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Belarus Arrests Opposition Activist after Flight Diverted; Ceasefire Held for Third Day as Damage is Assessed; Concerns Grow Over Gaza's Humanitarian Crisis; India Reports Another 222,000+ Cases; Argentina Begins New Lockdown as Cases Surge; Japan Opens Mass COVID- 19 Vaccination Centers; Extreme Weather Kills 21 Mountain Trail Runners in China; 14 Dead After Cable Car Plunges into Mountainside in Italy. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 24, 2021 - 00:00   ET


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi, welcome to all of their viewers all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow.


Just ahead on CNN, new details about the commercial airliner forced to the ground by the Belarus military. Why the move is sparking an international outcry.

Also, mass COVID vaccinations kicking off in Japan, as India struggles to find the supplies it needs to get by. Live reports from Delhi and Tokyo.

And a trip to Kenya's Amboseli Park. Our team in Nairobi is granted special access from the skies.

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

CURNOW: Good to have you along this hour. So it's been called unacceptable, unprecedented, and shocking. Just some of the reaction pouring in as international outrage grows over the arrest of an opposition activist in Belarus.

Raman Pratasevich was on a Ryanair flight, traveling from Greece to Lithuania when it was diverted. State media in Belarus report that it was President Alexander Lukashenko who ordered a fighter jet to escort the plane to Minsk, where a vocal critic of the president was detained.

The plane spent several hours on the ground before it continued on and arrived safely in the Lithuanian capital. A passenger described what happened on board.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At one moment, we just changed the direction of the flight, and we we go down and to the left. After about two and a half minutes, the captain and the crew say that we're going to land in Minsk, without any reason why.


CURNOW: Well, those actions are now drawing strong reaction. The U.S. has condemned the forced diversion of the fight and is calling for the activist's release.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, blasted Belarus for what she called "outrageous and illegal behavior." And Lithuania's president calls the detention, quote, "state-sponsored terror."

The Belarus opposition leader, who ran against President Lukashenko last year, caused the activists detention unprecedented. And Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is calling on countries to help free him.


SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: Escalation of repressions in Belarus, and this situation that's happened with flight, is the result of impunity. And democratic Large country should put much more pressure on this regime, on the Lukashenko personally.


CURNOW: A senior adviser to the opposition leader joins me now from Lithuania. Franak Viacorka is also a friend and activist of Raman Pratasevich and spoke with him just before the flight.

And good to have you on the show. Just before we get to some of the details. I just want your thought, your reaction, right now, to all of this information that is coming out.

FRANAK VIACORKA, BELARUS OPPOSITION: Honestly, I'm still in shock. All news is devastating. Just a few hours before everything happened, I was in touch with Raman. Nd no one believed it could happen, because exactly one week ago, I was taking the same flight with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, back from Athens, and we could be arrested the same way. So we could be in a KGB prison right now.

CURNOW: So that is your concern, no doubt, about your colleague and your friends. Have you had any indication of his whereabouts, and what's your concern about his -- his state right now?

VIACORKA: We don't know what is happening to him, but just imagine, a young guy, a journalist, flying back from Athens where he worked after some vacation time, coming back to Belarus, and suddenly, he knew on the plane that the plane is turned into Minsk, where he might face the death penalty.

Of course, I can't imagine what he was thinking back then, in that moment. And of course, all the passengers after four or five hours, were put back on the plane. But no Raman Pratasevich. And he's probably in KGB right now at the interrogation. And the interrogation usually several days, and you know that in Belarus, when they interrogate, they might use torture and other means. CURNOW: Why have they targeted him? And gone to such huge lengths to

do so?

VIACORKA: They targeted him because he's very vocal. He's very brave. He is -- he was covering protests since last fall when the elections were falsified. He was posting videos and pictures, and always commended on the events, and challenge President Lukashenko.

In the last few months, he used to work on the telegram messaging, a project in Belarus and the Ukraine, which was commenting on the development of late nights (ph) in Belarus, to Belarus audience in Minsk and other regions.


So he became the personal enemy of Lukashenko. And right now, we are doing all possible to release him from jail.

CURNOW: Why would Mr. Lukashenko go to such lengths to get hold of him? One analyst I actually spoke to said, this is a sign of weakness, not strength. Do you agree?

