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Powerful Category 4 Hurricane Maria Slamming Puerto Rico; Rescues Underway at School Devastated by Mexico Quake; Obama Blasts GOP's Attempt to Undo Health Care Law; Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:01] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Here we've got this frantic search under way right now for survivors from this magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Mexico City.

These are live. And chilling pictures here as rescues are under way at this crumbling school. Inside, children missing since the quake hit. With just a handwritten list of names, people there are on their hands and knees using hands as shovels, anything they can to get through to them because waiting is just simply not an option.

Rescuers say they can actually hear the sound of this one little girl crying out. They are using a thermal scanner to try to locate her, to find her, to bring her to safety.

Already 21 children who began their day with books in hand have been pulled from their classrooms, their bodies lifeless. They died inside that school.

The video we're about to show you, it is tough to watch. It shows search crews pulling out a small trapped child but I want you to listen as crews are there screaming out for help.

More than 220 deaths have been confirmed so far as rescue crews frantically comb through the rubble of dozens of collapsed buildings. Mexico's president says rescuers have been asking for total silence at times at the scenes of these rescues in hopes of hearing voices from within the debris. Watch as the fists are raised bringing the haunting and hopeful silence.

I want to take you right now to that school. That's where my colleague, Miguel Marquez, is standing by live.

And Miguel, I know you have to or you've been whispering all day as the hands have been raised in fists for quiet to listen for this little girl's voice. I understand her family is there. Are they close to her?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not clear where they are in relation to her. And I will tell you that we may have to be quiet again here shortly because every few minutes they ask the crowd, and I'm talking about hundreds if not thousands of people, volunteers, soldiers, Marines, just onlookers, everybody becomes pin-drop quiet in this crowd. That's the scene just down here. They believe they have a little girl. They saw her move her arm, they

believe. They got a tube down to near her mouth, according to one of our local affiliates here in Mexico so they could put water down that tube and get her something to drink, and they are being as delicate as possible in trying to extract her without doing any more damage.

I have to say it is an amazing exercise in snap organization here to see not only the number of carpenters and people wielding tools as they call for it, it comes up.

So those are the sort of announcements they're getting. They're calling for a family member to come up to the gates right now so that they can possibly get up to this location.

I have seen some parents come out of this location completely stricken with grief, stone faced, unable to barely speak or move or talk or have any sort of expression.

Now we're in another one of these moments, sorry, where they have asked the entire crowd to go silent. I want to give you a sense of just how quiet it gets here.

Absolutely no sound. But the one thing you can hear are whistles off in the distance, whistles of rescuers hoping that they can hear something that somebody beneath the rubble can hear the whistle and react to it.

This is what they have been doing all day long. The pace has quickened in the last hour or hour and a half where every few minutes they ask for silence as they think they get closer and closer to somebody under that rubble.

And not only do you have the workers who are bringing in 4x4s, to shore up -- select mine workers essential to shore up sections that they're working in there, but you have people serving food here, serving water.

[14:05:06] There are medics and doctors at the ready. Everything that you might need are here at the ready and all the police and soldiers here at the end of the line have to is shout out for it, and they line up and suddenly there's wood going in or tools going in or medics going in or water or food, whatever it is they need. It is impressive to see.

And this is repeated in hundreds of places across the city and around the area from Puebla to Morelos. These are big cities south of Mexico City and throughout Mexico City. You're in certain parts of the city it looks like a completely normal day and then everything changes. On one block there's a giant crowd of people and a pancaked building and the same scene is going out where they're going hand by hand, brick by brick, handful of dirt by handful of dirt trying to free somebody who might be stuck under the rubble -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: This is just an absolutely extraordinary scene. I see you, your hand up to your mouth. We'll let you go for now, Miguel. I know you're watching and we want

them to find -- obviously we're all rooting for these rescue crews to find this little girl. We're going to stay in close contact with you and we're going to come back to you when that silent moment is over.

Let's move on, though, now to another deadly natural disaster. We're closely watching Hurricane Maria's trek across the Caribbean. This category 4 storm made landfall this morning along the southeastern side of Puerto Rico. Unrelenting hurricane force winds at 155 miles per hour, life threatening storm surge, unforgiving rain, the entire island has no power.

Maria is the strongest hurricane to hit the island in 89 years. Its size spans the distance between Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Think about that for a second.

We've got a satellite image for you from NASA. Here's Maria's eye. Steadily moving across Puerto Rico and winds are slightly weakening but forecasters want to make it very clear this remains a deadly storm. In fact Maria is so fierce it broke not just one but two National Weather Service radars on the island.

