Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Wildfires; Coronavirus Pandemic; Trump Announces Deal between Bahrain and Israel; Remembering 9/11. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 12, 2020 - 03:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Devastating wildfires, burning across the western United States, half a million people could be told to flee their homes in Oregon as the flames rage out of control.

Coronavirus cases in the U.K. are inching upward. The latest steps being taken to curb the pandemic in a live report.

And the positive in the bitter U.S. presidential campaigns as candidates put politics on hold to remember the deadliest terror attack on American soil.

Live from CNN Center, I'm Paula Newton and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


NEWTON: Officials in the U.S. state of Oregon, are preparing for a, quote, mass fatality incident. Two of the major wildfires threaten to merge into a single raging inferno. They're focused on saving lives but anticipating the worst.

Entire communities have already been burned to the ground and the governor says dozens of people are now missing. The fires have killed at least six people in that state so far.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't say this enough. If you are notified by emergency officials to evacuate, please do so immediately. You may not get a second chance.


NEWTON: Oregon is not alone. Much of the western United States, ravaged by wildfires, right now. There are about 100 large blazes, burning in 12 states, including Alaska.


Absolutely heartbreaking. The fear overwhelming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wake up in the morning and just pray, pray that we will not lose one firefighter's life, one citizen's life, one home.


NEWTON: CNN's Lucy Kafanov is close to the fire lines in Oregon and has more.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Across the west, an explosion of raging infernos, devastating and deadly. The flames consuming over 1 million acres in Oregon. Dozens are missing. At least 15 killed in Oregon, California and Washington, among them 13-year-old Wyatt Tofte (ph) and his grandmother, Peggy.

Both died in the wildfires in Oregon's Marion County, the boy, trying to escape the flames, was found in the car with the body of his dog in his lap. More than half a million residents have been ordered to evacuate. More than 10 percent of the state's population. Highways packed as residents flee approaching flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I only managed to grab my family and my dog and some supplies. But otherwise, it's awful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just feel sorry for all of the people. Hopefully they -- got all their animals and stuff out.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Many coming back to find their neighborhoods incinerated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my front room. There's my oven, my cast iron wood-burning oven.

KAFANOV (voice-over): In neighboring Washington state, the fire claiming the life of this 1-year-old baby boy, badly burning his parents, who were hospitalized in critical condition. Smoke-choked skies casting an eerie orange glow across much of Oregon and the city of Portland. The mayor declaring a state of emergency.

The air quality here, now one of the worst of any major city on Earth.

The fires across the West, fueled by winds and dry conditions. Climate scientists say hotter and drier temperatures are causing flames to burn with unprecedented intensity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in the midst of a climate crisis. We are experiencing weather conditions the likes of which we've never experienced in our lifetime. We are experiencing what so many people predicted decades and decades ago but all of that now is reality. It's observed.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Satellite images show smoke smothering the West Coast from California to Washington state. A hundred major fires are burning over 7,000 square miles, and area the size of New Jersey. In California five of the largest wildfires ever, burning this year, more than 1,400 firefighters battling to contain the blazes that have scorched over 3.1 million acres.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This fire, one of offsides (ph) around us, all the roads.

KAFANOV (voice-over): And with no end in sight, many are fearing a scene like this one, in Phoenix, Oregon, these before and after satellite images show the town obliterated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is gone. We tried to take as much as we could but we didn't think it would get this devastating. It's awful. It's awful.

KAFANOV: Now the biggest fires across the state are hovering near 0 percent containment. Weather conditions have been so bad the firefighters have been focused on saving lives and evacuations.

That is expected to change; they're hoping to make some progress this weekend. But officials are warning about a potential, quote, "mass fatality incident" and Governor Brown says that recovery could take years.

I want to emphasize this is what climate change looks like. Officials are bracing for this to be the new normal -- Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Estacada, Oregon.


