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Volodymyr Zelensky, A New Direction for Ukraine; Sudan Severing Contact with the Transitional Military Council; Eleven Soldiers Were Killed in Central Mali; Impeachment Not Off the Table; Final Day of a National Referendum Vote in Egypt. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired April 22, 2019 - 02:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A horrifying series of attacks in Sri Lanka and the search for those responsible is underway. We have a live report ahead for you. Plus, a new direction for Ukraine, as Petro Poroshenko concedes defeat, and the new president-elect, comedian, promises a bright future for his country. Also ahead this hour, a soccer center once crucial in the recovery efforts after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, now years later, the same facility reopening its doors.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I am George Howell. The CNN Newsroom starts right now. At 2:00 a.m. on the U.S. east coast, it is a day of mourning in Sri Lanka after a series of deadly bombings that hit on Easter Sunday. A day later, and the death toll continues to rise there. Here is where things stand right now.

There were eight different explosions on the island, the explosions killing 290 people, the bombs targeting four hotels and three churches, again, all of this happening on the day that Christians around the world celebrated Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. That community is devastated. The entire island is in mourning. The bombings appeared to have been coordinated attacks. Police have at least two dozen arrests at this point. At least three police officers were killed in one of those raids.

At this point, no group has come forward to claim responsibility. As for the investigation itself in Sri Lanka, there may have been signs that an attack was in the works. A police source says that an intelligence memo circulated earlier this month. It said the leader of a Muslim extremist group might be planning a suicide operation. The United States is also warning its citizens to take increased caution if traveling to the island.

The State Department saying terror groups continue plotting possible attacks. Let's bring in CNN correspondent Nikhil Kumar, who is following this story in Colombo. Good to have you with us, Nikhil. Of course, just 24 hours ago, you and I were talking about these first reports of explosions. Tell us more about what's happening right now on the ground. NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, George, there was a

curfew overnight all across this island of 21 million people in the aftermath of those bombings. One of them took place where I am standing, at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, at the restaurant here around breakfast time on Easter Sunday. It was one of the hotels hit along with the three churches that you mentioned.

This morning, the security forces are out in force all across this island and the hotel. Any car going that's going in, you can see the guard behind me who is armed. He is one of several spread all over this area, every car that's passing by is being stopped, is being checked, not being allowed to enter unless everyone has been frisked, unless they have some business in the hotel.

This is true, every public place that we have seen around Colombo since we've arrived. And this is all, as the authorities try and pinpoint who did this, who the perpetrators were, and how this very -- what seems like a very sophisticated attack, a series of bombs, how it all came about in a country that in the past has seen terror. It's been through a very violent civil war that devastated this country for almost three decades.

But it's going to be the 10th anniversary of the end of that war next month, and people here have been getting used to some normalcy, to peace. And so the biggest question that everybody has here today is why has this happened to us. Why did this happen again? Why are we back there all over again? George?

HOWELL: Nikhil, there was this memo that was circulating, warning of a possible attack. What are authorities saying about that, as it does appear the memo may have just been overlooked here?

KUMAR: Well, George, the prime minister has said that he was not aware of the memo, and that now there is going to be an investigation to see what was known, what warnings there were, and why they weren't heeded. But the memo has become a major controversy here. People here -- ordinary people here have said that they've asked the question as to why wasn't more done. Security, as I say today, has been stepped up in the aftermath of the attacks.

But why wasn't it done before the attacks to prevent this atrocity from happening in the first place? It's a major, major atrocity. You mentioned the death toll, already close to 300 people. If you think about it in context of the terror attacks that have taken place in this wider region in the last 10 or so years. The Mumbai terror attacks, there was only about 160 to 70 people, almost half of this. And that was such a devastating attack. This is almost double already, George.

[02:05:07] HOWELL: And Nikhil, if you would just give us a sense of the history of that island, the ethnic and religious backgrounds also coming into play here, because this nation, as you just pointed out, a decade past, a civil war.

