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Death Toll From Morocco Earthquake Surpasses 2,900; Catastrophic Flooding Washes Away Roads, Damages Homes In Massachusetts; OSHA: More Airport Workers Suffering Serious Injuries On Tarmac; Reports: Aaron Rodgers Out For Season After Suffering Torn Achilles In Jets Debut. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 14:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We want to update you now on the devastating earthquake in Morocco. The death toll from Friday's earthquake has climbed past 2,900.

Rescuers are still racing to find survivors in the rubble, but that job is getting even more challenging in hard-hit mountainous areas where debris has destroyed or blocked some roads.

CNN's Sam Kiley takes us there.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what remains of the village of Patga (ph). Now, the municipality extends up into the hills, way up there, accessible only on foot.

Here, in the central area, there were 200 homes. Now, across the area, some 88 people were killed. Many more, of course, injured because, at 11:00 on Friday night, this is what happened.

And it's similar scenes in every village on every hilltop in this region in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. It's as if a giant running downhill has stamped, stamped out the life, crushed the futures of the inhabitants of these villages.

Now, there is a whiff in the air, mostly not of dead bodies but of dead animals. Of course, it's the animals that represent, for a farming community like this, the incomes for the present, the pensions for the future, and indeed, any kind of hope for a future education for the younger generations.

We have been talking to people here, and they insist some of them that they want to be able to rebuild.

But from the government's perspective, they're having to go right up into the mountains, into the much more further-flung regions using helicopters to drop aid. Going out with sniffer dogs to try to find out in these last few potential moments of finding survivors under this kind of rubble, trying to identify the greatest need.

That is going to be an ongoing and fraught activity. And then. of course, Morocco somehow has got to recover.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Kafka (ph).



SANCHEZ: Sam Kiley, thank you so much for bringing us that report.

Listen, there are a lot of people in Morocco who are in need right now. If you're in a position to lend a helping hand, we want to empower you to do that. You can find out more about how to help folks in Morocco at


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: A Massachusetts home left standing alone on its foundation, as you can see there. The rest of the property around it washed away in catastrophic flooding overnight.

Nearly a foot of rain fell overnight in a town just 40 miles north of Boston. The town's mayor said there were so many rescues they have lost count of how many.

Right now, evacuations have been ordered for some people living in low-lying areas. Emergency management officials say a dam that had been scheduled to be replaced is now prompting further concerns.

CNN's meteorologist, Chad Myers, is tracking the story from the CNN Weather Center.

Chad, goodness, another day where we describe unusual amounts of rainfall leading to flooding. One 200-year event? I feel like we're seeing these every couple of weeks.

Explain what happened and what's going to happen next.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. For this town, they had a -- this event should have happened once every 200 years and it happened yesterday. And 2.77 inches of rain in one hour. Hard to imagine where that rain has to go so quickly.

And then even though it stopped raining there briefly, you talk about that, almost 10 inches of rainfall came down. There was heavy rainfall there in parts of Rhode Island as well and on up towards the Berkshires north of Worcester.

And still running off, still seeing flooding right now. Now in the rivers. The rivers are swelling, not so much in the towns and streets, but some of the streets don't even exist anymore because they were washed away.

No rainfall right now. Nothing really for today, but I do think we will see more rainfall tomorrow. There are still watches up.

Obviously, now, there's no place for the rain to go. Level two for flood risk for this area. And there's more rainfall to come, Jim. And its name is Lee.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. I want to talk about Lee. We both learned something, Chad. Tell me about Hurricane Lee.

MYERS: It's still a category 3 hurricane. It is a big event. It will come in on the heels of the rain that goes by tomorrow. And it is still out there in very warm water. Hasn't really got to the cold water yet.

So the precursor to this event will be the rainfall that comes down, two inches of rain, not according to Lee, not associated with Lee just yet.

But 115 miles per hour. It will move to the north. And it will begin to slow down in intensity. That's the good news.

