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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Massive Earthquake Rocks Peru; Signs of Hope in Mining Rescue Effort?

Aired August 15, 2007 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
There is breaking news to report tonight from nearly every corner of the world, starting with signs of hope, literally the sounds of hope in the search for six missing coal miners in Utah.

Just moments ago, at a late news conference, an emotional Bob Murray, the owner of the mine, told reporters that listening devices lowered into the mine had picked up an indication of noise, a number of sharp noises, to be precise.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MURRAY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MURRAY ENERGY: So, there is every reason for hope. The families have that hope. I have never seen such courageous, strong people in my life. They actually give me hope. And I just wish I could tell you that we have had them out by now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He says don't read too much into those noises.

Exactly what do they mean? We will try to find out. We will talk to Mr. Murray shortly. We're lining up several reports, in fact, from Utah. And we will be bringing you more on this in just a minute or two.

Also, we are expecting new word tonight on a major tropical storm taking aim at the Gulf Coast.

And, of course, Iraq is reeling from the biggest terror attack of the war.

Before those stories, before we get to all of that, a quick update on an massive earthquake now triggering tsunami watches and warnings from Peru to as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.

Early reports put the initial jolt at a magnitude 7.5 and the epicenter about 90 miles south-southeast of Lima, Peru. To give you just some basis for comparison, the earthquake that did so much damage in San Francisco was a 6.9. And a 7.6 quake in Pakistan killed nearly 75,000 people. That, however, was much closer to the surface.

This was far deeper in the surface. It is very early at this point. Peruvian television is now reporting 17 deaths and 70 people hurt, which will almost certainly change in the coming hours. Reports as well of power outages and a number of hospitals knocked out of operation.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is following all the late developments and joins us now from Atlanta.

Chad, there's this tsunami advisory for Hawaii. How serious is that?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's an advisory. It means that, within 12 hours, there may be a tsunami.

We do know that it's about 5,800 miles away, Hawaii is, from the epicenter. And I'm just getting this in. This just flashed, Anderson. They have now updated this, upgraded this earthquake to a 7.9, and that is significantly bigger than a 7.5.

This probably produced a tsunami. We have looked at buoys out there in the Pacific, and there was a little wave created by the earthquake itself. But I'm not so much worried about Lima. And I know a lot of people have been shaken up in Lima.

But I want to show you on this little graphic here what I'm really worried about. And that is the town of San Pablo. We are going to zoom in here. Only 25 miles away from the earthquake, literally no time to get out of the way of a tsunami, if there was one, a little coastal community, a lot of beaches up and down. And you can begin to see some of the little houses and towns coming up down and through the highways here.

I'm going to take you down to another location farther to the south, much more populated, over 15,000 people down here in a very densely populated Pisco, this area here. You can even see a little track and a gym. It looks like a football field, probably a soccer field with a track around it there, a major metropolitan area about 25 miles from the epicenter. If there was a tsunami, they had no time to get out of the way.

Now we will widen the view. If there is a tsunami, and that's why there are watches and that's why there are warnings, because the wave was -- did occur. We don't know how big it was yet, but all the way over to Hawaii. That's 5,800 mimes away. If a wave gets to Hawaii, that will be at 2:00 in the morning Hawaii standard time.

So, you need to be advised here. There is a tsunami advisory. It will be updated -- if it does, it will updated to a tsunami watch, and then possibly to a tsunami warning if a wave is actually generated and they know that it's going to be large enough to get that warning going.

Don't go to bed tonight, Hawaii, until you know what's going on with this tsunami, because there is one. We have seen the wave, Anderson, on some of these buoys. They go up and down and we have seen that bump.

COOPER: So the headline of the last few minutes, 7.9 is now...

MYERS: Right.

COOPER: ... what this earthquake was.

Very briefly, this wave, if there was a tsunami that was going to hit Peru or the areas around there, wouldn't it have hit by now? I mean, this thing is probably two, two-and-a-half hours old.

MYERS: Absolutely., It would have hit in 10 minutes.

COOPER: OK.

MYERS: Ten minutes from when the epicenter -- when the earthquake happened.

We had this little -- this fault, and the earth was going down, going down, going down, and just like Banda Aceh, it popped back up again, 25 miles deep, Anderson. And a lot of these big earthquakes we have been having were 100 deep. Think of 100 miles of crust, almost like 100 miles of pillows. You don't get much of a bump if you get 100 miles deep. If you get it up there at 25 miles deep, you can get a larger bump, a larger wave...

COOPER: OK.

MYERS: ... and, obviously, a larger tsunami.

At this point, 17 people we know have been killed. That's the confirmed report right now. But these are very early moments. We are still -- communication is down in large parents of Peru.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Electricity is out. There are blackouts in some cities, we have gotten some reports. We're going to talk to some people in Lima and elsewhere in just a few moments.

But we're going to get now to this mine story, the first hope really that anyone has had there in days we learned just a few moments ago in the middle of tonight's news conference, after officials announced that drilling had finished on a third bore hole and were starting a fourth.

