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Growing Anger over Georgia's New Election Law; Biden Administration Braces for Surge of Young Migrants; U.S. Sets Daily Record for Vaccines Administered; Myanmar Security Forces Kill at Least 114 Civilians Saturday; Demonstrators Speaking Out at "Stop Asian Hate" Rallies; Chinese Adoptions on Hold during COVID-19; Gridlock Growing with Massive Ship Blocking Suez Canal; U.S. South Braces for More Storms; Qantas Flies Passengers to Surprise Destination. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 28, 2021 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States. I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, rallying for voting rights, the fight for democracy playing out at Georgia's state capital.

The bloodiest day in Myanmar since the military coup, international condemnation but where's the will to stop it?

And it's the logjam being felt around the world. How the clogged-up Suez Canal is hammering the global economy.


HOLMES: Our top story this hour, growing anger in Georgia over a sweeping new election law, critics calling it unfair and racist. Protesters gathered in downtown Atlanta to vent their outrage at the Republican backed measure.

Activists say it targets African American voters. It poses stricter identify case requirements and also gives local officials control over state elections. It also makes giving food or drink to people standing in line to vote a crime. U.S. President Joe Biden has called the law an atrocity and says the Justice Department is looking into it.


GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: The president decided he didn't like the outcome of that election and started that lie. And because of that, millions of Republicans around the country now question the safety of the system and the counting of their own vote.

This bill does nothing to suppress anybody's vote but it does a few things to help people feel better about the election process. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Georgia's governor defending the law, saying it ensures election integrity but a coalition of civil rights groups has already filed suit. Natasha Chen with more on the outcry.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: About 150 people gathered outside of Atlanta city hall here on Saturday to protest this Georgia voter bill and also to stand with Georgia representative Park Cannon. She was arrested when she was knocking on the door of the governor's office to try and witness him signing this bill.

And, of course, he did that behind closed doors. He was depicted signing the bill standing next white men. Also in the room was a painting that seemingly shows a plantation.

I talked to one voter who said that she first didn't think much of it but upon a closer look she found that that was the very plantation where her family had worked. Such an emotional moment for some of these people, minority groups taking a look at this moment and feeling that this directly impacts them.

I also spoke with someone who was at the capital when Park Cannon was arrested. Here is how she described that moment.

She was not disruptive. So to have that incident happen right in front of me and for it to end with her being taken away, it was horrific to watch, as a Black woman, to watch her taken into the elevator and watch as the doors closed, it was triggering. It was frightening. I felt her pain, I felt her terror.

CHEN: I spoke to another voter here who described her experience voting in the Georgia primary in June of 2020. She said that she waited for hours in line, past dinnertime, to the point where a local pizza delivery company had delivered some food soda and pizza so that they could still eat and wait in line to vote.

She said, of course, the way that the law was written and passed now, that would be illegal -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.


HOLMES: The crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border will get worse. That's what officials are telling us. And these images seem to support that view.

Thousands of migrants, including children are stuck in a precarious limbo. The Biden administration could need more than 34,000 more beds to keep up with the influx.


HOLMES: Politicians are down at the border weighing in, as politicians do. Senator Ted Cruz one of the latest Republican lawmakers to tweet video from inside a south Texas facility. It appears to show children crammed into a room wrapped in Mylar blankets.


REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): These groups of Republican senators that came down yesterday, where were they during the Trump administration when children were being ripped from mothers' arms and caged and families were being divided?

Did they all of a sudden have a softened heart to come down here and look at it?


HOLMES: The White House is under increasing pressure to address the crisis at the border and let reporters see the reality on the ground.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Biden administration is bracing for an uptick in the number of migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border in the coming months. They're predicting they could need 34,000 more beds in these shelters.

Many children are going through the border processing facilities, which are only meant to hold them 72 hours. They are in conditions not meant to house children long-term.

As of the end of this week, there were about 5,500 unaccompanied minors. There are not enough beds and shelter space in HHS.

So what you have seen from the administration is they are trying to build up the number of shelter sites and also the beds so they can process these children more quickly and get them into suitable positions.

