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Interview With Florida State Representative Shevrin Jones; Report Details Traumatic Impact of Migrant Family Separations on Children; Hurricane Dorian Pounds East Coast. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 04, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what he's doing right now in the chamber of the House of Commons is tabling a motion for a general election.

He wants Britain to go to the polls again to give him a fresh mandate to deliver the kind of Brexit that he believes the people of the United Kingdom want. So, the chain is now set in motion for that. And no one quite knows where it's going to end up.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Bianca Nobilo, I can hear those shouts, the protests behind you. What a night there in London. Thank you very much. We will stay on top of that.

But let's continue on, top of the hour.

You are watching CNN's special live coverage here. I'm Brooke Baldwin in New York.

My colleague Erica Hill there standing by in downtown Charleston in South Carolina, where forecasters warn that, if Hurricane Dorian makes landfall, the flooding could be disastrous.

As the Category 2 storm pummels the Florida coast, it is growing in size, threatening 10-foot storm surges in South Carolina, which could rival Hurricane Hugo back in 1989. More than 1.2 million people who live there are under mandatory evacuations across both Carolinas.

This hour, the Charleston International Airport has shut down all operations, with the mayor warning his city, this is your last chance to get out of harm's way.


JOHN TECKLENBURG, MAYOR OF CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: This is a really hard thing for a mayor to say of a vibrant and beautiful city.

Starting late this afternoon, for 36 hours, I want Charleston to be a ghost town. I want everybody out of sight, if they're not out of town, inside, hunkered down and safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: The mayor says that he is haunted by what Dorian left behind in the Bahamas. We know at least seven people have been killed, entire neighborhoods turned to splinters.

On the Abaco Islands, the United States Coast Guard has been deployed to help airlift stranded survivors. And President Trump says the U.S. will help the island nation recover.


BALDWIN: Erica Hill, let me bring you back in, in Charleston.

And listening to your interview with the former governor, former Congressman Mark Sanford last hour, he said where you are standing, it is called low country for a reason, right? So it's already prone to flooding.


BALDWIN: You add in storm surge, and that can be disastrous.

HILL: You're absolutely right.

And we're already getting notifications of some streets actually around where we are that are being closed for some minor flooding. Keep in mind, this has only just begun. We're clearly in a little bit of a lull right now. The rain has stopped for the moment.

Winds are fairly light, but, as we heard from Tom, it's really going to pick up this evening into the overnight hours. That high tide he was talking about, that concern of 10.3 feet, that happens while most of the city will be asleep, 1:11 a.m.

And that is why, as you pointed out, Brooke, the mayor said he wants this to be a ghost town. We will continue to update you on what is happening here in the United States.

But we cannot talk about this storm without talking about what has been left behind in the Bahamas. The pictures will stop you. And now that we're getting fresh reporting from the ground, it is even more devastating.


CNN's Patrick Oppmann, who has been on this story in the Bahamas from the very beginning, has made his way to Freeport.

And, Patrick, you're there at the airport and seeing some of this for the first time and perhaps even before some officials have even made it there, Patrick. What are you finding?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think we're some of the first people to get to the airport. We have been trying for days, and it's just been absolutely impossible because of the high level water.

The whole airport was one of the hardest-hit areas. It was completely underwater. It's been battered by waves during the storm. We finally after two days of trying got to the airport.

And it's ruins. The areas we were able to access because the fences are down, there are no walls to that part of the airport, this is part of the domestic airport, and it was destroyed. An entire building was not only destroyed. A piece of a plane, a wing of a plane had been thrown through the airport and was just lying there with a huge piece of the wheel outside.

There was another plane that was flipped upside down. The rest of the airport has had heavy flooding damage, we're told. We asked to go to the international airport to one of the few security guards still on the scene, and he said, it's too dangerous. You can't go in there. We have got to do a damage assessment first.

So, this is a very, very serious complication for the rescue effort, because, in addition to one runway that is used by both the international and domestic terminals, is littered with debris. There is no power anywhere we could see, including the control tower.

There are pieces of metal and concrete all over the runway. The runway had been underwater for days. I don't see how a plane could land there safely, until officials are able to get on the ground and really do an assessment.

And none of that is going on. There's no work going on. No one's clearing any debris. The parts that are damaged, there were Bahamians wandering in taking photos and selfies with their cell phones.

And the airport is mostly -- the parts we saw were in ruins. How aid will come in, how people will be able to leave, I don't know. We have seen choppers land, the Coast Guard choppers land, but this is going to really complicate the relief effort.

And it's going to make it much harder for aid to come in by air, which has not happened yet, and this island desperately, desperately needs.

HILL: Yes. It is amazing, especially when you paint that picture and where we're at, because it is -- we do need that aid so desperately.

One of the folks that you spoke with in the last couple of days who survived the storm, unfortunately, his wife did not. That story has touched so many people.

And I just want to play a bit of your interview, in case people may not have seen that.


HOWARD ARMSTRONG, HURRICANE VICTIM: It came over the roof, I would imagine 21 feet at least.

We were doing all right, until the water kept coming up, and all the appliances were going around the house like a washing machine. That's probably I got hit with something in there.

And my poor little wife got hypothermia. And she was standing on top of the kitchen cabinets, until they disintegrated. And then I kept with her. And then she just drowned on me.

OPPMANN: What was the last thing your wife said to you?

ARMSTRONG: "I'm not going to -- I think I'm going to die."

And I said: "No, you're not." And that was it.

She took a little mouthful of water, and that was it.


HILL: It leaves you speechless. It is heartbreaking to listen to that, Patrick.

And you have heard from so many people who managed to ride out this storm, but who are now looking at a very uncertain future.

OPPMANN: Yes, that man, Howard Armstrong, he has such an amazing story.

He showed me bruises all over his body he got from being beaten nearly to death by the waves that were picking up debris and smashing him and his wife. He did everything he could to save his wife. And when she passed away, and he knew that he would die in that house, he made the decision, the life-or-death decision, to swim down to the front door of his house, which was well underwater, because he said the water almost got to the ceiling of the first story of his house.

Swam down in the dark, swam out of the door, and then swam over to his neighbor's house. He said his neighbor had been calling for help for hours. And he finally -- when he finally was able to get into her, swim into her house, he saw that she had also passed away.

He was rescued. He only has the clothes on his back. He's not been able to contact family. He's in deep, deep shock. And he's not alone.

There are so many people on this island who are the walking wounded, physically or mentally have deeper wounds, and will require treatment and will require help, and don't even have a bed to sleep in.


We don't know how many hundreds of people are homeless, but it may be many more than that. So many people on this island have been left with absolutely nothing or even less than that.

And that interview stayed with me as well. It was so hard to talk to him. We were in the middle of driving rain and wind. And he did not want to leave that spot, because he was so hopeful that his wife's body would be recovered.

We still do not know if Lynn Armstrong's body has been recovered. (INAUDIBLE) She's not on any list yet of the deceased of the Bahamas. But she and I believe, and residents tell me, others have died on the island of Grand Bahama. And we are not certain at this hour how many of their bodies have been


HILL: Yes. And, to your point, it is so difficult to get to some of those areas. It will likely be some time.

We do know officials, though, have said they do expect that death toll to rise.

Patrick, appreciate it. Your reporting has been nothing short of remarkable.

And these are the stories and these are the pictures that people need to see to understand what has been left behind in Dorian's wake. And it is those pictures that were also a focus for officials here in the United States.

The mayor of South Carolina starting a briefing a short time ago by saying he wanted to talk about the Bahamas, because he had been so affected by what he saw, and making the point that, once this storm was done with this city, that he also wanted to turn efforts not just to what the needs were here in Charleston, but to what the needs are there in the Bahamas.

My colleague Athena Jones is not too far from me. She is also in Charleston, although in a different area.

And we can see people really making preps for the storm down there, Athena. It's deserted where we are. Are you getting the same sense down there?


That's exactly right. We spent most of the day in historic downtown Charleston. Now we're in the historic residential area. We haven't seen a lot of folks on the street, some families looking around, trying to see what the water looks like now.

But, for the most part, it's been vacant. It's been not a lot of people around. But you can see here, this boarded-up home -- boarded- up home, all up and down this (INAUDIBLE) right near the water. We are seeing people preparing for this storm.

And I should tell you that they're expecting 10 to 15 inches of rain here in Charleston. As we have been saying all along, this is a low- lying area, so it's extremely high flood risk.

And you can already see how high the water is here along the coast. That is expected to get up to 10 feet, so second only to Hurricane Hugo in 1989. (INAUDIBLE) And, of course, the storm surge is the most -- one of the most dangerous aspects of one of these storms.

The U.S. Weather Service says that, often, when it comes -- when people die, about half of the deaths can be attributed to storm surge and (INAUDIBLE) like (INAUDIBLE) something that people are guarding against, warning against. And I should mentioned that, while the evacuations that were urged long ago, hours ago, authorities here were saying, if you're not already on the road, you need to be on the road.

Now there are shuttles carrying people around town to shelters, so they're making stops around town for anyone who has trouble getting to a shelter, getting to a safe place. Anyone who wasn't able to get out of town, they can get to a shelter through a shuttle until about 6:00 p.m.

But then they want the place to be hunkered down. As you mentioned, the mayor wants it to be a ghost town. It mostly is -- Erica.

HILL: Yes. Well, and that is good news. And that's what we need to focus on, because the mayor, of course, as you pointed out, Athena, is also focusing on what he called the triple threat.

It is the high tide, it is the storm surge, and these heavy rains.

And, Brooke, those are all the things that we will be monitoring, of course, in the hours to come as our coverage continues here from Charleston.

But, for now, we will send it back to you in New York.

BALDWIN: Got it. Erica, thank you very much.

Coming up next, I'll talk to a state lawmaker in Florida who has family in the Bahamas right now. He is calling on the White House to waive visa requirements for those hurricane survivors who want to seek refuge in the U.S.

Also ahead, disturbing new details from a government report about the family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, migrant children now describing the long-lasting trauma it has had on them.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching special coverage here on CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And for my next guest, the threat posed by Hurricane Dorian was actually twofold.

Shevrin Jones represents Broward County in the Florida Statehouse. And while the region may have escaped most of the storm's wrath, Jones' relatives in the Bahamas were caught right in the middle of it.

Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we need assistance fast. This is going on right, right now. Oh. Oh. Pray for -- pray for us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And now Representative Jones is urging the U.S. government to step up and help those in need, including asking President Trump to waive visa requirements for Bahamians.

Florida State Representative Shevrin Jones is with me now from Miami.

Representative Jones, a pleasure, sir. Thank you so much for being with me.


And I'm so glad everyone at least in your family is safe and accounted for.

SHEVRIN JONES (D), FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Thank you so much for having me, Brooke. And I thank God that all of them are safe and accounted for also.

BALDWIN: We will get to some of the politics in a second.

But can you just tell me a little bit more about your family? Where are they hunkering down right now? And how are they doing?

S. JONES: Thank you so much.

So, all of my family, they're all now in Nassau. And they're all together. And we're very excited that my family is doing well.

But that's not the reality for a lot of family members. I have been in contact with my family daily. We all are on a group chat. And so we talk to each other. But, once again, that's not the same for some families who are still in search for their families over in the Bahamas.

BALDWIN: But you have been posting -- you mentioned the group chat -- I mean, you have been posting texts from some of your relatives on Twitter, including a heartbreaking one from a cousin who works for the Bahamian government.

What did she tell you?

S. JONES: She just shared how -- how bad it was to -- how bad it is over there as they are in the search and rescue mode, the families who are in distress, the families who are so much in need, even the seniors, even seeing individuals who have passed away.

And it's devastating. And even speaking to my cousins after the fact, the one thing, asking him, Neko (ph), how are things over in Bahamas? And all he could say is: "Cuz, it's so bad. It's very bad."

And it's heartbreaking.

BALDWIN: I know that you have been collecting donations for those impacted at your father's church in South Florida. S. JONES: We have.

BALDWIN: What is the big -- what's the biggest need right now?

S. JONES: You know, the biggest need -- I know a lot of people want to bring clothes and things, but if you take a listen to what Prime Minister Minnis have asked for, he's been asking for food, tents, portable toilets, baby food, diapers for babies, diapers for our senior community.

Those are the things that are of most need right now, because the people, they just don't have any of those things. And I can't stress enough, water and food are the most important things that they need right now with the -- on the island.

BALDWIN: All right, water, food.

And let's talk about your ask of the White House. You want President Trump to waive visa requirements for Bahamians. I know you have reached out to Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

S. JONES: Mm-hmm.

BALDWIN: What do you hope is accomplished? And have you gotten any response from the White House?

S. JONES: You know, I have not gotten a response from the White House. But I have gotten a response from Senator Rubio.

And setting politics aside, because I get it. Senator Rubio and I, we sit on the opposite side on a lot of issues, but it's amazing on how this issue of tragedy, not only he and I, but other of my other Republican colleagues, we have been able to come together on this.

Senator Rubio made it very clear that his office is going to work along with our office -- I spoke with his office today -- to begin the process to figure out what needs to be done too for those individuals who are displaced who want to get here with their families, how we can make that happen.

The problem -- the problem is that many of those individuals have lost their documentation. They have lost their identification. And so the Bahamian government has a very succinct biometric system. And they're very up in technology when it comes to that.

But the problem still remains that -- how the Bahamian government and how the U.S. can work together to get that information, so these individuals can be united with their families here, even if it's just temporary.

BALDWIN: Did it seem -- did it seem positive from Senator Rubio that he's on board with you and he wants to help make that happen?

S. JONES: It did.

BALDWIN: Good. S. JONES: My last text message with Senator Rubio was about 2:00, and he made it clear that we -- he and I ought to have an open communication with each other to make it happen.

He did say that he needs to wait on some word from the State Department.


S. JONES: But I also don't want to leave -- I also don't want to leave out that Congresswoman Frederica Wilson is also very, very well working towards helping to make this happen also, yes.

BALDWIN: Great, great, great.

OK, state Representative Jones, thank you so much for working for so many who need that help and who want to come to the U.S. and be with family.

S. JONES: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will stay in close contact with you, and we will see if that happens. Appreciate you very much. Thank you.

S. JONES: Appreciate it. Thank you, Brooke. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, heartbreaking descriptions of the family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border and the lasting impact they will have, told by the migrant children who were ripped from their parents.

We will have the details from a new government report next.



BALDWIN: We will get you back to the storm coverage in just a moment.

But we are now getting a devastating look at how President Trump's zero tolerance policy affected migrant children who were separated from their parents.

A brand-new government report details that facilities were not equipped to help them deal with their confusion and their trauma.

Some of the findings among, other -- other issues, was that there was difficulty in employing and then preparing in-house clinicians to help these children, that some children were held for more than three months, and that those longer stays led to deteriorating mental health and instances of self-harm.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has more on a policy that has officially ended, but could leave lasting