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At Least Four Dead, 159 Missing in Condo Collapse; Derek Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years for George Floyd's Murder; French Woman Who Killed Abusive Husband Walks Free; Biden Pledges Support for Afghanistan as U.S. Troops Withdraw. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired June 26, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:00]

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PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here, in the United States and all around the world. I'm Paula Newton. Ahead, right here on CNN NEWSROOM.

Not giving up hope, despite unimaginable odds. Rescue workers and families are holding out hope, any semblance of hope, for survivors underneath this rubble in Florida.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am praying for a miracle. But clearly, there's fires. Clearly, there's other stuff happening. And I -- I don't know if they can get in there fast enough.

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NEWTON (voice-over): Also, a day of reckoning over racial justice in the United States. Former police officer Derek Chauvin is sentenced to more than 22 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd.

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NEWTON: It is, now, 2:00 am in Surfside, Florida. Just over-48 hours, since part of a high-rise condo building collapsed into a massive pile of rubble. Rescue teams are working, right through the night, again. Desperately, searching for scores of people, still, unaccounted for.

Now at least four people have, now, been confirmed dead. And the whereabouts of 159 others are unknown. Now part of the 12-story towers came crashing down in the middle of the night in this tight-knit town, just north of Miami beach. It's, still, not clear what could have possibly caused this disaster.

Search efforts have been hampered by smoke, fire, rain, you name it. Making an already-difficult task, even more challenging. CNN spoke to Miami-Dade's fire rescue chief, who has a message for those waiting for news of loved ones.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHIEF ANDY ALVAREZ, MIAMI-DADE FIRE-RESCUE DEPARTMENT: You got to have hope. And we're doing everything that we can to bring your family member out alive.

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NEWTON: So tough for everyone there, on the ground. And so many people are going through this, right now. And just holding onto any hope that they can. CNN's Natasha Chen has more, now, from Surfside, Florida.

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MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE (D-FL), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: We will continue search and rescue because we still have hope that we will find people alive.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But that hope is fleeting as crucial hours pass.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they are alive down there like what's going on like how buried are they in there, is there a possibility that they're alive, like truthfully look at this mess. I mean, what are the chances?

CHEN (voice-over): Officials say about 55 of the 136 units at the 12- story residential building in Surfside collapsed early Thursday morning, still no clue what the cause. Search and rescue crews are working around the clock using heavy machinery, sonar cameras and specially trained dogs to try to locate the missing in the rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you get lucky you find them in the pocket and we're able to basically by hand remove the rubble if it's not too heavy.

CHEN (voice-over): But those efforts are being met with new challenges; fires at the collapse site as well as rising water and shifting materials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It then challenges the integrity of what's still standing there and then that delicate balance of saving lives while risking lives.

CHEN (voice-over): Crews are now looking at the license plates of cars in the parking garage to try to determine who was in the building. The residents represent an international and cultural mix.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My nephew was here with a wife and three small children, 2, 6 and 9. They had an apartment there. We never lose hope.

CHEN (voice-over): Overnight, President Biden declared an emergency in Florida making federal aid available. The Feds are also sending a team of experts to study the structure which was undergoing a 40-year certification and determine whether an investigation that could impact building codes is necessary.

An attorney for the association of condo residents tell CNN an engineer had conducted inspections to determine needed repairs, but the only work that had started was on the roof.

Judy Spiegel is among the missing. Tonight, her husband, Kevin, who was out of town at the time of the collapse, and their three adult children are holding out hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to be hopeful. I want to be with her. I love her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How from one second to the next second, a dramatic change in life. It's unbelievable.

[02:05:00]

CHEN: The Chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said that initially they had hundreds of people on the team searching and now today they've been assisted by more agencies who have come to help them.

He also said that it may not be clear to us on the ground or even if you look at the aerial footage what the work is exactly that they're doing underneath the rubble.

And some of them are going underneath there to where the basement was trying to go up into the building that way, all the while contending with dangerous conditions like falling debris -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Surfside, Florida.

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NEWTON: CNN's Isabel Rosales joins us now.

You just heard it in Natasha's report, right?