In addition to Puerto Rico here, at least seven people were killed in Dominica. I want you to listen, when the storm first made landfall, witnesses likened it to just almost like people screaming.

And our correspondent there, Leyla Santiago, this is what was happening when she was waiting to do a live shot in San Juan, being blown away. Had to get help to come back. Leyla is with me now in Puerto Rico.

And so, Leyla, it was a frightening moment earlier for you and your crew. How is it looking right now with the situation beyond the no power problem?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's coming straight from the government as saying right now there is 100 percent power outage. And you know, you mentioned that the storms are weak -- the winds, rather, are weakening. That doesn't meant that they are still not -- that they are still not strong wind gusts coming in, that I'm still feeling at this hour.

So let's walk you through what's around me right now because we are very strategically located near a building so we can seek shelter if need be. This is the Starbucks. Things calm down quite a bit so you saw a few people come out and now you can see they are under the awning there for this, for when the winds come in and the rain picks up.

But take note of those buildings. Starbucks Coffee, just coffee right now because the Starbucks part of the sign came down. This is Hard Rock Cafe. You can see the sign is down. The roof has just been flapping all morning long. And then we're going to take you to this apartment complex where despite attempts, Brooke, I mean, you can see where these residents tried to board up, put metal roofing on doors and windows and boards, and it did not hold when trying to fight Hurricane Maria's winds and rain.

Now the worst of it, I'm told, has already passed by, but now comes the rain. Already I have spoken to police officers who have gone out to sort of surveil the damage up where we are which is San Juan, and I'll be a little more specific for those who know this area. The Condavo (ph) area and they are telling me that they're already seeing flooding here where a lot of the boats are brought.

And let me kind of show you why that is. There is a lot of debris on the road. This is just in front of our hotel room and you can see the debris that's sort of accumulated here.

[14:10:07] And I'll keep it in perspective, Brooke. This is not a lot compared to what they're seeing out there. I took one walk around this block and I could see trees down, metal wrapped poles that's coming from the metal roofing that has come off of buildings. So, you know, things are starting to calm down, relatively speaking. But we're still not in the clear. And as you mentioned the power, very much a situation.

We are on generator where we are but the governor has -- the governor's office has already told me 100 percent of this island without power and no word on when that will be. We just know it won't be any time soon -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Leyla, thank you.

We want to go not too far from where you are in San Juan. Rafael Romo is standing by in Fajardo where he actually had to take shelter as Maria was making landfall.

Tell me where you are and what the situation is, Rafael.

RAFAEL ROOM, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Yes, it became abundantly clear to us, Brooke, that we needed to seek shelter because the winds were just so strong and it felt like the winds are going to explode. This happened overnight. But we're still experiencing tropical storm strength winds. And look at what just flew by me just a few moments ago.

This is a piece of awning and that's the kind of thing that you see. Even though the eye of the hurricane has already passed this area, you see all the debris around me. The pieces of metal, the tiles, and the insulation, and Leyla was mentioning a second ago that power is out 100 percent.

Well, a lot of people made the decision to just shut off the power for safety reasons, including the hotel where we were staying at because they say if we keep on this situation, we're just going to have a problem with our electrical grid and so they didn't want to do that.

A lot of people have been evacuated. We were able to see a group of people, tourists, who were sent to a basement sort of ballroom for their safety, so still very much a changing situation. About an hour ago it was sunny here. Then started raining and then it's now gray again. So it's still like Leyla said, it's not over yet. Brooke, back to you.

BALDWIN: Sounds like watch out for flying debris still.

Rafael Romo, thank you.

We're going to take you back to Puerto Rico and watch what's happening there as far as Maria and the aftermath is concerned, the 100 percent power outage, and let's just talk about where Maria is heading next. Might the path include the United States?

Allison Chinchar is back at it again today in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

And Allison, I see the eye spinning. Where is it headed?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. Well, it's just now starting to make its way off of Puerto Rico. And you heard Leyla talk about yes, the winds are starting to calm down but they still at times are gusting very strong and we have that. We now know it's a category 3 storm. Learned that at the top of the hour. Winds have been downgraded to 115 miles per hour. But the gusts are still 165.

Keep in mind that would be a category 5 if those were sustained winds. So yes, she's right. They are likely still experiencing incredibly strong wind gusts as the storm continues to exit off of Puerto Rico, but it's still going to be raining there for hours and likely very windy conditions as well.

Here's a look at the track. So again, the hurricane center is expecting it to get back up to a 4 because it is expected to go over open water, and that water will provide the warm conditions that this storm will need.

The question is how much more, Erica, can it intensify -- Brooke, can it intensify in the coming days?

