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Trial Begins For George Floyd's Killer; WHO: COVID-19 Likely Came From Animals, Not Lab; Suez Canal Traffic Resumes; Thai Officials Deny Turning Back Myanmar Refugees; First Oil Tanker In Months Docks At Hodeidah Port; Thick Smoke Blankets Kathmandu, Closes Schools; Birx: Hundreds Of Thousands Of Deaths Were Likely Preventable; The Facts On Biden's Uphill Border Crisis. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired March 30, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Live around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, hello, everyone, I'm John Vause.

Coming up this hour, the origin story riddled with holes. A joint China-WHO report into where the coronavirus came from raises more questions than answers within demands for a full independent international investigation.

It turns out the police officer who arrested George Floyd did not have his knee on Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the first day of his murder trial reveals it was longer.

All it took was a little rocking motion moving forward to reverse forward to reverse, with the help of a super moon rising tides higher than usual in the Suez Canal that stranded container ship, now finally free.


VAUSE: It is likely to be no surprise for a long awaited reported the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Conclusions say COVID-19 likely made a mysterious jump from animals to humans. The theory it may have leaked from a lab with a biosafety level 4, highest safety status for a research facility in Wuhan, that was deemed highly unlikely.

The report was written by international experts who visited China where the virus was first detected. But where they went, who they spoke to and what they were allowed to ask was all tightly controlled by Beijing. Part of a deal to gain access. Some scientists and officials are now questioning the independence of the study, since it was co-written by researchers from China. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has the story for us from Hong Kong.

OK, we know the report is already out.

Give us the headline, what are the details? KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, we know what's in it because CNN has obtained a draft of this 123-page report by the World Health Organization, looking into the origins of the novel coronavirus.

There is, as you can imagine, a lot of detail on there but there is no smoking gun, as to the definitive origin of the pandemic. Now according to this report, it basically says what you just lined out at the top there. The coronavirus likely came from an animal, not from a lab.

Also, it likely was circulating no more than one or two months before it was initially detected in December of 2019. The report goes through four possible sources of the novel coronavirus; the most likely scenario here, the intermediary animal host that was infected by bat.

But which intermediary animal?

That remains, quote, "elusive." Next likely is direct transmission from an infected animal, like a bat or a pangolin. The report also says possible but not probably source of the coronavirus is transmission of the virus through chilled food or through frozen food, which is a theory that has been actively pushed by China over the last year.

Finally it said, least likely scenario, accidental lab release. Now before the draft was obtained by us and before it has been released for the world to see, CNN did talk to one of the investigative team members with the WHO, disease ecologist Peter Daszak.

He said the focus is on wildlife and wildlife products. I wanted you to hear what he told us about the Huanan seafood market which also sold those products.


DR. PETER DASZAK, WHO WUHAN RESEARCHER: What we found is that market, also sold wildlife. And wildlife products and carcasses of animals and live animal of different types from farms across China. So there was definitely a pathway with animals coming into that market from all over China, including places where the nearest relatives of SARS-CoV-2 have been found in bats.

So what we found I think is pretty important evidence of a way the virus could have emerged from rural China into a big city like Wuhan and led to an outbreak.


STOUT: The team of scientists behind this had been navigating a political quagmire, there had been rival series about the origin of the pandemic. The United States, especially under former president Trump, pushing the theory that it originated from a lab in Wuhan. The Institute of Virology while in China, Chinese officials have been pushing a theory that it originated from a U.S. Army lab.

But according to this report, it says, quote, "it is extremely unlikely."

Let's bring up a statement from the report that says, as follows, "There is no record of viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in any laboratory before December 2019 or genomes that, in combination, could provide a SARS-CoV-2 genome. In view of the above, a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely," unquote.


STOUT: John, independent researchers have been saying this for months. It shows this virus did not come from a lab but spread naturally among animals. Just like the original coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak and pandemic almost two decades ago, John.

VAUSE: Kristie, thank, you following story for us live.

Jamie Metzl is the co-organizer and one of the more than 2 dozen experts, including the virologists, who signed an open letter, calling for a new international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. He's an expert adviser to the WHO and he's a member of the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, he is with us now.

