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Emergency Order Issued To Demolish Remaining Structure; Miami Beach Mayor: 500-Plus Buildings Undergo 40-Year Review; Eleven Arrests In Police Standoff With Armed Group In Massachusetts Town; Biden Arrives In Michigan To Celebrate Progress In COVID Fight, Touts Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal; Concerns Raised As Last U.S. Troops Leave Bagram Air Base In Afghanistan; Underwater Gas Leak Fuels Huge "Eye Of Fire" In Gulf Of Mexico; William And Harry Reunite At Diana Statue Unveiling. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 3, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST (on camera): All right, hello again everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this holiday weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin this hour with a major storm potentially threatening search and rescue efforts underway in Surfside Florida, the site of that devastating building collapse.
Meanwhile, officials say they are preparing to demolish what remains at the Champlain Towers South condominium building, and they could do so before the storm hits. More on that in a moment.
But first, Tropical Storm Elsa is making its way to the Florida coast right now. Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Gene Norman for the latest on this storm track. Gene, how long do search teams have before the storm becomes a real problem?
GENE NORMAN, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Hey, Fred, good to be with you.
It looks like probably Monday morning is the time to really start being concerned in South Florida. So, you still have about a day and a half to go. And that's why I want to start with when will these tropical storm-force winds from this system arrive in South Florida? Well, this graphic shows you the black line that's connected to Monday at 8:00 a.m., see it crosses South Florida. And just north of Miami, of course, is where Surfside is.
So, that's when those winds would begin to arrive. It could come a little bit earlier. And notice that these winds will hang around for a while. South Florida rather the Florida Peninsula is going to bear the brunt of this storm, which was a hurricane, now a tropical storm.
The hurricane hunters went out and found the winds were 70 miles an hour below the criteria of 74 for a hurricane. And if you look at it, we've been watching it for the last couple of hours, kind of lopsided. You see all the red here to the right of the symbol that shows where the storm is. And lets me know that the storm is not as organized. Still has the potential to bring some damage. There's no doubt about it. In fact, the storm surge threat is very high across southern Cuba.
Anywhere from three to five feet. I'm a six-foot five -- six-foot guy rather. So, think about the water coming from my waist to about my shoulders. That's what a three to five-foot storm surge would do.
So, the storm is just impacting the southern tip of the Dominican Republic and it's going -- rather Haiti, and it's going to continue to head toward Cuba. Hurricane warnings are still in effect even though it's not a hurricane, there still could be damaging impact. So, they want to keep people abreast of what's going on.
The track does bring it over Cuba tomorrow. And that will be the key decision point as to what will be the impact in Florida. Because if it stays over the water of the Caribbean and doesn't come over all the mountainous terrain of Cuba, it could hold itself together and may even strengthen. It can also strengthen once it hits the Gulf of Mexico.
Still, a lot of things to look at before we know what's happening with this system. And the impacts are going to be heavy rain, isolated tornadoes, and of course, the potential for high storm surge anywhere from Tampa, back over to Miami.
So, we're looking at rainfall that could be in the category of four to six inches in some areas, Fred. So, that's not good news. At least on the picture here.
NORMAN: The forecast for the rainfall near Surfside isn't as high as let's say the Gulf side of Florida and over into the Florida Panhandle. So, a lot of time to go with this system. We'll be tracking it for sure.
WHITFIELD: All right, nonetheless, tropical storms can certainly pack up pretty powerful punch.
All right, Gene Norman, thank you so much. Appreciate that.
And this reminder for the latest on the storm's track, check out cnn.com/weather.
All right, officials just gave an update on the search and rescue efforts in Surfside Florida. Teams pulled two more bodies from the rubble overnight, bringing the number of confirmed deaths to 24.
124 people still unaccounted for. The mayor of Miami-Dade County says she has issued an emergency order to demolish what's left of the Champlain Towers South because of the safety risk of the remaining structure.
Let's go right to CNN's Natasha Chen on the ground in Surfside. So, Natasha. I mean, it sounds like a race against time. Can a controlled implosion be pulled together and that fast before Monday?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Fred, the storm, if it comes this way, that is it's still unclear where the path will take it. But if it comes through this area, it might be late Monday. And so, that is why there is a goal now to have the remaining part of the building demolished before then for safety reasons.
The governor announced during this press conference that once the green light is given, this can happen within 36 hours as early as tomorrow. And that is, again, for the safety of the people working on the site.
And that's where I want to bring in Captain Ignatius Carroll, who is with Miami Fire and Rescue Florida Task Force to what is it like right now? How much danger does your team feel working on the site knowing that there could be falling debris? And will it make your jobs easier once the building is down?
CAPT. IGNATIUS CARROLL, MIAMI FIRE RESCUE, TASK FORCE TWO: Well, the one thing with task force teams is that they're used to responding to situations where there's always a hazard. So, safety is number one concern.
And we know that, that building is still considered unsafe, unstable, but anything that could be done to reassure the safety of the members working on a team is definitely appreciated.
CHEN: Yes. And we were told that there is going to be a tarp over the area that has been searched so that there can be a differentiation between what's been searched and what still needs to be searched.
CHEN: And that could make things a bit smoother in terms of operations, knowing that there's no longer a threat of something falling on you all.
CARROLL: Yes, it is. And all measures are being taken to reassure that we're not going over, or whatever debris that may come down is going to affect our operations so that we can continue moving forward. So, a lot of things are being taken into consideration for the rescuers.
CHEN: This has been particularly difficult because you and I talked about how these task forces, Florida Task Force One and Two. These are guys who live in this area. And it is a very personal mission for them. Just the other day, a 7-year-old girl, a daughter of one of your team members was found. You were there at that moment, what was that moment like? Did you had to call her dad over?
CARROLL: It's very difficult, as you can imagine it being one of our brother firefighters. But it gave the family peace knowing that she was located. We were able to give the father an opportunity to say his farewells, and it gave him peace of mind as well as the family to know that they will be able to remember her, and also be able to celebrate her life.
And that's the goal that we have with everybody that's out there on that pile, trying to do their best in this continued search effort to reunite families with their loved ones.
CHEN: Had -- that must have been a difficult thing for you to see happen as well. What was going through your mind when she was discovered?
CARROLL: I think was going through the minds of all of us out here is that, you know, we appreciate life and appreciate the time that we have with those loved ones, and never take, you know, just life for granted.
So -- but, the one thing that we're very happy is that something that happened in our backyard, we're able to give as much as we can, and we will continue to do that and remain committed to this mission.
CHEN: Thank you so much. And I know that, that mission continues for the families -- on behalf of the families of 126 people still unaccounted for. 22 now confirmed dead, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.
Let's talk more about all of this. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke about the need to demolish the building -- the remains of that building to ensure the safety of searchers. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you have the building down and you start to see wind pickup, you know, that may not even necessitate them stopping at all at that point. It depends.
If they are out there, though, and you start to get some of these gusts with that structure there, that would be a real, real hazard, and I would imagine it would likely cause them to do a work stoppage.
So, taking the building down, given the fact that the storm is coming, and given the fact you are going to have to do this anyways, is the prudent thing to do. And I think it will -- it will lead to the most -- the course of action that most minimally disrupts the rescue efforts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The collapse of that condo in Surfside has made other nearby cities question the safety of their own high-rise towers, especially with the Tropical Storm Elsa churning off the coast.
I want to bring in mayors Dan Gelber of Miami Beach and Francis Suarez of Miami. Good to see both of you mayors. Appreciate it.
DAN GELBER (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Glad to be here.
FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI, FLORIDA: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: All right, neither one of you were strangers to, you know, threatening storms. But I wonder you first, you know, Mayor Suarez, what are your concerns about this threatening storm and the ongoing search in that debris field there at that collapsed condo?
SUAREZ: Well, that Florida Task Force 2 is led by the city of Miami. And so, it's a tremendous concern for our, you know -- you know, first responders who are there on the scene, who are risking their lives, who are underneath a very unstable ground in terms of some of the search efforts below ground and on top of piles that are shifting and moving.
That building can come down at any moment. We have to stop work a couple of days ago or a day and a half ago because it had shifted about six to 12 inches. And so, you know, with a looming hurricane, it's more important than ever that the decision to be -- you know, to take down the building, the expediting.
WHITFIELD: And Mayor Gelber, what kind of concerns are you hearing from people? A lot of people in Miami Beach or living in some of those high rise, you know, towers there in the Miami Beach area.
And I wonder if you've been hearing from a lot of residents who are now expressing new worries to you, not just about this threatening storm but in light of what we're seeing with this collapse condo in Surfside. What you're hearing from people who live in some of the taller and older structures there Miami Beach?
GELBER: Well, you know, this building that we're talking about was literally on our border. So, it's a lot like a lot of other buildings in the area. But I will say that as our residents are doing what you might expect calling and saying what about our place? We've tried to take some pretty quick action.
Within about a day, and literally Friday morning, we had begun to send out our inspectors to the 507 buildings that are in their 40-year recertification process.
GELBER: Yesterday, we completed a visual inspection of all 507. We did 30 more of others, including some of the senior homes. And we've also asked all of those buildings to immediately within 21 days, give us a license, a report on both electrical structural engineering issues.
So, we're not simply trying to inspire confidence in the community, we're trying to make sure that we take steps to make sure there's no issues. And by the way, all 507, although, five were a red tag, none of them were red-tagged with anything serious.
So, we feel pretty comfortable that we're doing what we need to do. But we certainly aren't stopping, making sure we do everything possible, including looking at our code, and making changes as we need to.
WHITFIELD: And Mayor Suarez, while it's already customary that there are 40-year re-inspections or, you know, inspections for recertification. And there are regular inspections that already take place on a number of these tall structures, whether it be in Miami, Miami Beach, et cetera.
But now that there is this order of an audit for any building older than 40 years, in your view, how different are these inspections being approached? What do you think this newer audit and the deadline is by the end of July, might reveal that the regular inspections and recertifications have not uncovered already?
SUAREZ: Well, there's no doubt that the level of scrutiny is going to be heightened. And I think the second part of it is, you know, we've seen in many, many instances people in condominiums and condominium associations delaying oftentimes are needed repairs, because for many reasons, but one of which is high special assessments.
And I think this obviously, this tragedy will, you know, will obviously force people to realize that you cannot defer maintenance much longer. And it will also force a cities to make the very difficult decision of having to, as Mayor Gelber said, you know, potentially red tag a building, and force -- you know, the inhabitants of the building to have to vacate like just happened in North Miami, you know, yesterday.
WHITFIELD: Right. And so, Mayor Gelber, if there is a controlled implosion of the remnants of the collapsed condominium, and you just underscored that Miami Beach is really right up against a Surfside. Do you believe that neighboring towers that are in Miami Beach need to be evacuated temporarily or, you know, maybe longer than temporary while that controlled implosion takes place and thereafter?
GELBER: Listen, controlled implosions are done with engineers and experts in the field. And they will let -- if there is some area that could be impacted, they will let everybody know. Now, this is something that there's a lot of experience for, and you can be very certain that one of the reasons why they want to do with controlled implosion is that, I think they can control the spread.
So, if there is necessity to vacate a nearby building, and the building in our city immediately to the south of it is already vacated, you can be certain that they will do that.
I think the reason they want to do it is they think it's safer than to let an unstable building sort of go through tropical winds or worse.
WHITFIELD: Mayor Suarez, I imagine you're hearing from a lot of residents who aren't necessarily only in buildings that are more than 40 years old, and they want to know, you know, or they want to see more scrutiny on the -- on the structures in which they live in. What are you saying to them? How do you reassure people?
SUAREZ: All we're saying is that we are reviewing all of our policies and procedures and laws and codes. And obviously, this is an event that reminds me a lot of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Hurricane Andrew came through, it wiped out some of the cities in the southern part of Dade County, and we completely radically changed our building codes. And I think now we have -- safely one of the most wind resilient cities on the planet.
And this is an event that is so shocking that it is it -- for me, it's clear that all the cities are going to have to look at whether or not inspection should be happening earlier, whether certification should be happening earlier, and what other laws need to be changed and looked at to make sure that something like this never happens again.
WHITFIELD: OK, and very sad. Mayor Francis Suarez, Mayor Dan Gelber, thanks to both of you gentlemen. Appreciate it, and have a great and safe Fourth weekend.
GELBER: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, onto Massachusetts now, 11 people now in custody after a 10th armed standoff near Boston. Police say the incident started as a traffic stop and involved heavily armed men wearing tactical gear and body cameras, according to police.
Several of the arm suspects fled into the wooded areas, according to officials near the Interstate where the traffic stop occurred. Authorities say the suspects claimed to belong to a group that does not recognize U.S. laws.
CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro following the developments for us. What more are you learning?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, as you say, authorities are putting together the details of just what it is happened on this terrifying morning and late night last night, if just north of Boston.
Authorities say that they have arrested now 11 people involved in this incident. They had blocked off parts of I-95. They blocked off some roads in towns near I-95, where this incident took place, and even told some residents to stay inside their houses as they did their search and negotiating with some of these men.
That part's over now. Now, the part difficult next is what comes next. At a -- at a press conference earlier today, police mentioned just what they were dealing with when it comes to this armed group.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. CHRISTOPHER MASON: MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: I can share with you that a number of firearms have been seized, I cannot share with you the exact number. The two vehicles that were at the scene are being towed from the scene. They will be processed pursuant to court- authorized search warrant, and only then, will we know the exact number of firearms that have been seized. I can tell you that firearms both long guns and handguns are in plain view. And we anticipate those will be seized.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, a lot of guns, a lot of nerves yesterday and earlier today, talking about what this is, what this was, and what might have happened. What we're learning now is that these groups -- the folks who were involved in the standoff, were live-streaming some of their end of things from the roads where they were.
And they've -- and they spoke a little bit about what their motivations were. Essentially, they say that the laws regarding firearms measures just don't apply to them. They wanted to sort of go on their own way and do their own thing.
But the police said that, you know, that was not possible, unfortunately, they will able to bring it to a peaceful conclusion that now let those roads be open, and lets people come back out of their houses in that part of Massachusetts, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Well, sometimes you can't do your own thing. That was the message. Loud and clear on that one. Thank you so much. Evan McMorris-Santoro. Appreciate it.
All right, still ahead, America is open for Independence Day weekend, a record number of travelers at airports, but what's being done to make sure that everyone behaves? We'll show you the creative campaign involving children.
Plus, President Biden just arrived in Michigan to celebrate the country's vaccine progress, even though the administration will miss its key goal.
WHITFIELD: All right, demand for gasoline reached a pandemic era high on Friday according to new data from GasBuddy, an online web site that helps drivers track gas prices, where people also boarded airplanes in the U.S. on Friday than any other day since the start of the pandemic.
Nearly 2.2 million people pass through TSA security checkpoints just yesterday. CNN's Polo Sandoval joining me now from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. So, Polo, what more are you learning about the scene there?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hey, Fred, good afternoon. You know, LaGuardia, perhaps not as busy as you may have seen it yesterday. Obviously, when you see those pictures from yesterday, you see a whole lot of travelers raving that travel frenzy to make it to their destination.
Nonetheless, though, there are people heading out today when everything is said and done, by the end of this weekend AAA estimating that we probably would have seen about 48 million people head out either by air or by land.
And then, you have touched on that really important figure that was just released earlier this morning by the Transportation Safety Administration. Now, showing that close 2.2 million people used airport security checkpoints yesterday, not only is that a pandemic record, but it is also higher than it was back in 2019.
So, it certainly speaks to that confidence that people are getting in terms of getting out there to travel. Now, a couple of big challenges for airlines right now, one of them, keeping up with that demand, making sure that those flights are staffed so that they don't have any cancellations or delays there.
And secondly, unruly passengers. Fred, you and I have talked about this, this has been an issue that airlines have been facing. In fact, the FAA has received over 3,000 reports of unruly passengers, a majority of those having to do with mask-wearing.
Remember, you still have to wear a mask in the terminal. And in that flight, the FAA also coming up with a pretty creative way of reminding people that they should be adhering by the rules. At the end of the day, kids telling the adults at your age, listen to the rules. Here is a part of that PSA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fighting is not good when you're on a flight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will go to jail if they keep doing that stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be really scared.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would not like that if someone did that to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They should know better if they're like adults.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are grownup, and they have to play a good role model.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: Pretty wise words and some finger-wagging from some kiddos. Now, when it comes to those who are going to just avoid air travel altogether, they're still going to have to pay a financial price. It's about $3.12 a gallon right now, the highest that we've seen fuel prices in about seven years. That is because of the struggle to try to find drivers to get fuel to those service stations. So, it's not only just demand as well.
So, again, it is going to get a little bit challenging in terms of making it back home after this holiday weekend with the demand. But really just -- we keep hearing it, pack patients. Fred.
WHITFIELD: Right. Patients and listen to the wise advice coming from those kids.
WHITFIELD: And fortunately for me yesterday going through LaGuardia, everybody was on their best behavior. So, it was good. Good experience.
All right, Polo Sandoval, thanks so much.
WHITFIELD: All right. Don't forget to celebrate Independence Day with CNN. Join Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell, and Ana Cabrera for a star-studded evening of music and fireworks. The fun begins July 4th at 7:00. Only right here on CNN.
WHITFIELD: All right, up next, the Biden administration is crisscrossing the country this weekend to celebrate the nation's progress against coronavirus even as the Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated Americans.
WHITFIELD: As Americans across the country enjoy this holiday weekend, the White House is using the 4th of July to mark the nation's independence from the virus.
President Biden just landing in Michigan, where he is set to celebrate the progress of the U.S. vaccination effort and highlight the benefits of a bipartisan infrastructure package.
CNN's Arlette Saenz joining me from Traverse City, Michigan. So, Arlette, what more are you learning?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Fred, the White House really views this weekend as a chance to celebrate all the progress that's been made against the coronavirus pandemic, as the country inches closer to normal each day.
But it also runs up against the reality that the White House is falling short of meeting that 4th of July goal they set to have had -- to have 70 percent of American adults with at least one vaccine dose in their arms.
Right now, that figure stands around 67percent and the White House has acknowledged they have more work to do as some communities remain hesitant and as that Delta variant continues to take hold in the United States.
But over the course of this weekend, you will see right at the top, top rungs of the White House fanning out across the country on what they're describing as they are America Back Together Tour.
President Biden here in Michigan, in Traverse City, as well as another county in the state. And then, first lady, Jill Biden, is up in Maine and New Hampshire. And Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting Nevada.
As each of the officials is really trying to promote all this progress that has been made against the pandemic.
Now, in just a short while, the president will be touring a local cherry farm.
What's also another dual purpose of this visit is to promote the bipartisan infrastructure agreement. He will be talking about the benefits that areas in Michigan can receive if this infrastructure package is passed.
But what's also interesting about these areas that the president is visiting today, that while the president won the entire state of Michigan during the 2020 election, he is visiting two counties President Trump carried.
It speaks to the point the president talked about in the past, how he wants to go into the Republican areas to promote things like the infrastructure agreement so that can also get a sign-on from people in communities who can, in turn, talk to lawmakers about that.
But really the focus so much of this weekend is simply marking the moment, that this is a much different 4th of July weekend than what we all experienced a year ago.
Here in Traverse City, they're out, actually welcoming the return of the National Cherry Festival, something well-known in the area, that was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
But today, the White House and the country really just marking closer how much closer we are getting to normal compared to last year.
WHITFIELD: All right. Arlette Saenz, in Michigan, thanks so much for that.
All right, for two decades, the U.S. military provided security and stability in Afghanistan. And now, as the last American troops leave the country, what does the future look like for Afghanistan? We'll take a look, next.
WHITFIELD: The last U.S. troops now left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. It marks the end of the compound that became the center of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
The full withdrawal of U.S. troops is expected in the coming weeks and will bring a close to America's longest war.
As CNN's Anna Coren explains, the withdrawal is raising concerns about the country's future. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vast might of the U.S. military transformed this dusty airstrip in a major city and the nucleus of America's longest war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COREN: Ultimately, that might could not transform Afghanistan.
Friday morning, nearly 20 years after U.S. soldiers captured Bagram Air Base as a launch pad for the War on Terror, the last U.S. servicemen and women departed Afghanistan.
A nation not left strong, prosperous or secure dispute the sacrifice of more than 200,000 American lives and over 100,000 Afghan civilians, according to the United Nations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in a far-away country.
COREN: Many of those fallen soldiers now repatriated from these runways, now in the possession of Afghan government forces as they continue the lonely fight with the Taliban. They are the only ones who will consider Friday's departure a victory.
GEN. AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: The security situation is not good right now. That's something that's recognized by the Afghan Security Forces and they're making the appropriate adjustments as we move forward.
COREN: Taliban fighters have seized back swaths of the Americans fought and died to liberate.
After once boasting a force of over 100,000 in Afghanistan, there will remain as few as 6,000 troops to provide security for American diplomats.
EDWARD PRICE, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: We intend to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul. That's something that's important to us, given our enduring desire to have a continued partnership with the Afghan government and, crucially, with the Afghan people.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm speaking to you today --
COREN: Their forever war will continue as Joe Biden wades out of the mire, a mire that trapping his predecessors in a brutal and bloody stalemate.
Bush, Obama and Trump, each bouncing in and out of Bagram, pledging Afghanistan will never be a haven for terrorists as it was when al Qaeda plotted the tragedy of 9/11.
Those terrorists, long since, rooted out and destroyed. Now, no guarantee that violent extremists won't re-enter the vacuum left by the United States as the last American soldiers out of Afghanistan return to a nation that has long waited to welcome them home.
Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.
WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, climate change is to blame for a historic heatwave out west. And researchers say environmental injustice is putting communities of color at greater risk. We'll talk about the so-called "Shady Divide," straight ahead.
WHITFIELD: "A Shady Divide," it's the title of a new piece in the "National Geographic" magazine that takes a fascinating look at the dangerous consequences of cities without trees.
And it, unfortunately, disproportionately, happens more in black and brown communities.
And that's what former climate scientist, Alejandra Borunda, concludes in a piece that she wrote for this month's edition of "National Geographic" magazine.
And she joins me now to discuss all of this.
Alejandra, it's good to see you.
You write about climate change for the "National Geographic." In your research here.
So, now, in your research, should we blame systemic racism on the disparities of cool comforts in Los Angeles?
ALEJANDRA BORUNDA, FORMER CLIMATE SCIENTIST & ENVIRONMENT WRITER, "NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC" Yes. Thanks so much for having me.
That's a really good question. I think there's some clear evidence that decisions made in the past and continue to be made in the present have really clear impacts on the actual physical environments in which people live today, right?
So in some parts of Los Angeles -- and this is true for cities across the country, not just L.A. -- richer, often whiter neighborhoods have, you know, 20, 30, 40 percent tree cover. So a lot more beautiful trees keeping people cool.
In some of the places we looked at in L.A., that tree cover is in the single digits. And that has really huge impacts both on the temperature of these different neighborhoods and on the health of the people that live there.
WHITFIELD: So by design, there are fewer shady trees in mostly black and brown neighborhoods in Los Angeles rather than in wealthier neighborhoods.
Can you help explain why in came to be?
BORUNDA: Yes, so, I mean, this is the outcome of a whole lot of public policy decisions that have been made over many, many, many years.
But one of the really clear patterns that we see is that in neighborhoods that were formerly red-lined there are way fewer trees.
Red-lines, the neighborhoods in the 1930s by federal government in which they literally drew red-lines around some neighborhoods and green lines around others. And made it harder for people in the red- lined neighborhoods to get federally backed housing loans.
That had this really longstanding impact. Because housing is one of the ways, you know, we build wealth in this country and directs where public funds end up.
And so, in the red-line neighborhoods, you ended up with a lot less public funding going into these places. And the cycle of disinvestment. And one of the ways you can see that is trees.
Trees take a lot of money to plant, to take care of. When there aren't trees, that, to me, is a signal that this neighborhood has been -- has been ignored by either local or federal government.
WHITFIELD: So while everlasting sunshine is a huge marketing plug for southern California, it's also a dangerous reality.
You write in "National Geographic," "During a short heatwave, the death rate from all causes rises by 8 percent above normal. After four or five days, that number swells to 25 percent and up to 48 percent among older black and Latino residents."
I mean, it's hot, dry and obviously can be life-threatening.
It's also now an issue of money. And you touched on that. It's going to be costly to get these shade trees where they haven't been, plus maintaining them.
So what's the journey like to get that to happen?
BORUNDA: Yes, that's a great question. I think the first step is -- is to recognize this disparity and to recognize it in Los Angeles, to recognize it in Portland, Oregon, in Atlanta, in New York City. This is a pattern that exists in major cities across the country.
And it is a thing that we really should be putting kind of at the forefront of our solutions now when we're thinking about how to deal with climate change now and in the future.
Los Angeles, I think, is doing a really good job of thinking about this and talking about this.
WHITFIELD: And this is in respect of L.A.?
WHITFIELD: Yes. And this is in respect to L.A. planning to plant 90,000 trees by the end of this year with a focus on these neglected neighborhoods.
So, how will they be able to do that by getting these trees and this shade and distributing it in a more equitable way to really change lives?
BORUNDA: Yes. I think that's exactly it. We have to put a lot more trees in the ground. We have to protect the trees that already exist.
And when we put them in the ground, now we have to make sure that we're thinking about where to put them and put them in places that have not historically gotten the kind of reinvestment that other places have.
WHITFIELD: Alejandra Borunda, it's fascinating read in "National Geographic." Thanks so much for being with us as well.
BORUNDA: Thank you so much for having me.
WHITFIELD: Have a great, happy 4th weekend as well.
All right. Coming up, an incredible site in the Gulf of Mexico. This body of water, literally on fire? We'll talk about what happened.
WHITFIELD: Some incredible video emerging of what looks like a large eye of fire in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mexican authorities say the fire burned for more than five hours, fueled by a gas leak from an underwater pipeline making it look like the gulf itself was on fire. There were no injuries reported.
Mexico's oil safety regulator said there was no spill as a result of the leak. And the company says the pipeline has been closed off or capped.
I want to bring in Jules Jaffe. He's a research oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
So good to see you, Jules.
JULES JAFFE, RESEARCH OCEANOGRAPHY, MARINE PHYSICAL LABORATORY, SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: Thanks for having me on, Fredricka. WHITFIELD: All right, you just have to explain what our eyes are
seeing, which is how does fire burn in water?
JAFFE: Yes. Well, you know, it's kind of like, if you're in your kitchen and you put the gas on and you light it up, it blows up.
So now imagine you have a gas, in this case, some methane, which is the stuff we use, but all kinds of other gases, and they're leaking out of a pipe that's around 12 inches in diameter.
Since the gas is lighter than water, it actually rises in the water column.
What you're seeing is a huge burst of flames because probably that gas is not really spreading out very much and there's a huge bubble of gas. Then it will just burst into flames.
WHITFIELD: So then what likely caught it on fire, though? If you've got this plume or this torch-like behavior of this gas that's coming out of this pipeline, what actually ignited it? Likely?
JAFFE: Yes. So that's a great question. In my research this morning, I went online and I discovered that there were actually severe storms there with lightning events. So possibly it was ignited by lightning.
WHITFIELD: What? So possibly ignited by lightning? What for some other possibilities? Wow.
JAFFE: Well, you know, I don't want to be accusing of the Mexican workers, but maybe somebody threw a cigarette in the ocean, not imagining that there was a huge ball of volatile gas there.
I don't mean to be disparaging on them, but that's the other possibility.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. This is extraordinary.
So then, while we talk about -- we have become somewhat familiar with what happens in the Gulf of Mexico if there's an oil leak and the detriment it brings to marine life.
But in the case of this -- and we can't help but forget what happened in 2010, right? But in the case of this, where we're talking about gas, is there potential danger to marine life?
JAFFE: Yes, so that's a really great question. And I think the risks are much lower because, if it just bubbles to the surface, then the marine life that lives deeper down in the ocean will probably be much less affected. So I'm sort of happy about that.
And then the other aspect is, if it's actually burnt, the methane, which is a huge villain in greenhouse gas -- we're better off having carbon dioxide. So, in fact, burning it is probably beneficial for the environment itself. WHITFIELD: Wow, this is fascinating.
So, Jules, you mentioned that the pipeline may be like 12 inches in diameter. Would you be able to venture to guess how deep below the surface the actual pipeline is?
Because you mentioned there would be this space of this plume of gas and then somehow as it got closer to the surface that's where it would burn.
But then how deep is the gas spewing?
JAFFE: Yes. That's a great question. Yes. Part of my research assignments this morning were to go on and look at -- you know, there's a huge amount of information about the sea floor that your viewers can go and peruse themselves.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to that this morning. I don't really know.
JAFFE: So I will have to plead ignorance.
WHITFIELD: That's OK. I'm learning a lot, nonetheless, from you, Oceanographer.
JAFFE: Thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: Yes. Is this rare? I mean, I've never seen it before but that doesn't mean -- for all I know, it's rather common and I've just missed it over the years. But is this rare?
JAFFE: Yes. Well, you're asking another hard question. I'm not ashamed to admit it.
But if it is rare, then the reason we don't know about it is because it is rare.
But if it happens more often, and the volatile gases just bleed out and go into the atmosphere, then we wouldn't know about it as well.
But I think all of us -- and I'm not an expert in gas exploration -- are worried about these aging platforms and ensuring their safety through inspection, of course.
We hope they're doing a wonderful job in ensuring not only the safety of the people on their oil rigs but also the safety of the planet as well.
Jules Jaffe, thank you so much. Thanks for rolling with it. I'm just curious. I mean, that is unbelievably fascinating, as I know everybody is, too. But I appreciate your curiosity and your research and all of your answers.
JAFFE: Thank you very much. Great to be with you.
WHITFIELD: Thank you. Fantastic.
All right. In what has become a rare moment these days, we saw Prince William and Prince Harry reunite this week to unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana. And there it is. You see them standing back and taking a look themselves.
The statue unveiled on what would have been the princess of Wales' 60th birthday.
It was commissioned by the brothers a few years ago to memorialize their mother, as well as mark the 20th anniversary of her death.
The larger-than-life bronze statue will be placed in the new sunken garden at Kensington Palace.