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Dorian Relentlessly Batters Bahamas, Approaches U.S.; 34 Feared Dead in California Diving Boat Fire; Trump Golfs as Hurricane Dorian Bears Down on U.S. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pray for us. Pray for Abaco. Please, I'm begging you all.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hurricane Dorian, a deadly, slow-moving monster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in the midst of an historic tragedy. The devastation is unprecedented and extensive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here in Florida, more than ten coastal counties are under a mandatory evacuation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're ordered to evacuate, you need to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You boarded up your house. You're inside of the house. You're waiting for it to arrive. The anticipation of it is nerve-wracking.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. I'm John Berman in Jensen Beach, Florida. Alisyn Camerota up in New York.

We are tracking the path of Hurricane Dorian. It is inching, inching past the Bahamas, where it has created an unprecedented weather event that people who have been on those islands have experienced; really, something no one on earth has ever experienced before in recorded history.

A powerful, what began as a Category 5 storm just sitting over that island for days, days on end, and it is still affecting the people there.

Meanwhile, it is inching closer toward Florida where I am right now. So much of the Florida coastline, waiting in anticipation of what could be hurricane-strength impacts and, certainly, dangerous storm surge, as well. I'm standing right on the intercoastal waterway in Jensen Beach, and

you can see the water here just kicking up already. Not high tide yet. A long way to go for this water.

The rain comes in in bands, like you can see right now. And when it comes in, it comes in strong. The consistent wind speeds we're getting here now, around 30, 35 miles an hour, expected to rise throughout the next 24 hours. So there's a long, long way to go with this storm, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, you'll be monitoring it for us from Florida all morning long. Please be careful.

OK. This storm has already left at least five people dead. So we will check back with you throughout the program, of course.

Meanwhile, there's other news to get to. We have developments on a story that we first told you about yesterday. It's just this horrible, horrible boat accident off the coast of Southern California. The -- the body count, the amount of people killed on this dive boat has just been shocking. So we will get more details on how this tragedy unfolded.

OK. So John, let's go back to you. I know that you have guests all morning, bringing us the latest on Dorian.

BERMAN: Yes. Yes, and in fact the National Hurricane Center just gave a new update as to the strength and the path of this storm.

So let's go right to Chad Myers in the weather center. Chad, what does it look like as we sit here at 6 a.m. on the East Coast?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Looks like it's in the same spot as it was yesterday where you were standing there on the East Coast, John. Really, it moved about 6 miles in the past 24 hours. This is a 24- hour satellite loop.

Now, the eye is getting a little bit smaller, which means some of the winds may be getting more intense right around the middle. But right now, the maximum wind is 120.

So we're still watching the radar. We're still watching bands come on shore. And as you said, John, every time one of those bands gets close to you, moves over you, and the rain comes down, the wind picks up. The wind will pick up 20 to 30 miles per hour, compared to the consistent wind speed.

Now, here is the new track, completely offshore for the cone. But the Hurricane Center will tell you, only 2/3 of all the storms are inside the cone. One-sixth on this side, one-sixth on that side. That's how they build the cone. They want to be at least somewhere in the 2/3 category. But by the time it gets to North Carolina, it's pretty darn close as a Category 2.

So the storm moves up the East Coast. Here are the maximum wind speeds. Tuesday, today, in Stewart, 1 p.m., 59. Melbourne, tonight, after midnight, 64. Daytona Beach, tomorrow morning, 62.

Now, up toward Jacksonville and St. Simons, tomorrow night, we're talking about 50s and 60s. Savannah and then Charleston, this time 48 hours from right now, we'll see the wind speeds start to pick up in Charleston. A long duration storm, because it continues to sit there.

Remember, this time last week we were talking about this storm potentially hitting Puerto Rico. The same storm, the same low.

Hurricane watches and warnings up the coast. We'll watch for those hurricane-force gusts. And now the surge is about 2 feet all up and down the East Coast as the storm moves farther to the north. John, that storm surge could probably go up another 2 feet, and in some spots, another 5 feet.

Back to you.

BERMAN: And Chad, that's what they're watching, I think, most closely along the coast in Florida right now. The storm surge, it could be at dangerous levels. Chad, we'll check back in with you throughout the morning.