NEWTON: John Sykes lives in Berry Creek, California, and evacuated as the fire moved in. He joins me on the phone where he has been evacuated to Sparks, Nevada.

John, I have this picture in my head of you guys getting out in the nick of time, jumping into your car. But then looking in the rearview mirror and seeing everything gone.

Is that how quickly it happened?

JOHN SYKES, FIRE EVACUEE: Yes, it was pretty quick. And I was concentrating on getting my wife and my -- the woman I'm caretaking out of there in safety. I just had a chance to look in the rearview. I could see it all burn.

NEWTON: All burned?

Everything, gone?

SYKES: Yes, gone.

NEWTON: What is left of your home and Berry Creek?

SYKES: Nothing is left at my home. I built a little jewelry shop for my wife. That appears to be intact.

NEWTON: How do you actually try and take in all that has happened?

From what we can understand, the town is incinerated.

SYKES: Yes, the town is gone. I don't know that I'm fully taking it in. It's all material possessions. I'm healthy. I have my wife and the woman I was caring for in that little town.

NEWTON: Do you hope to go back and rebuild?

SYKES: No, ma'am, I don't want to see it again.

NEWTON: Really?

You just never want to go back?

SYKES: My wife wants to go dig through the debris for mementos of a 50-year life there. But no, I never want to see it.

NEWTON: Why not?

SYKES: It's too heartbreaking for me. That's where I raised my children. I've been there a long time. That was my whole life. OK?

NEWTON: Certainly, can hear the pain in your voice, John. And so sorry for everything you have been through. Obviously, a long road ahead. You said it best, off the top, you are alive, everyone is with you and safe. I am hoping we can take some solace in that for what we are looking at now. It's complete devastation. John, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.




NEWTON: It has been six months since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic and still the number of infections and deaths are climbing.

In the United States, some health experts warn the nation could be facing a very deadly winter, nearly 200,000 have died in the country so far. A new model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts the number could double by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the nation's top infectious disease expert says even with a vaccine it could take until late next year.

Register that, late next year, for life return to normal.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this calendar year, as we go into early 2021.

But it will not be turning a switch off and turning a switch on. It will be gradual. I think it will take several months before we get to a point where we can really feel something that approximates how it was, normally, before COVID-19.


NEWTON: Meantime, in India, infections are soaring for a third consecutive day. It broke the global record for new cases. India reported more than 97,000 on Saturday. A source tells CNN Russia is expected to announce it will supply India with millions of doses of its vaccine.

France, also seeing rising numbers, but the government says it is not considering a nationwide lockdown, despite deteriorating conditions.

The U.K., meantime, is taking action to curb a sharp rise in infections. The reproduction rate or the R number is back above 1, significant. That is for the first time since the height of the pandemic and it means the virus is spreading, again. CNN's Scott McLean is standing by, live for us, in London.

We mentioned the R factor. That's critical.

How quickly is the virus spreading now in the U.K.?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a trend we're seeing across Europe and in fact, this new second wave of the virus we see has eclipsed the first wave in terms of daily new cases.

Of course, with more testing means more cases are being caught. Still, the overall trend, is not good. In the U.K. they had more than 3,500 cases in a single day. They've not seen numbers like that, since May.

Providing a glimpse into the future may be France and Spain. Those countries, they are seeing numbers shoot up, even more so they have in the U.K. There's also rising hospitalizations and rising deaths, something the U.K. has not seen as of late.

In fact, the daily death count has been in the single digits now for a while.

What is more troubling is that R rate, the government's estimate has it at 1 or maybe a little over 1; Imperial College says it's around 1.7. So for every 10 people with the virus, they will pass along to 17 people. That's a concerning trend. It also means the virus, the number of cases, will double every single week.

The virus, the good, news is it's being found primarily in younger people. People in their 20s are the most common to get infections. But there is a worrying trend that it is starting to be seen more in older people, particularly those 85-plus. They are obviously the most vulnerable group.

