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Cruise Ships Help Evacuees; Logistics Hold up Relief Supplies; Puerto Rico's Health Crisis; General Appointed to Lead Relief Efforts; New Baghdadi Tape. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: -- to people who need them. CNN has crews dispersed across the island in some of the worst hit areas and where people are trying to get out and where supplies are trying to get in.

So with me right now, Boris Sanchez and Leyla Santiago.

So, Leyla, let me just begin with you.

You know, thousands of Puerto Ricans are trying to get out. You're at the dock where people are lining up to board cruise ships. Do they expect all those people there are getting out today and how are they triaging the situation?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, so let me walk you through because, you're right, typically in this area I see tourists. And these are mostly Puerto Ricans trying to get on to this ship. As you can see right behind me, this is one line. This is a line for people that they are classifying as special needs. Directly behind them, there is another line. That is a line for people with children. And then this line extends to much further down the block where there are thousands of people trying to get on the ship right behind me.

Now, as I was talking to some of the organizers here, they told me that if they were registered, they would get on the ship today. When I asked when the ship leaves, they told me as soon as it is at capacity.

But still, Brooke, you have a lot of people here who are showing up hopeful when they see these lines at trying to get on and they will not be able to. I saw one man, Brooke, lift his shirt to show the scar from his operation so that he could maybe get in and he was depended because he had not been registered.

Now, I want to introduce you to Luce (ph). Her family is in line and she is sitting over here to relax because she has a special medical condition, a blood condition, is that correct, Luce?


SANTIAGO: What is it like to have to be in this line to get off your home island?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because in my house, I can't live in my house right now because I have growing (ph) all the water in my house. SANTIAGO: There's water in it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm (INAUDIBLE) -- I don't -- I can't live in my house.

SANTIAGO: You can't live in your house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With a condition. And I have my daughter and two sons. And Claudia (ph), Claudia Diaz (ph), she told me to leave, that I can take the ship. And --

SANTIAGO: So someone here has already told her --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) condition for my -- my condition. I have to take care of my blood condition.

SANTIAGO: Yes, you do. Yes.


SANTIAGO: So what does it feel like to be here? This is your home island. This is where you've lived for your life?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I live in this -- in the island all my -- all my life. But in the conditions, I can't stay here on the island.

SANTIAGO: So where will you go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I go to Florida with my -- my daughter. I have -- I have a daughter and two sons in Florida.

SANTIAGO: How long have you been here today trying to get on the ship?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About three hours.

SANTIAGO: Three hours. Three hours. All right. Well, we are thinking of you and I hope you do well in Florida.


SANTIAGO: Luce is one of thousands, Brooke, thousands with some sort of condition trying to get on this very ship. That is the sign of hope for the people here.

Now, I will say, we also saw some supplies leaving this part. We just watched as about a dozen generators were escorted. U.S. Customs escorting those supplies, leaving this part of the island. You can see right behind that they are -- I mean they are escorting either people or supplies on buses coming out of this part of the port.

But you're right, the frustration is that on the other side of the port, there are the supplies, stuck, unable to move because, according to the government, they don't have the drivers. Although I talked to several commercial drivers who didn't even have any idea that they needed drivers.

So it's not just a matter of transportation. It's a matter of communication that makes all of this a logistical nightmare.

Meanwhile, half the island remains without any relief. No hurricane relief. The government saying 35 municipalities. And that sounds like a lot. But when you're on an island of 78 municipalities, that's not even half. Not even half of these U.S. citizens have the relief aid that they need from FEMA right now.


BALDWIN: It's insane. It's insane.

I'm going to talk to Boris in a second about dispersing some of those -- the aid and the cargo -- the shipping containers.

But back to you. You know, the line and the people are trying or thinking they're going to try to get on these cruise ships. Who's in charge of that whole process, Leyla?

