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Disaster Strikes Malibu; Salvation Army's Toy Dilemma; Update on Natalee Holloway Case

Aired November 24, 2007 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: This is breaking news we continue to follow here at CNN.
Disaster is striking hard and fast in southern California as you can see. Crews are scrambling with a big wildfire outside Malibu. In those pictures being demonstrated but they can't seem to get in front of the fast-moving flames. Early reports say that those 35 homes have been burned and it happened so quickly, strong winds are driving the fire toward the Pacific and densely populated areas and wind gusts have been clocked at 60 miles-an-hour.

So, to give you a feeling for how quickly the fire has moved, it exploded, literally, from 300 to 2,200 acres in just a few hours and we watched homes burn to the ground within just 30 or 40 minutes. A devastating fire there in Malibu. It seems like it's deja vu all over again for the folks there in southern California.

Mike Jarvis, he's a spokesperson for Calfire and Mike, it seems like it was just yesterday when we all spoke about what you were dealing with just one month ago and here we go again. This has to bring a lot of anxiety to the folks who lived through it just 30 days ago.

MIKE JARVIS, PIO, CALFIRE (on phone): Well, it's always difficult for residents. For the firefighters out there, I mean, this is what they do every day. Our department alone responds to something like 7,000 calls annually on fires. And just since I've spoke to you in the last hour to hear that we had a fire down in San Diego County that went to 35 acres and was put out, or at least they've got some containment line around it.

It's a real windy time right now and it doesn't take a lot. Once you get those winds going, once you have a source with ignition, it goes. But we've been prepositioning a lot of equipment all week down in southern California, shifting it around. Whether that's bulldozers or crews or engines or aircraft and we've been putting just a lot of equipment on these fires and helping L.A. County, which I got to tell you, they're throwing a lot of personnel and equipment on it and we've been helping them at every turn.

WHITFIELD: Mike, your firefighters on the ground there were able to put all that apparatus in place, as you mention because meteorologists not just in your area, but here, as well, have been talking all week long about the Santa Ana winds making a return and that they would be or you would be experiencing wind gusts of 50 and 60-mile-per-hour being clocked again. But there really isn't much you can do beyond that, right? To prepare for a spark that turns into a huge blaze like this.

JARVIS: Well, the first thing we have to do is protect lives and that's what we try to do and get people out of the way. We saw amazing success down in San Diego in the last fires in October with the reverse 911 and I think the numbers are still being debated.

But that was pretty amazing to see just the number of people moved out of harm's way and, now unfortunately, you had fatalities in that and you also had homes lost and we don't like to see one life or one home lost, or even an acre of land lost. But our goal, our mission with Calfire is to knock out fires 95 percent, at 10 acres or less and we meet that goal 95 percent of the time.

One of the numbers that never came out, I don't even know if it was out yet publicly, was that during the course of those fires last month, everyone knew about the ones with names and that were high- profile, but there were 251 fires that were put out that didn't get big.

WHITFIELD: Mike, just interrupt you for a moment. What we're watching is pretty extraordinary. You talk about your firefighting apparatus. This is one of the aircraft, one of more than 20 aircraft being used and this one is actually scooping up water, an unusual sight for many of our viewers, but perhaps one that is very common for you.

JARVIS: Well I can't see your picture, but my guess is if it is picking up water it is an aircraft that L.A. County has it's a super scooper and I'm not sure, it's not our aircraft, it's L.A. County's, so I don't want to speak of them.

WHITFIELD: Well part of the cooperative effort, I should say.

JARVIS: Absolutely and we have a mutual aid agreement with just about every entity in California through the Office of Emergency Services, our office. And we tie in to make sure we can help all local government and the federal governments involved in this.

We're using a DC-10 as well as other air tankers on this fire. And I don't have exact numbers, but I heard it's as high as 15 helicopters and as high as 14 air tankers on this and also that doesn't include the DC-10 which it dropped 12,000 gallons in one drop of retardant, which is huge.

WHITFIELD: Mike Jarvis with Calfire, we really appreciate your time. I know we'll be checking back with you throughout the day here on CNN as we continue to watch the developments, what is, what isn't working and how this fire is progressing there in Malibu. Thanks again, Mike.

