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War of Words Between Trump and Kim Jong-un Drawing Tensions; Caribbean Islands in Desperate Need of Help after Maria's Wrath; Hurricane Maria Left People Homeless and in Desperate Need; Rescuers Not Giving Up in Mexico; Republicans Try to Repeal Obamacare. Aired 3- 4a ET

Aired September 22, 2017 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, HOST, CNN: Hello, everybody. This is CNN Newsroom. I'm John Vause, reporting live from Mexico City.

The death toll here from a powerful earthquake has risen again as crews continues searching for survivors in the rubble.

NATALIE ALLEN, HOST, CNN: And I'm Natalie Allen, live in Atlanta.

Hurricane Maria closes in on the Turks and Caicos while other islands struggle to recover from the storm's devastating impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

VAUSE: The mayor of Mexico City says as many as 50 people remain unaccounted for after Tuesday's deadly earthquake. Rescuers are now focus on 10 collapsed buildings here in the capital where there are believed to be signs of life beneath the rubble.

And the death toll has not stopped to 286. The search though has taper off at an elementary school where rescuers was searching for a young girl who they thought was trapped under a debris. But authorities now say all the students they have been accounted for they are either in hospitals with their parents or they're dead.

Apparently, there was no young girl called Frida trapped beneath the rubble. And the more time passes the less likely it is the search crews will be able to find anyone still buried alive beneath the rubble.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more on the round-the-clock rescue efforts.

ED LAVANDERA, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The search for survivors is not over. Brigades of civilian volunteers swarmed this Mexico City neighborhood more than two days after the earthquake.

This was the 7-storey building that collapsed, and right now they believed that there is a man trapped inside of a car right underneath that heavy machinery over there. They've been contacting him.

Military officials believed there were 12 people inside this building when it crumbled to the ground.

Mexican army general Federico Solarsano (Ph) is overseeing rescue operations at the scene. He says 7 of the 12 people have been pulled out of the rubble but only two have survived. And right now it's an urgent search for a man named Roberto.

"They drop a microphone into the space and they're using an amplifier to hear his voice," he tells us, "we think he's there." And after a moment of silence the workers erupt in a loud cheer.

The reason you heard the workers here erupt into a loud cheer is because they had made contact. They heard the voice of the man believed to be trapped inside the car so they were celebrating that one brief moment in hopes that will be able to pull him out alive.

These rescue efforts are supported by a largely improvised system created by thousands of volunteers. This supply station was open in the middle of a rotunda and there is a feverish frenzy in the air. A private bus company loads dozens of volunteers to take them away.

People have shown up here in the square in the heart of Mexico City, this bus is going to the state of Morelos which needs a lot of help. All of these people have volunteered to jump on these buses to go help and they have no idea when they're coming back to Mexico City.

And when the bus pulls away headed on its mission the crowd cheers.

Across Mexico the urgency to move mounts of rubble is relentless. They feel that each piece they move by hand brings them one inch close to saving a life.

We still don't know if that man was pulled out of that rubble. The search efforts we're told will continue as it takes. Now more than two days after the earthquake struck rescue workers know that the clock is ticking and that time is running out if they're going to rescue anyone alive at this point.

I'm Ed Lavandera, reporting from Mexico City.

VAUSE: Now to the very latest on hurricane Maria the category 3 storm the eye of that storm is right over the Atlantic, about 70 kilometers southeast of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Let's go to Karen Maginnis at the CNN international weather center for the very latest on the storm's path. And so, Karen, there is a concern of the storm might increase and spend some time out over the waters, so how is it looking at the moment?

KAREN MAGINNIS, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Yes, very impressive on the GOES- 16 satellite imagery as the eye become smaller and smaller. Typically when that happens we start to see the strengthening began. But this has been over land, at least it's interactive with land so it was rather rugged looking, but now the western edge of this is battering the Turks and Caicos.

Turks and Caicos right here TCI. They are already seeing hurricane force wind, they are already seeing a storm surge at least on some of this more eastern edges of those islands. The impact is going to be tremendous across this area.

[03:05:02] With a category 3 they may not be in the most dynamic portion of the hurricane, which is the upper right quadrant of the hurricane. But in this particular situation where all the islands practically across the Caribbean have been battered. Most recently we see those images coming out of Puerto Rico which just decimated that island.

And now we say, look at the winds here. And for the Turks and Caicos for that western edge that's what we're looking at category 3, intense winds along with a storm surge, which in some cases could be three to four meters high. It could expect between 150 to maybe 300 millimeters of rainfall.

