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Jamaica Braces for Direct Hit From Hurricane Dean; No Underground Search for Trapped Miners; Sierra Leone Holds First Elections

Aired August 18, 2007 - 10:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center, this is the CNN NEWSROOM on this Saturday, August the 18th. It's 10:00 here in Atlanta, Georgia, 9:00 a.m. in Kingston, Jamaica, where they are bracing themselves.
Good morning to you all.

I'm T.J. Holmes.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Betty Nguyen. She's in South Africa and will join us shortly.

But first, Hurricane Dean right now a powerful storm. It could become even stronger. We've got a live report from Montego Bay just ahead. Plus, new information from your hurricane headquarters.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of things that they said that could never happen and through video we've seen it happen. So argue with the video.


KEILAR: Could something like this happen at your neighborhood school or backyard playground? Hot temperatures and toxic wood chips proving to be a very bad combination.

It's big, as you can see there. It's very powerful. And it's also poised to become a monster storm.

This is Hurricane Dean. It's barreling across the Caribbean, on a collision course with Jamaica. And right now the storm is a Category 4, but it's expected to strengthen even further to a Category 5 by later today. That means sustained winds above 155 miles an hour.

The latest forecast shows Dean hitting Jamaica by tomorrow, and we're going to talk with a Jamaican official in just a few minutes.

HOLMES: And of course Dean smashed into several Caribbean islands. On St. Lucia, fierce winds ripped the roofs off buildings.

We're getting one report of damage to a hospital's pediatric ward. Patients had been evacuated hours earlier, however. Dean also hit Martinique. Authorities are still assessing the damage in several other areas.

And let's head now to Bonnie Schneider. She is at the hurricane headquarters right now.


HOLMES: Well, Jamaica, as we've been talking about, a lot going on there. And the prime minister, other officials, they're urging residents of other Caribbean islands to take precautions as Hurricane Dean takes aim.

Terrell Forney of our affiliate WPLG has the report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hurricane watch remains in Jamaica as dangerous Hurricane Dean continues to strengthen by moving towards the island.

TERRELL FORNEY, WPLG (voice over): A growing wave of concern for residents and tourists in Montego Bay. Radio bulletins are forecasting the danger of Hurricane Dean just as some people make a desperate attempt to flee the Caribbean island via Montego Bay's busiest airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told me there was a lot of people going earlier because they knew there was a storm.

FORNEY: By nightfall, most of the flights leaving this city for the day were already in the sky. Only people trying to move up travel plans remained.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never come in August before. Now I'm here in this storm season. I don't want to stay. Scary.

FORNEY (on camera): All in all, people here know Hurricane Dean is on its way, but some locals still have a leisurely attitude toward a storm that's quickly gaining strength.

You haven't prepared at all?


FORNEY: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I prepared -- the last hurricane I prepared (INAUDIBLE).

FORNEY (voice over): Throughout town, though, gas stations are busy with drivers trying to beat the rush of long lines at the pump. Perhaps another sign that northern Jamaica may not be so lucky this time around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not so frightened. I'm just taking it stage by stage. And I'll prepare a little food and batten up a bit.


HOLMES: And Terrell Forney of our affiliate WPLG is joining us now live from Montego Bay.

Do people seem -- are they panicked just yet about this storm? Or should I say at least that they're taking this very seriously?

FORNEY: Not at this point. You know, people here on the island of Jamaica have a very lax sort of attitude as it stands right now, but people are really reluctant at this point to at least board up.

I mean, we drove around the town earlier today, and we only saw, actually, one business that was boarded up. We didn't see any homes that was boarded up. Instead, we saw a number of people washing cars, doing other things. But they say that they do have plans to board up their homes and go to the store to pick up supplies and water, at least some time today.

HOLMES: And what are the -- does the government appear to be ready as well right now, Terrell?

FORNEY: Yes, right now, the prime minister is asking for help from other countries just because of the intensity of this particular storm. Armed services are on alert right now, and shelters are on standby. There are a number of shelters that are ready and capable and taking in people who are evacuated from low-lying areas.

HOLMES: All right. Terrell Forney of our affiliate WPLG reporting for us from Montego Bay.

Terrell, thank you. You're certainly right, it doesn't look like a hurricane 4 or 5 is heading that way. It looks like a sunny, nice day, things just going on there in Jamaica as normal, beautiful Jamaica.

But Terrell, thank you so much.

And our CNN correspondents are going to be bringing you the latest on this hurricane. We'll have reports from Susan Candiotti in Jamaica. Karl Penhaul is in Haiti.

So, please, stay right here with CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

Also coming up in about 30 minutes we're going to be talking to the press secretary for Jamaica's prime minister.

KEILAR: Now to Utah, where relatives of those trapped miners are more worried than ever about their loved ones. This, after the underground rescue operation, the underground part of that rescue operation, was suspended.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom is on the scene in Huntington.

Kara, what can you tell us?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the efforts to reach these miners underground now halted. The focus will be from reaching them above ground.

Rescuers are continuing to drill a fourth hole down into the mining area where they believe these six miners are trapped. And once they get that hole drilled, they'll try to see or to hear the miners.

If they're able to make contact with them and if these miners are alive, they'll then start drilling a larger hole. And down that hole, they'll be able to drop a capsule through which they could bring these miners out.

Now, calling off that underground rescue effort has stirred us some mixed emotions in this small mining community. We did speak with one woman who is in the middle of it all. She has one uncle -- or one cousin, rather, who was killed during that rescue effort, Dale Black. She has another cousin, Kerry Allred, who is still one of those six miners trapped, and she says she is frustrated and frightened.


AZURE DAVIS, FAMILY MEMBER OF MINERS: I can just imagine being trapped myself and hearing rocks fall and thinking, OK, they're close enough. They must be close by. That's got to be really hard.


FINNSTROM: Flags are flying at half-staff throughout this state today in honor of those rescuers who were killed. They're being remembered here as heroes.

We did mention one of those rescuers as being Dale Black. The other is a Gary Jensen. And he was a 53-year-old federal mine safety worker who is survived by a wife and four children.

One bit of good news in all of this, the three rescuers who were hospitalized and remained in the hospital, they are said to be in pretty good condition and they are believed to survive.

Back to you.

KEILAR: And Kara, tell me, how are people in the community responding? Are they still hopeful?

FINNSTROM: You know, it's been such a long time that there is such a level of frustration. And obviously, a high level of worry. But if you really talk to the people in this mining community, they're amazing.

They are still, many of them, holding out hope. Of course, they want these miners to be found alive.

KEILAR: All right. Thank you.

Kara Finstrom, live for us there in Huntington, Utah.

And today at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, a CNN special, "Tragedy at Crandall Canyon Mine". You can join Fredricka Whitfield for a special one-hour program. That's only here on CNN.

And lots going on this Saturday morning. We've got an exclusive report from Africa and our Betty Nguyen.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Betty Nguyen, live in Africa.

Coming up, find out who is winning in Sierra Leone's historic presidential election and what the country is doing to take the blood out of its diamonds.

That's next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: And we look forward to that. See you here shortly, Betty.

Also, Hurricane Dean, it's a monster. And we are tracking this monster of a storm. We'll tell you where it's headed and what you need to know.

That is coming your way right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


KEILAR: Flights from Miami to the Caribbean cancelled because of Hurricane Dean, and other flights bringing passengers back to the U.S. from the storm zone.

Let's go now to Yvonne Nava of our affiliate WPLG. She joins us now from the Miami airport.

What's going on there, Yvonne?

YVONNE NAVA, REPORTER, WPLG: Well, good morning, Brianna. I just spoke with employees here at Air Jamaica, and they tell me they're waiting to get either an e-mail or a phone call from the Jamaican Department of Tourism. And once they do, they will definitely stop flights. But for now, everything is a go.

As for the latest flight, well, the first flight of the day left about 20 minutes ago, headed to Kingston.

Hurricane Dean hit the island of Martinique Friday morning with powerful 150-mile-per-hour gusts and now it is headed for Jamaica. Last night, here at Miami International Airport, flights from St. Lucia and St. Kitts were cancelled, while flights in from Jamaica carried passengers looking to get out of Dean's way.


Everyone is trying to get out and airports are really busy. And the flights were delayed with little children. It was very difficult. What can we do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were down there for six days. It was supposed to be seven, but we cut it short a day.


NAVA: Now, we must mention, there were plenty of folks rushing to get home to Jamaica before this storm hit. They say regardless of whether it's going to be a Category 4 or a Category 5 storm, they want to be home when it happens.

And also, Hurricane Dean is also affecting cruise industries. So far, a dozen cruise ships are either being relocated or they're asking to stay put to avoid the storm's path.

So, anyone here in south Florida, if you're planning on going on a cruise any time today or tomorrow, best bet is to call ahead and check with the cruise line before you pack your bags -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Thank you so much.

Yvonne Nava of our affiliate WPLG.

We appreciate your report.

HOLMES: Blood diamonds, you've heard about it, precious stones funding conflict in Africa. One country that stands out for funding its civil war with blood diamonds, Sierra Leone.

Well, this was Sierra Leone a week ago -- voting. Yes, results still being counted in the country's first election since peacekeepers left in 2005.

And our very own Betty Nguyen, she witnessed those elections firsthand. She joins us now from South Africa this morning after just returning from Sierra Leone.

Betty, so good to see you.

Tell us -- you were covering those elections last week. Some fascinating, great stuff to see. Have those votes been counted now? Do we know results yet?

NGUYEN: Well, preliminary results are still coming in. And what we know is those votes indicate that the main opposition leader is winning with two-thirds of the votes counted.

So, there's still a lot of counting to be done, but I have to tell you, to understand the importance of this election, you really have to look into Sierra Leone's history, which is rooted in a civil war that was fueled by blood diamonds. Well, today, things are still being done to take the blood out of Sierra Leone's diamonds.


NGUYEN (voice-over): With every sift, a watchful eye searches for that dream come true, a shiny diamond emerging from the murky water. But finding that ticket out of poverty is hard to do. These miners work day in and day out with no salary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No diamond, no pay. No help. Only God.

NGUYEN: Twenty-eight-year-old Ya Ya Baa (ph) says he hasn't found a diamond in six months. Event today, he keeps digging, while much of the country has left work to rally for its recent elections.

Instead, Ya Ya (ph) can only show his support by wearing celebratory glasses made out of palm leaves. But his vision of a better future is out of focus. Whether it's the hot sun or the eternal hope, his dream of diamonds sounds almost delusional.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like this. I will get this. I will leave to Africa.

NGUYEN (on camera): You get a diamond this big you can leave Africa?


NGUYEN: How much do you get for this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This, $1 million.



NGUYEN (voice-over): Let's take another look at that stone. It's not large enough to earn that kind of money, yet thousands live the dream.

It was even depicted in the Oscar-nominated movie "Blood Diamond," where the pursuit of precious stones created so much death and destruction.

Now that the fighting has ended, the mining continues, literally transforming the landscape.

(on camera): Many say this diamond-rich soil is what funded Sierra Leone's civil war, but today efforts are being made to take the blood out of the diamonds found here, so that they're never used to fund future conflicts.

(voice-over): A monitoring system called the Kimberly Process is aimed at keeping conflict stones after the open market.

ADBUL LAMIN, ANALYST: So that when the diamonds are exported out through the international market, it can be verified that these diamonds do not come from a source that has been used to buy weapons and wage war.

NGUYEN: Diamonds are Sierra Leone's main export. Between 2000 and 2004, the government's income soared from $10 million to $160 million, according to the United Nations.

Still, the country remains mired in poverty. Drive through the diamond heartland of Ghono (ph) and you'll find the face of despair. Yet the streets are filled with diamond shops.

(on camera): So this is an H?

GIBRIL KUYATEH, DIAMOND SELLER: Yes, these are H-colored diamonds.

NGUYEN (voice-over): But even dealers admit diamond mining is becoming increasingly difficult.

KUYATEH: Not easy to get diamonds now is the problem, because most of the area that we used to go, spend a few hours, get diamonds, it has exhausted now. It's now easy for you to get diamonds.

NGUYEN: Still, thousands continue searching, convinced their dreams are hidden just below the surface, and the only way to find them is to keep digging.


NGUYEN: And T.J., many of the miners tell me they continue to dig because they have no other choice. There aren't any other jobs available.

Sierra Leone has a 70 percent unemployment rate, which is why this election is so important. They are hoping that new leadership will bring about economic change and create more jobs -- T.J.

HOLMES: And Betty, I know you said that you had some partial results of those elections. When do we expect the final results?

And also, there was maybe some concern that maybe some outbreaks of violence on election day. It didn't really happen. So any concern about some violence as we go forward?

NGUYEN: Yes, that concern is always there. Let me tell you what we know so far.

Sixty percent of the votes are in. So it will be several more days before all of those votes are counted. But, an election runoff is expected because an outright winner has to get 55 percent of the vote.

So, that runoff, which is expected to take place, is going to take place some time in September. But in the meantime, as those votes are being counted and the names of those winners -- expecting more than one, again, as you have to get 55 percent of the vote to be the outright winner -- once those names are released, people are watching closely to see if violence will break out. And we, of course, will be watching, too -- T.J.

HOLMES: We know you will be.

Betty Nguyen for us.

Good to have you join us. You can't be sitting next to me, but you can still join us here on the weekend.

Thank you so much, Betty. Good to see you. We'll talk to you again soon.

KEILAR: And other stories that we're covering here this morning on CNN...

HOLMES: Going to be returning to Virginia Tech. Students going back to class on Monday. That massacre in April never far from anybody's mind.

A live report from the campus coming your way this morning.

KEILAR: Also, shocking pictures of a playground bursting into flames. Now, this flammable material is one that's commonly used.

What you need to know, ahead this morning on CNN.


HOLMES: Well, martyrdom, dying for a religious cause, a foreign concept to many folks in the West. But to Shiite Muslims in Iran, it could be a sacred obligation that dates back centuries to the martyrdom of their hero, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, Imam Hussain.

KEILAR: And that obligation is still held close by many in modern Iran.

CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour takes a closer look at one man's willingness to die in a new CNN documentary called "God's Warriors".


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Back then, Amir Faha (ph) was one of Khomeini's holy warriors. Tonight, as he prepares free food for the Ashura crowds in Tehran, he tells us how he volunteered to fight when he was barely a teenager. Seen here on a hilltop during the battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was 13 when I went to the front.

AMANPOUR (on camera): You went to the war? At 13 years old? How did they allow you to go at 13?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I did whatever I could. In the beginning, I was trained to defuse landmines. And when I was battle hardened, I ran messages on foot.

AMANPOUR: Did you think of Imam Hussain when you were at the front? UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He was my example. His courage inspired me. You can never praise him enough.

AMANPOUR: When the West looks at this and looks at the rituals, they see chest-beating, they see back-beating with chains.

What message do you want the West to have about your religion, about your rituals?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When we beat ourselves with iron chains and damage our bodies, we want to show that we will stand with our imam and our religion to the bitter end. For the Shiites, his sacrifice has kept Islam alive for 1,400 years.

AMANPOUR (voice over): And it's alive today, not only in Amir's (ph) heart, but in his household. He's brought me to meet his family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is my son, Abbas (ph), and this is Ali (ph).

AMANPOUR: Amir's (ph) two little boys are named after his two brothers who were killed in the war with Iraq. Martyrs for their country, he says.

More than 20 years later, his mother doesn't regret the family's sacrifice.

(on camera): Kobra, you're a mother and you sent your 13-year- old son to the front. You lost already two sons. How could you have done that?

KOBRA FAKHAR (through translator): I never wept for my sons when they went to war. In fact, I was happy. I would have been angry if they refused to go.

AMANPOUR: Is religion that important in your life?

FAKHAR (through translator): During the Ashura war, one of the Imam Hussain's disciples was decapitated and his head was thrown at his mother. But she flung it back defiantly, saying, "Whatever I give to God I don't want back." That's how important Islam is for us.


KEILAR: The six-hour television event premieres next week -- "God's Jewish Warriors" on Tuesday, "God's Muslim Warriors" on Wednesday, and "God's Christian Warriors" next Thursday, all at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

And you can also experience "God's Warriors" right now on You can see some sneak-peek clips, also behind-the-scene photos, and you can watch Christiane's video diaries and also send us an I-Report with your views.

HOLMES: Well, Hurricane Dean, we're keeping an eye on it this morning. It's creating some big concerns for everybody. KEILAR: Yes, Jamaica's in its sites and Texas isn't taking any chances.

We've got CNN coverage of Hurricane Dean just minutes away.

HOLMES: Also, in Peru, earthquake survivors get desperate. No food, no water.

We'll tell you what's happening there now.

Stay here on CNN.


KEILAR: Hurricane Dean is growing into a monster storm and it's on a collision course with Jamaica. Dean is expected to strengthen into a Category Five storm today. That's the most powerful, with winds above 155 miles per hour.

At this point, emergency plans are in place in Jamaica and the island is bracing for a direct hit from Dean tomorrow. Right now, Dean is a Category Four and it's roaring across the Caribbean. The storm ripped roofs off of buildings and flooded streets, as it slammed several Caribbean islands.

HOLMES: Well, we're talking about ripped roofs and also flooded streets -- but, Bonnie, that is just the beginning, probably, of what we are going to see from this storm.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. And this storm is so large and so intense, we're seeing something that we only see when have you a Category Four storm or a really large one -- an eyewall replacement cycle happening right now, where when you look at the satellite picture, a very defined eye is taking shape and then all of a sudden it closes up.

It doesn't mean, necessarily, the storm is weakening. It just means there's two eyewalls. The inner one collapses, the outer one takes hold, the storm contracts and gets even stronger. So, that's what's happening right now with Dean.

The storm currently is 615 miles to the east/southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.

And taking a look at our computer models, you can see that many of the computer models are looking at a direct lit to the island of Jamaica. When you're looking at Jamaica right now, you can see it's about 25 to 50 miles from north to south, depend on where you are. But it's a very mountainous island, so one of the biggest concerns -- mudslides. Because we're expecting torrential downpours of rain.

And, really, because Dean is such a large storm and we have hurricane force winds 60 miles within the storm's eye, what we're looking at is definitely the threat for very damaging winds and heavy downpours of rain for Jamaica. That's why it's under a hurricane watch right now. But we're expecting it to be upgraded to a hurricane warning.

Hurricane warnings are in effect right now for Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Tropical storm warnings continue for the U.S. Virgin Islands and for Puerto Rico.

Taking a look at the track and the intensity, you can see what we have now is a Category Four storm. But very soon it's possible to become a Category Five. Winds right now are at 150, but once they get above 155, we're talking about Category Five strength. And as you can see by the track, that is very likely to happen with Dean.

Brianna, T.J. one of the concerns is there's very little wind shear and the ocean temperature is so warm, this storm can only grow.

HOLMES: Oh, that is not good to hear.


HOLMES: It can only grow.

Bonnie Schneider keeping an eye on things this morning.

We'll talk to again here you shortly, Bonnie.

Thank you so much.

Well, Jamaica's prime minister urging residents to be cautious as Hurricane Dean takes aim.

Lincoln Robinson is press secretary for the prime minister.

He joins us now by phone from Kingston, Jamaica.

Sir, thank you for your time.

We talked to one of our reporters a short time ago who said you can't really notice it by talking to people and looking around some of the towns there, that people are ready yet or that they're taking it that seriously.

Do you think your citizens are getting the message just yet and are taking this storm seriously?

LINCOLN ROBINSON, PRESS SECRETARY, JAMAICA'S PRIME MINISTER: Good morning to you, T.J. and to the listeners.

I think the Jamaican people have taken the warning very seriously. Yesterday the prime minister urged to country to be on full alert and all the response agencies. And that is being taken in earnest.

Later on this morning, the prime minister will be again chairing a meeting with the National Disaster Preparedness Committee and all of the systems, T.J., are on full alert.

HOLMES: What do you have in place right now, I guess, that will be ready to go as soon as this storm hits?

How is the, I guess, government mobilized?

ROBINSON: Well, I can tell you that all the agencies from the meeting yesterday are saying that they are in a very much better position this year in terms of readiness. And that is a very encouraging sign. You know, Jamaica has always, from time to time, been affected by hurricanes. And we have made every effort since the last storm to put in place all the necessary measures. And it was very refreshing to hear from the agencies yesterday that things are in place.

I can tell you that as far as the international community is concerned -- and one of the items of interest is (INAUDIBLE) population. That, I would imagine, given the international nature of the island. And I can say at this time that both major airlines into Jamaica -- Air Jamaica and American Airlines -- are putting on special flights and increasing even the size of their crafts so that those passengers who are interested, the evacuation arrangements are being put in place, should those be necessary.

HOLMES: Are you expecting, at some point, your airport to be shutting down, and there's going to be a point where nobody is going to be able to get in or out of Jamaica?

Do you anticipate that happening in the next day or so?

ROBINSON: I think that that is a distinct possibility. The airport authority, they are meeting this morning and they will be looking at that issue.

As of now is, the airport is operating and the flights are going. And, as I indicated, they are putting on additional flights and increasing the capacity of the craft so that those persons who need to be evacuated can do.

Our airport will, I think, continue to operate for the rest of today, Saturday.

HOLMES: OK, Lincoln Robinson, press secretary for the prime minister there in Jamaica, joining us from Kingston, Jamaica.

Sir, thank you for your time and good luck to your people and your government there, as you're bracing for what looks like is going to be a nasty hit from this storm.

Thank you so much, sir.

KEILAR: In a calmer place now, a spacewalk is underway. But it's shorter than scheduled. Right now you're looking at live pictures of the astronauts outside the International Space Station. Now, NASA is scaling back the tasks for two of Endeavour's astronauts. The change is part of the plan to bring the shuttle home a day early because of Hurricane Dean.

The crew now set to return Tuesday to avoid any problems with the storm.

And, of course, CNN correspondents will bring you the very latest on Hurricane Dean.

We'll have reports from both Susan Candiotti in Jamaica and, also, Karl Penhaul in Haiti.

So stay with CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

And coming up in about 30 minutes, we're going to talk with the press secretary for Jamaica's prime minister.

HOLMES: Well, we've got another mine disaster to tell you about, this one in China. Rescuers are struggling to reach nearly 175 miners trapped underground by flash flooding. China's news agency reporting a rain-swollen river burst a levee, flooded two separate shafts. Nearly 585 miners escaped.

KEILAR: Rescuers still looking for sign of life this morning in Peru after Wednesday's powerful earthquake that killed more than 500 people. Last hour, we spoke with Harris Whitbeck, who is on the scene in Peru.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Residents of Ica spent a terrifying night. There was a strong aftershock that was felt throughout the region, but there were also lots of looters out. There was a -- we could hear a lot of shooting in the air, as people tried to ward looters off and keep them away from what was left of their homes.

So it's still a very, very difficult situation here in Southern Peru. The Peruvian government says aid is starting to flow and once that aid starts getting to the people who need it most, the hope is that the looting will stop.


KEILAR: One thousand people were injured in the quake and tens of thousands were left homeless.

HOLMES: So back to school. It certainly can be an emotional time, but nothing like it's going to be at Virginia Tech, where classes resume on Monday.

Our Gary Nuremberg is on the Virginia Tech campus -- good morning to you, Gary.


Some students are returning to the Virginia Tech campus for the first time since those traumatic April 16th shootings that killed 32 and injured more than two dozen others, some of whom were hurt when they jumped from windows to avoid the shooter. The shootings took place so late in the semester that students were given the option of simply remaining home and getting full credit for their course work. But most chose to return to the campus after the shootings to complete their studies.

Some students have been moving into dormitories here over the last several days, including West Ambler Johnston Hall, where the first two victims were shot at 7:16 that morning. It is a huge dormitory that houses more than 800 residents.

There was a sense of that beginning of the school year anticipation this week as students and parents prepared dorm rooms and bought last minute supplies. But there is no escaping the memory of what happened here four months ago.

CNN viewers may remember Lauren Emery, a woman we talked to after the shooting. She is returning here for her senior year.


LAUREN EMERY, VIRGINIA TECH SENIOR: I don't think we're going to be walking around campus and it's, you know, it's going to put a stop on our lives. I think people are going to move forward and, you know, we -- it will be like I said, there will be that everyday reminder, the memorials and -- which I believe, of course, should be there and are great. And I really think it's great what they did with them.

But I don't -- you know, maybe it will be more united. Tech's always been, as far as I've been here, a very united school.


NURENBERG: This is a busy weekend. The Corps of Cadets is having its first pass in review in honor of the family and friends of the freshmen members of the Corps, about 250 of them, as they show off what those freshmen have learned the last several days.

A big picnic here on campus tomorrow and then the formal dedication of a new memorial to those who died. It is expected to draw tens of thousands who want to pay their respects.

Look for some news at the end of the week when a commission appointed by the governor will issue its report and recommendations. We are told, T.J., that family members may get an advanced briefing on that as early as Tuesday.

HOLMES: All right, Gary Nuremberg for us on the Virginia Tech campus.

Gary, thank you so much, this morning.

KEILAR: A really frightening scene on a Texas playground this week. The summer heat became so extreme that a playground just burst into flames.

This happened at a elementary school in Arlington, Texas. This fire, of course, is now raising concerns about what these playgrounds are made of and could this happen at a playset near you -- the question that a lot of people are asking.

And joining us this morning, the superintendent of the Arlington Independent School District, Mac Bernd.

Mac, thanks so much for being with us.

And first I want to ask you, how did this happen?

I mean what caused this?

MAC BERND, SUPERINTENDENT, ARLINGTON SCHOOLS: Well, what we looked at was the direction we got from the Arlington fire marshal. And it was the fire marshal's conclusion that this was spontaneous combustion.

KEILAR: And what specifically caused it? Was -- there were obviously materials on the playground, right?

Was it wood chips or something in particular?

BERND: There is a wood fiber material that is used as a cushioning material in some of our play areas. The fire marshal determined that the combination of moisture underneath, heat and a combustible material combined to cause this situation.

It was very unusual, but according to our fire marshal, that's what occurred.

KEILAR: And I know this isn't the first time something like this has happened, right?

But this is really the first time that the school district has thought that it was spontaneous combustion.

Is that right?

Can you tell me about that?

BERND: Well, the situation was we've had some playground fires, but we didn't get them on video. We had a security camera in the area. It videoed the entire thing and that gave the fire marshal and the Arlington Police Department information that they could use to make the determination they did.

KEILAR: So is there suspicion that maybe those other fires weren't vandalism, that maybe this was happening at some other playgrounds?

BERND: The first thing you think of is vandalism. Now we're wondering.

KEILAR: So how do you keep your students safe?

What is the process here?

BERND: We're replacing all the material in 20 schools with 35 different play areas. This is a massive project that we're trying to get done before school starts.

KEILAR: And have you talked with superintendents, officials in other school districts?

Are they dealing with similar things as well?

BERND: Honestly, our focus has been on Arlington. We make no recommendations to anyone else. We know what we're going to do to keep our children safe.

KEILAR: All right, Mac Bernd, with the Arlington school district there in Texas.

We really appreciate you talking with us today.

Thank you.

HOLMES: Of course, everybody complains about their bills. Everybody. But we've got something here Veronica has got to show us that's just off the charts.


It is a bill in a box -- a 300-page bill that is. The horrors of the AT&T iPhone phone bill.

We're going to explain next from the Dot-Com Desk.

Did you like that alliteration?


DE LA CRUZ: iPhone phone bill.

HOLMES: Say it one more time fast for us.

DE LA CRUZ: The horrors of the AT&T iPhone phone bill.

HOLMES: All right.

DE LA CRUZ: Can you say it?

HOLMES: Thank you very much.

I'll get back to you.

I'll get back to you, Veronica.

We'll see you shortly.

Also, we've got an inspirational story here. Changing lives in Haiti -- the story of a CNN Hero.

That's coming up right after this.


HOLMES: Well, turning bleak futures into bright ones.

KEILAR: Yes, in Haiti, Robert Duvall is working to turn the lives of impoverished children away from despair and toward hope. And because of that, he is our CNN Hero.


ROBERT DUVAL, CNN HERO: In the main center for the last two years, the background music that we had while the kids were playing were gunshots -- machine gunshots.

Some of these kids have witnessed the worst atrocities. They live in the mud and no running water.


Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Eighty percent of Haitians live below the poverty line.

Two hundred thousand AIDS orphans.

One in eight children will die before the age of five.


DUVAL: No electricity. No garbage pickup. No food. Nothing.

My name is Robert Duval. I am the founder of the training center they call L'Athletique d'Haiti, Athletes of Haiti.

This is the women's team.

The kids never miss practice and they're disciplined enough to keep focused on something positive.

And I left this country very young. And I came back, I had a shock.

What happened to my country, you know?


Dictators "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier ruled Haiti from 1957-1986.

They have been accused of rampant corruption. Political killings and arbitrary detentions.

(END GRAPHIC) DUVAL: I started asking questions and I was thrown in jail. When I came out, I was down to 90 pounds. That means skin and bones. That just turned my life around.

This hill could be a dumping ground.

Now, it's basically an after school program.

One of the driving forces that has made our program so successful is that one plate of food we give them a day. Because sometimes if those kids don't get that, they just won't get a plate of food.

We have soccer, track, basketball, table tennis and we have karate now.

A hero is a kid who accepts to uplift himself in the most adverse conditions, maintains the course and really does succeed in changing his life.


Bobby's program serves approximately 1,300 kids a day through sports, food and educational programs.

DUVAL: I feel that youth is important because the youth is the future.

What I do is a drop in the bucket. A kid -- he may have the most immense talent, but if you don't nourish it, he'll never know what he could have become.


KEILAR: There's a lot more about Bobby Duval and his work to improve Haiti's future on our Web site.

Just head to

And you can nominate a hero that you know for special recognition later this year.

HOLMES: And remember, folks, we are tracking Hurricane Dean. We'll be tracking it for the next several days here.

KEILAR: From Jamaica to the Gulf Coast, we're closely watching what could be a monster of a storm.


TAY ZONDAY, YOUTUBE PHENOM: Oh, it has to be Bali, yes siree. "Chocolate Rain".



Have you heard this yet, folks?

Maybe you've seen it -- "Chocolate Rain". We will be talking to that guy -- the guy behind the viral video, "Chocolate Rain" .

Stay here for that.


ZONDAY: "Chocolate Rain" made me cross the street the other day. "Chocolate Rain" made you turn your hand the other way. "Chocolate Rain".



HOLMES: All right. Viral videos. We know these things...

KEILAR: Viral videos.

HOLMES: they're a big deal. And, you know, I'm a big fan of "Purple Rain." Prince. A classic.


HOLMES: But "Chocolate Rain" is the rage right now.


HOLMES: "Chocolate Rain".

DE LA CRUZ: "Chocolate Rain" is all the rage. It is all the rage. It is sweeping the Net, just like you were saying.

Before we get to the "Chocolate Rain," we want to show you this. A 300-page phone bill from AT&T?

Have you guys heard all about this one?

HOLMES: We heard about it earlier.

DE LA CRUZ: It's what many new iPhone users are experiencing in their mailboxes right now. This woman admits she is a text messaging freak, not unlike you, T.J.

HOLMES: I'm bad. I love it.

DE LA CRUZ: She sends up to 35,000 text messages per month.

Anything like you?

HOLMES: I might have her beat, actually.

DE LA CRUZ: And every one of them was itemized by AT&T for her records.

HOLMES: Really?

DE LA CRUZ: Do you have a phone bill like this at home, T.J.?

HOLMES: I get two or three pages.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. You know, save the trees, hey, T.J.


Take a look at this next one.

Do you guys want to go for a dip in the pool?

HOLMES: Always.

DE LA CRUZ: Check this out. Apparently there's not a soul left in Tokyo who doesn't want to go for a dip in the pool. This is a giant wave pool there in Japan, where people have been suffering through a heat wave, just like the one here in the United States.

And hold the phone.

Where is the water?

HOLMES: Yes, that's too much right there.

DE LA CRUZ: It kind of looks a little dangerous.


KEILAR: Where is the water?

DE LA CRUZ: Not to be the party pooper, but -- I mean hundreds of thousands of people are just jammed into this pool and when that wave machine starts, you don't see anything except for those bodies just kind of bobbing, bobbing. That's pretty weird.

HOLMES: That didn't look like fun.


ZONDAY: Rain, a baby born boy was I before the sin. "Chocolate Rain".


DE LA CRUZ: Brianna, you're going to have to (INAUDIBLE) those dance moves.

That's right.

KEILAR: But right after this.

DE LA CRUZ: He's been downloading this one to his iPod right now as we speak.

HOLMES: I love it. I love it.

KEILAR: He loves it.

DE LA CRUZ: This young man here, he calls himself Tay Zonday. And he posted this little ditty to YouTube back in April. And now more than five million hits later, plus countless spoofs, it's all over the Internet. It is an Internet sensation. And this young man, Tay Zonday, will be joining us live in the next hour to talk all about it.

"Chocolate Rain".

(SINGING) "Chocolate Rain"

You know, I just wanted to show you guys my award that that I received -- best female impersonation for "Chocolate Rain".

HOLMES: Oh, wow!

KEILAR: I don't think that's what it really was from.


HOLMES: Actually, it really is what it says, folks.

KEILAR: I think this is probably something even better.

What is that?

DE LA CRUZ: No, I hosted the NAAP National Convention last night. So a big thank you to you guys for having me do that. I had a great time, the National Association of Asian-American professionals.

It was -- it was a fun time, for sure.


DE LA CRUZ: So, yes. I didn't get it for the best female impersonation, but, you know, maybe when you talk to Tay Zonday, you know, let me in there to just sing a little "Chocolate Rain," see how I do, maybe?

KEILAR: I think so.

HOLMES: We will, Veronica.

Thank you.

DE LA CRUZ: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: We'll see you shortly.

And remember, folks, we are tracking Hurricane Dean. We're talking about this all morning. Forecasters warning it could become a more powerful storm.

KEILAR: And we have reporters across the Caribbean and also along the U.S. Gulf Coast, because this is the kind of hurricane coverage that you can only find right here on CNN. And you're going to want to stay and watch this.


SCHNEIDER: I'm CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider.

Well, a hurricane hunter airplane has reached the center of Dean and found that the storm has not weakened. It's still a Category Four storm, with maximum winds at 150 miles per hour.

But this just in -- a hurricane warning has been issued for the entire island of Jamaica. That means Jamaica will feel hurricane conditions within the next 24 hours. We also have a better idea on the track. And if you take a look at this, you'll see most of the computer models are in agreement that the storm will either hit very close to or make a direct hit on the Yucatan Peninsula. We'll be watching this closely here at CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

HOLMES: Well, it is once again that time -- time for us to check in with Kiran Chetry for a look at the big stories of last week and see what's coming up on "AMERICAN MORNING" on Monday -- hello there to you, Kiran.


Great to see you.

Well, Monday, we're going to be staying on hurricane watch. We're sending Rob Marciano to the storm front to give us some updates on Hurricane Dean as it moves through the Caribbean and grows in size and strength. And, also, from the hurricane brewing in the Caribbean to the political storm surrounding Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

I had a chance to sit down with Senator McCain this week and we talked about the challenges that his campaign faces and what he thinks about his GOP competitors.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, "AMERICAN MORNING" CO-ANCHOR: CHETRY: You said earlier this week that since 1980, every nominee has won two of the three key early races -- that being New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina. You're not leading in any of these states right now.

If you were not to win one at least one or two of those states, would you consider dropping out?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Oh, I'm sure we would have to see what the circumstances were at the time. But I am confident we will win two of the three early states. But I would imagine it would be extremely difficult without that. You'd be defying history.

CHETRY: Well, when it comes to Rudy Giuliani, as well, he was the only one on the stage that was willing to say that he was pro-choice, I mean, after -- after really getting questioned.

Do you think that a pro-choice candidate can win the GOP ticket?

MCCAIN: I think it's very difficult. I think it's very difficult, because it's one of the principles of our party. But he seems to be doing pretty well so far.


CHETRY: McCain, of course, though, not giving up. He is saying that he is in it and he is going to be going door-to-door, Iowa State Fair, different community places, doing everything he can to convince the American people to vote for him.

So that was John McCain on "AMERICAN MORNING".

Next week, some new challenges for college students heading back to campus. We're going to take a closer look at security, as well as financial concerns. Also, a look at sex on campus. Times are certainly changing.

We hope you can join us for college week next week, T.J.

HOLMES: Well...

CHETRY: By the way, have a great weekend.

HOLMES: ...that's a heck of a tease there, Kiran.

Thank you.

And remember, folks, join Kiran Chetry and John Roberts for "AMERICAN MORNING," weekdays, beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.