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Train Derails in Baltimore; Fires in Malibu; New Developments in Natalee Holloway Case; Cruise Ship Sinks in Antarctica; Holiday Shopping Frenzy

Aired November 24, 2007 - 09:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody, from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Betty Nguyen. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: I hope you did. Hello to you all, our food is still digesting here. I'm T.J. Holmes. Really glad you could be here with us. We're going to start this morning with two stories just coming into CNN.

First off, a train has derailed in Baltimore, Maryland. Five of those cars we understand are off the tracks. Hazmat crews now have been called to the scene. We're not sure yet what the train was carrying, but Hazmat is out, it's apparently some situation where possibly something dangerous and hazardous is out there. So we're keeping an eye on this. Also, we can tell you that there are no reports of injuries just yet. We're keeping an eye on it and we'll bring you the latest as it happens.

NGUYEN: We are also getting word of evacuations in southern California this morning. A wildfire near Malibu that started less than three hours ago has already burned 100 acres. Right now we don't know how many homes were cleared out. The immediate threat, though, may be from the strong Santa Ana winds blowing embers across a wide area. Firefighters were already on alert in that area after a red flag alert was posted in several southern California counties: Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and San Diego.

Now as you recall, last month's wildfires destroyed parts of those counties. A red flag warning means there are optimal conditions for the spread of wildfires. So let's get the latest on this.

HOLMES: Bonnie Schneider keeping an eye on this. How are conditions there, Bonnie? We were talking about these Santa Anas. Certainly going to be a problem for them? They are on standby.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That is true. The winds actually started to kick up last night into the overnight hours. It is still early in the morning. The wind warning, the high wind warning that was issued for coastal areas of Los Angeles, including Malibu was actually downgraded to a wind advisory. But looking at the wind threat you can see it covers a wide area of southern California, but extends all the way into the border of Arizona as well and northward as you start heading towards areas further north as well of Los Angeles.

Want to zoom into the area and show you exactly what's happening in terms of the Malibu region. The winds have picked up quite a bit. Sustained winds around Malibu are at 18 miles an hour. They are from the northeast. That onshore flow continues. We'll look for temperatures about 52 degrees. Take a look at what's happening. We have high pressure developing over the Great Basin for today. That's why we have critical fire danger.

Now this is on the high side of winds that we'll see throughout the afternoon. As you can see this morning, the winds are a little less than what the forecast is calling for. But winds 35 to 45 mainly in the mountain passes and into the foothills, the coastal areas should see lighter winds this go around, unlike the last time. Gusts could be high. This is the highest we'll see it likely 60 miles per hour.

Notice relative humidity 5 to 10 percent. Once again, that is higher than the threat we saw in October. But this is an area that has been burned badly. There's a lot of ash, particularly in the Santiago fire area. And these high winds will blow about the ash and that will actually reduce visibility throughout the day today. So we'll see some problems for people with upper respiratory problems that will be out and about and, of course, more wind that could kick up any fires that develop.

NGUYEN: Thank you Bonnie.

We want to get the latest now from I-reporter Jesse Silver he is in Rancho Palos Verdes, California he joins us on the phone. Jesse I understand from where you are you can actually see the fires burning. Describe the situation.


Yes, we can, very clearly. The fires are enormous. They are very impressive, and it looks like they are spreading more quickly than any fire I think I've ever seen in Malibu.

NGUYEN: Really?

Even compared to some of the fires that you saw spread in the last round of wildfires?

SILVER: I wasn't in Palos Verdes during the last round so I didn't see them with my own eyes, but I've lived here 15 years. And I just happen to be out of town at that time, this fire grew from one flame to the whole mountain in two hours.

NGUYEN: We so far have understood that it's burned at least 100 acres in the hills above Malibu.

SILVER: Oh, it's way more than 100 acres.

NGUYEN: Really?

SILVER: No question. It's covering, I mean, I don't know how many acres, but it's miles and miles long. NGUYEN: We're looking right now at the photo that you sent in. You can see a little sliver of fire at the top of the screen. Are people being told to evacuate? What's going on in the neighborhoods?

SILVER: You know, I don't live in Malibu. I'm about 30 miles away. We live at the bottom of the L.A. Base. We have a perfect view of the top of the L.A. Bay, which is Malibu. My neighbor is called Palos Verdes. The picture I sent was taken maybe about an hour ago, perhaps a bit more. And the fire is much, much larger now. I just saw it flash on the TV screen. It's amazing how much it's changed.

NGUYEN: Just that short amount. Well it is because of the Santa Ana winds. Talk about how fast and furious they are blowing right now.