In recent days you have seen Republicans and Democratic lawmakers take a look at these facilities. One Republican senator posted a video from Donna, Texas, where they are holding both families and children.

So far the media has not been allowed in, only showed the shelters. President Biden has acknowledged that the circumstances and conditions in these facilities do need to be improved. But this is one of the major challenges facing the administration in the coming months -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, traveling with the president in Wilmington, Delaware.


HOLMES: Virginia police are investigating an officer-involved shooting of a Black man late on Friday night. Authorities have not identified the officer who fired the shot that killed 25-year-old Donovan Lynch. There are reports that Lynch may have been unarmed but the chief of police disputes that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have seen some of the community concerns about Mr. Donovan or Mr. Lynch being unarmed. I can tell you that there was a firearm recovered in the vicinity of where this incident occurred.

We would like to be more forthcoming but, unfortunately, we don't have body cam footage of this incident. The officer was wearing a body cam. But for unknown reasons at this point in time it was not activated.


HOLMES: The officer is on administrative leave during the investigation. The incident was one of three shootings Friday night. The gunfire killed two people and injured eight others.


HOLMES: Turning our attention to the ongoing battle against coronavirus, here in the U.S., more than 50 million people are now fully vaccinated according to the CDC. Despite this, there are worrying signs around the world.

Plus, a member of the COVID response team under Donald Trump now says hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved simply with better messaging.


EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than a year into the pandemic, a former Trump administration official revealed in a blockbuster interview with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, airing Sunday night, that she believes many of the deaths in the United States could've been prevented through different policy decisions.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I look at it this way, the first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): To look back at the past year comes on the heels of some relatively good news. The total number of vaccine doses in the U.S., on Friday, reaching a new daily record, according to the White House.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): And more vaccine doses are coming.

Next week, Johnson & Johnson expected to deliver at least 11 million doses of its single shot vaccine across the country. More supply means more Americans will have access. And analysis by CNN shows only two states have yet to say when they will make doses available to everyone eligible under FDA guidance.

The other 48 have already made or are planning to make the vaccine available to everyone older than the age of 16 in a matter of weeks.

But experts say this is not the time for Americans to let their guards down, especially as warmer weather and spring holidays may lead to larger gatherings. And more contagious virus variants are still spreading. Over 100 cases of COVID 19 in Nebraska were traced to a child care facility, many with the variant first identified in the U.K.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We have 2.5 million vaccinations per day. That is fantastic but I also think restrictions are being lifted so quickly, including mask mandates. People are getting very tired and, at the same time, we also have these more contagious variants that are circulating.

But we can help people manage their risk and then try to reduce that risk as much as possible. That means encouraging vaccination, continuing to wear masks and, ideally, messaging that, masks and vaccinations are our way out of this pandemic.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): It's a very different story outside of the U.S. Brazil is struggling to get doses of the vaccine and reported its highest single day death toll from COVID-19 on Friday.

The president of France, admitting the European Union reacted less quickly than the U.S. when it came to the initial vaccine rollout.

While it sorts out its vaccine problems, the E.U. is struggling to reopen. In France, increasing cases in schools, leading to new classroom closures. In Germany, imposing new quarantine and testing rules on visitors from France, a country it now labels a high risk COVID-19 area -- Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Spain also rolling out new measures as France struggles to get its outbreak under control. Starting Wednesday, all travelers arriving from France over 6 will have to show a negative PCR test taken in the last 72 hours. It will also apply to people driving over the border.

In Brazil the coronavirus continues its spiral. Brazil reporting more than 3,000 people lost their lives in one day. With more than 310,000 deaths all together, Brazil has the second highest coronavirus death toll in the world after the United States, of course.

Quick break. When we come back Myanmar's military is killing more of its own people. Human rights experts say the time for idle talk is over.




(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: The world is looking on Myanmar with horror the day after

security forces reportedly killed 114 unarmed civilians. It's by far the bloodiest day of military violence since the coup last month.

Groups fear the real death toll is probably much higher. This happened on the day Myanmar's top general promised to, quote, "protect civilians and uphold democracy." But instead, according to local news reports, security forces killed people in 44 towns across the country.