VIACORKA: Absolutely agree. A strong leader doesn't need to stop aircraft in order to arrest opponent. Of course, Lukashenko doesn't have support in the country. He lost his legitimacy. He can rely on the violence of the police force, of law enforcement, or KGB. And this persecution of specific people, journalists, activists, human rights defenders, that is a sign of desperation.

CURNOW: What are you asking Europe to do? And the U.S. We've had comments from Antony Blinken, the secretary of state. We've had outcry from European leaders. But what would you like them to actually do?

VIACORKA: Exactly. We want action but not words of condemnation. This is the moment when the west, the democratic countries, must react. We should ask for imposing sanctions on Lukashenko's enterprises, Lukashenko's cronies. Targeted economic sanctions on enterprises which supported the regime.

We will be asking G-7 countries to raise this issue at the summit in London. We will be asking the State Department and the White House to discuss how Belarus democracy act might be implemented in order to help Belarusians on the ground.

Journalists, media initiatives, human rights defenders. Because people on the ground, people in Belarus, they need help. And they need help right now.

CURNOW: How concerned are you that all of that might be too late? You know, that there is torture, perhaps, happening right now, and that's a death penalty that might be instituted here? How much urgency is needed?

VIACORKA: It's never too late to make an effort to do something good. Thirty-five thousand people were detained since last August. Three thousand people are under criminal charges in prison. About 20 face terrorist accusations, fake terrorist accusations, and might face death penalty, including Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. They don't execute women in Belarus, but still, still, it's horrible.

And the level of torture, the escalation of repression shows that the reaction, immediate western reaction, is a must.

CURNOW: Franak Viacork, thank you very much for joining us, for sharing your analysis, and also, your concern. We'll continue to check in on you.

VIACORKA: Thank you.

CURNOW: Now to another story we're following. Jewish visits to Jerusalem's Temple Mount resume Sunday for the first time in weeks. The site is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, and it's where clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police helped to trigger cross-border fighting earlier on this month.

The director-general of the site said two groups of around 120 people each, visited over the course of the day.

And the U.S. secretary of state heads to the Middle East in the coming days to meet with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. Antony Blinken says the U.S. will focus on reconstruction and the humanitarian situation in Gaza now. And he insists that there eventually has to be a prospect for a peaceful political solution between Israel and Hamas.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: President Biden has been very clear that he remains committed to a two-state solution. Look, ultimately, it is the only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state. And, of course, the only way to give the Palestinians the state to which they're entitled.

But I hope that everyone takes from this, is that if there isn't positive change, and, particularly, if we can't find a way to help Palestinians live with more -- with more dignity and with more hope, the cycle is likely to repeat itself.


CURNOW: Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem with the latest. It's Monday morning there. You heard from Antony Blinken. What is the mood on the ground right now? Particularly because there's certainly a lot to be expected from the week ahead.

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is a lot of action going on, we know that the Egyptian security delegation has been shuttling between Israeli, Palestinian, Hamas, and Gaza, as well as trying to make sure that this cease-fire holds.

We also are expecting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to arrive in the region in the coming days. We don't have the specific dates just yet, but we do know that he will be coming to the region to meet with Israeli, Palestinian, and other regional counterparts.

To not only speak about the cease-fire but also some sort of path forward. But as you heard him say, the focus right now is on trying to bring aid to the people of Gaza. There is a lot of destruction there, and you know that international organizations have already put up tens of millions of dollars to try and bring aid there.

Blinken spoke a bit about how there is concern from the international community that the money, and the aid that will be pouring into Gaza, will go towards humanitarian efforts, towards rebuilding, towards the people there, and not -- and will not end up in the hands of Hamas, and that would help them build more tunnels and rockets that would only further this cycle of violence.


But what was interesting from Blinken's interviews yesterday was he wasn't -- he saying, specifically, that the focus should be on rebuilding, and rebuilding confidence, and the dignity of people. And not jumping into immediate negotiations about a two-state solution.

And I think, potentially, part of the reason for that is because there is a political vacuum right now, both within Palestinian and within Israeli society. On the Palestinian side, elections were delayed. These were elections that were supposed to be taking place. They haven't had elections in more than 10 years. They were postponed. The Palestinian Authority partly blaming Israel, saying that they weren't going to be able to hold -- to have voting in East Jerusalem.

