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Mexico Earthquake; Hurricane Maria Slamming into Turks and Caicos; Pyongyang Hints at H-Bomb Test in the Pacific
Aired September 22, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:08] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, live in Mexico City where the death toll has risen and crews continue to search for the missing in a number of crumbled buildings after Tuesday's 7.1 earthquake.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Isha Sesay, live in Los Angeles.
We're tracking Hurricane Maria as a powerful Category 3 storm slamming the Turks and Caicos Islands right now.
CNN NEWSROOM starts now.
VAUSE: Well, the search here now in Mexico City is focusing on at least 10 buildings where there are still signs of life like this building behind me.
Yesterday 28 people were pulled alive from the rubble. So far today, no one has actually escaped from all of that debris. But there is a sign that someone is still alive buried beneath that debris.
As many as 10 people could in fact be underneath all of that rubble which is why the rescue efforts here continue at this hour.
This was in fact an office block. All of those people who were pulled out alive yesterday worked for an accounting firm and they were on the fourth floor and they did say that others were still alive.
So the rescue efforts continue here and in a number of other buildings around Mexico City. Mexico's president says these efforts will continue even though the chances of finding someone alive continue to dwindle. The death toll now stands at 282.
The sense of urgency has ended though at one elementary school where search crews were trying to reach a young girl. They thought she was trapped in the debris.
Now officials say all the students have been accounted for. They're either in hospitals, their homes or they're dead. But rescue operations have not ended there as signs suggest that someone may still be alive under the rubble.
Sixty-seven members of the Los Angeles Urban Search and Rescue now in Mexico; they brought special tools, heavy earth-moving equipment as well as medical supplies along with five dogs to help in the rescue effort.
Joining me now -- Sonia Heritage is the head trainer at the Search Dog Foundation and she is with us now live. So Sonia -- search crews they've been focusing on just these 10 buildings where they believe there are signs of life.
That seems to be a very difficult call to make. Can they be absolutely certain at this point it's the right call?
SONIA HERITAGE, HEAD TRAINER, SEARCH DOG FOUNDATION (via telephone): Well, you know, they're taking a lot of information and what they're trying to -- how they came up with these buildings is the greatest number of victims, potential victims that are in there, taking into account the time of day when it happened and other information that they've gathered. And so they can do the most good in the least amount of time because time matters.
So they have the facts and I trust they know what they're doing. And you can't be everywhere so you're going to have to focus your resources where it matters most.
VAUSE: You mentioned the issue of time. Time is obviously crucial, now more than what -- 48 hours, coming up to three days since the quake. What is the time point when this search and rescue becomes more of a search and recovery?
HERITAGE: Well, think of it this way. There are you know -- certainly the chill at night if they're laying on concrete that takes the heat right out of your body and it's going to be less survivable time.
However, some people may be trapped in an area that they have food and they have water. And then their survivability rate definitely goes up.
We've have life finds in the rubble in past earthquakes and disasters 10 days, a little more. It just really depends on the health of the person that's in there, what they have with them and the weather, quite frankly. Not to mention whatever injuries they have as well.
VAUSE: So far today, we believe that no one has actually been pulled alive from any of these buildings in the capital here in Mexico City. Is that a concern?
HERITAGE: Well, I do believe that L.A. County being on the ground now and working -- they're going to be able to go through and, you know, just very efficiently and effectively move through these (AUDIO GAP) high value targets. And in a very expedient manner compared to what we have seen, let's say at the school.
[00:04:53] You know, they're going to take control of the scene. They're going to go in there and send the dogs and find out is there anybody in here that is alive or do we need to move on to the next area. The dogs can take a really huge area and tell you do we waste time here when there's no one here alive or do we take our resources and keep checking other locations in other location. They're the best tool that we have out there that can find an unconscious victim buried in the rubble or under debris. You know, cameras and listening devices are great. They come in after the dog has alerted in an area and they look in as they contact the victim who's in there and they tell what their entrapment is and what their condition is.
But these dogs are the ones that will tell where they are and even as important where they're not.
VAUSE: What about the other international crews which are on the ground here? The Israelis, the Colombians -- there are literally dozens of countries which have volunteered help with this rescue effort and they all bring their own unique skills to this disaster.
HERITAGE: Absolutely. You know, that's what it's all about really is getting the skilled disaster resources here because it's a very unique set of skills that you need for this. And it's not firefighter skills. It is a group of people that are trained how to operate safely and effectively and expediently in this very dangerous environment.
