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Catalonians Claim Victory Despite Spanish Government Crackdown; Trump Appears to Undermine Tillerson on North Korea; Puerto Rico Governor: More Must be Done to Get Aid Delivered. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 2, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:10] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Uncertainty and violence surround Catalonia's referendum. Voters say yes to independence, but Spain's government calls their decision illegitimate.

And U.S. President Trump undermining his own Secretary of State saying negotiations won't work with North Korea. But what kind of message does that send to the regime?

Plus the two women accused of the murder of Kim Jong-Un's half brother are on trial and the court will determine if they were tricked as they say or were highly-trained assassins.

Hello everyone. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church here in Atlanta. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

Catalonians are declaring victory in Sunday's contested independence referendum after a violent Spanish government crackdown.

Madrid sent police officers across Catalonia to stop the vote. They dragged people away from voting centers, some by the hair. Officers also hit protesters with batons and fired rubber bullets at them. Hundreds wounded.

But Catalonian officials say preliminary results suggest 90 percent of those who voted favored breaking away from Spain. Madrid says the vote was unconstitutional and illegal.

Well, it is unclear exactly what happens now for Catalonia, if anything, but the vote has highlighted the divisions between Madrid and Barcelona.

CNN's Isa Soares has more.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a he festive mood here in Barcelona as the results begin to trickle in. So far it seems that the "yes" have a resounding victory but the turnout though is very low. Of the more than five million expected to vote, only two and a half million actually went to the polls to vote.

Nevertheless, the president of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont said that today we have won the right to be an independent state. Take a listen.


CARLES PUIGDEMONT, PRESIDENT OF CATALONIA (through translator): Today Catalonia has won many referendums. We have won the right to be heard, to be respected and to be recognized. Today thousands of people -- millions of people faced threats and you spoke up.


SIDNER: But these numbers won't be met with glee all the way in Madrid. That's because the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said all along this is unconstitutional and is illegal. In fact today, speaking to the nation, he said there was no referendum. Have a listen.


MARIANO RAJOY, PRIME MINISTER OF SPAIN (through translator): There has not been a referendum in Catalonia. All of us Spaniards have seen that our rule of law is still alive that it reacts against those who try to sabotage it and that acts with all legal resources against all provocations.


SIDNER: This has been a contentious referendum and a very chaotic day for those people who are wanting to vote in the very early hours in the morning in the rain. They saw a guardia civil -- the state police move in -- trying to block them from voting and really dragging some people from those polling stations.

Authorities telling CNN more than 800 people have been injured. The Catalan president said the violence by the state, and I'm quoting here, has been abusive, serious and a violation of human rights.

The question now is what happens next? Not only do you have a polarized Catalonia, many people not supporting the vote, but also many tensions within Spain. Which one of those two leaders will blink first? Will this be decided on the streets or at the negotiating table?

I'm Isa Soares in Barcelona.

CHURCH: Spain's deputy prime minister defended the actions of the Spanish police saying quote, "The irresponsibility of the regional government had to met by security forces of the state".

To talk more about this, I'm joined by Roger Senserrich. He is a political scientist and editor for Thank you, sir, for being with us.

So how can it be that both sides of the contested Catalonian independence referendum are now claiming victory?

ROGER SENSERRICH, EDITOR, POLITIKON.ES: Well, in a sense, the outcome is probably the worst for Catalonia as a hole but it's the outcome that both governments were looking for.

[00:04:57] The Catalan government was looking for confrontation. They were looking for those images of police shooting on elderly, hitting on children, trying to break up a vote. And that's what they got. They actually got the propaganda goal that they were looking for.

The central government was looking at something like that though. They were looking at civil unrest. They were looking at perhaps something that gives a clear sign that the other side doesn't want to agree with them.

And essentially that's what they got. The got the image of their being heavy-handed. They are trying to sell that to the rest of Spain. And having the show of force and the confrontation that they wanted to justify that they can crackdown and even suspend the regional government at some point.

CHURCH: Do you think both sides wanted this conflict?