SANTIAGO: Right. So what we have seen here is we've seen some volunteers, actually quite a lot of volunteers, that are going person to person handing out water, checking on I.D.s to make sure they're registered. I've seen some people from Royal Caribbean, that is -- the ship belongs to Royal Caribbean. And then I've seen a lot of law enforcement in the area. So it seems like there's a coordinated effort at the entrance. But it -- I haven't seen one main force here in control.

[14:05:06] Now, to be fair, I have been walking around talking to the people. But it's actually been surprising how many volunteers are actually helping out here. And that's -- that's a good thing.

BALDWIN: No, I'm just trying to understand who's calling -- who's calling the shots, or not, depending on the case.

Leyla, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: And thank Luce for us. We wish her and all these people well. But it just feels like they just need so much more help.

Boris, you're at the port of San Juan, where the supplies are, you know, stuck. We heard Leyla mention at least some generators are en route to people in need. But what are the logistical issues that are holding this up?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a serious bottleneck right now, Brooke, when it comes to delivering these supplies to where they need to go. We did get a faint glimmer of hope, though. There's a barge not far from where I'm standing right now that is full. Hundreds and hundreds of these shipping containers with supplies are on there. And until recently they haven't been able to unload them off of there because here at the port, where there are thousands of others, about 10,000 shipping containers, there simply wasn't room for them.

In the past hour or so, we've started to see shipping containers coming off of that barge. We're seeing movement here at the port. And that is a good sign because as you're heard, there is desperate need and not enough resources out there to help those who need it most.

I want to bring in Jose Iala (ph). He is the vice president of operations for Puerto Rico for Crowley, who is managing these shipping containers.

Jose, thank you so much for joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

SANCHEZ: For folks that are watching at home, can you please explain to them why this is so difficult. When supplies are here, why are they not getting where they need to go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, basically everything relies on the lack of distribution. Right now with the hit of Hurricane Maria, the entire distribution supply chain has been interrupted. And basically it's a matter of how we can move the goods from the ports to the final destinations, meaning the shelves and the tables of the people of Puerto Rico.

We have definitely done our part. Crowley, a (INAUDIBLE) company, has done everything in its hands to support the people of Puerto Rico. We have delivered. Same thing the people of Puerto Rico. We have come together as one and we have gone way above and beyond of our responsibilities.

And I also have to stress the importance that FEMA, the ones that are here, FEMA have done an extraordinary job as well where they have been delivering cargo since the first day we opened the bay here in San Juan.

SANCHEZ: So there are several layers of issues that are keeping these shipping containers here. There are truckers that need gasoline to get to work. Then their trucks need fuel. There's a shortage of cash, so people may not even have money to go pay for gas, to get in line to pay for gas. Help us understand how we can unravel those layers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, first, the worker that for some reason lost his whole belongings. And then you have the one that is struggling to get to his workplace. And if he gets to his workplace, God's know if the workplace has been entirely damage, like a warehouse, the offices, the retailers, all the commercial.

Then if you get to your workplace and, as an example, you have a truck driver, then you have the need of diesel. Do you have fuel to get to move around from your house to your work? Do you have fuel or diesel to move the truck from the shop to the terminal and around the island to make sure that we restore the supply chain on the island?

We also have to add communications, electricity, debris on the roads. We have been totally devastated. There's a lot of work to do here.

SANCHEZ: Jose, one last question for you. You're a Puerto Rican. (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE). How does it make you feel knowing that there are people out there that are very desperate and that the help is already here but it can't get to them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's frustrating. It's sad. It's devastating. Knowing that there's over 9,500 containers in the port of Puerto Rico and because of the interruption from the terminal to its final destination, those people can't get a hold of water, of medicine right now. Refrigerated cargo amongst other, especially in the commercial side of the business.

And to tell you the truth, we really need hands on. I mean now -- right now it's a matter of additional resources. We need additional resources to restore the power to clean the debris to restore the water on the island and to do everything else related to the recovery efforts.

