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Puerto Rico Devastated by Maria; Maria's Forecasted Path; Rescue Continue in Mexico; New Sanctions on North Korea. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 21, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] ANNOUNCER: Breaking news.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good afternoon. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Brooke Baldwin, and we are following breaking news involving two major natural disasters.

The scope of devastation becoming more apparent by the hour. Right now in Mexico City, a race against time after Tuesday's massive earthquake. Rescue crews searching for signs of life at a collapsed school where dozens remain missing at this hour. Of course we will take you live to the scene.

But first, Puerto Rico is in desperate recovery mode after Hurricane Maria left a trail of destruction across the U.S. territory. Blocks of collapsed homes and a power system that officials say is, quote, basically destroyed. The governor said it was the most devastating storm to hit the island this century, if not in modern history.

All of Puerto Rico is under a flash flood warning. And rescue teams are out looking for people who may be trapped. Maria is now a category three hurricane with an eye that spans 30 miles. Imagine that, 30 miles.

It's headed right toward the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos islands and forecasters say rainfall totals could be the likes of that catastrophic Hurricane Harvey.

Today, the president, who plans to visit Puerto Rico, says help is on the way.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated. Their electrical grid is totally destroyed. And so many other things. So we're starting the process now, and we'll work with the governor and the people of Puerto Rico.


BROWN: And Nick Paton Walsh, CNN's senior international correspondent, is in San Juan with a look at the devastation there.

So how is it?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, actually, as you just started talking, the wind has picked up here and we've seen a slight sort of change in the rain after a very calm morning. But people I think are considering today the calmest they've seen in quite the last 36 hours or so. And really here most of the time walking around open mouth just trying to take in the kind of debris on virtually every street you find here.

You know this 36 hours ago was a prosperous bustling part of town and now it's just got people really walking around in a slight sense of daze trying to work out what their future lives actually spell for them. Because amongst all the statistics we've heard, that 3.5 million people here are without electricity for possibly the next four to six months.

Now, the buzz you hear in the background is of our generator keeping us on air with this signal, but most people around here are going to have to deal with a totally new way of life. What does that mean for your job, for your education, for your health care, if you can't rely on basic electricity. You've seen why, because the electricity cables across the country, we took a drive from where the hurricane made landfall the east coast to here last night, is shattered, strewn everywhere, lying across the road. We had to drive under low-lying ones to get here.

That means basics cannot be counted upon. That the economy here, already suffering heavy, will probably take another heavy hit too.

Another more interesting short term issue people are facing, they simply don't have much information. There are no cell phones in operation right now. So the hotel around the corner there has a gaggle of people outside it, using free wi-fi to try and learn what they possibly can about the outside world, what happened here. People asking us, when is the airplane open? It's tomorrow, by the way. And also, how fast was that storm? It was 155 miles an hour. (INAUDIBLE) and that's about the worst for at least 90 years.

But moving forwards now, the more simple questions about where do we eat, what do we do, how's fresh water going to come to us, if we haven't got electricity to pump it, all those amplify while, unfortunately, the attention of the world, now the drama of the storm begins to eb (ph). So Puerto Rico already in a state of economic real concern before Hurricane Irma hit a fortnight ago. That was a glancing blow, but it caused a billion dollars' worth of damage. Puerto Rico in for a very bad few months ahead.


BROWN: Absolutely. And just the thought of all these people there just concerned about having their basic needs met day-to-day in the wake of that hurricane.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much.

So will Maria have an impact on the U.S.? CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is watching the current computer models.

So, Allison, the 2:00 p.m. hurricane center briefing just came out. What are you learning?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Pam, we did see an increase -- a slight increase in the winds. Here you can see the storm. It's starting to finally begin to push to the north of the Dominican Republic. But they're still getting incredibly heavy rain from some of those outer bands. Winds are now up to 120 miles per hour, gusting to 140.

The good news is, this is a weaker storm for the Dominican Republic that it was crossing over places like Dominica and Puerto Rico. However, it still has the potential maybe to increase just a little bit more before it ends up making its way towards the Turks and Caicos.

