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Powerful Category 4 Hurricane Maria Slamming Puerto Rico; Trump Meets with King of Jordan; Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- on this island. So really there are a lot of people who are still asking for rescues from police officers. Police officers that I have talked to hear who say, A, communication is down so they don't have much to go on as far as radio, and at this point they believe it is too dangerous just to begin assessing the damage here.

But, man, I tell you, as we step out for the first time to get a glimpse of this storm, when people say this is historic it is easy to see why. When people say this is catastrophic, the pictures certainly tell you why. These businesses have just been pounded, pounded by these winds and the rain that is now coming down as Maria continues to make her way through.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Leyla Santiago, outside for the first time in sometime in San Juan giving us our first look of the impact of the -- the impact of Hurricane Maria.

Leyla, stand by for on moment. I want to bring in Chad Myers right now to get a sense of the path of the storm.

Chad, you know, obviously, Leyla -- it was still windy there but it really didn't look nearly as bad as before. It didn't look like the brunt of the storm had moved past her. Is that true?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is true. And there's a Venturi effect that goes on there or anywhere, where there are tall buildings. For a while we had the wind coming from the wrong direction, blowing everything in one direction and now it has shifted so that building kind of acting as a buffer.

Let me get to what I'm talking about. For most of the morning hours the waves and winds are coming this direction and then for San Juan they're coming this direction, but now I believe -- we can't tell you because the radar in San Juan went out immediately upon impact with the eyewall.

So I believe somewhere right here is the eye because we watch it there, watch it there, watch it there, so now the wind is coming in this direction so likely blocked by many of the buildings there in San Juan. And I think when we get out into the areas that aren't concrete the damage is going to be unbelievable.

You are going to look at the buildings and say, was that a house? Because these structures that were just made of wood are not going to stand up to 145 miles per hour. And Leyla didn't get 145 there in San Juan, but if you get toward the El Conquistador or down near Palmas del Mar-a-Lago where our Nick Paton Walsh was all morning long, they did get winds of 135 to 145.

And so that's the area that is truly going to see the devastation where you're not even going to be able to tell where the power pole was supposed to be. What pole they were supposed to be on because the poles are down, the lines are down. And all the lines are down.

This is the reason why we're talking about months to put the power back in some spots. Weeks or months to get water back. And it's like, you know, I have been there a number of times with Anderson Cooper. When you lose water and power, it's like camping. And we had the opportunity to get on an airplane five days later and fly home.

There's 3.5 million people that will be without water to wash their hands or wash themselves, or to cook with, and then power to even keep themselves cooler with air conditioners or a fan for weeks and months at a time.

You're not going to get 3.5 million people out of there. They're going to be sitting there living this nightmare for so very long

Now the forecast does change a little bit overnight. The storm did slightly jog left, and left I mean left of where we were yesterday. Not a lot. 50 miles. But I don't want this thing to keep moving west 50 miles every 12 hours, let me run the model, because then all of a sudden we're going to run into the U.S. So for now it is still a fish storm after it gets off the coast here of San Juan and Puerto Rico.

It'll still affect the Dominican Republic with wind here. There's the -- there's the wind field in about three hours. But for now it's a fish storm but I don't want you to take your eyes off this thing anywhere along the east coast, maybe not Florida, but anywhere along the east coast north of there, this thing may not be done yet. You know, we don't know. Models are good for about 48 hours. We're talking seven days away, guys.


BERMAN: You've done a pretty good job over the last few weeks, though, Chad, so I think we should all keep an eye on that very, very closely.

Chad, you stand by, I want to go back to Leyla -- Leyla Santiago in San Juan. And one of the things we've seen, Leyla, on Chad's map is rainfall. You know, 12 inches of rain or so in the last several hours in Puerto Rico. You've shown us some of the wind damage. Are you getting any sense of the impact of the water, the rainfalls had?

SANTIAGO: Where we are right now -- and let me kind of put this in context. The coast -- the northern coast is this way, the rest of the island this way. And we are certainly starting to feel the rain come down more so on this end than I would say when Maria first started coming in. Certainly, you know, I was almost sort of blown away right here when those winds were coming in and now this rain is heavy. I will tell you when we were inside the hotel, they're already putting

trashcans out from some of the leaking of this hotel and already they are going through towels as some of the water makes its way through despite whatever protection they have managed to put in place in the last few hours.

