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Hong Kong Issues Highest Level Warning for Typhoon Mangkhut; Tropical Storm Florence Pushes through the Carolinas; Man Dies from Shark Attack on Cape Cod; Border Patrol Agent Arrested for Serial Murders; London Mayor Calls for New Brexit Vote; Skripal Suspects Claim to Be Tourists. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2018 - 03:00   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The outer bands of Typhoon Mangkhut slam into Hong Kong. The massive storm currently battering this city.

And tropical storm Florence leads to deadly flooding on the U.S. East Coast; 750,000 people are currently without power.

And London's mayor calls for a brand new Brexit vote and Theresa May is, quote, "a little bit irritated."

Live from Hong Kong, hello. I'm Anna Coren. Great to have you with us.


COREN: We are following two major storms this hour on opposite sides of the globe. Typhoon Mangkhut is bringing heavy rain and wind to Hong Kong after pummeling the Philippines on Saturday.

And in the United States, massive flooding from tropical storm Florence and officials warn it's only just beginning.

We start in Hong Kong with Typhoon Mangkhut, the monster storm is off the coast, on its way to Southern China and we are feeling those strong outer bands here in Hong Kong. The observatory has issued the highest storm warning it can, expecting at least 118 kilometer per hour winds.

Mangkhut has weakened slightly since slamming into the Philippines on Saturday as a supertyphoon. It has caused massive flooding and landslides on the northern island of Luzon.

Our Kristie Lu Stout is live for us here in Hong Kong, braving Mother Nature.

Kristie, certainly where we are here on the south side of the island, our building, CNN Headquarters, has not stopped swaying.

But where you are, what are conditions like? KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Damage is being reported where you are and all across Hong Kong and Southern China as well. This storm is just not letting up. We're still feeling the pounding rain, these gusts of wind clocking in at around 100 kilometers per hour.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, they've been clocking in wind gusts coming in at around 230 to 240 kilometers per hour. And that's the kind of wind gust that brings about the threat of storm surge.

Not far from where I am -- whew! Here's another coming in.

Not far from where I am behind me, Victoria Harbor, that is peak storm surge happening right now. So stay far away from that area. You do have the buffer zone and the shelter behind me. There's also -- the storm surge has been rolling in, in other outlying and low lying areas of Hong Kong, including the fishing village of Taiyo (ph), a lot of concern for the residents there, whether they can be evacuated in time.

Hong Kong is no stranger to big typhoons but Mangkhut is different, because Mangkhut is big. This is the biggest, most powerful storm of the year. Earlier it was equivalent to a category 5 hurricane. It has weakened somewhat but in Hong Kong it's believed to be one of the strongest storms to hit the territory since they started recording typhoon activity in 1946.

Residents have been warned about the dangers, looking out for flying debris, scaffolding that may be falling or even cranes overhead that could be swerving around in the wind. But this is what we're looking out for, especially as the rain continues to fall.

This is a big rainmaker. The rain will continue to fall in the hours and days ahead. This will introduce even more dangers of flash flooding and landslides. We're monitoring social media activity. We've seen already -- whew! -- accounts of flooding in the southern and eastern parts of Hong Kong. The damage is being done. It's going to take a while for Hong Kong to bounce back. This is a hell of a storm and it is not letting up yet. Anna, back to you.

COREN: Kristie, please, please be safe. I know that you are putting yourself on the line, as the team is, when you're on the line. But the damage that you have seen on social media, it is extensive. You have lived in Hong Kong much longer than I have. This is a monster storm.

STOUT: We have seen a lot of damage, even around this area. We've been out and about, looking around. Part of me -- (INAUDIBLE) -- these wind gusts are coming in.

But for example, the typhoon shelter behind me, you see a lot of downed trees. A lot of the fishing boats or the ships that crashed into each other. A lot of damage taking place there. There's debris all over the place.

But it's really when you just scope the full extent of what's coming in on social media. We get a fuller extent of what damage is being done, especially the flooding. Residential buildings, villages here in Hong Kong, business blocks. It's going to take a long time for the cleanup. And this storm is still (INAUDIBLE). Back to you.


COREN: Kristie, thank you so much for braving the elements and bringing us that report. Many thanks to you and the team. Please be safe.


COREN: The Philippine government is trying to determine how many died in the storm and while aid agencies are scrambling to reach victims and assess the amount of damage the typhoon has wreaked.

