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Death Toll Jumps In Mozambique Storm As 15,000 Await Rescue; Pentagon Tells Moscow Toke Down-Rhetoric Over U.S. Warplane; Student Pretended To Pray During Bus Hijacking But He Was Actually Calling For Help; E.U. Agrees To U.K. P.M.'s Request For Brexit Extension; E.U. Agrees to Theresa May's Request for Brexit Extension; New Zealand Remembers; White House Bracing for Release of Mueller Report; U.S. Will Recognize Israel Control of Golan Heights; Trump is Facing Criticism Over McCain Comments. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired March 22, 2019 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[02:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A Brexit extension. European leaders grant Prime Minister Theresa May another lifeline, agreeing to delay Britain's exit from the E.U. but there's a catch.
Plus, New Zealand falls silent, mourning the loss of dozens killed in a deadly mosque attack that happened one week ago.
Also ahead this hour, the U.S. president makes a stunning reversal of U.S. policy, announcing it's time for the United States to recognize Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Live from CNN, world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers all over the world. I'm George Howell. "Newsroom" starts right now.
Around the world, good day to you. It is all of United Kingdom parliament again. The European Union threw Theresa May one last lifeline and agreed to a Brexit extension. But it comes with strings attached. If British lawmakers approve the prime minister's divorce bill, the U.K. leaves the E.U. on May 22nd. But if at once again it fails in parliament, the U.K. has until April 12 to figure out what happens next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COUNCIL: What this means in practice is that, until that date, all options will remain open, and the cliff- edge date will be delayed. The U.K. government will still have a choice of a deal, no-deal, a long extension or revoking Article 50.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Article 50 is the clause to leave the E.U. and revoking it would prevent Brexit. But Miss May has said that she has no intention of stopping Brexit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: What the decision today underlines is the importance of the House of Commons passing a Brexit deal next week so that we can bring an end to the uncertainty and leave in a smooth and orderly manner.
Tomorrow morning, I will be returning to the U.K. and working hard to build support for getting the deal through. I know MPs on all sides of the debate have passionate views, and I respect those different positions.
Last night, I expressed my frustration, and I know that MPs are frustrated, too. They have difficult jobs to do. I hope we can all agree we are now at the moment of decision. And I will make every effort to ensure that we are able to leave with a deal and move our country forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: CNN's Melissa Bell is following the story live this hour in Brussels. Melissa, the message is quite clear from Brussels, accept the deal or -- and get a little more time, reject it yet less time, and it is also decision time.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Essentially the ball is in the court of Westminster MPs. It is they who will now have to make that decision. The question is whether the arithmetic is on Theresa May's side.
Once again, this very same deal twice rejected by MPs will come back for the next week. It would take 75 of those MPs on the last vote, George, to change their minds and back Theresa May's deal.
It is unclear whether what has happened in Brussels here yesterday and will continue to happen is going to have terribly much impact on that decision, how much would it weigh on their minds. Clearly there is now little bit more time.
And I think perhaps more fundamentally, what's essentially been taken off the table at least for the foreseeable future, for the three weeks until that April 12 extension should the deal not get through tomorrow is that fear of a no-deal, of the U.K. crashing out of the E.U. It would have been a week today that that was going to happen.
And I think that in a sense, by giving the United Kingdom the two- phase deal, what Europeans have managed to do is increase the likelihood that more time will be spent working out what sort of deal should be hammered out to get the U.K. out of E.U., whether it is Theresa May or another, because of course the United Kingdom under this latest deal keeps the right beyond April 12, if for instance it chose to participate in European election to give itself an extension of several months.
Clearly, the Brexiters are not going to want that, but it does allow more time for those who wanted. What it takes off the table for the immediate future though, George, is the no-deal crashing out scenario that most people in the United Kingdom with some exceptions at Westminster were keen to avoid. George?
[02:05:00] HOWELL: Melissa, also the question still to be asked, whether that deal, Theresa May's deal, will even be allowed on the floor for a vote.
BELL: That's right. John Bercow, who is the speaker of the House, had made that decision just a few days ago, that it had not substantially changed and therefore should not be put before MPs until it had been changed.
Whether he will now make the decision, given the announcements made here in Brussels very late last night about the revised timeframe, that is enough for MPs to reconsider, but an awful lot pressure on this particular man and a lot of attention on that decision that he will make.
