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Wildfire in Ocean County, New Jersey; Pentagon Identifies Soldiers Killed or Missing in Ambush; Remembering Jerry Falwell

Aired May 16, 2007 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Heidi Collins. Good morning, everybody.

Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Wednesday morning, the 16th of May.

Here's what's on the rundown.

A desperate search growing more urgent by the hour. U.S. troops trying to find three missing soldiers in Iraq right now. At home, anxious families wait.

HARRIS: New Jersey pine and brush up in flames, 20 square miles burned, forcing thousands out of their home.

Live to the fire scene in central Jersey.

COLLINS: Jerry Falwell, his religious and political legacy from presidents Reagan to Bush. We talk live with a longtime friend this hour in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: At the top this hour, a full-scale attack under way. This hour, the target, another big wildfire. New Jersey the latest state dealing with an out-of-control blaze.

CNN Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff is in Warren Grove, New Jersey.

And Allan, good morning to you. Where do things stand right now at this moment?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Tony, that fire is continuing to burn. In fact, you can see the smoke in the distance right behind me.

So far, more than 20 square miles have been burned. That's better than 13,000 acres, a lot of territory. And this area really is flammable.

Number one, you have lots of wind. The wind gusts have been up to 20 miles an hour. And let's have a look at the pilings here. I mean, you can see how dry it is.

This stuff is really flammable, as I was saying. And when rain actually does come down, take a look at the ground. It's essentially sand over here, so the rain just pours right through the ground, very dry around here.

That is why the fire is just spreading extremely rapidly. So far, only 10 percent of this fire has been contained.


CHIEF WARDEN MARIS GABLICKS, N.J. FOREST FIRE SERVICE: It still has the potential to grow. We're currently working on the fire, looking at putting in containment lines around the fire to contain it.

Firefighters worked since 2:30 yesterday on the fire. And we had quite a few crews out overnight working on getting a containment on the fire.


CHERNOFF: So far, 2,500 homes have been evacuated. More than 600 people spent the night in shelters. Fifty homes damaged either by fire or by smoke.

Now, how did this all happen? Well, the New Jersey Air National Guard says it believes that one of its fighter planes yesterday during maneuvers actually caused this fire.

What happened? The F-16 dropped a flare. The flares are supposed to flame out in the sky, but this one didn't. It actually did hit the ground and apparently did ignite the fire.

So, Tony, a very serious situation here in New Jersey.

HARRIS: Allan Chernoff on wildfire patrol for us.

Allan, appreciate it. Thank you.

Another day on the front lines. Firefighters in Florida working around the clock to contain a huge wildfire. We will check in on their progress a little later this morning in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Anguish, grief, and a desperate search. The hunt for three U.S. soldiers missing in Iraq intensifies by the hour, and families of those missing or killed in the weekend ambush are dealing now with uncertainty and grief.

The latest now from Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, good morning to you.


As you say, this is becoming a critical situation, more critical hour by hour, as about 4,000 U.S. troops and a good number of Iraqi troops continue that house-to-house search in the so-called triangle of death near Mahmoudiyah in Iraq, looking for three missing American soldiers.

Just a little while ago, the U.S. military in Baghdad concluded a briefing with the latest information about all of this. We now know that they have questioned over 600 people. They're working off about 150 or so tips about what might have happened.

Basically, the video that you see from the Defense Department is the search. They are going house to house.

They've broken up this very wide area into about 35 search zones. They're going through all of them and then they're going back again, questioning people, trying to get the Iraqis who live here to tell them if they've seen anything, if they know anything about what happened to these three men.

We are also learning that already, of course, the military investigating the entire situation, trying to find out more about how it is that these troops were attacked and overrun by enemy forces. What we learned earlier today is that the closest troops that could have come to help them were about a thousand feet away.

It sounds very close, but indeed, they didn't get there in time. And by the time any relief forces came in, of course, some of the troops were killed, four of them killed, and these three missing -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. It's just so tough for the families. In fact, we do know, Barbara, that the families of all seven soldiers have been notified, but there's still question about one identity. Right?

STARR: Right. Heidi, this is just really such difficult, difficult news.

Seven soldiers were involved in this incident. Three of them have been identified as killed in action. And, of course, their families know the fate of their loved ones.