So the U.K. hopes it does not translate to more hospitalizations, more deaths. In response, the government has made new rules. Starting on Monday, the maximum size of a social gathering will go from 30 to six. The only exceptions are for work and school.

The rule changes come after police told the prime minister that the current hodgepodge the U.K. has right now is too complicated and they are too difficult to enforce.

The prime minister is promising that with these new rules will come stricter enforcement on illegal gatherings and legal consequences for the restaurants or bars that allow these to take place.

The government hopes these changes can be made or will be made, without having a major impact on the economy.


MCLEAN: The government's big thing as of late has been to get schools open and employees back in the offices.

NEWTON: As we've seen in other countries, a tough road ahead for those in the U.K.

Bahrain joins the United Arab Emirates in an agreement to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel, how the deals are a part of President Trump's hopes for peace in the Middle East.




NEWTON: For the second time in a month, U.S. president Donald Trump is touting the deal that he helped broker between Israel and the Arab Gulf nation. He announced Friday that Bahrain and Israel will establish full diplomatic relations.

Oren Liebermann joins us now in Jerusalem.

You've been following this closely.

Was the announcement or the timing of this a surprise?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The surprise is, first, how close this comes between the agreement with Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Very similar to the agreement between Israel and the UAE.

All 4 countries, Israel, the U.S. Bahrain and the UAE will be in D.C. on Tuesday for a signing ceremony for this occasion. It's a historic occasion and a major foreign policy victory for both president Donald Trump and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump is looking for foreign policy victories, 2 months ahead of an election in which he is trailing in the polls.

For Bahrain it is a win-win. Why?

If Trump wins reelection, they score points with Trump. If it is a Biden administration, well, it works for them as well. So there was no reason to, not specifically from that perspective.

The question here, of course, was, Saudi Arabia and how would the Saudis view this?

Had you asked 2 months ago who was closest to Israel in terms of ties, most experts would probably have said Bahrain. But the expectation was that the Bahrainis would not move until the Saudis moved on normalization with Israel. That's the surprise, that the Bahrainians moved on their own, Paula.

NEWTON: It happened the other way around, perhaps, but there is a lot of speculation about the role that Saudi Arabian play in all of this. In fact, in the entire architecture of what is going on now in the Middle East.

LIEBERMANN: Of course. The Saudis are viewed as the de facto leader of the Sunni Gulf states, it's hard to believe that they're not involved both in the Israel-UAE agreement, and this one, considering how close they are to Bahrain.

It is easy to see a situation where the Saudis gave their tacit consent. Especially we saw some circumstantial evidence of that, when right after the Israel-UAE agreement, both Saudi and Bahrain agreed to allow Israeli flights over the two kingdoms.

So it lends credence to this idea that these two countries worked in parallel. It is beyond just something like this. For example, remember back in 2011, when there were widespread protests in Bahrain, it was Saudi forces that came in to help quell those protests. And notably, UAE forces as well, though not in numbers quite as large.


LIEBERMANN: That will be another open question there.

Will we see protests in Bahrain against this agreement?

It is certainly possible. It is a Sunni kingdom with a majority Shia population. They may view this deal between Israel and Bahrain very unfavorably.

Where does this leave the Palestinians?

They protested and said this is a betrayal by Bahrain of the Palestinians, of Jerusalem, of Aqsa (ph) and they made it clear that they are furious, not just with this but with the UAE agreement.

What about Trump's perspective?

He said they are happy to join under the White House's vision for peace or it seems the White House is having a sideline (INAUDIBLE) in changing the Middle East.

NEWTON: An important thing to note, when we talk about peace in the Middle East, Trump has spoken about peace with the Palestinians. Oren, I know you are keeping a close eye on this, Donald Trump is promising more agreements, we will see what happens, thanks so much.

In the meantime, peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are happening at this hour and the two sides have come to the negotiating table in hope of ending a conflict that lasted nearly 20 years. CNN's Sam Kiley joins me now from Abu Dhabi.