SANCHEZ: Jose Iala, we thank you so much for the time. We appreciate it. Hopefully you get that relief.

Brooke, I'll send it right back to you.

BALDWIN: Well, the chain, it's all interconnected. I mean they need the gas to get the, you know, the trucks rolling. You know, they need the warm bodies to drive the trucks. It's -- what a mess it's been.

Boris Sanchez, thank you.

Let's stay in contact with you and make sure that they get these cargo units get to where they need to go.

[14:10:05] He mentioned FEMA. FEMA says only 44 out of 69 hospitals are now operational in Puerto Rico. One doctor warns a medical crisis is, his words, about to explode.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is at one of those hospitals still taking patients, even though fuel is indeed running low.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've been out and about looking at some of these different clinics and I'll tell you a couple of things.

It's very hard to know if a hospital is actually functioning. You can't communicate with these hospitals. So you hear 20 hospitals are up and running, you hear 40 hospitals are up and running. It's chaos as far as actually trying to figure that out. If they are up and running, it becomes a question of, how long are they going to be up and running.

We were at a clinic yesterday, a hospital that basically said they had six hours' worth of fuel. They ended up getting more fuel, but juts -- they didn't know for a long time. They don't know after this fuel runs out if they're going to get more.

We were at a hospital today where clearly a woman needed to be moved from that place, that shelter, because there was no care there. Ambulance shows up to take her, but then the ambulance doesn't have enough gas then to take her from that shelter to a hospital.

So it's kind of like half efforts here. You're getting halfway there, but not actually completing the job. Not actually moving a patient who needs that care that you're describing from point A to point B. So it's really -- there's a lack of coordination here.

And what I think is highly frustrating for the medical professionals who are in the more remote areas, is, look, we keep hearing there's enough medications, enough supplies, water, fuel, on the island. We're not getting it.

People right now are at risk of dying. They're at risk of dying. They can be saved. They can be saved with pretty simple interventions. But they are at risk of dying. And this -- these are not people who are necessarily injured by the hurricane. These are people who are stuck now in these remote places, can't get out, and they are dealing with uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, chronic illness that typically could be well managed, that could turn into a death sentence.

Humanitarian crisis to me means that needless deaths can occur. And there's a real risk of that. So your point about more resources down here, I think is a really, really important one right now at this moment.


BALDWIN: Sanjay, thank you so much.

In the worst of Mother Nature, we often see the best in human nature. The people of Puerto Rico coming together, sharing generator, helping get supplies out to harder hit areas despite their own dwindling supplies of food and water. My next guest is one of those people. Ashley Lopez, born and raised in Puerto Rico. She's currently in Wanabo (ph), one of the worst hit areas. She is there volunteering with FEMA.

And I've got you on the phone, Ashley. So, first, before you talk to me with your FEMA volunteer hat on, can you just tell me what this past week has been like for you personally, how have you been getting power, and what about your access to food and water?

ASHLEY LOPEZ, PUERTO RICAN VOLUNTEERING WITH FEMA (via telephone): Brooke, (INAUDIBLE) almost 95 percent of the island has (INAUDIBLE) has become a problem. Personally, I (INAUDIBLE) --

BALDWIN: Ashley, forgive me, but --

LOPEZ: Whatever it is that I have --

BALDWIN: We're going to try to get a better connection. Obviously everyone understands the circumstances. The fact that you even have juice to get on the phone from Puerto Rico seems like a huge win. We're going to work on getting a better signal with Ashley Lopez there from Puerto Rico. It's important to hear her story and also what she's seeing as a FEMA volunteer. More, meantime, on our breaking news out of Puerto Rico, including the military's role in sorting out -- we talked all of this, you know, logistical issues of this recovering effort. How does the government get the supplies into the hands of those in need? Who the Pentagon just put in charge of trying to tackle this.

And we are moments away from a White House press briefing. We'll take it live.

