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Growing Civilian Toll in Escalating Violence in Israel, Gaza; At Least Two Killed in Bleacher Collapse at Synagogue; India's Daily Cases Dip Slightly; Taiwan Facing Its Worst COVID Outbreak as Cases Spike; Tropical Cyclone Tauktae Strengthening Ahead of Landfall. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 17, 2021 - 00:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: No signs of abating Israeli airstrikes, and Hamas rockets are inflicting a deadly toll, the worst in years.


Lockdown extended. Delhi hopes to keep up the momentum of declining COVID cases, hoping the worst is over.

And a cyclone barreling towards Northwest India, already tens of thousands are being forced from their homes.

Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. Appreciate your company, I'm Michael Holmes.

There is no break in the escalating cycle of violence in Gaza and Israel. A growing number of civilians, mainly Palestinian, paying the price.

Explosions from Israeli airstrikes lit the sky over Gaza early Monday morning, following a Hamas claim that it fired rockets into southern Israel.

Israel says it struck nine homes belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders. Now, the Israeli military says Hamas has fired more than 3,100 rockets from Gaza this week. Israel has carried out strikes on more than 1,500 targets. Ten Israelis have been reported killed, two children.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We'll do whatever it takes to restore odor and quiet and on the security of our people, and deterrence. We're trying to degrade Hamas's terrorist abilities, and to degrade their will to do this again. So it will take some time, and I hope it won't take long, but it's not immediate.


HOLMES: Now, airstrikes destroyed several homes in Gaza Sunday. These distressing scenes are the search for survivors in the rubble. Palestinian health officials say at least 52 people were killed on Sunday alone. And nearly 200 Palestinians have been reported killed in the past week, 58 of them children. The Palestinian Authority foreign minister addressing the U.N. Security Council on Sunday.


RIYAD AL-MALKI, PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Israel keeps telling you, put yourself in our shoes. This is what they say all the time. Put yourself in our shoes. But Israel is not wearing shoes. It is wearing military boots. It is an occupying and a colonial power. Any assessment of the situation that fails to take into account this fundamental fact is biased, discredited, and unjust.


HOLMES: Hadas Gold is in Ashdod in Israel with the latest. And Hadas, Sunday the deadliest day for Palestinians so far. Bombardment, rockets coming out, as well.

Now, news of more air strikes. Bring us up to date.

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Ashdod. It's about 15 and a half miles north of the Gaza Strip. This city, according to the Israeli military, has received the highest number of red alert sirens so far in this conflict.

And overnight, Michael, we've been able to hear several jets flying overhead. We've been able to hear some explosions, or some sort of booms in the distance even within the past few minutes. Although, here in Ashdod, we haven't actually received a siren since 9 p.m. last night, which, for this area, is a long period of time, quite a long break. But that can change at any moment.

Because the pattern that we've seen over the past few days is we would hear airplanes flying overhead, some sort of strike, and a few minutes later, some sort of rockets fired back this way. We'd hear the red alert sirens. We'd have to go into the bomb shelter, sort of a retaliation, you could say. A back and forth between the two sides.

But yesterday, according to the Palestinian ministry of health, was the deadliest day for Palestinian so far in this conflict. And according to the Israeli military, it is the day when Israel received the highest number of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. We've had around 3,100 rockets, according to the Israeli military, launched from Gaza into Israel.

In fact, in intensity that Israel says it has not seen in previous conflicts. An intensity and a pace they haven't seen. We're also seeing that the range of these rockets, its hitting parts of the country that Israel is not used to seeing rockets fire that far in the past.

For example, into far northern Tel Aviv, far into the negative. And of course, part of the beginning of this conflict, when those rockets were fired towards Jerusalem.

Now, the Israeli military says they're continuing to target more than 1,500 militant targets in the Gaza Strip overnight. They said that they targeted the homes of several Hamas commanders, which they said were also being used to house military -- to house weapons, as well. And they say they are continuing to do this operation.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to Israelis in an address yesterday, saying that, although there is a heavy price, they will continue the operation, until they meet all of their objectives -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Hadas Gold in Ashdod in Israel, appreciate that. Thanks so much.

