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Myanmar Security Forces Kill at Least 114 Civilians Saturday; Growing Anger over Georgia's New Election Law; Birx: Most COVID-19 Deaths Were Preventable; Spain Restricting All Travelers from France; Biden Administration Braces for Surge of Young Migrants; U.S. South Braces for More Storms; Gridlock Growing with Massive Ship Blocking Suez Canal; Demonstrators Speaking Out at "Stop Asian Hate" Rallies. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 28, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Thank so much for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Ahead on CNN, experts say America's record vaccination rate doesn't mean it's time to relax. This as we are hearing that the COVID crisis did not have to be as bad as it has been.

Plus several states are under threat of severe weather again, including tornado watches, we're live with the CNN Weather Center.

As hundreds of cargo ships stack up, the bid to unclog a billion dollar blockage in the Suez Canal. We have that for you, too.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: As Myanmar's military kills more and more of its own people, the U.N. special rapporteur says words of condemnation ring hollow in the face of, quote, "mass murder."

That statement follows reports of at least under 114 civilians killed on Saturday. It was by far the bloodiest day yet since peaceful demonstrations erupted 2 months ago over the military coup.

Now we are hearing reports of an airstrike against an ethnic village near the Thai border, killing at least 3 people.

Myanmar's U.N. envoy, who represents the ousted government, is begging for real international action against the military crackdown. Kristie Lu Stout is covering this for us in Hong Kong.

Kristie, hi. Just talk us through what we're seeing. The death rate continues to tick up as protesters facing this assault, this violent assault, on their democratic freedoms.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: And the international outrage, the condemnation, is growing after a horrific day of terror in Myanmar, the bloodiest day since the protests began.

According to Myanmar Now, an independent media organization, at least 114 were killed across the country Saturday. The casualties include 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 video of a 1- year-old baby shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.

Local media recordings are reporting on the deaths of a father, a 40- year-old man, father of four, who was shot and burned alive by soldiers last night. The images of his smoldering remains are circulating online right now all over the world.

International condemnation has been swift. We heard from the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who said he was horrified by the violence. The U.N. secretary-general said he is deeply shocked by the violence of Saturday. The U.K. foreign secretary called the massacre on Saturday, quote, "a new low."

In a rare move there was also this, a statement, a joint statement that was released from the defense chiefs of the United States and 11 other nations, in which they condemn the military-sanctioned violence.

Quote, "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.

"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," unquote.

Both the U.S. and Europe, they have slapped new sanctions on the military, its leadership, as well as military-owned conglomerates. But the military junta has its friends, including Russia. Russia's deputy defense minister was attending the military parade Saturday. Myanmar's military leader called Russia a true friend.

CURNOW: Are Myanmar's armed ethnic factions getting involved here?

We've seen a number of reports.

How is this potentially changing the dynamic of this crackdown on the protest movement?

STOUT: Up to now, as you know, the protests have been largely peaceful. But now what we're seeing is this new armed resistance rising with the participation of these armed ethnic groups. The military has responded and retaliated with airstrikes. Aid groups today reporting three people have died as a result.

This presents a very challenging and deeply worrying new front in this ongoing crisis. The face of the protest movement is changing and now includes armed students and these armed ethnic factions.

Also guerilla tactics are at play. They have access to lethal weapons. They're manufacturing their own lethal weapons, like petrol bombs. They are targeting security and military outposts.


STOUT: As the military crackdown gets more violent, the resistance is rising and it is getting violent and responding in kind.

CURNOW: Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong, thank you for that.

The U.N. secretary-general released a statement condemning Saturday's bloodshed. Our Michael Holmes spoke with Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar. Take a listen to part of the interview.


TOM ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR: 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.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: 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.


CURNOW: That was Tom Andrews, U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, talking to us.

Growing anger in Georgia over a sweeping election law that places the state at the center of a national debate over voting rights. Protesters gathered to denounce the bill and the Republican governor.

Many see it as nothing more than an effort to suppress the Black vote after crucial wins for Democrats. It imposes new voter ID requirements for absentee ballots and limits the use of ballot drop boxes, among other things. President Biden says the intention of the law is clear.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: BIDEN: It's an atrocity. The idea -- if you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency, they passed a law saying you can't provide water for people standing in line while they are waiting to vote?

You don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting.


CURNOW: But Georgia's governor says it means better election security and expanded access to voting. Here's how he defends the law.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): I can, you know, truthfully, look in the camera and -- and ask my African American friends and others in Georgia to simply find out what is in the bill, versus just the blank statement of, this is Jim Crow. Or, you know, this is voter suppression. Or this is racist because it is not.