Some areas, though, may pick up as much as 500 millimeters. But here you can see instead well up the east coast of the United States, but nonetheless, across the Bahamas, even though it looks like the computer models are now saying it's going to be to the north or to the northeast of the Bahamas we're still looking at a tremendous storm surge here.

There's also the rip current and also the potential for plenty of beach erosion. So the computer models for the most part over the next several days are pretty much in agreement. But the National Hurricane Center says it should make its term more towards the north coming up within the next 12 to 24 hours.

We may be able to breathe the sigh of relief then, John, but these computer models have not been very good with our last huge major hurricane.

Back to you.

VAUSE: OK. Karen, thank you. And of course, one of the concerns Karen mentions this for the Turks and Caicos, storm surge, the flooding, the rain, it's not just the wind.

And an idea of just how deadly that storm surge can be, Nick Valencia joins us now from San Juan in Puerto Rico. And Nick, what has been incredible is that the epic destruction which Maria has brought to Puerto Rico is just so much worse than anybody really expected.

NICK VALENCIA, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It's hard to wrap your head around here especially right now, John. Here we are the storm hit Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, we're here Friday morning, local time and it's still raining behind us. The storm system is so huge we're still getting hit by the outer bands of that and the lightning is coming more often and more frequent and it's followed by thunder.

And if you can just imagine just how many inches have dropped down on this island in the several days. Flooding is a major concern. It's something that Governor Ricardo Rosello talked about very early on before the storm hit reminding people that it's that number one cause of death after storms like this reach land. Its people drowning in flooding or being caught in this high water conditions.

High water rescues are still ongoing right now just a few miles from us in Levittown also towards the south as well. People are still in desperate need of help. People are still very much so in trouble and this is becoming, unfortunately, very normal for people here. And it's going to be a lot longer for them before it doesn't.

VAUSE: And Nick, clearly, the assessment is still being done about how much damage and you know, how much of the infrastructure has been wiped out by Maria. There are some reports out there that officials believe it could be years, maybe 10 years, maybe longer before all the repair work is done before this island returns to anything like it was before.

VALENCIA: When you talk to residents here they bring up hurricane Hugo back in the 90's which cause a considerable amount of damage and was nowhere near the force or intensity that this storm was. They were without power for months.

In my conversation last night, you know, I met with the mayor of San Juan, she came into our live shot location and beyond air with us and I was talking to her off camera. And I was asking her just how are you going to get people used to this situation, you're talking about them being without power for four to six months.

Just imagine if you can think about that getting ready in the morning in the dark, coming back home you're still in the dark trying to make dinner for your family in the dark. You know, people are not as fortunate as us as we are at our live shot location, we're position on a balcony out of harm's way. We have a generator, we have electricity, we've been able to take hot showers. That's not the case for so many people here on this island.

They're in trouble. They need desperate help and they're getting in some aspects. FEMA has shown up, the U.S. marines has shown up, those residents that are in better situations than others are lending a helping hand. But in our travels to the streets you could tell just the sadness of people here and also obviously the resilience. Some businesses have re-open but this is not the way of way that anyone wants to live. John?

[03:10:00] VAUSE: Yes. And this island has been so much in trouble economically before of hugely in debt and it does beg the question of how are they going to be able to pay.

VALENCIA: Right.

VAUSE: How can they afford to rebuild, who will help find the money, that's always the big question after events like this. Nick, thank you. Keep up the good work. We appreciate it.

Of course, Puerto Rico not the only the community struggling with the devastation cause by Maria. In Dominica, the prime minister says the hurricane cause extensive damage and destroyed their agricultural sector. Ninety five percent of the tourism sector he says is being wiped out. At least 15 people were also killed. CNN's Michael Holmes has an exclusive report on Maria's devastating impact on this Caribbean island.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You know, we flew over Dominica yesterday and got stunned to this scale level of destruction on this once beautiful lush tropical rainforest island. But it wasn't until we got on the island today. A couple of hours ago we sat to get a sense of the utter devastation that has taken place.

This is an area called (Inaudible). It's a middle class suburb and it has been just every house these has been hit. There's a little cafe here (Inaudible) they called it popular just gone. And I don't know if we can see up the back there. There was a little community up there. Those houses they're just pieces of wood now.

The devastation is just absolutely incredible. We've seen people walking around. Gentleman here, how are you doing? Hi, how are you, you're still smiling. I'm impressed with that. It's just mind boggling. I've been to a lot of disasters, I've been to a lot of war zones. This looks like among the worst I've ever seen.