Now our Patrick Oppmann and his team have been in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island for days on end, experiencing something that I don't think anyone living has ever been through before. I want to go to Patrick in Freeport right now, to get a sense of how things are there.

Patrick, what are you seeing? How are people doing there this morning?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not well, as you can imagine. It's getting more complicated here. This morning cell service is down, power remains out, and there's a sense of desperation, because this has just hit us a lot harder than I think anybody could have anticipated.

We've seen video from the hospital, the main hospital in Freeport, of flooding. Some of the other scenes here of waves hitting two-story homes are also quite shocking.


It feels about the same, and I guess since the storm has only moved 6 miles -- I didn't know that because we're completely cut off. But that makes sense. The winds feel the same. It's still raining here. The conditions feel pretty much like -- like yesterday. Maybe a little bit better, but things come in waves, as well.

This is really moving, I think, from the weather situation to a breakdown of an island and of a city. And -- and what I'm talking about is last night we helped people evacuate in the lobby of our building. And there was a woman who was elderly. She had fallen and broken her hip. There were people that almost drowned in their house, and they -- essentially, their neighbors had to rescue them.

So you're not seeing authorities -- and this isn't a criticism. You're not seeing any help offered by the government here in Freeport that I can see. And it's just because they're completely overwhelmed. So it's up to people to take things into their own hands and try to save one another. And you just wonder how many people got trapped in their homes, how many people now are cut off. How many people could have been injured and have no hope of receiving medical treatment.

Right now, the city and island are completely dark, but you know out there, there are tens, if not hundreds, of cases of people in really serious condition and not receiving help.

You know, we've gone for as long as we can. We have food for a couple more days. We have gas for a couple more days. You would hope the Bahamian government would get help in here as soon as possible. But the storm being off our shores really does complicate that.

There was some hope yesterday that perhaps they could get some of those Coast Guard rescue helicopters in here today to begin evacuating people. We've heard reports of people riding the storm out on their roof.

We have been told by people that they only escaped their house, because they cut out of the roof with axes, with hatchets -- with hatchets, that they had to cut a hole in the roof to climb out, because the water it reached -- completely covered their home.

So, you know, I said it yesterday -- it doesn't seem like an exaggeration -- this is really the Bahamas's Katrina. You have seen the government and the state break down, not -- not be able to offer, on at least two islands, a lot of the services that we all depend on.

So while you hope -- a lot of services that we all depend on. So while you hope that they're able to turn this around in the coming days, at least for right now, John, things are getting worse. They are not getting better.

BERMAN: Patrick, it sounds harrowing. I know the situation there has been very difficult for you and your team, because the hurricane has essentially been over you for 36, 48 hours. Have you been able to get out at all? Is there any infrastructure left from what you can see from your window?

OPPMANN: There is here on the coastline, you know, we can see hotels that survived. Our building was fine. I don't think we lost a window, which is amazing, but I know just down the road, someone's house got completely washed away, a pretty big house, and they escaped, you know, barely with their life. And I know there are other people who have not been so fortunate.

I think as well, what's really been shocking for most people is how quickly the water rose. We're hearing about an animal shelter in town that is completely underwater. And we don't know if people there were able to get any of the animals who were put there for the storm out in time, if they were able to open the cages.

Of the people we helped last night, you know, give them water and towels. They said that they realized the water was rising by the time it was on their steps.

By the time they got everybody together to leave with -- with the things they needed, the water, you know, minutes later, was already halfway up their door. They couldn't open the door to get out. Just imagine that that's how quickly it happens. That's how little time you have to get -- to run for your life.

And I think at a certain point, things became very critical here very quickly, and for people that were not in very many storms, they just weren't able to anticipate that. I don't think anybody could anticipate that. Things happened late yesterday afternoon, much more quickly than -- than people were prepared for.

BERMAN: Patrick, I don't think anyone has ridden out a storm quite like this, quite as powerful, that hung out for the island for such a long period of time.

We're losing communication with Patrick Oppmann now. His team, please stay safe on that island. We'll check back in with you as frequently as we can throughout the morning.

Joining me now is Caroline Turnquest, the director general of the Bahamian Red Cross.

If you can hear me, Director General, give us the situation of the need on those islands right now.

CAROLINE TURNQUEST, DIRECTOR GENERAL, BAHAMIAN RED CROSS (via phone): Certainly. Good morning. Right now, the needs are great. As you would have heard, the -- especially for Abaco, where the Coast Guard was able to get in yesterday, did some rescue, search and rescue, but this one is mammoth.


