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Death Toll Climbs To Nine In Condo Collapse, 150 Unaccounted For; Interview With Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL); Engineer Warned Of Major Structural Damage At Florida Condo Complex In 2018. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired June 27, 2021 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, thank you so much Carolyn Manno for that report.


All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta joined by Wolf Blitzer in Surfside, Florida at the scene of that deadly building collapse. Wolf, I'll throw to you in a moment.

But first, let me begin with what we know right now. There is a desperate search for survivors and now, some of the family members of those victims are visiting the debris site. The families boarding buses today to visit what's left of the Champlain Towers South. It is a deeply emotional moment the first time some of them have been able to see the site up close.

And all of this as the death toll continues to climb, now at nine total victims. Officials now say they have recovered four additional bodies overnight and more human remains. Four victims have now been identified, but dozens more are still missing four days after that collapse.


CHIEF ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE DEPARTMENT: Our rescue teams are nonstop doing all that we can searching every area, every bit of hope to see if we can find a live victim.


WHITFIELD: And this has become an international rescue effort. Teams from Israel and Mexico arriving to assist crews who are working tirelessly sifting through mountains of rubble. They dug a massive trench overnight to aid in the search. One official describing what they are finding as horrific.

But there are growing questions about why this building suddenly collapsed. CNN has learned that the condo association was warned in 2018 that repairs on the building could cost more than $9 million. Some roofing repairs had just recently begun.

Governor Ron DeSantis saying debris is being moved into a warehouse for forensic analysis.

We have team coverage on the ground in Surfside, Florida tracking all of the latest developments.

Wolf, let's go to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And there are significant developments, Fred, unfolding right now. I want to bring in CNN's Ryan Young. Ryan has got new information for us.

We understand the families are getting ready to move. Tell us about that.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. When we joined you last hour, we had two buses that had just pulled off at that point and we were waiting to make sure that there was some confirmation about who was in the buses.

But as we watched it, we did see several family members that we've met over the last few days who are loading onto this bus. Now, this has been a long conversation about taking these families closer to the site so they could see the work that's being done for themselves. If you look at this video, you can see families loading onto the bus, they wanted to make sure that we were across the street as they got the families ready to be loaded and taken to the site.

Look, we've been talking with family members for the last few days and Wolf, as you know, sometimes it's not even about being a reporter. You're talking to these families, they are upset, they are trying to figure out exactly what they can do next. A lot of them were begging to get to this site. They wanted to use their own hands to lift some of this concrete to see if they can make a difference. That obviously is not going to happen.

But this was the moment that a lot of them have been waiting for, the chance to at least see what the rescue efforts that have been going on for days down there. And let's talk about that, you're thinking about all of these people who have been working around the clock to try to save someone, but these families really today got punched in the stomach when they heard the new information about some of the bodies that were recovered from here. That's not the news they wanted to hear.

They're holding on to hope that someone is found in the course of today, they're getting that chance. They had an escort by the police department over to the site. We're not going to be sure how long they're going to be over there. But obviously with two busloads of people, they may take their time, a little while over there.

Now, I want to also show you this other video, Wolf, it's been tremendously hard to stand across the street and watch some of these families react to what's been going on. We saw this from just a few minutes ago, people hugging and sort of talking about the next steps. And we actually met a woman yesterday who was holding out hope as well that her ex-husband will be found and we know that she actually got some bad news today about his whereabouts. So, when you think about all of this together, and you see the

families getting a chance to finally go over there, maybe that provides some sort of solace, not peace, because obviously there is a lot of hope still here in terms of maybe one of these rescue teams will be able to find someone below the rubble. But I can tell you, it's been very difficult here today. The emotion is obviously starting to spill out because people are desperate for their family members -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So desperate, you've spoken to several of them, I have as well, and it is heartbreaking to hear what they are going through. Ryan, standby.

CNN's Brian Todd, not very far away from where you are. I understand, Brian, you actually saw the buses moving towards the scene of the of the search and rescue operation where you are.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we actually saw the buses moving in the opposite direction, what you and Ryan were just talking about, and what we learned from local officials earlier was that family members had been brought to the site for a very private look at the rescue effort.


TODD: The two busloads of people under police escort just passed us going northbound on Collins Avenue, that's away from the site. The site is just over my right shoulder here, you can see the beige building kind of down the block here to my right, to your left, and they just passed us going the opposite direction, Wolf.

So, I believe that visit has already taken place, and we'll try to get more information as to what they were able to see and what they were told by officials when they were able to look at the site.