CURNOW: The coalition of civil rights groups has already taken court action. Natasha Chen has more on the outcry against this measure.


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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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,


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.


CURNOW: Police in Virginia Beach, Virginia, are investigating an officer-involved shooting of a Black man late on Friday night. Authorities have not identified the officer, who shot and killed 25- year-old Donovan Lynch. The police chief disputed reports that Lynch may have been unarmed at the time.


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.


CURNOW: The officer involved is now on administrative assignment during the investigation. Police say the incident is one of three unrelated shootings in Virginia Beach on Friday. A 29-year-old bystander was killed in one of those incidents. All in all, eight others were injured.

And coming up on CNN, a major admission by a top member of the Trump COVID task force. What Dr. Deborah Birx revealed to CNN and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Also in Europe, why Spain is imposing additional restrictions on travelers from France.





CURNOW: Over the past year you've heard a lot about coronavirus surges in the U.S. as deaths and infections spiraled out of control. The virus remains a threat but now the COVID numbers are surging in the right direction.

Vaccinations are spiking across the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control says more than 50 million people are fully vaccinated. That's not 15 percent of the population. More than 140 million doses have been administered. The U.S. set a daily vaccination record on Friday with more than 3 million shots.

But this comes amid a sobering admission by a top doctor on the Trump COVID task force. Evan McMorris-Santoro has more on what Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


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. 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.


CURNOW: As Evan reported, Germany is imposing new rules on visitors from France. Spain is also rolling out new measures as France struggles to keep its outbreak under control.

Starting Wednesday, all travelers arriving to Spain over the age of 6 from France will have to show a negative test, the gold standard of COVID tests, taken in the previous 72 hours. This was a radiant place for those traveling by plane or boat but will now also apply to people driving over the border with some exceptions.


CURNOW: Our senior national correspondent Jim Bittermann joins us from outside Paris.

Seems like France is becoming a bit of a pariah, at least for its neighbors. They're like, we're going to shut down those borders.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: I think all the European countries are struggling, with the exception perhaps of Great Britain, struggling with the coronavirus right now. France seems to be the worst-case scenario.

The French president said he's been thinking about what to do next. He said on Friday, he told a Sunday newspaper that came out this morning, that basically nothing has been decided just yet about the way forward. But one of the ways forward may be that idea of clamping down more

restrictions on schools. Right now, basically the schools have remained open. The French have wanted to keep them open at all costs.

One of the costs has been infection rates; 21,000 young people, school-aged young people, over the last week, have become infected with coronavirus. And as a consequence, that's one of the possibilities, is more restrictions on the schools.

France seems to be relying heavily on the idea of vaccinating more people. Right now it's only about 10 percent of the population that's been vaccinated. And the government said this week there will be 3 million more doses of vaccine coming in this week.

As a consequence, the government is expanding the places where people can go to get vaccines. Right now they can go to pharmacies and their local doctor. But they're going to expand it to include veterinarians and dentists who can give the shots. Up to now it's been a question of having enough vaccine to distribute.

CURNOW: Jim Bittermann outside Paris, thanks so much, stay safe.


CURNOW: CNN medical analyst Dr. Rodriguez joins me from Los Angeles.

Doctor, hi. It's quite surreal listening to our report because it seems there is such a contrast. Here in the U.S., vaccines being distributed at record speed. Life looks like it's going to be going back to normal or some sort of normal sooner rather than later.

And then, we have Europe. You heard Jim Bittermann there, talking about France and people there facing this massive wave. Why the discrepancy here?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the discrepancy is, A, the fact that Europe has not had the same velocity in distributing vaccines as the U.S. or other countries have had.

I think, we need to really put our -- wrap our head around the fact that, you know, this may never or, at least in the near future, not go to any degree of normalcy until the whole world is vaccinated. And the whole world needs to be doing that, at the same time.

So we're going to have what's been stated many times, sort of a whack a mole type of treating this. It's going to flare up in one place or another. Even the United States. And I think there is a fallacy going around that just because we are going to get vaccinated, everything here is going to be OK.

There is a whole other world that comes to the U.S. and we go there. And until everybody is at the same level playing field, we are going to have these -- these uptakes throughout the world.

CURNOW: And a lot of this, also, might have to do with various variants. We are hearing of a strong resurgence of COVID in Canada, as well, connected to variants. I mean, some are saying this could lead to a third wave there, that's worse than the first two.

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely. They are saying that. I think that they've found the variants in all 10 provinces of Canada. And even though, overall, the absolute number of the cases they have is still small, in comparison to the U.S., it definitely is on the uptake.

