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Mission to Free Boys Trapped in Thailand Cave Underway; Pompeo Dismisses NK "Gangster" Remarks, Says Talks Going Well; Thailand: "Today is D-Day" for Rescue of Trapped Boys; Heavy Rain Triggers Landslides, Flash Floods in Japan; Fast-Moving California Fires Destroy Dozens of Homes. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired July 8, 2018 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:07] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen international divers started entering the cave with another Thai Navy SEALs to start the rescue mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They believe this window is their only window to get the boys out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is little opportunity now that light rain has started to fall for the water to recede within the cave system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is in front of them is truly daunting for even the most advanced cave divers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they get the first one out alive, the odds are better for the following ones.


BLACKWELL: If you're joining us in the U.S., good morning to you. If you're joining us from around the world, thank you for joining us.

I'm Victor Blackwell.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dianne Gallagher in for Christi Paul this Sunday.

We're breaking news right now. The operation to save those 12 boys and their coach, they have been stuck in a cave in Thailand for more than two weeks, that rescue mission now under way. A local governor calling this D-day. The high-risk mission starting just hours ago around 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time, so about eight hours at this point.

Officials say that it should take about six hours for those skilled divers to reach the boys and then another five hours to exit. This entire operation, though, could take two to three days as the boys are being rescued one-by-one.

BLACKWELL: And there is no time to spare because the heavy rains have already started. Monsoon level rains were expected to intensify over the next week.


NARONGSAK OSOTTHANAKOM, GOVERNOR OF CHIANG RAI (through translator): Yesterday, the water level was the lowest. And, today, the water level in chambers number one, two, and three, inside the cave is low enough to walk through them. The water of some parts recedes as much as 30 centimeters and considered the lowest level for the past ten days. Regarding the current weather situation, another storm is coming and if we keep waiting, then we have to start all over again.


BLACKWELL: CNN's David McKenzie is live near the cave site there in Thailand.

David, give us the latest.


The mountain behind me is where those drama is playing out. In fact, deep inside that mountain, in that that cave system that has captured our attention for days now, twelve boys will be trying to come out of that cave system. We are learning from a Thai navy source that they will be -- the British divers who initially found those boys alive to everyone's surprise nearly 16 days ago in the cabin will be leading that search, that rescue operations and joined with Thai navy SEALs.

Initially, they will take them through the very hazardous early sections of that cave into chamber three, where we believe they'll be handed over to a second team of military, most likely. Who will then take them out to the stretches out to the waiting ambulances. You could see in the coming hours ambulances heading in the direction for the hospital. This has been an extraordinary gathering of experts.

Just a short time ago, I spoke to an Israeli diver who is playing a support role in this operation. Take a listen.


MCKENZIE: What is the crucial factor?

RAFAEL AROUSH, ISRAELI DIVER: The crucial factor is that there won't panic in the cave. That is one of the most. And the second that the weather, right now, not be any intense flooding with the rain.

MCKENZIE: And there are experts like yourself from all over the world. Have you ever seen an assembly of so many experts in this field?

AROUSH: No. Not really. And those are the best of the best in the world here right now. Even with the most expert people in the world, we have lost one diver. So think about the responsibility of taking a kid underneath there, the conditions are really scaring. So, I really, really hope and praying for the kids so they will all be safe, coming out safe and the mission will be successful.


MCKENZIE: And one of those divers, as he mentioned, gave their life to this expert. A Thai navy SEAL and that underscored how challenging this will be and it could take hours and the parents won't know for a long time, all of the parents, whether their sons will come out safely from the back of that mountain behind me.

GALLAGHER: David, this is such an international effort at this point. But the decision on who comes out first actually comes down to those boys, correct?

MCKENZIE: Well, it does. And imagine the human drama unfolding in that cave system.

[07:05:05] The governor telling us that it will be up to the boys and to a consulting doctor who is assessing their health, who will decide to go first, who will be the first one. And that first boy that they pull through is so important because then they get to test the entire theory how they will get the kids out, through this zero visibility tunnel under the earth in the water through possibly some glow sticks where they mark some sense of where they are going with the specialist divers.