However, then it continues up to the north and eventually will hit much cooler water. This is why once we get say to about the equivalent of say Miami and then to the north, we really expect to see this thing weaken pretty quickly because that cooler water really doesn't help hurricanes at all. And we're going to see a big difference. It's going from upper 80s now to mid-80s, then low 80s, then eventually into the upper 70s. and that's really going to hurt the storm in terms of intensification factors.

[14:05:12] That's a good thing, though, for the folks along the U.S., who may end up getting some very strong rip currents and maybe some other impacts from this storm over the coming days.

Again, for the comparison note, this yellow line was Irma. The red line was Maria. We started off a little bit further south, Pam, but now we're likely going to end up much further north than Irma's track.

BROWN: All right. And it looks like, on the trajectory there, it's not going to hit the U.S.

Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

Meantime, there simply is no overstating the devastation in Mexico City right now. Look at these visuals. We now know at least 250 people are dead. But just one -- look at this hell scape. It's easy to see how that death toll could rise.

Rescue workers and even civilians continuing to put their lives on the line, digging on hands and knees, trying to locate possible survivors under rubble.


BROWN: Just incredible moments here as a woman is pulled to safety. You can just see the relief on her face. Freedom after being trapped for two long days under the rubble. At least 50 people have been saved from under the debris so far.

And at a collapsed elementary school, where dozens of children were killed, emergency workers and volunteers are frantic this hour, but exhausted, working through the night, scrambling to save a 12-year-old little girl they believe is still alive there under the rubble. Her voice, you can hear it under the rubble.

Well, rain throughout the night increasing fears of another collapse. Workers are now using beams and pulleys to try and shore up the structure.

I want to go straight to CNN's Miguel Marquez in Mexico City.

Miguel, is there any indication rescue workers are close to freeing this trapped little girl?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they think that she is still alive down there. And I'm whispering because we're in a period of silence here where the rescuers have asked the entire area to be quiet so they can listen for signs of life. They believe that they have located the location where they are -- where she is. There may be others down there with her. They are moving in from two different locations.

I want to show you a little bit of what's happening here. You have volunteers lined up here and then you have all the material going out this way where the rescue is actually taking place.

And they are meticulous. They are -- it is hand by hand, scoop by scoop as they are trying to get to where they are going. They are using, for the most part, plastic buckets now to move debris out of the school so that they can -- and then they bring it out to the street and pile it up and then move it off into dump trucks later on.

It is a much more organized effort here today than it was just 24 hours ago. But we are 48 hours into this now, so there is a sense of great concern and (INAUDIBLE) and focus on the part of rescuers. They did pull one person out today. Unfortunately, she was dead. It was a 50 -- a teacher in her 50s and she did not survive. Rescuers now just hoping they can get to this 12-year-old and possibly some of her classmates.


BROWN: That's just a tenuous situation there as they try to rescue this little girl. And to remind our viewers, you're whispering, Miguel, because they want to be able to hear her voice to locate her, if they can, or any other kids that may be under the rubble. How concerned are crews that this building could suffer from additional collapse?

MARQUEZ: Well, that's the huge problem. It's like building a mine in reverse, essentially. They're going in as -- as they move toward the location where she is, they prop it up with 4x4s and steel. We've started to see them take some very heavy pieces of steel in to try to prop up the building, but it's very, very slow going.

Pam. BROWN: Oh. All right, Miguel Marquez, thank you so much. Keep us

posted there on the scene in Mexico City as rescuers try to save a little girl and perhaps other children or teachers underneath that rubble.

Joining me now to discuss, a rescue expert to explain some of what these emergency crews are facing right now. Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Mark, this little girl, it's been 24 hours since they heard her cry. They've been able to get supplies, like water to her, but why is it taking so long? What is going on right now?

MARK GHILARDUCCI, DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OF EMERGENCY SERVICES: Well, you know, you have to understand that when you have a collapse of a building of this nature, the size and the scope of the collapse, it is very, very difficult. It's like a house of cards that has basically collapsed. And so the rescuers have to consider the potential for secondary collapse. If they make a wrong move, if they cut the wrong rebar, if they move the wrong rock in an inappropriate way, it could bring down the building further. They could possibly kill the victim that they know exists, or they could injure or kill rescuers.

[14:10:14] So they have to proceed very carefully to be able to get in, dismantle this building and make a pathway to where the child is. And really that includes shoring up the building, using stability and reconstructing some sort of stable environment for a safe and secure way of getting in and getting out.