James Reynolds is a storm chaser and is in the Philippines now following Typhoon Mangkhut. He joins us now on the line.

James, obviously we are very much focused on Mangkhut here in Hong Kong because we are being battered but tell us about what you are seeing up there in the Philippines, the aftermath, the trail of destruction.

JAMES REYNOLDS, STORM CHASER: The cleanup operation and the relief operations are well under way here in the northeastern part of the Philippines. I drove from the extreme northeastern coastal area down to the city of Tuguegarao, which is the main hub in this area.

And that was about 100 kilometers and throughout the entire drive, we saw roofs ripped off houses, power lines crossing the road, utility poles (INAUDIBLE), just evidence that a major, major typhoon has swept through the area.

People are working hard to clear the roads with machetes, chainsaws and just trying to get things back together as quickly as possible.

COREN: James, how would you describe this area?

We know that it's rural and mountainous.

But is it densely populated?

Are there a lot of people living in these parts?

REYNOLDS: This is predominantly rural, agricultural part of the country. But there's a lot of small villages and towns scattered around in the mountains, also along the main river here.

So in that respect the problem (INAUDIBLE) make landfall (INAUDIBLE). The problem is, it's going to be harder for the government and relief agencies to reach some of these smaller communities which are off the beaten path and, on a good day, harder to get to.

COREN: Tell us about the isolated, cut-off areas, because obviously they're experiencing great difficulties in communicating with these places because lines are down and these communities have been completely cut off.

How difficult is it going to be for government aid agencies to reach these affected areas?

REYNOLDS: It's going to be difficult. Communications have been down for the large area. It just makes things a lot harder. You see a number of villages and places --


REYNOLDS: -- that the authorities have been able to reach, to make sure that everyone's OK. But they're certainly going to be stretched thin. The main airport here in Tuguegarao I visited was full of military; soldiers were there and other government departments (INAUDIBLE) to head out into the countryside (INAUDIBLE) location.

COREN: James, I know you don't have any confirmation on the death toll but we are getting varying reports. The official death toll is two. Another government agency has said as many as 25 people have died in the Philippines.

From what you've seen, from the devastation you have witnessed, would you be surprised if the death toll was to rise?

REYNOLDS: I am cautiously optimistic because, from what I've seen, it was primarily wind damage. The death toll will hopefully not rise too much more. If this had been a severe storm surge event or some flash flooding or landslides, that usually creates far higher death tolls.

So I'm cautiously optimistic that most people will be able to come out of this, shelter from the wind and ride this out and come out OK.

COREN: Let's hope and pray that is the case. James Reynolds, joining us from the Philippines, we thank you for your time.

Still ahead, the storm that just won't quit. We'll have the latest on Florence still dumping rain and causing a huge mess in the southeastern United States.

Plus, an arrest is made in a Texas killing spree. The identity of the suspect may surprise you. That's all ahead.




COREN: Turning now to the massive floods ravaging parts of the southeastern United States. Tropical storm Florence is expected to weaken and move out of the Carolinas later Sunday. But this slow motion disaster is far from over. Already it's claimed at least 13 lives.

There's extensive damage up and down the Carolina coast that will take weeks to clean up and repair. Gas station canopies, trees and other structures were toppled by the high winds. Utility crews have been working around the clock since Florence made landfall as a category 1 hurricane.

Right now, more than 700,000 people are still without power. Making matters much worse, rivers throughout the region are steadily rising to record levels and probably won't crest for days. That means many people who escaped the brunt of the storm still must evacuate due to flooding.

New Bern, North Carolina, was on the receiving end of hurricane force winds and rain for so many hours, long before Florence even made landfall. It was one of the first places where people needed to be rescued. Earlier, I spoke with one resident who chose not to evacuate. Here's part of that conversation.


JAY SCHREIBER (PH), NEW BERN, N.C., RESIDENT: Well, it's been an interesting time. We had a moat around our building here for a while, so we kind of felt like we were in a castle.

But --


SCHREIBER (PH): -- without electricity, we have survived. The river that I see has gone down below the ground level at least, so it's not up against the building anymore. But we still will have flooding coming down in the next few days, because a lot of the rain that's been mentioned in the forecast is raining upriver. So we're going to see it coming downriver over the next three or four days.

COREN: So has it flooded into the house?