And then of course, if it does get put to the House next week, which is what it would have to get through, the number of MPs it would take to change their mind simply seems too tall a mountain to climb. And so we go back to the second part of the deal that we heard last night which allows an extension through April 12th.
That is only three weeks away, George. So the pressure will be on the MPs to try and find another solution with question also if Theresa May loses a third vote about what happens to her government.
So still clearly the uncertainty remains huge, but I think what we do have now is the prospect of more time to allow a British government to find some kind of solution to getting the U.K. out of the E.U. or not, and perhaps a greater sense of how the calendar of this is going to play.
The big date as far as Europeans is concerned is the 22nd of May, either they say the United Kingdom is out before that, beginning of European election, or they take part in this election and they stay through, and then we are looking at an extension that will be far longer, George.
HOWELL: Melissa Bell, live for us in Brussels. Melissa, thank you. And the question now, will the Brexit extension helps Theresa May get her deal past parliament? CNN's European Affairs commentator Dominic Thomas had this to say on that question earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: It's absolutely incredible when you think over the day with all the chaos and the craziness around this that 27 European leaders came together from radically different political persuasions, including big hitters like French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and in one day, in one day of meetings, they were able to think carefully about how they will protect the integrity of E.U. institutions, reach consensus, and at the same time demonstrate tremendous flexibility.
It was a lesson to Theresa May and a lesson to political parties back in the U.K. that have been fighting over Brexit for over three years now as to how to go about proceeding. And you're absolutely right that when questioned by them, she was incapable of coming up with a concrete solution beyond simply wanting to present her plan back in parliament. And my feeling is that she has less chance of getting this deal through now than she had even at the first time when she went about presenting it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Now to New Zealand, a nation that is in mourning one week after a self-described white supremacist walked into a mosque in Christchurch, raised his military-style weapon and opened fired. He then went to another mosque and started firing again.
HOWELL (voice-over): Just a few hours ago, New Zealand paused to remember the 50 people who were killed in the awful attacks there. The 50 others who were wounded, they took part in a symbolic and unifying gesture, a call to prayer heard across the country and around the world, replacing the horrific sound from a week ago with an automatic weapon's fire and cries for help.
And then this, they held two minutes of silence. The prime minister of the nation, Jacinda Ardern, repeated her call for unity with three simple words, we are one.
JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: According to Muslim faith, the Prophet Mohammed, sallalaahu alaihi wa sallam, said, "The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain." New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is live in Christchurch, following the story today. Ivan?
[02:10:01] IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, George. One of the striking details from the memorial that was held in Christchurch that the prime minister attended was the imam who spoke there. This man's name is Gamal Fouda. Last Friday, he was in Al Noor Mosque giving his sermon and that is when the suspect burst in and began shooting worshippers one by one.
Seven days later, the same cleric addressed thousands of people including the prime minister who had gathered in the park here in Christchurch and thanks New Zealanders for showing such support for the country's tiny Muslim minority. It makes up just one percent of the population here. Take a listen to an excerpt from his sermon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GAMAL FOUDA, IMAM, MASJID AL NOOR MOSQUE: We have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable and that the world can see in us an example of love and unity. We are broken-hearted but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: In the last couple of hours, we have been watching as mourners have buried 26 of the victims, one by one here in the cemetery behind me. The youngest of those who were there today was 3- year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, the oldest, 77-year-old Musa Nur Awale. They are just some of the 50 people who were killed last Friday, many more wounded as well.
Again, this has been a day for New Zealanders to come together in grief and in unity. The prime minister of this country has said that the country is forever changed after last Friday's deadly active terror. George?
HOWELL: Ivan Watson, live for us in Christchurch, thank you.
As the prime minister announced her plan to ban military-style assault weapons, TVNZ reports almost 70,000 New Zealanders have signed petitions in support of tougher gun laws. Crowds gathered outside parliament to deliver those petitions, as you see here. Miss Ardern says that she hopes parliament will adopt a new law by April 11th. Here is how she put it on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARDERN: Every semiautomatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country. These changes will require legislation. That legislation is now being drafted and will be introduced under urgency. My expectation is that the law will be in place by the end of the next two weeks' sitting sessions, which is by the 11th of April.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: As Miss Ardern mentioned, the ban will cover all military- style semiautomatic weapons, assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines. Officials are being directed to develop a system to buyback the weapons from gun owners. Still, the ban would include narrow exemptions for the police, defense forces as well as legitimate business uses such as pest control along with farmers.
New Zealand's police minister adds action will be taken to prevent people from stockpiling weapons ahead of the change of law and to encourage gun owners to surrender their weapons.
Preparations and posturing, the White House braces for the release of the Mueller report. We will the details on that story for you ahead. Plus, President Trump dives headlong on the thorniest issue in the Middle East, his comments about the Golan Heights, making Israeli prime minister very happy, and the timing is interesting as well. Stay with us. [02:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOWELL: Welcome back to "CNN Newsroom." I'm George Howell. In U.S. politics, no one really knows when special counsel Robert Mueller's report on election meddling will be released. But all across Washington and beyond, the waiting game is in full swing and the sense of anxiety is now growing as our Jim Acosta reports.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As the White House is awaiting the arrival of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on alleged Trump campaign ties to Russia, the president is clearly gearing up for battle for the 2020 election, firing up the conservative base.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have a president who is also fighting for you. I'm with you all the way.
ACOSTA: But tonight, the president is facing new accusation of stonewalling as House Democrats complain the White House is blocking their efforts to seek information about Mr. Trump's conversations with Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Democratic leaders released this letter from the White House's council, stating, "While we respectfully seek to accommodate appropriate oversight requests, we are unaware of any precedent supporting such sweeping requests."
House Democrats are seeking any document that could reveal why the president seems so eager to accept Putin's denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
ACOSTA: House Democrats are also on the hunt for personal e-mails and encrypted text messages from Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, revealing in a statement that the attorney for the president's daughter and son- in-law "confirmed that Mr. Kushner has been using WhatsApp as a part of his official duties in the White House. Also confirmed that Ms. Trump continues to receive official e-mails on her personal e-mail account and she does not forward the e-mails to her official account." Using private messaging to conduct government business with something Mr. Trump slammed Hillary Clinton for doing in 2016.
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
ACOSTA: As for the Mueller report, the president is urging its release.
TRUMP: Let it come out. Let people see it. That's up to the attorney general. We have a very good attorney general. He is a very highly respected man. We will see what happens. ACOSTA: One reason why there is growing optimism inside Trump world, advisers believe the report will conclude the president did not commit any crimes. As one adviser predicted, this clears the death (ph) for us.
There is a fresh sign the president is working to shore up his support heading into the 2020 campaign, as he lends a hand to a key political ally. The president announced that the U.S. will recognize Israel's control over the Golan Heights, an area that has been hotly contested for decades, tweeting, "After 52 years, it is time for United States to fully recognize Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights."
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: President Trump has just made history. I called him. I thank him on behalf of the people of Israel.
ACOSTA: The move is a gift to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an unabashed Trump supporter who is facing reelection next month. But the president denied he did it for any political reasons.
TRUMP: No, I wouldn't even know about that. I wouldn't even know about that. I have no idea. He is doing OK.
ACOSTA: But the president is still facing pushback on his recent comments that he approved the funeral for the late senator, John McCain.
[02:20:04] TRUMP: I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president, I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn't get thank you. That's OK.
ACOSTA: The site of McCain's funeral, the National Cathedral, released a statement contradicting the president's comments, saying, "Only a state funeral for a former president involves consultation with government officials. No funeral at the cathedral requires the approval of the president or any other government official."
As for the House Democratic investigations, an attorney for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner pushed back on the claims coming from House Democrats, saying they were not completely accurate. But the prospect that the president's own family members were conducting government business over private communications raises questions about whether the Trump family learned any lessons from the 2016 campaign when they hammered Hillary Clinton over her e-mail use.
Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
HOWELL: As to whether any type of public report on Mueller's finding will be made available, still unclear. But according to a CNN poll, 87 percent of Americans surveyed believe it should be made public. Only nine percent disagree.
Let's talk more about all of this now with Scott Lucas. Scott is a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, also the founder and editor of EA WorldView, joining us this hour from Birmingham, England. Good to have you.
SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, George.
HOWELL: First, let's start with this roll over the personal e-mail use by top officials. Representative Elijah Cummings is saying that senior White House officials are using personal e-mail for work, and that Jared Kushner is accused of using an encrypted app to talk to foreign leaders. This harkens back to the whole Hillary Clinton firestorm around the private server. Where do you see this going?
LUCAS: George, Hillary's e-mails, I mean, I say that to illustrate of course that with the highlighting of using private servers and private messaging during the 2016 campaign, especially with others who might be pursuing their own interests, this is a major issue.
But now we find and in fact some of us already knew that Jared Kushner since he became a White House advisor has been using private messaging services to carry out his version of American diplomacy with foreign governments and with their entities.
We also know that Jared Kushner, because you need to connect the dots here, George, did not declare when he entered office his relationships with foreign governments, including his financial relationships. He later claimed there was an oversight.
The problem, George, here is one not of transparency. We don't need the public to know every move that our officials are making especially over security and foreign policy, but it is a question of keeping your own people informed. The State Department would not know what Jared Kushner is saying on WhatsApp.
And it's a question of conflict of interest. We know that that certain governments like China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, since the start of the Trump administration, they could manipulate Kushner. They could get what they wanted out of the Trump administration through him.
We know that Jared Kushner rightly or wrongly considers someone like the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, a close friend. That means that his one-on-one WhatsApp diplomacy is now taking over the process that is supposed to be conducted by our government.
HOWELL: That's interesting. I want to talk to you also about the Mueller report, Scott. It could drop any day now. The White House obviously is on high alert. They get the first look and may be able to apply executive privilege in some areas. How great of an advantage is that would you say if they get to see it before anyone else?
LUCAS: George, don't just call it an advantage, call this what it is, it is a political and legal battle. There is a parallel back in the 1970s. Some of your viewers may remember that when there was an investigation of Richard Nixon, he and his people tried to limit that investigation by the courts and by investigators by saying executive privilege. This is happening in this case.
But it is happening not only to try to keep the Mueller investigation out of public sight, the findings on public sight. This is now part of a PR campaign, because the White House strategy is, don't look at the report, look at how terrible Robert Mueller is and look at how compromised he is.
Look at the Democrats. They are the ones that colluded with Russia. The longer that they can hide the report which probably won't say the Democrats colluded with Russia and probably won't say that Robert Mueller is compromised, the more they have that advantage in what of course is not just simply a legal battle, but one that hangs over the future of Donald Trump in the 2020 reelection effort.
HOWELL: Speaking of Democrats, Scott, they will be fighting to make as much of that report public as possible. Also, Democrats are firing back after the White House rejected a request for documents related to President Trump's communications with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
[02:25:06] LUCAS: This takes us back to where we started with Jared Kushner, George, and that is that the belief of Trump and his advisers, whether or not you agree with it is, we carry out our personal diplomacy. We actually act on our behalf. We are not working as part of a coordinated American effort.
So when Donald Trump appears one-on-one with Vladimir Putin with no other American official there except for translators, what was said, what was promised, what might have been done that goes against U.S. policy on Russia which of course officially is one of sanctions, one officially not recognizing Russian action such as the annexation of Crimea or Russia's intervention in the Middle East, did Donald Trump adhere to that line or did he undercut it?
Because, just to conclude, George, we know that the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey when he was in the open and when we have a record, that Donald Trump bragged to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, that he had gotten rid of that crazy nut job.
HOWELL: Scott Lucas, live for us in Birmingham, England, thank you again.
LUCAS: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: The U.S. president casts aside decades-old U.S. policy on the Middle East, and he did it in a single tweet that could undo more than 50 years of diplomacy. Experts say that's a risky move without a clear objective.
Plus, the Pentagon is refusing to be ruffled by a firestorm of outrage from Moscow after Russian warplane allegedly intercepted a B-52 bomber. Our report from the Russian capital, ahead.
HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. You are watching "CNN Newsroom." I'm George Howell with the headlines we are following for you this hour. E.U. leaders have agreed to give the United Kingdom more time to ratify a Brexit deal. Brussels has offered two options: Brexit will be delayed until May 22nd if parliament approves Theresa May's exit deal. But if that fails again, U.K. has until April 12th to find a path forward.
In New Zealand, moments of silence and calls to prayer. The nation coming together to mark one week since a hate-filled gunman shot and killed worshippers at two mosques. Fifty people were killed, 50 others wounded. Twenty-six victims are expected to be buried on Friday.
The U.S. president, Donald Trump, says it is time to recognize Israel sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights.
Israel seized the territory from Syria in the 1967 war and then annexed it in 1981. The move comes less than three weeks before the Israeli election. We'll have more on that in just a moment for you.
ISIS though is on the verge of losing its last stronghold in Syria. U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched an assault on the final sliver of territory that the militants control. And our Senior International Correspondent Ben Wederman has been following that story for many weeks now joins us near one of the final battlegrounds. Ben?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, George. Well, we continue to wait for the (INAUDIBLE) here, this final announcement of victory over the physical Caliphate. Overnight there were airstrikes on that last sliver of land, we're told is still occupied by ISIS Jihadist. What we didn't notice what was different in terms of the of the bombardment overnight was they used a A.C.130 specter gunships which are used against personnel as supposed to buildings or vehicles.
We're told last night by a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces that there are still in his words hundreds of people inside that last sliver of land. Many of them he said are the most fanatical fighters. There may be an opportunity for people to surrender today we were told but they do expect the SDF does expect that there is a -- that last group of the hardcore Jihadist who may well be intending to fight to the death and death they will probably get, George?
HOWELL: And Ben, as for people who are fleeing, who are trying to escape, what happens with them?
WEDEMAN: It's important to note that many of those leaving, even the women and children are not necessarily escaping they are simply leaving because they are family members of the ISIS Jihadist. What happens to them is that they make their way up a rocky hill where they are first processed by the SDF, their names are recorded, fingerprints, the pictures of their faces taken. They're searched thoroughly because in several occasions in the past there were suicide bombers among them.
And once they are frisked and whatnot they're put on to vehicles, trailer trucks normally used for livestock, and they are trucked to a camp north of here called Al-Hawl which is now crammed with people. Many of them but not all of them in some way affiliated with ISIS. But there are already troubles in that camp because of tensions between those affiliated with ISIS and those not. So this is a long- term problem in terms what you do with these people.
No one has really come up with a solution in terms of the women and children but also the fighters and the foreign fighters as well. It's a problem and no clear solution at this point, George.
HOWELL: Ben Wedeman live for us in Eastern Syria. Ben, thank you. We hear that in the background. We'll stay in touch with you. I wish you and your team safety as you continue to report.
The U.S. President has decided to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights. It is a move that is unprecedented. No country has endorsed Israel's occupation of that territory and instead nations have universally condemned it. CNN's Oren Liebermann has more on this.
OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump upended decades of U.S. policy but not for the first time in recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 six-day war and it's been considered occupied territory ever since. Israel annexed the Golan more than a decade later. A move no country had ever recognized it until now.
Trump said, after 52 years it was time to recognize it as officially part of Israel. The move comes just a few weeks because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a tough reelection campaign. And the U.S. recognition is certain to give him, no one, not Trump, Netanyahu or U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made mention of the election but it seems apparet that the Trump administration is openly campaigning for Netanyahu.
Earlier in the day, Pompeo visit it the western wall in the old City of Jerusalem with Netanyahu. When Trump visited a couple years ago when Vice President Mike Pence visited, that was done alone because of the sensitivity of the site between Israelis and Palestinians. Well, no more, Pompeo went to the wall with Netanyahu which lends even more credence to the idea that Trump is pushing for Netanyahu to win.
And this could just be getting started. Netanyahu heads to Washington this weekend for AIPAC, the American Israel Lobby Conference who will be staying at the Blair House as an official guest of the White House and he will meet with Trump in what will basically be a campaign stop for Netanyahu.
[02:35:01] Now Turkey and the Palestinian authority have already condemned the White House move saying it will further destabilize the region and could lead to more violence. Lebanon and Syria will also certainly condemn the move and that's worth noting because Pompeo flies from Israel to Lebanon for meetings with officials there were not going to look favorably a Trump's move. Oren Lieberman, CNN, Jerusalem. GOODWIN: Oren, thank you. Rescue crews in China are sifting through
wreckage north of Shanghai looking for survivors. At least 47 people were killed when an explosion rocked the industrial zone there on Thursday. Chinese-state media say that firefighters are still fighting many of the small fires there after working through the night to put out the main fire. This is just one of a string of industrial accidents in China in recent years. Our Michael Holmes shows us what happened there.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A powerful blast rips through an industrial park in Eastern China. The deadly explosion followed a fire at a pesticide factory in a Yancheng City in Jiangsu Province. The video posted on Twitter shows the massive fire. The blast shattered windows and nearby homes and injured more than two dozen people including children. Witnesses also report seeing injured workers running from the burning factory.
And China's Earthquake Administration reported a 2.2 magnitude quake at the time of the blast. Public anger has grown in China over the lack of safety standards after a string of deadly industrial incidents in recent years. China's Work Safety administration reported 13 safety problems in this pesticide factory after an inspection last year. In November 2018, an explosion near a factory in Northern China killed at least 23 people.
And in August of 2015, a series of explosion rocked the container storage facility in the Port City of Tianjin. The cause of Thursday's disaster remains under investigation. Michael Holmes, CNN Atlanta.
HOWELL: A holiday tragedy in Northern Iraq has claimed at least 92 lives after an overcrowded ferry capsized in the city of Mosul. That boat was carrying about 150 people twice its capacity. People who were celebrating the Persian New Year and Mother's Day. Dozens of people are still missing and families are checking a public bulletin board for any information they can. The river was very high and fast, the bodies were quickly swept downstream before would-be rescuers could reach them.
It's considered the world's worst weather disaster to ever hit Southern Africa and the threat of rain, it is still not over yet. Next on CNN, a firsthand look at the devastation caused by tropical Cyclone Idai. Plus, Britain dodged a no-deal Brexit bullet for now at least. But a chaotic crash out is still quite a possibility the damage that might cause as NEWSROOM continues.
[02:40:40] HOWELL: Countries around the world have donated millions of dollars to help people in Southern Africa after they were hit by tropical Cyclone Idai. The storm left scenes of destruction and ongoing rain is hampering the rescue efforts there. The downpours are starting to ease but the threat or more rain? Still not over yet. Our Farai Sevenzo reports from Mozambique. FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Almost a week of the Cyclone Idai
hits the coast of Mozambique here in Beira where CNN is at the moment. It was obvious that huge clear out and rescue operation was still underway. On the streets of Beira, massive (INAUDIBLE) generations could be seen uprooted and in to people's houses. We also saw many signs of zinc and thin roof roofing all over the streets hanging by land posts, hanging on people's fences.
And men were at work all over the streets Beira trying to clear all these debris away a week after the cyclone hits. Over at the beaches, a young man came and arrive a boat from the very hard hit area of Buzi. With 200,000 people are still stuck and trapped because of rising waters. He told us that when the hits, he had no idea that it was meant to be so much water. He said that everybody knew that the cyclone was on its way but they were prepared. They thought that they were prepared.
Soon, the rivers of the River Buzi and (INAUDIBLE) started to rising and filled up people's homes and knocked down their (INAUDIBLE) cemented buildings. And soon, he told CNN, everybody was just high in water. He said he can't escape what he thought was the possibility of disease. There was many people still stuck there and it was very difficult for rescuers to get to them. And of course at the airport of Beira itself, many people were arriving to help in the efforts to relieve people.
United Nations, agencies like WFP, choppers from South African government all men and volunteers were gathered in Beira Airport. But of course the situation is still very grain for those that have not been rescued or been seen since the week has passed since that cyclone hit. Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Beira, Mozambique.
HOWELL: Farai, thank you. The storm also triggered massive landslides and Zimbabwe. And much needed help is now coming in from supply drops to cleanup efforts but for many people there, it's hardly anything left. Houses were caved in, completely swept away or rush of dirt, rocks and water. Many people were asleep when it happened. One woman spoke of losing her husband overnight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We were sleeping in the house around 10:00 p.m. in the evening and it was raining, it kept on pouring when a rock sliding from the hill start hitting our house. The stones we built our house with collapsed on us and then I yelled, oh my, I'm dying. The soil had filled my mouth, nose, and ears. Water filled the house to almost my neck level. I started to shake my husband body to no avail, he was already dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: This map from disastrous charter shows the areas of the town that were hit by flooding and by landslides. Flooded areas are in blue, the landslides are in red. Orange squares are the damaged buildings and the red squares are destroyed buildings. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam has more on Cyclone Idai as well as two other cycle that are causing great threats to Australian this weekend.
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR: George, it's been almost a week since tropical storm Idai made landfall in Central Mozambique and people are left to clean up the pieces. This particular individual finding some sheet metal from some of the destruction to help rebuild his house. I mean, just amazing stories at the moment coming out of Central Mozambique. And into Zimbabwe as well as parts of Malawi.
Now, we know that flooding has been a major concern across this area. At one point during the heights of the flooding event, there were some 400-square kilometers flooded. And that is equivalent, if you put that all together to seven New York Cities lined up in a row. So if you spread that out across Central Mozambique, that's the amount of landmass that flooded water would encompass.
[02:45:08] And by the way, some of those areas were six meters deep with water. This causes all kinds of problems, not only contaminations with chemicals spilling into the water but the potential foreign infection exist. So, E. Coli is a real concern.
Can you imagine having an open cut and entering in the flood water that's been stagnant or contaminated with some sort of chemical substance? And think about the aggressive insects. I've been in floodwaters after hurricanes and typhoons, biting ants. That's a real concern, mosquitoes, and wildlife too. They get agitated when they have a severe cyclones and typhoons like this. They seek dry land just as much as humans do as well.
Now, the good news out of all of this is the heaviest rainfall is to the north of the worst-hit areas of central Mozambique. The Beira region's still a few scattered showers and thunderstorms with the next few days, but the heaviest rainfall has come to an end, of course, any additional rainfall, I can only make matters worse. So we don't want to see that, but it's better than it was a week ago with a landfalling typhoon, for instance.
Now, I got to bring it to Australia because we have two simultaneous cyclones impacting the continent. This is incredible. The only saving grace here is that it's impacting areas that are sparsely populated.
Needless to say, there are still coastal evacuations taking place across the northern territory as Tropical Cyclone Trevor makes its way in over the next 24 hours, powerful winds. The potential for several months-worth of rainfall exists as the storm moves inland. And all -- a slew of problems existing across this area as the storm continues to pick up moisture across the northern territory into Queensland.
Now into Western Australia, it's Tropical Cyclone Veronica. This is even a stronger cyclone. Winds sustained over 200 kilometers per hour. It's going to stall out as it approaches a slightly more populated area of Western Australia and the potential exists for damaging winds, flooding rains, and a long extended period of wet weather for this area. And George, all kinds of threats across the world. HOWELL: All right, Derek. Thank you. The Pentagon has a message from Moscow. Cool down the language that spent a little more than five years now since Russia annexed Crimea. And now, its defense officials say the United States is trying to stoke tensions by flying a warplane near the Russian border. Our Fred Pleitgen has this story now from Moscow.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russia lashing out at the U.S. after claiming Russian jets intercepted a nuclear-capable B-52 bomber over the Baltic Sea. A Kremlin spokesman saying America is risking an escalation in Eastern Europe.
DMITRY PESKOV, PRESS SECRETARY, RUSSIA (through translator): Such actions of the United States do not lead to strengthening the atmosphere of security and stability in the region that is directly adjacent to the borders of the Russian Federation. On the contrary, this probably adds more tension. We regret such actions of Washington.
PLEITGEN: Russia claims it scrambled Su-27 interceptor jets. Russian State T.V. even showing a graphic claiming the Russian warplanes chased to the B-52 away.
The U.S. Air Force denies that claim, saying, "The B-52 had a routine interaction with a Russian Su-27 while conducting operations over the Baltic Sea. The pilots were using transponders and operating in conformity with international law. The Russian aircraft did not chase the B-52 away, and the bomber was able to complete its mission."
The U.S. has recently deployed six of the B-52s to the European theater, a move apparently meant to send a message to a resurgent Russia. The Pentagon saying, Moscow has been building up its forces and increasingly becoming more aggressive on NATO's doorstep.
The Russian Air Force recently flying their own supersonic Tu-22M3 bombers over the Black Sea. And while President Trump and Vladimir Putin both say, they still want to improve U.S.-Russian relations, Moscow accusing the U.S. of risking a nuclear war.
Russia's deputy foreign minister, saying, "The threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is decreasing due to a newly adopted strategy in the United States, which blurs the line between national conflict and war with the use of nuclear weapons.
The U.S. for its part says Russia long been violating nuclear non- proliferation treaties and says Moscow needs to tone down its rhetoric and its posture. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.
[02:49:39] HOWELL: Indonesia's airline, Garuda has canceled its multi-billion dollar order for 49 Boeing MAX 8 jets. It says the passengers have lost all confidence to fly in that plane. This comes after two MAX 8 crashed five months apart, one off the coast of Indonesia, the other in Ethiopia. They reportedly lacked some safety features.
According to the New York Times, Boeing sold the warning systems as extras, charging airlines more money to have them. A U.S. investigation into Boeing's certification and marketing of the MAX 8 is underway.
In the meantime, the Pentagon is investigating acting U.S. defense secretary Patrick Shanahan over complaints that he promoted Boeing, his former employer. He denies any ethics violations.
Facebook is admitting that it once again failed to protect the privacy of its users. This time, the social media giant says it made millions of user's passwords accessible to its employees. Did so, by storing them in plain -- as plain text in an internal database.
Facebook, says it discovered the problem during a security review in January. The company official says it found no evidence that anyone abused or improperly accessed the exposed passwords. A spokesperson also told -- tell CNN, the issue primarily affected users of Facebook Lite.
Brits might be breathing a sigh of relief at the moment, but the worst case scenario for Brexit, it is still on the table.
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QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, EUROPE PROGRAMME, CHATHAM HOUSE: Probably, we have all been a bit too laid-back about the prospect of no-deal, and saying, nobody could be stupid enough to let it happen. Well, guess what, they might be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Ahead, what daily life might look like in the U.K. if there's a no-deal Brexit?
Also, you can imagine the fear and the panic when a man hijacked the school bus, set it on fire with dozens of students inside. But one man's quick thinking is credited with saving them all. His story as NEWSROOM continues.
HOWELL: Italian police are celebrating a teenage boy for saving the lives of dozens of his young classmates. The 13-year-old was one of 51 children on board when a man hijacked their school bus and then set it on fire. The man ordered teachers to tie the students up and demanded everyone's cell phone.
Ramy Shehata told the man he didn't have his cell phone, but the Egyptian teen, then pretended to be praying in Arabic when he was actually calling for help. Police arrived quickly and broke out the windows of that burning School Bus. They saved everyone on board. As a thank you, Italy says it will grant citizenship to the quick- thinking Ramy. Back to our top story this hour, Brexit. Theresa May now has a little more time to get Parliament to approve her Brexit deal. The E.U. gave her a short reprieve, extending Brexit now until May 22nd, but only if her deal gets past Parliament next week.
If it fails for a third time, the U.K. has until April 12th to find a path forward that still leaves the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. Nina dos Santos looks at how that could affect everyday life in the United Kingdom.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: The white cliffs of (INAUDIBLE), the first glimpse of Great Britain for goods arriving from the continent. But with days to go, before it's official exit date, what would happen to daily life if the U.K. went over the cliff and crashed out to the E.U. without a deal.
After two years of negotiations with Brussels and a deal twice rejected by Parliament, Theresa May's government has put forward more than 100 proposals designed to try and mitigate the short-term effects of a no-deal Brexit.
This means that airplanes can still fly between the U.K., rail services and road transportation will remain uninterrupted. And E.U. citizens who've lived in the U.K. since before March the 29th will also continue to be eligible for medical care and Social Security benefits. Well, that's the theory, at least, but the practicalities are far less clear.
[02:55:22] PEEL: We've lived in such a nice easy world in Europe for so long. Where there's been a single market to no border controls were necessary, we're suddenly going back to an old world we haven't seen fully for 50 years.
DOS SANTOS: The Army has been put on standby in case of unrest. Police have had their holidays postponed. And the government has stockpiled essential goods like medicines and food. Lest they get clogged in trucks like these at ports.
The finally banks they told the U.K. supply chain means that even a small disruption can cause knock-on effects. Take, for instance, the petrol pump, even if there is no actual shortage of the fuel, price rises could cause panic buying. The same could happen at shops and supermarkets.
ANDREW OPIE, DIRECTOR OF FOOD AND SUSTAINABILITY, BRITISH RETAIL CONSORTIUM: There's a real bottleneck at Calais so if we get disruption there which we do anticipate, we're going to have major problems getting things like lettuce, and tomatoes, and strawberries, onto our shelves.
DOS SANTOS: E.U. drivers don't know whether their licenses will be recognized in the U.K. And pet passports may no longer be valid. There are 17.4 million Britons who voted to leave the E.U. Brexit was about taking back control of their country's borders, laws, and money. PEEL: Probably, we have all been a bit too laid-back about the prospect of no-deal, and saying, nobody could be stupid enough to let it happen. Well, guess what, they might be.
DOS SANTOS: But the prospects of a hard Brexit looming closer by the day, it's the uncertainty of how things will look like in the immediate aftermath that has many worried. Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.
HOWELL: Thank you for joining us for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. Next hour we bring in our U.S. viewers for CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.