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Tensions High in Planned Independent Vote in Catalonia; O. J. Simpson Leaves Prison on Parole; Trump Ridicules San Juan Mayor Who Pleaded for Aid; Task Force Brings Aid to Remote Puerto Rico Town; Witnessing Two Hurricanes Destroy Caribbean Islands; Aired 4-5a ET

Aired October 1, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen live in Atlanta. And we do begin with breaking news.

Riot police in the Catalonia region of Spain are making sure no resident cast a vote in a hotly debated independence referendum. Clashes broke out in the northern city of Girona. Last hour that is where Catalonia's president was set to vote a short time ago.

Police as you can see there were physically preventing voters from entering the polling station. Police then broke windows and padlocks on a door to get into the building. Once inside the gymnasium, they had to maneuver through tables and vending machines set up by vote supporters to keep police out.

Spain's highest court says the vote is illegal and unconstitutional and vowed to shut it down.

CNN's Isa Soares joins us live from a polling station in Barcelona, and certainly it's quite evident that the police were serious and the government about shutting this down. What is the situation there where you are?

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, I mean, they said all along that it is illegal, it is unconstitutional. The minister of Interior for Spain said this is a sham referendum that is being held by the Catalonian government and that the gymnasium, the images that you were just showing there, Natalie, that is where the president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, expected to vote, he's expected to arrive at 9:30.

But the police we saw in that footage, that's Guardia Civil, that is the police force of some 7,000 according to the Catalonian government. They've been waiting at the Port of Barcelona for orders to move in. After that point, you had the Catalan police here, the Mossos police, who really were just watching and keeping a lot of the calm. They never intervened, but the station here, the polling station where we are, this is a school.

People have been waiting now since 9:00 this morning for those doors to open. Many have been here since even before that, roughly 5:00 this morning in the pouring rain, and they're waiting to get in. We've seen the queue that goes all the way to the back but also snakes right behind us, too, the corner.

As you can see the people are really starting now to hand out chairs so those slightly elderly can actually take a seat and wait. And what we've heard from those inside is the ballot papers are in there, the ballot boxes are inside, but the doors haven't opened and the reason they haven't opened, they tell us, is because the electronic system that basically verifies your identity when you go in to vote, so you say who you are, they take you off the list, that has basically -- it's frozen.

They say the government has basically put a freeze on that. What they're telling us is that other polling stations have been able to work around it and we start the system and they actually came out in the last five minutes and they've told people to stop using their phones as much as they could so that the system could move slightly quicker.

Also in the last five minutes, I don't know if we can play the footage, we saw the Interior minister of Catalonia arriving here to vote and when he arrived he was met by a huge applause. Have a look.

ALLEN: Isa, I'm wondering, before this, did the people there expect that heavy-handedness by the police?

SOARES: Not until probably the last week or so, Natalie, to be completely honest with you. Everyone who we've spoken to has been saying, look, we want this to be a very peaceful show of our democracy. This is our democratic right. Those who are for the referendum, those who are against it, we have seen also in Barcelona, it's important to note, they want to keep a united Spain, to say this is not the way forward for Catalonia.

But the actions of the central government by -- in the last week, so we have seen some 140, 150 Web sites shut down, 14 Catalan government officials arrested. We have also seen thousands upon thousands of ballots apprehended, confiscated by authorities, has actually perhaps shifted some of the momentum to the separatist cause.

Speaking to one gentleman yesterday, who was basically saying to me, look, I've never been pro independence, but given the action by the central government, of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, I now will go out and vote. I'm not voting for independence, but I want to have a say, this is my democratic right.

So perhaps some people may have been influenced by the actions that many here say has been one of heavy-handedness by the government of Mariano Rajoy.

[04:05:07] But it's very important to point out, Natalie, that a poll conducted back in July by the Catalonian government show the roughly 49 percent did not want independence, 41 percent wanted independence, but more importantly, 70 percent wanted to have a say, wanted to vote. Whether those numbers have shifted somewhat given what has happened in the last week, we just do not know, Natalie. ALLEN: And it looks like they're not going to have that day as this

unfolds just here, one hour into what was supposed to be Catalonia's vote today. Looks like it's not happening. We'll continue to follow the breaking news, the fallout, and we know you'll be there for us throughout the next two hours or more.

Isa Soares there in Barcelona, thank you.