One of the ironies here for Dominica the people are so caring and loving. They had aide, food, medical supplies, containers full that they had prepositioned in case of a disaster. After Irma came through they shipped that out to other islands like St. Martin, like Tortola that were hit by Irma. Today they have nothing now. They have nothing.

They sent their electrical engineers, their linemen out to help other islands. They can't get back at the moment. And they have no power here. They have no running water. Aid has not yet started to come in. They are desperate. They have absolutely nothing at the moment.

Over here a lot of bridges around as well that's making getting around difficult. We spoke to the prime minister a little while ago, he is still trying to get a handle on what has happened to this community. All of this, this is an island that's got a lot of little villages around the place they haven't gotten to some of them yet.

There are lot of people missing. The death toll is over a dozen but that's really just a start. There are dozens more who are missing. It really just defies belief the scale of the destruction. And the other thing and this has been said before on other island that have hit.

The foliage, the trees has -- there's nothing green here. This was a rainforest island that starting a tourism industry base on the rainforest and ecotourism. You can't see the rainforest anymore. They're gone. It's an agriculture based economy. Bananas, cane -- cane sugar, citrus fruits, those are all gone.

And the prime minister said that industry is now dead. That was his country's income. It really is just mind boggling to see what has happened here.

VAUSE: Virginia Clerveaux is the director of disaster management for the Turks and Caicos Island. She joins us now on the line. Virginia, obviously some very difficult hours yet to come. What's your advice for everybody, what should they be doing right now, and what should they not be doing.

VIRGINIA CLERVEAUX, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND EMERGENCIES: Yes. Right now residents from the Turks and Caicos Island including visitors should definitely be seeking shelter indoor whether it's a government shelter or shelter with family and friends.

We would not advice persons to be driving on the road because at these times we are experiencing tropical force winds and that could also be dangerous and or deadly.

VAUSE: Yes, Irma cause so much discussion that was just two weeks ago, had you have enough time to prepare, are shelters structurally sound. Do you have enough of those shelters than can actually withstand the force of Maria to house all the people who may need protection over the next couple of hours?

CLERVEAUX: Yes, we definitely following Irma we did some structural assessment to buildings that we were intending to use as shelters. So we are pretty confident that our shelters will withstand with storm here. And we have shelters throughout the Turks and Caicos Island on the islands who are in Turks and Caicos Island have shelters that Turkans can seek shelter there.

Additionally, buildings who would allow Turkans to be able to also stay at home.

VAUSE: You're looking at the destruction that Maria has brought to places like Puerto Rico and St. John and St. Croix. I mean, it must be with dread just thinking about what could happen to the Turks and Caicos when Maria passes over.

[03:14:59] CLERVEAUX: Fortunately for us given the present track it appears as if Maria will pass east, northeast of the Turks and Caicos island which means that we would be on the outer band of the storm. So based on that I am not expecting it to hit up as a major storm based on the prediction we're looking at, perhaps 80 miles per hour winds. And therefore, I'm pretty confident that we should feel OK.

VAUSE: Finally, Virginia, there is this concern about a massive storm surge which obviously for many of those low-lying islands within the Turks and Caicos that is a very big concern, a very big threat.

CLERVEAUX: It is. We encourage persons living in low-lying areas, persons living along the coast to definitely seek shelter in (Inaudible) and to seek shelter on high ground. And we are monitoring the situation and we had a lot of public education where we discourage Turkans from going near the beach to take pictures of the storm surge or just to (Inaudible) the water.

We're hoping that Turkans heed the warning and thy are currently indoor sheltering in place.

VAUSE: Well, Virginia, we wish you and everybody on the Turks and Caicos. All the very best. We hope you get through this as best you can especially without the loss of life. Thanks for being with us.

CLERVEAUX: Thank you very much.

VAUSE: And so, Natalie once again, an anxious wait, a difficult night, a terrifying night to so many people hunkering down just waiting for the storm to pass by and praying that it just doesn't do to their community for it had done already to so many before.

ALLEN: Absolutely It's heartbreaking, isn't it. John, we thank you for your coverage.

And just ahead here, we'll turn to other news that we're following. Harsh words between Pyongyang and Washington especially growing louder and more threatening and neither side shows any willingness to back down. We'll have live report from across Asia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back. Kim Jong-un is reacting personally to Donald Trump's speech about him on Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly. The North Korean leader told state media he would make the U.S. president paid dearly for insulting him and threatening to destroy North Korea.

It now appears Kim is considering setting off a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific in retaliation. That unsettling scenario spelled out Thursday by Kim's foreign minister who was in New York for the general assembly. He says the final decision on how to respond is up to North Korea's leader.