Now, when considering the impact of this ongoing conflict, it is important to remember that young people make up a huge percentage of the population in Gaza and the West Bank.

According to UNICEF, out of a populace of 4.8 million, 2.3 million are children. And Palestinian officials, as we've reported, say 58 children have been killed since the current round of hostilities began in Gaza. But the numbers, of course, can't tell you how unending strife hurts the child. Just have a listen to the words of a 10-year- old Gaza resident, Nadine Abdel-Taif, as she stands in rubble.


NADINE ABDEL-TAIF, 10-YEAR-OLD GAZA RESIDENT: I'm always sick. I'm always (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I can't do anything. You see all of this. What do you expect me to do? Fix it? I'm only 10. I can't even deal with this anymore. I just want to be a doctor, or anything, to help my people, but I can't. I'm just a kid.


HOLMES: Jason Lee is Palestinian territory director for the group Save the Children. He joins me now live from Jerusalem. And thanks for doing so.

Politics aside, just give us a sense of what the impact has been on children in Gaza, given the death and injury numbers and the intensity of the bombardment.


I mean, over the last couple of days, we've seen heartbreaking footage and hearing stories of how this is affecting children. Aside from the physical, the lifelong, and the life-changing physical injuries that many of these children will have, think of the mental trauma that children are going through. Children that don't understand what's happening, seeing buildings around them crumble, losing their friends, losing their families, losing their homes. And just not knowing what's going to happen next. And, being constantly afraid.

I mean, I have my teams that tell me that their kids, their behaviors are changing. They're afraid. They don't want to go out. They're looking out windows all the time. They've become withdrawn. They just are constantly scared and crying. What kind of future, will kind of normality is this for children to be experiencing and watching?

HOLMES: It is, as always, important to say kids on both sides of conflict have been impacted emotionally. But for children in general, what is your experience on how long this sort of mental trauma lasts?

LEE: Absolutely. I think mental trauma is something that's often difficult to diagnose, difficult to see, and difficult to treat. It's kind of insidious.

With the physical injury, it's more apparent. With the mental -- with mental trauma, as you said, you know, we've done a lot of research and talking to children.

And what is startling is that how this affects them after. The fact that they feel alone with their trauma. They withdraw from the social groups. They withdraw from the family. Many of them, some of them, resort to negative coping mechanisms that we've seem in adults, as well.

Many of them have suicidal thoughts, and it's very difficult to integrate back into our normal life. And again, these are some of the things we see. We also see some children that just can't sleep anymore. They wet their bed. They're constantly wanting to be afraid. They need constant reassurances. These -- these are some of the early signs and symptoms that we've seen in a lot of children.

HOLMES: You talk about treatment. I mean, the number of dead children is horrific, but also the wounded, lifelong impacts. And I'm just curious. What are you being told by your team about the impact of what's happened on infrastructure when you talk about treatment? I mean, what sort of facilities have -- aren't there anymore?

LEE: I mean, look, a lot of my teams, as well, have had to flee, and so they're homeless, and seeking shelter elsewhere. First and foremost, many people have lost their lives and lost their homes.

And essentially, nowhere to sleep, no idea where the next meal is coming from. All they've got is the clothes on their back that they managed to get out with.

You also have a situation where you've got schools that have been -- that have been damaged. So we've got 35 schools in Gaza that have been damaged, and one school in southern Israel that's been damaged.

We all know the impact that COVID-19 has had on the education and learning of children. If we don't reestablish and have schools operational again, we run -- we run the risk of there being another, a third generation of children that will miss out on critical education. As well as health infrastructure.


LEE: The COVID-19 pandemic that is globally still happening, and it's still happening within Israel and Palestine. [00:10:09]

Now in Gaza, before the de-escalation of conflicts, there was a resurgence in cases. You had a lot of people there need access to tertiary health care, and are unable to get there. Hospitals don't have the necessary infrastructure or equipment.