Now one thing that I always want to drive home is the fact that variants happen when people get infected. The virus cannot replicate by itself, in the air. It has to get into a human being.

So even though, for example, a young person may think, oh, nothing's going to happen to me, you know, I'm -- I'm going to get over this in no time, well, what's probably happening is they may be creating a variant that they are then going to spread and is going to become a dominant, dangerous variant.

So everybody has to not get infected. So yes, the variants are everywhere. And some states in the U.S., it's up to 40 percent or more, of -- of the infections that are happening. So we are at a race, against the variant, with vaccinations.

And don't think that's the only thing. We still have to wear a mask, wash our hands and have, you know, sort of, logical distance between people.

CURNOW: Here, in Georgia and many other places across the U.S., you can get a vaccine, if you are 16 and older.

How much longer will it be, until younger children, 12-year olds, 13- year olds, 14-year olds, will get the vaccine?

Because that will really make an impact, won't it, on -- on school life?

RODRIGUEZ: It will make an impact on everything. A lot of scientists think that we're never going to reach herd immunity until we start vaccinating younger people. I think Dr. Fauci stated that he thinks, in the fall, teenagers are going to be able to get vaccinated.


RODRIGUEZ: Pfizer has now started rolling out a study on much younger humans, even toddlers, of the age of 6 and 7, to see what dose is right for them. It's estimated that, in the early part of 2022, children will be able to be vaccinated.

But we want to make sure that it's safe. And parents should not fear this because, even though children are not dying at the same rate, they are still getting some very long-term complications from the COVID virus. So end of this year, for most teenagers; early next year, for younger children.

CURNOW: OK. That's good to know if you live in the U.S.

I just want to go back to the issue of variants and you talked about, sort of, unchecked infections creating, essentially, a Petri dish within our bodies to create these new variants. Let's look at Brazil.

How dangerous is what's happening in Brazil, for -- for global health?

RODRIGUEZ: It's -- it's very dangerous.


RODRIGUEZ: Brazil is probably the most dangerous area, right now, in the world. They are out of control with -- with their amount of COVID. And they've had some remote areas, in the Amazon, that they thought people had reached, perhaps, herd immunity because 70 percent of the population, in these remote areas, had gotten infected.

And unfortunately, they got reinfected, because of variants. So listen. We are in one, big village and we call it Earth. As long as there is one area that, still, is out of control and on fire, we are all in danger, which is we're not just about getting the U.S. vaccinated.

After we do this or maybe while we do this, a lot of the first-world countries really need to step up and -- and help places, like Africa and certain places of South America and underdeveloped countries because it's for, not only their good but for everyone's good, that people get vaccinated.

CURNOW: Dr. Rodriguez, always good to speak to you, get your opinion. Thanks so much, have a wonderful weekend.

RODRIGUEZ: Likewise.


CURNOW: Just ahead on CNN, the ruthless crackdown in Myanmar spares no one, not even children. Soldiers broke into one family's home and killed a young girl in her father's arms.

Plus thousands flee as insurgents launch a brutal attack in Mozambique. The chilling details we're learning about a town under siege.





CURNOW: It's 30 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow live from Atlanta.

Myanmar's civilian population has suffered its deadliest day yet at the hands of its own military with at least 114 reported killed on Saturday. The world is reacting with growing horror and condemnation. In a joint statement, the military leaders of a dozen countries,

including the U.S., Canada and the U.K., condemned Myanmar's military as a betrayal of their role as protectors.

Now we're hearing reports of an airstrike against an ethnic village near the Thai border, killing at least three people. Adding to the tragedy are the growing number of children killed in this crackdown. Paula Hancocks brings us one family's heartbreaking story of soldiers entering their home and killing a young girl in her dad's arms.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More and more children have been caught up in the violence in Myanmar, falling afoul of the military's bloody crackdown on protesters calling for democracy.

The military still maintains it uses minimal force when needed. But this week saw its youngest fatality yet.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Kim was 6 years old, shot dead by Myanmar security forces as she was in her father's arms. Laid to rest Wednesday, her father relives the moment she died. The family has asked us to hide their identities for fear of retribution from the military.

He says, "They entered the house by breaking the doors down, which we had blocked with bicycles. They asked, 'Is anyone else in the house?' and fired a gunshot while saying, 'Don't lie to us, old man.' They shot her as she leaned toward my chest. I ran, carrying her, I could not look at them."

He took her to the local emergency clinic but the doctor said it was too late. We are hiding his identity, as he fears repercussions from the military.

"The oldest I've seen killed so far is 58 years old," he tells me, "the youngest until now was 13. They're now shooting randomly in neighborhoods. It's not even safe at home behind a locked door."

