluid this is. This has been the good part. We will march and walk and nothing will happen from here. It's that gray area after this is done when they've had the issues. As of right now people are just walking and having their voices heard.
SANCHEZ: Ryan, who is leading this march right now, basically deciding when to lay down, when to march? Who is coordinating this?
YOUNG: That is a good question. I think people are just kind of organically doing this at this point and I see you guys walking with signs. What brought you guys out today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that people aren't treated fairly and black lives matter.
[17:40:00] YOUNG: I mean, this crowd has been diverse, please explain to people just what is sort of happening today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are angry and rightfully so. I think that until people start listening then we're going to continue together.
YOUNG: Did you ever think you'd wear a black lives matter t-shirt walking in St. Louis?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sadly enough, yeah, at some point in my life I thought it probably would happen, because this is not something that is new.
YOUNG: Thank you for sharing. Thank you so much. So you hear the voice that people are just sort of walking, like I said there is four or five people who are sort of leading things in the front but they had decided they weren't going to march it now, but we have people young, old, like you heard she said she thought eventually she'd have to take to the streets, a lot of people are saying we can't be silent anymore.
SANCHEZ: Yes. Also again worth reiterating the fact this is happening in St. Louis, not far from there in Ferguson just last month it was the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, who died at the hands of a police officer as well. Ryan we will continue to check in with you throughout the evening. Looks like things are slowing down in the march right now, but there's always the potential for things to get out of hand again. Ryan Young from St. Louis, thank you.
With three named storms churning in the tropics, weary residents of the Florida Keys are finally returning home to see Irma's devastation firsthand and beginning the heart wrenching task of searching for their water-logged belongings trying to salvage whatever they can. CNN Martin Savidge joins me now from Big Pine Key, it is one of the Keys that sustained the most damage. Martin, how are the residence there coping?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's mixed and almost capricious the way the storm struck. Some homes are absolutely blasted as you can tell by this home here, but as you look down the street it may be every other home that is kind of damaged. It is estimated about 11,000 homes in the Florida Keys that is a staggering figure that are now considered to either be damaged or so devastated that they're just not livable at this particular time. I talked to Ed Lotkowictz, he was one who just came home a short while ago. We got his assessment right after he'd seen the house.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED LOTKOWICTZ, FLORIDA KEYS RESIDENT: I'm going to keep coming down. We're going to see how long -- when the water comes back on we can come back. I don't care about A/C. I have a generator it is all fired up and ready to go. Feeling better. You know, its cleanup. It's not rebuild.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: He is one of the lucky ones because a lot of people are facing that rebuild project. It's looking like many of the people that returned today were just coming to sort of assess, do what they can to stabilize the damage and then they plan to leave again. There's no water, no electricity, no way to carry on life unless you bring it in with you including generators and all the things you'll need. For the most part here, people have to start leaving fairly soon. There's a curfew that is dusk to dawn and that will continue. Law enforcement say they'll be heavily out on the streets, because they do feel that now that some people have returned, they fear crime may be on the rise as others try to take advantage of the situation. So it's going to be a very difficult couple of days for many people and sort of handling it mentally is the part that will be toughest above all, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Looting always a danger when storms like this strike and there are major evacuations. Martin, I did want to ask, yesterday you were in Key West and we saw groups handing out water and food to folks that were returning. Are you seeing much of that where you are today as well?
SAVIDGE: Yes. What you're seeing along with the residents, those that were willing to volunteer, groups like that, are also coming into this community, and it is reassuring to see people with trucks, people with heavy equipment, people with just strong arms and strong resolve to try to help have been patrolling the neighborhoods. The thing is, not that many people have returned here for sort of obvious reasons. They have already seen via satellite what their homes look like and know if it was blasted, well, coming home isn't going to fix that. They'll have to wait and have to figure out a better plan. Housing is going to be a huge problem.
SANCHEZ: Can certainly imagine that. Martin Savidge in little torch key, we appreciate your reporting.
Joining us now on the phone is the mayor of Key West, Craig Cates. Mayor Cates, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. Just a few moments ago at the top of the hour we learned that tropical storm Maria has now become hurricane Maria and it seems to be following the same path that Irma took, potentially with the Florida Keys in its path. Are you concerned about this storm hitting a region that is already battered?
MAYOR CRAIG CATES, (R) KEY WEST, FLORIDA: Obviously we are very concerned. We're watching it closely, but it seems to be heading, turning sooner than Irma, and going a bit further, sorry about the dogs, we all kinds of packed together here now, but anyway it's turning up sooner and going further up north, so our weather station around here is telling us it's kind of running a different path so we're very thankful for that.
