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Pope Defrocks Chilean Priest Accused of Child Sex Abuse; Pussy Riot Activist Flown To Berlin For Treatment; Thousands of People Trying to Flee Idlib Province. Aired 12m-1a ET

Aired September 17, 2018 - 00:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The strongest storm in the world this year makes another landfall, Typhoon Mangkhut now lashing mainland China with heavy rain and intense winds.

A nomination in trouble, as shocking allegations of sexual assault are revealed against President Trump's pick for the Supreme Court.

And a tragedy on the shores of Cape Cod as a young student is killed in a rare shark attack.

Hello, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


CHURCH: The destruction from monster storms in Southeast Asia and the southeastern United States is far from over. Typhoon Mangkhut reached mainland China on Sunday after pummeling Macao and Hong Kong.

Some people in Macao had to be rescued in rubber dinghies. Gale force winds, uprooted trees and smashed windows in Hong Kong, water levels surged 3.5 meters.

In the U.S. authorities say the worst flooding is yet to come as was what is now tropical depression Florence continues to dump rain and rivers rise. And crews in Lumberton, North Carolina are racing to shore up the levee system before the Lumber River crests.


CHURCH: And our Matt Rivers is tracking Typhoon Mangkhut and joins us now from Beijing with the very latest.

Matt, what is the information you have that you're getting on where this massive storm is right now and the damage it's causing?

And what are you learning about the damage --


CHURCH: -- done so far across the path?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Pedram said, it is lingering over southern China where it continued to produce rain. This is an area that you mentioned that is used to flooding. Southern China there were preparations done; 2.5 million people evacuated, more than 18,000 shelters set up by the government.

This is something the government had time to prepare for. As a result, you're probably seeing less damage and there could have been -- give that this area has seen this kind of rain before and had time to prepare.

That said, this is a deadly storm. The death toll continuing to rise in the Philippines. In Southern China, there have been four deaths attributed to this storm so far but it's the Philippines where we've seen the most loss of life.

The current numbers as of 6:00 am local time would have been 54 deaths in the Philippines, 33 people injured and 42 missing. Landslides are the main cause of those deaths. And rescue operations are still ongoing.

This is a fluid situation, especially in the Philippines. Some of these areas very remote, very difficult to reach. Officials are determining exactly how many people are missing. We do expect those numbers to continue to go up.

We know rescues are ongoing, these are live pictures of rescue operations finding people in the landslides, trapped right now. Hopefully officials can find people that are still alive. But like we said, this is a fluid situation.

The clean-up from the storm, even though it is passed, the rescue operations still very much active in the Philippines and we expect those operations to continue as well in Southern China.

CHURCH: Matt, as you say, 55 deaths so far. We're looking at those pictures now. Very difficult situation for the Philippines.

How are authorities dealing with the aftermath of this?

And what is happening to those people that survived and don't have anywhere to go?

RIVERS: You know, this is a situation that, unfortunately, Rosemary, we've seen repeated time and again in the Philippines. There's just not very good infrastructure to deal with storms like this. So you see the rescue operations. We see this almost every year.

So people are generally brought to shelters and evacuated ahead of time but for whatever reason, people choose not to leave and they're struck by these landslides. It's a very mountainous region in the northern part of the Philippines where the typhoon struck on the island of Luzon.

And as a result those hillsides can come down quickly and they trap those people and they bury them. Officials have a lot of practice in the Philippines in dealing with these situations. Hopefully they will find people alive but their work is cut out for them.

CHURCH: Absolutely and, tragically, we find people don't have any alternatives. There's nowhere else they can go but hunker down in their homes and structurally sometimes they're just not up to these sorts of weather conditions.

Matt Rivers joining us with the live report from Beijing, many thanks.

River flooding is just beginning in parts of North and South Carolina. The slow-moving remnants of Hurricane Florence are expected to dump even more rain through at least Tuesday evening; 18 people are dead and hundreds are trapped.

Are Kaylee Hartung is in Wilmington, North Carolina, and that city is essentially now cut off from the rest of the state by the floods.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a different kind of phenomenon. This is something we've never seen before. That's how Wilmington's mayor Bill Saffo described to me the situation that the city finds itself in now.

Floodwaters rising quickly in areas that have never flooded before and floodwaters moving quickly on to their next target. Last night in Wilmington, more than 250 rescues were performed by the volunteers of the Cajun Navy.

