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At This Hour

Florida Death Toll Tops 100; Lee County Officials Update on Ian Aftermath; Loretta Lynn Dead at 90; North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile over Japan. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 04, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, a live update from first responders in an area that took a direct hit from hurricane Ian.

Plus a remarkable story of surviving the storm.

And the 20 hours that one daughter feared the very worst.

And in Ukraine, Ukraine racking up more battlefield victories as its president puts his foot down in a new way.

This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: The search for survivors in Florida, rescuers going door-to- door in neighborhoods decimated by hurricane Ian. Still nearly 2,000 have been rescued so far and the death toll from this monster storm jumping to more than 100 people now.

More than half of the deaths are in one county alone, Lee County. The sheriff there is about to hold a press conference. We're going to bring you that live when it begins, when it happens.

There is so much tragedy from this storm. We've seen this for days now. But we're also hearing incredible stories of survival. A Ft. Myers man, who clung to a palm tree for hours as the storm surge flooded everything in sight. His daughter fearing the worst after their last desperate phone call.

They're now reunited and they will join us this hour.

Let's get started with the very latest on the recovery. Boris Sanchez is live in Ft. Myers.

This press conference about to begin, what are we expected to hear?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are expecting an update from the sheriff of Lee County on the death toll and the question that they couldn't answer for us yesterday, how many people remain missing.

Obviously it is a delicate operation here in Lee County, specifically in Ft. Myers Beach, which the sheriff announced was closed off even to residents in part because this search and rescue effort is slowly transitioning into a search and recovery effort.

The sheriff revealed to us that his team is encountering some morbid scenes as they begin to move debris and comb through the wreckage. They are discovering cadavers and that is why you see the death toll climbing the way that it has. More than 100 fatalities here in the state of Florida.

The sheriff yesterday saying they simply don't know exactly how many people are still missing out there. Here was his response, what he shared with CNN during yesterday's press briefing when I posed that question to him.

It doesn't seem like we have that sound bite unfortunately, Kate. We'll be hearing from the sheriff. I confirm and I see him he's onsite and the podium is set up. As you hear what appears to be a military helicopter over us.

This is not far from Ft. Myers Beach, where we do not have access, where the crews are working day and night to look for any sign of life. And as you can tell, this is a marina that takes up a pretty sizable amount of roadway and it was completely decimated.

There are some unhoused folks that have been seeking shelter here. Many of them had homes not far from this marina that were destroyed by the hurricane. There are businesses here that were destroyed. You could see perhaps some of the ships that got lifted by the storm surge out of the marina and into the street.

Clearly an area that has suffered significantly because of hurricane Ian.

As this press briefing is set to begin, we'll be asking the sheriff the latest numbers, not only on the death toll but trying to get our heads around how many people still out there, have loved ones that they're not aware of their whereabouts, that they don't know where they are.

Again that press briefing set to start any minute, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And you're right there for us. Thank you so much. We'll be back to you.

So as Boris is talking about the search for survivors, it is growing more urgent by the day. Six days later, it is unclear how many people are still missing and that is a key question right now. CNN's Nadia Romero is live in Englewood with more on those efforts.

What are you learning?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What is so difficult for many people, because cell phone service was down for many days, it still it is hard to get into contact with people in the Barrier Islands or Ft. Myers Beach and Ft. Myers.


ROMERO: And those who evacuated, they still have friends and family they haven't heard from. So that question that Boris asked the sheriff there in Lee County, how many people are unaccounted for, that is a big question.

When you talk to people and go throughout community to community, they tell you about people that they just haven't heard from. They are looking for a phone call, a text message, a social media post to let them know that their friend or family member is still alive.

And because of that, so many people here in Charlotte County tell me that they're happy that they survived hurricane Ian. But now they have to survive the aftermath. That is why this area is so important.

This is one of the largest distribution sites we've seen in all of southwest Florida. It is run by the National Guard. And people need basics. So in these boxes right here are tarps. This is the first time we've seen tarps out at the distribution sites because people have big holes missing from their homes either the walls or the roofs.

So tarps were requested by so many people. Now they're available. And, of course, water. People need that as well. You have these MREs and also have ice. This is the hottest commodity that everyone is looking for, bags of ice. Kate.

BOLDUAN: It is so heartwarming in the face of tragedy to see the National Guard behind you helping out. Thank you so much.

So Florida's health care system in the hurricane ravaged areas remains a big concern. Several hospitals flooded or sustained real damage from the storm. Health care staff are doing their best, of course, in the aftermath but struggling understandably to provide care.

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula joins me with more on this.

How are hospitals coping or what are they up against still this many days later?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: As you can see, it is extremely difficult. And when your public health systems and hospitals become destabilized, it is the feeling for the whole community that things are just --


BOLDUAN: It is compounding.

