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Afghanistan After America's Exit; North Korea Orphan Labor; Netanyahu's Rivals Working To Form Coalition To Oust Him As PM. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 31, 2021 - 00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Holmes in Atlanta and this is CNN.

A move towards a new unity government in Israel, the most serious blow yet to Benjamin Netanyahu his efforts to keep his grip on power. America's exit from Afghanistan. We'll look at what this means for the country and the growing threat of the Taliban and young North Korean orphans forced into hard labor. Pyongyang says they're simply serving the nation.

Welcome, everyone to CNN Newsroom. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes. Israel appears to be on the brink of a new coalition that could force the country's longest serving Prime Minister out of office. Benjamin Netanyahu's rivals are working together to form a unity government.

Right wing leader Naftali Bennett announcing the plan Sunday night saying it is the only way forward but Mr. Netanyahu quick to go on the attack in response.


NAFTALI BENNETT, YAMINA PARTY LEADER (through translator): There is no right wing government. Four rounds of elections in the past two months prove to us all that there simply is not a right wing government to be led by Netanyahu. It's either a fifth election or unity government.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I heard Naftali Bennett. Unfortunately, he's again misleading the public. Same lies, same empty slogans on hate and division from someone who gives a hand to hatred and division and also someone who is perpetrating, I must say the fraud of a century.


HOLMES: Now, if a formal agreement is reached on this emerging and diverse coalition of right wing centrist and leftist parties, it will still have to be approved by Israel's parliament, the Knesset. Let's talk more about this. Elliot Gotkine joining me now from Jerusalem. Quite a shift in the political landscape and what's been a stalemate so far. As you would well know, Netanyahu has for years shown an ability to manipulate and maneuver and stay at the helm. It's not over is it?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: It's not Michael. You know, I think it was a former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson said that a week is a long time in politics. Well, this week in Israeli politics is going to feel like an eternity. Especially for Naftali Bennett from the right wing Yamina party and Yair Lapid from the centrist Yesh Atid party as they try to get their coalition government or their coalition plans over the line.

As you say they will need to go to the president to say that they've succeeded in being able to form a coalition, they've got until Wednesday to do that. And then the Knesset or Parliament here will have up to a week in which to vote on the matter. Now, there is plenty that can happen in that time.

And you can bet that Prime Minister Netanyahu will bring enormous pressure particularly on members of Naftali Bennett's Yamina party to try to pick off those that he thinks might be sitting on the fence and maybe having second thoughts about going into this national unity government.

Already we are seeing every night in Tel Aviv outside the home of Ayelet Shaked. She is Naftali Bennett's number two, there are demonstrations outside her home calling her not to go into this coalition government. There could be procedural shenanigans as well, the Speaker of the Knesset is an ally of Netanyahu from his Likud party.

That could gum up the proceedings a little bit. And some are saying that potentially there could even be attempt to go to the courts to try to perhaps claim that since Yair Lipid was given the mandate to form a government, that you can't therefore have Naftali Bennett as Prime Minister. So there's plenty that could happen over the next week, it's not over yet, Michael, but we are the closest that we've been over the past 12 years to seeing Prime Minister Netanyahu leave office.

HOLMES: Yes, I'm sure Israelis would just like a government at this point after multiple elections over the last couple of years. But one interesting aspect of this is what would be Netanyahu's legal exposure if he is no longer Prime Minister?

GOTKINE: Well, I suppose that on the one hand, he'll - if he's not prime minister, he'll have more time to spend with his lawyers working on his defense. But on a more serious note, you know, he - his trial on corruption charges, which he denies, has already begun as he was Prime Minister, and they will continue even if he is no longer Prime Minister.

I suppose the only aspect really that will change is that by no longer being in office, he may not have the ability to try to bring any pressure on the wheels of justice or a Justice Minister that perhaps would be serving in a government headed by him. But beyond that, the corruption trial will continue as usual.

HOLMES: All right, Elliot, thanks so much Elliot Gotkine there in Jerusalem for us. Interesting days ahead. Now, the World Health Organization is investigating a possible new Coronavirus variant in Vietnam. The WHO is working with the country's health ministry to find out more about it after four people were confirmed infected.


Now this suspected variant looks like it has some characteristics of various first detected in India and also in the UK. One top WHO official says they expect to see more variants emerge as the virus circulates. Now these Coronavirus concerns are growing just as we are a little bit more than 53 days to the Olympics.

