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Buses Evacuating from Areas Near Failing Puerto Rican Dam; Survivors of Mexico Quake Share Stories; North Korea Tensions; Trump Rallies His Base; Angela Merkel Runs for a Fourth Term. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired September 23, 2017 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president blasts Senator John McCain after the lawmaker says he can't support the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Name-calling and nuclear threats: U.S. President Trump continues his "rocket man" rhetoric while North Korea threatens to test a hydrogen bomb.

HOWELL (voice-over): And the warnings to people: get out. Now That is the word to thousands in northwest Puerto Rico as a nearby dam threatens to fail.

ALLEN (voice-over): It's all ahead here. Thank you for joining us and welcome to or viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell. 4:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. NEWSROOM starts right.


ALLEN: U.S. President Donald Trump had harsh words for a fellow Republican on Friday. This after John McCain said he would not support the party's latest effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

HOWELL: McCain's opposition puts the bill in jeopardy, keep in mind this is not the first time Senator McCain has bucked the White House. McCain cast a deciding no vote back in July on the so-called skinny repeal of Barack Obama's health care law, as Kaitlan Collins has this report on it.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we saw the president actually take several swipes at Senator John McCain during that rally in Huntsville, Alabama. We were expecting that after McCain came out and announced that he would not support the Graham-Cassidy that one more effort by Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. John McCain has been hesitant about that all week, saying that he

wanted to go through regular order and not go through this rushed process. But the president said that he was not expecting John McCain to be a no on this.

He said he had a list of potential nos and John McCain was not on it. Listen to what he said.

TRUMP: They gave me a list of 10 people that were absolute nos. These are 10 Republican senators. Now John McCain's -- John McCain's list -- John McCain was not on the list. So that was a totally unexpected thing, terrible.

Honestly, terrible. Repeal and replace because John McCain, you look at his campaign, his last campaign, was all about repeal and replace, repeal and replace. So he decided to do something different. And that is fine. And I say we still have a chance to -- oh, we're going to do it eventually.

COLLINS: Despite John McCain saying he's a no on Graham-Cassidy, the president still sounded hopeful during that rally that they can get something done with health care. But as one administration official put it, after John McCain came out as a no, this undeniably hurts their effort.

Now another target of the president's ire during this rally was North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un-un. They have been trading barbs all week, starting with the president's combative speech at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

But listen to what he had to say about him in Huntsville.

TRUMP: And we can have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place.


TRUMP: And by the way, rocket man should have been handled a long time ago.


TRUMP: He shouldn't be handled. But I am going to handle it because we have to handle it.

COLLINS: Now those fiery comments come just shortly after the president authorized new economic sanctions on North Korea and after he spent the week at the United Nations, rallying the international community to confront North Korea -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN.


HOWELL: Kaitlan, thanks for the reporting. Let's get some context now with Leslie Vinjamuri. Leslie is a senior lecturer in international relations at SOAS University of London, live for us in our London bureau this hour. Good to have you with us. Let us start with health care; the

president's comments about John McCain effectively.

Was he covering his own bases here, trying to excuse another failed attempt to dismantle ObamaCare?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: I think it was not clear which way, Senator McCain was going to go on this, despite his earlier and very significant no vote.

But if you listen to what he said, I think is exactly right. Senator McCain wants us to be bipartisan. He has wanted more hearings and discussion of this, something that is going to affect all Americans. Remember that 56 percent of Americans, if we look at the recent polls, support the Affordable Care Act. The support for the Affordable Care Act has actually gone up since the president has been elected.

But I think that Senator McCain has also wanted to wait and see what the Congressional Budget Office is going to say about this most recent proposal and they've said so far that they can't give a full estimate of what it will do in terms of the cost to Americans, in terms of the coverage and how it will affect, you know, how comprehensive coverage will be.

And so I think he has just made a very astute call that this is not the time to move forward with this. But I do think that President Trump was surprised and I think probably a number of people were not sure which way Senator McCain was going to go.

