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International Condemnation After Arrest in Belarus; Concerns Grow Over Gaza's Humanitarian Crisis; Opposition to Olympic Games Grows as COVID-19 Cases Spread; China's Running Community Mourns 21 Killed in Extreme Cold; 14 Dead after Cable Car Plunged into Mountainside; DRC Volcano Eruption Leaves Trail of Death and Destruction; Delhi Extends Lockdown for Fifth Time Until May 31; Conflicting COVID Origin Reports Muddle Search for Truth; Phil Mickelson Becomes Oldest Golfer to Win a Major. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 24, 2021 - 01:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN.

Coming up, international condemnation after the authoritarian leader of Belarus forces down an international flight and has an opposition journalist arrested.

Gaza digging out and riving (ph) rubble cleared.


RIMA ABU RAHMAH, GAZA RESIDENT: We have to keep living. We have to rebuild it again and again, until one day, maybe we can be free.


CURNOW: After this round of destruction, is there any pathway to longer lasting peace?

And a new COVID wave washes over Japan, mass vaccination site opened up, with the Summer Games now just two months away.


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

CURNOW: So, the Belarus government is facing strong criticism, and mounting questions over the arrest of an opposition activist after his plane made an emergency landing. Roman Protasevich was on a Ryanair flight traveling from Greece to Lithuania when he was diverted. State media in Belarus reported that it was President Alexander Lukashenko who ordered a fighter jet to escort the plain to Minsk where the activist was then detained. The plane spent several hours on the ground before it continued on and arrive safely in the Lithuanian capital. Protasevich is a vocal critic of the president, who had been looking

to quiet opposition protests since he claimed victory in last year's disputed election. Protasevich is the founder of two channels critical of the government, they are classified as extremist in Belarus, but he's on a government wanted list for terrorism.

And those who know him are speaking out after his arrest.


FRANAK VIACORKA, BELARUS OPPOSITION: We don't know what is happening to him, but just imagine, a young guy, a journalist, flying back from Athens where he worked, and had some vacation time. Coming back to Vilnius, and suddenly, he -- you're 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, at that moment. Of course, all of the passengers, after 4 or 5 hours, but back on the plane, but no Roman Protasevich. And he is probably in KGB right now, at the interrogation. Interrogation usually takes several days. And you know that in Belarus, when they interrogate, they might use torture, and other means.

SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: You know, people who are in prisons now, who (INAUDIBLE) they wish to tell the truth about the situation, they are all our heroes. And I want him to be brave, and strong. But we really don't understand, just can't imagine what's happening to him right now because, you know, it's difficult and the conditions for people there are awful, and just I want him to stay strong, and he is strong.


CURNOW: World leaders are condemning the arrest.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, tweeting: The outrageous and illegal behavior of the regime in Belarus will have consequences. Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned. Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately.

The British foreign secretary tweeted that the U.K. is alarmed. Dominic Raab writing: we are coordinating with our allies. This outlandish action by Lukashenko will have serious implications.

And the Lithuanian president has also joined the growing calls for the activists to be freed immediately.


GITANAS NAUSEDA, LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We demand the release of Roman Protasevich. If that is not done, we shall talk about the very serious sanctions at the E.U.'s disposable. The regime could also face other measures, including declaring Belarus airspace unsafe for civil aviation, and stripping Belavia planes of the right to land at E.U. and NATO airports.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CURNOW: The U.S. is also strongly condemning Belarus, a statement from the secretary of state, Antony Blinken says, quote, the shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenko regime endanger the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens. We stand with the Belarusian people in their aspirations for free, democratic, and a prosperous future, support their call for the regime to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Jill Dougherty is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service, and joins me now from Florida.


She's also the former CNN Moscow bureau chief.

Jill, wonderful to see you again, my friend. Thanks for joining us.

I really do want to get your take on this audacious, pretty shocking move. Do you agree with some people who say that this is state sponsored hijacking or terrorism?

JILL DOUGHERTY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY ADJUST PROFESSOR, WALSH SCHOOL OF FOREIGN SERVICE: I guess there could be interpreted that way. I mean, from what we know, and there -- I hope, as most people do, that there would be some type of investigation to figure out, precisely, what happened. But if you look at what we know so far, it certainly looks that way. that the Lukashenko, Mr. Lukashenko, president of Belarus himself, ordered this to happen. And it is, you know, outrageous in stopping a plane, midway, forcing it to come down, and arresting a person on that plane.