It is the areas where the miners are thought to be. Mine owner Bob Murray told reporters that listening devices had picked up a number of sharp sounds or spikes down below. He warned several times that people should not get their hopes up too high, but he called it hope all the same.

You heard a little bit a short time ago. Here's a fuller piece from the emotional moment, Bob Murray, along with Richard Stickler of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: The key word has always been hope. And the hope still remains. And there are real practical reasons to keep that hope.

Don't read too much into this noise we picked up. But it is a sign of hope. One other bit of information is this number-four hole where we're locating it on 143 now, because, remember, I have been saying we have been drilling on a priority basis or trial and error. The last hole tells us where to drill next. It happens to be right on the road between number-two and number-three holes.

So, we will be on that hole drilling in four hours. And, hopefully, we will put that hole down in record time. So, there is every reason for hope. The families have that hope. I have never seen such courageous, strong people in my life. They actually give me hope. And I just wish I could tell you that we have had them out by now.

RICHARD STICKLER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF LABOR, MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION: I just want to focus on the number-three bore hole and give you an update on that.

You're aware that that hole did drill into the mine. We have since withdrawn the drill steel out of that hole. And we're in the process, as we speak, of dropping a video camera and microphone in that hole.

The next step is to plan to put a one-and-one-quarter-inch- diameter steel threaded pipe down that we can draw air analysis to determine the air quality at the bottom of that bore hole in the mine. During the time that we drilled into the number-three hole and we were -- we had a quiet period on the mountain. We shut the drill steels down. We shut all the equipment down to try to get quiet, so that there wouldn't be interruption.

We saw some indication of noise for a period of about five minutes that we had not seen before. We're not sure what that means, but we think that it was significant enough that also we considered that and decided to move the number-four bore hole closer to that area where we picked up the noise from the geophones.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that was a short time ago.

Mr. Murray now joins us now live from the mine.

Thanks so much for being with us.

I know it's been a long day and a long many days. These sounds that the geophones picked up this morning, do you have any idea what they may be or what did they -- what -- what did it sound like?

MURRAY: No. No, sir, we don't.

The sounds lasted about five minutes. And they were at a frequency of about a second-and-a-half. It could be rapping. But, sir, we really don't know. And I wouldn't read too much into it yet. But it is hope. It is hope. And we're now setting up the drilling rig to drill right at where we heard those sounds in the earth. And we will start the drilling at daylight.

At the same time, sir, we are reading the camera. And the pictures we have taken in number-three hole, they are just now being read, and we don't have all the results.

I want to say to you, though, Mr. Cooper, that the real effort to get these men out is through the underground mining. We can keep them alive and find them and keep them alive through the drilling. And I'm hoping and praying we find them. And there's every technical reason to believe that they're still alive. But we have to recover them in the underground method.

In the last day, I have moved 14 of the top managers of Murray Energy from Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky to the mine site to relieve some of the management that is so tired after nine days. These men have over 500 years of mining experience. And we are going to get to these miners, and we are going to get them as fast as we can.

The pace is picking up underground, and that's where we must focus, as well as on the drilling.

(CROSSTALK)

MURRAY: ... keep them alive with the drilling, but we must rescue them underground.

COOPER: So, you -- today, you had that -- that third hole which you drilled through. You're now -- you have lowered cameras and microphones through that third hole, and you're assessing the data, is that correct, at this moment?

MURRAY: That's right. We are reading the videotapes at this present time, sir.

And we will have a report on that in a matter of minutes. In addition, we will have air samples from that area in four hours. And we will know if the atmosphere at that location, Mr. Cooper, will sustain life. That will be very important to us, as we start drilling this fourth hole in the morning.

COOPER: And, again, it's -- the quote was an indication of noise that we have not seen before. And you were very clear in saying, you know, you don't want to raise false hopes. So, we have all seen in mine disasters in the past, you know, hope can be a very painful thing when it doesn't bear fruit. So, let's just all keep that in mind.

But you feel this is significant enough to recalibrate where you're going to drill that fourth hole. You have moved this bore hole to a different location because of that sound, correct?

MURRAY: That is correct, sir.

This hole will be 1,717 feet deep. This is not where we were going to drill the fourth hole and where we had engineered to place it. As I have said before, we do the drilling on a priority basis, trial and error, if you will. One hole leads us to where we should drill the next hole. And we have enough indications here that it would be a priority to drill the hole now where we're now drilling it.

Underground, we have been on the same plan from the beginning. We have had technical experts from government universities, industry, review our plans from day one, and they have all said you have been on the best plan; just stay with it.

It's just taking so much time. It's just so disappointing that I can't tell you that -- that we have gotten there. But we have had so many setbacks underground as we go forward and then come back.

COOPER: And we're looking at these pictures that we have seen from the other holes that you have drilled. And, I mean, you see water dripping.

What are the conditions like for these guys working down there on the underground portion, you know, trying to dig literally to where they believe these miners may be? What -- what kind of working conditions are they operating under?