Of course now, we do know from local officials and the news conference given earlier today, at least nine people confirmed dead, 156 remain unaccounted for. Again, Miami-Dade Fire officials saying there is no timeline right now for when they're going to move from a search and rescue effort to a search and recovery effort.

But Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava did talk earlier about that trench that they've cut, which one official described as horrific, but she gave some of the dimensions of that trench and what they're trying to accomplish by digging it. Take a listen.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We're cutting a deep trench to assist us, it's now 125 feet in length into the pile. It is 20 feet wide and 40 feet deep.

Now, this trench is very critical to the continuation of the search and rescue process. We we've continued all night to build that trench, and as a result of that, we were able to recover four additional bodies in the rubble, as well as additional human remains. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: So, you get the sense that the more they dig this trench and maybe the bigger the trench gets, the longer, the wider, the deeper this trench gets, that we may be seeing some more numbers coming out of this in the not too distant future.

And, you know, again, some horrible detail that we're getting from the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky who spoke to our colleague, Rosa Flores a short time ago. He described that trench as quote, "horrific," and some bad news. And you always look for kind of some of this detail when you're covering a story like this.

He said they're not finding the voids in the rubble that they had hoped to find. That doesn't mean they won't find them in the future. But for now, they are not finding the voids in the rubble that they hope to find. And that's so crucial when you're looking for people who may still be alive down there.

They have air pockets, they have places that they could conceivably move around, where they could make noise, and they are not finding those voids. So, that is not a piece of good news from the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Chief.

Again, we can confirm nine deaths. Four of them have been identified. The Army Corps of Engineers is now on site and assisting as well as the Israeli National Rescue Unit.

Now, you and Fredricka, Wolf, mentioned that this is now an international effort with Mexican and Israeli teams. We've talked to Israeli officials. They were eager to get their work started. They arrived on site today, so they are at work there now as well.

And we were told by local officials that as many as 200 rescuers at a time are coming through this rubble. So, you've got a lot of people and they've got to really monitor that carefully as they work through this rubble. A lot of people just trying working tirelessly and exhaustively and under very dangerous conditions to try to find people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: These are heroes, these men and women who are involved in this search and rescue operation. Brian, thanks for that reporting.

The NFL's Miami Dolphins are pitching in to help supply food and drinks to those in need right now. With me here is Miami Dolphins running back, South Florida native, Jordan Scarlett.

Jordan, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks for everything you and your teammates are doing. Tell us why you guys decided to get directly involved in all of this.

JORDAN SCARLETT, MIAMI DOLPHINS RUNNING BACK: You know, it just really was just a tragedy we've seen in our community and we always try to give back and help the best way we can. And the other day, Jaylen Waddle then Jerome Baker came out here and delivered some water and supplies and, you know, whatever the family needs. So, we always are here to help whether it's financially for the

community because the families are going to need love and support. They're the ones who have lost it and the ones who are injured as well.

BLITZER: It's so heartbreaking. You grew up in this area, right?

SCARLETT: Yes, definitely. Fort Lauderdale is pretty close.

BLITZER: Yes, Fort Lauderdale, right up the street.


BLITZER: You know, here in Miami -- North Miami Beach, and then all of a sudden you get off to Hollywood and you get to Fort Lauderdale, and you're right there. I mean, and there's so many of these condominium buildings that are similar to what's going on. Have you had a chance, by the way, Jordan, to speak to any of the family members who are searching for their loved ones?

SCARLETT: I haven't had a chance to speak to any of them, but I've heard a few people who know some friends who are on the other side of the building so -- and they were okay, and they explained what went down, but I'm sure they knew some people in there and are sad and hopefully they're okay in the hospital and get healthy.

BLITZER: Yes, and the whole area and, you know, the area obviously, you grew up here -- well. I know the area. I have family members who have lived here for a long time. It's so painful when you see with these moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, they're worried about, you know, and they're hoping -- holding out hope for loved ones. How do you feel about that?

SCARLETT: I just feel like you know, it's just something you have to rely on God's hand if you're a believer in God and, you know, just have faith that He will take care of you and like I said, whoever is around these other loved ones and family members, you see them going through it. If you're a friend or even another family member, just be strong for them, because it's a tough time. You know, everybody has problems. So ...


BLITZER: I really love that, I'm a sports fan. I don't know if you know that, but actually, I'm a Buffalo Bills fan, sorry. You're probably not too happy to hear that.


