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China's Nanjing COVID Outbreak Extends to 10 Provinces; Australia's Queensland Extends Stay-at-Home Orders; Poorer Nations Face Vaccine Shortages as Wealthy Countries Sit on Surplus; Belarusian Sprinter Requests Political Asylum; Tunisian Swimmer Wins Gold Medal; Turkish Villagers Fighting to Stop Wildfire; Thousands of Migrants Stranded in Coastal Colombian Town. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired August 2, 2021 - 00:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome, everyone, to CNN NEWSROOM. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes.


Coming up, surging cases of the more contagious Delta variant and not enough vaccines. The world desperately struggling to contain the pandemic.

Refusing to be forced home against her will, a Belarusian sprinter seeks refuge in Japan, at least for now.

And apocalyptic scenes out of Turkey, where massive wildfires sweep the country's southern coast.

The highly contagious Delta variant, fueling global concerns and a growing surge in cases as more health experts warn things are going to get worse.

Now, let's have a look at the seven-day average with the U.S. among the countries seeing a jump in infections. To date, there have been nearly 200 million cases worldwide, more than 4 million deaths.

New outbreaks and the ease of transmission have some officials reimposing restrictions. And while vaccinations have been lagging, we are seeing an uptick in shots in parts of the U.S.

This coming as some countries look ahead to booster shots, or third doses, the U.K. preparing for a possible third COVID shot from September. It's part of an effort to prolong protection in those who are most vulnerable.

Now to Asia, some regions of India and China are struggling to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases. The Indian state of Kerala imposing a lockdown over the weekend after experiencing an alarming rise of infections.

On Sunday alone, Kerala reporting more than 20,000 new COVID cases, 56 deaths. And in China, officials trying to contain a COVID outbreak that started in Nanjing Airport but has now spread to at least 10 provinces.

CNN's Steven Jiang joins us now, live from Beijing to talk about that. Bring us up to date on the numbers and the concerns there, Steven.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well Michael, the latest figure we got from the government was on Sunday they recorded 99 new locally transmitted cases.

Now, this obviously pales in comparison to what we're seeing in many parts of the world, including the U.S., but here in this country, they haven't seen this level of infection for months.

That's why the central leadership has now sent a vice premier to Nanjing to guide and supervise local officials to deal with this outbreak. And this senior official was the same one that they sent to Wuhan in the beginning of the pandemic.

That's how seriously concerned they are about the threat of this cluster, which, of course, shows no sign of abating. Now impacting not just airport stuff but also airline crews, tourists, and travelers, as well as doctors and nurses across China.

That's why, increasingly, we're seeing officials reimpose draconian measures that we haven't seen for a long time, which means across the country, millions of Chinese people again are being confined to their homes as the government has designated more than 90 so-called high- and medium-risk areas.

Now, of course, this is also happening in the middle of the peak summer travel season, so we are seeing more and more tourist attractions and airports being shut down, as well as local officials, including here in Beijing, advising residents not to leave town.

And here in the Chinese capital, they have greatly tightened entry rules, basically banning people from high- and medium-risk areas from entering the city by suspending all transportation links to these regions. But as of now, though, there's little indication the leadership here is going to change their current approach of zero tolerance towards these locally transmitted cases. So we are expecting to see more lockdowns and a sharp decline in domestic travel in the near future -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Steven Jiang there with the update in Beijing, thanks.

Now COVID lockdown restrictions in Australia's Queensland are being extended another week. Initial stay-at-home orders were meant to run through Monday, but the state's deputy premier says the initial lockdown was insufficient.

This coming as the Delta variant is spreading significantly in the country's East Coast states.

Joining me now from Sydney is CNN's Angus Watson.

So Angus, where you are, we're going into the sixth week of Sydney's lockdown, and cases are still going up. What's not now working?

ANGUS WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, to give you a sense, Michael, of what the state government here in New South Wales is dealing with, it was around six weeks ago that this outbreak began with one case, an unvaccinated limousine driver who was shuttling aircrews from the airport to their hotels.


