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Tehran Nuclear Facility Experiences Blackout; Royal Siblings Grateful for Outpouring of Support; Recent Tensions Ease in Northern Ireland; England Enters 'Step 2' of Exiting Lockdown; India Hits 100 Million Vaccinations, But Cases Still Surge; Thailand Pins Tourism Reopening Hopes on Vaccines; Protesters March Peacefully in Myanmar after Weekend of Violence; St. Vincent Suffers power Outage after Volcano Eruption. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 12, 2021 - 00:00   ET


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.


Coming up, a blackout hits an Iranian nuclear facility. Tehran is calling it sabotage and pointing fingers.

Plus tributes are still pouring honoring the life life and legacy of Prince Philip. What Queen Elizabeth is telling her family about the loss of her husband.

And then later it's not your usual BAFTA awards. Here, the nominees were on Zoom. But it was also a big night for diversity.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: And we begin with an incident at Tehran's Natanz nuclear facility. The country's nuclear chief is calling it a terrorist action. While an Iranian lawmaker says the blackout is, quote, "suspicious," but Tehran says no one was injured, and there are no leaks.

The incident comes a day after Iran's national nuclear technology day and amid efforts by Tehran and Washington to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Israel's army chief appeared to hint at possible Israeli involvement in the incident. Right now, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Israel. And then in the coming hours, he's scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Well, earlier, Mr. Netanyahu slammed Iran's nuclear program. Take a listen.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The fight against Iran's nuclearization and its proxies, the fight against the Iranian nuclearization, the fight against Iran arming is a massive task. The situation that exists today doesn't mean it will be the same situation tomorrow. It's very difficult to explain what we've done here. And this transition from nothingness from complete helplessness that nothing compares to in the history of nations to being a world power. Yes, a world power which we built here. Definitely a regional power. But in certain areas, a world power.


Curnow: Well, Fred Pleitgen is following the story from Berlin -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Iranians have called all of this terrorist actions, which seems to very strongly indicate that they believe that some sort of foreign power is behind the incident that took place at the Natanz nuclear reactor, which is really one of the main sites in Iran's nuclear program.

The Iranians are saying that they believe in some power that is afraid of what the Iranians have been doing. They're afraid of some of the advances that the Iranians have been making.

Of course, we know that, since the Trump administration put in place a lot of those sanctions and left the Iran nuclear deal that Iran has actually expanded a lot of its nuclear activities, enriching more uranium, enriching it also to a higher grade.

And one of the things that happened on Saturday is that the Iranians had their national nuclear day. And on this day, they actually unveiled some new centrifuges which they say are more powerful, are more efficient, and will help them enrich the uranium even more and even more efficient.

So a day after this, there was this incident at the Natanz nuclear reactor. Iranians are saying that they'd reserve the right to retaliate, but they haven't said who they think is actually behind it.

There have been some interesting hints that have been dropped by the army chief of Israel, where he was seeming to indicate that it might actually be the Israelis who were behind it. One of the things that he said was, quote, that "Israel's operations throughout the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemy. They are watching us, seeing the capabilities and carefully considering their steps."

So certainly, that could indicate that maybe the Israelis were behind it. There were some sources, apparently, in Israel that were also hinting at that, as well.

So far, again, it still is very much unclear whether or not that's the case. But of course, all this comes at a very important time for the Iran nuclear agreement. For the first time in a very, very long time, both the U.S. and the Iranians are negotiating, not face to face but indirectly in an effort to try to bring the U.S. back into the deal. And bring Iran back into full compliance with the deal.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Well, joining me now is Kareem Sadjadpour. He's a senior fellow with the Carnegie endowment.

Kareem, wonderful to have you on the show. I'm really glad that you're able to join us this hour. Iran is calling this nuclear terrorism. Why are they using that language?

KAREEM SADJADPOUR, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: Well, I think, Robyn, that Iran is obviously very embarrassed by the fact that their nuclear program has once again been penetrated. If you remember last fall, Iran's top nuclear scientist was assassinated, a guy called Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, also ostensibly by the Israelis.