BROWN: I'm just curious, if rain comes, I believe that was in the forecast, how might that factor in to how crews handle this and how the rescue and the concerns that that may raise?

GHILARDUCCI: Well, rain is a big factor in these kind of environments. The water adds weight. It depends on how much rain comes. But the water does add weight. You have water then pouring down into the structure. It basically takes a very bad situation and generally makes it worse. And, you know, in the past, you know, they're going to have to consider, what is the impact to the rescuers, as well as, does that affect actually the victims that are still alive in the buildings.

BROWN: Right, because there is great risk for the rescuers as well. I mean they face the prospect of additional collapse. I remember, I was in Haiti after the earthquake there several years ago, and I was amazed just by the work of the rescuers and also even the victims. They were -- some were rescued a week after the earthquake. Tell us what sort of the prospect is or what the prognosis could be for this little girl trapped under the rubble?

GHILARDUCCI: Well, you know, it's hard to say without being there. But, you know, the fact of the matter is, is that a positive sign is that she's still alive, that she's still communicating. We're -- that the rescuers are still hearing noise from her. That indicates that she's probably in a void space or a survivable space. Now the question is, how do they carefully and methodically get into

where she's located. It's not uncommon, in a case like this, where you've got all of this concrete debris that it could take hours, I mean maybe even a day, to be able to get in and systemically and safely dismantle the area, the structure, build in a pathway and then be able to get the young girl out.

And this is going to be hundreds of these kind of rescues that are going to be taking place throughout the area. So this is one. They're about 46 hours into it. It's really just the beginning of the search and rescue operations. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, as they continue to hear people and hear people's cries and then having to go in and dismantle those buildings.

BROWN: And we were just talking to our reporter Miguel Marquez on the scene. He was whispering because the rescuers are trying to hear the voice of a little girl or anyone else who may be trapped under the rubble to help locate any of the victims under there. So we, of course, will be keeping a close eye on this.

Mark, standby, we're staying close to Miguel Marquez on the scene there.

And we're getting some new video as well from right inside the rescue zone. Stay with us as crews hopefully get closer to this little girl and any other survivors. We'll be back.


[14:17:42] BROWN: Welcome back.

At this hour, a frantic race to rescue a little girl underneath the rubble of a collapsed school in Mexico City in the wake of an earthquake there. We have some video that we want to show you of the scene where these rescue workers have been working tirelessly to try to pull this little girl out of the rubble. They've been trying to locate her. It has been 24 hours since they heard her voice. They have been able to get some water to her, but they are still frantically trying to pull her out.

I want to go to Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services there.

As you see in this video, Mark -- actually, I don't know if you can see it. I can see it. Our viewers can see it. But there are a lot of people there trying to rescue this little girl right there. I'm curious, what is the risk when you have civilians involved in a rescue effort like this?

GHILARDUCCI: Yes, I mean, you know, there -- I mean -- well, there is a risk because, you know, you've got this great effort and a lot of enthusiasm to try to want to get in and help. You can see in the video, you know, people are making a debris line and being able to help.

There is a benefit in that it gives you force capacity of people. But when you want to get into the building, you really need expertise to be able to get in and shore that building up and be able to safely get to where the victims are located. And so sometimes when you have too many people, it's a little chaotic. You can see that the things here, it's asking people to be quiet. It's very difficult at times to get the crowd to be quiet. They're not really using -- it doesn't appear that they're using electronic listening devices or other kinds of high-tech equipment. So they're really having to listen for themselves as to where the voices may be coming from.

And in a building collapse like this, you know, you could be hearing cries come up and just the way that the building collapse is, the -- where the cries are actually coming out and you're hearing it could be in a different location to where the victim actually is.

BROWN: Right.

GHILARDUCCI: So it -- you know, all these people are great to help, but you do need a sense of coordination and to be extremely effective.

BROWN: Yes, I was wondering how reliable that is because, as I mentioned, it had been 24 hours since they heard her voice. But how reliable is it in terms of locating the victim when you hear their voice? And what are some of the other challenges that are facing these rescue workers at this hour?

[14:20:07] GHILARDUCCI: Well, you know, with each hour that passes, it becomes more challenging to -- you know, for survivability. There's no question about that. I mean the fact that I -- you know, you know, you have reported that they were able to get some water to her tells me that maybe they know exactly where she's at. It's just that they have to get the building dismantled around her.

