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Malibu Burning; New Developments in Natalee Holloway Case; Child Amputee Brings Sunshine to Walter Reed
Aired November 24, 2007 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: All right, T.J. and Betty, thank you so much. Have a great day.
Meantime, we continue to watch what is taking place there in southern California. It's like a repeat of what we saw happen last month in this very same region. Again, southern California burning, the hills near Malibu going up in flames and very fast. Some 100 homes in three separate communities have been evacuated as heavy winds fan this inferno. Several homes have already been destroyed, you heard Betty mention 12. Well, the fire captain is calling this definitely deja vu after more than two dozen fires last month left 14 people dead and hundreds of homes perished.
CNN's Kara Finnstrom is in Malibu and joins us now with the very latest on what you're feeling there. It looks like the winds certainly are kicking up just where you're standing, as well.
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does, Fredricka, when we first drove in this morning, the winds are calmed down, but we are starting to feel them again at this hour. Take a look behind me. We are at the base of Corral Canyon Road. The fire actually started just about four miles up there and you can see the heavy smoke behind us. And if we pan over this way just a bit, you can see all of the resources that are now headed this way. We counted fire trucks from at least five different cities surrounding the Malibu area that have come in to help with this, just an enormous amount of manpower coming in to help fight this fire.
Joining us now, live here is one of the gentleman who has been affected by all this. He lives just about a mile to the west of here. This is the direction this fire has been moving in, and the big concern is that that is a densely populated area.
And you were sharing with me, sir, that you just got word that you may have lost your home.
SID HODJATIE, RESIDENT: Yes. My older son just called me. He went back to the house, and he said, dad, everybody is surrounding our house, and he believes that we have lost our house.
FINNSTROM: We're very sorry for what appears to be a loss for you this morning. Tell us a little bit. You said that you woke up this morning, you weren't evacuated, you woke up because you were smelling smoke?
HODJATIE: Yes. I woke up around 3:45 and I smelled the smoke and I woke up my wife. I said, "Ursula, get up, there is a fire." She says, "I don't see it," I said, "but I smell it." So, we just got up, and right away, we knew there was a fire coming our way and we started packing the animals and woke up the kids, and we left around quarter to 5:00, and when we were leaving, the fire was in our back door. And like my son, Eric, my older son was saying, he said, "dad, if we had left 30 or 40 seconds more, we would have been baked here." And we saw the fire coming toward the house and the heavy smoke and very, very uncomfortable situation.
FINNSTROM: We're so glad that you and your family were able to get out safely. We did just see a helicopter go overhead. There have been at least four water droppers, we're told, working the fire in this area. And we are hearing from more and more people, families like this that weren't evacuated. They saw smoke or they smelled smoke, they woke up and just got out of harm's way in time -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: So Kara, explain to me how this works, as in the case of Mr. Hodjatie. Now, will people generally be warned? Is there some kind of phone call or neighborhood, I guess, fire watch, anything like that that usually transpires when a fire is say a few miles away, as opposed to in his case, it sounds like the flames were licking his back door, as he described. What usually happens?
FINNSTROM: Well, there's a number of different systems that can go into play, but we know that this fire started about 3:30 this morning. That was the first reports of it. His home is about a mile away, and within about a half hour, he was smelling smoke.
FINNSTROM: So, that gives you an idea just how quickly this moved. So, perhaps, some of these warning systems couldn't be put into place. Pepperdine University has told us that they did send out text messages, recorded phone messages to their students. They are sheltering in place. They are actually in the other direction, and we are told that they don't feel that they are threatened at this point, but as a precaution, they're asking everyone to shelter in place at this point.
Again, this fire now moving west, and the concern with that is, that is a heavily populated area here in the Malibu area, and the last fire that burned about a month ago stopped right about here. This fire is picking up at that point and burning west in areas that haven't burned before, at least not for about ten years, we're told, in many of these pockets. So, there's a lot of dry brush there that's ready to burn.
WHITFIELD: And is this a similar scenario as last month when the embers are simply floating in the air, being traveled a mile or two before landing and starting yet another fire?
FINNSTROM: That's the big concern with these winds. You can hear a lot of the fire trucks moving behind me here. You can see the wind starting to pick up. This is a lot more activity than we saw when we got here over a half hour ago, and they've kind of started to use this as a staging point, moving all the troops into the area to the west of us from here, more towards an area called point doom, which has a lot of homes in it, so a lot of concerns. Last report we had was that 35 homes had been destroyed.