And they did not just target protesters; there were children among the dead. One victim, a 13-year-old girl reportedly gunned down in her own home. Myanmar's U.N. envoy calls it a massacre and is asking for real international action.

The defense chiefs of the U.S., U.K., Canada and several other nations releasing a rare joint statement, condemning the Myanmar military.

Here's one example of how brutal the violence is. A warning, it is graphic.


HOLMES: You see three men on a motorcycle there. Shots ring out. Two of the men run off. One man is wounded and put in the back of a truck. We don't know if that man is alive or dead.


HOLMES: Kristie Lu Stout joining me from Hong Kong.

The bloodiest day yet, what's been the reaction?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Amnesty International is accusing the military in Myanmar of, quote, "killing its way out of a crisis," international condemnation is growing, the bloodiest day since the coup in Myanmar on February 1st.

According to Myanmar Now, an independent media group inside the country, at least 114 people have been killed across the country, including children.

A 5-year-old boy was killed in Mandalay, a 13-year-old girl was killed inside her home in Mandalay. We have seen footage of a 1-year-old baby shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.

U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken said he was horrified by the violence. We heard from the U.S. secretary general, Antonio Guterres, who says he is deeply shocked. The foreign secretary of the U.K. has also called it a new low.

There was a joint statement issued by the defense chiefs of the United States and 11 other nations, in which they condemned military sponsored violence in Myanmar.

"As chiefs of defense, we condemn the use of lethal force against unarmed people by the Myanmar armed forces and associated security services. A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting, not harming the people it serves.


STOUT: "We urge the Myanmar armed forces to seize violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions."

Among the 12 nations that signed on to the statement, India, noticeably absent. In recent days, we know that the U.S. and Europe have issued new sanctions against Myanmar, its military rulers as well as military owned conglomerates. But the military has friends, including Russia.

On Saturday armed forces day, Russia's deputy defense minister attended the military parade. We heard from the Myanmar chief calling Russia "a true friend."

HOLMES: Meanwhile, there are a number of armed ethnic factions in the country. I'm wondering if they're getting involved and how this has changed the dynamic of the crackdown on the protest movement itself.

STOUT: They are getting involved. Up to now the protests have large by been peaceful but we're seeing this armed resistance rising with the participation of armed ethnic factions.

Saturday Reuters reported that the Karin national union, this armed faction, targeted a military outpost on the border with Thailand. In response, there were airstrikes and an aid group reports three people were killed as a result of those airstrikes.

This is a dangerous new chapter in this ongoing crisis. The protest movement is evolving. We are seeing armed student groups, now armed ethnic factions involved. Guerilla tactics are in play. They have access to lethal weapons.

They are manufacturing their own weapons, like Molotov cocktails, and targeting security outposts and military outposts. The resistance is rising and they are responding with lethal force.

HOLMES: All right, Kristie Lu Stout there in Hong Kong for us, thanks.


HOLMES: Joining me now is Tom Andrews, U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar.

Good to see you, sir. I want to refer to a tweet that you put on Saturday.

You said, "The military celebrated armed forces day by committing mass murder against the people it should be defending. The civil disobedience movement is responding with powerful weapons of peace. It's past time for the world to respond in kind with and for the people of Myanmar."

It has been a horrific day for the people of Myanmar.

What do you mean by time for the world to respond?


TOM ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR: Michael, first of all, there are things within the capability of this world, this international community, that it has not taken. Let's start with the U.N. Security Council.

The U.N. Security Council was designed specifically for these kinds of crises. The Security Council should be meeting. It should be debating what is going on. Action should be put before it. And votes should be taken up or down. Votes should be taken.

The community of nations that care desperately about the people of Myanmar under siege right now can also work together to coordinate things like sanctions, there are dozens of sanctions regimes that are out there right now. We need to coordinate them into one coherent powerful whole.

And an emergency summit of these countries could gather together, establish this coordination and provide a unified front against this military junta.

