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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; U.K. Delta Variant Cases up 46 Percent in a Week; Biden Pledges Support for Afghanistan as U.S. Troops Withdraw; French Woman Who Killed Abusive Husband Walks Free. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired June 26, 2021 - 03:00   ET




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


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.


NEWTON (voice-over): A heartfelt message of hope for people desperately waiting for news about their loved ones in the condo collapse in South Florida.

Plus, Derek Chauvin sentenced to more than 22 years in prison for murdering George Floyd. We'll hear what both the Chauvin and Floyd families had to say in court.

And the Delta variant will have the, quote, "upper hand" this summer in Europe, according to one health minister. We're live in London, where we're seeing a 46 percent increase in the variant.


NEWTON: And we begin right here in the United States where, at this hour, a massive search for survivors is underway. And that's just over 48 hours after a devastating building collapse in Surfside, Florida. And that is near Miami.

Part of the 12-story Champlain Towers came crashing down during the early hours of Thursday morning. At least four people have been confirmed dead and 159 are still unaccounted for. The cause of the disaster still unknown.



NEWTON (voice-over): A vigil was held in Surfside Friday night to remember the lives lost and pray for those still unaccounted for. Many families are clinging to hope that their loved ones will be somehow found alive, including one woman, who spoke with our Anderson Cooper about her aunt and uncle, who have still not been located.



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 on to 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. So, I hope that they get to them.


NEWTON: One Surfside official calls the search efforts "painstakingly laborious" and stressed that it will take some time to reach every person. CNN's Randi Kaye has the latest for us from Surfside.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The desperate search-and- rescue operation is intensifying, a race to find survivors in the rubble from the partially collapsed building in Surfside, Florida. Search-and-rescue teams not stopping for a moment.

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D-FL), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: These are the best first responders in the world. These are the ones that are sent to trouble spots. They have been to 9/11. They've been to Haiti. They've been wherever there is a disaster and they are bringing that expertise to bear right here, for our residents, for our visitors, in Surfside.

KAYE: The death count now at four. Three of the bodies have been identified, according to the medical examiner's office. Both, heavy machinery, as well as small buckets, being used to carefully lift and move around debris to access search areas.

While 120 people are now accounted for, the number of unaccounted for has increased to 159. Rainy weather and intermittent fires breaking out on the site, complicating an already-difficult rescue effort, an effort that is not without risk to those who are involved.

CAVA: Debris is falling on them as they do their work. We have structural engineers on site to assure that they will not be injured. But they -- they are proceeding because they are so motivated.

KAYE: President Joe Biden today promising continued assistance.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I promise you, the administration, Congressman, will do everything possible to be of assistance now and after.

KAYE: Families standing by trying to hold out hope that their loved ones will be found alive.

MARIELA PORRAS, FRIEND OF MISSING FAMILY: How buried are they in there?

Is there a possibility that they are alive?


PORRAS: Like, truthfully, look at this mess.

I mean, what are the chances?

KAYE: Building resident Kevin Spiegel was out of town when the collapse happened. His wife was at home.

KEVIN SPIEGEL, HUSBAND OF MISSING WOMAN: I was just there this weekend. We had the most wonderful, wonderful weekend with our granddaughter, Scarlett. It was wonderful. And how, from one second to the next second, a dramatic change in life, it's unbelievable.

KAYE: So many families with questions about how this could possibly happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Building falls down in a third world country where they don't have building codes. And with all the strict building codes in this country, a building shouldn't collapse like that.

KAYE: And promises being made that the answers will come.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There's a lot of other people throughout this community and really throughout Florida who want to know, well, how could a building just collapse like that?

Whenever the local efforts are under way with that, the state will support whatever we can to do this right but also to do it timely so that we get the answers to the families and that we get the answer to the people of Florida.



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, 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.


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.


NEWTON: The collapse happened here in the United States, of course, but the impact is being felt half a world away. Some of the people missing came from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, just to name a few. Matt Rivers is in Mexico City for us with that.



MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So many families await news about their missing loved ones in Miami right now. As more and more time passes, we're getting more information about just how many people around the world really have been affected by all this.

RIVERS (voice-over): The collapse happened on American soil but the impact of this tragedy extends far beyond U.S. borders. Dozens of citizens from countries around Latin America are missing, including Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay.

Among those still unaccounted for, Sophia Lopez Morela (ph), the sister of Paraguay's first lady, along with Lopez Morela's (ph) husband and three children. Paraguay's foreign ministry says the family went to Miami to get vaccinated and brought along a babysitter, Laidi Vanessa Luna Bielda (ph).

Her family told CNN it was her first-ever trip outside the country.

"We're hoping for a miracle," said her cousin, "but we just don't know if we should cry now or not."

Also among the missing, a Chilean citizen, relatives say, is related to former Chilean president Michel Bachelet. As word spread about the accident, families from across the region came to Miami for news of their loved ones, news that was difficult to come by.

"Nothing. We are desperate," she says. "The atmosphere changed from yesterday to today. It's not the same."

Abigail Pineda (ph) is a friend of an Argentinian couple that remain missing, along with their 6-year-old daughter. Like others here, she's holding on to whatever small hope she can.

She says, "We are people who are here with a bit of hope because it's all that we have and the only thing they tell us is there are these kind of microcapsules, where there could be survivors."

For rescuers, the work is continuing; digging through debris, heavy machinery involved, occasionally doing what's called an all-stop, where everyone stops and listens for sounds of people who might be alive.

But for families, there is only the agony of waiting, many choosing to do so inside a center set up for those with missing loved ones.

"It's horrible, horrible," says this woman, of what it's like inside the center. "You see a lot of pain, people that are desperate."

This happened near a part of Miami known affectionately by some as Little Buenos Aires. There are a lot of South American families that live or spend time here. And so as the hours go by, there is every chance that the number of South American citizens affected by this collapse goes up, even as the chances of finding people alive goes down.

RIVERS: We know that a lot of these countries whose citizens have been affected by all of this actually have consulates in Miami. Some of those consulates, we're told, have been calling around to different hospitals in the Miami area, trying to get any news about their citizens who are unaccounted for.

Unfortunately, in many of these cases, those consulates not getting the kind of positive news they would hope for -- back to you.


NEWTON: Our thanks to Matt Rivers there in Mexico City.

You can help the collapse victims and their families. Please head to You'll find links there to charitable organizations verified by CNN. Again, that's

Coming up here for us, the Delta coronavirus variant is dashing Europe's hopes for getting that kind of back to normal summer everyone was looking for. We're live in London with the details.

Plus Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd as Floyd's family speaks out.


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

GIANNA FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S DAUGHTER: It would be, I miss you and I love you.







CAROLYN PAWLENTY, DEREK CHAUVIN'S MOTHER: Derek is a quiet, thoughtful, honorable and selfless man. He has a big heart and he always has put others before his own.


NEWTON: Carolyn Pawlenty there, asking the court for leniency for her son, Derek Chauvin. The former Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer received a sentence of 22.5 years for second degree unintentional murder in the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin was captured on cell phone video, kneeling on Floyd's neck. The incident, of course, sparked worldwide protests against police brutality. Now Chauvin's sentence exceeded state guidelines but he likely won't spend all of that time behind bars. Sara Sidner has more on that along with reaction from Minneapolis.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin now knows his fate for murdering George Floyd right here outside the Cup Foods.

The judge in the case, Judge Peter Cahill, being very pointed in his sentencing memo, saying that, "Mr. Chauvin treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings."

JUDGE PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTRY DISTRICT COURT: The court commits you to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for a period of 270 months.

SIDNER (voice-over): Former police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in the murder of George Floyd. Chauvin was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder and taken back into custody today.

The sentence includes a 10-year addition to the state sentencing guidelines but less time than the 30 years requested by prosecutors.

BEN CRUMP, CIVIL RIGHTS 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 when a Black person is killed by brutality by police. It should be the norm.

SIDNER (voice-over): Before the sentence came down, Derek Chauvin publicly spoke to the Floyd family for the first time.

DEREK CHAUVIN, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There's 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.

SIDNER (voice-over): Earlier, emotional victim impact statements starting with Floyd's 7-year-old daughter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you wish that he was still here with us?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through his spirit?

G. FLOYD: Yes.

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.

SIDNER (voice-over): Floyd's brothers and nephew repeatedly demanded the maximum sentence for Chauvin, describing the harrowing impact of his murder on their lives.

BRANDON WILLIAMS, GEORGE FLOYD'S NEPHEW: Our family is forever broken. And one thing we cannot get back is George Floyd.

SIDNER (voice-over): And George Floyd's brother, Terrence, addressed Chauvin directly.


What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother's neck?

SIDNER (voice-over): In Chauvin's corner, after a motion to reconsider the case was dismissed earlier this morning, Chauvin's mother spoke out for the first time publicly about her son, describing him as a good, thoughtful and honorable man.

CAROLYN PAWLENTY, DEREK CHAUVIN'S MOTHER: The public will never know the loving and caring man he is but his family does.

SIDNER (voice-over): Outside of the courthouse, at Cup Foods, where George Floyd was murdered, a mixed reaction to the sentence but a feeling, by some, that justice was done.


PROTESTERS: George Floyd.

SIDNER: While there's mixed reaction from the community as to the sentence and how long it should have been, there is one thing everyone agrees on and that is that their fight isn't over.

The sign tells you pretty much what you need to know: one down, three to go. They are referencing the other three officers, who still are charged and are awaiting trial -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Minneapolis.


NEWTON: So earlier I spoke with Morris O'Kelly, better known as Mo Kelly, a political commentator and host of "The Mo Kelly Show." He had this to say about Chauvin's sentence and whether it should have been longer.


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: Mo Kelly, thanks so much.

O'KELLY: Thank you.


NEWTON: The World Health Organization says the Delta variant is the most transmissible coronavirus strain so far. It's appeared in at least 85 countries. European nations are particularly concerned.

In the U.K., Delta variant cases are up 46 percent in a week. Germany's health minister warns Delta cases are growing significantly and will soon have an upper hand. Cyril Vanier joins me now from London.

I know you've been tracking all this. It's been jarring to see those cases in the U.K. really tick up. I mean the variant is more transmissible. We know that.

I guess the key question is, what is Europe and the U.K. going to do about it now?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, Paula, it's a great question. I'm not sure they have all the answers yet because this was really not part of the plan when they started to reopen borders and just reopen in general and restart life, right?

So over the last two months here in the U.K., we went from the Delta variant being a minority variant, with just 3 percent or 4 percent of infections, to now being 99 percent of the infections that we know here in the U.K.

So that's how quickly it can become the dominant strain. Something similar is happening in Europe as we speak. The French health minister, for instance, just 10 days ago, said the Delta variant only accounted for 5 percent of their infections.


VANIER: But the European Center for Disease Control believes that it will be, by far, the dominant variant by the end of August.

So you're looking at a two-month window for this variant to take over an entire continent. Now what they should do about it really depends on the vaccination rates.

We are seeing, Paula, in the U.K., for instance -- because this is the test case -- we are seeing that cases are going up but hospitalizations and deaths, while they are going up, are not increasing by the same amount.

So I pulled the data. Over a five-week period, from mid-May to last week, infections in the U.K. were multiplied by five but hospital admissions and deaths were multiplied by two.

So what that tells you is that the high level of vaccination we have in this country is, thankfully, preventing many people from getting a severe form of the disease and requiring hospitalization. So every country, to answer your question, I believe, should make decisions, based on the level of vaccination.

NEWTON: And vaccination unfortunately is a bit further behind in a lot of the European countries.

How much do you think this is going to start to impact what the summer was supposed to look like in both the U.K. and Europe and, crucially, the travel in between?