Now, they're damaged, and they have no access to electricity. So it's really difficult for any health facility to function. There's no electricity. There's no water. There's no sanitation.

HOLMES: Yes. And just quickly, to that point, life in Gaza was difficult before this latest round of fighting. I've been there many times. I was there a couple of years ago. And now, as you point out, damage to power grid, fuel supply, medical clinics, and of course, homes. What is Gaza going to need once this fighting stops?

LEE: The first thing it needs is an immediate ceasefire and protection of all civilians. It's going to need massive infrastructure rehabilitation. The roads need to be fixed. They need to be rebuilt. People need to be housed.

Health facilities need to be rehabilitated. Because you know, you need health facilities to make sure that you can provide essential, lifesaving medical treatment. Things that we take for granted.

The schools need to be prepared, because children need to go back to schools. You need the infrastructure repair. You actually think and you need huge investments in mental health because again, the long- term mental consequences for these children, again, I couldn't even begin to describe what a child has been thinking, seeing all this around them.

And you need -- (AUDIO GAP). People need jobs. I mean, what everyone wants to -- and again, I've been in many parts of the world. I've worked in many conflicts and crises. Every family wants the same thing. All people want are to be able to provide for myself, my children, my family, to have a secure home, and to secure for them a future, some sort of future.

So this is what we need to provide to make sure that, you know, Gaza does recover, that the people there don't continue to pay the price and that their futures are just destroyed indefinitely.

HOLMES: In -- in every conflict, it's always the kids who suffer the most. Jason Lee with Save the Children, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

LEE: Thank you.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, a Jewish holiday marred by a tragic accident. Israeli emergency services say at least two people died and more than 100 were injured when a bleacher collapsed at a synagogue in the West Bank.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman was on the scene and has the latest for us.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amidst everything that is happening here, another disaster, this one unrelated to the current crisis, in which several dozen people were injured, and several killed in a catastrophe in the West Bank settlement of Giv'at Ze'ev.

Hundreds of worshippers commemorating the Jewish holiday of Shavuot were crammed onto bleachers. And suddenly, the upper bleachers collapsed.

We spoke to one of the first responders, who described a scene of pandemonium, with the injured piled on top of one another. We also spoke to the head of the regional medical services. This is what he said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw the pictures. Immediately, we sent around 40 or 50 ambulances, including intensive care units. With many paramedics and medics, they arrived over here, and they treat a patient who were injured. We evacuated people, more than 100 people. Several types of injured in the hospital in Jerusalem.

WEDEMAN: And of course, those medical services are under stress due to the current crisis in and around Israel.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Giv'at Ze'ev.


HOLMES: Quick break here on the program. When we come back, why India's rural areas are seeing a frightening new surge in daily COVID cases, while infections in big cities are slightly easing.

And new case numbers are breaking records in the latest global hot spot. We'll take you live to Taiwan, where they thought they had the pandemic under control. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: India saw a slight dip in daily COVID cases for the fourth straight day on Monday, but it is still reporting a daily death toll topping 4,000, which is a staggering number.

Even though cases falling slightly in urban areas, helped by lockdowns, rural areas are seeing some of the worst surges. Right now, 35 of India's 36 states and union territories are under some form of COVID restrictions, or lockdown.

Delhi extending its lockdown for the fourth time by another week, until next Monday.

CNN's Anna Coren following the story for us from Hong Kong. So Anna, Delhi extending the lockdown. Bring us up to date on what the situation is for India.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, as you mentioned, cases are falling in Delhi. So the government there is heartened at the fact that the lockdown, which has been going since the 19th of May, seems to -- to be working.

As you mentioned, they're going to extend it until next week, but that could continue. These restrictions, curfews, lockdowns, are occurring, you know, in most of India. This is despite the prime minister, Narendra Modi, refusing to impose a nationwide lockdown. States and union territories, taking it upon themselves.