NARULA: Exactly. You expect those places to be stability and anchors. Over the weekend, hospitals worked to restore water supply and transfer patients; overall about 7,000 patients have been moved or transferred or evacuated from 150 health care facilities.

We know that 65 percent of health care facilities are now back up and running. And when you look at why this is happening, so we know that certainly there were some hospitals that sustained damage.

But free-standing emergency rooms may have been damaged. And that adds to the burden of emergency rooms and hospitals. And hospitals are looking to discharge patients to open up beds.

But it is a problem when you can't send patients to a nursing facility or their home or even staffing issues, they lack transportation to get to the hospital or they've lost their homes.

BOLDUAN: So the entire chain of --


NARULA: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: -- recovery --


BOLDUAN: -- totally disrupted.

NARULA: That is right.

BOLDUAN: It is part of exactly what you're going to see in a tragedy like this when it is so decimated. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

So joining me now with more is Jay Boodheshwar, the city manager of Naples, Florida.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We were just talking with correspondents about the questions of missing and rescues in some of the hardest hit areas from the hurricane. We know that search and rescue operations are underway in southwest Florida.

What is the status of that in Naples?

JAY BOODHESHWAR, CITY MANAGER, NAPLES, FLORIDA: Well, we're happy to say that we have had a chance to inspect every single structure that had significant damage and some that were completely destroyed.

We did conduct a number of rescues the day of the storm at its peak and were able to get to everyone who called for help. At this point, we don't have any confirmed fatalities within the city but we have not had a chance to talk to everyone at this point.

BOLDUAN: Do you have a sense yet of how -- do you have a sense yet of how many people living in your city aren't going to be able to get back into their homes, to return to their homes?

BOODHESHWAR: It is a great question. We're still trying to ascertain a more finite number.

But based on our visual observations and the fact that we received eight to nine feet of surge and knowing the elevation here in Naples, there was a significant amount of homes and, in fact, an entire neighborhood was submerged with three feet of water.

Some areas got six to seven feet of water. I would guess it is probably hundreds of households that are going to be experiencing a period of time when they're not going to be able to be in their homes.

BOLDUAN: You have estimated that damages in Naples could be more than $1.5 billion.

What does that include?


BOODHESHWAR: So the damage assessment that we completed was mostly external visual observation and that equated to about $700 million. What it didn't include were all of the submerged vehicles, all of the interior damage, furniture, carpet --


BOLDUAN: City manager I'm going to jump in. We're going to jump over to Lee County, Ft. Myers for an update there.


SHERIFF CARMINE MARCENO, LEE COUNTY, FL: We have a hundred calls for service that we're holding, welfare checks and calls to 9-1-1, all of the stuff that we could not get to during this catastrophic event.

And today we are back to the normal flow of traffic -- not holding calls because of my fellow brothers and sisters in law enforcement that have come from everywhere to help us.

County Sheriff's Office is currently on Alpha Bravos. That means we work 12-hour shifts and they don't get to go home to their family members. They stay ready and able at the press of a button to go to work.

And before the storm, we're Alpha Bravos and during and still today we are on Alpha Bravo shifts. We worry about burnout and a relief factor.

So we're going to utilize our local, state and federal partners to make sure we have the sufficient manpower to relieve those that have been pushing beyond the limits and working straight around the clock.

The National Guard has helped us tremendously, tremendously with security and safety of our roadways. My fellow family members from all over the state have sent countless assets to help us, from the Florida Sheriff's Association, the Fish and Wildlife, Florida Highway Patrol, our State Troopers, FDLE, fire and EMS from all over the country.

It is all hands on deck, folks. I want to thank the residents of Lee County, the great residents. And I have to tell you, as we stand here, people are pulling up. We took such a catastrophic hit. But everyone wants to help.

It is very heartwarming, because in minutes and hours a lot of people had their lives washed away.

Breaking down the districts, Lee County as a whole is 1,260 square miles. Our south district, we have extreme damage in Bonita Beach. And want to keep people off the roadways and bridges for their safety.

Again electrical issues, bridge compromised; we're looking at Lovers Key and Hickory Island and we're working on temporary repairs with restrictions to that bridge.

As we sit here in Ft. Myers Beach ground zero, I look, there is an 80 foot boat that is thrown like it is nothing. The beach area is still closed. You saw the urban search and rescue teams are working in conjunction with all of us to do very, very strict three-phase rescue and recovery.

OK. Phase one is an initial search for life, people that are in immediate danger. Yelling for help that might have stayed, yelling for help because they're injured.

Phase two is a follow-up search and it's more in detail. Sometimes it is very difficult to identify a property. There is no more property lines in some areas sometimes no buildings or homes.

So we're going back for the phase two to really identify a property, possibly who the owner is and if there were people in need and the accountability side of that.

And in phase three, it is very, very detailed, which is a complete evaluation about structures. If there is a structure still standing, has it been compromised?

Using the cadaver dogs to go in, to sniff out possibly if there is anyone there or deceased.

It is going to be time, folks, and I need patience and I need residents to understand, which they have, while their lives have been washed away in some circumstances, we are all in this together.

As the sheriff of this county, I'm committed to that. My team and family members are committed at every level. I have to praise governor DeSantis and his team. Governor DeSantis has been amazing. He has constantly phoned me, what do we need, Sheriff. What are the updates?

They give us everything that we need at every level to do our job. I want to talk about Sanibel and Captiva and the Barrier Islands. Sanibel is accessible by boat but it is restricted access to approved contractors and residents. Multiple barges are being utilized to transport goods and water and machinery and equipment to the island.


MARCENO: And we're working as we speak for a temporary ferry service to assist the residents and we know people want to get back and see their homes and if they have a home and they want to grab a photo album, things that could not be replaced by insurance or money. We want to give people when it is safe, the first second it is safe,

the chance to do that. The Department of Transportation and the Army Corpse (sic) of Engineers are assessing the Sanibel Causeway as we speak.

And once again, I can't thank our great governor Ron DeSantis who has committed to getting us a new bridge completed ASAP.

We have over 100 National Guardsmens (sic) deployed over Sanibel and Captiva. Now we look to Pine Island, equally hit as hard.

And as of yesterday, with the governor's assistance, the Department of Transportation is working on a temporary bridge, they're delivering tons of gravel, as we speak, starting yesterday and possibly can have a temporary bridge in place --


BOLDUAN: -- right now to the sheriff of Lee County, giving an update on, as he said, the search and recovery efforts and listing out the phases of search and recovery that are still underway in that hardhit county. He's in ground zero of this disaster, Ft. Myers Beach.

Also saying that they're working to get a temporary ferry service to Sanibel Island so residents can get some of their belongings before they have to leave again. Much more to come on the rescue, recovery of hurricane Ian throughout. We'll be right back.





BOLDUAN: There is some sad news to report just in to CNN. Loretta Lynn has died at age of 90. She is best known for the song, "Coal Miner's Daughter." Stephanie Elam has more.



STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Loretta Lynn's rags to riches story is well-known. A coal miner's daughter who became the queen of country music. She was the second of Clara and Melvin Webb's eight children.

Born in Butcher Hollow, part of the Appalachia Hill Country in Kentucky, her life during the Great Depression didn't offer many advantages. She grew up without electricity, indoor plumbing and only completed the eighth grade.

As a young teen, she married Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn, whom she called by the nickname Doo or Doolittle. He was 21. A decade later, she was a mother of four, playing guitar and writing songs at home.

With her husband's encouragement, she entered a talent competition and was spotted by a record producer.

Her first song, "Honky Tonk Girl," was a minor hit and the Lynn family moved to Nashville. Her marriage had its share of troubles, many of which spilled over into her songs.

Lynn said her husband had problems with alcohol and her long absences on the road. They went on to have a total of six kids. But family life was not always harmonious. Touring took a toll on her health. She battled chronic illnesses and exhaustion. Her bestselling autobiography chronicled her hardships, heartaches and rise to stardom.


ELAM (voice-over): Sissy Spacek won an Oscar playing her on the screen.

In 2004, Lynn would make a huge comeback, recording the highly acclaimed album, "Van Lear Rose," produced by Jack White. She would be nominated for five Grammys for the album, winning two, including Best Country Album.

Lynn brought a strong female point of view to country music and was seen as a homespun advocate for ordinary women. Her career spanned half a century, generating dozens of number one songs.

From humble beginnings to country music royalty, Lynn never dreamed of being such a success.

LORETTA LYNN, COUNTRY MUSIC SUPERSTAR: I don't think that you could dream for success because I think it is more or less you have to work for it.

ELAM (voice-over): Her hard work paid off with a lifetime of awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. And as for inspiring future performers she said they needed to be one of three things.

LYNN: Great, different and first and I just happened to be different because I started writing my own songs and didn't really realize that the things that I was writing about, nobody wanted to talk about them. They were just doing them, you know.





(MUSIC PLAYING) BOLDUAN: A new threat from North Korea. The reclusive nation firing a

nuclear capable ballistic missile over Japan, which caused them to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains. The Japanese prime minister said this could not be tolerated. Will Ripley is live in Taiwan with more on this.

U.S. and South Korean leaders speaking out about this.

What happened?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what happened is that North Koreans have done something that they've done before but never to this extreme.

They flew this missile farther than they've flown in previous tests. So not only over Japan for the first time in five years but they demonstrated a striking range that is 700 miles farther away than the U.S. territory of Guam.

If they pointed this thing in a different direction, it could easily hit that crucial U.S. military waypoint. And that is certainly alarming because the North Koreans have threatened Guam in the past.

And now they've demonstrated they have a missile capable of hitting not just that location but a lot of other strategic locations around the region.