SCHREIBER (PH): No. I live in a condominium. So we have 12 feet between us and the ground. So we had enough room that we did not get flooded out.

COREN: Have you witnessed anything like this before in North Carolina?

SCHREIBER (PH): Yes. This is the third hurricane I've been through with my family. And we decided that it would be better to stay here rather than to travel and get away, because once you start coming back, you hit these locations that are going to be majorly flooded out, about 50 miles from getting home, so you're stranded again.


COREN: That's New Bern resident Jay Schreiber (ph), explaining why he and his family decided not evacuate ahead of Florence.

The town of Lumberton, North Carolina, is especially vulnerable to flooding and Florence is presenting a huge challenge. Officials there say first responders have been rescuing people nonstop from the rising floodwaters. We get more now from CNN's Polo Sandoval.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we've been seeing today so far as the situation at the local river continues to worsen, is something disturbing similar to what I witnessed two years ago when Hurricane Matthew made for an extremely dangerous situation in this same area, where many people lost their homes.

We've been witnessing the Lumber River continue to rise, currently flowing at 17.5 feet. And it's still going up, expected to crest possibly tomorrow, still has at least 7 more feet to go, according to the current forecast. My colleagues and I spent today driving through the streets of Lumberton today.

And we reached a point when we just couldn't press forward anymore because of the danger. I can tell you, having covered these kinds of situations before, it's been a while. At least I can't remember the last time I saw water, floodwaters rise so quickly in neighborhoods and in businesses.

Some of the footage we're showing you is some of the places that we shot with our vehicle with some of the equipment we have in this especially fitted vehicle, to be able to drive to these conditions.

But eventually it did get simply too dangerous, so we turned back. And that is what authorities are recommending people do, is stay indoors. There's something that authorities have been noticing lately and that is people who have assumed that the worst is over, because there's no more high winds, so many of them deciding to leave shelters.

Authorities saying it is not a good idea. There are several rescues that have already happened here in Lumberton. Hundreds, in fact, according to authorities, and they will continue into the night as the Lumber River continues to rise.


COREN: Polo Sandoval reporting there.

It will take at least several days to assess the damage Florence inflicted on coastal communities. North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina was on the southern edge of the storm. CNN's Nick Watt says the beach town appears to have come through in good shape.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 9:00 am Sunday morning, the evacuation order that concerned North Myrtle Beach will be lifted, which suggests local officials, state officials are confident that North Myrtle Beach has already seen the worst of this storm.

There's one more high tide in the early hours of the morning and if North Myrtle Beach survives that, then it has survived Hurricane Florence relatively unscathed. There were power lines and trees down, some localized flooding but not what people feared this storm might bring.

People will start coming back tomorrow, they've already started coming back on Saturday. And one woman who saw her house standing said to me, you don't understand the feeling, the joy that it brings me to see my house standing, particularly when I've been through devastation before.

Her house was nearly completely destroyed back in 1989 by Hurricane Hugo. Hurricane Florence, then tropical storm Florence, did not bring the devastation here that some might have feared.

It is an area very prone to flooding. It has flooded many times. This time, just localized. They really dodged a bullet here. Now the story, though, is going to move further inland. It's going to be fresh water we're talking about, not tidal surge. And that has to do with the rain this huge storm has dumped over North Carolina and South Carolina. The Pee Dee River, which rises in North Carolina, flows down into South Carolina, remember, trillions of gallons, a record in that state fell in North Carolina. That water --


WATT: -- has to go somewhere. Some of that water is heading south as the storm moves west and away from the coast -- Nick Watt, CNN, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.


COREN: Turning now to the U.S. state of Massachusetts. Officials in Cape Cod believe they've seen the first fatal shark attack there in more than 80 years. On Saturday, a man died from a suspected shark bite. This is video of beachgoers trying to carry him to safety.

He died in hospital despite efforts to give him first aid and CPR. Officials are warning people not to go into the water alone at dawn or dusk, because shark sightings are on the rise in the area. This is video of two sharks swimming off the Massachusetts coast, filmed on the day of the fatal attack.

Authorities say they have caught a serial killer in the U.S. state of Texas. The suspect is a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Juan David Ortiz was arrested in Laredo on Saturday. He's accused of murdering four people and trying to kidnap a woman who escaped. CNN's Boris Sanchez has the latest.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Over the last two weeks, there have been four bodies discovered in Webb County, Texas; three of them women, one of them a male. Authorities believe they were all prostitutes.