[09:35:15] I'll step out of the way so you can get a better sense of the rain and the wind that is still in place here in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I'll be more specific for those familiar with this area. This is Condavo (ph). And so some of these buildings that have already had the wind tear through, that have no windows, that have no doors are now, to your point, John, going to have the rain come inside.

These are apartment complexes. These are buildings. The good news is I don't see people out here. Again, last check, 11,000 in shelters right now. Power -- we are running in this hotel on a generator. 60 percent of the island without power. And the governor has already said by the time Maria makes her way through this island of 3.5 million people, he expects it will be 100 percent without power.

So yes, I want to reiterate, sort of recap here, we are still feeling winds. We are still seeing rain. But now for the first time we are seeing the damage that we had to steer clear of for a little while for safety purposes. So if you are in Puerto Rico, I understand that what I'm doing right now is dangerous. I'm doing this so that you can see what is outside. Anyone who was in Maria's path, you can see sort of the power of Mother Nature here as she makes her way through this island.

HARLOW: Stay with us, if you can, Leyla. And thank you to you and your entire crew out there bringing us these shots, showing us the first images that we're seeing of the damage.

Look, these are 3.5 million American citizens that, as Chad said, may be without power for months, cannot just get on a plane necessarily and go somewhere else. And this also comes on top of the situation -- I think we have Leyla, still, do we? That Puerto Rico is in, Leyla. $70 billion in debt.

I mean, when you talk about rebuilding, when you talk about the homes that will have been totally wiped away, as Chad said, this is just adding insult to injury in an already very, very difficult position for the entire island.

SANTIAGO: Right. I do want to point out that before the storm came in, as you mentioned, this is U.S. territory, so there was a state of emergency declared not only on the island but also from a federal level. So there is aid here from the United States. But to your point, there is an economic crisis that has been looming over this island long before this storm even formed in the Atlantic.

And so when they talk about rebuilding here, when the governor says, hey, hunker down because we are going to rebuild, how is this island going to rebuild when it's $70 billion in debt? When the power system lacks maintenance and is vulnerable because of that financial instability, because of that economic storm that is looming over this island?

That's a big concern as I talked to people yesterday who still didn't have power after Irma passed and now they are dealing with Maria. This is not a matter of days without power. This is not likely not a matter of weeks. For many of the people of Puerto Rico this could be a matter of months before power is restored given that Irma -- excuse me, Maria is having a direct impact on some of these power plants that are so vulnerable right now -- Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Leyla, stand by if you can. We'll let you get a quick break, dry off for a moment. We are going to take a quick break, but again a category 4 storm right now is hitting Puerto Rico at this moment. The most devastating storm that island has ever seen according to the governor.

Our reporters are sending in their dispatches as quickly as they can, as soon as we they can get their communications up. We're hoping for a look of the damage outside the cities right now. Again, we are warned, it could be horrific. Stay with us.


[09:43:35] BERMAN: These are the pictures from Puerto Rico just moments ago.


BERMAN: Again Hurricane Maria a category 4 storm pummeling the island. The governor there calls it the most devastating storm that that island has ever seen.

We want to go back to San Juan, in Puerto Rico. Our Leyla Santiago finally able to get outside and take a look at the damage that has been done.

Leyla, I'm hoping that you and your crew are the only ones you're seeing outside right now. There's no one else back out on the streets, is there?

SANTIAGO: You know, we've actually seen police officers who are standing watch but even police officers are saying it is still not safe enough to get out to help people that are right now in need. They have told me that they are having issues with communications. Radio communication at this point. They are aware that there have been calls for help, but at this point first responders still not getting out there.

So let me give you a better idea of what they're dealing with, what they're seeing right now. These are businesses. These are apartment complexes here in San Juan. I'll be more specific, this is Condavo (ph) area on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. And already, I am going to ask my photographer, Jose, to pan up a little bit because this is very telling.

Look at this apartment complex. You can see the attempts. You can see people tried to board up with metal sheeting, with boards on the window and that was not enough.

