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ISIS' Self-Declared Capital Taken by U.S.-led Forces; A Rare Show of Unity Seen in the White House; Somali's Bombings Death Toll Continue to Rise; U.S.-South Korea Drills Angered North Korea; Puerto Ricans Left with No Choice; An Empty Floating Hospital; Tensions Rising Between Allies Over Kirkuk. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired October 17, 2017 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Raqqa on the brink. Officials, ISIS say they are on the verge of completely pushing ISIS fighters out of the Syrian city.
Thousands of firefighters battled wildfires ravaging Portugal and Spain We will look at how the weather is affecting their efforts.
Plus, frustration in Puerto Rico. This navy ship is a floating hospital that's ready to help, so why are most of its beds still empty.
Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.
And we start with new developments in the Philippines. A five-month terrorist siege has finally come to an end. President Rodrigo Duterte says his military has regained control of the city of Marawi from militants linked to ISIS. About 350,000 fled the city and nearby areas during the fighting.
We will have more on the story later this hour.
Well, far away from the Philippines ISIS is also nearing defeat in its de facto Syrian capital. The U.S.-backed Syrian democratic forces say the terror group has lost 90 percent of Raqqa, only a few hundred militants are left in the city and they are cornered.
The U.S. is backing the offensive with air strikes and says it's trying to protect civilians. No hard timeline for when ISIS will be finished in the city has been given.
Well, for more, our Jomana Karadsheh joins us now live from Amman in Jordan. So, Jomana, how close are we do you think to seeing the end of ISIS in the region?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Rosemary, when it comes to the fate of ISIS controlling territory it seems the days for that fate are numbered, as you mentioned. It would seem right now that the recapture of the city of Raqqa, the de facto capitol of ISIS is imminent. You are seeing gains being made in eastern Syria in what seems to be
the final stand for ISIS in Deir ez-Zor. There you've got the Syrian regime making advances with the support of Russian air power, and also the U.S.-led coalition with the forces they are backing on the ground also making advances.
On the other side of the border near Iraq you've also got the preparations for the Iraqi forces to recapture what's left under ISIS control in that vast desert province of Anbar.
But the concern right now is that situation we're seeing unfold in northern Iraq that that could impact the battle against ISIS in Iraq to recapture the territory that's left.
And also, Rosemary, if you look at the situation in Iraq right now, that is like a dream scenario for ISIS, you know, these divisions that the groups thrive on, that it exploits the same divisions that it used to grow in Iraq in the first place.
So the situation while Iraq -- while ISIS no longer controls that vast amount of territory that it used to control in 2014, it really doesn't mean the end of ISIS right now.
CHURCH: Yes. ISIS enjoys divisions and this transitions for sure. Jomana Karadsheh joining us there live from Amman in Jordan, where it's just after 10 in the morning. Many thanks to you for that live report.
And as ISIS nears defeat in Raqqa, violence as we've just been reported has broken out between two of its enemies in northern Iraq, the Iraqi military has taken the oil-rich city of Kirkuk ending three years of Kurdish control after they defended Kirkuk from ISIS.
Now last month a Kurdish referendum voted overwhelmingly for independence which may have played into the timing of the Iraqi offensive. This was the same Monday Iraqis troops removed the Kurdish flag from the governor's building.
Clashes broke out as they moved in on the city and many Kurdish families fled. Now alongside the Iraqi forces in the Kirkuk operation where Iranian-trained Shia militia they also have ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
Fred Pleitgen joins us now live from Tehran. So, Fred, let's explore more, explain to us if you would the role that Iran is playing in this fight for control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, I would say that Iran is probably, Rosemary, the most important outside player inside Iraq currently.
[03:04:59] And it certainly also play a great role in what's currently going on in and around Kirkuk.
You were already alludes in the fact that you have this Shiite militia that are on the ground there near Kirkuk. Certainly those were drummed up originally by the Revolutionary Guard here from Iran.
In fact, in 2014, when it comes to saving Baghdad from an assault by ISIS. So that's when those militias came into being. And now they're playing an important role in moving into Kirkuk.
But the Iranians don't only have influence on the Iraqi side of things, if you will. They also have influence on the Kurdish side as well.
One of the things that the Kurdistan regional government said is they one of the Kurdish groups that were on the front line all of a sudden abandoned their positions. Now that group is one that has very close ties to Iran.
And a senior Iranian general of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force which is the outside operations wing on the Revolutionary Guard. General Qasem Soleiman who is somewhat a battlefield legend, if you will, in Iran, and certainly in Iraq as well.
He's been seen there in that area over the past couple days. That's something that the Kurdistan regional government has confirmed to us that he was seen around the area of Sulaymaniyah which is where that group is at home that abandoned its position, and also seen outside of the Kirkuk area.