Jamie, it's been a while, thanks for taking the time.


VAUSE: OK, you described a team of investigators who went to China as taking part in a study tour. Everything was so tightly controlled by China.

Should the WHO Just have rejected all the demands made by Beijing?

Was there nothing to be gain even in the conditions laid out by the Communist government?

METZL: There is something minimal to be gained and the problem was this was sold to the world as an actual investigation. If the story told to the world was that China has allowed some people to go for 2 weeks in a curated, highly managed, highly manipulated study tour, they are not going to be able to know much of anything but why not start a process. That would be fine.

But instead this was billed by many, including the media, as an investigation. Then they went there; they had this very limited, highly manipulated two week experience and then, at a real low point, there was a joint press event between this international advisory committee to the WHO, not the WHO itself, and their Chinese government counterparts.

In that press event, they said we shouldn't investigate the lab leak hypothesis but we should investigate frozen food, which is possible but highly unlikely. I think that, for a lot of us, it just didn't sound right. It felt like these members, well-intentioned scientists, were being manipulated by the Chinese government or just simply repeating Chinese propaganda lies. That was why we felt we needed to act. VAUSE: So basically your hypotheses, which essentially this is

entirely possible that this virus leaked from the lab there in Wuhan, questions being asked about the staff who work there.

This is as issue you had with Peter Daszak, part of the WHO team sent to China. He told "60 Minutes" that he raised this question with a number of workers at the lab. Here's what he said.


DASZAK: We met with them, we said, do you audit the lab?

And they said annually.

Did you audit it after the break?


Was anything found?


Do you test your staff?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're just taking their word for it?

DASZAK: Well, what else can we do?

There's a limit to what you can do and we went right up to that limit. We asked them tough questions. They were vetted in advance and the answers they gave we found to be believable, correct and convincing.


VAUSE: Given the fact that Beijing has a rap sheet of lying about almost everything over the last several decades, from people dying in the crackdown on Tiananmen Square to the people who died recently in flooding, why would Chinese officials be given the benefit of the doubt in the first place?

METZL: It's just preposterous. I mean, John, you are younger than I am but maybe remember "Monty Python."

This is like something out of a Monty Python skit. They go to lab and say, hey, China, hey, did you do it?

And they say, no. And then, oh, I guess we better not have any thorough investigation, not really do anything.

Again this international committee didn't have the mandate or the authority or the resources, the expertise or much of anything to do an investigation. By their own admission, they weren't doing an investigation.

So how could they possibly make some kind of determination, like the lab leak hypothesis is highly unlikely?

That's the real problem. It's not that the investigation team had superpowers and didn't use them. They were totally disempowered and they were totally managed and manipulated by the Chinese authorities.

But exactly as you said, we should not be giving the Chinese authorities the benefit of the doubt in light of what everybody knows about the historical record.

VAUSE: Just a little bit more of that open letter which was published by dozens of experts.

Part of it, "The joint team's work has been inaccurately reported by the media as an independent investigation whose conclusions reflect those of the World Health Organization."

Get that on the record. On the other side of your point, there is the former director of the CDC here in the U.S.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, FORMER U.S. CDC DIRECTOR: You know, I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, escaped.


VAUSE: But on the same token, he raises those allegations again without any proof, without any evidence to back up those claims.


VAUSE: So I know that sort of where you're coming from but surely you've had issues that because there's no evidence to back up as well?

METZL: We are not saying that it absolutely was a lab leak, nobody could prove -- I mean some people maybe could but with the evidence that's publicly available, it's a very, very strong circumstantial case.

It's also possible that it could have happened through a series of intermediate animal hosts and jumps from one animal to another, although there is no evidence of that.

That's exactly why we need a full and unrestricted international investigation. And you would think, for this kind of investigation, we would need the records, the samples, we have confidential interviews with key personnel.

We have none of that, so we shouldn't be in a position of begging for crumbs from China. We should be articulating what a real investigation would look like. If China wants to tell the rest of the world and thumb its nose that we can't investigate the origins of this terrible pandemic that have killed nearly 3 million of us, that's on them.

