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The Race To Find Earthquake Survivors; Rescuers Search Frantically For Quake Survivors; Death Toll Climbs To 230 In Mexico Earthquake; 25 Killed In School That Collapsed During Quake; Hurricane Maria Winds Lashing The Dominican Republic; Dominican Republic Expects Dangerous Storm Surge; Risks Of Additional Collapse At School Building; Twitter Accounts Had Key Roles in 2016 Election. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 21, 2017 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause live in Mexico City, where it has just turned midnight. We are following two big stories this hour. Here in Mexico, rescuers racing against the clock to find earthquake survivors trapped beneath the rubble. And in the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria is on to its next target after hitting a day it spent pounding Puerto Rico. But first to the deadly earthquake and the painstaking search for survivors.

Mexico's President, Enrique Pena Nieto, says more than 50 people have been pulled alive from the debris of collapsed buildings. Rescue workers are not giving up just yet. And one school here in Mexico City, they've made contact with a 12-year-old girl trapped in the rubble of her school. There may be two others trapped with her, possibly more. The magnitude 7.1 quake killed at least 25 people in that school, all but four them were children, 230 are dead across the quake zone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANA CAROLINA OJERA TREVILLES, STUDENT: The empathy is like super strong from us because we were there. We know the people that are -- that were there. So, we are like super nervous because we're trying to know if they are safe if they are alive, and if they are in there, I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Joining me now, Journalist, Ioan Grillo. So, Ioan, good to see you. You were just telling me that your daughter goes to school not far from here. To see what's happening at this school right now must send chills, to say the least.

IOAN GRILLO, JOURNALIST: Yes, very close to home. My daughter goes to a school just around the corner of this street called Las Burucas. So, I drive past here once every day taking her to school and see the kids going in there. My daughter's 9-years-old. VAUSE: She was, probably, the same age as this little girl.

GRILLO: Yes. So, she was, you know, extremely upset. She was describing how her classmates were crying, and she's still very, very tensed saying will there be a replica? Will there be another earthquake? You know, really upset by this. So, really to think that children in their -- what a child is going through being trapped in the rubble for 28 hours, you know. What is in their mind?

VAUSE: This rescue, though, there's so much focus on it. It's playing out live on national television. It seems symbolic in so many ways that if they can save this girl, that just means so much to this country at that point.

GRILLO: I think it's very good, the effort, to do that. And the fact that President Pena Nieto was here. He's not a popular president. So, to come here with a good gesture, to face the parents and to face the mother saying that, you know, our children in that school was a good gesture. And I mean, there's nothing stronger, I think, to human emotion than a young child, a young girl in a school like this trapped under. But I've been around, you know, all the great (INAUDIBLE) the area, and it seems like this playing out. There department blocks with maybe 100 people in some of them.

VAUSE: And you've got this incredible civilian response. You know, I don't know whether it's leading the government response or whether it's supporting the government response, it's hard to say. How long can they keep this up? I mean, it's miserable here tonight -- it's raining, it's getting cold. You know this is going to go on for a long time.

GRILLO: Well, that response is incredible. And one thing about Mexico is all this big collective memory of 1985 and can drill into people the 1985 earthquake that pain. So, people really came out and they're now really -- it's really inspiring. A lot of the young professionals, young people coming out now. I think the energy can keep up. I know these people will have to go back to work, and they've got jobs do and you need people to work to keep the city moving. A real problem in disaster zones is when food starts to run out, water runs out. So, you need people working to keep the economy, to keep the machine going.

VAUSE: There's a commotion behind us right now.

GRILLO: Yes, there's -- I mean, there's constant movement like this at the site.

VAUSE: Yes. Usually, it seems that something is happening, we just don't quite know what it is. What about beyond Mexico City? Because, obviously, you know, this is wealthy part of the country, there are a lot of resources here. Beyond here, in those other areas that have been hard hit, is the government, you know, dedicating the same sort of resources? Are they getting the same kind of help that these people getting?