MURRAY: The roof, Mr. Cooper, has not been disturbed from the seismic activity. The wire mesh and the roof bolts are still in place.

What we're encountering, sir, are outbursts of the ribs into the entries. So, we must clean that up. But to protect these miners, we must put in the most support that I have ever seen in my life, water jacks or rock props, timbers, wire mesh, all cabled together, so that, if we do get any more seismic activity -- and, by the way, we had some at 12:30 this morning that actually damaged the mining machine, and we lost two-and-a-half-hours last night.

So, it's not totally stopped. But our men were able to repair the damage in two hours and get back to the recovery. So, we have all this in there to protect these miners. We don't want to injure or endanger one of these rescue workers. And, so far, we haven't. But it is a dangerous situation as a result of the seismic activity, not during the mining, when it occurred, but since the seismic activity, Mr. Cooper.

COOPER: And, again, to this -- this data that you are now trying to interpret, how -- just so I'm clear, when you drill one of these holes and you put the mike and you put the camera down, you're not getting real-time data back. You're not getting real-time information back. You have to withdraw it and then analyze it; is that correct?

MURRAY: No, no, sir. With the microphone, we get real-time information.

COOPER: OK.

MURRAY: With the cameras, we get real-time information. But we must take it back and analyze it.

We -- we know already that this cavity that we holed into shows no sign of damage whatsoever. So, it's very hopeful that, if the men went to this area and barricaded themselves to maintain fresh air, that they could be alive.

This cavity, we already know at this point, has no damage at all. But we must finish reading the film before we give full statements about it.

COOPER: Mr. Murray, when you're meeting with these families every day, as you no doubt do, what is it -- what are your parting words to them, and what do you say to them to keep them going?

MURRAY: The families are doing wonderfully. They're actually giving me strength. It's in their faith.

I can tell you, Mr. Cooper, that there is still hope for these people, and -- that we will recover them alive. It's been a painfully slow process, and I'm so disappointed that -- that we haven't found them. But we pray with the families. We talk to them. We keep them informed. And they have been magnificent, absolutely my heroes.

And, again, they are an inspiration to all of us that are working around the clock to get their loved ones out.

COOPER: Mr. Murray, appreciate your time. Bob Murray, thanks very much, the owner of the mine.

Crews have finished the third shaft, as Mr. Murray was talking about. They are drilling, or in the morning. They are going to drilling this fourth based in the morning based on the sounds they have heard, what kind of sounds, unclear.

There is a lot going on. CNN's Brian Todd is covering those late developments, joins us now outside Huntington, Utah.

You were listening in, Brian. What jumps out at you?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a couple of things.

The one thing that was really newsworthy is that Mr. Murray just said that the cavity that they drilled into with this third hole, he doesn't believe that's been disturbed. That's pretty significant.

They believe that the miners might have retreated into that chamber for air if they survived the initial collapse. The fact that he just told you that they don't believe that that cavity has been disturbed, based on the initial data that they're recovering, is very significant.

Now, they're going to have to analyze that -- those pictures and the microphone sounds, as he said, to get more information. We may even be able to see those pictures in a few hours. But that's very significant.

A couple of things to point out about the geophones and the sounds that they heard. The geophones are placed on top of the surface. They send signals down. As much as 2,000 feet below the surface, they can pick up signals. But they also pick up a lot of other noise. These officials here have told us that they can pick up rock breaking from beneath the surface in one of these so-called mountain bumps that they have been having.

They can also pick up surface noises. One of these people said it can be even an elk running around on the surface. So, this noise that they're talking about could be any one of those things. That's why they say not to read too much into it -- Anderson.

COOPER: And it's something for all of us who lived through the Sago coverage and for everyone at home who was watching it, something very important to keep in mind. Often, reports are contradictory. These are early reports. And bumps that are heard or sounds that are heard can be interpreted in many different ways.

So, important to just keep in mind not to have false hope, at the same time as holding on to some sort of hope.

Brian, appreciate your reporting. We will continue to check in throughout the hour, especially if, as Mr. Murray indicated, it might be a matter of moments before some data is revealed from -- from this hole.

Just ahead on the program, we will have much more on that earthquake in Peru, major magnitude-7.9 quake, we have just learned, big enough to trigger tsunami warnings half-a-world away. And, as Chad Myers mentioned moments ago, it is a developing story. We are following it closely. We will have new details -- ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, we learned that there was this massive earthquake off the coast of central Peru, apparently measuring 7.9, not the 7.5 that was first reported, even at the top of this hour. It is a major difference, of course.

It triggered tsunami warnings up and down the coast of South America. I'm just reading now those warnings and watches have been canceled at this point. The latest word, local news report, say at least 17 people are dead.

Joining me now by phone is Fernando Calderon. He's an American on vacation in Lima, Peru.

Mr. Calderon, thanks for being with us.

What did you feel? What did you see?