He tested positive. Six weeks later, three and a half thousand or so cases in this Delta outbreak here in Australia's largest city.

Now the government, as you say, has had that lockdown for six weeks, and of course, if that lockdown wasn't in place, the cases might be much higher. But it's not working in the sense that cases aren't going down.

Over 200 cases again today in Sydney, and this lockdown must continue until at least the end of August, the government saying now.

It's focused on lower economic, socioeconomic areas in the city's west and southwest. People there living paycheck to paycheck and needing to go to work, because that's where a lot of essential workers live, and that's where transmission is happening, Michael.

The government has this problem in that the places where the virus is moving, they just can't lock down. Pharmacies, grocery stores, freight companies. That's where we're seeing transmission that's very hard for the government to put a stop to that.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly.

I want to ask you. There's an extraordinary situation there in Australia of a mainstream network, Sky Australia, banned from YouTube for spreading misinformation, basically.

WATSON: That's right, Michael. Last week, Sky News Australia, which operates both on cable and free to air here in Australia, was issued a strike order by YouTube.

What that means is that they're banned for seven days as of last Thursday from uploading to their YouTube channel. That's because YouTube believes that they're spreading misinformation on COVID-19.

Now, the channel says that it's an attack on their freedom of speech. But Michael, this is a right-wing channel that runs editorials, which has attacked the politicians and the advisers to those politicians that are trying to keep this outbreak down here in Sydney, Australia. So many do welcome that kind of misinformation that's existing on the Internet now, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. It's surprising the official authorities haven't acted. It was YouTube. Angus Watson in Sydney. Appreciate it. Thanks.

Now, even as Australia extends its lockdown, England opening up. Beginning on Monday, fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. and the E.U. will not be asked to quarantine when they arrive in England, Scotland or Wales.

But they must be vaccinated with a shot approved by the E.U. or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. China's Sinopharm and Russia's Sputnik vaccines will not count.

Travelers will still be required to take a PCR test before departure and the second test within 48 hours of arrival. The Delta variant is driving a surge in new cases and hospitalizations all across the U.S. right now, every state reporting new -- more new infections compared to the previous week.

But the Centers for Disease Control says more than 99.99 percent of people who are fully vaccinated against the virus will not be hospitalized or die from it. That's the crucial statistic there.

The data highlighting what experts and officials have said for months. Vaccines are very effective at preventing serious illness and death, and it's the best shot of slowing down the pandemic, as well.

One encouraging sign: Saturday marked the fifth straight day of more than 700,000 shots in arms. Dr. Anthony Fauci saying, it's a start but still not enough.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't think we're going to see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter. But things are going to get worse.


HOLMES: Overall, slightly less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, New York City expected to announce updated masking guidelines in the coming hours. The city has been weighing whether or not to adopt the CDC's indoor masking recommendations.

And in Florida, coronavirus cases continue to go out of control, closing in on January's record high average for new infections. The state accounts for nearly one in five new COVID cases in the entire country.

CNN's Randi Kaye visited a hospital there and heard from one patient who says their entire family got COVID. None of them were vaccinated.




FRANCISCA: Yes. I cannot breathe good. I have shortness of breath. I feel sorry about not getting a vaccine.

KAYE: You're sorry you didn't get the vaccine. Do you -- do you think you would be here if you had gotten the vaccine?




HOLMES: And yet, despite the highly transmissible Delta variant, Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, continues to be defiant in the face of federal mask recommendations, issuing an executive order Friday to prevent mask mandates in schools.

And while the U.S. has been dealing with lagging demand for vaccine. Many other countries, of course, face desperate shortages. Less than 15 percent of the world is believed to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

And in many of the world's poorest countries, of course, fewer than one in 10 people are vaccinated. And at the current rate, it could take years for them to catch up.

The world's wealthiest nations have promised millions of surplus vaccine dosages to the World Health Organization COVAX program, but WHO officials say resources aren't being delivered fast enough, and the poorest countries, of course, pay the price.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. It is in our hands.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, the U.S. sending millions of doses of vaccine abroad, but many more are sitting unused as officials try to convince vaccine-skeptical Americans to get the shot.

In Israel, where more than half the population is fully vaccinated, people over the age of 60 are now being offered booster shots. That's a third vaccine dose, when many in the world are just desperate to get just one.

Thomas Bollyky is the director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. He's also the author of "Plagues and the Paradox of Progress." You see it there on your screen. He joins me now.

Good to see you again. I mean, let's start with this. Given the need to vaccinate the world, what do you make of Israel starting booster shots, third doses? Other countries like the U.K. planning or considering it, rather than having those doses go to underserved nations.

What's your thought?

THOMAS BOLLYKY, GLOBAL HEALTH PROGRAM DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Exceedingly dangerous in an urgent moment during the pandemic. The spread of the Delta variant, which is itself a much more devastating version of this virus than the original virus, is leading to the actions that we have seen in countries like Israel and others who are looking to eventually use booster shots.

At the same time, it's exacerbating the consequences of vaccine inequity in poorer countries. So this variant is ripping through Latin America. It's made Indonesia a hot spot of new cases and deaths from this pandemic.

It's spreading a third wave through Africa at a time where just 2 percent of the continent's population is vaccinated. At the same time, it's leading to a surge in the countries that have vaccines and making it less likely they're going to share worldwide. So it's very precarious.

HOLMES: Yes. The WHO estimates in low and middle-income countries, more than 85 percent of people, some three and a half billion, have not had a single jab. Given that, how do you -- how do you describe the pace of vaccine distribution to underserved donations?

BOLLYKY: It's very slow. The WHO has had a goal of seeing at least 10 percent of populations vaccinated by September. You know, 70 percent of Africa, for instance, is not going to reach that target.

Many other countries are not going to reach that target. And that 10 percent represents the most high-risk individuals in society, health workers, and they're going to go without vaccines.

At the same time, we're looking at having people receive three doses in wealthy countries, having doses going to adolescents and children in wealthy countries.

HOLMES: Yes. As has been discussed many times, I think we have discussed the variance developing in an environment where they reach rampant spread. So ironically, it's in the interests of wealthier nations to vaccinate poorer ones, isn't it, because those wealthier nations will suffer if a vaccine-defeating variant emerges.

BOLLYKY: That's right. And you mentioned right at the outside, which is a great question, about the issue of boosters. But it's not just boosters that are going to be an issue in high-income countries.

The fact that you're going to see cases surging there is going to make it difficult for political leaders to be perceived as engaging in a global problem while they still have a raging problem at home.

And that's really what we saw earlier in this pandemic, where countries like the U.K. or the United States may have had specific enough vaccines to start sharing them or were reluctant to do so until they had made enough progress at home that it was politically viable to see that sharing happening.

That's going to happen again now with the resurgence of variants in wealthy countries. That they're going to be reluctant to be perceived as having their gaze shift abroad when there are such problems at home.


HOLMES: It's a bit myopic, isn't it, when you look at the broader issue of how variants do develop. How, then, to convince those richer nations to pause on the notions of boosters or third doses, and share those doses with those in desperate need?

BOLLYKY: Political leaders need to educate their population. It's really what has to happen.

The Delta variant arose abroad from a U.S. perspective but also from a European perspective. It rose abroad and perceived to have arisen, initially, in India.

It could have arisen elsewhere. Variants arose -- and other variants arose in the U.S. and other regions of the world. It comes from, as you rightly noted, from unchecked spread.

The more infections you have, the more likely you're going to have mutations lead to variants that can be more transmissible. L

Leaders need to educate their population why it's so important to walk and chew gum at the same time. To address the domestic problems while we are trying to reduce the spread of this virus globally. But they've been slow to do that.

HOLMES: Yes. And -- and as we keep saying, it could come back to bite those wealthier nations in the end. It is -- it is short-sighted.