BLITZER: But I grew up in Buffalo, New York. But every time that Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins, any of the teams get involved in these humanitarian efforts, it's so important because you guys have a lot of influence out there, especially with young people and it is enormous responsibility, you can really help.

SCARLETT: Yes, I hope this opens the eyes of the younger community to see that tragedies like this need help and need attention, even if you can't give it to them financially, just to go and give them love, like I said, so hopefully, this opens the eyes for the youth that you know, you should be able to reach out to your community whenever they need your help, and just try to give back whatever way you can.

BLITZER: Your teammates are with you? Are you getting some support?

SCARLETT: Yes, for sure. They have our back a hundred percent. And, you know, they have open hands to help with anyone.

BLITZER: And the ownership and management?

SCARLETT: Yes, as well. Everybody is a hundred percent behind all of us and all of us helping the community and making sure everybody in this tragedy is, you know, still in a better place.

BLITZER: You have any advice for our viewers who are out there who want to help, what they should be doing?

SCARLETT: If you can, you know, use the power of social media to help and you know, there is a lot of people probably reaching out for help through social media. So, it's probably GoFundMe and stuff like that. So find them. Search them up if you can to help the families that are in this situation.

BLITZER: And we are grateful to you, Jordan.

SCARLETT: All right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Thanks to the Miami Dolphins, not a team I love, but thanks. But you've got to get to --

SCARLETT: Yes, we are going out there this year.

BLITZER: All right, good luck.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Our CNN's Randi Kaye is joining us right now. Randi, I understand you're standing over at a Jewish Community Center where a special service that just began. Tell her tell our viewers what you're hearing from people there.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, there, Wolf. We are at the Shul of Bal Harbour. And yes, there's a prayer service underway for the community.

And we're actually joined here by the Minister of Diaspora Affairs for the State of Israel, Nachman Shai, and you have brought this delegation of 10 people you say, from Israel, at the request of the new Israeli Prime Minister to help work on that pile of rubble and hopefully find survivors. Why was it important for you to bring this team and I know you're heading into this service, which is why you're here with us. NACHMAN SHAI, MINISTER OF DIASPORA AFFAIRS FOR THE STATE OF ISRAEL:

Because we all feel the same, like you Americans -- grief, pain, and sorrow. And we would like to express our solidarity with the American people, the Shul of Florida and State of Florida, and of course, the local Jewish community. It's our duty.

You've done so much for Israel, it's time for us to reciprocate.

KAYE: I know it was very important to the Jewish community here to have a team from Israel. What do you want to say to the Jewish community and the community as a whole about what you can offer to them?

SHAI: What we can offer them, our comfort, condolences, love, and tell them you're not alone. We, in Israel, and you in the United States are one people sharing the same destiny, and if something like that happens here, we feel in our -- deep in our hearts the same thing.

And that's why we come here and I think I'm the only government Minister who came. I think we are the only delegation or team -- rescue team who came from abroad. More are waiting for us to tell them, come and help. Many Israelis, scores of organizations are ready to come and help.

KAYE: And can you do -- can your team do things that the team from Miami-Dade County cannot?

SHAI: First of all, I'll be modest. I mean, I'm sure you know what to do. But sometimes based on our experience of similar events, or similar disasters, in Israel and out of Israel, maybe we know something you don't know, a bit of information.

So our team, which is the best experienced team that I can imagine, the best Israelis are here to share their experience and knowledge with you, Americans, and they'll stay here as long as you need them.

KAYE: And this synagogue, this Shul here behind us that you're going to inside for this prayer service, they believe that maybe as many as 20 people from their synagogue could be missing.

SHAI: More than -- more than 20.

KAYE: You went to the pile of rubble today, what was that like for you?

SHAI: I have no words. You know, I felt like I was so -- I was I was seeing the tragedy by my own eyes. It's a big pile. Some people working up on the top of it. I see no -- nothing happening. And I myself was very upset.

I said, will they ever find something? But my team, the rescue team from Israel said, we never lose hope. I mean, in general, and in particular, we'll start searching. We'll do our best and maybe as it did happen in the past, after over hundred -- 110 hours years ago, they found someone under the -- underneath.

KAYE: After a hundred hours.

SHAI: Hundred ten, so maybe this miracle will happen again here in Florida.

KAYE: And are you also talking to the families and advising them?


SHAI: Yes, I met the families. They are very upset, some of them blame the government, the local government of not doing enough, which is I would say typical. They are sitting up there, talking to each other, briefed once in a while. We have been doing the same in Israel in similar situations. I felt so sorry. I mean, I always cry for them.