FERNANDO CALDERON, AMERICAN VISITING PERU: Well, I was (AUDIO GAP) front of my (AUDIO GAP)

And then, finally, the table starts shaking a little bit. So, I got up. I thought it was an airplane passing by probably too low. And this (AUDIO GAP) We started walking out of the building. And (AUDIO GAP) out of the building. We are located half-a-block from the (AUDIO GAP) And there's a hospital (AUDIO GAP) half-a-block.

Everybody started getting out of the buildings. And for two consecutive minutes, the ground was just shaking. And, finally, this big shake came. And everybody was -- everybody -- everybody -- it was chaos. Everybody started crying, kids. Everybody started crying. Everybody started running like towards like an empty space. Everybody was afraid that the buildings were going to collapse.

COOPER: And I know you have lived through -- through hurricanes. How does this experience compare?

CALDERON: It's an awful experience, because there's no warning. The fact that you don't have a warning for this, it's -- it's awful. It's just awful.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Where are you now? Are people still kind of in the street or -- or unsure to go into buildings or not? What are you seeing?

CALDERON: Some people are still afraid to get back into the buildings. I guess some people are thinking about probably sleeping in the cars, inside their cars.

And that's what I noticed. Some people just went back inside. But it's still -- people are still concerned about this. They're still afraid that there's going to be more movement.

COOPER: We are -- we're still gathering information. You know, these reports take a long time to come through.

We have heard several reports, people saying that this thing lasted for as long as two minutes. Another report said over a minute. Do you have any sense of time, how long you felt it for?

CALDERON: It was over two minutes. That's for sure. It was over two minutes. It never end. It was like a nightmare.

COOPER: Like a nightmare. Rumbling for those entire two minutes, the same intensity?

CALDERON: Yes, yes. And, after -- after two minutes, intensity went really, really high. And that's when everybody just went into chaos. Everybody just started crying, running.

COOPER: It is -- I can't imagine what it's like.

Where are you now? Are you -- are you safe?

CALDERON: Yes. We're inside the hotel now. We're just -- I guess we're just going to -- we're just going to be, I guess, aware, you know, just be on alert, because, if we have to get out of this building, we are going to have to do it. If we have to sleep outside, we're going to have to do it.

COOPER: Well, Mr. Calderon, appreciate you -- you calling into us, letting us talk to you. Thank you very much telling us about your experiences in this. At this point, 17 people are known to have died, according to local television in Peru. But, again, information is very sketchy right now. These reports are just coming in.

Joining me now is Gerard Fryer from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. They, of course, have been monitoring all of this.

A tsunami warning had been issued for Peru and for Chile, as well as for Ecuador and for Colombia. Is that still in effect, or has that now been canceled?

GERARD FRYER, GEOPHYSICIST, PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER: No, we just canceled a few minutes ago.

COOPER: And had there -- if there was to have been a tsunami, it would have been -- I mean, as Chad Myers was telling us earlier, it would have happened in a matter of minutes, correct?

FRYER: On the -- on the Peru coast. But this was a large enough earthquake that the tsunami could have traveled, and a warning would have been worthwhile to people further along the coast.

COOPER: What about Hawaii?

FRYER: We put the warning out, I think it was like -- something like 15 or 20 minutes after the earthquake. That's still valuable to -- for people that the tsunami might have -- touched.

COOPER: And...

FRYER: Fortunately -- there was a tsunami, but, fortunately, it was very small.

COOPER: So, there was a small tsunami generating from this earthquake?

FRYER: Yes, indeed. Yes.

COOPER: And you say very small. I mean, negligible? No one would have noticed it, even?

FRYER: It was measured out on the open ocean. And we saw it on some of the tide gauges along the shoreline, but it was -- it was nowhere large enough to be damaging. And -- and then that was confirmed by observers, who -- who told us, no, they hadn't seen anything.

COOPER: My understanding is, this earthquake, the epicenter of it, struck some 25 feet (sic) below the earth's surface. Had it been closer to the surface, would the risk of a tsunami risen?

FRYER: It was about -- yes, it was about 25 or 30 kilometers deep.

In fact, we don't have much control on depth. And, if it's that shallow and it's big, we will issue a tsunami warning. It's only when it's more than 100 kilometers deep that we say, OK, it's too deep to cause a tsunami.

COOPER: I see.

FRYER: We -- unfortunately, seismology isn't very good at determining depth accurately.

COOPER: And...

(CROSSTALK)

FRYER: The other thing is...

COOPER: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

FRYER: ... that the -- the epicenter -- that is the place where the break first occurs -- you don't necessarily know what has happened after the -- after the break has first occurred. Has it ruptured up to the surface, or has it not?

So, if it -- if it ruptures up to the surface, then -- then you could get a very large tsunami from quite a moderate-sized earthquake.

COOPER: And just so I'm absolutely clear, and so our viewers are clear -- and this is probably a stupid question -- the fact that the warning has been canceled for the Peruvian coast and the Chilean coast, I'm assuming that also means that the advisory or the watch has been canceled for Hawaii...

(CROSSTALK)

FRYER: That's -- that's correct. Yes, the advisory was just to tell people that there was a tsunami warning in effect somewhere else in the Pacific...

COOPER: That is certainly good news.

