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Tsunami Kills at least 168 People in Indonesia; Trump Administration Turmoil; Dems: No Funding for Border Wall with Mexico. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired December 23, 2018 - 03:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): I'm Cyril Vanier at the CNN Center in Atlanta, tracking breaking news out of Indonesia. I want to bring you everything we know at this hour.

Officials say at least 168 people are now confirmed dead from a tsunami. A volcano may have triggered the wave which caught many off guard. I have to warn you: some of what you're about to see is disturbing.

Here's this video, which shows the moment a concert was cut short. The band on stage keeps playing, unaware of what's about to happen.

CNN's Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Cyril. That's right, the Christmas holiday weekend in Indonesia, a national holiday for the next couple of days, has been interrupted by this deadly natural disaster.

A tsunami that ripped through coastal areas of western Java at about 9:37 pm on Saturday night seems to have been caused, Indonesian authorities say, by a volcanic eruption.

And that came from Anak Krakatau, which is translated to Child of Krakatau, a volcanic island that formed about 50 years after the catastrophic, cataclysmic eruption of Krakatau in 1883 that killed over 30,000 people and plunged global temperatures down more than a degree due to the massive ash cloud in the 19th century.

In this case, authorities are saying there was a full moon, a high tide and then what they believe might have been an underwater landslide caused by the volcanic eruption that sent a wall of water, that Indonesians say -- authorities say was a meter and a half high, moving distances up to 500 meters inland into areas, resort areas, full of Indonesian tourists during what is supposed to be a holiday weekend.

So the death toll now stands at 168 people; 745 people injured and hundreds of homes destroyed. There's some aerial footage there that does show you that many standing structures in some of the affected areas are still standing, the roofs still intact.

Your video was a concert performed by a popular band called Seventeen. Attending were many people that were part of a state power company, when that wall of water broke through the stage and into the crowd. The lead singer of the band, Riefian, posted this tearful, very emotional video on his Instagram account the morning after. Take a listen.


RIEFIAN FAJARSYAH, SINGER, SEVENTEEN: I just wanted to say that our bass player, Bani, and our manager, Oki Wijaya, passed away. I also ask for prayers for my friends, Andi, Herman and Ujang, who is still missing at this time. Also my dear wife is still missing. The rest of us have broken bones, minor injuries, including me. But we are fine. Please pray that we can find Andi, Herman and Ujang and my wife.


WATSON: The Indonesian president has expressed his condolences about this disaster and he's ordered authorities to expedite the disaster mitigation process. In the meantime, the spokesperson for Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency has said that, in this case, there was no underwater sensor for an underwater landslide in Indonesia and, thus, there was not an early warning system for what seems to have happened around Anak Krakatau, that he is calling now that there needs to an multi-hazard early warning system for this kind of deadly disaster.

VANIER: What can you tell us about the search and rescue efforts?

WATSON: We're hearing about heavy equipment being moved to the area. A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross says it may be complicated by the fact that some of the roads appear to have been damaged by this disaster. We heard from a reporter from CNN --


WATSON: -- Indonesia, who was in one of the beach areas that had been affected by the tsunami, who said that police at noon local time then sent out a warning, urging everybody to move to higher ground for fear of evidently some kind of additional tsunami coming into the area. And that triggered panic.

So clearly people still very much on edge in this area, particularly after it does not appear that there was warning for the victims of Saturday night's deadly wave -- Cyril.

VANIER: Ivan Watson, we appreciate all your reporting from Hong Kong. Thank you very much.

(WEATHER REPORT) VANIER: I spoke earlier to somebody who's on the ground, Roni Satria, he's in Java, a correspondent with CNN Indonesia.


RONI SATRIA, CNN INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT: The first time I came, arrived in the location, I saw dozens of houses were damaged and destroyed. And I saw the waves in the sea, because the main street in the land is very close to the beach. And the waves is very high.

And it's around two hours local time before right now. We were instructed by the local police to find a shelter in a higher place due to the high tide that possibly will also take place in this location.