But we shouldn't be doing that job for them.

VAUSE: OK, Jamie, thank you being with us, we appreciate it.

METZL: My pleasure.

VAUSE: Turns out the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly effective not just in human trials but in the real world as well. A new study from the CDC in the U.S. which looked at thousands of health care workers and first responders who received both shots found the vaccines 90 percent effective at preventing infections, including those without symptoms; 80 percent effective after just a single dose.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL NOMINEE: One caveat about that 80 percent, we don't know how long that lasts. We don't know the durability of that response. So I would hesitate to say that one dose is enough, that you don't have to worry about the second dose.

The good news is the study looked at both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections, if you remember one of the big unknowns that we had, in the beginning of this vaccine journey, was trying to understand, do vaccines prevent not just symptomatic but also asymptomatic infection?

What this study is telling us, is that it actually does. The vaccines do a good job in preventing both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection.


VAUSE: While much of Europe is once again ruling out distribution of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, there is now a new hesitancy in Canada. The Canadian National Advisory Committee on Immunizations says for now AstraZeneca should not be given to anyone under the age of 55.

Canada wants a new analysis on the risk of blood clots; that's despite European regulators deeming the AstraZeneca vaccine safe and effective, insisting the benefits exceed any risk.

Canada says it has enough vaccines on hand, can afford to pause AstraZeneca while it carries out its own research.

A rise in hospital admissions has a senior U.S. health official warning of impending doom. The CDC director says travel is up and she's worried about surges like last summer and again in the past winter.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I want to pause here, I'm going to lose the script I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now I'm scared. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: New cases are up in 27 U.S. states at the moment. They jumped 16 percent in just a week, the highest spike since the middle of January. Right now, France has more COVID patients in ICUs than at the peak of the second wave past November.

Hospitals in Paris are the most affected, doctors there say they've never experienced anything like this, not even during the worst terrorist attacks in the recent years. The government warns new coronavirus restrictions could soon be coming.

In stark contrast, England has begun losing its COVID-19 measures. Stay-at-home orders were lifted on Monday, two household groups up to 6 people can now meet outdoors. The freedom is due in part due to the U.K. speedy and successful vaccine rollout. But there is a warning from the British prime minister.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: What we don't know is exactly how strong our fortifications now are, how robust our defenses are against another wave. We've seen what's been happening. That's why i stress what's happening with our European friends because, historically, at least, there has been a time lag and then we've had a wave ourselves.


VAUSE: Changes like the reopening of entertainment venues will not happen until at least mid-May.

The long-awaited murder trial has begun for a white police officer charged with killing George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota. It comes nearly a year after Floyd's death sparked protests worldwide and reunited the Black Lives Matter movement.

Minneapolis demonstrators have been holding civil rights outside the courthouse demanding justice for Floyd, calling for police accountability. A warning here, this report includes disturbing video, CNN's Omar Jimenez was there for the first day of the trial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, good morning.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As prosecutors opened their case, seeking justice for George Floyd, they began with the unavoidable: playing in full the 9 minute and 20-second video of officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee to Floyd's neck, as he slowly loses consciousness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll see he does not let up and he does not get up, for the remaining, as you can see, 3 minutes and 51 seconds. During this period of time, you will learn that Mr. Chauvin is told that they can't even find the pulse of Mr. Floyd, that you can believe your eyes that it's a homicide, it's murder. You can believe your eyes.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Prosecutors say they want a fair trial but one where evidence leads their arguments and one that proves Chauvin was anything but innocent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Nelson (ph), do you wish to open at this time?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The defense argues that officer Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do and the evidence is far greater than 9 minutes in 20 seconds, highlighting what will be a central battle in this trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was Mr. Floyd's actual cause of death?

The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and Fentanyl and the adrenaline throwing -- flowing through his body.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, also argued the surrounding crowd had an impact on Chauvin's behavior that day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're screaming at him, causing the officers to divert their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd to the threat that was growing in front of them.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): In the end, Nelson says the only just result is not guilty.

That's not how the family of George Floyd feels, who started the day kneeling in silent protest, representing the time Derek Chauvin's was on George Floyd's neck.