We have breaking news this hour out of the United States. The state of Nevada, O.J. Simpson has been released from a Nevada prison. He left a short while ago on parole after serving nine years of a nine to 33-year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery.

The former U.S. football star is best known for a different criminal case. In 1995 he was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in Los Angeles. That was a trial that riveted the United States for many, many months.

For more now on this development, I'm joined live by our Paul Vercammen, he's tracking events from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Paul, what can you tell us about his release?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was done in secret and according to prison officials without incident. They call it clean. They said they had extreme concerns about letting him out, about paparazzi trying to chase his vehicle perhaps, and they said that he was picked up by a friend.

They said prior to that, his paper paperwork, his release paperwork was processed, and he went over the conditions before with a parole officer. They say that he was upbeat and that he was happy, seeming thrilled to get out of prison after the nine years. They also said they went over inventory with him and he took very basic stuff that all inmates have, shower sandals, the hot plate, some clothes, that sort of thing, and he put three or four of these boxes, the size of about a microwave, in a car.

They also took inventory of some things he didn't want to take, prison officials saying they didn't want those things suddenly be found out in the prison yard, but they said it was very calm and very smooth. And they said the reason they had done it this way, because they had indicated they were going to transfer him and there's going to be a long journey, the reason they let him out only eight minutes after he was eligible for parole, by the way, is because they just wanted to ensure the public safety and the safety of any of the officers.

They had long said before the run-up to this, Natalie, that they were fearing that somebody would try to target O.J. to make a part of a -- sort of a name for themselves in prison in the 11th hour and so that's why they guarded him so carefully. And at one point, basically put him off completely alone and by himself, not interacting with any other inmates.

ALLEN: So we are seeing this picture of him walking out, just the few seconds that we see him there, so it -- it happened without incident as you say. Any idea where O.J. Simpson is going? What's next for him? Has he made comments about that?

VERCAMMEN: He has not, but his good friends have. And several friends say that he is going -- he's going from this Lovelock prison in far northern Nevada, in this drab gray countryside, in a tiny cell, and he's going to go into one of the greenest, most affluent enclaves of America, a very, very rich suburb of Las Vegas, and live with a friend in a gated community.

And as you had heard in the run-up to this, and as you heard at his parole hearing, Simpson had said that he wanted to move to Florida and his two youngest children, Justin and Sidney, who he had with Nicole Brown Simpson live in Florida. That was the plan, but none of that paperwork has been processed according to the state of Florida. So it sounds like, and his lawyers said this, the short-term plan will be for Simpson to live in this area in Las Vegas and then eventually move to Florida's west coast in specific.

ALLEN: Paul Vercammen right there covering it for us, thank you so much.

Again, breaking news, O.J. Simpson is out of prison.

Thank you so much, Paul.

Other news we're following, the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico is now in its 11th day and for the vast majority of Americans who call the island home, not much has improved in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

[04:10:04] Each day they get a little more desperate. Many say they feel abandoned by their government. Even the mayor of San Juan is living in a shelter, sleeping on a cot, her family also there, too. But late Friday, when she pleaded to Washington for speedier federal aid, the president of the United States seemed to take it personally.

He tweeted from his golf resort where he is this weekend, from New Jersey, "The mayor of San Juan who was very complimentary only a few days ago has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. Such poor leadership ability by the mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them, when it should be a community effort. 10,000 federal workers now on the island doing a fantastic job."

Our Anderson Cooper asked the mayor for her reaction to the president's criticism.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You woke up this morning to a tweet from the president of the United States. What did you make of what he said?

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: I smiled. I smiled. Really, I have no time for small politics or for comments that really don't add to the situation here. COOPER: The president also said in a tweet earlier this morning that

you had been nice to him early on, but that Democrats told you have to be nasty toward him.

CRUZ: You know, I don't know, maybe he sees women, he doesn't like to be told what to do but, you know, that's not who we are here in San Juan.


ALLEN: And again President Trump responding to the Puerto Rico situation from his New Jersey golf club where he is this weekend. We get more from CNN's Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: For the third weekend in a row, President Trump spent his Saturday at his private estate golf course in New Jersey. And he spent a lot of his time on Saturday tweeting, specifically about the situation in Puerto Rico, and his administration's response to that crisis.