The escalating rhetoric between the two leaders coincides with punishing new sanctions on North Korea those were imposed unilaterally by Mr. Trump Thursday. They aim to deny Kim the hard currency he needs to develop missiles and nuclear weapons.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.

[03:19:57] BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The regime that compared Donald Trump's threats to a barking dog may soon feel his bite. In an effort to put the squeeze on Kim Jong-un the president unleashed new tools for the U.S. to block North Korea's finances, hoping to get the aggressive young leader to stop building his nuclear and missile programs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: The president is going after those others by giving the Treasury Department more authority to sanction banks, companies, and individuals doing business with North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA BERGER, SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Potentially we could see some heavy heading sanctions on foreign companies coming in the very near future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But completely cutting off Kim's cash stream for his weapons will be very difficult. Analyst say the dictator and his cronies are creative and deceptive in getting around sanctions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCUS NOLAND, SENIOR FELLOW AND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, PETERSON INSTITUTE: One of the ways the skirt sanctions is by setting upfront companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Just one example of those alleged front companies CNN has learned is called Glocom. U.N. investigators says the company which sells military gear like this seized communications equipment is listed as being based in Malaysia, but the U.N. says it's really linked to North Korea's spy agency.

Analyst say companies like Glocom is hard to catch because it acts like a chameleon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERGER: If it's operating in Vietnam it will try to look Vietnamese. If it's operating in Malaysia it will try to look Malaysian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Another alleged deception from Pyongyang and its partner's shady shipping. The Treasury Department last week said it believes some ships like this one a track from China turn off their transponders when they pass North Korea to hide the fact that they divert there to pick up coal purchased from Kim's regime.

North Korea also sells weapons overseas illegally like this intercepted shipment including 30,000 North Korean rocket propelled grenades hidden under a load of iron ore. And experts say Kim's regime partners with criminal networks in China and even in the U.S. to smuggle counterfeit goods.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERGER: It's been known to counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and cigarettes and even engage in the trade of illegal wildlife products.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Analyst say the money Kim makes each year from illicit businesses that skirt sanctions is staggering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLAND: If you can buy an arms, counterfeiting, drug trafficking and so on you're in figure that over a billion dollars and in a country that only exports about three billion a year that's a very substantial source of revenue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Analyst say the bottom line is that none of these sanctions will likely get Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear and missile programs. They say what the sanctions may do if they squeeze him tightly enough economically is get Kim to the negotiating table with his rivals, but only they say if the loopholes in the sanctions are closed up and the sanctions are really enforced against North Korea.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

ALLEN: Well, let's get the latest now from our correspondents in the region. Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea, Matt Rivers joins us now live from Beijing. First to you, Paula, this is the first time Kim Jong-un has responded in his own words in the first person and he certainly didn't mince words, did he?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, Natalie, it's interesting that the fact that he was talking in the first person, we saw a photo from a state run media in North Korea showing him looking into the camera. So potentially we could see some kind of footage later on. It's almost as though the leader of North Korea is responding directly to the leader of the United States, of leader to leader and certainly he didn't mince his words as you mention.

He calls Mr. Trump mentally deranged, he said he's going to consider the highest level of hard line countermeasure in history, really slamming the U.S. president for his Tuesday address to the U.N. General Assembly where Mr. Trump said that he would totally destroy North Korea if the U.S. and its allies were threatened by the country.

Now, one other thing that he said as well. Kim Jong-un saying after taking office Trump has rendered the world restless with threats and blatant elegance to all countries in the world. "He's unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country and he surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire rather than a politician."

Now these are the kind of comments that you might expect to hear critics of Kim Jong-un using against the North Korean leader himself and get Kim Jong-un is using them against the U.S. president.

So it is an interesting development that you are seeing this more direct approach from the North Korean leader really speaking directly to Mr. Trump himself and of course, you have the Foreign Minister of North Korea as well, Ri Yong-ho saying in New York to reporters that there could potentially be hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific as well.

Certainly that would not have been a misspeak on behalf of the foreign minister everything that comes Pyongyang is very highly choreographed. Natalie?

ALLEN: Right. And analysts have said that two leaders they are acting like schoolboys in the schoolyard if it only were child's play, certainly isn't, is it?

[03:25:02] Let's go to Matt Rivers in Beijing. Any reaction from Beijing on this escalation of violent threat seemed directly at one another between Donald Trump and Jim Jong-un, Matt.