Because obviously, they are getting those results. And the numbers that you mentioned, yes, over 311,000 infections were recorded yesterday. More than 4,000 deaths.

We are seeing a drop in infections. And we have to remember that these are official numbers, but deaths still extremely high. If you look at the modeling out there, they often say that the peak will come, but the deaths will continue.

So some experts saying that this is what we are seeing play out in India right now. The rural areas are getting a lot of attention. I think it's because the cities, you know, really were the focus.

Now it is the rural areas, with people returning because of those lockdowns and cases are surging. Health clinics are very limited in what they can offer.

And we heard, from the prime minister, Narendra Modi last Friday, it was the first time that he had addressed the public in over three weeks. He gave a 30-minute speech about farmers and funding for farmers. He dedicated three minutes to the second wave. He said the focus must now be on those rural areas where we are seeing a surge in cases -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Anna Coren there in Hong Kong. Appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Now, Dr. Preetha Reddy is the vice chair of Apollo Hospitals. Joins me now from Chanai (ph). And good to see you. Thanks for doing so, Doctor. Cases beginning to plateau, but still at a very high level, as are death rates. How do you summarize the situation now and the road ahead?

DR. PREETHA REDDY, VICE CHAIRWOMAN, APOLLO HOSPITALS: Well, I think right now, there's no going away from the fact we are in the middle of a crisis. The crisis is there (ph) from the cities. It has moved to the rural areas, which, are definitely lacking in as much infrastructure as people have in the cities.

We did think that it was the vertical living and the crowding in the cities which just made it just more contagious, but the focus now has shifted. We, as a group, are handling over 1,000 cases in a rural area, from where we come from, from one of our villages, which means moving oxygen concentrators, as much oxygen as we get, just primary doctors, using telemedicine to the kind of levels which it needs to be done.

About two or 300 people, manning telemedicine stations, just to see if we can intervene quickly.

HOLMES: Right.

REDDY: But I think the problem is huge; the problem is large. And the quicker the interventions are, and the better communication and systems in place, we should be able to overcome it. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) vaccinations.

HOLMES: Yes. Well, I was just going to ask you about vaccinations. Three percent of India's population, fully vaccinated. Ten percent have received one dose. In a -- in a country that is the biggest producer of vaccines in the world, do you see that as a failure?

REDDY: Not really. Because I think, you know, we did have to have data. We did have to have the rollout. What has happened is that the production and the rollout of vaccinations and the second wave, the surge which happened, both came at the wrong time. The surge was just much faster than we could have vaccinated people.

But having said that, I think the step up from the vaccination drive is huge. And a lot of activity is going on, trying to do it as quick and as fast as possible.

HOLMES: It's certainly a -- yes, it's a difficult, difficult logistical issue in a country with the population of India's. I was going to ask you, though, after the first wave, India appeared to have been ill-prepared for the second wave.

I mean, how much of that is down to poor planning, and let's be frank, playing politics? I mean, the mass gatherings, which were allowed for religious events, political rallies, which was extraordinary. But what responsibility does the government bear going forward?

REDDY: I think a lot of it was, to so extent, unanticipated, in terms of scale. And, you know, in hindsight, it's fine to say that, you know, we should not have done it, but the fact remains that, if you directly look at the states where there's a surge, and a huge number, and you look at where there were religious rallies, it's not really matching up.

But that's not an excuse anyways. The religious rallies happen. Countries like India have this huge religious fever that, you know, where one person should go, we have 50 people going. It's a cultural issue.

HOLMES: Right.

REDDY: So I think we could have had better planning, for sure, but now that it's done, I think we have to just see, deal, and tackle with it.

HOLMES: Let me just sort of personalize it a bit. With so many families losing loved ones, I mean, what damage do you think has been done to the Indian society? Long-term physical and sociological and family impacts?

REDDY: You know, the Indian families are mentally and emotionally very joined. You know, the joined family system, the congregating, for whatever happens, whichever religion you belong to. It's part of our DNA and part of our ethos.