Thomas Bollyky, we've got to leave it there. Really appreciate your time, as always.

BOLLYKY: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

HOLMES: Quick break now. When we come back, she was supposed to run for her country at the Olympics, and instead, she might be running to escape. What we're learning about a Belarusian athlete's asylum request. That's coming up.


HOLMES: Day ten of the Tokyo Olympics, and try as they might, the games can't divorce themselves from global politics.

A Belarusian sprinter is asking for asylum. Kristina Timanovskaya says she's been forced to withdraw from the Olympics, and that officials in Belarus are trying to send her back to Minsk, where she's afraid she will be jailed.

We're tracking that story and all things Olympic.

Joining me now, WORLD SPORT's Patrick Snell, who's here in Atlanta. And Blake Essig in Tokyo.

Let's start with you, Blake. The latest on Timanovskaya?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael. Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya was supposed to be competing in the women's 200-meter race tonight, inside the new national stadium. Instead, on Sunday, the 24-year-old posted this video to social media, pleading for help.



KRISTINA TIMANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN SPRINTER (through translator): I asked the International Olympic Committee for help. I was put under pressure, and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent. I asked the International Olympic Committee to intervene.


ESSIG: Timanovskaya said she was given one hour to pack her things and was ordered to fly back to Minsk immediately. She was removed from competition, according to a statement reduced by the Belarus Olympic Committee, due to her emotional and psychological state, but the sprinter says that's a lie.

And this all happened just a few days after she posted a video, criticizing her coaches in the Belarus national sporting authority late last week.

She posted a video on social media where she alleged that she was included on a list to run the four-by-100-meter relay, behind her back and without her consent.

An event which she said she had not prepared for. Timanovskaya said she was forcibly taken to Haneda Airport by members of the Belarus national team.

Once there, she approached a Japanese police officer and said she would like to apply for political asylum.

Overnight, the sprinter was secured by police in a special shelter at the airport. And according to the International Olympic Committee right now, she feels safe and secure.

In an interview with Belarusian sports news site on Sunday, Timanovskaya said she fears arrest if she returns to her home country. Her current location in Tokyo is unknown at this time.

So far Japan, the Czech Republic, and Poland, have all offered the sprinter visas. We expect that she will likely decide today, where to apply for asylum.

Now, Michael, CNN has reached out to Timanovskaya and the Belarus Olympic Committee for comment, but we have received no response from either party.

HOLMES: An extraordinary situation. Blake Essig in Tokyo. Appreciate that.

We'll also cross all the sporting action where Patrick Snell is. Good to see you, Patrick. Great day for Italy.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, Michael. Yes, great to be back with you.

Let's just call this the summer of Italian sport. Right? And it just got a whole lot better. I'm referencing the country's football championship when it won the European championships last month in England. Now they can say they have, officially, the fastest man in the world.

Lamont Marcell Jacobs shocking the field, really, by winning the 100 meters. This marquee event, isn't it, for the Olympics. An incredible achievement for a man who is competing in long jump, until he switched three years ago. That's what's so remarkable about this story.

He's the first European, you know, to win the prestigious event since Linford Christie back in 1992. And he celebrated in the arms of his compatriot, Gianmarco Tamberi, who just won gold in the high jump, all of which leads me very nicely to that men's high jump competition.

And also, a really heartwarming moment from that. This caught the imagination of so many, and rightly so.

You know, there were actually two winners here, Tamberi and the Qatari jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim. They went against each other for two hours. They both made their best ever jumps, at 2 meters 37.

They were offered a jump-off, but no. In a wonderful moment of sportsmanship -- this is just fantastic -- they asked for two gold medals, splitting the prize, making history and, I imagine, friends for life now after this, Michael. They are the first joint winners in Olympic athletics since 1912.


MUTAZ ESSA BARSHIM, SHARED OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL: You know, once we finished with that 2:39 jump, he looked at me, I look at him. We just understood. There was no need to go. That's it. And it wasn't even a question.

GIANMARCO TAMBERI, SHARED OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL: I never thought I would never, ever share a gold medal with anybody else than Mutaz, because we passed. We were the only two athletes there past through the worst (UNINTELLIGIBLE) possible. And I know what he did to be back. He know what I did to be back. And you can't leave (ph) the emotion, the dream of the gold medal to somebody who sacrificed his entire life for this. And it was just amazing, and sharing with a friend is even more beautiful.

BARSHIM: Thank you. We're going to celebrate.


HOLMES: It is great to see a short time ago. Meantime, for the very latest, we can tell you Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn celebrating a very nice, beautiful golden comment.

This is after winning the women's 110-meter hurdles in a time of 12.37 seconds. Camacho-Quinn claiming Puerto Rico's first medal of these Olympics and second ever Olympic track and field medal. The United States' Kendra Harrison earning silver, and Jamaican Megan Tapper sealing bronze.

And, an historic moment in Greek sport, as well. And their Miltiadis Tentoglou winning the men's long jump gold a little earlier, a jump of 8.41 meters.

This, too, had a bit of controversy about it, because Cuba's Juan Michel Echevarria also jumped that distance, but Tentoglou winning it on a tie breaker, due to a longer second best jump.

This is Greece's first ever medal in the men's long jump. Michel, don't you just love these stories? Don't you just love that men's high jump story?


HOLMES: I was going to say, congratulations to Greece. Two gold medals for them. Two medals, and they're both gold.

But that high jump story is just fantastic. I mean -- I mean, we're living it all day. We've got to celebrate.

SNELL: Yes. Guess what, we have a WORLD SPORT, coming right?

HOLMES: Oh, I'll be watching. That's in about 20 minutes or so.

SNELL: Yes. Yes, we'll be there. We'll be broadening out all the top stories from Tokyo.

HOLMES: You'll give me a break. All right, Pat. Good to see you, my friend.

All right. One of the biggest stunners of the game so far, the Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hufnaoui winning gold in the men's 400-meter freestyle event. He's just the fourth athlete representing Tunisia to win Olympic gold in any sport.

And for a country rocked by political turmoil and the COVID pandemic, his victory was certainly welcome news back home.


HOLMES (voice-over): A hero's welcome for a Tunisian swimmer, who brought home Olympic gold, in a shocking win that surprised his competitors, the sporting world, and even himself.

Eighteen-year-old Ahmed Hufnaoui was the longest of long shots, the slowest qualifier for the men's 400-meter freestyle, but he outswam the favorites to get the gold, and even more stunning as he did it from the outside lane.

"I felt shivers when I heard the national anthem," Hufnaoui says, adding, "I'm very honored."

HOLMES: Tunisia's newest media star is a welcome distraction for the country, suffering from a stagnant economy made worse by a surge of coronavirus that is overwhelming hospitals.

And an escalating a political crisis, the nation's president recently dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament for 30 days. But despite the chaos and uncertainty, in government, many Tunisians celebrating Hufnaoui's win as a bright spot during a difficult period.

Even one of swimming's great, Michael Phelps, called the performance an unbelievable swim.

Neighbors poured out in the street to greet the newly-minted champion. As one man says, seeing him touch that wall first was a win for everyone.

"When I was watching, I cannot tell you how we felt at this final moment," he says. "This is the feeling of every Tunisian."

An underdog, going from lane eight to the top of the podium, giving much-needed hope to the country he returns to.


HOLMES: Good for him.

All right. A quick break. When we come back, a popular tourist spot in Turkey, evacuating thousands of people by vote, to escape raging wildfires. And in some places, residents are staying to fight for all they have. We'll have their story, coming up.

And also, the first provincial capital could soon fall to the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the fighting continues to force many Afghans from their homes. We'll have the latest on that, after the break.



HOLMES: Devastating forest fires have now killed at least eight people along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. More than 1,100 people had to be evacuated for the second day in a row on Sunday from Bodrum, a tourist hot spot.

Most of the evacuations done by boat to keep open for emergency vehicles. Now Turkish officials say more than 100 fires have started across the country since Wednesday. Farmers can only watch hopelessly as their land and livestock are destroyed. Others have seen homes built by hand burnt to the ground.

In one village, though, residents aren't giving up without a fight, as CNN's Arwa Damon reports.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gula Guchatkan (ph) can barely breathe, barely shout the words. Her father's land is burning.

"Let it burn. We're going to burn, too," Guchatkan (ph) responds. She's frantic. Where to go, what to do, what can they save?

For days, the flames have been leaping closer and closer to this tiny village on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. It's as if they're fighting a monster that keeps coming to life each time they dare to hope, it's dead.

"Everything is going to burn," Yezenia Katya (ph) tells us, mournfully. "Our land, our animals, our house. What else do we have anyway?"

Despite this being close to seaside tourist destinations, these villagers don't have much, and what they have, they cherish. They take pride in it.

A small band of men from here and other areas trudges through the easily flammable field. They take control of the firefighter's hose. It's so hot out, it feels like the water evaporates almost as quickly as it is sprayed.

Trees are felled to stop the flames from growing and sparks flying into other areas.

They are fighting a beast they may not be able to beat. The last of the children are sent away.

"How should I feel? We haven't slept for three days," this woman stops to tell us.

(on camera): There's so understandably frustrated (ph) and so angry they're actually finding our questions of how they're feeling, what they're thinking to be absolutely ridiculous. And I get it.

(voice-over): So what can one even think, even say when they are watching everything they own in life about to go up in flames?

Arwa Damon, CNN, Manavgat, Turkey.


HOLMES: And let's bring in meteorologist Tyler Mauldin with the very latest on the fires. What are you seeing, Tyler? TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I'll start with some good

news, Michael. And that's fire crews have been able to get containment on the majority of the fires ongoing in Turkey.

Since July 28, we've had 112 fires pop up. A hundred and seven of those are now contained. So just five of those 112 remain burning. And there are -- It's the fires that led to thousands being evacuated, fires large enough to be seen on satellite.

And you can see the smoke coming off the satellite here, courtesy of Copernicus. It wasn't just Turkey, though. It was also Greece. We saw dozens of fires over the last several days in Greece, as well.

The reason being, is there is a huge, extreme heat wave across southeast Europe. Temperatures running more than 10 degrees above average, in the low to mid-forties in this area.

We're talking the most dangerous heat, the most extreme heat being bottled up in Turkey, and in Italy, and the surrounding region. It's because of this heat dome that has set up camp, basically on top of the Balkan Peninsula.

And when you have this heat dome in place, it puts a lid on the atmosphere. It drops all that heat, and when the air sinks in the middle of this high pressure, it causes -- causes the air to the press even more. It causes that air to heat up even more.

We're not going to see these temperatures break down in the days to come. In fact, we're actually going to see the temperatures get even hotter. We could be pushing all-time record temperatures in some portions of southeast Europe.

It's not until this upcoming weekend, going into next week that we see temperatures finally cool off a little bit.

We also had this extreme drought, and we're not seeing anything in the way of weather systems coming into this part of the country.


As you can see here, very little in the way of rain here, so we'll continue, Michael, to see the heat. And we're going to continue to see relatively dry conditions for at least the next five days -- Michael.

HOLMES: What an outlook. Good to see you, Tyler. Thanks for that. Tyler Mauldin there.

MAULDIN: You got it.

HOLMES: Now, the Taliban are poised to seize their first provincial capital in Afghanistan. This is not good news. There is heavy fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces in Lashkar Gar. That is the capital of Helmand province.

Local journalists say the Taliban control several districts of the city already. The fighting is happening inside the city limits. The Afghan military has brought in special forces. There have been

some airstrikes. The battle continues.

The U.N. Refugee Agency says more than 3 and a half million people are being displaced by fighting across Afghanistan. We'll be talking about that more next hour.

