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Major Quake Hits Mexico; Hurricane Aims for Puerto Rico; Volunteers Search Rubble for Mexico Quake Survivors; Trump at UNGA; Cat 5 Maria Slams Virgin Islands, Headed for Puerto Rico. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired September 20, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. It's just on 9:00 p.m. here in Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with breaking news.
Two massive natural disasters unfolding this hour -- in Mexico the death toll continues to rise after a major earthquake. And a Category 5 Hurricane Maria about to strike Puerto Rico after bringing more destruction and misery to already devastated Caribbean islands.
First to the quake -- at least 149 people are dead. Dozens of buildings have collapsed. And rescue workers are digging through rubble looking for signs of life.
The catastrophic 7.1 magnitude quake struck just after 1:00 p.m. local time. Here's what it looked like at the airport in Mexico City, 75 miles or 120 kilometers away from the epicenter.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
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VAUSE: Aftershocks continue to be a major concern right now. More than 4.5 million homes and businesses are without power.
And take a look at this video from Mexico City.
Mexico's president has ordered damaged hospitals to evacuate patients. He says at least 22 bodies were found at an elementary school in the capital. Another 30 children remain missing. Schools in the Mexico City area are closed, but the international airport has reopened.
ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): We are facing a new national emergency in Mexico in the states of Pueblo and Morelos with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake which had an epicenter at the border of the states of Morelos and Pueblo.
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VAUSE: Joining us now from Mexico City, freelance journalist Ioan Grillo. So Ioan -- just describe the scene around you. How much damage is there? How extensive is the destruction which has been caused by this quake?
IOAN GRILLO, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: So it's been absolutely devastating for the city. Right behind me you can see a building of six floors which collapsed.
It was a building of various businesses. There was a language academy there. There was an accountant's office. There was an Internet company. And this happened, you know, right in the afternoon. So many people were there.
I was talking to one woman whose sister was in the building. And she was saying her office, an accountant's office, there's about 50 workers there. So, in just this building if 50 people in one business then all over the city there's hundreds of buildings that's collapsed. So the damage is absolutely catastrophic and tragically that death toll looks like it will be considerably higher than what we know so far.
VAUSE: What have you seen of the government's response here -- the emergency response to this disaster? Because we're also seeing a lot of people just civilians, ordinary every day people using their bare hands to dig through this rubble to try and find anybody who may be trapped beneath all that debris?
GRILLO: Yes, the -- in Mexico there was an earthquake, a devastating earthquake back in 1985 on the same day. So that earthquake was really in people's collective memory and collective pain.
Everybody from Mexico City who lived then, you can ask them what were they doing on that day? And they remember that. And there's been earthquake drills since then. And many people really with this idea of what to do if an earthquake happens.
Now this happening again is like a nightmare has come true. And it's really a painful feeling but also a very powerful response. People are going out there in the thousands to these places helping with buckets, bringing water, with wheelbarrows, taking the rubble away.
And you can imagine with the buildings like the ones behind me, how much rubble you have to clear to reach the people. It is tons and tons of rubble.
Now, the government is also sending people and helping organize these brigades. But it's just so overwhelming, the scale of it that these people are really helping.
VAUSE: So looking forward to the next 24 hours here. What are the biggest concerns that the authorities have right now as they look to the next couple of days trying to get some kind of normalcy back into place, trying to care for the survivors and trying also to, you know, clear away all of this debris? What's their priorities and what are they worried about the most?
GRILLO: So the first concern is the (inaudible). I mean -- there's a lot of seismic activity. It was only ten days ago another earthquake. So it's very concerning. But also it's just basic facilities, you know. The city has collapsed. There's no electricity in much of the city. They're ready to move around. There's no traffic lights working. Traffic has collapsed. So basic -- getting water, getting food is a concern for people and the authorities.
[00:05:00] Now the authorities are also dealing with things like hospitals being damaged, schools have collapsed with children, prison facilities damaged. So there's just an overwhelming number of things they have to watch for the next 24 hours.
There's also the concern about law and order breaking down and people looting. But so far there's been more of a feeling of solidarity and people helping and not really a major problem of disorder that happens after some disasters like this.
VAUSE: Is there concern among many people in the city that they just don't want to go back into their buildings because they may not be safe at this point, they could be damaged? And quite often what will happen is that many people will just sleep outside to avoid the risk of going back into a building that may have been damaged.
GRILLO: Yes, there's that happening. And, you know, I'm talking to people who're saying I can't go home. I can't get into my home. They want to check the building. It's been cracked.
There's a lot of gas leaks and gas all around the place that can cause explosions. So there's many people who say they want to sleep with relatives or in some cases sleep outside or leave the city and sleep in other places.
VAUSE: Ok. Ioan -- we shall leave it there. But thank you so much for giving us the very latest from Mexico City.
Of course, this is disaster on a scale that it appears has not been seen for a while. Thanks so much for being with us -- Ioan.
GRILLO: Thank you.
CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is with us now for more on the magnitude of the quake, its epicenter and deaths. And Pedram -- perhaps the most concerning of all these ongoing aftershocks.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, they're going to continue for a while, too -- John. And you know, when I heard about this earthquake today over an area close to Mexico City, I though to myself that this -- Mexico City has had, of course, a history of being very vulnerable to such quakes.
And I want to talk about this because that history extends really back to some 700 years back towards when the Aztecs lived and civilized across this region.
And I want to show this because Mexico City where it's currently located on a dry lake bed. This lake bed right here is the capital of Mexico across this region. There was an island about 700 years ago where the Aztecs have populated this region. That island was artificial. This lake was a shallow lake. That has all since dried, all has since drained. Now they're left with a lakebed here where, of course, one of the most densely populated cities on our planet.
And the reason that they're concerned is with this sort of a sediment beneath the city, you can have tremendous energy transfer and that extends hundreds of miles away from the center where you can feel shaking that can liquefy these sediments.
As well from the intense shaking -- part of the reason why you're seeing these structures come down so readily. And of course, with the aftershocks as Ioan just talked about that just essentially poses an additional threat there and a hazard for folks across this region.
7.1 quake coming in at about 30 miles deep -- that depth right there is extremely shallow. It might seem to you but it's extremely shallow when it comes to quakes in general.
And of course, when you look at the rarity of such a magnitude of quakes there's about two million quakes on our planet every single year that are detectable -- one of them is an 8.0 in average. Of course, we had one in Mexico, not across this region but in Mexico about 11 days ago.
Fifteen are of this magnitude between a 7 and a 7.9 so again, out of two million that are detected. This shows you the significance of this. And we know some 15 million people felt the strong shaking with this. Very strong shaking felt by 1.6 million people near Mexico City, of course.
And the USGS has fascinating statistics here looking at previous quakes in this region giving statistics to give us the best estimates of how much loss of life could be impacted and also economic loss.
And we know estimations at the highest level would be between 100 to a thousand lives lost. And of course, we know over a hundred lives have been lost and an economical toll the highest likelihood would be with between $100 million up to $1 billion.
So again, a significant event with aftershocks expected potentially for weeks if not months across this region -- John.
VAUSE: Pedram -- thank you for that.
And now to our other breaking news story, Hurricane Maria, a deadly Category 5 storm lashing the Virgin Islands right now and St. Croix is being hit hard with strong, powerful winds and heavy rain. And the eye is still to pass over the island.
Maria has intensified with top sustained winds of 175 miles per hour, about 280 kilometers per hour. At least one person has been killed in Guadeloupe. And the storm destroyed parts of Dominica.
And right now millions in Puerto Rico are bracing for what will likely be a direct hit in the coming hours.
Our reporters are across the region covering Hurricane Maria. We go live now to San Juan, Puerto Rico and CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam.
You know, Derek -- the intensity of these storms, they tend to fluctuate. But it's looking likely that Maria will arrive there as a Category 5. What's the timing? What's the window here?
