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Death Toll Rises in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria; Hurricane Maria Destroys Island of Dominica; Death Toll 286 After Mexico Earthquake; North Korea Warns of Hydrogen Bomb Test Over Pacific. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired September 22, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUM, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated.
[05:59:10] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rain has not stopped, flooding all throughout the island.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maria hit us very hard, but she is nothing compared to the force we're going to unleash to rebuild.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They continue to hear people's cries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I've ever seen quite such a mobilization of volunteers as I've seen here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not wasting time. Right now, time is our enemy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Graham-Cassidy bill is the right solution at the right time.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the worst of the worst. It will hurt America.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think we're going to get 50 Republicans, and I'll make a prediction. A couple of Democrats are going to come on board.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Friday, September 22, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.
The death toll is rising in Puerto Rico. At least nine people are dead after Hurricane Maria. First responders caution that number is preliminary. They are shocked there isn't massive loss of life.
FEMA already on the ground, has large-scale relief on tankers. Those tankers have to wait for the port to open back up. There are aid flights to Puerto Rico beginning today. They're going to bring water, food, and large-scale generators for the millions of Americans that are in need. The entire island has no power.
And in Mexico, the search for survivors after that massive earthquake continues in several collapsed buildings. At least 286 people are known to have died so far.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And another top story. The rhetoric is escalating once again between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. The North Korean leader slamming President Trump, calling him, quote, "mentally deranged" and saying Mr. Trump will pay dearly for his U.N. speech. The reclusive regime now threatening to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.
All of this as Facebook announces it will turn over to Congress thousands of political ads linked to Russia. What does this mean for the Russia investigation? We have a lot to cover. CNN's Leyla Santiago, she is in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the hurricane's aftermath -- Leyla.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Maria ripped through the island of Puerto Rico, this is what she left behind. The first images of utter devastation 10 miles west of San Juan.
A Cat 4 hurricane with enough power to turn roads into river, residents trudging through floodwaters to reach their homes. Many arriving to homes without roofs. To get around here, four-wheel- drive, kayaks or walk like Luis Guzman (ph), whose home was destroyed.
LUIS GUZMAN (PH), HOME DESTROYED BY HURRICANE: The toilet's in my neighbor's house.
SANTIAGO: Rescue teams are now going home to home, finding anyone who needs new shelter. But everyone here seems vulnerable. Thea Equinome (ph) fighting back tears after firefighters and the National Guard reached her 84-year-old neighbor.
(on camera): She says she's like a grandmother.
(voice-over): Sixteen-year-old Maria Perez Santos (ph) had to cross floods to get to the rescue team. Her family of six filled vans with snacks, toiletries and pillows, grabbed their small dogs and left to find help when the water got too high.
MARIA PEREZ SANTOS (PH), HURRICANE SURVIVOR: I'm scared what's going to happen now to us. Where are we going now? The family is here now.
SANTIAGO (on camera): It's difficult, but at least they're alive. She believes if they're alive it means it can be a new start.
Once at the evacuation shelter, some safety. A new future ahead already filled with uncertainty.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CAMEROTA: Thanks to Leyla Santiago there.
Joining us now on the phone is the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello. Governor, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. I understand that they're -- the death toll is rising in Puerto Rico. Can you give us the latest numbers?
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO (via phone): Good morning to everyone.
We have been receiving partial information. Let me be clear that still part of the island is lacking communications. So what we have is some preliminary assessments about 13 deaths at this -- at this juncture. So we're -- we will keep you abreast of what's going on.
But certainly, still, some of the western part of the island, southern part of the island, southeast part of the island, we're still trying to break through. Keep in mind we're 24 hours just post-hurricane warning. And right now our efforts are to make sure that we have everybody safe and that we can rescue people. Our efforts have already produced almost 700 rescues. So we're clearly focused on that.
CAMEROTA: Yes, of course, Governor. It's just hard to really wrap our heads around what's happening in Puerto Rico this morning. We're looking at the video. I mean, whole neighborhoods and towns are underwater. Can you give us a sense for what the conditions are for the 3.5 million people there?
