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U.K. Government to Soon Make Major Reopening Announcement; Experts Warn U.S. Could Soon Face Another Surge; Pope Francis Leads Scaled-Down Easter Sunday Mass; Jordan Accuses Prince of Trying to destabilize Country; Russia Shoring Up Military Powers in the Arctic; At Least 41 Dead in Eastern Indonesia from Floods and Mudslides; Japan's Cherry Blossoms See Earliest Peak in Decades. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 5, 2021 - 00:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: All right, and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.


Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, the political divide over COVID vaccine passports. Will it help or hurt those itching to travel again?

Plus, Jordan's government says it's uncovered a bizarre plot to destabilize the country, and it is pointing the finger at a former crown prince. We'll look at what it means for the region.

And how Russia is taking advantage of climate change to build up its military power in the Arctic. CNN has the exclusive report.

The British government is laying out plans to introduce so-called COVID vaccine passports. Now, this comes as the U.K.'s aggressive vaccine rollout has far outpaced any European nation. That has contributed to a recent surge in infections across the continent, but right now, there are signs of things getting a little more under control. Many countries showing steady or declining cases, compared with the previous week.

Meanwhile, the E.U. is stepping its -- stepping its grievance with the U.K. and AstraZeneca. The blocks vaccine chief saying that they would have been on track if promised deliveries hadn't fallen tens of millions of doses short, seemingly none too bothered by that escalating feud.

In a few hours, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce the start of a COVID status certification trial, which will, in part, differentiate those who have been vaccinated from those who have not.

Now, Mr. Johnson will argue that this passport system is a great way to reopen society, following a number of brutal lockdowns. But opponents say it's a license to discriminate. Salma Abdelaziz has more from London.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a big announcement on Monday, laying out plans to resume foreign travel, resume holidays and also to reopen sports events. Huge entertainment venues and other major social gatherings.

So in this announcement on Monday, the prime minister is expected to have two parts laid out. First, of course, foreign travel. There will be a traffic light system there, red, green, amber based on the color of the country. If it's a green country, you can go without quarantine. Red country, you have to agree to a hotel quarantine, a government-held quarantine in a hotel. And finally, an amber country means you can self-isolate at home upon return.

But what we don't know is which countries will fall under which category.

And this is still weeks away. Foreign travel is not going to resume until mid-May. Nobody is booking their -- their vacations just yet.

The other part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement is going to be domestically. How do you reopen big entertainment venues and social gatherings? For that, the prime minister is going to be announcing a COVID status certification, what's been called colloquially a vaccine passport. A document -- could be digital, could a piece of paper, that will have three basic facts on it.

Have you taken the vaccine? Have you tested negative for COVID in recent days? And have you any natural immunity, which is essentially that you've tested positive for the virus in recent months and might have antibodies.

And what the prime minister is expected to say is that he wants to pilot test this COVID status certification through a few events across the U.K. this month.

Big sports events. The first one's going to actually be a comedy event in Liverpool. So they're going to be piloting this COVID status certification, seeing how it works alongside other measures, such as ventilation and testing, to try to ease -- ease these restrictions, try to begin to resume normal life.

But there's already been a great deal of controversy about this. Over 70 members of Parliament have signed an open letter saying that this COVID status certification is divisive and discriminatory, that they will oppose it in Parliament. So Prime Minister Boris Johnson might face some opposition and pushing these measures through.

But for now, everyone waiting for that announcement on Monday and find out more about how and when and if you can begin to resume normal life here across the U.K.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: All right. Let's discuss further with CNN European affairs commentator, Dominic Thomas, joining me now from Los Angeles.

Good to see you, Dominic. I mean, in the U.S., partisanship is making the vaccine passport a political issue, rather than a health and pandemic control one.