They know how to shore things up. They know how to go in and get somebody out without causing further damage. They know how to do medical and get somebody in there to support the victim.
And you know, it's just that's as important. You know, certainly everybody wants to help and time, you know, is of the essence.
But what these teams do is they go in and find the ones that couldn't respond. They're deeply buried. They're deeply entrapped. And that's what they do.
The locals, you know, get these folks that are lightly buried and, you know, can be extracted. But when you're getting day three, day four -- those victims are gone and pulled and they're receiving care at this time. But we need to find the ones that are buried deeper and much more technical to extricate.
VAUSE: Sonia -- thank you so much. We appreciate your insight. Thank you for being with us.
Well, we've been talking a lot about the volunteers who have spent hours and hours not leaving these sights of these collapsed buildings doing whatever they can to try and help the rescue efforts.
One of those volunteers is Natalia Ocampo who -- you've been here pretty much since this happened -- right?
NATALIA OCAMPO, VOLUNTEER RESCUER: Yes. I work around here. So Tuesday right when it happened we heard about this and we came just trying to help.
VAUSE: When you say try to help, what have you been doing?
OCAMPO: Just -- at the beginning we were giving water and giving food to the people that were moving rubble and all this stuff. And then some of my friends helped moving the rocks out until the experts came and did all the work for them.
VAUSE: They asked for things like -- I mean you just run off and get it, right? Whatever they need.
OCAMPO: Yes. They asked --
VAUSE: Like what?
OCAMPO: -- at the beginning it was a little not very organized but now they organized and they leave all the equipment -- like we need to be there if we are -- most of the women are working in separating food and giving like all the boxes and all the (inaudible).
VAUSE: It's been a really difficult couple of days.
VAUSE: Being down here, doing something. Has it made it a little easier?
OCAMPO: I don't know if it's easier because everybody wants really to help.
OCAMPO: And sometimes you cannot do anything and it's better to stay away --
OCAMPO: -- so you're not like in the way. But it's frustrating because everybody wants to help and nobody really can help how they want to help.
OCAMPO: So it's hard to see like all these kinds of buildings and people (inaudible)
VAUSE: I think what -- 28 people were found alive and taken out of the rubble yesterday. No one today though.
VAUSE: It's sort of not what everyone has been hoping for. This is when it gets tough, right?
OCAMPO: Yes. It's sad because some -- there's going to come a time that they're going to say let's stop looking for people and let's just take all the rubble away because that means there's no hope anymore. So that's really sad and that's why we have all the people here because they want (inaudible) and have good news, I guess.
VAUSE: And maybe save a life -- OCAMPO: Yes.
VAUSE: Natalia -- thank you so much.
VAUSE: We wish you all the very best.
OCAMPO: Yes. Thank you guys for being here.
VAUSE: Thank you for doing the work.
VAUSE: And another major story at this hour -- we're tracking the path of Hurricane Maria
[00:09:57] Right now the National Hurricane Center says it's a Category 3 storm with its eye over water located about 110 kilometers southeast of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
A hurricane warning is in effect for that country as well as the southeastern Bahamas and of course, the northeastern coastline of the Dominican Republic.
Well, let's turn now to our meteorologist Karen Maginnis. She is tracking Maria from CNN headquarters in Atlanta. So Karen -- where is the storm now precisely and what's the time frame here before the Turks and Caicos really start to feel the full impact.
KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The Turks and Caicos, also known as GCI are going to -- well, they're already feeling the impact. It doesn't look like a direct landfall for TCI or the Bahamas. But nonetheless the impacts are going to felt across this region with very heavy surf.
Here is Turks and Caicos, here are the Bahamas -- so for Crooked Island, Long Island, Cat Island, Great Abaco -- heavy downpour there, also for TCI.
What about storm surge? We could see three to four meters of storm urge on top of the already heavy rainfall that they're anticipating throughout this region.
What about the computer model? They are suggesting that by Monday evening bypassing by a great degree, at least for now, the Bahamas. And it is going to be well off the Eastern Seaboard.
It comes closest perhaps by Thursday evening but still this is pretty far out as far as the forecast models are concerned even though they are in fair agreement its impact is wind and very heavy rainfall and we're looking at quite a storm surge here as well -- John.
VAUSE: Karen -- the bad news just doesn't seem to stop. Thank you for that. Well, where Maria has already been, there is chaos and devastation. And that is Puerto Rico. The National Hurricane Center is warning of catastrophic flooding. In some parts of the island the storm dumped nearly 100 centimeters of rain in just 24 hours. And the rain just won't stop until at least Saturday.
