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27 Million Impacted by Flood Watches, Advisories; Running Out of Hope; Sheriff: Shooter Committed Suicide; Suspected U.S. Airstrikes Kills 19. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 4, 2015 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, yes.

We are so grateful you're starting your morning with us.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We've got a lot more ahead in the next hour of your NEW DAY. It starts right now.


BLACKWELL: Breaking news this morning. The catastrophic flooding across the mid-Atlantic region, South Carolina specifically. More than 100 water rescues in one county. The worst is not over yet, as six states are bracing for more water than they can handle.

PAUL: Plus, a desperate search in the Atlantic this morning. A cargo ship filled with American workers missing in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin. We have a live report for you.

BLACKWELL: And new details about the armed gunman in Oregon, how he got so many guns. That's what his father wants to know and he has some pretty shocking comments on gun control.


IAN MERCER: They talk about gun laws. They talk about gun control. Every time something like this happens, they talk about it and nothing is done.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PAUL: I know it's tough day for a lot of you waking up because you're dealing with this wicked, wicked weather along the East Coast, but we are always grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

And we're following the breaking news this morning. It is being called catastrophic, historic, unprecedented. Flooding is impacting 27 million people along the East Coast and most life-threatening weather in South Carolina. Look at this.

We just got this in from Columbia. You see here in the center of the screen, I think those are people making a human chain, trying to rescue a man who is holding on to a stop sign, which tells you this is a street. I mean, this man slips away. You see the water up to his neck, up to his chin at some point. He dips down and makes his way up to safer higher ground.

And he is saved. You can see just how dire the situation is. This is just one county, many counties dealing with this in South Carolina alone.

PAUL: Well, it's so important to look at this because it's not just about the height of the water, it's about the way the water moves and how it can rush. We know that 12 inches of water can pick up a small car. Official overnight, they are saying, too -- I mean, they have been called to more than a hundred water rescues across the state and that number is likely growing in the coming hours because this morning, we know nearly 30,000 people don't have power in South Carolina. Three counties are under a flash flood emergency. And officials had to call rescue teams from out of state.

There are four additional swift water rescue teams coming to South Carolina. Take a look at the map here. It really shows the state is under watches or advisories at this hour, the torrential rain showing no signs of letting up. This is part of the problem because it's not just the rain we have already seen. It's the rain and the water that is coming.

BLACKWELL: We've got on the phone with us now, Eric Rousey, with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Eric, first, good to have you. I know you guys are busy. What we heard from Dorchester county was 140 water rescues alone in that county. Give us a broader idea of what is happening across the state, if you can quantify and qualify for us what is happening.

ERIC ROUSEY, SOUTH CAROLINA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIVISION (via telephone): We are looking right now, we've got about 30,000 customers in South Carolina without electricity. We have had a lot of areas, basically, the entire state has been hard-hit by these floods. It's a historic flood, the likes of which we haven't seen.

And, right now, we have got some rescue operations ongoing in Charleston and Dorchester counties in particular. We've got swift water rescue teams that are in place now just trying to get people out of the water.

BLACKWELL: So you got these swift water rescues. Are these mostly people who are in their cars, or are these people on foot, or are they in their homes?

ROUSEY: These are professional teams. They are two-boat operations.

BLACKWELL: No, no. The people who are being rescued is my question.

ROUSEY: What was that? I'm sorry.

BLACKWELL: The people who are being rescued, are these people on foot or in cars or in their homes?

ROUSEY: Oh, yes, yes. The people who are being rescued are people in their cars and people who tried to cross the water on foot and have gotten caught up in the current.

BLACKWELL: So the number we have from Dorchester County alone is 140, the emergency management gave us that number. Do you have a number that encompasses rescues across the state, a collective number?

ROUSEY: We don't at this time. We are still working on compiling that. The problem is, you know, a lot of the rescues, we have got statewide rescues. We have got rescues with the local police departments.

[07:05:04] And a lot of these -- and, you know, local agencies and stuff are updating these. And we are still in the process of compiling exactly how many -- how many rescues. Total, we are talking about, because all of these different agencies are pitching in to work on it.

BLACKWELL: We are seeing on the screen now video from Columbia and we have a reporter in Charleston as well. Which other areas are being hit as hard this morning?

ROUSEY: Well, primary Charleston and Dorchester counties, Berkeley counties in the southern part of the state. We are -- they have all been hit. Basically, the entire state has been hit pretty hard. But, right now, Columbia is getting hit. But Charleston has taken really the brunt of that, of the hit right now.

BLACKWELL: Final question and I'll let you get back tour work. I know that there have been some resources have come in from out of state. Do you have all of the resources you need to keep up with the number of calls that are coming in across the state?