And they say that when a suspect tried to engage with a fifth potential victim, she fought him off at gunpoint as he was trying to kidnap her.

Officials say that potential victim was able to give officials a clean description of the suspect, of his tattoos and the vehicle that he was driving in. Eventually early Saturday morning, authorities arrested Juan David Ortiz, a 35-year-old, 10-year veteran of Border Patrol. Officials say it is clear he was a serial killer who was targeting his victims. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do consider this to be a serial killer. He meets the qualifications or definition of being a serial killer. In this case, we have four people that have been murdered.


SANCHEZ: The Webb County district attorney's office anticipates that Ortiz will face four murder charges, as well as at least one additional charge for that attempted kidnapping -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, Washington, D.C.


COREN: An official from U.S. Customs and Border Protection released this statement about the case, saying, "This is an ongoing investigation. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Professional Responsibility and U.S. Border Patrol are fully cooperating with all investigators."

London's mayor is calling for a brand new Brexit vote. Sadiq Khan says the government is failing to make a divorce agreement with the E.U. that would benefit Britons. He says British citizens should be able to have a fresh say.

All this comes as Prime Minister Theresa May is facing speculation over her political future because of criticism over how she has handled Brexit. Ms. May said that's the wrong thing to focus on.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: But actually, this is where I get a little irritated. This is not -- this debate is not about my future. This debate is about the future of the people of the U.K. and the future of the United Kingdom.

That's what I'm focused on and that's what I think we should all be focused on, is ensuring that we get that good deal for the European Union, which is good for the people in the U.K., wherever they live in the U.K. That's what is important for us and that's what I'm focusing on. It's the future of people in the U.K. that matters.


COREN: Despite this, the U.K. Brexit secretary says the government is closing in on solutions to issues with the E.U. Russia is set to see more protests in the coming hours as demonstrations against pension reform are expected in St. Petersburg. We saw rallies across the country last weekend. Protesters are furious at proposals to raise the retirement age and even some backers of President Vladimir Putin are upset.

A monitoring group says more than 1,000 people were detained. These images appear to show police grabbing a child and a pensioner.

Russia's foreign minister says the poisonings of Sergei Skripal and his daughter are being used to tarnish Moscow's reputation. Sergey Lavrov accuses Britain of trying to rally its European partners against Russia as it negotiates Brexit. This comes as the suspects in that attack are mounting a very unique defense. CNN's Matthew Chance explains.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They went to Salisbury, not as assassins but as innocent tourists. Just two culturally curious Russians with an interest in early English architecture. At least that's what the prime suspects in the Skripal poisoning case, appearing for the first time on Russian television, would have us believe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were you doing there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Salisbury, a wonderful town?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There's the famous Salisbury Cathedral, famous not only in Europe but in the whole world. It's famous for its 123-meter spire. It's famous for its clock, the one of the first ever created in the world that's still working.

CHANCE (voice-over): It's famous now also as the city where the Russian former spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with highly toxic Novichok last March. British investigators say the suspects, named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were sent by Russian military intelligence, the GRU, to carry out the chemical attack.

At first, Russia denied any knowledge, saying the names and photos were meaningless. But then the Russian president suddenly changed tack. Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Vladimir Putin said the two men had now been identified.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We, of course, looked at what kind of people they are and we know who they are. We found them. I hope they appear and speak about it themselves. This will be best for everyone. There is nothing unusual or criminal there, I assure you.


CHANCE (voice-over): And, right on cue, Russian state television was broadcasting an exclusive interview with both men denying being on a mission to kill the Skripals. British police found traces of Novichok in their shared London hotel room. And around the poisoning, the two were caught on CCTV in Salisbury, walking near Sergei Skripal's house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Maybe we passed it or maybe we didn't. Before this nightmare started, I've never heard this last name. I didn't know anything about them.

CHANCE (voice-over): Asked why they visited Salisbury twice, the day before and the day of the poisoning, the two suspects said snow and slush had thwarted their sightseeing plans. It is, at best, a flimsy alibi, unlikely to convince many. Already British officials have dismissed the testimony as not credible.

But the appearance of these poisoning suspects does confirm they are both Russian nationals and living in Russia in defiance of international arrest warrants. That is something at least Russian officials can no longer deny -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


COREN: Thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren. We'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.