And so they're very -- using very strong language now to condemn this. In particular, given the fact that they're actively involved in negotiations with the United States with the Europeans about the nuclear program. And they're going to make the argument that the Israelis are potentially sabotaging the prospect of these negotiations being successful.

CURNOW: Yes, I mean, that was literally going to be my next question. I mean, Israel's army chief appeared to hint at this possible Israeli involvement in the incident. Will the U.S., will Europe, will the other signatories to this nuclear deal see this as Israel trying to sabotage these renewed talks? And what does that mean?

SADJADPOUR: Well, Iran -- one of the tenets of the Iranian revolution is their opposition to Israel's existence. You know, Iranian leaders have long called for a one-state solution in the holy land. The moments when Iran would test new missiles, it writes "death to Israel" on those missiles.

And so if you are Israel, you argue that you're not going to outsource your national security to anyone, including the United States. And so Israeli leaders have long made clear their opposition or ambivalence to the JCPOA, the nuclear deal with Iran. I think probably some Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, are a little bit skeptical of the instincts of some senior Biden administration officials on Iran.

And so it's simply a signal to Iran to the United States and two others that Israel is not going to defer to the United States for its security. And it's not going to be bound by these negotiations with Iran. That's not going to preclude Israel from -- from continuing to commit acts of sabotage and potentially future assassinations.

CURNOW: In many ways how, then, does this change Iran's leverage if at all, in the talks? I mean, they started last week. They're supposed to continue to Vienna this week. Does this impact Iran's next moves?

SADJADPOUR: Well, certainly, Iran will issue a condemnation and accuse the United States of being complicit in this operation. As you mention, the U.S. defense secretary was in Israel as this attack happened. And with the Iranians, that's obviously not going to be seen as coincidental, so they are going to complain and voice outrage.

But at the end of the day, they need sanctions relief. Can the negotiations will need to continue. Now, the Israelis have oftentimes talked about these operations as mowing the lawn. Something that needs to be done every month, every two months to essentially set back Iran's programs.

So I don't think we've seen the last of it. I think that these types of sabotage operations by Israel will continue. They will pose obstacles to these ongoing nuclear discussions.

But my view is that sometime this year in 2021, we will see either full or partial revival of the nuclear deal with Iran.

CURNOW: Does this in any way impact domestic politics within Iran? And does that then change the equation?

SADJADPOUR: You know, at the end of the day Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is one of the most -- is the most powerful man in Iran and one of the longest serving autocrats in the world. He's going to continue to be the most powerful individual in the country. And he's formally backed by the revolutionary guards.

And so I don't think it has that profound an impact on Iran's June 2021 presidential elections. And even if it does, the president of Iran really doesn't sign off on these types of national security decisions.

So I would argue that sometimes the impact that these types of operations have on Iranian domestic politics can be a bit exaggerated.

CURNOW: And Kareem, is Tehran going to feel the need to retaliate, even if it's the veneer of retaliation? What are the calculations politically right now in terms of options?

SADJADPOUR: So Iran has actually been in the situation many times when their scientists or military commanders have been assassinated. And they always have to work within a certain box, which is if they don't show any retaliation they risk losing face. They risk appearing weak.

But if they show -- if they try excessive retaliation, they risk losing their heads. And so Iran has to operate within those parameters.

My guess is that they will try to retaliate in some way. But they aren't really great at retaliation. And they can see that, you know, they responded to it. It won't have that much impact.

And I don't think it will really sabotage the ongoing nuclear discussions because, again, Iran wants to still, to be revived and the United States, Europe, China and Russia are also committed to reviving the nuclear deal.

CURNOW: Kareem Sadjadpour, thank you for your analysis. SADJADPOUR: Thank you, Robyn.

CURNOW: So in the coming hours, the House of Commons will meet for a special session to hear tributes to Prince Philip. The U.K. is in the midst of eight days of mourning for the Duke of Edinburgh. Crowds of people have been leaving flowers at Windsor Castle since he died on Friday.

Mourners said his passing marks the end of an era, and it was important for them to pay their respects.

At Canterbury Cathedral, the archbishop said he prayed for all those who now face a great gap in their lives.

And then at Windsor, Prince Andrew described how his mother is doing.


PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK: The queen, as you would expect, is an incredibly stoic person. And she described his passing as a miracle. And -- and she's contemplating, I think, is the way that I would put it. She described it as having left a huge void in her life.

But we, the family, the ones that are closer, are rallying around to make sure that we're there to support her. And I know that there is a huge amount of support, not just for her, but for everybody, as we go through this enormous change.


CURNOW: The rest of Prince Philip's children say they are taking strength from the nation's outpouring of support. Here's Max Foster. Max is at Windsor, as well.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sunday was an opportunity for Prince Philip's other children to express how they've been feeling since he passed. We heard from Prince Charles on Saturday, but on Sunday, Prince Andrew described Philip as the grandfather of the nation. We heard from Prince Edward as well. And the Countess of Wessex spoke outside church to well-wishers and gave a bit of detail, actually, about how Prince Philip passed.

SOPHIE, COUNTESS OF WESSEX: It was right for him, and it was so gentle. It was just like someone took him by the hand and off he went. It was very, very peaceful, and that's all you want for somebody, isn't it?

So I think it is so much easier for the person that goes than the people who are left behind. We are all sitting here looking at each other going 'this is awful.' But equally, look at all the tributes. So many people. It's just amazing.

FOSTER: Princess Anne was particularly close to Prince Philip. She issued this photograph of the two of them seen at the Olympics in 2012. You can see how well they got on there.

Princess Anne saying, despite his long and rich life, you can never really prepare for a moment like this. She said you know it's going to happen, but you're never really ready for it.

We expect to hear from the grandchildren. Prince William, Prince Harry later in the week, but Sunday was really about Prince Philip's children speaking out. More details on the service on Saturday, as well, expected later this week.

Max Foster, CNN, Windsor, England.


CURNOW: And Prince Philip's death has eased recent tensions in Northern Ireland. Outbreaks of violence between Catholic and Protestant communities left dozens of police officers wounded last week.

But as Salma Abdelaziz reports now, calm does seem to be holding for now.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunday service for an anxious Protestant community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will lead us in prayer for Prince Philip and his family.

ABDELAZIZ: Here, there is mourning for Prince Philip and devotion for the queen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I invite you to stand? We pay tribute to Prince Philip.

ABDELAZIZ: And prayers for peace, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can most certainly stand together to say violence is not the way.

ABDELAZIZ: Belfast was shaken by violence worse than any seen here in years. Mounting frustrations over issues ranging from Brexit was to COVID restrictions poured out onto the streets. That quickly descended into clashes between Northern Ireland's bitterly divided Protestant and Catholic communities.

But in the aftermath of Prince Philip's death, calls to end the fighting by pro-British loyalist leaders like Billy Hutchinson were heard.

BILLY HUTCHINSON, LEADER, PROGRESSIVE UNIONIST PARTY: I felt that people should respect Prince Philip. I didn't want to see people back out on the streets. These young people will be criminalized. They'll be vilified.

ABDELAZIZ: At nightfall, we witnessed calm along the troubled fault line in North Belfast.


(on camera): This area is often a flashpoint. On that side is a Protestant community. Over there is a Catholic neighborhood. At times, you have clashed here. Police are trying to keep them apart, but all political parties have called on everyone to stay home, stop protesting, and it seems to be working.

(voice-over): Away from the hotspots, I meet three Protestant youth workers who tell us they do not want to return to the hatred of the past.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want to be involved in that.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you've moved on. You want peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think it's reckless and dangerous, and it's wrecking their own community.

ABDELAZIZ: Does any part of you feel afraid? Does any part of you feel like, Oh, this could get worse?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's terrifying. The thought of that is terrifying. Having to grow up somewhere where you're scared of your own community.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Mourning for the royal family has quieted these restless neighborhoods, where loyalty to the monarchy runs deep. But the fear is the respite might not last beyond the princess funeral.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Belfast.


CURNOW: And still ahead on CNN, a moral boost for pub keepers. Pub owners and shop owners in England, what they can expect as the nation takes another step on its roadmap out of lockdown.

Plus, officials in Thailand are hoping to fill beaches and tourist destinations again. We'll talk about how they plan to do that while keeping safe from COVID.


