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Top European Football Clubs Plan to Form 'Super League'; Aides: Navalny's Life 'Hanging on a Thread'; Moscow Expels 20 Czech Diplomats from Country in Retaliation; New Waves of Infections Slowing Recovery in Much of Asia; Ontario's Hospitals Overwhelmed Amid Third Wave; Australia and New Zealand Begin Travel Bubble; U.S. Airlines Prepare for Summer Travel Demand Surge; Helicopters Water Bombing Cape Town Fire from Above; Typhoon Surigae Impacting Eastern Philippines. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired April 19, 2021 - 00:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Michael Holmes and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


Coming up on the program, it's called the Super League, and it is shaking up the world of sport, big-time. Who's in it and what it means for the future of football.

Records smashed in India. A concerning surge in Canada. And new rules for some of Europe's top tourist destinations. We've got the latest COVID headlines for you.

And the very latest on Typhoon Surigae. Pedram Javaheri is standing by in the weather center.

Welcome, everyone. We do start with that announcement that is sending shockwaves around the world of football. Twelve of the top European clubs planning to form a breakaway, 20-club Super League. The final lineup a work in progress, but there are some titans of the game involved so far. Both FIFA and the governing body for European football condemning the move. A lot of people are.

CNN's world -- CNN WORLD SPORT's Patrick Snell following developments from here in Atlanta. He joins me now. This has very much put the catch among the football pigeons.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: You can say that. No question, Michael. This is the news that could very well shape the very landscape of European football. I think that's fair to say as we know it now. Those are the key words. Feelings running high, emotions running high, I can assure you of that.

Just to recap, late Sunday, the developments breaking quickly. Twelve of Europe's top clubs announcing their attention to form this so- called new super league. This is how these clubs break down country by country. We just saw a little flick of it. Six from England's Premier League. You've got the two Manchester giants, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal. In Spain, you've got Real and Atletico Madrid, along with Barcelona. In Italy, the two Milan giants, plus Juventus.

But what do we know in terms of timeline? When is this going to happen? If so, the group plans to add three additional clubs before the new league's inaugural season, which they say is, quote -- this is key, Michael -- "intended to commence as soon as is practical." What exactly does that mean?

Well, let's propose the league will ultimately consist of 20 clubs. Mid-week fixtures will be played with teams, though, still continuing to compete in their respective national leagues. That's also really important. I talked about emotions earlier. Let's hear now from former Man United legend Gary Neville, who's not holding back with his views. Take a listen.


GARY NEVILLE, FORMER MANCHESTER UNITED PLAYER: I'm a Manchester United fan, have been for 40 years of my life. I'm disgusted, absolutely disgusted. It's pure greed. They're impostors. They're impostors. They're nothing to do. The owners of this club, the owners of Liverpool, the owners of Chelsea, the owners of Manchester City, they're nothing to do with football in this history. There are 100-odd years of history in this country from fans that have lived and loved these clubs. And they need protecting.

My reaction earlier, almost an emotional reaction, dock them all points tomorrow. Put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously. You've got to stamp on this. This is -- it's criminal. It's a criminal act against football fans in this country.


SNELL: And you can see there, Michael, just the emotions of Gary Neville being condemned by UEFA, as well. FIFA expressing its concerns and disapproval. And the fans, as well. There are many, many fans who are just not happy. We've been hearing from the fans' groups.

Many hurdles to overcome, Michael, before this eventually does take place. If indeed it does, when does it take place? There are so many questions to be answered.

HOLMES: There certainly are. My Tottenham, too, Patrick.

SNELL: Yes. Tottenham, you make a point about Tottenham. They're outside the Champions League spots for this current season, way outside the spots, Michael. And yet, they are one of the six English clubs being touted here.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, incredible. Patrick Snell, good to see you, my friend. It's been a minute. SNELL: Yes.

HOLMES: And Patrick will have much more on football's new breakaway Super League, coming up in WORLD SPORT. That begins in 45 minutes. I will be watching that.

OK. Now the Russian government is under pressure from world leaders to keep jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny alive. The outspoken Kremlin critic is now on day 20 of a hunger strike. And his allies say he is very close to death. The European Union demanding the Kremlin let Navalny see his own doctors. And the U.S. national security adviser says the White House is weighing its options if Navalny were to die.



JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility, and they will be held accountable by the international community.

In terms of the specific measures that we would undertake, we are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose. And I'm not going to telegraph that publicly at this point, but we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.


HOLMES: Alexei Navalny's team is calling for supporters to join rallies across Russia on Wednesday. They say there is no time to spare as Navalny's condition grows more dire.


LEONID VOLKOV, HEAD OF ALEXEI NAVALNY'S REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS (through translator): Have you ever seen with your own eyes how someone is killed? Yes, you have, and you are seeing it right now. Whatever the urge to pull away from it, not think about it, change the subject, that doesn't negate the fact that Alexei Navalny is being killed in a terrible way and in front of everyone's eyes.


HOLMES: Joining me now is Masha Gessen, staff writer for "The New Yorker." And also the author of the book, "Surviving Autocracy."

Masha, thanks so much for your time. And all the reports from supporters suggest Navalny is risking his life with this hunger strike. Why do that? What does he achieve or would he achieve with his own death?

MASHA GESSEN, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": I don't think it's a question of what he would achieve with his own death, although I think -- I think there's an answer to that, as well. The simple answer to why he is doing this is because a hunger strike

is absolutely the only form of protest that is available to an inmate in a Russian prison. And so the only way he can demand what is his by the law, which is a visit from his -- his regular physician is by declaring a hunger strike.

HOLMES: When you look at the bigger picture, there's been widespread calls from the international community including today from the U.S. for Navalny to be given that medical access. And -- or for him to be just released, full stop. What can the international community do? Putin isn't going to, you know, help Navalny, presumably, just because of U.S. or France or the U.K. or the E.U. says to.

GESSEN: I don't know. I mean, I don't know if, at this point, it's possible to influence Putin's behavior. From the last 21 years of Putin, we have learned that it's generally very hard.

But, and I think, if there's anything that he's afraid of, he's actually more afraid of protests in the streets of his own country. This's going to happen on Wednesday.

I really hope that enough Russians are brave enough to risk their own safety and security to take to the streets to exert enough pressure on Putin to stop killing Navalny. And also, that Navalny lives to see that day.

HOLMES: We've seen in the past what's happened with protests and rallies in Russia. We do expect a big turnout, 450,000-plus signatures. Do you expect these rallies to be big?

GESSEN: So the 450,000 signatures are actually people who have submitted their email addresses and their full names, and committed to attending a demonstration. This is the first time that a demonstration in contemporary Russia has been organized in this way by sort of taking sign-up sheets first.

Everything that we have seen in the last 20 years have been demonstrations that are kind of called, and then we don't know whether it's going to be 5,000 people who show up or 5 people or 500,000. Right?

So this is -- this was an organizing method that was tried for the first time with an attempt to really nail down how many people are going to show up. That said, we don't know how well this method is going to work. But my sense is that we should probably expect really, really large protests.

HOLMES: You've written about this. But briefly, tell people why Navalny even returned to Russia after his treatment in Germany for the Novichok poisoning. He knew he'd be arrested and likely jailed. Why do that?

GESSEN: I think Navalny knows that he would not be able to work from abroad. But I think more than that, it's a matter of principle to him. It is a matter of refusing to hold up one of the pillars of Putin-ism, which is fear and which is the ability to get even the bravest critics of the regime ultimately to leave the country, as we seen with Gary Kasparov, with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, you know, people who, when they have to decide whether -- you know, to choose between their own lives and continue to fight, said, OK, my life is worth more to me.


Navalny says, Look, this regime is not going to be able to stand if we refuse this bargain, if we refuse to act out of fear. And I think what he is hoping to do is he's hoping to act -- to set enough of an example of acting on courage and principle and determination to create a new society in Russia, whether or not he lives to see it.

HOLMES: That's really well put.

I want to ask you this, too, before we go. The Moscow prosecutor's office filing that lawsuit to label Navalny's anti-corruption foundation, his headquarters, as extremist organizations.

What impact is that likely to have on the ability of his team to operate in Russia? You know, just one example. There are elections in September. And one presumes Navalny's orders (ph) would be banned from even running in that case.

