Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Haiti Devastated by 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake; Sweeping Taliban Gains Follow 20-Year U.S. Mission; Taliban Seize Key Afghan City of Jalalabad; Teams Search for Missing after Turkey Floods as Death Toll Climbs to 44. Aired 1-1:30a ET

Aired August 15, 2021 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello, welcome to our viewers all around the world, appreciate your company, I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Haiti grapples with a powerful earthquake, hundreds of people dead in a nation, already in crisis.

Afghan civilians, on the run as the Taliban tighten their control over Afghanistan.

And, millions of people, urged to seek shelter in Japan.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOLMES: Haiti is under a state of emergency, following a devastating earthquake that has killed hundreds of people. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake striking around 125 kilometers west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Saturday morning.

At least 304 people, now, confirmed dead. Thousands of others injured. But there are grave fears that the death toll could rise much higher, possibly in the thousands. And there's more danger on the horizon with a tropical storm on the way. CNN's Patrick Oppmann, with the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Scores of Haitians are dead and many more are missing or injured following a powerful earthquake that rocked that nation on Saturday.

The images are harrowing; people running from their homes, people running from buildings as they collapse down upon them. As well injured people, we have seen, have received medical attention outside because of the aftershocks continuing to rock Haiti. And it is just too dangerous for people to be treated inside hospitals, we are hearing are overwhelmed.

Haiti's new prime minister Ariel Henry is visiting the affected areas. He has only taken over control of Haiti in the last several weeks, following the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise in July.

So this is a country that continues to be rocked by calamity and disaster and the worst wave has not passed as of yet because tropical storm Grace has formed and is heading in the direction of Haiti.

It could bring heavy winds and rain, which could lead to mudslides and could further compromise buildings that have been structurally damaged and could collapse in the heavy rains.

So while this earthquake did rock Haiti on Saturday, aftershocks continue to impact the area where the earthquake hit and with this tropical storm on the horizon, the danger has not passed -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: The international community, pledging to help Haiti in its time of need. Chile, Mexico, Panama and the U.S., among the several nations vowing to send humanitarian aid. Colombia sending a search and rescue team to help with efforts. It is expected to arrive later today.

Meanwhile, Haiti's former first lady, whose husband was assassinated just last month, says her heart hurts for victims of the quake, adding, quote, "My brothers and sisters, we have to put our shoulders together, to come together, to demonstrate our solidarity.

"It is our togetherness that makes up our strength and resilience. Courage. I will always be by your side."

Even more trouble for Haiti can be on the near horizon. Tropical storm Grace could bring heavy wind and rain, to this already devastated nation, as soon as Monday. That, of course, could complicate relief efforts.

(WEATHER REPORT)

[01:05:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Akim Kikonda is the Haiti country representative with Catholic Relief Services and joins me now.

Thanks so much.

How bad and how severe is the impact there in Haiti on people?

Most of all, the people but also damage to poor infrastructure.

AKIM KIKONDA, HAITI COUNTRY REPRESENTATIVE, CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES: The reports from my team on the ground are that there is a lot of damaged homes, schools and churches and hotels and, of course, our road infrastructure has also been impacted.

And as you can imagine, with such a level of destruction, there have been a lot of casualties and injuries. And the hospitals are overwhelmed as we speak now.

HOLMES: I'm sure. There are, of course, already needs that existed before this happened, from food security to COVID to the aftermath of the assassination of the president.

But with this latest tragedy for Haiti, what are the most pressing needs right now?

KIKONDA: I would say, from our perspective, the most pressing needs would be, first of all, shelter for those who have lost their houses. We would need to provide them with a place where they can temporarily stay because, as you may be aware, the country is expecting a tropical storm this coming week.

So we want to make sure that people are not sleeping outside when that hits the country.

And the second most pressing and urgent need would be for water and other hygiene items to prevent the emergence of water borne illnesses, like cholera.

HOLMES: Yes, and I imagine, with those infrastructure issues, it's difficult to even get to some of these places. And speaking of infrastructure, much of Haiti still has not been rebuilt after the last earthquake in 2010.

What is life like for Haitians, even before this?

KIKONDA: You know, life has been really tough here. Let me just take the past two months, not even going back to what happened in 2010.

Just this month of July, the country has dealt with the crisis of people who are displaced internally due to gang violence in and around Port-au-Prince. And you mentioned the assassination of the president.

And we had tropical storm Elsa last month. And COVID, of course. And now here we are with the earthquake, we had the storm last -- I mean, this week actually, on Tuesday. And we are expecting another one next week. So life has really been tough for Haitians and, yes, people have struggled to keep up.