GRILLO: Not necessarily. I mean, it's a good point. I mean, we have -- Mexico City's on everyone's mind, especially this earthquake has hit middle-class neighborhoods like this one. This is a middle-class Mexico City neighborhood, the same as what other Condessa, Colanco, where businesses, where journalists are based -- a lot of journalist's homes are in those areas. But then, you go out to Puebla, to Morello State, and there are villages there, and we don't have a good idea about how bad the damage is in those places. And I'm sure there's not the same amount of marines, and military, and media attention that this place.

VAUSE: What, what -- I mean, obviously, they're hard to get to. Is that the only reason why? Or is that there's a political (INAUDIBLE) here or whatever? I mean, what's going on?

GRILLO: I mean, it's hard to get to do so. It's, you know, what people know. I mean, the media, ourselves, you know, the fact journalists live in these neighborhoods. They have children that go to schools in these neighborhoods. Government officials live in these neighborhoods. So, that -- and the fact they're very close to officials. I think that has played a big part as well. But you know, think about the earthquake, it's very democratic in its way of going -- hitting rich, a middle-class and poor that you see in slums, you see in the rich neighbors, and the middle-class neighborhood's devastation.

[01:05:27] VAUSE: Norms there. Ioan, good to see you.

GRILLO: Thanks so much.

VAUSE: Appreciate you for being here. Thank you. One big relief, though, so far, there have been no major aftershocks since the quake happened. And more on that, Pedram Javaheri, brings us from the International Weather Center. So, Pedram, there was this expectation that there would, at least, you know, some powerful aftershocks, but so far, nothing, why is that?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's very unusual, John. And you know, the epicenter of this quake being about 400 miles away from the main fault line, well to the south of Cocos fault line that dives underneath the North American fault. That is why we think the aftershock has not occurred yet. But, typically, aftershocks occur in the decrease, what's reciprocal of time. Meaning, if he had a hundred of aftershocks the first day, you would get 50 on the second day, you would get about 33 on the third day and so on, and we have not seen that yet. But they can continue weeks, months, and sometimes years.

In the case of Japan, several years of aftershocks were seen. But with a magnitude 7.1, you would expect to see a 6.1, that is still a probability across this region and of course in the 5s and 4s you get into the hundreds, even thousands of aftershocks expected, but this is a little different. And you take a look, of course, you're talking about people surviving across this region. Typically, the average human can make it three to five days, that is assuming no injuries, no trauma to the head, up to eight weeks without food, but keep in mind, you can't digest food without water. So, you've got to keep factors of metabolism, the fat stores in your body, the temperatures outside, all of these play a role.

And we do have a tropical disturbance and it's trying to form down there, south of Acapulco, 50 percent chance says the National Hurricane Center that this could form. But, of course, the heavy rainfall you're seeing right now across Mexico City is the result of that disturbance across that region. Now, also following what's happening with Hurricane Maria. Impressive storm system because it spent five hours over the mountains of Puerto Rico, reemerging right now and the eye beginning to becoming more and more symmetrical here. This storm system approached the island -- an island that has 22 weather observation sites, knocked 21 of those observation sites out of service.

And the fact, because the island is completely out power right now, the National Weather Service in Miami, responsible for forecasting for San Juan and for Puerto Rico at this hour. But the next story developing across this region is the significant storm surge -- four to six feet across portions of the east area of Hispaniola, nine to 12 feet above what is typically a dry ground. That's, you know, you assume two feet that move your car. You get up to four to five feet, that water comes into the first level of your home up to 12 feet. And keep in mind, Turks and Caicos do not have 12 feet to work with around the immediate coastline. So, that is complete submergence of the island in parts across that region.

Where is the storm headed? You've got to look at Tropical Storm Jose, it is the longest living system we've had since 1980, going on 14 days. And the reason I say that is the steering environment that Jose is sitting in place could essentially be where Maria ends up as it kind of meanders of the Eastern United States. Look at the American model in red, the European model in blue. This is for this time next week, potentially. The storm system could still be with us as Maria parks off the Northeastern United States coastline. And again, at that point, there is tremendous air with the forecast, as far as a prediction of where it will end up. We think in the immediate future, this will get stronger over the very warm waters approaching the Turks and Caicos.

