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Sydney Partially Reopens After 100 Days of Lockdown; Opera Performer Killed Onstage During Live Performance; Fears Grow Poland Could Leave EU Amid Legal Primacy Fight; Afghan Refugees Start New Life in U.S. After Fleeing Home; Studies Indicate COVID-19 Having A Mental Health Impact. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired October 11, 2021 - 01:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me. You're watching CNN. So, coming up on the show, it has been months in the making Sydneysiders revel in their freedom. We'll look at the celebrations, and the mental toll of these lockdowns. Mass protests in Poland many are fearful that the country could exit the E.U. also the La Palma volcano in all of its fury. These are live pictures. We'll speak to somebody who's seen it in-person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Well, the world is trying to forge a path to a new normal as pandemic battered nations look to reopen without triggering new waves of the Coronavirus. Malaysia is lifting some travel restrictions after vaccinating 90% of its adult population.

Italy also announced that inoculation milestone 80% of all eligible Italians are now fully vaccinated. Dozens of nations are off the U.K.'s read list of restricted travel destinations as of Monday. Only seven countries remain, they are Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

And they've been nearly 238 million cases worldwide since the pandemic began and more than 4.8 million deaths. One major city that is emerging from COVID lockdown is Sydney. Fully vaccinated residents can now go to the pub, gym, and restaurants and shops. More than 5 million people have been in strict lockdown since June. But officials lifted measures after hitting a 70% vaccination rate. The premier of New South Wales says if everyone does their part, they can open up even more.


DOMINIC PERROTTET, NEW SOUTH WALES PREMIER: Well, it's a big day for our state and to everyone across New South Wales. You've earned it. It's been 100 days of blood sweat notice, but we've got it if we take personal responsibility, we will get through this difficult time. It's a time of optimism. It's a time of hope. We know that business confidence was crucial in getting our economy through last year. But importantly, we need to do it in a safe way.


CURNOW: Angus Watson joins me now from Sydney with more on this. It's rainy but no doubt that certainly not dampening people's excitement that lockdown is now over since June. I mean that's incredible.

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: That's right Robyn. There we heard the premier of New South Wales Dominic Perrottet say that it's a time of hope. And it certainly is despite the poor weather today. It is Freedom Day here in Sydney and throughout the rest of New South Wales told that because people have done their bit by rolling up their sleeves and getting their COVID-19 vaccination, they no longer have to spend time in lockdown. They can go to a restaurant, go to a gym, visit family and friends in their homes after 106 days of being told to stay home.

Now they had to stay home to keep the Delta variant at bay. It's been incredible just how quickly it spread through the capital of New South Wales Sydney, here as its vaccination rates have remained low, it only just crept higher and higher up to this point. It began with just one case in June, a driver transporting aircraft staff from the airport to their hotels now over 60,000 cases from that one person and over 300 deaths, now Freedom Day people very happy. We went to a pub, the Angel hotel here in central Sydney where they're giving out free beers to celebrate. We managed to speak to the bar owner who said that he's taking some solace in the fact that other countries including the U.K. have opened up ahead of Australia and that Australia's vaccination rates have hit quite high marks. Here's what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're lucky that Australia's actually got a higher vaccination base than what the U.K. does at the minute which has been great. People have been jumping on it which is excellent for us. We're going to hit 80% next week, which is really good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pub is way better than drinking in your own house, 106 days, my house is nothing better the pub.


WATSON: So, there you have some very happy pub goers there in Sydney, Australia. We hope that excitement will continue to build throughout the day despite the bad weather. And we hope that excitement will continue to build for people around the country as well who are in Canberra, in Melbourne still living under lockdown, their vaccination rates haven't quite hit the heights that Sydney has.

But Robyn, this is very strange divide between news South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria states that have COVID-19 and the rest of the country that doesn't. They've been living in with open and free societies, unlike many other places in the world now for months because they don't have the virus. Soon hopefully once their vaccination rates get higher, it will be time for them to open up for the states in Australia that do have COVID-19 and then Australia can open up to the rest of the world. Robyn.

CURNOW: Thanks so much. Congratulations, hopefully you can go and have a beer in a pub as well. Thanks so much Angus Watson there in Sydney.

So, the U.S. appears to be gaining ground in its fight against the pandemic. Nationally, the number of new infections has been falling since last month, just five states saw a significant jump in new cases last week.

COVID hospitalizations and deaths are also dropping across much of the country. Health experts say the U.S. is on the right track, but it's still too early to declare victory.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Hopefully it's going to continue to go in that trajectory downward. But we have to just be careful that we don't prematurely declare victory. In many respects, you want to look forward to holiday seasons and spending time with your family and doing those sorts of things. But don't just throw your hands up and say it's all over. If you look at the history of the surges and the diminutions in cases over a period of time, they can bounce back.