BALDWIN: Allison, thank you. You're watching it. We can watch it on But all our eyes as well is on that tiny box in the bottom right of our screen here. These are live pictures coming out of Mexico City. This unfolding event, crews there racing to rescue this little girl in a school that collapsed from that 7.1 magnitude quake. Stand by. Mexico says they're close to finding her. We don't want to miss this.


[14:18:43] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We saw former president Barack Obama today fighting back against Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace his signature piece of legislation. During a speech just a bit ago at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in New York, today President Obama said he was confident that the progress his administration made on health care will not be erased. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so when I see people trying to undo that hard-won progress for the 50th or 60th time.


OBAMA: With bills that would raise costs or reduce coverage, or roll back protections for older Americans or people with pre-existing conditions, the cancer survivor, the expectant mom, or the child with autism, or asthma, for whom coverage once again would be almost unattainable, it is aggravating.

And all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or plain common-sense rationale, it frustrates. And it certainly is frustrating to have to mobilize every couple of months to keep our leaders from inflicting real human suffering on our constituents. But typically that's how progress is won.


[14:20:05] BALDWIN: Let's begin there. I have CNN's senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny here with me in New York, CNN Money senior writer Tami Luhby, and CNN political director David Chalian there in Washington.

So good to see all of you.

And Jeff Zeleny, I mean, we just heard the bit that got the laugh about the 50th or 60th time, you know, Congress tried to repeal Obamacare, but big picture first. I mean, to hear him progress, I kept hearing the word "progress" over and over, quoting himself, yes, we can, and the applause. I mean, it seemed like quite a difference from what we saw in the current president at the UNGA just yesterday.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No doubt. I mean, it was definitely more of an optimistic message.


ZELENY: Basically what it was, was a big, you know, dose of his (INAUDIBLE) for liberals. He was just like -- you know, he was really trying to frame everything in the larger view of history there. And he said we should embrace a more optimistic view of history, a longer view than we're in right now. So he's really trying to cast this moment as a bit of an outlier. But the reality here is, you know, his signature program, you know, Republicans want to dismantle it.

So he didn't really confront head on, you know, the specifics about this, but he did acknowledge this program is not perfect. He said we do need to make it better. So you almost have to wonder what would happen. I mean he's basically in the full professor mode there. Sort of giving speeches, doing other things. If they called him in, of course this would never happen, but if they called him in on to Capitol Hill and said how can we make this better, could there be a bipartisan deal?

Again not going to happen. But that's something. I would have liked to hear him say more about what is not so perfect about this bill and what should they do but he's been very quiet since leaving office. A rare speech.


ZELENY: Did not mention the current president once by name.

BALDWIN: Didn't mention him by name. Joked in the Q and A, David Chalian. 40 percent of the country didn't believe me until I was gone and then suddenly they believed me, you know, about the country being on the right track when he left office. But bigger picture, and we'll talk to Tami about some of his points about pre-existing conditions and the truth in this latest Republican bill.

Could he have said more? Were you surprised he didn't mention the Iran deal, another big piece that happened when he was president? What did you think?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I think he just chose his moment really carefully. I think he understood the timing of this public appearance with the timing of what is happening on the Hill with the Graham-Cassidy bill and the last-minute push before they would be required, the Republicans, to have 60 votes instead of 50.

I think he just understood this was a moment to add his voice to sort of a call to arms to Democrats and liberals across the country to, you know, pick up the phone and call their members. We saw Hillary Clinton tweeting about it this morning. We see Democratic groups going up with ads. It's trying to sort of activate it.

And here's the Democrat with the, you know, most powerful voice, if you will, especially because he hasn't been using it much publicly in the last eight months, to come out and choose this moment to defend this huge domestic legacy item. I think he didn't want to distract with anything else from that.

BALDWIN: Yes. On that, he talked about pre-existing conditions, always a big piece of Obamacare.

And Tami, we'll get you on that. But let me just pause to just tell everyone if you weren't watching a bit last night, Jimmy Kimmel delivering a pretty hardcore jab at, you know, one of the co-sponsors and a medical doctor in his own right, the Senator Bill Cassidy from Louisiana. Kimmel was calling out Cassidy after he pledged a couple of months ago to support a bill that would pass as he referred to as the Jimmy Kimmel test.

Senator Cassidy was responding to Kimmel's heartfelt plea for better health care for all after his newborn son had to go through open heart surgery. And so first here's Kimmel and then here is Senator Cassidy responding on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST I don't know what happened to Bill Cassidy, but when he was on this publicity tour, he listed his demands for a health care bill very clearly. These were his words. He said he wants coverage for all, no discrimination based on pre- existing conditions, lower premiums for middle class families and no lifetime caps. And guess what, the new bill does none of those things.