These numbers are going to change and they're going to grow. They're still trying to confirm a lot of these homes that may be threatened, but Fredricka, if that gives you any indication, this is a fire that started at 3:30 this morning that already 35 homes may have been destroyed.
FINNSTROM: It just tells you how quickly it is moving.
WHITFIELD: It is moving fast. Kara Finnstrom, thank you so much, right there in Malibu. Let's show you a map right now, give you an idea of the area that has already been evacuated.
See the two yellow kind of squiggly lines there, those represent roads, the Canyon Road and the Malibu Canyon Road in between an area that's been evacuated. That's the 100 homes under the mandatory evacuation right now, and our Kara Finnstrom is right there in the middle of all that, as well, where you saw kind of the fleet of fire engines all ready to be dispatched to various locations along that route.
We'll continue to follow the situation with Kara there on the ground, and you're looking at the live pictures right now of one of what may be the 35 homes that Kara was describing that have been destroyed by this fire.
And you can see how the plumes of smoke are being pushed aside. Westerly winds, southwesterly winds at about 50 miles-an-hour. Let's check in with Bonnie Schneider to get a more accurate view of these winds, all moving mostly westward, which means it's going toward the ocean, but as Kara just explained, the more densely populated areas.
BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. And where the fire began, you can see, was really north of where the ocean is, in and around Malibu Creek State Park and at first it was only 250 acres we were talking about and quickly that number multiplied as the winds actually from the northeast spread the flames further to the southwest and more westerly as Kara has been reporting.
I want to talk a little bit about the winds, because the gusts in the Malibu Hills have been fluctuating between 57 and 59 miles-per- hour. Right now, they've dropped down to about 57 just in the past few hotels, but the sustained winds have been fierce out of the northeast currently at 31 miles-per-hour.
Now, we're watching the threat for strong wind, of course in and around Malibu, but we're also looking at a more extended period. I want to point out that the wind advisory continues until 6:00 tonight, as far south as areas in and around San Diego County. I'm going to zoom into that county now and show you what I mean.
Notice the area highlighted in yellow, further inland, including cities like Ramona. That's because areas inland will actually receive the strongest winds with gusts up to 45 miles-per-hour, whereas coastal areas will only get gusts about 25 miles-per-hour, but that wind advisory doesn't extend all the way down further to the south, actually to the Mexican border and then further to the east towards Arizona.
Current winds in and around San Diego are light, but once you start heading into those valleys and canyon passes, they are much stronger coming in out of the northeast at about 33 miles-per-hour.
So, the threat for the wind-driven fire continues. We're actually seeing some of the wind gusts as strong as near 60 miles-per-hour, and what happens is they drive the flames quickly along much of the area that's either been previously burned or even where you have plenty of vegetation. It's been so dry there that the flames worked their way up the tree branches, then become airborne, jump to the next tree, or in the case of what you see to the right with our live pictures, from home to home. They can actually skip one home and go onto the next home, very difficult to predict.
And as you heard from some of the fire officials, sometimes those winds actually swirl about in the canyons, in the areas, here. They swirl about because the wind rides up the canyon and back down. That also makes it very difficult for firefighters to get a handle on which direction the fire is actually going to be moving. So, that's something that they're watching, as well.
And in terms of what we're expecting for the rest of the day today, with high pressure well in place over the Great Basin, the winds heating, compressing, coming down the mountain. That offshore flow will continue. So critical fire danger will continue for this region here, and as I mentioned, all the way further to the east towards Arizona, with gusts on the high side in the canyons and passes at 60 miles-per-hour. Very low relative humidity, five percent to 10 percent. High temperatures should climb into the upper 60s.
Now, that's a big difference from the fires we experienced in October, when we had high temperatures near 90 degrees and even lower relative humidity than what you see here, so not as bad, but still a very dangerous situation.
Now, the forecast actually calls for critical fire danger to continue into Sunday. So, that's an update for you. Originally it was just for Saturday, but now it's been extended. So we're going to see these winds still pretty much staying intense through the morning hours, possibly die down this afternoon and then as we go into the overnight period, we'll be watching them pick up again.