And my location right now is about five kilometers from the beach, which is not very high and not really close and very safe. And a lot of people, and the people including us with the team, were panicking at the time of the alarm by the police, who instructed us to find a place here.

And we are stuck right now until we are permitted back to the beach again, because we want to see that the damage that impacted the most is around 30 kilometers from my location right now.

And also we want to see whether the aid from the Natural Disaster Agency has already been mobilized. Also we see that --


SATRIA: -- a lot of heavy equipment's already been mobilized also with the personnel that clean up the mud and also the routes. And also there are many covering the main street, becoming the access from the place on the beach, which is very popular for the tourist attractions here.


VANIER: For more on all of this, I'm joined on the phone from Indonesia by Kathy Mueller with the Canadian Red Cross.

Kathy, tell me what the priority is right now. I would imagine that there is still a hope to save some lives as we speak.

KATHY MUELLER, CANADIAN RED CROSS: Right, so the priority at the moment is making sure that the people who survive this are looked after and cared for, receive the support that they need. And then, of course, the search and rescue, to make sure that as many people as possible are saved.

VANIER: What do people do in circumstances like this?

You have homes destroyed, livelihoods destroyed, which raises questions about the medium and long-term.

What do people do? MUELLER: Right. So in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the priority is to make sure that people have the basic needs. If they've lost their home, they've lost everything. If they've lost their livelihoods, they've lost ability to purchase anything. Usually the markets go down for a while after something like this happens.

So the Red Cross are bringing in something basic like clean water but it can do a huge job in helping to prevent disease. It's currently the rainy season in that area. And so any time there's the lack of hygiene in the rainy season, people aren't living in their normal conditions. The risk of disease goes up.

We're also bringing in things like tarpaulins which will help shield people and protect people from the elements. And then your basic household items will help people get through the next few days.

Then we really start focusing on the weeks and months to come that we're looking forward and trying to get people back to normality as quick as possible.

VANIER: What are you hearing about the state of the infrastructure?

Because that's always key when you have natural disasters, it's actually being -- actually getting to the affected areas.

Is that is a factor here?

MUELLER: From what we understand, the main road into this area that was affected is damaged. So access is being compromised. It's obviously slowing everything down.

Then the photos that we're seeing from the Indonesian Red Cross volunteers, who are on the ground, are showing the kind of destruction that you would expect to see after a tsunami. So there's debris all over the place.

There are crumpled buildings, crushed motorcycles, crushed vehicles. And, of course, the injured people, with their cuts and scrapes and broken arms and broken legs. So there's a lot always to do. What happens now is there's an assessment that has to take place to really find out what's the impact of this disaster.

How many people need support?

What is that kind of support?

What does it look like?

Then from there, that's where the response can help to be rebuilt.

VANIER: Of course, assessing the damage, assessing the needs. I want to try and understand from you, if you can give us a sense of Indonesia's tsunami preparedness, I asked you because this actually happens, as you know, as our viewers will know, this happens occasionally, regularly, I would say in Indonesia. But we heard from our correspondent, Ivan Watson, earlier that

actually there was no early warning system in this case.

What is the preparedness like?

MUELLER: Well, from our experience -- and I was actually part of the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami with the Red Cross back in 2004. And our experience is that both Indonesia and the Indonesian Red Cross, their capacity to respond to disasters has grown exponentially since that time.

They've really learned a lot during that crisis. Then like you mentioned, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes. They get many, sitting in the Ring of Fire. The Indonesian Red Cross, for example, they've now become somewhat expert in terms of purifying water and then the distribution of that.

And they're actually putting that to use now in the response to the Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami that hit here back in September.

So is the capacity stretched?

I would have to say they're probably a little tired right now. They had the Lombok earthquakes in July and August. This triple disaster in Sulawesi in September. And now this event here coming on the heels of that.

But the Red Cross is a roster of volunteers across the country, who are trained and who can deploy at a moment's notice when these things happen.

VANIER: Tell me about your teams. What are you hearing from the teams that are either on location --


VANIER: -- or near this location?

