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AT THIS HOUR

34 Feared Dead in California Dive Boat Fire; Focus Turns to Search & Rescue after Dorian Slams the Bahamas; Hurricane Dorian Now a Category 2 as it Heads Toward Florida's Coast. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:33:44]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty people dead and 14 still missing, all of them feared dead as well after a horrific tragedy at sea. A dive boat catching fire in the middle of the night. Five crew members forced to abandon ship off the coast of California, making this call for help just before hand.

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday. "Conception." Platts Harbor. North side Santa Cruz.

U.S. COAST GUARD OPERATOR: Vessel is distress. This is Coast Guard sector Los Angeles on Channel 1-6. What is your position and number of persons on board?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) I can't breathe. (INAUDIBLE)

(END AUDIO FEED)

BOLDUAN: "Conception" is the name of the boat.

Now there's not only a search for the people still missing, but also a search for answers of why this happened. How did the fire start that was clearly so intense that burned the boat down, it sank eventually. Why weren't more passengers able to escape in time?

CNN's Stephanie Elam is following the very latest on the search and the investigation. She's here now.

Stephanie, this is so sad. What are you hearing this morning?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's devastating. And you think about it, the Santa Barbara County sheriff, Kate, saying that this was a worst-case scenario. The fact that they were so far offshore and the fact that it was the middle of the night and everyone was likely asleep and then to have fire despite being surrounded by all that water that could do them no good.

[11:35:10] What we do know and have learned is that the five crew members were able to jump off because they were above board. People were sleeping down below.

What they did is that, according to an interview with Bob Hansen, the man who was on the boat with his wife nearby, they were able to get off and get a dingy off the back of "Conception" and then they came over to his boat and started pounding on the side of it and that's what woke him up to help them onboard.

Just take a listen to what the Hansens say it was like during the recovery. Hear them in their own words

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB HANSEN, BOATER: From bow to stern. The flames were probably 30 feet high.

SHIRLEY HANSEN, BOATER: It was such a helpless feeling to watch the boat burn.

BOB HANSEN: I wish I could have picked all of them up. I mean, all of them. I've got the space. If they could have all just gotten in the water, I could have got them out of there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: And on ABC this morning, Bob Hansen says that some of the crew members did try to go back and see if they could rescue anybody. They also told them that they opened the galley door, down, which was the main access that those folks would have had to get out from the bottom of the boat, and he said it was already engulfed in flames. Even the ceiling tiles were on fire.

He said, after they got to his boat, the five people that he rescued, two did go back with a flashlight looking to see if they could find anybody in the water, Kate, but they never did.

BOLDUAN: Just horrible.

Stephanie, thank you so much. There's a lot to learn from what happened in this tragedy. Thank you so much.

Still ahead for us, Hurricane Dorian has carved a path of destruction straight through the Bahamas, leaving many residents trapped in their homes.

We're also getting incredible new pictures from the devastation. It's been tough getting these images out, understandably, because of the destruction to infrastructure. We're going to show you some of the new images and some new video we're getting in and talk to another survivor of the storm, next.

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[11:41:52] BOLDUAN: "I wouldn't wish this on anyone." That is how one man in the Bahamas has described living through Hurricane Dorian that is just now slowly starting to pass over.

These are some new images that have just come in showing the devastation into CNN. You see all the boats in the harbor just piled up on the shoreline. And these are coming in from the U.S. Coast Guard who was able to do an aerial tour. Look at the water that's made its way on shore. Also some images coming in of the airport under water.

All these new images are coming and this is as the storm finally is beginning to inch its way north.

The focus now that happens in the Bahamas is search and rescue, getting to all the people that are trapped in their homes or at shelters or hospitals.

Local residents have even resorted to calling into a live TV program to ask for help. One caller saying 20 people are trapped in one building, including two disabled residents, and that they need help.

I'm going to bring in Kimberly Mullings and her mother, Janitch Mullings. They have been riding out the hurricane on the Grand Bahama.

I'm thankful we have this connection. Thank you for speaking with me.

You've been holed up in your mother's home, Kimberly, both of you since the storm made landfall. How are you doing all right now?

KIMBERLY MULLINGS, RODE OUT HURRICANE DORIAN IN THE BAHAMAS: We're making it. We're surviving. We are blessed to be in a structure that is able to withstand the storm. We're also blessed to be in an area that does not have structural damage or any flooding, thankfully. I can't say the same for many others on the island, though.

BOLDUAN: Janitch, what has it been like? I mean, it must have been an exhausting 36 hours from what you guys were hearing outside and seeing outside your doors. Can you describe it to me?

JANITCH MULLINGS, RODE OUT HURRICANE DORIAN IN THE BAHAMAS: Thank you so much for having us.

Right now, it is exhausting, but we are grateful because we're able to be in this structure. Outside right now, the wind is still blowing very hard and it's still raining in our area, but we're very, very grateful to be here.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Kimberly, one of the latest updates we heard from the National Hurricane Center was that the bottom of the eye of the storm is still sitting over freeport. Can you describe what it was like when the storm came on shore and what it was like for you guys? You've seen a lot of hurricanes, but what was this one like? KIMBERLY MULLINGS: This one was something like we've never seen

before and you're going to keep hearing that because parts of our island have flooded that has never flooded before. Parts that you didn't know could see flooding.

It's been very hard to see images and videos are coming in. I've been trying to use social media to assist with the rescue efforts as best as possible because I still have power, I still have access to the Internet, I still have my cell service.

So in any way possible, I've gotten my friends all over the Internet to assist those on other islands who can help, those in other countries who can help, even if it's making a phone call out.

[11:45:14]

So it's been scary to watch, especially at night. We've had to go through two nights of this so far with tropical storm winds still hitting us until tomorrow. As you can imagine, it's scary. And seeing how many people are displaced as a result is something else.

Like you said, the eye is passing now. Rescue efforts are now being made to assist those, especially those in east Grand Bahama who have had tremendous flooding. Some people in two story, three-story rooms, they were up in their roofs. Luckily, the water is now beginning to recede, so they are being rescued with jet skis. People are lending them out and donating gas.

They have something going on now where just give them a towel and get them some vehicles to they're going to various shelters and people are opening up their doors to complete strangers.

So it's bittersweet to see but, at the same time, we're so thankful that people are able to become their brother's neighbor in a time like this.

BOLDUAN: You see the best in humanity, but you wish that you didn't have to see it because you're seeing the worst of Mother Nature.

What have you heard from your neighbors? I was talking to one of the members of parliament earlier and he said people are stuck in their roofs because the water has risen so fast and he's really concerned about a lot of folks because they've been basically cut off for 36 hours.

What are you guys hearing, Janitch, from neighbors, from friends of yours?

JANITCH MULLINGS: From some of our neighbors, well, not immediate neighbors, but we've heard from some people who have been stuck in roofs, stuck in roofs with babies, with their children. There are a number of stories about people waiting to get into shelter areas.

We had one situation that we know of where a 3-week-old baby and the mom had to wade through two foot, almost three foot of water. But we are grateful that they were able to reach that area and to be accommodated.

This is a three-part storm. We've had storms before where there's just the rain and the wind. But now we have the rain, the wind and the water. And that tidal wave is, you know, one that you could never prepare for.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Well, we're so thankful that you're doing well, both of you. That you're able to connect with us. We're thankful for your efforts in helping your fellow neighbors.

Thank you so much. We'll check back in with you. Thank you.

JANITCH MULLINGS: Thank you.

KIMBERLY MULLINGS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.

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[11:53:09]

BOLDUAN: While it no longer looks like Dorian will be hitting Florida directly, it is still close enough to be causing damage. If this storm has proven anything, it has clearly proven unpredictable.

Let's get back down to Florida. John Berman, my colleague, is kind enough to be standing by -- John?

BERMAN: Kate, I'm in the middle of one of those bands now. One of these bands is ending right now, getting hit by some rain as the wind and the rain picks up.

I'm looking at Hutchinson Island, which is one of the areas that has been under mandatory evacuation order.

Joining us now is someone who chose to ride out the storm on that island, Tim Bankston. Tim joins me now.

Tim, as we're underneath one of these bands, I think you probably are, too, where you are, why did you make the decision to stay?

TIM BANKSTON, HUTCHINSON ISLAND RESIDENT (via telephone): Well, we watched it carefully and we waited until the last minute. We had an exit strategy. When we saw the storm to be forecast to stall and turn north, we trusted the forecast and we're well prepared for it to ride it out.

BERMAN: Now, you've been through a number of these. Which one was the worst? Hurricane Matthew was a couple years ago, caused $5 billion of damage on the Florida coast.

BANKSTON: I would have to say Frances and Jean were the worst for us because they were back-to-back. And they really tore the neighborhood up around this area here. We had storm surge and a lot of roofs taken off, a lot of phone lines and power lines down.

BERMAN: We've got about 30 seconds left. What would be enough to get you to leave? What kind of warning would get you to move and heed what the authorities are asking for?

BANKSTON: I would say a direct hit from a cat 4 or 5 where there was no question that it was going to turn or stall, something that would put like what just happened in the Bahamas. That could happen here and that we would not stay for.

[11:55:05]

BERMAN: All right, Tim.

Tim Bankston, out on Hutchinson Island now. Wish you the best over the next day or so. It will get a little bit worse than it is right now. Hopefully, you've got the supplies you need to make it.

Thank you very much, Tim.

OK, CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian continues right after this.

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