SILVER: Where we are, the winds are not all that fast and furious, but it's clear watching the fire that every minute or so, a huge wind kicks up and the flames go, I mean, it's just really amazing. They just -- flames all over the mountain. Then it will sort of die down for a minute and then kick up again.

NGUYEN: Jesse, as quickly as these fires can blow in the winds and the embers kick up and catch on to other areas and it really, you know, lights that on fire, are you worried about your own neighborhood and your own safety?

SILVER: Right now we're not. You know, we've had fires in Palos Verdes in the past. But at this point, I don't see any cause for concern. The wind -- it doesn't feel like we're getting that severe of a Santa Ana right now. I mean, clearly looking at the speed of the smoke blowing off of Malibu, they are getting much stronger winds than we are.

NGUYEN: We do appreciate you sending in your I-reports. The picture is very valuable as we try to get a sense of where this fire is and how fast it's burning, of course. Do let us know how you're doing. We will be checking with you, and you do the same as the situation does change there in California. Thanks for your time today, Jesse Silver.

SILVER: Thanks very much.

HOLMES: We'll turn now to a case that's been cold for a while. Now we have new developments. We're talking about the disappearance of Natalie Holloway. Well three suspects are in jail this morning.

NGUYEN: That includes Joran Van Dersloot. He arrived in Aruba under police guard late last night and is scheduled to be in court for the first time on Monday.

HOLMES: This case moving forward on the strength of new evidence. We talked about that new evidence early this morning with Aruba's chief prosecutor.


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

HOLMES: 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 restricted from telling you guys what any new evidence is because the suspects have to be confronted with this new evidence. And we asked the judge to give an order not to give the same evidence to all three suspects so they've got different police reports with evidence pertaining to them individually. If I expose the new evidence, the lawyers would hear and the suspects would hear all the evidence pertaining to the other suspects. So I have to be very careful on that because then they would have all this information and the questioning would be rather useless.

HOLMES: 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, under law that would not be allowed. We couldn't sort of whitewash our old evidence and present it as new. That's not allowed under Dutch Law. What we have is new and we reevaluated the old file and that came up with new leads 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: The prosecutor also told us he hopes to bring charges by the end of the year. We'll have a live report from Aruba coming up for you in the next hour.

NGUYEN: Let's get you back now to that breaking news out of California. Here are some live pictures coming in to CNN. We're getting our first glimpse of the fire in Malibu. And you can see one of the helicopters flying over. We, obviously, as this thing does continue to burn, we'll see other types of aircraft. There you go, right there, dropping fire retardant on to the fires that so far have burned 100 acres in the hills above Malibu.

This fire began shortly before 3:30 a.m. local time near Malibu Lake on state parkland. And we understand that some residents who live in the canyons above Malibu were ordered to evacuate. But it's still not known how close this fire is getting to those homes and neighborhoods. But, obviously, close enough to force some evacuations so far.

But this thing has burned very, very quickly. A lot of that has to do with the Santa Ana winds. CNN's Bonnie Schneider is in the Severe Weather Center. She's been watching this today. We knew that the winds had kicked up, at least yesterday was the beginning of it. But I don't think a lot of people were hoping for this to happen. But the fires have burned at least 100 acres so far.

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. Especially since the high wind warning was down graded to an advisory around 4:00 this morning California time. We were looking at it to be less of a threat than what we thought yesterday. The winds in the canyons and the passes in the hills above Malibu, that's where the most fierce wind is this go around, whereas in the last go around in October, we had those wind that went all the way out to the beaches. But we're still getting some strong wind in and around Malibu right now.

Taking a look at our computers, you can see that we have winds coming out of the northeast at about 25 miles per hour in the hills around Malibu, if you head northward to Gore Hills. And then right along the beach it's not quite as bad. The winds are at 17. But that is still strong enough when you have winds as strong as what you see here, you often have wind gusts that can climb even more fierce than that. It just takes a strong wind gust to spread about a flame.

Doesn't necessarily take the wind to cause the fire, but once you have a little bit of combustion that occurs, the winds spread it very quickly because just a short while ago, this entire region had, obviously, the major fires with lots of tinder left behind and a clearing along the hillside. So that allows the fire to spread as well because of the previous fires that have cleared everything out.

NGUYEN: So far, 160 firefighters are on the scene, as we mentioned. This thing started around 3:30 a.m. local time there in Malibu. And has burned at least 100 acres so far. We're going to stay on top of this story and bring you new developments as they come in to CNN.

HOLMES: Well, people looking for an Antarctic adventure got a whole lot more than they bargained for. They got an adventure all right, they got the Titanic package on their cruise, 154 passengers and crew were rescued from a sinking cruise ship. There it is. This is the ship "Explorer." It hit submerged ice and went down. Nobody seriously injured. Everybody did make it to their life boats all right. Another cruise ship took them aboard.