Back in a moment. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:18:25] BALDWIN: Puerto Rico in crisis mode. Millions waiting for food, water, fuel, all kinds of key necessities. The Pentagon has now appointed a three star general to help sort out the logistics of this whole recovery effort.

So let's go straight to the Pentagon, to our correspondent there, Barbara Starr, who has more on that.

So tell me more about Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan and when does he get there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the understanding, Brooke, we have from the Pentagon is, General Buchanan will arrive in Puerto Rico as soon as later today. This man is a combat veteran, has served in the 82nd Airborne, the 101st. And what does that mean? It means he's someone who has taken command of large operations and knows how to get things done, how to move from point A to point B.

How big is the need? The military has given us just one statistic that will set you back on your heels. One hundred and sixty million meals will be needed over the next 30 days between Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands.

General Buchanan, we are told, is going to focus on the distribution network. When you have need like that, the issue is getting -- it can get on to Puerto Rico, but how do you get it out to these areas that are so devastated. He will oversee air, land and sea operations. He will try to assist FEMA and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico in getting up and running with the airports, with roads, with communications, with medical care.

[14:19:57] The Navy hospital ship "Comfort" with set sail from Norfolk, Virginia, tomorrow, arrive in Puerto Rico, expected at the middle of next week. C-5 large transport military aircraft is bringing in a super large generator to get an air traffic control center up and running again that will allow more aircraft slots, more aircraft to land and take off from Puerto Rico. This is bit by bit logistics and supply. Very detailed work. And the military now really stepping in. They have to do it at the request of FEMA and government of Puerto Rico. They can't just show up and move in.

But this is a real indication once again in a crisis that many times it is the U.S. military that has that constant capability, the through-put of aircraft and ships to try and help and especially in this situation.


BALDWIN: Barbara, thank you.

Also with me, Lieutenant General Russel Honore, who led the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

I mean, general, I think it's wonderful that this general will be, you know, on Puerto Rican soil today. But I'm left wondering, what the heck took so long.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that ought to be the center part of the Senate investigation because something's happened over -- since Katrina with how we were supposed to do that. That command that General Buchanan command, and I congratulate him, he's the right guy, because guess what, that's his only job is to be prepared to respond to disasters in the United States. I'm going to say that one more time, that is his only job. We didn't use him in Harvey because of political B.S. We didn't need him in Irma because General Calhoun maneuvered and the chairman emptied the barn door and even sent an aircraft carrier.

But for some reason, we've spent eight days now to do what we should have done on the second day, and that was to appoint (INAUDIBLE) or Marine (INAUDIBLE). We've got a -- he's got a three star Marine buddy and a Navy buddy, all of them on the east coast, that could have done the same thing.

I don't know why it happened, but we need to find out and make sure next year when hurricane season comes around, all three of those components, including the Air Force, is ready to lead a joint task force in behind a category three or higher storm. We need to fix this. They need to scale up, Brooke.

In Katrina I had 20,000 federal troops, over 200 helicopters and 20 ships to include (INAUDIBLE). What in the hell are they doing? They're talking about partners and business plan. The defense don't operate that. We got defense (INAUDIBLE) logistics. The seven transportation command, the 24 (INAUDIBLE) could have been there Sunday opening that damn port. The Marines and the Navy got port opening authority. The airports could have been there Sunday evening and had the damn airfield open.

We're operating with this partnership B.S. Give the mission to the Department of Defense. That's why we got them. And if a foreign nation had attacked Puerto Rico, we would have had the entire damn Atlantic fleet out there, to include the 82nd Airborne.

Speaking of that, we need to tell the brigade -- the lead brigade at 82nd Airborne, ruck (ph) up, get ready and be on the ground tomorrow morning. That's what needs to happen because they can take coms in, they can leave the ammunition and weapons at home and jump into Puerto Rico and immediately bring thousands and thousands of pounds of goods and services with them, as well as communications to all parts of that's island, dropping battalions and companies in different places, linking up with the National Guard and start getting the services to these people that they need.