So, the facts we know at this point would definitely lead you to think that this is close to a type of terrorism.

CURNOW: Would he have done this with the approval, or the knowledge, or the backing of Mr. Putin? And how important is that?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I think that is, maybe, a bridge too far. We tend -- obviously, President Putin supports Lukashenko. But Lukashenko has always kind of done his own repression, so to speak. So, to do this outrageous act, in the middle of Europe is -- I would tend to think, that he could have, certainly, done this on his own. Perhaps figuring that Putin might defend him, or are justifying what was done by some legalistic thing.

But, I don't think you have to say that this is Putin's doing. This is really Lukashenko. And he's a man who's in a difficult situation right now. You know, these protests, Robyn, have been going on for so long, and they are not stopping. And people are not stopping these protests.

So, you know, he appears to be incapable of, really, stopping those protests.

CURNOW: So, this apparently quite bold and audacious move against a commercial airliner. Do you see this, then, in your analysis, as coming from a position of weakness, rather than strength? DOUGHERTY: Oh, definitely. I mean, I think it is an act of

desperation and, also, hubris. I think there's a combination here. Desperation, because you look at this, and the protests continue. Why would a president of a country want to stop a plane to get a 26-year- old blogger? Granted, a blogger who is influential, but why? Why would he do that?

So, obviously, his sense of fear about the impact of this Roman Protasevich, 26-year-old, must be very, very quite high.

You know, can he stop that? No. That's where I think you do -- you have to say, this comes from some type of weakness.

CURNOW: And just quickly before we go, how does Europe respond to this?

DOUGHERTY: That's another kind of difficult question because already, the United States, and other countries in Europe, are talking about more sanctions, or, perhaps, some type of early meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, that might, let's, say, shutdown flights to Belarus, or completely stop air traffic to Belarus, or across Belarus. But, will that actually do something?

You know, I was looking at some tweets coming over in Russia from people who are, certainly, on the opposition side of it. They were, you know, sadly, saying, are they just going to condemn it strongly? Or, just condemn it?

So, there is a certain sad irony there. But I think the real challenge here, right now, is to Europe, and the United States. What do you do to stop a person who can do something like this?

CURNOW: Jill Dougherty, thank you very much. Good to have you on the show.

And as we mentioned, there were more than 120 people on board that diverted Ryanair flight. One of the passengers says they had no idea what's going on, described the scene as the activist was arrested.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are very tired, we have eight hours there. We didn't get information on to what happened. Only what we could find on the Internet. So, we sat there, with no information.


REPORTER: Were you not scared for your life? Were you not scared for your life? Did you feel scared?




REPORTER: And how did the incident look like when Roman went away there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it was very calm. I only saw it maybe by accident, something is going on. It was nothing. He was calm, he was not protesting.


CURNOW: Ryanair put out a statement in response the incident saying in part, quote, nothing untoward was found, and authorities cleared the aircraft to depart together with passengers and crew after approximately 7 hours on the ground in Minsk. The statement does not mention the arrest of the Belarusian activist.

And Jewish visits to Jerusalem's Temple Mount resumed Sunday for the first in weeks. The site is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police helped triggered cross border fighting earlier this month. The director general of the site said two groups of about 120 each visit over the course of the day.

In the meantime, humanitarian aid is beginning to flow into Gaza, 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 reached for Iran's 600,000 children.

Ben Wedeman has more on the humanitarian crisis and recovery efforts.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not for the first time, probably not for the last. Gaza 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 a heavy toll. Not far from the wall separating Gaza from Israel, children of the extended Akhtar (ph) family searched for traces of a life shattered.

Asma Lakhtar's (ph) aunt 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, we're falling on us. We ran to the inner room, she recalls. The last bomb was on this house. Asma was able to crawl free.

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

In the Awdi hospital, plastic and re-constructive surgeon Ghassan Abu Sittah is conducting one of eight operations on this day. He first travelled 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've had injuries since the 2014 war, then injured in the great return marches, and then injured in previous conflicts, and then again, in this conflict. And so, you have a kind of endemic disease. War injuries become like an endemic in Gaza.

WEDEMAN: In the Sheikh Assayed (ph) neighborhood, Rezek Abu Safer (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.

Sisyphus struggled to push the boulder 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 rebuild it again and again. Until, one day, maybe we can be free.

WEDEMAN: In the absence of some sort of resolution, such is Gaza's faith.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Gaza.


