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At This Hour

Philadelphia Officials: Tap Water Is Safe Today After Chemical Spill; Spring Break Travel Demand Surges As Airline Industry Struggles; Prince Harry In London For Hearing Against Daily Mail Publisher. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 11:30   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Philadelphians today are wondering if their water is safe to drink. Officials in Philadelphia raised alarms after a chemical spill contaminated the Delaware River. They now say tap water is safe to drink until at least midnight.

But before that, city officials sent out a push alert to residents recommending they use bottled water -- bottled water instead. That advisory led to bottled water flying off store shelves as you'd imagine. And residents are now wondering who to believe.

CNN's Danny Freeman is in Philadelphia. Danny, yes, what's going on there?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, I got to say there's been a lot of whiplash in Philadelphia over this issue over the past 24 hours. As you said, the city is saying unequivocally the water in taps in the city of Philadelphia is safe to drink at this moment.

There has been no contamination in that water. But as you mentioned, a lot of the residents of Philadelphia are not quite convinced and not taking the government's word for it just yet.

So, let me see if I can break down how this confusion started. The chemical spill actually happened back on Friday night in Bucks County. It's about 20 miles north of where we are. It happens just off the Delaware River. But the Delaware River is, of course, one of the places where Philadelphia gets most of its water from.

So, the Coast Guard, the State Department of Environmental Protection, they were all out trying to clean it up. But on Sunday morning, the city of Philadelphia decided to alert the press and alert the city. Hey, there is this contamination that happened in the river.

We're just out of an abundance of caution letting you know. And then Sunday afternoon around one o'clock, they sent out that push alert to all the residents in the city saying we recommend to use bottled water, again out of an abundance of caution.

Well, people waited and then they went to the stores like this Acme behind me. They rushed to get bottles water -- pickup bottles of water, there was a rush -- a lot of empty store shelves but then later that night, the city came back with another push alert and said now we are telling you for sure the tap water is safe to drink and it will be safe to drink until Monday night. So, tonight basically until midnight. But again, we've been out here at this supermarket in South Philly today and people are still buying water. Take a listen to what one resident told us just a little while ago.


JOE SOLE, PHILADELPHIA RESIDENT: Sound like they really don't know what they're talking about. You know, I don't trust the way they don't sound confident on what they're telling us. How could it be OK by twelve o'clock this afternoon but it's not OK now, you know or it might be OK six hours from now, you know? I just don't -- it's too -- I don't believe it.


FREEMAN: Now, again, the city of Philadelphia says the water that is in your taps has never been contaminated, and they're still testing it constantly. But they are taking more water in from the Delaware River today. And they're testing that now to see basically what happens at midnight tonight. And then alert Philadelphians whether or not they can start drinking the tap water when Tuesday comes around. So, again, we're monitoring updates from the city. We'll bring that to you as soon as we have it, Amara.

WALKER: Yes. It's quite a confusing situation for the residents and the least. Danny Freeman, thank you.

Well, investigators are now looking into the cause of a horrific explosion at a Pennsylvania candy factory that left seven people dead. Just watch this.

Friday's massive blast level the RM Palmer facility in West Redding. And officials say all the missing people have been accounted for. The city's mayor says three buildings surrounding this blast flight will be condemned as a precaution. And the city plans to hold a vigil later this week for the lives lost in the explosion.


Well, airlines are struggling with staffing shortages and scary near misses. Now, they're also facing the spring break travel rush. And it could surpass pre-pandemic levels. That's next.


WALKER: The FAA is investigating a bizarre act incident on a Delta plane at LAX, and the FBI has been notified. The Boeing 737 was on the runway preparing to take off for Seattle when a passenger allegedly opened the exit door. Police say he deployed the emergency exit slide and then he slid down it. The woman who took this video reportedly said he appeared agitated. As you can see there, he was taken into custody, the plane returned to the gate and the other passengers were put on another flight.


And just in time, it's spring break right now for millions of Americans. And this year's travel rush could top pre-pandemic levels. But are the airlines ready?

They are struggling with staffing shortages, including air traffic controllers. And there have also been some scary close calls in recent weeks and months.

CNN's Pete Muntean is at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. Hey, Pete, I guess a lot of people want to know our airlines and airports up to the spring break challenge.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question, Amara, and the big concern of travel groups. They say it's not really the spring break travel crowds that are keeping people away from traveling but really the challenges that airlines and aviation have been going through lately.

The TSA says right now though, we are in the spring break travel peak. Just yesterday, it screened 2.5 million people at airports across the country. That number is interesting because it's only about 4000 people off from the same day back in 2019 before the pandemic. In fact, Thursday and Friday, the numbers were above the same day back in 2019.