So you certainly appeared to be seeing Iran wielding a lot of influence not just in Kirkuk but general with the Iraqi government and certainly with Iraqi security forces as well, Rosemary.
CHURCH: And that is the big concern, isn't it, Fred, when you got Iran playing a role on both sides of the equation here, where is this all going?
PLEITGEN: Well, Iran has a clear strategy in all of this. They certainly have clear strategy in Iraq. The Iranians want influence of course in Iraq, it is their neighboring country. But first and foremost what they want is they want an Iraqi government that's favorable to Tehran, favorable to Iran, one that's stable.
And of the other things they want is they want to preserved the territorial integrity of Iraq. They warned the Kurds about this impending referendum. They told the Kurds, look, we will support you if you stay inside Iraq but if you decade to do this independence referendum then we certainly will not support you.
One of the things that the Iranians have also done is they've closed the border between their region of Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan. So that's another thing the Kurds were very critical of but Iranians have a very, very clear approach what they want a government in Baghdad that's favorable to them. They want to preserve the territorial integrity, certainly they want to wield influence in Iraq as well.
And the last thing they wanted to see was this independence referendum and now you can see them forcefully moving to secure places like Kirkuk for the Iraqi government and with that also, of course consolidate their own influence in Iraq as well, Rosemary. CHURCH: It is a situation that has many people concerned. Fred
Pleitgen watching this very closely and bringing us that live report from Tehran, where it is 10.37 in the morning. Many thanks as always.
Well, wildfires are ripping through Portugal and Spain killing at least 39 people. Thousands of firefighters are now on the front lines. It has been unusually warm and dry for the area but authorities say some fires may have been started deliberately.
Portugal has declared a state of emergency and is asking for international help. Over the weekend the fire was fueled by strong winds from the remnants of hurricane Ophelia.
Now Ophelia now then moved north weakening to a post-tropical storm but it still hammered island and parts of the U.K. with heavy rain and winds. At least three people were killed.
Our Phil Black within island as the storm hit.
PHIL BLACK, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Ophelia's transition from a hurricane to a storm while it was still out over the Atlantic but it hit southwestern island with hurricane-strength winds, gusts of 140 to 150 kilometers, now are 80 to 90 miles per hour.
Now it created well a lot of havoc. It ripped roofs from homes, it pulled trees out by the roofs and took power away from some 360,000 homes, at least. It was also deadly. It took the lives of at least two people in separate instance when trees fell on cars.
Another man killed in a chain saw accident, he was trying to clear away debris that had been brought down by the storm. Across the country there has been significant transportation chaos. Trains nor running, the airports suffered major disturbances. This is all expected to continue into Tuesday as well.
Likewise schools and universities they will remain closed for a second day as the storm moves its way over the western coast of the country. The priority for the Irish government has says is to minimize all possible harm to people here.
Phil Black, CNN, Kilkee Island.
CHURCH: We want to turn now to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri who joins us now. And of course, Pedram, I want you to cover this really bad weather in Ireland. But also we need to look at the fires in Portugal and Spain and how likely it is that they can be contained fully.
[03:10:01] PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Yes, absolutely. Now there's an element of good news there as far the weather. We're seeing rain right now across Portugal. More on that momentarily.
Look at the scenes coming at areas around Ireland and this is exactly how we expected things to play out with a storm of this magnitude. We knew the waves are going to be significant. Of course the winds are going to be upwards of 150 or more kilometers per hour. This storm at one point when it was a category 3 it was the strongest
storm we've ever seen this far east and this far north and of course lost the tropical characteristics over cooler waters.
It came ashore in the southern portion there of Ireland. We have the Fastnet Lighthouse picked up an observation of 191 kilometers per hour. An incredible category 3 equivalent wind gust across that region with the storm system, and of course causing an incredible damage o those coastal communities when it moved ashore.
But the perspective is such with the strongest winds now moving across Scotland at this hour. But the storm is really a shelf of its former self. At its strongest point when it was category 3 the winds were so strong in places like Portugal and Spain.
A lot of that smoke were going to be transported up towards the north. Of course, the sunsets have been spectacular across portions of Western Europe in the past 24 hours as a result of this.
And Strasburg looking something like this. And we're seeing a lot of that smoke now displaced off across the North Sea eventually into Scandinavia. So we expect sunsets there to be brilliant going into Wednesday and Thursday.
But, as Rosie was aluding to here when you work your way down towards Spain, down into Portugal as well, we know of at least 145 active fires across this region, some 6,000 firefighters right now working on these flames. About 1,800 vehicles involved in this as well.
The good news it is beginning to rain at this hour across that region. Scattered showers in nature. The winds are calm with this. We need a lot of rainfall to really taper off what is happening here but at least we're seeing some improvement there in the fire weather over the next couple of days.