Also accountability mechanisms could be put into place. The International Criminal Court could begin investigations and quickly begin pursuing charges against those responsible. So there are a number of things that can be done that should be done, that are not being done.

HOLMES: The U.S. embassy in Myanmar joined the European Union and the United Kingdom in condemning the killings as murders as well. But it is clear that such declarations and even the sanctions that have been levied so far are just not having a impact. You mentioned the U.N. Security Council, as toothless as ever, if Russia and China continue to stand by the generals, right?

ANDREWS: That's right. The fact is that we don't know where China and Russia would come down, if an actual vote was put before the Security Council. Everyone is assuming that they would veto it. They'd be against it.

But I think it is important that the Security Council have the opportunity to put back in front of itself, to have a full, open, honest debate and let countries decide where they stand when it comes to this brutality and vote up or down.

Then they can move forward for those countries that are willing to work together outside of the Security Council, if the Security Council is not willing to work as a Security Council, then there can be a coordinated effort to help those countries that are willing to stand behind their people.


HOLMES: You mentioned that there is a weight of video evidence that is being accumulated as this all unfolds. I did want to ask you though about the protesters. Their determination to continue is remarkable, given the deaths, given the detentions and in the face of warnings, as we saw this week from the military, pretty much literally saying we are going to kill you.

What does that say about the determination and the character of those people?

ANDREWS: It's truly, truly awe inspiring, Michael, nothing short of incredible. They're tenacious. They are courageous, they're creative. They are using everything that they can come up with, peacefully to confront this nightmare. They're not going back.

Listen, they've had a taste of what it is like to have freedom and to be able to express themselves, to not be censored. The young people that are leading this movement were told by their parents and grandparents just how horrible it is to live under a brutal military regime.

They don't want to go there. So they are in this for the long haul. They are not going to stop unless they prevail. And they deserve the international community to be standing with them.

HOLMES: Yes, certainly remarkable courage in the face of what they are facing. Tom Andrews, appreciate you, appreciate your work. Thank you.

ANDREWS: My pleasure, Michael. Thank you for having me.


HOLMES: Enough is enough. That's the rally cry from some who are fed up with violence against Asian Americans. Just ahead, details from a shocking letter full of racist insults sent to salons in California.

Also still to come, adopting children from China. How the coronavirus pandemic has forced American families into a state of limbo.





HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Hundreds turning out Saturday for a stop Asian hate rally in Los Angeles. More than a dozen local groups banding together for this event, all part of a growing wave of protests erupting across the nation after last week's Atlanta spa shootings. Eight people were gunned down, six of them Asian American. This week,

families of the victims held services to honor their loved one. The violence prompting some to speak out declaring, enough is enough. Paul Vercammen has more.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Korea Town, several hundred people rallied, stop Asian hate, they chanted on the streets of Korea Town. They sealed off Olympic Boulevard and we heard a lot of raw, pure emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had Asian, Vietnamese-owned salons throughout California receive this nasty letter, this is not OK. My mom and dad came here to give my sister and me a better life and right now it doesn't feel that way.

It's a tough time to be Asian. I want to read this.

"To all Asian, hey, you nasty, ugly, smelly, disgusting, pancake face, stir fry cockroach eaters, dog, cat eaters, toenail cleaners, raw monkey brain eaters, go home."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enough is enough. That's why we're here in Korea Town to unite with our Asian brothers and sisters to say, enough is enough. This shall not and will not be tolerated.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): My CNN colleague, Lisa Ling, CNN host and author, one of the points she drove home is Asian Americans are not told to jump up and down and make a lot of noise but she says now is the time for Asian Americans and others to speak out against this hate.

LISA LING, CNN HOST: We are part of this incredible tapestry with stories and histories from every corner of the globe. If one thread comes loose, we can all fall apart. So we have to protect each other.

VERCAMMEN: A tremendous crosscut of Asian Americans attended this rally. There was one man, who was wearing his traditional Indonesian garb. He says parts of his attire were taken from different sections of his country. He wanted to honor his roots.

And he like so many others here pounding home this point, the hate has got to stop. And now. Reporting from Korea Town in Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen, now back to you.