MATT RIVERS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, nothing yet today, although as we speak there is a briefing going on a regularly scheduled daily press briefing at the ministry of foreign affairs not far from where we are here at the CNN bureau in Beijing. But you know, Natalie, if there's one thing that you can rely generally speaking on the Chinese government for, it is consistency in their public messaging.

And after every single nuclear provocation from North Korea, after every piece of incense rhetoric from Donald Trump you get the same sort of reply from China and that is these that term relevant parties and they say that everyone should de-escalate, and that denuclearization is the only way forward, and that China urges all sides to be calm and act rationally.

And really that is been their consistent message. And so the question then becomes at what point does that message change. Is there anything that North Korea can do that the Chinese would deem intolerable. Will they then take the kind of steps that the United States and the Trump administration want them to and push further sanctions. Do the kind of thing the Trump administration wants like, for example, banning all oil imports or exports to North Korea? Does that red line exists for the Chinese and at that point would they change their message?

The simple answer to that question is nobody knows. You can make speculation about it but publicly the Chinese government has not given any indication that they intend to change their strategy which is to allow the Kim Jong-un regime to continue to exist in the hopes that there is direct negotiations that will happen at some point between the United States and North Korea.

So no reaction as of yet, we expect to get it soon. And Natalie, more than likely we know exactly what it's going to be.

ALLEN: All right. Matt Rivers for us in Beijing, Paula Hancocks there in Seoul, thank you so much for joining us and reporting on this.

We want to turn now to Myanmar where recent violence has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. That made an already dire humanitarian situation even worse. Bangladesh's Prime Minister had this to say at the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEIKH HASINA, BANGLADESH'S PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are horrified to see that the Myanmar authorities are laying landmines along their stretch of the border to prevent the Rohingyas from returning to Myanmar. These people must be able to return to their homeland in safety, security, and dignity.

I further call upon the United Nations and the international community to take immediate and effective measures for a permanent solution to this protracted Rohingya crises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Bangladesh says it is sheltering almost 1,000,000 Rohingya's forced out of Myanmar. They are fleeing a military crackdown authority say is meant to target insurgents. The U.N. human rights chief disagrees called it a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

Well, they call themselves the topos, Spanish for the moles. The vital role they're playing in the search for survivors at the Mexico earthquake. That is when CNN Newsroom returns.

Plus, we'll have a live update from Puerto Rico where hurricane Maria left millions coping with debris, floods, and no power. Now it is headed for Turks and Caicos.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NATALIE ALLEN, HOST, CNN: Welcome back. I'm Natalie Allen, live in Atlanta.

Let's update you on our top stories this hour. Breaking at this moment, the National Hurricane Center says Maria is over the Atlantic Ocean about 70 kilometers southeast of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The category 3 storm has already left behind destruction in Puerto Rico and Dominica where it killed 15 people.

North Korea's foreign minister is suggesting that leader Kim Jong-un may set off a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific ocean. It's in retaliation for harsh remarks by the U.S. president. Earlier, Kim said Donald Trump would pay dearly for threatening to destroy North Korea.

Mexico's president says rescuers are not giving up the search for survivors from Tuesday's devastating earthquake. Enrique Pena Nieto says people could still be trapped in at least 10 collapsed building across the capital.

Let's return now to John Vause. He's in Mexico City with more on the recovery efforts there. It was raining and that doesn't help things much as the weather improved their, John.

VAUSE: Yes. Look, you know, there is so much going on here right now and the rain has not help things much and of course, the search. This is one of the 10 buildings which they're now focusing on. There are signs of life beneath the rubble maybe three to six people possibly still trapped here. And of course, these efforts continue all the time.

The death toll slowly takes up. It's now up to 286. And the mayor of Mexico City says at least 50 people remain unaccounted for. As you say, the focus now is almost 10 buildings. That has caused some anguish and some people to question how can they be certain that there are no about -- no one, no bodies, no people alive all that trouble.

But it is a tough decision to focus resources on areas where they believe they had the most chance of finding someone alive. Meantime, at an elementary school where there was intense focus just 24 hours ago that search and rescue effort seems to be winding down because the focus of that search and rescue was a young girl called Frida but it now turns out that there was was no student in that school called Frida. All the children there have in fact been accounted for. Some are in hospital, some with their parents and some are dead.

We're now coming out to the third full day since the quake struck not just Mexico City but this regional central Mexico, and at some point the search and rescue will eventually come a search and recovery. And that the question which I put to Sonia Heritage, she's an expert in search and rescue.

