Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

World Waiting For Taliban To Form A Government; Kabul's Largest Currency Exchange Market Reopens; Inside The U.S.' Final Hours In Afghanistan; Cuban Doctors Criticize Government's COVID-19 Response; Anti-Vaccine Conservatives Dying Of COVID-19; Over 40,000 Afghan Evacuees In U.S. For Resettlement; New Orleans Providing Residents Bus Rides To Shelters; Delta Variant Fueling Cases Among Japanese Children. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 05, 2021 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Fierce fighting in Afghanistan in the only province not under Taliban control.

America's top general makes a surprise visit to U.S. troops, who helped evacuate more than 100,000 people from Afghanistan.

And some prominent conservative voices who led the anti-vaccination fight, gotten sick, even died from COVID-19.

But was that enough to convince their fans to get a shot?

Welcome to all you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


BRUNHUBER: We begin in Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters are trying to seize the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, home to anti-Taliban forces, the only territory not under Taliban control. Fresh fighting was reported on Saturday, with both sides claiming successes.

Now CNN can't independently verify the accuracy of those reports. In the capital, where ordinary Afghans have been starved for cash, the largest currency exchange market reopened Saturday for the first time in nearly three weeks.

Even banks that are open are limiting withdrawals. And there's word the Kabul airport has resumed some operations. Qatar's ambassador said he witnessed the first domestic flight taking off on Saturday.

Journalist Ben Farmer is in Kabul and joins us by phone with the latest from there.

Ben, let's start with the fighting in the Panjshir Valley.

What's the latest on the conflict? BEN FARMER, JOURNALIST: There's heavy fighting ongoing in Panjshir, 90 minutes driving north of Kabul. Both sides have claimed there's victory from successes. For some of the only independent information we know, that there is an aid agency which runs a hospital in the valley, quite a significant way into the valley.

They've released a statement, saying that the Taliban have reached that far. So the Taliban have made significant inroads into the valley.

Last night, Amrullah Saleh, who says he's the acting president of Afghanistan, released a statement, calling on the international community to do its utmost, as he puts it, to stop the onslaught. And he warns there's a humanitarian crisis inside the valley because it's filling up with refugees.

And the power lines and telephone lines have been cut and people are running out of food.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Let's turn to life in Kabul. When we spoke yesterday, the money exchange market had just reopened. I understand you spent time speaking to people about the challenges of trying to get access to cash in what is a cash-heavy economy.

What did you find out?

FARMER: People are really struggling. The banks are open. And you mentioned some of the exchange markets are starting to open. But there are strict restrictions. The banks are only giving a maximum of $200 a month. And that's for people who have money in their accounts.

A lot of people here are paid by the government. The government payroll is very large in Afghanistan. There's a lot of the teachers, a lot of the people in the security forces, so on. Those people haven't been paid for up to two months, not just since the takeover of the Taliban; they weren't paid in the last days of the government.

So they're really struggling. The queues outside the banks are very, very long. We saw Taliban fighters, trying to keep order, whipping them, using sticks to try to keep them in line.

BRUNHUBER: Gosh. Ben Farmer in Kabul, thanks so much.

No one knows exactly how the Taliban plan to rule because they haven't yet formed a government. CNN's Ivan Watson joins us from Hong Kong.

Ivan, we're getting a few more details trickling out about the government the Taliban are forming now.

What can you tell us?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know from officials in Pakistan, who have been talking to CNN -- and Pakistan, of course, has a very long relationship of ties with the Taliban, where Pakistani officials have predicted that the future leader of the government, which has yet to be announced, will be Hibatullah Akhundzada, who's been the leader of the Taliban since 2016, when his predecessor was killed in a U.S. airstrike.


WATSON: He hasn't been seen in public in years. There are reports, not 100 percent confirmed, that one of his sons was a suicide bomber, who died attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan a number of years ago.

There are still questions about what the rest of the government will look like. There had been discussions about making it inclusive and including some members of the former Western-backed government. But we don't know more at this time.

There are questions about the future finance minister, for example. Pakistani officials saying that two of the names that have been proposed are actually individuals who are facing sanctions, including the leader of the Haqqani Network, which was kind of an archenemy of the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

It makes you wonder, if an individual like that could become the next finance minister, how would a Taliban government be able to do trade with the rest of the world?