U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo landing there on the anniversary of 9/11.

What of the prospects for peace here?

Especially since President Trump already seems committed to taking troops out of Afghanistan, not really waiting to see the outcome of these talks.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, in the longer term, Paula, I think that there is deep hope on the side, both for the Taliban and for the Afghan government, that some kind of peace deal that can be struck.

The problem is where do you sit or how powerful is your negotiating position, at least in the short term?

So what we have heard from the Trump administration is that, the anticipation is, the hope is that they will withdraw American troops or withdraw down American troops down from 8.5 thousand to about 4 .5 thousand by the fall. We are already in the fall to some degree, so the implication is that there is potential before the November election for Trump to make good on his promise to bring or end wars around the world and bring American troops home.

That weakens arguably the position of the Afghan government. It also potentially weakens the position of the many allies, notably the British, they have a lot of Special Forces there working alongside the U.S. forces.

At what point would they reach a tipping point for foreign forces there, who are there in support of the Afghan government, before they become nonviable or overexposed in their own countries, start pressurizing their leadership to bring troops home?

But this is an important aspect of things. The Taliban have tried to move their whole pitch to the Afghan people, if you like, for at least a decade, away from the violence that we so often and frequently associate with the Taliban, toward something much more viable in a peaceful dispensation.

So there will be an incentive on their part, the Taliban, not to necessarily overexploit the American drawdown. These are anticipated to be long, painful, problematic talks. Pompeo acknowledged that in his opening remarks and acknowledge that Afghanistan is a sovereign nation.

And what might emerge from these peace talks might not look to Westerners, something that one would see as a typical Western styled democracy.

Nonetheless, there is hope. This has been America's longest war but not Afghanistan's longest war. They have had 40 years of war, essentially between these various groups. And there is a deep sense of exhaustion on all sides.

Therefore, some prospect of peace. But it could very much be undermined by a precipitous American withdrawal. One American commander called it, more than a year ago, suggesting that they were one tweet away from strategic failure, a whimsical decision to withdraw too many troops, too soon -- Paula?

NEWTON: In the Oval Office, they will see more than 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, these troops in Afghanistan, as some type of a victory?

Interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and months. Sam Kiley, thanks. I appreciate it.

Somber remembrances across America as the U.S. marks 19 years since the 9/11 terror attacks. Some of the sights and sounds of the day. That is up next.






RUDY GIULIANI, ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP: When I arrived at the site and I was told to look up because debris was coming down, it was hitting people right here and knocking them on the ground and some of them died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will start today by reading the names of those that we've lost, as we do every year since the sacrifice, and just remembering our vow to the families and to the officers to never forget their sacrifice.

GIULIANI: I looked up and I saw a man on the 101st floor. And this is a memory that stays with me. I think of it every day. I have watched him throw himself out the window. I watched him come down. I grabbed my police commissioner's arm, Bernie Carrack (ph), and I said, Bernie, this is beyond the two of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today is about never forgetting. That means, never forgetting a lot of elements to this. And for me, it is most importantly about never forgetting that people came together in a time of crisis in a way we have never seen in our lifetime as Americans. FAUCI: It just reminds us of the fragility of life but also of the

extraordinary spirit of the American public, I mean, particularly, the people of New York but the entire country, that we pulled together after that tragedy and really came together as a nation.


NEWTON: That was the voice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, making a very important point about the unity of America after a tragedy. Those were some of the sights and sounds of the anniversary today across America. Of course, it was the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.

This year's memorial took on, of course, even more somber tone because of the deadly pandemic. Some of it affecting those very 9/11 families in New York.

But also, both president Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, participated in events. Trump gave remarks in Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked planes crashed after passengers and crew on board fought back.

Biden also visited the Pennsylvania site, after taking part of a memorial at New York's Ground Zero.

A good idea to put that campaign on pause today.

I want to thank everyone for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I am Paula Newton. "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS" is next.