That was postponed on the Israeli side, of course. There is still not a government after the last round of elections. There's still currently negotiations ongoing. Those seem to be the potential of an anti-Netanyahu government being formed, seemed to fall apart during this latest round of conflict. And there's no clear path forward for, really, anybody to form a government.

What that all means is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely stay as prime minister until a potentially fifth round of elections later this year. That goes to show you how difficult any sort of serious negotiations toward a two-state solution, not only because of the current situation and filling on the ground, but also just because of the political vacuums, the political power vacuums we're seeing both on the Palestinian side and on the Israeli side.

CURNOW: Hadas Gold there, live in Jerusalem. Thanks so much for that live report.

So humanitarian aid is beginning to flow into Gaza as -- as Hadas was saying there, but it will take a long time to recover. Israeli airstrikes destroyed hundreds of buildings and homes and left many other structures severely damaged and unusable.

The U.N. says dozens of schools were also damaged, putting education out of reach for around 600,000 children. Ben Wedeman has more on the humanitarian crisis, and these recovery efforts -- Ben.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not for the first time, and probably not for the last. Garza is digging out. It's over, for now. The rubble will be cleared and perhaps the damage repaired. Yet, one man-made catastrophe after another has taken its toll.

Not far from the wall separating Gaza from Israel, children of the extended Aktar (ph) family search for traces of a life shattered.


"Askmalata (ph) and three children were crushed to death when a bomb slammed into her home. Because the bombing around us was so intense, doors and windows were falling on us. We ran to the inner room," she recalls. "The last bomb was on this house."

Asha (ph) was able to crawl free.

The people in this area are mostly farmers. But their land often used by militants to fire rockets into Israel.

In the Aude (ph) Hospital, plastic and reconstructive surgeon Hasan Yabosite (ph) is conducting one of eight operations on this day. He first traveled to Gaza as a young medical student in the 1980s and has come back regularly ever since. His task here, never ending.

DR. GHASSAN ABU SITTAH, RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGEON: You start running into patients who are injured in multiple attacks. So I've had patients who have injuries in the 2014 war, and then were injured in the great return marches, or injured in previous conflicts and demonstrations, then again in this conflict. And so you have a kind of -- it becomes like an endemic disease. War injuries become like an endemic disease in Gaza.

WEDEMAN: In the Sheikh Hezaih (ph) neighborhood, Reza Kabuzufia (ph) waits for a truck to take his furniture away. His home still intact after bombs obliterated the buildings just next door, but it's now in danger of collapse.

Zesufa (ph) struggled to push the bolder up the hill, only for it to roll to the bottom, only to push it back up all over again.

The relief of surviving this war, no guarantee you'll make it through the next, says Gaza resident Rima Abu Rahmah.

RIMA ABU RAHMAH, GAZA RESIDENT: There is no other option. We have to keep living. We have to rebuilt it again, and again, until one day, maybe we can be free.

WEDEMAN: The absence of some sort of resolution, such is Gaza's fate.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Gaza.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CURNOW: Shamil Idriss is the CEO of Search for Common Ground. That's an international nonprofit organization that works to transform ways of dealing with conflict. Idris says the dispute within Israel's mixed communities of Arabs and Jews signals a shift in this conflict. Take a listen.



SHAMIL IDRISS, CEO, SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND: This conflict, as much as any other, is oftentimes viewed from the outside as being stagnant or frozen. But, in fact, there have been big shifts. And I'll just name three of them right now. One is within Israel.

You know, the inter-communal violence that played out over the last couple of weeks is a new phenomenon. It's not altogether surprising, for those who have been raising the alarm about the fissures in Israeli society for some time.

But it will likely force Israeli politicians of all parties to articulate their visions for an Israel that is actually representative and healthy for all of its citizens, as well as on good terms with its neighbors.


CURNOW: We'll have the full interview with Shamil Idriss in the next hour.

Meanwhile, coming up on CNN, a tragedy in the Italian Alps after more than a dozen people killed in a cable car accident.

Plus, many Europeans enjoyed getting outdoors this weekend as falling COVID cases have led to more restrictions being rolled back in some countries.