After all, more than 70 percent of the funds for the former U.S.- backed government came from Western governments and aid institutions.

So how could that kind of flow of money come in again to pay the teachers and the doctors and the government workers that my colleague, Ben Farmer, was talking about?

The needs are acute. Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries. And it has come under much more pressure in recent weeks. Take a listen to what one resident of Kabul had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Currently there are economic problems. Prices increased in the market. Food ingredients have increased in price. People have not received money. The economy has weakened.

Today, the people's problem is economic. People are pouring into here. They don't know if their money's in the bank. People think their money has been emptied from banks.


WATSON: And there are limits to how much people can withdraw from the bank. Up to $200 a week is the maximum, that what we're hearing. Then there's the big question about how a Taliban government will treat different communities in the country.

We saw women in Kabul, trying to protest on Saturday, standing up for their rights. And then they say they were beaten and flogged by Taliban fighters and dispersed. They are just one of many communities in Afghanistan that are feeling very vulnerable and worried about the future. BRUNHUBER: Ivan Watson in Hong Kong, thanks so much.

America's top general says he feels pain and anger over Afghanistan. Joint Chiefs chairman Mark Milley said it comes from seeing everything that's unfolded over the past 20 years and the last 20 days of the war.

He spoke of losing soldiers killed in action, as well as the wounded and the grieving families. The general visited with troops returning from Afghanistan. He praised them for their role in one of the largest airlifts in military history.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, USJC CHAIRMAN: You guys did an incredible job, all of you, everybody. The Army, Navy and Marines and Air Force flying out, 124,000 people, that's what you saved. That's what came out of there.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Air Force commander who helped oversee the final withdrawal of American troops is sharing new details of the historic moment. The commander described a fast-moving operation. He spoke to CNN about what it was like being on the last U.S. plane out of Afghanistan. Oren Liebermann reports.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The approach into and out of Kabul allowed little margin for error. Mountains surround Hamid Karzai International Airport and the valley is prone to bad weather.

Thousands of Afghans on the field and thousands more, desperately trying to get in; nearby, a terror threat from ISIS-K. In this environment, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Pelbath had a mission: the end of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL ALEX PELBATH, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE, AIRBORNE MISSION COMMANDER: Instead of focusing on danger, what all the operators do is you focus on the mission you got at hand. You focus on your individual tasks. You focus on success. And you focus on doing your part of the mission as well as you possibly can.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Pelbath was the mission commander of the final five flights out of Kabul. He snapped this picture of another C- 17 taking on Afghan evacuees. In the background, the cars and baggage at hangars about to be left behind.

PELBATH: I graduated the Air Force Academy in 2001. A couple of months later, September 11th happened. So my entire career has been spent with a conflict in Afghanistan. And to see it come to an end -- it does make a mark, I think.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Pelbath knew time was precious. Every second on the tarmac was added risk. And with the final troops loading up, the danger was at its peak.

Major General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne, was the last soldier to step off Afghan soil, the military says.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Pelbath later snapped this cell phone picture of his own flight, then he gave the order, "Clamshell. Close the cargo doors."

Minutes later, "Flush the force," the order to take off.

PELBATH: I was able to see in front of me the first aircraft had just made their left turn. The second aircraft right behind them. The third aircraft had just lifted off. The fourth aircraft on the runway. I had the entire picture of the C-17 force in front of me; for sure, an image that I will never forget.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The five C-17s had been on the ground a total of three hours, he says; the end of a 20-year war was his final flight -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.


BRUNHUBER: Court documents made public just hours ago in New Zealand have named the man responsible for Friday's terror attack. Ahamed Samsudeen, a Sri Lankan national, was shot and killed by police after he went on a stabbing rampage at a supermarket in an Auckland suburb.

He wounded seven people, four still in hospital, three in critical but stable condition. In the wake of attack, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has promised to toughen the country's terror law.

Cuba's health care system is facing critical shortages as COVID cases continue to climb. Now the government is facing rare criticism from some of the country's front line workers.

