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Five Dead At Nursing Home After Storm Knocked Out Power; Keys Resident: There's Nothing Here: We're On Our Own; Crews Rush To Restore Power As Temps Rise In Florida; Residents Return To Destruction In Florida Keys; Search And Rescue Teams Going Door To Door In Keys; Coast Guard: 127 People, 53 Pets Rescued In Just Last 24 Hours; At Least 55 People Killed By Irma In U.S. And Caribbean. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2017 - 11:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- (inaudible) they're going to make it through, no matter what at this point. Our CNN special live coverage of Hurricane Irma continues now with Kate Bolduan.

BOLDUAN: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We're following breaking news out of Florida right now. We know that five people are dead at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. People are saying -- police are saying that they are treating it as a criminal investigation and they believe, at least, right now, that the deaths are linked to the loss of power in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The temperatures in Florida have been hitting 90 degrees this week and almost 4 million power customers statewide still don't have electricity. No lights, no refrigeration, no air-conditioning.

Let's get right over to Miguel Marquez, who's outside that nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. Miguel, this is such a tragedy. So many deaths in just one place. What are you learning right now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a tragedy that's going to raise concern for people around the country and around the world, because Florida is obviously a retirement state. There are many, many critical care facilities for the elderly here.

And I want to give you a sense of what this place is like. The police saying that five are dead, 115 have been moved, and there are others that are critical. It's not clear whether the number is over 120 total or if those critical patients are in that total number they've given us so far.

This is the rehabilitation center at Hollywood Hills and the Larkin Community Hospital. It's two different facilities and right across that -- those two facilities have been evacuated. All of the patients have been moved to memorial hospital facilities, either here, right across the street, or elsewhere.

It is amazing that this facility is literally right across the street from a hospital. So, it's not clear how all of this happened. Police only saying, giving very few details. Here is what police chief of Hollywood, Florida, said today.


CHIEF THOMAS SANCHEZ, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA POLICE: Police and fire responded this morning, regarding some patients that were in critical need of care. Today, right now, we have five confirmed deaths at this facility. We have evacuated 115 patients to other memorial facilities.

At this time, we have other patients in critical care. Right now, the building has been sealed off and we're conducting a criminal investigation inside. We've made -- we believe at this time they may be related to the loss of power and the storm. But we're conducting a criminal investigation, not ruling anything out.


MARQUEZ: Now, we spoke to an employee a short time ago, who said that the facilities, both facilities here, had their own generator and had hired more generators or rented more generators after they lost power on Sunday.

But it's not clear if those generators failed or what, exactly, happened. He said when he left work last night, it was cool, but not cold. It was comfortable enough that they had been living there -- that they had been surviving there since Sunday without a lot of issues.

So, it is not clear how this happened. Whether they lost power entirely or just the air-conditioners went down. Police saying this started around 4:00 this morning, when they started getting phone calls from this facility and then it spiraled out from there.

Police also saying, gives you an idea of just how many care facilities there are across Florida, in general. But they are looking at all 42 similar facilities in Hollywood City, alone, but there are many more thousands across the state of Florida -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And this, of course, is the greatest fear of everyone in the aftermath. Not only it's the storm, but in the aftermath, when they're trying to get the systems back up and running, that this could happen. And as you said, I want to put a fine point on it, Miguel. This facility is across the street from a hospital.

MARQUEZ: It is -- that is the shock of all of this. It is literally across the street from a hospital that had full power, that has no relationship to the facility. It's memorial hospital. All of those who have been evacuated were taken there. And you're exactly right, in a crisis like this, the power goes out, the system is fragile, any one thing, especially for the most vulnerable, can push them right over the edge -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Miguel, a lot more to come from this. Miguel Marquez on it for us, thank you so much. That just reiterates why there is such a race to get the power back on when the temperatures are hitting such numbers, in the 90s this week and also, you have such a large retirement community, senior community in the entire state of Florida.

So, from Hollywood, Florida, we want to go from there to take you to the Florida Keys. And I want you to listen to one man who rode out the storm there, and now he describes the situation there now.


RICHARD TABACCO, RODE OUT STORM IN FLORIDA KEYS: We shouldn't be here. There's nothing. Services are a long way away. We're truly on our own. There's nothing here. There's no gas, there's no water, there's no stores, there's no electricity. There's no cell phone service. Just stay away for about two weeks.