It's not until we get into the rest of the workweek that we start to see the threat diminish, though it looks like on Sunday, in the latter part of the day, we're likely to see some improvement as we return to that marine flow coming in. And that's what we want, Fredricka, want winds coming in off the ocean, because that will bring moist air, and that's what firefighters desperately need.
WHITFIELD: They really do. All right, thanks so much, Bonnie. Of course, as we look at new images there on the right of the screen, we can get a better idea what you were talk being in terms of the density of the brush versus these communities that are kind of built up in little pockets.
So, as you were seeing, the more densely populated communities and then you see kind of a wider view from this live shot. Now we understand why it seems like an entire community is being wiped out at one time, because these flames are simply being carried in the air from one house right next door to the other, as opposed to in last month's Malibu area fire, the homes were much more spread out. There was greater distance between those homes.
So, we're going to continue to monitor the situation there, what could be 35 homes destroyed, perhaps even more. The situation possibly getting worse before it gets better there in southern California. That view from Malibu.
Other news we're following right now. We continue to look at the developments in the Natalee Holloway case. A third suspect is now in Aruba in a jail. Overnight, 20-year-old Joran van der Sloot arrived from the Netherlands. He and two other suspects are being questioned about Holloway, the Alabama teenager who disappeared in Aruba two years ago. Our Susan Candiotti is in Aruba -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Joran van der Sloot is the last of three suspects who were rearrested earlier this week in the case of Natalee Holloway. After he was picked up on Wednesday, Joran van der Sloot was extradited to Aruba from the Netherlands, where he is attending college.
Now, CNN has obtained exclusive video of his court-ordered trip from the Netherlands to Aruba. You will see more of it today, but in the meantime, we are showing you freeze frames from that videotape.
Now, van der Sloot, seen here, was in Kurasal (ph), at the airport there, this was the last leg of his trip from the Netherlands, he was changing planes there, and of course, he was being escorted by two police officers. You see him, he appears to be relaxed. Of course, he's tired from a very long trip. You see him talking to the police officers, even laughing at times.
However, now that he is back in Aruba, he will not be allowed to see his parents while he is in jail.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Late Friday, Joran van der Sloot returned to Aruba from the Netherlands under police escort. Believed to be in the middle car, he was rushed from the airport and back into jail. On Monday he's scheduled to appear before a judge in a closed- door jailhouse hearing. Authorities will ask a judge to hold van der Sloot at least another eight days under suspicion of manslaughter in the death of Natalee Holloway.
HANS MOS, CHIEF PROSECUTOR: I think we have evidence to prove that the girl is not alive anymore. CANDIOTTI (on camera): Even without a body?
MOS: Even without a body.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Holloway was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers more than two years ago. In interviews, van der Sloot denied accusations of rape and murder and said he regretted leaving Holloway alone on a beach.
JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, SUSPECT: At that moment in time, for me it wasn't the wrong thing. I mean, it's not something a real man would do, it's not normal, it's not right at all.
MOS: It was the night that he was involved in this case, he has his own truth and we think our truth and the real truth is other than his truth.
CANDIOTTI: Earlier Friday, a judge oversaw separate jailhouse appearances for two other suspects, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, who also denied harming Holloway. A judge ruled there is enough new so-called incriminating evidence to detain the brothers eight days for more interrogations. Defense attorneys weren't happy.
DAVID KOCK, ATTY FOR KALPOE BROTHERS: There is no new evidence. They don't have (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
CANDIOTTI: The chief prosecutor won't reveal what the new evidence is. CNN has learned a new team of Dutch and Aruban investigators have been recreating cell phone transmissions and text messages among the suspects after Holloway disappeared, discrepancies allegedly were found.
MOS: We used state of the art technology in reviewing this case. That's clear, and it would be sad if we didn't do that. So, that's what happened, we used state of the art stuff from the Netherlands, brought in here to analyze the whole investigation again.
CANDIOTTI: Authorities say some information, initially, was improperly analyzed or overlooked. The chief prosecutor says by year's end, he hopes to decide whether to try the three young men for manslaughter, if found guilty, they'd face 15 years in prison.
CANDIOTT: (INAUDIBLE) says believes that her death was unintentional. The question is, will we ever find out exactly what happened to her? And you know, Fred, this is the very first time that I ever heard prosecutors say or admit to errors in the original part of this investigation that began more than 2-1/2 years ago, but this is a brand new team that is working on this case, and they say they really do hope to wrap things up by the end of this year. Back to you.