Australian softball players are now on their way to Japan among the first athletes to travel for the games. This team spoke to the media before they boarded their flight from Sydney to Tokyo. They're set to land in the coming hours and when they do, they will arrive as Japan is under an extended state of emergency due to COVID-19.

The country's Prime Minister has called the situation unpredictable. Now the UK meanwhile, seeing a rise in New COVID infections. The country surpassed 3000 daily cases last week for the first time since early April. Experts blaming the variant first identified in India for the increase.

Overall though the UK rate of infection remains low thanks to its strong vaccine rollout. But still some EU countries are taking notice of this latest rise. France will require British travelers to quarantine for a week upon arrival, that starts from Monday. Germany requiring a two-week quarantine for anyone coming from the UK and Austria has a total ban on flights and tourist visits from Britain.

Protesters in Brazil are calling for the ousting of the President Jair Bolsonaro. 10s of 1000s marching across the country over the weekend unhappy with the President's handling of the pandemic and wanting better access to vaccines. The Coronavirus has of course been raging out of control there. Brazil reporting more than 43,000 new cases on Sunday alone and the death toll, now about 460,000. CNN's Rafael Romo with more on the protests.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Screaming at the top of their lungs, people on the street say the leader of third country must go. It was just one of the massive multicity protests held across Brazil this weekend against President Jair Bolsonaro.

It's our duty to fight for democracy, this protester says, this government is no use to us it doesn't serve the people and its political project is to kill us. The demonstrations against Bolsonaro in cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia are some of the largest since the beginning of the pandemic. Demonstrators had two main demands, calling for the president's impeachment and getting better access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Impeachment now, Bolsonaro must go this protester said, adding that more people will die if he stays in power. Early in the pandemic the controversial right wing former military officer downplayed COVID-19 as a (Foreign Language), a little flu. The President also questioned the effectiveness of vaccines, and was often seen greeting crowds of supporters without a mask before contracting the virus himself.

Brazil has been one of the hardest hit countries in the world and is now facing a possible third wave of COVID-19. Vaccination has been slow, less than 10 percent of its total population of 210 million is fully inoculated and the South American country currently has the third highest number of infections after the United States and India.

Some protesters say Bolsonaro's lack of action is tantamount to genocide. Cemeteries are full, refrigerators empty this banner reads. The Brazilian Senate has opened an investigation into the President's handling of the pandemic. The protests happened only a week after a maskless Bolsonaro led a motorcycle rally where he once again questioned the usefulness of measures to prevent the spread of COVID- 19. Rafael Romo, CNN.


HOLMES: Now as we said earlier, Australian athletes are among the first to be heading out to Japan for the Olympic Games. CNNs Angus Watson following those developments for us in Sydney. These athletes must be nervous enough, one imagines as going to the Olympics, and now the world is going to be watching them as I don't know testcases in a way, what are they saying?

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Michael, you're absolutely right. There was an added sense of apprehension here at Sydney Airport today as the 23 young athletes left to go to Tokyo ahead of the games.


These players said that after a year of disjointed preparation for the games, again, they've got to go through these extra processes ahead of arriving in Japan once they get off the nine and a half hour flight after a layover in Singapore. It'll take them six hours to prove to Japanese officials that they've had the right tests, that they have had their vaccines, and they're safe to travel north west of Tokyo to Otto city where they'll be encamped ahead of the Olympics.

They have to go so early, because they haven't had a chance to play with each other since 2019. That's just how deeply the coronavirus pandemic has affected their preparation. Here's what one senior player had to say about that in Sydney this morning.


JADE WALL, AUSTRALIAN SOFT BALL OLYMPIAN: We've going to go through lots and lots of COVID testing. But look, we're all prepared for it where we want to do everything that we can to make sure that we're safe when we get there. And we're safe while we're in Japan as well.


WATSON: So the players have all had two Pfizer vaccine shots ahead of leaving the country and they're certainly Michael adapted taking these COVID-19 tests.

HOLMES: Yes, and of course, they're obviously well aware that the case situation in Japan is still very concerning.

WATSON: They are aware of that, as you mentioned that earlier, Michael, Japan has gone into a state of emergency for some prefectures. Tokyo and Osaka in particular, cases remain high, hospitalizations remain high, over 3000 cases a day on average at the moment. And that's the atmosphere that these players are going into the tournament of their dreams to have to contend with.