I want to talk about something in the western Atlantic. We have a 40 percent chance the next disturbance will form inside the next week. It doesn't appear to be a threat to land at this point. But look what the models do here as they take it across the Atlantic Ocean and guess where it ends up, of course the steering environment in the atmosphere is very much the same as it was this time yesterday where we had Ophelia worked its way across this region.
This would be Philippe if it forms and this would be sometimes Friday into Saturday where we could have remnants of the storm work its way directly over the same region where we just saw impacted a couple of days ago. So certainly it could be a very active pattern across that region of northwest Europe into this weekend.
Lastly, talking about what's happening in California, some 12 active fires down from around 22 this time last week. And the good news here, Rosemary, is the humidifies are on the increase getting up close to 90, 95 percent in spots, meaning the atmosphere in this area is nearly entirely saturated. This is going to be short lived, the firefighters know that. So this is the moment they've been waiting for here to at least try to get the upper hand on these fires. Rosemary? CHURCH: Yes. We will at least take that good news, Pedram when we can. Thank you so much.
A stalled republican agenda paired with an outspoken U.S. president has pushed party infighting to all-out war, though Donald ump and the Senate majority leader have feuded for months now they are trying to put it behind them and present a united front.
Jeff Zeleny reports on Monday's impromptu news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding, has been outstanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: President Trump breaking the ice today with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. It's too soon to know if they bury the hatchet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're fighting for the same thing. We're fighting for lower taxes, big tax cuts. The biggest tax cuts in the history of nation. We're fighting for tax reform as part of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: With their vastly different styles on full display, the two men stood side by side in the Rose Garden trying to make nice and hoping to smooth over the insults and infighting flying between them for weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, UNITED STATES SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Contrary to what some of you may have reported we are together totally on this agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: The republican tax cut plan is a critical test for whether the White House and Congress can actually govern if an incentive for Trump and McConnell to come together despite a civil war raging inside the GOP.
The president's embrace of McConnell stood in contrast two weeks of blaming and shaming him for failing to repeal Obamacare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We should have healthcare approved, he should have known that he had a couple of votes that turn on him.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: And today, McConnell did not question Mr. Trump's grasp for the presidency as he did this summer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Our new president of course not been in this line of work before and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: After a private lunch today, the president took questions for nearly 45 minutes as McConnell watched and occasionally joined in.
[03:14:58] It was an unusual sign of unity considering Trump loyalist like Steve Bannon have declared war on McConnell in the republican establishment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Yes, Mitch, the donors, the donors are not happy. They've all left you. We've cut your oxygen off, Mitch. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: But the show of solidarity at the White House today sent a clear signal the president is far less interested in tearing down the Republican Party than Bannon, his former chief strategist is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing. Some of the people that he may be looking at, I'm going to see if we talk him out of that cause, because frankly, they are great people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: McConnell did not mention Bannon by name but he warned against the effort to mount primary challenges against republican senators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: You have to nominate people who can actually win because winners make policy and losers go home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: The president showed little interest in bringing his impromptu free will news conference to an end, taking questions on one topic after one another. He even looked ahead to his next election, raising an improbable scenario.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I hope Hillary run. Is she going to run? I hope. Hillary, please run again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: Of course that's wishful thinking for President Trump. Hillary Clinton has said again and again she is not running again in 2020. But the president is back on the road here in South Carolina raising money for the republican governor here but it's the tax cut, tax reform package on Capitol Hill that will test whether republicans can actually show they can govern or not.
Republicans in the House and Senate watching this so carefully to see if they can hold on to their majorities. They are looking for one accomplishment in this legislative session, will it be tax cut of the president and Mitch McConnell closer ever they said are working on this together.
Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Greenville, South Carolina.
CHURCH: And during that very same news conference Mr. Trump broke his silence about the deaths of four American soldiers in an ambush in Niger 12 days earlier. He said he had written letters to their families and planned to phone them this week. Then he took it one step further.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate when I think I'm able to do it.
They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would like to say that I like to call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Top aides to former President Obama reacted quickly calling Mr. Trump's suggestion an outrageous and disrespectful lie. At last years' democratic convention the mother of one slain soldier talked about her meeting with Mr. Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARON BELKOFER, GOLD STAR MOTHER: We became a gold star family when my son Tom, a lieutenant colonel was killed in Afghanistan.
I first met the president shortly after at Fort Drum where he was scheduled to speak to the 10th Mountain Division. But when he heard the gold star families were there he wanted to meet with us.
And as he was hugging me, I cried all over his suit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: All right. We'll take a very short break here, but still to come, hundreds are dead after two truck bombs explode in Somalia's capital. But some are saying the world is not paying attention. Plus, the U.S. and South Korea begin another round of military drills just as North Korea throws cold war on any hopes for diplomacy.