He started out the morning with a series of texts indirectly at the mayor of San Juan who has been critical of the overall response but has never specifically called out President Trump himself, instead just pleading with him to do all he can to fix and help the response.

Now there was a period of time where the president was off Twitter, about six hours, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time and 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Now we don't know exactly what the president was doing during that period of time, but we specifically asked the White House if he was golfing. He was, of course, at his private golf course and they said they could not tell us one way or another.

We do know that in the afternoon the president did hold a round of phone calls with members of the leadership team down there in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands including the governor of Puerto Rico, a former governor of Puerto Rico, the member of Congress that represents Puerto Rico, and the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After those phone calls, he did fire off a series of tweets, essentially a readout of those calls, speaking highly of those leaders and also talking specifically about the work of those first responders on the ground, U.S. military forces and FEMA employees that are a part of the effort to try and restore some sort of normalcy to Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence announced in an interview with a television station out of Florida that he would visit the U.S. Virgin Islands next week. Pence visited the headquarters of FEMA on Saturday, and he said in that interview that he believes that the mayor of San Juan is becoming a political distraction to the cleanup efforts there, essentially supporting the president's criticisms on Twitter from earlier in the day.

This is what he said, "Well, it is frustrating, I expect, to millions of Americans to hear rhetoric coming out of some in Puerto Rico, particularly the mayor of San Juan, instead of focusing on results. Our joint field operation at the convention center in San Juan has more than 1,000 personnel working out in a football field environment. The mayor of San Juan has only visited our joint field operation once."

Of course, President Trump scheduled to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday. First Lady Melania Trump will be joining him.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, Branchburg, New Jersey.


ALLEN: So let's bring Inderjeet Parmar now, professor of International Politics at City University of London, to talk about these developments involving President Trump.


ALLEN: Good morning to you. Thank you so much for joining us. You know, no sooner than the mayor of San Juan pleaded for help and said it was coming, Donald Trump, the president, puts her down, he puts the people of Puerto Rico down, he's basically blaming the victims for their troubles in Twitter rants.

Why would he do such a thing? I mean, he's done things in part like this before.

PARMAR: Yes, I think part of the whole strategy that President Trump adopts is really to blame the victim, especially in these kinds of cases, and very often there are minorities involved as well. As you'll recall in the London terror attacks, he often paid more attention to the London mayor, who happens to be of Muslim origin, than he did actually to the terrorist attack itself.

[04:15:09] And I think to some extent this plays to a sort of an instinct which he has for his political base. And I think this is a kind of red meat, it sort of blames the victim, and he suggests that they are actually responsible for what's going on. And you'll recall earlier in the week, instead of actually responding very, very openly and -- to changing the sort of waving the Jones Act, to allow foreign ships to dock in Puerto Rico and deliver aid, he actually basically tweeted a lot more about the NFL and the take a knee protest as well.

So I think he wants to really distract on occasions. So there is a sort of madness to it, seems to be, but I think there is a method, too, because I think he has a strong instinct of his political base and he does that and end up polarizes American society.

ALLEN: Right, but do you really think it's that -- doing that to support the base when Melania Trump has said in the past, when my husband is pushed, he pushes back. And perhaps he felt he was being pushed by this very outspoken and desperate mayor of San Juan.

PARMAR: Well, I think if you look at the sequencing, I don't think that stands up to much scrutiny. The mayor of San Juan is mired in a deep crisis which is a personal crisis as well for her and her family, too, and actually the more aggressive kind of messaging started with the Trump administration. But I think there is an aggressive character to the presidency that Donald Trump runs, and there is a very authoritarian character. He doesn't take any criticism, implied or otherwise, and I think this suggests something of the character of this whole administration.

I would say probably more like a regime, and I don't mean that as a compliment, than it is an administration. But underneath all that, I think there is a distraction strategy, too, because if you like the health care reform, it has collapsed again, and so the NFL takes front and center. He's just delivered a so-called tax framework and that is likely to be a big giveaway to very wealthy people, they're going to be much better off as a result of it, than a lot of people on the political base.

And I think he does do this often to distract attention from other areas which are a lot more damaging to his presidency overall.

ALLEN: It's pretty interesting, though, that when he gave a speech, you know, early on in his presidency, his numbers went up because he read from prepared remarks. When he went to Houston and got one-on- one with victims and showed compassion and support, he saw his numbers go up, but I don't know, one's got to wonder, does that matter to him?

