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11 Dead as Search Intensifies for 150 Still Missing; Contractor Took Photos of Damage 36 Hours Before Collapse; Historic Heat Wave Hitting Western U.S. and Canada; White House Ramps Up Global Vaccine Distribution; Singapore Lays Out Plan to Live Normally with COVID-19. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 29, 2021 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm cautiously optimistic. I always have hope. I do know that time is ticking.

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CHURCH: As rescue teams work around the clock searching for the 150 people still missing, new disturbing images show the state of the condo before it collapsed.

Plus, a CNN exclusive report in collaboration with Amnesty International exposing the horror of a massacre perpetrated by Ethiopian soldiers on Tigray villages.

And later Bill Barr turns on Donald Trump, details of the bombshell interview he gave about the former president.

And we begin in south Florida where the death toll in that high rise collapse has risen to 11 with 150 people still missing. The mayor of Surfside, Florida says rescue efforts will grow in size and intensity over the coming day. More than 400 rescuers are working in 12 hour shifts to find anyone who might still be alive. But they acknowledge that any hope of finding survivors is fading. Miami-Dade County's mayor says that it is a painful time for everyone.

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DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA MAYOR: So we have people waiting and waiting and waiting for news. That is excruciating. We have them coping with the news that they might not have their loved ones come out alive and still hope against hope that they will. They are learning that some of their loved ones will come out as body parts. I mean, this is the kind of information that is just excruciating for everyone. And they know that we're working around the clock on search and rescue efforts.

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CHURCH: Family, friends and neighbors are holding a vigil on the beach near the building as one says, praying for a miracle. And we are learning more about the condition of the building in the days just prior to that collapse. "The Miami Herald" obtained new pictures of damage at the condo taken by a contractor only 36 hours before it fell. CNN spoke to the reporters who broke the story about what the contractor told them.

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AARON LEIBOWITZ, REPORTER, MIAMI HERALD: He was being escorted by a building employee who then walked him downstairs to the north part of the building in the garage below. And that's where he told us that he saw deep standing water in the parking garage that he found odd and concerning. He asked the employee what it was about at the time. The employee said that it was probably a waterproofing issue that was going to be fixed. Then he was led over to the south side underneath the pool area -- still in the garage -- to where the pool equipment room was. And inside that room he saw major concrete falling, exposed rebar in one of the beams there. He found it alarming enough that he snapped photos. Actually sent them to his boss.

SARAH BLASKEY, REPORTER, MIAMI HERALD: He wondered to himself immediately, why is this building not maintaining itself better? Why haven't they taken care of this problem? Because that problem doesn't just happen overnight. And he knows that. He's a contractor. He works on pools and he saw that and thought, OK, well, they're going to need to repair the structural slab up there under the pool that he is looking at.

[04:05:00]

So he is thinking -- telling his boss -- we're going to have to remove pipes and other things. This job is going to be more complicated even if we're just coming in here to do a cosmetic repair. They're going to have to do something to the structural slabs. But that's what he told me was going through his mind as he saw that two days before the collapse.

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CHURCH: CNN has independently reached out about the report and a spokesperson for the Champlain Tower South Condo Association declined to comment.

In an op-ed, "The Miami Herald" newspaper was critical of the construction standards at the time the condo was built.

They wrote: When we look at the images of the destruction in Surfside, we'd be fools not to wonder whether slipshod construction and look the other way enforcement of that era played a part. Residents of condos across Florida and beyond are watching developments here with anxiety about their own safety. The ramifications of what happened in Surfside likely are to be enormous.

And CNN's Drew Griffin has more now on the investigation.

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DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As new evidence emerges of past inspections, cracks, and potential danger, this short surveillance camera video itself remains the best clue so far as to how and why the Champlain Towers South fell in what forensic engineer, Joel Figueroa-Vallines calls a clean collapse.

JOEL FIGUEROA-VALLINES, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER, SEP ENGINEERS: It was a pancake effect so it was almost symmetric and vertical. And what that causes is the structure to come straight down instead of collapsing sideways or collapsing in any other trajectory, which would mean that whatever caused it -- which is unknown at this point -- would have caused the structure to have a clean vertical collapse of those towers.