[09:45:03] Windows have come down. And I'll go a little further down so that you can see. These palm trees have very little left. These businesses that also you can see the boards came off of them as well. Doors came off of them. Windows. And so, you know, we've got heavy winds still in place. But of course, also heavy rain is in place. So the meteorologist I just spoke with told me he believes this is likely the worst of it but is not the end.

This is our first time heading out. I can tell you when we were inside, there was -- the roof was leaking, there was water coming down. The staff here who has been gracious putting down towels to try to get -- try to get control of the water that was coming in.

This is as much as I have been able to see at this point. I suspect once we get out further we are going to see a lot more damage, especially on some of these side streets where it's kind of a tunnel, a wind tunnel in those areas

The big concern now many without power, 60 percent at last check. And the governor continues to say very open that it's going to be 100 percent by the time this is done, so power will be a huge issue.

I have also asked about injuries. At this point, at last check, no major injuries reported but this is still happening as we speak. So it is still too early to really assess the damage on lives and on buildings and infrastructure and this island of 3.5 million people -- John, Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Leyla, stand by once again. We did just get some still images in of some of the damage around San Juan. We'll put those up right now. You can see roofs of various kinds blown off. Accordion steel roofs, it looks like, right there. Simply ripped off. The structures you can see clearly damaged.

This around San Juan. This is, again, the very first chance we're getting to see some of the damage. Leyla is outside. These still photos just coming in right now.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: I want to bring in Chad Myers in the Weather Center.

Again, Chad, San Juan isn't going to be as bad as some of the other areas. San Juan has the big steel and concrete buildings. Those roofs we've seen ripped off that bad. Out in the countryside it's going to be much worse.

MYERS: Sure. If you take a ride from (INAUDIBLE) all the way here across to Palmas Del Mar where our Nick Paton Walsh is, still trying to get signals out. Now you have to understand there is not a cell tower to be found anywhere. All the way back up here to about the El Conquistador Resort.

Back out here to Culebra and also into Vieques, and then farther south here into St. Croix, you will see houses without roofs and then you'll begin to notice homes without walls. This was the equivalent of an EF-2 tornado that lasted 20 to 30 minutes. Now EF-2 tornado in the plains will come back and it'll be gone in 17 seconds.

This is a duration destruction where you lose a little bit of the house and then you'll keep losing it, and then another piece breaks, then a window breaks then all of a sudden that pressure pushes the backside of the house out. When you take a wind and you push it in the same direction for so very long, structures that man builds cannot withstand that especially if they are made of wood.

So what we're seeing in San Juan is a microcosm of what the rest of Puerto Rico looks like. The rest of Puerto Rico is just like -- not going back in time but going back to where there are some strong structures but people just put up what they need. Why would I put up a concrete building if I'm only going to use it as my farmhouse or as a barn, so when we get to the wooden structures where the eyewall went over, that's where we're going to see everything completely gone.

Now I know there's been no reports of injuries. I'm just -- I am concerned that if you will only put less than 20,000 of 3 million people in shelters that we are going to have some casualties out there. I really do believe that.

BERMAN: It's still so early, Chad.


BERMAN: And the communications, you know, so difficult right now. It's not unexpected that we don't have more reports of the situation on the ground.

MYERS: Sure.

BERMAN: Chad Myers, thanks so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Let's go back -- Chad, thank you so much.

Let's go back to Leyla Santiago as well.

And Leyla, just because -- people look behind you and they see structure standing, right? Yes, signs have been ripped off, yes, windows have been blown in. But hotels and the businesses are standing.

This is the most secure and sound part of Puerto Rico, right? This is the business district, tourist district of San Juan. Talk to us about the rest of the island and what this storm could have wreaked there.

[09:50:05] SANTIAGO: All right. We're getting a little bit of a wind gust here, Poppy, so I believe what you asked about was about this area. Yes, this is very much where the -- where many of the tourists are and many of them are staying in this hotel, kind of hunkering down. But you know, we are expecting to see quite a bit of an impact on some of those flood-prone areas that the governor mentioned and evacuated before Maria made landfall.

