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Aftermath of Hurricane Irene; Mongolia Described

Aired August 30, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: The lights are up here on CNN Student News, but they`re out for millions of Americans on the East Coast. I`m Carl Azuz, reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

It only took a couple days for the storm to billow up the Eastern Seaboard, but it could be a long time before some places in its path get back to normal.

Some hard numbers for you: 3 million -- the number of Americans living without electricity; 700,000 -- an estimate of how many air travelers were ground because of the storm; billions -- monetary estimates for the damage caused. And here`s one reason for that.

Look at these floodwaters in Vermont. This is the state that really took the brunt of the storm, with virtually every waterway it has flooded. State police captain says southern Vermont is pretty much shut down. State`s under what could be its worst flooding since 1927.

Authorities here and in New Jersey had warned that the flooding would get worse in the days after the storm. The problems for so many other folks, well, you can see it in these pictures. Some power lines fell in Irene`s gusty winds.

Others were taken out by falling trees, some of those literally uprooted in the storm. Dozens of people died when Irene came through. Floods, falling trees, accidents, power lines, all of them to blame.

Another danger in a hurricane is its storm surge. This is this wall of ocean water that a system blows in. It can affect any stretch of coastline, but it`s particularly threatening to barrier islands, like the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

This is a thin strip of land, sitting between the state and the Atlantic Ocean. And because part of it was cut off, CNN`s Brian Todd had to take a helicopter to reach the area to file this report.

BRIAN TODD, CNN REPORTER: We did get some great aerial shots from our helicopter from the National Guard, as we went with them on a damage assessment mission around Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island. And we saw flooded-out roads, entire flooded neighborhoods.

One older home not only got hit with the hurricane, but caught on fire and burned down. Then we saw the reason why this place was cut off.

This incredible breach on Highway 12, running north to south, that connects Hatteras Island to some of the other Outer Banks barrier islands, which then connects those islands to the mainland through causeways, but this section of Highway 12, incredible. It looked like an earthquake hit it.

The road caved in, it was chopped up, there were power lines down. The Atlantic Ocean is now running over it, essentially. I asked a local resident, Matthew Williams, just what people were thinking.


TODD: But what`s the philosophy? Why do -- why do people like you stay through this?

MATTHEW WILLIAMS: I don`t know. I guess it`s -- I don`t know, you know, we -- we were -- we grew up here. The main thing is getting back. You know, when you`re gone, you know, you`re wondering what -- your belongings, your property, you`re wondering how it is, you know. It`s your whole life here, so it`s kind of hard to leave.


TODD: Now another resident told us that folks there have lived through stronger hurricanes, at least technically stronger -- Category 2, 3 and even 4 hurricanes -- that they`ve stuck around for.

But this same resident told us, even with that, he`s still never seen flooding like this. And they haven`t really had a breach on that highway since at least 2003, when Hurricane Isabel blew through. But that breach, we`re told, may be the most severe they`ve ever had.


AZUZ (voice-over): On this day in history, August 30th, 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Marshall served in the high court for more than two decades.

In 1983, Guion Bluford launched in history aboard the space shuttle Challenger, becoming the first African-American in space. Bluford later flew three more shuttle missions between 1985 and 1992.


AZUZ: A historic day for Japan could be on the horizon. It looks like the Asian country`s about to get a new leader. Yoshihiko Noda is currently the country`s finance minister. But Japan`s prime minister, its leader, quit his job on Friday because of the massive problems Japan faces.

Noda is expected to be voted in as Japan`s new prime minister today. He would be Japan`s sixth leader in five years. And his work will be cut out for him. Like the U.S., Japan is struggling economically.

What made things so much worse for the island nation were the earthquake and tsunami that hit in March. Japan`s trying to figure out a way to rebuild the tsunami-struck region, the nuclear crisis that started when some of Japan`s reactors overheated -- still a problem -- and Japan`s credit, its ability to get loans, has taken a hit, too.

Noda is calling for leaders to hold back from criticizing each other, and to work together to get Japan through this crisis.

We`re also keeping an eye on the Middle Eastern nation of Syria. Like several countries in the region, Syria has seen protests this year, people speaking out against their government. But Syria has reportedly cracked down on them, and hard.

We`re getting reports that government troops are arresting, attacking and killing some protesters. Now we can`t confirm a lot of this information, because Syria doesn`t allow outside journalists to cover news there. But Turkey, which neighbors Syria to the north, is now getting involved.

Turkey`s had a close relationship with Syria`s government in the past, but so many Syrians are running from the violence, crossing the border into Turkey, that the Turkish president says he`s lost confidence in Syria`s leadership. Over the weekend, a group of Arab leaders called for Syria`s government to stop the violence against its citizens.

Teachers, you know our website is awesome, but check this out. You can get a sneak peek at what we`re covering each day, delivered for free in your email.

All you gotta do is head to, look for the "How do I." box, which you see right there, and click ".sign up for the daily email?" It`ll give you a synopsis of what`s on the show and the blog. And you`re going to love it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time for the Shoutout.

On what continent would you find the country of Mongolia? If you think you know it, then shout it out.

Is it Africa? Asia? Europe or South America? You`ve got three seconds, go.

The Asian nation is home to more than 3 million people. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: OK, 3 million people, but they`re very spread out. Mongolia has one of the lowest population densities on the planet.

Tradition`s an important part of Mongolian culture, and this is where throat singing comes in. If you`ve ever heard it before, you`ve probably never forgotten it. And as CNN`s Stan Grant reports, traditional throat singers hope their style won`t be forgotten. Listen to this.


STAN GRANT, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): I won`t even try to describe this singing. Just listen.

On the shores of one of Mongolia`s largest lake, this is a rare treat, a performance by Tserendavaa, one of the country`s most revered throat singers. It`s a sound squeezed out of the back of the throat, but formed deep in the gut.

Throat singing is, first and foremost, human music, he says. To create the music needs power and strength.

Know that tune? It`s "Stairway to Heaven," but nothing like Led Zeppelin. Tserendavaa has taught his sons well. He`s glad they`re following the tradition, but not so happy about the modern twist they`re putting on an ancient sound.

I`m very disappointed, he says, that recently young people rock, pop style, changing our throat singing, because the basic characteristic of throat singing is lost in that way.

Well, try this. This is Altan Urag, a band that is taking Mongolian folk music, cranking the amps up to 10 and blasting it out to the world.

Of course, there was some criticism, but not very much, says Erka, the band`s leader. We are creating a new style based on our national instruments. So it caught the audience`s interest. The band formed a music school in 2002, now travels widely throughout Europe and Asia.

At the time we were setting up Altan Urag, Erka says, it had become just a symbol. Young people didn`t really listen to it. So we play our national instruments because we want to spread our national music to Mongolians, especially young people and, beyond that, to the world.

The instruments are the same. The music comes from the same traditions. But like everything in Mongolia, the past is giving way to the future.


AZUZ: There are just so many things you could do with Legos. But instead of seeing how they stack up, this artist decided to lay them out in the image of Mona Lisa. She`s so like the lady with the mystic smile.

It`s part of a Da Vinci exhibit at a Kentucky museum, and though a picture is worth a thousand words, this one took 12,000 Legos.

It`s hard to say what the original artist would have thought about seeing his work "blocked" out, but if he could "Lego" his ideas about traditional art, this would give him something to smile about, if that`s really what Mona Lisa was doing.

Tomorrow`s a blank canvas on CNN Student News. Join us then, and see what we come up with.