You know, imagine that decision. There will be several boys I'm sure ready to do it but somebody has to be the first and it will be the test case, unfortunately, for the rest of them. If they can succeed with one, there is a relatively good chance they can succeed with all of them, including the coach, to get them out to their families as the nation awaits -- Dianne, Victor.

GALLAGHER: David McKenzie, thank you so much for all of your work there in Thailand. Stay close because we're going to check back in with you in just a little bit.

BLACKWELL: The layout of the cave in Chiang Rai and the spot where the soccer team is trapped represents more challenges for the rescuers. Look at this. The group was found two and a half miles from the entrance of the cave which is about six-tenths of a mile underground.

Now, the journey will start with divers taking just one boy at a time. That part is more than a mile long. They will have to travel through narrow and flooded passages which some have described, consider this, having absolutely no visibility.

Once they have reached the command center, you see that here, special rescue teams will take over and help the boys through the rest of the journey which is more than a mile to the exit and it may require carrying those boys on stretches. The divers will head back the other way to get back to the boys and their coach until all of them are out.

GALLAGHER: So, one of the key things in getting these boys out safely is to make sure they stay positive, especially since they don't have any experience. They are not seasoned divers like the people rescuing them. So, we spoke to cave explorer Emily Davis in the phone last hour. Now, a different situation, but she once trapped in a cave for 91 hours herself before being rescued.

Here is what she said.


EMILY DAVIS, CAVE EXPLORER (via telephone): The boys -- these divers will instill confidence in them. Their expertise will help and one of the things that you work on in a cave rescue situation is the psychology of your patients. And they'll be looking at that every moment to try and have the kids thinking about getting home to their parents, that they need to have fortitude for short periods of time and they will be out with their families. And I think that the experienced cave rescue people who are there will help with this psychological part of the rescue, which is so important, one of the most important factors to get the kids out.


BLACKWELL: Well, minutes after the international dive team went into that cave, the SEALs posted this picture on social media. It shows three members holding on to one another's wrists with the caption that reads "We, the Thai SEALs, along with the international dive team, are ready to bring the soccer team home."

Thirteen international divers and five Thai navy SEALs, they are the ones carrying out this mission.

GALLAGHER: Now, Anmar Mirza, a cave expert and national coordinator for the National Cave Rescue Commission, talked with CNN just a short time ago.

BLACKWELL: Here's what she said about the experience, given the conditions -- or rather he said, and how difficult this rescue is going to be.


ANMAR MIRZA, U.S. NATIONAL CAVE RESCUE COMMISSION (via telephone): The water level being lower makes the diving and extrication easier and a little safer, but that's a relatively safety and 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 are finding it's 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 evils.

And I've said many times, it is -- there were no easy choices or good choices. I trust that the divers who were 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 are very good at what they do and if anybody could bring them through, it would be those people. When I first heard they were alive, I was, of course, glad that they

were alive, I mean, that's certainly excellent news, but as somebody who has 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.

[07:10:12] I'm glad they did not have to deal with a body recovery or body recoveries, but if they had to do that, the time, pressure on the rescuers would have been much different. Now that we are trying to get them out alive, it certainly, a hundred-fold worse. If they're not bringing them out in the same way that they might come out, they will just continue to go. They will start from where the boys are. They will bring them out in stages and they will have to allow them to rest at various places and have to actually transport them through some of the places.

You have to remember, these boys are still very weak from their ordeal. You do not recover from starvation and they had nine or ten days of starvation, you don't recover from that in a few days. It's many weeks to months before you got significant percentage of your original strength back, so you can't take the boys out in five or six hours it might take for a highly skilled and highly trained person to do.

The first one that gets out will be kind of the test of this to see what kind of difficulties they will face and if they get the first one out alive, the odds are better for the following ones, simply from that fact that they have learned what's going on with that, they have a better idea of what they are dealing with, and, of course, there is 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.