It looks at this point, at best case here for Turks and Caicos, it could skirt about 40 or 50 miles east of the islands. But again, notice the counterclockwise spin that brings in tremendous storm surge on an island here that is essentially made of corals. So, you're bringing that and increasing the water levels up to 12 feet over what is typically dry ground. But you notice the forecast, keeps this as a hurricane going into the beginning of next week. And at that point, we're talking about concern for rip currents on the immediate coast, and the element of good news out of this is the water temperatures will want to cool. So, there is weakening that is almost, certainly, going to take place. But when you're talking about the Northeastern United States with a hurricane offshore, it is still a big deal, John.

VAUSE: OK. Pedram, thank you for the forecast, thank for the update. Let's get the very latest, though, from the Caribbean. Polo Sandoval is in the Dominican Republic in Punta Cana, and also Nick Valencia standing by in San Juan, in Puerto Rico where Maria has been. But let's start with Polo. So, those winds, Polo, they're kicking up as the rain increasing, what are you experiencing there right now? And how are residents there preparing for the, you know, arrival of Maria?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. Those winds certainly continue to kick up and that's because the eye of Hurricane Maria is still about 70 kilometers just offshore here. We are not expecting a direct hit, however, those outer bands, certainly, do have that damaging potential, as you can see behind me there with those palm trees just waving in the wind. Tonight, there are, really, thousands of tourists who are spending the night here. They are hunkered down; many of them -- some of which I had an opportunity to speak to only made it as far as the Punta Cana airport. There were headed back to the United States. There were some flights to Spain, South America. They didn't make it much further than that. You see the airport shut down earlier because of some of these wicked winds.

[01:10:32] They do expect, and again, I use the word expect, the airport to reopen at noontime tomorrow according to officials that we heard from earlier today. However, at this point, really, those people can only wait and see what happens. Back to the other question that you asked -- the preparations. We certainly saw some of that, in fact, here at the hotel that we're using for shelter and to bring you some of these live pictures. Many of the guests have been moved into some of the more interior rooms, to the more of the sought-after rooms. Some of those oceanfront suites and villas are empty tonight because of those safety precautions.

And finally, I should mention this, John, a lot of the focus right now is not necessarily on what we're seeing right now, but what we could see in the days ahead. Officials here in the Dominican Republic, using Puerto Rico as an example that they are seeing, potentially, even more, rain than what they witnessed during the main event itself. That is something that we could see here as well. Irma, Jose, these are a storm that is dumped an incredible amount of rain in the Dominican Republic, leaving streams swollen and the ground saturated, which means some of the precipitation we'll see in the coming hours and perhaps days could lead to devastating flooding, John.

VAUSE: Well, Polo, with that in mind, let's go to Nick Valencia who's in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And Nick, there are some incredible devastating flooding right now in Puerto Rico, along with a lot of other problems with damage to infrastructure. This is not over, not by a long shot for Puerto Rico.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The core of the hurricane has come and gone, John, but the outer bands of that system still remains so much. So, the weather is still a factor. You talk about flooding, there's still a flash flood warning in effect not just for San Juan, but the entire island territory. We had a chance to see exactly just the extent of the damage and in around San Juan. We wanted to try to give our viewers a better perspective and understand the extent of the damage. But the problem was, we couldn't get very far because of so many downed trees, down power lines, telephone poles. It made it very hard for our crew to get passed about three miles outside of the city. It took us about an hour and a half to get that short distance. And what we saw was incredible devastation, catastrophic devastation. A heavy police presence, police checking in on businesses, going in to

make sure that they were not being looted. We saw residents also out hours after the storm, already cleaning up debris to try to get a semblance of normalcy. But this is anything but normal, John. You know, it may look like it that way, looking behind us here, but that's because we have the luxury of a generator here at the hotel that we're at -- tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans aren't so fortunate. There are still of them -- thousands of them in shelters, thousands without power, thousands without clean running water. John.

