Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Death Toll Rises To 7 In Bahamas, PM Expects Number To Rise; New Forecast Shows Storm Threatening Carolinas, Including Charleston; First Aerial Footage Shows Complete Devastation in Bahamas; Dorian Growing In Size At It Starts to Hit Florida. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 20:00   ET




The images and the stories coming out of the Bahamas tonight are nothing short of searing. A man watches his wife drown and barely makes to the safety himself. People on jet skis going into the teeth of the storm and then going back and back yet again to rescue neighbors, to rescue strangers, knowing they could lose their lives doing it. Also, knowing it's too important not to try.

Tonight, we're seeing what Hurricane Dorian did to the Abaco Islands where entire communities are covered in water and some have been obliterated. Roads washed away and airport there wiped out. Hospitals and other emergency facilities there and across the Bahamas flooded.

We're learning, too, the conditions in Freeport are much worse than expected.

Our CNN's Patrick Oppmann who joins us shortly saw it firsthand as ordinary citizens made trip after trip into the flood waters risking their lives to save others. Take a look.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How many people are out there still?


OPPMANN: A few hundred?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. A lot of homes over there.

OPPMANN: And it's tough to get out there and get them?


OPPMANN: How long do you keep doing it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until we get everybody. We're Bahamians. We're not going to stop until we get everybody in.


COOPER: We're going to speak with Patrick shortly. We're monitoring late word from the authorities in the Bahamas about conditions there and casualties. First, though, a new track for the hurricane, and new word on where on the East Coast could get hit the hardest.

And for that, we turn to CNN's Jennifer Gray.

So, where is it? What's the latest?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson, I think as we move forward, really, the Carolinas is where we need to focus on because that's where we could see a potential landfall as well as the biggest impacts moving forward. It is basically paralleling the coast of Florida, finally picked up some forward speed today so moving out of Grand Bahama Island, their conditions will continue to improve.

But it's still a 110-mile-per-hour windstorm with gusts of 130 and the wind field is expanding and that's interesting because tropical force -- tropical storm force winds now extend 175 miles from the center so the storm is just sort of spreading out a little bit. You could see these rain bands pretty heavy on the rain on the west side of that storm and that's pushing all the rain bands, the rain, the wind into portions of Florida and getting some very heavy rain right now. That's going to continue.

We will have the potential for flooding in Florida, as well as very gusty winds, tropical storm force winds. This is going to move up to the north and eventually bend back to the east and that's where it gets very interesting especially for the Carolinas, Anderson.

COOPER: So, do you expect it to continue picking up speed as it moves up the coast or is it going to kind of get slower?

GRAY: Well, it is expected to pick up speed and that is good news for the Carolinas. Yes, we could possibly see a landfall there. It could be a category two but what -- when you talk about faster speed, you're not talking about as long duration of the winds as well as the rain and so that's a best case scenario when you have a storm like this for it to get in and get out.

So, by Friday afternoon, this storm will be off the coast of North Carolina, but they will feel a lot of impacts from this.

COOPER: So, when you talk about the Carolinas, is there a particular city or area that we should particularly be looking at and people should be warned about?

GRAY: Right, I think Charleston is going to be a very vulnerable area in South Carolina because of how low lying it is. And any push of water that goes in can definitely flood Charleston very easily. If you're familiar with that area, you know exactly what we're talking about and you will see those outer rain bands there as early as tomorrow afternoon. And then when you talk about the forecast winds, we're going to still

see very gusty winds across the Carolinas, as well. North Carolina we know that it's very vulnerable there with the outer banks and all that push of water in to the barrier islands. We're going to see a lot of beach erosion and things like that. So, we do have those hurricane watches up for North Carolina, hurricane warnings even for South Carolina and portions of North Carolina, as well as Florida. So, Florida still feeling the impacts but we do have to look forward and see where this is going to make maybe a bigger impact in days to come.

We could see four to seven feet of storm surge across portions of South Carolina and North Carolina by Thursday and Friday.