There still will be widespread consequences with gigantic waves up and down the east coast and certainly the potential for more rainfall in those places in eastern New England that do not need any more rain whatsoever.

We'll still watch the track. Right now, trending to the east a little bit, but it's still something certainly worth watching. The good news is it likely will be a cat 1 when it gets close.

SCIUTTO: Like so many strands of spaghetti.

Chad Myers, in the Weather Center, thanks so much.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Still to come on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, as air travel surpasses pre-pandemic levels, there's a troubling rise in injuries among airport workers. We'll have that story, next.



KEILAR: Now to other headlines we're watching this hour.

Five workers from a Decatur, Illinois, soybean processing plant are still in the hospital after a powerful explosion on Sunday night. This took firefighters more than seven hours to get this blaze at the 10- story building under control. The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

And an American rescued from a Turkish cave is undergoing tests in a hospital today after his harrowing ordeal underground. And 40-year-old Mark Dickey fell ill in the third deepest cave in Turkey about a week ago.

It took rescue crews several days of around-the-clock teamwork to get him out.


MARK DICKEY, AMERICAN RESEARCHER RESCUED FROM CAVE IN TURKEY: It is amazing to be above ground again. I was underground for far longer than ever expected, with an unexpected medical issue.

At one point in time, while I was waiting for Jessica to get back down with fluids, she made an insane climb of 1,000 meters out of the cave to come back down another 1,000 meters along with the support of Hungarians and Turkish cavers. Saved my life.

And it was the rapid response of the Turkish government that got the resources to her. Just what, can you say? Saved my life.


KEILAR: And a popular ingredient in many over-the-counter allergy and cold medicines, like Sudafed P.E., does not work. An FDA panel found that Phenylephrine, P.E., as it is known, is ineffective, especially in tablet form.

P.E. Is the main ingredient used in products like Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion, Nyquil Severe, and Vick's Sinex. These products generated nearly $1.8 billion in sales alone last year.

I may be responsible for half of that, Boris.


SANCHEZ: I hope that cough clears up soon.


SANCHEZ: As air travel increases significantly following the pandemic, there's a new and troubling problem on the rise. Airport workers responsible for loading bags and servicing planes on tarmacs are getting seriously injured at alarming rates.

CNN aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean, is here.

So, Pete, help us understand what's happening.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Working on the ramp, on the tarmac is really difficult. It's hot. It's loud. It is getting more and more dangerous according to these new numbers.


Worker injuries actually went down with the pandemic but have rebounded with the rebound in air travel. And now the latest numbers show that worker injuries are now above what they were pre-pandemic.

And some workers are paying with their lives.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): When Courtney Edwards went to work on New Year's Eve, she had no idea she would become part of an alarming statistic.

The mother of three was helping marshal a flight to its gate at the Montgomery, Alabama, airport when she was pulled off her feet, according to an NTSB report, and into an operating jet engine. Edwards was killed.

UNKNOWN: It's a very tough job, and it's dangerous.

MUNTEAN: Employees working on airport tarmacs are now part of a troubling trend. Injuries among them spiked last year, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration data first reported by the "Wall Street Journal."

ERNEST TANGA, RAMP WORKER: My leg went up to this level.

MUNTEAN: This is what's left of an on-the-job injury that Ernest Tanga says could have been much worse.

Tanga works at Washington Dulles as a ramp agent for contractor, Swissport.

In February, he was taken bags by hand from an Avianca Flight when he slipped. His left leg stuck between the body of the airplane and a baggage loader.

TANGA: So when I pulled my leg out, I sat on a box for about four to five minutes, and it was just my leg the whole leg was burning.

MUNTEAN: In a comment to CNN, Swissport says, "The health and safety of our employees is the highest priority."

And it says it fully complies with all applicable labor regulations.

The number of on-the-job injuries declined and 2020 when traveled during the pandemic cratered. But OSHA figures show, as flights picked up, injuries quickly returned to and exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Just last month, Massachusetts State Police say a forklift operator at Boston Logan was pinned by a metal beam and killed while he was servicing a JetBlue flight.

SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): It is absolutely essential that as we move forward, that we bring these workers out from the shadows.

MUNTEAN: U.S. Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, says his legislation to improve airport service worker pay will lead to less turnover and safer conditions.

MARKEY: The higher the morale, the more likely that safety standards will be, in fact, maintained at the highest possible level. MUNTEAN: Airlines have added employees since the pandemic downturn but safety experts say there is intense pressure on contractors to quickly service aircraft with limited staffing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you need more oversight. You need heftier fines. And you need a recommitment on the part of the air carriers to treat these people fairly.

MUNTEAN (on camera): Do you think it's getting less safe?

TANGA: I would say yes, because people keep on doing -- one person will do a job of three people.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Ernest Tanga is still working for Swissport but on light duty. He thinks new protections for workers like him will be a heavy lift, but it could save lives.

TANGA: If things were done the proper way, I think people wouldn't be injured.


MUNTEAN: We're learning more about the conditions that these workers are facing. In Arizona, about a dozen of them just filed a labor complaint. They say they're being forced to work on hot planes, sometimes without air conditioning, and often without water.

The pressure is on them to work not only from airlines but also from the federal government, which is putting out this bulletin out just now saying airlines are going to be extra vigilant after these recent incidents -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: It is a tough gig, no question about that.


SANCHEZ: Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

MUNTEAN: Thanks.


SCIUTTO: For Jets fans, our football season flashed before our eyes when Aaron Rodgers, the hope for this season, carted off the field in his debut. Threw like one pass. Details on his injury and prognosis and who stepped up to still win the game. That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: So the New York Jets, the heartbreaking New York Jets and their fans, we should be celebrating the thrill of an opening night victory, but instead, we're feeling the agony of an injury to a superstar player we built Super Bowl hopes on him.

The Jets rallied to beat Buffalo in overtime. But the win came at enormous cost. They may have lost Aaron Rodgers for the season.

CNN's Coy Wire was at the game.

Coy, man, I have torn my Achilles tendon. It's the worst injury.


SCIUTTO: And I'm very far from an NFL player, you might have noticed. But that is the worst-case scenario, is it not?

WIRE: Absolutely. Don't sell yourself short, Jim. I know you have some baller in you.


WIRE: As you mentioned, the energy was palpable. It was like a rock concert. I felt like I was at a Bruno Mars jam. And then, all of a sudden, book, all the air, Jim, went out of the stadium when he fell down.

Everyone knew it was not right, because he went down immediately. He's a tough guy and he would have tried to limp off. But here he is, torn Achilles, definitely done for the season.

But, Jim, is he done for maybe his career? Did we watch Aaron Rodgers' last snap? Is this it, his last game in the NFL?

He's 39 years old. A player just got signed a couple hours ago, but he's now the second oldest player in the league at 39.

As you mentioned, not an easy injury to come back from, but he does play the quarterback position, he doesn't have to be as mobile, so we'll see.

But four-time league MVP, already has a Superbowl ring. And this was the moment for Jets fans. They were so hyped. But they still got the "W" in the end.


SCIUTTO: The look on Robert Saleh's face when it happened, it was like he had seen the end of the world there.

And yet, after all that, they won. How did they do it?

WIRE: I mean, when something like that happens, you want to play for something beyond yourself or someone, more than just yourself. That's what this team did.

This is Xavier Gibson, an undrafted rookie, his first game in the NFL. And in overtime, Jim -- I know you were watching this. You were probably standing on your feet. Touchdown, game over. And the crowd went wild.

The defense stepped up, as well. This team can still win a lot of games I believe, even without Aaron Rodgers, but it will be a lot more difficult.

SCIUTTO: We'll see if they are looking at the trade market. Maybe. There's not a lot out there to replace him. But, boy, what a night.

Coy Wire, good to have you.

WIRE: Thanks, Jim.


SANCHEZ: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is directing committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. We'll take you live to Capitol Hill for the latest when CNN NEWS CENTRAL returns.