[11:05:08] BOLDUAN: He says stay away for two weeks. You heard him there say no cell phone service. Because of that, some people in the Keys, understandably, then, they haven't even been able to tell their families yet that they're OK. Some even used a CNN satellite phone to try to get the word out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jess? I'm alive! There's no fatalities that I know of. It's just a mess. A total mess down here. OK, honey. I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm fine. Everyone is good. Please get in contact with mom and the rest of the cousins and friends. Thank you very much. Thank you, bye. Thanks, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Dad. I don't know when they're going to open the road again. All right. I'll try. Love you, dad.


BOLDUAN: The relief of just being able to connect. CNN's John Berman is joining me now from Big Pine Key, one of the hardest hit areas in the Keys. John, you were up in a helicopter, you've been on the ground, you've been talking to folks and watching all your reporting. What are you seeing and hearing today?

BERMAN: Well, look, Big Pine Key has really seen the worst of it right now. This house behind me, you can see the storm surge and the wind and the water just pushed right through the garage, knocked it down and came right out into what I imagine was at one point a driveway.

Whoever lived in this house, and we haven't seen them yet, their entire life is strewn about in the sand here. Apparently maybe a scuba diver because of the tanks here. So Big Pine Key has it really bad, but do I want to tell you (inaudible) Cudjo Key and another few of the keys, I saw a lot more structures standing than I thought.

Very few homes, completely destroyed on those islands. Almost every home, though, damaged. Everyone who lives in this area is going to have to do some work in their house, whether it's to get the water- out, put the shingles back on.

You know, clear out the porch that may have blown over. Everyone is going to have some hardship to get life back and running. The people who chose to ride it out, they've been talking to us. They need water, they need power, and they need communications.

Boy, you just played some of that sound with people calling their loved ones. They just want everyone to know that they're here and they made it through. They have no other way to reach them.

Some other positive signs, on Highway 1 here, we did see 20 utility trucks lined up just waiting to get to work. We've seen military convoys moving in both directions, north and south. The search and rescue teams from Alaska were the first ones to arrive on the scene, but their only job was to go door to door, to rescue anyone who needed it.

Now what we need here, what the residents need here is those supplies and they need to be handed out as quickly, you know, and really efficiently as possible, Kate. Because the people here, they brought water, they have food, but it's going to run out in the next few days -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Because, remember, the whole thing going into a storm, you have to have supplies for three days. And we're past three days now and this is what folks are up against in this blistering heat that you guys are dealing with.

But sights of progress. We want sights and sounds of progress, as John Berman points out, utility trucks coming down the road. That is an important part and a welcome sign for everybody down there. John, thank you so much. We'll get back to you.

So, CNN's Bill Weir, he's been on about. John's on the ground there in the Keys. Bill Weir has been on a boat reporting on the damage left behind by Irma as he's been seeing it and he's been traveling from the water's view across the Keys. Here's what he's seeing today.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it is an absolutely beautiful morning down here. Just off of the Torch Keys. Look how still these waters are and it almost seems doubly cruel to have such a gorgeous setting for such utter destruction. We're off the Torch Keys.

You can see in the distance, this is as close as we can get because of the shallows here. But there's not a house that was spared. I mean, it's just, it's -- the structures, those concrete structures whole, but everything around it twisted, boats everywhere, as if job, you know, like a giant's bathtub.

They look like toys that have been tossed around. As we came down from Key Largo yesterday, we crossed under the Long Bey Bridge. It was like going through a ride in water park. Fresh water pouring down from the tide line, the freshwater pipes that the folks in the keys depend on coming from the mainland.

That's going to take a long time to fix in terms of water pressure and we came in our boats as we went ashore and the dingy, snarls of power lines mixed up with lobster traps. So, power is going to take a long time to restore and then there's the sea life.

This is the thing, these people, they rely on the health of these waters and we saw drifts of the most delicate coral, the kind of stuff you only find in deep water, way out, so the coral reef that sustains this ecosystem and this economy is just completely devastated, as well. We saw signs of that.

[11:10:10] I don't -- not the length of it, but where we were on Cook Island, one of the rare small islands, we're going to try to get down to Key West today. That's the population center of this place.

And as the sun turns from, you know, pastel lovely, it's going to be a blow torch today. The mosquitos are back. So, our hearts go out to everybody who's going to be suffering down here for an unforeseeably long time -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Bill, thank you so much, bringing us that really amazing perspective from the waters along the Keys, as he's been traveling there.

