Return to Transcripts main page

New Day Sunday

Biden Walks Back Comments On Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill; Survivor Recounts Climbing Through Rubble With Her Dog; Heavy Rainfall In Missouri Causes Major Road Closures, Evacuations. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired June 27, 2021 - 06:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Sunday, June 27th. I'm Boris Sanchez coming to you live from Surfside, Florida, where officials say -- quote -- "aggressive search and rescue efforts continue this morning trying to locate those still unaccounted for following a deadly condo collapse."

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And I'm Christi Paul here in Atlanta. So grateful to be with you and so grateful that you can be with us.

Here's what we know this morning. We are entering day four of the painstaking search for survivors and holding out all this hope that we have that this is the day we might finally see a miracle here, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Christi, there is both hope and frustration here with news slowly trickling in. The number of people confirmed dead now up to five. Four of them have been identified. They include an elderly couple and the mother of a boy that was actually rescued from the rubble in dramatic fashion on Thursday morning.

For dozens of families though it remains an excruciating time, an anxious wait in anticipation for answers. One hundred and fifty-six people remain missing, still unaccounted for. More than 72 hours now since the collapse. The search and rescue effort continues non-stop, and crews are using every tool they have, sonar equipment, cameras, canines, all on the scene to help. And even then there is still an element of uncertainty here. And it may not be enough, all of this effort.

The mayor of Surfside yesterday saying, we don't have a resource problem. We have a luck problem. And as families wait in agony for any kind of update on their loved ones, the mayor of Miami-Dade County says arrangements are being made for families who want to visit the site and experience it for themselves.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: They have offered to go to the pile and dig. And I said, if I could dig, I would dig, because, clearly, we all want to find these people alive. And that is how the entire rescue team is treating it. They live to find people alive in the rubble. So it's really just devastating to have to say we don't have news, they need to wait, they need to be patient. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: CNN has a full team of reporters and experts on hand this morning following all the latest developments. CNN's Nick Valencia is standing by at the family reunification center. But let's go to CNN Rosa Flores first.

Rosa, now more than 75 hours into the search for the missing, bring us up to speed on the latest in the rescue effort.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the death toll has increased to five, 156 people are unaccounted for and remains have found. Though the Miami-Dade Police Department identifying three more individuals.

But I am going to share with you the names of the four individuals that have been identified so far. Fifty-four-year-old Stacie Dawn Fang from apartment 1002, 83-year-old Antonio Lozano from apartment 903, also from apartment 903 Gladys Lozano 79 years of age, 54-year-old Manuel LaFont from apartment 801.

Now, reporters asked, of course, the fire chief yesterday where these individuals were found, where the remains were found. The only thing that the fire chief shared was that they were found in the debris. And he also shared that the search efforts have changed a little bit.

They are using a grid pattern now. And, of course, using every tool that they have, cameras, dogs, sonar, and he also shared that that fire that we were talking about yesterday has been contained. That, of course, is good news in this effort because this allows firefighters to continue their work in a safer manner because they didn't know exactly what was smoldering and what that plume of smoke contained. And so that is helping rescuers this morning.

Now, according to the fire chief their focus is on top of that debris pile. The delayering process, that we were talking about yesterday this is a painstaking task in a pancake type of collapse because they have to peel the layers of concrete in order for these search and rescue men and women to do their jobs. And so that is what we're looking at. We are also learning from the Miami-Dade Police Department that not only are search and rescue teams having trauma surgeons with them.


We are also learning that alongside them are homicide detectives and also personnel from the medical examiner's office. And this is important for the accountability piece because we know that a lot of the family members have been asking about accountability. They've been asking about what is going to happen? What actually happened? How did this collapse occur?

Well, homicide detectives are working alongside these search and rescue teams. As soon as they locate a body, as soon as they locate remains, the homicide detectives are taking photographs of the scene to make sure that they collect as much evidence as possible. This is according to the Miami-Dade Police Department. They are also taking DNA samples and we have video of that medical examiner van on scene. So this is what's happening as search and rescue teams are looking for life. They are also investigating, they are collecting evidence and they're also collecting DNA, and this is important because we had learned that loved ones had provided their DNA, and this is why, because as remains are found, they are able to compare those DNA samples so that they can identify the remains.