FRYER: ... And that it might be escalated into a watch. But -- but now we have canceled -- the whole event is over. And we can all heave a sigh of relief, and -- and no one is at threat from the tsunami.

COOPER: Well, that is a big sigh of relief, definitely.

Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it and appreciate your quick work tonight. Thank you so much.

FRYER: You're welcome. Thank you.

COOPER: Right now, let's go to seismologist Harvey (sic) Benz.

And, as we do, I want to show you what the initial jolt actually looked like on a seismograph. There it is, the massive green spike on the initial shocks, and the tremors then trailing off.

Harvey (sic), I have read reports of this thing lasting as long as two minutes. Is that accurate?

HARLEY BENZ, SEISMOLOGIST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Probably.

What people felt was probably initially the fastest-traveling wave, the T-wave, and then later on, large-amplitude surface waves that have very long periods of tens and hundreds of seconds. But they likely felt these very long-period surface waves of tens of seconds in duration.

COOPER: And, Harley, initially, at the top of this hour, we thought it was a 7.5 on the Richter scale. That was the initial report. It's now been said to be a 7.9.

BENZ: That's right.

COOPER: Why the adjustment? I mean, how -- why does it take time to figure out exactly the magnitude?

BENZ: Well, our initial readings are based on the first-arriving waves. And we get an initial estimate in the magnitude. It was in the 7.5 to 7.7 range.

Later on, based on these very long surface waves, we were better able to model the wave forms of it.

COOPER: Got it.

BENZ: And it was upgraded to a magnitude 7.9, based on these very long waves.

COOPER: So, a 7.9 on the Richter scale, as compared to a 7.5, put that in perspective for us. I mean, how big is that? What does it mean?

BENZ: Well, it's about a half-a-magnitude larger than the 7.5 originally. So, it's roughly a factor of two larger in amplitude.

Now, I should point out -- and this is an area of Peru that has experienced large earthquakes. In the vicinity of this earthquake, we had earthquakes in the same magnitude range of about 8. And they occurred in 1908 and in 1974.

COOPER: And how significant, do we know, were those in terms of loss of life, impact on the area?

BENZ: The reports on these ones, particularly the older one, are a lot more sketchy.

Throughout this area, there has been large, very large earthquakes. I should also point out, in 1868, there was a magnitude approximately 9 earthquake. And that did produce a tsunami that killed thousands of people along -- along the South American coast. And it also did damage in Hawaii.

COOPER: You know, some people have been comparing this to -- there had been a -- I'm not sure of the exact magnitude of the Pakistan quake that killed 75,000 people, but I think it was within this range.

But that was much closer to the surface of the earth. If I'm not wrong, that was about six miles below the surface of the earth. The fact that this was some 25 miles below the surface of the earth sort of speaks to -- would indicate that it would be less powerful than, for instance, the quake in Pakistan.

BENZ: Well, damage is correlated with how close you are to the earthquake. This earthquake was about 90 miles southeast of Lima. So, the area -- the whole area along the coast experienced significant ground shaking.

It was about 30 kilometers deep, so it was a little -- it was a bit deeper than the Pakistan event. But if you had had a large town very near the -- at the coast, near the source, you know, you could expect significant damage. But it's also dependent on the style of construction, too.

COOPER: Harley, I know it's been a long day for you, as well. Appreciate you -- you talking to us.

Harley Benz talking about exactly where this earthquake hit. Again, at this point, at least 17 deaths known in Peru. Harley Benz mentioned the strongest quakes that hit the area.

Here's the raw data on the deadliest quake on record in Peru. The magnitude 7.8 quake hit on May 31, 1970. Harley mentioned that. Three towns in the northern part of the country were destroyed. Two others on a mountain were buried under an avalanche of rocks and snow. Sixty-six thousand people were killed. Another 400,000 were left homeless.

Again, we're going to continue to monitor this, and we'll have more on it coming up.

Also tonight, another major story we're following. In Iraq, suicide bombers level two entire villages, killing at least 500 people. And against this horrible backdrop, America's top commander says be wants to bring thousands of troops home by this time next year. What does one have to do with the other, if anything? Reality check from Michael Ware on the ground, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Now to Iraq and the deadliest single insurgent attack since the war began.

Suicide bombers hitting three villages in the northern part of the country, utterly leveling two of those villages. The pictures speak for themselves. At least 500 people have died. Hundreds more are more hurt.

American commanders suspect al Qaeda but no claim of responsibility yet. It happened in a place where American forces have not so-called surged, and if General Petraeus gets what he said today he wants, there may be -- soon be fewer and fewer Americans in Iraq to surge anywhere.

The latest now on the bombings and the possible troop cuts from CNN's Michael Ware, who joins us now from Baghdad.

Michael, this is the area where the attacks occurred. It's known for having -- I mean, is it known for having a strong terrorist presence?

MICHAEL WARE: Absolutely, Anderson. I mean, this is up along the Syrian border in the northwest part of Iraq.