ROUSEY: Well, we are going to evaluate that later today. We are still looking at that. Right now, we've got four more swift water rescue teams coming in from Tennessee, and so that is going to help us out a lot. And we are looking at getting more resources coming in. Later today, we are going to work on deciding and requesting additional resources.

So, we've got those swift water rescue teams coming in from Tennessee and that will help us out a lot.

BLACKWELL: All right. Eric Rousey with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, thanks to you and all the folks there with you for all the work you do and I'll let you get back to work.

ROUSEY: All right.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

ROUSEY: All right.

PAUL: Thank you, sir.

And, you know, there is even a tweet from the president and G.M. of WLTX-TV there in Columbia, South Carolina. And all he says is I've never seen anything like this.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Charleston, South Carolina. You just heard there that Charleston is really getting the brunt of it and we want to see where he is and what you're doing.

As I understand it, you're standing in some water. Is it raining? It looks like it might have stopped there. What's the latest, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The intensity of it has let up a little bit. We just heard there from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division that Charleston has suffered the brunt of the damage and you can certainly tell. Just look at King Street behind me.

As soon as the sun comes up, you'll be able to see those cars just completely submerged, Christi. That gas station, and some of the tanks suffering the effects as well. And if you come around here with me, you can get sort of a point of reference. This car up to wheels in water. The entire state of South Carolina in a desperate and dangerous situation.


VALENCIA (voice-over): A massive storm trapped over the East Coast. From near Wilmington, North Carolina, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, millions of Americans along the Eastern Seaboard affected by the wind and record breaking rain.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is not just any rain. This is going to be the heaviest rainfall we have ever seen.

VALENCIA: In Charleston, South Carolina, a deluge of water and roads more accustomed to traffic jams, inundated by several feet of water. These two strangers teamed up to help stranded people in their cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw the people and the car just floating around and decided to help them out.

VALENCIA (on camera): You don't even know each other? You guys just helping hands here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think we just have the same motive as far as we are stuck here any ways, might as well help somebody out.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Often where there is crisis, there are those willing to lend a hand. This stranded wedding party nearly missed the big day, if not for the last-minute aid of the National Guard.

But not everyone was as fortunate. Since Thursday, at least four people were killed in storm-related incidents in North and South Carolina, downed trees and power outages posing problems for the first responders.

SHIRLEY JONES, CHARLESTON RESIDENT: I'm a good citizen. I'm going to obey. I'm going to hole up in my apartment and clean out my dresser.

VALENCIA: In Brunswick County, North Carolina, the impacts from the low pressure system substantial. Up to 500 residents were evacuated in the coastal county, flood and flash flood watches are expected to last through the weekend.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: The tough news still for North Carolina and especially South Carolina is the continued rains which we are going to keep track of.

VALENCIA: The severe weather is expected to persist through Sunday and perhaps beyond, with heavy rains anticipated to cause even more disaster and emergency.


VALENCIA: Behind me is what the street should look like but this is what is left behind. More than 15 inches of rain we understand from our meteorologists, this road completely flooded here. And part of the issue and the concern here is the sewage system. The local officials going on the local media last night saying there might be parasites in the water and perhaps some sewage that is bubbling up.

[07:10:02] It's even a concern here for our news crew.

So, if you are considering coming out and playing in the water, as we saw so many people do yesterday, it's probably better to stay indoors, guys.

PAUL: Yes, that is a really good point to bring up! I hope you're wearing some protective gear, Nick. You're the first I thought of when I saw you standing in the middle of it.

Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

Now, remember, as we said earlier, this storm is affecting six other states, 27 million people. And part of what is so, I think, frightening about it is is not just what has fallen but what is still to come.

BLACKWELL: Yes, let's get a broader picture here.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is watching all of it for us in the weather center.

Allison, the numbers here are just unbelievable. You're talking more than a foot and a half of rain for some communities.

ALLISON CHINCAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. And we're not done. These aren't like the end of the storm totals. These are still going to continue to rise over the next couple of days. And it's all because of this system you can see beneath me.

Now, again, we've got that upper level low that's kind of sitting around Florida. As that low continues to push towards the east, it's pulling in moisture from Hurricane Joaquin. So, even though Joaquin is not actually going to make landfall anywhere near the U.S., it's pulling that plume in where you can see that tropical moisture straight into the Carolinas.

We also have the high pressure that is sitting kind of behind me. That's bringing in intense winds to parts of the Northeast. But let's take a look at some of these rainfall record numbers, because they are just incredible when you look at them.