But the U.S. Travel Association says these numbers could be bigger because travelers are seeing headline after headline, meltdown after meltdown at the airlines not only industry-wide last summer but also at Southwest Airlines over the holidays, the single-day meltdown at the FAA back in January. The U.S. Travel Association hopes that this spring break travel period will be smooth, but it highlights these problems as we go into the busy summer rush. Listen.


GEOFF FREEMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, U.S. TRAVEL: The air travel system is under great stress. We're seeing it. We're seeing it with delays. We're seeing it with cancellations. Perhaps we're seeing it with some of the safety concerns that are happening around the country. And that is leading some travelers to say you know what, I would travel more if we could fix that air travel experience.


MUNTEAN: The FAA is anticipating handling 46,000 flights today, even more tomorrow. Travel groups say the big tips you should book now if you have not booked already. You might be able to snag a deal, Hopper says by saving maybe $150 of your book on a day that's a little quieter like Tuesday or Wednesday. Also, try and book the first flight out if you can. That's the best way, Amara, to try and minimize on those delays and cancellations.

WALKER: Thanks for that advice. Pete Muntean, as always, appreciate it.

Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California joining me now. He is a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thank you so much for your time. So, you just heard there, you know, Pete laying out all the issues of air travel that we've seen recently, do you think the aviation industry is ready for this spring rush and the coming summer days?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI, (D-CA): Well, we're certainly going to find out. The proof is going to be known in the next several days as people get into the airplanes and travel. We do know that this industry has had plenty of trouble. This shutdown during the pandemic event trying to get back up and operating across this nation has been a very, very difficult thing for the airlines, but also for the traveling public and certainly for the airports and the FAA.

I think over time, there's going to be a much better experience. New airplanes are coming online, and that'll be helpful. Also, the FAA, we're going to go through the reauthorization of it this year in the committee, and we absolutely must make sure that they have the personnel that they have the direction, and they have the money to carry out their tasks of airline safety at the airports.

The infrastructure bill that passed a year and a half ago. It has a lot of money for improving the airport facilities across the nation. And also, a piece of that is a bill that I introduced that provides low-cost loans to the airports so that they can upgrade their facilities. Is there going to get better in the future? I certainly hope so because I'm a constant flyer.

WALKER: Yes. I hope so as well. And I -- and look, the flying public, I'm sure has experienced its share of frustrations in the past few months. And look, the timing, perfect, right? I mean, we still don't have a permanent FAA administrator.

In fact, President Biden's pick to run the FAA has now withdrawn his nomination. We heard Republicans some of those who had posed his nomination, criticizing him for lacking experience in the industry. What's your take on this?

GARAMENDI: Well, my take is that the Senate has been very, very slow on all nominations for every facility. And we have acting people in key places. They are good, but they really don't have the power they need to move that agency.

I think this gentleman could have done a very, very good job. It's an administrative job. You don't need to know how to fly a plane to do the job. But you need to know how to be a solid, tough administrator to move the system along. We're going to have to wait again. And in that process, the FAA will languish.


Now, in the House and in the Senate, we have our job to do and we cannot delay. We're going to have to get this bill done. We're going to have to provide the necessary direction, money, and changes the -- for example, the NOTAM system, which is a notice to the pilots about what's going on, where they are, and where they're going and everything in between.

That needs to be updated. That's money and process. And that's where the administrator could come in and say, we're going to get this done and, you know, push and shove to do that.

WALKER: Yes, I do think that one of the big concerns that we heard from some of the Republican critics on Phil Washington was that he didn't have the background in, you know, airline safety right because some FAA administrators, you know, did work in the NTSB or advise when it came to aviation safety policy. I do want to ask you, Congressman, about the current debate in Washington over TikTok.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy is now saying the House bill will push ahead with the bill to ban the app. TikTok CEO, as you know, testified before Congress last week, but of course, McCarthy and others just don't seem convinced. He tweeted, it's very concerning that the CEO of TikTok can't be honest and admit what we already know to be true, China has access to TikTok user data. Where do you fall on this?

GARAMENDI: Well, first of all, I'm delighted that McCarthy agrees with President Biden. President Biden has been pushing this issue for some time and he said, either sell it or get out of the United States. We're not the only country in the world that has the same concerns. Many others do. And it is a legitimate concern. So, good. McCarthy's on board with President Biden. We'll get this thing done. And TikTok should not be there.

But I want also, for all of us to be very, very, very much aware that our privacy is not only a TikTok issue. All of the social media platforms collect our information. And our privacy is basically for sale to the highest bidder out there that wants to engage in some sort of an advertising program. And then you can add the algorithms that feed us information that may be correct, but it certainly leads us down the rabbit hole of keeping us ill-informed about the broader world.