Several influential U.S. conservatives have recently been infected with COVID, some even dying from the virus. We'll look at whether it made their followers think twice about rejecting the vaccine.





BRUNHUBER: As Western nations debate the timing of COVID booster shots, data reveals an overall slowdown in vaccinations in some countries. Initially, both Israel and the U.K. seemed to be on track to hit herd immunity, when 80 percent to 90 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

And the U.S. had reasons to be optimistic. But vaccinations then hit a plateau. However, there have been recent increases in people receiving their first dose.

The number of new global cases held steady last week after increasing for two months, according to the World Health Organization. But some countries that had avoided severe outbreaks are now seeing infections rise.

On Saturday, New Zealand reported its first COVID death in six months, along with 20 new cases. Neighboring Australia is battling its worst COVID wave yet, reporting a record number of new infections Saturday.

In the U.K., officials with London's Heathrow Airport are lashing out at the British border force after passengers waited hours to get through immigration. The home office says COVID health checks mean longer wait times but they admit the situation is unacceptable and they say they're working to deploy more agents at the airport.

Cuba's public health care system is being pushed to the brink amid a surge in new COVID cases fueled by the Delta variant. The country is now averaging around 6,500 new cases per day. That's almost six times the number of new cases from three months ago.

Hospitals have started running low on beds and doctors are grappling with shortages of medicine, oxygen and other critical supplies. Now some doctors are taking an unprecedented step, using social media to criticize the Cuban government's handling of the pandemic. CNN's Patrick Oppmann reports from Havana.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During the first months of the pandemic, Cuban health care received applause, every night. Cuba's government calls the doctors and nurses heroes in white coats, sending them to work in countries, around the world, to earn the hard currency the Communist run island desperately needs.

But as Cuba's socialist health care system faces shortages of medicine and hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID, tensions have emerged between the government and the doctors and nurse they usually praise.

During to a province hard-hit by COVID-19 in August, Cuba's prime minister said that health care workers there had committed errors and were undisciplined.

"There are complaints about lack of medicine," he said, "but they are less than the complaints of mistreatment, of neglect, where the doctors don't make visits. That is incredible."

The backlash, across the island from some Cuban health care workers, was swift and unprecedented.

"We are demanding the minimum conditions to offer decent care to our patients and health care workers," this doctor said. More than 3 dozen doctors and nurses, have posted videos to social media, saying that the government's pandemic response is failing. "We want to keep working, we want to keep saving lives," says this

doctor. "We are not responsible for the sanitary collapse in our country."

The Cuban government says, the doctors are being used for, quote, "new enemy campaigns" but has recognized that the health care system is at its limits.

OPPMANN: For much of the pandemic, Cuba seemed to have the spread of the coronavirus under control but then, in late 2020, the island reopened borders, without first requiring travelers to have a PCR test before arrival. Now with the Delta variant, the number of cases and deaths are skyrocketing.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Cuba turned down offers from other countries, to send vaccines. Instead, developing their own.

"We trust, 100 percent, in our vaccine candidates," she says. "The numbers of cases that we have today, in a few months, our vaccine candidates will show they are effective and the situation will improve."

So far, more than 30 percent of the island is completely vaccinated, according to the health ministry. The government predicts they will vaccinate every Cuban by the end of the year. Despite the massive effort, cases and deaths remain at an all-time high.

For the rebellious Cuban health care workers, who have spoken out against their government's handling of the pandemic, even if the vaccines succeed, it is already too late --


OPPMANN (voice-over): -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


BRUNHUBER: Health officials are keeping an eye on a new COVID strain. The World Health Organization has flagged the Mu variant as a variant of interest. A global database that tracks variants says Mu has been detected in all but two U.S. states but authorities don't believe it's an immediate threat.

CDC numbers show the Mu variant accounts for less than 0.5 percent of cases. The Delta variant accounts for just over 99 percent of new cases.

The recent uptick in Kentucky's COVID cases is forcing the governor to call a special session of the state's general assembly Tuesday. Governor Andy Beshear will ask the legislative body to extend the declared state of emergency through January 15th, he'll also review executive, agency and cabinet orders.

A recent decision by Kentucky's supreme court curbed the governor's ability to sign COVID-related executive orders.