VAUSE: OK. Nick, thank you. Nick Valencia there live in Puerto Rico, and also Polo Sandoval live in the Dominican Republic. Thank you, both.

We will take a short break. And then, coming back from disaster, how one group is helping victims of both Hurricane Maria and the earthquake here in Mexico. Also, ahead, the U.S. President reaches out to his counterpart in Mexico offering help, more on that in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:15:57] KATE RILEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN WORLD SPORT headlines. Manchester United began the defense of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. They face the championship side, Burton Albion (INAUDIBLE) with the likes of top scorer Romelu Lukaku being rested for this one. The teenager, Marcus Rashford, had an impressive night, scoring a break within 17 minutes. United won on there either, getting two more from Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial -- 4-1. It ends as United progress to the fourth round.

After winning last year's La Liga title and the Champion's League, Real Madrid, Karim Benzema has signed a new contract extension securing his seat joined with the Spanish Giants until 2021. Now, aged 29, he's scored 181 goals for the club since he joined from Lyon in France back in 2009. Meanwhile, his manager, Zinedine Zidane, also signing a new contract with the club. Having brought, then, huge success domestically and in Europe.

And the National Hockey League is the latest sport to try and break the lucrative global market. Thursday, we'll see the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks play the first-ever NHL game in China. It's a pre-season game and the teams took time to work with the young Chinese players during the historic trip. It's an effort to make the NHL some inroads into the rapidly growing interest in hockey in China. And that's a look at all your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause live in Mexico City with more on the devastation caused by that earthquake which struck this region on Tuesday. After hours of painstaking digging, rescuers have made contact with a young girl trapped in the rubble of her collapsed school. They've managed to reach her, they've provided her with oxygen as well as water. It is just after midnight here. Those rescue operations are continuing at this hour.

They have not stopped since 7:00 in the morning -- it's almost 28 hours since they've first made contact with this young woman and managed to actually find that she was alive beneath all of this rubble. We will bring all the details when there is development in the story as soon as we have them. But for now, CNN's Miguel Marquez reports on the challenges which are facing rescuers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hand by hand, brick by brick. Residents and rescuers alike are working around the clock to find survivors of Tuesday's deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico. Here in Mexico City, 75 miles from the epicenter, all eyes on this elementary school where rescuers work to reach survivors who believe may still be trapped inside. Immediately after the quake yesterday, these children were pulled from their collapsed classrooms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Emotions are very difficult to control and see what's to our neighbors even though we do not know them. It hurts us and we put ourselves in the situation of the parents and of the children that are trapped in that school, and that is really painful.

MARQUEZ: Across the city, scenes of determination as hundreds band together to remove debris and find the missing. Others like these teachers provide comfort to the tragedies youngest witnesses with songs. And more help is on the way at this airport in Panama, rescue workers in full gear lined up to board flights headed for flights to the disaster zone. Here's what they will find. At this sight of demolished buildings, handwritten signs and fists raised high, requesting silence so crews might hear calls from beneath heaps of concrete. Still, the sounds of sirens are welcome here. A passing ambulance, a possible indication that someone's loved one has been found alive. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[01:20:01] VAUSE: We have an update from the scene of that rescue. There is now a serious concern that this entire pile debris could come crashing down. They've been trying to prop up these huge chunks of cement, the most of the day, using wooden beams to try and expand the air pocket within the debris where the girl is trapped. The concern now is that this all could come crashing down. There was some dust which kicked up a short time ago. There's been a lot of commotion here.

As we said, this rescue operation has not stopped for many, many hours; it has been ongoing. There has been a plea on television for people to bring these wooden beams to prop up the concrete, these big slabs of concrete, otherwise, they're worried that all of this could come crashing down. And of course, that would be -- have serious consequences for the rescue efforts which are ongoing right now. We see some heavy equipment which is being moved into place towards the school as well.

So, a lot of concern right now about the structural soundness of this pile of debris where this young girl, 9-year-old, is. And they've been trying to reach here for many, many hours now. When we get more information on that, we'll bring it to you. In the meantime, we'll head back to Los Angeles. Jarett Barrios is the Chief Executive for the American Red Cross in L.A. He joins us now with more on the relief efforts. So, Jarrett, when it comes to the earthquake here in Mexico, let's start with the most immediate disaster, exactly, what is the Red Cross doing? What are the challenges you're facing?

JARRETT BARRIOS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE FOR THE AMERICAN RED CROSS IN L.A.: So, our sister Red Cross, the Mexican Red Cross, is leading the effort there with the government. In Mexico, the Red Cross run it is ambulance system. They have dozens of search and rescue teams that are still going around not just in Mexico City but Puebla and other areas in Mexico which were deeply affected by the earthquake. It's complicated in Mexico because of liquefaction that sand.

As much of the city is built on, there are many buildings which were damaged -- they haven't collapsed yet, but there still may be more harm out there. So, people are being careful. Here in the U.S., we're working with our sister Red Cross. We have connected our friends at Rubicon, veterans who do this sort of thing to do a search and rescue down in Mexico City. We're also working, obviously, raising money to support Mexican earthquake relief effort. There's going to be a lot needed as they begin their recovery.

VAUSE: And as far as the Caribbean is concerned after Hurricane Maria, which is still heading towards the Dominican Republic, still heading towards the Turks and Caicos, but we've seen the devastation it has already left behind, some of these islands have been completely wiped out. So, what is the Red Cross doing there and how do you operate in an environment like that?

BARRIOS: Well, to tell you, the U.S. Virgin Islands, we had a team that was based out of St. Croix doing post-Irma relief on St. Thomas. They may have to evacuate St. Croix because of Maria to go to St. Thomas, where there were no buildings left to shelter in until that storm passed. It's very, very difficult there and I would say the most critical need post-storm, where they will come out of their evacuation centers is going to be food and water. The relief effort for Irma had to be stopped in many islands. And so, food is in short supply. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, we were partnered with the National Guard but all of that work had to stop and has now stopped for three days -- and it's only just beginning again.

In places like Dominica, you know, the estimates are 90 percent of the structures were damaged. Some of those islands have their own Red Cross Societies where their independent countries. The Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross or the St. Kitts Nevis Red Cross -- the ones that are protectorates of larger countries, the British Red Cross and the French Red Cross are also involved. We're working together, though, to get what is most important right now, which is food and water. There will be medical needs that emerge as we do damage assessment. Obviously, the recovery effort can begin in force.

VAUSE: Jarett, sorry, just very quickly, there are a lot of things happening right now. There's been Hurricane Harvey, there's been Irma, there' Maria, there's now this major earthquake here in Mexico City. How does that stretch resources of an organization like the Red Cross and have you ever dealt with so many disasters all in such a short period of time?

BARRIOS: Well, I'll say that for the American Red Cross, obviously, those domestic disasters are ones that we've been focused on. Fortunately, the American Red Cross isn't alone around the world. There are over 180 Red Cross Societies, the Mexican Red Cross, the British, the Dutch, the French, they're all deeply involved in what's going on in the Caribbean. They will be all be, I'm certain, sending assistance to the Mexican Red Cross.

Here in the U.S., you know, 95 percent of our workforce are volunteers, we have volunteers from all over country reporting in for duty in Houston, all across Florida. But you're right, we've got half of Texas and all of Florida -- two of our most populous states that are disaster zones. And we are working very to meet folks needs. But as with any situation like this, it's challenging and people don't like to be without their stuff, they don't like to be left without electricity, and food, and the security that comes with that. So, we're working hard in difficult circumstances with our volunteer-led workforce to help make a difference here.

[01:25:39] VAUSE: Jarrett, I suspect so many volunteers and so many people with the Red Cross and other aid organizations will be working very hard for a very long time. Thank you for being with us, Jarrett.

BARRIOS: Thanks for having us.

VAUSE: OK. And if you would like to help the victims of Hurricane Maria or those who've been impacted by this earthquake here in Mexico, please head to our Web site: CNN/impact. There you'll find a group of charities who've been vetted by CNN, so you know that what you give to them will go to the people in need.

[01:26:07] We'll take a short break. When we come back, one of the latest of Hurricane Maria, the strongest storm to hit the island of Puerto Rico in nearly a century.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

0130

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:30:25] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause, live in Mexico City with our breaking news coverage of the devastating earthquake here. Search-and-rescue efforts have been nonstop since the quake struck on Tuesday.

One of those rescues being watched all around the world is a 9-year- old girl trapped beneath the rubble of her school not far from here. There was concern about the integrity of the pile of debris. A call went out for beams to shore up this concrete in the fear they'll come crashing down. There is also concern about a building not far from here which was damaged in the quake. It is empty but there are fears that too could collapse at any moment. So there's been a lot of activity here as they continue the rescue operation for the little girl trapped in the rubble of her school, as well as others that could still be alive under the debris. We'll have more on that in just a moment.

But we're also following the situation with Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has more on all the devastation that Maria brought to Puerto Rico.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE THEISS, STORM CHASER: We are getting pounded here. The wind is screaming, it's whistling. There's stuff hitting the building. There's glass breaking. We are definitely, definitely in a dangerous situation.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria roared ashore making landfall 50 miles south of San Juan.

(SCREAMING)

SANTIAGO: A monster cat 4 storm with winds of 155 miles per hour. Trees snapped like twigs, roofs torn away, parking lots filled with cars under water. Debris dangerously tossed around in the wind.

(SCREAMING)

SANTIAGO: Phone service is out. Officials say the entire island is without power. And the mayor says the outlook is grim.

CARMEN CRUZ, SAN JUAN MAYOR: We're looking at four to six months without electricity on the entire nation of Puerto Rico.

SANTIAGO: Those powerful winds have caused extensive damage. One resident posted these pictures of the trees outside her home yesterday and the same trees 24 hours later.

(on camera): I've been trying to find the words. Ferocious doesn't seem to be enough.

(voice-over): Maria is the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 89 years. Something I experienced firsthand.

The streets of San Juan, heavy rain falling at five to seven inches an hour, combined with the storm surge to cause massive flooding, turning streets to muddy rivers. Many tourists were stranded after airlines cancelled flights on saturday. Yet, everyone was urged to evacuate or die. On an island of more than three million, only 11,000 people were reported to go to shelters. Many huddled in stairwells above floodwaters and away from glass.

We're seeing the first images of the horrific aftermath from Maria on the Island of Dominica. At least seven are dead, many missing. Officials estimate some 70 percent of Dominica's buildings damaged or destroyed. The island of 73,000 with virtually no phone service or power.

Late today, the governor asked President Trump to declare Puerto Rico a disaster zone. He told this to CNN.

DOMINICA GOVERNOR: This is the most devastating storm either in the century or, quite frankly, in modern history.

SANTIAGO: Leyla Santiago, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Let's go live now to San Juan, Puerto Rico. CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is there.

Derek, clearly, a lot of concern about the Dominican Republic where Hurricane Maria is heading and the intensity as well. And once this is over water for a period of time, there's a chance it starts to strengthen again.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEROLOGIST: John, that's right. And we've seen signs that it is starting to become more organized, developed, and it's all because of the warm Atlantic waters that surround the islands, near the Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic. Here, where I'm located in San Juan, the flash flood threat has been a concern since the storm ramped up this morning and into the day time hours today. The National Weather Service just tweeting that the entire island territory is under a flash flood river. There are several rivers feet above flood stage. We have rainfall totals approaching the 30-inch mark. We expect by the time the storm has exited Puerto Rico, sometime midday on Thursday, we will see rainfall totals in excess of 35 inches. Remember, Harvey -- the terrain here, remember, water seeks its own levels and it almost rings out the storm system taking away the available rainfall in Hurricane Maria, and eventually filters down to the smaller streams and ultimately the larger rivers and communities below, causing landslides and mudslides. We have seen the flooded roadways in San Juan, but when you get into the more mountainous areas, the rural parts of Puerto Rico, the devastation will be fierce, as we start to see first daylight and head out to assess the full extent of Maria's wrath -- John?

[01:36:32] VAUSE: Derek, thank you for that. Derek Van Dam, with the forecast and what the people of Puerto Rico can expect in the coming days as they assess the damage, which is extensive.

And the U.S. President Donald Trump, sent a message to the governor of Puerto Rico on Twitter. It reads, "Governor, we are with you and the people of Puerto Rico. Stay safe."

Still to come here, Donald Trump is offering condolences to Mexico's quake victims and has deployed U.S. teams to help with search-and- rescue operations. More on that in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:41:25] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. U.S. President, Donald Trump, called his counterpart in Mexico expressing condolences for the many victims of Tuesday's earthquake. He said, "The U.S. is ready to provide assistance, including search-and-rescue teams." Some have now been mobilized. Mr. Trump also pledged closed cooperation with Mexico as both countries recover from devastating hurricanes and earthquakes.

Meantime, the investigation into Russian interference in last year's U.S. election is beginning to focus more on Donald Trump's actions after he became president. Sources told CNN Robert Mueller has requested a wide array of White House documents, including those related to the firing of Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey.

In addition, "The Washington Post" is reporting that then-Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, offered to give private campaign briefings to a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin.

We'll give you a clearer picture of how Russian operatives may have tried to exert influence over U.S. voters in last year's election. It involves Twitter.

Drew Griffin has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRSPONDENT (voice-over): Twitter says it is not in the business of policing political thoughts or messaging. That's whether it's coming from Republicans, Democrats or Vladimir Putin. And while Twitter will not confirm Russian actors were using its platform to meddle in the 2016 election, the proof is adding up.

This Twitter account, Tea Party News, had a following or more than 22,000. It blasted with pro-Trump rhetoric and stories throughout the campaign. Among the followers was Sebastian Gorka. What Gorka and others of Tea Party News may be surprised to learn is the account has been outed by Russian journalists as part of Russia propaganda campaign. The account has been part of the link of the Internet Research Agency, which, in a report by U.S. intelligence officials, says is a shadow company tied to Kremlin, all part of the Russian government's attempts to meddle in the U.S. presidential race. Twitter accounts created as part of the Russia propaganda campaign helped the Russians form an army of automated Twitter bots and trolls that supported one candidate.

SAMUEL WOOLEY, INTERNET RESEARCH GROUP, OXFORD UNIVERITY: Most of the accounts are made to look like Trump supporters but begin and end in Russia.

GRIFFIN: Samuel Wooley, with Oxford University's Internet Research Group analyzed over 17 million tweets and found networks of automated accounts that retweet each other and played a powerful role in determining the flow of information in the 2016 election, some by foreign governments attacking the U.S. through fake news.

(on camera): This is manufacturing interest in a tweet by rapid fire repeating these retweets.

WOOLEY: Right. People like to tell me propaganda has been around forever, but when you enhance it, you have a more difficult time parsing information and understanding what's going on.

GRIFFIN: Is "weaponized" a word you would use?

WOOLEY: They are weaponized.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Tea Party News has been shut down by Twitter. The company won't say why. According to Russian investigative journalist, Andre Sakorov (ph), the end of Tea Party News came just as the Russia media began exposing it.

[01:45:02] ANDRE SAKOROV (ph), RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: They stopped operating it after our investigation. The last tweet was on the same day or one day before it.

GRIFFIN: Sakorov tells CNN the account was one of 50 such accounts, with more than 600,000 Twitter followers, including at least one member of Donald Trump's administration. Contacted by e-mail, Sebastian Gorka indicates he knew Tea Party News was a Russia propaganda site, telling CNN he followed the site, "for the same reason I follow CNN," he wrote, "to know what the enemies of truth are doing."

Samuel Wooley says said getting the information was an important part of Russia's disinformation campaign.

WOOLEY: The hope of the creator of the bot is that someone picks it up and tweets it out and lots of other people make it viral. Those things were started as small trends, pushed out by bots and then picked up by the mainstream media and politicians.

GRIFFIN (on camera): What's Twitter's response? Twitter tells CNN it will rely on its users and its open format to fix itself. The company remove accounts linked to terrorism or those who promote hateful conduct but when it comes to real news or fake, Twitter writes, "Twitter's open and real-time nature is a powerful antidote to the spreading of all types of false information. This is important because we, Twitter, cannot distinguish whether every single tweet from every person is truthful or not."

Drew Griffin, CNN Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: We'll take a short break from Mexico City. When we come back, as the rescue efforts continue for those trapped beneath the rubble, we'll talk to an expert about why this earthquake was so destructive and so powerful. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SPORTS REPORT) [01:50:55] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. The Mexican president is seeing the earthquake damage up close. The president visited a central Mexican town nearly leveled by the quake. At least 12 people were killed. Mexico has declared three days of mourning for the earthquake victims.

And Pope Francis is sending condolences and prayers to the Mexican people. During a speech at the Vatican, he expressed his closeness and solidarity with the Mexican people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS (through translation): Yesterday, a terrible earthquake devastated Mexico. I saw there are many Mexicans today among you. It caused many victims and material damage. In this moment of pain, I want to express my closeness and my prayer to all of the beloved Mexican population.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So let's get an update now on what many of these communities are facing in terms of the safety of the buildings. Many live in high-rises here.

Architect Antonio Riego joins us for more on this.

Let's talk about the danger being imposed by these buildings, which may not be structurally sound.

ANTONIO RIEGO (ph), ARCHITECT: Trying to build a new building, this -- it's been like -- it helped in this one, like a lot of buildings are coming down.

VAUSE: There have been some new buildings which came. They have a hospital just constructed four or five years ago that collapsed. So are these codes up to standards?

RIEGO (ph): The ground in Mexico City is very soft, because it was a lake. So Mexico City is surrounded by mountains. If you drop something into a bathtub, the waves --

VAUSE: They say it's like building on jelly.

RIEGO (ph): Sometimes.

VAUSE: Yes.

RIEGO (ph): In this case, if you try to go deeper, you can find water 50 centimeters under the surface. So the underground is very unstable, very soft.

VAUSE: Also, the tectonic plates that Mexico City is built on, very susceptible to earthquakes. I was reading a magnitude 9.0 is not out of the question. Is there any way you can construct a building that can withstand that energy? RIEGO (ph): There's supposed to be a sign to tolerate this kind of

earthquakes. But let me tell you something, last week, we had an earthquake, and it was 8.4.

VAUSE: 8.1, I think.

RIEGO (ph): Yes. Which is higher than the one in '85. We didn't feel it almost, because very far from here. In this case, it was like very soft and 40 kilometers away from her.

VAUSE: And it was a very shallow quake.

RIEGO (ph): Yes. It's a really sad story. But there are some more neighborhoods and cities and towns around the area that has been damaged. The center of the earthquake, there's been like two towns that it has -- they're really damaged. But there are some others that they haven't been helped. There are a lot of volunteers trying to help, but we're trying to prevent these kind of situations, because the government is not doing the right thing.

[01:55:14] VAUSE: We're going to find out more about the government response, not just here in Mexico City, but the outlying areas and find out what is going on in those regions. And if you say the government is not doing enough, I guess we'll find out.

Antonio, thank you so much. Good to speak with you.

RIEGO (ph): Thank you.

VAUSE: We're coming to the top of the hour now, so that is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Mexico City. I'm John Vause.

A lot more of our breaking news coverage of the aftermath of the earthquake here in Mexico City and the region, as well as the developing story, the breaking news story out of the Caribbean with Hurricane Maria. A lot more to come in just a moment. Short break.

You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:00:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VAUSE: Hello, everybody. I'm John Vause, live in Mexico City where rescuers have been digging for hours on end, searching for survivors.