ROSSELLO: Yes. Well, the flooding areas, as we anticipated, were -- were going to get several feet of water. It's been significant. Yesterday during the morning I had to go to one of the towns to help rescue people that were on the rooftops because of water flooded more than anticipated.
So we have a lot of flooding. We have reports of, you know, just complete devastation of vulnerable housing. Of course, it's still raining over here, which is one of our main messages right now. Keep safe. Still seek shelter. Because mudslides and surges as well as flooding continues.
[06:05:05] So that's essentially the landscape. And and we're still trying to see some of the hardest hit areas such as the southeastern part of the island. We still are lacking in communication there. But that's essentially a major disaster here in Puerto Rico, and what our focus is, again, is trying to save as many lives as we can.
CAMEROTA: Of course. I mean, some of the areas have gotten 40 inches of rain. I mean, and this is the aftermath. What we're looking at right now, we're watching some of the 700 rescues that you're talking about.
Can we talk about the power grid? I mean, when we've spoken to you, as well as when we've spoken to the head of the Power and Light Company, I mean, the estimates are just really disheartening that it's going to be between some -- I mean, do you still believe it will be between four and six months to get power restored there?
ROSSELLO: We'll get a better sense today. Today we will fly over Puerto Rico. We will see how the transmission lines handled the storm. If there is severe devastation in those transmission lines, it's going to take weeks and months to repair those.
However, if the devastation is not as severe, then we can restore it quickly. But our warning, you know, when we came in eight months ago to this administration was that we had a very weak energy grid here in Puerto Rico, and we needed to restore it. So of course, that takes time. But now, certainly, with the help of FEMA and working together, we're going to have to not only restore it but make sure we mitigate future impact so that we can restore energy quicker.
CAMEROTA: But Governor, what's that going to look like for all of the people in Puerto Rico? I mean, how are they going to work and live and function without power?
ROSSELLO: Well -- yes, well, it's tough, but we've been -- we've been working on mitigation strategies. We have plenty of -- of generators that are coming in. Mind you, the estimates of time of getting power is getting full power. So we expect to start getting power in different areas of Puerto Rico as we start restoring the system.
So there's been a lot of solidarity, I would say, however, Alisyn. And this is one of the silver linings here. Puerto Rico became a platform to help U.S. citizens. After Irma blazed through the islands, we rescued and repatriated over 3,500 U.S. citizens.
But now there's a lot of people, a lot of governors. You know, the federal government has been phenomenal. FEMA has been great.
ROSSELLO: So now our efforts, you know, obviously still within the warning signs and danger making sure that people are safe, saving life. But immediately after that, start rebuilding Puerto Rico stronger than ever.
CAMEROTA: Governor, I know you spoke to President Trump last night. What did you ask him for and what did he offer?
ROSSELLO: Well, the president has been phenomenal in this situation. He's been, both in Irma and Maria, he has offered an pre-landfall emergency declaration. He's already declared most of the island a disaster area so that we can start the rebuilding process quickly. And he just said that he loved the people of Puerto Rico, and that he would help, that he would stand by us in our rebuilding process.
CAMEROTA: Governor, obviously, we know that you have weeks and months ahead of you that are going to be really challenging. We appreciate you giving us a status report. Governor Rossello, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.
ROSSELLO: Thank you, Alisyn. And thank you for all of the people that have poured their hearts, their prayers, governors, congressmen. Just regular American citizens calling and pouring out their help. Thank you for all of that. Puerto Rico is going to need you at this juncture, and we're very grateful for your consideration at this time.
CAMEROTA: Everyone is thinking of you, Governor. We'll speak to you again soon.
CUOMO: All right. The answer to a frequently-asked question. The reason you're seeing so much federal aid in Puerto Rico is two-fold. One, humanity demands it. And second, Puerto Rico is not a sovereign. It's a commonwealth of the United States. It's a territory. Those are Americans there. So you're going to see continued resources from the United States government.