Now, the U.S. says it is confident Iran is responsible for a deadly drone attack on a ship off the coast of Oman. The attack killed two people on the Mercer Street oil tanker last Thursday, a Britain and a Romanian.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was no justification for the attack. The U.K. and Israel also blames Iran.

Tehran denied any involvement on Sunday, but earlier a state-run news channel reported the incident was retaliation for a recent Israeli strike in Syria.

The tanker is Japanese-owned but managed by an Israeli-led company.

When we come back, thousands of migrants are stuck in Colombia. We're going to go to the small coastal town helping to get them to the U.S., however long that might take.


HOLMES: Welcome back. A coastal Colombian town is facing a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of migrants from a number of countries are stranded, hoping to make the long journey to the United States. Stefano Pozzebon reports.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice-over): It's barely dawn when a group of migrants start lining up for a seat on the boats that travel from the coastal Colombian town of Necocli towards Panama.

These pristine Caribbean beaches, usually packed with tourists from around the world, have recently become a passageway for thousands of migrants from all over South America, and even Africa, looking for better opportunities, thousands of miles away in the United States.

People from Haiti, Venezuela, Brazil and even as far as Ghana cross the Gulf of Uraba and then sent on a treacherous and violent journey through a 37-mile stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama, joining the thousands of other migrants heading to Mexico and then to the United States and ignoring the Biden administration's "don't come" message to migrants.


Here, we met Edem Agbanzo, a chef from Togo, who migrated to Chile to work as a gardener.

(on camera): And then -- and then the pandemic happened? EDEM AGBANZO, MIGRANT FROM TOGO: When the pandemic happened, it's like -- it's like, I don't know who was suffering.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Edem says this is his third journey seeking a better future. In 2018, he left his parents behind in his native Togo to move to Ghana to work in the kitchens. Then in 2018, he left Ghana and flew to the other side of the world to Chile.

Now, at 40, his hopes are set on another country.

(on camera): Where in the United States do you want to go?

AGBANZO: Georgia. Georgia, because I have some family in Georgia. And I hope that because the problem is that if you went to the border of the USA, the authorities are going to ask you some questions, and you have to -- they have to know if you have somebody in USA or no.

POZZEBON (voice-over): But the road to the United States is perilous. Minutes before recording this interview, Edem and his friend, Victor Tingaz (ph), discovered they had been robbed.

They had spent the night in a boat on the beach and found their belongings scattered and searched through. They had their passports and money with them, but some of their food was stolen.

Edem and Victor are waiting for the next boat ride, and like many others, had no other choice than spending the night on the beach.

Some were able to stay in hotels. A separate choice but an expensive one. Waiting here costs a lot when you cannot work and don't know when you will leave, says Georgina Declon (ph), a Haitian mother who lived in Brazil for six years before the pandemic and is now traveling with her two children.

In these remote small towns, transports are limited. There is just one boat company crossing the gulf from Necocli to the port of Copurgana, and they are completely sold out. Other boat companies are hours away.

EDWARD VILLARREAL, CARIBE SAS FERRY COMPANY: It's hard. We tried to transport, like, 800, 900 people per day, you know, but it's hard.

POZZEBON: The fare costs 20 U.S. dollars, and the company says it has a backlog of more than 8,000 migrants who have already paid their trip and are waiting for their turn. Some fear it might take up to 10 days to leave.

Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano visited last weekend, pledging the navy will provide a temporary pier to allow more boats to take migrants to the other side of the gulf.

(on camera): But the government's effort might be a little, and might be too late, as more migrants continue to arrive here in Necocli on a daily basis, putting a heavy load on this small community.

(voice-over): The few who have made it on the boat feel relief, but for all of them, this is just one part of the journey. AGBANZO: I think we're going on a journey to Costa Rica. Costa Rica,

we can go out to Nicaragua. And -- the other country.

POZZEBON: Hope is just a feeble flame at the end of the road.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Colombia.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching, everyone, spending part of your day with me. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @HolmesCNN. Do stick around, though. Patrick Snell with WORLD SPORT coming up next. We'll see you in about 20 minutes.