Risking lives to try to save lives. I know the scene is busy through the night.

What have you seen in the last few hours?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. Firefighters are continuing this grueling work through the night, nonstop. It is difficult. It is delicate. It is so important.

Unfortunately, they are not seeming to catch a break. Even from the elements. Let me show you one of the biggest challenges that they are facing right here, behind me, as we zoom into the building.

You will see that smoke coming out. Right now, there are active fires inside of that building, that they cannot access. This is not only creating a dangerous situation for those firefighters as they navigate through the rubble. But also, it is interfering with their equipment. Infrared equipment and technology that they are using in the hopes of finding these survivors.

And that's a big word, Paula, hope, right, duty and hope. These are the things fueling them through the night.

The fire chief gave an impassioned interview, stating, "We must not lose hope."

He was tapping into his experiences going through sites like this in Haiti and saying, hey, eight days after a building collapsed there, we pulled a girl out of the rubble alive. We must not lose hope.

NEWTON: And how about the family members?

I know, today, I saw a prayer wall with the photos. So heartbreaking.

I mean, are they coming to the site?

Are they mainly going to some of the shelters there that have been set up in the area?

ROSALES: Yes. They are, at the moment, sort of creating a vigil at the -- at the reunification center. Awaiting answers. Pressing forward. They are not losing hope, either. Despite getting pretty grim updates, today.

In the sense of officials asking for DNA swabs. Asking for them to give up identifying information about their missing loved ones, including tattoos, birthmarks, scars, anything, that could potentially serve to identify a body.

So they are getting this barrage of just no answers or, potentially, dark updates. But nonetheless, they persist on just hoping for the best. Hoping that, in an air pocket somewhere, they'll be able to reach survivors.

NEWTON: Yes. It just brings it home, Isabel. As you were speaking, we were showing pictures of those loved ones they desperately want them all to come home and to see them again. And as you are speaking, the work goes on behind you. Unfortunately, not catching a break on the elements at all.

We will update the weather conditions there, later this hour. For now, appreciate it.

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NEWTON: Joe Hernandez is a former member of FEMA Urban Search and Rescue and a former chief of medical operations for Florida Task Force II and he joins me now from Miami.

Joe, listen. Obviously, our heart goes out to all the family members. And we don't know what it's like to be waiting to see if they can rescue anyone. But we know that they are hoping that all of those hardworking people that you see there, at the disaster zone can actually do something.

How complicated is it?

Because we have seen fire. We have seen water. We have seen wind. We have seen rain. And smoke.

How complicated is it right now? JOE HERNANDEZ, FORMER MEMBER, FEMA URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE: As complicated as you can get it. The rescuers, of course, are fighting time. That's the -- the element that everybody is up against. And then, when you add the inclement weather that we had and all the water that was going through. And you are adding even more wind, now. Fueling some of the fires that are still established in the sub- basement levels.

And the toxic fumes that are coming out of that is hampering the rescue coordination. Putting water on that fire, also, causes some of the sand to be more difficult to move, at times, as well.

NEWTON: And when they are trying to find people that, perhaps, are alive in -- in pockets in, what you guys call, voids, what do they actually have to do?

Because we have seen people picking through things with their bare hands. But then, we have also seen some sophisticated and some heavy equipment.

HERNANDEZ: Sure. They are trying to do what's called delayering the pile. You could see multiple floors stacked on top of each other. As you count those big pancakes, you could probably count at least nine of them. And you know that each one of them was a floor.

And so what they are trying to do is methodically reach the pile from the sides and not so much from the tops, to create more of a crush effect to that, and plant listening devices, Delsar devices, inside the rubble pile to be able to see if they can get any feedback from that.

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HERNANDEZ: Tapping sounds, moaning sounds, somebody trying to get attention, anything that's going on, a callout will be done, also an all quiet will be done and some of the rescuers will do a callout.

The lifting of those pieces of concrete that everybody's watching are the -- either, done by humans and/or mechanical machines -- are trying to gain access underneath. The rescuers will, then, put the pieces of wood, which we call cribbing and shoring, those areas so that they stay elevated.