It has been very difficult, especially for the older generation, the 80 plus. I think they do feel a bit lost, because they're not seeing enough of their loved ones around them. It is an issue.

A bigger issue, which I think, going forward, will be the youngsters and the youth, especially school-going children, because they're missing that whole interaction of really, you know, playing or interacting with other children of their age group.

So there is definitely a crucial (ph) issue which is looming. And, we're going to have to deal with it, just as we were dealing with this.

HOLMES; Yes. Yes, hopefully, some light at the end of the tunnel there for India. Really appreciate your time, Doctor. Dr. Preetha Reddy, thank you.

REDDY: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well, with fewer than 1,700 known courses, Taiwan seemingly managed to contain the pandemic. But it is now facing his worst scenario yet, reporting 207 new COVID infections, a new record. Health officials taking action to fight the outbreak. You can see there, disinfecting public spaces, and the like.

Let's go to CNN's Will Ripley. He's in Taipei for us. Joins me now live.

As we said, Taiwan had done such a great job keeping things under control. What -- what went wrong? And how worried is the government about these outbreaks?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you could sum it up in one word, Michael, it would be complacency. This is an island that for the whole pandemic, has enjoyed a remarkably normal quality of life.

And so certainly, in recent months, after the initial concern about infection kind of wore off and case numbers were down to basically zero, all but eliminated here in Taiwan.


People were gathering in large groups. They were going to night markets. They were going out to big dinners with friends and families. They were going to nightclubs. And that, combined with this -- this influx of new cases that are possibly linked to people flying in. Flight crew.

There is now a situation where you have numbers that are bigger than Taiwan has seen throughout the entire pandemic. And this is a big concern for the government for a couple of reasons.

One, they don't have enough vaccines. There wasn't really a high demand for vaccines, up until a couple of days ago. But now, they're running low on the supplies that they have been able to obtain.

And given a lot of different factors, including frankly, some of the regional vaccine distributors' relationships with mainland China, it's difficult for the government to get more vaccines in at this moment.

And you have a population of more than 20 million people. That is eventually the opposite of herd immunity. Because case numbers here have been so low. People are not physically going to be able to bounce back as these infections spread.

So even though you have an extraordinarily low number of deaths here, just 12, there is an expectation that, in the coming days, the numbers are going to continue to spike, and it could be a very rough go of it for Taiwan in the coming months, as they now implement the most severe restrictions that are in place just one step below a lockdown.

Now, in effect, here in Taiwan, it was extraordinary when I flew in yesterday, Michael. Just two weeks ago, two or three days ago, everything was packed. People were out, life felt normal.

And now, the streets here in Taipei are essentially empty. People are staying inside. They are, at least for the time being, observing the social distancing measures, in the hopes that the numbers will go down, and life here will once again get back to normal.

RIPLEY: All right. Will, thanks. Good to see you. Will Ripley there on the spot for us in Taipei.

Now, much of Britain can reopen for business. Starting Monday, you can grab a pint at the pub. You can dine at a restaurant indoors. Go to movies, even, and yes, hug a friend or two, all under the latest lifting of lockdown measures for England, Scotland and Wales. But outdoor gatherings will still be capped at 30 people.

Foreign travel restrictions are being eased. Twelve regions, including Australia and New Zealand and Portugal, moving to the U.K.'s so-called green list.

Now, Portugal relies heavily on tourism and is ready to start welcoming British tourists, as well. But its bars and clubs remain closed, and masks are still mandatory indoors and in crowded spaces.

Going to take a break. When we come back, heated debate on the U.N. Security Council. China says one country is preventing the U.N. from speaking in one voice on the Israel-Hamas conflict. Who he's calling obstructionist.

Also when we come back, bracing for impact. We're tracking a rare and powerful cyclone, barreling up India's west coast.

Stay with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.



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

Now, the intense conflict in Israel and Gaza in its second week now. No sign of easing yet.