Now that they've had mental health training and preparation in this year to just try to get them prepared for the extra taxing elements of this Olympic Games. And they've Michael, they've been playing in front of empty stadiums whenever they've trained to get ready for this very real possibility that there'll be no fans at all when the Olympics does kick off.

HOLMES: Yes, amazing. They haven't played together since 2019. Angus, good to see you. Angus Watson at Sydney Airport for us. U.S. parks and beaches filling up again for the long Memorial Day weekend. The holiday, the unofficial start of summer for many Americans after more than a year of COVID. And fueling a bigger holiday this year, more than 40 percent of the U.S. is fully vaccinated now, although experts warn that that number needs to reach 70 percent to 85 percent for herd immunity.

Still as seen, as Paul Vercammen reports, many are ready to play in the sun after a year of being closed in.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Memorial Day weekend, Los Angeles, the return of the swan boats to Echo Park Lake. It is reopened after $600,000 worth of renovations. An upbeat mood in Los Angeles and that's because the COVID-19 numbers extremely good, very low positivity rate. The only sort of dark cloud we ran into was people getting gas. It is painful.

A little over $4.20 a gallon average in LA County. One man in a Chevy Silverado truck telling us it's a big tank, it's costing him about $100 to fill up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's costing me about almost $100. It's hard, especially right now that there's not many jobs. And you know, we're in a bad situation economy wise so I feel like it's too overpriced.

VERCAMMEN: So back on this lake looking forward to the coming weeks when we're going to have a further easing of restrictions in Los Angeles. But for now the people taking in Echo Park like just enjoying a picture postcard Memorial Day weekend in Los Angeles. I'm Paul Vercammen reporting.


HOLMES: Enjoying himself too. Well, the U.S. is honoring its fallen military members on this Memorial Day as it moves forward with ending America's longest war in Afghanistan. We'll discuss all that when we come back.





JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every day since I was Vice President, I've carried with me a card for the exact number of troops killed in our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, it's 7036 military members, fallen angels, I give them last full measure of devotion. We're the guardians of their legacy, the inheritors of their mission and a living testament to their sacrifice that is not going to be in vain.


HOLMES: U.S. President Joe Biden, they're paying tribute to fallen us service members ahead of Memorial Day. Now in the coming hours, he's set to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan alone, 1000s of U.S. troops have died in what has become the country's longest war fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban.

But by September 11 of this year, Mr. Biden has pledged a full U.S. withdrawal on the 20th anniversary of the 911 attacks. Now there are signs Al Qaeda will remain a global threat even after the American military pullout. Nick Paton Walsh tells us in this exclusive report, the terrorist group is still up and running and Afghanistan maintains a web of international links and could attack the West again.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Al Qaeda, the reason the US went to Afghanistan are greatly diminished. The Biden administration said.

BIDEN: It's time to end America's longest war.

PATON WALSH: But as CNN investigation has discovered al Qaeda very much alive and thriving in Afghanistan, linked to global cells, the U.S. is hunting. Senior Afghan intelligence officials tell CNN Al Qaeda are communicating with their cells worldwide from Afghanistan, getting shelter and support from the Taliban in exchange for expertise and could be able to attack the west from there by the end of next year.

U.S. Treasury in January said Al Qaeda was quote growing in strength here. But Afghan intelligence officials I spoke to go further saying it's more substantial than that. That Al Qaeda provide expertise like bomb making, but also in finance in moving cash around. Core Al Qaeda members number in their hundreds most assessments

conclude, but it's not how many but who, which is most telling. Key is senior Al Qaeda Hassan Abdullah Rauf, known as Abu Musab Al Massri here on an FBI wanted poster issued in 2019.

An Al Qaeda veteran he was in on 911 before it happens that Afghan officials. Massri crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan in 2014. And over six years, I was told moved around different provinces in Afghanistan, something that senior Afghan intelligence officials say would only be possible if he had the assistance of top Taliban officials.

But he was in October tracked down to here, a tiny Taliban controlled village in Ghazni that we can only see on satellite images. Afghan Special Forces lost a soldier raiding this compound so fierce with the Taliban resistance and Al Massri died of injuries here.

When they went through Al Massri's possessions his computer, they found messages, communicating with other Al Qaeda cells around the world, talking about operational matters, not necessarily attacks, but also about how soon Afghanistan could be a much freer easier space for them to operate in.