So we have international agencies on the ground. We have executed our disaster plan. The government has pleaded with persons to evacuate, and it was a national effort.

The government told everyone to get out, and so persons were well aware, they knew. But of course, you're in your house, you think it's safe, and the power of that hurricane just took over.

And so the rescue will continue this morning with the Coast Guard, but the all clear has not been given for us to go in to do an assessment. What we're getting between videos, et cetera, it is a mammoth obstruction. And so we expect the rebuilding process to take some time. Right now, our focus is on lives, persons' lives versus property. And so persons are being moved to shelters that are still -- that have not been compromised. And so that is right now, the humans come first.

So our job is to assess what -- what we can, but we have, as I've mentioned, we have the International Federation of Red Cross on the ground with us, expecting another team to come in before tomorrow afternoon. So right now, there is going to be needing a lot of help. People are

going to be without homes, without food, without clothing because right now, just about the majority of structures, especially supermarkets, et cetera, are not available for persons, too. Because everyone there would have suffered some damage.

BERMAN: Do you have a sense of what is the greatest need at this moment? Can you even assess that?

TURNQUEST: Right now, as we speak, the greatest need is don't forget the hurricane is still here. It has not left us yet.

BERMAN: Right.

TURNQUEST: So right now. Safety, of course, is a key concern.

Later on today once it clears, as I mentioned, the Coast Guard is going back into the Abaco area, where they're getting the last of it.

Grand Bahama, it's still sitting over Grand Bahamas, and so we are working without trying to endanger other -- the rescuer's lives. So the greatest need right now would be basically, food, shelter, water, et cetera. That's got to be basic needs to start with.

BERMAN: And safety. Don't take anything for granted. And just to be clear, you're a native Bahamian. Have you seen anything like this?

TURNQUEST: No, sir. I've been around for quite a while. So I was born here, and I can tell you, I've been through some hurricanes but never at this level.

Back in -- in '74, I think it was -- sorry, '94 -- that island of Grand Bahama had two hurricanes back-to-back, and so a person would have lost a lot. And we have not really recovered from that.

So this on top of that is -- is really devastating for persons. So yes, this -- we're going to, you know, take in the team once everything clears. And most important right now, too, along with their basic needs, they're going to need some serious psychological evaluation. And they're going to need some help through this, with just social support.

BERMAN: Catherine (ph) Turnquest, director general of the Bahamian Red Cross. Thank you for being with us. Please keep yourself safe and let us know if there's anything -- anything that we can do. Hopefully, help on the way. Our thanks to you.

TURNQUEST: Yes, thank you, sir.

BERMAN: Alisyn, it just sounds incredible, almost beyond belief. We've been talking to Patrick and his team for the last 48 hours, and Patrick was talking about how he could hear the building creak. He could hear the structure shake.

And to think that people have been coming to him for help over the last 24 hours, because there's so much need there at this time. CAMEROTA: I mean, having Patrick explain that this is the Bahama's

Katrina, I think, really drives it home for so many people in the U.S. who remember all of that destruction. So obviously, we'll be monitoring all of this this morning.

John, we'll be back with you momentarily. Stay safe.

We also have developments on this dive boat tragedy that is still unfolding off Santa Cruz Island in California. The bodies of 20 victims have been recovered from that deadly boat fire.

Coast Guard officials believe 33 passengers were sleeping below deck when the fire started early Monday morning, and the search for victims continues at this hour.

So CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Santa Barbara with more.

What is the status at this point, Stephanie?


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, you take a look at what was supposed to be the perfect getaway dive weekend. And as the Santa Barbara County sheriff puts it, it turned into the worst-case scenario, a fire in a very remote place in the middle of the night.


ELAM (voice-over): A devastating inferno engulfing a 75-foot dive boat off Santa Cruz island in California with 39 people on board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's fully engulfed from bow to stern. I mean, and flames probably 30 feet high.

SHIRLEY HANSEN, OWNER OF GRAPE ESCAPE: It was such a helpless, hopeless feeling to watch that boat burn.

ELAM: Officials telling "The New York Times" that they have recovered at least 20 bodies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday. Conception.