And that allows a rescuer or, at this time, a canine, a search canine, that is very well-trained and sophisticated, into that area to try and do a live find. That's what they are trained for, going in those tight find areas.

If they do have a hit on a possible victim that may be trapped, still, inside and alive, it will be followed up by the technical search teams. They will be inserting search cameras and trying to find, search-locate those victims inside there. Be able to then begin the rescue process and the medical process, prior to extricating them.

NEWTON: This has got to be tough work. I mean, who knows what they are breathing in there. The elements are rough. Other peoples' lives are at risk here, right?

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely. That's what they do. As the people running out of the building, we are really thankful there are always people that want to run into the building to try and save those lives.

And as long as we have those types of individuals that are out there, we know that we will have somebody coming after us, should another disaster like this happen.

NEWTON: Yes, 48 hours in or thereabouts. It is good to know. The effort being put into this. I have to tell you. We spoke, on CNN, with a family that just arrived on the scene. You talk about pancaking. We talk about layers.

I see homes, right?

Homes, in between the layers.

HERNANDEZ: Yes.

NEWTON: Those families are looking at the scene. They just arrived and, they are saying, there's no hope. There can't be.

What would you say to them?

HERNANDEZ: People thought the same thing in the other disasters that we had. Oklahoma City bombing all the way to the Haiti earthquake. And victims were, still, brought out alive multiple days into the event.

And so, you know, a piece of concrete that might have landed sideways and kept that piece of pancake that we see from a distance in the camera might just be enough for a body to lay sideways on that I-beam just to stay alive.

And so, it doesn't take much, even a refrigerator, bathtubs. Like you said, those were homes between those floors. So everything within that home also serves as a barrier of some type to keeping that roof up above.

The floors are really close but there always is still sometimes space to be able to live during that time. And hopefully, the rescuers will be there and the medical team will be right behind it.

NEWTON: Well, you just described a miracle there and we are all hoping for one. Joe Hernandez, thanks so much for lending your expertise here to explain it to us. Appreciate it.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you, Paula.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Now this tragedy is reaching well beyond the borders of the United States. Dozens of Latin American nationals are among those unaccounted for in the collapse. You see the nationalities there and that's including members of Paraguay's -- members of Paraguay's first lady's family. For more on that, we want to turn to journalist Stefano Pozzebon. He is in Colombia now for us, at this hour.

You know, Stefano, it's been interesting and heartbreaking, quite frankly, to see these families arrive onsite. But of course, they want to be there. They feel better, being there. And I'm sure there are dozens of families right now, wondering what's going on and lacking the information because they are not in the United States.

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Precisely. Let's remember that this is going on. This tragedy is taking place in the midst of another tragedy, which is COVID-19, which has impacted -- dramatically impacted South America and is making travel, communication and everything, much, much harder.

If it was, already, an obstacle to enter United States from a Latin American point of view, perhaps, if you didn't have a visa, even now, with the pandemic, it's even harder to get a flight and go to Miami.

We were speaking with a couple of consulates of the six South American nations that have missing nationals in the Miami collapse of the building there. And they said that they are trying to expedite emergency visas to allow, as you said, relatives to be there on the scene and to follow their search-and-rescue operations very, very closely.

And Latin America is, also, trying to bring a -- their help to the search-and-rescue operations. A task force of Mexican nationals is on the scene in Miami and is joining forces with the Florida-based task force that are working against the clock to try and bring those loved ones out of the collapsed building -- Paula.

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NEWTON: Yes. And that's the point, right?

We're -- we're at 48 hours, now. Or just past. And people are watching the clock. And yet, everyone is discussing how painstaking it is.

Do you get a sense that, from being so far away from this, who are they reaching out to?

Who do they have to be able to support them as their only mode of information, sometimes, is just what they are getting on social media or what they're watching on TV?

POZZEBON: Precisely. But at the same time, they have been trying to speak with the consulate, the foreign minister. Here, the foreign ministry in Colombia has been sending out information to the Colombian citizens. And the same notes of -- of -- of hope that the same expert, just before me, was talking to you, Paula, were shared by others.