We're back in a moment with that and more.
[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. In Somali, authorities are still trying to determine who is behind the country's worst attack in modern history. At least 300 people were killed when two truck bombs exploded within minutes of each other in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
Now that toll is expected to rise. The attack destroyed a hotel and ripped apart market stalls and damage Qatar's embassy.
CNN's Farai Sevenzo joins us now live from Nairobi, Kenya. He is following this. So Farai, just incredible, at least 300 people confirmed dead as a result of this double car bombing. What are authorities saying about this attack and who may have carried it out?
FARAI SEVENZO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You know, Rosemary, that is becoming quite an open secret or speculation. Everybody suspects the one terror group that has been responsible for Islamic insurgency in Somalia for the last 10 years and that is Al-Shabaab.
But so far without -- no claim of responsibility for them. At the moment at the Cyprus many people are still being dugout there. Our correspondent last, late last night said four more bodies were pulled up overnight, and incredibly 24 hours and 48 hours after the bomb blasted on Saturday one of them was still alive.
So they have a need to see if they find any more people alive. A major -- brigadier Muhanga Kayanja of the African Union Mission in Somalia also mentioned that they could hear phones ringing as the rescue efforts went on yesterday.
And unfortunately, as the day went on their batteries died. This is incredible detail is trying to come to us. And of course many people as you rightly said were injured and there has been a massive response to the appeal to bring an aid from a jabucni ambulances to Turkey has taken over 30 people.
And we understand a Qatar air ambulance is on its way to Mogadishu as I speak to you.
CHURCH: And Farai, you know, this speculation you speak of that possibly being Al-Shabaab, how unusual is it that there has been no claim of responsibility for an attack on the scale at this time?
SEVENZO: You are absolutely right, Rosemary. It is incredibly unusual because remember, this is a group that likes to brag about victories they having won. They will claim that they have attack to Kenyan forces down in the south when it hasn't happened.
But most importantly as well, is that in (Inaudible) town we've been watching Al-Shabaab attacks, they attacked hotels because Somali M.P.'s and lawmakers live there. They attacked checkpoints because African unites are there.
So, perhaps, and this is just sheer speculation on my part, they themselves didn't expect to kill so many of the people they are trying to recruit to their cause. So many innocent. This was in the marketplace, full in a Saturday afternoon with the weekend shoppers. And the sheer scale of it is perhaps stunned even the terrorists themselves.
We'll wait to hear, rosemary, but at the moment people are waiting to see who was responsible and for them to claim this is the bloodiest act in Somalia's history.
CHURCH: Yes, the number of killed just horrifying. Farai Sevenzo joining us there live from Nairobi in Kenya. Many thanks. It is nearly 10.30 in the morning there. We appreciate your live report.
Well, United States and South Korea have begun 10 days of naval drills in the waters off the Korean Peninsula. Those joint military exercises have become an increasingly frequent occurrence, they also infuriate North Korea which now says it's not interested in diplomacy with the U.S. at least for the time being.
CNN's Alexandra Field is in the South Korean capital, she joins us now live. So, Alexandra, as these joint U.S.-South Korea drills got underway North Korea apparently warned that a nuclear war may break out at any moment. What's being said about that threat in Seoul, especially a day after North Korea said it's not interested in any diplomatic efforts coming from the U.S.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You know, Rosemary, it's frankly jaw-dropping as the threat sounded something that North Korean state news does repeat quite frequently insisting that President Trump is pushing the region to the brink of nuclear war.
That threat, however, is one of the reasons that South Korean officials will continue to say that these joint exercises which enraged Pyongyang are so necessary in order to counter the provocations that are persistently coming from the regime in the North.
[03:25:01] A State Department spokesperson has been speaking out saying that North Korea needs to know that it can change course, that it must change course that it needs to abandon the path that t's been on and return to credible negotiations.
But also underscoring the fact that the United States have the capability to defend itself and to protect its allies.
But a North Korean official is now going forward and saying that this is not the time for diplomacy, that there won't be a time for diplomacy. He is not ruling it out altogether but saying that diplomacy cannot happen until North Korea has the offensive and defensive countermeasure that it feels it needs to protect against aggression as he sees it from the United States.
That countermeasure, a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile. That same official saying in order to accomplish that the regime needs to conduct an above ground nuclear detonation and it needs to test a long-range intercontinental missile.
Two actions that would be seen as highly provocative not just by the allies in the region but also of course, by the United States. This official also speculates that something that could happen during the course of these drills. Of course we know that other drills have proceeded provocative countermeasures from North Korea in the past, Rosemary. It's something we're always closely for.