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we're already starting to feel tropical storm force winds -- John. But we do expect hurricane force winds to kind of fill in across the San Juan area within the next three hours and the worst of the storm locally here 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
So we are preparing ourselves for the worst. And it looks as if the worst is coming no doubt.
[00:10:03] VAUSE: Yes. And one of the big concerns, of course, is the debris which was left behind by Hurricane Irma. And that can be really dangerous when those winds from Maria hit the island.
VAN DAM: John -- we went and talked around to some of the locals here, and they were so thankful that Irma spared her director wrath on this island. They were very fortunate because even though there are still 45,000 people without electricity from Irma, there wasn't a significant about of damage.
That is because the eye wall went just to the north of the island. We talked about that so much. The eye wall is where we find our strongest winds.
With this storm, however, we do expect a direct impact. All the models, all the latest information at the National Hurricane Center shows a Category 5 or potentially a strong Category 4 making landfall with that strong eye wall right over the southeastern sections of Puerto Rico.
We're just hoping that there is what is called an eye wall replacement cycle that happens. Think of it as the storm taking a breath in essence, tries to rejuvenate. But hopefully it is inhaling instead of exhaling when it finally makes landfall. It will have a slightly weaker storm once it finally does.
VAUSE: Officials also warning of life-threatening flooding from rain and also a storm surge, I should say. How much water are they talking about here?
VAN DAM: Two feet of rain -- that's what they're predicting here. Remember there's a lot of mountainous terrain across central Puerto Rico. So it's going to take the storm. It's going to basically squeeze out all the available moisture from the storm, dump it into the valleys and terrain below. And that's going to cause a potential for flash flooding.
Add on top of that the six to nine feet of storm surge -- that is in the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center, that's a recipe for disaster -- John.
You remember that storm surge and water-related deaths -- that's where we find the highest number of fatalities during a tropical system such as this.
VAUSE: Ok. Derek -- we'll be checking in with you in the coming hours. Thank you for that.
Relief workers have been hit with the one-two punch of Irma and Maria as well. Adam Marlatt of the Global Disaster Immediate Response team arrived on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Irma only now to be caught in a second powerful storm.
Adam joins us now on the phone.
Adam -- it was Irma and then it was Jose and now, of course, Maria is posing a real threat. What precautions have you taken? What are conditions like there right now?
ADAM MARLATT, GLOBAL DISASTER IMMEDIATE RESPONSE: So right now we're experiencing a very high level of rainfall. The winds that we're experiencing right now -- we're out in our vehicle staged at three locations. It's pushing our Jeep wranglers around on the roads even while we're stationary here.
We're starting to get a little bit of a storm surge on the eastern side of the island. And several of the roofs that were already damaged and blown off have pushed into the roadways here on St. John.
VAUSE: Irma knocked out the basic infrastructure there. The main medical clinic was badly damaged, power lines were snapped. How will this island cope with another blow as powerful or more powerful?
MARLATT: I think it's going to be incredibly limited here. The one clinic that is on the island has a compromised roof. We were able to pull majority of the tiles out of it to avoid mold. However, we think there's going to be additional water backing up here.
Fortunately, a significant population of the island has already evacuated. But there are several people who remain behind and wanted to sit this storm out that we have significant concerns about tonight.
VAUSE: Because -- there are 4,000 people on St. John. I think 2,000 left in the last week or so. So there's a considerable number of people still on that island. And many of them are taking shelter in what's left of their homes?
MARLATT: Exactly. For the people that are still here, a majority of them are living in compromised homes. Very few of them have been able to tarp up at all. Sorry, we're getting pushed around really heavy and our vehicle just slid back.
With the rain that they're experiencing here it's going to be -- you know, they're going to get several inches of water inside of these homes that they're trying to shelter in tonight. VAUSE: Wow, some difficult times ahead -- a difficult night ahead
certainly for so many there. Adam -- thank you for being with us. We appreciate the update.
Many Hurricane Maria victims need assistance, shelter and critical supplies. And you can help. Please log onto CNN.com/impact and donate to one of the charities which we have vetted or you can volunteer your time.
A short break.