And you know, we've seen Florida's Republican governor, you know, painting it as a privacy and rights issue. But Boris Johnson launching this passport in the U.K. Israel is looking to a smartphone app. You've got Japan, China, Denmark considering it, too. Is it an idea with legs politically? What's your take?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes, Michael. I mean, it's so interesting how politics, healthcare, all of these issues and responses to the pandemic have been so incredibly polarizing. From, you know, talks about whether or not to wear masks, how to social distance, lockdown measures, and even vaccination skeptics.

And I think what we're seeing here now with this broader discussion of passports, is simply another facet of this particular question. Now it's interesting, because the primary concern here or the way in which it's playing out is the way in which a passport will impact the activities within a country.

And this is a conversation that has not really been had yet in the United States in terms of reopening, you know, schools, colleges, what will these requirements be?

So it's a bit of a testing ground as to what's happening in the U.K. here. Now, what we're looking at in the U.K., of course, are access to services, businesses, and so on.

And of course, there's concern over privacy issues, data protection and so on.

But I think the bigger question pertains to sort of the whole discussion around -- around COVID, is the extent to which this pandemic has produced a whole range of sort of social inequity, so who gets to have this passport? Who gets to have access to particular services and so on? And to what extent might it exclude people in the community, rather than include them.

And of course, we end up with this precarious balance between a government seeking to open up businesses and people with broader concerns in the country.

HOLMES: Yes, and I guess in Europe, I mean, do you see a united front on the notion of such passports, or green certificates, whatever they'll be called? I mean, in Europe, so many different options, of course, if there's a fractured approach. What might the complications be politically, medically, for that matter?

I mean, you know, there are requirements to prove you're vaccinated already, for other non-COVID illnesses if you want to travel or so on. THOMAS: Yes, there is -- there's obviously a long history about the

WHO, the famous, you know, yellow books and so on that you need for certain African countries. So we know that.

The interesting thing is, is actually in the E.U. 27 most of the discussion has focused on international travel. And also therefore, data protection and so on. The impact of circulating, moving, traveling to under-vaccinated countries.

But the tourist industry, and the travel industry, is such a huge component of the E.U. and economy. And not just the E.U. economy. The E.U. 27 are essentially buying into this passport idea, as are many other European countries.

So we see the question playing out in different ways here because of the focus on international travel and circulation. Rather than immediately on access to services within their own communities.

HOLMES: Yes. I suppose, you know, private enterprise could demand such a thing, if they felt it was necessary. That's their business. The U.K. is to sort of test the system with sports events and so on.

And you know, just wondering, you know, with vaccine hesitancy a big issue in Europe, could the idea of a passport to do some fun things actually spur some people to get a jab?

THOMAS: You know, that's an interesting question. But I think, once again, the same kind of questions get up, is who has access to the -- to the vaccine? Who is excluded from it, rather than included in this particular process?

And I think that, along the way, any kind of measure that will incentivize people to get the vaccine would be -- would be positive, because we know that ultimately, the passport to freedom is through vaccination. This is what they need to do. The -- kind of the inconsistent messaging and response of so many E.U. and governments has eroded trust in these particular questions. And we're seeing growing frustration in the E.U. around these sorts of issues.

HOLMES: I guess COVID fatigue and despair, even anger is evident in a lot of nations of demonstrations and protests on the rise, as the Northern Hemisphere summer comes. Can you see those protests increasing?

THOMAS: Michael, we're already seeing protests, and it's interesting. You're seeing, on the one hand, people protesting against measures. So against lockdowns, against mask wearing.

But you're also seeing growing dissatisfaction, particularly as we exit the cold winter months, with the handling of this -- of the COVID pandemic.

But you're seeing other areas, as well, which is lack of compliance, of course. Not wearing the masks, larger gatherings as the weather improves. And ignoring or not abiding by guidelines that have been given by -- by various governments. But I think there's another way in which this protest is going to sort

of play out, as we make our way through the summit. And I take the case of Germany, where we're heading into general elections, federal elections in September.


And the lack of handling or the mishandling of this is already playing its way out, in the polls as people are so dissatisfied with the way in which this has gone now into the second summer of, essentially, COVID restrictions and lockdown measures.