KAYE: Of course. Of course. Thank you, Nachman Shai, Minister of Diaspora Affairs for the State of Israel. Thank you very much.

SHAI: Thank you.

KAYE: And thank you for being here and helping in the rescue efforts.

SHAI: Thank you very much.

KAYE: Wolf, such an important thing for this group to be here for the Jewish community, as you know, here in this area. Back to you.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a really, really important moment because everybody needs some hope right now. It's so dangerous and so difficult and everybody is hoping for the best and let's pray that it does -- that it does develop.

Randi, thank you very, very much and thank Nachman Shai for us once again as well.

Coming up from -- we're live here in Florida. We're going to speak live with Congressman Carlos Gimenez about the rescue effort, plus new video of the families after they visited the condo collapse site.

Much more of our special coverage coming up when we come back.



BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Surfside, Florida. I want to quickly bring in CNN's Ryan Young. I understand, Ryan, the families, the loved ones have actually gone to the site of the collapse. What's the latest? What's the information you're getting?

YOUNG: Wolf, they are now back to the hotel. If you look over my shoulder here, you can see those two large buses that have been brought back from that site. Something that you and I have been talking about is if people at home cannot understand the scale, of the size of this disaster, and a lot of family members wanted to see it for themselves. When you look at the Miami-Dade rescue video, you can see just how

terrible it looks at that site, but you still don't get a chance to see the sides. We saw the family members walking back up into the hotel after this tour, apparently, that they got. And on top of that, you can see the sort of great deference that's being paid to them by the public officials here, making sure they got inside safely.

You can see some people talking to them. They did have chaplains here on scene as well. Some folks a little emotional as they were walking up the way, but no one really stopping on the outside.

Now, we know for a fact that family members have been talking to us for the last few days, Wolf. They've been walking over to us, giving us some of the details about the briefings they've been receiving. This was sort of the briefing that they really wanted now, to get closer to the site to see the actual work that was going on.

You have other residents who are coming to this area, also trying to provide support to the families that are on the inside here. But this has been an extremely emotional day, especially with the earlier announcements that's been made. But even in that last time that you had with, Pamela, you could hear a sign of hope there because now with these new teams on the ground, they really do believe there's a concerted effort that's going on between all the teams.

In the 24 hours, they're hoping something happens. Everyone is hoping for that miracle. They're hoping for their loved one to be the miracle that's below the rubble. So far, we haven't gotten any of that good news, as obviously, all of us are holding on for this, Wolf.

As you talk to people, they want this to continue to be covered because they want to hear more information about what's being done to save their loved ones. At this point, they really want to have answers, not only about what happened to their family members, but exactly what happened to get us to this point.

But Wolf, again in the last 20 minutes or so, those family members arriving back here to the scene of the hotel, where they are going to wait for more information, and possibly another briefing from officials -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll stand by for that. And once -- if there is another briefing, and we suspect there will be, we'll have of course, live coverage here on CNN.

Ryan, thank you very much.

Right now, I want to bring in someone who clearly knows this area of Florida very, very well. Congressman Carlos Gimenez was once the Mayor and Fire Chief of Miami-Dade County. He now represents Florida's 26th congressional district.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. I know you have been fully briefed on the situation here in Surfside. What do you think about the search and rescue efforts that are underway right now? REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): Well, look, I've got to take my hat off to

the -- all the -- all of those firefighters and rescuers, not only from Miami-Dade, but from around the country and also from Israel and Mexico. I want to thank them for coming to our community and trying -- and helping us in this really trying time.

Look, one of the things that was stated by your previous reporter, you know, people don't really -- can't really get a grasp of the size and how big and how wide this area can be. I remember when I was at the 9/11 site 10 days after and television images, camera shots, they don't they it justice to the scale of this.

And so, I'm sure the same holds true for this particular site. The rescue workers are doing the best they can to go as quickly as they can, but you know when you have a collapse such as this, they have to be very, very careful because every time they move a piece of concrete, they have to try to figure out what moving that piece is going to do to the rest of the pile.

And then they have to shore all that up because they don't want to make it any more unsafe than what it is right now. So, they're working under extremely difficult conditions. These are, you know, some of the best in the world. Miami-Dade is home to two Urban Search and Rescue teams that are F.E.M.A. Urban Search and Rescue teams. I created one when I was the Fire Chief of the City of Miami, just so that we can be there if something like this ever happened in our community, and unfortunately it has.