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE'S BROTHER: They can't sweep this under the rug, this is a starting point. This is not a finishing point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The testimony you're about to give will be the truth and nothing but the truth.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The starting point for prosecutors, the 9-1-1 operator who dispatched the officers to Cup Foods on May 25th, 2020. Jena Scurry officers pinned Floyd to the ground for so long she thought the real-time video she was watching froze and she alerted a sergeant to voice her concern with what was happening.

JENA SCURRY, 9-1-1 OPERATOR: My instincts were telling me that something's wrong, something has -- not right. They don't know what but something wasn't right.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): While Donald Williams, who witnessed Floyd pinned from just feet away, told the court his mixed martial arts background informed him that Chauvin was tightening his knee on Floyd's neck.

DONALD WILLIAMS, WITNESS: Every time he showed his movement, he's pushing that pressure down on his neck, from the shoulders to the knees.

JIMENEZ: We've continued to see protests throughout this entire process, outside of the courtroom proceedings. This, in particular, is outside of the government center where the trial has been taking place over recent weeks.

When you look at this moment, in particular, this is one that has been a long time coming for people here in this community. Understandably so, they are watching it closely as a result.

Now day one of opening statements and witness testimony, wrapped in the middle of testimony from a third witness that was called. It's going to pick up the next day, Tuesday, with the end of that witness testimony -- Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


VAUSE: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, how a weekend super moon help move the giant cargo ship which ran aground in the Suez Canal almost a week ago in a sandstorm, and storm powerful winds.

Later, a glimmer of hope for the millions of people starving in Yemen. The first fuel tanker allowed to dock this year in a key port of Hodeidah.





VAUSE: Maritime traffic, once again, passing through the Suez Canal, almost one week after a cargo ship ran aground in one of the busiest waterways in the world. Shipping companies and global exporters are adding up losses. An investigation is underway to find out who's to blame. Our man in Cairo is Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At last, the Ever Given is on the move again. It took a flotilla of tugboats and a massive dredging effort to free the container ship from Egypt's Suez Canal.

The salvage team was able to shift the stern in the early hours on Monday, adding momentum and jubilation to a nearly weeklong effort. Then, trepidation, as winds and currents swung the ship back slightly across the canal. Finally, coming unstuck, not long after. The head of the Suez Canal Authority, welcoming the developments. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Thank you. I say,

congratulations to Egypt, as we accomplish this mission successfully and in a shortened period. I thank you.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A beast, the size of a skyscraper, the 400 long meter ship, jammed one of the world's busiest waterways, stranding billions of dollars of cargo on more than 300 ships, including, livestock, oil and even IKEA furniture, costing Egypt $14 million every day in lost transit fees alone.

Dozens of vessels, diverting to the Cape of Good Hope around Africa, adding over one week of sailing time. The exact reason behind the Ever Given stranding remains unclear. Egyptian authorities and the charter company say the ship will move to the Great Bitter Lake for further inspection and investigation.

For now, a collective sigh of relief as traffic resumes on the Suez Canal -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Cairo.


VAUSE: Don Maier is the dean of the School of Maritime Transportation Logistics and Management at Cal Maritime and he is with us from the San Francisco Bay area, welcome back, Don, thank you.


VAUSE: What's the timeframe on this, in terms of clearing the maritime traffic which has been waiting?

What is the effect on supply chains and how long will it take to work through the system?

MAIER: It will probably be another good 1.5 weeks, almost 2 weeks, to get the rest of the traffic of all of the vessels that are stocked up right now, in the Suez, to get them through and get the regular course of traffic to also come through the canal.

In terms of the effect on the supply chain, we are looking at another 6 weeks to potentially 2.5 months worth. Again, I have to resolve my current customer demands, that I have been delayed for but also, all of the new orders that are coming through behind it. So I'm trying to manage that entire effect.

VAUSE: How do they work out which ship gets to go?

So a first case, first come, first serve basis?

Or do they choose in a different way?

This will set up some very busy days ahead for the Suez Canal.

How will they be OK with that congestion?

