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Don Lemon Tonight

Ian Downgraded To Post-Tropical Cyclone After Striking South Carolina; Florida Facing Widespread Destruction; Putin Proclaims Annexation Of Parts Of Ukraine. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 30, 2022 - 21:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Laura Coates, who's filling in for DON LEMON TONIGHT.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Nice to see you, John. Great coverage, on the hurricane. It was so important, to have your perspective, on the ground.

And we are here, tonight. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates, in for Don Lemon.

Ian is no longer a hurricane tonight. That's true. It's been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. Doesn't sound that much better, does it?

And the danger, from this massive storm, is far from over. I mean, it's still packing, drenching rains, high winds, and the threat of flash flooding, as it goes now north, through the Carolinas into Virginia, and even the Mid-Atlantic States.

Now, after leaving Florida, Ian did make landfall, earlier today, near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane. And it heavily flooded the local streets.

You see this? This was a scene, a few miles south, in nearby Pawleys Island. And the streets are turning into rivers. And look at this, the power of the storm surge, as the hurricane was churning, the Atlantic Ocean. I mean, it sliced, a pier, in two.

As Ian now moves northward, tonight, a tornado watch, is now in effect, for parts of the Carolinas and Virginia, for at least one more hour, until 10 PM Eastern.

Now meanwhile, back in Florida, the extent of the destruction? Well, it's staggering. I mean, this, you're looking at? That's aerial video of Fort Myers Beach. Now, much of the community has simply been totally obliterated. The result of a hurricane, smashing into that part of Florida, as a massive Category 4 storm. And late tonight, the Sheriff's Office, in Lee County, which encompasses the Fort Myers area, is releasing this new video, showing even more of the destruction.

Sadly, we are reporting that at least 45 deaths are being reported in Florida. But officials, unfortunately, fear that that number may climb, as search teams are now combing through the rubble.

And I want to show you some before and after photos, of Sanibel Island. Now, the before photos, on the left of the screen, you're seeing there? That's the before. And then the scenes of destruction, utter destruction, on the right. Buildings that are still standing, well, now they're hulking wrecks.

But many homes are completely destroyed. There're now empty lots, where families used to call "Home." There's one estimate that puts the enormity of all of this destruction, in the State of Florida, get this, at $47 billion.

Now, CNN's team is out, covering the storm, and its aftermath. We got Bill Weir, in Fort Myers. Ryan Young is in Orlando. And Miguel Marquez (ph), is in Myrtle Beach.

I mean, what we're seeing gentlemen, is just astounding. You all been on the ground. You're seeing it firsthand.

Bill, let me begin with you. Because, you've been all over today. Tell me what it's like, on the ground, and what you have been seeing.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Laura, to see sort of the evolution, of the psychology, of it. Folks, come out now. And you can see them sort of dazed, with phones, and they're talking to family, trying to describe what they're seeing. And there's all these sort of freakish jumbles of boats, and houses, mixed together. It just - it takes a moment, to wrap your head around it.

We tried to get out to Fort Myers Beach, which we hear had been decimated by. 90 percent of that community had been wiped out. But they had a cut-off. There was a roadblock there. The Sheriff's weren't letting folks in.

But while we're waiting, we're looking around. And here's a little - just a little sample of what you see, on the side of the road, these days, south of Fort Myers.


WEIR: Look at this. I will always remember the sight of Captain Greg's boat, the Crackerjack, which is now parked, on top of this Chevy Suburban. You can hear the alarm going off, inside the boat, to alert the Captain that something's wrong. It's heartbreaking, in this setting.

And then, you've got laundry baskets, up in the mangroves, there, another bait shop over here. And then, you find stuff like this. Look at this. Just a random - this is Nicholas Rulan's (ph) MGM rewards card, just set down there, by the most violent storm, to hit this part of the coast, in history.


And meanwhile, over here, you have the beeping of Earthmovers, as they try to shove these grounded sailboats, out of the way. As we learned, in Irma and Maria, cleanup can be as much of a manmade disaster, as the hurricane itself. If not properly managed, well, we can only hope that all available resources will manage to un-jumble this mess, as soon as possible, for these poor folks.


WEIR: You have to think, not just in terms of property damage, and if the insurance companies, in this state, are about to take a brutal beating. That is - there's no denying that. But these are also homes, for a lot of people, Laura.

And when I look at what's happening, out here, in the Yacht Basin, and you look at how many of these boats, have sunk? They have to check those, for people. And so, it's just heartbreaking, everywhere you look.

COATES: I mean, just looking at the destruction, and knowing that Fort Myers relies, a lot, on the tourism industry, at that? The idea of trying to rebuild, even for that sector of the economy, let alone, for people, who live there, who, as you say? I mean, looking at that boat up there, Bill? I mean, to go from the sea, to where it was positioned, on the dry land, on top of a car? It is unbelievable to see.

And there is so much destruction. I wonder if there's a sense at all, about the amount of time, it's going to take, to even get things up and running, at the basic level, for people, to even maybe return to inhabit their homes, or even to see the damage.

WEIR: I think, honestly, if you judge by history, and past storms, it comes down to separate communities, and recovery plans, and cleanup plans. And now, it's sort of all politics is local. All cleanup and recovery is local, in a storm, like this.

Of course, FEMA will help. And the state is promising as many resources. And you gotten people flooding things. There's donations pouring in as well. But this is a big, big, big mess to clean up.

They're still cleaning up after Maria, in Puerto Rico.


WEIR: That's a different, of course, kind of infrastructure. That was five years ago. So, it's going to take a while, for this place, to heal.

COATES: Ryan, I want to go to you, as well. Thank you so much. We'll come back to you, Bill.

Ryan, you're actually in Orlando, where some residents, as Bill and I were talking about, they're traveling, by boat, to help their neighbors. Tell me about the efforts that are happening there, to help.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is really something to see. A lot of these people went to sleep, around 4 o'clock, in the morning. And then, when they woke up, the next day, they had no yard. In fact, they had no mailbox, because the water was coming up, so fast.

This is a neighborhood that's sort of known for flooding. But the folks, who live here, said they've never seen the water rise, so fast, and so high. And, at this hour, tonight, there are still people, who've decided to stay back there, and not evacuate.

We want to show you this video, because we got on a boat, with a guy, who said he couldn't see his neighbors continue to suffer. He wanted to make sure, he went out there, and started shuttling medicine, started saving pets.

And people left their pets behind, yesterday, because the National Guard, and the Fire Department, had to come out here, and help them, as the water was rising. But then today, people were concerned, about the pets, they left behind, and the medicine, they left behind.

We got on that boat. We saw people, huddling inside garages, together, who decided not to leave their home. And they feel like the government has left them alone. There was no one shuttling them, besides their own neighbors.

Take a listen to one of the people, who was on that boat, who said they saved more than 40 people, today, to go back and forth, and to get out of those homes.


YOUNG: We saw some older residents that you guys were helping out, earlier, because people were talking about trying to get their medicine. How heartbreaking has that been, for you, to see, the pain that folks have had, throughout the last few hours?

HENRY LAWRENCE, RESCUING NEIGHBORS: I just couldn't - I just couldn't know - I couldn't live, knowing that the people in my neighborhood, was surfing, from this hurricane Ian - what's the name? Ian?

YOUNG: Yes, Ian.

LAWRENCE: And I just had a boat. And me and my - me and my sister-in- law, my daughter, we just dropped in, and went to saving people, helping people out.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YOUNG: Laura, there was a line here, today, a line, to get back into this neighborhood. And, as we went through there, I can't tell you how extensive the neighborhood is. We saw more than 60 cars, underwater, today.

And there were people, who are still arriving, at this point, in night, who have decided to walk back there, despite the fact that we saw snakes back there. And there had been reports of gators, in the area. And we saw a gator, at the community, next door. So, it's something you got to think about. And people are literally, waiting in the water, not knowing what's out there.

COATES: Oh my God! I didn't even think about that danger. And the idea - it's dark, as you're out there, not knowing what's there, and just think of the desperation, and what you're trying to get back to. For some, it's the pets. For some, it's medication. For some, it's just nowhere else to go. I mean, since you were even on that boat, earlier today--

YOUNG: Absolutely.

COATES: --and how heart-wrenching it is, to even have somebody, with so much resolve, to say, "Look, I cannot sit by and watch this happen." Someone, in the area, actually saw that, on CNN's air, and they offered to help too, I understand.


YOUNG: Yes. Yes. There was an immense response. In fact, while we were here, a man showed up with an airboat, and then started helping neighbors, go see their home, also started helping people get medicine, and providing a second boat.

Because, as you know, with more than 40 homes, back there, one guy, with a boat, is not enough. The Fire Department also arrived. But they didn't have a boat. So, the man with the airboat, who says, he plans to come back tomorrow. And so does the guy, who we were on his boat, Henry, he says he's going to be back tomorrow, to make sure that people get back and forth.

The thing that struck all of us, is the look inside, a couple garages, and looking at people huddle, with no power, with no lights, sitting there, knowing that there's no way for them to get out. And the only way they can get out is if someone shows up with a boat. But some of them decided they're not going to leave their homes, because they said, there's no way they're going to leave their possessions, at this point.

COATES: Is that what the reason they're giving? They're afraid someone might take it, or looting, in some way? Is that the thought? Or is it the idea, just the comforts of home, and feeling safe there?

YOUNG: Some of it has to be that comfort point. But I will tell you, tonight, there were people, who walked by us, who said they just wanted to get home, to get their bike. One guy said he wanted his dog, because they couldn't take the dog, yesterday, and they actually brought the dog out. And that's all he wanted, was his dog. And you can understand, how people have these connections, with their animals, especially.

There are other people, who lost their pets, back there, yesterday.


YOUNG: And they were heartbroken, to find that out, as they got to go back.

A man just pulled up, and asked us, could he drive back there? And, of course, we said, no. But, the same point, is he wanted to drive, and see what his house looked like. You understand why people are trying to figure this out, at this point.

There's no pumps. There's no way to get the water out, right now. They're just having to sit and wait, to see what happens next.

COATES: Unbelievable! Thank you, for your reporting, as always.

I mean, Ian, you're now - no.

YOUNG: Thank you.

COATES: Nick Valencia is here. Excuse me. And Ian has made landfall, in South Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane. I mean, even though, it's a lower category, the devastation is still there. What is the latest, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, people know that they dodged a bullet, here, especially when they look at the damage that our crews are showing the world, in Florida.

The Hurricane Ian, made landfall, just south of us, in Georgetown, South Carolina. But it did bring some significant damage, here, particularly to the piers, in this area known as the Grand Strand.

We understand, from local officials, at least four of the piers, in this area, were damaged, including the Cherry Grove Pier, which suffered a partial collapse, pieces of it floating, into the Atlantic Ocean. It is still very an active - a very active scene here.

You could see, behind me, some of these folks that have been working, all day, are starting to come back in, these power crews, those that are helping, with the downed trees. And that process, of getting things back to normal, here, is underway. In fact, as of 7:30, the local emergency management, here, in Horry County, closed their emergency operation center. But the cleanup is still very much a concern.

It's just a little while ago, in fact, Laura that the lights here, in our hotel, came back on. They'd been off, basically all day.

Laura? COATES: Have you had clean water? I mean, is water an issue at all? Or is the power, the primary concern, at this point? Now that it's been restored. But what about drinking water? I always think of that.

VALENCIA: Yes. There's thousands, still here, without power. Drinking water is it's, of course, an issue, after storms. You get these major storms that come into an area. They damage the sewage system, the drainage system. We've been drinking bottled water, and we've seen residents do the same here.

But I want to show you some video that we shot earlier, which was just striking to see. At about 3 o'clock, when we were on the air, we saw a shrimp boat, just basically come out of nowhere, in the Atlantic Ocean. And we didn't know at the time whether or not there was a crew on board. No reports of fatalities, or injuries, here in this county, we should say.

We did eventually talk to the sheriff, in Horry County, who said that that crew, on the shrimping boat, was evacuated, taken off, yesterday, by the Coast Guard. It was anchored down, a few miles away. But just because of the severity, and intensity, of the wind, and the rain, it broke free, from where it was anchored, and ended up coming adrift, onshore, here, in Myrtle Beach.

In fact, one person was arrested, trying to climb the boat. Officials were trying to push back a crowd of about 50 people, from getting on. That's an excitement here, in the midst of a lot of excitement, earlier today, as we felt those tropical storm gusts of wind, and really just got pounded by that heavy rain, as it came through this area.


COATES: Wow, unbelievable! Nick, thank you so much. I'm glad to know that no one was on, hopefully at that shrimp boat. But there are others, out there, of course.

Bill, I want to go back to you. Because, look, when you see this storm, barreling through Florida, and then to regain strength, and then hit South Carolina?

Can you just speak to us about what we're seeing, in the climate now that we're seeing this extreme weather that it really allows this to happen? I mean, buildings where you are withstood Hurricane Charley, withstood places like - the storm like Hurricane Irma.

Now, what is this telling you?


WEIR: Well, it's just the earth science that we've been talking about, for a few generations now that it's heat-trapping gases, warming up the planet. And, on a warmer planet, that's - warm water is hurricane food. It's steroids, for these storms.

There's weather attribution now. Climate attribution is a new science, where they can look at this storm, and tell us that this particular Ian was 10 percent wetter than it would have been before the Industrial Revolution had altered, the global mean temperature as well. And so, this has been the warning.

It's been the warning that engineers at Exxon, gave their bosses, back in the 80s, and said, "This is what's going to happen, if we keep doing this." And so, decisions were made not to come clean to the public with that. And here we are. So, this is the rally.

And it's - what's interesting is people say, "We shouldn't politicize. Don't talk about climate change in the middle of a storm like this."

Well, every official you hear today, all across the state, is reminding people, "Don't run your generator in your house. The carbon monoxide will kill you, or make you very, very sick. Don't do that."

But nobody says, "Hey, why are we politicizing the generators, in the middle of this crisis?" It's because the generator lobby, and their friends in Congress, aren't the most powerful businesses, on the planet.

And by burning those same fuels that are pumping carbon monoxide, into your home, which can kill you, it's also burning carbon dioxide, which is not going to kill you, immediately, but as a heat-trapping gas, which is contributing to all these things that we're seeing.

If you don't believe me? Check out our friends at NASA. The guys who hit that asteroid 7 million miles away, those geniuses? They'll explain to you. I'm just reporting what they're trying to tell us. And these are the implications of these warnings that we've been hearing, ad nauseam, well since Al Gore, won the Nobel, right?

And so, I'm frustrated that we can't talk about it, in those terms, because city planners, and families, need to make educated decisions, about what's next, for themselves, for their communities, for Florida. All these places we agree on should be saved and protected to the best of our powers.

So, yes, the climate piece is it's just kind of in our faces. But it's hard for people to come to grips with the idea that all of the energy sources, and all the innovation that made it so great to be human beings, and advanced human lifespans, is the same stuff that's now coming back to haunt us. It's a hard thing to come to grips with. But we have to do it, as best we can, just for the future.

COATES: Bill, I hear your frustration. All of you are on the ground, seeing what is playing out.

I'm in a studio. I don't see what's going on. I'm not touching it. I don't feel it. I don't smell it. I don't see the people, who are there. It's so important that you continue to sound the alarm, all of you, on the ground, and let us know what's happening.

There is that Greek myth, right, the fate of Cassandra, who would be a - who would know the future, and no one would ever believe her. I hope we're not resigned to that particular faith. Gentlemen, Nick, Ryan, Bill, stay safe. We'll be back to you. Thank you.

The devastation, I mean, it is so severe, in parts of Lee County, Florida, which includes the Fort Myers area. And you have to wonder, I mean, listen to what we're saying, what we're reporting, what you're seeing. What will it take to rebuild those communities? We're getting some answers, from the County Commissioner, next.



COATES: All right, here are some of the newest pictures, of the mass destruction, in Lee County, Florida. That's home to places like Fort Myers, and Cape Coral, and Pine Island.

The County Manager tells CNN that it's not an overstatement at all, to say that Hurricane Ian decimated parts of the area. He says, quote, "It looked as though someone had just dropped from the sky, picked up hotels, and buildings, and took them away." At least 16 people are confirmed dead, there.

I want to bring in Lee County Commissioner, Kevin Ruane.

Commissioner, thank you, for joining us, tonight.

I mean, looking at these pictures, and the devastation? I mean, Lee County. We're talking places like Sanibel and Pine Island, and Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral. I mean, this is unbelievable devastation that we are seeing.

What are you seeing? And what does your community need, most, right now?

KEVIN RUANE, LEE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: So, I had an opportunity, yesterday, go up in a helicopter, previewed the area, for about two and a half hours. Saw the devastation.

So obviously, our infrastructure is compromised. We have roads, we have power, we have sewer, we have lighting, WiFi. They're all compromised. So we're going to need to rebuild and/or repair.

I'm here at the Operations Center, in Lee County. We are here with local, regional, state and federal partners. Everybody's here, trying to work together, as one group. It's what Americans should do, working together, to solve the solution.

COATES: It's so important to hear about the coordination, between the local, the state, the federal resources, because it looks like everything has to come together. Really, just show you the notion of being all in it together.

What has that coordination been like, between the emergency response teams, for the local, the state, and federal? Is there a hierarchy of prioritizing? Is there a way, in which the resources are being either apportioned out, or handled in some way? What is that like?

RUANE: So, they're all mission-orientated. So, it was so search and rescue, first. And then, we divided all the infrastructure issues.

So, Department of Transportation, both state and federal, will have a design, for the Sanibel Causeway, within the next 30 days. They have assured us that it will start working right after that building that - rebuilding that. So, you have that area.


You have water, where we're trying to rebuild our water supply system. You had the Army Corps of Engineers helping us, assisting us, in the sewer, and the pipeline, in the water, things that are compromised, where we need additional resources.

You look at power. We have multiple power companies, here, right now, restringing lines, and rebuilding infrastructure.

We had meetings with Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. They're here, trying to do drones, trying to drop in the necessary things, to communicate with your loved ones, through WiFi.

So, there's a coordinated effort, like I've never seen. I've been in politics, for 16 years. I've never seen a local, a region, a state and federal, work together as one, and putting all party stuff aside.

COATES: That just tells you, as well, just how much the need is. And it's amazing to think about that. But also devastating to think about why that coordination is necessary.

But you're not just with Lee County. I mean, you were actually the Mayor of Sanibel. And not only were you the mayor. You were the mayor, during hurricanes Irma, and Charley. And so, when you hear now, Sanibel's new mayor, today, saying that the island is not livable now, what goes through your mind? It must feel all the more personal to you.

RUANE: See, right. I had governed there, for almost 14 years, as the longest-serving mayor, for 11 years.

You know these people firsthand, when you're in small-town USA. And that's what I got to know. So, it's really gut-wrenching, especially as I'm saving people's lives. We had 70 military helicopters that the Coast Guard, picking people up, off their rooftops, and bringing them back.

So, you look at the devastation. And I can remember. And Charley seemed very, very, very minor compared to this. It's just really, trying to get your arms around it, and every day, I come here, and do what we need to do. This is home, where I call home. My family's safe. So, it's just trying to help the community.

My district is the most devastated district. It starts (ph) in Captiva, works through Sanibel, works through the southwestern part of Cape Coral, works through Pine Island, and Boca Grande. COATES: Commissioner, really, is unbelievable, to see this, and we're looking at the infrastructure and the need that's still there.

Thank you for joining us. I know you need to get back to work. We wish you the best. We will continue to focus, on your community. Thank you.

RUANE: Thank you. God bless.

COATES: God bless.

Well, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, he's announcing the seizure, of nearly a fifth, a fifth, of Ukraine's territory. But, is it a move, based on desperation, or some kind of perverse strategy? We'll talk about it next.



COATES: Well, Vladimir Putin, is proclaiming, today, the annexation of four areas, of Occupied Ukraine.

The U.S. government is steadfast, in its rejection, of this move, with Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, saying quote, "No one is fooled by" Moscow's sham referendums.

Joining me now, CNN Senior International Correspondent, Matthew Chance. And former Defense Secretary, William Cohen.

I'm glad to have you both here. I mean, what a day, this is!

Matthew, let me begin with you. Look, Putin's announcing this annexation, today. I mean, there's condemnation from all around the world. I wonder, how big of an escalation is this, really?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, it's pretty big. And remember, I think, his main audience, for this declaration, today, and this ceremony, and this sort of patriotic fervor showcase, wasn't the international audience.

It was his own people. So, he could proclaim a kind of victory, to them, and say, "Look, all this stuff you've been fighting for, and sacrificing yourself for, it's paid dividends. These Russian lands," as he would characterize them, "are finally coming home."

But it is escalatory. Well, not least, because Vladimir Putin has said, as we've been reporting, that "These territories are now part of the Russian homeland. They're part of Mother Russia."

And he has made no bones about the idea that if there's an attack, on these lands, or they continue, to be fighting there, he could resort to his nuclear deterrence. Now, whether or not we take that completely, at face value, or not, is a separate question.

But, I mean, the Ukrainians and the rest of us, you have to sort of factor that in, as a possibility, because Putin's so unpredictable. And is highlighted again today that he's not going to back down, over these territories. But instead, he's going to double-down, which is what he kind of always does.

COATES: I mean, in fact, I mean, I'll still with you, for a second, here, Matt.

I'll come to you, Secretary, second - I'll come to you in a second, Secretary.

But Matthew, I mean, Putin's speech today spent a lot of time, attacking the West, right? I mean, what kinds of things was he saying?

CHANCE: Yes, I mean, look, again, mainly for the domestic audience. And it's, these are lines that we often hear, coming from the Kremlin, from the state media, and from Vladimir Putin, himself, basically saying, "Look, the West, the United States, and others, they want Russia to be broken up, into little pieces, because the West can't stand the idea that there's a powerful country, like Russia, with vast resources, at its control, that doesn't follow," I think he called it, "The commands of the West."

It's this idea that he constantly puts across that Putin is, he is leading, and Russia is leading this kind of opposition, to American and Western power, in the world. I don't think people buy it, obviously, internationally. Some people do. Some people don't. Again, aimed at the domestic audience.

He also had quite a lot to say, Laura, about these territories. He offered peace talks, with the Ukrainians. But these territories, he said, were not going to be on the table.

Take a listen to what he had to say.



VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I want the Kyiv authorities, and their real masters, in the West, to hear me, for everyone to remember. People living in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, are becoming our citizens, forever.


CHANCE: Yes, "Forever."


CHANCE: So, that basically rules out, the possibility, at this point, of peace talks, with the Ukrainians, Laura.

COATES: Secretary Cohen, I want to turn to you here. Because, I mean, just think of the words that he has said. And, of course, the idea of the sham referendum.

And also, this on the backdrop of what we know, to have been propaganda, to try to convince the people of Russia that he had some sort of justifiable reason, to go into Ukraine. Now, of course, the facts, obviously state otherwise.

But just last week, Secretary, we saw hundreds of thousands of Russians that were fleeing the country, from Putin's partial mobilization. And so, this was happening, while people were protesting, by the way, in the streets.

So, is all of this, in your mind, an act of desperation? Because maybe that propaganda is cracking a little bit?

SECY. WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, (R) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, I think the tougher or the more dangerous, his rhetoric? The weaker he looks.

And, I think, under the circumstances, he said, "I'm ready to negotiate," sure, after he's made millions of refugees, millions, who are displaced, in Ukraine, thousands - tens of thousands, who have been murdered and raped. And now, controlling 15 percent to 20 percent, of the country of Ukraine, now "I'm ready to talk?"

So, I think, you have to put that in the context that he's losing, on the battlefield. His forces are poorly trained, equipped, poorly fed, and lead. And they're losing. As a result of that, he's now threatening to use nuclear weapons.

And I think that threat, really, is going to be taken seriously. Much as we have a bomb threat, on any of our public institutions, we may think it's low probability, but a high impact.

So, we'll take it seriously. But what he has to take seriously, is the United States, and the Western Allies, also have a great capability, to cause great harm, to the Russia. So, we have to be careful, and take everything seriously, but keep on pushing.

COATES: Secretary, on that notion? I mean, speaking of who keeps on pushing, even in spite of all that Putin is doing? The Ukrainians still seem to have the upper hand.

And, of course, as you note, he is saying that any attack, on the annexed areas, is an attack on Russia itself. I mean, is he creating a kind of pretext, here, where he could do something, to try to engage the West, and something drastic at that?

COHEN: Well, he doesn't believe in the rule of law. He can declare, "These are mine. I've got a vote that was taken," a sham vote. "We have annexed them. This is my territory."

And you, as a lawyer, would remember the days, in law school, when you say, "Well, nine-tenths is enough possession."


COHEN: Or ownership of a territory.

But in fact, he's annexed territory, he hasn't even conquered, or seized yet.

So, I think, at this point, we have to keep taking the battle to him. Ukraine has to continue to get as much land, as they can, going to the winter months. We're providing as much money, and equipment, as we can, to make sure, they can take the battle, to the Russians. And they're doing them.

And we'll just have to wait and see. No one can predict how this will come out. But the West not afford to blink. And we can't go, to use a phrase, go wobbly, on supporting Ukraine. We have to keep supporting them, wherever we can.

COATES: Gentlemen, please stick around. We'll talk more about, what the U.S. Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, had to say, about Putin's threat of nuclear weapons, as you intimated. That's next.



COATES: Well, Vladimir Putin has announced annexation of nearly a fifth of Ukraine, in defiance, I might add, of international law.

Back with me now, Matthew Chance, and Secretary William Cohen.

Secretary Cohen, Putin has been rattling this nuclear saber, for some time now. And frankly, we got word recently that the U.S. officials have actually been trying to talk Russia down.

In fact, our own Fareed Zakaria, asked Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, about that very point. Listen to this.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: To be clear, the guy who makes that decision? I mean, it's one man. There are no checks, on Mr. Putin. Just as he made the irresponsible decision, to invade Ukraine, you know, he could make another decision. But I don't see anything, right now, that would lead me to believe that he has made such a decision.


COATES: What do you think of that, secretary?

COHEN: I think he's being prudent, and cautious, in coming to any conclusion about what's in President Putin's mind.

I just want to pick up on something that was said, on your prior - by your prior guest. I mean, look at the devastation, taking place, in Florida. And I just felt the same way. Proud to be an American, a part of the United States. But what you saw in Florida, it's just a sample, of what would take place, if there were a nuclear exchange.

Churchill once said, in his great Iron Curtain speech, "We may one day return to the Stone Age on the gleaming wings of science." And what he was talking about that time, the threat of a possible nuclear exchange, between the United States, and the Soviet Union, to that point.

We have to be very careful and to caution our allies, and countries, like China, and India, and Turkey. There's nobody sitting on the sidelines, if there's a nuclear contest. Everybody loses. So, at that particular point, he gets more serious about that? They better get involved, in a major way, while the catastrophic results could hit us all, so.

COATES: A scary, but well-informed opinion you have. Thank you so much about that. I mean, just thinking about that no one could be on the sidelines of it?

Matthew, I mean, part of who can't be on the sidelines, in these notions, one has to wonder about the people, in Russia, in particular. I mean, how are the people, in Russia, reacting to all of these moves, by Putin?


CHANCE: Well, there's been some, obviously, some very dramatic developments that we've been witnessing, over the past couple of weeks.

I mean, as the scenes, tonight, in Moscow, were played out, with a huge carefully-choreographed showpiece, taking place, in the center of the Russian capital, as people sort of welcomed this annexation, of these four territories of Ukraine, into the Russian Federation. And you can see them waving the flags, and chanting patriotic slogans, as Vladimir Putin sort of cheers them on.

You also go back to those images, outside the walls of the Kremlin, and elsewhere around the country. We've seen these dramatic anti-war protests, taking place. We've seen hundreds of thousands, of Russian men, trying to leave the country, as quickly as they can, to avoid being called up, and plunged into the bloodbath that's the front line, in Ukraine.

And so, not only we're seeing a disconnect between the fact that the battle is going the wrong way, for Vladimir Putin. Yet, he is still annexing this territory. He's annexing territory that he's retreating from, at the same time. But also, there's a huge disconnect, between the rhetoric, we're seeing, him voice, in Moscow, and the sort of mood of many Russians, who are increasingly, it seems, against this war.


I mean, and yet, Secretary Cohen, Putin was blaming, quote, "Anglo- Saxons," for the now severely-damaged Nord Stream pipeline, just one example, in saying that they had committed sabotage.

And I'm wondering, why do you think, on top of what, Matthew is speaking about, why do you think Vladimir Putin is driving sort of a racial wedge, into the conversation, as well? COHEN: Well, because it feeds into his argument that the Ukrainians were Nazis. "We're going to de-Nazify Ukraine." And that course of applies to - that really appeals to the minds of so many Russians, going back to the Germans, the Nazis invading the Soviet Union. So, he's feeding upon that.

And then, he's also calling us "Satanic." It's almost as if he's buying into the QAnon conspiracy type of argument that he's making, to his own people, that we're now the agents of Satan. And so, it's messianic. It's religious. It's racial. It's a combination of all the above.

COATES: All trigger points, right, trying to prey upon, whatever people are feeling, as a way to prop up the propaganda, even further.

Matthew, Secretary Cohen, thank you both.

And everyone, make sure you do watch Fareed's interview, with Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." It's at 10 AM Eastern and Pacific, on Sunday, right here, on CNN.

There's also been a huge ocean surge, and it's enhanced by Hurricane Ian, and it's crashing into a pier, in Miami. We'll explain this video, and just what happened, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh no, that is gone (ph).





COATES: Even well outside the area of Hurricane Ian's direct hit, we see the fast-moving danger, in the water. And we look at this ocean surge, from a king tide, in Miami Beach, just today, as it's slamming into a pier.

Let's stop for a second, to watch and listen to what's happening.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 520260 (ph) we need some rescue here. We got a big wave and dropped (ph) about five people into the wave, till the (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I copy. Ocean Rescue--


COATES: I mean, this is very scary. Six people actually went to the hospital, with head injuries, or scrapes, and bruises.

And here's another view, from Miami Beach, as the king tide, sends the ocean water, rushing in, and quickly even surrounding a police SUV.

Let's talk to Jennifer Gray, in the CNN Weather Center, as we look at what's going on here.

I mean, Jennifer, this looks, I mean, unbelievable, to think about.

And we're going to keep - I want to just hear a little bit more before we go to her. I want to hear a little bit more about what's going on here, because the images are just stunning.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 520260 (ph) we need some rescue here. We got a big wave and dropped (ph) about five people into the wave, till the (inaudible).


COATES: I mean, it's unbelievable to hear and see what's going on there. I mean, just the idea of this is not in the line of the direct hit. But just think about the ways, in which there are repercussions, and it's going out, like the domino effect everything here.

And you just think about all the different areas of Florida, let alone, in fact that it's marching up the coast, and into South Carolina. It's slamming today, as you know, as well. And there's, this all happened, after leaving behind a path of destruction.

We're going to follow this ahead after a quick break here, and see what else is going on. And we're in the areas that have been hardest- hit. We're on the ground, in both of these states. And we're going to go there, next.



COATES: Hurricane Ian is making landfall, yet again, bringing punishing winds, and devastating storm surge, to now South Carolina's coast.

It comes as Florida is dealing with widespread destruction from the storm. Now, this video shows, I mean, look at this, debris is everywhere. You got communities, completely destroyed. And Ian is now blamed for at least 45 deaths, in Florida.

CNN's Bill Weir, is in Fort Myers; and Nick Valencia is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Gentlemen, I'm glad to see you still tonight.

Bill, I mean, the destruction, in Fort Myers? I mean, it's been unimaginable to see. What are you seeing, on the ground?

WEIR: Well, we're seeing the obvious stuff, everywhere here. This is the Fort Myers Yacht Basin, in which big, huge boats, just came loose, and pinballed around here, shoved them up, against the bridge abutment. So, there's those symbols

And then, as you walk around, through the debris, you get reminders that these represent human lives that these are - there are families that lost everything, in some cases. And so, it makes you wonder, who did this belong to? Was this a grandparent, who lived on one of these boats? So, it's really something.

And we went out, actually, this morning. We tried to get out to Fort Myers Beach, which we had heard had been wiped out. 90 percent of that community, we heard reports, was gone.

But they still hadn't opened it up. The Sheriff's Department there was sort of turning everybody away. But just where we were standing, between here and there.