MUELLER: We're hearing that the people are hurting, that people are panicking. People are scared, understandably, in the area where I currently am. And I am far away from where this tsunami happened.

But every time there's an aftershock -- and there undoubtedly will be aftershocks -- people are terrified to go back into their homes. They're afraid that they're going to come crumbling down on them.

We know that a lot of people, they seek shelter in mosques during this kind of time. So people are going there for safety. As things unfold, if the situation warrants it, we'll be looking at mobilizing things, like sending in tents so that people have better shelter than a makeshift shelter that they can create with a tarpaulin, for example. Things will get a little bit more structured.

VANIER: Kathy Mueller from the Canadian Red Cross, your teams are taking part in the aid efforts on the ground. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. For viewers just joining us right now, we've been covering breaking

news: 168 people killed in Indonesia. That is the death toll currently. There are still people missing so that death toll may increase.

This was actually caused by volcanic activity and a wave up to a meter high just crashed onto parts of the Indonesian coastline, causing a great degree of devastation. Hundreds of buildings damaged and that death toll, 168 people killed, as things stand right now. We'll bring you more as soon as we get the information on this.

Another high-ranking official in the Trump administration calls it quits. Coming up, why the man who coordinated U.S. efforts with other allies in the fight against ISIS says he can no longer serve President Trump.




VANIER: I want to get you caught up on the breaking news story out of Indonesia this hour. Authorities say Saturday's tsunami killed at least 168 people when it slammed into parts of Java and Indonesia. More than 740 others are injured. Hundreds of homes are damaged.

The volcano may have triggered this disaster by setting off underwater landslides. Our meteorologist was telling us the wave was up to a meter to a meter and a half high. That causes a huge amount of damage that you're seeing on your screen right now.

We're also following developments in Washington. A second senior U.S. official has quit over U.S. president Donald Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. Brett McGurk was the U.S. envoy to the international coalition battling ISIS.

He was in Iraq and had just finished briefing partners that the U.S. would stay in Syria, when he learned President Trump had reversed course. His resignation came a day after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis quit over the very same issue.

On Twitter Mr. Trump dismissed McGurk's resignation --


VANIER: -- as a nothing event, belittling him as an Obama holdover and grandstander who was going to leave the administration soon anyway. Sources say McGurk viewed President Trump's decision as, quote, "reckless" and one that he could not defend to U.S. allies. Let's get regional perspective from CNN's Gul Tuysuz in Istanbul.

Start by telling me about Mr. McGurk and specifically how he was seen in the region.

GUL TUYSUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, he was the special presidential envoy to the global coalition to combat ISIS. So he was really seen as being the man that was in charge of U.S. efforts to combat ISIS across Iraq and Syria.

He really was seen as the architect of the U.S.' policy on the ground. He was seen as being the instrumental -- he was seen as the man who was the architect of the U.S. partnership with the Kurdish fighting force on the ground in Syria that has been the U.S.' main ally in trying to oust ISIS from Syria.

So he was seen as a man who carried the word of the U.S. administration and implementing U.S. policy on the ground here.

People here, for example, in Turkey, would watch and listen to what McGurk was saying to try to figure out what the U.S.' policy moving forward would be. So when you have the U.S. president tweeting out, saying that he didn't know McGurk, well, it's just disingenuous at best.

VANIER: To think of this sequence of events, that McGurk was in a room telling U.S. allies the U.S. is going to stay in the region and as he's in that room, the opposite decision is announced. That's just remarkable.

Look, the policy of pulling U.S. troops out of Syria is premised on the idea that other countries, such as Turkey, where you are, are against ISIS and will therefore pick up the fight against ISIS if needed.

How does that sound to you?

Has there been any noise from Turkey on that?

TUYSUZ: Well, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came out in a statement and said that he welcomed the announcement that the U.S. is going to be pulling its presence from the ground in Syria.

And he also said that he had a phone call with U.S. president Donald Trump, in which Trump asked him, what about ISIS?

Can you take care of ISIS?

To which the Turkish president apparently replied saying, yes, we can, as long as we have support from you, which means that Turkey has agreed to pick up the fight against ISIS.