MAIER: Most of the time, they do it on a first come, first serve basis. They will also try to level out the size of the vessels to go through at the same time. So with the Ever Given, it was part of a convoy. They are going to try and set up or make those convoys, based on the first, come first served.

But they also need to bail out the size of the different vessels and the type of commodities they have to go through. You don't want to have the multiple types of tankers going through the canal. In a sense, they're trying to mix of some of the different commodities and sizes of the vessels.

At the same time though, they won't hold up the convoy just to get the right sized vessel to come through.


MAIER: My assumption is that the Suez Canal Authority will try to move through, as quickly as possible.

VAUSE: We heard from the salvage operation, explaining how the ship was eventually refloated. Listen to this.


PETER BERDOWSKI, CEO, BOSKALIS: What we more or less did, is we used the water power that was in the canal, with the returning tides, to push the vessel where we were pulling it. The combination of the two, as we hoped, at the end of the day, did the trick.


VAUSE: How much help was the weekend super moon and the high tide levels?

Is he essentially saying what your neighbor or uncle would say?

Rock it back and forth?

Is that how this worked?

MAIER: That's exactly it. For the most part, that's correct. In the simplest terms, it's the best way to describe it. You are literally rocking it back and forth, by having the tide do most of the work.

Other than the Ever Given can't just turn on its engines and shift back and forth because it will just make the situation worse. But using the natural tide, letting the channel and the current of the channel do the work for you. Certainly, it keeps the cost down, they have a number of dredgers there, a number of powerful tugs, actually pushing and pulling, at the same time.

Just as you and I talked about last week, they were waiting for the larger tides to come in this weekend. It is worked out to their benefit.

VAUSE: Will this accident with the Ever Given having an everlasting impact on shipping and world trade? Or is this just a fleeting moment?

MAIER: On one hand, I hope this is just a fleeting moment; certainly, it does bring a lot of attention in terms of the size of our vessels, in terms of the infrastructure, how has this impacted consumers. Regular consumers, we are now looking at the inventory of the monitors we have on our shelves and our pantries.

Most people, typically, don't do that. Coming out of logistics and I would do it all the time. But I think more people, actually, are paying attention now to what inventory means. So that may actually change things, how we are looking at those ebbs and flows, of the supply chain.

At least here, recently, since COVID of last year or the COVID situation, we have received two stimulus checks. Now people have more money they want to spend, so they are buying more goods. That also could, potentially be, a momentary blip in this entire supply chain.

But it's critical for us to understand, is it a momentary blip or something long term?

Is this true demand or a momentary blip?

Like I said, I'm really a true believer investment in proper infrastructure driving economic growth. But I also looked at the just in time inventory system as the best approach. But we need to have proper contingency plans, for just when things go wrong.

VAUSE: A path down the middle, usually, the best. Thank you, some good insight, appreciate it.

MAIER: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Refugees fleeing Myanmar said they were forced away from the border. A live report from that, when we come back.





VAUSE (voice-over): Protesters running for cover as gunfire broke out in Myanmar. At least 14 people were shot and killed on Monday, according to an advocacy group.


And people banged pots and pans in protest in Yangon. And security forces reportedly warned they would burn neighborhoods, should that continue.

Thousands of protesters back out on Monday, two days after the bloodiest crackdown yet. And security forces killed 114 people, at least, Saturday.

Meantime, authorities in Thailand deny forcing back thousands of refugees who fled weekend airstrikes in Myanmar.

CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong with details on this. So what do we know about these airstrikes, and who is -- who is at play here? What forced these protestors to head back, and what role did the Thai military play in all this?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll, John, I think that when you start to see refugees crossing borders, that is the sign of how the situation in the country is deteriorating.

And when you consider that the coup took place on February 1, and now less than two months later, we're starting to see this drama play out on the border. That's a big red flag and a warning sign of what may be to come.

In this case, on Saturday there is an escalation of fighting in an area where an ethnic armed organization called the Karen National Union is active attacking military posts there, claiming to have killed soldiers. That night for the first time in 20 years, the Myanmar military carried out air strikes, reportedly killing some civilians, repeating those airstrikes on Sunday, and driving at least 3,000 people from Myanmar across the border towards Thailand.