SENSERRICH: In a sense, yes. Both the central government and the Catalan government are looking for ways to escalate this. Not to likely freeze the conflict or try to downplay this. So my sense is that it's going to get worse before it gets better. In the short term we are likely to see more of this escalation, more of this kind of and confrontation.

CHURCH: Now according to Catalonian officials, preliminary results suggest about 90 percent of those who voted chose to break away from Spain but voter turnout was low, wasn't it? So what does this say about the possible outcome?

SENSERRICH: Well, this vote was actually more of a protest than anything. It was -- the whole process was done really halfheartedly. There was no census. People could vote anywhere they wanted. There were no observers from the other side. (inaudible) was pretty much a mess.

And the regional government had no authority to call for this vote. So the non nationalistic parties, non secessionist parties called for a boycott, called for people not to participate in this. So essentially what we saw is the people that are supporting secession are the only ones that went to vote today because it was the only people that felt like this was meaningful.


CHURCH: So I take it from that then you're saying that this vote was unconstitutional and doesn't stand?

SENSERRICH: Yes. Definitely. The regional government had no grounds to call this. And the whole process from the law that (inaudible) trying to get this implemented, the whole thing how it was done. I mean there is not even like a council (ph) which provides this. Everyone that was in the electoral board, the supervisory board, resigned. This was held without any supervision even according to the law that their own Catalan government tried to get this through. So it's more of a protest than it's a real vote.

CHURCH: Roger Senserrich -- thank you so much for your perspective on this. We do appreciate it.

SENSERRICH: Thank you.

CHURCH: To another story we're watching.

If top U.S. officials were looking for support on North Korea, they may not be getting it from their boss. U.S. President Donald Trump released a series of tweets Sunday and appeared to undermine his Secretary of State.

For more, here's our Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mixed messages coming from the Trump administration as it relates to North Korea. This, after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson left a meeting with the President of China where he talked about having conversations and open lines of communications with the North Koreans.

The President tweeting on Sunday morning, quote, "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he's wasting his time trying to negotiate with little rocket man. Save your energy Rex. We'll do what needs to be done."

Now this is in response to Tillerson had to say in Beijing. Tillerson saying quote, "We are probing, so stay tuned. We asked, would you like to talk? We have lines of communication to Pyongyang. We're not in a dark situation or a blackout. We have a couple of channels to Pyongyang. We can talk to them. We do talk to them directly through our own channels."

Now the President essentially telling his Secretary of State that he's wasting his time by attempting to talk to China and that seems to fly directly in the face of the long-held administration policy that diplomacy was the first option and military action would be second.

And the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert seemed to be trying to clean up this back and forth between the Secretary of State and the President with a series of tweets of her own when she said, quote, "Diplomatic channels are open for Kim Jong-Un for now. They won't be open forever." She went on to say the DPRK will not obtain nuclear capabilities whether through diplomacy or force. It is up to the regime.

And the closest advisers to President Trump -- and that would be his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have long pushed for diplomacy being the primary option. Holding out a military strike as a last possible move, if they felt there were no options left. [00:10:06] The Administration's stated goal continues to be disarming

Kim Jong-Un's nuclear program and in particular preventing him from being able to put a nuclear warhead on a missile that could strike the United States or its allies.

Ryan Nobles, CNN -- with the President in Branchburg, New Jersey.


CHURCH: Mr. Trump's dismissal of diplomacy is also likely to have an impact in South Korea.

Our Paula Hancocks is tracking that and she joins me now live from Seoul. So Paula -- what has been the reaction in South Korea to President Trump's apparent undermining of his own Secretary of State's efforts to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary -- there's been remarkably little reaction here in South Korea. And that's quite often the case when you have these tweets from the U.S. President don't appear to be direct opposition with what his own people, his own secretary of state, his own secretary of defense in some cases are saying.

So I think there's a case to be made that South Korean officials, and also the media, really don't know what to make of these tweets. I spoke to the South Korean President Moon Jae-In a couple of weeks ago and asked him about a different tweet when he had accused the South Korean president of appeasement of North Korea and I asked him to react to that.

And his response was that it's important not to take these tweets too narrowly. And really that's the best response I've had from any South Korean official as to what the opinion is when it comes to this kind of tweet that President Trump is giving out.