Israel carrying out more airstrikes in Gaza early on Monday morning. The air force said it struck nine Hamas residents. Some of them, they say, used to store weapons. The strikes followed a Hamas claim of rockets fired at southern Israel.

In a televised address on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who said Israel will act as long as necessary to restore order but warned it will take time.

Now the flare-up of violence in Gaza and Israel the deadliest in years. CNN's Nic Robertson looks back at the past week of fighting.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): First, Hamas's rockets reaching Jerusalem, followed by Israel's fast response, targeting Gaza.

A week of accelerated warfare later, fear, death, suffering on both sides. Gazans' toll significantly higher, as it has been in previous such confrontations.

Different, this time: militants' sophisticated heat-seeking weapons, and Hamas's rockets, more of them, reaching farther from Gaza. But, in greater intensity than ever before, cutting deeper into Israel's sense of safety.

Also different, sudden open confrontation between Israel's Arabs and Jews, catching Israel by surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't seen this kind of internal conflict, where the social fabric of the country is being stressed.

ROBERTSON: In the West Bank, generational Palestinian anger, ignited by Gazan suffering. Resulting in a deadly confrontation with Israeli police.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: If you combine all of that together. It is a very different situations of what we've seen in the past.

ROBERTSON: Before the first rocket fired, a perfect storm brewing. Planned Palestinian evictions in Jerusalem. The collective Palestinian pain raising tensions, worsened by heavy-handed Israeli police tactics at Islam's third holiest site during Islam's holiest week that Hamas exploited.

All against the background of political stagnation and increasing polarization.

MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: The last ten years has seen a swing in Israel to the right, and that pendulum number is still been swinging further to the right. And that has enabled the kind of chauvinistic extremism to gain a greater grip, and that has roiled things with the Palestinians.

ROBERTSON: Both sides now under increasing American pressure to end the conflict.

DENNIS ROSS, FORMER U.S. ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST: The real question is going to be, do the Israelis feel that they have exact -- exactly enough of a price on Hamas, and is Hamas ready to end this?

ROBERTSON: Saturday night, Hamas signaled they are ready. Unilaterally stopping rocket attacks on Tel Aviv for two hours. Netanyahu, whose political prospects to hold onto the premiership rose over the past week, seems less willing. Sunday, the deadliest day of the week in Gaza.

NETANYAHU: We're trying to degrade Hamas's terrorist abilities, and to degrade their will, to do this again. So it will take some time. I hope it won't take long, but it's not immediate.

ROBERTSON: But, with international pressure mounting, too, just possible it so don't say, here there. The problems that caused it however, have no resolution in sight.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Ashdod, Israel.


HOLMES: Now, that mounting international pressure to end the bloodshed was on display. During a virtual meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday.

U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he is appalled by the growing death toll in Gaza, adding that he also deplores the deaths of Israelis from rockets launched by Hamas.

Guterres said the U.N. is actively engaging all sides towards an immediate ceasefire.

But, when the Palestinian, and Israeli representatives took their turn to speak, there was little evidence those efforts could be paying off.



RIAD AL-MALIKI, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY FOREIGN MINISTER: Israel is persecuting our people. Committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. We are not two neighbors, living side by side in peace. Israel is the armed thief, who has entered our house and is terrorizing our family. GILAD ERDAN, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ISRAEL TO THE UNITED NATIONS: For years, Hamas has been using international aid, not to help the people of Gaza, but to abuse them. It has built a vast web of underground terror tunnels which snake beneath playgrounds, maternity wards, and mosques with the clear strategic goal of increasing the number of Palestinian civilian casualties when Israel is forced to respond.


HOLMES: Now, the Chinese foreign minister chaired the meeting and accused the United States of preventing the council from issuing a unified statement to ease the conflict, which is extraordinary.

Up next, we are tracking a destructive cyclone expected to make landfall in India. We will head -- we will tell you where it is headed, and how local authorities are preparing.

Also, the Olympics coming to Tokyo in July, whether people like it or not. And there are a lot of people who do not like it. We'll have that, too, when we come back.