For example, this morning, I was -- I could interview the consulate of the Venezuelan community in Miami. And he said exactly the same, that, in some cases, people have been rescued alive from disasters like this, even three or four days after such a disaster took place.

So they are hoping. They, really, are keeping the hopes alive and against everything that they are seeing in front of their eyes, hoping that some of their loved ones will be, still, alive -- Paula.

NEWTON: All right. Stefano, appreciate the update. I know you are going to be staying across this for us over the weekend. We will talk to you, again. Appreciate it.

Now there is much more to come right here on CNN, including reaction to the prison sentence handed down to the former police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd.

Plus, in France, a woman found guilty of murdering her husband won't be serving any more jail time. We'll explain why she is a free woman right now.

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KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: My hope for our country is that this moment gives us pause and allows us to rededicate ourselves to the real societal change that will move us much further along the road to justice.

I'm not talking about the kind of change that takes decades. I am talking about real change, concrete change, that real people can do now.

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NEWTON: Minnesota's attorney general there, reacts to the sentence given to a former police officer Friday. Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years for second degree unintentional murder in the death of George Floyd last year. Our Omar Jimenez has the story from Minneapolis.

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JUDGE PETER CAHILL, MINNESOTA JUDGE: The State of Minnesota versus Derek Michael Chauvin.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirteen months to the day after murdering George Floyd, Derek Chauvin was sentenced.

CAHILL: The court commits you to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for a period of 270 months.

JIMENEZ: Twenty-two and a half years in prison after the former Minneapolis police officer was convicted on charges of second degree unintentional murder, second degree manslaughter and third degree murder. Judge Peter Cahill wrote in a sentencing memo, "Mr. Chauvin, rather

than pursuing the MPD mission, treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings, in which he certainly would have extended to a friend or neighbor."

The prosecution capping off an effort more than a year in the making.

ELLISON: A police officer is not above the law and George Floyd certainly is not beneath the law.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): During the sentencing hearing, the family expressed the impact George Floyd's murder had on them, including his 7-year-old daughter, Gianna Floyd.

GIANNA FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S DAUGHTER: Well, I ask about him all the time.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): His brothers speaking directly to Chauvin.

TERRENCE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: Why you didn't at least get up?

Why you stayed there?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): And making their pleas to the judge.

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: Give Officer Chauvin the maximum sentence possible.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Chauvin's mother spoke in his defense, never acknowledging the Floyd family. Instead --

CAROLYN PAWLENTY, DEREK CHAUVIN'S MOTHER: Derek, I want you to know that I've always believed in your innocence and I will never waver from that.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The court found the opposite. And for the first time, the 45-year-old former police officer addressed the Floyd family.

DEREK CHAUVIN, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: I want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There is going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest and I hope things will give you some peace of mind. Thank you.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Outside the courtroom, mixed feelings of celebration and wanting more.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, FLOYD FAMILY ATTORNEY: This is the longest sentence that a police officer has ever been sentenced to in the history of the state of Minnesota. But this should not be the exception.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): It's the close of a first chapter in a story that continues long after 9 minutes and 29 seconds impacted the world and changed it, as Floyd's daughter said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could say anything to your daddy right now, what would it be?

G. FLOYD: It would be I miss you and I love you.

JIMENEZ: Now 22.5 years is the sentence. But he could serve just 15, since, here in Minnesota, you serve the first two-thirds of your sentence in prison and then become eligible for supervised release for the final third.

But he's still got two upcoming federal trials that could add more to that, stemming from alleged civil rights violations. He also still has the opportunity in 90 days to appeal this case, especially since the judge denied his request for a new trial just before the sentencing. That's separate from the appeals process.

We reached out to the attorney representing Derek Chauvin to see if he had any comment on the sentencing. He simply responded, "No comment" -- Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.

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NEWTON: Mo Kelly is a political commentator and host to the Los Angeles radio program, "The Mo Kelly Show," and he joins me now.

[02:25:00]

NEWTON: You know, quite a stunning day in the courtroom. A lot of emotion for the families, for sure. Mixed reaction, though, to the actual sentencing.

What did you think?