KUMAR: That's right. Throughout the 80s and the 90s and into the 2000s, this country was devastated by a violent and brutal civil war, which pitted the Tamil minority, which lives in the north, concentrated in the north of the country, against the Sinhalese majority, which is in the south. Now, Christians were a minority in this country and were targeted yesterday in those church bombings. They're a minority, and they belong both to the Sinhalese and the Tamil community.

This targeting of a religious community like this on such a holy day, Easter Sunday, this is unusual. This hasn't happened in recent years, and this is new over here. And it's one of the things that people are trying to come to terms with. One, the return to violence, which people thought, had ended in 2009, with the end of that war following a massive military offensive and the targeting of a minority.

There have been tensions here. But there's been an effort, an effort from many quarters to try and reconcile in communities. In 2015, when the Pope visited Sri Lanka, he held mass in Colombo. And the message was very much one of reconciliation. And that's really what's at stake now after this attack. That's really -- that brought fear to this minority and this country, George.

HOWELL: Nikhil Kumar following this story for us in Colombo. Nikhil, thank you, we'll keep in touch with you as you learn more from the investigation there. Now, let's bring in Greg Barton, Greg, a professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Australia joining from Melbourne. It's good to have with us this hour. Thank you for your time.


HOWELL: Well, let's talk more about the memo that was circulating, warning of a possible suicide attack. A group mentioned in that memo as well. How important do you believe this piece of information might have been in having some knowledge about this attack?

BARTON: Well, George, as we're hearing, this is the biggest terrorist attack since 9/11 in a stable democracy. It's sort of old school, going back to the last decade. They have these coordinated mass explosions, so a major intelligence failure. How did this happen? It appears a perfect storm. The government wasn't paying attention.

The failure to pass on this April 11th memo, which may have involve information from the Indian RAW Intelligence Agency, just mentioned as a foreign intelligence agency. One possible explanation is that the former president and former Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has got a strong following in the security forces. These guys may have calculated that it was good to embarrass the current government.

Not wishing an attack, but nevertheless not letting them have the full picture of the security situation. Whatever the explanation, there was a perfect storm situation, where a local terror group, we think, probably inspired by the Islamic state, involving perhaps some of the 40 Sri Lankans who have gone to Syria to fight with the Islamic state, seized an opportunity and pulled off audacious (ph) attack.

HOWELL: One would certainly hope the latter suggestion you offered there was not the reason that that memo didn't circulate. But again, the warning was not there, and we see these attacks that took place. We're talking about these soft targets. Soft targets, churches, hotels, the timing also key as well, on Easter Sunday when these churches would have been packed, when foreigners who travelled to Sri Lanka were staying in these hotels.

BARTON: That's right, George. Soft targets by definition are easy. What's not easy is to pull off simultaneous high-powered explosions, six simultaneously and two further subsequently, and a ninth detected in a pipebomb outside the airport. That's pretty hard to do. It's hard to do because normally you get picked up by intelligence in your communications. And that's what's remarkable about this attack.

So, you know, I am speculating about what may be behind it in a political context. But in any democracy, interagency intelligence sharing, think of the 9/11 commission report, for example, sharing between CIA and FBI. We all struggle with this, even in the best of times. And sometimes, holding back information just a little bit too long and not giving enough information in the right time because of a sense of rivalry or whatever the turf war consideration may be can lead to a fatal error.

And something like that may have happened here, because otherwise, even soft targets would not be hit so freely on such a scale, if somebody had been paying attention.

HOWELL: Greg, I want to touch on this with you as well. I asked Nikhil just a moment ago. But I think it's important here to get a sense here of the ethnic and religious divide, the tensions that exist in Sri Lanka and how that might play into what we saw just the other day.

[02:10:06] BARTON: Well, George, we're just a month shy coming up to the 10th anniversary of a truly horrible civil war that raged on for a quarter of a century. Saw the insurgent LTT Tamil tiger group turn into a terror group with suicide bombings. In fact, they really pioneered for us and the entire world, the suicide bombing method. And that involved a horrible end to the war, lots of human rights abuses alleged, 90,000 lives lost at least.