HOWELL: And the personal comment that he made there on stage about Senator McCain, would you say that it was a lighter attack than we see typically with President Trump, given the cancer diagnosis also?

VINJAMURI: Well, even given that diagnosis there have been times when Trump has taken a very difficult line. It was a lighter touch than we've seen in the past. And it might be in part because, remember, he has not decided not to push forward. There is still a question mark about whether they will try to take this to a vote under the reconciliation process, which, again, allows them to pass it with a simple majority in the Senate.

So he might be sort of waiting to see, playing politics, trying to still think that he might get a few of those senators that are iffys -- Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in Alaska -- on board.

But I think it is not looking good for repeal and replace under the current legislation right. Now

HOWELL: Quickly, Leslie, here, another personal attack coming from President Trump on the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, calling him "little rocket man."

The question here, how does that play into the delicate nature of diplomacy if diplomacy, in fact will be the solution forward, these personal attacks? VINJAMURI: Yes, the rhetoric that is flying back and forth between

the President of the United States and the leader in North Korea is very inflammatory. It is very dangerous in a very difficult situation.

It makes it very difficult to walk back and to try and restore some sort of diplomacy around this, that could eventually lead to talks. Now we have a very inflammatory situation between the leaders of these two countries. And I think that those people around the president are dismayed that did not respect -- if you look at the -- President Trump's response -- his remarks before the United Nations, a lot of that language we're learning now was not in the text.

And so I think those people around him are probably dismayed. But it is a very difficult situation. It is very unpredictable. There's not been -- there haven't been talks for several years.

And so the risks for miscalculation, for things going wrong, not because anybody intends them to, are high and this makes it much worse.

HOWELL: Leslie, also want to talk about Iran. The president mentioned that nation in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Iran, however, today showing that they now have a new ballistic missile, a test that state media says was successful, that it can carry multiple warheads.

This missile they say could possibly reach Saudi Arabia or Israel. Here is what the president had to say about Iran at the U.N. General Assembly. We can talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP: We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles. And we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.


HOWELL: OK. But important to point out the context, missiles and the nuclear deal. These are mutually exclusive items.

But the question here, the president pointing out, if Iran continues with its missile program, as we saw with this test, does it give President Trump room now to somehow suggest that the deal, the nuclear deal, is ineffective, that it is not working?

VINJAMURI: Well, the president has continued to suggest that Iran is not in compliance with the spirit of the deal. Remember that as Iran has been determined to be in compliance with the terms of the deal by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has been -- time and again, it has been seen to be in compliance as there is not a broader question about this.

Nonetheless, the president continues to attack Iran. And you are right to say the missiles are outside of that agreement. The agreement is broadly seen, certainly in Europe, to be the best possible alternative.

If the United States walked away from that agreement and failed to, in the future. extend sanctions relief -- which, remember, it did do last week, which is very significant -- I think that would be very detrimental.

But there is not -- there is not the prospect right now for renegotiating the deal as the president has wanted to do. The Europeans are very unlikely to do that. And if you look at the missiles, Iran continues to say that this is a part of its defensive -- this is the development of these that it is pursuing for defensive purposes.

And so it is very complicated but, of course, that president's rhetoric is potentially dangerous to the future of that deal.

HOWELL: Leslie Vinjamuri, we always appreciate having you here on the show. Thank you for your time.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

ALLEN: We turn to Puerto Rico. Now the U.S. Commonwealth has been utterly ravaged by Hurricane Maria.

HOWELL: Here is the thing. The danger is not over yet, authorities now urging thousands of people to leave that area around the dam, that area in imminent danger of the dam failing and a failure, that would send water cascading into low-lying coastal neighborhoods. The dam is in the northwestern part of the island. That is an area that has been severely battered by Maria's rains and flooding.

You can get a sense of the destruction there from this drone footage.