When we come back, evacuate or die -- a dire warning from officials in Puerto Rico about the dangers of Hurricane Maria.
Also ahead, a speech like no U.S. President has ever delivered before. The repercussions from Donald Trump's address to the United Nations and his threat to destroy North Korea.
[00:15:09] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: With Hurricane Maria barreling towards Puerto Rico, one official has issued a very blunt warning -- evacuate or die. The Category 5 storm has top sustained winds around 175 miles or 280 kilometers per hour. The Virgin Islands are feeling the brunt of the storm at the moment and Puerto Rico is expecting a direct hit in the hours to come.
Our correspondents are in Puerto Rico covering this potentially catastrophic storm. Nick Valencia is in San Juan. And our Rafael Romo is also standing by in Fajardo.
But Nick, first to you -- the worst of Maria still a few hours away but there's a lot of concern about anyone in wooden or flimsy housing. Authorities have been blunt. They need to get to a shelter. They need to get there now.
What's the latest now on that evacuation and also what are conditions like where you are?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know people are listening to the evacuation warnings. There's very dire warnings from the local officials here. It was earlier that they gave a press conference saying do not expect miracles. This is not going to change. The expectation is that this is going to make landfall at either Category 4 or perhaps even a Category 5 hurricane.
[00:19:59] And in speaking to residents you could get the sense that this is entirely different from what they experienced about two weeks ago with Hurricane Irma.
They say the winds feel different, the climate and the atmosphere just feels different. Usually and typically when you say hurricane to the island territory residents here in Puerto Rico, you get kind of a shoulder shrug, you know. They're used to tropical storms. They're used to heavy winds, tropical storms-like conditions. This time, though, they're expecting a direct hit. And government officials have tried to do the best they can to stress this to the residents going through the streets. It was earlier that the governor did a tour through one of the neighborhoods here telling residents let us please help you. This is not what you went through in Irma.
But even still the devastation from Irma still remains. There are still people that were -- are without power here. There's still communities that are cleaning up debris. People here still -- in some cases don't have clean running water.
And now the conditions here, the wind is starting to pick up. We're seeing the rain starting to drop on us, and we are still hours away from the worst of it -- John.
VAUSE: Nick, stay with us, from San Juan. We head east to Fajardo and Rafael Romo is there.
And Rafael -- Fajardo is a major tourist area, good beaches, clean water, a lot of boating. With Maria bearing down, what are the concerns there about just how much damage this monster storm could do?
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, for sure that the situation is deteriorating. Once you start seeing rain sideways, and that's what happened in the last hour or so.
The conditions have really changed now. The wind is really a factor. And we are in the north eastern edge of the island of Puerto Rico. It's the town of Fajardo. And just to give you an idea of how bad the situation is here, we have learned in the last couple of hours or so that the local emergency management office, their employees had to evacuate because they didn't have power to begin with. And then their generator stopped working. So they had to go to the mayor's office, to the municipal building to find shelter.
So that's the situation here. And just on the way here, John, we were able to see many downed trees and power lines, many damaged homes. And that's a result of a couple of weeks ago when Hurricane Irma hit this region.
Now, we're getting another hurricane. You have to go back all the way to 1928 to be able to compare another hurricane, Category 4 or 5 that hit this area. So we're talking about 89 years that this island has not experienced something like we're about to experience in this part of the world -- John.
VAUSE: Rafael -- thank you.
And just quickly back to Nick Valencia in San Juan. So Nick -- we heard from the governor of Puerto Rico saying Maria could hit with a force and violence that we have not seen for several generations.
He warned that infrastructure will be damaged, and of course, especially the power grid is very vulnerable right now.
What are they looking at here in terms of how long the power could be out for, how long it could take to repair?
VALENCIA: Well, the governor took to his official Twitter account a couple of hours ago to say that the island territory should expect to be without power for a long time.
And you bring up the infrastructure -- John. Some of these buildings are only meant to withstand a Category 3 type hurricane. This is expected to be as high as a category 5 hurricane.