Puerto Rico's governor says the entire power grid is still down and the head of the Electric Power Authority says it could be six months before electricity is fully restored.
The few stores that are open have now started rationing bottles of water. They're also running out of food and other supplies.
CNN has reporters fanned out across the affected hurricane areas. Nick Valencia is one of them. He joins us now live from San Juan.
So Nick -- some forecasts are saying that Puerto Rico could receive, what, another two feet of rain like Friday? The question is how much more damage can those rising waters do at this point?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John -- they are desperately worried about flooding here on the island. And earlier, I was speaking to the mayor of San Juan who says it may seem in parts that things are trying to get back to normal. But she says real recovery will take about four to six months.
Those effects are being felt all throughout Puerto Rico and as our team learned especially at the hospitals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: Ashford Presbyterian is doing the best they can with what they have which right now is more than a lot of places in Puerto Rico.
Margo Silva is the hospital's planning director.
MARGO SILVA, PLANNING DIRECTOR, ASHFORD PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: Puerto Rico is in a hurricane, you know, corridor so we're used to dealing with this and unfortunately being so close to the ocean, you know, these circumstances come up.
VALENCIA: Like most every building in San Juan, the trauma hospital was damaged during Hurricane Maria. But they got lucky. As we walked the hallways we see some structural damage but not much.
Their air conditioning did crash, so patients like 103-year-old Diosa Alveronda (ph) are burning up.
She's been here for nearly two months and her daughter is distressed.
JACQUELINE ALVERONDA, DAUGHTER OF HOSPITAL PATIENT: No water. Water came today, this afternoon. It was pretty bad and messed up on any station from the administration.
VALENCIA: But then we meet Ana Rivera. She got to the hospital days before the hurricane and tells me it might have been the best place to ride out the storm
Food came on time, they've been treating you well.
What was the feeling and sentiment like among the employees during the hurricane?
All the team -- yes everyone working here and all hands on deck.
Impressive, considering what the last two weeks have delivered. More than a dozen evacuees from Hurricane Irma including a pregnant woman who gave birth six weeks early.
Some of those here look like they've been through war.
SALVE: People get very nervous and anxious. You know, I'm very nervous and anxious too because I had a lot of damage to my apartment. So it's part of what we go through when we have a hurricane, you know.
We're used to it. And at the same time, it's still very stressful.
VALENCIA: Little by little the hospital services are coming back on line. And while family members, some of them anyway, are worried about the well-being of the patients inside that hospital, no one died during the hurricane when it hit.
[00:15:00] Hospital officials tell CNN that they expect to be back at full capacity some time by early next week. And that is some good news here in an island that needs it -- John.
VAUSE: Nick -- thank you. Nick Valencia there, reporting live from San Juan.
Well, from Puerto Rico, we head to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They avoided a direct hit from Irma two weeks ago and so sent their water and other supplies and aid to St. John, an island which was badly affected by Irma. And then Maria roared ashore wiping out infrastructure, (inaudible) vegetation on St. Croix and now they are the ones who need the help.
Jon Rose joins me now by phone from St. Croix. His organization Waves for Water is working to get clean drinking water to those who need it most, and that is St. Croix, St. John -- so many islands in the Caribbean.
But Jon -- we now have a situation with the U.S. Virgin Islands that three of the major islands there have all been pretty much decimated by these hurricanes.
JON ROSE, WAVES FOR WATER (via telephone): Yes, they all have and it's crazy because, you know, just to put it into perspective, we go in after a disaster and we'll stage from an area nearby that still has calm and, you know, we can have a sort of secure staging area then plan our strike for the hard-hit areas. And now our staging area has been hit, obviously with St. Croix and we're thinking today well, where do you stage from down here right now? Every single island's been hit, every island. I mean really catastrophical (ph).
VAUSE: So let's just back this up. You arrived to St. John with the intention of helping those who have been so badly devastated by this hurricane, to help them get clean drinking water.
And then once you were doing that, along comes Maria and you hunker down and, you know, ride out this monster storm. Have you ever been through anything like that before?
ROSE: I have, yes. I mean you find yourself in these types of situations more and more when you do disaster relief work. But I've never been in a storm this powerful. And yes, I did come down in response to Irma. And as I said we staged out of St. Croix because they were relatively unscathed with Irma. And we're working on St. John, St. Thomas.