And our Kara Finnstrom is there on the ground in Malibu, in that cordoned off area that has undergone this mandatory evacuation affecting hundreds of people there. And while Kara, just looking at your hair and seeing the wind is not blowing now quite like it was the last time you and I spoke, it is still a huge hindrance, isn't it for the firefighting efforts?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's something firefighters say they're going to continue to deal with. They have clocked winds of up to 60 miles-per-hour in some of these areas where the fire has burned. And as you can imagine that just picks up these hot embers and throws them forward.

Now behind me here, you can see a little bit of the smoldering on the hillsides. This is one of the areas that this fire burned down all the way close to the Pacific Coast Highway, just about a half mile up where you can actually see it charred all the way down.

In some cases, it actually jumped over the highway. Ten thousand people remain under mandatory evacuations right now. So, L.A. County officials are calling this a dynamic and very dangerous situation still for people here. They're asking people to remain alert because they say while they are hopeful that firefighters are in place and are actually working very hard to get an upper hand on this blaze, it still is a situation they really can't predict.

Here's some of what the mayor from Malibu had to say in a press conference held just a short while ago.


MAYOR JEFF JENNINGS, MALIBU: I want to express the city's gratitude to all of the personnel from county and state fire, from CHP and from the sheriff's office for the quick way in which they responded to this situation. It's a great to be able to say we have no loss of lives and we're sorry about the one injury that's been suffered. But it's certainly not as bad as it could have been.


FINNSTROM: That one injury to a firefighter said to be a minor injury. Fredricka, a little bit earlier I heard you mentioning that huge super scooper that was scooping up water from the ocean. We're actually on Pacific Coast Highway and we've watched those helicopters scoop up on the water on one side of us and then just kind of carry it over and they've been dumping it in these hillsides just behind us. Quite extraordinary to watch, because it's just a massive amount of water that they're able to scoop up and then just literally lift from the ocean to the fire.

WHITFIELD: And it's remarkable piloting, too. And just in an image that we're seeing to the right of the screen now with you on the left, Kara, we're seeing the results of what happens when some of the water is doused. It does make a bit of a difference, but it is slow going because looking that scale of this fire, it's huge.

FINNSTROM: It is huge. Interestingly enough, the fire that we saw here last month burned nine structures total. This fire already since 3:30 this morning has destroyed 35. And we spoke with the gentleman earlier who was a mile away from where this fire started and he tells us by his estimations that fire moved a complete mile and destroyed his home within the course of about 45 minutes to an hour. So, it gives you an idea for how just how quickly those flames were moving.

WHITFIELD: Wow, it is remarkable. Kara, thank you so much, good work, we'll continue to check back with you.

Well, in case you are wondering where all those southern California fires have been, well, take a look at this map. It shows the many fires from Los Angeles to San Diego last month along the coast, northwest of Los Angeles is Malibu and that is where today's fires are, just to give you some perspective about what is taking place in the southern California area, along the coastline in just the last 30 days. Quite remarkable and very disturbing, too.

Jacqui Jeras is in the Weather Center and within those yellow squiggly lines, which represent the canyon roads there along the Malibu coast, that's the area that has been under this mandatory evacuation and, Jacqui to hear Kara reiterate that 100 homes really translates to 10,000 people who have been evacuated. All this holiday weekend. Wow. It's extraordinary.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, it really is. Hopefully a lot of those people are out of there and in safety at this time. We want to show you the Google Earth animation of this and kind of show you the terrain and show you how hilly it is if you're not familiar with this area.

And here you can see, this is the Pacific Coast Highway right down here and this is the Malibu Canyon Road. So this is that area Kara has been talking about, where some of the burning has taken place. And there you can see some of the houses up into this area down here and how large they are and then down here, also, a very populated area.

So, very devastating now. The winds continue to be very strong at this hour. We have warnings and advisories in effect and you can see the dark orange, it's all due to the topography. It's the canyons and the passes where those winds accelerate and just speed through those channels and really pick up and that's where we saw some gusts this morning around 50, 60 miles-per-hour.

Now, these are current sustained winds and really we're looking at teens and low 20s. That's still not good and we think the next, say three hours or so are going to continue to be extremely critical.

However, we do think that the peaks of the winds have already occurred. And that was early this morning. Malibu Hills had wind gusts 59 miles-per-hour, Camp Nine, 46, Whitaker Peak at 41 miles-per- hour, Wiley Ridge at 33 and 31 miles-per-hour at Laguna Peak.

Now we still could see some of those strong wind gusts, we think, in the 40 to 60-mile-per-hour range, but the wind advisories and high wind warnings are anticipated to be dropped at 3:00 this afternoon.