CURNOW: Dr. Fauci also says the country's infection rates are still too high while vaccination rates just aren't high enough. Only around 66% of eligible Americans have been fully vaccinated so far. Another story we're following here at CNN, the plots of many operas and in tragedy, but a real-life death that played out on stage has stunned Russia's Bolshoi Theater. State media site is sourcing a performer was crushed during a live event. Matthew Chance is in Moscow, and he filed this report. Matthew.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this tragic accident happened during a scenery change during the performance of a famous Russian opera called Sadko at the prestigious Bolshoi Theatre here in Moscow. Apparently one of the background actors according to law enforcement officials moved the wrong way when a heavy ramp was being loaded onto the stage, crushing him underneath.

Footage that's appeared online shows performers shouting stop and call an ambulance but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

On social media members of the audience have expressed their shock and said they initially thought it was some kind of staged trick. In a statement, the Bolshoi Theatre has expressed condolences to the friends and family of the victim. Investigators say they're looking into the circumstances around the death. Because, you know, this is not the first time that the Bolshoi is becoming embroiled in tragedy in 2014. A violinist died after falling into the orchestra pit at the theater. And in 2011, a Bolshoi Ballet dancer was jailed for throwing acid into the face of the company's artistic director badly damaging his eyesight. Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


CURNOW: There is a legal fight brewing between Poland and the E.U. And many in Poland are taken to the streets to show where they stand. Take a look.

Massive crowds here behind rallying behind the E.U. is fears are growing that Poland could eventually split with the block. Organizers say protests were held in dozens of cities across the country on Sunday with as many as 100,000 people turning out in Warsaw alone.

The Pro-E.U. rallies come after Poland's Constitutional Court challenged the primacy of European law over its national law. And the court's decision on Thursday was welcomed by Poland's conservative Prime Minister and analysts say it could be the first step towards a legal Polish exit from the EU. Here is Kim Brunhuber.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The flags of Poland and the European Union flying side by side and Warsaw. Organizers say 10s of 1000s of poles filled castle square on Sunday in a show of unity with the E.U. chanting we are staying. The crowd's message was clear. They want Poland to remain a member of the E.U.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stay in the European Union because we feel stronger, and we hope there will be more prosperity if we are in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am here for Poland. I am here for my children. One of them is with me here. And I don't believe we can ever leave Europe.

BRUNHUBER: On Thursday, a ruling by Poland's highest court challenged one of the cornerstones of that relationship. The court said, Polish law supersedes other sources of law, including some of those set by the E.U. It's a landmark ruling praised by the country's right wing nationalist government.

The prime minister says other member states have had similar rulings that concluded, "E.U. institutions sometimes go beyond the powers conferred on them in the treaties by colliding with national constitutional rights." Still, says that "All obligations under European Union law remain in force."


But moves shockwaves throughout Europe, Donald Tusk, a former European Council chief and leader of the country's main opposition group, urged people to turn out for the protests.

DONALD TUSK, POLAND OPPOSITION LEADER (through translation): I said yesterday that even if I had to be alone, I will stand and raise this alarm because it is a matter of our future. The future of our children and grandchildren.

BRUNHUBER: Relations between Brussels and Warsaw have been strained since the Law and Justice Party came to power six years ago. The party has introduced reforms to the judiciary. It says we'll make courts more efficient, but the E.U. says could threaten judicial independence. Some critics fear that Thursday's court ruling could be a first step towards a polite exit to our Poland leaving the E.U. A prospect the government calls fake news.

That something protesters say they're adamantly opposed to, the E.U. says it will use all of its power to enforce the rules of the block and could cut off sending more funds to Poland over the course decision. Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


CURNOW: Up next, Taiwan's president says the island will not bow to pressure from China after comments by the mainland's leader. We'll hear from them both just ahead.


CURNOW: Taiwan says Chinese military aircraft have again entered its air defense zone this time as the island mark national day. That came on Sunday as Taiwan's President delivered a defined speech amid heightened tensions with Beijing, saying when said the self-governing island will defend its democratic way of life and won't bow to pressure. Just one day after China's president vowed to pursue a peaceful reunification with Taiwan.


XI JINPING, CHINA PRESIDENT (through translation): No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The complete reunification of our country will be and can be realized.

TSAI ING-WEN, TAIWAN PRESIDENT (through translation): We hope for an easing of cross strait relations and will not act rationally. But there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure.