And so you know, we have some of the best capabilities in the world right there in Miami-Dade.


BLITZER: Yes. And I can confirm and I can certainly certify what you just said. It's one thing to see the images on television. It's heartbreaking. And it's awful to see it on television, see the video and see the film. It's another thing to see it in person, up close. It is so heart wrenching.

And as you pointed out, you're a former Fire Chief. You have a lot of experience in dealing with these challenges. What are some of the greatest challenges that the crews -- and I consider them heroes -- are experiencing as they search, and they desperately search, as you know, Congressman, for survivors?

GIMENEZ: Well, look, they have fires probably caused by the gasoline from the cars that were parked underneath in that parking structure. So, they had fire, they had smoke. They have the constant threat of the rest of us or parts of that complex are not very stable, and so they have that constant threat.

They have the threat of, you know, moving something, and then something unexpectedly moving on them, which would be another slab and injuring them. And so these firefighters, these rescue workers are under constant threat from the environment, and also the collapse itself, and then imminent danger from the other building that is next to it.

And so, again, you know, they have to be very deliberate. They have to keep an eye on that. You know, the building that's right next to it, that appears to have been damaged also, and then fire and smoke. And so they've got a tough job, and they're doing the best they can.

Believe me, they are doing the best they can. They want to get through this. They want to find as quickly as possible, if by some miracle, there are other survivors in there, they want to get to them as quickly as possible, and they're doing the best job that they can.

And by the way, they know what they're doing.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly do. As you know, our Congressman, and it's certainly understandable, a lot of the families -- I've spoken to some members, they're upset with the methodical nature of this search and rescue process. What do you say to those people who say this isn't moving fast enough?

GIMENEZ: Look, it's tough. You have a family member, you want to know what happened to your family member. You know that, you know, you need to get through them as quickly as possible, if there's any hope and I certainly understand that.

But by the same token, we don't want any more casualties here, and these rescue workers are working as quickly as they can. I know for them, it is just, hey, why don't you just start taking this stuff off? It's not that simple. Because as soon as you start moving and taking pieces off of the pile, then other pieces shift, and that, in turn might actually put in jeopardy anybody who has actually survived this collapse.

And so it's difficult for people that, you know, really don't understand, you know, the process, they don't understand the risks. They are emotionally involved, and I certainly understand. My heart goes out to them. But again, these rescue workers are working as quickly as they can, as safely as they can, to see if they, by some miracle can find additional survivors.

BLITZER: And one thing before I let you go, Congressman, that's been impressive, is how, in a bitterly divided Washington, a politically divided Washington, everyone right now is getting together working as hard as they possibly can to help the local community here deal with this.

The Democrats or Republicans, the Biden administration, Republican lawmakers, including yourself, everyone is working together. Have you had any problems at all trying to encourage the administration, F.E.M.A., others to get involved and to help out?

GIMENEZ: Well, the great thing about America is, in these times, we're all Americans, and we forget our party affiliation. And it's just about saving Americans and saving lives. And when it comes to that, we're all Americans. And we're all together, we're unified.

We know what we have to do as a nation, as a city, as a county, as a state, as a nation, all the things that we have to do to try to save anyone that's there, and then give comfort to those relatives and family members of those that have tragically passed away.

And so again, that's one of the reasons why I love this country so much. We come together in these times, and I'm glad that we have.

But you know what, there was never a doubt in my mind that we would.

BLITZER: Yes, well said. I hope we could get together on a lot of other issues as well. I know, Congressman, you're going to be here with us tomorrow, and we look forward to seeing you. I know you're going to be fully briefed once you get here.

Congressman Carlos Gimenez, thank you so much for joining us.

GIMENEZ: Thank you, Wolf. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And still ahead, there's more news we're following, newly released e- mails from 2018 show that the building that collapsed here in Surfside needed more than $9 million worth of repairs. I'll speak live with a forensic engineer about that and much more.

Our special live coverage continues right after this.



WHITFIELD: All right, we continue our coverage. The Federal government has sent a team of scientists and engineers to Surfside, Florida to investigate the collapse of that condo building. We now know that engineers raised major concerns about the building back in 2018.

A field survey warned of major structural damage. Those repairs were estimated to cost upwards of $9 million.


WHITFIELD: Asher Cohen is a forensic engineer who has investigated structural failures to buildings in the South Florida area extensively. Asher, so good to see you. So, what is your reaction to that 2018 report stating major structural damage to concrete slabs into the pool deck to name a few. And also it mentioned, abundant cracking and spalling.