CURNOW: Things are slowly returning to normal in Europe as more countries begin lifting COVID restrictions. Parisians enjoyed their first weekend of outdoor meals after restaurant terraces reopened last week. The nightly curfew has also been pushed back by two hours.

And Spain is preparing for crowds again, as well. Tourists from Japan and the U.K. will be allowed in without a COVID test, starting Monday.

Spain is currently not on the U.K.'s green list, meaning British travelers must quarantine for 10 days once they return home.

And as some countries begin reopening, parts of India are stuck in weeks-long COVID lockdowns. The country reported nearly 4,500 deaths on Monday after the death toll had dipped below 4,000 just a day earlier.

Delhi is extending its lockdown for the fifth time until next Monday, but there are some signs of hope. Officials say new cases are falling in the area, and the positivity rate is now under two and a half percent, compared to 36 percent last month.

If COVID cases continue to drop, the daily government says the lockdown will be lifted in phases.

Well, Vedika Sud joins me now from New Delhi, with more on this faint glimmer of hope. What more can you tell us? Hi, Vedika.


Let me just get to the figures from today that have just been released by India's health ministry. What we do know is that India has a total caseload of over 26.75 million as of this morning.

Also, there's been an increase in the last 24 hours, as far as cases is concerned. It's over 222,000, and this is the fourth consecutive day that we've seen a dip in cases.

But the fatalities are still high. We have over 4,000 cases of deaths being reported, rather. It's at 4,450 plus. Now, this is the highest since May 19, when it reported 4,000-plus deaths, as well.

This makes India the third country in the world that has now reported over 300,000 deaths, which is, indeed, another grim milestone for India.


Now, coming to the national capital region of Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal did address a press conference where he said, You know what? We don't have enough doses for those between the age group of 18 to 44. Hence, we're closing those centers where we are inviting people to come and take their vaccines in that age group.

Also, Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister, went on to say that the rate at which we get vaccines from the center is going to take 30 months to inoculate the population of Delhi.

So that's another worry for the national gap. The region of the states have also been complaining on the shoulders of vaccines, but the Indian government has been promising more supplies in the coming days. Vaccine centers and companies, rather, have also been pushing for more supplies from there, more manufacturing, more vaccines.

But this remains a big problem, along with black fungus, which we've spoken about. This is a new challenge, as well, Robyn, for India. Because a lot of patients are now being infected by black fungus, which obviously is seen in patients who are, at least in India, who have been infected by the virus and are recovering from it.

What happens? Because this way, you can lose your eyesight and part of your jaw if this is not treated in time. And the worry is that there's a shortage of medicines for the black virus (ph). Currently, the government has promised more supplies in the coming days, Robyn. CURNOW: OK. Thank you for that update there. Vedika Sud in New Delhi.

Thank you.

And Brazil's president hopped on a motorbike to lead an anti-lockdown rally through Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. Jair Bolsonaro was among thousands of people who traveled around 30 kilometers in defiance of COVID rules.

Mr. Bolsonaro has long fought against coronavirus restrictions. That's despite Brazil having one of the highest COVID death tolls in the world. And Brazil's neighbors struggling, too. Argentina entered a new lockdown over the weekend, and its ICUs are being pushed to the brink, as Matt Rivers now reports -- Matt.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As cases drop in the U.S. and the country opens back up, other countries are locking back down.

"Today, more than ever, we need to take care of each other," said the president of Argentina as he announced another strict lockdown that began over the weekend.

Only essential workers are allowed out during the day. Schools and nonessential businesses, shut down once again. The restrictive measures now in place until at least the end of the month.

The move comes as the country's seven-day average of new cases hits the highest mark of the entire pandemic. It's now about even with the average new cases in the U.S., even though Argentina's population is more than seven times smaller.

Inside the country's ICUs, stats on a lime graph become real.

"Every patient is someone's child, somebody's parent," says Dr. Pablo Patessi (ph), tears in his eyes. "I feel their pain."

Argentina's grief shared across Latin America and the Caribbean, as the entire region grapples with what might collectively be its gravest moment of this pandemic. The region's seven-day average of new cases recently, the highest it has ever been.

In Brazil, one of the worst-hit countries in the world, cases that have been declined, are now slowly edging back up, still averaging more than 60,000 per day.