WHITFIELD: And Susan, these are all young people. Any word from the family members on the Holloway side or perhaps even on the suspects' side? CANDIOTTI: Well, on the suspects' side, we tried to speak with Joran's mother, but she didn't want to talk with us and hung up the telephone. She did tell other reporters, a CNN affiliate, in her view, the prosecutors after all this time are simply after her son, as she put it, to get someone, they simply want to hang.
When we went back to the prosecutors, they say that's wrong. They claim they are simply trying to get some answers here, wrap up this case, reanalyze it, and get down to the bottom of it, because there is a statute of limitations, here. They have to decide at some point what they're going to do about this case and whether there will be charges, manslaughter charges, specifically.
WHITFIELD: All right. It's going to be a tough eight days. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much, in Aruba.
Well, with very little happening in the Holloway case for more than a year now, suddenly, things are moving pretty quickly. This morning we asked Aruba's chief prosecutor why now? His answers at the half-hour.
And we're keeping an eye on a massive wildfire around Malibu, California, where they had air assault in the air right there, trying to drop water and also get a better sense of the scale of what appears to be devastation, there.
And amidst scores of troops rehabbing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he certainly stands out, that little guy. Four-year-old amputee inspiring even war heroes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yeah. Didn't even knew he as an amputee. That is awesome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Fifteen hundred acres are burning there in Malibu, California. You're looking at the live pictures, right now. Flames that are being fueled by, in some records showing 30 mile-per-hour sustained Santa Ana winds. You can see the destruction, right there. It's believed at least 35 homes have been destroyed by this blaze, seemingly like a repeat of what happened last month in southern California, but this one already seemingly to be far worse, given that this fire began about 3:30 Pacific Coast Time and has traveled extensively and very quickly over the past few hours.
Again, it started out at about 200 acres burning and now 1,500 acres there in Malibu, California. We're continuing to watch the developments there, seeing the planes that are dropping fire retardant as well as helicopters dropping water, but barely making a dent, as you can see. We'll get back to that story in a moment.
Meantime, vastly different circumstances, but a common challenge, at least what I'm about to tell you about. Troops who have lost limbs in battle are rehabbing alongside a very special patient. Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr has more on a boy among men.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, amputees undergo hours of painful rehabilitation, many struggling to walk again. But not all the patients are casualties of war. Meet John Yetmar, a 4-year-old amputee who is inspiring these wounded warriors.
CPL CHAD WATSON, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Oh, yeah, yeah. I didn't even know he was an amputee. That is awesome, that is awesome, because I've been at it now for almost a year since my injury, so I've got some catching up to do to that little guy.
STARR: John was born without all the bones in one leg. Doctors thought a prosthetic leg would give him the best quality of life. Because his dad's in the military, John is treated at Walter Reed and gets the same care as the troops. The staff has a special touch with this tiny patient.
JOHN YETMAR, CHILD AMPUTEE: What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just turning your foot in a little bit. Nice and new and shiny. See that?
J. YETMAR: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't that nice?
J. YETMAR: That's nice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
STARR: John's dad, Paul, says a bond has developed between his son and the troops.
PAUL YETMAR, JOHN'S FATHER: He comes here, he sees double, triple amputees, you know, folks that are really going to have a challenge in time. And I think in the long-run, it's going to keep him from developing any self pity. I think the soldiers kind of like having him around, because a lot of what they do is so stressful and just painful, and he kind of brings a cheery demeanor with him wherever he goes.
STARR: What does John think? He tells you he is as fast as a train.
J. YETMAR: Thomas, right there.
STARR: And then this little 4-year-old boy does exactly what all little boys do, he takes off once again.
Barbara Starr, CNN, Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
WHITFIELD: Oh, so great. Well, joining me now from Washington, the whole family. So good to see you guys. Little John there and parents Paul and Becky Yetmar. Good to see all of you and happy thanksgiving weekend.
BECKY YETMAR, JOHN'S MOTHER: Thank you.
P. YETMAR: Thanks. Thanks for having us here.
WHITFIELD: Well, what an extraordinary story that our Barbara Starr really kind of came across by chance while visiting Walter Reed to do a story on some other war vets and then come to find out, the real inspiration, or an inspiration for even the war vets was your son. So, at first, when you learned of his therapy to take place at Walter Reed, did you think it would be a good fit -- Becky.