Now there's a very different story on the island of Dominica. It's considered almost a complete loss, and it's mostly inaccessible after Hurricane Maria. CNN is one of the only reporting teams on the island right now, and the widespread destruction is everywhere.
CNN's Michael Holmes is there -- Michael.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I've got to tell you, I haven't seen anything quite like this. We've been covering Irma and then Maria for a couple of weeks now. This is by far the worst we've seen.
Dominica is an island of 70,000 or so people. It has been decimated from end to end. We're in the capital, Roseau, at the moment. Everywhere I look around me, I can see roofs torn off and, in many cases, down below, houses completely demolished.
[06:10:07] There are massive trees. This is an island of rain forests. Massive trees, washed down the rivers and banged up against bridges. There is no power. There is no running water. Very little aid has gotten in so far. You mentioned the isolated villages. There are many of these villages, hillside villages all around this island. We flew around the island a day or so ago before we could actually land. And those places have all been decimated, as well.
You look around, there is -- there is debris littering like confetti around the fields and the hillsides. There have been a lot of mudslides. This -- we talked to the prime minister yesterday. This is an agriculture-based economy. Cane fields. You've got banana plantations, citrus growth. Gone. Everything. There's not a leaf on this island, Chris.
The rain forest, you can't see where they are. They're just not there. Look at before pictures of this online and look at it now, and you've just got to shake your head. It's total devastation.
The prime minister is heading off to the U.N. G.A. today. He's going to go there and make a plaintive cry for help. They're worried here they're going to get forgotten. This was the first-place hit by Maria. Category 5. Full-on hit. They're worried they're going to get forgotten because of other places that have been hit by Irma and Maria. Further down the line, of course, the devastation in Puerto Rico and other places like that.
This little island basically has nothing and has nothing going forward in terms of an economy. The nascent (ph) -- the tourism industry, done. The agriculture industry, done. They need help. They need it now. No power. No water. Precious little food -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Michael, the video is just incredible. The aerial shots of what it looks like today. Thank you very much for the reporting from there.
So Hurricane Maria is still a powerful Category 3 storm as it takes aim at the Turks and Caicos. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest forecast.
What are you seeing this morning, Chad?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Alisyn, I've seen the storm now going into the Turks and Caicos away from the Dominican Republic. Still 125 miles per hour. It did gain a lot of strength as it got back into the water, as we expected. But still traveling to the north and to the northwest.
Now, there is still a little chance that this makes a slight left turn back toward the U.S., and I'll show you why. A hundred and ten miles per hour, though, in the middle of the Atlantic. Missing Bermuda, too. See that little jog to the left? Why did they push it back? This is the Hurricane Center forecast five days from now. Why did they push it to the left? Because the European level has a slight jog as it tries to interact with Jose. This will rotate around each other. And that's this part of the wiggle. So that's why the model turns a little bit farther to the left, and so does the official hurricane track.
But for now it stays onshore and makes a right-hand turn. Maybe making a run at Atlantic Canada but for now the Atlantic Ocean -- Chris.
CUOMO: Got to keep an eye on it. We know you will. Chad, thank you very much.
All right. So now to Mexico and the race against time. There are human chains of volunteers and workers, often digging by hand through rubble for survivors. The death toll from that magnitude 7.1 earthquake right now stands at well over 250 and continues to rise.
CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Mexico City -- Rosa.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, there are at least 10 collapsed buildings here in Mexico City who are believed to have people trapped inside. The building that you see behind me is one of them. At this hour, rescuers telling us that operations here have stopped because of the rain that pummeled Mexico City overnight. That rain added weight to the building that is already unstable. And this rain just one added stress to an already very dangerous operation to save lives.
FLORES (voice-over): Search-and-rescue teams frantically combing through collapsed buildings, desperate for signs of life amid the mangled rebar and blocks of concrete. Mexico's president telling the public that authorities believe there are still people buried alive. The emergency officials using high-tech cameras and rescue dogs, hoping it isn't too late.