BLACKWELL: Well, the governor of Chiang Rai has said this is D-day. Why? There is a week of intensifying monsoon level downpours that are on the way and we know from our David McKenzie who is there near that cave that the rains have already started.

GALLAGHER: And they are expected to intensify over the next week.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar joining us now.

And, Allison, the forecast does not look positive over the next couple of days in terms of easing up for them.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No. And I think that's kind of the point. We have started to see at least the beginning of the next round of rain but what people need to realize is that each day going forward, that rain is going to intensify and at least it now, the amount coming in, they are able to pump back out. But once those rains really get to downpours and torrential levels, that may not be the case any more.

So, here's a look at the map. This is Thailand. This is where the cave is located to the northern region. Look at the reds and oranges on your screen. It indicates moisture coming back into that region.

And, again, this is not drizzle. This is a very substantial amount of rain that's coming back to this region. For the remainder of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we have an 80 to 90 percent chance of rain all of those days, and really, those rain chances extend even beyond that, really for the next seven to ten days.

The amount of rain that is expected in this region is about another two to four inches. That may not sound like that much to you, but that's enough to cause more flooding and substantial flooding inside those caves. Now not only does that make it harder for them to get through some of those narrow passages but also you have to understand normally where oxygen would flow freely through those passages, it's now blocked by rain.

And the more rain you fill up with that, the lower those oxygen levels can get and that's what we don't want. The latest number we had is about 15 percent of what they are breathing. Normal is about 21 percent. The problem is at 15, that already starts to impair some of their coordination as it gets even lower, you start to then get to even more dangerous levels, Victor and Dianne.

So, again, they want to get those boys out as fast as possible but also as safely as possible.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Allison Chinchar in the severe weather center, thank you so much.

We, of course, will be all morning, all day continuing to watch those operations in Thailand to save the 12 boys and their coach. It's happening right now. We understand from the governor in Chiang Rai that it started at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Now, with the monsoon rains in the forecast, they are racing against nature to try to get those boys out before the cave floods again.

A live report from Chiang Rai coming up.

GALLAGHER: Now, plus, the father of the youngest boy trapped in that cave has a message for his son as those rescue efforts continue.

BLACKWELL: And still to come, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismisses North Korea's comments that U.S. -- the United States has a gangster mindset.


[07:18:31] BLACKWELL: These are the helicopters that are on standby. And you see here members of the Thai air force who are waiting for any of those boys to come out of that cave. They have been there for 15 days. The rescue mission is happening right now. Once those boys are pulled out, they will be put on helicopters flown 35 miles away to a hospital for those medical checks.

GALLAGHER: And we are roughly eight hours into this rescue mission at this point since we were told by the governor there in Chiang Rai, that these divers went in, the 13 international divers, the five Thai Navy SEALs who went in to try and rescue those boys and their coach. We're told they'll be taken out one-by-one. Initially, the governor said that it could take two or three days to complete this mission because they are going to have to take them out one-by-one.

But again, roughly eight hours into this mission right now. The soccer team, you know their friendship is kind of getting them through this at this point. This is a tough time, of course, for all of them and their families as well. The people in this entire community trying to rally around them and hold out hope.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we've got video of the team. The Wild Boars playing a game, this is just days before they became trapped in that cave. The boys loved the game, repeatedly asked rescuers inside about the World Cup, as any fan would.

GALLAGHER: And also illustrate how young they are too in this situation.

BLACKWELL: True, true.

Now, while they waited, the 12 boys and their coach have traded letters with families and that's slightly eased their parents' fears. The father of the youngest of the boys trapped in the cave is talking about his hopes for his son.

Lynda Kincaid has more.


LYNDA KINCAID, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Much more than a letter, this note from one of the 12 boys trapped in the Thai cave is a lifeline to his father.

TANAWAT VIBOOONRUNGRUANG, CHANIN'S FATHER (through translator): I'm so happy he can write a letter to us and tell us he is OK. I feel better now.

KINCAID: Tanawat Viboongrungruang has an 11-year-old. Chanin is the youngest of the boys in the cave, but to his father, even the smallest amount of contact is better than the pain of not knowing where he was or if he was alive.