HOLMES: It really has been a tragic -- years really, for Haiti and for Haitians. And thank goodness, organizations like yours are there and we hope we are getting what you need. Akim Kikonda, thank you so much for your time.

KIKONDA: I really appreciate you having me on, Michael. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Still to come on the program, thousands flee for safety as the Taliban sweep across Afghanistan. The latest provincial capital to fall -- when we come back.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:10:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOLMES: Now the Taliban have seized Jalalabad in Afghanistan, leaving Kabul as the only major city still in government hands. This news coming as U.S. President Joe Biden has authorized sending 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan. That is on top of 4,000 already cleared for deployment.

They are meant to help get U.S. personnel and their allies out of the country, as this Taliban offensive rolls on. With the fall of Jalalabad, the militants now hold at least 23 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals.

They've also sacked the key hub of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north. Thousands of people trying to escape the Taliban have fled to Kabul. And that is putting even more pressure on a weakened government surrendered by enemies. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani had this message for his country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Though I know that you are concerned about your present and future, I assure you that, as your president, my focus is on preventing further instability, violence and displacement of my people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: CNN's Cyril Vanier has reported on Afghanistan, he's tracking events from London for us.

Cyril, this apparent fall of Mazar-i-Sharif and apparent commercial hub and now the apparent fall of Jalalabad, even closer to Kabul.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is all moving at lightning speed, Michael. In the hour that we have spoken, we have been able to confirm the fall of Jalalabad. This means now that the capital city, Kabul, is essentially surrounded by Taliban-controlled territory.

And the capital is now the only large city under Afghan government controls. The more than two-thirds of the provinces and the provincial capitals are now under the control of the insurgents.

In the case of Jalalabad, like in so many other cases, it wasn't until after a hard fought, protracted battle the city was surrendered by the local government officials and security forces. And look, there's morale that plays into this as well, Michael.

As the Taliban gained momentum and their advance starts to appear inescapable, well, you have government forces and security forces that, city after city, start thinking, why are we fighting for this?

It's not worth putting our lives at risk. And that's why you're seeing, over the last 48 hours, even 36 hours, so many cities falling into the hands of the Taliban, often without a shot being fired or least without long, protracted battles.

And I'm now hearing from a contact in Khost Province, north of Kabul, that there was a government announcement over loudspeakers, telling people to lock shops, go home, stay inside. So clearly, the fighting and the threat from the Taliban is getting closer there as well. That's the situation as we speak, Michael.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, the U.S. flying in 5,000 troops, which doesn't sound like an orderly withdrawal.

[01:15:00]

HOLMES: It's twice the number they pulled out of the country.

VANIER: Absolutely, and intelligence sources have acknowledged to CNN that they were taken by surprise by the speed of the Taliban advance. They miscalculated, I think that is plain now for everyone to see, given how quickly the Taliban seized territory over the last week.

And there's no better indication of what the U.S. think may happen to Kabul than what they've done over the last three days. On Thursday, it was plus 3,000 troops; now it's plus 1,000 troops. That's four battalions that are being sent to Kabul just over the past 3 days and there are more that are on standby.

They are there to protect civilian personnel from the embassy, that are leaving the embassy. They are still counting on leaving a core diplomatic presence. But even that is being reviewed and the situation is being considered quote-unquote "fluid."

That is really just bureaucratic speak for, we don't know what happens next. And the mission of these troops has been expanded slightly. If you look at Biden's words, it is to protect the civilian personnel, protect the Afghans that they are flying out, Afghan interpreters who helped the armed forces.

But also, this is the interesting part of the statement, protect people who are at risk from the Taliban advance. Now that's not clearly defined. That is potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, Michael.

HOLMES: Indeed and when it comes to the translators, a lot of them are going to be left behind, because they're not in Kabul and can't get there. Cyril, thanks for the reporting. Cyril Vanier in London for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Retired U.S. Army Colonel Steve Miska is the author of the "Baghdad Underground Railroad."

He also served 3 combat tours in Iraq. And he worked with the White House National Security Council. He joins me now from San Clemente in California. Good to see you again, Steve; $83 billion in weapons, equipment and

training and, in the end, it led to this. We see the Taliban overrunning unmotivated Afghan troops, neglected by their government.

As a former commander, what goes through your mind when you see the enemy driving Humvees and MRAPs?

COL. STEVE MISKA, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Thanks for having me, Michael. The psychology of combat, which is something that all commanders focus on, is more important, in many cases, than the weapons of war and the training.

And as a commander, I focused on that, just as much if not more than the other aspects. With American soldiers as well as local nationals.

So we've seen that, you know, the withdrawal just really undermined the morale and had a huge psychological impact on not just our Afghan partners but also on our NATO partners, who also turned toward the door and left and that compounded the crisis for the Afghans.

HOLMES: Yes.

How upset are veterans -- and you are in touch with a lot of them -- about the waste, the ultimate failure of the mission?

And also how emotional is it for those who served to see what is happening there?

MISKA: We are animated, Michael. But what I would say most is -- and you saw the letter, as did the White House, that we sent last week signed by 16 veteran organizations that represent over 3 million veterans.

And it basically called on this evacuation. It called on us to allow us to live up to our ethos and get our Afghan -- not just special immigrant visa recipients but other vulnerable refugees out so that we could honor that commitment we made to them.

HOLMES: And to that point, we are seeing the collapse of the Afghan military that those veterans trained, of course. Veterans like you personally know people, they worked with, in some cases they have saved lives and they are likely to die because of bad planning in a rush to the exit.

There does finally seem to be some urgency to get U.S. allies out. And that's great. But I mean, it's months late and there will be people left behind.

MISKA: Absolutely. And, you know, you and I started talking about this four months ago. We've got days left though. And what I would like to say, is that the coming days are vital. And this commitment to 5,000 troops is extremely important.

And I'm grateful that the president made the decision because that not only is going to facilitate us to begin this evacuation, which will be vital, but it will give a little bit more leverage to our diplomacy. And maybe we can buy some time for Kabul and the Afghan government.

But it's -- there's going to be a lot of people left behind, Michael, you're absolutely right.

HOLMES: And before we finish, what is happening in Afghanistan, it was pretty predictable, once the West left. What wasn't predictable was the speed.

[01:20:00]

HOLMES: Do you think that ultimately that the U.S. should have left a force, perhaps 2,000 or 3,000 troops on the ground, to deter the Taliban, allow for targeted operations, things that can't be done without forces out of the country?

MISKA: You know, that small force that we had on the ground in April, when we made the decision to withdraw, it was only 2,500. We got double that going back in now.

But the importance of that force was the critical mix of capabilities. It was the special operators. It was the combat air controllers, the intelligence people that could direct drones in; the air assets that were based in country versus over the horizon.

Now you know, if you've got planes coming from seed bases or land bases out there, they've got a long response time to get there. They've got much less loiter time on target and it's a much harder problem set now.

So I agree. A small force could have not only kept us there and the Afghans there in the fight but it could have kept our NATO partners there and bolstered the Afghans with training.

HOLMES: Yes. Well, I know you're going to keep up the fight for those translators and others, who are stuck there, mired in this dreadful bureaucracy. Colonel Steve Miska, good to see you my friend.

MISKA: Thanks, Michael.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Now Turkey is looking to recover from its second natural disaster this month. We will have the latest on the damage left behind by deadly flooding. We will be right back.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOLMES: Japan dealing with devastating flooding. Authorities say, at least four people are presumed dead and two others missing, after heavy rain triggered landslides and mudslides. Hundreds of troops and first responders are deployed on rescue operations. Parts of Japan, receiving unprecedented amounts of rainfall. Public

broadcaster NHK, reporting that some areas have been hit by more than three times the average monthly rainfall just since Wednesday. And weather officials say it is not over yet.

Rain is expected to batter large parts of the country over the next week.

And Turkish rescue teams are searching for those missing in flash floods that swept through the country's Black Sea region. The death toll has climbed to at least 44. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh showing us the destruction left by the rushing waters.

[01:25:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By daylight, the extent of the damage is captured by a drone, flying over the frames of flooded out buildings, in one town, in Turkey. The floods began earlier this week, heavy rain causing rivers to breach their banks, sweeping away cars, debris, even the foundations of houses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The cars were all around. The floodwater, coming along with knee-deep mud. I told my neighbors, everyone, run, save your lives. The mud took over the town immediately.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Many people did not escape the rush of water. The health minister, saying that dozens died in the floods and emergency crews are searching through demolished buildings for the missing as families endure the anguish of waiting for any sign of their loved ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My aunt is missing. Her husband is missing. Her twin grandchildren are missing. The wife of our building manager is missing, along with their 2 children.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently visiting one of the worst flooded places and declared the regions disaster areas.

The devastation comes as another part of Turkey has been battling wildfires along the country's southern coast, the majority of, which are now under control. A country with extreme conditions on two fronts, each, bringing their own share of suffering and destruction -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: At least 20 people were killed when a fuel tanker exploded in Lebanon. The Lebanese Red Cross, saying that the blast happened in the northern Akkar province on Sunday, leaving at least 7 other people injured. No word on the cause but investigation is underway.

The Red Cross says that its teams have been dispatched to the area and they have been working to transport the victims to hospital.

Thank you for spending part of your day with me, I am Michael Holmes, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. "AFRICAN VOICES" is up next.