ALLEN: CNN has reporters across the Caribbean. Our Nick Valencia is in San Juan. He has more on what is happening with that dam.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an extremely dangerous situation for the island residents as if Puerto Rico has not been through enough already. They now have to deal with the potential of a failed dam in the northwest part of this territory. It is being reported that local engineers found a crack in the Guajataca Dam and they're now using buses to evacuate nearly 70,000 residents in two townships, using those buses to evacuate people that cannot evacuate themselves.

As severe weather also continues to be an issue here days after Hurricane Maria made landfall, it was earlier that this community in San Juan was pounded with heavy rain, lightning and thunder, making problems even more difficult for roads and passageways that are already inundated with water.

If that wasn't enough, it's been catastrophic damage here to the infrastructure; gas stations underwater, people without water, people being unable to communicate with loved ones back home.

And the ominous warning from local officials here is that modern life may cease to exist for months. The San Juan mayor tells CNN that she is telling her residents to expect to be without electricity, perhaps up to six months -- Nick Valencia, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


HOWELL: Nick, thanks for the reporting.

Now to the U.S. Virgin islands, the island of St. Croix one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Maria.

ALLEN: Help is starting to arrive but the island is still without power. Nick Paton Walsh is on St. Croix.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: A remote world of daydreams and Caribbean sand, St. Croix suffering silence so far. U.S. aid efforts is only just reaching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remain on this frequency.

WALSH: That is FEMA flying over St. Croix today (INAUDIBLE) making their assessment. We just flown in from the east, where damage looks less heavy than out west, which appears to have borne the brunt of Hurricane Maria.

WALSH (voice-over): From beach resort to ghost town in a matter of hours, a curfew emptying the streets, the exact time. This world changed caught by the clock's broken hands. But at noon, they and their anger at nature and the government they think is underplaying their suffering emerges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're like everything is OK. Everything is not OK over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There ain't no aid, it ain't nothing on right about. Everybody got strength to survive.

WALSH: Just two days ago, this was paradise but now everyone here is just trying to take stock of exactly what this new world means for their daily lives. When will power come back?

When can they reopen their business?

And when will they realize again they haven't got to worry about what they have to eat?

WALSH (voice-over): Already, the search for food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the worst that was when the rain started coming in and the winds were still howling and just (INAUDIBLE) outside and not knowing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been curfewed in.

WALSH: Jamey (ph) and Brandon went to the nearby island of St. Thomas to help after Hurricane Irma, yet had their house torn apart by Maria. They drive us around their devastated world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told everybody to let the horses go before the storms.

WALSH (voice-over): This is not a world prepared for disaster. The Lost Dog Bar is lost for. No electricity means no ice, means no business. And there are bees in the refrigerator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first day after the hurricane, dodging telephone poles and trees trying to get here and took the generator and what we could and they wouldn't let us come out here yesterday.

So we were just hoping that there was not any looters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We survived, man. We're trying to make the best of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me the song.


"I'm still standing."



WALSH (voice-over): Life was easy; about vacations here, that's gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We went to Plaza Extra, the big grocery store on the west end and the line is all the way out to the road. They're letting people in one at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to look like this for months and months with no power.

How are we even going to be luring tourists down here so we can make a buck so we can buy food, buy gas? I mean, what the hell are we going to do?

WALSH (voice-over): The west, furrick (ph) start here, took the full force of Maria being remote has been their livelihood for tourism but it's now their curse. We fly over huge lines for emergency food. But when we land later, it is all gone; 500 fed but many still searching.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a soldier and I deal with it.

WALSH (voice-over): Later, we see two huge C-17 cargo planes land at the airport, where the U.S. Marines are moving in, as yet limited access to the west. Help is coming but the future remains bleak and the past a much more comfortable place -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, St. Croix, the United States.


ALLEN: It's just island after island after island, all the same things we're hearing. So let's get the latest on the strength and position of the hurricane because Maria is still traveling on.


HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, incredible stories from two Mexico earthquake survivors rescued from a building that collapsed. Stay with us.




ALLEN: We've been talking about the Caribbean disaster; of course, there is the Mexico disaster and officials there say the search for possible survivors of Tuesday's quake could last two more weeks.