So, joining me now to get some more perspective, Monroe County Florida Commissioner Heather Caruthers, of course, that is the county that covers the Keys. Thank you so much for jumping on. Can you hear me?

COMMISSIONER HEATHER CARUTHERS, MONROE COUNTY, FLORIDA (via telephone): I sure can. Thanks very much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. So, what is the very latest that you're hearing today on search and recovery and how it's going in your county?

CARUTHERS: Well, I can tell you the recovery effort seems to be going really well. Literally, as I was waiting to speak with you, I got a phone call from a very close friend that I haven't been in contact with.

It's great to know that we're starting to get cell service back so I've seen cell service now from Key West and also someone in Marathon. That is huge. So, hopefully, people can start communicating with their friends and their loved ones.

You know, we're working on energy in the city of Key West. We have power now to the hospital, the airport grocery stores, the senior center on North Duck Island, and even Home Depot and we expect to make more progress there.

In terms of water, we do have water from Key Largo now to Marathon. If you're not getting water in your home and you're one of the folks that have come back in the upper Keys, it's a good chance that the problem is actually a broken pipe in your yard, when trees fall over, they break pipes all over the place.

We've got a ton of work going on. There are going to be about 2,000 National Guard in there within a day. We've got 40 crews working on energy, throughout the Keys. We've repaired the washout that we had at Mile Marker 74 for U.S. 1 and we should have another lane repaired that was damaged at Mile Marker 34 today.

Our crews are doing cut and toss work all along the highways. We're really making a lot of progress, but it's still extremely uncomfortable. We do not have power, particularly to these most devastated areas in the Lower Keys, and it's going to be a long time before we get water there, as well.

So, we're just asking folks to hold on and I appreciate Bill taking a boat down to the Keys, but he needs to be really careful, because there's a lot of submerged debris, loose buoys, boats that have capsized and sank in relatively shallow waters.

We are discouraging anyone from boating into the Keys and if you must go to Key West, understand there's a safety zone around Key West and you're going to have to be in touch with the authorities there before you can enter the harbor.

BOLDUAN: All great points and that's wonderful to hear. I mean, 2,000 National Guard that's going to be down there within a day. That's going to be a welcome sight to everyone throughout the Keys.

Let me ask you, you have questioned some of the estimates that FEMA has put out on the -- on how many homes and properties that have been damaged or destroyed in the Keys. When do you think, Commissioner, that you'll have a clear sense of the damage throughout the county?

CARUTHERS: Well, we have staff that's starting right now going -- they're going to be going door-to-door and investigating the structural integrity of all the homes that were impacted. You know, most of the city of Key West, where, you know, we have the greatest concentration of population, most of the city of Key West is structurally intact.

So, we know as a percentage of the Keys, that's a good chunk that withstood this storm quite well. We know there are pockets throughout the Keys, and particularly in the Upper Keys that did pretty well. One of my other commissioners, I guess, had power through the entire storm. She was in her home in Tavernier.

So, it really is a case-by-case basis. A lot of what happens in hurricanes as you get these spin-off tornadoes that can literally take out one house and leave the house next to it intact.

So, just as John said earlier, he was probably surprised that the damage was spotty, depending on where you're looking. So, it's going to take us a couple of weeks to really get a full estimate of the damage.

BOLDUAN: Commissioner, what's your advice? One man who was talking to CNN earlier said -- he rode out the storm and he said, stay away for two weeks, at least, from how, you know, what he's been kind of living through. If folks have evacuated and they're itching to get back, what's your advice? Do it or do you recommend still, stay out for now? CARUTHERS: Well, you know, depends on where you are. In the Upper Keys, again, utilities are coming back a little bit better. We've already opened the highway to Mile Marker 74. So, you can come back. Be prepared that you're going to be roughing it and the gentlemen was right, we don't have fuel. That's a big issue.

[11:15:09] You know, most of the fuel that we're getting in now, we need to use for all of our emergency vehicles and our recovery vehicles. So that's going to be a big issue. We will probably open sections of the Keys in stages, but we want to make sure that everybody is safe.

Even though we may get power and water in some places, because both the power and water come through the Lower Keys, we need to make sure that all those lines are cleared before their energized. Because we will be energizing transmission lines before the distribution lines and some of those distribution lines are down and water and electricity don't mix. So, we've got that issue.