But the last decade has been relatively peaceful. This is a successful multicultural nation, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, 70 percent Buddhist, mostly Singhalese Buddhist. But significant Tamil and Singhalese and other communities who are Catholics and Christians, about 8 percent -- about 10 percent Muslims, and it has been a peaceful island.

You know, it's seen tourism numbers double in the space of five years. People like it because of the peacefulness. People get long well. We saw people queuing up in the thousands to donate blood after the blasts. And this is very out of character with a country which has had a troubled history, but which was thought to have got over this troubled history.

HOWELL: And the Christian community there a very small community. I believe, correct me if I am wrong, around seven percent. Give us a sense, if you have any insight or thought, as to why that group, that small group would be targeted in Sri Lanka.

BARTON: Yeah, it's about seven percent, eight percent. It's 82 percent Catholic, and the rest various Protestant churches. The two biggest churches hit around Colombo on the west coast were Catholic, but the church on the east coat was a Protestant church. I don't think this reflects local conditions, George. I think it reflects -- and this is speculation again.

But if this is indeed involving the Islamic state or some such external actor, that reflects certainly the pattern of Islamic state targeting Christians is, you know, very much part of their propaganda, their narrative. I don't see -- although the local Christians have been complaining for years of degrees of persecution and harassment.

And there have been troubles around the edges. The Muslims also have been complaining of persecution. There hasn't been a level of antipathy or communal tension which would explain this. I think this comes from external factors.

HOWELL: Greg, you know, there is a lot that's left unanswered at this point. What we do know, clearly, these attacks were coordinated. Clearly, the timing was important, on Easter Sunday. And at this point, there are a lot of families who are now left without their loved ones. Greg, thanks for your time.

BARTON: Yeah, it's incredibly tragic. Thank you, George.

HOWELL: Leaders from around the world have certainly condemned the attacks in Sri Lanka. They are sending their words of support to that nation. This, from the former U.S. President, Barack Obama, saying the bombings were an attack on humanity. Mr. Obama adding, "on a day devoted to love, redemption, and renewal, we pray for the victims and stand with the people of Sri Lanka." Pakistan's Prime Minister, Imran Khan, also condemning the bombings.

He tweeted this. "My profound condolences go to our Sri Lanka brethren. Pakistan stands in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka and their hour of grief." In their hour of grief, I should say. Turkey also, the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had this message for people directly affected. He said this. "On behalf of the Turkish people, I offer my condolences to the family of the victims and the people of Sri Lanka, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured."

Of course, we continue to follow this story for you. For the very latest updates on what's happening in Sri Lanka and the bombings there, you can get that at Still ahead here on Newsroom, a political novice, even a comedian, he is. Well, he will be the next president of Ukraine, and he will go toe-to-toe with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. How will he fair with that? We'll take a look.

Plus, Paris holds its first Sunday service since the Notre Dame fire. We'll tell you how the city is coping one week after that devastation. Around the world and in the U.S., you're watching Newsroom.

[02:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOWELL: As we learn more about the attacks, we also learn more about the victims. One of them, Shantha Mayadunne, she was a well-known TV chef in Sri Lanka, popular in India and the United Kingdom as well. Her daughter apparently posted this image on Facebook. That image posted right before the attacks. The family was sitting down for Easter breakfast at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Both the mother and daughter lost their lives. Overall, 290 people were killed in these attacks.

Now to Ukraine, the election there is over. People have spoken, and now a comedian and TV star is that new president for that nation. Volodymyr Zelensky is the new president. His only political experience is playing president on Ukrainian TV. Exit polls show that Zelensky pulled about 73 percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election. Ukraine's current president, Petro Poroshenko, received about a quarter of the vote. CNN correspondent, Phil Black, looks at the new challenges the new president will face.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sitting president has been removed peacefully and democratically in Ukraine. That's historic, because the last one was forced out in a violent and hard fought revolution that left more than 100 people killed. That was only five years ago. But this election is also extraordinary because of who has won. Volodymyr Zelensky, the political novice, the professional comedian and actor, the man who has become famous in this country through pretending to be Ukraine's president on a TV show.

