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Japan Mudslide Claims Two, 10 Rescued, 20 Still Missing; Thousands Protest Bolsonaro's Handling Of COVID-19; U.S. Updates Emergency Evacuation Plans For Kabul Embassy; Children Killed By Shelling In Idlib; Thieves Target Mexican Schools During Pandemic; England Crush Ukraine In Euro 2020 Quarterfinals; Track And Field Olympian Suspended After Failed Drug Test; Millions Under Heat Warnings In North America; Thailand Launches "Phuket Sandbox" Tourism Program. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired July 4, 2021 - 00:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Paula Newton.

Ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM, a search is underway for more than a dozen people missing in Japan after a deadly landslide sweeps houses towards the sea. We are live in Atami.

Angry and fed up. Tens of thousands of people take to the streets in Brazil over the government's handling of COVID.

And a historic heat wave, catastrophic conditions across Canada and the United States.


NEWTON: And we begin in Japan, where officials say 10 people have been rescued following a mudslide that's devastated the coastal city of Atami. Just take a look at this.



NEWTON (voice-over): Look at the devastation there. At least two women at least are confirmed dead and 20 other people are unaccounted for after the disaster struck on Saturday morning. Search and rescue efforts had to be suspended overnight but hundreds of emergency workers resumed the search Sunday morning.


NEWTON: We want to get to Blake Essig, live at the scene.

The rescue mission has been progressing albeit slowly. Give us a sense of the conditions on the ground right there now.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, it's been raining all day, at some points harder than others but for the most part continuous rain. That hasn't stopped the fact that the frantic search for survivors continues more than 24 hours after torrential rains triggered a massive landslide here at the seaside resort town of Atami.

Two people are dead and at least another 20 more people are missing. And a horrifying scene, that was captured by cell phone video around 10:30 Saturday morning. A section of the hillside gave way, sending residents scrambling and leaving a trail of death and destruction.

Dozens of homes have been completely buried and Atami city officials say 100-300 homes have been affected. At the moment, rescue efforts are underway to find survivors on the ground. Earlier in the day they were flying helicopters as well as ships at sea from the Coast Guard.

So far city officials say 10 people have been rescued. Around 700 people are assisting with operations. That includes police officers, firefighters, the Coast Guard and members of the Japanese self-defense forces. Early this morning, roughly 380 people have been evacuated throughout 10 evacuation centers in the city.

We spoke with one man who said he and his family are lucky to be alive. They got out of their house just moments before the landslide hit, bearing part of their home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The first thing that struck me was the sound of the ground rumbling. There was such a muddy, chemical stench to the air. Of course as so many things were being washed away, it all happened in a split second.


ESSIG: Adverse weather conditions and steep mountainous terrain have made the search and rescue effort more difficult. There are fears that more landslides could take place, not just here but in several areas along the coast, as rain continues to fall.

Since we arrived this morning, we received multiple messages sent to our mobile phones warning of that possibility. Because of those concerns, evacuation orders have been put in place in several towns throughout southwest Tokyo.

Experts say that even though the rain, if it does stop -- and it's not expected to stop anytime soon -- the risk of another disaster is high enough because of the amount of water that has already accumulated on the ground in an area prone to landslides. Paula?

NEWTON: It's got to be worrying for residents there have already lost so much. I want to ask you about that.

How are they coping?

I couldn't believe the pictures when we first saw them. It is clear the devastation that these mudslides have left. ESSIG: Paula, when you look at those videos, just absolutely horrifying images. We talked to a few people who have not only seen those videos but lived through the experience firsthand.

The shock of it all really is still setting in. I've talked to people and I've asked them about people who have lost their lives. And the emotions are still incredibly raw. I think that the fact that this disaster only took place 24 hours ago.


ESSIG: When you look behind me, the search and rescue crews making their way through this path of destruction, as described earlier, mud strewn across what's left of homes that are still standing. And there are many others that are clearly not.

Again, we went over to an evacuation center and talked to one of the residents, who was able to evacuate. He said he was just happy to be alive. It really hasn't dealt, I guess, with the fact that people lost their lives. Right now he's just trying to do what he can help to find survivors. Maybe later on when things have calmed down, he will take time to cry.