But certainly I think there would have been some positive response when it was heard from the Secretary of State that there is some kind of diplomacy happening behind the scenes. It's certainly the hope here in South Korea that the escalation in tensions and rhetoric that we've seen from the leaders of North Korea and the United States is put down in some way.

But of course, once again the U.S. President going in opposition to what his Secretary of state has said. And so it leads to confusion in the region -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: It certainly does. Paula Hancocks -- bringing us up to date on those developments, live from Seoul where it's nearly 1:15 in the afternoon. Many thanks -- Paula.

Well, some breaking news now: Britain's Monarch Airlines has been grounded for good. The low-cost airline is going into administration and has canceled all of its flights leaving tens of thousands of customers stranded. For the next two weeks Monarch flights to the U.K. will be replaced by other airlines to get travelers back home. About 110,000 Monarch customers are currently overseas. Monarch's tour group business is also going bust.

Donald Trump is criticizing officials in Puerto Rico as the island struggles to recover. Their response for o the U.S. President -- we'll have that for you when we come back.

Stay with us.


[00:15:12] PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Thank you for staying with CNN. It is October 2nd, 2017 -- meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

Hard to believe that less than 90 days upon us here before 2018 arrives and you notice the temperature trend still hanging on to warmth across the eastern United States. The trend, I think will begin to try to build back towards the west where we have had some big-time cold in place.

But notice in Washington, how about from 23 up to 30. In New York City, you thought autumn was here (inaudible) where you get to about 2 and 8 here come Thursday afternoon, you get up to about 28 degrees.

But back around the intermountain west, the winter weather advisory is in watch and also warnings in place here for not only some snowfall but tremendous snowfall. So yes, the skiers and snowboarders, they'll be loving life and we're talking about some areas getting snowfall that could be measured in feet here over the next couple of days.

Winnipeg still staying mild 18 degrees; Vancouver at 17; gusty winds expected out of San Francisco, 22 in the forecast there.

Down in the tropics you go, Havana out towards (inaudible) expect a few thunderstorms, not unusual for this time of year but we'll keep it into the lower 30s there. You work your way towards the south -- Bogota should be around 19 degrees, Manaus comes it at 31, La Paz a beautiful day at 15 degrees. Sunny skies, light winds -- as gorgeous as they come. Santiago also looking at comfortable temperatures as well.

As you work your way farther south, (inaudible) looking at 11. Rio Gallegos also 11 degrees.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Puerto Rico's governor says more needs to be done to get aid delivered throughout the island after Hurricane Maria. Millions are still suffering with limited access to water, power and fuel 12 days after the storm. And cell service is still down for many people. The Governor Ricardo Rossello also says the U.S. government has granted all of his requests.

Meanwhile Donald Trump spent part of Sunday at the President's Cup golf tournament. He plans to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday. President Trump dedicated the U.S. victory at the tournament to Hurricane victims.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On behalf of all of the people of Texas, and all of the people of, if you look today and you see what's happening, how horrible it is but we have it under really great control -- Puerto Rico and the people of Florida who have really suffered over this last short period of time with the hurricanes. I want to just remember them.

And we're going to dedicate this trophy to all of those people that went through so much that we love so -- a part of our great state -- really a part of our great nation.


CHURCH: And residents of some remote areas in Puerto Rico are just now starting to see aid. They have had to manage on their own for nearly two weeks now.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has more now from San Juan.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well progress is being made but still so much needs to be done on this island. We've been traveling around really for the past week or so hitting areas that, in some cases, people are just now starting to see some of the relief. They're starting to get some idea of when maybe the electricity will come back on, when maybe they'll get some sort of telecommunications or some sort of cell service.

We went an hour and a half away from here outside of San Juan to a very mountainous area. There's a river that flows through it and the bridge was knocked out form that storm.

The people on the other side of the island had no access to anything because that bridge was missing. It took a special task force of FEMA rescuers to get to them and give them supplies.

And quite frankly we talked to a lot of them and they're managing on their own. They're building systems to get themselves across the water because they don't know when they'll get relief again.

And also quite honestly even though the President is coming here Tuesday, nobody really knows about it in some of these areas of this island because they have no way to learn that information.

So certainly, progress again, being made every single day but now humanitarian effort is very much in need and still ongoing.

Brynn Gingras, CNN -- San Juan.


CHURCH: Aguadilla is one Puerto Rican city struggling to find relief. The mayor there says he's been driving for hours to San Juan to pick up federal aid because it's just not reaching his people. And he dismissed President Trump's comments about Puerto Rico's leaders wanting everything done for them.

[00:20:00] CARLOS MENDEZ, MAYOR OF AGUADILLA, PUERTO RICO: Do you see me on top of the truck? Do you see me giving food to the people? Is somebody doing things for me or am I doing enough myself?

Let me tell you. Donald Trump, if you're listening to me. Ten thousand federal workers -- I don't have one here, (inaudible). President Trump -- I was state chairman for the Republican Party in Puerto Rico of 12 years, for 12 years. My last year was last year. I'm still a Republican. I'm still a devoted Republican.

But those federal workers -- 10,000, I haven't seen one in this town. If you get to Puerto Rico Tuesday, come and see me and you and I are going to walk around to see if we see one federal worker out of those 10,000.


CHURCH: Joining me now to talk U.S. politics are two CNN political commentators Marc Lamont Hill and Ben Ferguson. Thanks to you both for being with us.



CHURCH: So let's start with the situation in Puerto Rico. And despite the fact that people are facing a dire humanitarian crisis on that island controlled by the United States, President Trump lashed out at Puerto Rico's mayor because she criticized his storm response. Was his attack appropriate? Given the circumstances and given Mr. Trump plans to travel to the island, Tuesday?

Ben Ferguson -- to you first.

FERGUSON: Look, I hate seeing this but I do think that you have to defend yourself when you have one mayor out of 87 who is attacking becoming a national spokesman for the country and everybody in the media is talking to this individual.

A lot of people don't know the back story on this mayor. First off, she's got her own issues. She's not been to one single FEMA meeting that she has been invited to while almost every other mayor that can get to the FEMA meetings have been there because that's where you ask the federal government for specific needs for your area where you're the mayor.

Other mayors have said they've had every one of their requests has come through from the federal government. She hasn't gone to the FEMA members where they actually are saying tell me what you need in your area.

The second issue is this. She's spending more time on TV telling us that people are dying than she is helping the people in her community who desperately need her to work with the federal government.

And the last thing is this. She has multiple YouTube videos out there criticizing America, saying that she does not want Puerto Rico to be a part of America. In fact she wants it to become a communist country.

So people need to look at her history and realize this is one person out of 87. The other 86 are saying things are doing well.

And the fact is you have devastation on an island. It is going to be really hard. It is an island. You can't just drive stuff in to an island. You've got to ship it in the air. There has to be coordination.

It takes longer than a response in Texas or Florida. So I think the President was right to at least defend the federal government's response.

CHURCH: All right. Let's get a response from Marc Lamont Hill. And of course, it isn't just one mayor. We've heard from others.

Marc -- what do you make of a U.S. President who tweets this? Puerto Rican leaders want everything to be done for them. Is that fair?

HILL: It's a very troublesome, poorly-timed and ultimately offensive tweet. And it sends the impression that somehow Puerto Ricans are being unreasonable to expect the level of federal government intervention that they're requesting.

It also plays into very long-standing tropes and narratives about people being -- particularly people of color -- being lazy and wanting government handouts as opposed to working for themselves. And it's really bizarre because even if you are the most conservative person on earth, a natural disaster would be precisely the time where you would expect government intervention.

Ben said that this mayor is one out of 87 but the truth is many mayors have said that they are disappointed with the level of support that they've gotten.

There have been generals -- a three-star general said hey, the level of support here is inadequate. We have an inadequate number of troops and inadequate resources here. It's also -- to say that, you know, we can dig into her, yes we can dig into her past and no she's not one of 87 mayors who wants Puerto Rico to be at an independent state.

There are many Puerto Ricans who want Puerto Rico to be an independent state. But the fact is Puerto Rico is not at an independent nation state right now. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and these people are American citizens and they deserve the same level of support that everyone else gets.

And then even if I somehow agree with --

FERGUSON: And I agree with you on that point. I want to make this point -- I agree with your completely on that point. I think they do need the help but the logistics of getting support in to Puerto Rico are very different than what would happen in Florida or Texas.

A great example is she criticized if there weren't enough crews that were there to fix the power and turn the power back on. She said that they staged people in Florida and Texas, why didn't they stage them in my state. You can't stage people on island and keep them safe.

[00:24:56] You also can't bring in the trucks in the same capacity that you can from Georgia or North and South Carolina or Oklahoma or Arkansas or Tennessee or Mississippi into those two states when they were hit by hurricane.

I think that she needs to start working more on solutions instead of complaining and criticizing and realize you're on an island. It is going to be a different type of response.

To imply that they should stage people in trucks, what other island would you put them on to stage on. Would you ship them down there before hurricane came and then all those trucks are destroyed and that people's lives are put in harm's way or maybe cost them their lives?

I mean this is the part that frustrates me about her anger and I think she needs to be doing more to work on the ground than she does about criticizing.

CHURCH: Marc Lamont Hill and Ben Ferguson -- many thanks to you both.

We'll take a very short break here but still to come, the trial gets under way for two women accused of murdering the North Korean leader's half brother. How the suspects in the death of Kim Jong-Nam pleaded. That's still to come.

And Canadian police say the driver of this truck went on a terror spree -- the details on the investigation ahead.


CHURCH: Hello and welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church.

I want to check the headlines for you this hour



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Thousands of Monarch Airlines customers are out of luck. The British airline has been placed in administration. All Monarch flights from the U.K. have been canceled and are not being rescheduled. For the next two weeks Monarch flights to the U.K. will be replaced by other airlines.

In Malaysia the two women accused of murdering North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother have pleaded not guilty. They arrived earlier for the first day of their trial in Kuala Lumpur. Authorities say the women killed Kim Jong-nam at the city's airport back in February by rubbing VX nerve agent on his face.

Our Nic Robertson is in Kuala Lumpur and joins us now with the very latest.

Nic, you were there when the two women were brought into court.

How did they look and what is expected out of today's proceedings?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They arrived in civilian saloon cars, not a high-security truck. There were police outriders. They came in wearing flak jackets. I was standing a few feet from them as they went into the court building.

Really they were not showing a lot of emotion. We understand from their lawyer, the word of one of them at least that they are confident that they will win this case, that they will prove what they say, that they are not guilty.

But this is a case that is causing a huge amount of regional interest here. It is potentially a massive international incident.



ROBERTSON (voice-over): Caught on security camera, a brazen daylight murder in public. Two women sneak up behind a man at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, one of Asia's busiest transport hubs, and wipe a cloth on his face.

The man asks airport staff for help. But minutes later he dead.

The victim, Kim Jong-nam, the estranged and exiled half-brother of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un. Investigators concluded the substance that killed him was VX nerve agent, a chemical weapon. Kim's murder drew international attention and sparked a diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea.

Within days police arrested two women, Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam and Indonesian Siti Aisyah. But South Korean intelligence and later Malaysian officials pointed the finger to Kim Jong-un, for ordering a hit on his half-brother.

South Korea's intelligence service believes the women were recruited by two assassination groups. The women say they were duped and thought they'd been hired to take part in a TV prank show. But Malaysia's prosecutors allege they were well aware of what they were actually doing.

One key question, though, is why North Korea may have wanted Kim Jong- nam dead. Theories range from the regime's desire to send a warning to North Korean defectors to stay silent to Kim Jong-un feeling threatened that his half-brother may be a challenge to his rule and line of succession.

North Korea strenuously denies any involvement in the murder. Malaysian police named several North Korean citizens they want to question about the case. Four of them left the country the day after Kim's murder. The others were sent back to Pyongyang after questioning. That leaves Doan Thi Huong and Siti Aisyah as the only people charged in this most high profile murder mystery. If found guilty of murder, both women face death by hanging.