And just to give you a sense of where we're at, we're at one of the hotels here in San Juan. And the wind may not be as fierce or look as fierce behind me right now, but that has a lot to do with this parking structure that's providing us cover where our cameraman Dave Reince (ph) is now positioned.
Behind this is the beach. And that sand from the beach is starting to whip towards us. The wind on the other side is whipping with an intensity that is not felt here yet.
These streets are eerily quiet as well. Usually at this time at midnight, local time you would see a lot of vibrance. You'd see a lot of people in the street, people celebrating, people partying. You certainly don't see that right now.
Local businesses were frantically boarding up a couple of hours ago earlier this when we were reporting making those last minute preparation because they know just how bad this storm is going to be -- John.
VAUSE: Yes, a lot of empty shelves on those stores. They've been cleaned out over the last day or so, people preparing for the worst.
Our Nick Valencia there in San Juan; also Rafael Romo there in Fajardo to the east of Nick. Thank you to you both.
We will take a short break. We will go back to Mexico in a moment where volunteers are searching for their neighbors through the rubble some using only their bare hands after that powerful earthquake.
Also a fiery threat to Kim Jong-Un from the U.S. President -- Donald Trump's address to the U.N. General Assembly was like none ever delivered by a U.S. President.
[00:24:46] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause, live in Los Angeles. It's just coming up to 9:29 here.
Our breaking news: Mexico's president has declared a national emergency after a powerful earthquake. The rising death toll now stands at 149.
Dozens of buildings just like that one were destroyed by the magnitude 7.1 quake which hit near Mexico City. Residents are joining the search for survivors, digging through piles of rubble with their bare hands, forming human chains to remove debris piece by piece. Victims have been pulled from under buildings. And while the quake brought destruction, it also brought about solidarity among neighbors. More than four million homes, businesses and organizations have lost electricity. The rescue efforts, though, continue on throughout the night.
Joining us now is journalist Patrick Timmons. He's on the line from Mexico City.
So Patrick -- what's the latest there in Mexico City in terms of search and rescue efforts and treating the wounded?
[00:29:57] PATRICK TIMMONS, JOURNALIST (via telephone): So the search and rescue efforts are ongoing. There are about 50 buildings which have come down in Mexico City, running sort of a line across the west of the city from north to south.
There are reports of children being pulled out of a collapsed college at the Colegio Rebsamen in Central Mexico City. There are reports of hospitals having to move all their patients because of structural damage and people are being -- patients are being moved around the city.
The city right now, it's some, I guess, eight hours after the earthquake, is rather calm in some parts. The traffic is completely quieted down after the huge exodus of people from their workplaces this afternoon, trying to get home.
So that meant that the city was saturated, making it difficult for the Protecion Civil, which is the civil protection people, and ambulances to get tough. And reports of buildings and people being trapped in rubble, still communicating with friends through WhatsApp messages, which seems to be the only thing, the communication system which really works.
We lost telephone and Internet for much of the day but, for some reason, the WhatsApp, I think, and Twitter feeds are still working.
So it's a city totally shaken. And trying to pull people out still from the rubble. Kind of interesting things are that the Red Cross is not actually asking for more volunteers and a lot of places actually seem to be covered with substantial groups of people digging through the rubble.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's been remarkable, the number of just ordinary civilians who have come out to help dig through all the rubble there.
Can you describe what it was like when the quake happened and the reaction from those around you?
Was there panic?
How did it play out?
TIMMONS (PH): Well, I've been in about five quakes now, from Japan to California to Mexico. (INAUDIBLE) there are quakes where the building, you feel like it's taking a deep breath and it moves back into position.
This was not like that at all. It started with a gentle grumbling and then it really did -- became -- just become a violent shaking (INAUDIBLE) from side to side and from up to down.
It was kind of like I was on the fifth floor or the sixth floor of the building and it was kind of like the reverse of the bumpy castle (INAUDIBLE) the game, you know, that (INAUDIBLE) that children play on, it's like when you're able to bounce up and down on the castle but (INAUDIBLE) this way around the castle is actually bouncing you.