Now, what's the reason for this? Why are all of a sudden we're going to expect these winds to begin to die down a little bit? Well high pressure is in control on up towards our north and down here to the south and Mexico is an area of low pressure. This is a really potent storm system that we're talking about and this is the one responsible for bringing the snow into New Mexico and into parts of Texas. But as that southerly low begins to pull away, the gradient, as we call it, the differences in pressure between our high and our low are going to start to weaken a little bit as that low begins to pull away.

Now, so, tomorrow we're anticipating those winds will be relatively calm, maybe only 10, 15 miles-per-hour, but the relative humidity will remain extremely low down into the teens for percentage and, so, we think tomorrow will also be a critical fire weather day for much of southern California. But not near what we're anticipating today. So, if we can get through the next couple of hours, Fredricka, I do think we'll have some dramatic improvements tonight and into tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: Well that would be good so because so many people affected as Kara's latest number, 10,000 people being affected by that and just quickly doing the math in my head. That would make sense with 100 people in each home if we were talking about - so it's hundreds of homes resulting in 10,000 people, which have been evacuated. Nonetheless, it is horrible. And you can see the scale of it in these pictures. Jacqui, thank you so much.

And we are getting more pictures in from our i-Reporters, as well. Here is one from Jesse Silver who took this picture on the balcony of a friend's house at least 30 miles away, he says. He says this is the second time he has seen a fire this big.

And Francisco Sapigao took this picture as he and his brother were leaving Pepperdine University. Once again, Pepperdine right on the fringes of fire. They heard the public safety officer tell everyone to head down to the cafeteria. They have kind of a safety zone there and procedure on campus. So, he and his brother did pack up and they got in the car. We'll hear more from the brothers at the bottom of the hour to tell us more about their experience.

And now on to other news that we're following here. A third suspect is in jail in Aruba today in connection with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. Twenty-year-old Joran van der Sloot arrived last night. He and two other suspects are being questioned about Holloway, the Alabama teenager who disappeared two years ago.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Aruba.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joran van der Sloot on the last leg of his court ordered trip from the Netherlands, back home to Aruba. Changing planes in Curacao, he appeared relaxed in police custody, despite the prospect of a possible manslaughter trial in the death of Natalee Holloway.

Once his plane landed in Aruba, van der Sloot, believed to be in the middle car, was rushed out of the airport and back to jail. Investigators say he is forbidden from seeing his family, only his attorneys from now.

On Monday, he is 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, ARUBA'S CHIEF PROSECUTOR: I think we have enough evidence to prove that the girl is not alive anymore.

CANDIOTTI: Even without a body?

MOS: Even without a body.

CANDIOTTI: 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, MURDER 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: He always denied 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've also denied harming Holloway. The judge ruled there's enough new so- called incriminating evidence to detain the brothers eight days for more interrogations. Defense attorneys weren't happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no new evidence. They don't have (INAUDIBLE).

CANDIOTTI: A chief prosecutor won't reveal what the new evidence is. CNN in 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 will 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.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Aruba.


WHITFIELD: Still so many questions in this case, so, what do prosecutors actually know about the teen's disappearance that they didn't know two years ago? Hear more from the prosecutor in our next half hour.

And we're keeping an eye on a massive wildfire around Malibu, California, today. Stay with us for constant updates in southern California.

And what happens when recalled toys are donated to the Salvation Army for their holiday gift drive?


WHITFIELD: All right before you buy any more toys for the holidays, you might want to take a look at this list. It's the annual ten worst compiled by the toy safety group World Against Toys Causing Harm.

On the list go, Go Diego Go Animal Rescue boat by Fisher Price. It's been recalled because of lead paint. With Sticky Stones, the group points out that if the magnetized stones are swallowed, they could stick together inside a child's intestines. And Jack Sparrow's Spinning Dagger is seen as an eye hazard. The group found that Dora the Explorer Lamp by Funhouse could cause electric shocks and burns. And Lil "Giddy Up" Horse contains fibers and small parts that could be a choking hazard.

And on to the next page. The Spider Man 3 New Goblin Sword by Hasbro is made of rigid plastic which the group worries might actually cause injury.

The same with Hip hoppa by Spin Master. It's a combination foot board and bouncing ball that children jump on. And then there's a balloon-like toy that children blow up out of a tube. It's called B'Loonies Party Park. The group put My Little Baby Born on the list as well because the doll's tiny pacifier could be swallowed. And the Rubber Band Shooter because it could cause eye injuries, as well.