[02:19:46] That show, the Servant of the People, shows Zelensky playing a regular guy who accidentally becomes president and goes on to do battle with corrupt oligarchs and politicians to try and clean up the political system here. Zelensky's campaign was very much molded on that idea. He made a virtue of his relative ignorance and inexperience, his fresh face. He didn't give many interviews. He didn't appear publicly.

He didn't talk a lot about policy detail. He fought his campaign using online videos, slick videos, often cheeky, mocking the old political guard in this country. His broad, somewhat abstract message that he's going to make it a better place, somehow, it worked. He led the campaign throughout. He easily won the first round of voting. And in the run-off, exit polls suggest he secured around 73 percent of the vote.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINE PRESIDENT-ELECT: I will never let you down. To all post-soviet countries, I tell you, look at us. Everything is possible. We did it together, thanks to everyone. Now, there will be no pathetic speeches. I just want to say thank you.

BLACK: The hardwork starts day one of the Zelensky presidency. He inherits a troubled economy and a five-year war against Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country. This professional clown will now be internationally going face-to-face with the vastly experienced president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. All of this matters because Ukraine represents the frontline of the west's confrontation with Russia across a wide range of issues.

How Zelensky's going to deal with all of this really isn't known, because politically, publicly, he represents essentially a blank piece of paper. But his enthusiasm, his smile, and charisma, his sense of honesty, all of this has been enough to convince many Ukrainians to support him, or at least help them realize that they simply don't want five more years of the same. Phil Black, CNN, Kiev.


HOWELL: Phil Black, thank you. In Sudan, protesters and opposition groups are cutting off contact with the Transitional Military Council, the TMC. Protesters have been in a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry since the president of that nation, Omar al-Bashir, was forced from office in -- on April 11th. They're pushing for a swift handover to civilian rule.


MOHAMED AL-AMIN, SUDANESE OPPOSITION SPOKESMAN: To the masses of our people, the role of the armed forces is not to rule but to protect and defend the borders of the country. There is no recognition for any transitional authority and any coup d'etat authority. Any such authority will be met with complete rejection by us or any military power, and all of this will be considered unlawful.


HOWELL: The opposition says the military council is made up of remnants of the Bashir regime. In the meantime, the head of the council said several million Euros and $350,000 was found in Bashir's official residence. A source said the money had been transferred to the Central Bank, and a formal arrest warrant has been issued for Bashir on corruption charges.

At least 11 soldiers were killed in Central Mali during an early morning attack in military bases, according to the defense ministry. No one has claimed responsibility. However, military posts in Mali are routinely attacked by separatists and terror groups with links to Al Qaeda. Now to Paris, where worshippers who were supposed to attend Easter services at Notre Dame, they were forced to celebrate elsewhere.

Many of them marked the holy day at a much smaller church nearby. Notre Dame burned down nearly a week ago. CNN's Melissa Bell shows us how Paris is coping and how the disaster unfolded.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first signs of smoke were captured by the amateur footage of tourists. Crowds gathered to watch in horror as the flames took hold of the roof of Notre Dame. Firefighters were on the scene within 10 minutes of the second fire alarm, 23 minutes after the first. For hours, they took on the flames in an operation they described as the most challenging they've ever faced. To the horror of onlookers, the cathedral's 19th century spire collapsed.

As night fell, the flames reached one of the belfries. It took 20 firefighters of the several hundred involved in the operation risking their lives to push them back and save the structure. Outside, the faithful had gathered to pray and sing, as the fire raged on through the night for nine hours. By morning, almost miraculously, the cathedral still stood. Crowds gathered to take stock of what had been lost.

