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Thirty-Four Feared Dead in Boat Five; Dorian Moves Close to Florida Today; St. Augustine Beach Prepares for Dorian; Hospitals Evacuate Patients in Florida. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back, and back to our breaking news this morning.

Right now, Hurricane Dorian is moving at a snail's pace, spinning over the Bahamas, crawling at just one mile per hour, causing major flooding as it sits over the islands there.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and the island showing the effects.

Dorian is now a category three hurricane with 120 mile per hour winds. It is expected to approach the coast of Florida tonight. We're going to update you on Dorian's newest forecast and path later this hour. It's always changing. We're watching it very closely.

Meanwhile, the search and rescue effort following a devastating boat fire off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, is now just a recovery mission. Officials do not expect to find any more survivors. Thirty-nine people were onboard the dive boat when a fire started early Monday morning. It was about 3:00 in the morning. "The New York Times" says 20 bodies have been recovered now, but more than a dozen people are still missing. The only survivors, five crew members who jumped overboard. You can hear the panic and confusion in their mayday call.


COAST GUARD DISPATCH: Can you get back on board and unlock the boat, lock -- unlock the doors so they can get off?

Roger. You don't have any firefighting gear at all? No fire extinguishers or anything?

Roger. And there's no escape hatch for any of the people on board.


HARLOW: Wow. The Santa Barbara County sheriff said this is just a worst case scenario with a boat on fire, in the middle of the sea, in the middle of the night. Stephanie Elam is back with us this morning.

And, Steph, you were on with us yesterday morning as this news was breaking. And hearing from the Coast Guard as they were saying, you know, all they could say is that five crew members got off and now it appears no one else, at least at this point, has survived?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's where it stands at this point, Poppy and Jim. What we do know is that they were hoping maybe somebody swam to one of those channel islands out there since they were anchored just 20 yards off of one of those islands. But they've checked those islands. They haven't found anybody. And, at this point, we can now confirm that they have recovered 20 bodies from the ocean floor from this accident. Just tragic numbers that we're looking at knowing that 14 more people are still missing with those five that are rescued.

But, think about this. Those five people that jumped off, the crew members who jumped off and swam around and found their way over to the other boat that just happened to be in the area, of course Labor Day weekend, so a lot of people enjoying the weekend here in Santa Barbara. Well, they managed to pound on the side of the boat that belongs to Bob and Shirley Hansen (ph). And just take a listen to the Hansens talk about what it was like and how they're feeling about it.


BOB HANSEN, BOAT OWNER WHO HELPED SURVIVORS: From bow to stern. I mean and flames probably 30 feet high.

SHIRLEY HANSEN, BOAT OWNER WHO HELPED SURVIVORS: It was such a hopeless, helpless feeling to watch that boat burn.

B. HANSEN: I wish I could have picked all 35 of them up. I mean, all of them. I've got the space. You know, if they could have all just gotten in the water, and then I could have got them out of there.


ELAM: The pain in his voice, you could hear it, the fact that he wasn't able to save everyone there.

We do know that officials are saying now they're going to have to identify the bodies by using DNA to figure out who these people were that were on this boat. But we do know that we're looking at a very tragic situation here, Jim and Poppy, with so many lives lost on Labor Day.

SCIUTTO: So, I'm curious here, because on that mayday call you hear the responders saying, can you go back to unlock the door, the passengers were below decks where they were sleeping at the time. Is that our understanding that it was locked for some reason?

ELAM: That's where the confusion sets in. Why was it locked? Why would it be locked? And we should point out, when you listen to that -- that radio call, you only hear one side. You don't hear the other side. So you hear the person, the responder, asking the questions. We don't hear what they're saying off of the boat. So that's why there are a lot of questions. Would it be locked?

We do know, on ABC this morning, that Bob Hansen did say that the people that he rescued said that by the time they opened that galley door, it tiles of the ceiling were fully engulfed in flames.


And that by the time everyone woke up above board, the people who were up in the wheel house or above deck, it was already a fully enraged fire at that point. And the fact that it all really caught on fire and then the boat sank, they don't have a lot they can go of. So they're trying to piece this all together. But obviously hearing that, it's a lot of questions that people have on why these people didn't have another way out.

Poppy and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Stephanie Elam, thanks so much for being on the story.

Poppy, just such a shocking scene there. All those people below decks as this inferno raging. It's just -- it's just so sorry to hear the details of that.

