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Ian Striking South Carolina After Landfall As Cat 1 Hurricane; Staggering Destruction In Florida As Death Toll Rises To 42; Putin Vows Victory Will Be Ours After Annexing One-Fifth Of Ukraine; Water Rescues Ongoing In Florida, More Than 700 So Far; Ketanji Brown Jackson Becomes Court's First Black Female. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 30, 2022 - 18:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Don't miss State of the Union this Sunday. Both Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, along with the FEMA administrator, Deanne Criswell, that's Sunday at 9:00 A.M. Eastern and, again, at noon here at CNN.

Until then, I will see you on Monday. Thanks so much for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Ian is striking South Carolina after making landfall again as a category 1 hurricane. Piers collapsing as emergency officials warn the storm remains an extreme threat right now.

This comes as the massive scale of Ian's destruction in Florida is still being revealed. We're seeing horrifying new images of wiped out communities, as rescue operations continue and the death toll rises.

Also tonight, Vladimir Putin vows victory will be ours, that's what he says, and throws a Red Square celebration after annexing one-fifth of Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies are condemning the land grab as illegal and President Biden is warning Putin won't get away with what he calls this dangerous escalation of the war.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following the breaking news right now in South Carolina, Ian's newest target, after its catastrophic onslaught in Florida. CNN Correspondents are on the scene in both states covering this disaster. And our weather center is tracking Ian's path right now.

First, let's go to CNN's Miguel Marquez in Pawleys Island in South Carolina for us. Miguel, tell us about Ian's impact where you are there.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the worst may be behind South Carolina right now, but the cleanup has begun. What you're looking at behind me is the remnants of a very large pier. I'm going to show you in a second. A couple of guys were just here, they were taking off the record fish caught off this pier. This thing is beloved in this area. This is part of it. It goes all the way down the beach.

And you can see the beach here is completely eroded away. So, they're going to have to rebuild that as well. And then I want to show you the pier itself, which is way down there. Folks we've talked to here said that that's about half of the pier that was out here. So, there was a massive, long pier that went out. Most of the debris is now scattered along the shore here.

Look, the eye came onshore, not too far, just south of where we are right now in Georgetown. And there was debris on the road all the way up. We saw some fires. We've seen a lot of emergency vehicles out.

There is great concern here on Pawleys Island, as well. It's essentially closed. We had to walk on and walk to this location, because they're concerned about the safety of the island. There is a lot of debris. It was very clear that the surge that came up washed tons of debris farther into land, as well. So, not just this pier, but there is a lot of debris from the ocean itself and from other homes up in the neighborhoods here and even on to the causeway, to get across here. That's why they have it closed off now.

This is probably one of the worst-hit areas. Charleston really dodged a big danger with this storm because it went north and you didn't have that storm surge that ended up in Charleston. But still there was a lot of wind, a lot of rain. But because of the damage and the destruction and the deaths in Florida, people here in South Carolina seem to be really being paying attention. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Miguel Marquez, on the scene for us, Pawleys Island.

Right now, I want to go to CNN's Nick Valencia. He's in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for us. So, tell us what you're seeing there, nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good evening. Just when it appeared the worst of Hurricane Ian had passed, just in the last few minutes, the wind started to whip up again, recreating those tropical storm force wind gusts that we felt all throughout the day.

Officially, Hurricane Ian made landfall just south of us in Georgetown, but it did bring some significant damage here in Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area. We want to show you some video of the Cherry Grove Pier north of here, in North Myrtle Beach, that was just wrecked by the wind and rain, portions of it floating now in the Atlantic Ocean.

And that wind and rain not only damaged the piers and some other piers around the area, as we're getting hit by another one of those gusts, it also brought with it some localized flooding. And coastal flooding was always a concern, but some residents' homes were also affected in that same area nearby the pier.

Here, back here on Myrtle Beach, that wind is continuing to be a factor. But where we're standing hours ago was underwater. That water has, for the most part, receded back into the ocean, bringing out resident and looky-loos to see the conditions now.


And perhaps the most dramatic thing that we saw throughout the day was a couple of hours ago. No injuries have been reported, but there were some cause for concern. We saw a shrimp boat appear seemingly just out of nowhere in the choppy water of the Atlantic.

The sheriff here in Horry County tells us that there was no one onboard. The Coast Guard evacuated those folks that were on the boat. It was anchored just a few miles away from here, but because of the severity and the wind and the rain, all of that caused to break away and drift onshore here. Thankfully, no one was injured, but one person was arrested trying to climb on to that. As Miguel said, in Pawleys Island, the cleanup started to get underway, but this wind continues to be a factor. Wolf?

BLITZER: It certainly does. All right, be careful over there. Nick Valencia reporting for us from Myrtle Beach.

Let's head back to Pawleys Island right now. We're joined now by the mayor of Pawleys Island, Brian Henry. He's joining us on the phone. Mayor Henry, thank you very much for joining us.

Part of your island's pier, as we just showed our viewers, has been wiped away. How badly has Ian hit your community?

MAYOR BRIAN HENRY, PAWLEYS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, Wolf, thanks for having me on. And Pawleys Island is a place that I love and so many generations of people that have been coming here love. And the pier just symbolic of the damage that we have. We have not been able to fully assess the damage on the island because the water is just beginning to recede to a point where we can go on to the island and assess the full damage.

You know, it was a category 1 hurricane, and we are between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown. And Georgetown was where the landfall was. And being on the dirty side of this hurricane brought tremendous storm surge to the island. So, we took a pretty good gut punch today and we're trying to recover from it. And we haven't fully assessed the damage just yet.

BLITZER: Well, what, if anything, can you tell us, the latest, Mayor, on the residents who may be trapped by this flooding that we're seeing?

HENRY: Well, fortunately, Wolf, in the last hour, I would say the causeways, the water has receded. There're two ways on and off the island, the north and south causeway, and those are now clear. We are not allowing any residents, property owners, tourists to come on to the island just yet until we can deem everything is safe from the standpoint of structures, electrical, gas. We don't really know even if the roads are safe to travel on. There's just also a tremendous amount of debris strewn across the island on the roads, on the causeway, et cetera. So, we're working on it. We're going to do our best to communicate. I've heard from the governor earlier today and yesterday. He has assured us that we will have the necessary resources to get back to level, also have heard from the South Carolina Department of Transportation on a few occasions. They are already lined up with equipment and crews to come to the island to help us clear any debris and help us get back on our feet.

BLITZER: It's going to take a while, presumably. How long do you think it will take, Mayor, to get a full picture of the devastation that hit your community and how long do you think it will take to get the help that you need?

HENRY: I feel pretty confident tomorrow when the island is fully accessible. We'll have a really good indication of what the full damage is. And I also believe that we will have the help. There's been quite a bit of planning. Although this storm brought a degree of storm surge that we've probably didn't anticipate, there was immense planning to make sure that whatever happens to Pawleys Island and the surrounding areas, there would be a prompt response. And I believe that will happen and I'll make sure that I'm a part of that.

BLITZER: Well, we will stay in close touch with you, mayor. Good luck to you, good luck to the whole community and we're hoping obviously for the best.

Right now, I want to go to the CNN Weather Center. Our Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is standing by. Jennifer, give us, first of all, an update on Ian's power and path right now.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Ian is steadily pushing inland. We still have those tropical storm force winds associated with Ian, but it's now a post-tropical system. It's lost its tropical characteristics but it's still bringing wind and rain, and those are the two primary threats. We have a lot of big trees across the southeast. We have reports of trees down, that's resulting in power outages, as well, a lot of power outages across the Carolinas.

So, as the storm pushes inland, we'll continue to see breezy conditions along the coast, but we'll see conditions really improve over the next couple of hours. That storm surge has gone out. We did rank the top three. This was number three, with the highest storm surge ever reported for Myrtle Beach. It passed Isaias. Number three is where we fall with this storm for Myrtle Beach for storm surge, so pretty significant.

We do have a tornado watch until 10:00 tonight, so we could see possible tornadoes spin up across especially North Carolina and Virginia as this storm pushes inland.

So, here we go, go forward in time, and these showers, these heavy downpours are going to continue across the mid-Atlantic, D.C. is going to get a lot of rain tonight into tomorrow, and even cities up into the northeast will get a lot of moisture or what's left over from this storm.


So, we could see anywhere from two to four inches of rain. Some areas could see up to six. So, we could see some flash flooding in pockets over the weekend, but for the most part, Wolf, this storm is pushing inland and wrapping up, which we're thankful for.

BLITZER: They're telling us we're expecting some serious rain here in the Washington, D.C. area, as well, so we'll watch that closely. Jennifer Gray, thanks, as usual, for the update.

I want to go back to Florida right now where the death toll from Hurricane Ian has now climbed to 42. Our Brian Todd is on the scene for us. He is joining us from Naples, Florida right now.

Brian, I understand survivors are getting a better look today at how much they lost.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And take a look behind me. A full two days after Ian swept through here, some of these streets here in Naples remain difficult to navigate for vehicles. This comes as people here continue to assess some devastating property losses and some residents are still not out of danger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing left, zero.

TODD (voice over): The full extent of Hurricane Ian's destruction now coming fully into view. Aerial damage assessments showing coastal Florida neighborhoods with roofs torn off, homes flattened, house after house either flooded or wiped out, some buildings with nothing left but the concrete slab, remote locations like Pine Island and Sanibel Island cut off from the main land. These before and after images showing just how hard Sanibel was hit.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So, the only way to access that is either by sea or by air.

TODD: So far, more than 700 people rescued, the governor says.

This car in Orange County was filled with water, up to the seats when the passengers were rescued. The Coast Guard making rescues by air from flooded communities along the coast. Here, a rescuer is lowered into the water, finds a woman in a house surrounded by water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure you have a bag with a dry pair of clothes, with I.D.s, cell phones, wallets.

TODD: A basket is lowered, she climbs in, clutches her pet crate, and she and her pet are hoisted to safety. Volunteers pitching in as well, using boats to evacuate survivors stranded by the floodwaters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The surge was higher than nine feet.

TODD: Harrowing stories from the deluge still emerging, including from the survivor who took this video. RADU MARGINEAN, NAPLES RESIDENT: Initially, the water pushed me up the stairs and then it sucked me back down, as well. I got completely submerged underwater, all above my head.

TODD: Among residents returning to survey the damage, distress and determination.

How do you feel about all of this?

A.J. BLACK, OWNER, OSTERIA CAPRI: I feel it was time for a remodel.

TODD: That's a good outlook. Can you rebuild?


TODD: Even inland, in places like Orlando, floodwater still high today.

DESANTIS: What we saw in Central Florida was more standing water than what we saw in Southwest Florida, where the big storm surge came in.

TODD: Authorities warning residents of lingering dangers.

What's the biggest danger that the community is facing right now?

CHIEF PETE DIMARIA, NAPLES FIRE DEPARTMENT: We have multiple, multiple dangers out there, downed power lines that might be reenergized. Just try to stay home, try to stay safe and call us if you need us.

TODD: The death toll now over 40, more than a million customers still without power. Some could take days or weeks to restore.


TODD (on camera): And the sheer numbers on personal property losses are just staggering tonight. The property analytics from CoreLogic estimates that Hurricane Ian could have caused maybe close to $47 billion in insured losses. Wolf, that would make it the most expensive hurricane in Florida's history.

BLITZER: It certainly would. All right, Brian Todd on the scene for us, we'll get back to you. Thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, CNN is also on the scene in another one of the hardest-hit areas of Florida, with a closer look at the devastation in the wake of Ian.

Plus, we go on a Coast Guard aerial survey of one island that officials say was almost completely, completely destroyed.



BLITZER: The extent of the devastation unleashed by Hurricane Ian in Florida is becoming clearer right now by the hour.

CNN's Randi Kaye is on the scene for us once again tonight. Randi, you rode out this hurricane as it came ashore. Describe the situation on the ground tonight where you are in Fort Myers.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are just south of where we rode out the storm in Punta Gorda. We came here to Fort Myers Beach to see the damage, because it's such a hard-hit area. And, Wolf, this is one of the things that we found here. This is the San Carlos R.V. Resort in Fort Myers Beach. You can see, this is where the RV.s used to be. That is now empty. They're gone. We talk to people who said that there were R.V.s parked there before the storm.

This is what the R.V. park looks like now. And then if you look out there in the distance, there's only one sole surviving R.V. We talked to the owners. They cannot believe that their R.V. is still there. It's totaled, but they can't believe it didn't disappear with the others. And over here, they have washing -- laundry machines for the people who were in the park, and those are obviously destroyed as well.

But let me take you up to the right side and show you, there have been power companies here all day working. You can see some of them. They've been very, very busy trying to clean things up. This is some of the damage that we're seeing. If you look across the way there, that boat, Captain Tony's Fishing Adventures, that, of course, was in the water, Wolf, when the storm hit. And then there's two boats behind it, each 50 tons.

We talked to the owner, his name is Mike. He rode out the storm on one of those boats. And he could not believe it. He saw that there were buildings moving out into the water that were on land. And then, of course, his boats ended up on land, that were in the water. They were tied together, Wolf, two 50-ton boats. Such force from the wind and the rain was able to push those boats on to dry land. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, it's really awful, what happened.

Randi, we're also getting before and after images right now from Sanibel Island that helps all of us get a better idea of how powerful this storm was, right?

KAYE: Absolutely. I mean, when you look at those pictures, beforehand, it's so beautiful.


You can see the cottages that are so popular on Sanibel Island. That's one of the draws, the charm of Sanibel Island, why people go there to be at the shore, at the water. Meanwhile, so many of those cottages, you can see, are now gone. In fact, Wolf, in some cases, there were some of those resorts that had like 14 cottages, they're all gone. All that's left is the parking lot. They were just either carried into the water, they were flown away into the wind. It was just such a horrible situation there in Sanibel. And to see it like that is just so dramatic, those before and after photos. BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, Randi Kaye doing excellent reporting for us, as she always does, thank you very, very much.

The U.S. Coast Guard gave CNN's John Berman an aerial survey of the damage in the Fort Myers area, revealing the truly breathtaking scope of this destruction. Watch this.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): All of that debris just littered everywhere. These were buildings? This was a building right there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were buildings, restaurants, and what used to be the Fort Myers Pier.

BERMAN (voice over): How far back does the sand go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It goes straight through to the bay side. The empty spots that you see there were homes.

BERMAN (voice over): I'm sorry. So these -- on this beach here, there used to be homes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to see the empty lots right here, as you see. Those lots, right there, those were homes. Those were hotels. Those were real property, two, three, four five storeys high, washed away.

BERMAN (voice over): The buildings just ripped off of their foundations and just swept backwards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. When you look to the right side here, there's actually boats thrown into the mangroves, vehicles inside the water submerged. It looks like there's a car in the canal right there, too. You can see that. It's like a jeep.

See that car?

This is like Mexico Beach.

BERMAN (voice over): Look at that. I can see the foundation of where those houses were right there.

How many rescues have you done today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've done dozens. As you can see -- look to the front our -- these are major, major boats thrown into the mangroves.


BERMAN (voice over): Boats up in the mangroves right there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just one, dozens, thrown everywhere. BERMAN (voice over): How long will it take to get this back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I look at this, this is not a quick fix. This is not six months. This is long-term. This is long-term. I mean, you're talking about, you know, not refurbishing structures. You're talking about no structure left. You're talking about foundations, concrete. You're talking about homes that were thrown into the bay. This is a long-term fix and it's life-changing.


BLITZER: Our thanks to CNN's John Berman for that aerial tour of the horrible, horrible destruction.

Coming up, we'll go to Orlando, Florida, where neighbors are helping neighbors survive this hurricane disaster.



BLITZER: We're following the ongoing danger in South Carolina tonight after Ian roared ashore as a category 1 hurricane.

Let's go back to CNN's Miguel Marquez, he's on Pawleys Island for us right now. Miguel, so, what more are you seeing as Ian strikes the state?

MARQUEZ: Yes. The worst of it is through, thankfully. And the eye came ashore just near here, Pawleys Island. And this is the worst damage that we've seen. This was a pier that was rebuilt in 1989 after Hugo. About half of it is gone.

And you can see the ocean, still pretty big waves. We have some wind now coming in and the rain, just the last remnants of this storm. And if you look along the beach here, all of that pier is now scattered along the homes on this beach, which has also suffered pretty bad erosion.

People here that we've spoken to just now said that it was brutal for two or three hours during that storm, but they have made it through. They actually have power, they have food. And tonight, they're on vacation, they're going to have steaks in a little while. We might try to get an invite to that. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, good idea. All right, thanks very much, Miguel Marquez on the scene for us.

Let's go to Florida right now, where rescue crews are scrambling big- time to save lives all across the hurricane disaster zone, as the death toll, sadly, continues to climb and climb.

Let's go to Orlando first, CNN's Ryan Young is on the scene for us. Ryan, you spent some time today, I understand, with residents who were going door-to-door with their own boat, checking and helping out neighbors. Describe what you saw out there. RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. This has been so very tough to watch. Neighbors have been showing up and they've been standing all along the way here, trying to wait for their neighbor to basically take them back toward their home.

And what we've discovered is there are plenty of people who still live in this neighborhood behind me.


You can see the waterway. They have to use boats to get from point A to point B. They are growing frustrated because they feel like no one is hearing their cry in terms of their needing help and the check on their goods. We've seen people save pets, we've seen people go in for medicine and we've seen families how are actually back there, still.

Now, take a look at this video. We can show you some of the video as we rode along. Some of the water is over shoulder-length high. And so, on top of that, we've seen an alligator in this neighborhood and there have been snakes here. So, you understand the frustration, as some people have started to walk and wade back there on their own.

And neighbors said they were fed up. They were tired of waiting for the city or the state to help them, so they grabbed their own boat and they went out there. Take a listen to the man that we rode along with as he was trying to help his own neighbors.


YOUNG: We saw some older residents that you guys were helping out earlier because people were talking about trying to get their medicine. How heartbreaking has that for you to see the pain that folks have had over the past few hours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just -- I just couldn't -- no, I couldn't live knowing that, that the people in my neighborhood we suffering for this hurricane, Ian -- what's its name? Ian. And I just had a boat and me and my sister-in-law, my daughter, we just dropped it and went to saving people, helping people out.


YOUNG: So, over 60 people have gone back and forth today.

Now, look at this airboat that you see here, Wolf. They said they were watching CNN a little earlier. They grabbed their airboat, they came out here. The fire department has also arrived in the last half hour after our report. People are definitely coming out here now to help these neighbors. And a church has also shown up to give food.

But people were sitting out here for six to seven hours today all along this bank line trying to figure out how their loved ones were doing with the power back on. They are very frustrated. They want help and they're glad someone is listening. We'll keep following this, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm glad someone is listening as well. Ryan Young, thank you very, very much.

We're joined right now by a U.S. Coast Guard commander in Florida, Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson. Admiral McPherson, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all you and your fellow members of the Coast Guard are doing. It's so, so important.

Take us inside the Coast Guard's rescue operation, Admiral, right now. What are your crews seeing out there? I know you've just come back from a tour.

REAR ADM. BRENDAN MCPHERSON, SEVENTH DISTRICT COMMANDER, U.S. COAST GUARD: Yes, good evening, Wolf. I did. I just got an aircraft in the middle of a flight today. It's been a second day, a busy day for Coast Guard rescues. Since the storm passed through this area, even before the storm left the area, we had Coast Guard aircraft in the air. Since then, we've been able to rescue more than 275 people. That's just Coast Guard air crews and shallow water rescue crews. Many hundreds more have been rescued by urban search and rescue teams from FEMA and from local and state officials.

BLITZER: Can you tell us, Admiral, how many more people might still need rescuing right now?

MCPHERSON: Yes, we're trying to get a handle on that right now. What we're finding is that many of the people are not critically injured and they're not in immediate distress, but they're stranded. They're stuck on, you know, an island, either man-made islands that have been there for some time, that are surrounded by water, but more importantly, those areas that weren't islands before and now they are surrounded by water. So, we're going in there. We're going to keep doing this until we're satisfied nobody else needs rescuing.

BLITZER: Are you confident, Admiral, that your crews, your Coast Guard crews will be able to reach everyone who needs help? And there are so many, I suspect, out there who still need help.

MCPHERSON: Yes, that's right, Wolf. And so, yes, I'm very confident. There are thousands of people here. There's a unified effort amongst our local, state and federal partners.

I really credit these hard crews, like the ones you see behind me. They've been working day and night to get to people. Some people are -- didn't need rescuing right away, but I think they're learning without power, without water, without access the due to roads being washed out, they need help. And we're going to get them out and get them the help that they need.

BLITZER: What are the biggest challenges, Admiral, for your rescue crews right now?

MCPHERSON: Yes. Well, I think the biggest challenge is, one, the conditions that they're dealing with, you know? We're flying and we're operating in areas that are unrecognizable. There's no street signs, you know, they don't look like they used to look like, buildings that were once, you know, benchmarks in the community are no longer there, so just getting the lay of the land. Then we have to treat this like a military operation. We've gridded the space out and we're searching block by block to make sure that everybody gets out, if anybody needs assistance, they can get assistance.

BLITZER: Once again, Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all that you and your fellow members of the Coast Guard are doing. We so appreciate it. You're saving people's lives. We are grateful.

And there's more storm coverage coming up.

MCPHERSON: Yes, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, admiral. Thanks very, very much.

MCPHERSON: Yes. One piece of really good news for the region I want to share with you. We were just able to open the port of Tampa Bay. And so that's been closed since the storm, and that people rely on that port for their safety and security and prosperity.


That port is open now. So, the people in this area can take a little sigh of relief.

BLITZER: Well, that's good to hear. Thanks so much for that update. I appreciate it very, very much.

We're following all of the most important hurricane-related news, much more of our special hurricane coverage coming up.

Plus, Russia, Russia right now facing condemnation tonight after annexing almost one-fifth of Ukraine and claiming the land as its own. Stand by.



BLITZER: We'll have much more on the very, very dangerous Storm Ian in just a few moments. But, first, the United States and its allies are condemning what they call Vladimir Putin's illegal land grab. The Russian president announcing the annexation of almost 20 percent of Ukrainian territory and the millions of people who live there.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance, has the latest.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Victory will be ours, he shouts, President Putin vowing success in Ukraine soon after announcing a significant escalation in his war.

The invited crowd yelled their support back, but this carefully choreographed fervor is unlikely to be shared by many Russians still fleeing his call to arms. Earlier from the Kremlin, Putin dramatically raised the stakes, annexing four more Ukrainian regions after his sham referendums showed huge unlikely support for Moscow's rule.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: People living in Luhanks and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens forever.

CHANCE: Putin said he wanted Kyiv to come to the negotiating table, but that the fate of the occupied regions was not up for debate.

PUTIN: The choice of the people in the four provinces, we are not going to discuss. Russia is not going to betray it.

CHANCE: His speech framing Russia's land grab as part of an existential battle. Ukraine's western allies, he said, were determined to weaken his country. He declared any attack on the annexed areas would be an attack on Russia itself, vowing to use all the means at his disposal if Ukraine tries to reclaim them.

The announcement met with dutiful applause from Russia's political elite. But behind their stony glares, they must know how much this war is costing.

On the battlefield, Russia is facing its worst setbacks since invading in February. While at home, there's been wide protests against the mobilization of Russia's men to fight. There's also the global condemnation, the U.S. imposing fresh sanctions against Russian officials with other than western allies following suit. And in Ukraine, President Zelenskyy called Putin's move a farce and said Ukraine would accelerate its request to join NATO.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Today, here in Kyiv, in the heart of our country, we are taking a decisive step for the security of the entire community of free nations.

CHANCE: But in Red Square tonight, the stage-managed celebrations are meant to send a powerful message at home and abroad, that no matter the criticism or the consequences, Putin's Russia is determined to take this path.


CHANCE (on camera): Wolf, this path does not appear to be leading to any kind of negotiated settlement, although the Kremlin tonight saying that they do want peace talks with Ukraine. But the four regions they recently annexed or that the president is annexing now will never be on the table.

The Ukrainians, too, say that they want to talk about peace as well with Moscow, but never, not now, they say, with Vladimir Putin. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Matthew, stay with us. Don't go too far away. I also want to bring in our CNN White House Correspondent M.J. Lee.

M.J., how is President Biden responding to this Russian land grab? M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, not for the first time during this war, we saw today President Biden addressing Vladimir Putin in remarks from the White House directly. He said that in response to Putin declaring the annexation of these four regions in the Ukraine that it goes to show that he is really struggling in this war and that he repeated what the U.S. and its allies have been saying for a while that his actions are wholly unacceptable. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The United States is never going to recognize this. And, quite frankly, the world is not going to recognize it either. He can't seize his neighbor's territory and get away with it. It's as simple as that.

America is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory, every single inch. So, Mr. Putin, don't misunderstand what I'm saying, every inch.


LEE: And this, of course, comes, Wolf, after the U.S. and its allies announced a new round of sanctions to try to punish and cripple Russia's economy even more. It was a really wide-ranging package that included export controls, visa restrictions, freezing of assets, to really try to target the country's technology and defense sectors.


It also targeted individuals like the head of Russia's central bank and other top officials and their family members. And keep in mind, too, you know, U.S. officials have long sort of expected and have been preparing for Putin to ultimately take these kinds of annexation efforts. And they ultimately ended up pulling the trigger on this sanctions package after they saw that Putin was serious and was formally beginning to take action.

BLITZER: Matthew, how far is that celebration in Moscow that Putin organized? How far is that celebration from the reality on the battlefield in Ukraine?

CHANCE: Oh, it's totally disconnected, Wolf. It's interesting, Russia has become one of the few countries I can think of that is actually annexing territory that it's actively retreating from at this time. So it's -- this announcement, this celebration is going on despite what's happening on the battlefield, not because of it.

BLITZER: CNN's Matthew Chance and MJ Lee -- guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we'll have the latest on water rescue efforts in the hurricane disaster zone. More than 700 so far as the death toll from Ian climbs.



BLITZER: All across the disaster zone in Florida right now, people are trying to come to grips with the unthinkable destruction that was unleashed by Hurricane Ian.

CNN's Carlos Suarez is joining us right now from Northport, Florida.

Carlos, what are you seeing and what are you hearing from residents there as these rescue operations continue?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the folks out here, they are relieved, and they are exhausted. This is what we've been seeing the entire day that we've been out here. The U.S. Army alongside a number of other law enforcement agencies helping these folks get out of their stranded homes and back into higher ground. This is a live look as a team of U.S. army members bring that boat in.

This has been happening since we got here early this morning. Every couple of minutes some folks would show up to where we are and they'll tell anyone who has a boat, a jet ski, go all the way down through the neighborhood. The family that's there, they're ready to be rescued.

We've talked to a number of folks who said they have been at their homes for the better part of a day. There was one couple that we talked to, they told us they had been stranded inside of their house for two days, all of this because of riding floodwaters that have yet to recede. Officials out here do not expect the water to come down, at least until tomorrow.

And so, this is what folks are dealing with. They're grabbing whatever they can from their homes. They're putting their luggage aboard some of these boats. Then they come out here and this is what they have to deal with.

They've got their dogs in some cases. That army reservist is holding a dog. They've got whatever belongings they can grab. We were able to talk to one couple earlier this afternoon. And she described just how heartbreaking it was when her grandparents decided to stay back because of their animals.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grandparents are still at the house. We have animals there. They don't want to leave the animals. So whenever we left on the boat, it was just this scary feeling like you don't know if you're ever going to see them again, if you're going to see your house again, your animals again. So that's why I'm a little shaken up.


SUAREZ: There is also a search and rescue team from the central Florida part of the state that's out here. A number of folks are involved. But I've got to tell you one of the most inspiring things is folks showing up saying how can we help, where do you need us.

BLITZER: CNN's Carlos Suarez on the scene for us -- Carlos, thank you very much.

We're also learning new details tonight about some of the at least 42 people who died as a result of Hurricane Ian. We don't have pictures or names, not yet. But they do include a 94-year-old man and an 80- year-old woman who both relied on oxygen machines and died after the power went out. Also, a 67-year-old man waiting to be rescued.

May they rest in peace, and as we say, may their memories be a blessing.

Coming up, more breaking news coverage of dangerous Ian pummeling South Carolina right now.

Plus, an historic swearing-in as Ketanji Brown Jackson officially becomes the U.S. Supreme Court's first black female justice. We'll hear some of her powerful remarks. That's next.



BLITZER: There's more storm coverage coming up. But first, a historic night for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ketanji Brown Jackson has been sworn in, becoming the first African- American woman to sit on the nation's highest court. It was a ceremonial event. Justice Jackson has been on the job since June. Chief justice John Roberts administered the oath in the court's chamber with President Biden looking on.

Later, Justice Jackson spoke and a celebration over at the Library of Congress saying she's, quote, humbled by the fanfare surrounding her confirmation, but adding she knows it's about more than just her.


JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT: People from all walks of life approach me with what I can only describe as a profound sense of pride. And what feels to me like renewed ownership.

I can see it in their eyes. I can hear it in their voices. They stare at me as if to say, look at what we've done.


They say -- they say this -- this is what we can accomplish if we put our minds to it. They might not use those words, but I get the message.

They are calling on the ancestors, harkening back to history, and claiming their stake at last. They are saying to me, in essence, you go, girl.


(CHEERS) They are saying, invisible no more. We see you, and we are with you.



BLITZER: Congratulations to the justice.

And thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.