And Hawaii is taking no chances with COVID over this Labor Day holiday weekend. Cases have flared up there with hundreds of patients hospitalized statewide. While they're not imposing any mandates, the governor warned of the burden COVID was placing on hospitals and asked the public to enjoy the holiday safely.


DAVID IGE, GOVERNOR OF HAWAII: Because of COVID, the hospital systems across the state is in danger of moving toward the worst case scenarios. If that happens, we have heard from our health care leaders that people may not receive the care they need and certainly some may die.

Our choices today and over this weekend can help prevent the worst case scenario for our health care system. So please act responsibly this holiday weekend and, moving forward, as we battle this highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant, do it for the sake of your family, our community and our state.


BRUNHUBER: A new survey reveals some reluctant Americans may be waking up to the dangers of COVID. Among the group surveyed in the Axios- Ipsos poll, those who were not very likely or not at all likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine dropped from 34 percent in March to 20 percent.

It could be because of the increased spread of the Delta variant and the subsequent spike in COVID deaths and hospitalizations. In recent weeks, several prominent voices on the Right, who were opposed to ,vaccines have died. Sara Sidner has the details.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not be vaccinated, you must survive the genocide.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a growing number of conservatives who have used their platforms to bad mouth COVID-19 vaccines but did not live long enough or are too sick to tell their public just how much they regret it.

AMY LEIGH HAIR, FRIEND OF DICK FARREL: I didn't want to be a guinea pig, he didn't want to be a guinea pig.

SIDNER (voice-over): Amy Leigh Hair is talking about her friend, Florida conservative radio show host, Dick Farrel. He repeatedly told people not to trust the vaccine.

"Why get a vax promoted by people who lied to you?" he posted and "Vaccine bogus bullshit," he proclaimed.

That was early July. A few weeks later, he was in the hospital dying from COVID-19.

HAIR: He told me this pandemic ain't no joke and he said, you need to get the shot and he told me he wish he had.

SIDNER (voice-over): The statistics that more than 600,000 Americans have died from COVID hadn't swayed him or her.

SIDNER (on camera): Why did it take Dick Farrel dying from COVID for you to say, I'm taking it?

HAIR: There is a pandemic of misinformation out there and I think there's no truer thing ever was said.

SIDNER: And didn't Dick Farrel add to that misinformation?

HAIR: Oh, yes, he did.

SIDNER (voice-over): But she is sharing his last words to her, hoping they resonate.

HAIR: There's just a whole bunch of people that said, because of Dick, I went and got it, so hopefully he did some good in the end.

SIDNER (voice-over): Farrel's story is not an anomaly. Two weeks after his death, conservative radio talk show host and vaccine skeptic, Phil Valentine also died of COVID-19.

Before he got sick, he wrote a song mocking the push to get vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): And I don't care if you agree.

SIDNER (voice-over): Changing The Beatles' "Taxman" to "Vaxman."

Valentine told everyone he was not getting the vaccine. He got COVID, instead. His family had to relay his regret.

MARK VALENTINE, PHIL VALENTINE'S BROTHER: He recognizes now that his not getting the vaccination has probably caused a bunch of other people not to get vaccinated and that he regrets.

SIDNER (voice-over): Valentine died but his brother said his story influenced dozens to get the shot.

No surprise to behavioral scientists.

HENGCHEN DAI, UCLA BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE EXPERT: When there is a vivid story about someone you trust, you know got sick, got hospitalized or even died. That vivid story would carry more weight.


SIDNER (voice-over): But there are a litany of other vaccine skeptics who got COVID and have yet to acknowledge the benefits of the vaccine.

From conservative Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who used his pulpit to spread baseless conspiracy theories about the vaccine and ended up on a ventilator...

CARDINAL RAYMOND LEO BURKE, AMERICAN PRELATE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: And even the kind of microchip needs to be placed under the skin of every person.

SIDNER (voice-over): -- to Florida pastor Rick Wiles.

RICK WILES, SENIOR PASTOR, FLOWING STREAMS CHURCH: I am not going to be vaccinated. I'm going to be one of the survivors.

SIDNER (voice-over): He, too, was hospitalized with COVID but remains defiant about the vaccine.