Now, not so long ago, just 18 months ago, two years ago, al Qaeda essentially owned this area. I mean, it was up here where the famed battle of Tal Afar took place. That's a major city, just on the edge of the border, that al Qaeda literally took complete control over.

The areas that have been attacked in this devastating strike are just south of that major city of Tal Afar. So this was within al Qaeda's broader area of influence.

Now, American forces went in to oust them. They did that successfully at the time. But this just goes to show you: you'll never be able to tame or defeat al Qaeda. They will be a lingering presence.

COOPER: Why did they target this particular group, this particular ethnic population?

WARE: yes, this is a number of communities of people of the Yezidi religion or religious sect. Now, it -- it predates Islam. It doesn't hold any of the tenets of Islam. So al Qaeda and many other Muslims in the region certainly frown very much upon this faith. They see them as -- as heathens or heretics.

Now, al Qaeda's long threatened this group, and now we're seeing them really strike a blow against these remote and -- and peripheral communities, Anderson.

COOPER: So there are reports that General Petraeus may call for a partial pullback in areas where violence has been contained and turn over security to Iraqi forces. Does the military need a persistent force, a persistent U.S. force in those areas, or are Iraqi forces ready?

WARE: Look, Anderson, to be honest, America needs a persistent force all over this country. I mean, even with the surge, there's not enough troops to do what has to be done. Just in the fight against al Qaeda, let alone the competition with Iran and its proxy militias, who essentially own half of the country, not U.S. forces.

I mean, we just returned from an area north of the capital Baghdad in the Diyala River Valley. Now, there's never been enough U.S. troops to go in and take that valley and own it. Well, now we're seeing that happen.

But there's always pockets where al Qaeda can maintain its headquarters and training camps, because there's just not enough boots on the ground, and the Iraqi forces are nowhere near ready.

COOPER: Michael Ware, appreciate the reporting. Michael, thanks very much, joining us from Baghdad tonight.

Just ahead, a small ray of hope at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah. It was covered in the beginning of the program. What rescuers heard deep inside the mine and if it could mean -- I want to stress could -- that the six trapped miners may be alive. That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A lot going on tonight. Let's bring you up to date on our top story. We're going to check back in with CNN's Brian Todd in Utah, where you heard at the top, listening devices have picked up sounds deep within the mine where six workers have been trapped for 10 days.

It is not known -- know what made those sounds. It is fair to say it is the best news to come out of the Crandall Canyon mine in many days.

Brian just talked to Mr. Murray. Brian, what have you heard?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little bit of added information, Anderson, to what he gave you and I both at the top of the hour, when Mr. Murray said that this chamber that they drilled into with the third hole, where these miners might have gone for air.

He said then that it was undisturbed. He just added a little bit of information to that, saying that what they saw down in that chamber was a brattis (ph) curtain. That's a curtain that can be put up. It's a very thin curtain that he says is made of some hemp-like material that miners can go behind for air and barricade -- use to barricade themselves in other ways.

Now, what's important to note here, they saw this brattis (ph) curtain. They saw that the chamber was not disturbed. They don't know if that curtain was put up during the original mining or whether it was put up after the collapse. He said it could have been from the original mining. But it is significant that they saw an undisturbed chamber down there and a brattis (ph) curtain.

COOPER: So wait. A brattis (ph) curtain is something that miners would hide behind in the event of some sort of collapse or some sort of adulteration of the air, correct?

TODD: Yes, or they could put it up for some kind of added protection while they're doing some mining. So he was very clear to point out this very well could have been from some of the original mining in this mountain. So again, these developments...

COOPER: Isn't that something they -- isn't that something they would be able to verify? And I know he just got this information, I think. But isn't this something that they would be able to verify with other miners who had been working in that area? TODD: Quite possibly. It's a very good question, Anderson. They're just analyzing this videotape now. And I'm sure as they're doing that, they're consulting with some supervisors, some foremen, some miners who have mined in there, saying look, if you've been in this chamber, tell us whether this curtain was there first or whether you think these gentlemen might have put it up after the collapse. They're probably trying to get that information right now.

COOPER: The other question, of course, and you know, we're kind of dealing now in the realm of the hypothetical and it's a dangerous road to go down.

But the other question is, if miners did put that up after this event in the mine, why wouldn't they still be there? But, again, that's just an unknowable.

At this point, just bring us up to date. They are going to start drilling this fourth hole tomorrow morning he said. Why not start right now?

TODD: That's -- that's another very good question, one that he just gave us an answer to. It has just rained here. During the news conference, the rain was coming down pretty hard. He says the ground really is too unstable.

This is also where the point is, where they're going to start the drilling is at a kind of a steep angle. He says it's just too treacherous right now, the ground is too unstable from the rain. They're going to wait a few hours, going to drill very early tomorrow morning, he says 6 a.m. local time. I guess that's about 8 a.m. Eastern Time. So we should know a little bit more after that.

COOPER: OK, Brian. I got another question, which is we've been getting a lot of e-mails from viewers who wanted to ask this question. And you may not know the answer, but if you don't, I'm sure you can find out in 12 hours or so. Why not drill all these holes at once? Why have it be one hole and then another hole and then another hole and now a fourth hole?