These are areas that had some damage, not as much, compared to other parts of the Caribbean, with Irma, many without power. And now this comes. As I was on the southern part of the island in the last 48 hours, they were really worried about what was to come and that's a part of the island that typically doesn't get as much damage as we see where we are right now.

So, you know, because we are getting our first view, I haven't had a chance to really check in with them just yet. But it's not just this area, sort of the northern part where a lot of the tourists are, a lot of people when they visit Puerto Rico, this is the area they see.

Really, this is something that is affecting the entire island. Again, not just because of winds, not just because of rain, but also because of the power system that is so vulnerable right now.

Let me step out of the way so that I can give you another look of exactly what we're seeing right now, as people make their way out for the first time. And when I say people, I mean first responders who are heading out to check out the damage, but many still not responding.

That building that you're looking at right now really tells the story here. I mean, there are -- there is metal sheeting that has come down. There are doors that have come down. And now rain and wind continues as Maria makes her way through -- Poppy, John.

HARLOW: Leyla Santiago, thank you for being out there in all of these conditions, your entire crew. We've seen your cameraman braving through it as well, wiping off the lens there to bring us these first images out of San Juan. Thank you for the reporting.

We're going to get a quick break in. Much more on this breaking news as Hurricane Maria is pummeling Puerto Rico. And also we'll take you to Mexico City. Absolute devastation from that 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Stay with us.


[09:56:51] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. We, of course, are continuing to follow the breaking news of Hurricane Maria, just battering Puerto Rico, and the earthquake in Mexico City.

Also there are a lot going on here in New York, where President Trump is for the U.N. General Assembly. He just met moments ago with King Abdullah of Jordan. This meeting, a number of meetings, bilateral meetings he's having with foreign leaders today at the New York Palace Hotel. Here's what we have from this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to thank you for everything you've done in terms of the refugees and taking care of people that -- who knows what would have happened without you. So I want to thank you and I want to thank everybody involved with you. And you have done an amazing job. Thank you.

KING ABDULLAH II BIN AL-HUSSEIN, JORDAN: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us here and again, you know, we've met several times this year. And I think that just shows the special relationship between our two countries and how closely we work together. And I'm very grateful for your support to our country in these difficult times. And the special bond between our two nations.

But I also would like to extend our condolences on the victims of the hurricanes. But also, how you, the government, the people, the first responders reacted to this crisis. I mean, for us, sitting on the outside, looking at how the Americans came together in a difficult time is really an example to everybody else and we're very, very grateful for that.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

AL-HUSSEIN: And everything that we're doing to try to solve our problems.

TRUMP: We have a big one going right now. I've never seen winds like this, in Puerto Rico, you take a look at what's happening there, and it's just one after another. But I think we are doing a good job.

I have to say this about the king. He's a very fine gentleman. A very nice man. He's also a great, great fighter. Some people have to understand that, right?

AL-HUSSEIN Also we're all fighting together. We have terrorism as a scourge around the world but I think Jordan will always stand beside you and your country and we will overcome.

TRUMP: Good. Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.


BERMAN: All right. President Trump with King Abdullah of Jordan. This is part of three days of meetings the president is doing here around New York, around the U.N. General Assembly. Of course still reaction from his big speech yesterday.

Michelle Kosinski outside the United Nations right now on the president's trip -- Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, a number of meetings today with world leaders. The White House insists these are going to be substantive. Much of the talk will focus on peace in the Middle East, which of course is a key goal for President Trump. But at the same time, you still have U.S. allies trying to get their heads around this speech yesterday.

Even today, there's a lot of buzz. Behind the scenes, people are at times laughing and criticizing. And in fact, one member of the Jordanian delegation, when we asked what they thought of it, laughed, sarcastically called it interesting and he said he was surprised at times by the tone. One U.S. ally said that the reaction inside is mixed, at best. And a

senior diplomatic source from a close U.S. ally called the lines that Trump said about "America First," quote, "just terrible." But we are hearing praise, too. I mean, Japan, South Korea, Afghanistan, have come out praising parts of it. And clearly the Israeli prime minister relished it while it was going on.

Back to you, guys.

BERMAN: Michelle Kosinski, outside the United Nations, a very busy day there. Michelle, thanks so much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: And good morning, everyone. John Berman here.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy --