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Europe Experienced Heaviest Rainfall in a Century; Warming Climate Causing More Extreme Weather Worldwide; WHO Warns Coronavirus Emergency Isn't Over; South Africa Unrest; At Least 117 Killed In Protests After Former Leader Is Jailed; War Of Words Escalates After Unprecedented Protests; Prime Minster Designate Hariri Steps Down. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 02:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello. Welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world. I'm John Vause.

And coming up here on "CNN Newsroom," catastrophic flooding across Europe as parts of Germany see a month's worth of rain in one day. We will have live report from Europe as well as the weather forecast.

Beware of the variants. The WHO says as long as the coronavirus continues to evolve, chances are it will mutate into more contagious and deadlier strains.

And South Africa is on edge. More than 100 people are dead after days of violence. The very latest developments live from South Africa.

Meteorologists say Germany saw its heaviest rainfall in a century. In one district alone, 1,300 people are assumed missing in flash floods. At least 55 are dead across Western Germany and Belgium. The Netherlands and Luxembourg have been hit hard. Some regions received more than a month's worth of rain in just 24 hours. Italy and France are sending teams to search for the missing and help with the cleanup. Experts say the intense downfalls like these are becoming a lot more common as the planet gets warmer.


UNKNOWN (through translator): I've never seen anything like this. It is incredible. Frankly, I never thought I would see that in Belgium.

UNKNOWN (through translator): We are afraid. We are really panicking. My daughter is supposed to come home today. It's really stressful and anxiety. We came back from work because we are not safe. It is scary. We've never known anything like this.


VAUSE (on camera): And CNN's Nina Dos Santos is tracking all the developments live from London. She is with us now. Nina? NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Thank you so much, John. Well, these are dramatic scenes unfolding in Germany, the Netherlands, also Belgium and Luxembourg, these four countries, where rivers have burst their banks, thanks to a low pressure weather system that has been lingering over this part of Europe for some time, dumping, as you said, heavy rainfall.

We are talking about 200 millimeters in just nine hours. The rivers haven't been able to absorb that big burst, the banks with tragic consequences.

In fact, just to point, one of the most populous parts of Germany is one of the two regions where the death toll is the highest, North Rhine-Westphalia. Two regions in Germany, in particular, have been affected and that has prompted the loss of nearly 50 lives so far, but as you pointed out, schools of missing people at this point. Authorities just can't reach because mobile phone networks are down. That means that the death toll could well rise higher.

In the meantime, these are the scenes that greeted Germany and those other countries, and ones Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was watching from afar, because at the moment, she finds herself in Washington on a state visit.


DOS SANTOS: Torrential rains and severe flooding are causing havoc across Europe, leaving dozens dead and extensive damage in their wake. Rivers overflowed their banks, houses collapsed, roads were washed away, and a muddy mess left behind. Parts of Germany received over 200 millimeters of rain in just nine hours. Two firefighters are among the dead there. Others left with nothing.

EDGAR GILLESSEN, FLOOD VICTIM (through translator): All these people living here, I know them well. I feel so sorry for them. They have lost everything. All they have is what they had on them. It's all gone. Our friend had a workshop over there, nothing standing. The bakery, the butcher, it is all gone. It's scary, unimaginable.

DOS SANTOS: This is dramatic scene in Western Germany as some people left stranded on their rooftops were rescued by helicopters. Across the border in Belgium, this man braved the water to check on his neighbors, water nearly reaching his windows. The village of (inaudible) devastated, homes have collapsed, and cars were swallowed up by the rising water. One man says he is worried about his family.

CYRIL HENIN, FLOOD VICTIM (through translator): My mother was stuck in a house over there with my brothers and sisters. The walls of the house are starting to crack. The house is at risk of collapsing.

DOS SANTOS: In the Netherlands, a care home was evacuated during the storm. Dutch authorities helped to get elderly residents to safety. The facility could lose electricity and other supplies.

Visiting Washington on Thursday, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she is thinking of those in her homeland.

ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): These are terrible days for the people in the flooded areas. My thoughts are with you, and you can trust that all forces of our government, federal, regional and community, collectively, will do everything under most difficult conditions to save lives, alleviate dangers, to relieve the stress.

DOS SANTOS: This as she ordered the Germany's military to help in some of the hardest hit areas. A German meteorologist says that in some areas, they haven't seen this much rainfall in 100 years. And the country is in for more bad news.


DOS SANTOS: Weather forecasters say additional rainfall is expected in Southwestern Germany in the days to come.


DOS SANTOS (on camera): That type of help will really be needed there. Fifteen thousand German troops have been deployed to some of these stricken areas to try and help rescue people from those crumbling buildings, John.

We have also, as you said, had support from the Italian Air Force and also France as well. The U.K. stands ready to help, it says. Messages of condolences have been flooding in from Vladimir Putin of Russia to Pope Francis.

The reality, though, is that Germany will need an awful lot of money to rebuild once this rescue effort is underway. This is also going to, as you pointed out, reenergize that really, really heated debate of climate change in Germany as we head towards the elections in the fall, on the 26th of September, and of course, this is Angela Merkel's last year in office, John.

VAUSE: A lot is happening. Nina, thank you. Nina Dos Santos, live at this hour in London. We appreciate it.

Let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam for more on this. Okay, so, it has been raining there for days. What is the forecast looking like? Is the worst over? What can they expect?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Yeah, the worst of the rain is starting to move to the south, but that doesn't mean that the precipitation is done. But, you know, just going in piggyback on what Nina said just a moment ago, it's this high energy, very sudden torrents of summer rain is what we would expect to see in a warming climate, a rapidly warming like we are experiencing now.

Warmer air can hold more water vapour. Water vapour has a potential to unleash more rainfall. When that intersects with the populated area, we have problems. Unfortunately, that is exactly what took place.

Copernicus, which is the atmospheric monitoring system in Europe, they went into emergency mode once the floods begun, and what they did is they started to map out the flooded areas.

You are looking at least in Belgium. This is the Meuse River that runs to the northern south through this particular town. The area of light blue, that is actually the area where the Meuse River flooded -- over- flooded its river bank. So, you can see just the extensive nature of the flooding within just this town in Belgium.

But that wasn't the only location hit hardest. We went back 48 hours on the radar and this is the precipitation that actually took place. Look at how it just trains over the same location for several hours at a time. Belgium, Western Germany, Luxembourg, those are the areas that were hit hardest by this torrent of precipitation, all thanks to what is called a cut off, low pressure system.

This is water vapour energy, and you can see how the low spins in the same location. It is cut off from the general flow of the atmosphere, so it has nowhere to go, it sits in the same location, and that is what produces this excessive amount of rainfall totals, over 200 millimeters in nine hours.

In Cologne, Germany, just for instance, they averaged -- nearly doubled the July monthly average for that particular location. Look at that dip in the jet stream, that creates that cut off flow and it piled cars up like toy cars.

In fact, we did some of the math here. It only takes roughly about 15 centimeters to -- for a person to be swept off their feet by moving water. But 60 centimeters of moving water can actually flow the vehicle and send that coming down some of these roadways which turned into rivers during that torrential flood event. John?

VAUSE (on camera): Yeah. Okay, Derek, thank you. We appreciate the update. Derek Van Dam there with the very latest.

Well, A NASA study is warning that coastal flooding will be much more frequent by the mid-2030s. That's not just because of rising sea levels from climate change. In the middle of the next decade, an 18.6- year lunar cycle will flip into a phase that amplifies tides. It is called the moon's wobble.

That means high tides will get higher, low tides will get lower. The phenomena along with expected climate-driven rise in sea levels by then will mean that some coastal cities will see flood season lasting a month or longer. During this time, experts say affected areas could flood every couple of days.

Earlier, I spoke with atmospheric scientist about the lunar cycle and how much worse this could all make coastal flooding.


MICHAEL MANN, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: The sea level will be a little higher. It is definitely increasing. In fact, it's accelerating. The increase is speeding up. That will continue as long as we continue to warm up the planet. And so what is happening is something we actually saw with Superstorm Sandy.

Superstorm Sandy struck New York City at the peak of the high tide. And so it was sort of a perfect storm, if you will, if you pardon the expression. You got sea level rise, you got a bigger, stronger storm than we have seen, that far north, so far north that late in the season. And it happened at high tide.

All of those things came together to give us that 14-foot storm surge at Battery Park that literally flooded large parts of upper Manhattan. And so this is sort of the same idea, but it's playing out on a longer time.


MANN: You got sea level rise, you got stronger and stronger storms and bigger storm surges, and then just because of that natural cycle, not a short-term high tide but the sort of the (INAUDIBLE) high tide, it is going to add to all of those storm surges along with sea level rise.

And that is what happens. It gets a little higher, each time, and all it takes is a few extra inches to flood larger and larger areas. In fact, the 12 inches of sea level rise in New York City thus far because of global warming, a little less than 12 inches, that led to 25 square miles of additional flooding with Superstorm Sandy.

So now we are talking about that same phenomenon but writ large along the coastlines of all of the major continents and low-lying island nations as well. It is a global effect. And so coastlines around the world, coastal communities around the world.

Again, the big problem here is climate change, sea level rise, bigger storm surges from larger, stronger storms. But this is going to give it that extra little bit of -- you know, just a few extra inches is enough to potentially flood far larger regions. And so it is a reminder that there are little surprises in store here and they are generally not pleasant surprises.


VAUSE (on camera): Thanks to Professor Michael Mann. Now, coming up here on "CNN Newsroom," the delta variant is wreaking havoc across Africa. Ahead, the desperate measures in some countries to save their health care systems from collapse.

Also, the World Health Organization says the danger from the pandemic is far from over. No country should be trying to write off the coronavirus, at least not yet. We will have more on their warning in just a moment.


VAUSE (on camera): Health care systems across Africa are feeling the strain of a surging number of new COVID infections, all made worse with fewer than two percent of the continent's population fully vaccinated. This week, COVID-19 deaths are up 43 percent across the continent. The WHO warns hospitalizations are rapidly increasing. Oxygen and intensive care beds are becoming harder to find. Some countries like Rwanda have ordered new lockdowns.

CNN's Larry Madowo has more on the grim outlook, reporting in from Nairobi.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rwanda's 10-day lockdown, which begins Saturday, will be one of the strictest in all of Africa. People are required to stay at home and not leave. There will be no public gatherings, no public transport, and businesses are closed except for essential services.

The minister of health in Rwanda is saying that 60 percent of new cases are of the highly transmittable delta variant. Rwanda is dealing with the third wave of coronavirus cases and has seen a positivity rate of 17 and a half percent. But Rwanda is not alone.


MADOWO: There are restrictions to other parts of the continent. Uganda is on the backend of its own restrictions and Tunisia's health care system has essentially collapsed and is now reintroducing a lockdown of its own.

The World Health Organization says week on week, there is a 43 percent increase in coronavirus deaths, and Africa has had eight consecutive weeks of increases in coronavirus cases. This is not now at a point where Africa has seen six million coronavirus cases. That last million was hit in just the last month. That's the fastest figure to get to that million. The previous million took about three months.

The big problem for Africa is that there are not enough people vaccinated. Only 1.5 percent of the African population is so far vaccinated, and that means that there might be restrictions again and again as the delta variant spreads. So far, it has been found in 21 countries.

While parts of the west see protests over mandatory coronavirus vaccinations, many in Africa do not have that luxury. If they have these vaccines, they could get their lives back to normal and begin to rebuild after his pandemic. But that is not just an option that is available to so many in this part of the world.

Larry Madowo, CNN, Nairobi.


VAUSE (on camera): For wealthy, vaccinated nations, it may seem the pandemic is almost in the rear view mirror. Normalcy is fast returning. But the WHO is warning the world is still in the grip of a public health emergency which is far from over, especially with the highly contagious delta variant driving global infections. Numbers are rising in the United States, Northern Africa, Europe, Australia, Middle East as well as Asia. Many countries still have no access to vaccines.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WHO: The committee has expressed concern that the pandemic has been mischaracterized as coming to an end when it's nowhere near finished. It has also warned about the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control.


VAUSE (on camera): Dr. Scott Micovich is a physician and national consultant for COVID-19 testing. He is with us this hour from Hawaii. It has been a long time since I've seen you. Thank you. Welcome back.


VAUSE: There are a few important points to restate, I guess, about the delta variant and just lay out the facts and what is of concern, what is not concerning. New hospital admissions for COVID are way down in many countries and countries mostly where the vaccine rollout had been underway for some time.

We know from a recent U.K. study that vaccines are effective against the delta variant. But we also know that 99.2 percent of COVID deaths in the United States last month were unvaccinated people. We will get to the long-term risks of all this in a moment. But right now, the biggest threat is to those who are simply not vaccinated either by choice or by circumstances or eligibility requirements. That's essentially where we stand at the moment, right?

MISCOVICH: Correct. Correct. And, you know, I listened to the WHO Warning and I think there is something I want to highlight that's so important. When we look at the delta variant right now, we are talking about something that's about 250 percent more contagious and spreads more that are not factor than the original coronavirus that was present. Think about that.

So what we have had is a virus that has found a way to mutate from that alpha, now we are up to delta, and the delta is so much more contagious. That's why we are seeing the problems that you are highlighting across the world.

Now, let me put that into perspective a little bit more. Everybody knows smallpox, right? Well, smallpox had this factor that -- this contagious factor that went anywhere from about four on up to six.

Well, right now, we are calculating the delta variant has a contagious factor of five to eight, meaning that every person who gets it can spread it to five to eight. That's serious. We know what that smallpox meant in the history of our planet. Each variant gets more and more contagious.

VAUSE: But the thing is with high school biology teachers, the virus can only evolve if it's replicating and transmitting, and this virus can only replicate and transmit in people who do not had been vaccinated.

So when you have large populations like Africa who have not got a single dose of vaccine, the virus survives and it means they can actually continue to evolve and change and mutate into something which is worse and deadlier and possibly even then evade the vaccines.

MISCOVICH: Exactly. The other thing that we have to look at is where does the mutation occur in a prime way? Anybody who is immunosuppressed, their immune system will often create a perfect environment for a new variant that will be a little more virulent to occur.

The second issue is, we don't talk about enough in our country and across the world, is the single shot. Many people have gotten one shot but are kind of hesitant to go get the second.


MISCOVICH: So you have this partial immune system that's now partially fighting the virus, which creates a perfect, perfect medium for the virus to mutate. So we cannot stop at single shots. We have to have people get completely vaccinated.

And as you just saw in the piece before, one percent, two percent of the entire continent of Africa, which is just getting devastated, we have a long way to go.

VAUSE: And this is why when if you can get vaccinated, if you have access to a vaccine, if you don't get it, it's a really dumb idea. That's why wealthy nations should be sharing their stockpiles of vaccines with nations where there is actually no supply, because if they don't get it, eventually it will always come back.

MISCOVICH: Yeah. I mean, that's why the wealthy nations of the world can't sit back and be complacent and say, well, we are getting our life back to normal. I shudder when I hear that term, getting life back to normal. Life is not going to get back to normal, as the WHO basically stated very appropriately today, until we find a way to get the world vaccinated.

But in the meantime, we are going to be pushing the end of the Greek alphabet because of the number of variants that can occur with these perfect environments that are occurring across the world. God forbid, you know, we are going to get the northern hemisphere and our cold and flu season to have increased spreads. We still have a long way to go, John.

VAUSE: Yeah. Scott, thank you for being with us. We are out of time. It does seem like almost a false dawn at the moment. We just have to get beyond that. It's good to see you. Thanks for taking the time.

MISCOVICH: Thank you.

VAUSE (on camera): At the beginning of this pandemic, it seemed children for some unknown reason were immune to the virus. They were spared the worst, but not now. In Indonesia, a shocking number of children under the age of five have died in recent weeks. Doctors are struggling to understand why.

We get more now from Atika Shubert.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After days of runny nose and fever, baby Zafran (ph) struggled to breathe. His mother, Karunia Sekar Kinanti, tells me she rushed him to the hospital.

I was shocked at what the doctor told me, she says. COVID had already spread to his lungs. His right lung was completely infected. And the doctor told me to prepare for the worst, to prepare burial arrangements. What mother is ready to hear that?

The number of children dying from COVID in Indonesia has quadrupled in recent weeks, according to the country's pediatric society. More than 550 have died since the start of the pandemic and 150 of those are in the last 2 weeks. Most of them have been under the age of five.

Doctors don't know exactly why, but attribute the quick spread to more contagious delta variant. Many hospitals here are already overwhelmed and running dangerously low on supplies, unable to provide the special care that children need.

Many parents here falsely believed children suffer only mild COVID symptoms, ignoring protocols and refusing to get their children tested, says Indonesia's top pediatrician. He warns parents need to test more frequently.

AMAN PULUNGAN, PRESIDENT, INDONESIAN SOCIETY OF PEDIATRICIANS: When they realized this is COVID, the condition is already bad. And when they take the children to the hospital, sometimes we do not have enough time to save these children. This is happening a lot.

SHUBERT (voice-over): On the island of Java, COVID deaths are outpacing coffin makers. Excavators frantically dig more burial plots. Here, many live a crowded hand-to-mouth existence. Isolating and working from home is just not possible.

Delivery driver Aris Suharyanto lost both his wife and newborn baby to COVID, unable even to attend their funeral. Although he never had symptoms, his voice cracks with emotion as he wonders if he brought COVID into the home.

Even now, when I think of my wife, I still get sad, he says. The children are already carrying on as normal. But me, I still cry on my own, and I do regret things. But I just never imagine that this could happen, he says. Vaccines are the only way out of the crisis for now and over the weekend, a fresh batch of Moderna vaccines arrived, donated by the U.S., three million doses, but that is a drop in the bucket for what the country needs, and young children are not yet eligible for the vaccine regardless.

Karunia has already lost her own mother to COVID. Now, she is determined that she and baby Zafran (ph) will defeat the virus.

You are very strong.


SHUBERT (voice-over): What's important is that I keep healthy, she says, because if I get sick, everything falls apart. There won't be anyone able to take care of the kids recovering and building immunity to a disease that is endangering Indonesia's children.


SHUBERT (voice-over): Atika Shubert, for CNN.



VAUSE: Welcome back to our viewers from all around the world. I'm John Vause. The death toll has now climbed to at least 117 after days of unrest and mayhem in South Africa.

Ten thousand soldiers were deployed Thursday morning to help restore calm after widespread looting and vandalism. Authorities say some cities are seeing relative calm after days of the worst violence of the post- apartheid era.

Protests erupted last week when former President Jacob Zuma surrendered to the authorities to serve a 15-month long jail term. But it all turned into mob violence in several cities and police have made thousands of arrests.

CNN's David McKenzie is live in Durban, South Africa for us this morning. So, David, what are you seeing there? What is the situation?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a lot calmer now, John, but if you just look behind me, this is the aftermath of many days of unrest and rioting and looting. We are in a predominantly Indian neighborhood of South Africa. That's irrelevant because there have been criticisms that there was racial profiling during the attempts by citizens to save their communities and their shopping malls.

There were very disturbing scenes where I'm standing right now. You now, a gentleman I just spoke to said this car is not a car of anyone just passing by. They were suspected looters, that they checked them, they pulled them out of the car, they chased them away, and then they torch the car. For South Africa, that is always a place where there are divisions. It's been a very difficult period, of course, a huge loss of life. I spoke to someone from this neighborhood last night who said they had to do this to protect their livelihoods.

MOHAMMED SAYED, DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICAN RESIDENT: Yes, I do understand with regards to what vigilantism is. But the thing is with regards to the situation that we are currently experiencing is that we do carry firearms only to the sake of protecting ourselves, our family and community.

Every firearm is a licensed firearm. It's only to make sure that only if this combat or anything, you know, somebody had to most probably come to the area, to our community and tried to fire shots, we have the ability to defend ourselves.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): You have experienced, you've told me, of people driving by and shooting at this neighborhood. Did you think it would ever happen? That this moment would happen in South Africa, this kind of chaos?

SAYED: Absolutely not, never. I am basically, you know, to the extent of understanding, when we look at the situation, it seems like you only see this on TV.


SAYED: You know it's disappointing because the kids are experiencing this here. And we as a community, with all due respect, we have people that are also so much afraid but you just got to keep that situation behind you and stand firm and in front, on the front line to protect the weak behind us, which is our families.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So John, despite it being calmer here in Durban, there are still people all over the city this morning that we've witnessed keeping barricades up. They just don't trust the state to protect them. And word just coming out now the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa will be heading down to this part of the country, I think, to calm tensions, and in their view to move on from this terrible violence. John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN HOST: One question that we have, this is one of the largest troop deployments, 25,000 troops since the end of the white rule era, if you like. It seems to be taking them an awful long time to bring this under control. And even though it is calm in some cities, there's still unrest elsewhere and particularly in Durban where you are, a lot of reports of anger and violence.

MCKENZIE: Well, yes, I mean, I think there was definitely overnight some reports of violence. We were in an industrial area where they were gunshots still ringing out. So this is not over. But I do believe that unless there is a turn, it is calming down. And you ask a very good question. Why did it take so long, so many days to get the police out in force, but more importantly, the military out in force? And I think you touched on a john, part of the issue, the reticence I

think from the government is those images of the military in neighborhoods across South Africa and protecting malls, is very reminiscent of the dark days of apartheid. There would be - to take a huge amount to get them out on the streets, but it did. And people all over this country, we've been speaking to say it took too long, took too late.

And by the time they're out there, the damage is done. John.

VAUSE: Yes. Good point to finish on. Thank you, David McKenzie live for us in Durban, South Africa. Appreciate it.

Well, Cuba is taking some diplomatic heat for the U.S. on the heels of those big demonstrations. 1000s of Cubans took to the streets in recent days holding large rallies, the largest rallies in decades. They're protesting against the shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties, and Cuba's COVID response. But now the U.S. President Joe Biden, piling pressure onto Cuba's government with was essentially a verbal slap in the face. Our man in Havana is Patrick Oppmann.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The war of words between the Biden administration and Cuban officials continues to heat up after President Joe Biden at a news conference on Thursday said he thought Cuba was 'a failed state that represses its people.' He offered to restore the internet that the Cuban government took down following the unprecedented protest this week, even offered to send vaccines to Cuba but only if an international organization administered those vaccines, that he doesn't trust the Cuban government to do so.

Cuban officials have already been hitting back saying that they make vaccines in Cuba, they don't need any from Washington, and that Biden should butt out of Cuba's internal affairs. Earlier, Biden had said that he wanted Cuba to get out of the way of the protest, not stop them anymore, not to take down the internet. But Cuban officials have defied his demands.

They've continued to crack down on the protesters, they suspended much of the internet here. There's still certain social media sites and other sites that Cubans cannot access to keep them from organizing protests and - and uploading photos. So the Cuban government's position remains very, very clear that despite whatever is said by the U.S. president, they will continue they say to do whatever is necessary to defend the revolution. Patrick Oppmann, CNN Havana.


VAUSE: Well, CNN has obtained new video which shows the alleged assassins of Haiti's president trying to avoid arrest. Local journalist ventured into the area where he encountered two of the suspects hunkered, down on the side of the road. He then made it up straight to a building where most of the Colombians had fled.

Three of those suspects were later killed in a shootout with Haitian police. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has declined to comment on an allegation that some of the Colombians expected to be - expected to detain President Moise and hand him over to the DEA. But Colombia's president now claims at least a few of them knew that Moise was to be killed.

Lebanon is headed deeper into political crisis after the Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri quit. He announced his resignation, Thursday saying the president rejected his latest cabinet lineup, but the president's office said Harari probably would have quit either way. Protests broke out immediately after that announcement, the country's economy has been in freefall for more than a year. It's currency lost another 10 percent on words of Hariri's announcements. Some protesters say they just don't have a lot of hope left.


WISSAM AL SANEH, PROTESTER (through translator): The country is burning. The dollar has reached 23,000 lira. There's no milk, no medicine, no fuel, no food, no chicken, no meat. The poor can't even afford pasta and yogurt. Where are we heading after that? The least we could do is close the country and sit. We are dead either way.


VAUSE: Well, just a week away from the Tokyo games and Japan is in the final sprint to being the World Olympics like no other. But why the organizers are so determined to hold these games. We'll talk about that in a moment.



VAUSE: Well, the biggest sporting event of the world just one week away, actually seven days four hours 22 minutes and 39 seconds. Olympic organizers are pushing ahead despite a surge in COVID cases, anti-Olympic protests and a ban on spectators in Tokyo. A series of setbacks has left many fans incredibly disappointed but for two men, these let downs are deeply personal. CNN's Will Ripley has their stories.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Japan's Olympic Stadium, a symbol of the trouble Tokyo games. And for (Juno), a reminder of the home he lost. (Juno) got an eviction notice in 2013 when Japan won the 2020 bid, a year of national triumph and personal loss. Around 200 families, mostly senior citizens evicted their housing complex demolished five years ago, replaced by Tokyo's multibillion dollar 68,000 seat showpiece.

A bitter pill made worse because it happened before.

(JUNO): I was born about there.

RIPLEY: That stop sign? (JUNO): Yes.

RIPLEY: Oh. There that stops. He points to a stop sign where his childhood home used to be. It was also torn down to build Tokyo's 1964 Olympic Stadium rising from the ashes of World War II.

(JUNO) (through translator) : The first Olympics was during the reconstruction period. We were happy to cooperate he says but this time we were treated without compassion.

RIPLEY: (Juno) thought it was too soon for Japan to host another Olympics. And that was before the pandemic. The stadium that cost him his home will sit virtually empty during the games. The first spectator ban in Olympic history. Tokyo is under a fourth COVID-19 state of emergency.

Cases surging, vaccination rates low. A recent poll shows nearly eight in 10 Japanese don't want the games to go ahead. Kazunori Takashima calls it mass hysteria, a self-described super fan. He's been to every Olympics since Torino in 2006.

He says the decision to ban spectators is based on emotion, not science. Takeshima has 197 reasons to be angry. That's how many tickets he bought for Tokyo 2020 spending nearly $40,000, the spectator ban crushing his dream of a world record for attendance.

To be honest, all I have now sadness, he says. Looks like a storm coming.



RIPLEY: As Takashima talks about his heartbreak, the skies open up. It's raining right now he says the God of the Olympics is angry. I think it's a sign. It's not too late to allow spectators. An Olympic dream about as distant as a sunny day. Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo.



VAUSE: David Wallechinsky is an Olympic historian. He joins us now from France. So, David, every four years, I get to catch up with you. And we talk for a bit so it's good to see you.

DAVID WALLECHINSKY, OLYMPIC HISTORIAN: Good to see you. Good to hear you.

VAUSE: Absolutely. OK. There was a recent survey, you know about this, a worldwide majority in favor of canceling the Olympics. The IOC taking a page out of the adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the eighth dimension, insisting the show must go on. And I reckon I can give you about 4.3 billion reasons, why. Is it all just about the revenue of the sale of the TV rights? WALLECHINSKY: Yes, that's pretty much it. I mean, I'll give a certain

credit to Thomas Bach, the President of the IOC, who was the first president of the IOC was actually an Olympic champion. And so he knows that the athletes want to compete. In fact, since the modern Olympics began, 73 percent of the athletes only competed in one Olympics.

So you missed that one and most of the athletes are going to go out. At the same time, this really is about television rights because why are the Olympics being held? Forget about the pandemic. Why are they being held in July, August, where it's superhot in Tokyo? When the Olympics were held in Tokyo in 1964, they were held in October, because that was the best month for the athletes.

Television wasn't so important back then.

VAUSE: How times have changed. Yes, this all adds to a long list of black marks, if you like against the IOC. Studies found the Olympics almost always ended up being a financial disaster for the host city. Tokyo budget is $7 billion, there are reports it could cost them close to $28 billion. So we get to the point now where you start asking this sort of question, why have the Olympics in the first place?

What advantages, what's the benefit of these boondoggles?

WALLECHINSKY: Well, first of all, whenever media from host cities asked me what is going to be the legacy of our games, I always tell them debt.


VAUSE: That was Olympic historian David Wallechinsky speaking to me just a short time ago. Well what appears to be $41 million worth of cocaine has been seized or disguised as charcoal. It was a joint operation between Irish and Dutch authorities. The Irish police saying the drugs were found at the port of Rotterdam and shipping containers - in shipping containers which came from South America. They believe the drugs were on route to Ireland.

Authorities in Spain made a similar bust in recent days, and they say it takes a complex chemical process to make cocaine look and smell like ordinary charcoal. There you go. I'm John Vause. More CNN Newsroom in about 15 minutes, but in the meantime, World Sport is up next. Thanks for watching.