And then what do you make of the condominium waiting almost three years before even starting repairs, at least to the roof?

ASHER COHEN, FORENSIC ENGINEER: Right, yes, good afternoon. And you know, obviously, first of all, can't go without saying, you know, this is a tragedy, our heart goes out to all the people involved.

We obviously focus now on rescue efforts, right? But when we talk about forensic engineering, we talk about the forensic process. It's a very rigorous process. You know, at this time, what we're going to do, and you know, we've heard it, the Federal government is there right now. We're going to be uncovering the physical evidence, that's likely the most important thing right now that we have to look at.

This is physical evidence, I believe, there's a staging site. They're going to go ahead and take all of that material, piece by piece to the site, reconstruct and try to find out where those issues that were raised.

WHITFIELD: And I wonder if you can tell me how that is done, because the Governor did say that there would be trucks, you know, that would be going to a warehouse carrying the debris, which is now forensic evidence, and then trying to restructure it. How will they go about doing this with this 12-storey building that has been reduced to rubble?

COHEN: That's the importance of patience here, right? Because it's an extremely complicated process (AUDIO ISSUES) materials they have, not only that, you know, obviously, we're going to be interviewing property owners. There is going to be countless discussions with building management talking about, as you said, the reports that have been produced not only that report, but think about any other report that was produced for any of the individual condominium units.

The totality of the evidence, including the building plans, the design. I am certain that the design calculations will be checked and checked again. So, all of that process will be conducted in a very methodical and rigorous process. And it will be very challenging, as you say. You'd probably think how could you piece back together all these various pieces?

Extremely challenging process, rest assured. They will take as much time as they need to uncover whatever it is they may believe were contributing factors, and any factors right now are being considered including corrosion, material deficiencies, design deficiencies, any type of maintenance related activities, and anything really else that could have been a contributing factor.

So again, I know we want answers. I've said this before. We all do want answers. But you're going to have to be patient in this process, because as you know, we're talking about a tremendous amount of evidence that we're going to have to dig through.

WHITFIELD: That's right. And while trying to explore the what, you know, the why, the how, also being assessed just who bears responsibility. I mean, if there is this report, and if the condominium association had it, and then reportedly, it was filed with the city. There were a lot of eyeballs on that report, and then how soon after would work be expected to begin after it has made clear that this report says that there is extensive damage, and it specifies according to all of the reporting that we've seen, the report specifies areas of compromise of the building?

COHEN: Absolutely. And again, I stress that it doesn't go unnoticed that this report exists. Obviously, everyone is going to be dissecting that report. That is one piece of evidence. But, you know, as some of my fellow colleagues have said in recent

interviews, what we saw in that report, at least what I've seen, and again, I can't say that I've digested the entirety of the report and all the other documentation that Surfside released as far as public records, but what we've seen so far as spalling and you may or may not know, this is an issue that occurs and that has affected many, many, many buildings close to buildings, not only in Miami, but all along the Florida Coast.

WHITFIELD: Particularly because of the sea air?

COHEN: I'm sorry?

WHITFIELD: Particularly because of the sea air or the salt air?

COHEN: Yes, just you have -- obviously, you're in a marine environment. And so, that is obviously the influence of this, you know, salt laden air, sea spray and just repeated moisture intrusion through various avenues. You know, minor cracks that are normally not an issue, we call them shrinkage cracks and other type of cracking in structures allow pathways for moisture intrusion.

Concrete in itself is a porous material which will allow moisture to enter into a structure, but it doesn't necessarily explain the catastrophic nature of this failure.

I can echo what a fellow engineer had said is that right now we're extremely, extremely puzzled as to what led to what we are calling an extremely unique and unprecedented failure in engineering.

Us, forensic engineers, and us in the entire engineering community wants answers, and rest assured we're all going to do the best we can with the information as it gets released to digest that. There will be countless investigations. I'm sure there will be several firms, U.S. Forensic I know will be looking into it and other firms as well.


COHEN: Right now, again, what we have is only at this point what we can -- you know, what they've published and obviously what they will slowly release to us as it comes out.

WHITFIELD: Well, we certainly appreciate your expertise. Engineer Asher Cohen, thank you so much.

COHEN: Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Also happening right now, a historic heat wave is baking the northwest of this country. More than 20 million people are under heat advisories in the Western United States.