So once out of the building -- and most people seemed to get out of the building, the quake lasted for 70 seconds, which is really pretty astonishing. It took me all of that time actually to get down from the five-story building.
And then you come out onto the road and everybody is in the road and really was a fright, looking at the utility poles (INAUDIBLE) the most remarkable thing was that the utility poles (INAUDIBLE) swinging backwards and forwards. And people really remained outside for much of the rest of the afternoon.
VAUSE: A lot of focus right now on Mexico City. But the epicenter was, what, about 75 miles to the southeast.
TIMMONS (PH): Right.
VAUSE: Do we know what the situation is there?
TIMMONS (PH): Yes, well, I was spending a lot of time; one of the ways in which we've been staying in touch in terms of the news -- because the websites were kind of impossible to get to, unless you were on a Facebook feed that was updating a lot with different news and then also WhatsApp, was radio.
And so radio correspondents are calling in, particularly from the state of Morelos, which was heavily affected, the highway between Acapulco and Mexico City, which is an important highway, part -- one bridge was down between Zihuatanejo and Cuernavaca. And Cuernavaca is really 50 minutes away from Mexico City by car.
I was hearing also that there were lots of reports of in Morelos of roads being damaged, that were impassable and a lot of damage. And of course, this is one of the states, when I checked a couple of hours ago, it was one of the states were 50 people had died. So -- and there was also effects in Puebla and also in Vera Cruz and there are reports of the tremor being felt as far away as Aguascalientes, which, from my reckoning, is not much of a place which has had much seismic activity.
So particularly worrying, I think, what's going on in Morelos and figuring out who's still trapped in buildings and what the rescue efforts are like there.
VAUSE: And very quickly, Patrick, just do you get a sense that the government has a handle on the response to this?
Or is it sort of overwhelmed at this point?
TIMMONS (PH): Well, as you know, as I said, the Mexican Red Cross is no longer asking for volunteers to help. It seems as though Mexican civil society is pretty well organized. And this happened 12 days ago --
TIMMONS (PH): -- with the southern Chiapas quake. A lot of people contributing food and making sure that there are supplies. The government has opened -- different municipal parts of the government have opened shelters so there are places for people go. I know that is true for the establa (ph) in Mexico and it's also true for Mexico City.
And I'm also watching my Facebook feed of people offering their rooms and places for people to sleep the night if they don't want to go home and -- or they have got problems in their building. I should add that, in my building, which has about 15 families in it, I think there are only three apartments occupied tonight.
So there has been kind of an exodus from Mexico City. It seems to me the government has been fairly well prepared. We just have to see what happens with, unfortunately, the rising death toll.
VAUSE: Yes, and it does continue to rise. Patrick, thank you for being with us and giving us an update there from Mexico City. Of course, this is only just the very beginning of what will be a huge rescue and recovery effort for the authorities there. Patrick Timmons (ph), a freelance journalist in Mexico City, thank you, sir.
TIMMONS (PH): Thank you, John.
VAUSE: It's 36 minutes past the hour. We will take a short break. We'll continue to monitor the sit in Mexico as well as the Caribbean.
When we come back, though, Donald Trump uses his first address to the United Nations general assembly to taunt and threaten the rocket man of North Korea.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. It's 9:40 here in Los Angeles.
Using defiant, fiery and combative language, U.S. President Donald Trump sent an apocalyptic warning to North Korea, at the same time pushing his America first message to the United Nations. He referred to U.S. sovereignty 21 times, insisting strong nations rather than international institutions are the key to a peaceful future.
But the speech will be most remembered for Mr. Trump's threat to North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: After the speech, the president tweeted, "A great and important day at the United Nations. Met with leaders of many nations who agree with much or all of what I stated in my speech."
(INAUDIBLE) more on this, Ian Lee, live in Seoul, South Korea and here in Los Angeles, (INAUDIBLE) analyst Peter Matthews.
Ian, first to you, clearly the president was trying to ridicule or belittle Kim Jong-un. North Koreans don't usually take particularly well to that. So given that this was at whole new level by the president in front of the United Nations, how is Pyongyang expected to react?
