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At This Hour

Ian Leaves Staggering Scale Of Distraction In Florida; Putin Illegally Proclaims Annexation Of Four Ukrainian Regions; Blinken Remarks On Russian Annexation Of Ukrainian Territories. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired September 30, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Hurricane Ian is very close to making landfall again this time in South Carolina. It's a Category 1 storm. The latest update from the National Hurricane Center that happened to just the top of this hour shows the storm is still packing 85-mile-an- hour winds and moving at a pretty fast clip.

The staggering scale of the destruction that the storm left behind in Florida, maybe best captured in these aerial pictures of the southwest portion of the state. At least 21 people have died. The numbers sadly are expected to rise though. First responders have rescued hundreds of people from their homes in the aftermath, surviving this monster storm. Nearly 2 million customers still don't have power, which, as we just heard from our last guest is most critical right now in restoring.

Any moment, we're standing by to hear from President Biden. He'll be giving an update on the federal response to this massive disaster. We will bring you the president's remarks once they begin.

In the meantime, joining me right now by phone is Kevin Behen. He rode out the storm in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, which took as we know and have seen a direct hit from this storm. Kevin, can you hear me?


BOLDUAN: Oh, thank you so much for jumping on.

BEHEN: Oh, hi, Kate.

BOLDUAN: You have been through a lot in just the past two days. How are you doing?

BEHEN: Yes, man, you got to let the world know. Yes, the Beach, Fort Myers Beach -- I mean, when they talk about storm surge, I mean, obviously I witnessed the whole thing. The storm surge when 25 feet high in some of these areas, houses were floating, people were on the roofs. I mean, it's just mind-boggling. It was just -- it was a water that caused all this. Everybody is -- I'm doing good. You know what I mean? I'm alive.

And you know I just keep trying to talk to people. You know everybody's -- there's a lot of lives lost down here. Everybody knows somebody, you know that just lost the life down here, it seems like and the stories are just unbearable.

But they are -- just to let the world know. I mean, we need -- we need -- we need food, water, there are family, kids, and everything -- everybody's starting to come in now. We got the army, the Red Cross is coming in, FEMA, but they had to clear all the roads but yes.

BOLDUAN: Kevin, how do you -- how do you describe just the force and power of what came through and what you live through?

BEHEN: You can't. You have to -- you have to be here (AUDIO GAP) on the second floor, the owners and the managers there was just -- I mean, it's like I was going to (INAUDIBLE) the surge is coming too fast. I was able to get up to consult. The water, we watched it rise up. It was -- it was like coming through.

I was seeing cars and houses come by and then we had to run up to the third floor. It just got to (INAUDIBLE) so that's it, it's over with. You know what I mean? You can't explain it, Kate, I'm telling you. You just can't explain it until you see it. It's mind-boggling. Everybody's in shock and the place is devastated.


BOLDUAN: Kevin, did you think -- did you think you were going to die?

BEHEN: Yes. There was a point where I was coming up to the -- on the second floor. I was with my friend, Tony. And we saw the water coming up there like we got to get up to the third floor now. And as soon as we open up the door, you can see water coming up on the second floor, going through the hallway, and we went up to the third floor. And the front side was all in there and we waited it out for an hour. And that's when it started kind of high tide. The surge started just stopping, you know, I mean? But it was -- it was five hours to just fear our lives. We really can't explain it.

BOLDUAN: Five hours of pure hell. I mean, I'm seeing the images, and I'm hearing what you're saying. And of course, there's no way for me to actually come -- actually comprehend what you've gone through. I mean, is your apartment --

BEHEN: Here's a quick story well, I can tell you real quick.

BOLDUAN: Yes, go ahead.

BEHEN: You know, I guess somebody took a picture of me. I was consoling this guy on the island. He was in a house. I went (INAUDIBLE) his friends. His house collapsed. He saw his friends get swept out in the back day and he was on his rooftop floating in the Back Bay. And when I came down off the bridge (INAUDIBLE) walker, he was -- he was just in shock. I mean, the stories -- I'm sure you're going to hear a lot of stories but what we've seen is really difficult.

BOLDUAN: What are you going to do now?

BEHEN: I'm going to just pray. And I'm here to help people. (AUDIO GAP) I mean that's what's going on. So I'm going to do what I can do and just rebuild. That's all I can do. And just -- you know, just hope for the best. But I'm just going to do my best to see what I can do on the island to help.


BEHEN: You know. Yes, it's devastating. Unbelievable. Words can't explain it.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean it's all the things -- it's all the things. Words can't explain. I'm sure you yourself are still in shock from what you honestly live through and what you're on, and you're seeing.