CURNOW: The U.S. is putting its focus on reconstruction, and humanitarian aid in Gaza right now. The secretary of state will meet with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts in the coming days. Antony Blinken insists there has to be a prospect for a peaceful, political solution between Israel and Hamas eventually.


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 are entitled. What 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 dignity, and with more hope, then this cycle is likely to repeat itself.



CURNOW: Shamil Idriss is the CEO of the Search for Common Ground, world's largest dedicated peace building organization. He joins me now from Washington, D.C.

Great to see you.

You've led search efforts to end violent conflicts in more than 35 countries, including some of the most devastating conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa. As you look back over the past two or three weeks in Israel, and the Palestinian territories, the big question is, how do you even attempt to try to start to build peace in a place where it's been so elusive over the past decades?

SHAMIL IDRISS, CEO, SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND: Well, thank you, Robyn, for having me. This conflict as much as any other is often viewed from the outside is 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 few weeks is a new phenomenon. It's not all together surprising for those who've been raising alarms about the fissures in Israeli society for sometime. But it will likely force Israeli politicians of all parties to articulate their visions for an Israeli that is actually representative and healthy for all of its citizens, as well as on good terms with its neighbors.

Within the Palestinian communities, we saw coordinated strikes and protests in Israel, in the West Bank, in Gaza, and then the Diaspora. This renewed solidarity was largely in results of an inflammatory way, particularly with images of soldiers in Al Aqsa mosque.

But it points to the fact that this conflict and their plight cannot simply be swept under the rug, you know, or bypassed. And that brings me to the third development, which is really the broader regional complex and also the U.S. rule. You know, the Abraham Accords were met with a great deal of ambivalence. Of course, that opened up diplomatic relations between Israel and a number of Arab states. Many welcome then because thawed relations are always welcome.

But others were concerned that the court did not make any mention over the Palestinian Israeli conflict. It was in some ways to an attempt to bypass to put the Palestinians in a situation of weakness and isolation. Nevertheless, the states that signed those accords and opened up diplomatic relations could perhaps become conduits for renewed diplomatic effort in the region.

CURNOW: In these kinds of situations, leadership is so important, how do you sometimes overcome a disconnect between what populations, doesn't matter which when it is retaking about here, what populations and people want. And the way politicians are making strategic decisions?

IDRISS: Well, it's interesting that you raise. You know, what we're seeing with conflicts all around the world, is both the return of big power politics, you know, and politics between states, but also the increase of people power. We saw both at play in this latest crisis.

We saw how things were mobilized on social media, both within Israel and within the Palestinian communities, and the role that leaders played. You know, one has to recognize that the cease-fire, you know, probably would not have come about without the mobilization of diplomatic pressure. It seems to be the case both in the region and from outside. And it is unfortunately where the reality. The more pressure will

probably have to be brought to bear in order to incentivize a serious and sustained peace process that can yield a real, just and permanent solution to this conflict.

CURNOW: In such deeply divided society, such toxic polarization, what is the one thing that is needed?

IDRISS: Well, trust. Trust is not something that can be fast-tracked. You know, peace everywhere moves at the speed of trust. And trust is built, yes, through dialogue, but more importantly through action. And those actions have to meet the needs of the people.

And, you know, one of the reasons that piece in itself as a bit of a dirty word in this region, is because of the relative lack of progress on this particular conflict, more than any other. And so, what we have to see is the trust that's built on real actions that have a positive impact on peoples lives, and we have to recognize that that lack of progress, doesn't simply lead to a stagnant situation, but we've seen a steady erosion of the possibility of a two state solution, which for decades has been seen as the most viable solution.

And whatever the ultimate political solution will be, it's going to have to rely, and will only be sustained if it's built on a foundation of trust. So, it might seem foolish to be thinking about trusted a time like this, but every conflict does end, and no conflict ends without the building of trust. And we have to start somewhere.

CURNOW: Shamil Idriss, we appreciate you joining us here on CNN. Thank you so much for your perspective and for sharing it.

IDRISS: Thank you.

CURNOW: As Japan battles a surge in COVID cases, two large-scale vaccination centers are opening up. And the government has ambitious goals. We'll have a live report from Tokyo.

Plus, Japan remains under intense pressure to cancel or postpone the Summer's Olympic Games due to the pandemic.


An international health expert will weigh in on the controversy, that's next.


CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, Japan is just open to large-scale vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka. The move comes as the country battles a surge in COVID cases. Right now, less than 2 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Authorities hope the new facilities will boost Japan's inoculation rates and curb the spread of the virus.