MORRIS O'KELLY, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was more than what I expected but less than, I think, what possibly Derek Chauvin deserved. If I think about someone with aggravating circumstances or enhancements and, still, fell short of the 30 years that the prosecution had asked for, I had the personal question, I wonder what Derek Chauvin needed to do or needed to have done in a different way to have gotten that other eight years or so to get to the 30.

And that's, still, under the maximum, which I believe was 40. So even though I was surprised that it was 22.5 years, I am, also, surprised that it wasn't more, given the -- the facts and the circumstances.

NEWTON: And do you venture a guess, as to why it didn't reach that level?

I mean, the judge obviously had a 22-page ruling. A lot of detail in there. As far as the judge is concerned, you can tell he thought that he had gone the distance on this sentencing.

O'KELLY: Yes. And when he was giving his decision, his judgment, I was under the opinion that, once he said, I am not doing this out of emotion. I am not doing this in response to the public outcry, I was thinking that he was going to just bring the hammer. But he did not do that, big picture, which says, to me, that Derek

Chauvin, being a former police officer, did matter in a way, ultimately, that other defendants would not have been treated.

Now we can say that the -- the -- the statute treats everyone equally and, in fact, his defense lawyers argued that. But it didn't seem like, ultimately, that Derek Chauvin was treated just like any old defendant. And his past history as an officer seemed to have impacted that decision.

NEWTON: You know, is this the end of police officers acting with impunity?

Is this transformative?

And I ask because today would have been Tamir Rice's 19th birthday. He was shot dead, just to remind everyone, 12 years old, shot dead in a park by two officers, who have never faced justice for that. That's according to Tamir Rice's family, that continues to fight for justice in this.

Mo, what do you think?

Is it a pivotal point, after everything, the reckoning that has been happening and the Black Lives Matter movement and so many people wondering, what does it take for things to change?

O'KELLY: I don't think it changes the trajectory. There is nothing, legislatively, which would prevent or even punish somebody more severely if this were to happen again. And let's not forget, it was a confluence of events.

You needed citizen video of more than nine minutes. You needed other officers, even a police chief, to testify against Derek Chauvin. You needed to have, unfortunately, civil unrest for even Derek Chauvin and the other officers to be charged.

So it was what I call an imperfect storm because you had to have all of these negative things happen at the same time just to get Derek Chauvin arrested, convicted. And here we are, at sentencing.

And as I said earlier, I thought the sentence was more than I expected, more out of cynicism but did not do anything to be a transformative moment, where it would send a message to the rest of the country, if people were expecting this verdict to send a message that unlawful policing was, now, going to be held to a higher account, we did not get that message today.

NEWTON: It -- it certainly was a rough day for his family. And I think everyone's -- you know, be still my heart when George Floyd's daughter spoke in court about how much she missed her dad. Mo Kelly, thanks so much.

O'KELLY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: Now to France, where a woman who admitted to killing her abusive husband is now free amid a global outcry over her prosecution. CNN's Cyril Vanier explains why Valerie Bacot was able to go home, even though she was convicted of murder.

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CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Found guilty of murder and yet, this is how Valerie Bacot is greeted as she leaves the courthouse in France.

A four-year prison sentence, including three suspended, means she is free, despite admitting to killing her abusive husband, not a triumph but still a legal and moral victory.

"I am not relieved," she said moments earlier. "I am empty, mentally and physically."

Overcome by emotion, she can barely walk. Sexually abused by her stepfather, she eventually married her tormenter. The investigation revealing a life of beatings, threats and forced prostitution until she shot him in the head.

In her best-selling memoir, "Everyone Knew," she writes, "I only wanted to protect myself. Protect my life and that of my children. Nothing else ever mattered to me."

Public opinion skewed heavily in her favor. A petition against further prison time received more than 700,000 signatures.

[02:30:00]

VANIER (voice-over): Also, in her favor, a psychiatric evaluation that diagnosed battered woman syndrome, extreme stress, which altered her judgment.

"When you are beaten for years since the age of 12," her lawyer argues, "you cannot think normally, like you or I. At some point, you have to do something that's not like you, not like her, to save herself. It's survival."