SONIA HERITAGE, SEARCH AND RESCUE EXPERT: Certainly, the chill at night if they're lying on concrete that takes the heat right out of your body and it's going to be less survivable time. However, some people may be trapped in an area that they had food and they have water and then there's survivability rate definitely goes up.

We had life signs in the rubble in pass earthquakes and the disasters 10 days a little more. It just really depend on the help of the person that's in there what they have with them and the weather, quite frankly. Not to mention whatever injuries they have as well.

VAUSE: So far today we believe that no one has actually alive from any of these buildings in the capital here in Mexico City. Is that a concern?

HERITAGE: Well, I do believe that L.A. County being on the ground now and working they're going to be able to go through, and you know, just very efficiently and effectively move through these high value target areas and in a very expedient manner compared to what we have seen, let's say, at the school.

[03:35:09] You know, they are going to take control of scene, they are going to go in there and send the dogs and find out is there anybody in here that is alive or do we need to move on to the next area.

VAUSE: I'm joined now by two volunteer. Fernando Alvarez, he's part of a group called Los Topos, known as the moles. They specialize in rescues like the ones that have been happening right now. And Ferdinand Magana, a doctor whose also volunteering his time with the rescue efforts.

But, Ferdinand, I'd like to start with you. Your part of this group called Los Topos, right, you have special training, you know how to use the specialized equipment. You actually train for earthquakes like this.

FERNANDO ALVAREZ, LIAISON OFFICER, BRIGADA DE RESCATE TOPOS TLALTELOLCO: Yes, we used the interact guidelines for United Nations so we are specialize in this kind of disaster.

VAUSE: And you've been going pretty much nonstop since the quake happened. ALVAREZ: Yes, more than 48 hours.

VAUSE: I mean, this is obviously a difficult work. Have you had a moment where you've actually managed to get somebody to safety?

ALVAREZ: Yes, well, we have rescue live people in the roof.

VAUSE: But you personally over the last 48 hours.

ALVAREZ: Yes.

MACDONALD: Can you struggle that moment with what?

ALVAREZ: Well, I was in the building we enter through the downstairs and we heard some noise and we start looking where the noise came from and the group from Red Cross and all the rescue teams with us pulled in from the other part of the building from the side of the building, we have to break some walls and they rescue a girl out.

VAUSE: OK. And your group, Los Topos, the moles, they were born out of the 1985 earthquake when these buildings is essentially had to do the work with that the government wasn't doing.

ALVAREZ: Yes, well, as a group we made it six months after because we started just volunteers with no knowledge of what was this job or how we use have to work in these structures. And we have to be training just specializing this kind of disasters.

VAUSE: Yes. And Fernando with you, your doctor. You'd be on standby sites like this basically just waiting to treat people.

FERNANDO MAGANA, VOLUNTEER: Right.

VAUSE: And trying to do, but there are so many doctors here, right? So what's been happening with you over the last couple of days?

MAGANA: Well, I have to do my normal job which is at the hospital and just treating patients whether they're related to this disaster and other...

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: So when you come here...

MAGANA: ... went after and done with my job, volunteering come and do whatever is needed. So every doctor that comes is expecting to something to zone zero and to see patients or rescuers that may need any help. Sometimes you don't get that job but you get to like what I'm doing right now is classifying medicine, medical equipment sending it where we receive information that...

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: How important is it? Do you, you know, you live in the city, these are your neighbors.

MAGANA: Right.

VAUSE: These are the people you know. You don't even know them but they are, you know, they are Mexicans and they are in need. How important it is for you to be here to do what you can?

MAGANA: It is extremely important and it's just very emotional to see all the help that is needed in, it's really amazing how once we're here and you start talking to your neighbor doctor, your friend is not as far as you believe it. You think everyone is helping because they just want to. Sometimes friends of mine were actually in the building that collapsed after they run out so it's very important.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: It's personal.

MAGANA: It's very personal and it's also important to help organize. There's overwhelming amount of help that is...

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: Yes. With the organization question, Fernando, I just want to ask you the response that we've seen over the last 48 hours not from the civilians who elected the action very, very quickly. What are the government's response?

ALVAREZ: Well, we need more resources. We are not preparing the amount of resources. It should be in the place in the whole city.

VAUSE: Yes. Back in 1985, I think 30,000 buildings collapsed. This time that maybe 38 I think is the official number, around 40.

(CROSSTALK)

ALVAREZ: Yes, that's the official number.

VAUSE: Right. You think it's -- you think that it's more than that.

ALVAREZ: Yes, I think there are more, not many more but more and we are more prepared but we have to do many more things to be prepared.