HOLMES: The coronavirus pandemic has changed life, as we know it, in ways many of us never saw coming. More than a year into the global crisis, Americans adopting children from China are stuck in limbo, waiting to travel there and bring home their newest family members. CNN's Poppy Harlow reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Welch family is full of energy. All five kids making the most of extra time at home this year. But the cheerful laughs belie a deep sadness. One person is missing, their seven-year- old adopted sister, Penelope, from China.

AIMEE WELCH, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: We were ready to go get her last spring. COVID-19 struck and travel was shut down. And now here we are a year later.

HARLOW: Aimee and Stephen Welch adopted Grace almost four years earlier, also from China.

HARLOW (on camera): Can you tell me about Penelope?


HARLOW (voice-over): Grace couldn't wait to share her room with Penelope.

A. WELCH: Every time I go into her room and just see her pink bed there that's -- no one has slept in. It's just a heartbreaking reality.

STEPHEN WELCH, ADOPTIVE FATHER: She knows we're coming. She draws pictures of our house and with mommy and daddy written on it.

HARLOW: The five other Welch children are still processing this past year without their expected new sister.

HARLOW (on camera): Are you so excited to meet Penelope?

G. WELCH: Yes. And some people are sick.

HARLOW: Some people are sick.

G. WELCH: Yes. And -- and we can't go on the plane.

HARLOW: Yes. Not yet.

ZACHARY WELCH, ADOPTIVE BROTHER: Missing out on that time with her has been disappointing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Made me sad. Sometimes I feel a little powerless.

HARLOW (voice-over): The Welches are just one of what the State Department says are some 400 American families whose adoptions of children in China were put on hold by COVID. And for some, that wait means devastating consequences.

A. WELCH: The China adoption program is a special needs adoption program and many families that we're in touch with whose children have deteriorating conditions or need urgent surgeries or therapies that they just can't get until they are home.

HARLOW: In February, the Welches received a letter from the Chinese government saying adoptions remain suspended due to COVID safety concerns.


HARLOW (voice-over): CNN requested a comment from the Chinese government adoption agency, the CCCWA, but did not receive a response. The U.S. State Department tells CNN they're committed to working with China to find a solution.

HARLOW (on camera): Are you worried that the clear public deterioration of U.S.-China relations will delay your ability to hug Penelope and bring her home?

A. WELCH: Whatever the differences are, this is uniting children with loving families is something that everyone is behind.

HARLOW (voice-over): In the meantime, the Welch family, separated by an ocean, are making the most of their time waiting. Penelope is taking English lessons.

PENELOPE: Sister. Sister.

HARLOW: While 10-year-old Caleb is learning Mandarin.


HARLOW: A family embracing each other's cultures as anti-Asian hate surges in the United States.

A. WELCH: We are committed to being a Chinese-American family.

S. WELCH: We're a trans-racial family.

HARLOW (on camera): Do you have any doubts, Stephen, that Penelope's coming at some point?

S. WELCH: I don't have any doubt.

HARLOW (voice-over): And once the wait is over, little Grace knows exactly how she'll get to her new big sister.

G. WELCH: A helicopter and a plane can get -- go over the water.

HARLOW (voice-over): Poppy Harlow, CNN, Basking Ridge, New Jersey.


HOLMES: That massive ship stuck in the Suez Canal could be dislodged sooner rather than later, fingers crossed, but it seems weather might not have caused the catastrophe after all. The latest when we come back.



(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: Gridlock is growing, thanks to that colossal cargo ship still

blocking the Suez Canal. The operation to free the Ever Given is daunting, of course. It has taken heavy tugboats, diggers, dredgers, to move massive amounts of mud.


HOLMES: So far more than 700,000 cubic feet of sand, also 9,000 tons of ballast water taken out as well. Meanwhile, more than 300 other ships forced to wait. CNN Business emerging markets editor John Defterios joins us from Abu Dhabi.

What's the latest as the economic impact grows?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Yes, it's already day six, Michael, of this stranded vessel. But I have to say, after a very slow start because of the shock initially not having the equipment there, you have to give an A for effort.