Even the prosecutor cast her as a victim and the light prison sentence sought was a near guarantee that she would walk free.

"The legal question," explains this lawyer, "is whether the law is applied differently whether a woman who has been beaten all her life and forced into prostitution kills her spouse."

The court's answer on this day, under extreme circumstances, yes. For Bacot and her four children, it means another chance at life -- Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: The U.S. and Afghan leaders meet in Washington, as the American troop exit leaves Afghanistan in a precarious position. What Presidents Biden and Ghani are saying. That's next.

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NEWTON: And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I am Paula Newton. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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BIDEN: The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending. It's going to be sustained and our troops may be leaving.

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BIDEN: But support for Afghanistan is not ending.

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ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: In moments of great transition, things happen. But you will see that, with determination, with unity and with the partnership, we will overcome all odds.

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NEWTON: That was the U.S. And Afghan presidents giving their assessment of what lies ahead, once the U.S. troop withdrawal is completed. Now the leaders met in Washington Friday, as the September 11th deadline draws near.

Already, Taliban forces are increasingly seizing territory. Phil Mattingly has more on the circumstances surrounding the meeting and what the Afghan leader is hoping to achieve.

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PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani had several messages that he wanted to deliver to President Biden. Obviously, there was no question the troop pullout that President Biden had, already, announced was not going to change, no matter what President Ghani put on the table.

But there is clear need, clear necessity, for more U.S. assistance as the U.S. moves through that process. The country's security situation, very clearly, deteriorating amidst Taliban offensives throughout the country. Particularly, in the north.

Real concerns from U.S. intelligence officials that the country could fall, within six months of the U.S., officially, departing after September 11th. Where things stand right now, the U.S. is not changing. And President Biden is not moving off of that September deadline, making clear, the U.S. will continue humanitarian support, will continue its presence at an embassy in Kabul. And there will be about 650 U.S. troops there to protect that embassy.

But that security situation, that is up to the Afghans. Whether or not a peace agreement gets signed, the U.S. Supports it but that is, also, up to the Afghans. Of course, there is also the big question of those Afghanis who helped U.S. forces, U.S. personnel, over the course of the last 19 years.

The administration's still working through that process, as well. As of now, they have identified a certain group of those individuals that are going through the special immigrant visa process. They will be evacuated before the September deadline to a third country as they move through that process.

How many that will be and what that third country is, that is still up in the air. But obviously, a very complex situation.

And the Biden administration making very clear, despite the visit, in person, from the Afghan president, they are not changing their posture on this. All they can offer is hope and assistance, not of the military variety -- Phil Mattingly, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Ahmadullah Sediqi worked with U.S. forces in Afghanistan for four years. He now works to help resettle refugees and immigrants with No One Left Behind, a volunteer organization working to support special immigrant visa recipients.

Good to have you here. I know this has been your mission, ever since you received your special immigrant visa in 2014.

If you can describe to me, how many people are being affected by this right now?

What's at stake?

What is this limbo all about that these people find themselves in now?

AHMADULLAH SEDIQI, NO ONE LEFT BEHIND: Thanks for having me. You know that there are many people, thousands of people, still, left behind in Afghanistan. And they are still waiting for their visas. And the No One Left Behind (INAUDIBLE).

NEWTON: When we say left behind, though, the issue here is that their lives are in danger. You have clear proof of that every day.

SEDIQI: Correct. Like, no one behind has catalogued over 300 interpreters and their family members, you know, having been held over the last seven years because of their affiliation with the United States. And that's the hardest part. People are, still, waiting. NEWTON: You know, people like you and, obviously, troops who were in

Afghanistan, feel very passionately about this. And yet, the challenge has been immense.

Why is it so important, at this point in time, that those people, who risked their lives to help U.S. and its allies make it out of -- out of Afghanistan?

SEDIQI: As we promised them, you know, those who risk their lives and -- and there are, you know, interpreters who are at risk of retaliation for work with the American forces, and they are still waiting for that (ph).

They are looking forward for the U.S. government to expedite the process. You know, they are being killed every day. (INAUDIBLE). We receive emails, calls, messages and there's -- you know, really, at risk out there.

NEWTON: Give me some insight into people that you know and what their lives are right now.

When you say risk, they feel threatened?

Are they in hiding?

Are their families threatened?

SEDIQI: Yes. Like, for instance, you know, I know people who have been waiting for their visas for only for their interviews for the past three years. You know, I work with a family in Afghanistan. They last year (INAUDIBLE) were working as a barber.

[02:40:00]

SEDIQI: So when they came back from work toward their home, you know, a bomb blasted in the space under their car and the last year (INAUDIBLE) brother. And they showed me the pictures. It was hectic.

And two of them left Afghanistan for Turkey. And two of them, still, live in Afghanistan. And then, you know, when I came back here, I helped those family to apply for, you know -- they didn't know any (INAUDIBLE).

But as a No One Left Behind ambassador, you know, we helped them to apply for the visas. And then, I know another person and -- and -- and I visited by there, too, and he has been waiting only for the interview for the past three years. And he has faced a lot of threats. You know, the same things going on, every day.

NEWTON: And what is the holdup, in your estimation?

Was the holdup the Trump administration, before?

And do you think, now, with the Biden administration coming in, do you think things -- do you believe President Biden, when he says, don't worry, we won't leave them behind?

SEDIQI: We do believe that. Let's say, for instance, we landed a rover on Mars in seven months, you know. But it takes 3.5 years to process paperwork. That really doesn't make sense. And it's killing our allies in Afghanistan.

So we appreciate Biden's administration, you know, to expedite the process. And we are looking forward, you know, to -- to being able to keep our promise.

NEWTON: We'll wait to see what else we hear about this in the coming months. We continue to follow this here at CNN and, of course, realize that these people help keep soldiers safe in Afghanistan and in many cases, helped keep us safe when we went to do our reporting for CNN in Afghanistan.

Ahmadullah Sediqi, thanks so much.

SEDIQI: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Officials in New South Wales announced a new stay-at-home order in the greater Sydney area. Now it's starting today about 6:00 pm local time. That's a bit more than an hour from now. And will last for two weeks. That's for the time being.

The city has recorded dozens of new, locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours alone. Restrictions are rolling out in the rest of the Australian state, including a one-person-per-square-foot rule, both indoors and outdoors . And we will continue to watch the developments there in Australia, as well.

I am Paula Newton. For all our international viewers, "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next. For everyone else, stay right here. Your news continues in a moment.

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NEWTON: We return to Florida now, of course, where four people have been confirmed dead and 159 remain unaccounted for following Thursday's devastating building collapse in the town of Surfside. Families are desperately waiting for news of their loved ones.

We are about to show you the moment of the collapse. But be aware, some viewers may find the video jarring to watch.

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NEWTON (voice-over): One of the big questions that remains, I mean, look at that video.

What caused a building like that to collapse, so suddenly and so catastrophically?

Officials are promising an urgent investigation. But experts say, at this stage, it's just impossible to try and pinpoint a precise cause.

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SHIMON WDOWINSKI, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: It's very unusual to see a building collapse like in this way. It reminds me of building in -- in countries where they have the earthquakes and they -- the constructions is not in a good conditions.

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NEWTON: Kit Miyamoto is CEO and president of Miyamoto International, a structural engineering and disaster risk management firm. He joins me now, live, from Los Angeles.

Thanks so much for being here. So much to get to and I will get to the issue of what possibly could have caused this. But for now, I was interested in the fact that the mayor of Miami-Dade, you know, came out and said, look, along with those, you know, those expert and very brave rescue workers that are on the scene right now --

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KIT MIYAMOTO, CEO AND PRESIDENT, MIYAMOTO INTERNATIONAL: Yes.

NEWTON: -- they are bringing in the expertise of people like you, structural engineers.

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NEWTON: Explain, to us, why that is so important, if you intend to bring people out alive, people who -- who may still be there and in fairly good shape?

MIYAMOTO: Yes. It's, a site, as you can imagine, unbelievably dangerous, risky and also fragile conditions. And you can see it half collapsed building basically down on top of the (INAUDIBLE).