Then on Monday, the KNU released this video -- maybe we can show it again. And what they say it shows is at least 2,000 of the refugees being forced back across the Salween River into Myanmar. And there you can see Thai security forces, some of them from a wildlife protection group, because there's a wildlife sanctuary in that area, and others identified in black uniforms as members of the Thai army rangers.

Now, the governor of the Thai province on the border there and the Thai foreign ministry have both denied that there was any pushback whatsoever in this region. But the photo and documentary evidence really does suggest that something else may have been underway there.

And again, this underscores the fact that we're hearing increasingly of internally displaced people, people fleeing the cities from the political opposition to the coup, to the ethnic armed militia regions; fleeing the crackdown, the deadly crackdown from the Myanmar military. And now starting to see an increased movement towards the borders. This does not bode well for Myanmar going forward, John.

VAUSE: And Ivan, if we look at the level of ongoing violence across Myanmar in these cities and as more of these people move towards these ethnically-armed regions, this does seem to be, you know, inching closer towards sort of some kind of civil war within Myanmar?

WATSON: Yes. I mean, you've still got -- and I think we can play some video from last night in Yangon. The nightly banging of pots and pans, let's take a pause for a second, and maybe we can hear some of what goes on all around the commercial capital.

But as you can see there, there's smoke from tires burning. This is a measure that the opposition uses in many different neighborhoods around Yangon night after night.

And the violence is continuing there, and I'm hearing increasingly from members of the opposition calls for violent attacks on the security forces. Hearing rumors and anecdotes about weapons coming into places like Yangon into the arms of some members of the opposition. This isn't widespread yet.

But the warnings are coming increasingly from international voices. You had the U.S. announced that it was suspending diplomatic trade talks with the regime in Myanmar. Warnings coming from the U.N. secretary-general as there are calls for a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday. The U.N. secretary-general calling for, please, more unity, and the U.N. special rapporteur calling for an arms embargo on the military in Myanmar as things continue to appear to be falling apart there.

VAUSE: Ivan, thank you. Ivan Watson live for us there in Hong Kong with the very latest.

Well, missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia have continued by Houthi rebels in Yemen despite a Saudi proposal for a new ceasefire. Meantime, fuel shipments to the key port of Hodeidah are flowing once again, to get aid to millions of starving Yemeni people.

CNN's Nima Elbagir has our report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the first vessel that has been permitted to dock at the Hodeidah port in Yemen for months, one of four fuel tankers recently cleared to dock at the Red Sea port, carrying a vital resource turn (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in a years-long civil war.

The local officials warn that this arrival won't be enough to meet demand.

AMAR ALADRAI, EXECUTIVE GENERAL MANAGER, YEMEN NATIONAL OIL COMPANY (through translator): The lives of 26 million Yemeni citizens are in danger over the coming days. The current situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous, because fuel has been prevented from entering the country since the beginning of the year. Not to mention, the deficit carried over from last year.

ELBAGIR: Battered by six years of war and a crippling U.S.-backed blockade, Yemen has been devastated by this mounting fuel crisis.

A CNN investigation earlier this month revealed, the Saudi warships had been preventing oil tankers from docking at the port, including vessels approved by a U.N. clearance mechanism, as part of the Saudis' ongoing war against Iran-backed Ansar Allah Houthis who control the territory where the vast majority of Yemenis live.

We witnessed firsthand the impact on hospitals across the country, struggling to keep their generators going. ALADRAI (through translator): The amount of fuel released to the

country in 2020 doesn't even represent 45 percent of Yemen's needs. And now, in the first quarter of 2021, we are receiving only eight percent of what Yemen would need under normal conditions.

ELBAGIR: CNN has now independently verified that three of the four tankers that have been allowed to berth at Hodeidah are carrying fuel and gas intended for a small number of private companies.

The Thuruya is the only ship carrying fuel for the public sector, but its supply accounts for what the public sector would use in less than 10 days.

ALADRAI (through translator): Of the four ships that have been released, only Thuruya is for public consumption. But it only covers 8 percent of the country's needs for the first quarter of 2021.