Anderson, we've been talking about this storm for more than a week now and it's still not over and still could see some pretty big impacts in days ahead.

COOPER: Wow. Jennifer Gray, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

A moment ago we showed you a portion of what Patrick saw today in some of the hardest hit areas. He joins us now from Freeport in the Bahamas.

Patrick, I mean, the litany of things you saw and the people you talked to today, it's really extraordinary the things you witnessed. Just talk a little bit about what the day has been like for the people there?

OPPMANN: It has been a good day in the sense for the first time, they were able to get in boats and jet skis.


Some of the boats not much bigger than row boats, Anderson, and go out and look for friends and family and strangers and try and rescue them.

It's an all-volunteer navy here. There is no organization. It was people who came out using their own gasoline, their own boats, risking their own lives to save others.


OPPMANN (voice-over): One jet ski ride, one boat trip at a time, these Bahamians are saving the lives of their family, neighbors and complete strangers. They launch from a bridge that is now underwater.

Theirs is a dangerous mission. Hurricane force winds are ranging.

Howard Armstrong was rescued after his house flooded to the ceiling. His house was one of hundreds lost as storm surge from Dorian swallowed whole neighborhoods.

Armstrong's wife Lynn didn't make it.

HOWARD ARMSTRONG, HURRICANE DORIAN SURVIVOR: It came over the roof. I would imagine 21 feet at least. We were doing all right until the water kept coming up and all the appliances were going around the house like a washing machine. I probably got hit with something in bed and my poor little wife got hypothermia and she was standing on top of the kitchen cabinets until they disintegrated and I kept with her and she just drowned on me.

OPPMANN (on camera): I'm so sorry.

ARMSTRONG: I know. I know. And so --

OPPMANN: How did you get out?

ARMSTRONG: I got out. I had a big boat anchored in there. I'm a crab fisherman and I have a 40-footer on a mooring which stayed there, so I didn't even think it was there. So I had got out of the house after my wife drowned and because you couldn't be in there anymore and I had no tools to chomp a hole in the roof, in the ceiling.

So I saw my boat was still there and I swam. I took a chance and swam out to it.

OPPMANN (voice-over): There is no power on Grand Bahama Island, no running water, sporadic cell service at best. Submerged cars blocked many roads. Maybe the last thing working is this all-volunteer crew of boaters risking their lives to save lives. Dorian fights them every trip they make.

People coming with what they have, the jets skis they have. They are dealing with horrible weather conditions. It's not safe to be on a boat or out here at all. They know there are people out there.

While we were there, winds flip a jet ski and the rescuers have to hold their efforts.

Rescuer Rochenel Daniel says there isn't much time left.

ROCHENEL DANIEL, HURRICANE DORIAN SURVIVOR: Exhausted. Some we had to carry. Some couldn't make it. Some he put on the jet ski, turned the whole jet ski over because they couldn't hold they weight up.

First one we found was my brother clinging to a tree and he made out safe but we were unable to locate his wife at the moment. We hope she's OK, but the rescue goes on and on. We have a lot of people supporting us. Everybody working as a team here, you know. It's very hard but we shall overcome.

OPPMANN (on camera): How are you doing? You made it.

(voice-over): Dozens have been rescued but many more remain in desperation as they spend the third night waiting for salvation.


COOPER: Patrick, that is incredible --

OPPMANN: Anderson, go ahead --

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it's just incredible, first of all --

OPPMANN: It is incredible.

COOPER: -- the fact that these are civilians doing this, helping one another and that man, Howard Armstrong, I'm not even sure he -- I mean, the -- I cannot believe, I mean, he saw his wife drawn in front of her -- in front of him.

OPPMANN: And he refuses to leave until her body is recovered. He refuses to leave that site until her body is recovered. Of course, rescuers say they have to prioritize the living and there are still hundreds of people out there spending the night without food or water or electricity and probably losing hope at this point.