CHURCH: Yes. It certainly has everyone on edge. And Alexandra, in the Rose Garden Monday, President Trump said he didn't rule out of visit to the demilitarized zone when he makes his trip to Asia. How wise would that be and how would North Korea likely respond to such a move?
FIELD: Well, as far as the president not ruling out his trip, we can't reach too much into that. Certainly we know that when it comes to the president schedule there are certain security considerations that are taken quite seriously. Of course, though it's oftentimes the president and White House will not specifically confirm details of the trip.
Whether or not he goes to the DMZ, well, if he does it's something that his predecessors have done. Of course, President Obama went there, President Clinton went there, both Presidents Bush went there.
How would North Korea react? Well, I think they like and it's safe to say is that they will somehow react because we have seen this constant back and forth between the president and between frankly, the state news agency in North Korea for every threat there is a counter threat.
So the visual we've seen the president there would certainly matter to North Korea but so will his words the message he deliver us, it can refresh everyone's memory and remind everyone that his Vice President Mike Pence traveled to the region in the early weeks or months of the administration.
He went to the DMZ and he had a loud message to send to North Korea saying that the United States is changing its policy under the Trump administration that the era of strategic patience was over, he proclaimed.
At that time he said that they would be, the U.S. will be renewing its economic and diplomatic efforts to solve this crisis. Of course you heard President Trump taking a slightly different approach he has fiery rhetoric that's often sort of played off some cryptic messages to North Korea.
He seems to be the one that wants to keep reminding the regime that there is a military option that is available to the United States even as his top administration officials like the secretary of state continued to say that a diplomatic solution is the one that the administration is pursuing most seriously, Rosemary.
CHURCH: All right. Alexandra Field watching these developments from her vantage point there in Seoul, South Korea, where it is 4.28 in the afternoon. We thank you.
Let's take a short break, but still to come, tensions in northern Iraq threatened to spark a new conflict. We speak to a journalist in the region that is still to come.
Still Brexit talks have Britain's Prime Minister flying to Brussels for a private dinner with the head of the European Commission. We will tell you if breaking bread will help get the Brexit talks going again.
Back in a moment.
[03:30:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: A very warm welcome back to our viewers was joining us from all around the world. This is CNN Newsroom, and I'm Rosemary Church.
Let's update you on the main stores we've been following this hour.
The Philippines president says his military has regained control of the city of Marawi from millitsnt-linked to ISIS. The city had been under siege since May. And President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law across the island of Mindanao where Marawi is located. About 350,000 residents fled the area during the fighting.
Wildfires in Portugal and Spain have killed at least 39 people and injured dozens. Thousands of firefighters are on the line battling dozens of fires. Authorities believe some of them may have been started deliberately but it's also been unusually dry and hot in the area.
Rescuers are looking for survivors of the massive twin truck bombings in Somalia's capital. At least 300 people were killed making Saturday's attacks the deadliest in the country's modern history. So far no one has claimed responsibility but the terror group Al-Shabaab has carried out similar bombings in the past.
Well, firefighters in California are starting to gain the upper hand on wildfires burning across the state. At least 41 people have been killed and about a dozen large fires are still active. Better weather could help though, the wings are dying down and it could rain later in the week.
Our San Simon has more now from Napa County.
DAN SIMON, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A number of evacuations have uplifted and now you see people going back to their homes after being away for more than a week but it's going to be sometime before folks are actually allowed into some of the burned-out areas. They need to render those areas safe and have a process for people to go in and sift through the debris.
It has been a very, very long week and we are in Napa and you could see these flowers behind me. This was the home of Charles and Sarah Rippy (Ph). Charles was 100 years old, his wife Sarah 98 years old. They were unable to evacuate overtook their home. And if you look at the list of those who died there's a common thread there, the majority of them are senior citizens some of the most vulnerable among us were unable to evacuate.
What you see now is authorities moving from a response phase to a recovery phase so that means you see utility crews trying to get the power back on, you see workers trying to remove debris from the streets, they're trying to get these communities up and running once again, but of course we know it's going to take some time.
CHURCH: And that was our Dan Simon reporting there. The wildfires have left at least $3 million worth of damage. The governor of California calls it one of the greatest tragedies the state has faced.
Well, nearly a month after hurricane Maria ravaged the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico many people they still don't have clean running water or electricity.
According to officials statistics 86 percent of the island remains without power, more than a quarter of Puerto Rico does not have water or sewer services that is prompting fears desperate survivors will turn to contaminated water sources and could become seriously ill.
Communication is still spotty, as we mentioned just over half of Puerto Rico's wide and wireless line are working and just under half of the island's cell towers are operational.
Well, living in Puerto Rico right now is incredibly difficult as you can imagine especially for those who were sick and need urgent medical care. Some aid is not getting to them fast enough, not even a floating hospital right offshore.
Our Leyla Santiago explains.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The music can only sued so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is very strong kid, very strong.
SANTIAGO: The family of 18-year-old Sammy lost everything. Their home completely flooded nearly four weeks ago.
[03:35:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I walk in my house every week. I lost my car. I lost Sammy's minivan and everything.
SANTIAGO: The National Guard rescued them with a family took Sammy to the hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was full.
SANTIAGO: The hospital was full.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No place, no place for him.
SANTIAGO: They're now living in a school turned clinic run by volunteers.
JORGE ROSADO, DOCTOR, SAN JORGE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: He can become acutely ill if he continues to be here.
SANTIAGO: Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy have left Sammy bedridden. He needs surgery and more.
You don't have an oxygen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, right now, no.
SANTIAGO: The help Sammy needs to stay alive can be found offshore, a floating hospital ready to serve. The United States Navy Ship Comfort. Operating rooms, intensive care unit, an impressive state of the art operation now at Puerto Rico's disposal.
KEVIN BUCKLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER, MEDICAL TREATMENT FACILITY, USNS COMFORT: Anybody who comes to the Comfort we're happy to see.
SANTIAGO: How many patients could you have right now?
BUCKLEY: Well, so the package we have on board now is to support 250 total beds.
SANTIAGO: And yet many of these beds are empty. We ask the ship's commander why.
KEVIN ROBINSON, MISSION COMMANDER, USNS COMFORT: I know that we have capacity, I know that we have the capability to help. What the situation on the ground is does not in my lane to make a decision.
SANTIAGO: Which patients are lucky enough to come here that's decided by Puerto Rico's Department of Health. We went to their boss, the governor.
At the end of the day, there are patients that need help with a ship and empty beds. Where is that disconnect and what are we doing about it?
RICARDO ANTONIO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: The disconnect or the apparent disconnect was in the communications flow.
SANTIAGO: Hospital we talk to told us they don't know how to send their patients to the Comfort. The governor knowledge the system, the communication must kept better.
The count now 33 of the 250 beds on the Comfort have patients. Now as generators and hospitals fail and vital medical supplies run short.
It seems like there's a lack of communication, do you know what the criteria is now?
SANTIAGO: Tough for doctors.
ROSADO: I feel terrible because I can't help you.
SANTIAGO: And tough for vulnerable families knowing the Comfort could help.
Leyla Santiago, CNN, Puerto Rico.
CHURCH: And CNN's Ed Lavandera reports that some in Puerto Rico are so desperate they are drinking water that may be contaminated with dangerous chemicals.
Here's his report.
ED LAVANDERA, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Nearly a month after hurricane Maria hit residents around the town of Dorado tap into this water faucet behind a chain-link fence with a sign that reads danger. Do not enter. And despite the warnings from a police officer they come here to fill containers of water.
But few of them know this well since it's an area designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site where the ground is known to contain dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals. It's located on the northern edge of the island west of San Juan.
In the Dorado Superfund site there are at least six wells that residents have reportedly tapped into for water. One of the wells is access in the shopping center parking lot and there have been long- lines of residence waiting to fill up what they can.
The governor of Puerto Rico insisst that the water is safe. He says the territories Department of Health has tested it.
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RPSELLO: Obviously, it's a non-drinking water. We're not going to be serving it but if it complies with the Clean Water Act then it is going to happen.
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LAVANDERA: But it's not clear if the other wells are safe. The Environment Protection Agency teams spent the weekend gathering water samples for further testing.
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GARY LIPSON, INCIDENT COMMANDER, EPA IN PUERTO RICO: We're not saying that somebody is in immediate danger by drinking this water. We are considering it a long-term risk.
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LAVANDERA: Gary Lipson is the EPA incident commander in Puerto Rico. He says they're looking for signs of industrial toxins often link to serious health problems including cancer. An EPA documents show that as late as last year dangerous levels of those industrial toxins were found in the ground.
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LAVANDERA: How concerned are you about what might happen to them.
LIPSON: We're concerned because it's not absolutely clean, you know, pure water. There are some contaminants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: Right after the EPA team left and locked the site Juan Carlos Oqendo (Ph) and his brother showed up, peel back the fence and filled up dozens of containers will water.
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LAVANDERA: It's not that what a lot has money. Are you going to drink this water?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LAVANDERA: You're going to drink the chance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LAVANDERA: So, this is it, there's no enough water. We'll take the chances.
[03:40:02] If I don't drink water I'm going to die, I might drink this one. Juan Carlos brought us to his home where he lives with his family, the top floor was destroyed by the hurricane. His mother says they've only received two packages of water since the storm and she's been drinking the water from that potentially contaminated well for two weeks and says she now has stomach pains.
She says the stomach pains started about two weeks and that she's trying to ignore them.
Do you think it has something to do with the water?