VIBOONGRUNGRUANG: I feel much better than the first period of the search operation. On the third or fourth day of the operation, I was so stressed out living how he could live in a dark and damp cave because I don't know what it is like in the cave.

KINCAID: Rescuers say the best chance of getting the boys out could come in the next few days, based on health and weather condition. But the death of a Thai navy SEAL diver who died while delivering oxygen tanks to the cave brings on the dangers his son faces.

Tanawat says he hopes for the day when his son can play football and sleep in his room filled with his favorite's jerseys and stickers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is he like? VIBOONGRUNGRUANG: He is lively. He is friendly and can get along

with all of his friends. At school, he is adored by all of the students and normally, he loves playing football. He plays it every day after school with his coach.

KINCAID: In his letter, Chanin had much more than football on his mind, besides trying to comfort his family, he had one particular request for a meal when he gets out.

VIBOONGRUNGRUANG: He said he is fine there and not to be so worried about him. If he could come out, he would like to have some fried chicken. He wanted to tell his uncle that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When your son told you he wants to have fried chicken, how did you feel?

VIBOONGRUNGRUANG: I just want to give him what he wants. Whenever he is out, we will go together. He and his uncle had planned to have chicken at KFC together.

KINCAID: To this father, it would be a meal to be savored, until they can be reunited, he can only wait, watch, and offer these words to his son so far away.

VIBOONGRUNGRUANG: I will tell him that I am worried. I want him to be healthy, to get enough strength to dive out safely.

KINCAID: Lynda Kincaid, CNN.


GALLAGHER: Every time I hear about that little boy and his fried chicken, it illustrates to me how young --

BLACKWELL: Their priorities.

GALLAGHER: And their priorities.

BLACKWELL: They are 11 through 16.

GALLAGHER: Meanwhile, the father of the former Navy SEAL who died during the attempted rescue of those 12 boys, saying how proud he is of his son's efforts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I only had one child. I was extremely proud of him and his deeds but seeing him ending up like, I'm really upset.


BLACKWELL: According to the deputy governor, he was Sergeant Saman Kunan, 38 years old, the former navy SEAL who resigned from the military. Yesterday, a military aircraft carried his body from Chiang Rai to the navy base where his funeral was held. We'll get back to the breaking news in a moment, but now to North

Korea. And they attended the same meetings there in Pyongyang to nail down the details of denuclearization. But the difference between how the U.S. and the North Koreans now see these talks, it's really striking. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the talks were productive, progress was made. But North Korea slammed what it called the United States' gangster-like mindset.

GALLAGHER: Well, speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Pompeo pushed back on that.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I am counting on Chairman Kim to be determined to follow through on the commitment that he made. And so, if those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster because it was a unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved.


GALLAGHER: The world is a gangster. Well, Pompeo gave assurances that North Korea is still committed to dismantling its nuclear program despite those satellite images that appear to show improvements to a nuclear facility.

And we're going to continue to bring you all of the updates on that breaking news story of the rescue that is underway, those 12 boys in Thailand, they and their coach trying to get them out from inside this cave here where they are trapped before the monsoon rains begin.

[07:25:02] Stay with us.


GALLAGHER: Right now, a team of international divers and Thai navy SEALs are engaged in a very complicated rescue mission in northern Thailand, trying to get those 12 boys and their soccer coach out from inside that flooded cave deep in the mountainside.

[07:30:01] Now, Thai officials say they estimate the first child will be brought out today. We are being told the doctor doing health assessments and the boys who themselves will actually get a chance to decide who gets out first. They will make that decision.

BLACKWELL: And since they are not seasoned divers, the rescuers have to keep them positive as they navigate the rising water and dark and tight cave passages and time is running out because Thai officials say this might be the last chance to rescue them before the monsoon rains begin if full force again.

GALLAGHER: Now, CNN's David McKenzie near the cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

David, what are hearing now? We are about eight hours into this mission. DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right.