There are four families out there who do not know, because three are missing, but there is one set of remains that the military today hopes to conclude DNA testing on. And once they know the actual identity of that set of remains, one of those four families will be notified that their loved one was killed in action. And the other three families will, in fact, then know for certain that their loved ones are missing.

What we should emphasize, Heidi, is at this hour, as the search goes on, just a few minutes ago military officials told CNN that their working assumption is still that the three missing men are alive. That's what the intelligence tells them. That's what the tips tell them.


STARR: And that is the assumption they're working off of at this hour as the hunt goes on -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, they have to. Boy, what a tough spot to be in though for those families, certainly.

CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us this morning.

Barbara, thanks.

STARR: Sure.

HARRIS: Religion and politics. Jerry Falwell used television to make the combination a powerful force. This morning he is remembered for his contributions and for controversy.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is in Lynchburg, Virginia, at Liberty University, the school Falwell founded and where he died.

Brianna, good morning to you.


We're actually outside the Thomas Road Baptist Church, which is the church here in Lynchburg, Virginia, that Jerry Falwell died. And if you look -- or pardon me, that he founded. Liberty University, of course, where he was found yesterday morning.

Now, if you look at the front page of "The Lynchburg News," in advance this morning, you can see this picture really tells a lot about how people here are feeling. This is a picture of a portrait of Jerry Falwell here at Thomas Road, and two people in front of it hugging, one of whom is crying.

People here are teary-eyed, they are grieving for Jerry Falwell, but they also feel that he is in a better place. And I actually spoke with one member of his church who said that Falwell lived what he preached, and in death his message will live on.

This is something that we heard echoed by Liberty University students this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's kind of the grandfather figure of the university. I think it's important to have for the image. So, I came here, and I obviously (ph) respected him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His biggest impact came through his faith and through his prayer and his ministries and stuff. And he really lived, you know, a life of love. The rest of the world kind of sees him as a bigot and stuff, and you don't see his true heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday, like, I think it really affected me. I just felt, like, he was, like, the father figure around here.

And so, it really hit me. Like, when I found out that he died, like, I started bawling my eyes out even though, like, I've never met him, but just knowing that he's not around anymore. But knowing, too, that he's in heaven just -- it really helps a lot.


KEILAR: According to the executive vice president of Liberty University, Falwell was found late yesterday morning in his office, unconscious without a heartbeat. He said that paramedics tried to revive him in his office and en route to Lynchburg General Hospital here, but they were unable to do so. And Falwell was pronounced dead at 12:40 p.m.

He did have a history of heart issues. Back in 2005, he was in the hospital twice for congestive heart failure.

Last night, thousands of people came here to Thomas Road Baptist Church for a memorial and prayer service, gathering here, consoling each other. And we understand the funeral for Jerry Falwell is to be held Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. Between now and then, there will be a viewing on campus here for a handful of days -- Tony.

HARRIS: Thomas Road Baptist Church, Falwell's base of operations, 24,000 strong in that congregation.

Brianna, I'm curious, the graduation at Liberty University was set for Saturday. Any changes because of Falwell's death?

KEILAR: No. Actually, a statement was issued by the university saying that the Falwell family and the church and university officials have announced that things are going to go on as scheduled, that that's what Falwell would have wanted. And you may not know, but Newt Gingrich is going to be the commencement speaker, and that will also go ahead as planned -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. CNN's Brianna Keilar for us this morning.

Brianna, thank you.

Remembering Jerry Falwell. Among his longtime friends, a Jewish rabbi. He joins us live straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: The family of Martin Luther King Jr. once again dealing with loss. The eldest child of the civil rights legend died last night at the age of 51. Yolanda King championed the family's cause and worked as an author, actress and producer.

Let's get the latest now from the King Center in Atlanta. Here's reporter Ryan Young of CNN affiliate WSB.

Hi, Ryan.


We've seen some people come out here to reflect on the death of Yolanda King. Over there is a reflecting pool, and we've seen people make their way over there and actually leave roses over there. They've also stood there and took in a moment of reflection.

Now, we learned about this around 5:00 this morning. And as we arrived here, they were lowering the flags over there.