For more, I want to go to Tokyo. Selina Wang joins us. Hi. Give us a sense of where you are what's taking place there right


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, right now, I'm standing outside of the Tokyo mass vaccination center. This one combined with one that just open today in Osaka, the government is aiming to vaccinate as many as 15,000 people a day.

These are run mostly by doctors and nurses, from the self-defense forces, and only those 65 and older are eligible to be vaccinated here. Now, I spoke to several people who just received their first dose, they told me they are relieved, but also frustrated that has taken so long for them to finally get vaccinated.

Take a listen to what one woman told me here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I feel frustrated by Japan's vaccine rollout strategy. It's been so slow for developed country. So I feel a bit disappointed. I definitely don't think Japan should go ahead with the Olympics. They're scared.


WANG: Now even though these mass vaccination centers are the first of their kind here in Japan, they are just making a small dent in what is a very big problem. Japan so far is only fully vaccinated less than 2 percent of its population. Less than half a percent of the elderly has been fully vaccinated. And even the majority of health care workers are still unvaccinated.

This may be one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet, but it is struggled enormously with its vaccine rollout. It's been held back by bureaucracy, red tape and a history of vaccine hesitancy. And the issue now is not a lack of supply. It's a lack of manpower, of doctors and nurses to administer them.

Now, the prime minister has set a goal of administering as many as a million vaccine doses a day, aiming to finish inoculation of the elderly population by the end of July. The public health experts tell me that that is an extremely optimistic target. And even if that target is reached, it would still mean that by the time the Olympic Games start, the elderly will not be done getting vaccinated, and there is still no timeline, Robyn, for when the rest of the population, can even start their vaccinations.

Now, it is against this backdrop, as well as surging COVID-19 cases across Japan, in which you have growing public opposition, to these Olympic games, local polls show that more than 80 percent of the people here in Japan do not want the games held this summer.

The sentiment is growing that the government is putting money, and politics ahead of people's health.

Now, the IOC and Olympic organizers say they expect, more than 80 percent of the people in the Olympic Village to be vaccinated.


But the medical community says that's not enough. You have more than 11,000 athletes for more than 200 countries. Not to mention the tens of thousands of staff officials, tens of thousands, of unvaccinated volunteers.

They say with this scenario, with the monstrosity of the Olympic Games, it's just impossible to host them safely and securely -- Robin.

CURNOW: Selina Wang there in Tokyo, thanks so much for that report.

So, this Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo as Selena said are less than two months away and many people are saying that the events should be canceled or postponed as Japan battles its COVID surge. But organizers insist that games will go on and they say they're carefully managing the risk.

Well, I want to bring an epidemiologist Mike Toole. He has more than 40 years experience working on a variety of international health issues. He joins me now from Melbourne, in Australia.

Hi, good to see you.

You just heard are reported there in Tokyo, sort of lay out the skepticism from ordinary Japanese. Eighty percent say we don't want their Olympics. It's going to be dangerous. In your medical opinion do you think it's safe to hold the Olympics in two months, in Japan?

MIKE TOOLE, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: I don't. As I've written going ahead with the games defies all public health logic. And I think there are two major concerns, one is the -- yeah, the potential impact on the athletes, and their entourages and the media. And the second is the potential impact on the Japanese people.

Now, starting with the athletes. I think the main issue is that athletes and other visitors don't have to be vaccinated. Now, the president of the IOC is confident that 80 percent of athletes and coaches will be vaccinated, though I don't know where that figure comes from.

Even if it's true, that leaves thousands of athletes that are not going to be protected. And I think that -- you know, it has the potential to initiate what we call a super spreading event. So, that would be my first concern.

CURNOW: Okay. And your second concern?

TOOLE: Second is a list of concerns that have been expressed by the World Players Association, which is the main global union for athletes. It has 85,000 members, in 60 countries.

Now, they've highlighted a number of issues that the so-called playbook, that is the IOC guide for safe Olympics, is not up to public health standards. I briefly listed them. One is the housing. They'll be up to three people in a poorly vaccinated room, athletes have to sign a waiver, against any risk.

Thirdly, the tests they're going to be using daily are not the best. Their rapid antigen tests, and they often test negative when the person is actually infected.

Finally, they don't think there's enough detail about physical distancing. For example in dining areas, gyms, locker rooms, and particularly for team sports where it's impossible to physically distance.

So I think if you add all those together, I think there is a very high risk, that there will be transmission, between athletes.