ELBAGIR: That's barely enough to cover the needs of the country's healthcare sector, which is already facing the threat of near total collapse. There are more vessels still waiting for approval to enter this port. It's unclear if or when these ships will be allowed.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


VAUSE: The release of the four tankers to the port of Hodeidah comes after Saudi Arabia announced a new U.N.-backed proposal to end the conflict in Yemen, including an offer of a ceasefire and the lifting of the sea and air blockade on the Iranian-backed Houthis.

However, Houthi officials have dismissed the initiative, want the blockade as a condition to start negotiations.

CNN has reached out to the government of Saudi Arabia and the internationally-recognized government of Yemen in Aden, as well as the U.S. State Department, to find whether more tankers permitted feel for the public sector will be a permitted to dock in the port of Hodeidah but has yet to receive a response.

Kathmandu is already one of the worst polluted cities in the world. Now, smoke from a rash of wildfires forcing schools to close and the airport to divert traffic. More on that when CNN NEWSROOM continues after a short break.



VAUSE: Firefighters have battled a massive fire at Indonesia's state oil refinery in West Java. It broke out early Monday, reportedly injured more than a dozen people. Nearly 1,000 people living nearby were evacuated but have since been allowed to return home.

The oil company is investigating how the fire started. It's hoping to resume operations within the next few days. School's in Nepal's capital of Kathmandu are closed until Friday.

Thick smoke from nearby wildfires blankets the city. The airport has diverted flights. The government is urging everyone to stay indoors.

Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. There he is.

Pedram, so what's the deal with this? What's going on?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, we've seen extensive drought across this region, going back to last November. Only about 60 millimeters of rainfall is what is expected across this region. Fifteen millimeters is what is falling, nationally speaking, when you average it out.

So rainfall is about 25 percent of normal. But if you take a look, the landscape has been essentially a tinderbox, and it set the stage here for wildfires to take place. And we know, as of this hour, the fire and thermal signatures across this region completely dot the landscape. In fact, 73 of its 77 districts across the country of Nepal dealing with wildfires at this hour. And this is a record for the last five fire seasons. We've never seen such an extensive area of coverage.

And you take a look going from 479 fire incidents from last Thursday. Of course, we know an airport was shut down briefly there on Friday because of reduced visibility across Kathmandu. Fire conditions now have risen to 524 active fires across the nation, really, across the entire landscape.

And the meteorological conditions really become favorable here to not only usher in the haze into some of the more densely-populated regions like Kathmandu.

But we know, of course, the Himalayan foothills here very favorable to trapping the pollutants in place in what is not really a drought also, climatologically, the dry period.

So we don't expect much rainfall. In fact, the month of March only brings about 35 millimeters. Tell you what. Only 6 millimeters has fallen in the month of March, so well below what is normally a dry period.

And you'll notice the monsoons eventually kick in, eventually bring the rest of it towards this region. But the air quality index in the last couple days have risen to the highest levels in -- on earth here. In fact, Mumbai came in second. Beijing came in third. Hazardous levels are observed across portions of Nepal and Kathmandu, in particular.

And John, what I can leave you with here is rainfall, of course, is the best bet here. And we know it is the dry season, but the forecast does have some favorable conditions in store Wednesday into Thursday.

It's not much rain, but it's the best bet for any rain since about the 6th of March. So it's been about a month since we've seen rainfall in the forecast, and it looks like we might get some here in the next couple of days -- John.

VAUSE: You know it's pretty bad when you push Beijing and, what is it, Mumbai down to second and third place.

JAVAHERI: Fair enough. Yes.

VAUSE: Pedram, thank you, appreciate it.

Well, about 8,000 kilometers away from Nepal in Iceland, a spectacular volcanic eruption is happening right now.

The hot red lava is drawing thousands of visitors. Up till now, the volcano has been dormant for about 6,000 years. So, let's have a game of volleyball, eh? Perfectly normal.

Experts say the volcano could be spewing lava for weeks, months or even longer.

There they are, playing the volleyball in the foreground just there.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, off for a quick game of volleyball and the volcano. I'll be back with more news at the top of the hour. In the meantime, WORLD SPORT is next.