HOLMES: Really good point. Dominic, good to see you. Dominic Thomas there. Thanks.

THOMAS: Yes. Thanks, Michael.

HOLMES: Now a growing number of Americans aren't waiting for any official greenlight to travel for leisure again. Evan McMorris-Santoro reports on the surge in air travel from New York's LaGuardia Airport.


EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Saturday was the 24th day of more than 1 million passengers --

(voice-over): -- traveling through TSA screening points at American airports. Another sign that Americans are ready to return to normal, despite the ongoing pandemic.

I spent the day at LaGuardia Airport talking to passengers. Let's listen to one of them explaining how she feels about travel right now.

(on camera): The CDC says, if you have the vaccine, it's safe to travel, but they're asking people not to travel that much if they don't have to. Does that still factor into the decision that you make when you think about making travel decisions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I say not so much? No. Not so much. I mean, we're -- we'll be vaccined. We're scheduled, so that will, I guess, alleviate some worries for us.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): The rise in travel appears to be continuing, despite experts warning that a third coronavirus surge could be just around the corner.

Experts say the best way to prevent something like that, or to mitigate it, if it comes, is to keep wearing masks and maintaining social distance and get the vaccine as soon as you can.

Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, LaGuardia Airport.


HOLMES: Evan McMorris-Santoro there. Now, Pope Francis is condemning what he calls scandalous behavior amid the pandemic. The pope led a restricted Easter Sunday mass at the Vatican. During prayers, he chided those who pursue warfare while people are suffering from COVID.

His main focus, however, was a message of hope. CNN's Delia Gallagher with the details.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Easter Sunday at the Vatican, but take a look at this, a virtually empty St. Peter's Square.

Italy is in lockdown for three days. Italians are being encouraged to stay at home. The Vatican is also complying with COVID regulations. So Pope Francis said Easter mass inside St. Peter's Basilica with only about 200 guests.

Just after the mass the pope gave his Urbi et Orbi address to the city and to the world. Here's some of what he had to say.

POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless, and this is scandalous, armed conflicts have not ended, and military arsenals are being strengthened.

GALLAGHER: Pope Francis mentioning, in particular, the conflicts in Myanmar, in the Ukraine, in Syria and Iraq, amongst others. He mentioned the difficulties in Lebanon, the scandalous silence, he said about the situation in Yemen.

Pope Francis also spoke about an issue close to his heart. That is vaccinations for the poor. Not only for poor countries to have access to vaccines but also for the poor people in richer countries to not be forgotten. Of course, the pope himself offered to vaccinate 1,200 of the homeless and poor here around the Vatican in the week leading up to Easter.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


HOLMES: New restrictions are in place for India's richest state, after a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases.

Maharashtra now faces weeknight curfews and full weekend lockdowns, among other measures. Over the weekend, the country's health ministry recorded more than 93,000 new cases a day, the highest of new cases since September.

More than half of those new cases are from Maharashtra. Now, the health ministry says eight of the 10 areas with the most infections are in that state, including the district capital, Mumbai.

South Korea is warning it could be on the verge of a fourth wave of the pandemic, officials reporting more than 470 new cases on Sunday. That followed five consecutive days of more than 500 cases.

Social distancing measures are set to expire on Sunday. But officials say they may have to extend those restrictions because of the rising case numbers.

Coming up here on the program, reports of violence and killing in Ethiopia's Tigray region have horrified the world. Ethiopia's prime minister is responding. We'll tell you what he says, next.

And Jordan says it's uncovered a plan to destabilize national security and claims a member of the royal family was directly involved. We'll discuss.



HOLMES: Ethiopia's foreign ministry says Eritrean troops have begun withdrawing from Ethiopia's Tigray region. It's a response to the harrowing reports of human rights abuses and massacres over the last five months.

Ethiopia's military has been fighting the Tigray People's Liberation Front, a group in northern Ethiopia. The prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, recently admitted what the world already knew: that Eritrean forces are there, too.

Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed in the conflict. A CNN investigation compiled eyewitness testimony, claiming that soldiers from Eritrea were carrying out massacres, extrajudicial killings and deploying rape and sexual violence as a weapon.

G-7 minister have been condemning the carnage, saying, quote, "It is essential that there is an independent, transparent and impartial investigation into the crimes reported and that those responsible for these human rights abuses are held to account."

Jordan's government has accused former crown prince, Hamzah bin Hussein, with trying to destabilize the country. The deputy prime minister says security officials have foiled the plan, which they allege involved the prince's associates and foreign parties.

More than a dozen people have been arrested, and the government has asked Prince Hamza to cease all movement and activities that target Jordan's security.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh with more from Istanbul.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These really dramatic events unfolding in Jordan. That all started on Saturday evening with the announcement that a number of high-profile individuals had been arrested and reports that the former crown prince, the half-brother of King Abdullah, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, was involved in whatever the security operation this was. That he, reports suggested that he was under house arrest.

That was followed by two videos, one in Arabic, one in English, obtained by news organizations provided by the former crown prince. A statement in which he described his situation, saying that the country's military chief had asked him to stay at home, that he was -- he had lost his security, that a number of friends had been detained, that his communications were cut off, and warning that we might not be hearing from him for a while.

And what followed was really something unprecedented in Jordan. Something that, in my years of living and covering that country, we have never seen before. A member of the royal family lashing out at the country's leadership, accusing the rulers of corruption, mismanagement, and blaming them for the state that the country is in right now.


Now, on Sunday, we heard from the government, the deputy prime minister, and foreign minister, addressing a news conference, and accusing the former crown prince, and several people around him.

And also, a former senior official close to King Abdullah saying that this group was in communication with foreign entities, that they were planning to destabilize the kingdom, and saying that the country's security services, the military, the intelligence services, have been monitoring this, these communications for quite some time right now.

He also accused Prince Hamzah of trying to incite certain activities inside Jordan to undermine national security, as they said.

Now, they say that the Jordanians security services have to move right now, because whatever was being planned, that these communications, at this point, they were talking about timings, of carrying out whatever these activities may have been.

And the deputy prime minister says that they nipped it in the bud. Take a listen to what he had to say.

AYMAN SAFADI, JORDANIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The army chief met with Prince Hamzah to send this message, and to stop all of these movements and activities that target Jordan's security and stability.

KARADSHEH: The deputy prime minister saying that more than a dozen people have been detained in connection with whatever this plan was, this part of the security operation.

We heard from the former crown prince, responding to these accusations, even before they were made public by the government. Take a listen to what Prince Hamzah said in that video statement on Saturday about links to any foreign entities.

PRINCE HAMZAH BIN HUSSEIN, FORMER JORDANIAN CROWN PRINCE: I am making this recording to make it clear that I'm not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organization of foreign-backed groups, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out.

KARADSHEH: Even after we heard from the government today, there remains more questions than answers about what is going on in Jordan. This key U.S. ally, a country that is known for its stability in a turbulent region.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


HOLMES: Bessma Momani is a professor at the University of Waterloo, joins me now from Waterloo, in Canada.

She's also been a visiting scholar at Georgetown University's and at the Ahmaud Institute, a research center, to improve local governance in the Middle East.

So the perfect person to speak to on this. Give us a sense of how significant these events are for a country generally seen as an oasis of stability, in many ways, in the region? A senior member of the royal family accused of such things, promoting sedition?

BESSMA MOMANI, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO: Well, certainly, unprecedented. And I think that this has really exposed a lot of internal royal dynamics that many people haven't been privy to or, frankly, heard.

I mean, Prince Hamzah has his own popularity base in the country. He's been very popular with a certain segment of people. And of course, the video that he released to BBC. You know, behind a lot of the frustration that many Jordanians feel, particularly about nepotism and corruption.

But the sort of truthfulness of his words and how, although being careful, but pointed his criticism was, was very much unprecedented.