GRIFFIN (voice over): But while engineers continue to speculate from afar, in reality, the answer lies like the victims trapped under rubble. The 40-year-old structure was due for massive repairs.

An alarming 2018 inspection report warned of abundant cracking in concrete columns and several instances of deteriorating rebar especially on the condo's pool deck and in the parking structure garage underneath the building.

According to the report, failed waterproofing was causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slabs below the pool deck and entrance drive. As dire as that may sound, several engineers CNN spoke with say the 2018 report did not foresee a catastrophic collapse and minutes from the Condominium Association Board meeting the following month shows that a town official told residents it appears the building is in very good shape.

Champlain Towers South was in the process of recertification, a Miami- Dade County government structural and electrical assessment of any building 40 years old. According to the Condominium Association attorney, the building had multiple inspections and was in the process of extensive work, which would have cost $15 million.

Structural engineer Jason Borden examined Champlain Tower just last year.

JASON BORDEN, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: I saw things that I typically see when we're looking at buildings when we're preparing to do this type of investigation or study. I saw cracks in the stucco facade. I saw deterioration of the concrete balconies. I saw the cracks and deterioration of the garage and plaza level. But those are all things that we're accustomed to seeing and that's why our job exists.

GRIFFIN: Any cause for alarm in what you saw?

BORDEN: What I saw, no. GRIFFIN (voice-over): The lack of alarm is now sending chills through residents in other aging buildings along this beach and beyond. Inspections underway. Voluntary evacuations for the Champlain Towers sister building and a rush to find the answer to why this building just fell. Forensic engineers caution, that answer could yet be months away.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

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CHURCH: One resident who survived the collapse is filing a lawsuit against the Champlain Tower South Condo Association. Steve Rosenthal alleges the disaster could have been prevented if management had not neglected necessary repairs to the building. He managed to escape thanks to fire and rescue crews that arrived on scene. He spoke with CNN earlier about what was going through his mind when he learned the tower had collapsed.

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STEVE ROSENTHAL, SURVIVED COLLAPSE, SUING CONDO ASSOCIATION: I thought it was an earthquake. so I'm looking to see what damage there was across the street or were there fires in the city of Miami or something. And I saw there was no damage to the tennis court, and to the house and other buildings and I'm going, this is probably because of the roof. We were doing some -- they were doing roofing work. That is all that came to mind.

[04:10:00]

And then someone in another balcony said no, the building -- the whole building in the back collapsed. And when the building in the back, the whole tower collapsed. What does that mean? He said it's collapsed. It's gone. And then we're all sitting there like shaking going, well are we going to collapse? You know, because the fire officials are going, you need to evacuate. You need to evacuate. And we couldn't go down the fire stairs and so we had to wait for the fire rescue to come up with a ladder and get pulled in. and that's how we go out.

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CHURCH: Terrifying situation there. And families of the messing are also speaking out about the building's management. Pablo Rodriguez is missing his mother and grandmother after Thursday's disaster. He spoke with CNN earlier about what he wants to see happen next.

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PABLO RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER MISSING: It's shocking that they allowed to get into this. It's negligence and their negligence caused a lot of death here. It's very difficult not only and really the only hope I have is that they find them. We can have some kind of proper burial, some kind of closure. And hope that they investigate this and the people responsible are held to be responsible. They're held to be accountable. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And later this hour we will hear from Sergio Lozano who lost his parents in this tragedy and was with them in their condo just hours before the building collapsed.

An unprecedented heatwave is gripping parts of the western U.S. and Canada and bringing with it some of the hottest temperatures in well over a century of record-keeping. It's led many to seek relief in cooling centers -- such as this one. On Monday all-time highs were reported in several major cities including Seattle where the temperature reached 107 Fahrenheit. More than 20 million people are under excessive heat warnings or advisories.