The family tells us they had difficulty burying Kim, according to the Muslim tradition of cleaning her body and burying her as soon as possible, as they dared not tell anyone in case the military tried to take her body. It's a fear we've heard from several doctors and bereaved families.

"When we got to the cemetery," her sister says, "a few people were there so we had to hide her body. We had to wait until they were gone and only when no one was around could we bury her."

The family's now in hiding, saying they heard police are waiting at their home. The older brother was also arrested. They fear for his safety. The military has not responded to our requests for comment.

"Why did they have to shoot her dead?" her sister asks.

"What sin had she committed? "What sin have we committed?

"What can a child do?"

Kim's death has come as a shock even in the midst of a relentless stream of deaths and arrests in Myanmar.

MARC RUBIN, REGIONAL EMERGENCY ADVISER, UNICEF: The youngest child to have been killed, shot and killed in her own home as she was sitting on the lap of her father, which means there's no safe place anymore for children.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Kim is gone, her older brother arrested, her entire family too scared to go home. One family's tragedy in Myanmar that still has an uncertain ending.

HANCOCKS: UNICEF says almost 2 dozen children have been killed since the February 1st military coup and almost a dozen seriously injured. Their fear is this situation is simply going from bad to worse -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


CURNOW: We turn our attention now to the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Officials saying it is only getting worse. That's what they say. And these images support that view. Right now, thousands upon thousands of migrants, many of them children, are stuck in a precarious limbo.


CURNOW: At last count, the U.S. government has custody of more than 18,000 children. According to government records CNN obtained, the Biden administration could need more than 34,000 more beds to keep up with the influx.

Meanwhile, politicians are down at the border weighing in. Senator Ted Cruz is one of the latest Republican lawmakers to tweet video from inside a south Texas facility. It appears to show children crowded in a room wrapped in Mylar blankets. One Democratic representative says Cruz and others are playing politics.


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?


CURNOW: Dozen unaccounted for in Mozambique following an attack by Islamic insurgents. Rights group say thousands fled a northern town since Wednesday when it was stormed by attackers believed to be affiliated with the terror group ISIS.

This video was filmed on Thursday but heavy fighting continued into Saturday. Security forces have been trying to evacuate civilians and foreign workers in the area. More than 600,000 people in Mozambique have been displaced in fighting between the group and government forces, according to Human Rights Watch.

More than 1,500 civilians have died. In the last hour I spoke with the chairman of the Institute for Security Studies about the recent violence.


JAKKIE CILLIERS, INSTITUTE FOR SECURITY STUDIES: The rumors that this is going to happen have been circulating for a number of days.

And then, eventually, when it happened, the Mozambican security forces apparently resisted but then melted away. And it was left to a number of private military contractors, particularly a company called Dag Security Advisers, to try and respond.

And something like 185 foreigners were trapped in a hotel and then, tried to escape. Many were killed. So total confusion. But the absence of a response by the Mozambican security forces really is of a huge concern. There is a massive investment in -- in gas reserves in northern Mozambique, which will be at risk with all this violence.


CURNOW: Jakkie Cilliers, the chairman of the Institute for Security Studies joining me earlier.

Indonesian police believe an explosion on Sunday outside a church in the southern part of the country was a suicide bombing. They say 14 people were taken to the hospital with injuries, including a security guard, who tried to stop the two suspected bombers.

Both suspects have died. According to police, no other fatalities were reported. So far also, no claim of responsibility. Christians are celebrating Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week, the most important week of the year in the faith.

Coming up, more severe weather in parts of the southern U.S. Residents are scrambling to catch their breath after multiple tornadoes swept through the area just on Saturday.

Plus efforts to free that massive cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal intensify. What's being done to get it moving before more damage is done to the global supply chain.





CURNOW: To some residents in parts of the southern U.S. trying to catch their breath after tornadoes ripped through their homes but they may not have much of a chance.

Twin tornadoes left a trail of destruction in Tennessee on Saturday. Power lines, trees down as you can see. Now National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for Nashville, Tennessee and nearby cities and rescues are underway.


CURNOW: Recovery efforts in parts of Alabama are underway after the tough weather there. We know at least seven tornadoes hit the state two days ago, according to the National Weather Service, killing at least five people. Derek Van Dam reports on the destruction and a woman who is leaning on her faith to get through.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Violent tornadoes leaving a trail of devastation across the southern U.S. and leaving communities in shambles. In Birmingham, Alabama, roofs torn off of homes. Some others ripped from their foundation. And residents, like Dena Cook, left racing to protect precious memories.