HOWELL: That's right. The rescue crews there, they have been working around the clock to pull people out of damaged buildings, to find people in rubble. At least 298 people died after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico.

Among those miraculously pulled from the wreckage of a building in Mexico City are Martin Mendez and Diana Pacheco.

ALLEN: They were trapped for 17 hours and they share their incredible story of survival. Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 1:14 Tuesday afternoon, Martin Mendez, a locksmith, was replacing broken locks in an accounting office on the fourth floor of this building. At Othero Obregon 286 (ph), when the world around him started to rumble.

LAVANDERA: When the earthquake struck, what did you year?

(Speaking Spanish). MARTIN MENDEZ, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): The building moved back and forth two or three times. Then it started jumping up and down like a horse.

LAVANDERA: When the shaking stopped, Martin found himself trapped with three women he'd never met before who worked in the office he was visiting.

Could you move?

(Speaking Spanish).

LAVANDERA: He said he could only move like a worm. He said they started getting very nervous because they were running out of air. He thought they were going to suffocate.

What came next would test every shred of perseverance they could muster.

Diana Pacheco says they had no time to react and could hear the floors above crashing down.

What was it like when the earthquake struck?

DIANA PACHECO, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): It all happened so fast, we didn't have time to get out. In five or six seconds, the building collapsed.

LAVANDERA: Diana says she reached for her phone and started sending these text messages to her husband.

Love, the roof has fallen. We're trapped. I love you. I love you so much. We're on the fourth floor near the emergency exit. There are four of us.

And then you can see a series of phone calls that wouldn't connect.

That was enough to alert rescue workers that there were indeed people still alive inside this building, but the rescuers couldn't hear them.

Diana says the sounds were horrible. She recorded this incredible video of the space where she was trapped. Massive sheets of concrete around them, they used cell phone lights to see the dust billowing around them. There was no escape, no way out.

Martin and Diana and the two others talked to each other, soothing each other's fears, waiting for rescue workers to reach them. Martin's leg was broken. He sat there in excruciating pain.

What was going through your mind?

MENDEZ (through translator): I was talking to God and hoping that the rescuers would hear us.

LAVANDERA: As we talked, Martin opens his phone and shares with us a picture he took of himself while he was trapped. He hadn't seen it. The emotions overwhelm him.

I imagine that you believed there's no way you were getting out alive?

MENDEZ (through translator): Yes, I did. I always believed I was going to get out alive.

LAVANDERA: Finally, after 17 hours, rescue workers pulled all four of them out alive.

All these scratches came when he was pulled out.

Diana Pacheco and Martin Mendez are now recovering in the same hospital on the same floor but haven't been able to see each other since they were rescued. They were brought together in an unexpected moment of horror and survived.

And I teach him a phrase in English that he and his friends can share.

We made it. We made it. In English, we say, we made it.

MENDEZ: We made it.

LAVANDERA: We made it -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Mexico City.


HOWELL: They made it.

ALLEN: That's a nice sentence in English for him to learn, isn't it?

HOWELL: Absolutely.

ALLEN: He definitely made it, hung in there.

Coming up here, President Trump's war of words with North Korea, well, he's not letting up. We're live in Asia for you just ahead.

HOWELL: Plus roads piled with trees, no running water, low food supplies. We have an exclusive report from the storm-ravaged island of Dominica. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is always good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories right now.


ALLEN: The United States is also trying to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program as you know. It says it is stepping up efforts to punish people and companies doing business with Pyongyang.

And U.S. President Trump is renewing his insults against North Korea's leader.

HOWELL: The insults continue. He recently called Kim Jong-un "rocket man" at the U.N. this week and on Friday he called him "little rocket man." Here is more on what Mr. Trump had to say at a campaign rally in Alabama.


TRUMP: This should have been handled eight years ago and four years ago and honestly -- and 15 years ago and 20 years ago and 25 years ago. This should not be handled now but I am going to handle it, because we have to handle it.

Little rocket man, we're going to do it because we really have no choice.


HOWELL: Mr. Trump taking these geopolitical crises, making them more mano a mano, very personal attacks there. These insults though have not appeared to deter North Korea, let alone its nuclear ambitions. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: North Korea already is getting ready for its next missile launch, according to administration officials, possibly a missile that could hit the U.S.

Kim Jong-un-un now threatening the highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history following President Trump's speech at the U.N. North Korea's foreign minister suggesting the regime may launch potential devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think this could probably mean the strongest ever hydrogen bomb test on or above the Pacific Ocean.

STARR (voice-over): Detonating a hydrogen bomb above ground could change everything.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What you are looking at is from a radioactive standpoint is large areas of East Asia, the Western Pacific, all the way potentially to the West Coast of the United States being blanketed by radiation.

STARR (voice-over): The U.S. intelligence community will now watch for very particular signs.

LEIGHTON: So what they could potentially see is special work being done on the muscle itself. They could see certain things being moved around that would potentially indicate that a warhead of a particular variety was being put inside the missile. Kim matching Trump on the battle of words.

"I will shortly and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire."

President Trump responding, "Kim Jong-un-un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman, who does not mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before."

All after a doomsday warning from president Trump at the U.N. that if the U.S. is forced to defend itself or its allies...

TRUMP: We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

STARR (voice-over): The head of the U.S. Strategic Command, who would help lead any attack on North Korea, making the case for U.S. firepower as a deterrent to Kim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're right there; we're watching all the time. And if you want to go that way, we're ready. So we can deter an attack on North America or our allies.


ALLEN: Let's get more now from the region. Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Tokyo for us and he is live.

And certainly, Ben, this cannot be good news or anything that is helping to settle down Japan and others in the region, when this talk back and forth between these leaders just continues to heat up.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The situation, Natalie, was tense enough following the three September nuclear tests by North Korea. It's six so far and twice in the last month North Korea has fired ballistic missiles over Japanese territory.

So tensions were high enough as it is. But the use of this language by both President Trump and Kim Jong-un definitely makes things worse and certainly what we are seeing is that this tension is really beginning to get on edge.

We heard, for instance, yesterday, the North Korean foreign minister in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly, saying that North Korea might, for instance, detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.

And of course, here in Japan, the concern is that that hydrogen bomb would be flown over Japan. And certainly this is a country that's had a very bad experience with nuclear weapons in the past and certainly does not want to see more nuclear weapons flying over its territory -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Right, many areas of the world concerned about ISIS and terrorism and all of a sudden it is a hydrogen bomb we're talking about. That is just unbelievable. And now we also have Iran testing a ballistic missile, Ben. And you've covered Iran and that region for so long. Interestingly,

these are the two countries, North Korea and Iran, that President Trump completely lashed out against at the UNGA.

WEDEMAN: Yes, and it is important to stress that missile test by Iran, the missile's called the Khorramshahr. It has a range of 2,000 kilometers, 1,250 miles, with the possibility of multiple warheads.

But that is not covered by the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. That focused strictly on nuclear issues.

And even American officials concede that, even though President Trump says it was the worst deal the United States ever made, U.S. officials concede that Iran, as far as the spirit and the letter of the agreement is still holding to it.

Iran insisted its nuclear -- its rocket program, its missile program is completely separate from that. We have heard Iranian officials stress that the missiles are strictly defensive in nature. But certainly this -- we heard President Trump have harsh words for Iran as well as North Korea as well as Venezuela in his U.N. address.

And so we have multiple fronts now. That Iran was actually -- the situation was calming down in terms of tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Well, no longer the case -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, that is quite obvious. Thank you, Ben Wedeman for us there in Tokyo.

HOWELL: So the Russia investigation into possible meddling in the U.S. election, those continue, several investigations. Russia's foreign minister, though, again pushing back against the idea that his government interfered in the election in 2016 at the United Nations.

Sergey Lavrov told reporters that he has yet to see any evidence to back up such claims. Listen.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Once again in about a year of this chaos about the so-called interference of Russia into the elections, we have never heard a single fact.

When I asked Rex Tillerson how can we confirm his words that the interference of Russia into American process is well documented, he said, I cannot show you anything because this is confidential information.


ALLEN: Well, President Trump was even more forceful and ridiculing the notion that Russia did help him get elected. Here is what he said Friday while presumably campaigning for a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama.


TRUMP: And by the way, folks, just in case you, like curious, no, Russia did not help me, OK. Russia. I call it the Russian hoax. One of the great hoaxes.


ALLEN: His son did meet with some Russians there at Trump Tower during the campaign, we learned that. This isn't the last word on the matter as well. It may be up to special counsel Robert Mueller and multiple congressional investigations, all of which are looking into these issues.

HOWELL: Investigations we continue to follow.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, a Mexican family's joyous celebration of a baby girl turns tragic.

ALLEN: Just one of many stories emerging from the earthquake. We'll have more ahead right after this.



ALLEN: You can see a little bit from that map there, Hurricane Maria is edging away from the Bahamas and it kind of just barely touched on the Turks and Caicos. Thank goodness but, of course, the Caribbean, so many islands, still just bewildered by what's happened to their islands and their lives.

HOWELL: Yes, so much devastation there. In northwestern Puerto Rico, tens of thousands of people are being evacuated because a dam there could collapse at any moment. This was damage of course by Hurricane Maria's floodwaters.

ALLEN: CNN has reporters throughout the Caribbean. Michael Holmes is in Dominica for us and he has this exclusive report.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The drive between Dominica's capital, Roseau, and the coastal village of Point Michel usually takes no more than 10 minutes. After Hurricane Maria, getting between the two is to embark on an odyssey of hurricane carnage on foot.

We have been told Point Michel was among the most badly hit areas of Dominica and more people died in this community than any other. More than a dozen confirmed dead, many others missing.

The foot traffic is constant, mostly out of Point Michel. Food is running low and people head to the capital to find what they can. We meet Germaine Fontaine (ph) on the way, leaving home because she no longer has one.

GERMAINE FONTAINE (PH), DOMINICA RESIDENT: Home is where we are OK. Your home is where we are OK. We have life. But the entire home is gone. Everything, every single thing I had in my house is gone.

HOLMES (voice-over): The closer you get to Point Michel, the more apocalyptic the scenes become. It is an assault on the senses. Here, a massive tree shoved into a house and blocking the way.

During the storm, ravines and waterways became furious torrents, obliterating everything in their path.

There is no running water on Dominica. These waterways are now the only way to bathe or wash clothes.

The scale of this is just impossible to get your head around. This was the main road. To Point Michel from the capital and just look at it. Along a main section of the road to Point Michel, the trees begin. Thousands of them stripped even of their bark by Maria. piled high onto the road until they become the road.

You don't walk to Point Michel; you climb and clamber.

These are what is left of the once glorious (ph) rain forests, giants that stood perhaps for centuries thrown like matchsticks across the shoreline. The rain forests now just a memory.

Once at Point Michel, we hear the stories of those who survived, like Miranda John (ph).

MIRANDA JOHN (PH), DOMINICA RESIDENT: When I came back and I saw inside there, I just break down. Everything gone. This here was right inside there.

HOLMES (voice-over): As we venture further into the community, we find Selma Francis (ph), who insisted her mother leave her home next door to be with the family as Maria bore down. This is what remains of her mother's house.

These are stories repeated throughout the village. We met Joan Frampton (ph) further along the road; born and raised in Point Michel, still stunned at the ferocity of what she and her family lived through.

JOAN FRAMPTON (PH), DOMINICA RESIDENT: I was so scared, scared because first time I ever experienced a thing like that. I saw Hurricane David. I saw many other hurricanes, not like this one, like it was nonstop. It did not want to stop. It came with a vengeance and it just come out not to play but to destroy.