HOLMES: Yes. And you touched on this. And let -- let's talk more about it. I mean, there are a lot of domestic factors in play in Jordan. Serious economic issues. There's been an influx of refugees. There is dissatisfaction with governance.

So will Prince Hamzah, who by all accounts, as you say, is a popular figure in many areas, have struck a nerve on the streets with pretty specific allegations on things like corruption, nepotism, misrule, as he put it? All things that many Jordanians are worried about.

MOMANI: It definitely struck a nerve. I mean, there are people who are kind of careful now, maybe don't want to, you know, publicly suggest that they support Prince Hamzah because, of course, you know, it's become a very wide net of people who are being arrested at the moment.

But certainly, I think he was speaking to the average Jordanian's concerns. Nepotism and corruption is perceived to be very high in the country already. People very much complain about that from their very personal lives, of trying to get the most basic things, bureaucratic, things done facing that kind of day-to-day challenge of corruption. But also, a real strong sense that, somehow the political and economic

elite are benefit -- benefiting at their expense, at the people's expense, that somehow, there's just not fair redistribution of wealth in the country.


So it really did strike a nerve. Whether or not Hamzah could actually garner a kind of political base, I don't think so. You know, there's still, I think, a lot of fear of instability. You know, regime change. We saw what happened in Syria, neighboring countries. Jordanians are not unaware of that. And as a place, as you said, it's received so many refugees, they're not just cognizant. They've lived it and don't want to see it happen in their own country.

HOLMES: This claim by the deputy prime minister that Prince Hamzah was trying to mobilize tribal leaders to oppose the government. How powerful are those forces in the context of this situation?

MOMANI: Well, the accusation is powerful, right? I mean, partly because many of those tribal forces have been seen as, traditionally, strong supporters of the monarchy, the institution.

Certainly, I think Hamzah is popular amongst that group of individuals, partly because he has the persona of visiting those tribes. He goes to their weddings. He talks to them. Some of the things that many people say are characteristic of his father and the way that he ruled.

So there is a soft spot amongst the tribes for Prince Hamzah. At the same time, I don't think the tribes want to see undermining of the monarchy or the regime. That's not in their interest. They don't want to see that.

And so it's a really fine balance of trying to kind of strike that cord, of still very much supporting the words and essence of what Hamzah represents. But still, very critical about the idea of regime change.

HOLMES: Right. So what are your thoughts on what's likely to happen now, what could happen? I mean, what are the potential regional ramifications? And how damaging is this to Jordan internally?

MOMANI: Well, it certainly does suggest there's cracks in the system. And within the royal family, which is really quite, again, unusual.

But I mean, certainly, I think the region is kind of used to this kind of news of sort of internal turmoil. But, you know, there is a sentiment that, somehow, the monarchies are different than any other parts of the region, that they're far more stable than other parts of the region like, again, Syria, Iraq, and of the other republics. So it really is quite unusual.

That said, I think there are also this very peculiar type of accusation that we saw from the foreign minister today of Jordan, suggesting that there's some foreign element. And that really has sparked a real nerve in the country, sort of who

are these foreign elements? There's lots of speculation, I'd say more theories than answers, at the time. But that really just kind of made people very uncomfortable, and wondering, you know, what are these foreign elements?

HOLMES: A lot of uncertainty. Professor Bessma Momani, thank you so much.

MOMANI: My pleasure.

HOLMES: In the day ahead, the corruption trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to resume with statements from the prosecution and the first witness.

Mr. Netanyahu expected to attend at least part of the proceedings on Monday. He's facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, which he denies.

The trial comes days after Netanyahu's block failed to secure a parliamentary majority in Israel's most recent election.

So on Monday, the country's president will host political parties and hear their recommendations for prime minister. By Wednesday, he's expected to pick which candidate has the best chance of forming government.

Coming up here on the program, the ice in the Arctic is melting, and Russia's military is swooping in. We'll tell you what they're doing their in a CNN exclusive report.

Plus, flash flooding causing massive damage to Indonesia and surrounding countries. The worst may be gone, but there is more rain on the way. A live forecast when we come back.



HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Now Russia is taking advantage of climate change to shore up its military power. It's testing new weapons in the Arctic, in areas where there has been a lot of melting ice.

Now, what they're doing there could have huge implications for the United States.

Nick Paton Walsh explains in this exclusive report.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a new frontier, expanding for all the wrong reasons, with pushy neighbors rushing in. Russia is seeing the Arctic ice melt fast and filling the gap with a military buildup, some of it on Alaska's doorstep, not seen since the Cold War.

Key is a new generation of super weapons, like the Poseidon, a 120- mile-an-hour nuclear propelled stealth torpedo. It's designed, say Russian officials, to sneak past U.S. coastal defenses and detonate a warhead, causing a radioactive tsunami to hit the East Coast with contaminated water.

Experts told CNN the weapon is, quote, "very real." It will be tested in the summer near Norway, whose intelligence had said it's not only the ecological damage that could be bad.

VICE ADMIRAL NILS ANDREAS STENSONES, NORWEGIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: It is in a testing phase. It's a strategic system, and it's aimed at targets and has, then, an influence far beyond the region, which is being tested currently.

WALSH: Some said Russian President Vladimir Putin was fantasizing when he revealed this and other new weapons, like the hypersonic Zircon missile in 2018. But continuing development and tests make them very real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russia is projecting an image that it's developing new technologies, and this, of course, is destabilizing the strategic balance.

HEATHER CONLEY, SVP FOR EUROPE, EURASIA AND THE ARCTIC, CSIS: Those capabilities that could reach the United States and its NATO allies.

WALSH: That's not all Russia is up to. CNN has obtained satellite images revealing the persistent buildup of Russian bases along its northern coastline, part of what a U.S. State Department official called a military challenge.

Close to Alaska, Provideniya and Wrangel Island are two new radar stations with, stationed in Anadyr, a quick reaction alert force of bombers and jets. West, in Kotelny, a thin strip of land has seen, over seven years, the slow growth of a large airstrip.

And in Nagurskoye, in the northernmost point, is another base that sprung up since 2015, one of several in the Arctic, decorated in the colors of the Russian flag.

Nagurskoye and the nearby airfield of Rogachevo are both home to MIG- 31 jets, recent arrivals. And further west, at Olenya Guba, on the Kola Peninsula, over the past four years, experts believe a storage facility has slowly been built up for the Poseidon torpedo.

(on camera): Russia had its eye on being the Arctic power for years and is now moving to make that happen.

Yes, this is its coastline, for sure, but U.S. officials have expressed concerns to me that this buildup is not just about protecting. It's also about projecting power across the ice, even towards the North Pole.

(voice-over): There are new resources to exploit under the ice, yes, but Russia released this video in January of the first time a freighter got through the ice in the east, in the thick winter, to set a new trade route along its northern coast.

It's a possible moneymaker for the Kremlin, cutting the current journey time from Asia, to Europe, through the Suez Canal, nearly in half. U.S. officials voiced concern to CNN that Russia is already demanding ships use Russian crews and get permission to cross it.

In response to Russia's buildup, the U.S. has sent B-1 bombers to fly out of, and marines to train in, Norway. Who gets there first makes the rules, they say in the rush for a place nobody should want to be conquerable.


Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Now, Russia's foreign ministry didn't respond to her request for comment, but Moscow has always said its goals in the Arctic are peaceful, and economic.

Well, at least 41 people are dead in Indonesia after flash flooding ripped through four villages on the island of Flores on Sunday. Floods and mudslides crashing through homes, wiping out bridges and roads on various parts of the island.

Rescuers can't even reach some of the worst-hit areas because of heavy rain and waves. Neighboring Easter Timor being impacted, too.




HOLMES: Dramatic pictures there. At least three people have died there in flooding that has, as you can see there, washed away entire homes.

Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin joins me now. Just horrible pictures coming out. What are you -- what are you seeing?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, so I see a little bit more rain on the way, Michael. You know, this part of the world just continues to get battered by weather hazards.

You saw some of the video right there. Here are some pictures of that. And you see how high that floodwater got in Indonesia.

In total, we saw, in the last 24 hours, some areas pick up roughly 150 to 250 millimeters of rain. That is certainly enough to cause some issues in this part of the world.

Now with the added rain, and just really, any time of the year when you get this much rain, the areas that you see here, especially the red areas that are shaded, these are the areas that, on average, have a higher risk of seeing some landslides. And with all of the deforestation that has been occurring in this part of the world, too, that has led to higher potential for landslides.

That's because it loosens the soil, and then when that soil becomes loose, and then it becomes extremely saturated. It just has nowhere else to go but flowing down the mountain, and on into the neighborhoods.

You can see that we have a couple of systems still out there. Now, all the areas that you see, these very bright colors, that is indicating some areas that we could see rain. And those areas, unfortunately, will be pushing over Indonesia. These two areas, specifically, though, these two little storm systems, they are going to be diving south very slowly, going for western Australia.

These are tropical systems here, and I don't expect Western Australia to get impacted heavily. However, as you can see, a little light blue up here in northwestern Australia, and that will lead to a little bit of rainfall. Not a ton, but just a bit, Michael. This area definitely needs it, too.

HOLMES: All right. Tyler Mauldin, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Now a Taiwanese court has revoked bail for the truck driver involved in that deadly train crash on Friday that killed at least 50 people. Lee Yi-hsiang was detained by the court over fears he could be a flight risk, collude with others, or even try to destroy evidence.

He says he's deeply remorseful and will cooperate with the police investigation.

Authorities believe Lee's truck slid down a bank last Friday and hit a passing eight-car train, carrying almost 500 people, causing it to come off the rails and hit the wall of the tunnel it was passing through.

Well, Japan's cherry blossoms are in full bloom, but instead of it being a typical joyous occasion, scientists are worried. We'll explain why when we come back.



HOLMES: Welcome back. Well, Japan's famous cherry blossom season has peaked. Beautiful, isn't it? But earlier than expected. Now, experts say this fits into a pattern of early flowering in recent decades. And likely cause: yes, climate change.

CNN's Selina Wang reports.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cherry blossom season is coming to an end in Japan. For thousands of years, these flowers have been revered, celebrated with hanami viewing parties. Even during COVID-19, people have gathered from all around to enjoy these stunning sights.

These blossoms, which only last a few days, a reminder of fleeting beauty, but also of the lasting effects of climate change. Cherry blossoms have bloomed exceptionally early across Japan. Scientists say it's a sign of global warning.

In Kyoto, blossoms peaked on March 26. That is the earliest date in more than 1,200 years of records. Here in Tokyo, flowers reached peak bloom on March 22, the second earliest date on record.

Now, these cherry trees are extremely important for climate change studies, because of how sensitive they are to temperature change and because of just how far back the data goes.

(voice-over): Yasuyuki Aono, a researcher at Osaka Prefecture University, tells me he's gathered records from Kyoto back to 812 A.D. from historical documents and diaries.

"In the last 200 years, the peak blooming date in Kyoto has been getting earlier and earlier as temperatures rise," he says. "Higher temperatures and urbanization contribute to earlier blooming times. This spring has been unusually warm in Japan," he says.

(on camera): Traditionally, sakura season is celebrated with picnics, and parties, and festivities underneath the trees, but they've been restricted this year because of COVID-19, with signs all over like this one, reminding people that parties are not allowed.

Cherry blossoms hold important cultural significance in Japan. They appear throughout Japanese literature and poetry as a symbol of life, death, and rebirth.

(voice-over): Here in Roppongi, the petals have all fallen. The delicate blossoms replaced with green leaves, reflecting the fragility of nature and of our planet.

Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


HOLMES: And surrounded by cherry blossoms, I thank you for watching, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Follow me on Twitter, and Instagram, @HolmesCNN. I will be back in 15 minutes. Meanwhile, stay tuned for WORLD SPORT.