Then something curious happened, revealing a lot about Al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Global Connections, particularly in this case to Syria.


There were two rare U.S. strikes on Al Qaeda cells in Syria, immediately afterwards, this one on the 15th of October, and another a week later, both in Idlib. A spokeswoman for the U.S. military said they were, "Not aware of any connection to the Afghan raid." But a senior Afghan official told me they were most likely connected, because the Americans asked the Afghans to delay announcing their raid for over 10 days.

And during that delay, before the Afghans broke the news, both Syria strikes happened. Strikes on Al Qaeda figures are often announced by Afghan intelligence who present the threat as why the U.S. must stay. A Taliban spokesman rang CNN to say the claims were false, and designed to keep American money coming to Afghanistan.

He also said the Taliban had agreed to kick out terrorists as part of their peace deal with the United States. I was told there isn't evidence at this stage that Al Qaeda is plotting attacks on the west from Afghanistan, but still, as they grow in freedom of movement, I was told it is considered simply a matter of time until that may happen, raising the question is the reason why the U.S. came to Afghanistan in the first place going to end up the reason they have to come back? Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


HOLMES: Carter Malkasian was a senior advisor to the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. General Joseph Dunford. He's also the author of "The American War in Afghanistan: A History." And it's great to have you here to talk about this. The U.S. pullout underway. We've already seen military outposts surrendering Al Qaeda and ISIS attacks and Taliban too of course. What do you see happening when that pullout is complete?

CARTER MALKASIAN, AUTHOR, "THE AMERICAN WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: A HISTORY.": Well, I think what we're seeing right now is, is kind of the expected escalation of Taliban attacks. In some ways, it's not terribly different from what we've seen in previous years. I think what I worry about is it could get worse, once our pullout is complete.

I think that as the Taliban start to attack in more places, we'll likely see more posts surrendering and more places on being conceded to the Taliban. And that'll happen probably for two big reasons. The first reason is that Afghan forces have for a long time had difficulty fighting when they don't have the advantage of U.S. airstrikes and U.S. advisors. So those will be gone.

The other big thing that's going to have an effect here is the kind of fear that they're going to have, knowing that we're going to be gone. The fear that they won't be able to fight as well as they did before. And so you might be able to think about it a little bit like a stock market crash on that, when you know that the prices of things are going to go down, you might start selling things off.

So it's the same kind of thing here, when they know that support is less, they might be more inclined to surrender earlier, even at times when they might be able to fight well and survive.

HOLMES: You touched on this and it's interesting. I spent time in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, mid 2000s, and saw the U.S. training Afghan soldiers. The mantra we kept getting told was as Afghan forces stand up U.S. forces will stand down. But isn't the reality that with a few notable exceptions, the bulk of the Afghan military never stood up, wasn't good enough, didn't have the morale. And what will that mean without us support on the ground in terms of the future of the country?

MALKASIAN: On - I think what you've said, overall, I mean, is painfully true. And I don't want to - I don't want to belittle the real efforts that many Afghans have made, fighting hard, tremendous sacrifice. It's not that they don't fight hard in many places and at many times.

It's that when push comes to shove, the Taliban tend to have an edge and so looking toward the future, I think over the - the immediate time after - the months after we depart, the concern is that Taliban could gain a lot of ground, some of it will be through direct attacks, some of it could be because the Afghan forces are surrendering.

And there are various negotiations that go on beyond behind the scenes. And so I think it's reasonable to expect that that's going to happen. How far it goes is a little bit unknown. I think the fact that some I think some big cities could fall.

Will Kabul itself fall is much harder to predict. There's some factors there like the old Northern Alliance, will they stand up and fight really hard? Or will the commandos that we've trained well and have repeatedly fought, well, will they be able to hold Kabul effectively?

And then there's also questions about the region. Is the region really going to let the Taliban take over Kabul again and take over the country again. So those are the unknowns of this.


HOLMES: Yes, the Taliban actions and statements on the ground give every indication that they are still committed to Sharia law, rule by force. Why should we have any faith that they will respect the changes made to civil society since their overthrow in 911, or embrace the notion or entertain the notion of power sharing, rather than just go back and take over and go back to that pre-911 society?

MALKASIAN: Well, I mean, the reason to doubt it, is that they can make a lot of gains on the battlefield, and that for any side in a war, in a civil war, if they can make ground on the battlefield, they don't have to negotiate, that can be very incentivizing and compelling. So that's a big reason for doubt.