Well, Inderjeet Parmar, we really appreciate you coming on. Thank you.

PARMAR: Thank you.

ALLEN: Coming up here, Hurricane Maria left this town completely shut off from the rest of Puerto Rico. We'll tell you how a task force is finally able to get aid to people there. So we'll have more about this developing story affecting Puerto Rico coming up here.


[04:22:04] ALLEN: We're staying with the Puerto Rico story, the governor there urging the evacuation of people near a damaged dam on the northwest part of the island, the U.S. military has been reinforcing the dam with sandbags, but heavy rains have stressed it to the breaking point. Look at that dam, if it were to collapse. Officials fear it could give way.

Elsewhere, across Puerto Rico, here is the latest from U.S. emergency officials. Search and rescue teams have scoured the island from end to end and rescued 843 people. Eleven highways have now been cleared of storm debris. That should make it easier for large trucks to move emergency aid that's just been sitting there at the port into the battered countryside.

But only about half of Puerto Rico's residents have access still to clean water and most of the island is still without power. Remote areas are just now starting to see some relief, the city of Utuado was shut off from the rest of Puerto Rico after the hurricane hit. A task force had to build a pulley system to give these residents some much needed supplies.

Our Brynn Gingras is on the ground there.


MYRIAM ROSARIO CRUZ, STRANDED UTUADO RESIDENT: And the wind, it sounded like a monster.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Myriam Cruz rode out Hurricane Maria from inside this bedroom. The storm's eyewall traveled right through mountainous Utuado, a city about 90 minutes from San Juan. The river that runs through this area rose more than 20 feet.

(On camera): What was your thought looking out the window and seeing this river go up?

CRUZ: Terrible. I thought it was going to come, you know, up here, but it didn't. Thank God for that.

GINGRAS (voice-over): But the flooding caused landslides and knocked out this bridge, the only way for Cruz's community to get out.

CRUZ: We were afraid that we would be left alone.

GINGRAS: But they weren't.

(On camera): Right now we're crossing a river with a pulley system constructed by a task force that's under the direction of FEMA. And really across the river, about 40 families who haven't seen relief up until today, up until this whole system was constructed.

(Voice-over): This group have specialized officers, firemen and EMS, come from New York, Indiana and Ohio. In the past week, their teams across Puerto Rico have saved more than 800 people.


GINGRAS: This task force took us to Cruz's neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we were conducting those assessments, that's how we received information from the local emergency management officials that, hey, in these particular areas, we haven't been able to get there yet, we have no communication with them, can you help us? And that's really what we're here to do.

GINGRAS: Now residents are rationing this new shipment of supplies and they're grateful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I saw them come the first time, I saw heaven.

CRUZ: So finally we knew that they knew about our situation.

GINGRAS: But with a broken bridge, food and supplies will be needed again, and communications are still out. This man can't get in touch with his daughter, bringing him to tears.

[04:25:02] (On camera): What do you want to say to your daughter in Texas?


GINGRAS: You're surviving?

SERRANO: We're OK, because -- we appreciate your help.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Even without the help, we found this community doing all they can to stay alive.

CRUZ: See that line in there? That's how we got the water on this side.

GINGRAS (on camera): You did that yourself?

CRUZ: No -- yes, the people here. Not me, but the men. You know, the men.

GINGRAS: So if you didn't have that --

CRUZ: We would have no water.

GINGRAS (voice-over): That despite President Trump's recent criticism of Puerto Rico's leaders and local response.

CRUZ: Of course we get frustrated because, you know, we have done what we can.

GINGRAS: As for the task force, this assignment is over. And they're on to the next mission, continuing to help the people of Puerto Rico.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, Puerto Rico.


ALLEN: We also want to remind you that you can help, if you want. To learn how, you can go to our Web site, There is so much that people are doing right now to help support Puerto Rico, and that's where you can find out what you might be able to do as well.

Well, Spain is a country divided this hour. Thousands are trying to vote and Catalonia's independence referendum, but riot police are physically blocking people from being able to vote. We'll have a live report from our reporter Isa Soares. She's there live in Barcelona, next.


ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

[04:30:04] The headlines this hour, former football star O.J. Simpson is out of prison. He was released in the U.S. state of Nevada. He left a short while ago on parole after serving nine years for a Las Vegas armed robbery. Simpson became infamous in 1994 for being the key suspect in a double murder. He was found not guilty of those charges.

