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Reports of "Harvey-Like" Flooding And Devastation In Puerto Rico; Crews Race To Find Mexico Earthquake Survivors; Crucial Deadline For GOP Health Care Plan; Kim Jong Un Lashes Out At Trump. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 22, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:31:33] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Maria still a dangerous category three, now bearing down on the Turks and Caicos islands after leaving a path of devastation there in Puerto Rico.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Tragedy in Mexico as the death toll climbs. Rescue crews racing against time to find earthquake victims.

ROMANS: The revenge of 'Rocket Man.' North Korea's Kim Jong Un vowing retaliation against the U.S. after President Trump's defiant speech at the U.N. North Korea's foreign minister threatening a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

Kim Jong Un calling President Trump mentally deranged, a frightened dog. We'll have the latest on all of that just ahead.

But up first, Hurricane Maria still a dangerous category three storm heading straight to the Turks and Caicos. A deadly, potentially catastrophic storm surge expected as much as 12 feet above normal. That could submerge the already battered island chain.

The devastation left behind by Maria in Puerto Rico is stunning. Homes, cars underwater. Block after block, the flooding described as "Harvey-like" with over 40 inches of rain in some areas. An additional four to eight inches of rain on the way.

ROMANS: Rescuers are ongoing in the country's hardest hit areas.

Take a look at this Coast Guard crew from Clearwater, Florida and a British Royal Fleet rescue helicopter team. They're saving a woman and two children from a capsized vessel near Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Right now, more than 4,000 members of the U.S. Army Reserve are on the ground in Puerto Rico. They report massive destruction and they report non-existent communications.

Let's go live to San Juan and bring in CNN's Nick Valencia where, Nick, the rain just continues to drench there. The roads are submerged, the infrastructure is broken, and the lights are out.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can tell just how massive of a storm this was. And here we are days after Hurricane Maria made landfall and came through Puerto Rico and it's still raining here, Christine.

The rain has let up over the course of the last 30 minutes or so but we've seen lightning strikes consistently throughout, we've seen thunder throughout, and also this is going to be a problem -- major problem for flooding.

We know high-water rescues continue across the island territory, especially in the south. It was especially hard-hit as Maria made its way through and made landfall.

And you talk about the damage and devastation to the infrastructure. It has just been catastrophic and we saw that with our own eyes. We saw homes and people trapped because they were unable to get out of their homes because the water was just too high. We were unable to get out of San Juan because of the inundated highways.

We also, yesterday, visited a hospital and they're running off a generator. They have at least 100 or so patients inside and they're suffering from heat.

And in one case, there was a 103-year-old woman that we met who's been there for almost two months and her daughter, who we spoke to, says she's worried about the conditions of that hospital.

The hospital says that they will be back at full capacity. And they're not even the worst of it, from what we saw.

The damage here has been extensive and it seems that every inch of this island has suffered in one way or another. It's hard to imagine that the local mayor here in San Juan is warning residents that this may be a way of life for months to come -- up to six months, she told me yesterday.

It says -- she said it was up to her to set the tone for this territory to try to tell her residents that they need to expect to be without electricity for some time to come. And it's hard to imagine, guys, when you think about how much we rely on that and how difficult it will be for these citizens to keep going forward without any power -- guys.

[05:35:15] ROMANS: I mean, they've got to get the lights on. They've got to get power before they can fix things, before they can get the tourism industry humming again because I know there are a lot of people who would like to go and spend their money in Puerto Rico when this is all over. It's just really drawn --


ROMANS: -- drawn to the surface here, the woes of that island.

Thank you so much for that, Nick Valencia. BRIGGS: All right.

Some heartbreaking images out of Dominica. CNN gathering the first pictures on the ground after Hurricane Maria decimated the island. You can see houses, buildings ripped to shreds, entire towns flattened.

Officials say at least 15 people died there.

Dominica's prime minister describing the scene as heart-wrenching. He says the country's agriculture has been completely washed away and recovery may take up to two years.

ROMANS: Yes, those plantations just full of sugar cane and bananas, simply flattened.

Hurricane Maria is still a potential threat to the U.S.