B. YETMAR: Oh, yes, absolutely. We just assumed that since the wounded soldiers are taking care of there, that John would be taken care of there, as well.
WHITFIELD: Wow. And so Paul, he really has become sort of the mascot, if you will, of Walter Reed. What is that like, to see him just sort of fit into the community there and be able to inspire so many people who have been through so much?
P. YETMAR: Yeah, it's pretty rewarding, therapeutic. You know, my wife and I have been through kind of an emotional roller coaster with all that we and John have been through. So it's -- whenever things get really kind of bad, stressful, you know, we'd push that I believe button, that god has a purpose for all this and that, you know, John wasn't a mistake, and life is going to go on.
So that when we go to Walter Reed and we see the joy and the hope that he can bring to these guys, and the fact that, you know, of all things, we're on CNN right now reaching out to America, you know, it really helps us to feel good about the fact that, you know, even though we've been through this difficult time, that it's helping others.
WHITFIELD: And so Paul, do you think John understands all that's taking place, in terms of the fact that all these other big guys and big girls, you know, there at Walter reed, are amputees as well, and that they have that common bond in at least that way?
P. YETMAR: He's really not aware of it at all. You know, it's not like he wakes up and he says, well, today let's see if we can go inspire some fellow amputees. You know, he's just like any other kid, you know. He runs around like his hair's on fire, he talks to everybody, he's curious about everything. He just, oh, by the way, happens to be oblivious to the fact that he's only got part of one of his legs.
WHITFIELD: Oh, and he's so chatty, too, and talkative. I love that. Daddy is talking. Hey, John. John, can you hear me? Does he have an earpiece in as well? P. YETMAR: Yes, he does. Can you hear it? Do you want to say hello?
J. YETMAR: Hello.
WHITFIELD: Hello, John. It's so nice to meet you. What's your weekend been like?
P. YETMAR: You been playing a lot this weekend, John?
Going to play trains?
B. YETMAR: Oh, now he'll be quiet.
WHITFIELD: Oh, I know you love that Thomas the train. Tell me all about that. John, what's your favorite of the Thomas the Tank Engine team?
P. YETMAR: Do you like Thomas?
J. YETMAR: Thomas.
P. YETMAR: Yeah. Yeah, he spends a great deal of time now talking about how he's a bullet train.
J. YETMAR: I'm a bullet train.
WHITFIELD: Oh, that's so cool! Well, you know, Barbara Starr had e-mailed me the cutest message about how she met you all and how she was so struck by John running up and down the halls and yelling "I'm a train, I'm a train." And he is indeed that. He's like a real locomotive just kind of spinning through there at Walter Reed. How cute.
P. YETMAR: Yeah, it's one of the neat things that whenever we go over there, you know, the new guys, they look at John, they really don't give him a second thought because they think he's just like a kid showing up with, you know, with daddy or something. And then they see that eventually him talking to the staff or other amputees, and they realize that he's got an artificial leg as well, and that's when the jaws start dropping, you know, they start ambling over, asking a bunch of questions, start shaking their head, and then they start smiling.
WHITFIELD: Oh, he is so great. You all are so great. You know, you are all an incredible inspiration, so glad to have met you. And have a great holiday weekend.
B. YETMAR: You do the same.
WHITFIELD: Paul, Becky and John.
P. YETMAR: Want to say goodbye?
J. YETMAR: Bye.
P. YETMAR: Want to say goodbye?
J. YETMAR: Goodbye.
P. YETMAR: Goodbye.
B. YETMAR: Goodbye and thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, see you all later. Thanks so much. So great.
Well, if you want to make the holidays a little brighter for wounded troops, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center suggests that you logon to this Web site, americasupportsyou.mil, and there you can find out how you can help veterans and active service members. And once again, the address is americasupportsyou.mil.
Well, we continue to watch today's massive wildfires in southern California. Many homes are being threatened, and you can see the flames right there being fueled by these sustained winds of 30 miles- an-hour. We're going to keep you posted there in southern California. Stay with us for continuing coverage.
WHITFIELD: This Thanksgiving day weekend, we're following a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes there in Southern California. You're seeing the helicopters in the air. In some cases, they're dipping buckets right into the backyard swimming pools to help douse the flames that have now charred 1,500 acres and possibly at least 35 homes. We continue to watch the developments there in Southern California in Malibu, California, specifically.
Meantime, it's also the countdown to the big Republican/YouTube debate. GOP presidential candidates will face off Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Florida. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is already in St. Pete with CNN's Express Election -- or Election Express I should say.
And so Bill, this time you're in sunny Florida. You don't need the heavy coat, nor the hat, but it still could be a pretty heated debate there.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it certainly could be. The Republican race remains wide open. You've got a frontrunner nationally, Rudy Giuliani, and he's ahead here in Florida, too, according to the polls. But you have Mitt Romney, who's ahead in Iowa, New Hampshire. It's really an open game in the Republican race and a lot could be determined by this debate Wednesday night.
WHITFIELD: Florida is, of course, an important state, particularly for the Republicans. Any idea or any predictions on who might do well there, even before the debates begin?
W. SCHNEIDER: Well, as I say, it's wide open. The polls in Florida show Giuliani ahead by double-digit margin, but not safely ahead. That margin is mostly based on name recognition. You also have a lot of transplanted New Yorkers here in Florida who know Rudy Giuliani, but I wouldn't call it safely. He's not nearly as far ahead here in Florida as Hillary Clinton is on the Democratic side.
They have to be careful in this debate. The reason is that the hot issue in the Republican race is immigration, illegal immigration. And that's an issue that appeals to the conservative base. But, there are a lot of Latinos here in Florida, and they're very sensitive to anything that they regard as an offense to the Latino population.
So, these candidates when they come here on Wednesday have to be careful what they say about immigrants and illegal immigrants.
WHITFIELD: And you know, a lot of the questions are being fueled by these YouTube questions. Certainly, this has really changed the face of how debates are unfolding. So, I wonder how much the campaigns are kind of reshaping their focus as a result of what we've seen already with the YouTube debates, involving the Democrats.
W. SCHNEIDER: Well, that's right, the YouTube questions come from the public, they come from ordinary viewers who put in their submissions, and they can ask about anything. It's hard to anticipate what they're going to talk about.
Let me give you an example. In the Democratic debate so far, we haven't heard many questions about the issue of global warming, but if you remember, back in the Democratic/YouTube debate, held earlier, one of the questions, remember the melting snowman? That dealt with how the candidates intend to deal with the global warming issue. The first time the issue has come up in a debate, and it came from an ordinary viewer. It's clearly on viewers' minds, even if the press hasn't pursued it much.
WHITFIELD: All right, Bill Schneider in St. Pete. Thanks so much. We'll check back with you, there with the Election Express.
W. SCHNEIDER: Sure, OK.
WHITFIELD: Well, you did it once, so now it's time for history to repeat itself. Go to CNN.com/youtubedebates and post your questions for the Republican presidential candidates. The deadline for your submissions is midnight Sunday night. And then watch the debate Wednesday, November 28th. Your voice will be heard only on CNN, the home for politics.
Let's check in again with our Kara Finnstrom, who is there in Southern California where these wildfires are burning out of control. At least 35 homes at last count, Kara, you were able to tell us, may have been destroyed?
FINNSTROM: Fredricka, I'm sorry, I had some difficulty hearing you there, but we do know that 35 homes have been destroyed. You can see behind me, a firefighter who came over to speak with some of the news crews, he confirmed that for us. He says the big concern right now is that this fire is moving in a westerly direction.
Just above us here, this is where the fire began, about four miles up this road. It has moved down to pretty much the shoreline here and is moving west. And the concern is, that's where most of the homes are here, and he says all of their efforts right now will be focused on getting people out of those areas where they believe the fires are moving to. And he has asked that the public here, you know, stay tuned to their local TV stations and be alert as to what this fire is doing.
Now, one of the folks who actually did leave his home, he didn't get the evacuation order -- that fire was moving quickly this morning -- is Mario. And we appreciate you joining us live here.
The fire actually jumped over PCH at the point where your apartment is. Tell us what you saw and heard this morning?
MARIO BARGETZE, RESIDENT: What happened is like at 4:15 in the morning, people were knocking on all the doors and like firefighters, that was the first word we heard. And then, everybody got out and we have like 105 condominiums right there and everybody got out and looked up. And everybody said it was actually on the top of the hill and then we smelled the smoke coming down, coming down, and then -- like (AUDIO GAP) -- jumping over PCH into our thing and catching fire. It was really crazy.