What are some reasons for hope? Well, one reason for hope is the Taliban in negotiation with the United States and other members of Western community and allies and such, have tried to say repeatedly that we don't want a monopoly on that we want to have a peaceful government in Afghanistan. Now, I've grown very skeptical that that's true, but there is some chance it's that it's still true there.

Now, in terms of women's rights, media freedoms, how they feed the people in general, the various interviews with the Taliban have suggested that they have more concern over this in the past - than the past. They have kept some schools open. They've even kept some girls schools open, they've kept clinics open. So maybe they will be better than they were in the past.

But there's also strong indications that they do want to adhere to the great wide breadth of Sharia and Islamic law and interpret it, moreover, in a way that would still be oppressive to women, would still be oppressive towards the press, would still not treat the Afghan people in the best ways possible.

HOLMES: Yes, and yes, some tricky times ahead, a lot unknown. Carter Malkasian, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

MALKASIAN: Thank you, Michael, have a great evening.

HOLMES: Well, for decades, there were questions about what became of some of the students at Canada's residential schools.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What they were taught was that when children were missing, that they were told they ran away.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: But the real answer to what happened to hundreds of those

children is devastating. We'll bring you up to date on that. Also, the orphans of North Korea destined to labor in the coal mines and farm fields of the Hermit Kingdom. Their heartbreaking story after the break.



HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, you're watching CNN Newsroom. Flags in Canada are flying at half-staff to honor hundreds of children whose remains were found buried on the grounds of a former school for indigenous children. The news is drawing strong reactions from across the country, as CNN's Paula Newton reports.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The discovery is astounding and so too the anguish, leaving community members and much of Canada reeling. The remains of 215 children, some as young as three bury for decades on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian residential school. Their deaths believed to be undocumented, graves unmarked.

The indigenous community in British Columbia calls it and unthinkable discovery and yet former students of the school like Harvey McLeod, who was subjected to abuse there tell us they thought of nothing else for decades.

HARVEY MCLEOD: What I realized yesterday was how strong I was as a little boy. How strong I was as a little boy to be here today. Because I know that a lot of people didn't come home.

NEWTON: It was one of the largest residential schools of its kind in Canada, but there were well over 100 across the country. Many like the one in Kamloops was run by the Catholic Church and later by the federal government. According to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, indigenous children were forced to attend the schools separated from families and many neglected and worse, physically and sexually abused and many disappeared.

Their families never knowing what became of them.

CHIEF ROSANNE CASIMIR, TKEMPLUPS TE SECWEPEMC: What they were told was that when children were missing, that they were told they ran away.

NEWTON: And yet the community here knew that couldn't be true. Survivors and families of the missing children were sure a mass grave would be found, but they were unprepared for the loss of 215 souls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was devastating. It was it was actually quite mind boggling.

NEWTON: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country's history. The government's own Commission says 1000s of children likely died of abuse or neglect in these schools. The Legacy now is one of intergenerational trauma for many of Canada's indigenous communities.

While the Archbishop of Vancouver and other individual societies have acknowledged the abuse, The Catholic Church has never formally apologized. In 2019, Trudeau agreed decades of abuse perpetrated on indigenous peoples amounted to cultural genocide. Now, native leaders say it's time the government's step up.

215 pair of shoes are laid on these Vancouver steps. Finally, their souls symbolically are at rest. Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.


HOLMES: The U.S. Missile Defense Agency says a U.S. warship failed to interceptor ballistic missile during a test on Saturday. Barbara Starr explains what happened.


VOICE OF BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The whole idea was that there's a navy ship out there and it is equipped with something called the Standard Missile, an advanced version, not a fancy name, but very advanced, very high tech. They were testing to see if they could fire a salvo of those missiles against what would have been a simulated ballistic missile target, not a real ballistic missile, but in a test of course, you want something that's a target and you try and shoot it down.

And that tells you if your missile defenses work. This time it didn't work and they don't know why yet, so an investigation underway into this failed test.


HOLMES: The U.S. working to fine tune its missile defenses to guard against threats from countries like North Korea and North Korean state media is claiming that hundreds of orphans are voluntarily working on farms and in coal mines just after graduating from middle schools. The regime calls it patriotic service to the nation. But as Will Ripley reports, it is actually state sanctioned abuse on a mass scale.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: answering the call of duty from their Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. North Korea's orphan children in pressed uniforms, flowery wreaths, racing to work at coal mines and farms.