Well the Salvation Army is one of the many organizations that actually distribute donated toys to needy children. This year it is taking special precautions because of the many recalls. Major George Hood is the Salvation Army's national communication relation secretary joining us from Washington. Good it see you, Major.

MAJ. GEORGE HOOD, SALVATION ARMY: Thank you, good to see you.

WHITFIELD: Well I know this is really kind of complicated because why you really enjoy the generosity of so many people, you always have to be very careful about the kind of things you're taking in. So how do you screen all these toys?

HOOD: Well, it's a real challenge for us this year. We receive probably two-to-three million toys in donations every Christmas season and of particular importance we want to make sure that families and children are kept safe during this very special time of the year.

WHITFIELD: So you can't possibly screen two-to-three million toys.

HOOD: Well, we're going to give it the best shot we can. We're recruiting volunteers all across the country and I just heard the other day in Dallas they screened 40 palettes of toys that have already been donated there to make sure that any of the toys on the recall list have been removed from the distribution.

WHITFIELD: So, it really is mainly like a visual screening. They're checking the list and, you know, all that good stuff to see if the toys that they receive are on that recall list.

HOOD: Yes. We've worked very closely with Mattel toys who have been phenomenal in guiding us through this process and providing alternatives to the toys that are being donated that may be on the recall list.

So working closely with them and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, we've informed all our units that they can get access to this information of toys that need to be removed. With Mattel, they can return those toys in and get a voucher back to replace the toys with a product that is acceptable.

WHITFIELD: So, because of the screening it sounds like you don't want to encourage anybody to wrap gifts because folks want to give a gift of a toy and they think, oh, let's make it really pretty too and add some additional wrapping. You're discouraging that, aren't you?

HOOD: Yes, this year we are. It's a very special time for people to purchase gifts for children and to wrap them up in beautiful bows and paper. But this year, it's very important that they leave those toys unwrapped so that we can look at them and check them off the list and know we're putting into circulation toys that meet the standard.

WHITFIELD: So, real quickly, the flip side to that. Are you also worried that because of the recalls, because it's so complicated for people to buy toys, know what's good, et cetera, what's bad, that perhaps your donations won't be as high this year as in previous years?

HOOD: Well so far we haven't seen that, but there's always the risk that we could get less toys donated this year. We would encourage people to shop at the retailers because we believe that most retailers have followed the guidelines and that they can get toys that are safe for this Christmas season and to keep in mind that there are children who still need to receive toys during this Christmas season.

WHITFIELD: Oh, good. Well hopefully the giving continues. Major George Hood, Salvation Army, thank you so much, happy holidays.

And we continue to watch today's massive wildfires in southern California, as well. Many homes already destroyed and hundreds of people evacuated. Much more, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: You're looking at live pictures right now of Malibu. Thirty-five homes have been destroyed, 23 aircraft and 1,700 firefighters are trying to battle this blaze to contain it.

But so far zero containment. Part of the problem, the Santa Ana winds continue to kick up and they are continuing to fuel this blaze, which is raging out of control. Live pictures right now of an area you see at least that vehicle and a couple people on the ground. They're likely part of the mandatory evacuation order, but we heard from the firefighting team chief earlier encouraging people to get their evacuation plan in place, heed the warning and get moving.

Well, no restful weekend for a couple of astronauts at the space station. They finished a spacewalk just a few hours ago in the lower left corner of your screen, kind of difficult to see there. You can see them or one of them working on the wiring of a new room. It will serve as a docking port for a new lab scheduled to be delivered next month.

And a snowy thanksgiving weekend under way in parts of Oklahoma. Right there, some areas got up to three inches of snow. It's awfully pretty, just not so great when you're on the road. But then take a look at this video from, speaking of roads, Santa Fe, New Mexico, where icy conditions turned this highway into a slip and slide, pretty nasty there. Some parts of New Mexico have gotten more than a foot of snow in the past 24 hours. Whoa.

And flames continue to threaten houses in the Malibu area. We're keeping a close look on the situation and I'll have more details straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

Also, you'll hear from the prosecutor in the Natalee Holloway case. Can he make a case against the suspects being held?