TODD: It's a good question and one that we've asked several times earlier in the week. Essentially, every time they drill a hole, they have to move a huge piece of machinery, a huge drill bit. I'm not sure how many of those they have up there. It might only be one or two. And every time they move one of those things, they have to build a road.

The land on top of this mountain has been undisturbed during the mining into the mountain.

So they have to build a road every time they drill this. They simply don't have the equipment. They don't have the manpower to build several roads simultaneously. So they just have to do one at a time, and they're picking their spots as they go.

COOPER: The other question, of course, now they said that they heard some noise. The exact quote was -- from Mr. Stickler was an indication of noise we have not seen before. And Mr. Murray said simply he didn't know what the noise was.

What are the options? I mean, if it's not the miners, what are the other options out there?

TODD: What they've said was that it could be rock breaking from one of these so-called mountain bumps that they've been having, the shifts of the earth inside the mountain as the mountain settles on the mining area. It could be from that.

They said it could also be from surface activity. One official said it could even be an elk moving around on the surface that these things can pick up.

But what's significant here also, and I just got this from Mr. Murray before he left, he said that these sounds were in a pattern, five minutes long, about a second and a half apart. And I said, you know, if this is rock breaking, it wouldn't break in a pattern. He said, well, it could, but he said that the pattern is significant.

And that's kind of what they're really putting a lot of their hopes on, that these sounds were in a pattern, he said about a second and a half apart, lasting about five minutes.

COOPER: So, OK, I'm sorry. So was it -- it was a second and a half apart and then how long would the noise go for?

TODD: The entire pattern of the noise, the entire body of the noise lasted five minutes. The noise, which they don't really characterize it, because it was on a graph. They don't say what it sounded like.

But it was noise that lasted a total of five minutes in a pattern, and the noise would register about every second and a half.

COOPER: Fascinating. Brian Todd, appreciate the reporting and the update on some of Mr. Murray's comments from the top of this hour.

It is a very busy night here. A lot of breaking stories.

Just ahead, the storm that is heading for the Gulf Coast.

Also, some additional late news from Peru, where that magnitude 7.9 earthquake has killed at least 17 people. Witnesses said it lasted for two terrifying minutes. They describe chaos in the streets, people literally running into the streets, afraid of being in the buildings. They're now bracing for a nerve-wracking night. We'll have the latest on the damage, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We've been dealing with major breaking stories all night. Back now to the quake in Peru, a magnitude 7.9. The epicenter about 90 miles south-southeast of Lima. According to broadcasters, 17 people were killed, 70 others injured. And you should expect the numbers to change.

The quake prompted a tsunami warning. That has now been, thankfully, canceled.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is following all the latest developments. He joins us now from Atlanta -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, this is going to be hard for you to see, because these are very low numbers, but this is off a NOAA web site. And I want to show you kind of what and how a tsunami warning is actually issued and why.

This is a normal wave right there. This is a normal tide from 30 meters, which you don't need to know. This is about two feet all the way up and down. So this tide is going up. And all of a sudden there's a jolt. There is a jolt in the wave. This thing shouldn't be here. This should go nice up and straight.

And so we expand this little red area, and it's down here. So there was a tsunami, in fact. It was a very small one, 34 centimeters, about 12 inches. And you laugh, "Oh, there's a 12 inch tsunami. What about the warnings?" Well, if that 12-inch wave, Anderson, goes into the wrong bay, it's going to be exponentially higher when it gets to shore.

And so they didn't initially cancel it when they only saw 12 inches. They actually -- I just talked to them (ph) -- they actually waited to see if there was a larger wave later on before they canceled it.

But right now all the watches, all the warnings, all the advisories for tsunamis across the Pacific have now been cancelled.

That said, Anderson, this was a 7.9 earthquake, not that very far from shore.

COOPER: Yes.

MYERS: There's going to be a lot of damage. There's going to be a lot more to talk about with this tomorrow.

COOPER: Yes, 7.9, I mean, that -- when earlier, frankly, at the top of the program, we thought it was a 7.5. You're the one that broke it that it was a 7.9. That is -- there's a huge difference.

MYERS: There is. Almost -- almost .4 of a magnitude. So yes, much larger.

What you're talking about, when we first got the initial observations, there was a 7.7. And then there was a 7.5. This was during the Rick Sanchez show.

And then there was another 7.5 and we went, "Oh, my gosh, there's been now three major earthquakes." And then all of a sudden, the computers kind of backtracked and said no, there was only one earthquake. It was 7.5.

And then they backtracked again and said no, there was one earthquake. It was 7.9. And this is going to happen, because the sensors are far away. The sensors don't exactly know. They're not right on top of where that earthquake was. It takes a while for the seismologists to figure it out.

COOPER: The president of Peru has addressed the nation, and his last lines are -- just a quick translation of it -- says, "Let us have serenity in this moment and hope that God will protect us and bring us consolation."

Information still coming in at this point; 17 confirmed fatalities. Those numbers -- well, frankly, no one know what's going to happen in the coming hours.

Up next on this program, the Gulf Coast already feeling the impact tonight of Tropical Storm Erin as the storm moves closer to land. We'll have a live report from Corpus Christi and new information from the National Hurricane Center, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Up and down the Texas coast people are bracing for Tropical Storm Erin, hoping for the best, of course, expecting perhaps the worst. CNN's Susan Roesgen joins us now from the coast town of Corpus Christi.

Susan, what's the scene there?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, Anderson, right now it's a nice, balmy night. There's hardly a breath of wind at all here.

But here at the marina, most of the sailors right here on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico have taken in their sails. They've tied up their boats. Except for a couple of guys that we found on an 80-foot charter boat, Anderson. They plan to ride it out, to spend the night here.

You think it might get a little bumpy and noisy as this boat possibly bangs up against the dock, but they say they're not expecting that much. They say they've been through a lot worse, and they're going to stay with their boat because their boat is their home.

Now, I talked to the head of emergency management here in Corpus Christi earlier tonight, and he said that's really true. People here have become complacent. There has not been a major hurricane in Corpus Christi since 1970, in 37 years, Hurricane Celia. That was a big one. That killed 11 people, did a lot of damage. But they really haven't had anything since then.

So Anderson, I think right now they think, well, this is sort of a wimpy tropical storm. We'll just wait and see.

The only danger, really, in this area seems to be the threat of rain. If they get more than three or four more inches of rain, there might be some localized flooding. But that seems to be it for now.

COOPER: Susan Roesgen, appreciate the reporting. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has been our earthquake expert all night. Now we turn to him for the latest on Tropical Storm Erin. When you look at these maps, it doesn't look that bad.

MYERS: It's not. It really isn't, Anderson. This is a minor tropical storm that is going to maybe -- maybe ramp up preparations for what will be Hurricane Dean.

Somewhere in either the Mexican coast or the Texan coast or into the Gulf of Mexico. Here's the storm. A little blow-up right here. But the latest on it says this thing didn't do anything in the afternoon. It's still going to be a 40- to 50-mile-per-hour storm. It's going to come on shore, just south of Corpus Christi at about 7 a.m. in the morning. It's right now gusting to about 50 miles per hour, that's it.

This is the big deal out here. This is -- almost Hurricane Dean. Tropical Storm Dean, 70 miles per hour, and it has a long way to run.

Because Erin is so close to shore, it doesn't have any room to run. It can't get bigger. But look at this, look at these numbers. That right there means Category 4 hurricane hitting Cancun.

Now, I know there's no crying in baseball and there's no lying in a hurricane. But watch, this is all the way from south Florida -- here's the cone -- all the way down to Honduras, at 135 miles per hour by Monday. This thing means business, Anderson.

And right now it's 70 miles per hour, gusting to 85. Other than my mom, I don't know if you're keeping track of the numbers, but 13.1, 50.2 and there it is, and it's moving right into the Caribbean.

Hurricane watches now being posted throughout the islands. We'll keep watching that. It's going to be a big, long weekend for some folks down there in the Caribbean.

COOPER: But the fact that -- I mean, the northern side of the cone isn't even hitting Florida, is that -- is that a done deal that it's not going to hit Florida?

MYERS: Probably, yes. And I'll say that, because there has been -- there has been a big change in where these computer programs -- two days ago, this storm had turned and hit Bermuda. So I mean, this is how far this thing has changed now just in 48 hours.

So it could go further south, and you just need to watch this cone. This isn't the absolute cone. As the storm gets closer, the cone gets smaller and smaller. But for now, I mean, this is just -- there's a lot of room to run.

The best case scenario, it just doesn't do anything and kind of keeps going over land. It won't do very much. But there's an awful lot of very warm water down here, and warm water is the fuel to the fire for these things.

COOPER: It certainly is. We'll continue to watch it. Chad, appreciate it.

Up next, breaking news, the major earthquake hitting Peru. More than a dozen people killed; 17 at this point, to be exact.

And new reason to hope in the search for six missing miners in Utah. Hope a hard thing to hold onto on that story. A live report is next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Good evening again. Breaking news all over the world tonight. A massive earthquake with fatalities. The big storm heading toward the Gulf Coast. The worst act of terrorism yet in Iraq, with at least 500 killed. And this: signs and sounds of hope in the search for six missing coal miners in Utah. Mine owner Bob Murray broke it late tonight. He told reporters that listening devices lowered into the mine had picked up a number of sharp noises.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MURRAY, CEO, MURRAY ENERGY: So there is every reason for hope. The families have that hope. I have never seen such courageous, strong people in my life. They actually give me hope. And I just wish I could tell you that we'd had them out by now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It is contradictory. On the one hand, he says it is signs of hope, hold onto hope. On the other side, he's said about these sounds, he says, you know, don't read too much into it. We're going to try to sort out the fact from the fiction. We'll talk to Mr. Murray in just a few moments.

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