But Turkey's main goal in any operation that it has carried out across the border into Syria has been one that has, yes, in certain circumstances, dealt with ISIS' presence on the ground. But really it's geared and concentrated much more on the presence of that Kurdish fighting force.

They are, of course, the main allies of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS on the ground in Syria. But Turkey views them as an extension of a terrorist group. So that has been their main focus so far.

But now we have this decision to pull out. Turkey basically signing up to go into Syria and ouster (sic) the remnants of ISIS. We just don't know if that's something that Turkey, while having a different priority, is going to be able to carry out and whether or not that's really going to end up impacting the safety and security that's been established thus far with the U.S. presence in Syria fighting against ISIS with those Kurdish fighters.

VANIER: Gul, that is vital context. It is really important to remind our viewers that, so far and for years now, Turkey has prioritized fighting the Kurds in Syria over fighting ISIS. Gul Tuysuz from Istanbul, thank you very much.

One-quarter of the U.S. federal government is shut down right now and looks like that's going to last through Christmas. The people with the power to restart the government have gone home.

The U.S. Senate adjourned with no agreement on a spending bill to fund nine cabinet departments and other federal agencies all because President Trump and Democrats are fighting over money for his border wall.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees on the weekend, right before Christmas, are either working without pay for now or staying home on furlough. CNN's Sarah Westwood reports from the White House.


SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is still not signaling what he'd consider in terms of a deal that could get 10 Senate Democrats on board and start the process of reopening the government.

White House officials say the president is not budging from his demand for $5 billion for the border wall and they say that money has to be used for the construction of a physical barrier along the southern border.

They say it can't just be used for border security in general, which is one of several potential options that --


WESTWOOD: -- had been floating around Capitol Hill amid the shutdown talks. But make no mistake, despite that current hardline stance, the president has been all over the map when it comes to the funding fight.

First saying he'd be proud to accept responsibility for a shutdown if it was over money for his border wall, then through aides signaling he might be willing to entertain a temporary spending deal passed by the Senate that would have kept the government open through February 8th.

Finally, by Thursday, rallying House Republicans to pass a funding mechanism that did contain $5 billion for the wall, buckling under pressure from conservative allies on Capitol Hill and in the media to avoid what they described as a surrender on the border wall. The president held a lunch here at the White House on Saturday with

Republican lawmakers. No Democrats were in attendance. And those who did attend were mostly conservative allies, like Congressman Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Senator Lindsey Graham, allies of the president who already agree with him when it comes to the strategy behind the shutdown.

And as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said earlier Saturday, the logjam will persist until the president huddles with Senate Democrats to talk about a potential compromise.

But the lack of clarity surrounding what exactly the president might be willing to entertain has caused headaches for some lawmakers, who really have no idea what kind of deal the president might support beyond that hardline stance for $5 billion.

Vice president Mike Pence is leading negotiations for the White House side but earlier this week Pence told lawmakers that the president might be inclined to sign that temporary spending deal, something that turned out not to be true.

Heading into Christmas, both sides appear very entrenched. Washington appears poised to enter what could be a lengthy shutdown. The president canceling his plans to travel to West Palm Beach, Florida, over the holiday amid the legislative logjam -- Sarah Westwood, CNN, the White House.


VANIER: Before we wrap up the show, I want to remind you everything we know about the breaking news. The top story we've been following this hour, the aftermath of a devastating tsunami in Indonesia.

Now the official death toll provided by the government has been 168 people killed. Sadly, we know that this is still likely to go up. Dozens of people are still missing according to the government.

And you're seeing the aerial shots right now. So many buildings are still standing, fortunately. But we also know from the government that several hundred buildings and homes have sustained various levels of damage.

We spoke to the Red Cross earlier. They're telling us that the priority is providing the basics for people who have either lost their homes or who have lost the food, water, that they won't be able to get access to and search and rescue efforts, that is the most important, are underway right now, still trying to save lives in the early hours after this tsunami.

We'll bring you a lot more on that in our future editions here on CNN. Do stay with us.