Like the roof-soaked beams known as the forest for the number of trees involved, some fell in the 1160s. But amidst the damage, much to be thankful for, like the saving of some of the cathedrals' priceless art and relics. Among them, the Crown of Thorns believed by Christians to have been worn by Jesus as he went to his crucifixion. In just a week, more than $1 billion have been raised towards the cathedrals' reconstruction.

[02:25:16] EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: I tell you tonight with strength. We are a nation of builders. We have so much to construct. So yes, we will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautiful. And I want that to be done in the next five years. We can do it.

BELL: Since the fire, tributes have poured in from the Indian Ocean, where 920 marines aboard the Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier recreated the facade of Notre Dame, to the church bells that rang out across France 48 hours after the fire began. Investigators are looking into the possibility of a short circuit that may have been at the origin of the fire that has changed Paris' skyline forever. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


HOWELL: Still ahead, impeachment not off the table, according to some Democrats, coming up, President Trump's reaction to his aide's testimony and Democrats' analysis of the Mueller report. Also ahead, how a soccer stadium is providing hope for people in Japan still recovering from 2011's devastating earthquake and nuclear disaster.


HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and around the world. This is CNN Newsroom. I am George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour. In Egypt, people are preparing for the third and final day of a national referendum vote.

[02:30:00] The constitutional amendments would allow the president of that nation to remain in office until 2030 and they could give him more power over legislative and judicial branches. Critics say the proposals are a step toward authoritarianism.

Police in Northern Ireland are asking anyone with information for help about of death of Lyra McKee, the fatal for people to come forward about that. The prominent reporter was killed on Thursday as she covered a riot in London Dairy also known as dairy. Two teenagers had been arrested in connection with her death. They were released on Sunday without any charges. Also the deadly bombings in Sri Lanka. Policy say they have arrested two dozen people since that wave of attacks. At least 290 people were killed in eight different blasts across the island. The U.S. State Department is warning its citizens to increase caution when traveling to the island. It says terrorist groups continue plotting other possible attacks.

The Catholic Archbishop of Colombo says his churches were targeted in those blast but after the members of his congregation were killed, he isn't turning the other cheek.


MALCOLM RANJITH, ARCHBISHOP OF COLOMBO: I would also like to ask the government to hold a very impartial strong inquiry and find out who is responsible behind this act and also to punish them mercilessly because only animals can behave like that.


HOWELL: Again, that was Catholic Archbishop of Colombo speaking about the Easter Sunday bombings that hit Sri Lanka.

Here in the United States, Congressional Democrats are considering whether to impeach President Donald Trump this following the release of the Mueller report. The House Speaker will hold a conference call with party members on Monday afternoon to discuss what's next. Our Boris Sanchez has more on the President's reaction to the fallout from report.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to sources, President Trump spent the weekend and Mar-a-Lago fuming over news coverage and details in the Mueller report from former White House officials that depict a White House in chaos. President Trump is an angry and paranoid president and aides who either refuse or ignore many of his orders. Meantime, the President's attorney, Rudy Giuliani took to the Sunday morning talk shows. He spoke with Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION" and did any press him on a question about the behavior of some Trump campaign officials and whether they behave ethically or morally. Listen to what he said.



RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: There is nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: There's nothing wrong with taking information --

GIULIANI: It depends on where it came from. It depends on where it came from. You're assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution. Read the report carefully. The report says we can't conclude that because the law is pretty much against that. Do you -- people get information from this person, in that person. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: The strategy being deployed by the White House is one that we've seen before, they're now calling into question the credibility of many of those that were interviewed by the Special Counsel. We should also point out, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to hold a conference call at 5:00 p.m. on Monday with the Democratic Caucus to discuss potential for impeaching President Trump.

Impeachment was on the President's mind on Sunday evening when he tweeted this. He writes, "How do you want to impeach a Republican President for a crime that was committed by the Democrats? Make America great again." Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the President in Palm Beach, Florida.

HOWELL: Boris, thank you for the reporting. Now, for context, let's bring in Peter Mathews. Peter is a political analyst joining us this hour from Los Angeles. A pleasure, Peter.

PETER MATHEWS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to hear from you, George.

HOWELL: Let's start with the President's Attorney, Rudy Giuliani essentially saying there's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians, he says, it all just depends upon where it came from. What do you make of that assessment?

MATHEWS: I think it's absolutely wrong because United States Democracy means that the Americans people choose the leader who will choose our policies not some foreign government's influence. That's against principle for sAUDIBLE) contribution is totally illegal. So he was way off. And Giuliani is striking off widely, by calling people hit men, you know, investigators for the Mueller team calling Andrew Weissmann a hit man. What kind of counter attack is this?

He should just accept what is happening and let the procedures of regular investigations by the House of Representatives going to through (INAUDIBLE)

HOWELL: Boris did point out in his report. Mr. Trump is angry about former staffers who according to sources describe a White House that is in chaos with some of his own people refusing to carry out his orders. He is angry about that apparently, but isn't that the case, Peter, that the actions of some of some -- of some of those staffers may have saved Mr. Trump from actual obstruction of justice?

[02:35:01] MATHEWS: Exactly. That's the irony of the whole thing because for example, Mr. Trump ordered the White House Counsel Don McGahn to get in touch can sold on McGahn get in touch with to recuse himself, against the advice of other people who said not to do that. The fact is Don McGahn disobeyed the President and state the President's height, otherwise he would have been in big trouble and this would have been a clear quite obstruction of justice case.

That's the kind we're talking about, it's very ironic actually but it is true. HOWELL: Now looking ahead for Democrats it does come down to the

question of whether they should lean in into more investigations whether they should consider impeachment proceedings or whether they should focus rather on the issues that are important to people on Main Street ahead of the 2020 election. Republicans warned if they don't do that, Peter, it could backfire on them.

Which hand do you see Democrats playing most aggressively in the months ahead?

MATHEWS: I think they should really try to play both hands because it's both their duty to pass legislation, the legislative branch after all but also it's important the executive branch which the constitution says they're the ones who supposed to investigate. The House represents clearly given the duty as being a grand jury to investigate that the president has committed so-called high crime misdemeanors.

If so, they have to come out and vote for impeachment. But first of all, investigate I would say. Don't do it prematurely but investigate right now and then decide whether you can come up with an article of impeachment or not, will it need to. As far as the duty of the Congress, a very important duty of the House and the trial on the Senate for trial or removal of the President, that remains to be seen it can be done or not.

But the Congress should not give up its duty just because of Trade cannot do it or cannot do in the next election. That's not very conducive to Democracy, George, in my view.

HOWELL: OK. But when it comes down to public perception, here is the question, Peter, you know, obviously lawmakers on Capitol Hill, they are focused on many of the details of this report. Do people care about those details looking ahead at this --


MATHEWS: Well, I can tell you this. In the most recent polling after that report hit, the President has lot three percent of his approval rating, he's down to 37 President percent off from 40 percent because people saw this -- Mr. Mueller cannot clear him. Mr. Mueller came and report and said that he conclude that he cannot assure that no criminal conduct had occurrence. So (INAUDIBLE) actually indict him but would also has to clear him.

So the Congress should investigate and Mueller implied that in the statement. The Congress has a duty as the investigative branch, twice the House, to start the procedure of investigation of anything like this, high crime misdemeanors occur. And then go forward. So I think that the Congress should do both and the constitution requires it, George. Otherwise we're just like a banana republic, so to speak. Saying, at least he win the next election.

You know, I understand the concern of Nancy Pelosi but other members of Congress (INAUDIBLE) the procedure going through with impeachment investigation. Or Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has come through that and many of the people are falling through (INAUDIBLE) the public is going to start changing their mind a bit on this. They may have actually support it.

So it's 50-50 right now until -- who supports cost being impeached or being investigating it. But I think that there will be a title change if this -- if the investigation continues very carefully and it should.

HOWELL: Peter Mathews at Los Angeles. Peter, thank you.

MATHEWS: My pleasure. Thank you.

