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Hurricane Dorian Wipes Out Parts Of Bahamas; Volunteers Rescuing Storm Survivors In The Bahamas; U.K. Lawmakers Seize Control Of Parliamentary Agenda; Dorian Devastates Bahamas, Moves Along U.S. Coast; Dorian Devastates Bahamas, Moves Along U.S. Coast; Trump and Pence Defend Weekend Decisions; Search for Survivors Called Off. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 04, 2019 - 01:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi! Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Thanks so much for joining us I'm Robyn Curnow. So at this hour, we are following two big stories.

In the U.K., a major blow to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson after rebel alliance of lawmakers seized control of Parliament, but we also begin with the very latest on the destructive path of Hurricane Dorian.

For almost two days now, Hurricane Dorien smothered the Bahamas. We heard reports of utter devastation. Well, now we get to see the destruction. Parts of the island are in ruins. As you can see from these aerial images, many, many areas underwater, homes ripped apart, communities gutted. Flooding is a threat to rescue efforts as well and the rescuers themselves in fact.

Every day, people are using boats and jet skis putting their lives at risk to save others. At the moment, the storm killed at least seven people, but the Prime Minister expects that to rise. He's called Dorian a historic tragedy.


HUBERT MINNIS, PRIME MINISTER, BAHAMAS: We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country's history. The government will bring to bear every resource of state possible to help the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama or any other island nation that's necessary.


CURNOW: Well, as the Bahamas struggled, Dorian is rolling on. The hurricane has gotten weaker over the past 24 hours, but it's not a weak storm. It's now category two picking up speed as it skirts the U.S. Florida is seeing fierce, fierce winds and rain along with storm surge and flooding. Coastal Georgia is also bracing.

Dornan is not expected to make landfall there but it certainly could threaten the Carolinas later on this week. Well, CNN is covering this hurricane from all angles. Patrick Oppmann is in the devastated town of Freeport, Bahamas, and Derek Van Dam is in Jensen Beach, Florida along the state's East Coast.

But first I want to hear from Pedram Javaheri on the storm's path. Pedram, hi! Just talk us through what's happening right now.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Hi Robyn! It's still a menacing storm system as you said. It is a category two, 110 miles per hour at this hour with the storm system. And notice, the eye, the symmetry that organization that was in place the last couple of days really becoming ragged so we're at least we're losing some symmetry with the storm system but unfortunately it has what it takes to maintain at least a category two status inside the next one to maybe even two days here as it approaches to the north and potentially areas around the Carolinas.

And the storm itself, when you kind of look at the scope or the size of it, it is really broadened out. Keep in mind, about a week ago it was smaller in size than this areas around say, Puerto Rico. Now you put it in place to a state such as the size of Alaska. The storm spans some 500 miles from its west to its east when you measure the cloud field which encompasses nearly the entire state of Alaska, about 80 percent of the state of Alaska.

So it is an incredibly large storm system now which means an incredibly -- an incredibly large cloud field and also tropical-storm- force winds that move away from the center. Now, the eyewall of the storm sits about 60 miles away from say Cape Canaveral so really it gives you an idea of how close this storm is to making landfall across this region of the east coast of Florida.

The eye itself spans some 50 miles across as well. But what is this? When you kind of bring the storm system in and look at the size of it the magnitude of it at 110 miles per hour, just one mile per hour shy of being a major hurricane again or a category three system there that historically brings devastating damage.

So it's really important to note that threshold of category two to category three, this system sits there right in line with the category three. And of course we do know hurricane watches and hurricane warnings have been issued all across portions of a southeastern coastline. And here's the track moving forward inside the next 24 hours.

We expect a northwesterly track at least the next 24 hours. And then finally by this time tomorrow a shift to north and east, and then the storm tries to pull away from the Carolinas. Unfortunately, once you get towards the borders of North and South Carolina, that's where the landmass begins to kind of move out in the path of the storm.

And that's when we think landfall is going to be a possibility sometime as early as tomorrow night, but as late potentially as Thursday afternoon across portions of say Wilmington, maybe into the Hatteras region.

The models have kind of wanted to shift the track a little farther towards the east but it looks almost certain that portions of the Carolinas would begin to deal with this more directly. Storm surge potential, one of the deadliest aspects of any storm is among the highest there right across the Carolinas, Robyn, as much as four to seven feet going in towards tomorrow night and Thursday morning in that region, Robyn.


CURNOW: OK. Folks need to take notice. Thanks so much Pedram Javaheri. I appreciate that.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

CURNOW: Well, CNN's Patrick Oppmann and his crew have been riding out the storm in Freeport, Bahamas. That's one of the area's hardest hit by Dorian. They managed to get out and about for a look at the shocking devastation. And they watched as ordinary citizens banded together to try to rescue survivors. Here's Patrick's report.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We were walking out to a staging area where they're bringing people in from the communities out here that have been flooded sometimes one at a time. You can see they're still hurricane-force winds and rain coming down on us and yet these people are going out and pulling people from their houses, from the top of their houses and saving their lives.

Look, there's a little -- a little baby here they're -- a boy they're covering up and protecting. I suppose it's his mother. Come through. Come through. Good job. And they're going on jet skis because sometimes the boat -- how are you doing? How are you doing? You made it.


OPPMANN: How high did the water get?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was up to the first floor.

OPPMANN: You're safe now.


OPPMANN: As she was saying, the water was up to the first floor of her house. Many people here have told us that the water came in so quickly into this neighborhood. You would not be able to tell from what you're looking here, but there are hundreds of houses back there.

And the only way to get the people from the houses are from small boats and jet skis. What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we trying to do the rescuing here in Freeport after the hurricane.

OPPMANN: How many people are out there still?


OPPMANN: A few hundred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. A lot of homes out there.

OPPMANN: And it's tough to get out there and get them?


OPPMANN: How long do you need to keep doing it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until we get everybody. We Bahamians, we're not going to stop until we get everybody in.

OPPMANN: This s all volunteer. People are coming to bring their jet skis, to bring in their boats. They are going to get their neighbors, they say. Everyone says they know of people. They say it's very hard to navigate because there, of course, no more streets and yet they are doing it.

You don't see anybody from the government here. It is all very ad hoc. People coming with what they have, the jet skis they have. They're dealing with horrible weather conditions. It's not safe to be out of the boat right now.

It's not safe to be out here at all and yet they say they know there are people out there. There are people who have lost their lives out there we are told. They brought back at least one body and they say they will not stop until they get everybody. They have hours of not days of work ahead of them.


CURNOW: Joining us now from Nassau in the Bahamas is Jill Morehead. She's the Regional Team Leader for the Americas at Mercy Corps. Jill, thanks for joining us. You're there in the Bahamas. You've flown in today. You're part of the first wave of help. What is the main thing that needs to be done now?

JILL MOREHEAD, AMERICAN REGIONAL TEAM LEADER, MERCY CORPS: Hey, Robyn. Thanks so much for having us, first of all. I think the main thing right now is collecting information. There are a lot of questions about the impact, the emergent needs, and that. And there's a team going out to Abaco Island tomorrow to start looking at some of those things.

So I think right now it's collecting information and getting ready to ramp up to provide people with urgent needs.

CURNOW: But we've seen from drone footage, from helicopter footage that it looks devastating, apocalyptic on some levels. How do you assess that damage, but more importantly at the same time don't you need to be getting help to a lot of people who survived?

MOREHEAD: Yes. It's actually a very well-coordinated response right now. They're in the search and rescue efforts still trying to get people who have been stranded to safety, doing some medical evacuations and that kind of thing. But yes, it's this -- I think it's tied for the second strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever. It's destroyed like 13,000 homes. It's contaminated water sources.

So it's a really serious impact devastating like you said in some places. My understanding is that Abaco Island received the brunt of it even though it stayed longer on Grand Bahama. There was a little bit stronger infrastructure there.

So there's like I said, excuse me, there's a team going out there tomorrow to start to look at that. And some of it is just talking to people to understand the basic needs, what services are being provided locally, where the major caps are and what is most, most urgent because there's clearly going to be a lot of needs so it's really prioritizing what needs to happen first, second, third.


CURNOW: And in your experience, what is the main thing that people are going to be needing?

MOREHEAD: Right now, what we're talking about is food, and drinking water, and shelter. Those are the three main things. The electrical infrastructure has been really damaged so Mercy Corps is bringing in solar lanterns with USB chargers. That way people can have some light at night and they can also charge their cell phones so that they can stay in contact with loved ones, emergency authorities. So yes, I mean, those are some of the initial, initial needs.

CURNOW: There's also the exhaustion that people must be feeling. Those who survive, they've made it through the past few days, but I think the sense of either losing hope or just the utter exhaustion of trying to hold on. Does that play into rescue efforts?

MOREHEAD: Yes. I mean, after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico especially we saw that. It was -- it was a long delay to get out to some of the places that are cut off. And there at least it was mainly on the main island. Here we're talking about a lot of different islands. It makes access a huge issue.

Abaco is a low-lying island so the main road on both islands has been washed out in some places. That makes access difficult. Yes, people are exhausted. They really need support. And from what I've seen here, the efforts are being really well-coordinated trying to get help to those people as soon as possible.

CURNOW: Each of these massive weather events that we've experienced in the past few years, a different, unique, different locations, different types of storms. Can you compare this, the devastation that you're expecting that we're seeing, can you compare it to anything else that we've seen recently in living memory? MOREHEAD: Yes. I mean, it was -- it was worse, right, because this was a category five and so the wind speeds were very, very high. But I think as far as the flooding, a lot of that is looking like Hurricane Lawrence in North Carolina or Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Some of the wind damage is similar to that of Puerto Rico.

There's some wooden -- I visited some towns with wooden structures in Puerto Rico that were just flattened by the wind damage there. And a lot of what we're seeing in the pictures and videos coming out of the Bahamas looks very similar to that. And so I think it's going to be a long recovery effort.

CURNOW: OK, Jill Morhead, good luck. Thanks to your team and keep us posted on any developments and any information how people can help. It is only day two of work for British MPs after summer holidays but Parliament has already seen an epic, epic showdown as Britain's deadline to leave for E.U. draws nearer.

A rebel alliance of lawmakers rose up against the U.K. prime minister and move to put a stop to a no-deal Brexit. Boris Johnson then sacked 21 members of his own party, had back the measure, and he made good on his threat to seek a general election. Take a listen.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: The leader of the opposition has been begging for an election for two years. He has crowds of supporters outside, calling for an election. I don't want an election, but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop negotiations and to compel another pointless delay to Brexit potentially for year, then would be the only way to resolve this. And I can confirm that we are tonight tabling a motion under the fixed-term Parliament.


CURNOW: CNN's European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas joins us now from Berlin. Wow. So it's again going down to the wire, more chaos. Sometimes it all reminds me of Monty Python but it is quintessentially English uncharted territory. But the next few hours are critical out there in Westminster.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: They are. And I think that the only positive thing one can take of this right now, we've really reached a breaking point, perhaps even a new breaking point.

But I think that having Boris Johnson at the helm and his group, his cabinet of Brexiters after these three years when he allowed the transition and Prime Minister May to be there is they're starting to understand while being in the hot seat what it is really like to deal with this particular issue.

And I think that what we have been witnessing in Parliament for the last few hours is essentially a fight to the death on the question of Brexit with Boris Johnson's party desperately trying to appeal to Nigel Farage and to the Brexit Party without whom they cannot win a general election. And on the other side of the political spectrum, the opposition coming together not so much for something, or a particular definition of Brexit, but against the No Deal. And it seems that as things stand right now, they've succeeded, at least in achieving that.


CURNOW: I mean, it's interesting to see how this is all played out. Obviously, this started was week ago when Boris Johnson, you know, got the Queen to delay parliament. Is this a gamble? And I'm assuming you would hope that he's game doubt scenarios? Or, do you think he's been outplayed here, or is this part of some grand plan?

THOMAS: Well, I think -- Yes, well, you'd have to think that there would be -- that they'd certainly know and understand that as the parliament currently sits, there is absolutely no appetite for No Deal. So they have ultimately known that this was going to come at some particular point. And so, really, the position for Boris Johnson is that as -- he knows that a general election is going to be inevitable, and his sole goal is to convince the electorate that his party unambiguously stands for Brexit. And that means convincing the Brexit party, Nigel Farage that he is going to do this and get them out of the European Union.

The big question though that remains is now that No Deal has been removed, it's been taken off the table, is whether this is going to be enough, or whether this has weakened him in the eyes of those who are desperately seeking Brexit. And then, whether or not the opposition's simple sort of gathering around this No Deal is going to be enough for them, or whether we're also going to see a weakness on the part of the opposition, because let's not forget that the Labour Party is not unambiguously committed to leaving the European Union.

And so, this is where we see this kind of tension. And we know that if any kind of deal is going to be made, it's going to have to be made at the center, which will alienate the far right Brexiteers, while at the same time, their vision of Brexit is, of course, not acceptable to the Liberal Democrats or to the Labour opposition. So, it's a very complicated situation.

CURNOW: As you know elections not going to provide an answer or solution necessarily, and look what happened when Mrs. May called her election. That was not, you know, in terms of a strict creating strength, I mean, that in many ways weaken the whole process as well. Broadly, I also want to talk bigger picture here, as we look at these daily twists and turns, these daily drama, each day seems to bring us a step closer to more unknowns. One big concern or opportunity, I suppose if you're a Scottish nationalists, is that each crisis is bringing us closer to the breakup of the -- of United Kingdom. How much harder is it going to become to keep the U.K. together?

THOMAS: Yes, well, this is really the major issue around all of these kinds of questions is we know that, even going back three years ago, to the initial referendum, that both Scotland and Ireland did not vote to leave the European Union. And we see both sides of the spectrum here. On the one hand, the greater possibility of a united Ireland precisely because of the question of the -- of the backstop and the Customs Union and so on. And the more that this goes down the road, the more we see the argument or Scottish secession, gaining traction yet again.

And so, the irony of this, of course, that this great narrative of the U.K. leaving the United -- leaving the European Union and becoming this kind of major global power is, in fact, not only potentially weakened by leaving the European Union, but also potentially weakened by being completely fractured into these different nation states that have very different views as to how they see the future of this island. And so -- or these islands. And this is, of course, one of the other major aspects of this that will be one of the unanticipated consequences of this whole Brexit saga.

CURNOW: Yes, and I think that's what's key here. European affairs commentator, Dominic Thomas, thanks so much for bringing us your perspective. Some important points there. Thank you.

OK, so part of the Bahamas we know are just wiped out. And now, Hurricane Dorian is threatening the U.S. We're live in Florida as the storm passes by, that's ahead. Plus, no criticism goes unanswered. The U.S. president fires back over a shot taken at his weekend golf day.



CURNOW: Hurricane Dorian is on the move after obliterating parts of the Bahamas. Cars, homes, even airports are underwater. It is the most powerful storm ever to hit the islands. We know at least seven people have been killed, and that number though is likely to rise sadly. Storm chaser Brandon Clement shot the video you're looking at now. Here was his first impression of the damage.


BRANDON CLEMENT, STORM CHASER: I haven't done this for a long time. I've kind of had a pretty good idea. So, we go atop, I'm excited to see the (INAUDIBLE) with the Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Irma in the -- in the key in the Virgin Islands, and it's exactly what we got, complete devastation from -- I'm not going to say from top to bottom Great Abaco, the southern half of some areas there OK, but once you got about midway up, in that point north is just complete destruction. Even the well-built homes and newer construction with the 150 mile an hour building codes didn't fare well. Some had slight damage, many had complete roof missing and significant damage.


CURNOW: And Hurricane Dorian's path hasn't -- the path of destruction hasn't -- isn't over yet, as you can see from these images here. It's now moving along the east coast of Florida, though the storm remains offshore, forecast has predict on could make landfall in South Carolina a little bit later on this week. [01:25:01]

But let's head to Jensen Beach, Florida and Derek Van Dam. Derek is standing by now. Hi! This storm has also been -- as we've watched what's happening, it's moving slowly towards you. It's certainly been a logistical headache, hasn't it been for residents, officials? Let's talk about the evacuations where you are.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Well, the evacuations have been lifted from Martin County where I'm located, but the county just to my north, St. Lucie County, they're still valid until 6:00 a.m. The conditions that we've experienced today, Robyn, have been a mixture. We've seen the extremely heavy downpours and some of the outer rain bands from Hurricane Dorian, we've had tropical storm force winds to stay in for a period. Still very gusty right now. And we've also experienced some of the storm surge.

Earlier today, we had to do a little reconnaissance to check out this live location to make sure this is where we needed to be. The waves were choppy, the sea was getting pushed up. I'm on the inner coastal waterway. So, just directly behind me over my shoulders, is the barrier island, and then all of Hurricane Dorian's fury is just sitting offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, still situated about 80 miles offshore with the center of the storm. But I just want to reference something to give you a little perspective of what we've seen. Just in the past hour since we've been here, we've seen a little bit of storm surge push up. Again, this is the inner coastal waterway, so it's a mixture of fresh and ocean water. But the point is that this has actually started to rise, and that's very consistent with the forecast that we expected.

On the backside of the storm, we see the retreating hurricane as it scrapes along the Northeast coastline of Florida. We're not expecting it to make landfall, but with a storm surge and a retreat in hurricane, this is exactly what we would anticipate to see. Now, all of our focuses attention really on the central portions of the Florida coast from the Space Coast into Georgia, and then the Carolinas. This storm continues to slowly, slowly creep up the East Coast of the United States. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK, thanks for that, Derek Van Dam there in Florida. Appreciate it, Derek.


CURNOW: OK. So, coming up here on CNN, President Trump is heading back after hitting the links. His response to criticism he played golf while Hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas.



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers watching in the U.S. and all around the world.

Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Now the Prime Minister of the Bahamas says his country is in the midst of the greatest national crisis in its history. After Hurricane Dorian, all you can see is debris extending for miles. piles of rubble that used to be houses. Some neighborhoods have completely been obliterated after getting lashed for days by the strongest storm ever to hit those islands. These images just one small part.

And residents are starting to emerge with some wading through chest- deep water. The Prime Minister says at least 30 people are trapped in one community. The flooding window (ph) has stalled rescue attempts across the island. At least seven people have been killed, but that death toll is likely to rise.

And Hurricane Dorian isn't done yet, look at this, the storm is certainly picking up speed as it moves along the U.S. coast. It's hardly the same storm, a little less intense but a lot bigger. It's also bringing dangerous rain and wind as menacing bands roll by Florida and continue north towards the Carolinas.

Our Pedram Javaheri joins us now with the latest on Dorian's track. So talk us through, its picked up speed but also got bigger.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. That's the biggest concern here. You know, when you look at the storm system, it was about half of the size this time last week -- about 250 miles across.

At this point it's 500 miles from its west, which would encompass nearly the entire state of Texas, when you put this system over that state.

And you take a look, losing some organization, some symmetry -- that's good news for the storm weakening and also picking up some forward speed. North, northwest at 7 miles per hour. That eyewall, the most destructive part of the storm with 110-mile-per-hour. That's about 60 miles offshore.

So it really speaks to the significance of how close a storm that essentially is one mile per hour shy of a Category 3, which is 111 miles per hour. So one mile per hour shy of a major hurricane just sitting offshore.

And you take a look, when you talk about Category 5 systems, of course, this was there not too long ago. And since 2016, from Michael to Irma to Matthew and Maria -- all of them reaching Category 5 status, all of them going through what is known as rapid intensification as well, all right. Increasing their winds at least 35 miles per hour within a 24-hour period. And of course, the damage has been significant.

You take a look at what Dorian has done for Grand Bahama Island, brand-new satellite imagery across the island, absolutely devastating this particular region on the northern fringes of the island. The before and after perspective where really major portions of this island had been submerged and flattened, of course, with storm surge that was estimated to be 22 feet high. Portions of the island do not have elevations that go up that high, so water literally could go indirectly over every elevation of this particular island across the Bahamas. And now we watch the storm system with very similar strength, at least just off shore there with near Category 3 strength skirting just up the Eastern Seaboard.

And the concern is where is this going to end up? This time tomorrow, still going north, northwest we think but as we transition from tomorrow night into say Thursday morning, that's when we think the area indicated in the red which is the hurricane-force winds, that has the best bet here towards approaching land.

So we'll see some hurricane-force gusts by tomorrow afternoon into say Thursday morning. And then beyond that as we go in towards Thursday afternoon, the best potential for an impact here to land.


JAVAHERI: Potentially around Charleston, if not Myrtle Beach, very close towards Hatteras before we think it will want to steer to the north and east and away from land finally, after at that point, 13 days of being a hurricane.

So an incredible system here. And here's the latest model guide. We're going to bring up the spaghetti models here (INAUDIBLE) and just about every single one of them brings it very close towards Charleston, South Carolina where significant storm surge is possible, and then nearly every single one of them does want to bring it ashore somewhere near Wilmington, North Carolina or Cape Hatteras there.

So this is going to be a storm system we will follow for a couple of more days. Unfortunately, we don't expect significant weakening in the next couple of days. So this will stay at least a Category 2, we think, throughout the duration here for its landfall.

CURNOW: Ok. Pedram -- thanks for that update and the spaghetti map.


CURNOW: Appreciate it.

So joining me now on the line is Kristen Livengood. She is the Monroe County, Florida public information officer. She's currently farther north at the Brevard County emergency operation center. She's joining me now on the phone.

Talk us through where you are and what folks are saying to you now.


So, right now we've got about 60-mile-per-hour sustained winds passing by on our barrier islands off of Brevard County, which is about halfway up the state of Florida.

Cape Canaveral is about 90 miles off of the east of Cape Canaveral right now. We are having significant, considerable beach erosion happening from it.

Nothing in comparison to what the people of the Bahamas are experiencing, but we are, you know, thankful that what we are experiencing right now, it could have been a lot worse.

So we had some mandatory evacuations for people that lived along the coastline and in mobile homes and in low-lying areas. The most important thing we are waiting for is for tomorrow morning when we are able to go outside and check for the images and eventually start letting people back home.

Right now, there's 2,000 people without power and we have a 1,400 people in shelters and 148 pets in shelters, and 14 shelters opened for the people that had to evacuate the area.

So we are just counting our lucky stars that this decided to make a northern turn and did not hit us, so.

CURNOW: Yes. It's certainly a relief that you did not get worse conditions, but as we've been reporting, still not great.

What are people saying to you? Are they still scared? Are they still concerned? Because you're saying you're still getting some pretty decent weather hitting you.

LIVENGOOD: Yes. I mean it's windy, rainy. People are wanting to know when they can head back home. We have, you know, several causeway bridges that go over to the barrier island that people have been concerned about whether or not those would be opened or closed.

Right now, all the bridges and causeways are staying open unless there's anything concerning that we need to worry about to check. The biggest thing right now is that the beach erosion along, you know, the Treasure Cove is so considerable. Major, major beach erosion happening out there it's like almost right up to a lot of the hotels.

You know, it's very dangerous out there -- the surf. You know, there were surfers out there earlier and eventually, you know, the Brevard County sheriff's office had to go out there and tell them, you know, like this is so dangerous, please get off.

People were out there taking pictures and stuff. I don't think that they realize the magnitude of the storm but, right, now we are in the brunt of it as it's passing by our coast. So luckily that's happening now at night when people are hopefully in their shelters and bunkered down.

CURNOW: And not trying to surf. Certainly, not a time for complacency.


CURNOW: Thank you so much for that update. Thanks for joining us -- Kristen Livengood -- there.

LIVENGOOD: Thank you for having us. BURNOW: Now, both the U.S. President and Vice President are defending their weekend activities. Donald Trump fired back at criticism that he played golf while Hurricane Dorian pummeled the Bahamas. And then Mike Pence is facing questions about staying at one of the President's golf courses during an official trip to Ireland.

Jim Acosta has all the details. Here's Jim.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump isn't asking for a mulligan after hitting the links at his Virginia golf course over the Labor Day as Hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas.

He's teeing off on his critics tweeting that "Many politicians exercise for hours, or traveled for weeks. Me, I run through one of my course, very inexpensive."

But the President wasn't alone in showing his preference for Trump properties. Vice President Mike Pence stayed at the Trump golf resort in Doonbeg, Ireland three hours from Dublin, where he was to hold official meetings.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand political attacks by Democrats.

The opportunity to stay at Trump National in Doonbeg to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel made it logical.

ACOSTA: As it turns out, staying at the Trump club was Mr. Trump's idea. Pence's chief of staff told reporters, "I don't think it was a request like a command. I think it was a suggestion."

The White House says the President was receiving constant updates on the storm, even as Mr. Trump was stating he had never heard of a Category 5 hurricane before.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not sure that I've ever even heard of a Category 5. I knew it existed. And I've seen some Category 4s. You don't even see them that much but a Category 5 is something that I don't know that I've ever even heard the term other than I know it is there.

ACOSTA: But that's not true. The President has repeatedly claimed he's never heard of such storms in the past.

TRUMP: It was a Category 5. I never even knew a Category 5 existed.

Nobody's ever heard of a 5 hitting land.

I saw the devastating effects of that Category 5 hurricane -- Category 5. ACOSTA: Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci

says he's worried about the President's mental state.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: He has a few phrases that he uses repetitively that he thinks are working. And so saying he's never heard of a Category 5 hurricane and not remembering that sort of a Category 5 hurricane is emblematic of what's going on in terms of the mental decline.

ACOSTA: Over the weekend, the President stated that, "In addition to Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama will most likely be hit much harder than anticipated."

But that wasn't quite right. The National Weather Service in Birmingham appeared to correct Mr. Trump's tweet saying, "Alabama will not see any impact from Dorian."

The President didn't like the coverage that received tweeting, "It was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some hurt. Always good to be prepared."

As for the Vice President's visit to the Trump property in Ireland, the White House says Pence will be paying for the cost of his family members who also stayed at the resort. But the rest of the cost for all the Secret Service agents and other government workers traveling with Pence -- that will be picked up by the taxpayers. Aides say the President will not be picking up the tab.

Jim Acosta, CNN -- the White House.


CURNOW: Thanks for that.

Now be sure to tune in late today for a CNN special town hall, as the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates take on the climate crisis. It starts at 5:00 p.m. in New York, 10 p.m. in London only here on CNN.

And what was supposed to be a scuba diving adventure off the coast of California turned into tragedy for dozens of families. Still to come here on CNN, why the search for survivors of this fiery boat disaster has now been called off.



CURNOW: We are following breaking news this hour with our first look at the sheer devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. The island paradise has been decimated, as you can see, by the storm. At least seven people are dead but that toll is expected to rise.

And right now the storm is moving along the Florida coast with heavy rain, fierce wind gusts. It's expected to stay offshore for now. And a teenager in the U.S. state of Alabama faces five murder charges after confessing to shooting his family with a nine millimeter handgun. Police say the 14-year-old shot his father, his stepmother and his three younger siblings including his six-month-old brother.

Investigators haven't established a motive for the killings which happened in the family home. Though currently charged as a juvenile, authorities say the teen might face adult counts of murder following a judicial review.

And 34 people trapped in a boat after it caught fire off the coast of California are now presumed dead. The U.S. Coast Guard has called off its search for survivors. Only five people -- the captain and four members of the crew were found alive.

And as Stephanie Elam now reporters, there are lots of questions about what happened.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dramatic new video from the California Coast Guard shows the battle to save the dive boat off Santa Cruz Island as rescue crews suspend the search for survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is never an easy decision to suspend search efforts.

ELAM: 39 people were aboard the ship as an inferno took hold in the early morning hours. Family members now being asked for DNA samples to help identify the victims as body bags are brought ashore.

Investigators say many were believed to be in bed at the time. This video shows the ship's tight sleeping quarters, wooden bunks stacked three high. A single staircase, the only obvious way out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a stairwell to get down the main entryway up and down and there was an escape hatch. And it would appear as though both of those were blocked by fire.

ELAM: That portion of the ship is now gone. The only known survivors are five members of the crew. They pounded on Bob and Shirley Hansen's nearby boat for help.

BOB HANSEN, HELPED RESCUE DIVE SHIP SURVIVORS: They were all in their underwear, ok -- all five members. And well, one of them was in Levi's but they were torn. I mean it was what he just threw on.

SHIRLEY HANSEN, HELPED RESCUE DIVE SHIPE SURVIVORS: It was such a hopeless, helpless feeling to watch that boat burn.

ELAM: The surviving crew recalled those who may have been on board at the time.

S. HANSEN: Some of the crew told me such sad stories because there was a 17-year-old girl celebrating her birthday with her parents. She might not have another birthday. ELAM: Of the 20 bodies that have been recovered, we now know that 11

are female and 9 are male. While divers were down there with the wreckage on the ocean floor, they believe they saw the remains what looked like four to six people that they are working to recover.

But still that would mean some bodies are still outstanding and they will be looking to see if they can recover those remains and bring them back up here onshore.

Stephanie Elam, CNN -- Santa Barbara, California.


CURNOW: Thanks -- Stephanie. Just agonizing.


CURNOW: Some other news we're covering here at CNN.

Police now know the gunman responsible for killing seven people in a west Texas shooting rampage -- they know now when he obtained his weapon. The shooter had previously failed a background check when he tried to purchase a gun but they say the semi-automatic rifle was purchased at a private sale which does not require a background check. Investigators still don't know why he shot and killed seven people, wounding 25.

And America's largest retailer Walmart says it will stop selling ammunition for hand guns and short-barrel rifles. It's asking that customers no longer openly carry guns into its stores as well.

The National Rifle Associate responded saying it's quote, "shameful" the country succumbed to the pressure of the quote, "anti-gun elites".

And we're getting our first look at that devastation after Hurricane Dorian slams the Bahamas. We'll continue to monitor the story. We don't know half the story yet.

These images are all new coming in. The devastation still to be seen. But the storm is not done yet. The latest on its movement -- that's just ahead.



CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Hurricane Dorian has left a path of destruction in its wake in parts of the islands and now in total ruins.

The storm battered the Bahamas for two full days submerging entire neighborhoods and smashing houses apart.

There are still reports of people trapped on their roofs but rescuers are really having trouble getting to them. We know at least seven people have been killed though that number is expected to rise.

And as Hurricane Dorian moves away from the Bahamas, it has weakened somewhat but it is still a very powerful storm as it moves up the eastern coast of Florida. Forecasters predict Dorian could make landfall in South Carolina later on this week.

So you've been watching CNN's breaking news coverage of this Hurricane Dorian. We'll continue to monitor it.

I'm Robyn Curnow.

Much more news coming up next with Rosemary Church.

Thanks for watching.