[03:40:09] VAUSE: No one was found alive under the rubble today?

ALVAREZ: Not.

VAUSE: How difficult is that to hear that there were no miraculous stories?

ALVAREZ: But you have to be walking, the U.N. has classified more or less have you -- have to be walking for seven days. That's the expectancy of life you shall inspect in the rescue is what, seven days and that's when you start finishing the rescue.

VAUSE: So, holding on hope for the next couple of days.

ALVAREZ: Yes. VAUSE: That this is the crucial time.

ALVAREZ: We have to be working 7 by 24.

VAUSE: Yes.

ALVAREZ: Seven days.

VAUSE: OK. Fernando and Fernando, thank you so much.

Well now to other major breaking news here, hurricane Maria and its path, its latest developments; let's go to CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam live this hour in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

So, Derek, it is still raining there in Puerto Rico and it will continue to rain through the weekend but what about beyond that, any idea when this will finally, I mean, the rain will end when there's a chance to this island to start drying out?

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: You know, we were expecting maybe the last few rain bands to come through on the overnight. But it gives no sign of letting up. We've got a lot of lightning and class of thunder ongoing around us at the moment and you can still see some of the light rain that's behind us. A little bit difficult to pick up on the camera because of the lighting situation here.

But needless to say, this is the most dangerous part of the storm's aftermath because there is no electricity across the entire island territory. It's dark at nights and we still have a flash flood emergency that's taking place across the island.

In fact, the National Weather Service has extended its flash flood warnings for all regions of Puerto Rico. Rainfall totals have been staggering. We're talking comparable to hurricane Harvey in Southeast Texas three weeks ago, we're talking about rainfall totals in excess of 1,000 millimeters in the past 48 hours.

And because this is such a mountainous terrain that water finally flows into some of the streams and rivers eventually overflowing its banks and flooding neighborhoods. That's exactly what we've seen just outside of the San Juan region.

I just want to put into perspective where I am right now. We're in a very affluent almost touristy part of San Juan right on the beach. The scene here has seen more wind damage than flood damage. So we have trees that have been snapped over. We have electrical poles with traffic lights that are dangling from wires. We have lots of shattered glass in the roadways.

But the point is that we can walk around on these roadways. You go 15 kilometers to our west in the Catano region. That area got struck hard with not only strong winds but also deep flooding that continues to be ongoing. In fact, we've had search and rescue operations from the Coast Guard ongoing today and I'm sure into this evening as well.

To our south and east where Maria made landfall as a category four hurricane, a strong category four hurricane were virtually disconnected from all communication. So there are people here talking to some of the workers at our hotel that we're staying at that cannot get in touch with community and family members down there. So you can imagine just how scary that is with no communication to family and friends. All they want to do, John, is find out that they're OK.

VAUSE: Yes, so many people try to track down loved ones on the U.S. main land. I think the Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor said that she hasn't, you know, to people half members of her family in recent days, so obviously a lot of people very concerned about the situation.

Derek in Puerto Rico. Thank you, Derek. And you know, not just Puerto Rico which is suffering after hurricane Maria. The small island nation of Dominica has also been devastated by this category three storm. In fact, Dominica was Maria's first target in the Caribbean. We will go there when we go back.

[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Well, the island of Dominica was no match for hurricane Maria. In fact, Dominica was the first target of Maria as it moved through the Caribbean.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says the storm destroyed much of the infrastructure and he recorded the damage as he walked into his office the morning after Maria hit earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROOSEVELT SKERRIT, PRIME MINISTER OF DOMINICA: This is Castle Comfort, Dominica, September 19. On September 18th you could not see beyond these trees. Look at that yellow building in the distance, the roof, a large portion of the roof is missing.

They were some of the police officers who I see every day at the office they are going to look for their families. Look at the mess. Look at the mess. This is supposed to be a church, the Baptist Church. You can see wall, one piece of a wall remaining and what looks like a ton load of lumber. This used to be the main road.

There's a car lodge up here, a pickup truck. This used to be a really nice bar. There's no one driving because you cannot drive. This is the resident, the official resident of the president of Dominica. It is called the state house. The president is Charles Savarin.

And I went to the roof and the sent someone for the key to open this door but the door was removed by the hurricane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And if you would like to help those who have been so affected so badly by hurricane Maria although still struggling after the earthquake here in Mexico, please visit our web site cnn.com/impact. You will find a list of charities which we have vetted so you can be certain that whatever you can give will get to the right place. And we'll be back after a short break.

[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back to our live coverage. Here are other stories we're following for you.