She doesn't know for sure but she thinks it might have something to do with the water she's been drinking.
It's impossible to know for sure if the stomach pains are related, but in these desperate times with every drop of water many Puerto Ricans could be flouting with another disaster.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dorado, Puerto Rico.
CHURCH: A tragic situation there. We'll take a very short break. But coming up, space treasure, gold and platinum go flying through space. The metals formed after two neutron stars collided. What it means for us, we'll explain when we come back.
CHURCH: Police are investigating the killing of one of Malta's best known investigative journalist. Thousands of people attended a candlelight vigil for Daphne Caruana Galizia on Monday. The case has shop the residents of the small Mediterranean island.
Caruana Galizia wrote a popular blog that featured stories of high- level political corruption. Local media reported she was killed when a powerful bomb exploded sending her car flying into the field.
Well, Brexit negotiations are at a standstill. British Prime Minister Teresa May flew to Brussels Monday night for a private dinner with European commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. After their dinner Juncker and Mrs. May released an optimistic statement that the store talks should pick up again.
The Prime Minister then returned to London. She will be back on Thursday for the European Council summits and there she will push for a two-year transition period to give the U.K. economy time to adjust.
CNN's Bianca Nobilo joins us now from Brussels. So Bianca, the statement seems to imply that everything went well, what are you hearing behind the scenes about what happened at the dinner and the meeting.
BIANCA NOBILO, PRODUCER, CNN: We're hearing that the meeting was constructive and it was friendly. It was definitely a successful occasion. One that we weren't expecting. The dinner came up out of the blue. Apparently, had been and Theresa May and (Inaudible) for some time but it did seem to arrive seemingly out of nowhere.
[03:44:56] They both committed to wanting to accelerate the Brexit talks which are happening now. And of course, Theresa May is looking ahead to that council which you mentioned later this week. So on Thursday, she will be meeting with E.U. leaders.
And then on Friday, they'll be meeting with outer (Ph) to discuss whether or not they're prepared to give any ground at all proceeding to the next stage of Brexit negotiations where they can discuss that transition period and also future trade deals.
And the U.K. is desperate to move on to that point. They really talk should be happening in parallel and that they don't want to come to a firm conclusion on the Brexit deal and the other sticking point to the E.U. to keep reminding them all, and still they can begin to understand what a future relationship with the E.U. might look like.
CHURCH: So, Bianca, Thursday and Friday critical days for Prime Minister May, what are the possible scenarios?
NOBILO: The best possible scenario for the prime minister would be that the E.U. release some sort of statement or give gesture of goodwill that they are prepared to start looking at transition and trade deal. That is a very optimistic reading of the situation because so far the
E.U. 2017 have stood firm on the fact that they don't to badge on having some concrete progress on the issue of reciprocal E.U. and U.K. the same right, the border with Northern Ireland, and of course, and this is the biggest issue of all the Brexit divorce bill.
So if we do get a statement from the E.U. saying that they are happy to perhaps enter what they are calling maybe phase one and a half of starting to discuss what their future relationship might like look, that will be very encouraging.
Of course, that might not happen, and then that plunges the Brexit talks into quite a precarious situation because back when article 50 was triggered. They were hoping that by October, by this meeting of the U.U. council that enough progress would have been made to move on to the next stage, but that hasn't happen.
They are running behind in terms of talks, and now everyone is discussing December as the date where they need to some progress before everyone is got to worry. And by everyone of course we mean the government in the U.K., voters in the U.K., the E.U. and of course business because business confidence is one of the biggest issues which is plaguing the U.K. at the moment, Rosemary.
CHURCH: We shall just have to see what happens toward the end of this week. Bianca Nobilo reporting there from Brussels in Belgium, where it is approaching 10 in the morning. Many thanks.
A U.S. sergeant who disappeared from his base in Afghanistan was held by the Taliban for five years codes and the rest of his life behind bars. In North Carolina on Monday, Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
The 31-year-old told the judge he left an observation post on his own in 2009. He said he wanted to get back to the base to report a critical problem but did not say what that problem was. Hours after he deserted he was captured and tortured by Taliban militants. He was released in a prisoner swap back in 2014.
Well, in Iraq two U.S. allies are facing off after Iraqi troops seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk from Kurdish control. The Kurds held the city for more than two years defending it from ISIS militants. Tensions have been building in the region since a Kurdish referendum last month overwhelmingly voted for independence from Baghdad.
And for more in Kirkuk I'm joined now by Martin Chulov, he is Middle East correspondent for the Guardian and is in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil. Thank you so much for being with us. We were having trouble getting hold of you, we're happy we've got you now.
So what other possible ramifications of these two U.S. allies fighting each other for control over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Can you hear us? We are actually live here on CNN right now. All right. We have -- we're having problems there so we will move on for now. We'll take a -- we'll a short break. Stay with us.