DENA COOK, EAGLE POINT RESIDENT: Didn't even think, I couldn't think, I mean, I really couldn't think past that moment. I didn't think about what was gone, I just wanted to get all my pictures.

VAN DAM (voice-over): Others remembering precious lives lost.


KEVIN BOWERS, TORNADO VICTIM: It's terrible, man. Like -- to know my family was in this stuff -- like -- they're gone.

VAN DAM (voice-over): Shelby County search and rescue teams describe the damage as catastrophic with twisters indiscriminately destroying homes while leaving others untouched.

After the storms cleared, a short break for residents. The cleanup process has begun.

Unfortunately, this will be short-lived, for another round of severe weather possible this weekend across parts of the same region. Locals became volunteers helping those hardest hit by providing basic necessities to get through this natural disaster.

With all the heartache that has been witnessed here, a glimmer of hope as we approach the week of Easter. This cross and this purple scarf remaining virtually untouched as homes were destroyed around it.

After riding out the storm in her closet, Cook noticed and rearranged the scarf out of respect, a truly symbolic image for believers who observe Lent. Cook says she may have lost the roof over her head but she has not lost her faith.

COOK: My cross is still there because God was with all of these people and us.

VAN DAM (voice-over): I'm CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam, reporting in Birmingham.


CURNOW: We are now on day six of a very costly traffic jam on Egypt's Suez Canal. Renewed efforts to free the massive ship stuck since Tuesday have brought optimism but little progress.

And every hour that goes by represents the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the global economy. The ripple effect is staggering, hundreds of ships stalled waiting for teams to get the stranded ship moving again. Let's go to CNN's John Defterios.

Where are we now with this rescue operation?

Are the salvage operators trying to take advantage of Mother Nature here?

High tides are varying today, aren't they?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Yes, this is a critical window of opportunity. I don't mean to be cliche about it. But this is the second day of the high tides in this window between Saturday evening and Sunday evening, the one that shipping executives have told me, look, this is our greatest hope for it to happen.

They're feeling more optimistic because the dredging companies from the Netherlands and Japan have gotten ahead of schedule. They have 20,000 cubic meters of sand and dirt moved away from this ship. That fills eight Olympic-sized swimming pools, pretty impressive. They've had 14 tugs in the operation.

But again, the salvage operators are suggesting they'll get two larger ones to help in the effort. So it is right now the moment of opportunity. If they can clear this by Tuesday, if this drags out any longer, the authority there for the canal, the Suez Canal authority, was suggesting they can move one-third of the 321 vessels that are now parked.

They can get rapid exit for them so it doesn't have this spillover effect to the supply chains. Volkswagen, for example, the automaker, said it's not a major threat at this stage; if it dragged on for weeks, yes, it would be.

IKEA was suggesting some products are not making it on the shelf right now but wouldn't call this an emergency. But you can see the sense of urgency by the canal authority and the major salvagers, trying to clear this thing out, salvation (sic) operations.

CURNOW: It really is a monster. I mean, it's called an ultra-sized container carrier. It can handle 20,000 containers. Is there enough space for these kinds of ships, particularly in the

narrowest part of the Suez?

DEFTERIOS: Yes, it is the narrowest part of the canal but it's been widened going back to the completion of 2016. The Egyptian government spent $8 billion in a two-year window to get this done. It doubled the capacity up to 100 ships a day so that was successful.

But when you have the perfect storm, if you will, there was a ferocious sandstorm, now we're starting to find out it may not be limited to that. They're saying technical challenges and perhaps even human error. This was the news overnight from the Suez Canal authority. Let's take a listen.


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: Right now, they said, don't focus on the investigation; we're trying to focus on getting this unstuck.


DEFTERIOS: That's the priority, we'll see what happens in the next 12 to 24 hours.

CURNOW: We'll keep an eye on this, John Defterios, good to speak to you live there, thank you.

Still to come, CNN is in Los Angeles, where protesters are condemning the recent spike in hate crimes against people of Asian descent in the U.S.




CURNOW: People are holding a growing number of rallies across the U.S. to show support for Asian American communities and denounce violence and racism against them.

They've been sparked in part by the Atlanta-area spa shootings, which left eight dead, including six Asian Americans. Paul Vercammen met with some protesters in Los Angeles, who said it's a tough time right now to be of Asian descent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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.

TAM NGUYEN, PROTESTER: 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.


NGUYEN: 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.


CURNOW: Thanks, Paul.

Attacks against Asian Americans are on the rise across the U.S. and around the world. We have a list of ways you can educate, inform and help. Head to for more details.

That wraps up this hour of CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. Follow me on Instagram and on Twitter. Another hour of CNN continues after the break with my colleague, Kim.