Health officials say a COVID-19 variant, first detected in India, has now reached Brazil.

And in smaller countries like the Dominican Republic, COVID-19 patients are forced to wait outside hospital entrances for beds to open up inside facilities overwhelmed by the sick people.

"They let her die because of a lack of a bed, of oxygen," said this woman, who had been struggling for three days to find a bed for her mother, sick with COVID.

The way out of all of this, of course, are vaccines, which are in extremely sort of supply throughout the region. About 7 percent of all people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated, far behind the U.S.

The hope is that the U.S. will share with this part of the world a lot of the 80 million doses promised for export by the Biden administration. Because without vaccines, it's unclear how any of this gets better any time soon.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CURNOW: Thanks, Matt, for that.

Now Japan has just opened two large-scale vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka. The move comes as the country battles a surge in COVID cases there.

Right now, less than two percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Authorities hope the new facilities will boost Japan's inoculation rate and curb the spread of the virus.

For more, let's go to Selina Wang in Tokyo.

Selina, hi.

Certainly, a lot of hope that this is going to turn things around.

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, absolutely. I mean, we are just two months away from the Olympics, so the stakes were incredibly high for Japan to significantly accelerate its very slow vaccine rollout.


So I'm standing outside here in Tokyo of a government building. This is the mass vaccination center, here in Tokyo. There's another one in Osaka. And combined, the government is aiming to vaccinate as many as 15,000 people per day.

Now, it is just day one today, so only half that number of people have been scheduled. But the government say they plan to roll that out and ramp it up exceptionally fasts in the coming days.

Now, all the elderly residents are eligible to be vaccinated here. And the self-defense force's nurses and doctors are mostly administering the vaccines here.

I just spoke to a 71-year-old woman who is just getting her first dose of the Moderna vaccine, and she tells me that she is relieved to finally have her first dose. But she's also frustrated by how long it has taken. Now, while these mass vaccination centers are the first of their kind,

Robyn, this is only making a small dent in an extremely large problem. As you say, Japan has only fully vaccinated less than two percent of its population. Less than half a percent of the elderly have been fully vaccinated so far.

And even though the maturity of healthcare workers are still unvaccinated. This may be one of the world's most technologically advanced countries. But bureaucracy, red tape, poor planning, a history of vaccine hesitancy has held the country back when it comes to the vaccine rollout.

Now, the prime minister says that his goal is to finish vaccinating the elderly by the end of July. Now, health experts tell me that is an incredibly optimistic projection and that they do not think all of the parts of Japan are going to be able to meet that goal.

But even if that goal is met, it would mean that, by the time the Olympics start, not all of the elderly will have been vaccinated. And there is still no timeline yet for when the broader population will get the vaccine.

Now, it is against this backdrop, in addition surging COVID-19 cases, that you have accelerated public opposition to these games. Recent local polls show that as many as 80 percent of the population here do not want the games held this summer, as the sentiment grows that the government is putting money and politics ahead of people's lives.

A group of 6,000 doctors in Tokyo have urged the government to cancel the games. Their fear is that these games will further over-stretch the already burdened medical system, and that a super-spreader event could lead to significant consequences here for people's lives -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Thank you very much for that update. Selina Wang there in Tokyo.

So coming up here at CNN, a tragedy high in the mountains of China after extremely cold weather hit an ultra-marathon race. One survivor recounts what happened. That's straight ahead.

Plus, the lava from a volcanic eruption may have stopped, but for many, the nightmare is just beginning in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have the details on that, also ahead.



CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers around the world. Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. You are watching CNN.

Now, the trail running community in China is mourning the deaths of 21 people after an extreme weather condition hit a 100-kilometer mountain race. Now, we're learning new details about Saturday's tragedy. One survivor

says it was so cold, with hail, freezing rain, and strong winds, that it felt like his fingers and tongue were frozen. He actually abandoned the race, turned back down the mountain, and took shelter in a cabin with about 50 other runners until they were rescued.

Well, Steven Jiang joins me now, live from Beijing.