Republican lawmakers are not giving up on their promise to scrap Obamacare. The latest effort is opposed by some members of their own party but the most stinging criticism is coming from a television host. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel has a son with serious medical issues and for him healthcare is no laughing matter.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: As the Senate plows toward a vote to repeal Obamacare President Trump is unequivocal, tweeting, "I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does."

Senator Bill Cassidy, the bill's co-sponsor also towing the line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CASSIDY, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller- Johnson more people will have coverage and we protect those with pre- existing conditions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Trust defensiveness over the issue is understandable. The issue of whether the GOP proposal maintains protections for all has been a central and toxic piece of the repeal debate for months and one that has been magnified exponentially by of all people a late night talk show host on a two night attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: So last night on our show I took a senator from Louisiana, Bill Cassidy. I took him to task for promising to my face that he would oppose any healthcare plan that allowed insurance companies to term people with pre-existing conditions away.

He said anything he supported would have to pass what he named the Jimmy Kimmel test, which was fine, it was good, but unfortunately, and passing to me he propose a bill that would allow states to do all the things he said he would not let them do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Jimmy Kimmel is joined by insurers outside advocacy groups and even republican Senator Susan Collins in raising those concerns with good reason. At the core of Obamacare's regulatory structure was a mandate that insurers could not turn away anyone with pre-existing conditions. Under the new bill that protection does remain but here's where things diverge. The GOP plan allows states to opt out of certain Obamacare regulations including one that ensures insurers won't raise prices on those with health issues. The rationale - states needs flexibility to innovate. And the regulation has led to younger, healthier people paying more in place of that scrapped regulation.

A state would simply have to ensure that they would provide quote, "adequate and affordable coverage." But those terms aren't defined and that ambiguity has lead analysts and insurers to conclude that in some states and protections would almost certainly be cut back.

So while Cassidy fires back at Kimmel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CASSIDY: Yes, so Jimmy doesn't understand and not because he's a talk show host because we never spoken. He's only heard from those in the left who were doing their best to preserve Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: The bill itself does open the door to change the state level and in doing so puts an end to Obamacares guarantee.

ALLEN: Yes, in Germany voters head to the polls Sunday for this years' federal election. Christian democratic chancellor Angela Merkel appears set for another victory. She is expected to trounce this man social democratic candidate Martin Schulz.

The Chancellor may not be the only winner though, the far right alternative for Germany has gotten a boost from the migrant crisis and Ms. Merkel's handling of it, it could pick up seats for its staunch anti-immigrant platform. If Chancellor Merkel gets another win it will be her fourth term in office.

Her reserve style has earned her a reputation as being a bit humorless but it's been great for one political cartoonist. He's tracked Ms. Merkel's career for years and says behind her graph demeanor like a shrewd politician.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEIKO SAKURAI, POLITICAL CARTOONIST: My name is Heiko Sakurai. I'm 46 years old and I'm a political cartoonist.

You learn to go matter about Trump, but to get informed every day to get to create an idea every day, to stick to the thought for politics every day, I mean, that's the real challenge.

[03:54:59] The best moment is if you just get an idea. You hear information and use and then click you have an idea. First I have to read my paper, newspaper. I start with one news I want to comment on and then I try to find the picture in my mind. Normally if you see her face she seems to be a bit harmless and not

very dangerous but she (Inaudible) and she can become dangerous. Pushing her rivals off of the way, she must be. Otherwise you can't reach the highest position you have to draw person more and more and then you get for a simple and more obvious to find the formula of her face anyway, her eyes.

And for many times I caught her eyes a bit closed. It meant she's maybe a bit sleepy a bit shy but meanwhile, I know it's her rationality. It brought some big surprise how she acted in the climax of the refugee crises that she didn't close the border and then that she stick to that attitude and to the (Inaudible).

TRUMP: At least we have something in common perhaps.

SAKURAI: I think that's no bigger difference possible in character than between Trump and Merkel. He is loud sometimes not very rational and she is the exact opposition. She's rationale, she's calm. She is thinking and thinking and thinking all the time before she is saying anything and that's really prepared for everything, and Trump.

She's not (Inaudible). She is calm, She is a bit distance. She is mommy. You can rely on her. You can feel and safety with her and I think that's why people like her in a way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: And again, she's up for re-election. And join us this weekend when Hala Gorani anchors a two-hour special bringing you the results of the German election as they come in. It starts 5 o'clock Sunday afternoon in London, 6 p.m. in Berlin.

And thank you so much for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen in Atlanta. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter @allencnn. The news continues with Isa Soares in London, next.

[04:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)