WHITFIELD: Happening right now, wildfire raging in Southern California. At least 10,000 people have been evacuated. And you see aircraft in the air dropping flame retardant. All this as strong winds fan rapidly growing fire on the hills near Malibu. The Los Angeles County fire official tells us the blaze has destroyed 35 homes. And we've seen many of those homes fully engulfed in the flames. Some 2,200 acres have been scorched so far.

Well, it seems to be happening all over again for the folks there in Southern California. And there, again, is one of those aircraft being used, one of more than 20 aircraft being used to help fight the fire. It really has been a headache for the folks in Southern California. Kind of reliving this all over again.

Maurice Luque is with the San Diego fire department and, Maurice, you're joining us to kind of reflect. Here we are reliving this all over again there in Southern California. You all are on standby, the fire department there to help out the L.A. County folks as best you can. At the same time, are you a little worried that what you experienced last month with the Los Angeles area fires and then, again, the San Diego fires that, perhaps, you'll be doing this all over again yourselves?

VOICE OF MAURICE LUQUE, SPOKESMAN, SAN DIEGO FIRE DEPT.: Well, we started worrying about that last week and, you're right, it is a deep concern here in this region in San Diego and San Diego County. So yes, when the weather reports indicated that we may have weather patterns like this last week, we started planning then.

And not only the fire departments here are anxious, but also the citizens. I checked with our emergency communication center before I took the call with you here and they've been flooded with calls this morning from citizens who have seen smoke from the east counties of our area from a fire that started out there a couple hours ago, luckily that one was put out very quickly and no structures damaged. There were some minor injuries to some firefighters that had some water dropped on them by accident by air tankers, but nothing life threatening.

But again, that caused a lot of smoke in the eastern horizon of San Diego and that flooded our 911 center with calls from citizens wanting to know if another fire has started and was moving its way into the city area.

WHITFIELD: Right, I'm sure there's a lot of anxiety still. That was a 50 acre fire and thankfully, it never really grew beyond that. But now you look at this one just north of you in Malibu, it is huge, 2,200 acres. I imagine that anyone who dealt with this in recent weeks, you know, is feeling like, I don't know, you know, just emotionally. It's like reliving it again.

LUQUE: Yes, it really is. And you can only do so much preparation. You can only have so many resources in place and the rest is kind of in mother nature's hands in terms of how that fire progresses. That's why it's so important that citizens, as they did up there in the Malibu area evacuate when they first sense danger, even before perhaps they're alerted to a fire, if they sense danger to get out and have a plan to do so. Know where to go, know what they're going to take with them. Have a central point of contact outside of the city that everybody can check in with so everybody's accounted for.

And of course, one of the other things that we do stress with our residents here in San Diego City and County is have that 100 feet of defensible space, in other words, an area cleared around the home of at least 100 feet that gives firefighters a fighting chance to get between the structure and the fire to protect the structure.

WHITFIELD: All great advice. Maurice Luque of the San Diego fire department, thanks so much.

And, of course, on the left hand side of your screen while Maurice was talking, you saw a chopper that was getting buckets of water from the swimming pool on one property. We've seen that sight a lot right now because it's just a little bit more practical than making its way all the way back to the Pacific there to pick up water and that dousing may have helped a little bit saving those structures there in Malibu. It's extraordinary that we've been seeing this all morning long, 2,200 acres scorched, 35 homes, 10,000 people evacuated.

Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center and all of these flames being fueled by these Santa Ana winds that are just simply devastating.

JERAS: Yes, they're really strong. That looked like that might have been what we call those spot fires, Fredricka. You know, when ...


JERAS: ...the winds will blow those embers even more than a mile at times ahead of the initial line -- the fire line and then that just makes it very difficult to put things out because you've got these new fires starting up all over the place.


JERAS: So, that could be a problem as we approach the rest of the afternoon here.

Now, the current wind here in Malibu, in the Malibu Hills are down compared to where we were about three, four hours ago when this wind event was at its peak, but it's still extremely critical at this time. You can see the temperature, 75 degrees. Winds are four miles per hour sustained, that's great to see that. Of course, it could be very temporary and gusts up to 32 miles per hour. The relative humidity is eight percent. That is so, so low, extremely dry.

You know, you put a critical fire area out when you're looking at relative humidities below say, 30 percent or so, just to put it in perspective for you. So, this is really extreme. The winds are expected to be strong with these advisories you see here in effect until 3:00 this afternoon. And it looks like they should be able to drop, hopefully -- I was just reading the latest discussion out of the National Weather Service out of the Los Angeles area and they are expecting these winds to continue to die down progressively. So, we've about three hours to go with these extremely critical conditions and then they'll wane off a little bit.