And you know, as I think you said leading up to my interview, you know one of the things we found out from here that they really, you know, they felt lucky with Irma and they said a lot of the authorities here and a lot of just the people here said, hey we've got to help our sister island out with Irma which was St. John and The island of St. Thomas.
And now they're in massive need and they don't have as many provisions or supplies as they would normally in their reserves. So it's a really, really tough predicament. And we're just down here trying to help people with access to clean to water. You know, they have a lot of needs.
We can't help all of them but we can definitely help with that one which we feel is a really important starting point. So we're just working all day every day.
VAUSE: It does seem to be a day to day, you know, proposition right now for many of these islands. But if you look at St. Croix, St. John -- is there an idea of where they start here or how they even start with this recovery.
You know, where do they begin? Is it with the debris? Do they try and get power back up? Do they need power to get the water pumps working? What do you think when you look around at the, you know, the damage to the infrastructure? Where do they start?
ROSE: It's massive. I mean the thing is the road to recovery is always with organization and collaboration. So those are the two pillars in my opinion. And that's exactly what it takes to recover.
So you've got people that are focusing on a certain missing piece of infrastructure. You've got, you know, different organizations that are collaborating together to serve different needs. And you know, there's massive infrastructural things that are going to be many, many months. I mean it could be six months to a year. I'm not a specialist when it comes to power but that's just what I've been hearing. So it could be six months to a year. You've got to figure, this is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It used to be, if I'm not mistaken, the capital of the Virgin Islands a long time. Now, it's St. Thomas.
But it's kind of situated below the other ones and you've got to figure Puerto Rico is their lifeline. Puerto Rico is like their artery to all the Virgin Islands. Well, Puerto Rico just got slammed too.
So whatever happens Puerto Rico is going to happen second here. And it's just -- I mean, you know, there's a lot of collaboration that needs to happen and a lot of people that needs to -- specialists need to come in and they need a lot of extra man power, I mean. You know, just need to work 24/7.
It will be a long road.
[00:20:01] VAUSE: It just does seem to be such an immense challenge ahead with so many moving parts, so difficult to comprehend exactly what needs to be done. What needs to be done first to get all of this back on the road to recovery? Clearly there are many, many months before anything like normalcy returns.
But Jon -- thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for what you're doing there on the U.S. Virgin Islands as well.
Isha -- back to you in Los Angeles.
One more point about the situations with St. John -- St. Croix, rather -- is that the governor has now ordered an ongoing 24-hour curfew just to try and get the situation back under control because there have been these reports of looting and essentially lawlessness because the situation on all those islands are so desperate.
SESAY: It is hard to imagine what people are going through, the fear and the uncertainty.
John -- we'll check back in with you shortly. Thank you so much.
Let's pause here for a quick break.
Just ahead, North Korea's Kim Jong-Un vows to make Donald Trump pay dearly for threatening to destroy North Korea. Now there are hints about what the regime may have in mind.
Stay with us.
SESAY: Hello -- everyone.
North Korea's foreign minister is now hinting Pyongyang may set off a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean as retaliation for the latest threat from the U.S. President. Two days ago, you may remember Donald Trump vowed before the U.N. General Assembly to totally destroy North Korea if the U.S. is forced to defend itself or its allies. On Thursday, the American president followed up with harsh new sanctions. These sanctions sure to further infuriate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
On Thursday Kim responded to Mr. Trump's fiery rhetoric at the U.N. saying the U.S. President would quote, "pay dearly". According to North Korean state media Kim said, "After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He's unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country and he's surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire rather than a politician."
Well, let's get the latest. Let's bring in Paula Hancocks who's in Seoul, South Korea. So Paula, we're now getting more reaction to President Trump's U.N. remark.
Obviously we know that Kim Jong-Un has been talking of a response. Now the North Korean foreign minister saying that they may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean. What reaction are you getting? How is this going over where you are?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha -- I think the one thing that most people are focusing on at the moment is the fact that this was a very direct message from the North Korean leader Kim Jong- Un to the U.S. President Donald Trump. It was a direct message. It was almost leader to leader, the fact you have that image from North Korean state-run media with him looking into the camera.
[00:25:02] That would suggest that there may be some footage that we could expect a little later on, and a very -- a first person narrative. This is, as far as a I can remember and experts that I've spoken to -- the first time we heard Kim Jong-Un speaking in the first person or at least being quoted this way.
So it is a very interesting development that there now seems to be this direct message from the North Korean leader. And he calls the U.S. president mentally deranged. He said that could be the highest level of hard line countermeasure in history.