We're getting to crunch time. And I just want to remind everyone how this is going down. According to a Thai navy source the two British divers will be joined by Navy SEAL teams going to where those kids are held up and then they'll be escorting them through the narrow passage ways, either one or two of them at a time, guiding them through, at times possibly even squeezing them through those narrow sections like a letter box almost. And then they'll get to the chamber three. They'll hand them over to a separate team of experienced rescuers. They may take them in stretchers or on foot for the long route back out to the outside world where their family might be waiting.

And those family members, many of them, on the mountain behind me waiting to their loved one to come out, won't know who will come out first necessarily. As you say, the boys, themselves, are making that choice, as well as a doctor consulting with them, according to officials. The way it's been agonizing.

One 14-year-old inside the cave, part of that soccer team, he had his birthday inside there. We visited with his aunt and his grandmother who were very emotional, sitting, waiting, watching like everyone else to find out if he will be safe.


SALISA PROMJAK, AUNT OF TRAPPED SOCCER PLAYER (through translator): It's like I'm counting every second. I want to see his face. I want to see how he gets out and how they get him out. I am so happy.

KIAWKHAM CHANTAPHOON, GRANDMOTHER OF TRAPPED SOCCER PLAYER (through translator): Grandma loves you the most in the whole world. I miss you dearly. I think every country, everyone helps the kids to get out. It's like a miracle.


MCKENZIE: As his grandmother said, and as the picture posted by the Thai Navy SEALs represent, this is a joint effort by the Thai Navy SEALs and international counterparts and they are all in this together from all sorts of nations, hundreds much backups, but the specialist divers playing a key role to get the boys out.

BLACKWELL: David, how have these divers and the support staff, how have they prepared these boys for what will be such a treacherous journey back to the entrance of this cave?

MCKENZIE: At all times, they have had rescuers and doctors there with the boys in that cavern since the moment or soon after the moment when they were discovered alive. They had to remove some of them. In fact, half of them had to get out pretty quickly because oxygen levels were going to dangerous levels for the human body in there.

So they said that they have been giving them the kind of training the best they can deep in that cave system to get used to those full-face masked. They've have taken five mil wetsuits in there, that's pretty gauge thick suits, both to keep them warm because though the water is relatively warm in this tropical zone, under the ground, after a long period of exposure, you could get hypothermia down there. That's the last thing anyone wants.

So, they have been mentally preparing them, physically preparing them, but they have been there for a long time and they are weak and tired and desperate to get home -- Victor, Dianne.

GALLAGHER: David Mckenzie, thank you so much.

All right. Joining us now, Israeli diver Rafael Arush. He's been working in the cave and will go back again soon.

BLACKWELL: Rafael, thank you for being with us.

We have talked a lot about these 18 divers, 13 international and the five Thai navy SEALs. But give us an idea of the depth of support and those others who are there. How broad is the number? How many people are part of this rescue effort?

RAFAEL AROUSH, ISRAELI DIVER (via telephone): Hundreds of people in the rescue there. For so many days, people were running power lines, running communication lines, all kind of supply, air tank, oxygen tanks and hundreds and hundreds of people going in and out the whole time in extreme conditions -- the water up to your neck, holding just tiny cable, holding cables and going through all of the creeks and the narrow passages that a little chubby guy will not go through them.

[07:35:11] So, there are really extreme conditions and the most extreme condition is the small passage that the kids have to go to dive through, which is a 50 meter long, the most crucial part, all the while worrying about the other kids. The kids have been going through physical training there and diving and they spiritually and physically, so they have proper food. I think they are ready and the best of the best in the world are there, they are in their hands. So, I'm confident that the mission will be right.

GALLAGHER: Rafael, we are about eight and a half hours into this mission now. I know that in early trips to see the boys, it took about six hours to get to them and roughly five hours to get back out. Is there any indication that this would be different because it's sort of a relay situation?

AROUSH: Well, we had a little change in the weather here, for the worse. So, we had a lot of rain the last few hours. It's cleared up a little bit. And that is a crucial factor in the rescue. It -- it rains, that means a lot of water is going into the cave. It could flood in the cave. So, we hope the rain stops and rescue can go on as planned.