We really want to get a lot of this debris out of the way before people come back. So just be patient, understand that we've got additional law enforcement patrolling. We are doing everything we can to clean up, to get back on our feet, and to open this because, look, I'm not in Key West right now.

I have small kids, I left. I am dying to get back. Dying to get back to help out. My home is in pretty good shape, but there's so much that we want to do to help. Just be patient and pay attention to what we're trying to tell you.

BOLDUAN: Commissioner, really appreciate you coming on. You've been making yourself available to CNN to give us updates and we really appreciate it. Thank you so much. We'll continue to be in touch.

CARUTHERS: Thank you. Bye-bye.

BOLDUAN: So more than 38,000 federal personnel are helping with the government response to Irma, including many members of the Coast Guard. Joining me now for more perspective on that, Captain Jeffrey Janszen, a commander of the Coast Guard's Key West Sector. Captain, can you hear me?

CAPTAIN JEFFREY JANSZEN, U.S. COAST GUARD (via telephone): Yes, good morning, Kate. How are you?

BOLDUAN: I'm very well. Thank you so much for jumping on. You've been in the air quite often surveying the damage over the Keys. How bad is it? What are you seeing?

JANSZEN: Yes, I have. First of all, I just wanted to let you know the Coast Guard parties, first and foremost, are life-saving search and rescue and Maritime law enforcement. I was on a Navy H-670 helicopter yesterday surveying the port.

I can tell you literally probably hundreds of sunken vessels around key west. As captain of port, I need to ensure that the waterway is safe for both commercial and recreational vessels before I open it.

The port is closed at this time. But once I get the survey done, that's basically where you come in, I can see above on the flight, I could see above the approaches into Key West, but what I can't see is underneath the water.

We have some assets right now that are looking, the channel right now. If there are any obstructions, we'll try to get those out of there. But once the channel is open, that is my job to get that channel open and reconstituted so we can get both commercial and recreational vessels in here.

It is kind of dire down here. Obviously, you heard some of the things, no food, no water. My base at sector Key West was damaged pretty heavily. The base in there where fast response cutters six, they got out of here in time for the storm, which was good.

Those vessels are -- will not be able to return immediately until I get -- until I can get mine open. But there's a lot of Navy here, Department of Defense. We're doing really well with the federal, state, and local partnerships.

The partnerships -- I've been here for two years and I can tell the partnerships whether it's federal, state or local are outstanding. Have been working with Monroe County, as well.

My area of responsibility includes the entire 55,000 square miles that covers all the Florida Keys. So, (inaudible) and his folks have said great, as well. But it's a dire situation. The good news is, the resources are coming. We're getting food, we're getting water.

We're reconstituting Sector Key West. We're reconstituting the port of Key West, but it's going to take a little time. I would ask people to be patient and right now we're only -- if any Coast Guard families are listening, because we had to evacuate about 500 families out of the Keys to Orlando, just please let them know that at this time, only mission-essential personnel are to return to Key West.

We have hotel rooms for folks up in Orlando and they're being -- some of my staff is up there watching them, as well. We're OK down here. We survived the storm. The Coast Guard is always ready and we're going to do what we're good at and that's, we're going to save lives and protect the port.

BOLDUAN: Captain, so many important pieces of information you just passed along, especially to other Coast Guard families. Thank you so much. I don't want to keep you from your mission. Thank you so much for jumping on the phone. We'll check back in with you especially as you get those ports back open. And if any way, shape, or form, try to get some sleep.

JANSZEN: You could get the word out the port is closed. Please, whether it's a dingy or a larger vessel, we can't have people going through the channel. When I did the overflight yesterday, there was massive sailboats sticking out of the water. Very, very dangerous. So please, please. I know people are getting anxious, but please do not get underway and try to get into the port of Key West because it is closed at this time.

BOLDUAN: We'll spread the word as much as we can. Captain, thank you so much.

JANSZEN: Thank you.

[11:20:11] BOLDUAN: All right. We'll have much more of our special coverage on this ahead including really some chaos in the Caribbean. Many still seeking food, water, shelter, after the storm essentially flattened several islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. We're going to talk to one woman who rode out the storm there. What she is facing now and does she think that life is ever going to get back to normal?

Plus, some major political developments we need to bring to you, including a meeting happening any moment now between the president and Republican Senator Tim Scott. You will recall, it was Tim Scott who made headlines very recently when he said that the president compromised his moral authority with his response to the violence in Charlottesville. What's going to happen today? Details on that right ahead.