ROBERTSON: So already an interesting development in the first hour of the hearing today. The prosecution said that the women individually working with four other unnamed suspects were responsible. So the defense has already said OK to the prosecution, name those four suspects because if you don't name those four suspects then we feel that we are disadvantaged in this case and the case is prejudiced against our clients.

The judge has now ruled, we just heard in the last hour, that in fact he is not going to force the prosecution to name those four unnamed man. These are the men who are believed to have worked in association with the women and that's what the prosecution is alleging. But they won't name them.


CHURCH: Interesting. So, Nic, what comes next?

How long will this trial likely last?

And what's going to make or break the case?

ROBERTSON: Sure. The credibility of the witnesses is going to make or break the case. First, you've got the prosecution; they are expected to take about two weeks to allow their case, are expected to have about 10 witnesses. They will be expert witnesses, doctors who were directly involved in treating Kim Jong-nam.

There will be chemical experts as well. This is the proof that he did in fact die of VX nerve agent. So they'll do that.

They'll also show the CCTV camera footage from the airport. But there were, if you will, pre-run the sessions where these men with the women separately gave them mock trials in shopping malls and things like that.

So we can expect the potential for video from those to be presented by the prosecution. Then the defense get their chance to defend and that's where it could go long. Each of these women could expect to spend two weeks, we understand, with cross-examination.

What's going to be absolutely critical is their testimony and how credible they are. That's what this is going to turn on.

CHURCH: All right, our Nic Robertson following that trial from Kuala Lumpur, where it is just after 12:30 in the afternoon. Many thanks to you.

A Somali national is under arrest in connection with two terror attacks in Canada. The first was captured on video and a warning, it is graphic. A car driving at high speed hit a police officer. The driver then got out and stabbed the officer repeatedly before running off.

Police found an ISIS flag inside the car. The officer is now recovering.

Later the suspect led police on a chase, where they say he deliberately aimed for pedestrians with a truck. Four people were hurt. Police broke the windshield and used a stun grenade and a Taser to arrest the suspect.

We'll take another short break. But still to come, CNN's Michael Holmes reported from the Caribbean on both hurricanes, Irma and Maria. Next, he shares what it was like to see islands being destroyed right in front of him. We'll have that in just a moment.




CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

The Caribbean is nothing like it was before Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Within days of each other, the hurricanes destroyed islands, leaving death and destruction behind. And CNN's Michael Holmes reported on both storms. Here is what he witnessed.



HOLMES (voice-over): It really was an extraordinary couple of weeks covering two separate hurricanes. We began this strip 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, that damage that Irma had done. Because we knew Anguilla had been hit pretty hard by Irma, ironically the best way to get there --


HOLMES (voice-over): -- from Antigua because of the damage that had been done to the island was to bring 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 our story together on the boat, actually, because we had to leave Anguilla to head back to Antigua. We wanted to go so bad but there was another storm coming through and of course turned out to be Hurricane Maria. HOLMES: The thing is, bear in mind, we are 120 miles or more away from the main track of Hurricane --

HOLMES (voice-over): 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.

HOLMES: So you get a sense of how the live shots were -- this is our camera man'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 camera man.

Down we go. And this is where we've been doing the live shots around the whole storm for endless hours it's just been going on here.

HOLMES (voice-over): After Maria passed, what 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.

HOLMES: Now this is as close as we or anyone can get to Dominica, at least for now. The airport's shut down. They're --

HOLMES (voice-over): It was interesting because our pilot, who flew us around the island, he flies these islands for a living. This is what he does. And even he was shocked.


HOLMES (voice-over): 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 aviation authority said, you're clear to come in. Please come in. Not only do they have immediately needs, their entire industry of agriculture, the tourism industry that they were trying to build up around those rain forests, gone.

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.

HOLMES: 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 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 cross 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 Dominica, 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.

HOLMES (voice-over): During the storm, ravines and waterways became furious torrents, obliterating everything in their path. There's no running water on Dominica. These waterways are now the only way to bathe or wash clothes.

What we heard here around these islands is things are changing. These storms are not category 5s. There's 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.


CHURCH: Our Michael Holmes there.

Thank you so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT" and I'll be back at the top of the hour with more news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.