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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Florida Death Toll Surpasses 100 As Search for Survivors Continues; Biden Pledges $60 Million to Puerto Rico After Fiona; Kremlin Admits Annexation Borders Unclear, "Consults" Residents. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 04, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Tuesday, October 4th, 5:00 a.m. exactly here in New York. Thank you for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world.

We begin in Florida where the death toll for Hurricane Ian is climbing and the search for survivors is taking on a new urgency this morning. The storm is now blamed for at least 101 deaths in that state and four in North Carolina. About 440,000 home and businesses in Florida are without electricity, most of those are in Lee County. Some customers might not have power, we're told, for months.

Governor Ron DeSantis says 2,000 people have been rescued. State officials are trying to determine how many people are still unaccounted for. Search and rescue officials say the window for finding survivors is starting to close.

CNN's Carlos Suarez has more.


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Unrecognizable in parts, still under water in others, Hurricane Ian's destruction and path so vast, search and rescue efforts continue days after the storm tore through Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't get over the bridge.

SUAREZ: Residents in DeSoto County hit by river flooding are stuck. Air boats key to getting supplies in and people out.

LINDA CAMPBELL, ARCADIA RESIDENT: Air boats going out, taking people into town, and it has been going for a while now.

SUAREZ: The death toll across the state climbing rapidly.

DR. BENJAMIN ABO, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE'S VENOM ONE: A lot of sick people running out of their medications, a lot of people running out of water, and until we can get everything up and going, we're trying to get them out.

SUAREZ: Hundreds of Sanibel Island residents cut off from the mainland have been rescued so far with no timetable to rebuild, the only road to the island.

MAYOR HOLLY SMITH, SANIBEL, FLORIDA: We're encouraging everyone to get off the island. But we also need to understand that this is everyone's home and they need to get back and protect it.

SUAREZ: Meanwhile mounting questions in Lee County over why the first mandatory evacuation orders there came just one day before landfall. County officials standing by the decision making saying they based the orders on the storm's forecasted path.

BRIAN HAMMAN, LEE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: They made the call as soon as the forecast called for them to make the call. Monday afternoon, we were telling people you do not have to leave for evacuation orders to leave, you can leave now.

SUAREZ: But the county's own emergency plan suggests evacuations should have happened earlier, specifically when there is a 10 percent chance of 6 feet or higher storm surge.

It was Sunday night when the National Hurricane Center first mentioned 4 to 7 feet of surge for that area, but the first mandatory evacuation orders for Lee County were issued Tuesday morning, over 24 hours later.

It turns out the day before, the town of Fort Myers beach, quote, encouraged people to leave with a Facebook post which made a point of noting the county's decision wouldn't come until the next day.

SHERIFF CARMINE MARCENO, LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: I'm confident, confident in the decisions that were made. Like I said yesterday, stand by them and I wouldn't change anything.

SUAREZ: Officials say residents didn't want to leave whether they were ordered or not.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: They inform people and most people did not want to do it. I mean, that's just -- that's just the reality.

SUAREZ: Mixed opinions from residents themselves on how the county handled the decision.

PASTOR KEVIN SHAWN CRITSER, BEACH BAPTIST CHURCH: When the evacuation order characterization we were like 24 hours, that's -- that's not a lot.

BRITTNEY MONUS, FORT MYERS RESIDENT: We have so many retirees here and elderly that need more time to be able to get to places or people that don't have vehicles that need more assistance.

RICHARD PHILLIPS, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: That wouldn't deter whether I go or not. It is all for each individual. It is right for me doesn't mean it's right for you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SUAREZ (on camera): Late Monday, the Lee County manager said Fort Myers Beach could be without power for the next 30 days. That's how dire the situation is out there. Over in Pine Island, we're told that the National Guard has started to drop food by air after Hurricane Ian wiped out a bridge connecting Pine Island to Cape Coral.

Carlos Suarez, CNN, Fort Myers, Florida.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you for that, Carlos.

Let's bring in Kory Kappes. He's a disaster recovery team project manager with SERVPRO. He joins us from Fort Myers.

Thank you so much for getting up so early with us this morning.

You know, we know that many people have lost loved ones, their homes, their businesses. The hurricane is gone and the conditions are really rotten there. This I think is a reminder to everyone as they're creeping back to their properties to be careful, right?

KORY KAPPES, SERVPRO DISASTER RECOVERY TEAM: Yeah. Christine, thanks for having me on today. The conditions down here have been dangerous for anyone, even for first responders and for teams like myself, restoration companies that come in and help. The roads are impassible in most places still and the traffic to get around, no power.


You've got downed power lines. You don't have stop lights working. So it's really hard to even kind of function in this area because it's so hard to get through anywhere.

ROMASNS: Yeah. There's still rescue efforts underway here. I mean, before you can really focus I guess on the cleanup, you've got to make sure you can get to people and get them safe. What should people know right now?

KAPPES: Trust in your local officials. I know that there's a lot of communication out there. There's a lot of social media posting things, but know that your local officials are doing whatever they can to help those people.

One of the big things that we're seeing is that restoration companies like SERVPRO, we come in and we're good at helping people trying and restore and rebuild their lives. One of the key things is creating a space that's safe to even go into and a lot of these areas still aren't even safe, Christine. A lot of these areas local officials are asking people to stay away from because they're having a hard time getting into, doing search and rescue efforts and finding people.

ROMANS: Yeah, we're days past the landfall. You're looking at central Florida. The flood waters are still rising in central Florida.

KAPPES: We've had the hardest time, getting personnel, equipment into south Florida because of the flood waters. I-75 was closed down the other day. Couldn't get any of the needed personnel and supplies in. It's really been a struggle on us trying to respond to those affected as well.

ROMANS: From your perspective as a disaster recovery expert, you go in after the fact, what are you seeing there? What are people going to expect to see in their homes? I mean, the storm surge, the flood waters and the wind damage. How do you put those pieces back together?

KAPPES: Christine, it's pretty much utter devastation around here. If you were within a mile of the coast from everywhere that I've been and seen, there's not a lot left of the homes through there. And people that haven't been able to get back into their homes, you know, a lot of these areas they're not going to be able to get back into for some time. They're going to expect to find that their home has been destroyed or leveled. They're going to find their home is going to be completely full of mold and microbial growth. They're going to find they're probably going to be without power for many weeks or months and hard to even start the rebuild effort without power.

ROMANS: Yeah. Kory Kappes, thank you so much for joining us and walking us through what you're seeing and what people can expect here in the days ahead. Thanks so much, Kory.

KAPPES: Thanks, Christine. I appreciate it.

ROMANS: So, the remnants of Ian dumped heavy rain on the Jersey Shore flooding streets. Virginia Beach also braced for major title flooding.

CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us.

A lot of people north of the Carolinas dodged the bullet as far as flooding goes.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. You know, Christine, when you look at what played out, quite a bit of rainfall North of the Carolinas and South impressive rainfall.

Here's what happened. This is not Ian in particular but it is remnant moisture caught up in a low level system parked off shore here. With it the winds that are going counter clockwise around the system are ushering in waves. Some beach erosion certainly possible. Some coastal inundation possible, and, of course, some rounds of heavy rainfall has kept the temperatures at bay.

Some of the coolest temperatures you'll ever experience in the month of October happening this afternoon across portions of the Northeast. And again, coastal flooding is going to be an issue as well, generally to the afternoon hours when you have the high tide you see water levels 2 to 4 feet.

But notice the rainfall amounts south of the Carolinas, portions of the Northeast. Since Friday, impressive amounts of rainfall, the last couple of days parts of the Northeast. It was producing an impressive amount of rainfall. That was a daily record with 1 1/2 inches besting the previous record. The good news is, this is it. It begins to skirt off shore. Once it gets through this afternoon and evening could see gusty winds into the evening hours. And then finally, we'll see the last bit of rainfall taper off into the evening hours as well.

So, a few more hours of this, and finally, we get done with anything associated with Ian. For a lot of people, that is great news.

ROMANS: Yeah, that was really a wet commute. I have to tell you.

All right. Thanks, Pedram. Nice to see you.

All right. President Biden will be headed to Florida tomorrow to see the damage and recovery efforts. It will be his second damage tour. He and the first lady were in Puerto Rico on Monday. Biden promising $60 million to storm-proof the island after Hurricane Fiona tour through there last month. He acknowledged the government failed Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria back in 2017.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After Maria, Congress approved billions of dollars for Puerto Rico, much of it not having gotten here initially. We're going to make sure you get every single dollar promised and I'm determined to help Puerto Rico build faster than in the past and stronger and better prepared for the future.



ROMANS: Fiona left at least 13 people dead in Puerto Rico and knocked out power across the island.

Just ahead, taking cover. Japan warns its citizens as a North Korean missile gets too close for comfort.

Plus, on the run. A journalist famous for her TV protest is now being called a fugitive.

But, first, Putin's land grab. What Moscow doesn't know about the territory it's trying to claim in Ukraine.


ROMANS: Russian forces driven out of the strategic Ukrainian city of Lyman have now moved further east, about 15 miles. That's according to senior U.S. military official.

Video released by Ukrainian special ops shows them ambushing an enemy combat unit in Donetsk. CNN cannot verify the authenticity of this video.

In Moscow, Russian lawmakers just rubber-stamped President Putin's illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions, even as the Kremlin struggles to define exactly where those regions are.

[05:15:01] CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us live from inside Ukraine again this morning.

Nick, good morning.

The Kremlin says it's, quote, consulting, consulting to establish exact borders. What does that tell you?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yeah. I mean, it tells that you their policy is in complete disarray. They are already supposed to have, quote, consulted the public when they held the sham referenda over a week ago in those areas which were conducted if they were frankly even conducted on the military occupation at the points of the gun being used to ask somebody what direction they wanted to vote.

So we're in this odd situation where Russia's reality continues there. Parliamentary bodies rubber stamping what we knew was going to happen anyway. As soon as they announced they were going to be having the referenda, it was clear we get to this point, where Vladimir Putin's decision or request for this to be signed into law in Russia would essentially be ushered through.

The problem the Kremlin have is they don't control significant parts of the areas and they control less day by day. And so, it was the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov asked where the borders of Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, two of the four regions that Russia has now forced to claim its territory, where those began and ended, how much have they thought they had assimilated. And so, they couldn't tell, they were consulting with the local population.

Now, that essentially I think was a fudge because they know day by day they're losing more, particularly here in the south in the Kherson region, there's been significant Ukrainian advances, frankly, possibly tens of kilometers into Russian lines which is an enormous reversal in a vast area that Russian troops have tried to hold on to.

It appears the Ukrainians have been very successful in pushing down the west side of the Dnipro River. It appears to have been thought among Russian officials they may need to withdraw from because they couldn't supply it well enough.

Well, the Ukrainians making a lot of head headway there. They're making a lot of headway in the east, as you just said, to the east of Lyman. Not exactly rapid overnight progress but they continue to methodically choose a path and essentially surround it and cause it to give up like we saw in Lyman.

The idea we are dealing with two separate Ukrainian fronts advancing, that's the ultimate nightmare for the Kremlin because they've struggled to prevent one, now they have two. They're stretched thing. They're struggling to get the partially mobilized recruits up to the front line.

While we have this odd continued rhetoric about how chunks of Ukraine are essentially Russia in the eyes of Moscow, they lose and lose and lose to a definite cost of Ukraine certainly in terms of troops they have to send into harm's way here. But a remarkable tide here which seems to have been for weeks going in Ukraine's favor.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Nick Paton Walsh for us. Thanks, Nick.

Well, let's bring in "Washington Post" reporter Mary Ilyushina. She joins live from Riga, Latvia.

Thanks for coming back to join us this morning.

So, you heard this report from Nick. You know, Russian forces will be consulting, quote/unquote, with residents on how to establish borders after it's already claimed this land. What does that tell you about the Russian strategy here? And exactly who is it consulting with? I have to imagine this is a frightened population and many people have actually left the area.


You're absolutely right. I am not sure how they can consult with the local population, they're going village by village, conducting another referendum because like Nick pointed out, they have consulted, in quotes, with the public with the referendums. We know that, especially in areas in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia they control maybe a little bit over half of these regions but they don't have full control. Essentially it looks quite embarrassing because Russia says they don't know where their international borders are at the moment because they don't know where to draw the line and they are increasingly losing land in those areas.

What's important with Lyman is that this opens up a way for Ukrainian forces to advance into the Luhansk region which is the most controlled Russian region so far. They have the most land under their control. If they break through there, that means all of their standing in all of these four regions is very much under question.

ROMANS: Yeah, we have a map that shows the Luhansk region, just how controlled it is by the Russians at this moment but getting closer to that area from -- by the Ukrainians must be concerning for the Kremlin. Look, Russian lawmakers just rubber stamped this annexation, right, of Ukrainian territory, but as you point out, Ukraine continues to liberate these towns that have been occupied by the Russians.

How is this possible that they say they -- it's their territory but it is now occupied again by Ukrainians? It's a split screen for me. It's as if Vladimir Putin is trying to project this is Russian territory inside Russia but in reality this is Ukraine.


ILYUSHINA: Exactly. And this just shows the Kremlin is more and more detached from the reality. You know, Vladimir Putin, you know, one of the reasons why he rushed these referendums, they have been postponed continuously.

They were hoping they would hold them in early summer, by then Russian forces will completely control the territories, that didn't happen because Ukraine, you know, their counteroffensives gathered steamed. They're presenting to the Russians, we are winning. We have these territories that liberated them.

But the reality on the ground is exactly opposite. It shows that their strategy is, again, in complete disarray. They don't know exactly where they're going with this and how to proceed controlling these lands if they're continuing to lose this. And there is a mobilization and part of the reason why mobilization was called is to bring more men to hold these territories, hold these rounds. We're hearing they are so clearly trained, sometimes not trained at all and they don't have enough equipment to do that. Whether that will help them to hold these territories is questionable.

ROMANS: Yeah, Nick was reporting that people in Lyman were unaware that they had been annexed. They're just trying to get through daily life and figure out how to get to the next day.

So there are these fears in western capitols that Putin may escalate things on the ground and trying to game out what kind of response would there be.

How do you think the U.S. and the west need to respond to these, the saber-rattling really, the nuclear saber-rattling by the Russian president?

ILYUSHINA: What they have been doing so far is working. They've supplied the Ukrainians with a lot of weapons and continue to do so. These weapons have been a huge game changer, especially the HIMARS systems. Anything that can help Ukraine strike further into Russian front lines is helping them to advance, because they don't have to send as many troops into the area. They can't specifically target Russian territories there.

What we're hearing from not the official Russian defense minister which is claiming victory after victory, but a lot of disgruntled separatists in Eastern Ukraine and pro-military bloggers, they're saying their problem is not manpower, what they're struggling with is the increase in the Ukrainian electronic warfare. Their drones that they're using, that they don't essentially have eyes into what the Ukrainians are doing. That's why they're suffering so many setbacks and their equipment is not on par.

That is partially credited to what the West have been doing. They have sanctioned essentially any kind of imports of microelectronics and things that can help Russians advance in that sort of part of this military strategy. So, that -- all these things so far have been working for the Ukrainians.

ROMANS: All right. Mary Ilyushina, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning. Always nice to see you.

ILYUSHINA: Thank you. ROMANS: All right. A Russian journalist who protested the war live on

state TV is now on Vladimir Putin's wanted list. They say Marina Ovsyannikova escaped house arrest over the weekend.

Let's bring in CNN's Clare Sebastian.

Clare, I'm sure I said her name wrong. She certainly made a name for herself with that statement there. Do we know where she is now?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, we don't have any idea. What we know is her former husband told state media that on Saturday she left house arrest taking their daughter with her. Her lawyer told CNN simply that she had gone. He wouldn't say any more than that.

According to state media, as you say, has been placed on the interior ministry's wanted list which means she's essentially a fugitive from the law. She took part of that somewhat iconic protest in March. She fled Russia and came back.

She was arrested again at the beginning of August and placed under house arrest on charges of spreading false information about the Russian armed forces, charges that carry a maximum 10-year sentence. That period of house arrest pending trial was set to come to an end next week, on October 9th.

We don't know any more apart from recent posts on her verified Telegram the last of which was on September 21st where she said she was visited and officially warned by the authorities not to take part in protests even though she said she couldn't anyway because she was under house arrest and wearing an ankle bracelet. It seems she was under some pressure but we don't know any more at this stage, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Claire, thank you so much. Keep us posted.

All right. Still ahead, what the CEOs major companies are saying about a possible recession.

And without warning, a North Korean missile sends people running for cover.



ROMANS: All right. That's the sound of air raid sirens just hours ago in Tokyo right after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan. The Biden administration strongly condemning this launch.

Let's go live to CNN's Blake Essig in Tokyo.

Blake, the launch has Japanese officials warning to take cover and shelter.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Look, Christine, I've got to tell you waking up to find out North Korea had fired a ballistic missile and it's headed in your direction is not a great way to start your day.

But, look, this is not the first time that North Korea has launched a ballistic missile that flew directly over Japan. The last time was 2017. But it absolutely marks a significant escalation in tensions as these recent tests seem designed to strike key targets in the region.