Stephen, hi. I'm so glad that you're joining us here. I have so many questions about what happened, how many -- how so many people died on this race. What is it that just turned things around?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Robyn, you know, this is such a tragedy, a horrific tragedy not only for the tightknit community of trail runners in China, but also the nation as a whole. Because when you look at the numbers, 21 people died out of 172 people who participated in this race.

And that's a mortality rate of more than 12 percent, with many pointing out, that's even much worse than the Boston Marathon bombing from 2013.

And among those who perished over the weekend included the country's top athlete and top Paralympian in this sport.

But now, as you said, more details emerging with some harrowing tales from some survivors, echoing what you have just said. Some of the lucky ones who turned back relatively early in the race, already describing themselves and other athletes displaying signs of hypothermia. You know, they walking with them, walking downhill in a wobbly fashion, with their body shaking and many of them already losing their sense of bearings.

So a lot of questions and criticism are now being raised on whether or not this tragedy was entirely due to extreme weather, or was it a manmade disaster due to the woeful lack of qualification and preparation on the part of the organizers? Because as many survivors have told state media, in the morning of the race, the weather forecast still said, along the race path, the weather will be cloudy with light rain.

And also, the organizers did not provide any warnings or adequate supplies to the athletes. Many of them were just wearing shorts and short-sleeved T-shirts.

And also, there was almost no staffing among this hundred-kilometer running path in very hard terrain, with many athletes basically running in muddy, steep slopes and elevation of some 2,000 meters.

So that's also why it took so long for rescuers to reach many of the stranded athletes even after the local authorities sent out more than 250 firefighters, because many of these places were only accessible by foot.

So now, of course, the government has promised a thorough investigation and punish those who are found responsible, with the national sports authority really holding an emergency meeting overnight, reminding and telling officials around the country to strengthen their risk assessments for all sporting events.

But that, of course, already came too late for the 21 athletes who tragically, who lost their lives in this event -- Robyn.

CURNOW: It really is devastating. And it must have just been absolutely horrific being trapped in this extreme weather, you know, in not much clothes, as you said.

Just talk us through who some of the fatalities are. As you said, these are some of the top names, top athletes in the sport.

JIANG: That's right. You know, among the perished people included this top athlete, who had won many championships in these ultra-marathons, and he was only 31 with a 2-year-old daughter, waiting for him back home. And, also, you know, state media reports mentioning, when he was found, his body was found, they found very bruised knees. And you know, with him in a very horrific state.

And another athlete who died, it was this Paralympian, deaf and mute runner, who also won at domestic championships. And many people imagined he would be in a worse state, because he couldn't even call out -- cry out for for help.

And there is another state media report mentioning one survivor actually had to be rescued by a local villager after found unconscious along the running path over two hours.

So these are just some of the very horrific details we're starting to hear. That's why the authorities really are under a lot of pressure to look into what really happened there -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Steven Jiang, thanks so much for joining us, live from Beijing.

Now, authorities in Northern Italy are investigating a cable car accident there which claimed the lives of 14 people on Sunday. A child, believed to be the only survivor, is in critical condition.

The accident happened when a cable snapped near the top of the mountain. AFP reports the prosecutors in Milan have opened an investigation into involuntary homicide and negligence.


The mayor of Stresa, where the accident happened, described the heartbreaking circumstance.


MARCELLA SEVERINO, STRESA, ITALY, MAYOR (through translator): These people thought they were going on a nice day out. We are encouraging everyone to get out, to stay outside, so we can recover from this terrible moment that everyone has lived through. Instead, this is a fateful destiny, a terrible disaster. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau is in Rome and has more on the accident -- Barbie.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're following tragic news out of Italy.

On Sunday morning, a cable car carrying 15 passengers plummeted down a mountainside on the banks of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy. Almost all of the passengers died immediately at the accident.

Now, this accident happens just as the cable car was about to reach its final destination, 1,491 meters above the lake. They were trying to reach a panoramic outlook area, overlooking this very popular lake in the north of the country.

Rescue workers had to be airlifted down or travel on foot in order to reach the wreckage site, which was inaccessible by road.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


CURNOW: And at least 11 people are dead after Saturday's volcanic eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Officials say several people died trying to evacuate. UNICEF says hundreds of children are feared missing or have been separated from their families.

The eruption occurred near the city of Goma. Thousands of people fled by crossing the border to nearby Rwanda.

Here's how one woman described the situation.