And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face. Stop using my name, OK, because I don't want my name on it. There's a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you, it's called the lie detector test.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), CO-AUTHOR OF THE NEW HEALTH CARE BILL: I'm sorry he does not understand. Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson more people will have coverage and we protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Our bill gives the governor responsibility, which he or she may not want, but that's the best way to get people covered.


BALDWIN: All right, Tami Luhby -- all right, Tami Luhby, this is when you come in to explain because you hear it two different ways.


BALDWIN: What's the truth in the Graham-Cassidy bill when it comes to pre-existing conditions?

LUHBY: Look, technically insurers will still not be allowed to deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, but unlike under Obamacare, insurers will be allowed to charge people based on their medical histories. So those who are sick could be charged a lot of money.

[14:25:07] BALDWIN: The incompetence could jack up the rates.

LUHBY: Yes. Sure. And you know, we've seen that in the past before Obamacare. And then also on top of that, the essential health benefits that we've heard so much about.


LUHBY: You know, a lot of treatment is covered under them. You've got substance abuse, mental health, maternity care, drugs.


LUHBY: These are no longer going to have -- no longer going to require insurers to cover all of that. So in the end, yes, insurers will -- actually let me say a lot of this depends on where you live because the states will have the flexibility to do different things but in the end in a lot of places, insurers will have to still cover you, but they can charge you what they want and they don't have to cover everything that you need. So people with pre-existing conditions could very well be hurt.

BALDWIN: So this matters, this is the substance of this. But let me just get to the politics. And we all read the Phil Mattingly notes like the bible each and every morning, our correspondent on Capitol Hill, as he's been talking to all these different former and current staffers about how this bill has come together.

So, David Chalian, I read the word stunned on his note this morning, how some are describing it, horrified is another. What one former, you know, Republican legislative counsel told him. And so let me just show all of you moments we caught on the Senate floor that seem to illustrate the pressure on these lawmakers involving the two senators, maybe the ones to decide if this Republican health care bill passes, watch for Arizona's John McCain and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. Check this out.


BALDWIN (voice-over): Routine proceedings under tense circumstances. 4:28 p.m., the Senate floor. Senator McCain approaches Senators Murkowski and Cornyn. After a few moments, Cornyn moves on. We have no idea what they're discussing, but their body language appears emphatic.

McCain seems to motion, you and I. With prying eyes within earshot, the two move in closer. They continue their exchange as voting proceeds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Thune. Mr. Thune. Aye.

BALDWIN: Just a few feet away, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a huddle. With him, Senator Lindsey Graham. Not only the co-sponsor of this new bill, but McCain's best friend in the Senate. Senator Thune can't help but notice the deep dialogue taking place. Then Senator Burr stops to take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Sullivan, aye. Mr. Portman. Mr. Portman, aye.

BALDWIN: 4:33, still talking. McCain's gestures even more dramatic. Senator Tom Cotton makes his move. A quick hello and what appears to be a hang loose hand gesture before leaving the chamber.

Now where were we? McConnell and Cornyn examined from afar. Cornyn points as McConnell wipes his forehead. Murkowski throws up her hands. The two part ways and these high school pages may have just gotten a front row seat to a couple of senators deciding the fate of health care once again.


BALDWIN: David Chalian, what did you make of our take --

CHALIAN: That is so good. I don't mean to sound like the dork that I am, but when I have the luxury of being able to watch the Senate floor, that's exactly how I watch it, for all those kinds of maneuverings. Great eyes on that.

Listen, Murkowski and McCain clearly are the targets here. And to get to your point of what you were citing from Phil Mattingly's reporting earlier.


CHALIAN: Part of what John McCain is really concerned about is this rushing it through and not following the sort of regular order procedures of how a bill makes its way through the Senate, getting buy-in from all the stakeholders, the public and their representatives having time to digest it all. That's not happening here. That's clearly a concern for him.

And Lisa Murkowski emerged from the meeting today still without weighing on which side she is on this bill. They were two of the three that scuttled the last attempt and all eyes continue to be on them today.

BALDWIN: David, and Tami and Jeff, thank you all so much.

And thank you, Chelsea Cook, on-air shoutout to you for editing that thing together. We'll put it on my Twitter page for you to retweet, @BrookeBCNN.

Coming up next, back to our breaking news. These dramatic pictures of rescue efforts unfolding right now in Mexico after that powerful earthquake, 7.1 in magnitude. The search for rubbles -- for survivors in the rubble, forgive me, including this little girl.

Keep in mind this is an elementary school so this itty bitty girl who Mexican officials believe rescuers are close to pulling out, we hope, alive. She's been talking, making noise. More when we come back.