So let's turn now to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri who's been following this very closely. And Pedram, just shocking temperatures there. Let's talk about how long people can expect to be living under these conditions.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, at least the upcoming week here we do expect to see these temperatures run about 10 degrees above average. But Rosemary, as you noted, these temperatures have been far greater than that in the last couple of days. 46,000 days or how many days the city of Seattle has kept records for temperatures dating back to October 1894. That's 46,000 days of record data that they've had access to. And the top three warmest days ever, this past Saturday, this past Sunday and this past Monday.

Coming in across this region you'll notice all-time records from Sunday into Monday about 18 of them coming in on Sunday between the Northwestern states of Washington and Oregon, 21 in total going into Monday and the all-time maximum temperature in the state of Washington occurring there in Dallesport, which was 118 degrees, tying a couple other instances when we have temperatures at this magnitude for that particular region.

But you'll notice, again all-time temps from Salem to Vancouver, Washington. Quinault in Washington state, just about eight miles from the Pacific Ocean sees 8 feet of rainfall every single year. The average temperature -- I bet you'll never guess -- the average temperature for Quinault is 65 degrees this time of year. It was 112, nearly doubling the average temperature, an incredible heatwave across the western United States.

And you'll notice it gets considerably cooler from about 117 on Monday in Portland, down to 97, mind you the average is 77. And again, stays well above that value over the next several days. Really spending most of it around 90 degrees.

Now, speaking of excessive heat, how about we take you above 100 degrees across the most densely populated corner of the United States. That is what is going to feel like outside, but you notice the major cities here, whether be into New York on into Boston, temps in the shade about 96 to 97 degrees, Rosemary. So again, the excessive heat widespread from coast to coast.

CHURCH: Yes, still can't get over those temperatures. And made thanks to our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri joining us there, appreciate it.

Well President Joe Biden is taking the push for his infrastructure plan on the road. He will travel to Wisconsin on Tuesday where he'll discuss the $1.2 trillion deal. Now this comes after he nearly derailed his own plan last week by remarking he wouldn't sign the bipartisan measure unless another package of Democrat 5priorities came with it. Republicans were outraged and the president walked back his remarks Saturday.

U.S. forces say that there were no injuries when they came under rocket fear in eastern Syria on Monday. A U.S. defense official says that the rockets were likely launched by Iranian backed militias near Deir ez-Zor. The attack came just hours after U.S. air strikes on Iranian backed militia groups in the region.

[04:15:00]

This video from a pro-militia social media channel allegedly shows the aftermath of those U.S. strikes. And Iraqi militia group says four of its fighters were killed.

The U.S. has more coronavirus vaccines than it needs and now it's sending millions of doses abroad. Where they're headed and why now. We'll take a look.

And later, Singapore is laying out a post-pandemic plan to live normally with the coronavirus. The details of their roadmap coming up.

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CHURCH: Some early research on COVID vaccines, a new study from Washington University shows the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could offer long term protection. Meaning people could in theory go years without a booster shot. But so far the findings are based on animal testing. Another study shows mixing and matching the Pfizer and Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccines will create a strong immune response.

[04:20:00]

But more research is needed to see whether mixed vaccine schedules which could ease logistical problems actually work in the real world.

And the World Health Organization's top scientist says vaccinated or not, everyone must still practice caution because the delta variant and others pose a major threat and vaccines only provide up to 90 percent protection against them.

Well, the U.S. which has been accused of vaccine hoarding is making a greater effort to share its supply. The Biden administration is sending out millions of doses this week. CNN's Phil Mattingly has the details.

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PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden and his White House team have made clear that their focus is still very much on trying to get Americans vaccinated. But over the course of the last several weeks, the White House has really started to push out its international vaccine distribution programs. Both through Western allies announcing that they would be willing to give 500 million doses which would be leveraged by G-7 countries to 1 billion, but also in continuing to ramp up donations to COVAX, donations of vaccines are expected to go to middle and lower income countries, a crucial component of the U.S. vaccine diplomacy efforts.

And those efforts ramping up even more, the president planning to send more than 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Peru on Monday, according to officials. And also expected to deliver -- to send another 2.5 million doses through COVAX to Pakistan later this week. And that as White House officials make clear is just the start. Take a listen.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Over the weekend, we announced that we are sending 1.5 million doses of Moderna to Honduras. And over this week we'll be able to announce more places that the United States will be sending our doses.