These workers build a makeshift ladder to reach the top of the rubble before calling for silence to listen for any survivors. These scenes playing out across Mexico City and surrounding towns as thousands work together removing buckets of debris and piece of wood, one piece at a time. A painstaking task done carefully to avoid a further collapse.
Amid the chaos, moments of joy as people are pulled from the rubble. Workers celebrate as this survivor is brought to safety. Other efforts coming up empty, like the urgent seven for a young girl authorities believed was trapped under this collapsed elementary school. The world eagerly awaited news of her fate before officials announced that all of the students and teachers had been accounted for, either at home, in hospitals or dead.
[06:15:08] Nevertheless, rescuers remained hopeful and determined as the global community rallies around Mexico. Volunteers from around the world coming from as far away as Japan and Taiwan, working together with hundreds of ordinary people who have flocked to the area to do whatever they can to help save lives.
SOFIA BROID, MEXICO CITY RESIDENT: I'm a mom and a graphic designer. I'm not prepared to -- to do any of this. But there's always something you can do.
FLORES: And as we take another live look here, I can tell you that rescue workers have been saying that, while operations have seized here for the moment, while they wait for this delicate building to settle after the rain from overnight, they do believe that people are trapped in what they are calling capsules, Alisyn.
And these capsules, they say, were created when that building collapsed, but it allowed people to stay in these crevasses, in these areas. And the reason why they believe that there are people trapped inside is because they say they used heat sensors. And there were positive readings coming from those sensors and the sophisticated equipment that they're using here in Mexico City.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Let's pray that they can get to them today when daylight comes up there. Thank you very much, Rosa.
So North Korea. Kim Jong-un firing insults at President Trump and issuing an ominous new warning to the United States. We have all the new details for you, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:20:14] CAMEROTA: North Korea issuing an ominous new warning. Their foreign minister says it may test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. This comes as the rhetoric escalates between the reclusive leader and Trump.
CNN's Joe Johns is live near Bedminster, New Jersey, where the president is waking up this morning. What's the latest, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, this is a war of words that continues to escalate. North Korea's foreign minister Ri Young Ho indicating that North Korea could explode a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific in retaliation for the president's speech before the United Nations. Though he did say that the final decision, of course, will be left up to Kim Jong-un.
Kim, for his part, promising the harshest countermeasures in history, indicating the United States would pay dearly for the speech. Let's listen to some of those incendiary words that set off this word conflict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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)
JOHNS: Kim also referred to President Trump as a doddered or deranged and senile old man. That was in response to the president's latest executive order, indicating that financial institutions can participate in economics with the United States or North Korea but not both.
The president of the United States also indicated yesterday that China has, in fact, informed its associated banking system not to participate in financial transactions with North Korea, though that could not be confirmed.
The president is expected to have a quiet day here in New Jersey before heading off to Alabama to participate in a rally for Luther Strange, who's trying to win the election against the popular former chief Supreme Court justice, Roy Moore.
Back to you.
CUOMO: All right, Joe. So we have Rocket Man on one side, dotard on the other. War of words. The question is, where does it lead?
Let's discuss. We have CNN political analysts Maggie Haberman and David Sanger, both also correspondents from "The New York Times."
So David, you got to hear from McMaster yesterday and lay out the thoughts about North Korea and the bigger concerns about Iran and what the goal is with Russia. Now you have the events of the president announcing a more holistic look. What's your takeaway?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I think the biggest development here, Chris, is actually the threat of an atmospheric test, which American officials have been concerned about privately for some time. And it was very interesting that the foreign minister of North Korea gave voice to that just around the time that Kim Jong-un did that somewhat remarkable direct attack on President Trump.
An atmospheric test would be a very big thing. There has not been one in nearly four decades. The Chinese were the last ones to do it. The United States banned them with a few other nations at the end of the Kennedy administration in 1963 in the partial test ban treaty. Because they are such an environmental disaster. And of course, we sickened a lot of people when -- near the Bikini Atoll when the U.S. conducted such tests in the '50s.
My guess is that that would be an incredibly provocative act that could well change the administration's own calculus about its need for preemptive action.