CURNOW: The latest now on Europe's fight against the coronavirus as cases climb and countries try to step up the pace of vaccinations.

Germany has now reported more than three million cases. The director of the country's intensive care association says, the health care system is on the verge of breaking down.

Now the consistent rise in cases has prompted Germany's national rail operator to ban people from their trains if they refuse to wear a mask.

And then in France, anyone over the age of 55 can now get the AstraZeneca vaccine. The country expects to receive its first delivery of Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Monday.

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says England is taking a major step forward by moving into step two of exiting lockdown. But even as many nonessential businesses reopen, COVID precautions are still very much in place, as Anna Stewart now reports -- Anna.

Well, these doors have been closed for over three months. But from today, hairdressers in England can finally reopen. Just imagine how long the waitlist is going to be.

Today marks a real milestone for England in its roadmap to easing COVID-19 restrictions. From today, nonessential shops, indoor gyms, nail salons, even zoos can reopen if they have COVID secure measures in place.

And perhaps the most highly anticipated reopen will be that of the pub. Although like restaurants and cafes, they can only reopen currently outdoors, which means the first pint could be a little bit chilly. And certainly not back to normal.

So households still can't mix indoors, and travel abroad is banned. So no holidays just yet.

But for businesses, this is a real turning point. So many of them have really been on life support, using various government loan schemes and furlough schemes and so on. And for people in England, it's a morale boost.

(on camera): Finally, after such a long lockdown,

Anna Stewart, CNN, in Eaton, England.


CURNOW: Monday marks a significant day in India, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to bathe in the Ganges River, as part of a Hindu festival. It's long been a concern of health experts who fear this could become another COVID super-spreader event.

India just reported almost 153,000 new cases on Sunday, a daily record for the country. It came the same day India topped 100 million COVID vaccinations in one of the fastest rollouts in the world.

Well, Vedika Sud joins me now from New Delhi with all of this. Vedika, hi, what can you tell us?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to be here with you, Robyn. Yes, this is an escalating figure. And a reason and cause for concern, not only for the Indian authorities but also at that festival that you were referring to, which is Kumbh Vela in the northern state of Uttarakhand in India. Now 500,000 people are expected to converge there today. Why? Because

today is a highly auspicious day for the Hindus. This is the day when all of them gather at this location to take a dip in the holy river, the Ganges. Another date they should do the same is on the 14th.

Now we've been seeing escalating numbers in the state of Uttarakhand itself ever since the beginning of Kumbh Vela, which continues till the end of the month. It's usually a three-month festival, but it has been brought down to one month due to COVID-19. But that doesn't take away from the fact that this could still be a super-spreader. And it is, of course, a concern like the health experts have been talking about.

Yes, the figures overall for the nation have been staggering: 153,000 is what I reported yesterday morning. And awaiting figures for today, as well. Even the deaths have gone up to 839 in the last 24 hours, which was the highest for this year, at least.

Also, in the union territory of Delhi, the chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, announced Saturday that some more restrictions have been put in place, which includes no public gatherings for any social, religious or political events. And this comes at a time when the parties themselves have been saying that crowding and the resistance to wear masks are the main reasons behind the surge in COVID-19 cases in the latest wave.

But what's ironic also is the fact that massive election rallies continue at this point in time across five states that have been going to polls, along with that massive Kumbh Mela which continues in the northern state of Uttarakhand, Robyn.

CURNOW: Thanks for an update there, live in Delhi. Vedika Sud, thank you.

SUD: Thank you.

CURNOW: So Thailand's tourism workers are ready to get back to business. Officials have approved a plan to allow vaccinated tourists to skip quarantine and get straight to the beach.

There's still a lot of fear about COVID and not enough vaccines to go around. Blake Essig tells us what's at stake if tourism doesn't start back up soon.


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Phuket, off the coast of Thailand, the ways peacefully lapping up against the shore mask a race furiously underway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we have a vaccine, that would be very good news.

SU SUTSAM, LOBSTER AND PRAWN RESTAURANT MANAGER: We hope for vaccine. If the vaccine is OK, we hope the customers will come back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The vaccine is the best solution now.

ESSIG: Normally bustling this time of year, one of the world's great destinations been left fallow by the pandemic. The sooner Phuket reaches herd immunity, the sooner it can welcome back those well- heeled travelers from abroad.

VINCENT GERARDS, GENERAL MANAGER, PHUKET ELEPHANT SANCTUARY: Around 85 percent of the population of Phuket relies on tourism in some form or another, whether they're working in hotels, they're taxi drivers, fishermen. It's all connected to tourism.

ESSIG: For Vincent Gerards, who runs the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, the pandemic and the Thai government's strict quarantine rules have been an existential threat to business.

GERARDS: We are a tourism company, so we are not a foundation. So before COVID, our main income stream would be visitors who come here and join our tours. More than 150 elephants living in Phuket have left the island since the beginning of COVID-19, because the camps had to temporarily or permanently close.

ESSIG: Mandating quarantine for outsiders has helped Thailand control the spread of COVID-19. Fewer than 100 people have died from coronavirus here.

Anthony Lark, the president of Phuket Hotels Association, says the resultant drop in tourism has caused untold damage.

ANTHONY LARK, PRESIDENT, PHUKET HOTELS ASSOCIATION: We know that the virus is not what is destroying this industry. It's the quarantine.

ESSIG: And the ripple effects go well beyond just this one island. Since many tourism workers come from outside of Phuket and send their income back home to support their families.


After a year of struggle, many here are pinning their hopes on a new government plan to allow inoculated foreigners to start returning to the island in July and skip the quarantine.

Lark says that the way out of this crisis is not with vaccinated tourists but vaccinated locals.

LARK: The fear factor here is quite light. You know, there's a lot of people in Thailand that don't want foreigners coming in here with this -- with this -- you know, carrying the virus. So the secret is to get the local community vaccinated to a level where we feel safe enough with the presence of antibodies in people's systems to -- to welcome back tourists without that fear.

ESSIG: For a developing country like Thailand, getting vaccine doses has not been easy. The country has received just over one million doses so far for a population of nearly 70 million.

With millions more doses on order, the government has said it will prioritize tourist-dependent Phuket, earmarking nearly a million doses for the island, hoping to speed up the path to herd immunity. Gerards smiles at the thought of Phuket reaching that milestone.

GERARDS: It's great to finally see that light at the end of the tunnel.

ESSIG: He looks forward to welcoming back the international tourists that support his 12 elephants, along with many other businesses in the heart of Thailand's tourism industry.

Blake Essig, CNN.


CURNOW: Coming up on CNN, the very real threat of violence and death isn't stopping Myanmar's citizens from marching. We'll talk about their latest struggles. That's next.


CURNOW: Welcome back to all of our viewers around the world. Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow here in Atlanta, and you are watching CNN.

So Myanmar's pro-democracy protesters are refusing to give in to fear and intimidation. Crowds of people marched peacefully in several cities on Sunday. The demonstrations followed a weekend of bloodshed and warlike military attacks on civilians in the city of Bago.

Now, a monitoring group says 82 people were killed there on Friday. Security forces have reportedly been charging families to collect the bodies of their loved ones.

Well, Paula Hancocks is following all of this from neighboring Thailand. Paula, hi.

It's certainly been a bloody weekend. But people continue to march in protest.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Robyn. And everybody we speak to saying that they have to keep going. That this, as far as they're concerned, is the final battle to try and secure democracy and that they can't give up.

But that really was a very bloody day that we saw in the city of Bago on Friday. And a horrifying development that we're now hearing the military is charging people and families to -- to be able to take the bodies of their loved ones back.


The fact that the loved ones have been killed at the hands of the military and they are taking these bodies away, we hear from multiple sources. CNN cannot independently confirm.

But there were reports that, after the bloody fighting on Friday, that many of these bodies were put on the back of the military Jeep and taken away. And now they are charging for the families to be able to take them back and give them their final rights. So really a horrible development there.

We've heard from one advocacy group, AAPP. They say at least 82 were killed. They say the number is likely far higher. They called it a killing field on Friday.

Now, we understand from them that the likes of assault rifles, RPGs, which is heavy weaponry, were used against the protesters. The military themselves are saying that they believe that handmade guns and handmade shields were used by what they call the rioters, but quite frankly, a handmade shield doesn't do much up against a rocket- propelled grenade -- Robyn.

CURNOW: It certainly doesn't. And with all of that playing out, Aung San Suu Kyi, the deposed civilian leader is expected to appear in court today. What can we expect?

HANCOCKS: Well, at this point, Robyn, there are five charges against, the most serious of which is violating the official secrets act. We don't get any access to what is going on within that court proceeding.

We do have the opportunity to speak to the lawyer of Aung San Suu Kyi to try and figure out what is happening. It is generally done by video conference within the court system itself. But -- but often it's also postponed. Because the judges say that the Internet simply isn't good enough to be able to do that.

Now, clearly, it is the military that is cutting off the Internet to try and prevent protesters from connecting with the outside world. So it's debatable how much we will actually hear of the continuing court case from Aung San Suu Kyi.

But one thing that is clear is that those protesters are still going out onto the street. Still have huge respect for Aung San Suu Kyi. She still enjoys immense popularity from within the country -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Paula Hancocks keeping an eye on all of that. Thanks very much.

So you're watching CNN. Still ahead, after calls for more diversity, the BAFTA Awards represented winners from many, many different backgrounds. We'll look at who was honored. And also what it could mean for the Oscars.

And then a massive power outage hits the St. Vincent island in the Caribbean. And the dangers from an explosive volcano are really not yet over. We have that story, as well.


CURNOW: Day No. 3, and everything looks like a battle zone. And it certainly does. That was the message coming from emergency officials in St. Vincent. Much of the Caribbean island has lost power after the La Soufriere

volcano began erupting on Friday. Volcanic ash and the stench of sulfur are blanketing communities, even neighboring islands. And the tremors could last a while longer.

For more on the volcano and a rare tropical cyclone in western Australia, I want to go straight to Gene Normand.

Jean, what can you tell us? Lovely to see you?

GENE NORMAN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Robyn. Good to see you, as well.

These pictures are just dramatic and astonishing when you think about it. This is nearby Barbados. And this is where day has been turning into night, as every time the volcano on Saint Vincent belches it sends the ash that way off toward the east.

And it's blanketing everything in sight. And now there's a new complication I'm going to talk about.

On the satellite picture, we can see whenever there's one of these big explosions, the big bright colors appear, much like what you would see when you have a thunderstorm. And that's why we've had people reporting that they've been seeing lightning.

But we're also dealing with rain. That's right. We're starting to see some light rain showers moving over the area. And what that's doing is it's changing the ash into kind of a mud.

And then when it hardens, it gets even worse. And then we mentioned about the lightning. We've had lots of reports on social media of people seeing these dramatic sites.

And it's simply what happens when lots of debris gets lofted high into the air very quickly with the velocity of the explosions. It causes an electrical discharge, and that's what is causing the lightning to develop.

Now something else we're dealing with is the dust, of course. Every time there's a big explosion, we see a big plume heading over to Barbados.

And not only are we dealing with the ash that's heading in that direction, but we're also dealing with the problems of respiratory distress. People are being advised to wear a mask and so forth.

And now we're watching this dust, from a forecast from Copernicus, could make it all the way over to northern Africa in the next couple of days. As far as that cyclone, well, it's over, but it did bring lots of heavy wind and damage to portions of western Australia.

Robyn, we'll continue to track this and also keep an eye on that volcano.

CURNOW: Brilliant. Thanks so much. Gene Norman. Thanks for joining us. So Sunday's BAFTA Awards sought to level the playing field and focus

on diversity. Women dominated the Best Director category with four of the six nominations with the award ultimately going to filmmaker Chloe Zahn and her film, "Nomadland."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the BAFTA is awarded to "Nomadland."

CHLOE ZHAO, DIRECTOR, "NOMADLAND": Thank you, BAFTA. Thank you so much. We would like to dedicate this award to the nomadic community who so generously welcomed us into their lives. They shared with us their dreams, their struggles, and their deep sense of dignity.

(voice-over): What the nomads are doing is not that different than what the pioneers did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to make the hole bigger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's part of an American tradition.


CURNOW: The film took home four awards, the most of the evening, including Best Film, Best Leading Actress, Best Cinematography.

The awards also included a tribute to Prince Philip, noting the support that he and the royal family have given to the arts over the years. Take a listen.


EDITH BOWMAN, HOST, BAFTA AWARDS: It was Prince Philip and Her Majesty, the Queen's support throughout these years that, in many ways, has allowed BAFTA, a leading charity in the arts, to continue in difficult times and still be here today in 2021. The Duke of Edinburgh occupies a special place in BAFTAs history, and our thoughts are with the royal family.


CURNOW: For more on all of this, I'm joined now by Rebecca Sun, senior editor of "The Hollywood Reporter." Rebecca, hi. Lovely to see you. How big a night was it for diversity?

REBECCA SUN, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Well, I mean, I think relative -- excuse me, relative to the history of the awards show it was a pretty big night. We saw Chloe Zhao being the first woman of color, only the second woman ever to win Best Director, which is not just big for the BAFTAs, but big for, I think, the film awards community in general.

And a lot of that was helped by the fact that the pool of nominations was more diverse than ever.

CURNOW: Let's talk about "Nomadland." "Nomadland." I mean, it's a very powerful movie. And certainly, led the pack and Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress.

SUN: Yes, absolutely. And this is, you know, BAFTA's choice was not an aberration in any way. "Nomadland" has been the frontrunner all season. It has only picked up steam as it's really been able to collect the top awards in other awards shows leading up to this.


It's a really interesting film for this time. I think it's very timely, because it's very quintessentially American. It talks about an underclass of sorts in the United States. People who are sort of socioeconomically disenfranchised, who are older, who are in many ways forgotten.

And I think that taps into a sentiment that, at least here in America, a lot of people have been feeling during the pandemic.

CURNOW: And that also quintessentially American tale, in many ways, is "Minari," which tells of South Korean immigrants moving to rural Arkansas during the Eighties. Like I said, it's uniquely American, and also had some pretty fantastic breakout roles and also told a very powerful story about American -- the American Asian experience, which is very much in the news right now.

SUN: Absolutely. I mean, you know, I think this was something that could not have been foreseen when "Minari" premiered at Sundance in January of 2020.

But I think this is a time in which people are finally, as you said, paying attention to the Asian-American experience. The experience of the Asian diaspora in the western world.

"Minari" is a classically American film about, you know, the proverbial American dream told through one of the many specific cultures that belong here. And so it's been really amazing to see it get the kind of a claim that I don't know if, you know, awards bodies were in a place where they were ready to really receive it even five years ago.

CURNOW: Let's talk about some -- the female directors. I mean, it really was a powerful -- a number of powerful women making powerful movies. Great to see Emerald Fennell, also. What a provocative movie she made with Carey Mulligan. But still, again, an important story.

SUN: Absolutely. And a story that is -- you know, we're talking about a story that is exactly at the heart of the gendered experience of women.

Universally, I would say, it's specifically about sexual violence. And, you know, very sort of unabashedly thematic in that way. I mean, it was really incredible to see the way that the nomination should count with women for the first.

I've never seen an awards show where women were able to dominate the category in terms of nominations. And a lot of that has to do with the rules changes that BAFTA implemented for this cycle. You know, and it wasn't a quota. They did not do a quota. What they

did was they made sure that the pool, their pool of consideration was expanded in order to make sure that they were actually thinking about, OK, have we thought about all of the possible, eligible women this year? And clearly, when they did that, this was the result.

CURNOW: Quickly, just before we go, what does this tell us about the Oscars, if anything at all?

SUN: Well, you know, I think that, you know, obviously, the awards organizations have two completely different sets of rules. However, voting has not yet closed for the Academy, and so momentum means a lot.

And, you know, sensibilities I would say are similar with BAFTA and Academy both in terms of their traditional tastes and the ways in which they are trying to evolve and progress. I think it speaks very well. Everybody who won at the BAFTAs today is a good -- they have a really good chance going into the Oscars.

CURNOW: Fantastic news. Rebecca Sun, great to speak to you. Thank you.

SUN: Thank you.

CURNOW: And thank you for watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. WORLD SPORT starts after the break.