But we still have the red flag warnings in effect through tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. because even though the winds are going to be dying down a little bit, there's a lot of fuel out there because of the ongoing drought and the humidity is so very low that it's very dry and these fires can continue to spread.

These are the current wind speeds and there you can see the northeasterly flow coming in, so those winds channel down through the canyons and the passes and that's where they speed up and really accelerate. The peak wind gust in Malibu Hills was 59 miles per hour, and that's about 7:30 local time this morning. Camp Nine at 46, 41 there at Whitaker Peak, Wiley Ridge at 33, and 31 miles per hour at Laguna Peak.

The big reason for this big event for today, really high pressure in control right now, but we've got an upper low down south and that's what's been bringing all the snow into New Mexico and into parts of Texas and the good news is that that storm is going to be pulling away and so the differences in pressure is going to start to diminish a little bit and that's why our winds are going to start to go down, we think, in the upcoming hours.

So, Fredricka, very critical right now, still extreme winds, very fierce and that's going to be ongoing for a good three plus hours and then we'll watch for improving conditions. But it looks like we've already been making some progress potentially on this fire. And I also wonder, you know, they brought out the military, deployed a few extra aircraft so that they could do some more aerial assaults and they put them in the Channel islands off the California coast in preparing for this event as we predicted that the Santa Ana winds were going to be very strong late this past week and this weekend.

WHITFIELD: Well, they all saw it coming, didn't they? But boy, this is really remarkable. All right, Jacqui, thank you.

JERAS: Sure.

WHITFIELD: The other big story we're following, the big developments in the Natalee Holloway case, three people arrested. Our legal guys are right there poised and ready to jump into action to give us an idea of what else could be expected in this case. All that and more straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: All right, we've been talking a lot about 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. He arrived in Aruba under police guard late last night.

Well, very little has happened in the case for over a year now and then it seems all of a sudden, these three were arrested. So earlier today, CNN's T.J. Holmes talked with Aruba's chief prosecutor.


HANS MOS, CHIEF PROSECUTOR: I think we have enough evidence to be able to prove that she's dead. Whether that will be proof beyond reasonable doubt, that's a question to us. It's very hard to assess what a judge will say about this. But we have evidence that she is dead and I can tell you in any day that counts now is extra proof that she is not alive any more.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: What can you tell us about this new evidence, I know you have a case to build. But give us as much as you can about what this new evidence is.

MOS: I would love to do that, but under this law, we are very restrictive in telling you guys what the new evidence is because the suspects have to be confronted with this new evidence. And we asked a judge to give an order not to give the same evidence to all the three suspects, so they have -- they got different police reports with evidence pertaining to them, individually.

If I would expose on the new evidence the lawyers would hear and then suspects would hear what all the other evidence would be that was pertaining to the other suspects. So, I have to be very careful on that because then they would have all this information in advance and then the questioning would be rather useless.

HOLMES: Then, Mr. Mos, explain to us, tell us this, at least. Is this new evidence, brand-new evidence that you didn't have when the suspects were first arrested after her disappearance or is this the same evidence that's getting a fresh look?

MOS: No, on the Dutch law that would not be allowed. We couldn't sort of whitewash our old evidence and produce it as new evidence. That's not allowed under Dutch law. So, what we have and what we presented is new and, of course, we reevaluated the old file too and that came up with new leads, too. But that cannot count into the decision of the judge. He does need new evidence and that's exactly what we produced to the judge.

HOLMES: And how did this come about? How did you find this new evidence? Was it just a matter of getting new investigators with a new set of eyes on it?

MOS: Well, that was a very important step for us because as I told you before, this investigation came to sort of a standstill in the midst of 2006 because investigators who were busy with this case from the beginning sort of didn't see any leads any more and it's good that you ask someone else to look at it with a fresh view and that's what Dutch investigators did. They found new leads, they found new questions and they investigated them earlier this year.


WHITFIELD: Interesting stuff. Our legal guys are here to talk about these developments in the Holloway case. Avery Friedman is a civil rights attorney and law professor. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman is a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor. Good to see you as well.


WHITFIELD: All right, and happy holidays this weekend.

FRIEDMAN: Same to you.