CURNOW: So what's your listing here is potential, it's not just a super-spreader event, but potentially a dangerous event for people afterwards as well, because these athletes will go home, a global super-spreader event.

TOOLE: That's right, and the athletes, who are least likely to be vaccinated, and therefore most likely to be infected, are coming from countries where the vaccination rollout is very, very slow. And I'll remind you, there's a country like Tanzania, which has in the past long distance runners that won medals has not vaccinated a single person, and there are other countries like that.

So, now, if those athletes go back, they won't be going back to a country where the kind of healthcare system that Japan or the U.S. or Australia has. And they could very easily spread the virus, in those very poor countries.

CURNOW: And what about these athletes? Because the Olympics is about the celebration of physical fitness, will they be able to stay in bubbles? Are they going to be forced to stay or do you think you will also be seeing a lot of these athletes going out into Tokyo, partying, and that's also where after the games perhaps, that's also where ordinary Japanese are concerned about this sort of cross infection potential.

TOOLE: Well, we know from past games that mostly very young, very excited athletes, do tend to -

CURNOW: They have fun.

TOOLE: --do tend to party after their event. And, you know, it's going to be very difficult to keep them from partying inside the built the village. And I'm sure it won't be that difficult to be to get out of the village.


So I think that leads me to the second main concern and that's the impact of the games on the Japanese people. We just heard that only about 20 percent of Japanese support having the games, and if stadiums are allowed to have spectators well, that means large numbers of Japanese will be coming together in stadiums or on public transport at a time when cases are surging. They're reporting over 6,000 new cases day. And that's including 1,000 a day in Tokyo. So that's much higher than it's ever been. So I think it's quite risky, for the Japanese population with their low vaccination rate and what we call lockdown life.

Japanese constitution, doesn't really allow the government to impose the kinds of lockdowns that we have seen in other countries. Everything requires on a sort of a willingness to abide by recommendations. So the governments asks restaurants to close at 8:00 p.m. but there's no law to enforce that.

CURNOW: Ok, Mike Toole, a pretty sobering assessment there. Thank you very much coming to us live from Melbourne, Australia. Really appreciate you joining us here on CNN. Thank you, sir.

TOOLE: Thank you, Robyn.

So coming up on CNN. A tragedy high, high in the mountains of China after extremely cold weather hit an ultra marathon race. One survivor accounts what happens. That straight ahead.


CURNOW: Welcome back to all of our viewers around the world.

Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow.

You're watching CNN.

The trail-running community in China is mourning the deaths of 21 people after extreme weather conditions hit a 100-kilometer mountain race.

Patrick Snell reports on the tragedy in what was meant to be a fun day for sports fans.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When runners lined up on Saturday morning to take part in a high altitude ultra marathon in northwest China, it was a day like any other. The sun was out and the temperature was seemingly mild.

Hours later, temperatures dropping, freezing rain, hail, winds lashing the runners on the 62-mile race as some suffered from hypothermia and others went missing.


SNELL: This prompted organizers to call off the race and launch a search party of 1,200 people to scour the complicated terrain. The rescue effort continued after it turned dark.

By Sunday morning 151 of the 172 race participants, had been confirmed safe with eight recovering in a hospital. But tragically the extremely cold weather took the lives of 21 ultra runners, Chinese state media reporting.

ZHANG XUCHEN, MAYOR, BAIYIN, CHINA (through translator): This incident is a public safety incident caused by sudden changes in weather in a local area. Here as the organizer of the event, we feel deeply guilty and blame ourselves and express our deep condolences to the victims and our deep condolences to the families of the victims and the injured.

SNELL: Among those dead, Liang Jing, one of China's well-known ultra marathon runners. Liang is being remembered as one of the best ultra endurance athletes in the world, by the Hong Kong 100 ultra marathon group who said he had been a favorite member of the Hong Kong trail racing community.

Patrick Snell, CNN -- Atlanta.


CURNOW: Steven Jiang joins me now live from Beijing with more on this story.

21 people dead, that's a devastating amount from one race. What's the reaction there in China at the moment?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: You know Robyn, a lot of questions and criticisms are being raised. But as you said this is such a horrific tragedy not only for this tight-knit community of ultra runners in this country but also for the whole nation because when you look at the mortality rate, 21 people died out of 172 people who participated. That was more than 12 percent with many saying that was even worse than the Boston marathon in 2013 when it was attacked by terrorists.