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're expecting them to up their rhetoric as well with their own fiery brand that we've seen time after time again. And you wouldn't be surprised if we see some sort of missile test or some sort of action from the North as a response, something that they've done in the past to show that they are serious about this.
The interesting thing, too, was the reaction from the South Koreans to that. The South Korean president's spokesman came out. They praised it as being unprecedentedly long, showing that the United States was serious about North Korea. They also said that denuclearization is the only path and that strong sanctions and pressure is the way to get there.
Also said that there is close collaboration between the two countries. And the one thing that was missing, though, from their statement is any mention of war or a military option.
And the only time we've heard about a military option really is in passing. Yesterday, we heard from the defense minister, who said that they want diplomacy and dialogue and that a military option is just a supporting element -- John.
VAUSE: Yes, I thought that statement from -- on behalf of the South Korean president, I thought they chose their words very carefully with that statement.
But Peter, to you, to be fair, Donald Trump is not the first person who's referred -- who's used the term rocket man. Back in 2006, "The Economist" magazine used it to refer to Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il.
But it is one thing for a magazine to use the term "rocket man;" it seems it's another thing altogether when it's the President of the United States addressing a world body at the United Nations general assembly.
It has a whole new different meaning and connotations, right?
PETER MATTHEWS, POLITICAL ANALYST: It's totally against convention anyway and normal. And it can be very -- it's very provocative and demeaning in front of a world body, addressing the whole world, to call the leader of a country, whether he's a dictator or now, which we know that he is, to call him rocket man after a rock 'n' roll song by Elton John. That's demeaning.
VAUSE: And this is a leader who seems insecure and young --
MATTHEWS: To begin with, right. He's 32 years old, right, something like that.
MATTHEWS: -- early 30s and here's Donald Trump, 70 years old and he's never been in politics before and he's acting very inexperienced in front of the United Nations. It was uncalled for, in my view.
VAUSE: Ian, back to you, the U.S. president also slammed the Iran nuclear deal, he hinted he would rip it up. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, he told CNN that's not a good idea, especially when it comes to dealing with North Korea. I want to play an extended clip here of an interview that our Christiane Amanpour did with Emmanuel Macron. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: I think it would be a big mistake. I think if President -- I don't say that this Iran bill, this nuclear deal with Iran, is -- the outcome of a deal, of everything about how to deal with Iran.
If President Trump considers it's not sufficient --
MACRON: -- I do agree with that. We have this deal. I think that the outcome of this deal is that now we have the money to reprocess with the international agency following the situation. And I think that it's better than nothing.
Because if we stop with this bill, if we just stop with the nuclear agreement, so we will enter into a situation very similar to the North Korean situation before what happened this summer. So I think it would be a big mistake.
Now this deal has to be completed. And probably I will try to convince President Trump that the best way to address his concerns regarding Iran is to work into that direction. First, we have to work in order to have a monitoring process on ballistic missiles and ballistic activity of Iran. So that's a concern. So it's a concern for the whole region. We have to work on it and we need a new agreement.
And we can work on sanctions and agreements on this ballistic side.
And, second, we have to complete the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran for the period post-2025 because this agreement just covers until 2025 the situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, Ian, the point a lot of people have making out of this is that, why would the North Koreans agree to a diplomatic solution with the United States if there's this risk that diplomatic solution gets torn up, like it could do with the Iranians?
That assumes, of course, they want to give up their nuclear weapons. Some have also speculated that this speech at the U.N. by the president will only force the North Koreans to step up the development of their nuclear and missile program.
Is that a view shared in the region?
LEE: Here's the thing. North Korea has said that their nuclear and missile programs is designed to protect the regime and protect them against the United States, who they see as a threat.
And they look at countries like Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, and Libya, under Gadhafi, those countries, those leaders ousted by the United States, gave up their weapons of mass destruction.
And so they look at Iran. Iran came to the negotiating table, they negotiated with the United States, the other members of the U.N. Security Council, and Germany, to come up with this deal.