In Portland, Oregon, they just had their hottest day ever, and on the East Coast, well, some 40 million people are under a heat advisory there. Meteorologist Tom Sater is in the CNN Weather Center. So, how much more of this heat will penetrate what appears to be both sides of the United States? TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it looks like for the Pacific

Northwest, Fredricka, we're least looking at this to hang around until this area of high pressure breaks down. It means yesterday's record like the 108 in Portland will be broken today, which will be shattered tomorrow and maybe even into Tuesday.

High pressure causes the air to sink, so it compresses and heats up. We've got another 300 records we're going to set in the next couple of days and into the week. That's on top of the nearly 6,000 we broke this month between the 10th and the 19th of June, not just daily highs, but monthly highs, all-time record highs.

In fact, you can see the numbers right now. Yakima is already 100 degrees, 94 in Seattle.

Yesterday, however, Fredricka, this is amazing, because the majority of the people in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest do not have air conditioning, or even an attic fan to circulate there, temperatures inside homes were up to 125 and 130 degrees. It's an oven. That's why it's so dangerous. Historic.

Look at the numbers. These are some of the records, but more importantly, the years that they were set, all in the last decade or two. That's climate change. We're going to have a lot of 2021s by this in the next couple of days.

Portland 108, yesterday, as you mentioned. How about 112 today, maybe 114 or 115 tomorrow? It's staggering. It really is.

In fact, if even look at Seattle, their average high is 73. That's wonderful. That was their morning low. That broke an all-time record for the warmest low temperature they've ever had.

Up in Canada, across the border, a place called Furnace Creek broke the country's all time hottest June temperature as well.

So, they're talking about snow melting in an exceeding the fashion on Mount Rainier. Winds are coming over the Cascades and they're compressing, too. So, it's just a terrible situation. Every element that goes against, you know, your health and for you know, heat illnesses is against us right now.

You can see where the numbers are, triple digits in the next several days. In fact, we're looking at temperatures. The warning signals from border to border, and as you did mention on the East Coast as well, we are looking at a good 40 million that includes excessive heat warnings and advisories for Boston, New York, and Philly.

But right now, I'll end with this. Washington and Oregon right now are hotter than 99.8 percent of the entire globe.

WHITFIELD: Oh my god.

SATER: You've got to go to Sub Saharan Africa and even over to the Persian Gulf states.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that is extraordinary.

SATER: That is terrible.

WHITFIELD: Furnace Creek, you mentioned. Boy the name could never be more fitting than now.

SATER: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: All right, Tom Sater, appreciate it.

All right, happening right now, search dogs are combing through the rubble of the collapsed condo building. Up next, we'll go inside their intense training program with a member of the Search Dog Foundation and his dog, Rocket. There they are.



BLITZER: I am Wolf Blitzer live here in Surfside, Florida. Search and rescue teams continue to work on a trench cut through the rubble. The trench, 125 feet long, 20 feet wide and 40 feet deep, playing a key role in this very, very delicate process over at the Champlain Towers South.

Our search dogs, specially-trained K-9s who are deployed to help in the aftermath of things like earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, mudslides, and building collapses.

I'm joined now by Mike Stornetta with the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. With him is his dog, Rocket.

Mike, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all you and Rocket and other search dogs are doing.

We know search dogs, Mike, are being used here in Surfside. Walk us through what dogs and their handlers do in a mission, a very delicate mission like this.

MIKE STORNETTA, ROCKET'S HANDLER, NATIONAL DISASTER SEARCH DOG FOUNDATION: Yes, thanks for having us, Wolf. And first and foremost, on behalf of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, our hearts go out to the victims and their families. These K-9s obviously do play a very pivotal role in searching for victims.

Basically, these K-9s are conditioned to believe that all of those victims out there have the reward for them and that's what we do in training. So, they're conditioned to hit on the breath or the exhalation of victims. Then they penetrate down and then they give us a bark alert when they actually make contact with that, when they've done that -- when they make that detection.

BLITZER: I know you and Rocket have been deployed to a number of emergencies over the years including out in California mudslides, hurricanes. Why use dogs specifically? I understand in those situations, but in this situation as well. STORNETTA: So, with all the technology that we have, the K-9s are

still by far the fastest resource that we have to find victims that are concealed. They have an incredible sense of smell, as we all know. And if their sight was as good as their smell, they'd be able to see from California to New York clearly just to put in perspective.


STORNETTA: So, they can cover a large area. They can go places where we can't. They're not going to compromise the rubble pile, like we would, because they're a lot lighter, they're a lot more agile and they are just quick, and that's really the biggest reason why we want to use them.