[17:45:12] SANCHEZ: Yes, certainly. I do have to ask you, much of the Keys is still without power. We're hearing from reporters on the ground including what you just heard from Martin Savidge that in some places floodwaters have yet to recede. There is a lack of water, maybe a lack of gasoline. Why is this the right time to reopen areas that are barely habitable?
CATES: Well, Key West is not that way. We're almost about 75, 80 percent power back on, water for eight hours a day. It's non-potable but it's very clean water and maybe by this Monday it will be 100 percent, and we got grocery stores opening back up, the hospital, medical centers, and pharmacies. We're in a little better shape than our neighbors just north of us, which has a lot of damage, but we need to get our economy up and going, our people back home, so they can start to rebuild, not rebuild houses, just put them back together so we can start moving forward and help our neighbors to the north of us.
SANCHEZ: All right. Tourism, fishing, water sports, a huge part of the Keys, and specifically Key West economy. What are some of the challenges you are already considering, when it comes to boosting that tourism again?
CATES: Well, a lot of it are workers housing, that is a huge priority for us now. They just brought the empire state ship today that houses about 600 people, and will use a lot of our first responders and help from FEMA and other organizations can stay there and take pressure off the housing for our residents to come back and maybe some of their houses are damaged. If we can get Key West up and running and then we can help our neighbors in the Keys north of us, which have more damage than key west, we're all in this together, but we got to definitely get people back to work also so they can start making money to pay for this damage. SANCHEZ: Yes, certainly. I did want to ask you, you mentioned FEMA.
How pleased are you with the state and federal response? Is there something you need that perhaps you're not getting?
CATES: No. So far it's been excellent. You know, we had the Governor Scott was just here yesterday, flew in with a whole group of people, FEMA, the army corps of engineers, national guard, all the heads of the health department, told us we're here, what do we need, gave us our contacts and we've been sending them our needs. They've been here on the ground already. They're very responsive. The "USS Iwo Jima" was offshore, people and technicians fixed generators for our jail and senior sit citizens, got that up and running. It's been a joint effort from so many organizations and the citizens are just chipping in and putting the town back together and now our citizens started returning today, about 8,000 had returned to Key West so far, and so that is, we're a town of 25,000 residents, that is a good number and they go into their houses, you know, opening them up, start to clean them up so it's a good feeling to see everybody coming home.
SANCHEZ: Certainly has to be a good feeling for those returning to their homes, at least homes that are intact. It may be difficult for those that are returning only to see --
SANCHEZ: -- their homes destroyed.
CATES: I agree with you.
SANCHEZ: Mayor Craig Cates of Key West thank you for your time. We'll take a quick break and be right back. Stay with us.
[17:58:23] SANCHEZ: Now to this week's fit nation. A former surfer finds a new sport and second chance on the waves after a freak accident. Here's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
JONAS LETIERI, PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE: When I paddle on the ocean, I have no limits.
SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Growing up on beaches of Brazil, Jonas Letieri was no stranger to the ocean.
LETIERI: It was my dream to become a professional surfer and travel all over the world to get some good waves and all. But one day my entire life changed.
GUPTA: In 2011 he was electrocuted in an accident that forced doctors to amputate both of his arms below the elbow.
LETIERI: I asked god another chance, that day I reborn, restart of my entire life.
GUPTA: Jonas has thought he would never catch another wave again until he discovered stand up paddle boarding.
LETIERI: The main problem was to stand up on the board to catch waves. With a paddle board I don't have this kind of problem. The only problem now was how to hold the paddle.
GUPTA: Jonas attached two rings to the side of his paddle creating custom handles for his arms.
LETIERI: I got this first wave was like this big, was the best wave of my entire life. That day I realized I can do everything. I can surf again.
GUPTA: Now he has eyes set on the Nash Colombia Gorge paddle challenge. Racers come from across the globe to compete on the Colombia River. Demanding seven-mile course with strong currents, 30- mile-per-hour winds and large swells.
[17:55:02] LETIER: It was like really hard to stay on the board and go faster.
GUPTA: Jonas crossed the finish line in just over 90 minutes, ahead of dozens of able bodied competitors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he is!
LETIERI: Finished the race and I saw my friends and fiance there, it was amazing. Being in the ocean, for me it's the best place in the whole world. I just forget that I don't have hands anymore. I feel I'm complete again.