FINNSTROM: Now, the good news is his apartment complex does appear -- we drove by there -- to have been surrounded by firefighters. They were able to stop the fire right there as it jumped over PCH, but again, that fire continuing to rage and moving to the west. And firefighters working very hard. We've seen crews actually here from six different surrounding counties. Just what we've been able to count, you know, being in this one spot, rolling through here.
So, a lot of resources from surrounding areas. We're told four water-dropping helicopters have been in the air, and we've seen them making drops in the area just above us. So, a massive fight under way here to try and get this fire under control. And the big concern this afternoon will be whether these winds pick up because firefighters say that has been their biggest challenge with this fire so far.
Back to you.
WHITFIELD: All right, Kara Finnstrom, thanks so much. And later on in this newscast, we'll check in with Bonnie Schneider to find out if indeed the winds might be dying down. And of course, throughout the day here at CNN, we're going to continue to follow the developments there in Southern California, as 1,500 acres plus now burning there in Malibu.
Meantime this week, we witnessed what is being heralded as a scientific breakthrough. Scientists at two independent labs successfully converted human skin cells into stem cells without creating or destroying an embryo.
This Modern Living report comes from our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These tiny cells could mean the end to one of the biggest controversies in medical history. That's because these stem cells may one day turn into treatments for a whole host of devastating diseases. And scientists made them without destroying an embryo.
Until now, promising research has come from embryonic stem cells, which requires scientists to destroy an embryo to get them. Polls show that the majority of Americans have supported embryonic stem cell research, but not President Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is -- I'm against that.
COHEN: Six years ago, President Bush put severe limits on funding for embryonic stem cells. Today, the president reacted positively to this latest development: stem cells made not from embryos, but from human skin tissue.
The White House issued this statement, "by avoiding techniques that destroy life, President Bush is encouraging scientific advancement within ethical boundaries."
But scientists say this doesn't mean the end of embryonic stem cells, and it's still not clear which approach, embryonic stem cells or the reprogrammed skin cells, will be more useful in coming up with important medical treatments.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
WHITFIELD: Coming up, we'll have much more on the wildfires there in Southern California. New numbers now. We are understanding that 2,200 acres there in Malibu have now been scorched. That from the start of about 200 acres at about 3:30 a.m. Pacific time when the blaze began. Now moving very fast, being fueled by the Santa Ana winds, which our meteorologists had been warning us all week would kick into high gear this weekend, but nobody thought this would result quite like this. 2,200 acres, 35 homes destroyed. We'll have much more of the situation there in Southern California in the NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: Happening right now: wildfire raging in Southern California. Hundreds of people are evacuating as strong winds fan this rapidly growing fire on the hills near Malibu. You're looking at live video right now of this raging blaze. Aerial video showing several large homes fully engulfed in flames.
We're told more than 300 firefighters are trying to control this blaze, but a Los Angeles County fire official says there is absolutely zero containment right now. 1,500 acres have been scorched so far. The evacuation area between those two yellow squiggly lines there, Cannon Road and Malibu Canyon Road, those homes have been evacuated. We understand that maybe 35, perhaps even more homes have been fully engulfed.
Bonnie Schneider is in the weather center getting a close-up view of this as well. These winds are fierce, and you can tell just by looking at these plumes of smoke. They're being pushed aside like it's nothing.
SCHNEIDER: Absolutely, the winds are intense and also the air is really dry. And for folks that live in this vicinity, probably noticed a big change very quickly.
I want to show you this graph -- this is from the National Weather Service. And it takes a look at some of the raw data in and around the Malibu area in Malibu Hills. And you can see this green line kind of drop through here. This is between Friday morning and Saturday morning, in terms of relative humidity. So, it was all the way up to 40, 50 percent, and then we see this drop-off where it drops below 20 percent and stays that way right now. So, very dry air in and around the Malibu Hills area. I'm going to walk over to our bigger board so you can kind of get an idea of some the winds that we're seeing in this vicinity, and they are fierce. I've been monitoring them, particularly in Malibu Hills, because they've been fluctuating in terms of wind gusts from 59 at 7:36 a.m. Pacific standard time to now we have 57-mile-per-hour wind gusts.
Currently, the sustained winds have also dropped just a little bit, out of the northeast at 22 miles per hour. That's helping to blow this smoke and the flames further to the southwest, as our reporters on the scene have been telling you. The wind advisories -- this is interesting -- have actually been extended for a little bit longer in terms of time and also direction.