But he also had a far more calm message for the U.S. president saying I'd like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.
Now this is unusually calm, unusually almost sensible from the North Korean leader. But responding to that threat to totally destroy North Korea from the U.S. President if he or his allies were under threat.
So really a very interesting development at this point -- Isha.
SESAY: Yes, indeed. Paula -- just quickly and should North Korea take the step of testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean as hinted at by the foreign minister to make clear. I mean how would that impact this situation, this crisis involving Pyongyang and the U.S.?
HANCOCKS: Well, there's no doubt that would escalate it significantly. Would the U.S. consider shooting that kind of missile down? It's just not clear at this point whether or not it would be a detonation over the Pacific Ocean.
There are clearly many risks to deal with that with North Korea. Warn those in the region, warn ships, warn aircraft in the region that this was about to happen. It's very problematic and certainly that part of it is of a concern.
But the foreign minister wouldn't have said it unless it has been prearranged, unless it had been choreographed with the management back in North Korea. Certainly Ri Yong-Ho has been a diplomat for some time. He would not have spoken out of turn. So that message had certainly been cleared by Pyongyang.
SESAY: Paula Hancocks in Seoul, South Korea -- we thank you.
Let's bring in Michael here. Michael Genovese -- he's a political analyst and president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. Michael -- I've got to get your reaction to this. And again, this is a dramatic escalation just in terms of rhetoric.
MICHAEL GENOVESE, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY: Well, the rhetoric has been hot and heated for a while but this takes it to a new level. And you've got to remember that Kim Jong-Un is unstable. He's immature. He's volatile. He's a spoiled child.
The problem is he also baits our President who responds in kind by name-calling as well. And so at a time when you need to decrease the temperature rhetoric is raising it.
Maybe you need a third party to intervene. Maybe you need someone else to separate the two sides. But something has to pull us both back from the brink because the rhetoric is getting much more heated and much more dangerous.
SESAY: Michael -- sadly we must leave it here but I know you're with us next hour to keep this conversation going. So I thank you for the insight and reaction there. Do stay with us.
We're going to take a very quick break here.
The race to save a young girl buried alive by the Mexico earthquake has ended. Why authorities now say there may not have been a girl trapped there after all.
[00:28:25] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:
My colleague, John Vause, is there in Mexico City, where he continues to follow search and rescue efforts.
John, back to you.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you know, Isha, 24 hours ago, the story here, it was focused on this elementary school, part of which had collapsed and this little girl, her name was Frida (ph), she's either 9 or 12 years old.
And there was this massive rescue effort underway to try and reach this little girl and she'd become the symbol of Mexico's resilience in the face of this disaster, if you were following on social media, it was playing itself out on national television as well.
But then today came the very bad news that there was no little girl there, there was no Frida (ph). There was no Frida (ph) registered at the school. There are no parents there who were missing a daughter called Frida (ph) and the authorities have now said that all the students at that one elementary school have been accounted for.
So how did this story get so wrong?
Journalist Ioan Grillo (ph) joins me now.
And Ioan, we were talking about this, this time yesterday, and it is so disappointing for so many people to find out that this little girl just never existed.
So where did the confusion come from?
IOAN GRILLO (PH), JOURNALIST: When you have an earthquake of this magnitude, the city in complete chaos and they're around the sites like this school, that there were various different groups, including the Marines, civil protection, the fire brigade and then hundreds of civilian volunteers, then you have family members and neighbors, children themselves talking to a lot of different information being passed around and a very difficult, disorienting task for rescue workers of trying to communicate with people through rubble, trying to pass tubes to talk to people.
So I think a lot of information was kind of put together on things. You know, there were various children trapped under this; some saved, some passed away. There could possibly still be a woman trapped under, we don't know because there still hasn't been completely cleared.
So I think it was more misinformation about a lot of the elements and people putting together kind of (INAUDIBLE) into one girl when there really are many tragic stories like that which were playing out in the school.
VAUSE: So many wanted this story to be true. They wanted it so much but now that it just hasn't turned out to be the case, what's been the impact?
We've always felt the air being sucked out, of all of the people around the search site today.
And it has had sort of a real negative impact, if you like, or it's sort of battered the people here in an already bad situation.
GRILLO (PH): Yes, sure; people are very weary. Some of the rescue workers and many people have slept a handful of hours over the last 2- 3 days. Some of the information was coming from rescue volunteers, saying this is -- we've got this information and it passed around and then that being passed to the media --
GRILLO (PH): -- and so forth.