HERMAN: Same to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, some interesting things being said and not said by the prosecutor there. For one, Richard, he says we have evidence that she is dead. But didn't necessarily elaborate that there was evidence of these young men. There's no body, still, no new evidence pertaining to the these young men or is there something that you read into that?

HERMAN: You know, Fred, what I read into that is that the tourism has probably declined in Aruba this year because people are just -- it's a disgrace what went on in this investigation. And now, it's even worse. There's no new evidence ...


HERMAN: ...there's no body, they have nothing. They brought in a new set of detectives to analyze the text messages and the eavesdropping recordings. There's nothing new, there's no case here, Fred.


HERMAN: This is absolutely outrageous what's going on. It's laughable, it's pathetic.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, geez (ph).

WHITFIELD: So Avery, you're no, no, no, so you think there is a case, you do believe that there is new evidence, new incriminating evidence. Is the burden of proof the same in Aruba as it would be in the States?

FRIEDMAN: It is, Fredricka, it is beyond a reasonable doubt. And actually, when T.J. Holmes put that question to the chief prosecutor, he raised the very issue. The prosecutor was very careful in responding. The fact is you have to give a lot of credit to Aruban and Dutch officials who have not let go of this case.

There is a young woman who is likely dead, it is important that they brought in a new team. Whether that standard Fredricka, that you're raising beyond a reasonable doubt is met, we will now -- we will learn this coming week. But you know what: Dutch law has made it very, very clear. They can't make disclosures right now, we'll have to see what happens in court this week.

WHITFIELD: OK, and a lot of interesting things, too, Richard. So, they've got eight days in which to continue to hold these suspects and what happens after that if they don't have enough or if they don't have some discovery period, you know, reveal this new evidence, then these guys get to walk again?

HERMAN: You know Fred, during this eight days, they're supposed to be interrogated by the police and the only people that can see them are their attorneys. They can't see their family, just the attorneys. So, do you think these people, the kids are really talking to investigators now? It is so preposterous what goes on there.

The Napoleonic code, the magistrate does the investigation and the judge hears the case at trial without a jury. Without a jury, Fred. And tourism, I'm telling you, is down in Aruba and that's why this is happening now.


WHITFIELD: Oh, interesting. So Avery, if the judge gets to say, all right, I'll accept this new evidence, OK, yes go ahead and rearrest these guys, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are guilty, right? Or they would be proven such in trial. Can't that be sort of like grand juries here, they may say OK, you can go to trial but doesn't necessarily mean that you're guilty.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, that's right, professor, you nailed it. That's exactly the point.


FRIEDMAN: I mean, we have to get through this process and again, Dutch law restricts the prosecutor from talking about it. When we visit you next week, we're going to know a lot more because it's just not going to come out right now and, frankly, it's irresponsible to evaluate the evidence. Much, much remains to be done.

WHITFIELD: All right, and so -- oh go ahead, Richard. You're about to say something.

HERMAN: Yes, it doesn't -- you don't need to be a brain surgeon to know this poor girl is dead. You don't need to disclose that today two-and-a-half years later. It really is a disgrace what went on in Aruba and I feel so bad for the family, Fred, it's unbelievable.

WHITFIELD: I know, I do. I feel bad for all the families involved because these are all young people.


FRIEDMAN: But let's keep pushing the case until we can at least try to get to justice, Fredricka. That's what this is about.

HERMAN: Or bring more tourists, bring more tourists through Aruba.

WHITFIELD: Richard, you're funny. All right Richard and Avery, thanks so much. You guys have a great holiday weekend.

FRIEDMAN: Take care.

HERMAN: You too, Fred. Bye-bye.

FRIEDMAN: So long.

WHITFIELD: And of course, the other big story we continue to follow in Southern California, huge wildfires in Malibu. Today, you'll hear from one of our i-Reporters on the scene straight ahead.


JERAS: I'm Jacqui Jeras with today's Cold and Flu Report. As we look across the country today, most of the cases of the flu were on the Gulf Coast and then also in the mountainous states. Where you see the purple, that's where local activity is reported across Louisiana, into Florida and also Hawaii.

Where you see yellow, that's the good news. That means no activity -- well, at least not yet as we're just getting started with the cold and flu season.



WHITFIELD: This is what we're watching in Southern California. 1,700 firefighters are battling a blaze that has engulfed 2,200 acres in Malibu. They're fighting it from the air and on the ground. You're looking at one of the aircraft, one of 23 aircraft that's being used to help douse the flames with either water or flame retardant. Which, while the efforts are certainly pretty magnanimous, the scale of this fire, well, it's barely making a dent. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated.

