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Operation Begins to Extract Thai Football Team; Catastrophic Rainfall, Historic Flooding in Japan; California Wildfires. Aired 2- 2:30a ET

Aired July 8, 2018 - 02:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Newton in Atlanta. We are following breaking news out of Thailand.

The high-risk operation is now underway to free a youth football team trapped in a flooded cave. Now the prayers of a nation rest on a team of Thai and international divers.

The local governor said earlier that divers have entered the cave. He called it D-Day and said rescuers are at peak readiness. Now the mission to extract the 12 boys and their coach will take hours. But even more than that, you know it could take days.

They've been stranded in the darkness now for more than two weeks. For the very latest, we go to CNN's David McKenzie, who is there.

David, I can see behind you that the rain has now started and that really is the principal reason, isn't it, that they have decided to engage in this dangerous mission in the last few hours.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Paula. This is an instance where they have a small window and that window is closing. Behind me you see the clouds that have gathered around the cave site.

And I want to bring you some new information from a Thai source from the Royal Navy, saying that the two British divers who found the boys, accompanied with the Thai special forces, will go in to that cave cavern where the boys are held up initially and then start bringing them out.

And then, Paula, they've set up a relay system, as it were, according to that source. Once they get the boys, hopefully, safely through those narrow dark chambers with a face mask on, to the third chamber, which is the staging ground of this entire rescue, they'll then have a separate team who will carry out the boys on stretchers because they've managed to take a lot of that water out, all the way out to the entrance, and then taken to hospitals. They said they've drilled, they've practiced, they have medics on

hand. The best in the world are here. But still, it will be an extremely dangerous rescue indeed. -- Paula.

NEWTON: Such interesting information. And those details are important, aren't they, David, given what they're facing and how difficult the dive will be. Interesting that, as you said, the drills have continued and that they've determined that where they can -- and thankfully they can at certain portions -- actually take a lot of the difficulty out of this rescue for those boys and the coach that are so vulnerable right now.

MCKENZIE: Well, that's right. But make no mistake, this is still an extremely hazardous journey for the boys. There's that section between the chamber three, which I described, towards the boys that only the most experienced divers have gone.

It's in that section that we believe the Thai Navy SEAL, the former SEAL, died tragically. He had come from a private sector job to help out his colleagues. Once a SEAL, always a SEAL, they say here. And he died coming back.

And if we have it, I want to share a very powerful photograph of the SEALs locking arms, locking hands together.

And in that, they say, "We Thai Navy SEALs, along with the international diver team, are ready to bring the soccer team home."

So Paula, all of their efforts are focused on those boys and it could take hours still.

NEWTON: You say all the efforts, all the prayers of a nation and beyond. Our David McKenzie by the hour here, will continue to bring us updates. Appreciate that, David.

As we were talking to David, we were talking about the approach of those monsoon rains and, of course, that's one of the reasons why they've started today.



NEWTON: And we now want more insight, of course, on the nature of the rescue operation, especially given everything we've been talking about, all the details at work here. I'm joined from Bloomington, Indiana, by Anmar Mirza. He's a cave rescue expert and a coordinator at the U.S. National Cave Rescue Mission.

You're on the record, saying there are no good choices here. Just to kind of bring everyone up to date, now that we know they were able to pump out some water from those caves, what do you think?

ANMAR MIRZA, U.S. NATIONAL CAVE RESCUE MISSION: The water level being lower makes the diving and the extrication easier and a little safer. But that's a relative safety that's still very dangerous. But when the only alternative is to leave them in place -- and before

we did not know if leaving them in place would be feasible. What they're finding is it's a less and less desirable option, based on the logistics of trying to supply them and the fact that the air is getting stale and the oxygen levels are dropping and the carbon dioxide levels are rising.

So it's the lesser of the evils. And as I've said many times, there were no easy choices or good choices.

NEWTON: What do you think is preoccupying the rescuers right now, given the fact that, yes, they did drill and they're experts but they really didn't have a lot of time?

MIRZA: Well, I trust that the divers who are working with the kids and training them have made the decision that it is at least worth the attempt to try. I know several of the people who are there are just top-notch and they're very good at what they do. And if anybody could bring them through, it would be those people.

NEWTON: That is so good to hear. And yet I'm alarmed by another thing you that said, saying they had to make the attempt. You're saying "attempt." I think when we all saw that these boys were alive we thought, great, they will be saved. And yet they have so much more to go through in terms of, you know, exactly what they're going to be facing.

MIRZA: Exactly. And when I first found out they were alive, I was, of course, glad they were alive. That's certainly excellent news. But as someone that's done many cave rescues, I knew that the worst and the hardest part of it had actually just started to begin because now it increased the pressure and increased the timeline that they had to deal with.

I'm glad they did not have to deal with a body recovery or body recoveries. But if they'd had to do, the time pressure on the rescuers would have been much different. Now that we are trying to get them out alive, it's certainly 100-fold worse.

NEWTON: Yes. And, obviously, thankfully they did get a break in the rain and they were pumping out that water. When you look at the situation, just try and bring us into the minds of those rescuers. You can't put too fine a point of it. These people are risking their lives to try and bring these boys out.

MIRZA: Absolutely. And what a lot of people don't understand is that the attention and the scrutiny they're under puts an enormous strain on the rescuers themselves, knowing that they're make the best decisions they can, given the information that they have.

And they have the best information that anybody does because they're the ones who are there.

But knowing that, if there's anything but the most positive outcome, that they're going to, in essence, have the world looking at them, saying why did you do what you did? It's not helped by people who are saying, well, they should be doing this or they should be doing that. I'm highly trained in what I do and highly skilled in what I do. And I'm not saying they should do this or they should do that. I'm saying, you guys made the best decision that you could and I support that.

NEWTON: And let's not forget, they were the ones that located the boys in the first place, in quite --


NEWTON: -- a bit of danger themselves just to get to that point. I want to ask you; officials have been quite open in saying this is not even going to be a matter of hours likely, it's going to be a matter of days.

Is that because of the complexity or the fact that they are dealing with inexperienced people, who can't even swim, really, let alone dive?

MIRZA: Well, that's exactly right. And they're not going to bring them out in the same way that they might come out in that they'll just continue to go. They'll start from where the boys are. They'll bring them out in stages. And they'll have to allow them to rest at various places.

They'll have to actually transport them through some of the places. You have to remember, these boys are still very, very weak from their ordeal. You do not recover from starvation. And they had nine or 10 days of starvation. You don't recover from that in a few days. It's many weeks to months before you've got a significant percentage of your original strength back.

So you can't just take these boys out in the five or six hours it might take for a highly skilled and highly trained person to do.

NEWTON: You know, there are a lot of questions that are tough to ask you but I'm going to ask you it.

How much of an indication is it when we hear that perhaps one boy is out?

If one boy gets out and is safe, is that a good indication that this is going to go well?

MIRZA: Well, certainly the first one that gets out will be kind of the test of this to see what kind of difficulties they'll face. And if they get the first one out alive, the odds are better for the following ones, simply from that fact that they've learned what's going on with that; they have a better idea what they're dealing with.

Of course, there's still no guarantee. I'm very hopeful that they get them all out alive. But I'm also prepared for some bad news for this.

NEWTON: And you are part of a very small group of people, who knows exactly what those rescuers are going through right now and those boys. We will continue to keep in touch with you as we update everyone on the rescue. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

MIRZA: You're welcome.

NEWTON: Now torrential rain is sweeping across southwestern Japan and authorities are calling it a disaster of historic proportions. Record rainfall has swamped roads, triggered landslides and destroyed hundreds of homes. At least 55 people have died and many more are missing or injured.

Japan has set up an emergency response center for the first time in two years. Forecasts show more heavy rain on the way. The government is urging millions now, millions of people to evacuate before more extreme weather conditions move in.

And now to California. Wildfires are spreading fast across parts of the western United States. One person was killed in a blaze near California's border with Oregon. The fires have consumed dozens of homes, forcing thousands to evacuate.

And in Santa Barbara County, officials have declared a state of emergency. Record high temperatures are fueling the fires as Southern California is facing a major heat wave. The temperatures, get this, in some places, it reached up to 47 degrees Celsius.

All right. A lot to take in there. I want to thank you for watching. This is CNN NEWSROOM. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next but I'll be right back with an update on your headlines.