HOLMES: Just have a look at that. The hills on fire in portions of Southern California. People have been worrying about this for some time, given the drought.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department says the blaze has scorched more than 530 hectares, 0 percent containment. About 1,000 people have already left their homes. Other residents being told to stand by for evacuation orders.

Conditions in the area very dry. The entire state is in drought. Arson is suspected in that particular fire, however.

Now, parts of India's west coast bracing for the full impact of a powerful tropical cyclone. Tauktae has already claimed at least six lives as it moves towards the Gujarat Peninsula with winds just over 200 kilometers an hour.


HOLMES (voice-over): Waves lashed the shores of India spray reaching high near showing a sign of the strength of the cyclone expected to make landfall soon in a region already struggling with a different type of surge, cases of COVID-19.

Houses in some coastal states already battered. Gusty winds uprooting trees. Fishermen doing their best to secure their boats and livelihoods. India is evacuating thousands of people from low-lying areas in the path of the storm. People from one fishing village taking refuge in a school, their homes no longer safe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Earlier water just used to enter into our houses, and it would go back. Now strong tides are hitting over our house.

HOLMES: Some COVID-19 centers are shifting patients to other regional facilities. Vaccinations in some areas suspended, hospitals on alert, hoping the storm doesn't disrupt supplies of electricity and oxygen.

The Indian air force says it is focusing on coronavirus relief flights before the storm as it expects that weather to affect air operations later.


All right. Let's bring in meteorologist Pedram Javaheri now.

Pedram, bring us -- I'm just looking at that map behind you there. That is huge. Tell us what's going on.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. You know, I was just looking at some comparisons for a scale and wind speed. And just look at the wind speed along Hurricane Katrina at landfall. Identical to the wind speeds of this particular storm here, approaching the coast of western India.

I want to show you something because, for me as a meteorologist, when I look at a system, it could see the eastern third of a storm interacting with a large area of land, you'd expect the storm to want to weaken. But you see symmetry, you see organization, you see an eyewall that has developed just west of Mumbai there.

That particular eye is where the winds are over 220 kilometers per hour. And the concern is this will continue migrating due north and eventually make landfall Monday evening local time and potentially early Tuesday morning.

And as Michael noted here, you take a look. Evacuations have been firmly in place in recent days. And the amount of water that has already come ashore here from the rainfall has been incredible, about half a meter in spots. That have come down in the past 24 to 48 hours.

If you're waking up and joining us this morning in Berlin, it would take you about 10 months to accumulate that much rainfall on an average year. These folks have seen it in a matter of days.

And I did that, a population calculation across this region for Mumbai all the way towards the Gujarat state, including a modified. You put it in place, as many as 85 million people, either directly or indirectly stand to be impacted with the storm system as it makes landfall.

And you see the bays. You see the inlets. The waterways across this region. All of it really do a great job of funneling water in, and fortunately, that can cause some major, major damage when it comes to storm surge.

Three meters, or nearly a top of first-story buildings there along the coast. Then likely, you think about a storm of this magnitude. Very rare across this western periphery of India. Often you see it there across the Bay of Bengal, on the eastern side.

Out here on the west, you have to go back to the 1990s since the last time we saw a storm this strong making landfall in this region. So really hoping folks take the proper precautions out of the storm system.

HOLMES: Yes. Absolutely. Good advice.

Pedram Javaheri, good to see you. Thanks for that.

Now the Olympic torch relay making progress through Japan. It was carried through southern Japan's Shimane prefecture on Sunday. And on Monday, it will go through Hiroshima.

But that will be complicated. Hiroshima, of course, under a coronavirus state of emergency. Several other prefectures are, of course, too, including Tokyo.

Over the past week, the country has seen more than 6,000 new cases a day, and, by the way, anti-Olympics sentiment is growing, too.

Business leaders, doctors, and citizens alike all say it is not safe to hold the games this year. We are expecting to see a protest, in fact, in Tokyo in the coming hours.

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