And among those who was under a mandatory evacuation order is Keegan Gibbs, who's also an i-Reporter for us. He's been taking some images, however, while there's the mandatory evacuation order in place, he and his family apparently have decided to stay home there in the Malibu Hills. He's on the phone with us now.

So, Keegan, tell us me why you guys made the decision. You, your mom and your dad, right, are in the house?

VOICE OF KEEGAN GIBBS, I-REPORTER: Yes, me, my mom, my dad and brother and sister and grandma.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, huge family. Why are you guys staying when you're in the middle of a mandatory evacuation order?

GIBBS: We've kind of been through a couple fires before in Malibu and they've never seemed to reach Point Dume area, which is kind of like on the west side of Malibu.

WHITFIELD: I see. So, I think we're looking at your images that you've taken.

GIBBS: Oh yes?

WHITFIELD: Pretty extraordinary flames. It really doesn't look that far away from your camera. Aren't you nervous?

GIBBS: Oh, yes, it's only about -- probably the images I shot this morning probably about three or four miles away from my house, down PCH.

WHITFIELD: And has the fire gotten any closer to your house since that time?

GIBBS: A little bit, yes. It's headed further north towards Cannan (ph), in between Latigo and Cannan.

WHITFIELD: Wow, all right, Keegan, you sound so awfully calm. I know you say you guys have been through this before and we even heard from the mayor who said and put it sadly, you know, that this is something that we've all been dealing with, but it's still a shocker when it happens, especially on this scale.

GIBBS: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

WHITFIELD: So, how about your neighbors? Are other folks deciding to stay, too?

GIBBS: Yes, I think some neighbors left and we have a friend that left to go to Bakersfield, of all places. And then -- but a lot of people I think have kind of stuck ground and hanging out at their houses or home.

WHITFIELD: So, what's your evacuation plan? I heard the fire chief say that, you know, every home, especially in that area, since this is something that could potentially always happen, that you guys have to have an evacuation plan in place. What's yours?

GIBBS: None really, just kind of waiting it out. I mean, we have our, you know, precious valuables like photos and stuff all together, but I'm pretty sure we're going to be safe.

WHITFIELD: So, where do you think you guys would go?

GIBBS: Probably just to a friend's house, maybe up in Oxguard (ph), to my uncle Rick's house.

WHITFIELD: How far is that? Minutes or miles.

GIBBS: Maybe half hour or so.



WHITFIELD: OK, have you seen the choppers and any of the aircraft like we're watching live on the air right now go by your house?

GIBBS: Yes, absolutely -- yes, I'm walking on my balcony right now and I can see maybe six or seven helicopters in the sky right now.

WHITFIELD: Wow, what a way to spend the Thanksgiving weekend, right?

GIBBS: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

WHITFIELD: And at the same time, you were also hearing, right, that at least 35 homes have been destroyed in this fire. So, this is no joke kind of fire.

GIBBS: Oh, yes, absolutely. A good friend of mine, Asher Ross (ph) just -- his family lost his house. Fortunately, they were able to salvage about half of it and they got out most of their valuables and stuff, but it's pretty sad to hear when friends' houses go down.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it is sad, indeed. Keegan Gibbs, we're glad that you are with your family. You all are in this together, but at the same time, we also want to send that caution to you guys. We hope that you get your evacuation plan in place because you don't want to take any unnecessary risks, do you?

GIBBS: No, no, definitely not. Just want to hang out here, keep the paddleboarders (ph) out and just make sure the home stays safe.

WHITFIELD: Yes, well, we thank you for your time and all the best to you and your family and we hope for the best, indeed. Thanks so much, Keegan, one of our i-Reporters who decided to send in some images and then chat with us, as well, to tell us what they're planning. They're not heeding the mandatory evacuation order, which is effecting something like 10,000 people.

Anyone else in that area who wants to be an i-Reporter who has some images, a camera, video camera et cetera handy, and you want to send us some images, we encourage you to do so, but we are not encouraging you to put yourselves in the line of danger in which to take any of these images to pass them along.

We're going to continue to watch the developments there in Malibu in Southern California with at least 35 homes that have already burned, 2,200 acres that have been scorched and 1,700 firefighting teams on the ground and in the air trying to fight this blaze.

Still ahead, a check of all the other top stories and CNN's "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Waging War on the V.A."