They need to get 200 drivers out of Fort -- off the east coast out of seven trans (ph) and get them moving now (INAUDIBLE) into Puerto Rico before night fall so they can get those damn trucks moving off the port.


HONORE: That company can give FEMA the loading dock (INAUDIBLE) truck. All the trucks with water should be moving this even before dark. We can do this. You've got to break the rules. You can't follow the rules and save lives. Every -- we need ten more ships to come pick people in that are ill and want to go visit relatives. And if they pick them up, they don't have to pay nothing. And we're going to figure out how we're going to do payday, Brooke, in two days. No cash system operating on the island.

Sorry about that long (INAUDIBLE).

BALDWIN: I know. I know. I haven't -- I haven't wanted to interrupt you because I hope somebody's listening to you, you know, with all of -- with everything that you're saying. And you know firsthand.

I mean I don't know if you were watching the top of the show, we were talking to Leyla Santiago, who was standing in front of a bunch of people who are standing in line hoping they're getting on cruise ships. And she was telling the story of some guy who had to lift his shirt up to show his surgery -- recent surgery scar so he can get off the island. And according to her they dined him because he hasn't signed the -- put his name on the list.

HONORE: Let me say this one more time real clear so the White House will understand it. We need to do an evacuation. You can call it a voluntary evacuation, but we need to support that. People don't have money. Send ships in. Every airplane should leave full.

[14:25:04] Let the air -- let the air of companies go in with wide body airplanes, pick hundreds of people up, take them to relatives in New York, Chicago, wherever, Miami, and then New Orleans and let them -- find a place where they want to go stay so they can register for FEMA.

We need to get as many of the vulnerable population off as we can. Many of them with family, with their children, take them so they can put them in school. And then the more people we can get off the island, that would help get the infrastructure back up quicker. And those that need medical care, those with asthma, those with requirements that have to go to the hospital two or three times of week because of diabetes and (INAUDIBLE), we've got to fix this and we've got to break the damn rules. There's no reason the airplanes should be leaving there without every seat full because of TSA. The hell with the TSA. Waiver that and do it on the other end.

BALDWIN: Break the damn rules, so say General Honore, and for very good reasons. Sir, please stand by with me. We've got to take a quick break. We're

going to come back. We're going to listen in on this White House press briefing. I can imagine lots and lot of questions will be pointed at the press secretary there, specifically on what we're talking about, this logistical nightmare that has been Puerto Rico, the catastrophe that has been Puerto Rico. What's going on? What's the U.S. doing to help?

We're also getting breaking news involving the leader of ISIS, whose fate has been uncertain for months. Jim Sciutto is standing by for that.

A quick break. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: All right, we are back with breaking news here. This new tape apparently of the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has just been released. CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is with me now.

And, Jim, I know that there had been rumors or thoughts that perhaps he'd been killed. Is it him and what does he say?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.S. intelligence community, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, just moments ago telling us at CNN that, quote, they have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this new audio recording from the ISIS leader, though they caution it is not yet a final assessment. It's a 46 minute recording. It breaks -- it would break if confirmed a ten month silence by al Baghdadi.

And in it you hear a leader here trying to urge on his troops. ISIS fighters who, as you know and we've been reporting for months now, have been under enormous pressure there. Coalition -- U.S.-led coalition air strikes. Loss of territory to Iraqi forces. U.S. backed forces in both Iraq and Syria.

So this you hear the al Baghdadi urging on ISIS fighters to stand up, stand firm, stand strong in the face of this, while at the same time taking some shots at the U.S.

And, Brooke, this is one of the reasons why the U.S. intelligence community believes this may very well be authentic. That's because he makes references to events that have only taken place in the last few weeks.

[14:30:00] For instance, he references North Korean threats to the U.S. and Japan. He references Russian military activity in Syria, the fact that Russia is still in Ukraine in defiance of the west. So all these things, because of that time --