Let's get right to the CNN Weather Center where meteorologist Karen Maginnis is tracking the storm for us. Where's it going now?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, a couple of things I want to mention and that is the Turks and Caicos are getting battered as we speak. They are on the western edge of this system -- a category three hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center issued their new update as of 5:00 a.m., but what struck me the most is that the eye looking a little ragged during some of these earlier images but now, almost like a pinhole again. It did not change in intensity -- still category three, but category four wind gusts associated with this.

It has slowed down just a little bit, not anything very dramatic. But it's going to continue its trek towards the northwest. The Turks and Caicos will be battered the better part of the day.

Nick was saying that the rainfall was there in Puerto Rico. And yes, we are seeing some of those enhanced bands coming in all along the southern periphery of Hurricane Maria but I think that it will gradually taper off.

Now, as it moves across the Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas you will be battered by high winds -- very high winds for most of the day. You're looking at storm surge maybe on the order of 10-12 feet. Rainfall amounts in some isolated areas could be 20 inches or more.

And I think we're looking at the Turks and Caicos, which is very small, not in a dissimilar situation than what we've seen across Puerto Rico.

Just to remind you of some of the rainfall totals across Puerto Rico in excess of 35, in some cases more than 40 inches of rainfall.

Back to you guys.

ROMANS: Oh, wow, unbelievable. All right. Karen Maginnis, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Karen.

Now, to the other natural disaster still unfolding in Mexico.


Rescue teams singing National Anthem.


BRIGGS: Those are rescue teams pausing to sing the National Anthem to honor the dead. The death toll rising to 286 three days after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake devastated the country. Volunteers and first responders still racing to save survivors who may be trapped under rubble at this hour.

CNN's Rosa Flores live in Mexico City with the very latest.

Just an incredibly difficult wait for the family members there almost 62 hours afterward. Good morning to you, Rosa. What's the latest?


Well, I was just talking to some of those family members who received a briefing moments ago from rescue workers who say that right now they need patience because that building that you see behind me, according to these rescue workers, is settling after the rain overnight. So they're saying that no rescue efforts are going on right now inside that building because they had to get all of those rescue workers out for their own safety.

It rained -- that added weight to the building. And now, they're using sophisticated equipment to figure out when that building is settled after the rain so that they can bring the brigades back in.

We also learned from these rescue workers that brigades from Japan, from the United States, and the famous Los Topos rescue workers were also working inside.

And they also say that there is hope because they used heat sensors to measure the heat in some of these -- what they're calling capsules that were created after this building collapsed. They do say that these heat sensors have positive readings so they do believe that people are trapped inside that -- this building.

And the agonizing wait now is for these families who have been here now since Tuesday. As you mentioned, more than 62 hours and these families still here waiting, hoping, praying that their loved one will emerge from this rubble safe and alive.

[05:40:05] BRIGGS: All right, we hope so.

FLORES: Dave --

BRIGGS: Keep us -- keep us up-to-date. Rosa Flores live for us in Mexico City. Thank you.

All right. Ahead, the Republican effort to overhaul Obamacare facing a tough deadline and more pushback, but Senate leaders still feeling awfully confident.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think we're going to get 50 Republicans to vote for federalism, and I -- I'll make a prediction. A couple of Democrats are going to come on board because their state does so well.



ROMANS: All right. The clock is ticking. Just nine days left for Republicans to pass their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare and they're facing growing resistance. The latest, from the National Association of Medicaid directors, which represents all 50 states.

BRIGGS: Yes. The group warning Republicans their bill will quote "constitute the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country's history."

[05:45:00] Let's go live to Washington and bring in Kyle Feldscher. He's the breaking news editor of the "Washington Examiner." Good morning to you, Kyle.

ROMANS: Good morning, again.


BRIGGS: Let's try to stick with some substance here, though the politics is hard to ignore. Mike Pence, the vice president --

ROMANS: Are you saying politics isn't substance?


BRIGGS: Yes. I mean, look, this one is tough. No CBO score, no hearings on this thing. Imagine if Republicans saw Democrats do this back in '09.

But, Mike Pence asked about the two most important -- the most important aspect of this on "FOX & FRIENDS" -- preexisting conditions. Here's his answer.


AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX HOST, FOX & FRIENDS: Can you guarantee that these governors will make sure preexisting conditions are covered?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thomas Jefferson said government that governs least governs best. I mean, the question that people ought to ask is, who do you -- who do

you think will be more responsive to the health care needs in your community? Your governor and your state legislature, or a congressman and a president in a far off nation's capital?


PENCE: I mean, this is -- this is the concept of federalism upon which our constitution was framed.


BRIGGS: All right, Kyle, some debate about who said that. A lot of people do not attribute that to Thomas Jefferson.

But there is no debate. He did not guarantee that preexisting conditions are governed -- covered.

This comes down to two words, adequate and affordable. How will Republicans define it and can they guarantee coverage in the days ahead?

FELDSCHER: Well, what's interesting about this is and that whole federalism debate is that how that will be defined is not going to be necessarily defined by the states or Republicans writ large.

It will be defined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. The states want to come up with a plan and they will submit it to Tom Price and it will be up to him to decide if it meets those standards you just mentioned.

So it's federalism, but at the same time, the federal government is going to have to have a major say in whether --


FELDSCHER: -- these states are complying with the law.

ROMANS: That's so interesting.

BRIGGS: That is a great take.

ROMANS: But the -- but the -- but the bottom line is the -- ensconced in the law -- in Obamacare law, those sweeping protections for preexisting conditions does not exist to that extent here. It would be up to Tom Price to do that.

You know, a quarter of -- a quarter of American non-elderly adults have a preexisting condition. That's why this is sort of the third rail of this attempt by Republicans, isn't it?

FELDSCHER: Absolutely. I mean, this is something that was the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- colloquially.

It's -- the fact that people who were sick as children can get health care coverage now and not have to worry about whether something that happened to them decades ago is going to, you know, hurt them in the future.

It's something that people across the political spectrum have gotten used to, most importantly and also, you know, the majority support. So whether this is something that really will be, I guess, palatable to the average American voter is something that Democrats are really -- the Democrats are really banking on the average American voter rejecting this idea.

BRIGGS: All right.

Major developments in this North Korean standoff between Kim Jong Un and President Trump. New sanctions from President Trump and the Chinese Central Bank actually cracking down, from what we understand.

And, Kim Jong Un answering back to President Trump, calling him a mentally deranged frightened dog, a dotard. This is rare that he offers a statement directly from the North Korean leader.

Where are we headed on this standoff?

FELDSCHER: Well, that's a great question.

It really depends on two people right now. It depends on Kim Jong Un and it depends on Donald Trump. These two men are feuding.

Now you see the fact that Kim Jong Un is giving a first-person statement, it's kind of -- I think it's the first time he's done that in his reign.

There -- it's a war of words right now and it's something that keeps getting ratcheted up. And these are two men who really don't seem to want to back down from any sort of challenge.

And so, whether these sanctions are as far as the West is willing to go because at this point it's clear that the North Koreans are going to do provocative missile tests --

ROMANS: Right.

FELDSCHER: -- and possibly a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean, as the foreign minister said the other day. So it depends on how Donald Trump reacts at this point.

ROMANS: Sanctions have not -- have not stopped the nuclear program and there are some who argue that these intense sanctions now if, indeed -- if, in fact, the Chinese are really on board -- the technology has already been developed. They already have the capacity and the capability and that's, you know, past the point of no return in some cases.

All right, thank you so much. So nice to see you. Come back again very, very soon. Have a nice weekend.

FELDSCHER: Thanks so much. BRIGGS: All right.

As we mentioned, Kim Jong Un calling the president mentally deranged, vowing the U.S. will pay dearly after threats by President Trump.

[05:50:03] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.


BRIGGS: And a North Korean official threatening to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. The latest, ahead.


BRIGGS: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lashing out in response to President Trump's address at the U.N. General Assembly. He's vowing to retaliate with the highest level of hardline countermeasure in history, and that's not all.

Kim also warning President Trump will "pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroyed the DPRK." The North Korean leader goes on to say "Whatever Trump might have expected he will face results beyond his expectation."

[05:55:11] When North Korea's foreign minister was asked about the highest level retaliation he replied, "This could probably mean the strongest hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean."

Let's go live to Seoul and bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks.

Paula, this is an entirely new level now, the president and Kim Jong Un raising it. What can you tell us about where we're headed?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, there's certainly concern at the way this rhetoric is going.

And what's being focused on by many experts here in South Korea as well, and in the region, is the fact that that message from Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, to the U.S. president was a direct message. He was looking into the camera. There's a photo of him on state-run media while holding a statement he has supposedly read himself.

And certainly, it is almost as though that he is talking leader-to- leader. He is making a very direct response to the U.S. president.

And as you say, he had some very choice words, as you would expect from North Korea, calling him mentally deranged. Saying that there would be a high level of hardline countermeasures.

Also, giving him some advice, talking about that address he gave to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday where he did threaten to totally destroy North Korea if it was -- if it was threatened. And now certainly, this shows the level of concern, the level of

anger, maybe the level of frustration in North Korea at that General Assembly address -- the very fact that Kim Jong Un felt that he, himself, had to personally respond to the U.S. president.

And, of course, that statement from Ri Yong-ho, the North Korean foreign minister, suggesting there could be a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, very concerning.

BRIGGS: Indeed, it is. Paula Hancocks live for in Seoul. Thanks so much.

All right.

Test results on former NFL Aaron Hernandez reveal he suffered from the degenerative brain disease CTE at the time of his suicide. According to an attorney representing his family, this was the most severe case doctors have seen in someone Hernandez' age.

The former New England Patriot was serving a murder sentence when he committed suicide last April at the age of 27.

A federal lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots was filed by Hernandez' fiance, seeking $20 million.

Again, Hernandez played three seasons in the NFL --


BRIGGS: -- and had stage three CTE.

ROMANS: There is no question parents across the country are looking at that story and asking the question --

BRIGGS: They should be.

ROMANS: -- once again, what's going on? Is this safe for my kid to play?

BRIGGS: This is a game changer.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stock markets lower after North Korea threatened to test a nuclear weapon, extending some losses it began yesterday on Wall Street. You know, the Dow ended a nine-day winning street. All three major averages down.

A late reaction, I guess, to the Federal Reserve's plans to raise interest rates again this year. Lower rates have fueled the market's rally since the financial crisis.

Still, a reminder, stocks very close to all-time highs. It is very good to be a stock market investor. Toys R Us is facing bankruptcy but it is still hiring for the holidays. The toy store plans to hire at least 13,000 workers. It's a sign Toys R Us will try to use the holidays -- the busy holiday season -- to help with its bankruptcy and to help with its turnaround.

Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy Monday after struggling with nearly $5 billion in debt and huge competition from the likes of Amazon. You know, it was once that Toys R Us was the category killer that put the small toy stores out of business. And now, this is the way the economy works, right?


ROMANS: You've got Amazon and online shopping that have really been a challenge for that company, so it will be interesting to see how it changes itself. You know, how it innovates to be a --

BRIGGS: Yes, how they shed debt.

And you do hear some emphasis on the Babies R Us. They're going to put those stores together side-by-side --

ROMANS: Interesting.

BRIGGS: -- and try to get rid of some of the stores that don't have a Babies R Us. That's what you're hearing, anyway.

ROMANS: All right, we'll watch for that.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

"NEW DAY" starts right now. Have a great weekend.


TRUMP: Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rain has not stopped. Flooding all throughout the island.

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Maria hit us very hard but she is nothing compared to the force we're going to unleash to rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They continue to hear people's cries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I've ever seen quite such a mobilization of volunteers as I've seen here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not wasting time. Right now, time is our enemy.

PENCE: The Graham-Cassidy bill is the right solution at the right time. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the worst of the worst. It will hurt America.

GRAHAM: I think we're going to get 50 Republicans and I make a prediction. A couple of Democrats are going to come on board.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your new day. It's Friday, September 22nd, 6:00 here in New York.

Here's our Starting Line.

The death toll is rising in Puerto Rico. At least nine people are dead after Hurricane Maria. First responders caution that number is preliminary. They are shocked there isn't massive loss of life.