SIDNER (on camera): How big of an influence is our own ego?

DAI: So they don't want to recognize that you have made a mistake, especially publicly.

SIDNER (voice-over): But Hair has no problem in saying she changed her mind to honor her friend's wishes.

HAIR: I just thought it was important that I put it out there because I did change my mind.

SIDNER (voice-over): Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.


BRUNHUBER: Brazil is suspending beef exports to China after reporting two cases of atypical mad cow disease. The animals were in different Brazilian cities.

The agricultural ministry says it's following a joint sanitary protocol between the nations and there's no risk to human health. It adds that this version of the disease happens spontaneously in cows. It's not clear when exports to China will resume.

I'm Kim Brunhuber. For our viewers in North America, CNN NEWSROOM continues in a moment. For everyone else, "INSIDE AFRICA" is next.





BRUNHUBER: The airlift of tens of thousands of Afghans out of Kabul is over. Now comes the hard work of getting them resettled.

Over 40,000 Afghans have been admitted into the U.S. Many are being housed temporarily at government facilities until permanent relocations can be arranged.


BRUNHUBER: Joining me is Uyen Nguyen, the cofounder of the 75 Viets for 75 Afghan Refugee Families Project. The group is trying to connect families in Washington state with Afghans needing to settle in the United States.

Thank you so much for joining us here. You saw the comparisons between the fall of Kabul to the fall of Saigon, the side-by-side pictures of helicopters evacuating Americans. For many people in this country, it was just a symbol, an echo of

military failure. But for many Vietnamese, it must have been much more personal.

How did you first decide to get involved?

UYEN NGUYEN, COFOUNDER, 75 VIETS FOR 75 AFGHAN REFUGEE FAMILIES PROJECT: Yes, basically those images were just so triggering and also so sad for me. It was around dinnertime 2.5 weeks ago, on a Monday, that I just couldn't stand to not do something.

So I basically texted a group of friends and I asked them if they would join me in recruiting Vietnamese families to host Afghan families. And I was basically spamming them right at dinnertime. Luckily this group of friends are very interested and eager to do something to help. So we essentially brainstormed and started working on it right away.

BRUNHUBER: So the group is called 75 Viets for 75 Afghan Refugee Families.

What's the meaning of 75 specifically?

NGUYEN: That was the year when our country fell and also many of us became refugees. So we picked that number as a reminder of essentially where we came from and where we are right now.

It's definitely not a cap in our project. We want to overshoot that by a lot. But we wanted to name it specifically 75 as a reminder for our own connection to the refugee experience and our connection to the Afghan experience.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, it's an amazing project, you wanting to pay it forward, essentially.

How exactly, then, are you helping these families?

NGUYEN: Yes, so you know, our project scope changes every day. And we add a little bit more to it each day. Initially what we wanted to do was recruit 75, at least 75 Vietnamese families in Washington state to help host Afghan refugee families.

And then once we started, many people started asking for, how can I help, in terms of sponsorship, monetary sponsorship, if I cannot have the space or I'm not comfortable because of COVID, you know, can I do other things, basically, to help these Afghan families?

So we started looking into financial sponsorship also. And then our community also expressed interest on wanting to be a good host in terms of being very culturally competent in the Afghan culture and wanting to learn more about the food and so forth and so that we can become a welcoming host for the Afghan families.

So we started working on that project too, to provide more cultural competency for our Vietnamese community, so that we can be better welcoming neighbors for the Afghan families. BRUNHUBER: You put your finger on it.

It's not just housing, right?

The Afghans will face so many other issues, settling in culturally, linguistically; the stigma of being seen, potentially, as the enemy. Those are all issues many Vietnamese faced when they came here.

NGUYEN: Yes. And you know, a part of our job, too, has been to remind the Vietnamese community of that, too, that same stigma we went through because I think that enough time passed, some of us forget that we were also stigmatized and that the Vietnamese community were not welcome at first.

I think that the data show that around only 36 percent of Americans during that period actually wanted Vietnamese refugees to come to the United States. It took a lot of advocacy from people to encourage all these governors to step and up welcome us. That's what we're also hoping to do for the Afghan community.