About 500 rescues performed by local, state and federal assets working together as well. Over the course of the day, that need has subsided but the floodwaters remain. This intersection behind me, one example, but I'm told this is a flood zone. This is what it is supposed to be doing.

Even after a good thunderstorm, this area will flood. That flooding helps keep thoroughfares like Market Street open for people to pass through the city of Wilmington, which they're able to do. Maybe the necessity to dodge a downed tree or a power line.

The bigger problem from transportation around the city, the floodwaters that have cut off the city, effectively --


HARTUNG: -- making it an island. The mayor telling me you can't get closer than 40, maybe 20 miles to Wilmington and its surrounding areas before you come across impassable roads.

He says anyone trying to come back home and check on their property after this storm, you will be stopped by Highway Patrol and not be let through. The same rules have applied to FEMA trucks coming in for help. Even Duke Power Company trucks trying to get power back to this area.

This situation continually evolving and the damage that Florence will do to this area and the extent of it is still unknown -- Kaylee Hartung in Wilmington, North Carolina.



CHURCH: Joining me on the phone to talk more about what's happening on the ground is Ralph Evangelous, chief of police for Wilmington, North Carolina.

Thank you so much for talking with us at this very difficult time for your city as you deal with the remnants of Hurricane Florence now, of course, a tropical depression.

So what is your biggest challenge right now?

RALPH EVANGELOUS, CHIEF OF POLICE, WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA: Well, presently we're under flash flood warning as we speak. We still have rain coming in off and on, rivers going to crest here mid-week.

We still have 100,000 outages -- 100,000 people without power throughout the entire county here. We have trees that are down, power lines are still down. Some roadways still flooded and we're finally responding to all calls for service now. We're prioritizing them obviously.

We have the entire department on 12-hour shifts. Most of them are actually embedded throughout the community so they don't go home. We're calling in assistance from other agencies to be here. They started arriving tonight.

And during the week we'll have -- we'll have other police state, local and federal agencies here to help us patrol, to control any potential looting. So we're -- we're -- out straight have been since Thursday.

CHURCH: Wow. That is really difficult. I wanted to ask how first responders will deal with the flash flooding. It is expected, as you mentioned, to worsen with each passing hour as rivers rise and levees give way. They've been working nonstop. They're going to be exhausted.

EVANGELOUS: Yes. They are. They haven't had a day's day off -- won't have for several more until we could get other crews in here to relieve them. But they've been -- they haven't complained. They've been here. They've been really doing an enormous job and I'm proud of them all.

CHURCH: Yes. Understandably so -- and the rest of us across the United States are as well.

So how are people coping in shelters and how many more people do you think are still trapped and in need of rescuing in your local area?

EVANGELOUS: Well, that's difficult. We're still going out and getting people. And we're using the deep water vehicles to get them and bring them to shelters. The shelters are mostly full right now. I believe there's one that still has some room in it. One of the problems we're having is logistics for all the other crews coming in to assist us. Where we're putting them, where they're going to sleep, how we're going to feed them. So we're putting all that together right now. And it is a work in progress but one of which we planned for. And it's coming all together.

CHURCH: And you know, as you're speaking with us on the phone, we're looking at these pictures coming in. The damage is extensive. It is extraordinary. How long do you think it would take to get the city back to no normal?

EVANGELOUS: Well, it's going to be -- it's going to take some time but I have to say that the response from local, regional, state and federal has been pretty impressive so far.

The electric companies here, I understand, have a thousand crews on stand by. They actually started working today when the rain would let up. And we think we'll get power back here hopefully with in, you know a week. You know, a week, two weeks. But that's to be seen.

CHURCH: That is extraordinary. Well, we hope the power will be returned soon. That the water will eventually disperse there although that will take some time and we hope that people's lives will get back normal as soon as possible.

Ralph Evangelous, thank you so much, the chief of police for Wilmington, for talking to us on the phone when you have so much more to do. We do appreciate it. Thank you.

EVANGELOUS: Thank you.


CHURCH: We'll take a short break here. Still to come, a California professor goes public with her allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. How this could affect his confirmation. We'll take a look at that when we come back.






CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

A new revelation is sending shock waves through Washington. The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has come forward. Christine Blasey Ford shared her story with "The Washington Post," alleging he pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsy attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it.

Kavanaugh denies the accusation. Boris Sanchez has more now from the White House.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House not really saying anything new when it comes to these detailed allegations from Christine Blasey Ford in "The Washington Post," in which she alleges Judge Brett Kavanaugh inappropriately sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school.