And if the United States backs out of this without any reason, strong concrete reason, and if other countries stick with this deal, then it brings into question the word of the United States and their credibility.
And so the North Koreans will just point to that as well as reasons they don't want to go to the negotiating table with the Americans because they will say, they just can't be trusted.
So the North Koreans yesterday were watching that part of the speech also very closely, to see if the America will stick to a deal they already signed to. VAUSE: Peter, (INAUDIBLE) one thing that the Democrat senator, Dianne Feinstein, said she was one of many people who were critical of this address by the president, here's part of what her statement.
"The goals of the United Nations are to foster peace and promote global cooperation. Today the president used it as a stage to threaten war."
It seems that the world was waiting for U.S. President Donald Trump to turn up on that stage, maybe soften the message like he did for NATO. Instead, they got candidate Donald Trump from last year's campaign. This is very much about -- it was for the base. It was for home politics.
LEE: It was and it's unfortunate because this was a golden opportunity for Donald Trump to be a statesperson, to actually reduce the tensions by offering something to the world and to North Korea, saying we're willing to work with this and to reduce tensions in preventing kind of a miscalculation with war starting by miscalculation.
He didn't do it. He took that belligerent attitude, campaigning again, appealing to his America first base, which is completely out of whack with what all our allies feel and what the world feels, that the United Nations, we should be a cooperative institutions that should help us reduce the tensions. And he didn't do that at all. Golden opportunity missed intentionally, another one.
VAUSE: it's almost out of the Steve Bannon (INAUDIBLE) --
VAUSE: Thank you for being with us.
Also, Ian Lee, who is live with us in Seoul, Ian, thanks to you as well.
And with that, we take another short break. We will have more on our breaking story, Hurricane Maria, the category 5 storm, closing in now on Puerto Rico.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Seven minutes before the top of the hour.
Hurricane Maria is barreling through the Caribbean on path for a direct hit with Puerto Rico. Right now, though, the Virgin Islands are bearing the brunt of this category 5 storm. Heavy rain and sustained winds around 175 miles or 281 kilometers per hour.
Millions in Puerto Rico are bracing for what could be the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the island. U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to help the territory recover.
Let's check in one more time with Pedram Javaheri at the International Weather Center for the latest on Maria's track -- Pedram.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, John, tell you what, for tonight, I think people across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will be going through a storm that potentially no one across these islands has felt. Of course we're talking about 90 years nearly since the last time a storm even close to this magnitude -- and this being stronger, pushing through this region.
But a closer perspective, this is what it looks like, the storm just about 10 miles or so south of St. Croix, across the U.S. Virgin Islands.
You see that perspective right there?
Now the radar indication from the Puerto Rico radar, you can see a little better indication over the center, or where the highest winds are, right near the center of that storm, where 175 mile per hour winds are sustained. We think that may stay offshore of St. Croix.
That is a tremendous difference here as far as damage is concerned for them. So the winds basically go from 175, then you see 140-145 right across St. Croix. That can make a difference for them.
But unfortunately, for Puerto Rico, there is very little weakening with the storm system as it approached them. And you have got to think about the damage scale as an exponential increase.
So when you're at a category 4, that is a 250 times more damage expectation than a category 1. But from a 4 to a 5, that is essentially half of the damage you'd expect in a 4 versus a 5.
This storm could impact portions of the winds that are going to be pushing through St. Croix as a 4 with the wind speeds. And notice the eye of it skirts it --
JAVAHERI: -- and then eventually pushes its way towards eastern Puerto Rico. About half of Puerto Rico's 4 million people live right there on the eastern third of the island. That is a concerning issue here with this storm system, that could leave essentially more than half the island without power, potentially up to about two-thirds of the island without power.
So this will be a significant story to follow into the next few weeks.
VAUSE: According to the governor, without power for quite a while. We will wait and we will see, along with the people in Puerto Rico. Pedram, thank you. And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm
John Vause. Please stay with us. A lot more of our breaking new coverage of Hurricane Maria and that deadly 7.1 earthquake outside Mexico City. That's coming up in just a moment. You're watching CNN.