NGUYEN: To really help the rest of America really understand the plight and the hard and difficult decisions that these refugees have to make and the hard journey in resettlement for them and so hopefully that many more of us will step up and become better neighbors and allies.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. A State Department official told CNN that most of the Afghans who worked alongside U.S. forces didn't get out; very similar to the thousands of Vietnamese in '75, who should have been evacuated, who were left stranded by the U.S.

So what about those Afghans who were left behind?

Is there any way to help them?

NGUYEN: Yes. My family was one of those families. So you know, the people who left in 1975 were considered the lucky ones; relative to us, the ones that were stuck behind. I watched my father went to re- education camp. Our lives were a lot worse. So we had to finally try to escape.

And I lost a lot of family members because of that. So I'm sharing that because I just want the community to realize that things can get really, really bad for those that are still stuck behind and who have to deal with the consequences of the new regime.

So one of the best ways to actually help them is that we increase the quota to allow refugees to come into the country. And then we also act as sponsor to basically become a -- to validate and be an agent for these families that are still left behind in Afghanistan.

BRUNHUBER: It's an amazing initiative. And we wish you all the best of luck helping all of those families. Uyen Nguyen, thank you so much for joining us, really appreciate it. NGUYEN: Thank you.


BRUNHUBER: If you want to help the 75 Viets for 75 Afghan Refugee Families Project, learn more on their website,

Afghan women are risking their lives to make their country a safer place. Some of them are part of the U.N. team clearing land mines and explosives that the Taliban themselves planted in decades of war.

But now those women may not be allowed to do that job under Taliban rule. As CNN's Max Foster reports, the head of the U.N.'s land mine team is negotiating for his team's safety from continents away.


MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: High up in the English Yorkshire moors, famous for being used as a set for the Harry Potter movies, Paul Heslop whiles away the days, negotiating with the Taliban.

He left Kabul, shortly before the country was taken over. And he's trying to find a way back in, to continue his work, running the U.N. mine clearance program.

PAUL HESLOP, U.N. MINE CLEARANCE PROGRAM: The country, is absolutely littered in explosive remnants of war. There are the IEDs that they laid, to try to disrupt government and military operations.

And then there is just the normal detritus from conflict -- the grenades, the rockets, the shells that are being used, plus what was dropped on them.

FOSTER (voice-over): The irony is, the Taliban is now asking for help in clearing the IEDs that they laid in the first place.

HESLOP: I'm expecting to have a call with a Taliban representative in the next few days, to discuss how we can start. At the moment, about 40 percent of the demining teams in Afghanistan are working. We would like, by the end of September, to have that back up to 80 percent or 90 percent.

FOSTER (voice-over): One of those teams is female and Heslop is taking advice on whether there might be a compromise, to allow them to keep working. Perhaps, if they were accompanied.

HESLOP: One of the things we are reaching out to, us some of the academic scholars and theologians, who understand the Taliban's interpretation of the Quran and what's sharia law means to them and how that affects women.

And seeing, are there any interpretations that would allow your husband-wife team, your father-daughter, a brother-sister team, to work together, to be able to do that?

FOSTER (voice-over): If Heslop can find a way to get back into Kabul and especially if he can retain female staff, it could be a useful test case for other employers, hoping to operate there -- Max Foster, CNN, North Yorkshire, England.


BRUNHUBER: Still to come here on CNN, frustrations are mounting in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana, where hundreds of thousands of people are still without power and other essential items.

Plus a hurricane in the Atlantic has just been declared a category 3 storm. We'll share what we know about it just ahead.





BRUNHUBER: It's been nearly a week since Hurricane Ida stormed ashore and there are still widespread power outages in Louisiana amid the scorching heat. Long lines outside gas stations and a shortage of essential supplies like food and water underline the struggle many face to recover in the wake of the storm.

CNN's Nadia Romero is in New Orleans, where thousands are trying their luck elsewhere by moving to shelters outside the city.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been several days now since Hurricane Ida made her way through this city and residents say it's the aftermath that is really starting to wear on them. Not having power, which means no AC, in the middle of what is a hot time in the Gulf Coast, the heat index so high, residents say it's unbearable.