Puerto Rico's governor is urging the evacuation of people living near that damaged dam you see right there on the northwest part of the island. The U.S. military has been reinforcing the dam with sandbags, but heavy rains have stressed it to the breaking point. Officials fear it could give way.

Clashes have broken out in polling stations in parts of Spain as police try to block voters in Catalonia's controversial independence referendum. In the northern city of Girona right here, riot police are physically preventing voters from entering the building. Spain's highest court says this vote is illegal, it vowed to shut it down and it looks like it is working to do that.

Our Isa Soares is covering the story for us. She's at a polling station in Barcelona.

Isa, what are you seeing there after police came in and blocked people from voting?

SOARES: We have seen, Natalie, some of the polling stations, and some of the polling stations we have seen police go in, this is one of the polling stations, a gymnasium where the president of Catalonia was expected to vote.

But let me tell you that in this polling station here, which is a school, the doors, although they are closed, they're allowing people to go in, some roughly about 10 people at a time, a group of elderly just came out to great applause, they're letting the elderly in first and then the rest. But are trying to contain the numbers.

But I can tell you that this line snakes right around the corner here, just behind our live shot position. And as everyone, different groups of ages, children, parents here, as people come out, those who have voted, they're greeted by applause.

It's being very peaceful here, I must say. We have had two police officers approach and ask everyone who is in charge and they all raise their hands and say we are all in charge. We haven't seen some of the Guardia Civil, the state police appearing here today, as we have seen in some of the other polling stations, but I can tell you that one of the ministers for the Catalan government has been, he came, he voted, and he walked out to great applause.

So at the moment, people are able to vote, but of course not everyone feels this way in the region of Catalonia. Not only in Spain, but in Catalonia. In the last poll conducted by the Catalan government back in July, Natalie, showed that 49 percent didn't want independence, 41 percent wanted independence, but critically 70 percent want to have their chance to vote.

Some perhaps would argue that the number could have shifted, given the police presence here, and some of the measures that the central government of Spain has taken. Central government, of course, saying this is unconstitutional and illegal.

I want to bring in Joaquin Luna who is a -- works for the newspaper here, "La Vanguardia."

I want to get your thoughts on what has been happening because this isn't really about them versus Madrid, it isn't about Catalonia versus Madrid. How do you see what's happening here in Catalonia?

JOAQUIN LUNA, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, LA VANGUARDIA: One of the problems is the Catalonian population, according to all the elections, held eight elections in seven years, are split. That's why today it is very difficult day, a very sad day. I will say it is one of the darkest days in the history of Catalonia because we have many, many citizens here trying to vote, peaceful people, and you have another very peaceful people staying at home against the idea that you can make a referendum against the Spanish laws and declaring independence in 48 hours because the law approved early this month.


LUNA: Says that you held that referendum, with no any requirements and the results go to the parliament and in 48 hours our men will be able to approve. For many people, for many Catalans, obviously this is not democratic way. But it is a lot of image.

SOARES: It's -- the divisions, how much -- and as you and I talk, you are listening to people here behind us and they are basically saying, we will vote. How much of what we're seeing in Catalonia, how much of what we have seen by the central government, the actions of the central government in the last two weeks or so?

[04:35:11] How much do you think that has shifted the more moderate voices within Catalonia to vote for independence?

LUNA: In the short-term, obviously, people on the middle ground will go toward the people trying to vote. That's normal because that's normal. But I believe that after a few days or maybe a few weeks, people will start to think that we have to find a democratic exit from that situation. And that's the duty of both governments. I believe both have acted very -- in a very responsible way.

SOARES: Irresponsible.

LUNA: Very irresponsible because in a democracy, it's not normal that people decide on the streets and that's what is happening today.

SOARES: So what will happen? I mean, the critical point of course now is what will happen the next 48 hours or so. The Catalan government says it will vote, it's going to vote, the central government says it's a sham referendum, it is illegal, it is unconstitutional. Both sides say they want to meet and talk.

LUNA: Yes.

SOARES: But the Spanish government saying they don't want to talk with any prerequisite. So where does this go? What happens? What changes in order for these divisions to actually have a more united Spain?