[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're so dense that they contain a mass around the mass of the sun, but crowned into a volume around the size of the city of Chicago, making them some of the dense subjects in the universe.
And we just detected two of this very, very dense stars spiraling around one another.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we saw that I thought that was a gravitational wave alert and a gamma ray signal also seen. We start, OK, that's the big, that's the big day. Here it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Extraordinary images there. Well, the once feared and powerful producer Harvey Weinstein is increasingly becoming a pariah in Hollywood. The Producers Guild of America has become the latest organization to condemn him in the wake of sexual harassment and rape allegations. Its board voted unanimously Monday to begin expulsion proceedings.
Weinstein has already been kicked out of the Academy of motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and his membership in its British counterpart BAFTA is suspended. He is also facing criminal investigations in the U.S. and the U.K.
All right. Now we were having trouble, we want to go now to Martin Chulov. He joins us now with more on the situation in Kirkuk. He is a correspondent for the Guardian and is in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil. He joins us now on the phone. So thank you so much for being with us. We're glad we've overcome the problems.
What are the possible ramifications of these two U.S. allies fighting each other for control over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk?
MARTIN CHULOV, CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: Well, the fight which shape up yesterday was over very quickly. We saw the Kurdish Peshmerga withdrawing from Kirkuk despite vowing to defend. And today, having withdrawn from other areas which are being disputed over the last couple of years. In particular, Sinjar which is the spiritual heartland of the Yazidi sect which is chased away by ISIS two and a half, three years ago now and is now back in the hands of the central government after Peshmerga forces with troops in Sinjar without a fight just as they did yesterday in Kirkuk.
CHURCH: So, Martin, just on the issue of Kirkuk who should control over Kirkuk, the Kurds who save it from ISIS or Iraq's central government given the city lies within its borders outside Iraqi Kurdistan?
CHULOV: The control of Kirkuk is long been disputed. And the fact that the Kurds were able to claim control of the city after the Iraqi army left it in 2014 and as ISIS is racing towards it gave the Kurds a claim on it historically. Now that has been contested ever since. A referendum held by the Kurds three weeks ago included Kirkuk within its mandate.
That is very much played Kirkuk between contested as a critical entity and the fact that it's differently diverse, it's oil-rich. It's essential to the finances of not just the central government but also the Kurdish north itself has made a future very much up for grabs.
[03:55:00] Now under the Constitution the control of the city is very much divided, it should be shared. That is certainly what the Iraqis are searching. They now control the oil fields that the Kurds have seized, they control all key installations and they are saying it is ours and we will share revenues from it once we struck an agreement with the Kurdish north.
CHURCH: And Martin, on Monday, President Trump said that he didn't like the two U.S. allies clashing but said he wasn't going to take sides. Is that wise given the possible consequences of this fighting and also considering Iran's role in this?
CHULOV: It's very difficult position that the U.S. finds itself in, as you say it is armed and trained both sides the Kurdish north who played a prominent role in supporting the U.S. invasion of Baghdad in 2003. And ever since capacity building for the Iraqi military and the central government.
So, three weeks ago, the U.S. decided that they would not support the Kurdish referendum. They thought that this would further disunity among the Kurds and it could lead to conflict. That's pretty well what happened. The reason that Kirkuk sell is because half of the Kurdish Peshmerga that were defending were lower to a critical block that didn't seem to be invested in the results of the referendum itself.
So the U.S. finds itself now trying to mediate between two sides which have very different visions for the future of the city, and at the same time they are acknowledging that Iran has played a dominant role in the capture of Kirkuk in the last 24 hours and where does that leave not just that Baghdad but the Kurdish north itself going forward when people return to the negotiating table as they must to settle this dispute.
CHURCH: Right. So you see that some sort of deal will be struck in the not-too-distant future.
CHULOV: There has to be some kind of a deal. It remains to be seen what sort of leverage the Kurds can bring to the table. Their calculation was that the referendum that they hold gave them stronger hands. Well, that referendum has delivered nothing but losing Kirkuk who said probably throughout the history, and today losing Sinjar and the oil filed.
So they appear to be in very weaken position when it comes to sitting down with Baghdad and saying, you know, let's carve out what we want from Iraq, what we want from all revenues. And all of these things sort of play the central government versus the Kurdistan relationship over the last 58 years.
CHURCH: All right.
CHULOV: It now appears that Bagdad has a more dominant position.
CHURCH: Martin Chulov of the Guardian joining us there from Erbil in Iraq. Many thanks to you. We're glad we overcame the communications problems there. We'll have to leave it there.
I'm Rosemary Church. The news continues with Hannah Vaughan Jones in London.
You're watching CNN.
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