Berkeley County, South Carolina, 18 inches of rain, 17 in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, North Myrtle Beach, 15 inches, and Charleston, South Carolina, just barely under 15 and I'm sure they will get to 15 if not more because we still expect more rain on top of what they have already had.

Flood watches and the parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and all up and down the East Coast. We also have flash flood warnings for parts of Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina.

Now, here is a look at the current radar. Again, you can see more of that rain just continuing to flow over the same spots. And that is why we have such problems with all of the flooding because now you're starting to worry about the drainage that cannot hold all of this water that is coming in. Also with the ground completely saturated as it is, it only takes 20, 30 miles per hour winds to knock trees down. That is also why we are starting to see a lot of the power outages begin to go up.

Forecasted rainfall, again, another six to ten inches of rain expected in parts of Charleston all the way up towards Wilmington and the windy conditions in the northeast, take a look -- 62-mile-an-hour wind in Cape May.

So, Victor and Christi, this is an impressive overall storm all up and down the East Coast, whether it's the wind or the rain that's a factor.

PAUL: All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Allison.

There's a new clue this morning in a search -- really desperate search for missing U.S. cargo ship with 28 Americans on board. It's been more than 48 hours since the El Faro disappeared while sailing into Hurricane Joaquin.

Now, the U.S. Coast Guard says they have recovered a life preserver that belongs to that ship. It was about 70 miles from the ship's last known position near the Bahamas. In about 30 minutes, we'll speak with the Coast Guard captain on the latest search and rescue operations there.

PAUL: You know, when shots rang out at an Oregon community college, it was just the fourth day of classes and now we are learning more about the students gunned down by a gunman as investigators found the shooter had more weapons than they first thought.

Also, shut down. A humanitarian group says they cannot use an Afghan hospital any more. Just hours after it's shelled potentially by American fighter jets and killing 19 people. That investigation is under way. We'll tell you more.

And a historic meeting between Pope Francis and same-sex couple. What do they talk about? We are talking to that couple live, straight ahead.


[07:17:02] BLACKWELL: In Oregon at Umpqua Community College, authorities are work to go finish up their investigation and students are preparing to return to campus after a gunman killed nine people on Thursday. Classes will not be held tomorrow, nor at all this week. But the campus will be reopened to students and faculty on Monday. Meanwhile, at least four people still in the hospital wounded in last week's attack.

Dan Simon is live in Roseburg, Oregon.

Dan, good morning to you. What are you learning?


Authorities are releasing more details how this mass atrocity happened and how the shooter himself died. We are told that two police officers arrived on scene five minutes after the initial 911 call and quickly engaged the shooter. Had that not happened, authorities say there certainly would have been more carnage.

We are also hearing what one victim told her family about what happened in the classroom and how the shooter decided that one person in particular should live, a person he called the lucky one.


SIMON (voice-over): She is the youngest victim and survivor of the Umpqua Community College shooting. Sixteen-year-old Cheyeanne Fitzgerald made at that time college earlier than most. It was her fourth day of school when the shots rang out.

BOONIE SCHAAN, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I heard there was a shooting at the college. I grabbed my purse and keys and flew out of my job. I text my daughter, "I'm on my way to school." But I never went there. I came here. And that is how I found my daughter.

SIMON: A bullet had gone through her back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is currently in ICU. She lost a kidney due to her gunshot wound.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dispatch as many ambulances as possible to the incident. We have upwards of 20 victims.

SIMON: Cheyeanne is having a hard time reliving the terror, but told her family the gunman had singled out one particular classmate, giving him an envelope, along with a verbal message.

SCHAAN: You're going to be the lucky one and to go to the corner. And he told everybody else to go to the middle of the room and lay down.

SIMON: Cheyeanne's family says she, too, was asked about her religion, but didn't answer. She played dead on the floor. Authorities, so far, have declined to discuss a motive and what the shooter gave to that student.

But we now know how the 26-year-old gunman died.

SHERIFF JOHN HANLIN, ROSEBURG POLICE: The medical examiner has determined the cause of death of the shooter to be suicide.

SIMON: That, as reports surfaced the gunman told those he was shooting, "I'll see you soon." An implication that he was planning for his own death.

SCHAAN: I have not questioned my daughter about any of this. I don't -- I can't bring myself to do it because I know when she is ready, she will talk to me and tell me, and little bits, she is starting to, you know, let out.

HANLIN: And to the families of the victims, our hearts are with you and you know that our hearts will be with you forever.


[07:20:01] SIMON: And officials have linked one more gun to the shooter, bringing the total number of guns to 14 -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Dan Simon, thank you so much.