This is very reminiscent about what happened last year, when Coretta Scott King died. They lowered the same flags.

Now, we were told she died in her Santa Monica home late last night. And Ambassador Andy Young, a close family friend, shared with us that her death could be the result of a heart condition.

Now, we also learned that just May 6th she was here at Ebenezer Baptist Church giving a speech about strokes and keeping healthy, obviously important to her because her mother suffered a stroke before she died from cancer. Obviously, though, this is the King Center. A lot of people in Atlanta know this is the place to reflect on anything that has to do with the Kings. And we are expecting people to come out here as the day goes on.

Right now, a few people, but people who had heartfelt thanks and praise for the entire King family.

COLLINS: All right. Ryan, thanks so much for that. We'll be continuing to follow this story today. Quite a shocker.

Thanks, Ryan.


COLLINS: Round two. The GOP presidential contenders duke it out. And this fight had more punches thrown than round one.

Highlights coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Stolen on vacation. Where's Madeleine? Police question several people. Still no sign of the little girl.

More on this ongoing investigation in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Angry commuters fed up and taking matters into their own hands. Not very well, I might add.

Train riot. Incredible pictures coming up in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Going to take you out to Tacoma, Washington, right now for some breaking news just in to CNN.

As you can see from these pictures, we have a trail derailment. Two Union Pacific freight trains involved in this predawn derailment at first light. We're getting a better look at the aftermath.

Wow, look at this of the derailment and the crash. No injuries were reported, but at least two locomotives and an undetermined number of railcars off the tracks, as you can see here.

We understand that diesel fuel was leaking from at least one engine near a nearby river. And authorities are also checking for the possibility of hazardous or toxic substances.

We will keep an eye on this situation and bring you updates as we get them here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Jerry Falwell is being remembered today for transforming the Christian right into a powerful political force. But he was often at the center of controversy.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein founded -- excuse me, counted Falwell as a friend for more than two decades. He's joining us now live from Jerusalem.

Thank you so much for being with us.

First of all, our condolences for the death of your very good friend.

I want to begin with the history between the two of you. Take us back to the first time you met Reverend Falwell.

RABBI YECHIEL ECKSTEIN, INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIANS & Jews: The first time I met Reverend Falwell was 30 years ago, when I invited him to my synagogue in Chicago to speak. And he welcomed the opportunity.

And I must say that the Jewish community at the time was pretty upset with me, but I felt that this was before we had any the real realization that he and the evangelical community would become friends of Israel, or were friends of Israel, as the bible tells them to be. And so, I was pretty much castigated and chastised for bringing him to the synagogue, but after that people really started to see him as a person and not as the ogre and demonized way that he tended at that time to be portrayed because he was leading the Moral Majority.

And the Jewish community went through this transition from the time 30 years ago when he spoke at my synagogue, until today, when he passed away. And he went from being a lightning rod of Jewish criticism and fears, to today, when I think that it's possible to say that he really built the bridge between the Jewish and the evangelical Christian community, between Israel and American Christian community. And I think more and more Jews came to really know him as the person he is, which is a really very mild-mannered wonderful person.


ECKSTEIN: We were just together a few weeks ago in Lynchburg, and he drives around in his car and he honks his horn, which is in the form of a train whistle. And the people, the students all come around.

And he's really -- he really was a very, very good person, without airs, without pretensions.


ECKSTEIN: And I think a lot of people misunderstood him over the years.

COLLINS: Well, Rabbi, I had the opportunity to interview the reverend a couple of times. I found him to be very, very warm.

But I do wonder, as you talk about the relations between Christians and Jews, was there something in particular? Was there a moment where you say or you remember really being able to get over that barrier between the two religions?

ECKSTEIN: Well, I remember personally every time that over the years I have gone to him and asked him to do something or to say something or to sign something for Israel, he never refused me. And even a number of years ago, when it went against the policy of President Reagan...


ECKSTEIN: You'll remember the Bitburg issue, Bitburg, Germany, where Nazis were buried -- he went against the president who was his friend, because he felt that it was immoral to -- for the president to go there, whether it was AWACS for Saudi Arabia. At any point that the Jewish community reached out to him, he was there. And the fact of the matter is, unfortunately, I would say, that the Jewish community did not reach out to him.

The Jewish community, by and large, was suspicious of him, did not like his domestic policies. The Jewish community tends to be on the more liberal side. And his policies were -- he would constantly explain that it's Judeo-Christian values that he was trying to bring...


ECKSTEIN: ... not to impose Christianity. And that's a distinction that some people didn't catch.

COLLINS: It is. And I wonder, Rabbi...

ECKSTEIN: But I think what...

COLLINS: I'm sorry. I wonder...

ECKSTEIN: Go ahead.

COLLINS: ... if after now he has passed away, if there will be an effect on those relations between Jews and Christians. Your thoughts?

ECKSTEIN: Reverend Jerry Falwell already had the effect from 30 years ago and over the years. A consistent friend of Israel, friend of the Jewish people, someone who stands up, who stood up for morality, for ethics, for values, for the shared values.

He is going to be missed, and I think even the Jewish -- the liberal Jewish community today realizes that he and the evangelical movement are our -- amongst our best friends. And we will miss him. But I think he imparted that value of -- both in terms of solidarity with Israel, the battle against world terrorism. I think he imparted that through his students at Liberty University.


ECKSTEIN: And that was what was most important to him...

COLLINS: Yes, there's no question.

ECKSTEIN: ... in this generation.

COLLINS: No question about that.

ECKSTEIN: So he'll be remembered very favorably by me and by many others.

COLLINS: All right.

Rabbi Eckstein, we certainly appreciate your thoughts and your memories of your very good friend, Reverend Jerry Falwell. Thanks so much.

And also want to let everybody know that tonight, Larry King will be remembering Jerry Falwell as well. His guests, "Hustler" publisher Larry Flynt. Once bitter enemies in a notorious battle, what does Flynt have to say about Falwell now?

"LARRY KING LIVE," tonight, 9:00 Eastern.

HARRIS: And still to come this morning, kids, it is time to come in. Wow. Lightning strikes way too close for comfort.

Look at that -- in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: The Republicans, round two. More jabs than round one, too, as the second GOP presidential debate of the campaign was held last night at the University of South Carolina. And the 10 candidates -- yes, 10 -- seemed more contentious than in the first debate two weeks ago.

Among the highlights, snipes over what led to the 9/11 attacks and cross-party legislation.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My fear is that McCain- Kennedy would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money in politics, and that's bad.

JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't changed my position on even numbered years or have changed because of the different offices that I may be running for.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years.

RUDY GIULIANI (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's an extraordinary statement. As someone who lived through the attack of September 11th, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've ever heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.


COLLINS: Between the hitting, there was also humor. Listen to this.


MCCAIN: Spending is out of control. We didn't lose the 2006 election because of the war in Iraq. We lost it because we, the Republican Party, came to Washington to change government, and government changed us.

We let spending go out of control. We spent money like a drunken sailor, although I never knew a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination of my colleagues.

By the way, I received -- I received -- I received an e-mail not long ago from a fellow who said -- I repeat this story -- "As a former drunken sailor, I resent the way that Congress continues being compared to members of Congress."

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've had a Congress that spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop, and it's high time that we have a different kind of tax structure, and the fair tax would get us there.


COLLINS: Well, you had to know somebody was going to pull that one out of the bag, right?

HARRIS: That was good.

COLLINS: Just around the corner, CNN debates from the first primary state. Watch the Democrats tangle in New Hampshire on June 3rd and the Republicans on June 5th.

Good Wednesday morning to you, everybody.

I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM.

From the air and on the ground, the search for three missing U.S. soldiers in Iraq goes more intense with each passing hour. Just a short time ago, the military said more than 600 people had been questioned in the search, 11 have been detained. The troops went missing after a weekend ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi soldier.

Back home, family members are dealing with grief and uncertainty. Three of the dead have been identified, but the body of the fourth has not. The soldiers were all based at Fort Drum in New York.

COLLINS: Rumor and reality. It's been a trying month for the family of one of the missing U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

CNN's Chris Lawrence explains.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three weeks ago this family survived a horrible rumor -- that their son had been killed in Iraq. Now they're living with the reality he is missing in action.

JOSEPH ANZACK, SR. FATHER OF MISSING U.S. SOLDIER: Now that I know it's my son, it's -- it's -- it's real. It's really real.

THERESA ANZACK, MOTHER OF MISSING U.S. SOLDIER: I believe in miracles and I believe in prayer and, you know, we need a miracle here.

LAWRENCE: Army officials notified the parents Sunday, less than a month after someone -- no one knows who -- started a rumor their son was dead. Friends asked about Anzack's funeral arrangements. His mom and dad received sympathy notes. And students at Anzack's high school even put up a sign to honor him.

SCOTT MCDOWELL, PRINCIPAL, SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL: And they were moved by what they thought was tragic news. They just put up "In loving memory, John Anzack, class of 2005."

LAWRENCE: The rumor spread all the way back to Iraq, where the soldier updated his MySpace page to say, "I'm not dead."

JOHN ANZACK: I'm Alive, alive and kicking.

LAWRENCE: Anzack was on the lookout for terrorists Saturday when his unit was ambushed south of Baghdad.

Within a few weeks, his mother has gone from fear to relief to complete shock.

T. ANZACK: I was OK as long as I heard his voice but, you know, this is different. This is real. They knocked on our door and -- you know, and...

LAWRENCE: In Iraq, where soldiers face danger and the threat of death every day, there's a fine line between rumor and reality.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Torrance, California.

(END VIDEO TAPE) TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Mortars bombs and bloodshed mark another violent day in Iraq. Within the last hour, the U.S.- controlled green zone in Baghdad was hit by indirect fire for the second day in a row. A U.S. embassy spokesman says at least six people were wounded by what's believed to be mortar fire.

And north of Baghdad, officials say a car bomb exploded at an outdoor market last night, killing 29 people. Iraqi security forces are battling Mahdi Army fighters for a second day in the southern city of Nasiriyah. Authorities say at least nine people have been killed and dozens wounded in the clashes.

COLLINS: Angry commuters, to say the least. Riders unleash their rage on late trains. You've got to see these pictures. They're coming your way in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: A friend's farewell -- Tony Blair on what may be his final visit with President Bush as the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

More ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

And I'm Rob Marciano in Lake City, Florida, where just north of here, this huge fire continues to grow. We'll have a live report inside the fire lines, coming up on the CNN NEWSROOM.



HARRIS: We're watching new data on housing and industrial production this morning. Apparently, Heidi, I missed this yesterday -- the markets were on their way to a pretty big win until some figures on building permits rolled in. So, you know, we'll follow the market with Susan Lisovicz throughout the morning right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Little by little, firefighters slowly strangling a Florida wildfire. Hundreds of people still out of their homes, though, at this hour.

CNN's Rob Marciano is there.

He's keeping track of the situation for us in Lake City -- good morning to you, Rob.

You've been there for a couple of days now. What's the situation today?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Heidi, there was some progress yesterday -- if you want to call at least slowing the advancement of this fire some progress. A hundred and ten thousand acres still have been burned with this thing in Northern Florida and 50 percent containment. So that number has not changed throughout the day yesterday.

The western flank of this fire continues to be the weak and vulnerable spot.

All in all, 203 acres are active fires here in Florida. There's been 2,300 or so since January 1st, mainly because of drought.

That obviously leads to a lot of dry fuel but, also, the natural fire breaks -- streams, lakes, rivers -- a lot are just completely dried up. So that's why they're having such a hard time with this fire.

The additional evacuations along this 441 corridor now on the western end of it. They think this fire could cross 441 to the west. We'll see if that happens later on today.

Whether or not you evacuate often depends, well, on the weather, which they've been battling. And in order to get a good weather forecast, you need good data. And the only way to do that is to actually go into the fire.


MARCIANO (voice-over): As firefighters battle fatigue through the smoke on the ground, a fire truck escort lets some evacuated residents make sure their homes are still there.

WINTON THOMAS, EVACUATED RESIDENT: Just checking to make sure the sprinklers is still working and how it's wetting down everything.

MARCIANO: Just five miles from the fire, the Thomases nervously walk their property, making sure things stay wet as the blaze gets closer.

THOMAS: It's a little scary. You know, you've worked all your life and they evacuate you, it's possible you could lose everything.

MARCIANO: From the air, you can see the wide scope of the fire. And on the ground, the scorched land is bone dry.

(on camera): It has been so dry in Florida that this swamp has turned into a tinderbox. And firefighters know that just hoping for rain is not enough. An accurate fire weather forecast is key.

Tony Edwards is a field meteorologist trained to forecast wildfires. He needs data on the front lines of the fire.

(on camera): What you looking at?

TONY EDWARDS, NOAA METEOROLOGIST: Right now, I'm looking at a readout of the -- the current weather conditions that this station is measuring. We've got air temperature of 81 degree, relative humidity 42 percent.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction -- powered by the sun and connected via satellite, this weather station provides lifesaving information as it happens.

EDWARDS: And we have a thunderstorm out there sending a gust front. So we had crews, you know, two miles west of the station. If it picks up that wind gust, I can see it and then I can warn the crews that, hey, you're getting some gusty winds coming, you know?

And they can pull off the line and -- and get out of harm's way.

MARCIANO: Crucial information for both crews on the ground and evacuees. A weather forecast here can be the difference between life and death.


MARCIANO: Red flag warnings up again today. This afternoon, expect to see relative humidity levels low, winds gusting at times. Yesterday, they gusted to 18 miles an hour.

The chance for rain?

Well, not many. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow. But really, only about a 30 or 40 percent chance of getting any sort of precipitation in here. And with that threat also comes, possibly, some more lightning strikes, which has been the main culprits of so many of these fires in Florida.

Now, once this front comes through tomorrow, Heidi, it looks like the same situation that we had last weekend could fire up again. And that would be low levels of humidity and then gusty winds as we head towards Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

COLLINS: Boy, it's so hard to get a handle on, and even harder to predict, it seems, too.

Rob Marciano, glad you're there keeping an eye on it for us out of Lake City, Florida.

Thanks, Rob.

Chad Myers is also keeping an eye on all of these situations across the country.

We've got New Jersey.


COLLINS: We've got Florida.

Do we still have Minnesota burning, as well -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, sure. Some spots absolutely.

And the big fire that actually happened in New Jersey today was a pine fire. And I got a couple e-mails. You know, I live in a deciduous forest. Is that as threatening as a pine forest?

No, it's not. In fact, these pine trees that are burning in -- well, in New Jersey, in places like Southern Georgia and also into Florida, they are so like fireworks when they go up. There is this -- there's the tar and there's the pine and the resin in these trees that is completely flammable that you don't have in, let's say, an oak leaf. Sure, the wood can burn but that wood is, you know, well, it's pretty wet.

I mean, you know, even in a -- even in a drought situation, a growing maple tree just doesn't catch on fire spontaneously like a dry pine tree can.

We will some showers in Atlanta this morning, into the Southeast by later on today, through the fire areas, at least a little bit. We certainly will get big rain across the pine barrens of New Jersey today. That will help out that. That was an 11,000 acre fire earlier today, and I'm sure it's grown since then.

But we will see the potential for severe weather. And just like -- like he was talking about, you get another lightning strike in a place that didn't get a lot of rain, you can cause more fires down there, as well.

We'll get the showers and thunderstorms across the Northeast right on down through into Georgia and then where Rob is, down into Florida for tomorrow.

The front sinks down. This is our best chance of seeing any weather, any significant rain. Then after that rain, the chance goes away. The air will be back down to 20 or 30 percent relative humidity in the afternoon, and then the chance of rain goes away after tomorrow.

So, we really need a good soaking and this front to really stall across the Southeast. It's going to slowly move. It's not going to stall. But any type of a front will be a focus for where the rain will be. And if it just stops for just a few minutes, that will certainly be a big time help -- back to you guys.

HARRIS: That would be good.



COLLINS: We forgot to mention, obviously, the fires in Georgia.

When we came into work this morning, did you smell it?


COLLINS: Yes, I could smell the fire down there.

Could you, Chad?

MYERS: It's -- yes. You know what? The ironic thing is we could really use a small tropical storm at this point in time to come in and bring in five, six inches of rain. But we're not even in hurricane season yet so... COLLINS: Yes.

All right, well, we'll keep hoping for it anyway.

MYERS: Here we go.

COLLINS: All right, thanks so much, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: We'll check back a little bit later on.

MYERS: All right.


COLLINS: Meanwhile want to remind you about this other story that we've been following this morning, a train derailment coming out of DuPont, Washington, two Union Pacific freight trains. Apparently this happened between Tacoma and Olympia. No injuries to report, but the pictures are pretty remarkable.

Diesel fuel is leaking, apparently, from one of those locomotives so, of course, everybody is on hand there trying to making sure that no flames erupt.

We're not quite sure of the cargo inside, so HAZMAT authorities are also checking that out. But there are some power lines that have been knocked out. So most of DuPont is apparently out of electricity at this time.

So you can see the folks on the ground trying to get a better look at how it may have happened and how to make sure that it is safe.

So we will continue to watch that one for you.

Live pictures coming in from our affiliate there in Washington, KIRO.

HARRIS: And still ahead this morning in THE NEWSROOM, a man looking for a wife, a woman looking for a better life -- the-mail- order bride business -- marriages often not made in heaven. The story in THE NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Well, we want to get you some more information on this train derailment in DuPont, Washington, very near Tacoma.

And Jenny Sharp is on the line with us from the City of DuPont.

She's with the fire department.

Jenny, thanks for your time this morning.

JENNY SHARP, DUPONT FIRE DEPARTMENT: Yes, thank you. HARRIS: And, Jenny, what do you know about this derailment?

SHARP: So far what we know is there is a Union Pacific train going southbound that has derailed and bumped into a northbound train. It has been unconfirmed as to whether or not that northbound train was in motion.

It derailed both of these -- both of the trains, both north and southbound. Not completely. Everything is upright, with the exception of the engine on the southbound train.

So we are working at the moment. Puget Sound Energy is on scene and has neutralized the power lines that it knocked down, causing a power outage within the City of DuPont.

Again, Puget Sound Energy is on the scene and has neutralized those power lines...


SHARP: And crews are working on getting the engine secured at the moment.

HARRIS: Hey, Jenny, a bump doesn't sound like a collision.

Do we know how fast the one train in motion was going?

SHARP: We do not.


But it doesn't sound like a collision, is that correct?

SHARP: Exactly. It was not a head-on, by any means. It was -- it was not a full collision.

HARRIS: Are you aware of any injuries?

SHARP: Actually, we had three rail personnel that were on those two trains that self-extricated themselves. And by the time that fire department personnel were on scene, they were out of the compartments and there are no injuries.

HARRIS: What time did it happen?

SHARP: It happened about 3:30 this morning.

HARRIS: 3:30 a.m. local time.

And derailments don't necessarily mean power outages in a community. But I think we can see here that the derailed cars are pretty tangled with some power lines.

Any more information on that?

SHARP: Not at the moment. The -- the power lines have been neutralized so crews have been able to work around those.


SHARP: And it's -- the City of DuPont was without power from about 3:30 this morning when the call came in, until about 5:30.

HARRIS: How many people affected by this in the City of DuPont?

SHARP: About 6,000.

HARRIS: About 6,000.

All right, Jenny Sharp, the City of DuPont Fire Department.

Jenny, thanks for your time this morning.

COLLINS: Door to door -- U.S. forces fan out by the thousands, trying to find three of their own. Missing in Iraq, in THE NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: We just want to give you a gentle nudge, just a...

COLLINS: You've missed this, haven't you?

HARRIS: ... a shove to the pod cast.

I have been. Yes, you're right.

The Pod cast -- we do it every day for you here. You know to watch us.

Do you like it? Are you -- do we need to do something different with it? Does it still work for you, the little zoom and the little...

COLLINS: Oh, that?

HARRIS: ... iPod? Does that work for you?

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HARRIS: It worked?


So every day, you know to catch us right here in THE NEWSROOM, 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon. There it is again.

Thank you.

Fun and games in the control room.

But now you can take us with you anywhere on your iPod. Download the CNN NEWSROOM pod cast. It is available 24/7, right there on your iPod. Check us out. Download it today and send back some feedback, why don't you?

COLLINS: Looking for love on the Worldwide Web -- well, lots of people do it, sometimes successfully.

But since this is Asian and Pacific Heritage Month, we decided to look at the growing problem of mail-order brides -- many of them Filipinas found on the Internet. It's part of our Uncovering America series.

CNN's Veronica de la Cruz reports.


JURIE SCHMIDT, MARRIED AMERICAN: My husband buys me anything, but he never (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like many women growing up in the impoverished shantytowns that dot the Asian landscape, all Jurie wanted was the promise of happiness.

SCHMIDT: He got a bunch of roses to me and he sent to me e-mail -- through e-mail. And it was -- it's nice to relive.

DE LA CRUZ: They communicated by e-mail, Web cam, the phone. And after corresponding for about a year, he flew to the Philippines to marry her.

SCHMIDT: The first time I met him at the airport, I didn't know that he was so tall.

DE LA CRUZ: Gabriela Network estimates that well over 100,000 women around the world are listed on the Internet as available for marriage to Western men. And a recent study showed that out of five catalogs advertising 1,400 Asian women, 70 percent of them were Filipina.

ANNALISA ENRILE, PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL WORK, USC: I think what's happening in the Philippines, that there's such a huge economic and political crisis, that very educated young women are leaving en masse any way they can. And this seems like a viable method.

DE LA CRUZ (on camera): Taking a look online, if we do a search for the word "Filipina," this is what we find. We find just over three million Web sites, with all the top searches coming back as sites that advertise Filipina mail-order brides.

Now, if we do a search solely for the word "mail-order brides," we get just over a million hits, taking us to sites like this one,

(voice-over): San Diego, California -- headquarters for

Fred and Joyce Wahl have three children and run the Web site from their home. FRED WAHL, OWNER, HEART-OF-ASIA.COM: If a man goes to a nightclub and he starts talking to strange women, well, the chances are very good he's going to be rejected. But online, he states very clearly that he's interested and what his situation is. She states very clearly that she's interested and what her situation is. So they already have common grounds and interests to start talking.

YUL KWON, SURVIVOR WINNER: Unfortunately, because Asian women have this -- the stereotype of being docile, I think there's a large demand within this country for men who are looking for women coming from disadvantaged situations where they can be exploited.

DE LA CRUZ: Kwon met his wife in Hong Kong.

On his Web site, he advertises why he married an Asian woman: "Women from Asia are feminine. They don't bust your chops when you're home a little late or forget an anniversary. And when it comes to age," he says, "they value maturity."

A 21-year-old known only as I.D. Number 56268 says she wants a man to be "honest, straightforward and willing to marry her soon." She's looking for a man between the ages of 50 and 60.

ENRILE: There's a saying in the Philippines, in Tagalog, again, so this is kind of loosely translated, but "we hold onto the edge to survive, even if it's the edge of a knife."

DE LA CRUZ: An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 women a year come to the U.S. from the Philippines as mail-order brides. Some lead to disappointment; others tragedy.

In 1995, Susanna Blackwell was one such case.

ENRILE: He was very physically abusive. You know, her medical chart showed a number of broken bones and internal injuries. And when she got pregnant, she thought that the abuse would stop. But it continued.

So she filed for divorce. And on the last day of the divorce proceeding, when she was eight months pregnant -- she was accompanied by two other Filipina friends of hers -- Timothy Blackwell, you know, shot her right outside of the courtroom door.

DE LA CRUZ (on camera): Was he abusive in any way?

SCHMIDT: Just my heart -- my -- just emotional, not physical.

DE LA CRUZ (voice-over): Six months after coming to America, cooking, cleaning, taking care of his kids, Jurie says she realized broken promises made her a prisoner in her own home. One day she was out on the streets with her only two belongings an empty pocket and a broken heart.

SCHMIDT: I prayed that, I said, lord, if my husband -- if my husband still likes me, I'm still in America. I'm still waiting to go back to him. DE LA CRUZ: While the clock runs out on her visa, she works at a Wal-Mart, making $7.35 an hour. And on the Internet, thousands of Asian women still wait, dreaming of finding love and, hopefully, a better life.

Veronica de la Cruz, CNN, Atlanta.


HARRIS: And still to come this morning in the CNN NEWSROOM, angry commuters fed up and taking matters into their own hands -- or should that be fists?

Train riot in THE NEWSROOM.