One final, one first good piece of news we seen since this storm began is just a little while ago, we saw what looked like a Coast Guard helicopter fly over the island. You can only hope that the skies have cleared enough now they can begin tomorrow, rescues and have their work cut out for them. There are people who don't have much time left here.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, just in that microcosm that you came upon, the man talking about rescuing his brother and his wife they can't find, and that man saw his wife drawn. There is no concern -- what is so horrifying about this is we're just getting glimpses of this. I mean, thank goodness you and your team and others are there to show it, to show the world what is going on but we're only getting glimpses of the horror of what is happening at this stage,.


OPPMANN: Howard Armstrong, he said when his wife died and he knew he didn't have much time left either. He left his wife behind and swam underneath the debris down to his front door. He swam out of the front door. He's got bruises all over his body from things he collided through in the dark. He swam up and the first thing he did is not try to save himself but he swam to his neighbor's house. A woman calling to him all that long, and he and his wife called back and said we're going to come you and come get you.

He got into the house and he said he saw her dead body. And at that point, he knew there was nothing left for him to do. He tried to swim. He was able to find the boat, and the boat rescued him. He's a man in shock who has nothing but the clothes on his back.

COOPER: I mean, it was like when he said to you that his wife drowned in front of him, it was almost like realizing it for the first time. I mean, it's just -- it's extraordinary -- it's extraordinary what's happening. It's horrific.

And, Patrick, I really appreciate you and your team continuing to work around the clock as you have been. Thank you.

When last we spoke with Chef Jose Andres, he and his organization, World Central Kitchen, they were gearing up to do what they've done in so many other recent disasters. And we talk about an organization -- I mean, this is Jose and this is

volunteers and some hard-working staff people who had been learning storm after storm, disaster after disaster. We first met up with them in Harvey when they started doing this. We met up with them in San Juan, in Puerto Rico, and traveled with them across the island where they fed hundreds of thousands of people or hundreds of thousands of meals on a chain of islands with limited access in and out of the middle of such a powerful storm.

Jose Andres today was able to get to the Abaco Islands. Today, all the preparation and dedication, they are being put to the test, especially on Abaco where Chef Andres returned from.

Just moments ago, I spoke to him by phone.


COOPER: Jose, you just helicoptered out of Abaco. What did it look like from the air?

JOSE ANDRES , CHEF, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN (via telephone): Well, you know, the very beginning as you come into the island, it's very strange (ph) because throughout this island, it doesn't look like the trees are being affected by the hurricane at all, and there are some very nice homes that -- also those homes, for some reason, they are untouched.

But in the moment you are five to 10 minutes over the island, at the very beginning, you will find the national forest of Abaco, it's one moment that there you see all of this in total destruction of the forest, of the palm trees, all the trees broken, and all of sudden, yes, you see every single home, imagine (ph), their roofs gone.

We were able to land in a heliport in a hotel called Abaco Resort, and they were waiting for us, they had the heliport cleaned, and we were able to drop there, I think, 2,000 sandwiches and over a thousand pieces of oranges, and it was great because we were able to do (INAUDIBLE).

And I left there one of my team members (INAUDIBLE) to have him to do some intelligence (ph) work. Tonight, they start distributing the sandwiches and start learning where are we going to be doing our first kitchen.

COOPER: How does that next step take place? Because, I mean, when you see the images from the air which we're showing right now, it just looks like street after street of just rubble. You see some, you know, a lot of water still on the ground. You see houses that have simply disappeared.

Where do you begin? When you go on the ground, what do you actually then do tomorrow?

ANDRES: I haven't been able to move much over the island, because I had a very short window to arrive with the -- with the helicopter and leave. I was actually going to stay, but then what happens is that as we were unloading and moving away, the sandwiches, another helicopter arrived, and I got a phone call that was better for me to come back to start planning. So I took that helicopter almost like it was the subway.

There's been a lot of helicopters in and out, taking some people out of the island.

So, the next steps is, is which of the hotels, which of the buildings, the structures are good in this case for us, an NGO that feeds, to do our first kitchen there. It's going to be the most important thing for us.