You talked about the amount of cubic meters and cubic feet moved so far; 20,000 was the target in terms of cubic meters, over 7,000 cubic feet. And they did hit the target, which is good.

Removing that ballast water removes that weight from the ship as well. We're finding out also that the propeller wasn't damaged, nor the stern as well. So this is all very good news.

And they've had a slight movement of the ship, some debate whether it was 30 meters of the 400 meter-plus vessel itself. But again, it's moving in the right direction. They had 14 tugs on the operation but the Dutch and the Japanese salvage operators said they're going to bring in two megatugs that should arrive today.

They're trying to take advantage of Mother Nature, which is very interesting. It's end of the month, it's the high tide Saturday evening and they missed that target. Now they have the opportunity Sunday and even spilling over to Monday. Give it another major push.

We did project it would be about 320 vessels stranded there. And that is the case. But again, the good news, if you think of the supply chain, over one-third of those can move quickly, i.e., within a week, according to the canal authorities, if they can get the clearance.

So Tuesday will mark one week exactly from the disaster itself and the operations here that are well underway.

We talk about $10 billion of value every day running through that canal, $400 million an hour. Volkswagen, for example, said, if it's solved this week, it won't break our supply chain. Kia said, some shortages of products but not an emergency. But we've got to get it done is the message.

HOLMES: I keep going back to how big this thing is, as long as the Empire State Building is tall. It's bigger than the biggest aircraft carrier. Think about that.

Was the canal ever designed for these super ships?

And might that issue be part of the postmortem once this is over?

DEFTERIOS: This is very interesting. It's a story we've covered here in the Middle East, is that President al Sisi in 2015, then rushed the project for a year, announced an $8 billion investment to expand the canal.

So they have doubled the capacity. It can handle almost 100 ships a day. So volume is not an issue. But the point at which the Ever Given went in is the narrowest point on the canal. For the first time, it's interesting; the canal authority was bold enough to say, yes, the sandstorm was severe, that they rushed the vessel in.

Or should they have waited?

Technical problems could have been appearing. We're hearing about oil pumps already. Then he raised the specter for the first time, human error, as well. Here's the chairman of the authority.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There could also be a human error, which is under investigation. There could be a lot of mistakes but we can't say what they are now.

The only mistake that we can be sure of now is the wind and the sandstorm. This is not the main one, like I said, but the rest will become clearer in the investigation.


DEFTERIOS: And the chairman said, let's focus on first things first; we've got to get this thing unhinged from that bank and get it moving again, then the investigations will proceed.

They're going to have voice recorders and everything else on what happened with the control tower and the pilots. It's an amazing feat. I've had the chance to see these huge ships in the past. You can't believe what the ultracarriers look like in person.

HOLMES: I can't get my head around it, bigger than the biggest aircraft carrier, think about that. Interesting on the investigation. I mean, if it was the weather, the owners could presumably claim act of God.

But if it was mechanical or negligence, how expensive could that be for the owners in terms of potential claims?

DEFTERIOS: That's too early in the game. In fact, I spoke to an attorney that handles shipping losses and their firm was hired by one of the parties in the investigation so they couldn't go into detail.

But to your point, they said, if it's an act of nature or act of God here, yes, that would provide some relief. I thought it was interesting that Evergreen Marine, the charter company, said it's the responsibility of the owner, which is a Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen. They acknowledge, yes, they're expecting claims right now.


DEFTERIOS: But it really determines if there's technical error, pilot error, captain error. This could carry on for months or years in terms of the claims. What they're trying to do is focus on the fact, get this unlocked.

And it's embedded into that canal right now, so to get the free flow of at least a third of the ships this week, that's the focus.

HOLMES: I can imagine the years of claims. And they've got to fix the canal, too. Put a big dent in it. John Defterios, I could talk to you about this for ages, I'm obsessed with this story.

DEFTERIOS: You and everybody else, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly.

We're going to take quick break. When we come back, a natural wonder of Iceland has erupted into a surprise tourist attraction. Still to come, the volcano that's awoken the local economy.

And another severe storm system targeting the southern U.S. We'll have the latest on the dangers overnight and beyond.