BEHEN: Yes, I'm just trying to calm down.


BEHEN: Sometimes I just -- there's also I just start crying. And that's it.


BEHEN: You hear the stories, you know. People putting their lips up in their houses where there's only like an inch left to breathe, the water came up so high.

BOLDUAN: And so fast. It's what I keep hearing just how fast that surge came in. Kevin --

BEHEN: And I --

BOLDUAN: Kevin, the connections getting a little spotty.


BOLDUAN: I mean that is understandable considering there's no power but I'm going to make -- let's -- I'm going to make sure is this -- is power improves, let's connect more. We have much more to discuss.


BOLDUAN: But thank you so much for talking to me.

BEHEN: Listen, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. One story of so many of what people have lived through and what people died in, in many cases in Florida. We're going to continue to follow all of this as this storm is now heading towards South Carolina as a Cat 1, so much more to come on that. But also still ahead for us AT THIS HOUR, Vladimir Putin illegally now annexing occupied areas of Ukraine as Russia is now accused of killing civilians and humanitarian convoy. There are some important developments this morning on the war in Ukraine. We're going to bring those to you next.



BOLDUAN: We're going to get back to our hurricane coverage, of course, in just a moment. But there's other big news happening right now. Vladimir Putin just signed decrees to annex nearly one-fifth of Ukraine. He has now illegally declared that four occupied regions of Ukraine are now part of Russia. The U.S. is condemning the move and imposing new severe sanctions against Moscow in response to this.

CNN's Matthew Chance, luckily enough, we have him here in studio today to talk about this. It's good to see you, Matthew. Talk to me about the sanctions, also, in the context of what we know is how effective or ineffective sanctions have been in changing Vladimir Putin's behavior from the beginning.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, well, they've not been very effective, have they?


CHANCE: Wouldn't be in the situation now that we're in if the sanctions have done anything to change the policy of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin? But nevertheless, it's the tools that the Western authorities have -- the Western governments have. The U.S. has to punish Russia for its acts because there's very little that you can actually do to stop the Kremlin from doing this.

And I think one of the big reasons why Vladimir Putin has come out today in this ceremony to formally sign these four regions of Ukraine into the Russian Federation is to send a message not just to his domestic audience, but also to the international community, to the United States, particularly, that this is what Russia has decided to do. This is the path it is decided to travel down. And no matter what anybody says, this is what's going to happen.


CHANCE: Of course, Putin has said he will defend these territories as well, which is a very, very scary thought.

BOLDUAN: Is this -- is this a new red line? Is this -- and if it is a new red line, what does that mean for the next weeks and months?

CHANCE: It's a very odd, unusual situation we're in.


CHANCE: I think it's very innovative in lots of ways. No one's done this before. Annexed someone's territory and then said that's now ours. And by the way, you know --

BOLDUAN: Not even fully in control of these areas either.


CHANCE: And by the way, if you attack it, you know, we could we -- could resort to our -- a nuclear arsenal potentially to defend it. It's incredibly frightening. And we don't know what the future holds in those terms. But you're right. No, this is territory that is annexed that is not even in control of, you know, so large parts of the Donetsk Republic, the Luhansk Republic, the other areas as well.


CHANCE: You know, this will be Russia from its point of view, will be fighting what it calls a war of liberation now, to liberate those territories from Ukraine. So we're in this very bizarre, very unpredictable moment.

BOLDUAN: Bizarre I think, is the perfect word for it because you -- it's -- he's living or projecting a reality that is not reality at all, but still carrying a nuclear arsenal behind him. Thank you for being here. It's good to see you.

CHANCE: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: All right. So Ukraine is now also accusing Russia of a missile strike on a humanitarian convoy killing at least 25 people, leaving dozens more hurt. Presidents Zelenskyy calls the -- calling the attack the work of a downright terrorist. It's how he put it. Nick Paton Walsh, he's live in Ukraine with more on this for us. Nick, what is -- what happened here?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, this is a convoy of civilians that seems bout to go from the area which Russia has just claimed is part of its territory, but it's in fact actually controlled by Ukraine into areas that were militarily controlled by Russia, part of the Zaporizhzhia region.

Now, there appear as 300 missile systems normally used against aircraft, but it seems according to Ukraine officials used in this attack landed near this convoy and the scenes are utterly horrific and it would, frankly, given that on Thursday night, Vladimir Putin signed and published a decree declaring that Zaporizhzhia area as part of Russia, essentially be one of the first things the Russian military seems to have done on that territory that it now claims is part of Russia is launch this missile strike and it feeds into this bizarre parallel reality of, frankly, about what you've been hearing happening in the Kremlin in Moscow and what's actually happening on the ground here.

I should say the bangs we hear in the background are from an electrical storm passing over us. But it feeds into a climate of heavy shelling we've been hearing but also Ukrainian military success. And one of the issues certainly that feeds into the sense of parallel reality is Moscow is claiming territory here belongs to them but it's in fact being slowly retaken by Ukrainian troops, particularly near where I'm standing. So very hard to reconcile quite Ukrainian military progress and the parallel world in which Russia says those areas and now suddenly it, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Nick, thank you so much for coming on. Really appreciate your reporting. So there's also some breaking news we need to bring you out of Afghanistan. A suicide bomber detonating inside an education center in Kabul, officials say that the death toll has just risen to 25 and at least 56 others have been injured. Most of the victims are believed to be young girls. Afghan police are telling CNN that students, they were taking a practiced university entrance exam at the time when that blast went off. No one has claimed responsibility for that attack right now.

Also new this morning, back in the United States, the Supreme Court is holding a ceremonial swearing-in for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Today's investiture was a symbolic ceremony. Justice Jackson was officially sworn in back in June and she is the 104th justice to serve on the High Court, the first African American woman. President Biden and the First Lady attended the ceremony along with several top lawmakers. The Supreme Court's new term and it will be a big one starts on Monday.

We're going to be right back to continue with our coverage of Hurricane Ian, about to make landfall in South Carolina after this quick break.



BOLDUAN: Let's go to Washington right now. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he's reacting too, speaking about Russia's illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine. Let's listen in.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: And forcing Ukrainian citizens to cast their ballots at gunpoint. The entire process around this sham referenda was a complete farse. The United States does not and will never recognize any of the Kremlin's claims to sovereignty over parts of Ukraine that had seized by force, and now purports to incorporate into Russia. As I said last week at the United Nations Security Council, this territory is and will remain Ukrainian.

And Ukraine has every right to defend its land, to defend its people, and to take back the territory that Russia has seized from it. Canada and the United States like so many nations around the world see eye to eye on this. These are just the latest in a long line of actions by Russia since it launches its war of aggression against Ukraine that violates international law, that flouts the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity which underpin the entire international order so necessary to keeping peace and security around the world. And all of this shows the Kremlin's utter contempt for the rights and the will of the Ukrainian people.

I also made clear that when Russia made this move, the United States and our allies and partners would impose swift and severe costs on individuals and entities inside and outside of Russia that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory. Today, we've done just that in coordination with the European Union, and Canada is taking similar steps as well.

We're also issuing a clear warning supported by G7 leaders. We will hold to account any individual, entity, or country that provides political or economic support for President Putin's illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory. In support of this commitment, the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce are releasing new guidance on heightened sanctions and export control risks for entities and individuals inside and outside of Russia that support in any way the Kremlin's sham referenda, purported annexation, and occupation of parts of Ukraine.

We're also taking action today at the United Nations Security Council to hold Russia accountable for the sham referenda, and the purported annexations. If Russia blocks the Security Council from carrying out its responsibilities, we'll ask the UN General Assembly where every country has a vote to make clear that it's unacceptable to redraw borders by force. Every country has a stake in condemning these steps.

As UN Secretary-General Guterres said this week, "The United Nations Charter is clear. Any annexation of the state's territory by another state resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law." The United States, Canada, and our other allies and partners will continue to assist Ukraine in the fight to defend its territory against Russian aggression. With new security systems that we announced just this week, the United States has now committed approximately $16.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine going back to January 2021.

In our meeting, the Foreign Minister and I discussed ways to continue supporting Ukraine and our European allies as they prepare for a difficult winter ahead. Our commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty, its independence, and spiritual integrity is steadfast. The United States and Canada will also continue to work together at the G7 to help the populations hardest hit by President Putin's war of choice, including by getting life-saving aid to the people most affected by the unprecedented global food crisis. And we'll continue to make crystal clear that we and our NATO allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory. The United States and Canada are also standing together in responding --

BOLDUAN: Secretary of State Tony Blinken reacting to the moves taken by -- officially by Vladimir Putin today annexing one-fifth of Ukraine illegally with that referendum saying this territory is and will remain Ukrainian.


Let's not know, of course, is what Russia -- what Putin's next move will be as Nick Payton Walsh just put it to us in this parallel reality he has now set up. We're going to continue to watch this. We have much more news to cover. Thank you so much for watching AT THIS HOUR, I'm Kate Baldwin. CNN's coverage of Hurricane Ian's devastation and the path that's about to take hitting South Carolina continues after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire building is completely level. I mean, look at this just stilts remain from part of a building here on Fort Myers Beach.