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CNN Live Event/Special

FL Governor Speaks on Hurricane Ian's Destruction; Governor DeSantis: Go to to Help; Boats, Planes only Way Out for some Stranded Residents; Catastrophic Flooding, Winds Destroy Florida Neighborhoods; Putin: Annexed Ukrainian Regions part of Russia "Forever"; Nearly 2 Million Homes, Businesses without Power in Florida. Aired 8:56-10a ET

Aired September 30, 2022 - 08:56   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, FIRST MOVE: All right, let me get you back to the Kremlin because the four Russian installed Heads of the self- proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics and of occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are now signing decrees which as far as Russia is concerned formerly annexes some 20 percent, or just less of Ukraine, the neighboring country.

This following a speech of I estimate over half an hour by the Russian President as he talks about the four new regions of Russia. Talking about the "Votes" in what were illegal referenda of course, Putin said that people have made their choice. It is the will of millions of people. He said that to applause from those gathered in St. George's hall there at the Kremlin.

And he went on to describe the millions who he says have voted to be part of Russia as enshrined in their rights as far as the UN is concerned, which is simply not true. This is Vladimir Putin and long run and these four heads of the occupied areas of Ukraine now as far as they are concerned Russians formally annexing and those areas for regions which they say are now part of Russia.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: Russian Federation and Kherson region about accepting into the Russian Federation of Donetsk People's Republic Luhansk People's Republic Zaporizhzhia region and Kherson region and creation within the Russian Federation of new subjects the National Anthem of the Russian Federation.


ANDERSON: And a photo opportunity for Vladimir Putin as he signs decrees with the four leaders of the areas that are as far as Russia is now concerned now formally annexed. They of course, make up some 18 percent of neighboring Ukraine. Let's get to you, Nick Paton Walsh, our International Security Editor who is watching these images with us your thoughts?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, look, it's important to point out this is just theater. Because as he stands there with the self-appointed or Russian appointed leaders of going across the line you saw in those pictures Luhansk, Donetsk Putin in the middle Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

The signatures on those pieces of paper held behind the individuals by soldiers who in their minds must be wondering when it's their turn, to get drafted to the front line. They mean nothing; they changed little of what's happening on the front line here at this stage.

And I should point out that, you know, some of the men stand on either side of Putin other successes of individuals who rushes installed in those regions who have been killed, or assassinated in previous months, some relatively recently.

And so this is not a happy gathering, far from it, around this at the knowledge that the people that they know who have been killed in this war that Putin chose to prosecute, still calling it a special military operation. Here we have this bizarre team handshake with all their hands being put together. I mean, remarkable.

And you have to think that in that enormous room of the Kremlin dignitary, standing now for the Russian anthem, which is still what the Soviet anthem was, they kept that after a period of not having it in the 90s. I can't actually hear what they're singing together but it is quite extraordinary to have this forced scene of unity and jubilation for a country that may have lost by some counts 20,000, 50,000 troops in this last seven months.

That is now seeing families torn apart, as individuals are mobilized and sent to the frontline. It seems sometimes with no training even to a frontline where Ukraine continues to make advances simply it seems, through better strategical decisions.

And so the scene in the Kremlin, where yes, there was a moment where people stood after the signing slightly patchy, not immediate, we're now seeing the outside of the Kremlin on a particularly staggeringly beautiful day.

And had his just so distance to the utter horror and ugliness of what Russia has been inflicting on the Ukrainian people for the past seven months. So this split screen continues. And I should point out so much of Putin speech was simply a tirade from his revisionist view of history of how Russia has been killed, since we - what he called as the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century, the collapse of what we now call the Former Soviet Union.

So a startling moment, I would say if a bid to project unity, future rebuilding and purpose but essentially just below it all, exposing what a mess this war has come and how many people's lives have been lost. And in that room, surely how many individuals there have felt their lives impacted and damaged by Putin's choice to invade Ukraine in February Becky?

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh. As Vladimir Putin was speaking, the Head of President Zelenskyy's Office posting a brief comment on telegram saying a "We continue to work and liberate Ukrainian territories, who do not pay attention to those who should take pills. The army is working Ukraine is united, only forward", he said.

Well, that's the image that President Putin would want you to see. To chance of Russia, the Russian Presidents there shaking hands and more with the Heads of the Russian installed regions of Ukraine. I want to take you back to my colleagues in the U.S. for our continuing coverage of the destruction of Hurricane Ian.


RON DESANTIS, FLORIDA GOVERNOR: --herculean effort. There's also the assessment, OK, of what's been damaged, that's going to impact the entire community. And of course, the power is a big issue. There are people that are working, I think Lee and Charlotte have about 15 percent restored, there's going to be able to be some more restored likely in the relatively near future.

There is going to be some that's going to require some rebuilds. And so the utilities FPNLs down there was down there first thing, they understand that and they're prepared to do it. The other issue with Lee County that they've asked support from is they had a water main break for their county water utility. That means that the county does not have water at this point. And you need that to be able to function in society.


DESANTIS: They've requested support from FEMA. And then we FEMA were able to provide the Army Corps of Engineers and they were on the ground after Kevin called them. I think at like 3 in the morning yesterday, they were on the ground from Jacksonville all the way down to Southwest Florida in the afternoon.

They've been working to assessing that situation. We also have Florida National Guard personnel standing by to help the Army Corps if they need it. But at the end of the day, you know, that is something that will be very, very critical to be able to get that back.

And it may require more of a rebuild, and maybe it will require some more short term remediation. They're going through that, but that's clearly a top priority. And we're thankful that FEMA and the Army Corps are there helping out.

We have obviously there was a lot of folks in affected areas that evacuated. Some did shelter in place as of last night; we've contacted over 20,000 Floridians that filled out a Shelter in place survey on

Over 10,000 have responded and all 10,000 said they were safe, and the state sent the first alert late last night and are expecting more responses this morning. Cell phone connectivity is sparse in some areas and sometimes it's easier to get out of text message.

So the process has been streamlined. There's now a standalone site to report your location. So if you're having issues contacting your family via phone, and if you're sheltering and want them to know you're safe, there's a website These forms are triaged by staff here in Tallahassee and dispatch to responders that are on the ground. In addition to the rescues yesterday, rescue personnel have gone to more than 3000 homes in the hardest hit areas, going door to door to check on the occupants of those residences.

There are over 1000 dedicated rescue personnel who are going up and down the coastline.

They are also going to be doing more and more inland and some of our counties inland portions of Charlotte and Lee but also DeSoto and Hardee Counties. I think Hardee County is the most without power right now. I think they're 99 percent without or they're pretty.

Yes, so you see the really troubling images of washed out home on the Fort Myers Beach, and that really is ground zero and obviously very important. But this was such a big storm that there are effects far inland. And these rescue personnel are sensitive to that and they are going to be helping. We've opened two major points of distribution for food and water this morning.

First Charlotte Sports Park the spring training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays and Charlotte County and then the Lee County Sports Complex the spring training facility for the Minnesota Twins these are pods that are much bigger than normal pods.

There have been over 1.6 million gallons of fuel into Southwest Florida that had been moved in to support the response. I think what we're finding with the fuel is, the fuel supply is flowing. It's just a matter of the gas stations need to have power to be able to operate and if they have a certain number of pumps, they're required to have a generator.

I was in Lee County yesterday actually saw you know some of the larger gas stations were operating. So that's a good sign. As of 6 am there about 1.9 million people, our customers without power. Right now the hardest hit areas are hardly 99 percent without power as of this morning.

Charlotte and Lee both have 85 percent without it. In DeSoto is at 80 percent without.

Sarasota, - Manatee close to half of the customers, they are without power, Hillsborough and Pinellas 15 to 18 percent are without power. And these crews have been on the ground since it was safe to do so.

And they are working 24/7 to be able to restore power all throughout the state of Florida. And that's over 42,000 linemen and associated personnel that are on the ground. F dot has had over 1300 people on the ground. They've cleared more than 1100 miles of roadway.

I was happy to see the traffic flowing in southwest Florida obviously there's some structural problems and some of the bridges leading out to Sanibel and Pine Island. But by and large, they were tossing clear operations. The traffic is flowing and in Southwest Florida probably better than would have been anticipated so soon after such a major hurricane.

So we appreciate that. They've also inspected and reopen 800 bridges across the state and this includes 67 high priority bridges inspected and reopened in Lee Charlotte Sarasota and Manatee counties.


DESANTIS: Pine Island, Sanibel, those are going to be rebuild efforts. The Sanibel Bridge had breaks and multiple parts of it and was not where the water and the pylons were those held up very well. It was where you had it on some of the Sanibel and that basically just got washed out from underneath.

In the meantime, I think Kevin can talk about this, you know, he's going to be they're going to be running barges to be able to bring more heavy equipment onto the island to be able to help with the response. The first responders that have been there by and large coming in via air, you know, they do have some equipment, but they're traveling lighter just to be able to go and get to people quick as quickly as possible.

There have been six health care facilities evacuated Southwest Florida. They were now they were having problems with water or problems with power for an extended period of time. We're also prioritizing getting power and running potable water to the rest of the area's health care facilities. There have been 117 facilities that had lost power that now have power restored. The port's Tampa Bay, Miami Everglades, they are reopened for fueling. And I think between today and tomorrow, all the ports in the state of Florida, up and down the both coasts will be operational, food and water, massive amounts. And we're Kevin is sensitive to the water situation and Lee.

So I'd say this is an extraordinary amount of water that has been staged and is continuing to be brought into the area. So FEMA has activated their individual assistance program. So if you're need of help of recovering in those affected counties, you can go to disaster assist or call 1-800-621-3362, 1-800-621-3362.

34,000 people have already registered with FEMA. Make sure if you're looking at claims on your property, you document that take photos, make sure you have it; we want you to be able to be made whole as quickly as possible.

There will be in conjunction with FEMA, the state of Florida and the local communities, what are called disaster recovery centers. You know, those will be set up very soon. And that will be a place if you need help with things like individual assistance you can go although - will point out you don't need to go there, you can do all this online.

There's also going to be insurance villages set up under the leadership of CFO Jimmy Patronus. You're going to have a lot of flood insurance claims as a result of this; you will have some wind claims as a result of this. And it's our view that, you know, these claims need to be paid very quickly so that people can get back on their feet. I want to thank the First Lady for spearheading our efforts for volunteer Florida and activate the Florida disaster fund where people can donate if you want to contribute, you will be joining a lot of people who've done a lot of money. And we now have over $12 million with you know 24 to 36 hours after the storm hits pretty incredible that that's happened. If you want to do go to, more than 12 million has come in, and there's a lot of interest to do a lot more.

Why is that important? You know, FEMA has certain things they can do via statute regulation. But if it falls outside of that, they just can't do it. That's not the way it works. And so when you enlist private organizations, they can be a little bit more nimble, they can tailor their response to maybe some of the more unique needs that citizens may have.

And obviously, you have people that have been dislocated; you have people that no longer have homes. And so there's going to be a wide variety of things that they're going to need in the coming days, weeks and months.

Volunteer Florida, if you want to volunteer your time, visit to find volunteer opportunities. I think this is one way where you can really make an impact. And I know people really appreciate all the outpouring of support. I want to commend the folks that we were able to meet with down in Southwest Florida.

You know, this has been a major event, of course, and these people have been working around the clock to be able to serve their constituents and serve their communities. And we appreciate the dedication. We appreciate the perseverance, we know that there are a lot of difficult days ahead, but they've really done a great job of standing up for the people their community. I'm going to let Kevin give a brief on the state response, and then we'll have the FEMA Administrator come up and provide some perspective from FEMA.


KEVIN GUTHRIE, DIRECTOR OF FLORIDA DEPARTMEMT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thank you, Governor. So I'll obviously thanking the governor, but I want to thank the agencies represented here to my left, Especially grateful a FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, Captain Rooney and Admiral Brendan McPherson from the United States Coast Guard, others that are not here that are certainly on that floor behind me, Lieutenant Colonel Miller from the U.S. Army Corps district out of Jacksonville, Colonel booth out of Jacksonville, and many, many other federal partners that have certainly helped us here.

Colonel, or I'm sorry, Captain, if you can just grab that easel and just put it right back up here for just a second, I'd appreciate it. I wanted to thank them before I covered them up with a sign here in just a second.

So all right, so let's talk. We're right in that 72-hour area of search, secure stabilized that I talked about yesterday. So everything that I want to talk about right now is about that search, secure and stabilizes. So we continue to have our fire rescue partners search and rescue going in there and conducting the - what we call the hasty search, and then are coming back and do their primary search. And then they'll do a secondary search.

So again, I think it's very important for everybody to know that as a part of the search and rescue element, over a 72-hour period, there's actually three searches that are conducted. That hasty search is just very quick, see if they see the survivors that are alive or in a dramatic situation, and they start to move those individuals to safety that's been conducted.

Now we're back in that primary search area, which is now we're doing a little more detailed search, and then we'll do a second search behind that. Stay safe, I want people to be make sure that they are safe.

This comes down to personal preparedness, or I should say personal preparedness, but the person individual response, generator safety, we have been talking about it and talking about it and talking about it.

But we still get reports of people operating their generators inside of a garage operated or generators just out of sight of a cracked window with a cord running through the window. And we're having continuing issues with carbon monoxide.

Alright, I'm not saying we've had carbon monoxide deaths. I'm just saying that we're still having carbon monoxide issues. Please operate your generators in a safe mode. That also includes not having electrical cords actually run through puddles of water. Let's make sure that we got them elevated and not running through puddles of water. Next, as I mentioned last night, chainsaws safety, ladder safety --.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: We are continuing to monitor this press conference from emergency officials and Governor Ron DeSantis in Tallahassee, Florida, but a few big headlines, Jim from the Governor, saying you still have 20,000 plus Floridians in shelters 1.9 million homes and businesses across the state of Florida without power.

He also said something I think is important for anyone who may have a loved one missing or they just can't reach they should go to this website Again, that's and they can get some assistance there to try to track them down.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Notable two from the government he said that there are a lot of effects inland right we've seen the pictures from the coastline, but the inland was battered both by winds and by rising waters, and he did ask insurers to play it to pay insurance claims quickly. As you and I discussing before the show Poppy, that's been an issue in the past for Florida, a lot of folks have trouble getting insurance or getting that insurance paid in a timely manner. So something we'll follow closely.

HARLOW: We will, so up next we will speak with the Emergency Management Director in Charleston County as Ian is said to make landfall near there and South Carolina in just a few hours. Also CNN is on the ground this morning in Englewood, Florida. Take a look at these images. This is one of the hardest hit communities in the state. The National Guard has arrived to search homes we have a live look at the damage just ahead.

SCIUTTO: Later I'll speak to Florida power and light about where things stand on getting power back to those 2 million people in Florida still without it you can see there why?



SCIUTTO: Sanibel, Florida residents cut off from the Mainland during Hurricane Ian are getting some desperately needed help. This from the Coast Guard crews taking to the air rescuing not only people who were stranded at times their pets as well.

HARLOW: The Commander of the Coast Guard's Seventh District tells CNN that in total 95 people were rescued by their teams yesterday and responders are back on the job today. Our Senior Climate Correspondent Bill Weir is in Punta Gorda. And Bill, you spend time with another group of rescuers volunteers who call themselves a "Cajun Navy", right? They got that name because of their response at Katrina and what you saw and did with them is just stunning.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, one of the best tips I ever got for covering stories like this comes from Mr. Rogers, who taught my kids that when you see these horrible, scary images, and these events look for the helpers. The Cajun Navy has been part of that descriptor. They have been amazing helpers. There are other groups now that have started since then. Yesterday they joined forces and I went along for the ride.


WEIR (voice over): After Ian's violent visit, this is what's left of the Causeway Bridge from Mainland Florida to Sanibel Island. And this is the now un-passable bridge to Pine Island. So for residents of both boats, and helicopters are the only exit options and while Coast Guard Blackhawks and Chinooks buzzed over the barrier islands on the grim day after two of the only boats in this part of the Gulf, carry civilian volunteers from the Cajun Navy. Those grow boys with bass boats and big hearts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us a name of an individual tell somebody to go pick up we'll try to go get them.


WEIR (voice over): And a newer outfit known as Project Dynamo, led by a Former Military Intelligence Officer more accustomed to saving Americans from Russians in Ukraine or the Taliban in Afghanistan

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That when Americans aren't in trouble and bad spots usually we do war zones and conflict zones but Hurricane Ian qualifies.

WEIR (on camera): And you're named after Churchill's operation to get the troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now here we're going to rescue some people off a Sanibel but just cut off from the world right now. Yes, so it's very apropos--

WEIR (on camera): --to help people out if you want to get out of here.

WEIR (voice over): We follow the cry for help ashore on Sanibel to find a gentleman eager to accept the boatlift but unable to convince his better half. The cursory stroll around this part of Sanibel reveals plenty of hazards, like the history 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.

WEIR (on camera): Look at this one absolutely flattened, especially the mobile homes of the working class and retirees living in St. James City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, man, are you OK? It's your daughter called us.

WEIR (voice over): When their phone cut out early in the storm the grandchildren of Nancy and Robert Sharon were so scared. They called the Cajun Navy and Project Dynamo and begged them to go check for proof of life

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Already that they weren't going to do anything after the bridge closed down. But my granddaughters are in Ohio. And she was crying hysterical when I talked to her. We were thinking that you hadn't heard and I said no, there's no service--

WEIR (on camera): --uncertainty brings so much fear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew it. And that, that had me more worried than what was going on at the time. Because I knew my family was worrying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's terrible what we're going through. There's a terrible set of circumstances the destruction is unbelievable. The suffering is going to be bad. Hundreds of people are dying right now. We just haven't found him yet. So this is true carnage. It's a warzone.

WEIR (on camera): One, two, three thank you, gentlemen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But at the same time, I'm really happy that we can be here to help.


WEIR: What was also inspiring is that Brian and those guys had so much empathy for the woman who did not want to leave, she wasn't ready, she might still be in shock doesn't realize how untenable the situation is on Sanibel for more than a few days. So give her space maybe check on her the next day. It speaks to the human element of the story, the psychology of it all and also in these divided times it's so refreshing, you know, they have the ethos of sort of a fire department. He says, you know, you call 911 your house is on fire. They don't ask you who you voted for, or how the fire started. They just come and get you.

And so, so many folks who either couldn't evacuate or chose not to right now it is not the time to scold them. They're dealing with it as best they can as well. But Jima and Poppy, I'm telling you these moments bring out the best of human nature sometimes it's so great to see. Of course the worst we have to be wary of in coming days but these guys if you're interested, or even a few bucks will help them gas up those boats.

SCIUTTO: Cajun Rescue is one of the constants of all these storms going way back to Katrina so it's nice to see him out there again and you with them Bill thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thanks, Bill.

SCIUTTO: Alright now we are watching the radar as Hurricane Ian to hurricane again heads for the Carolina coast. It is set to make landfall near Charleston as a category one storm.



HARLOW: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Ian which is a hurricane again as it barrels towards South Carolina, but in Florida it just cause widespread damage, especially in Englewood, Florida that is just south of Venice. I want you to take a look at this destruction to a mobile home park basically ripped to shreds.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Carlos Suarez is live in Englewood this morning. Carlos, you know, it's sometimes hard for people to get a sense of the scale and the gravity of the destruction, the power of these kinds of storms. So tell us what you're seeing there.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Poppy good morning. We are in the heart of Englewood, the historic district out here. It is dotted with businesses and homes and just about every single one of them has been damaged.

One of the shop owners here tells us that the roof of the place was torn off all of that rain, all of the wind got in. And if we walk this way here you can see the plywood that used to belong to this business right here, the front windshield blown in. It's a realty plays out here.


SUAREZ: All of the damage stretches about this far out just class litters the listings that these people have of homes around the area cover this entire entrance to the business. We were in northern Englewood this morning. And on our drive in, this is how things looked. Again, the damage is widespread. Every single home we came across had some sort of damage to it. The mobile home communities, they're all pretty much just gone.

There was an airport that we drove right by and we saw a plane that had been pushed up against where we believe it's normally park, but you could see just how strong the winds were that it lifted it up just enough that it was pushed up against the back wall there.

And then in a neighbor's house, there was an RV that was flipped over. Emergency officials this morning are concerned that folks have started to leave their homes because they've been indoors for the last couple of days.

There is not a single traffic light that we saw on our drive coming down south here that has any power. We didn't really see any police officers at any of these intersections. And so folks, as you can imagine, are a bit testy.

Some folks are trying to get gas they've stopped to ask us if we knew where they could find a place to go ahead and fill up. We only saw two gas stations out by I75. That's way out east that had gas. And they were open this morning. But we weren't sure if they had a supply still in hand Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: So much pain, so much destruction, it's going to take a very long time for them to get back on their feet. Thank you for being there, Carlos. Well, in South Carolina, where we said now again, Hurricane Ian is barreling toward, look at that, they're preparing for the worst.

On their southeast coast, nearly every part of the state is under a major risk of flooding right now. With me now is Joe Coates, the Director of Emergency Management in Charleston County, South Carolina. Joe, thank you very much, and good morning.


HARLOW: So what we're hearing is this hurricane will bring somewhere between four to seven feet of storm surge. It'll move on shore, just you know, near or at high tide to make, you know, a bleak scenario even worse. I wonder what that is going to mean for your community.

COATES: So right at lunchtime, we have a 6.3 foot high tide, which is going to compound all of our different issues that we have, including the potential of a seven foot storm surge. So we're really asking our residents to stay off the road and stay home.

HARLOW: Hey, something like that happened before a combination like that at the same time for South Carolina for your area.

COATES: During Hurricane Ian - we did have a very similar situation. And we had some major, major storm surge that had not been many areas had not flooded before. HARLOW: OK, so the Governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, said that human reaction, those were his words, human reaction is the biggest variable when it comes to how folks there can deal with Hurricane Ian saying human error could be a real danger.

So I wonder you know what your message direct messages to people there watching about what they should not do.

COATES: So they do not need to go out and drive around and floodwaters do not remove barriers and try and drive through the floodwaters. The best thing that they can do is to stay home.

We really do not want our residents out and about because eventually the storm winds are going to get up so high where our first responders are going to be recalled back to the stations.

And we really don't need to try to have to rescue people that are out and about when these high winds come and everybody's gone back to their stations.

HARLOW: There's a new U.S. geological survey about coastal change. That just came out yesterday and it suggested that Hurricane Ian will cause significant changes to much of the South Carolina and the Georgia coastline.

You've got 99 percent of the dunes in South Carolina that are you know, one of the most beautiful parts of your state that are expected to face some level of erosion from Hurricane Ian. What does that actually mean for your state and particularly for your county?

COATES: So we have certain beaches that are notorious for beach erosion and the Army Corps of Engineers has to replenish those and it costs millions of dollars to be able to get the beach back to some sort of new normal. It's very expensive after effect from the storms.

HARLOW: Do you get the sense that your residents seeing the devastation brought across the State of Florida may take more precaution now as Ian heads your way than perhaps they would have prior to seeing what it did there?


COATES: So one of the issues that we have is we have a lot of new residents to the Charleston area that are coming from states and areas that have never had hurricanes. So we've done our best to try to educate everyone, and make sure that they know what the effects are from these storms.

And we've just tried to make sure that people heed the advice of first responders and our public officials to stay home and stay off the roads.

HARLOW: Joe Coates, Director of Emergency Management in Charleston County, South Carolina. Good luck. We're thinking about you guys.

COATES: Thank you, ma'am. SCIUTTO: So good to hear from those officials in the midst of this. Well, still ahead, we are staying on top of Hurricane Ian's path as it keeps going. It's heading towards Carolina's land fall just a few hours away our live team coverage continues.

Another story we're following this morning. And this is daunting. Russia's President Vladimir Putin declared this morning that four regions of Ukraine to be clear are now he's claiming part of Russia forever.

This blatantly violates international law by the way Russia does not even control those regions, most of them. He now says it is time to negotiate those claiming it, we're going to be live in Ukraine next.



HARLOW: Moments ago, Vladimir Putin took steps that could escalate Russia's war on Ukraine announcing the illegal annexation of four seized regions in Ukraine. Nearly a fifth of that country, if you look at landmass and move that clearly violates international law.

SCIUTTO: It does, in fact, as Russia is losing more control of those territories. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in one of them in Kramatorsk in the area of, of Donetsk. Nick Putin says, somehow, in the midst of all this, it's time to sit down at the negotiating table.

At the same time, he is saying that these annexations are in his words for ever, which is a non-starter for Ukrainian. So I just wonder how Ukrainians are reacting to this. And do they see this as an escalation?

PATON: Yes, I mean, they knew this was coming. They knew that these terms were essentially the final product of days of theater; we've seen a sham referenda and pieces of paper being signed. So Ukrainian reaction is, look, don't be distracted by this, we're continuing to prosecute this war on the front line and are seeing a lot of success.

Frankly, just near where I'm standing in Donetsk, a key strategic town of - is almost a bit being circled leaving thousands of Russian troops caught in there and potentially having a knock on effect across the Luhansk region, another one of the four areas that Russia now says is part of its territory forcedly.

The issue, of course here is that as Russia says, all of these areas of Ukraine and are part of our country, Ukraine is taking them back off Russia's faltering military. And it was interesting to hear Vladimir Putin's long awaited speech here, you know, this was a very revisionist view of history, blaming the West for everything.

Nuclear weapons, which his officials have been threatening in the background, over the past days, or sometimes very directly in the foreground were not something he directly threatened to use if these areas were attacked. He did say that the U.S. was the only country in the world that would use them and that "They set a precedent, which too many analysts is chilling". But there was certainly a notion that they would do everything they could to defend these areas, but their conventional forces are deeply faltering.

So the big I think policy play we heard from the Kremlin head was the idea of the need for a sudden ceasefire, and it returned to the negotiating table. Ukraine said that's not going to happen.

The West recognizes that Russia uses diplomacy often for delays, to regroup to pursue its military goals. So it is going to be on the front lines, frankly, where this is all decided, and Russia struggling to get those partially mobilized soldiers and its chaotic mobilization of ordinary civilians to the frontline and change things.

And so we're likely to see in the days ahead after the extraordinary pageantry in the Kremlin there, the four Russia appointed Heads of those regions standing on stage and a joint handshake chanting Russia, as the Soviet former Soviet and current Russian anthem was playing out startling scenes.

Despite all that, they're still going to keep losing ground here in Ukraine itself. And that's very hard, I think for the Kremlin to reconcile if it's even paying attention to reality, some signs on that stage in Moscow that maybe the Kremlin Head is less attached to it, so very troubling days ahead here, but certainly a definite feeling of Ukrainian momentum here, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. It's an alarming day for Ukraine and for Europe frankly, those words from the Russian president.

HARLOW: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for being there for us. And still ahead nearly 2 million people in the state of Florida this morning are still without power after Hurricane Ian rips through the state.

The question now is how long will it take to get power back to all of those people we'll have a spokesperson join us from Florida Power & Light ahead.



SCIUTTO: As Florida tries to figure out how to respond to all the devastation left by Hurricane Ian close to 2 million people, homes and businesses, customers I should say are still without power. Governor Ron DeSantis knows 99 percent of customers in Hardy County don't have power. Charlotte Lee County's each 85 percent without power.


CHIP FARRAR, RODE OUT STORM ON MATLACHA ISLAND: Every telephone pole is down. Every restaurant is totaled. The water has receded but it's left behind four inches of mud and muck, everywhere that you walk. There's debris everywhere.

I mean, I live across the street from the Blue Dog restaurant and a 30 foot walk in cooler that was 150 yards away is now in the middle of Pine Island Road. I've been here since 2000 and I've never seen anything remotely close to this including Charlie.



SCIUTTO: No longer homes, just the imprints of homes. With me again today, Peter Robbins, Spokesperson for Florida Light & Power, for Power & Light, I should say, good to have you back, Peter, thanks for taking the time.

PETER ROBBINS, SPOKESPERSON, FLORIDA LIGHT & POWER: Our pleasure. Thank you for having us, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So first, when I look at those pictures of towns blown away, blown and washed away, it looks to me not like a repair by any means but a rebuild. And I wonder what does that mean for you and getting power back to these people?

ROBBINS: And those situations where it will be a rebuild, clearly, it's going to take some time where there aren't even structures that can receive power in those areas. The good news is, you know, here we are we already restored power to more than half of FPL customers who are impacted by the storm.

So we've restored a million people, we have about a million to go. And that's where our focus is, we have a team of 21,000 people that is now spread out throughout the state, to make sure that where folks are in the dark and where they're maybe not as severely impacted as in some of the other areas.

We're actively working to restore their power right now. And we're reconnecting people really every minute, every hour of the day and won't stop working until everybody's back on.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because this certainly isn't the first one. But it won't be the last to come through here. Do you need a redesign, such as burying power lines, for instance, I know that communities, some communities on the east coast have done that. Is that in the view of your company a necessary step to reduce the damage from the next storm?

ROBBINS: It's one of the tools in our toolbox when it comes to strengthening the electric grid and providing reliable service for all of our customers. We have a lot of underground lines throughout our system.

And basically all new construction is underground. And we have programs where we take existing lines and bury them. So that certainly can help when it comes to wind, it doesn't always help when it comes to flooding. Underground equipment can be easily damaged by flooding, in some cases and more difficult to access. So undergrounding helps concrete poles help, we actively invest in concrete poles and things like shortening the span of wires in between poles.

So we bring a lot of different things to bear to try to harden the grid. But with a storm like this, you cannot be hurricane proof, particularly when you're dealing with a category four even a category five storm.

SCIUTTO: Sure, so much of this is risk mitigation, not risk elimination. Alright, timeline, and I'm sure that this is a massively different timelines depending on where your home is, right? If you're in a county, like Hardy, where it's more than 90 percent of folks without power, it's different. But can you give us a sense of how long it's going to take to get power back to homes and businesses?

ROBBINS: Sure, you know, in southeast Florida, where we started feeling the effects of the storm, really Monday and Tuesday, we are restored here. We still have some customers to get to but we're almost completely restored in this area.

And then later today, we're going to be able to provide our customers in most areas, a more detailed timeline of restoration. We're still doing damage assessments in the hardest hit areas where it's just been difficult to access those locations, because of floodwaters because of debris.

So those hardest hit areas, it will take more time. And getting that timeline will take us a little longer. But we should have an estimate for most of our customers later this evening.

SCIUTTO: Understood, and I know that they're waiting; they're waiting very much for that to come as quickly as possible. Question for you, for folks who may be watching who are down there. They're eager to get back to their homes, right? They want to see what's left and I get it, I'd want to do the same thing.

But as we showed, we just showed some pictures there of a live power line in the water conduct electricity. What do you say to folks who want to go home now?

ROBBINS: I think you need to sit tight. I really do. I mean, I can't speak for every scenario. But I actually have an aunt who lives very close to Angola, who was asking me this morning, should I go back home or not? And I said sit tight.

Most people are without power there. So even if you manage to make your way back to your home, you're probably going to be without power for a little bit, so check with emergency officials, check with your local sheriff's office and your local emergency management officials, read the information that they're putting out and pay attention to it.

I don't think they want people ignoring their advice and going into hard hit areas right now, still a critical situation where we need access for emergency vehicles and power trucks to get in and out. SCIUTTO: Yes, and you can't always see that danger, right. I mean, in that case, there you see the live wire but sometimes you're don't.


SCIUTTO: Peter Robbins, good to have you on and I hope we can keep in touch with in the coming days as you continue your work there.

ROBBINS: Yes, thank you for having us.

HARLOW: It is the top of the hour. We're glad you're with us this Friday. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Lots of news this Friday, I'm Jim Shooter. Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. Right now Hurricane Ian back to hurricane strength 85 mile an hour winds churning toward the South Carolina coast as a category one storm, it's expected to make landfall the eye of that storm just before noon.