HARLOW: Yes, and, of course, we'll bring you the identity of the victims as soon as we have them. They haven't been released yet. We do know the reporting has been one was a 17-year-old who was on a diving trip with her parents.


HARLOW: OK, we'll stay on that.

Of we're all over Hurricane Dorian moving up the southeast coast. Next, we'll be joined by the mayor of St. Augustine Beach, Florida. What are they preparing for?



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of Hurricane Dorian. I'm Victor Blackwell.

Here in Martin County, in south Florida, along the intercostal, which has been moving all night and all morning, we've just received an update from Martin County officials that they're now having some outages of traffic lights as well, making it more difficult, a little more dangerous on these roads as these winds start to come in from the edges of Dorian.

We also know there have been thousands of power outages reported across Martin County, which would make those people who are sheltering in place and not leaving as requested by authorities a little more uncomfortable. Let's head about 150 miles up the east coast to Daytona Beach, Florida, to check the conditions and preparations there. My colleague Rosa Flores has that for us.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, the headline from here is that look around me, Dorian is still not here and there is a bit of fatigue.

Let me show you the mixture in the response of preparation because this barrier island is under a mandatory evacuation, so you see there are buildings and businesses that are boarded up. But as I just walk around, you can see there are people in their cars, there are people driving up to take pictures of the ocean. There are people in hotels over here parked as well. And as we turn around, you can see, there's actual traffic in this barrier island.

But here's what officials are afraid of and here is what they are warning, that once these conditions begin, they're expecting them between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. here in Volusia County, they are expected to last for 24 hours, tropical storm winds, sustained winds for 24 hours, Victor. And so that is what officials want to remind people, that once those conditions are here, it's going to be too late.


BLACKWELL: Rosa Flores for us there in Daytona Beach.

And, Poppy, as I send it back to you, we just got an update from our correspondent Nick Valencia, who is covering this as well, and he spoke with a guest at the hotel where he and his team are stationed and there's a guest who's actually checking out of the hotel and going back home. More of that narrative of the preparation fatigue. It's been several days and that storm has just been parked over the Bahamas and some people are going back home. Authorities are saying that is the wrong thing to do.

HARLOW: Yes, absolutely. They should just look at the images of the destruction and see what is headed their way.

Victor, great reporting. We'll get back to you in just a minute.

We're going to move a little bit north of Daytona Beach now to St. John's County. They're also facing the threat of a storm surge. Sandbags have been stacked all up and down the beach trying to control that flooding. The mayor now of St. Augustine Beach, Florida, Mayor Undine George, joins me.

Thank you so much for taking the time this morning, Mayor.

And let's just begin on how you've prepared. Your city is on an island.

MAYOR UNDINE GEORGE, ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, FLORIDA: Absolutely. HARLOW: The big concern is, how do you prepare for a storm surge on an island?

GEORGE: Right. And it's a difficult question, especially when we have a beautiful day outside still. I -- it is important for everybody to take it seriously.

Now, what we've done in our city is we've moved a lot of sand onto the beaches. We have blocked every road access point and any holes in the sea walls or anything like that to create a barrier so that the storm surges that we're expecting, and we're expecting as much as seven feet or more of storm surge, we're ensuring that that will not come onto the streets and damage any personal property.

HARLOW: So you're expecting already more than seven feet of storm surge.

I know that there are a lot of lessons that you guys learned from the last two major hurricanes, namely Hurricane Irma back in 2017 in terms of what worked to protect lives and to protect that beachfront property. How are you implementing that right now?

GEORGE: Yes. Well, like I said, we have the -- the sand is one of the most critical functions for protecting the line of water from coming in. We've planted sea oats since the Irma event to help reinforce and stabilize that sand. But we're also just counting on personal responsibility that the citizens get themselves to safety.


The amount of time it's taken for this storm to get here is unlike any of the storms we've seen before, and I believe that that is becoming one of the biggest hazards is that people are getting tired and fatigued from the message --

HARLOW: Right.

GEORGE: But they need to, you know, heed the warnings.

We have the best and the brightest working for us here in St. John's County. They are the experts. And it's really not a question of whether the hurricane is coming. It's coming. Just because it's taken a while doesn't mean it's safe to go back home and it doesn't mean it's safe to stay on the island.

HARLOW: So what specifically then, mayor, is concerning you? Are you also hearing reports of people in St. Augustine Beach that are -- that maybe have evacuated and now they're coming back, they're, you know, tired of waiting for this thing to come? Are you hearing actual reporting of that in your city that you're worried about?

GEORGE: Yes, the county is -- all across the county we are hearing that fatigue translating into people asking if they can go back onto the barrier islands, asking if they can go back into the evacuation zones. And the answer is that there is not going to be any guarantee of your safety if you attempt to do that. At some point the bridges will close when the reach -- the winds reach a certain speed and it won't be an option. So we're really just trying to make sure people heed the warning.

HARLOW: OK. We hope they do. Mayor George, thank you so much. I know how busy you are. We appreciate you taking the time this morning.

GEORGE: Sure. Well, you know, we're -- St. Augustine is the oldest city, so I imagine and I'm quite confident that with all these experts working with us, if everybody does the right thing, we will continue to be here after this storm.

HARLOW: I'm sure you will. Thanks so much. We appreciate it. We'll talk to you soon.

GEORGE: Thank you.


SCIUTTO: Yes, folks, listen, they're looking out for you, so listen to those warnings.

Hundreds of hospital patients along Florida's East Coast, they're now being relocated as a precaution as Hurricane Dorian slowly moves closer to the continental U.S.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Twelve counties in Florida are now under mandatory evacuation orders this morning, and that includes people living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, as well as hospital patients, of course some of the most vulnerable. Officials yesterday said seven hospitals along Florida's East Coast had been evacuated ahead of Hurricane Dorian.

I'm joined now by Ed Hubel. He's president of Baptist Medical Center in Nassau County, Florida.

Thanks so much, Ed, for taking the time this morning. We know you have a lot on your hands.

Tell us how the evacuation is going. How many of the patients have been evacuated so far and do you have any more that you still have to get to safety?

ED HUBEL, PRESIDENT, BAPTIST MEDICAL NASSAU (via telephone): Sure. Thank you, Jim, and good morning.

Yes, we did have to evacuate due to the proximity of our hospital, you know, being on Amelia Island and close to the ocean and our intercostal waterways. So we're working closely with our planning and local officials and Nassau County Emergency Management team, we monitored the storm and decided with the mandatory evacuation at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, that we would begin transferring of patients on Sunday night.

And so approximately 24 patients, through the duration of transport, occurred. You know, I couldn't be more proud of our team, the coordination of care patients. They were escorted by RNs with our ambulance partners to our sister Baptist Health Jacks (ph) facility, which received those patients.

So these --

SCIUTTO: Now are these -- the risks, I know, are real after Hurricane Irma in 2017. A number of nursing home residents, unfortunately, lost their lives as -- in some places, the extreme heat followed because generators had cut out. But I imagine there are dangers and questions too as you move them because the path of the storm has been so uncertain. How do you -- how do you handle figuring out where to get them to a safe place?

HUBEL: Well, I will tell you, with our planning team and the Baptist Health system in Jacksonville here, here a multi-hospital system, so we coordinate and we set up our incident command center. And with the emergency management teams in each of the counties that we've served, we closely monitor the storm and projections and anticipate, and certainly decide which facilities are the appropriate areas of transfer.

So, for example, being on the island, we had the heart (INAUDIBLE) facility and we certainly want to make sure that our patients, our team members and the community is safe. So we're there until the mandate occurred and until the final patient discharged approximately 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And do you have any sense of how long they're going to have to stay? Of course you're going to make a judgment call here, right, once the danger has passed. But any sense of how many days? Because, of course, it's stressful, it's disruptive for these patients.

HUBEL: Yes. Yes, it is, Jim. And I will tell you that we tell our team to rest because not only did we have to evacuate, we have to plan for a reentry and figure out the -- when the all clear is given, assess the hospital and then open our emergency room first as people tend to repopulate to the evacuation zones that were originally set forth.


SCIUTTO: Understood.

HUBEL: So that's our plan at this time. We did activate what we call our PERT team, our Personnel Emergency Response Team and they help our sister hospitals through the transition of the storm.


HUBEL: And we have a recovery team on site.

SCIUTTO: Listen, please send them our best. We know that can be stressful for them and we hope they're back home soon (INAUDIBLE) there in Nassau County, Florida.


HUBEL: Thank you, Jim.

HARLOW: All right, Hurricane Dorian is crawling toward the Florida coast, leaving a huge path of destruction in its wake. We're covering this storm as only CNN can. Stay right there.