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Race against Time in the Philippines; Uncertain Fate for Detained Greenpeace Activists; Imagine a World

Aired November 13, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN HOST: Good evening and welcome to the program. I'm Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane Amanpour.

We begin tonight with hunger and desperation in the Philippines. Relief workers and the government there are facing a race against time to get aid to those who survived supertyphoon Haiyan.

More than 2,000 tons of rice have been delivered to the country by the World Food Programme, but it's clearly not enough. The government says more than 2 million people need help and the biggest problem is getting the aid that's coming into to remote destroyed towns and villages in the affected areas.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, is at the heart of the relief effort, and I'll speak to it director for coordination and response, John Ging, about the challenges the U.N. faces.

And Ging has more than one crisis on his plate; another humanitarian disaster, this one manmade, was blown from our consciousness by the typhoon. It's the situation in the Central African Republic, a country descending into violent anarchy. The civil war there has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

John Ging has also visited that region, and I'll ask him about the risk of genocide there as well.

But first we want to take you straight to the Philippines, where six days after Typhoon Haiyan struck, many people are still not getting what they need. Our own Anna Coren is in Cebu, where's she's looking at the international aid effort. She joins us now live.

And Anna, first of all, describe for me the situation on the ground. You're in a staging area there; has the situation gotten any better?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, you probably can see the C- 130 Hercules behind me that is currently being loaded with desperately needed supplies. We're talking about bags of rice, pallets of bottled water, medical supplies.

These planes will then head to those hard-hit regions which have been without aid, as you say, for now six days. It really is a dire situation on the ground.

This, I must say, is the first night where we've seen activity here at the staging ground. So it certainly is encouraging. Throughout the day, we've also had a lot of international planes land. The Americans have arrived, the Australians, there was even a military plane from Taiwan carrying in aid. So certainly there seems to be a much more coordinated international effort. There has obviously been complaints about how slow this has been running to date, you know, rather small-scale operation. Obviously logistics has been a huge problem, getting this aid to those remote and hard-hit areas. We have to remember the Philippines is an archipelago. It's made up of thousands of islands. And there are so many islands that have been affected. We flew into Guiuan in eastern Samar Province. It was the first township, Fred, that was hit by supertyphoon Haiyan. And the place was absolutely decimated.

As we were on the tarmac, people ran to the airfield begging for help, begging for supplies.

So this is the situation on the ground. They need aid and they need it now.

PLEITGEN: And you've been speaking to a lot of the people who are the victims of this storm. And as you said, there is a lot of despair. There's people who have no food nor water. But there's also looting; there's crime.

How big is the desperation of these people?

And are they angry at the government?

COREN: I think the fact that there are reports of looting really sets the scene. There's a report that we're only just getting in the last few hours of a rice warehouse that was stampeded. And during that rush of people, eight people were killed.

So this gives you an idea of the desperation. These people need these basic necessities. They need the food. They need the fresh drinking water. And they've been going without it for days.

So people are taking very violent approach to actually get what they need for their families. These people are homeless. They've lost absolutely everything. They're scavenging, they're salvaging whatever they can to make makeshift shelters. So really the international community needs to get its act together. The Philippines government and the military, they've obviously been trying to do what they can. But it's been disorganized, Fred, it really has been slow. So hopefully now that the international community is involved, that certainly things will run a lot smoother. And they'll also be able to get soldiers and police down to those areas and certainly restore law and order because I think in these desperate times, people definitely take desperate measures. And that is what we are seeing on the ground.

PLEITGEN: So we hope that the situation improves. Anna Coren, thank you so much for your amazing reporting there on the ground in the Philippines.

As a long-time veteran of humanitarian relief efforts, John Ging has served in crisis situations from Rwanda to Gaza. Now the Philippines is at the top of his agenda and he joins me live from New York.

First of all, good evening, sir. Thank you for being on the program. And I just want to get the broad picture from you of what's going on on the ground.

What do people need?

What are you able to supply to them that you haven't been able to supply in the past couple of days?

JOHN GING, OCHA, DIRECTOR FOR COORDINATION AND RESPONSE: There's about 11 people -- 11 million people affected by this supertyphoon. The scale of the devastation is quite unprecedented. We are estimating about 670,000 people now homeless and displaced and the basic needs, it's firstly food. But then it's of course clean drinking water, so you need the water purification tablets. They also need shelter. The whole infrastructure, housing, roads, communication, electricity, it's all completely destroyed in so many areas. And that's of course, presenting us with a major logistical challenge to get to the people. And that's why they're so frustrated that it's taking so long because it's very difficult to get to them at the speed that we need to get to them and that we want to get to them and that they need to get to them. But as your reporter, Anna, shows, we've now mobilized with our partners in the military the air assets, the aircraft and it'll be helicopters as well that will be -- will be the first responders in terms of the transport.

We've also got to get these roads cleared so we've got to get in the heavy clearing equipment to get the routes opened up as well.

PLEITGEN: And the secretary-general of the U.N. sent the undersecretary, Valerie Amos, over to the Philippines to coordinate the efforts and improve them. I just want us to listen in really quick to what she had to say earlier today.


VALERIE AMOS, UNDERSECRETARY GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS, U.N.: This is a major operation that we have to mount. We're getting there, but in my view it's far too slow. And part of what I'm here to do is to try to unblock any blockages that there are so that we can scale up our efforts substantially.


PLEITGEN: What's your response to that?

She says far too slow, far too little.

What can be done in the short term?

GING: Well, she's absolutely right. She's there on the ground. The more senior U.N. humanitarian official is actually on the ground with the people, living the experience with them, seeing exactly what the reality is.

And then working back from there, pushing the whole system. It's not just the humanitarians on our own. It's working with the international partners, as I said, like the large military forces who have these airlift capacities, to get it all coordinated and get -- pull it -- pull it together. That's what we're about now. It's not finger-pointing, but really pulling it in together in a way that actually gets out to these people in the -- with the supplies that they need to save lives in the first instance and then to stabilize the situation.

PLEITGEN: You're absolutely right. Of course it's not about finger pointing at this point in time, but of course we do need to ask; after the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004, the international community said we need to improve the responses to these disasters. We need to get relief to people faster, in a more coordinated way.

Did we learn anything from the tsunami in 2004? Are we in a better place? Are we better at this now?

GING: I would say that we are better. But we're not good enough. One of the biggest constraints that we have is that we can't fill the warehouses in anticipation of these disasters because we're overstretched worldwide. There are children starving in the Sahel. You look at Syria every day. We are chronically underfunded as a humanitarian community. And then when these natural disasters hit us suddenly, we don't also have the logistical or the supplies to hand. It takes us a couple of days to mobilize. And that's what you're now seeing.

But this is ultimately a matter of resources. And we talk the talk as an international community. But we don't walk the walk when we -- when it's putting the resources at the disposal to ensure that we can react instantly when these predictable -- but we don't know where they will occur -- disasters do occur annually.

PLEITGEN: We're talking so much about climate change as well. The Philippines are obviously one of the countries most affected by churches, and you see that by this growing occurrence of typhoons.

Do countries like the Philippines need to prepare themselves better for disasters like that? We know that we can't turn back climate change immediately. But do they need to do more to move the growing population that's in those areas by the sea out of that area, better house construction, what can be done there? Because I'm sure that the best thing in cases like that is having people stay alive rather than getting killed by such a storm?

GING: You're absolutely right. Preparation, preparedness, that's the way to go. That, again, is one of the perennial lessons that we have after every review of every one of these megadisasters. But it does come down to financial resources. The Philippines as a country have invested hugely in this. But the scale of what is required is beyond their means.

And then they turn to the international community for financial support, and the international community is strapped because of all of the other crises that it's coping with on a daily basis, not to talk about preparing to prevent the consequences of a future crisis.

I mean, that's -- that -- and I hope now out of this -- out of this disaster, that we take a further step forward in helping countries like the Philippines to be better prepared, to move people into places, where they won't be as susceptible to this type of catastrophe.

Now I'd also say that right now when we're all focused on the lifesaving here, let's also remember that this is a big problem that will take a long time to recover from, and we should also be thinking about how and who is going to help with the reconstruction of this part of this country and the rebuilding of lives and livelihoods as well.

PLEITGEN: So there is still a lot that needs to be done.

One of the other places that you are obviously very worried about is the Central African Republic. And I just want to show our viewers the area that we're talking about here, the Central African Republic is a landlocked country, of course, in central Africa. It's got a lot of resources, gold, for instance, a lot of gold.

And it's got an atrocious civil war going on that is increasingly becoming a sectarian conflict, sir.

There's a peacekeeping force on the ground of about 1,100 African Union soldiers. That's clearly not enough.

What needs to happen in the Central African Republic?

GING: Well, the Central African Republic is a country without an infrastructure of anything. It doesn't have a governance infrastructure; it doesn't have public services. It's a chaotic disaster zone. And the four -- little over 4 million people who are living there, 1.5 million of them now are quite destitute. And on top of that, this conflict is now raging.

We're very worried that the conflict is inciting more division between Muslim and Christian communities and we see the seeds. We see the seeds of a genocide here unless we can get on the ground in a way that stabilizes the situation from a security point, first and foremost. And when with security, we'll follow the stabilization that we need for humanitarian assistance and development.

PLEITGEN: You say you need a force on the ground for stabilization. But who in the international community has an appetite for that? I mean, clearly, none of the big nations want to go to Syria at this point, let alone the Central African Republic.

How much of an appetite do you think there is internationally to try and solve this conflict or even do anything to make people stop killing each other?

GING: Well, I sincerely hope that the Security Council, which will have this issue brought to it very shortly, will have the appetite recalling what happened in Rwanda, recalling what happened in the Balkans, recalling Darfur.

I mean, the bottom line here is it is self-evidently obvious to anybody who goes there what is needed. There is no national security capacity, neither army nor police force. And therefore the international community has an obligation to protect that population when domestically the capacity doesn't exist. So that's the message that we're giving to the Security Council. It has to step up to its responsibility. It has that responsibility. And therefore it has to deploy an effective peacekeeping force to stabilize the situation and we are very, very concerned that the seeds, as I say, of a genocide are being sown in the way massacres are being committed against the different -- the two different communities by armed bandits and armed groups from those communities.

And of course, it's the innocent civilians that are paying the price here, a tragedy in the making and one that can be prevented from becoming a catastrophe.

PLEITGEN: And one that sort of left the spotlight now.

Thank you very much, John Ging, for coming on the program.

And previously on the program, we showed you this iconic black-and- white photo from World War II. That is U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, returning to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. He waded ashore at Leyte, the island where Typhoon Haiyan struck with such devastating force.

A brigade of statues now stands on that same beach to commemorate MacArthur's historic landing. But nearly 70 years after the last shot was fired, Typhoon Haiyan brought down one of MacArthur's soldiers.

And after a short break, we'll talk about another battle, this one in the icy Arctic Ocean, between environmentalists trying to stop Arctic oil exploration and the Russian state. The victors keep drilling and the losers were sent to jail. A chilling journey through the Russian detention system when we come back.




PLEITGEN: Welcome back, I'm Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

It was a real-life drama on the high seas. The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise sailed to the Arctic Sea this September, headed to the Russian state-owned oil platform, Prirazlomnaya. In a protest against Arctic drilling, activists scaled the platform but were held back by workers there using high-pressure fire hoses. Russian authorities then seized the ship and the activists were charged first with piracy and then hooliganism, which could land them in jail for up to seven years.

It's been quite a journey for the group known as the Arctic 30. The protest began here in the Pechora Sea near the Prirazlomnaya oil platform. The ship then was towed to the port city of Murmansk, where they were all jailed.

And just yesterday they arrived in St. Petersburg on a prison train and brought to detention centers there.

Dima Litvinov is just one of the dozens detained for this protest. A Greenpeace activist for nearly 25 years, he's dedicated his life to protecting the planet. Dima was reportedly being kept in very harsh conditions and has had minimal contact with his family, including his sister, Laura Litvinov, who joins me now from Los Angeles.

Good evening, ma'am. Thank you for being on the program. We just talked about that horrible journey that the Arctic 30 had from Murmansk, and on that prison train. Now they're in quarantine in St. Petersburg. What do you know about your brother's situation?

LARA LITVINOV, SISTER OF DETAINED GREENPEACE ACTIVIST: What we know at this point -- our understanding is that he is now in a prison named Kresty -- it means crosses in Russian -- Kresty. And it's one of the oldest prisons in St. Petersburg and one of the most notorious ones.

PLEITGEN: Yes, it sounds like a horrible situation. I want to play you one of the things that your brother said to the Russian authorities when they boarded that ship, because this must be also one of the last things that you heard from him. Let's listen in to what he had to say to them.


I understand what you're saying. Please understand what you're directing me to do. We are on a peaceful voyage in order to protest (INAUDIBLE) to the planet.


PLEITGEN: So he's saying we're on a peaceful voyage; we want to save the planet. Yet the ship was entered; the ship was towed.

How are you dealing with this situation?

I mean, presumably, you haven't heard from him in months now.

LARA LITVINOV: Right. My sister-in-law, Anitta, has talked to him. He's called her three times in the last two months. But so I hear a lot from her and she does get some letters. But I have not actually had contact with him.

PLEITGEN: It must be a very --


LARA LITVINOV: (INAUDIBLE) hard for him to get phone calls out.

PLEITGEN: I'm sure it has been. I'm sure it's been a very difficult situation.

When he went out there, you were probably in contact with him before then. Did they know or did they have any idea that the Russian authorities would act the way that they did? Because it is a very harsh response.

LARA LITVINOV: It is a very harsh response. They had been there a year ago and done a very similar action with not this kind of response. So I don't think anybody expected this extremely disproportionate response to this action, to a peaceful action.

PLEITGEN: Certainly (INAUDIBLE) didn't. But the Russian authorities say that the Greenpeace team on the ground there endangered the workers on the platform; they say that divers were in the area. That could have gotten into trouble.

What do you make of such explanations?

LARA LITVINOV: Honestly, I make of them that they're excuses for detaining them. They didn't want them there. I'm not sure -- a year ago, like I said, it was just fine. Then have them being there and being detained for maybe a couple minutes. But this time they're saying that -- they're trying to find some reason to detain them so that they can continue drilling in the Arctic, is what I make of it.

PLEITGEN: Your family a history of getting in trouble with both the Soviet and the Russian authorities. Your father, Pavel, was sent to Siberia for criticizing the Soviet military for moving into Prague in 1968. And your grandfather, Lev Kopelev, who's one of the great human rights activists of the last century, was jailed for shielding the German civilian populations from atrocities by the Soviet military.

Did you or your family and your father ever think that any members of your family could get into such trouble in the year 2013?

LARA LITVINOV: Well, not at all, actually. I think we had come to the country in 1974. And we had been to the U.S. in 1974. So we really had not expected anything like that to happen. My brother has worked for Greenpeace; he worked in Greenpeace Russia in the '90s and he was actually very successful in a lot of his campaigns.

So -- and my father has visited Russia many -- at least once or twice a year and we have had no family or friends that have been detained or jailed since -- for a very long time.

PLEITGEN: And still it's a very hard line the Russian government --


LARA LITVINOV: (INAUDIBLE), I guess I'd have to say.

PLEITGEN: Still a very hard line that the Russian government is taking.

If you could say anything to Vladimir Putin right now, what would you tell him?

LARA LITVINOV: I would tell him that the Arctic 30 were there to protest Arctic drilling to save our climate and protect it from -- I guess I would say that it -- they were there to protect the climate and protect the Arctic and protect the Russian people. And that he should let them go because they are not hooligans and they are not pirates.

PLEITGEN: All right, Madame, thank you very much.

LARA LITVINOV: And we would like our brother to come home and.

PLEITGEN: All right. No, finish your thought, please.

LARA LITVINOV: Oh, OK, no, I was just going to say, we just would -- I talk to a lot of other family members of other Arctic 30, and all we want is for our family members to be able to come home.

PLEITGEN: All right. And we certainly hope with you that Dima gets released and comes homes very soon. Thank you so much for being on the program and have a great day.


PLEITGEN: And a world away from environmental battles, killer typhoons, the elite of the world of modern art had a night to remember.

What if I told you that this Andy Warhol painting was auctioned for millions, and that was chump change compared to the big winner? Bringing home the bacon, when we come back.




PLEITGEN: And now a final thought tonight, why is this person screaming? It might take the mind of Sigmund Freud to solve the mystery of Edvard Munch's famous painting, "The Scream," which sold last year for a record $119.9 million.

Now imagine a world where a portrait of Freud's grandson has sold for even more, a lot more. "Three Studies of Lucien Freud," a triptych by his friend and fellow artist, the late Francis Bacon, went for a whopping $142.4 million on Tuesday, instantly becoming the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. The three-paneled painting was on the block for just six minutes until it was sold over the phone to an undisclosed buyer. It was just the highlight of a record-breaking auction that included Andy Warhol's portrait of Chairman Mao, a bargain at $3.5 million and this 12- foot stainless steel "Balloon Dog" by Jeff Koons that sold for $58.4 million, a record for any work by a living artist.

In all, nearly $700 million worth of art exchanged hands in one evening. And your father told you to go to law school if you want to make big bucks.

That's it for our program tonight. And remember, you can always contact us at our website, Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from London.