PAUL: We are also hearing from the father of the gunman who special with CNN's Ryan Young. His biggest question, how his son could have gotten so many guns?


IAN MERCER, OREGON SHOOTING GUNMAN'S FATHER: I know he will be remembered for what he did on Thursday, I know that. I can't change that. At the moment, I'm just leaving it up to the police to do their investigation as to, you know, his history and everything in his background. I'm sure they will announce what they find, all in good cause.

Right now, I'm just going to leave it up to them. The only thing I would like to say is a question that I would like to ask is -- is -- is, how on earth could he compile 13 guns? How can that happen? You know?

They talk about gun laws, they talk about gun control. Every time something like this happens, they talk about it and nothing is done. I'm not trying to say that is the blame for what happened, but if Chris had not been able to get ahold of 13 guns, it would not have happened.


PAUL: After this interview, by the way, police say the shooter actually had 14 guns. They did fine one other handgun in the apartment after that initial tally of 13.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about this hospital in Afghanistan. It's closed now, just a day after 19 people were killed possibly during a U.S. airstrike. We are going to get the latest on those 19 and the investigation.

Plus, a comment by President Obama. We are going to Afghanistan in just a moment.

Plus, historic flooding in South Carolina. You look at this video and you just feel for the people who are trying to rescue this man holding on to a stop sign. The rising waters forcing more than 100 rescues in one county alone overnight, 27 million could be affected by extreme flooding and continuing the breaking news coverage.

Much more ahead on NEW DAY.


[07:25:49] PAUL: A full investigation, that's what the president is calling for after yesterday's deadly airstrikes hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan.

The White House releasing a statement from President Obama offering condolences and vowing to get answers. Quote, "The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy. I expect a full accounting of the facts and circumstances."

Well, this morning, Doctors Without Borders hospitals no longer functional after what happened there. Nicolas Metri joins us from Kabul, Afghanistan. He is a spokesman for the National Committee of the Red Cross.

Thank you for being with us. I understand you're a couple of hundred miles south of this where bombing happened in Kunduz. And I do understand this hospital was kind of surrounded by a battle between the Taliban and Afghan security forces which are supported by U.S. troops, that there was actually fighting near the gates.

What do you know about the security in that area now?

NICOLAS METRI, INTL. COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS (via telephone): At the moment, we don't have enough information about the obscure situation around the hospital. As you may know, our staff had been at the hospital at the time of the attack and, of course, quite glad that both of them are safe, but -- but -- but both of them were evacuated out of the area. At the moment, we don't have much information what is happening around the hospital.

PAUL: What about the survivors, the people that survived this attack? Where are they? How are they? And what kind of resources on most needed in that area now?

METRI: Well, we are glad to see our colleague (INAUDIBLE) who has been at the hospital who (INAUDIBLE) was evacuated with the rest of MSF international yesterday from Kunduz and we managed to speak to him here in Kabul briefly before he went home for a well deserved break.

And he was definitely very shaken. (INAUDIBLE) not sure the period of time of absolute horror where he was lucky enough to be in the basement taking a break actually. He was quite shaken, that the only person I got to speak to of the survivors personally.

He was quite shaken. But he is confident he will be home with his family (INAUDIBLE). I didn't catch the other part of your question.

PAUL: OK. Well, Nicolas, I'm sorry we have run out of time. Thank you so much for your time. Nicolas Metri there with the Red Cross, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is joining us now for more analysis here.

Lieutenant General, the U.S. not taking responsibility. This is an investigation that has been launched. But we have heard from Doctors Without Borders, the head calling it a violation of international law and U.N. official calling it a possible war crime. This is an investigation that is going on.

Will there be some material change of these investigations or more likely after we are hearing from the U.N.?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, we'll see, Victor, and that's the critical part of having an investigation. You know, there had been a lot of people on the ground said they believe this is what happened and there are certainly events that have occurred that caused this tragic event.

But what's interesting is we really have to take a look. My experience in combat tells me the first reports are always wrong, there is always things that have happened that you're not aware of.

And as we were even talking yesterday, we were talking about the potential of fast moving aircraft dropping bombs, now there is a potential of an a C-130 gunship. I know most of your viewers don't know what that is but it's a slow moving cargo plane that is outfitted with cannon and Gatling guns that have direct fire pinpointed attacks.

So, it has (INAUDIBLE) onboard. It can see what happened. So, all of that will be part of the investigation. The initial claim of collateral damage could be critical, critically important to all of this, but we need really to see that film, we need to understand what happened before we start placing blame.

BLACKWELL: We know that the MSF and we use these terms interchangeably. MSF being the international name for Medecins Sans Frontieres, same as Doctors Without Borders.