And, Boris, this is really tough to talk about because, of course, these are human beings, but accountability is also important and being able to give the families closure about what happened to their loved ones. And so just to make sure that people understand, this is a painstaking job for both rescuers and investigators, but they are doing everything they can to make sure that both the search is going on and also, hopefully, at some point the search for answers will be achieved through the amazing work of these investigators that are working alongside the search and rescue team. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Rosa, it's that uncertainty about what happened to their loved ones, about how this could have happened, about who, if anyone, may be held responsible that is so grueling for these families. We are going to have experts on later this hour and later on in the morning to help us break down exactly what could have caused something like this to happen. Rosa Flores, thank you so much for that.

Before we dig deeper into questions about accountability, let's focus on where the families stand right now and talk about the feelings that they are processing within that uncertainty. Officials continue urging patience from the families as they anxiously await answers, any news about their loved ones.

CNN's Nick Valencia is near the family reunification center this morning. And, Nick, the numbers have not changed much in the last 24 hours. Time keeps slipping away without any signs of life. How are these families doing now 75 hours after this happened?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris, good morning. I think many of them are unwilling to accept any sort of grim outcome until they are given official word or until they're forced to accept that.

Yesterday, for instance, I spoke to Adriana LaFont who as late as yesterday afternoon believed her ex-husband Manuel LaFont was alive. She said she just had a gut feeling. Of course, Manuel, his body was recovered from the debris, identified as one of those pulled from the rubble.

But these families here, this is the ultimate test of faith and it has been a lot to process for them, a lot of sleepless nights as we enter day four, and it's been exhausting. Earlier though I did speak this morning with Soriya Cohen. She's one of those who still has faith that her husband and her brother-in-law are alive. She believes it as well in her gut, she says. She was too tired to join us this morning. But she says she wanted us to play this message for the viewers.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SORIYA COHEN (on the phone), HUSBAND MISSING IN CONDO COLLAPSE: We're now going on about 76 hours that he's had no water and I just feel that he is between life and death and closer to death. It's just been such a rough past more than 24 hours. The past 24 hours is much rougher for me than before because as more time goes by I just feel that it's just looking more -- more and more dim.


VALENCIA: And with every hour it does seem more and more dim. Not only are the family and friends of those unaccounted for waiting for a miracle, first responders have told us directly they, too, are waiting for a miracle. And it has been very difficult for them to spend hour after hour excavating, pulling rubble apart, you know, going through the rebar and trying to find any sign of life in there with -- coming up empty handled, Boris.

This is almost a herculean effort and a herculean test of faith here. Families trying to stay positive, have that positive mental attitude, but, you know, with every hour that ticks by as we enter day four now, it's really, really difficult. Boris.


SANCHEZ: Yes. It's unimaginable to focus on trying to be patient in this painstaking process amid so much desperation and a need for answers. Nick Valencia, thank you so much for your reporting.

Let's dig deeper into something Nick mentioned. The process of unearthing this debris and the effect that it has on rescue workers.

Here with us now to discuss, CNN contributor Joe Hernandez. He's an expert on search and rescue efforts from his past work as a former chief of medical operations for FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. In fact, a task force that is on scene right now that you spent some 30 years with in different places around the world, in Haiti, at ground zero on September 11th.

Speaking to what Nick just alluded to, the fact that it has to be difficult putting aside for a moment the feelings of these families, the uncertainty of these families, it has to be difficult for the rescue workers as well facing what they're facing. No signs of life yet as we surpass 75 hours and the work is extremely risky, it's extremely difficult. What are they going throughout there right now?

JOE HERNANDEZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They are going through the emotions of the frustration of not finding any live victims at this point in time. That is their main concern. They want to work day, night, all the way through. They don't want to get removed off the pile. They don't like to even take water breaks because their main focus was trying to get in there and see those victims and try to bring them out alive. So they're going to work around the clock.

I was really glad to hear the mayor Surfside it wasn't about the lack of resources. There are plenty of resource there.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I did want to ask you about one of the more recent developments since we last spoke yesterday --


SANCHEZ: -- that the fire has been contained. Help us understand the significance of that.

HERNANDEZ: Huge significance because now they are able to put more resources into the pile from different areas. A day before yesterday when they were digging the trench at night to try and create a lower void to be able to enter the pile, they could only come in on one side. That fire really hampered a lot of the rescue efforts along with the water that was being used at the same time.

Now it's almost like a free for all. We can try to enter the pile from different angles and there are definitely enough manpower there to do that.

SANCHEZ: So we are glad that the fire is out. But obviously just the fact that there was an inferno under that pile of debris --


SANCHEZ: -- has to be difficult to get through and also, if anyone is trapped inside, how could that affect any oxygen, the potential pockets that any survivors might be in?

HERNANDEZ: It could affect those that might have been directly in the area of that smoke. However, the smoke was billowing out definitely to the northwest side. So there was a major area of the pile that was not affected by the smoke which was thankful (INAUDIBLE) affect. At the same time, that smoke was lighter than air, so it tended to drift up pretty quick. And the reason why they dug that trench is so they can get lower to the ground and be able to enter that without being affected by the smoke.

SANCHEZ: Got it. And, Joe, I do want to focus on the survivability now because as we pass 75 hours, it has to be hard for families sitting there looking at these images, literally a pancake, layers of what used to be 11 floors flattened.


SANCHEZ: You have been in situations where rescues have been made after more than 75 hours, after five, six, even seven days.


SANCHEZ: What is the likelihood at this point that we may see something like that? It's got to be an uphill battle no question.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely. I believe that there is still definitely hope. There is an incredible coordinated effort between federal and state urban and search rescue teams. You have got some of the best there on the ground. And as long as there is time, which there is, there is void spaces, which there are, there is definitely the potential for family members to be able to pull some of those victims out alive. Have a (INAUDIBLE).

SANCHEZ: Yes. We were with you yesterday. And you had a special device, a camera that you were showing our viewers that they were using on the scene. And rescue workers actually asked you after we spoke about it on the air to use that specific device.


SANCHEZ: They are using everything, every possible tool that they can at this point, right?

HERNANDEZ: Correct. The manufacturers have brought everything that they can use and even new advanced tools. They just talked about it earlier with the sonar device that is able to penetrate that ground. The camera update to the new type of devices, the fish eye, 360-degree search capabilities of that camera, absolutely. And the resources from the state teams as well has brought more of that resource into them.

So they do have plenty and they have plenty of manpower now that we have resumed daylight and the smoke has been gone. I believe that today may be a really valuable day and a successful day in their recoveries.

SANCHEZ: Yes, certainly. It's unimaginable to deal with what these families are dealing with but at least they can have some peace of mind that every potential avenue is being explored and every resource is being utilized to try to save lives and see a miracle unfold.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Joe Hernandez, we really appreciate your expertise.


HERNANDEZ: Thank you, Boris. Have a great day. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Christi, and for a moment I want to transition away from Surfside, Florida. I want to recognize, you have actually been away for a couple of weeks. We've missed you. We are glad to have you back to tell these important stories at a critical time.

PAUL: Thank you so much, Boris. It is really good to be back. And you have done a stellar job, you and everybody down there, helping us understand what's happening and bringing us the stories of these people because as Rosa so aptly said, this is about human life and this is about people who are waiting. And to hear Joe say he believes today can be a really valuable day, I hope that that gives us a little greater sense of hope through all of this. Thank you for bringing all of that to us, Boris. It's good to see you and be with you again.

So we have other news to talk with you about as well. There's a tragic story out of New Mexico. Five people have died following a hot air balloon crash. Now what we're learning about that accident is coming up.

And also trouble for the Trump organization. Why former President Trump's company could face criminal charges as soon as this week.

Also, President Biden playing cleanup to some degree, walking back comments that some Republicans say amounted to a veto threat of his new infrastructure plan. We will talk about it. Stay close.



SANCHEZ: We are back live in Surfside, Florida, and right now the desperate search continues for survivors as the families of those who are unaccounted for remain in a desperate limbo, eagerly awaiting answers amid a painstakingly slow process of combing through a field of debris.

Here's what we know. At least five people have now been confirmed dead, 156 still unaccounted for. It is still considered a rescue mission and families are holding out hope they will find their loved ones. We are going to continue to bring you the latest developments throughout the morning.

Of course, the progress in terms of getting answers for these families has been slow, Christi. So we don't know exactly when those answers will come. But as soon as we get more information we will, of course, bring it to you.

PAUL: Yes. You all have done such an amazing job of helping us understand what's happening there. And helping us understand what everybody is going through, Boris. Thank you so much. He is, of course, going to be with us throughout with all of the latest as we get it. And as the sun comes up there this morning, hopefully, more news and more hope for all of those families and the people who are searching for those people in the rubble. We know it's hard.

We do have some other stories to talk to you about right now that we're following this morning. First of all, the scenic hot air balloon ride ended in tragedy. It crashed yesterday morning, five people died in New Mexico after the hot air balloon that they were in hit some power lines. It landed in a residential area. And federal aviation officials are investigating now what caused that accident. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro fills us in from here.


EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A horrific hot air balloon crash in New Mexico left five dead on Saturday morning. Albuquerque Police Department spokesperson tells CNN the balloon's gondola hit a power line and caught on fire before detaching and crashing into an intersection. The balloon itself landed in a nearby backyard.

Authorities found four dead at the scene and a man in dire condition. He later died in the hospital. The victims range in age from 40 to 60 years old and include the pilot of the balloon. All were from New Mexico. Most names haven't been released. But among the victims we do know about are a former with Albuquerque police department officer and his spouse. For New Mexico, a ballooning haven, this tragedy hits especially hard.

TIM KELLER, MAYOR OF ALBUQUERQUE: For all of us in New Mexico, you know, we think about ballooning and what it means to us. But I do know that this is a tragedy that is uniquely felt and uniquely hits hard at home here in Albuquerque and in the ballooning community.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Federal investigators from the FAA and the NTSB are now supervising the investigation. The NTSB has long called for more regulation of ballooning. This call came after an eerily similar crash involving power lines in Texas in 2016.

ROBERT SUMWALT, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The truth of the matter is the NTSB feels that there needs to be greater oversight by the regulator.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): An NTSB spokesperson told CNN those comments still reflect the feeling of the agency when it comes to balloons. NTSB data shows 12 fatal balloon crashes across the country since 2008 and that data does not include today's crash. Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.


PAUL: And thank you to you, Evan. So an investigation into the Trump organization by the Manhattan district attorney could possibly result in criminal charges. And this could happen in just a matter of days now. Sources say the charges would likely be in connection with benefits provided to employees and allegations that the Trump organization tried to avoid paying taxes on those benefits. Here is CNN's Paula Reid.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has informed lawyers for the Trump organization that it could be charged as soon as next week. Now these prospective charges include allegations that the Trump organization tried to avoid paying payroll taxes on certain benefits granted to employees, including rent-free apartments and cars.

Now, it would be very unusual to indict a company for not paying taxes on fringe benefits. Former President Trump has suggested that these on-going investigations into his organization are politically motivated.

Now, CNN has also learned that long-time Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg could also be charged as soon as next week. He would also be charged in connection to benefits that he received and may not have properly disclosed. Now prosecutors have been putting pressure on Weisselberg to cooperate against other people in the Trump organization, but CNN has learned that his team has informed the prosecutors that Weisselberg will not cooperate.


So we'll see what happens next week. But it could be a difficult one for the Trump organization. Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


PAUL: Paula, thank you to you as well.

Coming up, President Biden he's backpedaling after Republicans slammed what they say was a threat to veto the bipartisan infrastructure deal right after he agreed to do so. Now, the president says that wasn't his intent. The question is, what kind of damage is lingering from it? We'll talk about it. Stay close.


PAUL: Twenty-nine minutes past the hour. We are so grateful to have your company this morning. President Biden is going to be traveling this week to boost support for his $1 trillion infrastructure plan.


First though he is cleaning up comments that he made in Washington.


Yesterday, the President attempted to walk back what some considered a veto threat concerning the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Now, on Thursday, he said he'd only signed the measure if a larger spending bill on measures such as clean energy and childcare passed as well.

CNN's Kevin Liptak at the White House right now for us. Kevin, it's good to see you. We know that the President didn't use the word veto specifically, but it's certainly something else that the administration has had to clean up. Talk to us about where it stands now.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Christi, you've probably heard the President say before that he means everything he says. But sometimes he says everything that he means. Well, that seems to have been what happened here. The President setting off a political hand grenade when he said on Thursday that he wouldn't sign that bipartisan infrastructure deal unless it came accompanied with a potentially $4 trillion budget plan that contains the rest of his family and jobs agenda. That sent out waves of consternation with Republicans who he had negotiated this bill with.

Now, we should be clear, it was always evident from the get-go that these two bills would proceed together. But what Republicans objected to was this ultimatum that he wouldn't sign one bill without the other. Now, on Friday, White House officials scramble to contain the fallout of these comments the President himself got on the phone with lawmakers. But it became evident that nothing short of the President himself coming out and clarifying would do.

And hence, the statement that the President issued yesterday, he's up at Camp David, he wrote, "After announcing the bipartisan agreement, I indicated that I would refuse to sign the infrastructure bill if it was sent to me without my family's plan and other priorities, including clean energy. That statement understandably upset some Republicans who did not see the two plans as linked. My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agree to, which was certainly not my intent. So not my intent there."

And now, we're also told that the President plans to hit the road to sell this infrastructure plan to sort of reiterate that he still is behind it. He'll be in Wisconsin next week to do just that. Now, whether this reversals enough to sort of salvage this deal remains to be seen.

Now, we should know that it's -- it is going to be months before these bills hit the President's desk. That leaves plenty of time for more of these little incidents to pop up along the way, Christi.

PAUL: All right. Kevin Liptak, thank you so much for walking us through that.

I want to bring in Margaret Talev with us now, is CNN political analyst and managing editor at Axios. It's always good to see you, Margaret. Thanks for being with us. I want to read to you something that you call the cleanup non-apology apology from what the President said. First of all, on Thursday, he said, so to be clear, our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my family's plan. Likewise, they should have no objections to my devoted efforts to pass that family's plan and other proposals in tandem. We will let the American people and the Congress decide.

Now, we just heard Kevin mentioned that the President's statement that came out yesterday, where he said that it was not his intent to create that kind of question or impression about what his intentions were here. How effective, how necessary can you glean, Margaret, this as you call it, clean up non-apology apology was? How effective and is it enough?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Christi, I actually think it probably is, or put another way, that if something is going to sink, the infrastructure deal, it's not purely going to be President Biden's statement. But he did sort of step in it. And the reason why is not because of what he was trying to do, but because it's so kind of in your face. Like, it reflects the fact that he has to appease both progressive Democrats as well as Republicans who were willing to come in for a compromise.

The problem is that those Republicans who are willing to come in for a compromise have to appease their own conservative base. And so, I think he inadvertently ended up kind of, you know, making them feel embarrassed or that they had been, you know, gamed or something like that. And that becomes a problem for them. It becomes like a face- saving issue for them.

And so, there are just so many nuances to the kind of rhetoric of holding this deal together. Like, I think, ultimately, this depends the success of the viability of any kind of infrastructure deal depends more broadly, on where -- whether the Republicans, including those Republicans signed on to the deal now think it's in their interest to make a deal on roads and bridges, right.

You notably haven't seen Mitch McConnell out-championing this plan or promoting it. And part of it is that there's a Republican philosophy that they want to deny Biden the ability to say, look, I broke a logjam that's existed for decades. I'm able to get stuff done that the last president, the Republican president wasn't able to get done. The Republicans strategically don't want that.

Then on the other, sort of side of the map, you do have these key Democrats like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema who ultimately are going to be the ones who decide whether a larger, you know, $4 trillion software infrastructure plan passes. You know, if they're not -- if they're not willing to join the other Democrats and make it a 51 vote push through, then what is it that President Biden is really, you know, going to refuse to sign if they're the reason it doesn't come over?

So, the issues are much broader than one statement that President Biden made. But the blow -- the blowback from this one statement shows how sensitive and vulnerable every little thing that is said during the course of the next several weeks and months is.


PAUL: Yes. And interesting what you were saying about how, you know, Republicans don't want to give him a win, so to speak, obviously, as we look forward ahead. When I say four, we look ahead to 2022 midterms and what that would mean. So -- but let me ask you about the legislative goals of this president at this point. Is this just a hiccup? Does this have any effect on where they go moving forward, particularly when it comes to something that a lot of voters are watching, which is police reform?

TALEV: Yes, police reform is a slightly different case, but it's of the same piece. We heard Senator Tim Scott who's been kind of the chief negotiator for Republicans on this issue, African-American senator from South Carolina for a week saying I think we're very close, we're very close, wanted to have a framework out by the end of this past week before lawmakers left for their July 4 recess.

It's now obvious that it's not actually very close at all. And many kinds of folks inside this discussion say, it's not clear at all, that they can bridge that gap in the weeks when they come back. Why does that matter? It matters because in recent weeks, we have seen Republicans come together around the idea strategically that they can go after Biden and Democrats in the midterms on a sort of weak on crime posture. That just makes it much harder for them to do that, just as a matter of pure politics, if they're working together with Democrats on a plan to rein in police.

So, you can see these kinds of midterm strategies, political tactics meet up against any effort for bipartisanship. And I think over the course of the summer, we'll see like we've already seen it on, you know, voting rights, we're going to see whether this Congress can get anything done and how it's going to impact Joe Biden's agenda. But for now, I think that the infrastructure, the $1.2 trillion, infrastructure compromise actually seems like the most likely of all these issues that (AUDIO GAP) now.

PAUL: OK. Margaret Talev, it is always such a pleasure to have you with us. Thanks for getting up early on a Sunday.

TALEV: Thanks, Christi.

PAUL: Of course. Coming up, this was a frightening escape. A Surfside condo resident explains to us how she survived when that building collapse, by climbing through rubble in the dark as she helped her dog. You're not going to want to miss this. Stay close.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. I'm Boris Sanchez coming to you from Surfside, Florida where search and rescue operations continue this morning for the more than 150 people still unaccounted for in this collapse. As rescuers continue the painstaking work of sifting through this rubble, we are hearing stories of survival from those that were fortunate enough to make it out alive.

Reporter Joseph Ojo of our affiliate to WPLG spoke with one woman who survived by climbing through the rubble in the dark while holding on to her dog.


SHARON SCHECHTER, ESCAPED COLLAPSED CONDO: I was one of two, I think, that survived on my floor.

JOSEPH OJO, REPORTER, WPLG: As Sharon Schecter was fast asleep --

SCHECHTER: I started hearing noise that was a little unusual.

OJO: Her condominium came crashing down.

SCHECHTER: It felt like the whole building was shaking.

OJO: She looked outside to see what was wrong.

SCHECHTER: I realized, I said, oh my god, where's the building? There's no building.

OJO: Then, quickly grabbed her dog and ran for safety.

SCHECHTER: I mean, I literally walked out with nothing.

OJO: Sharon tells me she and others tried running down the only available stairwell, but then they were faced with a ton of rubble.

SCHECHTER: There was no way. We're screaming help. We're here, come get us. We're here banging on the door.

OJO: She tells me she had to climb through the rubble and on top of cars to get out. SCHECHTER: It was pitch black. It was like Titanic. You know, we're

finding our way out until we get to some light.

OJO: And once she got out --

SCHECHTER: It's like Mike, Mike is in the building. Where's Mike? You know, I called him I have his number.

OJO: All she could think of was her neighbors who didn't make it out.

SCHECHTER: I feel like a morning every minute for someone in that building.

OJO: Sharon operates a Medicare insurance business out of her apartment. She says the building collapsed so quickly that she wasn't able to grab her personal items like her passport and important documents for work. Although her livelihood is gone, she is grateful to be alive.

SCHECHTER: I'm hoping that there's a reason why I survived, a bigger -- a bigger picture.


SANCHEZ: An incredible story. And we want to thank reporter Joseph Ojo from CNN affiliate WPLG for that report. Stay with CNN.


We have plenty of updates from here on the scene and from everywhere else news is happening. Don't go anywhere.


PAUL: Edging towards 7:00 hour this morning. Take a look at some of the live pictures we're getting out of Detroit right now. Heavy rains have led to an awful lot of flooding across the area. In fact, we've seen reports of more than 10 inches of rain in some spots. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency for Wayne County. That's in response to the excessive flooding they've seen. And right now more than 10 million people in the central U.S. are under some sort of warning for flooding.

I Want to go to CNN Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin. Tyler, talk to us about the severity of this rain. I mean that does not look like a potentially good radar for anyone in the next what, 24 hours?


TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Christi, over the next 24 to 48 hours, we're going to continue to see the rain pile up not only across the Midwest, but all the way down into the plains and portions of the southwest too. Since Friday, Michigan, the consensus would be about four to six inches with isolated higher amounts, and then that continues all the way into Missouri and portions of Oklahoma and Texas as well. Parts of Missouri we have seen some of our rivers in Missouri hit major flood stage.

Here are some of the other totals that we've seen since Saturday. Some of us have gotten up to 8.5 inches, 7.5 inches. And as you mentioned, Christi, some other people have seen some amounts up to nearly 10 inches. It is currently raining in Oklahoma City. As of now you don't need the ark, but it's continuing to rain over those same areas. And that does lead to the potential for flooding. That's why we have a flash flood watch from New Mexico through Texas, Oklahoma, on into Missouri, and then we continue with the flood warnings in portions of Illinois and also Michigan.

The reason why we're seeing the rain right here is because of this front that's draped across the center portion of the country, little spokes of energy running across that are leading to the showers and thunderstorms firing up and moving from the south up to the north, over the same areas that have already picked up rain. So, we are going to lead to more in the way of rainfall amounts across this area that could lead to that flooding.

One area that really needs the rainfall, Christi, is New Mexico. All of New Mexico is under some sort of drought. Finally, we're going to pick up the rainfall but that could lead to the potential for flash flooding. So, we have to watch this entire area for the potential for flash flooding. Christi?

PAUL: All right, thank you so much for the heads up Tyler. Good to see you.

MAULDIN: You got it.

PAUL: So, ahead next hour, we're going to take you back to Surfside, Florida. There are search and rescue operations that are growing more urgent by the hour, they say, as people there, they are holding hands, they are praying together hoping that they're going to pull some survivors out of this today. We're going to have the latest developments for you. Stay close.



PAUL: Romance novelist Jackie Collins is one of the most successful authors of all time. But her best story may be the one she never got a chance to tell. It's her own. Now, the CNN film Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story explores the personal life of this 1980s icon who promoted her own particular brand of feminism while building a Hollywood and literary empire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I sort of knew it was a different upbringing. Parenting wasn't really a verb back in the 70s and 80s. I didn't really understand what it was she was doing. All I knew was that mommy was on TV a lot. There are definitely two sides. There was mom --



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there was Jackie Collins.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people who are wonderful writers. By that I mean people who use the language beautifully and elegantly which is almost the direct opposite of Jackie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it exhausting doing research for your book?


PAUL: Our colleague John Berman had the chance to talk with Laura Fairrie and Lizzie Gillett, the director and producer of Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story. Look at this.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Lizzie, you know, Jackie Collins was a huge celebrity, best-selling author, and cultural lightning rod. What was it about her that made you want to tell her story?

LIZZIE GILLETT, PRODUCER, LADY BOSS: Firstly, as a producer, you know, the fact that she'd sell 500 million books is incredibly appealing because you can see that there's going to be an audience for the film. But what we didn't realize when we started was Jackie's untold story and that her personal life, you know, she had trauma in her life. And like many women, she dealt with it Incredibly stoically.

So, it was once we started digging into the personal story with her family that we really fell in love with Jackie and just knew that we had to make this film.

BERMAN: And Laura, you've got a little bit of a different take there about why Jackie Collins was so important to you growing up.

LAURA FAIRRIE, DIRECTOR, LADY BOSS: Yes. Well, Jackie Collins was my sex education. I mean, her books were passed around at school, and we would read them, you know, hidden under the desks on math lessons. And so, I just had this wonderful connection to her from my teenage self and just loved the idea of exploring who she was and her story, you know, now as an adult woman. So, it was just this wonderful opportunity.

BERMAN: Now, I see where I went wrong. Clearly, things might have gone differently if only -- if only I had known where to look for the guidance I so badly needed.

Laura, you know, Jackie Collins considered herself a feminist. But look, critics dismiss the books as you know, sleazy was a word that you heard. And people often ask her about how she viewed and portrayed women. FAIRRIE: Yes, absolutely. But I mean, that's just what's so fascinating about her story. You know, Jackie created her own brand of feminism. She was, you know, a trailblazer. She was so ahead of her time. And she made feminism accessible for millions of women who often didn't read anything else but Jackie Collins.

So, the idea that she was dismissed and sort of smeared out by critics throughout her whole life is, you know, sort of -- is awful. And in the current context of where we are now, as women, it just seems completely outrageous.


PAUL: Be sure to tune in. The all-new CNN film Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story premiers tonight at 9:00 p.m. only here on CNN