HOLMES: Now there is a new, dangerous round of storms moving through the U.S. South right now. This is the second time this week the region been hit with severe weather. Several states hit earlier by tornadoes, you'll remember, killed at least six people.


HOLMES: Now the new barrage of storms making even the cleanup all the more difficult. The National Weather Service issuing tornado watches for several states, from Texas to Tennessee. The storms are expected to continue to be a threat through Sunday.


HOLMES: Now tourists are flocking by the thousands to catch a view of that, an erupting volcano in Iceland that had been, up until recently, dormant for centuries. It's not anymore. Now officials have to patrol this geological wonder to make sure everyone keeps the festive mood at a safe distance.


HOLMES (voice-over): An eruption of tourists in Iceland's newest hot spot, a volcano, about 30 kilometers from the country's capital, blazed back to life over a week ago, drawing thousands of sightseers to a spectacular lava show.

Over the past weeks, thousands of small earthquakes roused the volcano after centuries of slumber, a reawakening that's attracted quite a following.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really nice to be here with a big crowd. It's, like, after 2020, it's kind of unreal, really, to be around so many people at one time.

HOLMES (voice-over): It's a hike to reach the volcano. Authorities set up a 3.5-kilometer trail over craggy terrain. The visitors are enthralled but, in some cases, in need of rescue because they didn't bring proper gear. Patrols have been set up to stop people from entering areas with high levels of toxic volcanic gases; not too much of a worry for this admirer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it feels so nice. it feels like a music festival here, to have so many people around, so I love it. I love how many people are here.

HOLMES (voice-over): Nature's bonfire with sideshows that are both silly and surreal. These scientists, cooking up an experiment, how to cook hotdogs on the molten ground.

For others, it's a chance to reconnect with nature and with each other. Experts say they aren't sure how long the volcano will remain active. It could be days. It could be decades before this red-hot wonder returns to sleep.


HOLMES: Now imagine being whisked away for a quick vacation but a surprise destination. Well, Qantas Airlines did just that for passengers on a mystery flight from Brisbane. Annie Pullar of CNN affiliate Nine News, with the details.


ANNIE PULLAR, NINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Local aboard QF- 1255, this is Qantas' first mystery flight since the 1990s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are arriving at the airport with a full itinerary.

PULLAR (voice-over): These passengers have no idea where they are going.


PULLAR: Where do you think you are off to today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Puma. Orange (ph).

PULLAR (voice-over): They have been given a few hints; country, hospitality; the great outdoors and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's wine, it's wine.

PULLAR (voice-over): -- taking off from Brisbane, passengers bound for an unknown destination in New South Wales, securing a spot on this plane starting at just over $700, selling in under --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifteen minutes, it's got to be some sort of record.

PULLAR: Now travel may look different in a number of ways but behind the novelty of this experience is an important message and that's to get more people on seats and in the air, flying to regional destinations hit hard by COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shortly we will be commencing the rest of our descent to the beautiful town of Orange.

PULLAR (voice-over): From the tarmac to the table, a boost for tourism. It's here in the regions help is needed most.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we are hoping this opportunity will bring for this region is really opening up the southeast Queensland market.

PULLAR (voice-over): Tourism bolsters (ph) in Queensland are calling for the favor to be retired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of destinations in Queensland that would lend themselves to this. We have a lot of mystery, a lot of excitement, a lot of great experiences.

PULLAR (voice-over): With borders open, Queenslanders are being encouraged to explore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We certainly hope that Easter will be beginning of a great winter season for all destinations in Queensland.

PULLAR (voice-over): As the aviation industry rebuilds from the carnage of COVID-19 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've lost staff. We have had people taking on second jobs.

PULLAR (voice-over): -- confidence in the domestic market is coming back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great sheets day (ph) and I think the attitude of people with the vaccine being, sort of, pushed around a little bit as well, people are starting to, yes, become more interested.

PULLAR (voice-over): Annie Pullar, Nine News.


HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes, thanks for spending part of your day with me. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @HolmesCNN. Robyn Curnow is going to be here in just a moment with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM.