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U.S. Airstrikes Target Iran-Backed Militia Sites In Iraq And Syria; Iraq Prime Minister Issues Stern Statement After U.S. Airstrikes In Iraq And Syria; Concerns Grow About Sister Tower Next To Collapsed Condo; Inspectors Looking At Nearby Buildings After Sudden Collapse; Update On Coronavirus Responses Around The World; Record- High Temperatures Gripping Northwestern U.S. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 28, 2021 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: "Necessary, appropriate, and deliberate." That's what the White House is saying after President Biden authorized airstrikes against Iran-backed militia groups that have carried out a string of drone attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.

The overnight airstrikes targeted the militia's operational and weapons storage facilities at three locations in Syria and Iraq.

CNN's pentagon correspondent, Oren Liebermann, is here with his reporting.

So what more can you tell us, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, these strikes were carried out on Sunday night by F-15 and F-16 fighter jets along the Iraq-Syria border against facilities, operational facilities and weapons storage facilities, used by Iranian-backed Shia militias to carry out attacks and plan attacks against U.S. forces in the region.

The key here and the reason this was viewed as so serious is because the drones themselves are viewed as potentially lethal.

In fact, the commander of U.S. Central Command, General McKenzie, has said he views these as a serious threat. They are intelligent, which indicates they're technologically advanced and provided by Iran to these militias and they can carry out deadly attacks against U.S. forces.

In fact, there was an attack earlier this month against the dining facility used by U.S. troops and diplomats.

The Biden administration decided it had to create a deterrent effect against these militias before these attacks continue, to try to essentially put down a red line, and that is the reasoning behind the attacks.

That, as you pointed out, is the second such publicly announced attack. The first was in late February after a series of rocket attacks against U.S. troops and U.S. positions, also carried out by Iranian-backed Shia militias.

These drone attacks viewed as an escalation, viewed as more dangerous. And that is the reasoning behind the strikes in this case, along the Iraq/Syria border here.

Alisyn, the context also important, right after the election of a hardline president in Iran, and during the ongoing negotiations around Iran's nuclear program.

CAMEROTA: Oren, what's Iraq's prime minister saying?

LIEBERMANN: Iraq's prime minister came out with a fairly stern statement here against the U.S. action, saying:

"The National Security Ministerial Council is studying all available legal options to prevent the recurrence of attacks that violate Iraq's air space and territory."

That from Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

To some extent, that's viewed here as a statement for domestic political consumption.

The U.S. presence in Iraq, about 2,500 troops there, another 900 in Syria, isn't viewed as overwhelmingly popular there. So politicians need to essentially speak to their base. And that's what this is viewed as.

The Pentagon is always quick to point out that the U.S. presence in Iraq comes at the invitation of the Iraqi government and it's an advise-and-assist mission.

One other key point, Alisyn, here, the U.S. says Iran's goal is to try to get Iraq to remove U.S. forces. And because they couldn't do it with force, this, perhaps, a means of trying to apply some sort of diplomatic pressure from Iraq against the U.S.


CAMEROTA: Oren Liebermann, thank you very much for all the reporting.

OK, after the deadly condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, residents up and down the coast are wondering if something similar could happen again. And now a nearby city is investigating their buildings. Details ahead.


CAMEROTA: As investigators search for a cause to the collapse of that Florida condo, growing concerns about the safety and stability of a sister building built by the same developer around the same time.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So, if you live there, you wouldn't sleep there overnight?


BLITZER: But what about all the other buildings in Surfside? There are a lot of condominium buildings, not only here but north Miami and all over the place.

BURKETT: I think there's probable cause to believe we could have a problem at the sister building, because it's the same design, same developer, and all the fingerprints are there.


A third building, which is also called Champaign -- and I understand that one was built sometime later -- it has a different design. And -- but we'll be looking at that, too.


CAMEROTA: Let's bring in Tom Foreman, who has been looking at the warning signs here.

Tom, what have you learned?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, everyone's focused right now on this 2018 report about this building, which looked at things like major structural damage and abundant cracking and spalling.

In humid, salty environments, this often can happen to concrete, in particular. Some people call it concrete cancer because the concrete starts collapsing there.

But beyond this, they talked about the failure of waterproofing seals. The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas.

Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.

That's why they call it concrete cancer, because it goes fast and it can go through a lot of the concrete over what seems like a relatively short period of time.

The cost for fixing it was estimated at $9.1 million. And yet, when there was a meeting with a city official, what he had to say to people on the Condominium Associates Board there, it appears the building is in very good shape.

A lot of questions about why that was said, why people were told that, if a report existed that said otherwise.

And of course, there were other warnings in all this, too.

There were concerns that had been raised in an e-mail about nearby construction, whether or not that was creating some sort of shaking or vibration in the building, which people have talked about there.

And of course, we've heard numerous people who have talked about the idea that they heard creaking in the building, not normally a feature of a big building.

Does any of that mean that that's the reason the building fell? At this point, we do not know. But there are absolutely things that have to be looked at -- Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Oh, Tom, it's just chilling to think about all of those warning signs beforehand and what residents were seeing.

Thank you for looking into all that.

So, this building collapse is also raising questions about the safety of similar buildings in the area.

For more on that, let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, what is being done now to make sure that other buildings are safe?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this process is now going on with hundreds of buildings throughout south Florida. They're now scrambling to make sure that what happened in Surfside does not happen to them.

This is one of those complexes. This is the Winston Tower Complex in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, just a few miles north of Surfside.

Here's a look at the complex. This is bigger than the Champlain Towers. This is a 24-story building but it is the same age as the Champlain Towers Complex.

It's 40 years old and it has a similar layout. The pool deck is up there above a parking garage.

They have been undertaking reinspection and repair work since about six months to a year before the Surfside collapse. And it's going to continue for another two to three years.

But this is what's involved in it. Look at this damage that they found here. This is some corrosion, and rebar exposed, rusted rebar in the -- at the, you know, the roof of the parking garage.

You've got guys pounding away down here, working on shoring all of this up, reinforcing the concrete, getting new rebar and post tension cables in here. This is what they've been doing.

And this is -- as I said, they had ordered this and started to undertake the six months to a year before the collapse last week at Surfside.

But this -- they're now accelerating the process here.

And in other municipalities right near Sunny Isles Beach, where we are. And right now, the officials in Sunny Isles Beach tell us they're going back and redoing this process to buildings that have already been recertified.

So they're -- again, in municipalities all over south Florida, even if they've done their recertifications, they're going back now and looking for damage like this, looking for just any pockets of cracking, anything like this.

And you see cracks and rust and exposure all over this garage. This is normal wear and tear. This does not mean that this building or buildings like it are in imminent danger of collapse.

But you know, right now, the -- clearly, the concerns are so heightened, Alisyn, that they've got to go back and look at this stuff.

But if you look at this, I mean, look at the corrosion and damage back here and the roof. The pool deck is right above this.

And you know, again, similar to what happened at Champlain Towers. If that pool were ever to collapse, you might get just a more massive calamity.

So this is what they're working to shore up here.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, Brian, that's so interesting that you say that because, how can they tell what the difference between normal wear and tear is?

Because what you're showing us right now looks bad. So, how do they determine the difference between normal wear and tear and, as you say, catastrophic calamity?

TODD: You know, that's a question that a structural engineer would probably answer.

I was with inspectors who work with the structural engineers. The inspectors are the ones who have to just go and eyeball the stuff. They got to figure out -- they got to point out to the structural engineers where the stuff is.


Then the engineers are going to come and make that assessment that you just asked about. You know, is this something here -- this looks really bad.

But some of these officials tell us this is, you know, this is kind of normal in a place like this. It does not mean imminent collapse.

It's a structural engineer who's got to come in and look at with their trained eye to determine that.

What is the difference between this and an imminence collapse?

Collapses are so rare still that -- that's what they always emphasize to us, these collapses are so rare that, even when you see something like this, it doesn't mean imminent collapse.

But again, when you see this process, this is now going to be repeated hundreds if not thousands of buildings throughout south Florida.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood. And inspectors are going to have to be working overtime now.

Brian Todd, thank you for showing us all of that.

We want to take a moment now to remember the victims of this condo collapse. As you'll see, it spared neither young nor old. Ten have been located in the wreckage, and eight have been identified.

Here they are. So 54-year-old Stace Fang, 83-year-old Antonio Lezano and his 79-year-old wife, Gladys. And 54-year-old Manuel LaFont, 80- year-old Leon Oliwkowicz, 26-year-old Luis Bermudez and his 46-year- old mother, Ana Ortiz. And Kristina Beatrice Elvira was 74 years old.

We'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: Now to a COVID update. The daily ta variant forcing some countries to reimpose lockdowns.

Our CNN correspondents are following the latest around the globe.


ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: I'm Angus Watson in Sydney, Australia, where communities across the country are facing rare COVID-19 outbreaks made more concerning by the presence of the Delta variant.

Authorities say that variant is moving too quickly for contact tracing efforts, making knew social distancing guidelines a necessity.

Here in Sydney, people told not to leave their homes for over two weeks unless absolutely necessary.

Also concerning, Australia's low vaccination rates. Under 5 percent of the Australian population fully vaccinated. The problem, both a supply and a hesitancy issue.


South Africa has instituted at least two weeks of a strict COVID-19 lockdown because of surging cases relating to scientists to the Delta variant in this country.

That includes banning of most gatherings and increased curfew and the banning of alcohol sales.

South Africa and large parts of the continent are being hammered by this Delta variant.

But in this country, one of the key issues is that the vaccination roll out hasn't been swift enough. Scientist, doctors where I'm sitting, are saying they are almost overrun by patients. People struggling to get oxygen.

This pandemic is far from over.


Russia is witnessing a powerful third wave of coronavirus infections with daily death rates here in the capital reaching record highs.

According to official figures, more than 21,000 people are infected with COVID-19 across Russia in the past day alone.

The symptom of a stubbornly low vaccination rate across the country where barely 10 percent of the population have had the jab.

That, though, is about to change. Strict new government guidelines mean that workers in contact with the public will now have to be vaccinated by law if they want to keep their jobs.


CAMEROTA: Thanks to all of our correspondents around the globe.

How about this heat? Portland, Oregon, may hit 115 degrees today. Yes, the normally mild Pacific Northwest. We'll bring you the record- breaking heat across the country, next.



CAMEROTA: A record-breaking heat wave is sweeping across the west and northeast today. More than 65 million people currently under heat alerts.

CNN's Jennifer Gray is here.

Jennifer, what's happening?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it really is mind blowing what's happening, especially the Pacific Northwest.

We are breaking -- these aren't just daily records, meaning the record for that particular day. These are shattering all-time record-high temperatures that we have seen in this region.

Portland, for example, all-time record high set yesterday, 112 degrees. That broke the record that was set the previous day. We broke a record Saturday, Sunday. And we're expecting to break one yet again today.

Seattle, same story here. All-time record-high broken yesterday, 104 degrees. It could set another high-temperature record again today.

Temperatures have soared well above that century mark. Just look at these numbers: 104 in Seattle, all the way up to 112 in Vancouver, Washington. Portland, Oregon, 112, as mentioned.

And 18 all-time heat records were broken or tied on Sunday. And more expected for today.

Even in Canada, warmest temperatures. This is for the entire country. All-time record-high temperature of 116. In fact, heat warnings reached all the way to the Arctic Circle and Canada. This is unprecedented across this area.

Here's the high temperatures. So Seattle is really going to drop down by the time we get into tomorrow as well as Wednesday. This is still well above normal. We should be in the low to mid-70s this time of year.

We'll still be in mid to upper 80s. But that still feels much better compared to where we have been the last couple of days.


And, of course, a lot of folks in this region don't have air- conditioning. And, as you mentioned, this heat does extend in the northeast as well -- Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Jennifer Gray, thank you for the forecast.