Here's another picture. Check those out. Those are the empty life boats on top of the freezing water. The cruise ship slipped beneath the sea just a few hours ago. Took it awhile to go down, but it did.

Need to head down under as well now to Australia where there's major political change to tell you about. It's the end to an 11-year conservative rule. As the labor party wins the majority of seats in Parliament making labor leader Kevin Rudd the new prime minister- elect. Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, a major ally of President Bush, has conceded the election. He may still serve in the parliament, however. Rudd is promising changes in Australia's policies on Iraq and global warming.

NGUYEN: Let's take you to Afghanistan now. A suicide bomber kills seven people. Six of them were Afghan civilians, most children. The bomber was targeting a group of Italian soldiers working on a bridge construction project just outside of Kabul.

HOLMES: Good deeds, Betty. Good deeds. It will all come back to you. Makes the world go round. We have evidence of it here.

NGUYEN: For those of you who don't believe a Kansas City woman has 15,000 reasons to make you a believer.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Coming up at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, how to protect your identity this holiday season, whether you shop online or at the mall. We'll show you how to do it safely.

Then forget the saying, you only get what you pay for. We'll show you what you can get for free.

And household mishaps, answers to some of the most common headaches for homeowners. That's "OPEN HOUSE," the show that saves you money, 9:30 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


NGUYEN: Take a look at our breaking news this morning. Out of Malibu, California. See it right there, wildfires are back again. Let's get the latest on these fires from Captain Mike Brown with the L.A. County Fire Department. He joins us by phone. Captain Brown, talk to me about how these fires started out because I know especially after the huge wildfire situation that you have been dealing with over the past month or so, this is not what you need.

VOICE OF CAPTAIN MIKE BROWN, L.A. COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: That's absolutely correct. It's unclear how the fire actually started. We do have an ignition point or point of origin at the Mesa Peak Mountain way in Corral Canyon. This fire broke out roughly about 3:27 this morning, currently I can tell you that we have well over 300 acres- plus burning in heavy brush being fanned by heavy winds some 30 to 40- mile-an-hour with gusts up to 50 miles an hour.

We've got roughly about 300-plus firefighters on the scene. Mandatory evacuations are in place for the Malibu area, Corral Canyon. Roughly well over 100-plus homes in this area. Right now the evacuees are being evacuated down the hill to PCH until we establish an evacuation center.

NGUYEN: Do you feel at all better prepared since what you've been through with the other wildfires?

BROWN: Well, we're definitely a little bit prepared -- more prepared now that we have been due to the fact that we anticipated these winds. We did have engine crews, strike teams in place, what we call augmented staffing. Most of those resources are being utilized and was able to get those to the fire very quickly.

NGUYEN: How exhausted are you fighting these fires? It's almost like de ja vu all over again.

BROWN: This is definitely not something we expected. Rather wished for, but it is what it is at this time, a fire being driven by high winds and our focus is to get as many resources as we can on this fire to prevent damage or loss of life.

NGUYEN: So far you've called for mandatory evacuations. At least 100-plus homes in that area. Do you expect it to travel to other neighborhoods as well? This thing is moving quite quickly.

BROWN: This fire is moving quite quickly in a southwest direction. Definitely a lot of homes in this area. There's still a lot of unburned vegetation, although we had a fire here a month ago. There's still a lot of unburned vegetation that we have to be concerned with. So here again, we are in this predicament. Wind-driven fire fanned by high winds and a lot of unburned vegetation to burn out there.

NGUYEN: Not the kind of thing you want to wake up to on a Saturday morning, especially after Thanksgiving. So many people just thankful to be alive after the last fires. Captain Mike Brown with the L.A. County Fire Department. We do appreciate your time. We'll be checking in with you as well for new developments on this.

Want to let the folks know, this is our breaking news this morning. Fires in Malibu. Wildfires that so far have gone from 300- plus acres. Just look at that smoke that is billowing from these fires. This thing has moved very, very quickly because it started around 3:30 a.m. West Coast time. Only about, what, close to three hours ago. So it's moved very, very quickly and they are having to force evacuations. We'll stay on top of the story and bring you the latest as soon as we get it.

HOLMES: Need to tell you here there is more fallout this morning from the financial scandal at Oral Roberts University. Well, now the Richard Roberts, he is the son of the school's evangelist founder. He has resigned as president of the school. And that decision is effective immediately. Lawsuits accuse Roberts of misspending the school's money to support a lavish lifestyle. He and his wife deny any wrongdoing. The school's governing board plans to meet early next week to discuss the search for a new president.