BLITZER: I know the Search Dog Foundation has a 125-acre training facility out in California, where you are. How are dogs like Rocket prepared for this mission?

STORNETTA: Well, at the Search Dog Foundation, they have a plethora of trainers that are there, support staff. They're open to all to use our K-9 handlers throughout the country. And they support us every step of the way. So, not only K-9, but also a handler.

So they have mock search scenarios that are set up from building searches to rubble collapse to green waste areas. So, we're able to go there, hone in our training as a team and make sure that we are ready to go when this call kind of comes in.

BLITZER: I keep hearing from officials and authorities here in Surfside, Mike, that this is a very dangerous search and rescue mission that's underway behind me. Specifically, what are the risks for dogs and their handlers?

STORNETTA: Yes, so before we search any type of a problem, basically what we do is we have a go, no-go checklist, right? So, we want to know, if the utilities -- gas and electric -- are secured. We want to make sure that that area that we're searching is structurally secured, that nothing is going to hurt us.

We want to make sure that there's no hazardous materials or fire or smoke that's going to inundate our K-9s or us, and so once those types of issues are mitigated, then we can send our K-9s in and search for those victims.

BLITZER: Mike Stornetta, thanks for what you and Rocket are doing. And it's so, so incredibly important as I can personally testify. Appreciate it very, very much.

STORNETTA: Thanks for having us, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you and our coverage from here in Surfside, Florida will continue in just a moment.


[15:56:44] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Jackie Collins told every story,

but her own, and tonight a new CNN film explores the life of the 1980's icon who cultivated a Hollywood and literary empire.

Alisyn Camerota takes a look at what made Collins the ultimate lady boss.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An hour from now, CNN will carry live Soviet leader Gorbachev's address to the Soviet Union. But first author, Jackie Collins --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not in the mood for blackmail, intrigue --

If she wanted the bitch dead, she was going to have to do it herself.

CAMEROTA (voice over): And lots of steamy sex.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fast, pure exciting lust took over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's hard stuff you write?

JACKIE COLLINS, AUTHOR: Well, I like to entertain people. Let's put it that way.

CAMEROTA (voice over): Jackie Collins, author of 32 novels, more than half a billion copies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we all learned sex from you.

COLLINS: I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about that?

COLLINS: I write good sex, that's why.

CAMEROTA (voice over): A self-styled brand of feminism filled her stories, strong and sexually empowered women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Girls can do anything," that was her motto.

CAMEROTA (voice over): The books drew from reality as Collins hobnobbed in Hollywood.

COLLINS: I saw plenty, but I'm not naming any names. But you will be reading about it.

CAMEROTA (voice over): Her Hollywood life started in the shadow of her older sister, Joan.

JOAN COLLINS, JACKIE COLLINS' SISTER: There was always an extra man hanging around and she loved it.

CAMEROTA (voice over): But Jackie's own foray into acting fizzled.


COLLINS: Would you like a drink?

CAMEROTA (voice over): A first marriage to an abusive and drug addicted man ended in divorce and his suicide.

TRACY LERMAN, JACKIE COLLINS' DAUGHTER: This was the defining point, I guess in her life, to moving her on, I think to protecting herself, and how did she do that? She created a world for herself of wonderful characters who wouldn't let her down.

CAMEROTA (voice over): She found happiness with her second husband for more than two decades before he died of cancer. Several years later, her fiancee succumbed to a brain tumor.

COLLINS: Everybody looks at me and they think oh, she has this marvelous life, but I also lost two men through terminal illnesses.

CAMEROTA (voice over): Through it all, Jackie kept writing.

COLLINS: I'm going to do "Lady Boss," which is the third book about Lucky who lives her life with all the freedom and style that men have always managed to live theirs with.

CAMEROTA (voice over): When Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer, she kept working, hiding it from everyone.

RORY GREEN, JACKIE COLLINS' DAUGHTER: She'd had a lump and we don't know, she says two years. I don't know if it was longer than that or not. But she just hadn't -- you know, she just -- she thought that she could defy it.

CAMEROTA (voice over): Jackie Collins lived life on her own terms, a trait familiar to her readers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But there lies the difference. Lucky said, I'm not everybody else.

CAMEROTA (voice over): An unapologetic lady boss.

Alisyn Camerota, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: "Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story." Premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield, thank you so much for being with me today and my colleague Wolf Blitzer in Florida.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Jim Acosta.