GESSEN: That's likely. That's -- yes, if these are people who have a known affiliation with an organization that's been declared extremist, they will not be allowed to get on the ballot. I think they will -- may also not be allowed to engage in any kind of electoral -- of campaigning on behalf of other candidates.

And I think ultimately, it's the next step in this very slow, bureaucratic process. You know, they can kill people fast. But it's harder to shut down an organization. And they're trying to make their way to declaring Navalny 's organizations terrorist organizations so they can ban them outright.

HOLMES: Yes. Terrific analysis, as always. Masha Gessen, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

GESSEN: Thank you for having me.

HOLMES: Now, Russia has given 20 Czech diplomats until the end of the day to leave the country. The expulsions and retaliation after Prague issued similar moves against Moscow on Saturday.

Senior international correspondent Sam Kiley with that.


SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Czech authorities have announced that they're going to expel 18 Russian members of what they say are intelligence organizations.

The Russian authorities have responded, saying that they will meet this latest what they call provocation from the Czech Republic in kind. The decision to expel these Russians follows investigations, the Czech

government has said, into the mysterious explosions in 2014 at two ammunition depots that killed two citizens of the Czech Republic.

They are also simultaneously, the Czech police, saying that they're looking for two other individuals that have already been named by the British government as being behind attempts on Sergei Skripal's life, using the Novichok nerve agent back in 2018 in the cathedral city of Salisbury.

Now the Czech Republic's decision to carry out these mass expulsions come close on the heels of a decision from the polls to throw three Russian diplomats out. And the United States' decision to expel 10 Russian diplomats following with the United States has accused Russia of having conducted not only a widespread cyber-attack on the United States, and her allies, but also interference in the U.S. 2020 elections.

These moves have been met by the Russians, and what they say is going to be reciprocity with the expulsion, they say, of 10 U.S. diplomats. They say that they will be meeting the Czech Republic's efforts in kind and also have condemned all of these expulsions as what they call provocations.

This all coming as the Russian federation and its leader, Vladimir Putin, have been accused of no less than dramatic provocation, particularly by the Pentagon with a buildup of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine not seen since Russia and its proxies were responsible for the invasion and the illegal annexation of Crimea back in 2014.

Sam Kiley, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: Russia is defending that troop buildup on the border with Ukraine mentioned there in Sam's reporting. The Russian ambassador to the U.K. calls it, quote, "normal military preparedness exercises. Absolutely normal," unquote, and not a prelude to invasion.

The ambassador says he did not think that the two countries were close to war. However, he warned Russia would, quote, "respond" if Ukraine moved troops in the Donbass region, which is in Ukraine. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron calling for calm.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: I think the situation is unacceptable. Russia has to de-escalate. This is clear. The situation today and the level of tension at the border is absolutely counterproductive and unacceptable.

I'm definitely in favor of discussion with Russia. With an open, quiet, and respectful discussion with Russia. But I think that when we put red lines, we have to make sure to be credible and to make these red lines respected by the others. (END VIDEO CLIP)


HOLMES: Pope Francis calling for prayers for the people of Eastern Ukraine. The pope says in a tweet that he, quote, "hopes that an escalation of the tensions might be avoided, and instead, that actions capable of promoting reciprocal trust and which foster reconciliation and peace might be undertaken."

Hot and dry conditions hampering firefighters' efforts in South Africa. When we come back, the evacuations that were forced near Table Mountain in the national park.

There are now also more signs of hope and progress in the battle against coronavirus. See which countries are lifting more restrictions and opening their borders for visitors. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: A new wave of infections, combined with a shortage of vaccines and hospital beds, is threatening to slow recovery from coronavirus in many Asian countries.

India seeing another record rise in cases, more than 200,000 infections per day. And with religious festivals and election rallies adding to the surge, the Delhi government is planning to convert sports complexes and wedding halls into makeshift hospital wards.