VANIER: Yes. That's a great question. It does feel like, for some countries, they're sticking their head in the sand a little bit because this is coming just at the time when they had eased restrictions, when they're opening up night clubs, when they're allowing people to travel.

So they were hoping they would have this reprieve over the summer, that they would be able to allow their population to enjoy normal holidays, a normal life. Some countries may decide to push on and go ahead and do that.

But others we see are already taking restrictive measures. Germany, for instance, is imposing quarantines on U.K. A strict 14-day quarantine on any traveler coming from the U.K.

Belgium, as of a few days ago is -- I beg your pardon, as of today, Paula, as of today, is banning U.K. travelers. U.K. travelers are no longer allowed to go to Belgium.

And Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, had been pushing European countries to take more coordinated, strict measures against U.K. travelers on account of this Delta variant -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, certainly still a critical situation there. Yes, Cyril, we all want to be done with this. Apparently the virus is not done with us. Thanks for that. Really appreciate it.

I'm Paula Newton. For our international viewers, "AFRICAN VOICES" is next. For everyone else, I'll have more news in a moment.





NEWTON: Welcome back to our continuing coverage here. I'm Paula Newton and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Returning now to Florida and the unrelenting search for survivors following Thursday's devastating building collapse in the town of Surfside. Now family and friends, of course, are anxiously waiting for news that their loved ones have been found.

A hopeful wall for people for the 159 people still unaccounted for stands just about a block away from the disaster site. You can see those heartbreaking pictures lining the fence adorned with flowers.

CNN's Erin Burnett spoke with one man, whose mother and grandmother are among those whose whereabouts are unknown. He said he's providing a DNA swab to help with the search.


PABLO RODRIGUEZ, SON/GRANDSON OF MISSING WOMEN: We headed over there and the scene was a bit chaotic. There were people everywhere. It wasn't really organized.

Then, I don't think the rain helped, so they moved us to another location where it continued to be chaotic until we kept asking everyone where we can provide the DNA swab. Finally, we were able to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: Now as search and rescue teams scour the site, hoping to find more survivors, of course, those friends and families, like you just heard from, are waiting for answers. CNN's Nick Valencia has that for us.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a heaviness here today in Surfside. That heaviness comes amidst the uncertainty, where family members have told us that they're really just not getting much information at all.

There are some people that are holding onto hope but others who have resigned to the fact they believe, they say, that they're just going to get bad news and they're waiting for that news to come.

Then there are others like Soriya Cohen (ph), whose frustration is bordering on downright outrage. Her husband and her brother-in-law, Brad and Gary Cohen, she says, were on the 11th floor asleep at the time the building collapsed.

She believes both those two men are still alive but she says time is running out. And she says that she's embarrassed by the recovery effort here. This is the message that she had for the first responders.

SORIYA COHEN (PH), WIFE AND SISTER-IN-LAW OF MISSING MEN: You shouldn't be allocating your resources. You need to call in other teams to help you and you need to do this immediately because every minute that goes by could be another life. It is not just the life of the person. My children are going to be orphans.

VALENCIA: Soriya said her 12-year old woke up in the morning, unable to have breakfast because she couldn't stand to think that her dad was perhaps still alive, buried under the rubble and not being able to get help.

At this point, the reunification center has been moved from about a block away to this hotel behind me here, where people inside, who have come out, have described about 100 people inside, just really waiting around for information.

Earlier in the day, we saw governor DeSantis come by. He was only inside for roughly 15 minutes before he left. Some are being proactive, opting to get some mouth swabs in the case that they need DNA to identify bodies pulled from the rubble -- Nick Valencia, CNN, Surfside, Florida.


NEWTON: Now many of us, of course, are wondering how this tragedy could have happened and if it could have been prevented in any way. CNN's Brian Todd looks into the integrity of this high-rise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Structural engineers and other experts scrambling to find answers as to how this collapse could have occurred, in an area with some of the strictest building codes in the world.

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

TODD (voice-over): Professor Shimon Wdowinski of a Florida International University released a study last year that said 40-year- old building, the tower south had been sinking or subsiding as he calls it at a rate of about 2 millimeter as year between 1993 and 1999.


WDOWINSKI: It's not clear if the land was moving or the building was moving into the land but it was -- obviously, the building itself moved very small portion which is about over the measurement period of six years is about half an inch.

TODD (voice-over): Wdowinski said that sinking didn't occur in buildings around that complex. He said the sinking alone likely would not have caused the building to collapse.

But experts say it could be associated with tension and possible cracks inside the structure. Local officials say there was roof work being done on the building. They are careful to say that may not be the cause of this disaster but experts say it could have been a contributing factor.

KOBI KARP, ARCHITECH: Collusion effects of potentially working on the roof, potentially the non-maintenance of certain parts of the building where the connections could come together fail and create a pancake effect that happened.

TODD (voice-over): The location and climate of that area experts say also have to be considered.

KIT MIYAMOTO, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Especially the corrosion of the steel and the area collapse is the ocean side, right?

That's what the corrosion is. So corrosion of the reinforcement will compromise the capacity of column. If the column fails, everything fails essentially.

TODD (voice-over): An attorney for the condo residence association says over the past several months, the building had undergone what he called thorough engineering inspections in preparation for its 40-year certification.

KENNETH DIREKTOR, ATTORNEY FOR CONDO ASSOCIATION: Nothing appeared either to the engineers or to any of the residents that would suggest anything like this was imminent, nothing. TODD (voice-over): Experts say it make take several months before we know the real causes and as for the possibility of one smoking gun.

ATOROD AZIZINAMINI, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING: Usually, a collapse like this doesn't happen just because of one factor. Usually it's several factors combined and like a perfect storm.

TODD (on camera): And we've just learned a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, accusing that group of, quote, "failures to secure and safeguard the lives and property of condo unit owners."

The suit, which is seeking in excess of $5 million in damages, cites a statement from the association's attorney, Kenneth Direktor, who said that repair needs had been identified but had not been completed.

In response to the lawsuit, Direktor said he doesn't know and engineers don't know with certainty what caused the building to come down.

So, quote, "How is it that this lawyer knows with certainty what caused the building to fall down?" -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


NEWTON: You will notice in Brian's piece that he spoke to a noted structural engineer. I also spoke to him and he's going to talk to us more. You'll hear him now about the integrity of the building and what may have played a role in its collapse.


MIYAMOTO: You can see a half collapsed building basically down on top of here (ph).

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 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.


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.


MIYAMOTO: 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.


NEWTON: So interesting there. A lot of interesting things in terms of what he said in terms of the integrity of the building.

What is going on right now, though, is that the search and rescue is being hampered by the weather. You will have seen in our video rain, wind.


NEWTON: Now pulling out troops from Afghanistan while pledging continuing support, U.S. President Joe Biden looks to reassure his Afghan counterpart the commitments he's making, even as American boots on the ground come home.

Plus a legal limbo for Afghans, who worked with the U.S. in their country. Why they can't easily emigrate to the United States, even though they may not be safe at home.





(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending. It's going to be sustained and our troops may be leaving but support for Afghanistan is not ending.


NEWTON: Sitting next to his Afghan counterpart, U.S. President Joe Biden there, pledging to stand behind Afghanistan, even after America's longest war comes to a conclusion.

Now it's a bid to reassure Afghan leaders about what the future can look like. President Ashraf Ghani says he respects the decision but warns that the U.S. exit will have consequential results. Phil Mattingly has more from the White House.


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.



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.


SEDIQI: 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.


NEWTON: There to Ahmadullah Sediqi with the organization No One Left Behind.

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




NEWTON: A woman in France 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.


VANIER (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.


VANIER (voice-over): "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.

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.


NEWTON: I'm Paula Newton. Thanks for your company. Kim Brunhuber picks up things from here with more CNN NEWSROOM. He'll be back in just a moment.