But of course, now we are hearing more details, with some of the lucky ones who actually turned back relatively early in the race describing themselves and other athletes already displaying signs of hypothermia as they walk downhill in a wobbly faction with their body shaking and some of them losing their sense of bearings amid this extreme weather conditions.

Now others told state media, at least one survivor for example, that he was only rescued by a local villager, after losing consciousness along the running path for over two hours.

So increasingly you hear people are questioning not only in social media but also in state media, whether or not this tragedy was entirely due to extreme weather conditions, or whether it was a man- made -- at least partly a man-made disaster because of the apparent lack of quantification and preparation on the part of organizers.

Many survivors have indicated to state media that in the day -- in the morning of the race, the local forecasters said it would be cloudy with light rain along the running path, and there was also no warnings and no supplies from the organizers to athletes, many of whom were only wearing shorts and short sleeves. And there was also almost no staffing along this very treacherous 100 kilometer running path with many athletes, of course, almost just running in muddy and steep slopes almost through all the way at an elevation of almost 2,000 meters.

This of course, is also why it took a long time for the rescuers to reach many of the stranded athletes even after the local authorities sent out hundreds of emergency responders because many of these places were only accessible by foot.

So now, of course, the authorities have promised a thorough investigation into the tragedy and punish those who are found responsible. And the National Sports Authority even held an overnight emergency meeting really stressing the importance and urgency of strengthening risk assessment for all sporting events nationwide. But that obviously came too late for the 21 runners who tragically lost their lives, Robyn.

CURNOW: Thank you for that update. Steven Jiang there in 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 a critical condition.

The accident happened when a cable snapped near the mountaintop. The mayor of Stresa where the accident happened described the heartbreaking circumstances.


MARCELLA SEVERINO, MAYOR, STRESA, ITALY (through translator): It's a terrible moment for me and for our community. And I think also for the whole of Italy. Especially in this moment when we were just beginning to restart.

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.


CURNOW: AFP reports that prosecutors in Milan have opened an investigation into involuntary homicide and negligence.

Lava has stopped but the disaster hasn't after a volcanic eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo. thousands had to flee on Saturday as molten rock swallowed their homes. UNICEF says hundreds of children are feared missing or have been separated from their families.

Saskya Vandoorne has more.



SASKYA VANDOORNE, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: The lava stopped flowing on Sunday just on the outskirts of the density (ph) of Goma but the damage had been done. 11 people were killed as a result of the eruption: five in a car accident, four persons who attempted to escape, and two who were engulfed by the lava according to local officials.

Now, many residents who had fled on foot to Rwanda when the Nyiragongo Volcano erupted returned to find their homes destroyed, covered in black molten rock.

FURAHA GRACE, LOST HOME TO VOLCANO (through translator): We were in the market and then we had to run without any belongings. When we return to the city the houses were burned and some people were left destitute.

I got into an accident and got hurt. So we are appealing for assistance and especially for food. We need food, because we don't know where we're going to get it from.

VANDOORNE: One NGO said roughly 600 homes were lost and five schools were flattened. They say it will take months to restore the area that was impacted by the lava.

Now the priority now is to build shelters for the thousands of people lost everything. Some experts said that volcanic activity in the past five years at Nyiragongo mirrors that of 1977 and 2002 when it previously erupted and devastated surrounding neighborhoods.

It remains one of the world's most active volcanoes, and is considered among one of the most dangerous. Authorities will continue to monitor the situation.

Saskya Vandoorne, CNN -- Amboseli Park.


CURNOW: The United States plans to restrict visas to those linked to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the decision on Sunday. Under the measure the U.S. would block visas for any current or former Ethiopian or Eritrean government officials, members of the security forces or anyone involved in undermining the resolution of the crisis in Tigray. No one was named as a specific target.

CNN has investigated atrocities being committed there including sexual violence, mass killings and the blocking of aid to an area on the brink of famine.

Still to come, India hit yet another COVID milestone as it continues to battle a massive surge.

And new information is fueling more debate over the origins of the coronavirus and once again raising questions about whether it could have escaped from a Wuhan lab.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CURNOW: India just hit another COVID milestone. It's now the Third country to top 300,000 deaths from the virus. The daily death toll was nearly 4,500 on Monday after dipping below 4,000 just a day earlier.

Meanwhile Delhi is extending its lockdown for the fifth time until next Monday. But there is hope, COVID cases there are going down and the government says if that trend continues, the lockdown will be lifted in phases.