Kavanaugh has denied those accusations. Last week through the White House, he put out a statement essentially saying that it never took place.

Today when I asked White House spokesperson Raj Shah about these detailed allegations, Ford coming forward with her name on the record, he pointed to that --


SANCHEZ: -- previous denial by Brett Kavanaugh. The White House apparently feels that denial is sufficient to deal with some of these new claims that Ford is making, including that she took a polygraph test administered by former FBI agents back in August, which she claims that she passed.

Democrats are suggesting that any confirmation vote to move Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court should be delayed until the FBI completes a probe into these allegations. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are pushing back. The chairman of that committee, Chuck Grassley openly questioning why Senator Feinstein had this information back in July from Ford through an anonymous letter and chose to hold it back until these later stages in a confirmation process.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had a notable statement as well. He essentially said that he sympathizes with Republicans on the Judiciary Committee but that he would like to hear from Ms. Ford himself.

In that statement, he effectively invites her to testify before the committee, something that is unclear whether it will happen or not. We should point out the president has remained uncharacteristically silent on Twitter.

The president has tweeted multiple times Sunday afternoon, congratulating Mexicans on the national independence day and claiming that if Democrats are elected to Congress, the economy would tank.

But he's not said anything about these allegations into his Supreme Court nominee -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about this is Bill Schneider, Professor at George Mason University, he's also the author of "Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable." Always great to have you on the show.


CHURCH: So, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh denied the sexual assault accusation last week before the accuser revealed who she was Sunday. The Democrats and Republican Jeff Flake want to postpone the vote, but the Senate Judiciary Committee still set to vote on his nomination Thursday, although, Kavanaugh will be questioned along with his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. What needs to happen next, do you think? And what impact could this potentially have on the outcome?

SCHNEIDER: Well, my goodness, this is an explosive issue. It's very much like the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas confrontation in 1991, only this time, we're just a few weeks ahead of the election. That confrontation in 1991 was a year ahead of the midterm election. And also, of course, we have President Donald Trump who's unlikely to keep his distance from the confirmation process, unlike the first President Bush who nominated Clarence Thomas but played very little role in the confirmation hearings.

CHURCH: Right. So, the Republicans have questioned the timing of this. Why do you think Senator Feinstein waited so long to go public with the details of this accusation?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the woman did not want her name made public. And it was not clear that she would be willing to testify because she didn't want her name to be made public. So, I think Senator Feinstein indicated she would respect the woman's wishes. If she had released the letter earlier then the woman would have had to come forward publicly as she has done now that the letter has been released. Well, that creates a problem because she will be -- it will be a question of her credibility versus Mr. Kavanaugh's credibility, just like it was between Thomas and Hill in 1991. It's a test of credibility.

CHURCH: And you keep mentioning that, I mean, these parallels have been drawn, haven't they, between Kavanaugh's nomination and the one for Clarence Thomas, who of course, went on to become a Supreme Court Justice. Would you expect the same outcome?

SCHNEIDER: It's hard to say, because it's a matter of who is more credible. Now, I covered the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings for CNN. And I remember that we kept polling during those hearings. And what we discovered is that he had a lot more sympathy than she did, although she got a lot of support from women, he had more sympathy, really, especially after he played the race card and called it a high-tech lynching for an uppity black. That created a huge amount of support for him in the African-American community. Here, we just don't know which of these two will be more credible, but it will clearly be his word versus her word. CHURCH: And let's go back to the accuser. You mentioned Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas situation and of course, many years have passed since then, but sadly, for a lot of women, there's a reason why they wouldn't have done -- come out and reveal themselves publicly because this new accuser now, Blasey Ford, there's going to be a lot of attention on her, the spotlight would be on her, on her private life. Life will be very different for her no matter what the outcome of this.


CHURCH: So, I mean, this is a very brave move on her part and of course, this does have to be investigated. What is likely to happen to her, the accuser?

SCHNEIDER: Well, she'll be under attack from conservatives. Her credibility will be under attack. Her morality will be under attack, just as Anita Hill was.


SCHNEIDER: It will be a very difficult process which is why she was reluctant to come forward. But once she wrote that letter, she had to put her name behind it. And now, she has to testify because really, what's at stake here is her credibility.

There is one important difference between the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and the Kavanaugh hearings and that is Donald Trump is president. Donald Trump won't keep his distance from an event like this. He will be tweeting throughout the whole thing and he will -- he wants to dominate every news cycle.

So, he's likely to get involved in this process in a way that could be very harmful for his nominee because President Trump is not a very popular figure. And could have repercussions on the midterm election because there could be a huge backlash among women voters.

CHURCH: Bill Schneider, just very, very quickly. Because, of course, this vote is still going ahead on Thursday. How much investigation can occur between now and Thursday with this vote?

SCHNEIDER: Very little. And if it does go forward, I think that -- I don't think it'll go forward because Jeff Flake, a Republican of the committee has already indicated he won't vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. So, I think it's unlikely that it'll go forward and there will be a process just to be fair of hearing this woman out. She will have to testify. After all, she wrote the letter.

CHURCH: But be interesting to see if that is the case, indeed, this gets delayed. We'll watch very closely, of course. Bill Schneider, always a pleasure to have you with us. Thank you.



CHURCH: We'll take a break here. Still ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We moved some supplies, food and water, in case of an emergency, God forbid.

CHURCH (voice-over): Preparing for the worst. Residents of Idlib, Syria, try to safeguard their loved ones against the horrors of war.



[00:30:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone, to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to check the headlines for you, this hour.

Rescue efforts are underway in the Philippines where landslides are the major danger in the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut. At least 54 people were killed in the storm there. The typhoon is now moving inland across mainland China. More than 2 million people have been evacuated from China's Guangdong Province.

The worst flooding is yet to come from parts of North and South Carolina. Rivers are rising to dangerous levels and remnants of Hurricane Florence, now a tropical depression, will dump even more rain, at least 18 people are dead and rescue crews are rushing to help hundreds still trapped by the floods.

Pope Francis has expelled a Chilean priest accused of sexually abusing children. Cristian Precht Banados is among the many clergymen, under investigation in Chile, but has not yet been criminally charged. The defrocking comes as the church faces public outcry for its handling of abuse scandals, dating back decades.

In Russia, new protest over the Kremlin's controversial plan to raise the retirement age, this time, in President Vladimir Putin's hometown, Saint Petersburg. He says, the system must be reformed or there won't be enough money to pay pension. Hundreds of people were detained last week, at similar protest, and the President's approval rating has dropped over this proposal.

Well, police in Salisbury, England say there's nothing to suggest that Novichok is what made two restaurant diners mysteriously sick. Investigators cordoned off the area for several hours, Sunday evening. It shows how the city is still on edge after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned by Novichok, a deadly nerve agent back in March.

Now, months later, two other people also became sick, and one of them died when they accidentally handled the perfume bottle that contained the poison.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Salisbury, England. He joins us now, live. So, Nic, Novichok is no longer suspected, but of course, this does indicate just how on edge that city is. But why would they necessarily at a restaurant, not have gone to a possibility of food poisoning, rather than this Novichok? Why so quickly jumping to that, initially?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's still not clear, Rosemary, because we don't have all of the details, but what is interesting about this particular case, you know, in two times the police describe this as initially a precautionary measure to approach the situation this way.

They also later describe it as a highly precautionary approach that they should -- that they should treat this as a potential for the possibility -- although they haven't said it, a possibility of Novichok, but they've clearly addressed that issue that people's concern might be because of their approach, that it might be Novichok.

So, I think, the police are using language that indicates, again, as you say, that this is a town on edge, though the emergency services have an approach to be very careful in situations like this.

So what actually happened was, it was the ambulance service responding to a call coming from the restaurant, saying that two people, a man and a woman, had fallen ill. And it was when the ambulance service arrived here to treat those people, they then took the approach of calling the police.

The police then cordoned off the restaurant and surrounding streets as well, as they said, a precautionary -- as a precautionary measure. So, the fact that they've now lifted that cordoning, and as you've said, they say there's no reason to believe that Novichok was involved here.

The cordon has been lifted in the area. However, the restaurant itself still remains cordoned off. It's not accessible to the -- to the public. No one can go in. The police officer on duty there who's told me that's his job to make sure that it remains -- that it remains a place sealed off to the public, because the police say that an investigation is still going on to see if a crime was committed there.

So, I think, as you say, this is a town on edge. The emergency services have a well formulated plan to approach this issue. And as we heard in the aftermath of that most recent 2-1/2 months ago, incident of Novichok being found discarded and then people falling ill, one of them dying.

The police officer in charge in Wiltshire said, we still don't know if there's a possibility that there could be more out there. All of these things add up to that abundance of caution.

CHURCH: Well, let's hope authorities find out very quickly what did cause this illness and hopefully put people at risk.

So, many thanks to our Nic Robertson, joining us there from Salisbury, in England, with all the details on that, appreciate it.

[00:35:02] Well, a member of the Russian activist punk rock group, Pussy Riot, is hospitalized after possibly being-poisoned. Peter Verzilov was being treated in Moscow. But his family members pushed for him to get care in Berlin.

That is according to the German non-profit -- that organized the flight. He had reportedly lost his sight, speech and ability to walk, but a band member now says he is doing much better.

So, Verzilov and the group are outspoken critics of the Kremlin. He was one of the protesters who rushed onto the pitch at the World Cup Final in July. We'll keep an eye on that story.

To another one we're watching very closely, Idlib Province remained a nightmare for civilians caught in serious vicious civil war. The U.N. says more than 30,000 people have tried to flee in the past week, this, as they faced threats from multiple sides.

Idlib is Syria's last major rebel stronghold and it's increasingly dominated by extremists. There are reports militants are detaining people who tried to negotiate with pro-government troops. At the same time, Syrian and Russian forces have been pounding the area. Amnesty international accuses the government of using cluster weapons and barrel bombs.

Now, all this comes ahead of a likely Russian and government ground offensive. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has this story of one man doing all he can to protect his family.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are so many ways to die in Idlib, but, only the most primitive methods for survival. Huthaifa al-Shahhad is preparing for a regime onslaught in Idlib. This makeshift shelter may be the difference between life and death for his family.

HUTHAIFA AL-SHAHHAD, RESIDENT OF IDLIB (through translator): We have moved some supplies, food and water, in case of an emergency, God forbid, because Russia is tracking with highly explosive bombs that houses cannot withstand. God willing, the cave will protect us from that.

KARADSHEH: The regime's offensive to be captured, the last major rebel stronghold haven't officially started yet. But bombs have already been raining down on southern Idlib. Al-Shahhad hopes the cave would shelter his family from the worst of the conventional weapons. But in Syria, even a breath of fresh air is an uncertainty.

AL-SHAHHAD (through translator): We made the gas masks to protect our children, God forbid, if a chemical attack happens, to protect their eyes and ears. It's the least we can do.

KARADSHEH: Upstairs in their living room, preparing for the worst, is all they can do. Residents here fear the possibility of another chemical attack. Following instructions he found online, Al-Shahhad uses what he can find, colorful paper cups, cotton, bandages, charcoal and plastic bags to create his family's survival kit, these improvised gas masks. Al-Shahhad walks his children down into the darkness to inspect their

underground hideaway, with nowhere left to run when the battle begins, this could be their only sanctuary. CNN, Istanbul.


CHURCH: And to learn more about how you could help the civilians struggling to survive in Syria, just head over to our website at

All fear and shock along one U.S. coastal area after a shark attack takes a surfer's life, his story, after this short break.


[00:40:00] CHURCH: It is a beachgoer's nightmare; this 26-year-old engineering student is the first person to die in a shark attack in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, in more than eight decades. But, it is not the first human encounter with a shark in the area, this year. Our Alison Kosik explains.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A vigil was held to remember 26-year-old Arthur Medici, dozens showed up at the beach and walked to the water's edge and threw -- and through surfer-style, threw fresh flowers into the water.

He's being described as a guy with a bright smile and a bright future ahead of him, but his life was cut short on Saturday afternoon, when he was on a boogie board and seriously injured by a great white shark. The beach was closed after that attack.

But interestingly enough, even hours after that attack, aerial video shows sharks still swimming in the water where that attack happened. Many surfers say that the beach shouldn't be closed and it's really not accomplishing anything.

TIM GORDON, SURFER FROM NEW JERSEY: The same conditions that were here, yesterday, when the person was attacked, the same conditions that are here today, it will be tomorrow, and will be 10 years from now. It's exactly the same. And this environment doesn't change for us. It's we have to change for it.

KOSIK: Witnesses tell investigators that they think that Medici was attacked just 30 yards from shore. That's 90 feet. Now, great white sharks aren't strangers to Cape Cod beaches. They're certainly been a dramatic increase in gray seals lately, and their greatest predator, is shark.

So, may times, you will hear people who actually go into the water, talk about swimming side by side with seals, but they thing is, they don't know of a shark is nearby. In Wellfleet, Massachusetts, I'm Alison Kosik, now, back to you.


CHURCH: Thanks for that report. And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. WORLD SPORT is up next, and then of course, I'll be back with another hour of news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.


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