ELAM: A harrowing mayday call capturing the last contact with the ship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your position and number of persons on board? Over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't breathe.

ELAM: Thirty-three passengers were asleep on the bottom deck when the flames consumed the ship, just before 3:30 in the morning on Monday. Five crew members were able to jump off ship, and were helped to safety by good Samaritans on board a nearby ship.

BOB HANSEN, OWNER OF GRAPE ESCAPE: I wish I could have picked all 35 of them up, I mean, all of them. I got the space, you know. If they could have all just gotten in the water, I could have got them out of there.

ELAM: As the boat burned, frantic dispatchers tried to regain communication with the ship, desperate for more information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, are they locked inside the boat? Roger, can you get back on board and unlock the boat, unlock the door so they can get off? Roger, you don't have any firefighting gear at all? No fire extinguishers or anything?

ELAM: But no response heard on the recording. Fire crews and emergency responders tried to battle the flames, but it was too late.

AARON BEMIS, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD: The fire was -- was so intense that, even after it was put out, you know, we're not able to actually embark the vessel and, you know, look for survivors.

ELAM: Authorities looking for answers, unsure what started the deadly blaze and why the passengers could not escape.

BILL BROWN, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF: This is probably the worst- case scenario you could possibly have. Fire is the scourge of any ship.


ELAM: Back out here live in Santa Barbara at the harbor here, and this is just about where the boat would have left for that excursion. You can see now that there are flowers and candles for each of the people that have been found and those that are still missing here.

We can also let you know that, according to the Coast Guard, that this boat was in full compliance, that it was up to date with all of its standards that it needed to have.

We have reached out to Truth Aquatics, a company that charters this boat for comment. We have not been able to get in touch with them.

But still, so many questions, especially when you listen to that dispatch call about what they may have been asking, especially since, Alisyn, we can't hear the answers from the people on the boat who are calling in that mayday.

CAMEROTA: Stephanie, if that boat was in full compliance, then rules need to change. Because you could hear them saying there's no escape hatch. And so obviously, this -- that may come out of this -- this tragedy. But thank you very much for updating us from there.

Meanwhile, the East Coast is bracing for Hurricane Dorian, and President Trump is golfing and also tweeting erroneous information. Why is he getting so much stuff wrong?


CAMEROTA: As Hurricane Dorian batters the Bahamas and moves closer to the East Coast, President Trump spent Labor Day golfing at his club in Virginia. Aides tell CNN the president has been receiving hourly updates on the storm. So why does he keep getting information wrong that he's putting out to the public?

Let's bring in John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst; and Margaret Talev, CNN political analyst. So that's the dangerous part. We can either deal with the hypocrisy about golf or the erroneous information.

Let's start with the hypocrisy. Let's dispense with the hypocrisy.

As you'll recall, he was -- Donald Trump was quite upset --


CAMEROTA: -- anytime President Obama would golf, so for anybody who's forgotten that, here's a recap.

AVLON: Good.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obama, it was reported today, played 250 rounds of golf.

Everything is executive order, because he doesn't have enough time because he's playing so much golf.

Obama ought to get off the golf course and get down there.

I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.

He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods. This guy plays more golf than people on the PGA tour.

I love golf. I think it's one of the great, but I don't have time.

But if I were in the White House, I don't think I'd ever see Turnberry again. I don't think I'd ever seen Doral again.

But I'm not going to be playing much golf, believe me. If I win this, I'm not going to be playing much golf.


CAMEROTA: He's played 227 days of golf as president.

AVLON: Yes, in 2 1/2 years.

Look, obviously, the hypocrisy alarm rings high. I don't think that, in this particular circumstance, people getting upset about the president playing golf while there's a major hurricane parked off the Bahamas is a good use of everybody's energy.

As usual, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the president on this. What I think's more concerning is the fact that he's tweeting out false information and going on these little hate benders all weekend that have nothing to do with the seriousness of the storm that's parked off the coast. That he's putting out misinformation about Alabama being threatened. The National Weather Service has got to say, "Hey, actually, not so much."


AVLON: But he says no one's ever seen a Cat 5 when there have been four on his watch. I think that's more substantive stuff to be concerned about the president's behavior and apparent mental state as this storm bear down.

CAMEROTA: To that end, Margaret, I mean, you know, people give Joe Biden a lot of grief anytime he gets anything wrong at the moment, but what are we to make of President Trump saying that he's not sure that he's ever heard of a Category 5 hurricane?

Obviously, Irma, Maria, Katrina, I mean, just in recent memory at times were Category 5. What -- so what's going on? Why doesn't he know about Category 5 hurricanes?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, he does know about Category 5 hurricanes and has said previously that he didn't know about them and then got briefed on them.

So that whole, like, rhetorical -- I don't know what to call it, blip, was very strange over the weekend.

You know, I think the thing to watch is that when there are hurricanes like this on the U.S. coast, a lot of times getting residents to follow governors' orders about evacuations, precautions, the right thing to do, there's always a segment of the population that is resistant to listening to those messages or slow to listen to them.

And President Trump, in theory, has the ability to really galvanize those people to action. But it is only going to work if he gets the details and the facts right. And as the storm potentially, you know, as the storm is moving closer to the United States, that's going to be really important.

And if you're in emergency management, and you've got to be concerned that the president only be giving accurate information that, potentially, his supporters would listen to him and act on when it involves their safety.

CAMEROTA: Right. But he's not. I mean, in terms of the Alabama stuff, in terms of not ever hearing about a Category 5 stuff.

And so John, I mean, again, is this about mental acuity? This is what is confusing, is that there's so much focus on Joe Biden's mental acuity.

If Joe Biden said he'd never heard of a Category 5 hurricane, people would be freaking out. Uh-oh, he's not ready for this. He's never heard of a Category 5 hurricane, and so -- so is it a rhetorical blip, or is it a mental blip?

AVLON: Well, I think that requires to get inside his head, which none of us are qualified to do. What's clear is the president keeps making kind of mistakes that have been pointed out to him as mistakes before, and that normally -- normally, a human who said something wrong would take in real information.

But this is also a president who listens to conspiracy theorists over the intelligence agencies at his disposal routinely. And I think, unfortunately, we need to adjust ourselves to the fact that this is the new normal for this president without normalizing that behavior. And calling it out when he gets stuff repeatedly wrong, calling him out when he lies.

The Biden controversy over the weekend, "The Washington Post" pointing out that the military story he's telling on the campaign trail is not right on a number of levels, is important. We shouldn't just normalize politicians speaking mistruths.

At the same time, you've got to put it in context. And in this case, it appears the vice president is conflating two stories and getting a lot of the details wrong, but it's not about self-aggrandizement. It's not about making himself look better or look heroic.

At the same time, Democrats and Biden need to deal with the fact that he does seem to be blurring details of stories, and we shouldn't accept that as normal, no matter what the president of the United States currently does on a routine basis.

CAMEROTA: Here's Joe Biden's explanation, Margaret, over the weekend about why this story that he told appears to be apocryphal on various levels. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do details matter on the campaign trail?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They -- they matter in terms of whether or not you're trying to mislead people. And I wasn't trying to mislead anybody.


CAMEROTA: Margaret, talk about that double standard about people cornering Joe Biden, as John says for good reason, and saying, "What are you doing? Why are you getting this wrong?" and then the president of the United States has never heard of a Category 5 hurricane.

TALEV: Well, I mean, people are cornering Joe Biden, because he's the frontrunner; and he is the sustained frontrunner in this race, despite all these questions about is there an enthusiasm gap, and is Elizabeth Warren gaining, that when you are the frontrunner, this is the position you're in.

And I think it's -- you know, I don't how you compare the two. There's sort of enough baked-in assumptions about President Trump that perhaps the lens through which voters and certainly political voters view these litmus tests are different.

I think whether that's fair or right, whether that's right or not. But I think if Joe Biden were 46 and were bungling the details of, you know, military facts, people would be talking about whether he's too ambitious, whether he's ready, whether he's an opportunist. At 76 people are asking a different question, which is, you know, one of the recurring questions of this primary contest, is is Joe Biden past his prime? Did Joe Biden miss his window to run for president?

So until this race breaks one way or the other, these are going to be one of kind of the defining sets of questions that are going to dog him into the ultimate kind of face-off where this contest breaks breaks.

But for now, he's going to need to be more specific and correct about his details if he wants to shake these kinds of questions.

CAMEROTA: OK. We're out of time. Thank you both very much for all of that perspective.

All right. Now on to the climate --