NGUYEN: Well, it is official. The holiday shopping frenzy is on. Have you been to stores yet?

HOLMES: I was shopping yesterday, Betty.

NGUYEN: You have to see this. Hopefully we can show it once again. He was at the mall all day long. You were at Wal-Mart.

HOLMES: Felt like a mall.

NGUYEN: Especially with all of the folks in and out of there. There are plenty of people who do do their shopping, snug in their PJs in front of the computers, wish I was one of them, but I'll learn in our next segment coming up, online shopping. You don't want to miss it. It is right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: All right. So you may think all the holiday shopping takes place at the malls. Well, cyberspace is where a lot of money is passing hands these days. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis has some important tips before you click and buy.

WILLIS: Hi, Betty.

For most of us, it's time to start holiday shopping. If you plan on buying gifts online, here's some things you need to know to protect yourself. First, make sure the Web site is safe by looking for a picture of a closed lock in the browser window. If you see a broken lock or key, security isn't operating. When it comes to paying with plastic, use a credit card rather than a debit card. Many credit cards have a zero liability limit. That means you won't be held responsible for a fraudulent charge.

Watch out for e-mails that ask you for personal information to verify accounts or clear up errors. They may look like they come from legitimate businesses, but legit operators don't ask for Social Security numbers or bank account numbers. Avoid the temptation to respond to these e-mails and don't click on the links they contain.

Finally, to avoid that holiday spending hangover, create a holiday budget. Make a list of who you are going to spend money on and how much you want to spend. Don't forget all those little things that add up like the Christmas decorations and the tips you'll dole out. Coming up at 9:30 am Eastern we'll talk more about how to protect your identity this holiday season whether you shop online or at the mall. We will tell you how to do it safely.

Then forget the saying, you only get what you pay for. We'll show you what you can get for free. And household mishaps, answers to some of the most common headaches for homeowners. That's all coming up on "OPEN HOUSE" -- Betty.

NGUYEN: And "CNN Presents" an hour-long special report "Trouble in Toyland." That's later today and tomorrow. Our Fredricka Whitfield examines the toy recalls, the fears and the all-important solutions. That's this afternoon and tomorrow, 4:00 Eastern, 1:00 Pacific.

HOLMES: A cashier shows extra kindness and her elderly customer did not forget it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's the letter from the trust from the bank and the check. Don't even want to let it go.


HOLMES: Fifteen grand, Betty, for being nice.

NGUYEN: Hey, good things happen to good people. That's what I've always said.

HOLMES: You should try being nice. Who knows what's coming your way.

NGUYEN: Stop it.

HOLMES: We'll explain this story shortly. Stay here.


NGUYEN: Breaking news out of Malibu, California. Look at these live pictures coming in to CNN right now. Those flames are just shooting high into the sky. You can see the smoke. These helicopters have been putting flame retardant on this wildfire that's been growing extremely quickly out in Malibu. Let me tell you where it started, it was around 3:30 a.m. when the blaze began.

But quickly within the last, oh, about three hours, it has grown to 300 acres that have been charred; 100-plus homes are being evacuated. These are forced evacuations, not voluntary. You see why. The flames are moving fast. The winds are not helping at all. The Santa Ana winds are throwing around 30 to 40 miles an hour. We'll keep on top of this story and bring you the developments as they come in to CNN.

In the meantime, though, working the register in a grocery store, you meet all kinds of people, right?

HOLMES: Of course you do. One cashier met a special customer and wound up with a thank you she never could have imagined. Amy Anderson of affiliate KSPTV explains.


EVA BETTS, RECEIVED $15,000: Thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

AMY ANDERSON, KSPTV REPORTER: Eva Betts has greeted customers with a smile for more than ten years. But one customer thanked her for her hospitality in a way she never dreamed possible.

BETTS: This is the letter from the trust, from the bank and the check. Don't even want to let it go.

ANDERSON: It was from a loyal customer, a man in his 90s who recently passed away. Betts grew close to him over the years, especially when age began to steal his independence.

BETTS: As the years went on, he became gradually disabled and I would help him shop for his groceries. Then when he got sick, I'd go visit him in St. Luke's Hospital, cheer him up a bit.

ANDERSON: Betts says the man had no family at all in Kansas City and she wanted him to know someone was thinking about him. The people who work with Betts say it's no surprise her generosity has come back to her.

MARK LENZ, STORE MANAGER: Couldn't have happened to a better person. Eva, when she's done working a 45, 50-hour workweek here, she goes to the hospital and donates her time, volunteers for children and elderly.

BETTS: Thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving.

ANDERSON: Betts says the money came at a perfect time. A hit and run accident hurt her financially this year.