And also breaking news on the former FBI Director James Comey. The Department of Justice is now blocking Senate investigators from talking to two FBI agents in connection with the president's firing of the former FBI director. What's going on there? That's coming up.



BOLDUAN: A pretty staggering 200,000 people are in desperate need of help across the Caribbean, where Hurricane Irma hit as a category 5 storm, some people there calling it apocalyptic conditions to live through. Some residents are evacuating the islands and now talking about their harrowing experiences. Listen.


PATRICE HARRIS, ST. THOMAS EVACUEE: It has been very traumatic, even being on the streets after, and constantly hearing sirens and seeing military personnel on the ground, that is not something I want to experience again.


BOLDUAN: I want to show you some NASA images from space that show just how hard the blow was from Irma. Literally, transforming this string of Caribbean islands, St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, transformed from lush and green paradises that we all know to what looks like brown wastelands. In the video that you see, it looks just like that.

CNN's Cyril Vanier is on the Dutch side of St. Martin, where it was cruelly hardest hit. Cyril, what are you seeing? You just got in late last night. I was watching your live shot. Tell me what you got.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Kate, I want to show you essentially what it's like to be on the ground, of those satellite images you just showed our viewers. You just said, you know, it looks like wasteland. This is it. This is it.

It doesn't require a whole lot of explanation on my part. This hotel is 250 rooms. It's unclear that it's ever going to be able to rebuilt. This was the dining area. Anybody who was in this building was in danger. All the windows, Martin, let's pan over here, if you can.

If you were in this building, all those windows were blown out. So that was dangerous. Just remind you of the death toll. Four people died from Hurricane Irma on this side of the -- of St. Martin island, 38 total across the Caribbean.

There is some good news today, Kate, which is that a couple of gas stations are reopening and some supermarkets are said to be reopening. I won't believe it until I see it, but that's what we were informed of by some authorities last night.

That means, slow, incremental progress, every day. Maybe a little bit more water, maybe a little bit more food, but you've still got to go looking for it. It's not being handed out. People are still living on the food that they purchased before the hurricane, that they stock up on.

Kate, just one last thing I want to get in there, because I'll be getting messages about people who want to help the Caribbean, when they see this devastation. Go to our website, As we do for these kind of stories, we vet charities and organizations to which you can donate to help this situation -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Best plug to make right now, Cyril. Thank you so much. Be safe. We'll be coming back to you.

I want to go now. He's in St. Martin, but I want to go now to the U.S. Virgin Islands, home to more than 100,000 people. St. John was very hard hit by the storm. Many are still in need of food and shelter and help, truly.

Country music singer -- country music star, Kenny Chesney, he actually has a home on the island. He's been there for years. He was not on the island at the time of the storm, but was able to shelter about some 17 people at his home. One of them spoke to CNN along with Chesney. Listen to this.


KENNY CHESNEY, COUNTRY SINGER: It's really just so many emotions running through my head and through my heart. The rebuilding is not going to be measured within a few days or a few weeks or a few months. It's going to be measured in years, sadly enough. KATE HANNA, RODE OUT STORM AT CHESNEY'S HOME IN ST. JOHN: It's been terrifying. The scariest thing I've ever been through in my entire life.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now is Ann Bequette, she also rode out the storm in Chesney's home. Ann, can you hear me?

ANN BEQUETTE, ST. JOHN, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (via telephone): Yes. Hi, Kate, how are you?

BOLDUAN: So happy to hear your voice and to have you on. We have been hearing some dire stories coming out of the islands and St. John was so hard hit. Ann, what are you seeing there?

BEQUETTE: Right now, I'm looking out over Camille Bay, which is pretty much completely destroyed. I heard yesterday, they're looking to maybe reopen in two to three years. That's how bad the damage was there. I'm looking at one leaf on a tree and trees are blown up the mountain because of the tornado and the winds that hit when it hit this little area that I used to call home. Pretty devastating to look around.

BOLDUAN: And that's one of the things, Ann. It may seem small relative to all of the property damage and destruction, but it is just so striking to see how all of the vegetation just seems wiped out. The green landscape that is so beautiful and lush that everyone loves in this paradise is now brown.

BEQUETTE: It's horrific. I'm a wedding photographer, but my career is over on this island. Like, there's not going to be any weddings here anytime soon. That's for sure. We are looking and I understand that (inaudible) are all hurting as well and my heart goes out to all those affected but --