GALLAGHER: Rafael Aroush, thank you for your time and your work you have put in with these boys.

AROUSH: Thank you.

GALLAGHER: Thank you. BLACKWELL: The layout of the cave in Chiang Rai and the spot where

the soccer team is trapped represents more challenges for the rescuers. Look at this. The group was found two and a half miles from the entrance of the cave which is about six-tenths of a mile underground.

Now, the journey will start with divers taking just one boy at a time. That part is more than a mile long. They will have to travel through narrow and flooded passages which some have described, consider this, as having absolutely no visibility.

Now, once they've reached the command center, you see that here, special rescue teams will take over at that point. They'll help the boys through the rest of the journey, which is still more than a mile to the exit and it may require carrying those boys on stretches. The divers will head back the other way to get back to the boys and their coach until all of them are out.

GALLAGHER: So, the clock is ticking and rescuers are up against Mother Nature to save 12 boys and their coach trapped inside that cave in Thailand for more than two weeks. Now, we are live near the site with the very latest on the rescue mission.

BLACKWELL: Plus, fast moving wildfires spreading across the western United States and force thousands to evacuate. Dozens of homes have already been destroyed. We'll have an update there.

GALLAGHER: And deadly floods are forcing millions of people to evacuate in Japan, where entire communities, as you can see here, under water. We will bring you the latest pictures and information on that extreme weather in Japan after the break.


[07:42:54] BLACKWELL: Some of the supplies and the support crew outside that cave where 12 boys and their coach have been stuck. We know the operation to get them out, that rescue mission is happening right now.

GALLAGHER: Yes. We are about eight and a half hours into that mission. It could take, we're told, up to three days. Our team is near the cave site. We will keep on tracking this as we have all morning for updates on how that rescue mission of that soccer team and their coach is going.

BLACKWELL: Let's take you to Japan now, where 4 million people are being forced to evacuate their homes in the southwest part of the country after record rainfall.

GALLAGHER: Just look at these images, these massive floods swallowing roads, triggering landslides and they have destroyed hundreds of homes at this point. At least 57 people have died. Dozens more are missing or injured. Now, right now, thousands of troops are deploying to help in that area with those rescue operations.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us from the weather center. Allison, this record rainfall has caused deadly flooding and

landslides. Are they going to get any sort of relief in Japan at this point?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes and no. I mean, the rain is slowly starting to ease back up and that's a good thing. The problem is sometimes with that water, it takes time to flow down. Some of these areas are very mountainous. So, as that water continues to flow, future landslides could still be triggered, so you have to keep that in mind, even though the rain may be slowly coming to an end they still could incur some more problems in the short term.

Here is a look at the area. Now, this is just the last 48 hours. Notice that stalled front basically sets up and you have storms that goes over the same spot over and over and over again. And when that happens, you can get tremendous amounts of rain.

Look at these numbers. Again, this is just the last 72 hours, 47 inches, 30 inches. Even around Kyoto, about 25 inches.

Now, here are some of the problems. Eight of the very heavily populated prefectures have been affected by this, including Kyoto. And remember, this is a very high tourist destination as well. So, you not only have locales that are affected, but also people who aren't from the area.

[07:45:03] They have set up some shelters for people who are displaced or just don't simply know where to go. So, that is the good news.

The concern now moves to super typhoon Maria. While it is expected to remain south, same areas are not expected to take a direct hit and some of these outer bands are expected to push more moisture back into the same locations that have already had rain. So, unfortunately, Victor and Dianne, we have rain, say, in this area in the forecast for at least the next seven days. Folks there are still going to stay on high alert as additional rainfall may return.

GALLAGHER: Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Wildfires are spreading fast across parts of the western United States. Now, one person was killed in the fire. This was near California's border with Oregon.

The fires have consumed dozens of homes. Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate. Record high temperatures are fueling the fires as southern California is faced with heat wave. The temperature in some places has reached 116 degrees.