HOWELL: And the note to viewers, you can hear five of the Democrats hoping to take Mr. Trump's job next year. Later on Monday, CNN is hosting back to back town hall meetings with Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete rounds up. The five town halls. It all starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time in the United States, midnight London here on CNN.

Eight years ago, a devastating earthquake Northeastern Japan. Unleashing a savage tsunami and a nuclear disaster. And now a soccer field reopened more than just half ways to kick the football though. It's a symbol of hope. We'll have that story ahead. Stay with us. Plus, a severe weather in Canada. It's brought deadly results. We'll bring you the details.


HOWELL: In the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in Japan. A local soccer facility was converted into a base for recovering activities -- recovery activities I should say. But now eight years later, after that disaster, J Village soccer facility has reopened, it's now a symbol of reconstruction and as our Amanda Davies reports the road to recovery for the area around it, well, that's far from over.


TEXT: Here, there was a quake. Then, a tsunami.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Eighty-three years of age, Anhida Ito (ph) is settling back into life in Tamioka, the community she was forced to evacuate in 2011 when the deadly earthquake and tsunami hit and triggered a meltdown at Fukushima's Daiichi Nuclear Plant. It's a very different town now to the one she grew up in.

TEXT: Then, there were three communities near here. All those communities were washed away. So, we literally left with only the clothes we were wearing. I was even wearing an apron when I left.

DAVIES: This is an area still rebuilding. Geiger counters measuring radiation levels are a constant reminder, and Ito-san is in the minority in terms of residents who've decided to come back.

Eight years on from the disaster, and the devastation is still all too obvious here in Tamioka. We're just 10 kilometers away from the nuclear plant. And until two years ago, this was all part of the no- go zone because of radiation.

Residents have been allowed back since April 2017, but as you can see, many have chosen not to return. Do you have any concerns living here now with the radiation?

TEXT: Being elderly, we don't have much concern. But there are many young people who cannot come back here because they are worried about it.

DAVIES: Authorities insist the area is now safe. And much of the redevelopment that has taken place can be looked at through the prism of the national football center known as the J Village and the journey that it's been through.

TEXT: I remember coaching little children here. This place became the center of the recovery activities, where vehicles were driving all over the grass, making it completely unusable. All the turf was removed, and I remember feeling very sad.

[02:45:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the World Cup to Japan.

DAVIES: It was only four months after the disaster struck that the Japan women's team won the football World Cup for the first time.

If the beautiful game was a long way from the minds of those in the midst of the cleanup, Fukushima was definitely at the forefront for the players 9,000 miles away and for Aya Amishima, in particular.

TEXT: It was always on my mind. So, during the World Cup, I was trying to focus on soccer. I think this focus resulted in the team winning. I hope the people in the disaster-stricken area would have their morale lifted.

DAVIES: Aya, 23 at the time was someone who played her domestic football for a team based at the J-Village.

I know your coach actually showed some pictures, some images from here before the quarterfinal. What was that like for you?

TEXT: It definitely motivated the whole team to win even more. I couldn't look directly at them though.

DAVIES: The feelings are still so raw, we have to stop talking about it. Aya worked for the company that ran the nuclear plant and played for the football team that they sponsored, TEPCO. She told me afterwards, she struggles with a feeling of guilt that while her football career was able to flourish when she moved to the United States, her teammates didn't get that opportunity.

TEXT: Forgot where I was. I forgot.

DAVIES: The World Cup success didn't quite allow victims of the disaster to forget what had happened, but it certainly had a positive impact. TEXT: We were still at the places we evacuated to. But we talked about it. We were pleased saying how cheered up we were by that. It made everyone happy. This made everyone smile.

DAVIES: It's from the J-Village that Japan's women are preparing their challenge for this year's World Cup in France. And it's also been announced that next year, the facility will host the start of the Japanese leg of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay. It's a move authorities hope will shine a light on the area's reconstruction.

But one that has faced criticism from those who feel there's still a long way to go until the areas fully restored to the way it once was.

