Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

More Than 5,000 Dead In Turkey And Syria As Rescuers Dig Through Debris For Survivors; U.S. President Joe Biden's State Of The Union. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 07, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, it is a race against time to find survivors from that massive earthquake in Turkiye and Syria. Thousands of people are dead.

Plus the Pentagon admits it failed to spot Chinese spy balloons during the Trump administration.

And tonight, President Biden delivers his State of the Union to Americans and now a divided Congress. This is what we are watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: We want to welcome the viewers here in the United States and around the world. AT THIS HOUR, I'm Kate Bolduan.

Let's start with the urgent search for survivors after that huge earthquake in Turkiye and Syria. The death toll is over 5,000 people killed and that number is expected to rise. The pictures of the reality and the aftermath of the quakes are devastating.

Thousands of buildings collapsed and the weather is making already challenging rescue efforts just that much harder. And add to that, the additional reality that some of the places were already in crisis.

Take northwest Syria, for example, with more than 4 million people already relying on humanitarian assistance there.

There have been moments of light in the heartbreaking images.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): This video is showing a small girl being rescued after crawling out of a collapsed building. You can just imagine.


BOLDUAN: We go to Becky Anderson standing by in Turkiye.

Becky, how are things going there now? BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Well, this is still a search and rescue operation, which I hate to say it but it is still good news, because they are still behind me and in buildings up and down this road, still hoping to find survivors of this massive earthquake; 4:30 in the morning, remember, Monday morning.

Bitterly cold and this entire area shook for some 20 seconds. The building behind me was 10 stories, including the car park, it has completely collapsed, Kate. The search and rescue team currently on this side still looking for as many, if not more than, 15 people.

We have been here for about three hours and there haven't been any live extractions during that time. But as we understand it from the guys working on the site here, they have heard three voices in that time.

Now when you have a search and rescue going on like this, what they are looking for in the first instance is coordination of the team and, in the second instance, they are trying to identify voids underneath that rubble.

Once they identify those voids, they will put the listening probes and thermal probes inside to see if there is anybody alive. So there have been some signs of life, which is good news and, therefore, nobody giving up.

And these guys, I think it is safe to say they are likely to have been working on this site for some 40 hours now. It is bitterly cold as we speak. Clearly, there is concern that anybody who is unaccounted for may not now make it out of this site.

I want to bring in Alptekin Talarici, who has a friend who is one of the 15 unaccounted for here.

And tell me, first of all, who is Mustafa (ph) and how do you know him?

ALPTEKIN TALARICI, QUAKE SURVIVOR: Well, he is one of my friends and, actually, the night before, we were together. We went out together (ph) and it was after normal (ph) and two hours, we separated. And at that night (INAUDIBLE) so bad (ph), actually I was one of the survivors. And well, it was horrible. You know, horrible, like I can't explain.


ANDERSON: You have not heard from Mustafa (ph)?


TALARICI: Yes, actually. And, since then, we are here, waiting to hear anything from him. But it is quite tough, because this is 10-story building that has completely collapsed. And well, there is --

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: And you and I were discussing, it is bitterly cold here so your fear is that even if Mustafa and others were surviving in any sort of void, it is so cold, they may not make it.

TALARICI: Yes. Normally like, in this geography, like winters are cold, yes, but not that bad. Well, the weather conditions are really so bad.


TALARICI: And even if he could survive, because of the coldness, the hypothermia, we -- I can't believe that he can make it. But you know, I have always hope, have my hope. (INAUDIBLE) we are just praying.

And that's like everything I can say but, also, we have lots of help from like whoever could help came here, like all community are here. But it is horrible scene.


And Kate, just behind us, it has gone dark now so I don't think you'll be able to see, there are some fires around, the fires behind us here, there are people in blankets and they have been sitting for hours and hours.

People who have come from these buildings, who have lost their entire lives, and many of them are waiting to find out whether members of their families will be rescued alive from this site.

And as I say, this is going on up and down this road. There are six buildings that have been massively affected, three of which have almost entirely collapsed. And the building that you see just behind here, the building that you can see here is similar to what was beside it.

And you can see there are huge cracks now appearing on the first, second and third floor. Al was just remarking to me when he was here yesterday, that building to the left was standing up completely straight.

And so the concern now is that building could also go down. Just to the left of me about 50 yards there is a building with three floors that have collapsed and four remaining. There were 24 people in that building, four of whom have been recovered alive and a 3-year-old, a 7-year-old and two adults, they are there also searching for the 20, who they are hoping that still will have survived this.

You are right to point out this is happening all over the region. This is an earthquake the likes of which this region, which is on a fault, has not seen in 100 years; 7.8 was the magnitude of the quake at 4:30 in the morning Monday.

There has been a subsequent 100 or so aftershocks, one almost as big as that first quake. Gaziantep itself has relatively new, robust buildings and, to be honest, there are pockets around it that have been affected and affected as badly has this one has. But it is what is happening to a certain subset outside of Gaziantep

really concerning people because they just have not got the search and rescue equipment and personnel and emergency supplies into those areas, where the buildings are older and much less robust. And that is in Turkiye.

Finally, just, let's spare a thought for those in northwestern Syria, in Aleppo and Idlib. We spoke to someone whose sister is in Aleppo and she says they have no food, water, electricity or fuel.

She is in a mosque taking refuge and she said the buildings around her are completely destroyed. We know how difficult it is to get aid into those areas, particularly the opposition controlled areas.

So it's a heartbreaking situation. We're 40-odd hours into this. It is still search and rescue and, at some point, it will become a recovery operation. But I can tell you, the enthusiasm of the men and women who are up there on a site like this is unbelievable.

I mean, they will keep going until they are absolutely convinced that there is nothing more they can do. Every 15 minutes or so, they have been calling for silence and they will be listening out to see if there is anybody still alive in there. And the hope is that they will still be able to recover some of those who are unaccounted for -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And it is -- and if that is all they can do, cling onto hope in these frigid temperatures, they must, to keep them going. And thank you, Becky.

Becky is doing an amazing work to bring us stories and heartbreaking images from what the earthquakes have done in both Turkiye and Syria.

Talking more about this. Joining me now is Mohamed Osman, the communications manager for the Union of Medical Care and Relief (sic) Organizations.

This is a humanitarian group who provides health care in parts of Syria. He and his wife and children survived the earthquake in Gaziantep, Turkiye.

Thank you for jumping on to do this.

And first of all, how are you and your family?

And I know that you are safe.


BOLDUAN: But where are you?

Tell me.

MOHAMED OSMAN, UNION OF MEDICAL RELIEF AND CARE ORGANIZATIONS: Thank you very much, Kate. You have told a lot about informations about the situation here in Turkiye and in northern Syria. Now we are safe, thanks God, in car.

Me, my wife and my four children, we escaped from the building, the building that has a lot of cracks. And it threatened our life. We finally survived and we are now, for 40 hours, inside our cars. We are sleeping in our cars, searching for food, for -- even for some milk for my baby, a 1-year-old baby. This is our situation here, thanks God.


I mean, how are the kids holding up?

OSMAN: We are holding each other actually. The situation is very difficult here. There are a lot of essential needs for us. We are searching for water. We yesterday we only ate some bread and some cheese from my home. And nothing that has happened.

In the same minute, we are working with the NGO as coordinating for relief for northern Syria. The collapsed buildings are horrible. There is hundreds of thousands of people under buildings, trapped. So here, my role is to raise the voice for the people affected and, at the same time, I am a victim for this horrible earthquake as well.

BOLDUAN: And that is what we are hearing more and more, all of the great efforts of the people who've been on the ground trying to help and aid, especially in northwest Syria, before this horrible disaster happened. They are now victims themselves.

How can you -- and we have Becky Anderson, one of my colleagues, on the ground, watching the search and rescue effort in Turkiye.

Can you describe for me in your words what this destruction and damage looks like, how you are wrapping your mind around it?

OSMAN: Yes, the building totally collapsed. There is like a totally village, it is from the map. There's a lot of casualties and injuries. We are running four hospitals inside Syria, northern Syria. The cases come to our hospitals, are very horrible.

One of the hospitals, Al Bernas (ph) Hospital, it's receiving a lot of injuries. We are distributing medications and consumables for the hospitals and (INAUDIBLE) centers. But the needs are beyond our capacities actually.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I just wanted, for reference for everyone, you fled Syria in 2012, I believe, and now you are working for this humanitarian organization, also trying to keep your family safe in all of this.

What do people need most right now?

OSMAN: Of course, when I fled until now from the west of Syria, now the essential need is food, shelter and security, of course, the transportation, the shelter and communication. That's it.

And the difficulty of crossing border and logistics issues crossing border and for emergency response, it is very difficult to provide such services within a few hours. This time is very critical to save lives. So any, any time related to this issue is very critical, as I told.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Mohamed, thank you for taking time to help us understand. The Union of Medical Care and Relief (sic) Organizations. Thank you very much.

For more information on how to help the victims of this earthquake, because the need is so great, go to

And tonight's State of the Union address will be President Biden's first before a divided Congress. We will find out his aim, focus and audience -- next.





BOLDUAN: It is a big day for President Biden and the president is preparing for the State of the Union address and the first before a divided Congress. Biden is also, like all presidents do, expected to tout the accomplishments of the first two years in office and to set out his message for re-election. Phil Mattingly is live at the White House.

And so what are you learning of what is going to happen tonight?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, I have a Pavlovian response to that intro music, which is going to underscore I think for everybody at our network, underscores the importance of the moment.


MATTINGLY: The State of the Union is kind of a laundry list of policy proposals and laying out the accomplishments of what the president wants to do going forward.

But when you have a sense of what the president has been working on and intensely over the last couple of days, what the president wants to accomplish with this speech, it is more than just the policy proposals that he wants to detail.

Sitting behind him will be the new Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. His first major speech in front of a divided Congress and his likely reelection announcement for president, something aides are clear he is moving toward.

But when you get into the crux of the speech, he has framed it as a conversation with the American public. And looking at the polling, the public remains uneasy, skeptical, despite his accomplishments in his first two years of office and despite the significant legislative agenda he's implementing.

I think part of what Biden will do tonight is connect those accomplishments to people and connect the fact that the inflation is decelerating and the economy is still terrible and the public health crisis has started to wane and lay out how it matters going forward.

When it comes to Republicans, he is going to detail what he called last year his unity agenda, talk about bipartisanship, despite that there might not be a lot of legislative possibilities there.

But when you want to get a sense of the key elements, look at who will be with the first lady tonight viewing this. You have the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, who died at the hands of police in Memphis, a visceral crisis that everybody watched on television. Police reform will be a key element.

Paul Pelosi, the husband of the former speaker, Nancy Pelosi, will talk about extremism in our politics and try to take the temperature down.

And Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador, that will be a central focal point of the foreign policy in the speech. It is going to be a long speech but don't just look at it as a laundry list. This is important, not just for tonight but the months ahead, frankly, the years going forward.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Phil.

A clear focus tonight is going to be the economy. And Christine Romans is going to speak to us about a reality check on the economy.

Look, the economy is confusing and you have been telling me this for quite some time.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think that you can expect a optimistic tone from the president. Many of the indicators have been moving in the president's favor.

Inflation at 6.5 percent is down from the summer peak and gas prices peaked at $5 a gallon last summer and moved back to more normal levels. The overall economy shook off weakness in the first half and ended the year better than expected.

The 3.4 percent jobless rate is the lowest since before the moon landing in 1969. And despite the tech layoffs and a looming threat of a recession, here's the tally: more than 12 million jobs added his first two years in office. I'm sure you will hear that tonight.

The economy roared back after the COVID lockdowns. And even the stock market, which has had the worst year since 2008, is still higher than it was in January 2021, when the president took office.

I think you can expect him to show empathy for Americans who, polls show, are still anxious about the economy and wary of the direction of the country. He going to highlight investments in American, efforts to lower drug and health care costs for real families, to give them more breathing space.

And that he action do this while lowering the deficit, aside from a money fight with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling, he'll talk about building the economy from the middle out and the bottom up in contrast to Republican trickle-down economics.

BOLDUAN: OK. So that is the reality check going in. I am looking forward to the reality check coming out.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now, CNN political commentators Karen Finney and Scott Jennings.

Karen, bouncing off of what Christine was laying out about the optimism the president is going to pain, she had great numbers, great gains in the first two years, looking at jobs and avoiding a recession.

But polling is showing that a majority of Americans see the president has done little or nothing.

If there is a disconnect, why is there one on this?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I think you will hear him try to make that connection. We know that he has said to his advisers, don't give me jargon but plain language.

This goes to empathy, people are still hurting. We have gone through a trauma in this country from COVID and people are still out of work and they can't get back to work, because of child care or caring for a older parent.


FINNEY: So there is still a trauma in the country impacting how people feel in general. We know that when he is able to tout his record, it does move people to recognize how far we have come in the last few years.

BOLDUAN: But if it is a laundry list and that is often what we will hear in the State of the Union, is that what Americans need right now?

I say it skeptically, because I've heard laundry lists in a lot of speeches from the president.

FINNEY: I would love to hear the president give you 15-20 minutes and, boom, drop the mic, I think we would talk about it for weeks. But I don't know a president who can resist the laundry list.

I don't know about you, Scott.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, CBS said the top three words that Americans used to describe the State of the Union, divided, declining, weak. So optimistic tone, I assume that's what he'll do but when you get into trouble in politics, you try to say things that are in total opposition to people's lived experience.


BOLDUAN: Perception and reality. And reality is your reality.

JENNINGS: Charts and graphs don't make a tradesman feel better about not getting steady work or somebody who can't find child care. So to say that the country is off on the right track is at a total odds with what the American people are telling us over and over again in the surveys.

BOLDUAN: This is something, Scott, because this moment can be a pivot for a president, if you want to call it a test out a tagline like, Bill Clinton, the era of big government is over.

Not even re-election, if he needs to pivot and make the people's words come out of their mouths to be something far different than that CBS survey, what does it look like?

JENNINGS: Well, for me, the real pain on the economy for most people is inflation and some acknowledgement that government spending has caused the inflation and that would be a pivot back to center and I don't anticipate that but that is what Clinton was doing.


JENNINGS: I think he is fully committed to the government spending and I think he wants to double down on it.

FINNEY: I think he'll issue a challenge, we have been able to do bit things together and we need to do more for American people.

BOLDUAN: OK. A long night ahead for us and get the coffee ready.

And the State of the Union begins at 8:00 pm Eastern. Join us for that, please.

And the Pentagon now admits it failed to spot three Chinese spy balloons over the United States in the Trump administration. The former DNI joins us.