NEWTON: Must a very difficult situation, especially, as you pointed out, many residents there under threat. Blake Essig, thank you for that firsthand look.

Now tens of thousands took to the streets of Brazil Saturday, demanding the impeachment of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.


NEWTON (voice-over): Many in the crowd blamed the president for failing to handle the pandemic, which so far has killed half a million Brazilians. Bolsonaro is also under scrutiny over allegations he turned a blind eye to a COVID vaccination corruption scheme right within Brazil's health ministry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is no longer possible to bear and tolerate the behavior of the country, which is led by the genocidal president that we have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There are more than half a million people died and what everyone knew has been explained now. There was corruption. So keeping a government like that, it is craziness.


NEWTON: It's important to put all of this in perspective right?

Brazil, as you see, has been one of the hardest hit countries during this pandemic. Right now, they are still averaging more than 50,000 new cases per day, with less than 13 percent of Brazilians fully vaccinated. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon is in Bogota, Colombia, with a closer look at mounting pressures facing Brazil's president. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is facing renewed scrutiny over his handling of the pandemic response as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across the nation on Saturday, demanding his impeachment.

It is the third time the protesters have marched onto Brazil's largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and hundreds more to urge congress to remove the president. He's already facing multiple calls for impeachment as well as a senate investigation into his government's action against COVID-19.

Just on Friday, Brazil's attorney general was authorized to open a new investigation on whether Bolsonaro committed any wrongdoing in the negotiation of a COVID-19 vaccine contract for 200 million doses of the Covaxin vaccine.

The drug was canceled last month after the revelation that the price Brazil agreed to pay for the vaccine was over 10 times what it was originally estimated. Bolsonaro has so far dismissed the investigations he is facing. On Saturday he said it was his mission to lead the destiny of the nation -- for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.



NEWTON: Paulo Sotero is a distinguished fellow at the Wilson Center and former director of the Wilson Center's Brazil Institute.

Mr. Sotero, it becomes more and more difficult every day to really understand truly the legacy that this pandemic will leave on the lives of Brazilians but also now on its politics. This has been a public health emergency in Brazil for quite some time. They have another emergency in Brazil; that is climate.

This polarization in politics is really not conducive to coming up with solutions.

Do you think that people on the streets right now can finally be transformative there?

That has been the problem, we have seen people on the streets before, depending on the issue.

PAULO SOTERO, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, WILSON CENTER: Paula, I would love to believe that but I do not at this point. And I will tell you why. The number of people going to the streets to protest this negligence of the Bolsonaro government towards COVID, the number of people protesting are decreasing. It is not going up.

This protest in Sao Paulo attracted no more than 5,000 people. For street protests to have any impact, they have to be much larger than that. [00:10:00]

SOTERO: In addition, the opposition to Bolsonaro is divided. He has control over the house of representatives, where impeachment process has to start. So he seems pretty safe for now and he has control of the federal coffers, of the money. He can use this to provide help, stipends of money, and protect himself.

He has almost 3.5 years before the next election and it looks like, from what we know and understand right now, it will be a very long and painful struggle. I am not convinced that he will be removed from power, be it by impeachment or even by election.

NEWTON: Given the fact that Bolsonaro, of course, is not directly connected to this corruption scandal as of yet. This is in fact an investigation and he denies he has anything to do with this.

What hope do you have that a lot of what needs to be done on the economic side of things in Brazil can actually get done in this environment?

SOTERO: Well, the Brazilian economy is recovering at one of its largest contractions ever. It is gaining some speed. And this, in a sense, helps Bolsonaro, because this means more employment, people, et cetera. But others say there will be no secure recovery until COVID is controlled in Brazil. But it's not.

Just in the past few weeks, the average number of people killed by COVID in Brazil is around 2,000 a day. So the economy will recover but in a mediocre way. It's not going to be very convincing. The opposition is mobilizing but can't come together. The president controls, up to a point the cabinet, the coffers, the armed forces.

He controls the state police. This is a very important element and many in Brazil fear he could use state police to create confusion. And he has already announced that he will not accept the results of an election in Brazil without a paper ballot. He's using it to create confusion, following Donald Trump's (INAUDIBLE).

And it's sad. It's sad and it's very worrisome.

NEWTON: OK, Paulo Sotero, thank you so much for joining us, appreciate it.

SOTERO: Thank you.


NEWTON: Former South African president Jacob Zuma has managed to push back a deadline to start serving his prison sentence. Now the man known as the Teflon president appeared before chanting supporters near his compound Saturday, as the nation's top court agreed to review his 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

Zuma faced a Sunday deadline to hand himself over to police. His lawyers asked for the review, claiming the sentence was unfair and threatens his life. The constitutional court sentenced Zuma after he failed to appear before investigators who were looking into corruption allegations against him.

Still ahead here, the U.S. is updating evacuation plans at its embassy in Kabul, as America makes its most significant step yet to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Plus the United Nations is monitoring vaccine access for refugees. It says more must be done to vaccinate those vulnerable populations. That's next.





NEWTON: U.S. officials are actively updating evacuation plans at the American embassy in Afghanistan as the threat, of course, of potential violence grows there. It comes days after U.S. troops departed Bagram Air Base, the center of military power in Afghanistan during the two- decade war.

The Taliban had made sweeping territorial gains right across the country. But in a statement last week, the militants said that embassies would not face any security risks. Still, security concerns, as you can imagine, remain. CNN's Anna Coren is live for us in Kabul.

Anna, the U.S. drawdown seems to be hitting home now.

What has been the reaction there from Afghans on the ground, especially when they are not dealing with that safety net, that they would have had with the U.S. and allied troops?

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I think it is fair to say, Paula, the Americans being in country did provide a security blanket for Afghans. Not that you ever saw the Americans on the streets, particularly in the last few months and years.

But certainly, just knowing that they were there, in case there was a crisis, it provided some sort of reassurance, if you'd like. Now there is a real sense of panic here, in Afghanistan. We spoke to some local Afghans yesterday who said we heard the U.S. embassy in Kabul is closing.

Is this true?

That is what this news, that they are evacuating or updating the emergency evacuation plans, has done. It has just increased the sense of panic here in the community. As the State Department says, there is no current need to implement this evacuation plan.

However, the fact that it is so comprehensive and so detailed, from what we hear, certainly, suggests that they could be implemented, quite quickly. Of course, the security situation in this country is rapidly deteriorating.

And you mentioned the Taliban's offensive across the country and almost daily, we hear of more and more districts falling in the countryside. The Taliban now controls more than 50 percent of the countryside. They are encroaching on several provincial capitals.

They are 10-15 kilometers, on the outskirts of Kabul. It is a real threat. And then add to that, the propaganda videos that they are sending, almost daily and it shows forces fleeing or surrendering.

The Taliban claiming U.S. funded equipment, it is just adding to the panic and the hysteria here, Paula. I spoke to the head of an NGO yesterday and he said that he is so disappointed, that he feels utterly betrayed by the Americans and the international community.

He never thought that, after 20 years, America would leave Afghanistan in such a state of hopelessness, insecurity and violence. There really is a sense of despair here.

NEWTON: And betrayal, a strong word. And no doubt, that is how they feel right now, as you have illustrated for us. Anna, thank you so much for that, good to have you on the ground there.

At least six children are among the latest victims in Syria's long civil war. UNICEF and the rescue volunteers, known as the White Helmets, say that they were killed by shelling in a rebel-held area of Idlib province on Saturday.


NEWTON (voice-over): Now these images show people racing to save lives amid the rubble. And, after that, stark pictures of funerals after the attack. The White Helmets say that the shelling came from government- controlled territory. A pregnant woman is, also, reportedly, among the dead.


NEWTON: In Ethiopia now, video has emerged, showing captured Ethiopian soldiers being paraded through the Tigray capital, Mekelle. Now Tigray fighters took control of the city after a federal withdrawal late last month. But communications blackouts have made it difficult to know what is, actually, going on.

The central government has declared a cease-fire but Tigrayan forces, initially, rejected it. A CNN producer, on the ground, says that food and fuel, are running low in Tigray amid reports of a blockade.