Down into San Diego now we have wind advisories that were originally going to expire at 3:00 p.m. today. They've been extended to 6:00 p.m. tonight. And that's due to some stronger winds, mainly in inland valley areas, where we could see winds gusting as strong as 45 miles per hour. So not as strong as we're seeing in the Malibu area.
Not so much for areas right along the beaches, right along the shoreline. You can see sustained winds right in San Diego about north at 6 miles per hour. But once you start heading towards Ramona and further to the east, you're going to be seeing those winds pick up quite a bit.
What's happening is with these wind-driven flames, you can see in the live pictures, what's happening, the same thing is occurring in this animation. As the flames sweep across the tinder brush area that's so dry from previous fires and just from drought, the flames come up the trees, up the homes and should become airborne. They literally jump from structure to structure, very haphazardly. So, it's hard to determine which way they're going to go.
Some of the wind actually swirls about in the canyons, and that's something we've been watching as well, because the air and the smoke is definitely collecting in these canyons, making for poor air quality, something we talked about in October as well -- Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Wow, and we talked to one of the firefighting team members earlier on this morning who talked about that phenomenon, just that the winds are so unpredictable, it makes it hard for them to fight the blaze because they are just kind of swirling around that canyon area. So, exactly underscoring everything that you're talking about, Bonnie.
B. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.
B. SCHNEIDER: Sure.
WHITFIELD: We'll check back with you.
The other big story we're following this morning, as well, new developments in the disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway. Three suspects are now in jail in Aruba in the two-year-old case. That includes Joran Van Der Sloot.
In this new video right here you're looking at, it was taken in Cursaw (ph) as he was making his way back from the Netherlands and being extradited to Aruba there. These images are coming from a vigilante newspaper, and they're in the waiting area. He arrived in Aruba under police guard late last night and he's scheduled to be in court for the first time Monday.
And this might not be surprising, but more than 100 domestic flights are officially late at least 70 percent of the time. And while you may not be able to control the weather, you may be able to stop it from getting between you and your destination.
ERIK TORKELLS, EDITOR, BUDGET TRAVEL: Bad weather can make flying a nightmare. With airlines so financially stretched, they're even less likely to be accommodating when bad weather strikes. So, it's up to us to plan around it.
To avoid delays and cancellations, try to get on the earliest flight possible. Many flights are delayed because the plane was late arriving from its previous location. So, your odds are better in the morning. Fly on an airline that has more than one flight to the destination per day. if yours is canceled, at least you'll have a backup.
In the days before your departure, if you have reason to think that the weather may turn bad, call the airline and see if it'll change your itinerary. Program the airline's phone number in your cell phone, along with your frequent flyer number. As soon as you hear the flight is delayed, call as you dash to the nearest agent. You may also find better luck at the gate for the next flight to your destination or at one of the airline's self-service kiosks. Because it's not under anyone's control, airlines don't have to give you anything if your flight is delayed, but it never hurts to ask for meal vouchers, hotel recommendations and discounts, anything.
WHITFIELD: Southern California burning again. This time, the fire seems to be focused on Malibu, but embers floating away in these winds just as a concern this time as it was last month when we saw similar fires burning in Southern California. This time 2,200 acres there in Malibu, 35 homes that have been destroyed, and at least 100 people have been evacuated. More news as we get it here in the NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: Well, welcome back to the NEWSROOM. Live pictures now. The fires are bad and growing worse there in Malibu. 2,200 acres have been burned, and included in that, at least 35 homes. About 100 people have been evacuated. More news when we get it.
WHITFIELD: Thirty mile-per-hour sustained winds are fueling this massive wildfire in Malibu. They're trying to fight it from the air and on the ground. One hundred people have been evacuated, 35 homes destroyed and about 500 fire crews are involved in this blaze. We'll have this and much more straight ahead throughout the day.
And a look at the top stories in a moment, "YOUR MONEY" is next. Here now is a preview.
ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: Thanks.
Coming up on "YOUR MONEY", a whole hour on how to get your holiday debt under control before you even spend a dime.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: We're going to tell you how marketers play on your need for status to buy a bunch of stuff that you don't need.
VELSHI: And what the "Made in America" label can really tell you about toy safety.
ROMANS: "YOUR MONEY" starts right after Now in the News.
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