TEXT: Recently, I'm often asked about the words "restoration Olympics". This question is a bit difficult.

TEXT: There are residents who are still suffering, or have yet to recover. The Olympic torch running through here would give them a boost.

DAVIES: With authorities estimating, it will take 40 years for the nuclear plant to be rendered safe, and reminders of the disaster everywhere you look. Even if sport will help this area be known for something more than the disaster around the world, to the local community, whilst the building blocks are in place, the road to recovery goes on. Amanda Davies, CNN, Fukushima, Japan.


HOWELL: Heavy flood waters in Quebec have claimed at least one life. Our meteorologists Pedram Javaheri has more on what's triggering this disaster.


[02:52:55] HOWELL: A landslide in southwestern Columbia has claimed, at least, 14 lives. This according to that country's disaster relief agency, which adds five other people have been injured. Landslides are common during the rainy season in the mountainous country.

Also, severe weather claiming a life in Canada. Canadian media report a 72-year-old woman died after driving her car into a massive sinkhole caused by heavy floodwaters. Three cities in western Quebec including Pontiac have declared states of emergency because of flooding.

Canadian Armed Forces are helping residents impacted by the rising water there. Our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is following it all in the international weather center. Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, George. They've got quite a number of folks on this particular event here. We've got some 600 Canadian Armed Forces on the scene across portions of Quebec dealing with these significant flooding, and really resembles what was playing out a couple of weeks ago across the Midwestern United States as essentially, the same pattern now taking shape across portions of southern Canada. So, we've had heavy rainfall in recent days. We've had tremendous warmth in recent days as well. So, all of that impressive amount of snowfall they came down from the months of November, through really the last couple of weeks, it snowed across this region about eight days ago. So, a lot of that beginning to melt and melting very rapidly. So, we've seen reports of some of these rivers -- the Chaudiere River, not far their south of Quebec City, rising at 25 centimeters or about 10 inches per hour on Sunday morning. In fact, the mayor was saying that's the highest level he's seen the water there for the city on record.

And you take a look, warmest temperature in six months. That was 64 degrees Fahrenheit or 17 Celsius. And Quebec City, a dramatic drop in the temperatures. But what's key here is we're going to stay above freezing. And with that said, all the snowfalls still on the ground melting very quickly. And the storm system that brought in this severe weather across the southern and eastern U.S. in the past couple of days -- well, guess what, brought in very heavy rainfall into portions of southern Canada.

So, all of that now leading to what is the flooding that is taking place across portions of Quebec. And unfortunately, that trend going to continue for a couple of more days. But you notice, the wet weather, the heaviest rainfall, the energy now shifts in towards areas of Oklahoma, northwestern Texas. That's an area of interest here for some severe weather going into Monday afternoon and Monday evening.

About three-quarters of a million people impacted across this region, Lubbock, Texas, the -- mainly, the area of concern at this point. With damaging winds, large hail once again being the predominant threats and a few isolated tornadoes possible across this particular region. And, of course, it is the heart of severe weather season.

And notice a very quiet pattern. Look at the timestamp taken to 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 p.m. You get these overnight thunderstorms, often the most dangerous, George, when it comes to seeing these severe weather events because it happens at night time, people are asleep, or unaware of what's happening outside their properties, and that's what makes these nighttime severe weather events that much more dangerous.

[02:55:44] HOWELL: I was born in Amarillo. I remember what it meant to go into those underground tornado shelters, went to our neighbor's shelter when those storms came through. So, very important for folks to watch out for those storms. Pedram, thank you.

JAVAHERI: Absolutely. Thanks, George.

HOWELL: Paris is paying tribute to the victims of the Sri Lankan attacks. One was a candlelight vigil held by the city Sri Lankan community. The other came at the stroke of midnight. And as you could see, the Eiffel Tower, it went dark for a few minutes, remembering the lives of the many people who were killed in these bombings.

Thank you for being with us for NEWSROOM this hour. Another hour of news is right after the break. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)