Health experts say that vaccinations are a lifesaving necessity in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. But many barriers exist for those who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.

The United Nations Refugee Agency is monitoring vaccine access to these vulnerable populations, saying, more must be done to get them inoculated.


NEWTON (voice-over): They fled persecution around the world and now they face a new threat. As countries scramble to get their populations vaccinated, the U.N. is calling on nations to include refugees in their inoculation efforts.

Overcrowded camps make social distancing a challenge. Communal water taps and lack of sanitation makes the battle against COVID-19 even more difficult.

Getting a job has become much more difficult for older refugees. In Latin America, earning a daily wage has become a luxury for several of these older refugees, according to a U.N. report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Some days, we hardly eat breakfast and we don't have dinner. Sometimes, we do not even have breakfast. Sometimes, my wife and I eat only one meal a day.

NEWTON (voice-over): More than 9 million forcibly displaced people live in Asian countries. Many of these nations are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and vaccine shortages. That is according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

Being a refugee puts them at the bottom of the list for vaccinations, the agency says. The U.N. Refugee Agency and Save the Children estimate that around 800,000 to 900,000 refugees live in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. It is the single largest and most densely populated refugee settlement in the world.

In May, the camps here reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases and zero vaccine rollout. That is according to the U.N. And not having citizenship and lack of documentation makes it even harder for this population to keep themselves safe.

ANN BURTON, UNHCR: Refugees and other populations that some of the requirements that governments have put in place to register for the vaccine require national identity documents, which refugees and stateless populations often do not have.

And so our operations have been working at a country level, trying to come up with a system, with governments, where they will agree to use other documents.

NEWTON (voice-over): One positive note: refugees and asylum seekers have begun seeking COVID19 doses in 91, of the 162 countries, that the U.N. is now monitoring.


NEWTON: Now Russia is enduring a new wave of the coronavirus, setting pandemic records for both daily cases and deaths. Take a look at these numbers.


NEWTON (voice-over): You can see them right there and you can see how the death toll has just surged. Our Matthew Chance has more now, from Moscow, on the worsening conditions.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Russia is ending a week of record coronavirus infections as the new Delta strain spreads across the country. As state media reports, the main Russian vaccine Sputnik V is less effective against Delta than against other variants.

Infection rates and death figures have been running at record levels for much of the week. Officials say Moscow and St. Petersburg, the country's two biggest cities, are the worst affected, with infection rates there up to three times higher than the national figure according to the head of the Russian health watchdog.

Despite the COVID surge, the Kremlin is rejecting any talk of a new lockdown and instead is urging Russians to vaccinate quickly to protect themselves.

Earlier this week, strict new rules were put in place, making it mandatory for Russians with jobs that involve working with the public like in restaurants and shops and transport business, to get vaccinated by mid-July or face dismissal.

Russians have been hesitant when it comes to vaccination. According to the Russian president, only about 15 percent of the population have been vaccinated so far -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


NEWTON: Thieves have been targeting schools, right across Mexico, that closed during the pandemic. It ranges from looted classrooms to more extensive damage, that could prevent some schools from reopening. CNN's Matt Rivers, has more, from Mexico City.



MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As if the pandemic hasn't been hard enough on both students and educators and Mexico, we are learning more about just how difficult it was and in many cases, still is, for a lot of these schools to reopen over the last few months because of vandalism and burglaries that have taken place across the country in a pretty staggering rate.

Basically what happened was that schools became easy targets for criminals, because they were closed for so many months during the height of Mexico's pandemic. Take this school, for example, in the state of state of San Luis Potosi, where criminals went through and looted just about the entire school.

You can see some of the damage left behind, a mixture of simple vandalism but also multiple things were stolen, according to the school's principal, including copper piping that was ripped out of the walls. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is anger, helplessness,

sadness, because we, say, if it's people from around here doing this, it is their own school they are taking from. Everything we have is for them. And also we feel helpless, because it is the authorities that never solve the crimes.

RIVERS: Now according to a report from Mexicanos Primeros, an education advocacy nonprofit here, nearly 10,000 schools across the country have suffered either vandalism or burglaries since the start of the pandemic through now.

We spoke to another principal of a school in the state of Tabasco, who said thieves stole everything from air conditioning units to sinks to piping. Because of that, the school has no running water, which means it cannot open back up.

This principal didn't want to give his or her name or the name of the school because of fears of being fired and also fears that the thieves may come back.

Like so many other crimes in Mexico, crimes against both of those schools remain unsolved at this point with police in both states saying investigations are underway. Meanwhile, federal election officials tell us these crimes are a significant issue that need to be paid more attention to but told CNN, they didn't want to comment on the total number of schools affected in this way or on the Mexicanos Primeros report -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


NEWTON: One of the stars of America's Olympic track and field team is now forced to miss her signature event. Coming up, Sha'Carri Richardson speaks about her suspension and what led up to it.

Plus, the Cinderella story continues. The Three Lions make history. An update from Euro 2020, straight ahead.




NEWTON: Welcome back to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Paula Newton and you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.


NEWTON (voice-over): You think they're happy?

Coming home indeed in more ways than one for English football fans.


NEWTON (voice-over): They are ecstatic after England crushed Ukraine 4-0 in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals in Rome on Saturday. That was the first time, yes, the first time in a quarter-century that England reached the semifinals. The Three Lions will have a home field advantage in that match, where they will face Denmark at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.


NEWTON: But Denmark is really the Cinderella story of this tournament. They beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the second quarterfinal match of the day.


NEWTON: As you can see here, a little more than 19 days to go before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin. Yes, delayed by a year. And Japan's capital is facing a rising number of coronavirus cases.

The Olympic torch relay was reduced to a stage show, due to COVID safety restrictions. On Friday organizers said Olympic teams from countries with cases of COVID-19 variants such as the Delta variant, would be faced with even stricter restrictions while in Japan.

A top U.S. track and field star is talking about her failed drug test ahead of the Tokyo Games. Sha'Carri Richardson was suspended for one month from the U.S. Olympic team after testing positive for THC. And that is the chemical found in marijuana.

That means she is forbidden from running in the 100 meter sprint, her signature event. She still may be allowed to compete in the later events, such as the 4x100 meter relay. She said the shock of learning of her mother's death from a reporter is one reason why she decided to consume marijuana.


SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON, OLYMPIC SPRINTER: I apologize for the fact that I need to know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time. But sitting here, I'll just say don't judge me because I am human. I mean, I'm you. I just happen to run a little faster.


NEWTON: U.S. President Joe Biden said he was really proud of the way Richardson replied to her suspension and he weighed on in on the drug testing policy.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The rules are the rules and everybody knows what the rules were going in. Whether they should remain that, that should remain rules is a different issue. But the rules are rules and I was really proud of her, the way she responded.


NEWTON: Christine Brennan is a CNN sports analyst and sports columnist for "USA Today."

You are the person to have on. I know you are looking forward to the Olympics coming up. And now, it doesn't look like she will be there. She may be. There let's deal first with what happened. There are a whole lot of things to really parse here as well.

The violation first. Marijuana is legal in the state she was in. But it is banned in competition. Under WADA rules and they set the rules here, the World Anti-Doping Agency.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Absolutely, Paula, World Anti- Doping, they have the rules. Actually Sha'Carri Richardson said she knew the rules, she knew she was breaking the rule.

There's a lot of valid conversation out there about whether marijuana should be a banned substance in the Olympic world. But right now it is and all the athletes know that. And it's actually only banned during competition.

So if Richardson decided to ingest it or smoke marijuana in February, it would've been fine. March would've been fine, April. She did it at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, and that is, of course, where it popped up in her test.

That's when the process started to ban her. I think frankly that this is going to take the entire world, Anti-Doping Agency, every national doping organization to a conversation to a place that we probably should get, which is it time to take marijuana off the banned list?

And that's a good conversation to have. But it will not help Sha'Carri Richardson. She will miss the 100 meters, one of the great marquee events of any Olympic Games. And the question is whether the U.S. will put her on the 4x100 relay. That would be a chance to recapture a little bit of her Olympic dream but nowhere near the brilliant stage she was going to have in 100 meters.

NEWTON: And brilliant she is. We will get to how brilliant she is in track and field in a moment. But let's talk about how she did own up to this. You have spoken out yourself so clearly and forcibly about mental health and sports. I love that she said I'm human, I just run faster than you.

It so succinctly encapsulates everything that we have been seeing, from Naomi Osaka to everyone else who is speaking on this.

Do you think this will finally be a turning point for so many athletes?

BRENNAN: I hope it is, Paula, because, yes, they are put on pedestals; yes, they make a lot of money, some of them anyway. But they're also human beings and, in this case, they are very young. She's 21 years old, Richardson is, just bursting onto the scene.

The good news for her is that she's only 21. So the Paris Olympics are just three years away. And while this heartbreak is real and even the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it was heartbroken, which you just don't hear those words from something like that. But they did say that. The reality is that she will have other chances and that's good news.

But going back to the mental health issue that you asked about, think about this. When she found out, which is what Richardson said, that her biological mother had passed away from a reporter actually, that's when she went into this tailspin and ended up, she said, ingesting marijuana.

That's what caused all the problems that we know about, with her being banned, having the 100-meter trial being stripped away. Instead, if she'd be able to call a hotline, if the U.S. Track and Field, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee had had -- and if they knew about this, there are certainly services that can exist.

But do these athletes know?

Can they text?

Can they call?

Can they email?

Can they get someone on the other end of the line right then and there to help them with this problem?

This hurdle, this difficult moment, this emotional moment, this sadness they are feeling. Would it have been possible for her to be able to chat with someone, to have a professional meeting with a psychologist or someone, as opposed to what she did?

One wonders how different that could've been. I think because again we are having this conversation not only about marijuana and its place in the World Anti-Doping Agency and rules for the future but also about mental health. Naomi Osaka, Simone Manuel, the U.S. swimmer who was so candid coming forward in the media, in a press conference, talking to reporters about overtraining syndrome and her depression and anxiety at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.


BRENNAN: Now we see another athlete dealing with it. Michael Phelps is probably the biggest name of all. I'm sure that many people know that, after Michael's stellar career as the greatest Olympian ever, he has spent so much time in the past few years talking about his own struggles with mental health.

If it's happening in Michael Phelps, if it's happening to Naomi Osaka, to Simone Manuel and so many other athletes who need to hear those voices, to hear these big names talk about it so they can hopefully help themselves by getting and seeking some help and getting the attention indeed.

NEWTON: Christine, that is why you are always rooting for these athletes. Thank you for weighing in on this.

BRENNAN: My pleasure, Paula, thank you. NEWTON: OK, it is a holiday weekend in the United States but in some

places celebrations are being overshadowed by oppressive hot weather. We'll have the latest on this historic heat wave.





NEWTON (voice-over): All right. Take a look at that. This is dramatic video from the Gulf of Mexico. An underwater gas leak near an oil platform caused this so-called Eye of Fire. It burned for more than 5 hours on Friday. Mexican authorities were able to get the blaze under control. No injuries were reported and the company said there was no oil spill and the pipeline has now been capped.


NEWTON: A record breaking heat wave is overwhelming parts of the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Millions are under heat warnings and it's not just uncomfortable, it has proven extremely dangerous. Hundreds of deaths have been reported, attributed to the scorching temperatures. CNN's Gene Norman reports.


GENE NORMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not a thermometer but judging by the way these jelly candies melt in the unprecedented Canadian heat, it's a hot, sticky day.

And there have been plenty of these lately in Canada and the Pacific Northwest in the U.S., a region that typically has milder temperatures this time of the year.

So how hot is it?

One town in British Columbia logged the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada earlier this week, making it hotter at the time than Abu Dhabi. And the extreme heat is triggering lightning strikes in western Canada at a rate nearly 10 times higher than this time last year.

Those strikes have ignited forest fires, which typically don't ramp up here until late July. That concern forced officials in Portland, Oregon, to ban the use of fireworks ahead of the Independence Day celebrations in the U.S., though some are skeptical that everyone will heed the warnings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that people are going to -- they are probably still going to light them off. Hopefully if they do, they decide to do it somewhere it's not going to be able to catch something on fire. NORMAN (voice-over): Earlier in the week, temperatures in both

Portland and Seattle reached scorching highs, though they have since cooled off. But they're still hotter than they should be, which worries some residents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope it's not a new normal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so extreme that I am hoping that it's a one- off. I know they say it may be global warming and that is worrisome.

NORMAN (voice-over): Hundreds of deaths from the heat have been reported across the Pacific Northwest and Canada in recent days, a troubling trend, since experts say climate change will make record- breaking heat waves like these more frequent in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our weather patterns will continue to change. We are in a period where we will just constantly, see, over time, increases in our average temperature and increases in our extremes.

NORMAN (voice-over) Extremes that some people this holiday weekend in the U.S. are trying to weather with a trip to the swimming pool and a dip of ice cream.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Montana isn't supposed to be this hot. It's kind of a challenge.

NORMAN (voice-over): If only it could be that easy. Gene Norman, CNN.



NEWTON: David Phillips is a senior climatologist at Environment Canada and he joins me now from Toronto.

Listen, David, I know exactly how closely you have tracked this for decades. Give us the sense of the magnitude of what we are seeing right now, both in British Columbia but also in general throughout Canada. People around the world have been stunned at what happened in Lytton, B.C.

DAVID PHILLIPS, SENIOR CLIMATOLOGIST, ENVIRONMENT CANADA: They have, Paula, and we are stunned, too. It's scary, it's life-threatening, it's like an out of world experience for us. You know we are the second coldest country in the world, the snowiest country in the world. People think that winter begins in Canada. And it's the land of polar vortex and wind chill and frostbite.

And to have these temperatures, which are just absolutely a head- shaker, I've been in the business 50 years. I've never seen anything like this and neither has anybody in Canada. I mean, this broke records that stood for 83 years. But, Paula, it just didn't break the record, it smashed it.

It annihilated previous records by 4 or 5 degrees. We are now warmer than any country in Europe or any country in South America. We are warmer than Las Vegas and Phoenix. It is just mind-boggling.

Of course, the heat, the amount of heat, the dryness and now, we have raging forest fires that just started with a backfire of an all- terrain vehicle or railway wheels that sparks or lightning, dry lightning. It's just -- this story is not over. It's been a tough week. But it is going to get even tougher as the season progresses.

NEWTON: Yes, I just got off the phone with federal officials in Canada and they say exactly what you just said. They are prepared for a brutal summer.

What do you see, again?

You follow this so closely.

What do we see in terms of any relief in the days or weeks to come?

The B.C. premier was blunt. He was saying, look, this isn't how we roll in Canada. He is trying to remind people, this is a temperate rain forest that they were dealing with in B.C.

PHILLIPS: You're right. We do see the temperatures, the dryness, all of the ingredients are there. It is like baking a recipe, for baking a cake. You have all these little things that come together to produce the perfect result. And this is just absolutely incredible.

We had the driest spring on record and we had this incredible dome, this big high pressure area that just suffocated people there with the heat and everywhere. There's just no escaping it and record-breaking to receive these before.

And now, the result, of course is wildfires. And even, Paula, you've got flooding. The fact that mountain snows have melted so quickly, you've got communities where you're bailing and bagging and fighting the heat and the fires at the same time. It is so Biblical.

Are the locusts soon to come?

With it being so dry, the grasshoppers are, I am sure, rubbing their claws with glee, thinking that they will get any crops that have grown. They certainly will attack it. It is a horrendous disaster.

NEWTON: It is in everyone's interest on the sidelines, watching this, I would argue. I tell everyone, look, Canada's weather, in this environment of extreme climate change, is the world's weather. We are the second largest land mass in the world.

What do you say to people, if they look at this right now and think, is this a microcosm?

Especially when you look at what's happening in British Columbia, of what we can expect, in years to come?

PHILLIPS: Clearly. I always think, the weather is, there is no sneak attacks with the weather. It always gives you a heads up.


PHILLIPS: We are just oblivious to it, if we don't pay attention to it. What we see is what we are, clearly, going to get. It is frustrating, when you deal with people who are skeptics who think, oh, well, you can't use climate change to say that it causes or triggers weather extremes.

And climate change didn't cause the drought or this heat wave or these forest fires or hurricanes. But it did contribute to it. It is almost like our grandparents' heat wave but it's different. It's a different personality, a different character.

What we are seeing is that climate change contributes to these extremes, it ramps them up, it makes them bigger, badder and more impactful. It is like feeding steroids to the weather. And it makes them out of sight.

And I think there's a human component to it and if there are any Doubting Thomases now, I wish they would come forward. Because we seen in Canada, we are warming up faster than any other country in the world. And we are beginning to see the impacts, from the far north, the first victims of climate change.

And now we see in the south. There is no escaping it and it shows up in all seasons, in all sectors, the economy, the environment, and human health. The number of deaths, from the situation will only grow worse is absolutely -- it is just so scary and numbing.

NEWTON: Numbing for you. A scientist who, literally, is looking at data. You've pored over it for decades and trying to make sense of it now. I'm glad you mentioned in British Columbia, this has become a public health emergency, with the deaths there, from extreme weather. David Phillips, I really want to thank you for your perspective on this.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Paula, for your interest. Bye-bye now.


NEWTON: And a reminder, at this hour, there continue to be wildfires throughout Canada and the United States.

Up next for us, Thailand's most popular island is reopening but not for everyone who makes the cut and why this may be a big gamble for the country. That's ahead.



(MUSIC PLAYING) NEWTON: Millions of Americans are traveling this holiday weekend but some are worried that the Delta variant will lead to new COVID outbreaks. Now top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says people can, absolutely, celebrate Independence Day, when taking the right precautions.

He is also urging people to, of course, get vaccinated. Here is why. Officials blame the Delta variant for a rise in new COVID-19 cases, both in the United States and also in other parts of the world. The U.S. is falling short of President Biden's vaccination goal, especially in the Southeast and the Midwest.

He wanted 70 percent of adults to get at least one dose by the 4th of July. The CDC says, currently, it is 67 percent. And about 55 percent when looking at the total population.

So tourists have returned to an island in Thailand, one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. It is part of a test program and it doesn't require them to quarantine. Paula Hancocks is showing us how it works.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A big gamble for Thailand's biggest island, Phuket.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): The prime minister himself rolled out the red carpet for vaccinated international tourists that leads straight to the picturesque sandy beaches without any quarantine restrictions.

In a surreal contrast to the year that's been and to the rest of Thailand that's mostly shut down due to rising cases and three days of record deaths, nearly 400 tourists from the Middle East and Singapore arrived under an experiment called the Phuket Sandbox, ready to hit the beach armed with sunscreen and COVID antibodies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eat some nice Thai food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel now?


HANCOCKS (voice-over): There's a lot riding on their return and the island has been preparing. More than 80 percent of its population have been vaccinated, with at least one dose; about 65 percent are fully vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am quietly confident that the industry and the government has done all it can to make this Sandbox scheme both safe and effective.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): An assurance echoed by Thailand's tourism minister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Looking at the nationwide coronavirus infection rate, we would say we are not ready. But if you focus only on Phuket, we've laid our groundwork for more than three months. We are 100 percent ready.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The government estimates at least 100,000 tourists will arrive over the next three months, bringing in nearly $300 million in revenues, desperately needed on an island that relies on tourism. Still, some are not convinced that this is the right time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, I'm very confident among the people of Thailand, that, if there's now spread in Thailand.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): But the sun seekers aren't complaining; neither are the local business owners, like Suzanne, who describes the past 1.5 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Horrid. We didn't expect the last wave to hit us the way it's hit us.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Tourism accounts for 20 percent of Thailand's GDP. But in Phuket, it is 95 percent of its economy, which is why the Thai minister of tourism says it's a calculated risk worth taking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In 2019, revenue from both domestic and international tourism stood at about $95 billion U.S. That shrank to nearly $20 billion in 2020, a huge drop.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): So while it may seem like a parallel universe, for now, Thailand is pinning its hopes on Phuket, while the world watches -- Paula Hancocks, CNN.


NEWTON: I want to thank you for spending part of your day with me, I am Paula Newton, stay with us. "INSIDE AFRICA," is next.