Many have come outside the convention center and over here you can see there is a line of coach buses that have lined up to pick up people, up to 2,200 evacuees a day, through the city of New Orleans.

They get picked up from 12 different locations, they come to the convention center, go through a registration process, get on a coach bus and they take them out of the city to northern Louisiana, like Shreveport or to Texas.

Listen to why one woman says she had to evacuate now.


ROMERO: What are you missing in home right now that's making it unlivable?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it smell bad in there. You know, it's setting up mold. Yes.

ROMERO: Is it hot?

Do you have any food?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ain't got no food. It's spoiled, my food is spoiled. I don't have no food. I had to throw it out. And it's rough. And there's -- then we getting so much of heat.


ROMERO: So the city says they went to assisted living facilities and nursing homes to try to reach out to special needs cases, to make sure they were OK.


ROMERO: If not, to get them loaded on a bus and to safety. They'll have the convention center open for the next couple of days to take more people who are in need -- Nadia Romero, CNN, New Orleans.


BRUNHUBER: In Louisiana, seven nursing home patients are now dead after an evacuation went wrong. The Health Department classified five of those deaths as storm-related. They were among hundreds of people evacuated to a warehouse that reportedly had major problems, including failing sanitary conditions.

The state attorney general is launching an investigation into that.

Just as millions in the southern and eastern U.S. are picking up the pieces left by Hurricane Ida, we're now monitoring this season's third major cyclone in the Atlantic. Hurricane Larry is currently a category 3 storm.


BRUNHUBER: In California, a first responder has died fighting the massive Dixie fire. Officials say almost 4,000 personnel have been battling the blaze for almost two months. It has scorched more than -- almost 900,000 acres across five counties, making it the second largest fire in California history. According to state fire officials, the Dixie fire is now only 56 percent contained.

The Paralympics are coming to a close in Tokyo. Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, dozens of world records were broken and China dominated the competition. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: The closing ceremony for the Paralympics is just hours away. Athletes from around the world competed in Tokyo and broke dozens of records. China is dominating the medal count with 96 golds and 207 total medals.

Great Britain is a distant second, with 41 golds and 124 total medals followed by the United States and the Russian Paralympic committee.

Despite warnings from health officials, tens of thousands of school- aged children have been attending the games. Two teachers in eastern Japan have tested positive for COVID-19 after escorting their students to the Paralympics. CNN's Blake Essig has more from Tokyo.


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than a month, this is what it's looked like inside hospitals and clinics across Tokyo. Children, in some cases as young as 1 month old, testing positive for COVID-19.

Fueled by the Delta variant, the number of kids testing positive for COVID has increased by about 350 percent since the end of July at Dr. Chikako Takeda's clinic. During that time, for people under the age of 20, confirmed cases in Tokyo have increased nearly 270 percent.

DR. CHIKAKO TAKEDA, PEDIATRICIAN (through translator): I don't think it's surprising. The infection between children will spread.


TAKEDA (through translator): And the symptoms will become stronger than they are now.

ESSIG (voice-over): Yet Paralympic organizers and the Japanese government are allowing tens of thousands of elementary through high school students attend events. Health experts worry that decision could lead to more cases.

But organizers remain committed to allowing children to watch the games in person in a safe and secure manner, with many hopeful that the opportunity for kids to see athletes with disabilities compete will help change the attitude of future generations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There's still a lot of prejudice against people with disabilities in Japan. I really hope that the Paralympics can inspire people to change their views.

ESSIG (voice-over): But medical professionals call this decision irresponsible, especially as some people diagnosed with COVID-19 die at home, unable to receive medical care because hospitals and staff simply can't handle any more patients.

According to the government, nearly 120,000 COVID patients are currently trying to recover at home. About 30 percent of them should be hospitalized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The medical system is already collapsing and we also know that the Delta variant infects children. Given all that, I don't think it is a good idea to form big groups or attend events in person.

ESSIG (voice-over): But kids are attending events and, so far, two teachers who escorted children have already tested positive for the virus, requiring 120 kids, who had contact with the teachers, to be tested and their school to be temporarily closed -- Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.


BRUNHUBER: That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment with more news. Please do stay with us.