And as General McMaster, who you had on yesterday, who was the one who has talked the most about taking some kind of preventive step, whether this is a holistic approach, as you suggest, I'm not convinced yet. Because the effort to suggest that they may pull back from the Iran treaty, I think, would make it much harder to the sign any kind of agreement with North Korea.
CAMEROTA: David, I want to stay with you for one second. Because what about this development of possibly President Xi issuing an order to China's central bank to tell all the other banks to stop transactions with North Korea. What do we know?
SANGER: Well, it looks like the order came out from the central bank, Alisyn. It looks like it's for real. I think it was a preventive measure by the Chinese to protect their own financial system, because they've seen this order signed by the president. And while I don't think the order itself will change very much in the North Korean calculus, it's a big deal if the Chinese suddenly have come to the conclusion they can no longer bank with the North.
[06:25:11] CUOMO: Now, Maggie, we heard from McMaster yesterday, the kind of fulsome praise for the use of Rocket Man, that it was accurate and that it was evocative and got people's attention and that they are perfectly happy with the state of play there. How deep does that go?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think that the remarks that are said publicly about -- by administration officials about what President Trump says are always the most genuine.
I think that that speech was very striking, as you know, because it was basically in line with what this president has been saying in terms of more fiery rhetoric for a while. And they were all part of this process. The speech was not a surprise to people. The speech went through the normal speech process. There was nothing unusual about it. I think that, look, they're dealing with no good option. I do believe
that there is some degree of placating the president so that he doesn't essentially react against his own advisers on this, so that he feels as if his language is his own.
It did not play great at the U.N. As we know, this is unusual, to say the least. But I think that you are dealing with advisers to President Trump who are trying to basically contain his own reactions to a situation at hand, and I think that they have a dual hand to play there.
CAMEROTA: David, it also did not play great in Pyongyang. Kim Jong- un then issued his own statement in reaction to President Trump's statement. So here's what Kim Jong-un said: "He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire rather than a politician. I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command of the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying North Korea. Whatever Trump might have expected he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire."
That's colorful. That's always sort of interesting. But I mean, so you -- is there any -- are there any repercussions from the escalating rhetoric?
SANGER: Well, it is colorful. I saw last night that "dotard" was among the most searched terms last night. I confess I had to go back and refresh my memory, as well.
CUOMO: You usually use it as "dotaring." Like, this guy -- the old one, the person, an old person, boss...
CAMEROTA: That's doddering, isn't it?
CUOMO: A doddering idiot, you know? But now it's back. It is back.
CAMEROTA: Doddering. I thought it was dotard. But again, this is -- he's confused us this morning.
SANGER: That's right. So a few things about this. First, this is exactly where Kim Jong-un wants to be. He wants to be right on par with the president of the United States.
I mean, imagine this. The guy is running a tiny, starving country of 25 million people who we would never think about except on World Food Day if it was not for the fact that they have nuclear weapons.
So he sees the nuclear weapons as the one thing that has cast him in the midst of the world stage and preserves his regime. And here he is, doing a one-on-one, and we're sitting here talking about him in that regard.
So he considers this to be a bit of a success. The concern here is that you have many paths by which this escalation of rhetoric could actually escalate out in the real world. And that's why the atmospheric test, I think, would be a significant issue, because it would -- it would raise very high the question of whether the U.S. should try to take out a North Korean missile, if this all was coming -- was being prepared for launch. And that's how you get on the pathway to a larger conflict.
So I think we actually are at one of the most worrying moments since the 1994 North Korea crisis, which was the closest the two countries have come to the resumption of the Korean War.
CUOMO: Look, we always say nothing comes out of this battle. But now we know that "dotard" and "doddering" are two different words.
HABERMAN: Something good.
CUOMO: Now we know. There's progress.
CAMEROTA: You're right.
Dave and Maggie, thank you both very much.
All right. Now to health care. It's the last chance for Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare. Can they get enough votes in the Senate to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill? We discuss that, next.