Those algorithms really narrow our personal focus on what's going on in the world. And that's not good for democracy. It's not good for our individual lives.

WALKER: Yes, that's a good point. It's scary how much social media companies know about our very personal lives. Congressman John Garamendi, really appreciate your time. Thank you.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

WALKER: Well, March Madness is living up to its name in a big way. The Final Four is set after another exciting weekend of hoops. Who punched their ticket to Houston? Next.


[11:52:13] WALKER: Prince Harry made a surprise appearance at London's High Court today, the Duke of Sussex, as part of a lawsuit against the Daily Mail's publisher. Prince Harry and several other high-profile people alleged the company illegally gathered private information.

CNN's Max Foster is outside the High Court in London. Hi, Max, what do we know about his appearance today?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we weren't expecting it. We didn't even know he was in the UK. You can see the hordes of journalists that have arrived to catch a glimpse of him coming outside. He's sitting in the courtroom.

This is a preliminary four-day hearing deciding whether or not this case should go to trial. There are four people. There's Prince Harry and Elton John, who are friends, of course. They were taking Associated Newspapers to a court or trying to take them to trial along with Sadie Frost, the actress, and Liz Hurley.

They accused the newspaper of breaching their privacy effectively. The newspaper says all of these allegations are preposterous smears. But essentially, what those people are suggesting, these high-profile individuals is that they become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they've been victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy by Associated Newspapers which owns the Daily Mail.

Things like putting listening devices into people's cars and homes, phone hacking, obtaining medical and banking information.

Prince Harry's inside. We don't know whether or not he's meeting other members of his family. I know that Prince William isn't able to meet him or King Charles because they're not in London or in Windsor at the moment. But this is four days of hearing so we'll see what comes out of it, Amara.

WALKER: Fascinating. Max Foster, thank you.

It's here. The final floor is set. And it's one no one saw coming. For the first time in over 50 years, three teams are making their first appearance as the last four teams standing. No one's more excited about this than CNN's Coy Wire, here to break it all down for us. Coy, determined has been one for the agents.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: It has. And the Madness has been -- just palpable. And yes, I am getting ready to head to Houston. I cannot wait to bring stories from there.

Look, we're talking to Final Four for the first time ever where there is not a one two, or three seed in it. Florida, Atlanta, Miami, and San Diego State, they're all playing it for the first time in the final four.

San Diego State was up two over Creighton with about 30 seconds to go but Creighton's Baylor Scheierman steals the inbound pass and the Blue Jays tied the game. Six seconds to go, Aztecs' Darrion Trammel looking for the win but Creighton has called for a foul. Look at the hand on the hip. Just 1.2 seconds left. And Trammel misses his first shot. The pressure is on. But the senior locks in and nails the game-winner.

Creighton, they have one last chance but it goes flying out of reach. Game over. Trammel played in front of fewer than a thousand fans at Seattle University last year but now he sends San Diego State to their first-ever final four.


And don't ever turn your backs on the Hurricanes. Down by 13 to Texas in the second half, until this, Amara, oh my goodness, the inbound pass against the Longhorns right off the rear of the steer for the emphatic dunk, which becomes the impetus for a 37-17 run, that gets the job done. Come back complete. They took out one-seed Houston, now two-seed Texas.

And how about 73-year-old coach Jim Larranaga chicken dancing, Amara? Oh yes. Yes, don't hurt yourself, big fella. They're going, Miami, to their first-ever Final Four as well. Dancing all the way there.

Now, Iowa's Caitlin Clark. She is savage. Rewriting the record books against Louisville leads the Hawkeye to their first Final four in 30 years. The front runner for National Player of the Year, 41 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists. The first player ever to record a 40-point triple-double in tournament history.

LSU, Amara, also punched their ticket to the Final Four last night. And check out what they do. They draw rings with a sharpie on their fingers. Angel Reese code, they're visualizing national championship rings.

Two more women's games tonight to book the final two spots to the Final Four including the defending champs, South Carolina. Dawn Staley's girls are ready to rock. And, Amara, you impress me over the weekend. That shot you have. Did you play basketball (INAUDIBLE)

WALKER: You know, I was forced to by my brother. And so, I can shoot and I challenge you to a game of horse soon. All right, Coy?

WIRE: All right, let's go pig instead. A little shorter. I have a better chance.

WALKER: All right, I'll remember that. Coy wire, thank you for that enthusiasm and for your reporting. Thank you so much.

Thank you for watching. I'm Amara Walker. "INSIDE POLITICS" with Abby Phillip is next.