Our Sara Sidner has more for us now. She's in Santa Barbara County where there is right now a state of emergency.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is just one example of the absolute power of the fire and winds that have come through parts of California. This is in Goleta, a tight-knit community here in Santa Barbara County that has dealt with quite a bit. If you look at the devastation that it's caused to some of the houses here, this one, obviously, a total loss.

There are at least 20 structures that fire authorities say have been affected by this fire. Some of them destroyed like this one.

I want to give you some sense of just how hot it was here when this fire was raging. Look down. This was, obviously, a truck. Look down here. That is likely that little step that gets you up to the truck.

It's basically melted down, that metal there. That is how hot this fire got here in Goleta. They have called it the Hollywood Fire.

There are several other homes just along this road that didn't make it. And this, of course, is not the only fire that's been burning. At one point, there were 13 fires were burning all at once, some of them small, but this one extremely destructive and this place has a bit of PTSD, if you will, the residents here, because one of the largest fires in California history that burned here back in December, the Thomas Fire, taking dozens of homes in Santa Barbara County.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Goleta, California.


BLACKWELL: Haiti's prime minister suspended an increase in fuel prices that triggered violent protests in the country's capital. Gas prices were expected to jump nearly 40 percent.

GALLAGHER: And demonstrators in Port-au-Prince reportedly trying to get past security and set fire on a hotel where more than 100 U.S. citizens were staying, but no injuries had been reported. Now, at least three U.S. airlines did cancel flights because of the violence. In February, Haiti agreed with the International Monetary to end fuel subsidies as part of austerity measures. Those subsidies help make fuel more affordable throughout the country.

All right. We are going to continue following this rescue mission in Thailand. You are looking at live pictures right now. Those 12 boys and their coaches, as far as we know, still trapped in that cave, but the mission continues with those international and Thai navy SEAL divers trying to get them out. The governor expects the first kid to emerge from the cave within hours.


[07:53:52] BLACKWELL: More now on the breaking news. The developments in northern Thailand where rescue crews are trying to get those 12 boys and their coach out from this underground cave. We've got live pictures on the right of your screen. Some of the crews, we're told there are hundreds of people supporting these 18 divers who are going in to get these 13 people.

GALLAGHER: Yes, 13 international divers, five from the Thai Navy SEALs, more than eight hours into this operation. Experts have said it could take a total of 11 hours round trip to rescue the first boy, but remember, this is all a very fluid situation because they haven't done this before.


GALLAGHER: They've done dry runs. They've been trying to figure out what to do.

Now, the governor there, though, says he does expect the first child to be brought out today. This entire operation, though, to temper expectations could take two to three days. Now, boys are being rescued one by one.

We've got to remind you, though, some of the boys cannot swim. They are weak. They didn't eat for several days. They've been doing that energy gel in the meantime, but the images we can see from inside there, makes it -- it's difficult. Tight spaces, complete darkness.

[07:55:00] BLACKWELL: Yes, it's important also to say that these crews are racing the weather.


BLACKWELL: They've got that urgency because rains have started. Monsoon-level rains are expected to intensify this week, and, Dianne, you mentioned that they say that this takes 11 hours for the experienced diver to go in and come out. There is the variable of the child.


BLACKWELL: And potential panic and anxiety and fatigue.

GALLAGHER: And the fact that they are not experienced divers, nor climbers. We've seen some of the maps of just how intricate and narrow and steep some of these areas are, and to top all of this off, the governor says that the decision on who comes out first after being assessed by doctors is actually up to the boys.

I mean, we are talking 11 to 16-year-old boys and their coach having to decide who goes first. Experts have told us that they think that in their opinion, the strongest should go first.

BLACKWELL: Because that proves the theory, that proves the plan. If they can get the strongest out and get back to the rest of the boys, they will create some hope, some optimism that all of them will make it out. The entire world is hoping that they all make it out.

GALLAGHER: And that is key, that optimism there.

We want you guys to stay with us. We're going to continue, of course, to follow the breaking news in Thailand after a quick break.