HOLMES (voice-over): And destroy Maria did. Three houses vanished from this part of the village; 13 people are still missing but two bodies were found, including a 10-year-old boy. They lie in Point Michel's tiny cemetery, the freshly turned earth and a hastily constructed cross marking just two of the victims of Hurricane Maria -- Michael Holmes, CNN, Point Michel, Dominica.


HOWELL: So much devastation to talk about there. Michael, thank you for the report.

Moving on now to Mexico, nearly 300 people confirmed dead from Tuesday's 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

ALLEN: At least 12 people were killed when this church collapsed in Puebla State. They were attending a baptism of a baby girl when the quake hit. Some survivors spoke with CNN's Ivan Watson.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A community in mourning, crosses on the street to honor victims of the deadly earthquake that shook the village of Atzala on Tuesday. It was not supposed to be this way.

That morning locals gathered at this church in the center of the village to attend the baptism of a 3-month-old girl named Elideth Torres de Leon.


WATSON: This is a video of the 277-year-old Santiago Apostol church filmed in happier times; it was the beating heart of this community.

But that all changed in instant when the earth began to shake on Tuesday.

Sergio Montiel Tello, a church employee, was assisting with the baptismal ceremony when the earthquake struck.

SERGIO MONTIEL TELLO, SANTIAGO APOSTOL CHURCH EMPLOYEE (through translator): It was almost instantaneous.

When it started shaking, pieces of the ceilings started to fall. Everything went dark. I shut my eyes.

When I opened them, everything was covered with dust. I saw a little girl about 4 years old whimpering; unfortunately, she was under the debris.

WATSON: Tello survived but 12 other people in the church were far less fortunate.

A day after the baptism the village of Atzala held a funeral.

This is what is so tragic and incomprehensible about a natural disaster.

What should have been the celebration of a new life instead resulted in the death of an innocent family.

Among those who perished in the church, most of Graciano Villanueva Perez family.


WATSON: He lists the victims...


WATSON: -- his wife, two daughters, his son-in-law and two grandchildren.

Also killed of the church, the 3-month-old baby, Elideth; her older sister and their mother.

Deep in mourning, Perez turns philosophical to explain the loss.

PEREZ (through translator): God, he can take everything away, for example when it rains hard, the road floods and the water sweeps everything down the river.

WATSON: Like the flood, most of Perez family has suddenly been swept away, leaving him one daughter to hold on to -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Atzala, Mexico.




ALLEN: Saturday is the last day for campaigning in Germany's national elections before voters go to the polls Sunday.

HOWELL: The German chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to win a fourth term in office. Our Atika Shubert follows the story live in Berlin this hour.

Atika, Angela Merkel, known for her pragmatic style, that has been her biggest positive for many people. But she took a great deal of heat for her decision to allow thousands of migrants into Germany.

How did she effectively weather that storm of criticism to now be sailing toward another term?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really interesting. I mean this is a vote that could, at the same time, see her reconfirmed in her mandate to govern. She is seeking a fourth term, another four years in office. That would make her one of the longest-serving chancellors in Germany.

And right now she is far ahead in the polls with her Christian Democrats Party. At the same time, however, the AFD, Alternative for Germany Party, the first far right party that looks to enter parliament since World War II, is now pulling in third place.

So what we could see here is a vote that at the same time says, yes, we want Chancellor Merkel to continue but also a protest vote against her refugee policy.

So we have a very interesting setup here. Now it is hard to know exactly; the polls are always shifting but one of the key factors will be voter turnout, especially on the issue of, as you point out, refugees, whether or not people feel motivated enough to come out and actually vote and have a say.

AFD voters are very motivated against her refugee policy. The question is whether her supporters are equally motivated to come out and vote as well.

HOWELL: The decision that will have implications on the world stage. Atika Shubert live for us in Berlin. Thank you for the report today.

ALLEN: That's our news for this hour. There is much more ahead. But thank you for watching. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues here on CNN right after this break.