Hong Kong temporarily banning flights from India, Pakistan, and the Philippines starting Tuesday after a rise in cases in those countries. Top health experts, in Japan, say the country is in the middle of a fourth wave of the pandemic. And Thailand implementing new restrictions after a rise in cases there.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins me now, live, from Bangkok. And Paula, Thailand where you are, and Japan, struggling with these new waves. Why is that? And also, what is the vaccine situation for those countries?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, those two questions you can ask in one. I mean, the reason why we are seeing, or at least one of the reasons we're seeing these high numbers in some Asia-Pacific countries is the fact that the vaccination rollout has been fairly slow, now certainly, when it comes to the Asia Pacific region, for 2020, there is plenty of praise going around, for the way many of these countries have controlled the pandemic.

In fact, the Lowry Institute said that the Asia Pacific region was the most successful, on average, in trying to control the pandemic. Because of that, we saw many countries -- Thailand, and South Korea, Japan -- step back and -- and say that they wanted to wait and see what sort of side effects there were from the vaccinations. We had South Korean health officials saying that.

And so that meant that they were lower down the list. They were further back in the queue when it came to -- to asking for those vaccinations, of which, as you say, there is a global shortage.

Now, clearly, there was a different risk assessment for many of these countries. Here, in Thailand, for example, there have been 99 deaths due to COVID, a very low number.


When you compare to the likes of the United States, for example, well over half a million people having lost their lives due to COVID. So certainly, there was the sense in many Asian countries that they have the luxury of time, and they didn't need to push forward with the vaccinations as much as the likes of the U.S. and the U.K..

But, certainly, there is a sense that the tables have turned now, that many of these Asian countries are struggling to keep up with the vaccinations, and with the programs here in Thailand.

We know they are having record numbers of -- of new cases, every single day. They are starting to set up these field hospital beds, more than 20,000 field hospital beds, are going to be set up because they realized just how bad this could become -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, very worrying. Paula, thanks. Paula Hancocks there in Thailand.

Canada sending more healthcare workers to the province of Ontario, where coronavirus cases are surging. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is doing whatever it can to support the country's most populated province.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: To the healthcare workers who are relentlessly fighting this virus, thank you. I know you're exhausted, and that hasn't stopped you from working harder than ever before. We all need to get you more support in critical areas. Know that we're doing whatever we can to help.


HOLMES: And that help is desperately needed, at least one hospital in Ontario says its ICU is operating at 115 percent capacity, and there is concern doctors could soon be forced to ration care.

CNN's Paula Newton reports.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the pandemic Canada had planned for but was so hoping to avoid. This Toronto field hospital will open within days, as a punishing third wave of the virus now threatens the country's healthcare system.

In the last week alone, hospitalizations and deaths are up by more than a third, with a worrying increase in younger, sicker patients needing intensive care. Toronto Dr. Michael Warner says his critical care unit is already


DR. MICHAEL WARNER, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF CRITICAL CARE, MICHAEL GARRON HOSPITAL: We will be there. We will do our best, but you know, I'm trained to save people, not to use a checklist to decide if people are going to live or die. But that's where we're at, and that's my biggest fear. And it's -- I think a lot of healthcare workers are beyond angry. We're just really forlorn we're in the situation that we find ourselves in.

NEWTON: The crisis is most acute in the province of Ontario, including Toronto, where top public health officials describe the situation as dire. Some patients are now being transferred to hospitals hundreds of miles away to get the care they need. And, the unthinkable: that still hundreds more will need ICUs in the weeks to come.

WARNER: It will break the healthcare system and virtually assure that we will have to triage patients who we would normally save today to palliation and death, because we won't have enough staff beds to care for patients that need care for COVID, or non-COVID-related critical illness.

NEWTON: Some doctors we spoke to hear now say the Ontario government acted too late, even though the city of Toronto has been in some form of lockdown for nearly five months.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has now put in tough new measures, extending a stay-at-home order until at least mid-May, closing even outdoor activities, restricting travel in and out of the province.

DR. FAHAD RAZAK, ST. MICHAEL'S HOSPITAL, TORONTO: Whatever we put into place, though, it's going to take time to have an effect. And right now, the trajectories of COVID rises are really baked in. And I think the next two to three weeks for Ontario, and for Canada, are going to be very, very tough.

NEWTON (on camera): Talk to me about the distress in your patience and their families right now.

RAZAK: There is clearly a difference in this wave, compared to what we saw in the earlier waves. People are younger, and they're clearly sicker. And we're having a hard time getting them stable enough for them to leave hospital.

NEWTON (voice-over): And Canada has not secured enough doses to vaccinate its way out of the worst of this third wave. This Toronto vaccination clinic was empty for much of the week while patients filled hospitals. Ontario hospital and ICU admissions have now shattered records.

WARNER: So, we're stuck, where we have cases out of control, hospitals completely full, not enough vaccine supply available, and months of difficult public health measures ahead of us.

Despite months of planning, this pandemic is sure now to push, and yes, punish patients and healthcare workers in Canada as never before.

Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.


HOLMES: Starting Monday, Greece is dropping quarantine restrictions for some travelers. Visitors from the European Union, the U.S., U.K., Israel, Serbia, and the UAE will no longer be required to self-isolate on arrival, as long as they've been vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19.


One official calling it a first step as Greece prepares to formally reopen its tourism season on May 14.

Meanwhile, E.U. countries are working on a special pass to facilitate travel inside the block for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated or can show they've tested negative for the virus.

And on the other side of the world, New Zealand now allowing Australians to travel to the country, quarantine-free. Journalist Angus Watson tracking their progress and new freedoms for travelers there.


ANGUS WATSON, JOURNALIST: A travel bubble opening between Australia and New Zealand, on Monday. It's the first of 140 flights planned this week across the Tasman Sea, with no passengers having to quarantine on arrival.

That offer, previously, was available to New Zealanders traveling into Australia. Now, New Zealand returns the favor, making that one-way travel corridor into a two-way travel bubble.

New Zealand says that will mean billions for its economy with Australian tourist dollars targeted, and, of course, families split by these border closures for over a year will be reunited again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really important. We're going to get to Matt's Dad's funeral. And we are taking this little guy to meet his family for the first time. He's just two months old, so it's going to be exciting for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no replacing the human touch and those human relationships. We look forward to getting over to New Zealand, speaking to our people, making sure that their health is great, but also, that our business continues to prosper.

WATSON: Both countries entering into this agreement tentatively. Each say they're willing to pop the travel bubble, if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 on either side of the Tasman Strait.

Both countries have had success with that sort of strictness when it comes to COVID-19. Just around 2,500 cases in New Zealand since the pandemic began and just under 30,000 in Australia.

That platform means the countries want to extend these travel bubbles further into the region. New Zealand wants to incorporate Pacific islanders into its travel bubble. Australia has earmarked Singapore as a potential country that it could have a travel bubble with.

But that will also rely on vaccine rollouts in Australia and New Zealand, where governments have been criticized for being slow to get vaccines to their people.

Angus Watson in Melbourne, Australia.


HOLMES: American Airlines among the U.S. carriers anticipating a summer travel demand surge. The company is on a mission to prepare their planes for a return to the skies after a long pandemic hiatus.

CNN's Pete Muntean reports from Oklahoma.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pressure is on at American Airlines's Tulsa maintenance base. Here, crews are preparing planes to meet the new surge in air travel.

Hundreds of commercial airliners sat idle on taxiways, ramps, even roadways, through much of the pandemic. Now, American says all of its planes will be flying again by the end of the month. No easy task.

ROGER STEELE, AMERICAN AIRLINES: In many ways, we prep the aircraft. They actually have more maintenance requirements on the aircraft that has been in storage, or is in storage, than we do if the aircraft is out actively flying.

MUNTEAN: Roger Steele's team of mechanics are spending 1,000 hours to revive just one plane here. Part of their work includes federally- mandated inspections of the Boeing 737. It is the world's most popular airliner. American, alone, parked 300 of them because of the pandemic.

The FAA said the plane sitting idle could cause a critical valve to fail, risking catastrophic dual engine power loss in-flight.

ED SANGRICCO, AMERICAN AIRLINES: Oh of the things that could have been negatively impacted by the fact that it was parked have been identified. They've been addressed, and they've been resolved. And so I can assure you 110 percent that these aircraft are safe, and they're ready to fly.

MUNTEAN (on camera): Planes have been stored exclusively outside for months on end. And crews came out here about every 10 days to check things like the engine, uncover them, and fire them up. Also, check the landing gear, the tires, and the brakes, the crucial parts inside there.

About 100 planes are stored out here in the peak of the pandemic, but now, there are only a few left.

(voice-over): The latest data, shows airline travel closing in on a recovery. Industry groups say flights are now 75 percent full, up from 60 percent just last month.

New demand means the industry is bouncing back sooner than expected. The newest jump in numbers means the Transportation Security Administration needs more help screening passengers. It is hiring 6,000 new officers to staff checkpoints, holding hiring events nationwide.

SUSAN TASHIRO, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: I think the big thing is for us, we want to be prepared for the summer, and we're clearly taking a lot of efforts to make sure that happens.

MUNTEAN: United Airlines, just said it would hire new pilots for the first time in more than a year, while thousands of existing pilots will be coming back from pandemic time off.


A CNN review of aviation safety records from across the country uncovered flight crews reporting "rusty skills" and in-flight errors after returning to work. American Airlines says its pilots will be thoroughly re-checked in classrooms and simulators before coming back on the job.

SANGRICCO: There's a lot of pent-up travel demand. And we really want to be there and be ready to move our customers to wherever they want to go safely, efficiently, and make sure we're putting out a good product.

MUNTEAN: Pete Muntean, CNN, Tulsa, Oklahoma.


HOLMES: A quick break here on the program. When we come back on CNN NEWSROOM, the strongest typhoon ever recorded in the month of April hammering parts of the Philippines. We'll have the latest on Surigae and where it's headed next.


HOLMES: Welcome back. Crews are racing to contain a wildfire threatening Cape Town, South Africa. Officials believe a fire left by a homeless person may partially be to blame for the massive blaze in Table Mountain National Park.

At least two firefighters have been hurt. Nine structures have been destroyed. Officials say high temperatures and very low humidity could keep firefighters battling the flames for at least three days.

Helicopters are being used to water bomb the area. The wildfire has forced the evacuation of hikers and students from the University of Cape Town.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're taking everyone out, because there's a fire starting. There is fire already inside.

HOLMES (voice-over): An out-of-control fire that broke out in Cape Town's Table Mountain National Park on Sunday spread to the upper campus of the University of Cape Town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strange. We're just taking them out. Out, you guys. Out.

HOLMES: Students evacuated. UCT library, nearby restaurants and historical structures damaged, including Mostert's Mill, which was built in 1796. It was the only working windmill in Africa south of the Sahara.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's horrible. It's bad. It's worse than expected.

HOLMES: Residents watched as the fire spread from the mountain to other parts of Cape Town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A portion of the Devil's Peak Mountain and the Table Mountain is in flames.

Helicopters, too, bringing in water to quench the fire.

HOLMES: A statement from Table Mountain National Park says an early investigation shows a fire left unattended by a homeless person might have sparked the blaze.


And a fire and rescue official says two firefighters were admitted to the hospital with injuries.


HOLMES: And we're also keeping an eye on the record-breaking Typhoon Surigae, which has been battering the Eastern Philippines with heavy wind, huge waves, and winds over 200 kilometers an hour. The storm is the strongest typhoon on record for the month of April.

Let's bring in meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. What's it been doing? It's just a monster, this thing.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. Very organized. Very symmetrical. And really slow to move, Michael, over the past 24 or so hours.

So sitting there at about 7 kilometers per hour is the motion of this particular storm, 600 kilometers away from Manila. But again, you look at this. It's as organized as it gets.

As you noted, it is an historic storm across this region. Early this year to see a Category 5 for the month of April. And earliest Category 5, the second earliest Category 5 in any season. And you notice third Category 5 equivalent we've had anywhere in the

world this year. The other two across the Indian Ocean as the cyclones.

But you look at the storm system. As it has sat there, very much with little motion, it's produced about 100 to 150 millimeters of rainfall across the Central Philippines, the Eastern Visayas, as it's known. And that has been the concern in this region.

And then, of course, folks are watching this carefully, because we do know this is a menacing storm, and it really makes a very close approach there towards northern listen within the next two to three days.

All of the models have suggested this will want to take a sharp right turn towards the east, head back out over the open waters. Of course, this all can change very abruptly. And we've seen the storm reach that Category 4, Category 5 equivalent status.

But you'll notice just how close it gets to land, come Wednesday into Thursday across Northern Luzon as it, we think, peals away offshore. So watch that carefully. We know the impacts on the immediate coast are going to be significant. Still could see winds exceed 70 to 100 kilometers per hour along the coast.

Still, we'll see flooding rains around this region. But it is going to be a sparsely populated area right along that northern area of Luzon.

Now, do want me to take you out across the Southern Hemisphere, show you what's happening near the University of Cape Town. Of course, Michael, you noted the Cape Town in -- the national park across this region, the brush fire that has been in place.

Temperatures reaching 37 degrees Celsius on Sunday afternoon. Twenty- three is what you expect for this time of year. And that certainly helped exacerbate the situation across this region.

We had humidities down to about 15 percent. And of course, we know potentially, this is human induced. And tell you what: about 90 percent of them are. The other 10 percent generally related to lightning strikes.

But you notice what is happening here. Gusty winds are forecast for much of this afternoon. Potentially even windier come Wednesday afternoon but officials hope we try to get the upper hand on this by Wednesday and hopefully see improving conditions beyond that.

But any rainfall that does come down, Michael, does look to be east of it. Not going to help much here. So the winds are going to be problematic the next couple of days.

HOLMES: Yes, indeed. Good to see you, Pedram. Thanks for that. Pedram Javaheri there.

JAVAHERI: Thanks. HOLMES: We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Oscar fever building up for next Sunday, but in Hong Kong, the gathering of the stars will be dimmed. Why Hollywood's biggest night is being blocked in Hong Kong. When we come back.



HOLMES: Now, when the Academy Awards are presented next Sunday, viewers in Hong Kong won't be seeing it on television. Maybe the blackout is just a coincidence, but two of the major nominees are being criticized in mainland China.

CNN's Will Ripley with the story.



WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This year's Academy Awards off the air in Hong Kong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to need a bigger boat.

RIPLEY: Hollywood's biggest night won't be broadcast in the Chinese territory for the first time since 1968, more than half a century, even with two Hong Kong films nominated.

The city's leading broadcaster, TVB, tells CNN the Oscar blackout is purely a business decision. Political scientist Willy Lam believes it's much bigger than business.

WILLY LAM, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: Well, the extent of censorship and self-censorship in Hong Kong for the past few years has been stunning. They do not want to show anything which is considered to be politically incorrect. So that's why they would want to air on the side of caution.

RIPLEY: Caution, he says, over comments made by Beijing-born director, Chloe Zhao. Her film, "Nomadland," nominated for six Oscars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Including Best Picture of the Year.

LAM: Director Zhao did an interview many years ago in which she expressed thoughts about the censorship system in China.

RIPLEY: Lam believes China media regulators are also wary of "Do Not Split," an Oscar-nominated documentary about the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

ANDERS HAMMER, DIRECTOR, "DO NOT SPLIT": I'm surprised how fast it's possible to change the city, and now you see all these examples of how these basic human rights, from my point of view, are disappearing.

RIPLEY: Hong Kong has charged dozens of pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers under its draconian national security law, imposed by Beijing last year.

The city's chief executive, Carrie Lam, says the law also applies to the arts, potentially muzzling movie makers in a city once called Hollywood of the East.

(on camera): This is the Avenue of Stars, modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And this is the statue for the Hong Kong Film Awards. Kind of like the Oscars, but only Hong Kong films. This town's movie business peaked about three decades ago.

(voice-over): Martial arts legend Bruce Lee received the Star of the Century Award from the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2005, more than 30 years after his untimely death at 32.

Lee set the stage for another Hong Kong star, Jackie Chan, who took home an honorary Oscar five years ago.

And this year, the first Academy Award nomination for a Hong Kong-born director, for Derek Tsang's film, "Better Days."

The best days of Hong Kong cinema may be over, critics fear, if creative freedom, like the Oscars, is silenced.

Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.


HOLMES: Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @HolmesCNN. I'll be back in about 15 minutes with more news. WORLD SPORT with Patrick Snell after the break.