So there have been a lot of hopes up and coming down. But overall, the story has been the story of this Mexico City earthquake. It's the story (INAUDIBLE) in the long term is the story of thousands and thousands of people coming out and making enormous human effort to save lives.
There's another building just at the corner from where I am now, an apartment block with five floors that weared down (ph). That has been completely cleared now, completely cleared in less than 48 hours, an amazing feat.
How many tons of rubble were cleared away there?
And all that building, seven people were saved. If there had not been for this human effort and (INAUDIBLE) after all authorities working with civilians, you know, there probably would not be those seven people alive today.
So I think we've really got to look at that (INAUDIBLE) big story and a lot of this confusing things happens around misinformation, (INAUDIBLE) rumor going around, which I think is not true, people say though soldiers are going in with heavy machinery, hitting places where people are still alive and (INAUDIBLE) not true, this, where there's concrete blocks are left, they go in with heavy machinery.
But these things are going around and (INAUDIBLE) people are tired and things move around on social media as well.
VAUSE: Right. OK, we're going to leave it there. But as much as she was a symbol of hope, this story is now, for some, become a symbol of government deception but we'll see how it all plays out in the coming days. But clearly a moment of disappoints for so many.
We'll take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue to track the path of Hurricane Maria. A live report from Puerto Rico, where the storm has left millions to cope with debris, floods and no electricity.
(MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: OK. Let's go to Derek Van Dam now. He is live in Puerto Rico with the very latest on where Hurricane Maria is right now.
And, Derek, if you look at the storm surge that Maria caused and the flooding it caused in Puerto Rico, that seems to be an ominous indication of what the people on the Turks and Caicos could be in for.
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Without a doubt the only thing they have going for them in this dire situation is that the center of the storm, where we find the strongest winds, the strongest impacts of any hurricane, let alone major Hurricane Maria, is that it's going to be about 80 km east of the islands.
VAUSE: Hurricane Maria's first target in the Caribbean was the island of Dominica, killing at least 15 people and devastating that island. CNN's Michael Holmes is there.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We flew over Dominica yesterday and got a sense of the scale of the destruction on this once beautiful, lush, tropical rain forest island. But it wasn't until we got on the ground today a couple of hours ago that we started to get a sense of the utter devastation that has taken place.
This is an area back here called Fond Cole. It's a middle-class suburb and it has been, just every house there's has been hit. There's a little cafe here, Jacan First (ph), they call it, popular, just gone. And I don't we can see up back there, there was a little community up there. Those houses, they're just pieces of wood now.
The devastation is just absolutely incredible. We've seen people walking around, a woman here.
How are you doing?
Hi, how are you?
You're still smiling. I'm impressed with that.
It's just mind-boggling. I've been to a lot of disasters. I've been in a lot of war zones. This looks like among the worst I've ever seen. One of the ironies here for Dominica, the people are so caring and loving, they had aid: food, medical supplies, containers full that they had pre-positioned in case of a disaster.
After Irma came through, they shipped that out to other islands, like St. Martin, like Tortola, that were hit by Irma. So they have nothing now. They have nothing. They sent their electrical engineers, their linesmen, out to help other islands. They can't get back at the moment. And they have no power here. They have no running water. Aid has not yet started to come in. They are desperate.
They have absolutely nothing here at the moment. Over here, a lot of bridges are out as well. That's making getting around difficult. We spoke to the prime minister a little while ago. He's still trying to get a handle on what has happened to this community. All these -- this is an island that's got a lot of little villages around the place. They haven't gotten to some of them yet.
There are a lot of people missing; the death toll is over a dozen but that's really just the start. There are dozens more who are missing. It really just defies belief, the scale of the destruction.
One of the other things -- and this has been said before on other islands that have been hit -- the foliage, the trees has -- there's nothing green here. This was a rain forest island. They were starting a tourism industry based on the rain forest ecotourism. You can't see the rain forest anymore. They've gone. It's an agriculture-based economy: bananas, cane sugar, citrus fruits. Those are all gone.
And the prime minister said that industry is now dead. That was this country's income. It really is just mind-boggling to see what has happened here.
VAUSE: Michael Holmes there with that report. And if you would like to help those affected by Hurricane Maria, please go to cnn.com/impact and find out charities which we have vetted to make sure the right people get the money and the viewer donations and whatever you can help, whatever you can do to assist.
Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, live in Mexico City.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT." And then we're back with another hour of news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.