COLIN ZWIRKO, SENIOR ANALYTIC CORRESPONDENT, NK NEWS: You can't determine the exact age but they look quite young and they look like middle school students is accurate.

RIPLEY: Have we ever seen students that young doing this kind of work in North Korea?

ZWIRKO: This one is a little bit different because of just how young they appear on camera, we can see with their own eyes how young these children are.


RIPLEY: North Korean propaganda praises these so called child volunteers. How widespread is this and how young are the children that are - that are volunteering to work?

LINA YOON, SENIOR RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I imagine happens to almost all children that do not come from privileged backgrounds or have money to pay instead of working. Child labor is a very serious problem but the sad reality for North Korea is that it's quite common.

RIPLEY: North Korea denies allegations of forced child labor. Just last week, its foreign ministry accused developed countries of exploiting children. State media says these orphans are eager to show their loyalty, to fulfill their oath, to repay the ruling Workers Party and the leader, they call father.

ZWIRKO: And that's how they repay the love of this party is to go to the coal mines and repay that debt.

YOON: The mines have horrible conditions and you know, there's a constant accident.

RIPLEY: On my trips to North Korea, orphans told me heartbreaking stories. Some lost their parents to industrial accidents, others to starvation during the North Korean famine of the late 1990s.

My parents died a long time ago, I was so young, Jang Jong Hwa told me in 2015, at the time, she was barely out of school, working full time, caring for seven other orphans. Jang said she hoped they would grow up strong to serve the nation.

Our country is one big family she said. In North Korea country always comes first. Even if it means a childhood of hard labor. Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


HOLMES: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, that volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo has a lot of people still on edge. More activity has been recorded more than a week after it erupted. We'll have those details when we come back.


HOLMES: Look at that. Incredible images from the air showing plumes of gray ash spewing from that volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It erupted a little over a week ago, killing at least 31 people and forcing hundreds of 1000s to evacuate the nearby city of Goma and local official says nearly 100 small earthquakes and tremors were being recorded around the volcano in the last 24 hours and there are concerns another eruption is still possible.

It's estimated the damage done so far will cost more than a billion dollars to repair. CNN Larry Madowo is in Goma with the latest on the volcano.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: CNN has flown above the mountain for the first time. And we've captured what it looks like right now, this is from just hours ago. And it shows great blooms coming out of this mountain. This indicates according to a volcano - volcanologist that there is collapse in the crater of this mountain.

It shows that the lava lake is completely empty. But that does not mean that it is now safe and people can think that the worst is behind them. It just shows that after the eruption on Saturday, the lava lake has cleared out and there is no imminent danger for the city. It is kind of stunning to see these images at this height because we've been reporting on this for over a week and it's something that the whole world is watching because this mountain is so close to a city of Goma of 2 million.

And it's always looming over them, threatening disaster at any time. We've been speaking to an Italian volcanologist to Dario Tedesco, who's been studying this mountain since 1995. This is what he says about what we're seeing in the reduction in seismic activity.

DARIO TEDESCO, VOLCANOLOGIST: The peak has been reached. And now we are going down and we are going even very quickly down. But you know sometimes there is another peak again. So let's wait - let's be patient.

MADOWO: There is concern about what's happening here but here in the eastern DRC but across the border in Rwanda because some of the people that were ordered to evacuate crossed the border into the neighboring country and they just want to come back home. Larry Madowo, CNN, Goma.


HOLMES: Now that fire on the cargo ship of Sri Lanka's coast is mostly out now. The ship's operators say there are only small spots of flames remaining. The fire began a week and a half ago as the ship was sailing from India. Sri Lankan officials say all 25 crew members were rescued.

But now the vessel is spilling a lot of plastic debris into the sea. You see it there washing up on the shores of Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital. The ship's operators say so far there appears to be no danger of an oil spill, however, but what a mess.

And finally some breathtaking images of our galaxy. Showing you a collection here from the Annual Milky Way photographer of the year competition as selected by the traveling photosite Capture the Atlas. 25 photographers of 14 different nationalities took these shots.

They're published right at the peak of what's being called the Milky Way season. Late May to early June is the best time apparently to photograph our spiral star system anywhere in the world.

Nice. Thanks for watching everyone, appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes, you can follow me on Instagram and twitter @HolmesCNN. I'll be back in about 15 or so minutes with more News. World Sport coming up next.