FURAHA GRACE, LOST HOME IN VOLCANO (through translator): We were in the market, and then had to run without any belongings. When we returned to the city, the houses were burned, and people were left destitute. I got into an accident and got hurt. So we're appealing for assistance, and especially for food. We need food, because we don't know where we're going to get it from.


CURNOW: Well, the lava flow stopped by Sunday. UNICEF says most people who evacuated are returning home, but many are coming back to damaged homes or none at all, as you can see from these images.

Now just ahead, Kenya's population has grown in recent years, and that, along with poaching and climate change, has been disastrous for the country's wildlife.

Now, Kenya is taking action to reverse course. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're about 230 feet above ground. This is the good patrol, as they say, to be able to count, observe, and report any animals that they see.



CURNOW: Welcome back. So after the past few decades, growing populations, poaching, climate change have played a big, big part in the decline of wildlife in Kenya. And COVID is doing further damage to ecotourism businesses.

Well, now the country's tourism minister is taking action. Larry Madowo joined the wildlife service on this mission in Amboseli National Park. Take a look.



MADOWO: A hippo, getting a break from curious eyes, now that the pandemic has stopped most tourists from coming here.

He's being tracked, along with 1,000 other species. Officials watching closely for an irreversible decline in numbers.

It's Kenya's most ambitious conservation effort.

NAJIB BALALA, KENYAN MINISTER OF TOURISM: We didn't get the tools to help us to put him into preservation. We lost a lot of livelihoods, because there is no tourism. The parks are closed. And we cannot help the communities around this area.

MADOWO (on camera): So Kenya lost 80 percent of your total revenue during the pandemic?


MADOWO: How long will it take to recover?

BALALA: The projection is until 2024. So we need to rethink and remodel our way of doing things so that we can survive until this rebounds (ph).

MADOWO: To do that, they're using aircraft, GPS trackers, camera traps, and a whole lot of manpower to know exactly how many are left.

STEPHEN NDAMBUKI, WILDLIFE RESEARCH SCIENTIST: I feel that -- really, empowered. I feel that, yes, I'm contributing to the conservation. And getting out data. That's going to be used to inform the officials on conservation matters.

MADOWO: Five hours per day, seven days a week, researchers are in the air, combing through every inch of the country's rolling landscapes.

(on camera): We are just kilometers away from the Kenya border. We're about 350 feet above ground. This is the good patrol, as they say, to be able to count, observe, and record any animals that they see.

(voice-over): The census will track the consequences of climate change, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.

Back on the ground, there's a growing power struggle with the Maasai people, who gave up land for some of Kenya's most famous parks. Their livelihoods depend on their cows.

(on camera): But during COVID-19, when tourism completely dropped, the income for the villages has disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has disappeared, sure.

MADOWO: And what are people doing now?

NOAH LEMAIYAN, MAASAI HERDSMAN: They used to be to make some bracelets, necklaces. But not in income. If, for example, our women have a small need, we have to sell one cow to buy for them the food.

MADOWO: The team here suspects erratic weather is affecting animal routines.

DR. PATRICK OMONDI, DIRECTOR OF BIODIVERSITY, KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE: We have seen wildlife going into places they have not been in 50 years. We have seen a lot of changes. They are arising from many climate change.

Like, for example, within Amboseli. We we never used to have permanent flocks (ph), and this is something that we're investigating as scientists. But it's also now lessened the habitat of wild buffalo (ph), animals.

MADOWO: This wildlife census will cover all of Kenya's 58 national parks and reserves, on land and on water. The results will provide the largest ever source of data for Kenya's conservation and tourism.

(voice-over): The government says it will help protect the millions who depend on this for their survival.

Larry Madowo, CNN, Amboseli Park.


CURNOW: Thanks, Larry, for that.

Now, one of the most watched videos in YouTube's history has sold for over $760,000. The viral "Charlie bit my finger" video from 2007 sold as an NFT, a nonfungible token. NFT's allow people to buy and sell unique digital files, creating authenticity and scarcity.

The adorable video of these two British brothers has been viewed almost 900 million times but will soon be deleted from YouTube. Thanks for watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. I will be back, though, in

15 minutes' time with more news. WORLD SPORT starts right after the break.