And you essentially try to get into the debris to get to the people, essentially. That's what they're trying to do. That's why they -- usually, structural engineers attach to the other (ph) search-and- rescue team to essentially reduce a risk for the rescuers. You know?

And I was, in 2017, Mexico earthquake and doing a similar things. And it was -- they definitely need a structural engineering expertise to become safe. But Miami-Dade, their County, their search-and-rescue team is considered to be one of the best in the world. I think they are doing a great job out there.

NEWTON: The other thing you said, the best in the world, are the building codes for this area of Miami. I know you have been mulling this over with all of your expertise, since this happened.

MIYAMOTO: Yes.

NEWTON: What -- we're all wondering what could have caused this catastrophic event? MIYAMOTO: Yes. Well, the -- this type of collapse we see often in earthquake countries. You know?

I mean, our team and myself probably investigate over 500,000 buildings damaged in collapse like this one. But it's -- you are talking about earthquakes. You know, earthquakes shakes and building collapse. But this is highly unusual because there is no tremor or there's no storm or nothing, like, going on, right?

But the building's system is actually pretty simple. It's essentially a series of concrete plate. It's a floor, sits on top of the, what we call, columns, essentially, pillars. They are spaced, usually, about 10 meter, each way, about 30 feet.

And so, if one or so of the pillars fells, everything collapse on top of each other. That's exactly what happen there. And that, most likely, the column fail in some way in the center of the structure, because that's where the failure was initiated.

As you can see it, at the lower-level columns, which is collapse first, that's how actually work like that.

Now question is why that column failed, right?

No one really knew that, quite yet. But technically speaking, you can kind of imagine there is a couple things could happen to it. One very good potential is the corrosion. Each of the columns made of reinforced concrete. There is rebar inside. Rebar is a steel reinforcement.

[02:50:00]

MIYAMOTO: That actually provided internity (ph) of strength of the column, itself. Think about this column, supporting a huge loading about there. So really strong. But once this get compromised by the -- especially the salt air, you know water, it corroded. It's rust. Once rust, then the steel lose its (INAUDIBLE) capacity and become weaker.

And also many cases actually compromise the concrete around it because that rust expands it (INAUDIBLE) concrete and lose the capacity that cause the collapse.

NEWTON: Yes. I mean still so traumatic to think about. I know it's going to take many months to really get to that forensic level we know exactly what happened. Kit Miyamoto, thanks so much. Really appreciate your expertise on this.

MIYAMOTO: Yes, thanks so much.

NEWTON: And we'll be right back in a moment.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) NEWTON: So we told you about the sheer horror and the aftermath of a building collapse in Surfside, Florida. But one thing that has not crumbled is hope, hope that, despite the odds, victims could still be found alive in that mountain of rubble.

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NEWTON: Hope that some who called this building home will come back to their loved ones and hope that people, whose pictures were posted near the collapse site -- you see them there -- could have somehow survived.

When it comes to not giving up, first responders and their families -- and the families right there, that you see, are all on the same page.

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DR. HOWARD LIEBERMAN, MIAMI-DADE FIRE-RESCUE: You just never give up hope. You just always keep pushing yourself and you just keep going.

These guys, you know, that's their mindset also. They're just, we're going to keep going, keep going, keep going, until, like I said, every stone is turned over and all the rubble is removed. And that's how we do it.

BETTINA OBIAS, NIECE OF MISSING COUPLE: I think hope is a very valuable thing when people are going through crisis to hold on to. So I'm holding onto a sliver of hope because I know in my heart, somebody there is still alive. And if it's not my aunt or uncle, I hope it's somebody's father, somebody's son, you know.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Every rescue person we have talked to, will tell you, you know, people can survive for a long period of time in buildings, you can imagine somebody survived.

OBIAS: Yes, that's what I also heard. So I'm hoping that there are many survivors.

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NEWTON: At this hour, rescuers are doing what they can to keep that hope alive. In the meantime, you can help the collapse victims and their families. Please head to cnn.com/impact. You'll find links there to charitable organizations verified by CNN.

I want to thank you for spending part of your day with me. I'm Paula Newton. I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.