But, yes, what you were describing what we are seeing on the videos is every single roof many (ph) of the homes. Where I was next to a marina and the heliport is almost by the sea, and I saw almost 20 big boats that they were out in the street or on top of homes, every single ship on the marina left the water and flew away and some of them even were 50 to 60 meters inland.

COOPER: Do you -- there's some, 17,000 to 20,000 people who live on those islands, do -- I mean, you were able to bring 2,000 sandwiches, which is extraordinary to get that amount of sandwiches, that amount of food in already.


What do -- do you have a sense of what the needs are at this point?

ANDRES: Yes, we feel very much, even as many people, some people in the islands, that they have homes that they've not been -- some houses (ph) are so damaged. I'm guessing at the very least, we're going to be trying to be bringing between 5,000 and 7,000 tomorrow, but we only brought 2,000 because that is the maximum capacity that we could bring on the helicopter we are going to be using. But that's why believe it is going to be so important that we start doing a kitchen right there.

My number right now, is we're going to go for 10,000 meals. If we have to go slightly higher, we will. The most important is not to cook but it is through distribution, through a system.

I already heard that some people are getting very nervous because they were worried (ph) that the main two food shops in the island were kind of destroyed, were totally gone. And so, you know, people are already about to start get very nervous, rightfully so. That's why believe it's so important for us to start bringing our (AUDIO GAP) bring that peace of mind on the people (AUDIO GAP).

COOPER: You said, you know, you've seen a lot of helicopters moving back and forth, do you see a lot of people on the ground out -- you know, from outside groups like yours, is they're already starting to be a presence of rescue personnel? I know the Coast Guard has been doing some operations.

ANDRES: The only Coast Guard I saw today was a very big plane that took the prime minister, the head, (INAUDIBLE) some American authorities. I'm guessing maybe the ambassador of the United States was there, and probably he was trying to do a flyover to do -- use a flyover to see the situation in Grand Bahama.

But already, I have seen a lot of videos of the U.S. Coast Guard doing a lot of work, bringing injured people to the main hospital here in Nassau.

There's been a lot of movement of private helicopters. I guess these are people that -- they have the possibility and the means. Some of those private helicopters, they've been removing also injured people. I heard form some pilots, I landed, that there'll be a lot of people, broken arm or broken leg, and things like that.

And I guess, people that have the means and the possibilities, they're using every resource they can to use those helicopters to leave the island, especially now (ph).

COOPER: Yes. Jose, it's amazing that you've already been able to make -- I mean, 2,000 sandwiches and drop them off today, and I know you are feeding elsewhere as well.

So, Jose, thanks for the update. I appreciate it.

ANDRES: Thank you very much.


COOPER: Incredible work.

Much more ahead on the storm, including conversations with one of the many volunteer rescuers who are working under some of the most challenging conditions and responding to what you've already seen as almost unimaginable need.

And later, the man who picked up what are now known to be the only survivors of the fire of the sea off the coast of Southern California. He'll describe what happened when the survivors came toward his boat to try to get on and what he witnessed. That and more as we continue.



COOPER: And a man who watched his wife drown swims through debris to try and save others, it both breaks your heart and fills it with hope that such people even exist. They are not alone, whether it's on jet ski and other small vessels, or trucks, or whatever can get people where people are stranded, you will rescuers in the Bahamas, people like Kevin Tomlinson who joins us in Freeport.

Kevin, I know you've been out there trying to rescue people. Tell me what it's been like and how many people -- just what have you been seeing these last 24, 48 hours.

KEVIN TOMLINSON, PERFORMING RESCUES IN FREEPORT: Well, Anderson, pleasure to have on the show. I really appreciated the attention that you're giving the Bahamas. We had so many persons out there as a community, trying our best to

help persons who are in low lying areas, areas in Grand Bahama over the bridge. We have persons locked in their houses. We had people sleeping in there for two days and couldn't get out, and needed to be rescued. We have seen it's really heartbreaking but to know that this community does our best, when we've come together and we help each other. And we've been working together to ensure that persons are brought to safety.