LUNA: Well, first of all, we have to wait for that -- what kind of political lesson will take the Catalan government. If the Catalan government think that now is more is strong and has now the capability to approve the independence, we have a problem that -- with no solution. On the other hand, if both sides recognize that none of them is stronger to impose their ideas, we -- I hope, we will start to have a real -- a realistic negotiation because so far it has been both sides trying to arrive today and arrive with more (INAUDIBLE) than the other side in order to negotiate. But this is very irresponsible.

SOARES: Very irresponsible. Joaquin Luna, from "La Vanguardia," thank you very much.

LUNA: You're welcome.

SOARES: And as Joaquin and I were talking, Natalie, you were hearing applause, that's because people are coming in, coming out from the voting, the polling stations. They have just voted to taking 10 people at a time to vote and as they come out, they are greeted by applause. But as Joaquin and I were just discussing, this is not everyone here, not everyone here in Catalonia supports this, many people have gone to the streets against this. Some say they would like to vote, but not in these circumstances, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. And as you talk, we've been seeing a live video of the police there, still working this situation. Of course, we'll continue to follow the developments in the next few hours.

Isa Soares, thank you so much, and your guest, for that perspective.

Our other big story, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, responding to a harsh attack by U.S. president Donald Trump. When she begged Washington for hurricane relief, he accused her of poor leadership.


[04:41:27] ALLEN: Eleven days after Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, U.S. government assistance has been slow to reach the people who need it most. But when the mayor of San Juan pleaded with Washington to speed up relief efforts, she found herself on the receiving end of Donald Trump's ridicule.

CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with her about it.


COOPER ANCHOR: You woke up this morning to a tweet from the president of the United States. What did you make of what he said?

CRUZ: I smiled. I smiled. Really, I have no time for small politics or for comments that really don't add to the situation here.

COOPER: He said that -- he talked about you, your leadership, and he said they -- I don't know if he meant they the leaders or they the people of Puerto Rico want everything done for them. CRUZ: I believe, you know, it was kind of funny because I got them

real later -- late because we don't have Internet. It's spotty at best. But he did say that we wanted things to be done. And, you know, the truth is staring us in the face. Just today I was telling you we had to evacuate yet another hospital because the generator caught on fire. So this is another hospital that will not be able to work for another week.

We transported 14 patients from one of our facilities. The dam in the eastern part of the island is two towns. For the first time that I know of in my lifetime in Puerto Rico, two towns are being completely evacuated. People are still coming and saying the mayor of San Lorenzo, the mayor of Comerio, the mayor of Ponce, the mayor of Loiza, are saying, you know, where is the help? We need it. Please help.

COOPER: Do you feel that you're speaking out has been effective?

CRUZ: I don't know, but if it has, you know, good.

COOPER: The president also said in a tweet earlier this morning that you had been nice to him early on, but that Democrats told you have to be nasty toward him.

CRUZ: I know. I don't know, maybe he's used to women, they have to be told what to do. You know, that's not who we are here in San Juan. But really you know --

COOPER: Have Democrats said anything to you about how you should treat him?

CRUZ: Not at all. Actually I am not a Democrat. I share values with the Democratic Party in the United States. But I do not participate in the Democratic Party.

COOPER: You also --

CRUZ: But it's interesting, Senator Marco Rubio sent representatives to here, so he's not a Democrat. I just think he's looking for an excuse for things that are not going well.

COOPER: Brock Long, the FEMA administrator, has said today about you that there is a joint command and that's essential. There is a unified command and that there's joint field command office and that you should go by there to kind of get clued in to what is really going on.

CRUZ: Well, yesterday after my press conference all of a sudden things started coming in from FEMA. And when they get me my phone I can show you a text. I got a text saying that more supplies were coming. And all I want is more supplies, you know.

COOPER: So you feel speaking out has actually pushed FEMA to bring more --

CRUZ: A lot of people -- a lot of mayors are scared of speaking out because they think if they speak out, whatever help they haven't been getting will not get to them.


[04:45:02] ALLEN: Derek is here to talk about the weather. It's hard to play off of that, that mayor having to defend herself when she was just asking for help.


ALLEN: So very sad. And, you know, we have been -- we have four reporters on the ground there. We've been reporting on everything they've been doing, being resourceful, to try to help their neighbor, but there is something they can't fight and that is the flooding that they're still having to deal with, Derek.