Let's go straight to Delhi. Vedika Sud joins us now, Vedika.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Robyn, so what we do know is there've been a lot of developments in the last couple of hours here from India. Firstly there is a vaccine shortage in India's national capital New Delhi.

What's happened is that one of the two vaccines being used here, administered here, the Covaxin, the supply has run out because of which those who are also being administered the second dose, that is from the age of 45 and above, will not be receiving it anytime soon, according to the Delhi government here.

Delhi's chief minister and his government has said they have run short of supply. Now, we already do know that the age group between 18 to 44 that will be administered the vaccines have also suffered a huge blow because the vaccines have run out because of which that age group has not been administered any vaccine since Sunday.

So the vaccine shortage is a huge problem as per the Delhi government here in India.

But also a quick note on the numbers now. Let's just tell you that India is now the third country in the world to have crossed over 300,000 deaths ever since the pandemic hit.

Also as far as the numbers are concerned, India has over 26.75 (ph) million cases of COVID-19. The cases have been going down, Robyn, but fatalities remain high because we are now talking about a number 4,450 -- almost those many deaths taking place in the last 24 hours, which had been one of the highest in the month of May.

A quick word also on another challenge that India is facing which is the black fungus infection. Almost 9,000 infections have been reported from 26 out of 36 states in (INAUDIBLE) territories here in India.

This is indeed a huge battle that the Indian government is now fighting along with its people. There has been a shortage of supply of the drug used, the anti fungal drug used in this case. Now, this usually happens according to the Indian health ministry with patients who have recovered or are recovering from COVID-19.

This black fungus infection can hit your lungs, it can hit, you know, your nasal area. It can also lead to extreme cases where due to the strength and the power of this fungus -- fungal infection, what happens is that you can lose your eyesight, and you can lose a part of your jaw.

And this can happen to anyone who is suffering from COVID-19 according to the Indian health ministry, Robyn.

CURNOW: Thank you for that update. Vedika Sud there in New Delhi.

SUD: Thank you.

CURNOW: And new information is raising more questions about the origins of the coronavirus. Most roads in the COVID origin story, of course, link to China, where the disease first appeared and where people first began to fall ill. But when the first symptoms or cases emerged still is a question because some very high level reports about the timeline are certainly not matching up at all.

U.S. Intelligence found several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became ill and were hospitalized in November of 2019. Yet China reported to the WHO, the World Health Organization, saying the first patient with COVID symptoms wasn't recorded until nearly a month later.

Dr. Celine Gounder says the classified nature of the information makes fact-finding hard.


DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The only way to really sort this out is to have full transparency, it's very difficult to interpret what's happening, when you're talking about classified intelligence.

What I would really want to see are things like the patient records. I'd like to see what their clinical symptoms were, their lab tests, their radiology tests.

I'd like to see logs of what was happening in the lab at the time. Safety protocols and what was being reported about adherence to that.

So in the absence of full transparency, in the absence of those kinds of details, it's very difficult to know what to make of this.


CURNOW: CNN has reached out to the Chinese foreign ministry for comment the WH investigation into the origins of the virus found the risk of it forming by accident in a lab was very low. Well, it's currently believed COVID originated from animal to human contact.

Well, just ahead, one of the most popular pairs on the PGA tour makes history, why Phil Mickelson's 6th major championships is one for the record books.

Plus we'll show you how Hong Kong's art community is navigating the national security law passed in China last year. That story is just ahead.



CURNOW: Welcome back.

In Hong Kong art is increasingly falling prey to politics and China's sweeping national security law, especially protest art which has virtually disappeared. Our reporter shows us how Hong Kong's our communities having to maneuver this new political reality.

Kristie Lu Stout shows us how Hong Kong's art community is having to maneuver this new political reality.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): She's known as Hong Kong's Lady Liberty, a white statue of a pro-democracy protester, goggles and a gas mask, a symbol of defiance on display. Not in a gallery, but in a children's clothing store, that's been searched by national security police.

A number of artists have their creations on display. Artist Kacey Wong is here with store owner Herbert Chao (ph) to unbox his latest work.

KACEY WONG, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think having a place like this to feature resistance art, as well as art that represents freedom and democracy, is very important. I mean the platform is getting smaller and smaller in Hong Kong.

STOUT: So far the national security law has targeted opposition activists and pro democracy figures but art has also fallen prey to politics.