COOPER: What's --

TOMLINSON: And still into this night. Go ahead.

COOPER: What is the food and water situation there now? I mean, is there -- is there anything for people to eat and drink? Is anything being handed out? I know there was a shelter and I think the night you were there went from 25 people to several hundred people in a matter of hours.

TOMLINSON: We went from 25 persons to about 400 persons in less than two hours.


TOMLINSON: That was (INAUDIBLE) we found and persons who just try walking on foot, trying to get to some shelter.

And, yes, we do have a situation because a lot of the persons who came out abandoned their homes and they had no food in their hand and no water and so forth, and the shelters didn't have the food and water to accommodate that.

So, now, we have a problem I think -- I've been telling people all day that I -- in another day or so, it's going to be a great problem if we don't get some help. But I understand that the prime minister and members of NEMA are on the way. They were just waiting for the all clear to get in here to get things done. So, we're looking forward to that.

COOPER: You've been through storms on the island before.


I think there was Hurricane Francis, if I remember. Does anything compare to what you are seeing now?

TOMLINSON: This is the worst experience I have ever had in a hurricane and I've had about five of them probably and I've never seen it like this. I've never seen it like this. I -- when you look at what -- sorry, I'm getting choked up.

When you look and see what was happening around and you look at people's lives just being displaced, the loss of lives, you know, that is something that's -- you know, I can't get over that. And so, this is something that really and truly we will never ever forget as a community, ever forget. But we appreciate you for you letting the world know what is happening

here, man. We really, really appreciate that, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, Kevin, I appreciate all you're doing. I mean, just some of the -- so many people reaching out, so many people on jet skis trying to save neighbors. It's just extraordinary.

Kevin Tomlinson, we'll check in with you again. Thank you very much and thank you for the work you're doing.

I want to give a wider view now of the tremendous impact this storm has had and will have and we're talking about for years to come. Late this evening, I spoke with Joy Jibrilu, who is the director general for the Bahamas ministry of tourism.


COOPER: We're showing the picture of Abaco. I think it's Grand Abaco. It is extraordinary. You almost cannot tell where sea is and where the land is. I mean, everything just -- water covers so much of it.

And it's hard to even see houses standing. I mean, you can see some rooftops but the destruction is really -- it is shocking.

JOY JIBRILU, DIRECTOR GENERAL, BAHAMAS MINISTRY OF TOURISM: If I can put it in context as we speak about Abaco specifically in the first instance, Abaco was a very developed city. Marsh Harbour, the capital, a very developed city. And so, there are reports going out that perhaps it was not, that is not the case at all. It was the -- in terms of tourists, visitor arrivals, the second largest island in terms of visitor arrivals. And really developed, really beautiful.

So, when you see that level of devastation and destruction, it genuinely is heartbreaking.

COOPER: You -- I believe you have some staff missing in the islands that are hit hardest, is that right?

JIBRILU: That's correct. So if I speak about Abaco specifically, we are now to the point of just deep, deep concern for three of our staff members we've not had any contact from them. We're reaching out using every channel possible. And so, if by any miracle, they are hearing this, their families want to know and we want to know.

COOPER: And just in terms of hospital facilities, how -- are there enough hospital facilities, are you seeing, you know, are there many wounded people at this point? Do you have any sense of an accurate death toll at this point?

JIBRILU: So, we're only obviously able to confirm the five official deaths. We do believe that that number will increase. We know that there are many injured and the injured have the -- and are in the process of being brought to the capital, to Nassau for hospital treatment.

Grand Bahama, our second largest hospital in the commonwealth of the Bahamas, absolutely devastated, under water, it's totally compromised.


COOPER: Yes, and in fact, we're looking at pictures of the hospital in Freeport and looks like there is water -- I mean, up to, you know, people's ankles inside the hospital.

JIBRILU: It's worse than that. It's the worst possible conditions. So everyone had to be removed. And I think this is why this is such a humanitarian issue at this stage because when a main hospital is no longer operable or usable, and you know that there are people who are critically ill, seriously ill when debris was flying they acted as projectile, so we know there are injuries. And first of all, trying to move them through Nassau or another island where there is a clinic or a hospital and getting the right care and attention for those people is a priority.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, you know, when things people don't consider of people needing dialysis or just regular access to medication, medication that needs to be refrigerated, insulin. I mean, these are -- these are the day two and day three and day four and week one and two and three disasters that are the follow on effects.

JIBRILU: You are so right. You know, someone asked me just today what do the Bahamians need, what do the people need? And I said every single thing that you could imagine. That includes the most basic utensils, basic human needs but when you start looking at the requirement for medicine, we just heard a plea that someone who was in a diabetic coma and they were pleading with people to see if they could rescue that person. So that's the level of, you know, it's just -- actually it's distressing. I just don't know how to articulate it in any other way.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Joy, I appreciate talking to you and I'm so sorry for what you and everyone there is going through and I hope help is on the way and more in the coming hours and days. Thank you for talking to us.

JIBRILU: Anderson, thank you and thank you to the people of the world.

COOPER: It's a desperate, desperate situation. A lot more straight ahead as the hurricane moves dangerously closer to the U.S. mainland. I want to check in with our correspondent along Florida's Atlantic Coast and more.


[20:35:04] COOPER: We have more breaking news on Hurricane Dorian and sadly -- it's breaking news on the storm, sadly we do not expect this to be the last time for this particular item, the death toll has just risen according to the Bahamian prime minister. It now stands at seven.

At the top of the program, we showed you the new forecast track of the storm. It has gained both forward and northward momentum. The wind field is expanding and those winds are increasingly starting to hit Florida's Atlantic Coast. Millions of course are in the danger zone there.

Randi Kaye is in Fort Pierce for us tonight, north of Palm Beach along the shore. What is it like where you are right now, Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a steady rain here, Anderson, pretty much all day since we got here at times. We were getting pounded by the rain, the winds were really heavy. We're in a slight low right now but we know not to let our guard down of course and so did the folks in this area.

But the wind was so heavy at times, Anderson, and so forceful that we could barely open the car door just to get out of the car. But we're at the Fort Pierce Inlet. So this is the entry way into the ocean from here. Behind me step out of the way so you can see it, that's a sailboat and we found that out here hours ago. It still hasn't moved. Luckily, we were a little concerned that would be pushed from the wind actually on to more of the land but it's in the water there at the inlet. It was likely more, you know, out in the inlet where we found some other boats and it was either pushed by the heavy rains and winds to this area, it's sort of stuck on its side there, hasn't moved much since we got here.

So that is good news but that's exactly why they say even though Hurricane Dorian didn't make landfall here in Florida, you still have to be concerned about those hurricane forced winds that are edging dangerously close to Florida that we've been experiencing along with tropical storm forced winds throughout the day here in the Fort Pierce area, Anderson.

COOPER: And are evacuation orders still in place for the barrier islands?

KAYE: For some it seems as though where we were last night on Singer Island, that barrier island has been lifted. Palm Beach County evacuations have been lifted here in Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County. We just got an alert on our way over here to do this live shot with you that that evacuation mandatory evacuation is going to be lifted at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. But even as we were coming in, there were police officers everywhere, the town is boarded up. The gas stations are still closed. So it's going to take time to sort of turn that over and turn that around even after the evacuation orders are lifted.

COOPER: Randi, I appreciate it, thank you. I want to go now to Miguel Marquez up the coast a bit in Vero Beach, Florida. And as Randi mentioned, the winds and rains are whipping up and then calming down. Miguel, how is it where you are?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, much the same here. Evacuation orders are lifted -- they were lifted much earlier today and interestingly as they were lifted, we've seen some of the roughest weather throughout the day, both the winds and the rain coming down. The rain coming down quite hard now. The winds picking up at times but that storm is still about 100 miles off the coast here and moving north. As it moves north, there are evacuation orders going into effect further north. The uncertainty of this storm is what really has people sort of unsure as to whether to come back, when to open their businesses and how to deal with it.

The reality of what's playing out in the Bahamas is not lost on people here, as well. I mean, for all the people who came out here today to see this storm and to see what was going on, the Bahamas were very much on their minds, what's happening there and to realize how they were spared direct hit by this storm and how bad things really could have been here and now other places farther north from here in the Carolinas and Georgia all of them now waiting to see what exactly this storm does, Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. And obviously that's where a lot of focus now on the Carolinas. Jennifer Gray in the Weather Center was saying that. That's where we should be watching the next day or so. Miguel, appreciate it.

Coming up, we're going to talk to the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina whose city may be extremely vulnerable from Hurricane Dorian, according to the latest forecast as I was just saying. We'll be right back.


[20:42:46] COOPER: As we mentioned, the new projected track for Hurricane Dorian has it wrecking Charleston, South Carolina early Thursday afternoon as a Category 2 hurricane. As you know, an estimated 244,000 people have already evacuated the coastal areas in and around there.

John Tecklenburg is Charleston's mayor and he joins me now.

Mayor, thanks for being with us. You say the hurricane poses a triple --


COOPER: -- threat for Charleston. Can you just explain what that means?

TECKLENBURG: Well, we're the Lowcountry, the low-lying area. And when you have that combination, Anderson, of heavy rains and high tides and storm surge, it brings extra water right into our city. So that's our real threat and our real concern at this point. And I'm going to share with you that Charleston is such a beautiful and hospitable city that it's really contrary to our culture to be asking people to leave town but if you live in a low-lying area, we're asking you to still -- there is still time to get out.

COOPER: Yes. Well, it's also such a beautiful town. It's a hard town to leave. I know. What are those in your community doing to prepare for the storm? I assume people have been boarding up, things like that if they're staying. TECKLENBURG: Well, absolutely. They have been batting down the hatches as the city has with its own buildings but we've also been sandbagging. We distributed almost 75,000 sandbags in just the last two days.


TECKLENBURG: We've been checking pumps and adding pumps and barricading and getting ready to actually close down streets where we know flooding will occur because this may sound funny, Anderson, but there will be water in the streets. And if somebody is riding down the street, it will actually form a wake and so we want to prevent that as much as we can.

COOPER: And obviously, when you see the pictures from the Bahamas, I mean that obviously, you know, put odds to concern ratcheting it up. I mean you've been through Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Irma, you say that if people's homes flooded for those storms then they should absolutely evacuate for this storm, is that right?

TECKLENBURG: Absolutely. And the devastation in the Bahamas is just heartbreaking, isn't it? It's just terrible.

[20:45:05] I wanted this storm to pass and see what we can do to help those folks down there.


TECKLENBURG: But, you know, Charleston has now had impact from a storm for five years in a row so we have become rehearsed, if you will, at getting ready for the storm and then also when it passes of recovery and getting back to business.

COOPER: So your message to the people of Charleston tonight is there is still time to get out particularly if you are in an area that's flooded or your home is flooded in the past?

TECKLENBURG: Absolutely. The lane reversal of I-26 is still active. The weather is actually nice until the storm gets here late tomorrow or tomorrow evening. There is still time to get out if you want to. If not, though, please get boarded up and hunker d down as safe as you can be. And we want Charleston tomorrow night, contrary to what you would think, to look like a ghost town.

COOPER: Mayor Tecklenburg, I appreciate it. And we wish you the best. We'll check in with you tomorrow. Thank you so much.

We got more breaking news ahead this time on the West Coast where we have new details about the search for victims from that deadly boat fire. Twenty are known dead. We'll be right back.


[20:50:27] COOPER: We heard it from a top official in the Bahamas tonight and have seen it with so many storms before what's happening, there's a story that's going to play out over weeks and months, not hours and days. So even if we bring you all of these breaking news developments tonight, it's important to not lose sight of that and mindful about it. Let's check in with Chris. See what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time"" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Yes. I share your concern, Coop. The pictures are so bad in terms of what we've seen even on those islands there, even on the Abacos that I'm worried about what we don't know.

COOPER: Right.

CUOMO: And things, you know, never get better and it's always good to be surprised about that. So, you know, we're just going to have to wait and see and the story of this storm is far from over. So we'll talk to some people who have some particularly harrowing tales to tell as evidence of what so many on that island are going to deal with. We'll be checking in and continuing your coverage of the latest points on the track and what our concerns are in different areas.

Man, I'm going to bring in Rick Santorum because we have natural disasters, we also have manmade disasters in the form of these mass shootings. And the idea of what would have made a difference in this particular shooting in Texas. There is a solution to stopping what happen in this particular case. There is a change you could make and yet there's great resistance to it. We're going to debate that with the good senator tonight.

COOPER: All right. I mean I think what you said is so important to just keep in mind, as bad as the images are that we're seeing, we are only seeing, you know, snapshots of it and those snapshots, you know, we're hearing about people, a man -- talked to guy who's wife drowned in front of him in their home. I mean it's just extraordinary and I'm not even sure if that's included in the newest death toll which is now seven. So let's hope those rescues continue. We'll check in with you in about eight minutes. Appreciate it, Chris.

Quick and by the programming note, tomorrow you join CNN and 10 presidential hopefuls, Chris is going to be there, and 10 presidential hopefuls for an unprecedented Democratic presidential town hall event on the climate crisis. In attendance, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke, Andrew Yang, and Julian Castro, all 10 candidates taking the stage on one night with their plans of how to address this critical issue. Take a look at how their plans are different, what they agree on. That's tomorrow starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll be on from 8:00 to 9:00.

Still to come tonight, the latest on the dive boat fire in Southern California. We have new details on some of the victims who were aboard and I'm going to talk to a man who rescued the ship's only survivors and what he saw. It's extraordinary.


[20:57:23] COOPER: Coast guard has suspended search operations after the deadly boat fire off of Southern California. It also release this new video showing the response efforts. Twenty bodies, many of them high school students, have been recovered, 14 victims are still missing. Families and authorities have a lot of questions certainly about why more could not be done to save lives. Five surviving crew members could provide some answers. They were picked up at sea by a man named Bob Hansen who I spoke with.


COOPER: Bob, if you can just walk me through what happened that night because I know you were on a fishing trip with you wife and you woke up to the sound of someone beating on the side of your boat.

BOB HANSEN, EYEWITNESS TO BOAT FIRE: Yes, that's correct. It was about 3:30 in the morning. We heard somebody beating on the side of the boat. So I got up and as I went to the door and got out and opened the door and there were five guys in a rubber dinghy at the transom and they were calling for help and I looked out just beyond him and here's a boat that was totally engulfed in fire at the time.

COOPER: How far away was the boat that was on fire from you?

HANSEN: Maybe about 400 yards. It wasn't terribly far.

COOPER: And how were they, the people you were rescuing? I mean what were they --

HANSEN: They were pretty distraught. Several of them were crying. One of the crewmen had a badly broken leg, so he was in a lot of pain. And another crewman, he had a twisted ankle and then we brought the rest of them on board. They were all wet. Mostly in their underwear or, you know -- like they had just jumped out of bed and over the side. Then so we got towels to dry them all down. I went upstairs with the captain at the time and we hailed a coast guard and gave them our position. When I first saw the boat, it was totally engulfed in flames from the bow to the stern and maybe 30 feet high. It was -- I was just totally helpless. There was nothing I could do.

COOPER: I mean that feeling of helplessness, I mean you do -- you know, you did all you could, but to have to, you know, just stay there and watch this thing burn, I can't imagine what that's like.

HANSEN: You're totally helpless. And, you know, things go through your mind, it's like, had I known sooner, you know, or they had gotten off, I could have picked them all up.

COOPER: Bob Hansen, I appreciate again what you did and thanks for talking with us.

HANSEN: You're welcome. Thanks, Anderson. Nice talking to you.


COOPER: Well, obviously a lot more to learn about what happened. The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Anderson, I appreciate it. END