MATTINGLY: Now the administration says that they want to deliver 830 million doses by the end of June. That timeline has slipped a little bit, but what you're seeing you with this push, is that they are trying to get a close to it as possible. And it's worth keeping in mind, the administration was criticized quite sharply and I think some administration officials would acknowledge with good reason for how long it took them to be willing to start distributing vaccines across the world. Particularly given how much vaccine the U.S. has, mostly has more vaccine than it needs based on how people are getting vaccinated at this point in tile. But they are ramping up these moments -- this moment, at a crucial moment, in particular given the fact that China and Russian, two countries who started earlier on the vaccine diplomacy route, have run into problems. The U.S. approach also very clearly defendant. President Biden making it crystal clear there will be no strings attached. There will be no expectations for any country that received U.S. donations, sticking to that as they move forward and ramp up that distribution process even more in the days and weeks ahead.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.

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CHURCH: California has extended a moratorium on evictions through the end of September. New legislation will clear rent debt for low income tenants who have suffered economically because of the pandemic. The state will also cover utility bills for those who qualify. Governor Gavin Newsom and other state lawmakers made the announcement on Monday. The state's $5 billion rent relief program also provides assistance for some landlords.

Well despite being the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine last year, Russia has struggled to convince its people to get the shot. The vaccination rates in the country are very low and the disease is showing no signs of slowing down. On Monday Moscow and St. Petersburg reported new daily records for COVID deaths. Singapore is laying out its plan to, quote, live normally with COVID-

19 accepting that the virus is not going away. The goal according to coronavirus task force ministers is to help residents get on with their lives. Reporter Manisha Tank has the details.

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MANISHA TANK, REPORTER: It feels like a real milestone in Singapore's approach to COVID-19. What the government is telling us, that in fact cochairs of the multi-ministry task force when it comes to controlling this disease, is that we need to live with it. That the delta variant being so transmissible means we may not be able to get to a situation of zero cases.

So how do we live with it? Well, boosting vaccinations will be key. And Singapore wants to see at least two-third of its population vaccinated by August. And what's interesting about that is, it compares with other nations in this region which show vaccination levels at a much lower level and particular in another financial hub, such as Hong Kong. Where the uptick of vaccination has been much slower.

Here in Singapore, though the focus would also be on testing. For example, test kits will be made more readily available in pharmacies. And Singapore is also developing a breathalyzer which will help detect COVID-19. Alongside this, it will all be about win sensing cases and making sure that we don't see further spread. So in the seam way that you meet stay off work if you have the case of a flu, you would do the same if you test positive for COVID-19.

[04:25:03]

What all of this means though is that there is no end in sight yet to the restrictions that we've seen on our daily lives such as wearing masks or social distancing. All of this will continue. Very much in Singapore's road map for the future and the new normal will be an acceptance of sort of social acceptance that we need to take care of one another and that we need to take social responsibility is the term being used here.

But this is all towards a new normal and as yet the government hasn't specifically set out the guidelines but we can expect to see them soon. Reporting from Singapore for CNN, I'm Manisha Tank.

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CHURCH: In Australian, more than a third of the population will soon be under lockdown. The state of Queensland is the latest to impose restrictions after reporting four new cases on Tuesday. In New South Wales, the premier says people will have to live differently until more are fully vaccinated. It's currently home to an outbreak that started in Bondi Beach, Sydney, now up to at least 141 infections.

COVID infections are slowly on the rise in the U.K. with most new cases now linked to the delta variant. But authorities say that they expect the final restrictions for Britain will be lifted in three weeks. The newly appointed British health secretary says that the government will ramp up vaccinations so that they can meet that deadline.

Will take a short break now but just ahead, we will update you on the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida including what a neighboring city plans out of respect for the victims.

Plus this --

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the search continued where you -- did you have any hope that they would be found alive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did. He was just praying to God that they went quick and that they were together.

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