(on camera): Since the law was imposed last year, there has been the virtual disappearance of protest art. The cancellation of a film screening about the 2019 pro democracy protest and a very public debate about the upcoming M+, a museum touted as Asia's answer to the Tate Modern.

(voice over): The museum's 8,000 item collection includes work by Chinese dissident artist A Weiwei, including a 1997 photograph of him holding up a middle finger to Tiananmen Square.

When asked about the collection, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told officials to be extra cautious in making sure exhibits don't breach the new law.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE (through translator): I'm sure staff are able to tell what is freedom of artistic impression and whether certain pieces are really meant to incite hatred or to destroy relations between two places and undermine national security.

STOUT: Hong Kong has been a vibrant international arts hub. Each year it hosts the Asian edition of Art Basel, the world's largest art fair. Despite the new political climate, organizers are confident that the fair will stay. ADELINE OOI, DIRECTOR, ART BASEL HONG KONG: Oh, absolutely. I mean

after this, I mean especially with the pandemic and the fact that we can do a show, everyone is really putting in an effort to make Hong Kong shine this week.

STOUT: As the more formal art world navigates a new reality, grassroots artists continue to do their work. and while the law does not explicitly address political art, many local artists wonder what are the red lines.

WONG: Hong Kong right now is the most dangerous place, more dangerous than Beijing. It's because the flexible red line in Beijing everybody knows what can be talk about and what cannot be mentioned. But in Hong Kong, nobody know what that dangerous topic really is.

STOUT: Throughout his career Wong has consistently created political artworks. In the studio we see props of his covert art, a performance series of Wong in provocative disguises at Hong Kong protests, artistic pushback to political pressure before the national security law.

Today Wong installed work about COVID-19 in a children's store. Tokens of the pandemic cast in resin, all made inside these new red lines.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN -- Hong Kong.


CURNOW: Four-time U.S. Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles continues to make history becoming the first woman to land a Yurchenko double pike vault in competition. Biles pulled out the move over the weekend at her first meet in almost two years.

The high difficulty move has historically only been attempted by men. But Biles makes it look easy, doesn't she? She won the all-around title of the competition with a rhinestone goat on the back of her leotard. Goat of course standing for "greatest of all time".

And at age 50, golfer Phil Mickelson has made history at the PGA championship. Don Riddell has more on a thrilling win for one of the greats.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Phil Mickelson is one of the most exciting players of his generation, one of the most beloved, too. And now he's the oldest man to win a major title breaking a record that's been standing since before man walked on the moon.

During an extraordinary weekend here at the PGA championship at Kiawah Island, the 50-year-old Mickelson rolled back the years, surviving a rollercoaster ride on a thrilling Sunday afternoon to land his first major title since 2013 and his 6th overall.

When I asked him to put his achievement into words, you could sense that it was emotional. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL MICKELSON, PGA CHAMPION: Certainly one of the moments I'll cherish for my entire life. And I don't know how to describe the feeling of excitement and fulfillment and accomplishment to do something, you know, with this magnitude, when very few people felt that I could.


RIDDELL: This was a typical Mickelson performance containing spills as well as thrills. In a career that's produced so many incredible moments, this will be close to the top of the highlight reel, the sensational chip from the sand to clinch an early birdie.

After a lengthy pandemic lockdown, this felt like golf's welcome back party. The galleries were packed. And with victory close on the 18th hole, Mickelson was mobbed by the excitable fans. He says it's a memory that he will forever cherish.


MICKELSON: It's an incredible experience. I've never had something like that. I've never been at golf (ph) -- it was a little unnerving, but it was exceptionally awesome, too. So that was kind of a special moment that I'll be appreciative of the way that people here supported me and the entire tournament.


RIDDELL: So with a place in the record books now assured and a 6th major title in hand, attention will turn to the U.S. Open at Tory Pines in San Diego. It is the only major tournament that has eluded Mickelson.

But the course is close to home. And it's a venue where he's won three times before. He couldn't do it again could he? You never know.

Back to you.

CURNOW: Thanks Don, for that.

So you probably think a 16 carat diamond wouldn't come cheap and you most certainly would be right. But this purple pink rock is something really truly unique. Take a look at this.

The Sakura diamond named after the Japanese word for cherry blossoms smashed a world auction record for a stone of that color fetching just over -- wait for it -- $29 million in Hong Kong on Sunday. The stone is considered entirely flawless and also classified as a "fancy vivid" meaning it has an intense color seen only in the rarest of pink diamonds.

Well, I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for watching. I'll be back with more news after a short break.