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Inside Politics

Soon: Ian To Make Landfall In South Carolina As Hurricane; Ian Likely Largest Natural Disaster In Florida History; Putin Illegally Annexes 4 Ukrainian Territories. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 30, 2022 - 12:30   ET



STEPHEN BOWDEN, CHARLESTON CITY COUNCIL: Right now, we just need people to stay inside. If you don't have to be out and about just hunker down, get some hurricane snacks like we've got and just ride this out for the next few hours.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Yes, avoiding the worst of it doesn't mean not getting bad. Is that message do you think this in a community where people are used to flooding even after heavy rains at least minor flooding? Is it hard sometimes to crack the complacency if you will?

BOWDEN: Oh, yes. You know, we're a coastal town. People are used to ride out hurricane. So I think it might have been a little tough to get the message out that, you know, we might be looking at a real significant flooding event, but people know what to do. I think they have enough respect for our first responders not to be out endangering those folks. City is fully mobilized to do what we need to do. So what's the worst of it passes? We'll start cleaning up. We're just asking for folks to cooperate.

KING: You were elected to the council last year in 2021. Born and raised in coastal Virginia, you're surrounded of course by Charleston, hurricane tropical storm veterans. What's your own experience from coastal Virginia of having to, you know, deal hopefully, you know, hopefully, Ian does not hit you hard, but what's your experience?

BOWDEN: I -- my formative experience, I guess, was another ice storm Isabel back in the day, that really took a toll on us, power was out for, you know, week or so. So I'm no stranger to storms. We've lived through plenty of storms here in Charleston. Thankfully, we've avoided the worst but, you know, all it takes is one. And you got to stay vigilant all the time.

KING: A very smart message. All is it takes is one and stay vigilant. Councilman Stephen Bowden in Charleston, sir, keep in touch we hope you're right about the path. We hope you're right that things are minimal there. But keep in touch if we can do anything to get up the message, we'll be here for you.

As we go to break we're going to show you some live pictures. We want to go back now to Sanibel Island. You're looking here, a rescue underway on the ground. See the helicopter there. And we're being escorted along the beach. Again, heroic work by first responders of all stripes from the Coast Guard from state local agencies volunteers. Live picture there in Sanibel Island, Florida, from our affiliate WFDS, some of them being led to help aboard that chopper. We'll be right back.



KING: Live pictures there Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Hurricane Ian due to make landfall in South Carolina, just a short time from now, later this afternoon, you see the waves there on the beach. First we want to take you to Naples, Florida. Of course one of the city's hardest hit by this monster hurricane as it made its way across the Florida peninsula. CNN's Brian Todd is there in southwest Florida. Brian, tell us what you're seeing.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we've been going street by street by street and getting new assessments just about everywhere we've gone of damage here and new visuals of the damage. We did get a tip that the pier was damaged severely. And this is the main pier in Naples. And you can see it right there. We're going to train it on the last third of it that goes out to the ocean.

Looks like the walkway there was completely blown away by the storm surge, the pylons supporting the walkway hanging on, but just barely. Now the damage, the storm surge was so intense and so high, about 12 feet high, it pushed the water well past these houses here. I'm going to walk over here. And our photojournalist Wayne Cross is going to kind of zoom past me into the damage in this courtyard of this house here. The water pushed past here. And we were told by a contractor who just came here to do some assessments that it was the certain that the waterline was about seven or eight feet high in this house.

It just swept all the sand into the patio here. There's no patio left visible, you can see the damage to the house. The contractor told us that the sand has piled on all the way through inside that first floor of the House. The city manager, John, told us that the damage to the city property will go to probably about $20 million, he says. He believes the damage to personal property like this could extend to about $200 million.

And from what we've seen, that's a conservative estimate. He told us that was a very conservative estimate. On street after street here, John, I have to tell you, we come across houses and apartment complexes where they have tossed their beds, their couches, their dressers right by the curb because everything is ruined. And you really get a kind of a perspective of just the kind of disruption and the devastation that this has taken on lives for each of those people.

You know, obviously you've got to throw all your stuff out, you got to get your insurance adjuster and to see what they can and can't pay for. You've got to buy new furniture. We saw two vehicles that were swept into a canal. So you've got to do your damage assessment there. A lot of the people here, you know, may not have money to really completely rebuild. So they're just kind of getting their arms around all of that and trying to just get an assessment of how -- disrupted their lives have been.

But again, those figures staggering $20 million in city damage, $200 million in personal property damage to houses like this.

KING: Brian Todd for us live in the ground and it's important you give that perspective family by family by family piece by piece by piece, sadness by sadness. Brian Todd live for us on the ground in Naples. Let's bring in someone who understands the devastation in his community, the Naples Fire Chief Pete DiMaria. Chief, thanks for your time. I know how incredibly busy you are right now.

Let's start with the urgency of the moment. Your 24 hours now after Ian moved on. When you're looking at your to do list, what's the most important thing today to accomplish in Naples?

CHIEF PETE DIMARIA, NAPLES FIRE DEPARTMENT: Yes, So today, we're really working hard to restore water. We were on above water notice. We've been all the streets cleared best as possible we can make access to over communities. And we have some challenging things going on with the restoration of power as it attempts to come back on. We've seen some structure fires. We had a working fire last night where we lost a home down in one of our communities.


So it's been it's been very challenging. We've been constantly on the go with search and rescue of properties that have, you know, have been flooded out. And we're going house by house to check and make sure that everyone is safe in the community.

KING: Do you believe that everyone is accounted for at this moment? Or do you still have a list you're working through for people who may be family relatives or mails who are calling in saying haven't been able to reach my mother, haven't been able to reach my sibling?

DIMARIA: So we received a lengthy, lengthy list. And we've gone through that, and we've accounted for everyone. But that list continues to grow each day, we get calls throughout the day, and then we send out teams to make sure that we've either touch base with them, or we find out where they're -- where they evacuated to. So we're working really hard to make sure we account for everyone.

KING: You mentioned the urgency of getting the power backup. When it comes to your first responders if they need to get somebody to a hospital facility, if they need to get the medical attention, do you have resources in the community that are up online? Are you having to take them elsewhere?

DIMARIA: So we were fortunate enough that we were able to clear the path to our main hospitals, it's right in the middle of our community. So we're fortunate we got that open and they're receiving patients right now. So we're transported right to NCH, right in the middle of our communities. But we're lucky about that part.

KING: If my math is right, Chief, you've been on the force for 33 years, six years as the chief, just help us with context here. We see these individual scenes. We go to our reporters all up and down the coast. Help us understand, do you ever seen anything like this?

DIMARIA: I went through, Andrew, I've been through every storm, Wilma, Charlie, nothing like this, absolutely nothing. The surge was devastating to our community, devastating to our station. It flooded our station. Fortunately, we're set up to take a certain amount of storm surge. But in my wildest dream that I ever think we would be in a position that we are now one of our engines were completely flooded. And we had to push it out on the bay and just a tremendous amount of loss community wide here. And by far the worst storm that I've been through.

KING: Chief if people in your community had power, and they could watch this interview, they would want to say thank you. So let me on behalf of them say thank you to you and the men and women who worked for you. I'm sure they're all exhausted as you are. But it's amazing in your community and elsewhere, as we see the heroism that comes out of the sadness. Thank you, sir.

DIMARIA: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

Up next for us, other big global headlines, Vladimir Putin makes his Ukraine land grab official. And the global condemnation now includes new sanctions from the Biden White House.



KING: A major escalation today in Russia's war on Ukraine, the White House already announcing new sanctions that in response to Vladimir Putin this morning, making it official, illegally annexing parts of Ukraine. Western governments across the globe condemning which is a clear violation of international law, and that signing ceremony you see right there, President Putin says those territories in his view, now part of Russia, his words, forever.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I want the Kyiv authorities and the real masters in the West to hear me and remember those people who live in these four regions are becoming our citizens forever.


KING: Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins standing by outside the White House. First though, let's get to Nick Payton Walsh. She's in Kramatorsk. Nick, walk us through from your perspective on the ground, what happened today? And what are its implications for the war?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I think what happened today was what everybody had been expecting, which is Russia formally declaring with a huge degree of falsehood in each statement that even where I'm standing here in Ukraine is now effectively Russia. The problem they have, of course, is that the areas, the four areas they say that are now Russia, they do not militarily control, all of them, particularly here in Donetsk and Luhansk.

What we saw in Moscow, though, was a bit by Putin to cast this, as he always has, and a revisionist historical way, as Russia and even the Soviet Union of essentially been victimized by the West and forced into position to protect the wider Russian Slavic people, nonsense, frankly, if you consider the extraordinary damage they've done to the people they claim to protect since they invaded in February.

But it was a clear message, and one certainly which you saw, slightly bewildered shocked faces in that Kremlin Hall, perhaps not entirely. Sharing the view of reality of the world as it currently is that Vladimir Putin was trying to extol. What does it mean, on the ground here, though? Well, Vladimir Putin didn't directly threaten to use nuclear weapons to protect the territory he now claims as Russia, which is officials have done in the past week.

He hinted that possibility, but it was not something he specifically said. So we are still now facing a situation where Russia's conventional forces are losing. They're not using this partial mobilization to get enough people to the front to change the dynamic here. And we're certainly seeing as even when he was speaking Ukrainian forces moving forwards particularly around a strategic hub they're called Limon (ph), it's a railway town that's pretty much encircled now by Ukrainian forces with thousands of important well equipped Russian troops effectively cut off and stranded there, that could cause another potential domino effect near where I'm standing have further Russian territorial losses. We'll have to wait and see.


But we have remarkably seen Ukraine on their front forward dismissing this annexation, frankly, as no consequence, asking to quickly join NATO if possible, they've always wanted that, but it injects an extra level of geopolitical tension at this important time, and Ukraine saying they will continue to liberate land here. So for all the pageantry and Moscow fears that Russia may feel it has other cards to play, but no change to the ground here, John.

KING: Nick Paton Walsh on the ground for us in Ukraine. Kaitlan Collins, let's go to the White House. Now the White House very quick to announce new sanctions but what is their perspective, strategically, Putin can look at that map we just saw on the screen as he took Crimea 14 years ago. He thinks he's going to hold these territories. What is the White House plan to make that not so?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a big question for the White House, which is not just that they're condemning it, but what is they -- what do they believe happens next, because if you listen to that speech from President Putin today, he basically framed this as this existential crisis between the West and Russia. And he spoke in these very brazen terms about how he views this conflict and where it's going from here. And so the White House is condemning the move that they knew was coming with the illegal annexation of these four Ukrainian territories. They are saying it is brazen, that it is a violation of international law. It tramples on the United Nations Charter. And as President Biden said today in a statement showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere by doing this.

And they are also taking action, John, imposing these sanctions and working on really trying to further cripple Russia's technology and defense sectors. That's by going after companies that said they say or entities that provide any kind of political or economic support to Russia's illegal annexation of these four territories. They say that they will impose sanctions, they will put in place these export controls. That's a step that they're taking.

They're also targeting top Russian officials here with this newest round of sanctions, John. But a big question is going to be the bigger ones here of, you know, with the Ukraine saying that they are going to submit this application to join NATO, that they want it to be an expedited process. What is the White House's response to that? We haven't seen that so far. President Biden did say earlier, he will be speaking on this later today about this move from Russia in addition to the statement that he put out and what we heard from the Treasury and Commerce Department's on this latest round of an attempt to punish it.

But also, you know, it's raising a bigger question of how this conflict could potentially end especially with that speech from President Putin today.

KING: Fines from President Putin, we will hear what President -- how President Biden counters. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you Nick Paton Walsh as well. A little quick self-correction, I said 14 years ago, Putin took Crimea in 2014, the Russians took Crimea annexed Crimea eight years ago.

Another global story, this one's shocking after at least 23 people, including students killed in a suicide bombing at a school in Afghanistan. Warning what you're about to see is quite disturbing. Witness say most of the victims here were young women, a 20-year-old who barely avoided the blast telling CNN she is still in shock that she saw her classmates soaked in blood and found her closest friend dead. Police officials say the attack took place in the middle of a practice exam.


Up next for us, Hurricane Ian taking aim at South Carolina. We're also getting a closer look at the devastation Ian left behind in Florida.


KING: Live pictures here right now as South Carolina stares down Hurricane Ian, landfall due a bit later this afternoon. And as you can see, conditions rapidly getting worse. The storm already housing record level tied in some places. This morning new information from the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis giving a clearer picture of Ian's destruction there, crews have had to clear 1,100 miles of roadway. Shelters were stretched to capacity housing some 20,000 plus people also 1.9 million residents across Florida still have not had the lights go back on.

Sanibel and Pine Islands off the southwest coast now both entirely cut off from mainland Florida. CNN's Bill Weir was there with the Cajun Navy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE Here we are. We are going to rescue some people off of Sanibel which is cut off from the world right now. So it's very apropos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to help people out if they need help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to get out of here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in the bedroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us a minute, we'll come up there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll come there.

WEIR (voice-over): We follow the cry for help ashore on Sanibel to find a gentleman eager to take the boatlift but unable to convince his better half.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going. We're going.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bridge is out. The bridge is knocked out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not ready to go.

WEIR (voice-over): A cursory stroll around this part of Sanibel reveals plenty of hazards, like the hiss of natural gas spewing from a broken tank. But in one of the most coveted zip codes in Florida, the construction mostly held up, which is in stark contrast to Pine Island.

(on camera): Look at this one, absolutely flattened.

(voice-over): Especially the mobile homes of the working class and retirees living in Saint James City.


[13:00:04] KING: Before we go some new images showing rescues of some very, very valuable family members from this storm. First responders plucking dozens and dozens of dogs and cats as well from floodwaters in Orange County. The message on Facebook, pets are family, period.

Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. Try to have a peaceful weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.