VAN DAM: Yes. Mother Nature bringing more rain, unfortunately. And --

ALLEN: From a different system.

VAN DAM: A completely different system.


ALLEN: Absolutely. All right, Derek.

Well, CNN's Michael Holmes reported from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, he saw devastation all around including this in Dominica.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And we walk and we walk and we filmed and we filmed. And all along the way we're thinking never seen anything like this before.


ALLEN: Next, he recounts seeing the Caribbean islands being destroyed right in front of his eyes.


[04:51:57] ALLEN: The Caribbean is nothing like what it used to be before Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Within days of each other, the hurricanes destroy islands leaving death and devastation behind.

CNN's Michael Holmes was one of our reporters on the ground there. He reported from both storms. And here is a report from him now about what he witnessed.


HOLMES (on camera): Have a look at the conditions around us and you --

(Voice-over): It really was an extraordinary couple of weeks covering two separate hurricanes.

(On camera): We began this trip by covering, of course, Hurricane Irma, once we knew what sort of impact Irma had had on some of the Caribbean islands we flew down to San Juan. We anchored from there for a couple of days and then we came down to Antigua to start to look at the effects, the damage that Irma had done.

Because we knew Anguilla had been hit pretty hard by Irma, ironically, the best way to get there from Antigua because of the damage that had been done to the island was to rent a boat. We spent some time on Anguilla. We were with a local deejay actually who showed us around and we did a story on him as well.

We put that story together on the boat, actually, because we had to leave Anguilla to head back to Antigua. We wanted to go to St. Bart's, but there was another storm coming through and, of course, that turned out to be Hurricane Maria.

The thing is, bear in mind, we are 120 miles or more away from the main track of hurricane --

We actually did what a lot of reporters do, and that is you end up broadcasting from your hotel balcony. You get a great backdrop, but you have some protection.

So to give you a sense of how the live shots work, this is our cameraman's room, he's got all the cases here, over here, got about 10 iPhones, which is about normal for us. Alex here is our cameraman. And we go, this is where we have been doing the live shots throughout the whole storm where endless hours it's just been going on here.

After Maria passed, we knew that Dominica, the island of Dominica, had been right smack in the path, the first landfall, category 5, and Maria had just ripped through the middle of that island. We knew we had to get there. We knew that the damage was bad. The trick was how to do that.

Now this is as close as we or anyone can get to Dominica, at least for now. The airport is shut down.

It was interesting because our pilot who flew us around the island, he flies these islands for living. I mean, this is what he does and even he was shocked.

Now the next day the runways were cleared to be safe, but there were assessment teams going in and the like, and it was hard to get permission to land. But the prime minister himself wanted us, wanted CNN to come in and see what had happened to his island. So he and his aviational authority said you're clear to come in, please, come in.

Not only they have immediate needs, their entire industry of agriculture, the tourism industry that they were trying to build up around those rain forests, gone.

(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.

[04:55:08] (On camera): It was an incredibly difficult walk because we're climbing over all this debris, we're climbing over tree trunks that now formed what was the road and we knew we had to get there. So we just set off and we walked and we walked and we filmed and we filmed. And all along the way, we're thinking, never seen anything like this before. This is just incredible.

And as we're going into Point Michel, people are coming out. I mean, they're worried about getting food. They were starting to run out of food. So they're all walking their way back to the capital Roseau to try to get supplies.

One of the striking things about Dominica is that it had these beautiful lush rain forests, there's promotional videos you can look at that show you what it was like. And then when you look at what it is now that's gone. It's all gone.

Of course, the communications were down all across the island. Nobody could talk to somebody down the street, let alone relatives in the U.S., so we had people coming up to us and saying, please, when you get out of here, please call my family, tell them I'm OK, tell them I've lost my house, but I'm alive.

And, you know, Dominica, our producer would write down the name and the number, I took a couple of names and numbers and then when we got back to Antigua, we did. We called the families and sent the messages on.

(Voice-over): 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.

(On camera): What we've heard here around these islands is things are changing. These storms are not category 5's. There is not a category for it. They need to invent a category 6 or 7, that's what people told us, because these storms are getting stronger, they're getting bigger, they're getting more frequent. And these Caribbean islands are right in the path.


ALLEN: Michael Holmes there for us.

We have much more ahead in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Please stay with us.