And, you know, dismantling a building like this in a collapsed pattern, this is like -- almost like a pancake collapse, as we call it. It's difficult to be able to move debris and concrete or cut a piece of rebar without maybe having another reaction to the building. So, again, they have to really -- they have to shore up a pathway to get to her.

And then once they get to her, you know, they can maybe start to actually do medical treatment before she's actually extricated. The survivability goes way up if you can actually begin to do medical care at the victim's side, even before the victim is actually extricated.

So, you know, they've got some challenges ahead of them. But if they, in fact, know where she's at and they can reach her even before she's extricated, the chances for her survivability will go up greatly.

BROWN: So walk us through what they need to do to prevent that domino effect of further collapse of the building, which, of course, you know, could mean very bad things for the victims who are still alive, trapped underneath that rubble. What do they need to do to sort of prevent that from happening?

GHILARDUCCI: Well, the first thing is, is to be able to really have -- you're basically rebuilding the stability of a structure that has lost its structural integrity. And so you have to find the most appropriate way, if there's a pathway into the building, and then begin that process of doing what we call cribbing. These are a series of blocks to build up this foundation. And then using these long shoring devices, which you see in the video is actually these large poles that are -- that they're using to be able to make sure that the building doesn't come down.

So, in essence, the rescuers have to rebuild that structural integrity as they move forward. They dig a little. They remove debris. Maybe they're going to use heavy equipment. They have to do that very carefully. And so they have to consider that for every action they take there will be an equal and opposite reaction to the way that building performs.

And, of course, they're doing this all when there's potentially aftershocks. And an aftershock can, you know, destabilize the structure even more. So it takes a lot of very careful action. And that's why these kind of situations take time. You also are using heavy equipment. You're using cutting tools. You're using breaking tools to break through concrete. You just can't just move a large slab of concrete. You have to cut through it or break it and then move forward, build that structural integrity and take another couple steps forward.

BROWN: All right.

GHILARDUCCI: So, you know, here you see they're using dog teams. That also helps to tremendously accurately accelerate the point at which victims could be located. And it also gives the rescuers the ability to build the plan. So you've got the dogs that alert. You may want to come in there with listening devices to confirm. And then the rescue teams begin the process of building the plan to go in and reach to where the victim is located.

BROWN: All right.

GHILARDUCCI: It's a concert of activity, coordinated activity with all of the teams working together to get to where the victims are at.

BROWN: Yes, they really have to work in harmony to be able to reach those victims.

Thank you so much. Mark Ghilarducci, thank you.


BROWN: And, of course, more on this breaking news in Mexico City.

Plus, Puerto Rico starting to get Harvey-like rains as Hurricane Maria devastates the region. This is CNN's special live coverage.


[14:28:27] BROWN: Well, breaking news. The president has just signed an executive order slapping North Korea with new sanctions and tightening the economic screws on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, hoping he'll stop his development of nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.

This comes as the world is still reckoning with President Trump's threat to totally destroy North Korea. Trump's words rattled many, but not, it seems, North Korea's foreign minister.

Back home, we have a saying, the dog barks but the caravan continues. If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that's really a dog dream.

Joining me now, Matthew Rosenberg, CNN national security analyst and national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

So, Matthew, what do we know about these sanctions?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The sanctions try to target a kind of broad section of the North Korean economy from manufacturing information, technology, I think textiles are there. The Trump administration is going to be briefing in about 20 or 30 minutes for a more full picture of it.

But it also looks at banks and banks outside North Korea that are doing any business with North Korea. And it really is an attempt to choke off North Korea's economy and say, look, if you're going to keep pushing on this, there are ways to punish you short of what Trump's promise, which is destruction.

[14:29:44] You know, I think at this point anything that sees an attempt to peacefully resolve this problem or this issue is probably welcome news to most people in the world and certainly people in the region. I think, you know, there's the issue of how far can you push North Korea. You don't want to collapse its economy. South Korea's made very clear Japan, China, around there do not want to see a state collapse there. And if you're going to really aggressively try and knock out its economy, you're risking a lot more disorder and a lot more, you know, problems that aren't necessarily easy