CURNOW: Ivan Watson is tracking developments and joins us now from Hong Kong. Ivan Hi. Certainly, some pretty tough rhetoric on both sides.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, you have on the one hand China and its one-party system with its leader saying that this island must basically rejoin the rest of mainland China and submit to Communist Party rule. On the other hand, you have the democratically elected leader of an island that essentially governed itself since 1949, saying no and describing her island as a Democratic Front Line, in defense against authoritarianism that she argues is expanding around the world. Take a listen to what else she had to say.



ING-WEN (through translation): Nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us. This is because the path that China has laid out offers leader a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for 23 million people.


WATSON: Now, the Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Saturday said he wanted peaceful reunification. And he argued that you could use the one country two systems' formula that was supposed to be used in Hong Kong to grant Taiwan autonomy, again, under the rule of Beijing, and the Taiwanese government has said, look what you did here in Hong Kong, you banned opposition protests and postponed elections indefinitely and have shut down a major newspaper and arrested people who criticize the government. So no, we are not going to follow this.

Now, the war of words across the Taiwan straits comes as China has been flexing its military muscles in what Taiwan and its American allies say our intimidating provocations with multiple war planes flying into Taiwan to air defense identification zone three on Sunday, as Taiwan was celebrating its national day, which of course, Beijing denies that it has the right to do.

Taiwan, its Ministry of Defense said that it demonstrated some missiles for the first time at its parade. We didn't see those missiles in particular. But the argument that Taiwan's defense establishment has been trying to make is, yes, we are dwarfed by our giant Chinese neighbor. If they choose to attack us, we must make it painful enough to deter them from that kind of eventuality. Robyn.

CURNOW: Ivan Watson, thanks so much for that keeping an eye on what is happening there in the region, live in Hong Kong. Thank you.

So, polls are now closed in Iraq and preliminary results in the country's parliamentary election are expected in the coming hours. We are hearing no of a low turnout and analysts say voters just aren't confident any real change can be created at the ballot box despite a push from protesters to hold these elections early. More now from Sam Kiley. Sam.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Polling has now closed in Iraq's general elections. These elections were called early bright Prime Minister Academy in response to the widespread demonstrations that gripped the country in 2019. They resulted in the deaths of at least 600 people in the disappearances of dozens of others. There's disappearances, political disappearances, blamed on militia groups and the parties behind them very often, Shia groups but also Sunni, too.

And there's no chance really in the view of most commentators looking at these elections, that the new sectarian dispensation that will follow these elections will look very different to the one that preceded it. Now that is going to be a bitter disappointment to those demonstrators, who demanded a change of government an end to corruption, an end to unemployment, and above all, an end to Iranian influence that influence likely to continue with the expectation being that significant shear party blocks are going to be if not dominant, then dominating a great deal of Iraqis political future, particularly though eyes will be on the role of Muqtada al-Sadr, because while he is the leader of what is likely to be the biggest shear block, he has rejected the heavy Iranian influence over his country in the last few years having in the past, been backed by them, he's now been leaning a lot more towards a more ecumenical approach in terms of international relations, even talking to the Americans and trying to encourage Iraq's participation in world affairs in a new way of following on his own militias resistance against the American led intervention in his country some years ago.

So, a key player to watch but in the rest of the way that the 329 seats are likely to be distributed. There is assumed to be a predictable, almost set piece, a demonstration of the sectarian nature of the Iraqi nation with a number of seats going to Kurdish party, Sunni parties, and of course, the very large shear blocks. Sam Kiley, CNN in Abu Dhabi.


CURNOW: Thousands of Afghan evacuees temporarily based in Germany are making their way to the U.S. One flight departed from Ramstein Air Base over the weekend carrying a few 100 evacuees to Philadelphia.


The flights were paused for weeks due to measles cases among the evacuees who had already reached the U.S. Officials say approximately 1000 evacuees will be flying out on a daily basis until all 9000 remaining at Ramstein arrived here in the U.S.

So, what has it been like for Afghans who've already escaped to the U.S. Pamela Brown spoke with one family adjusting to their new family. Take a look.


ABED JAWAD (ph), REFUGEE: Everyday, I feel like I'm starting a new life.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The Jawad family arrived in the United States in August after fleeing Afghanistan on a Special Immigrant Visa. What was that like when you step foot in the U.S.?

S. JAWAD: Fresh, the first word that comes in mind all the greenery and stuff, I'd say fresh, wonderful.

BROWN: The Jwaad were initially on their own when they arrived living in the bare bones basement apartment, sleeping on the floor and surviving off just enough saved up money for food as they awaited housing help from one of the nine resettlement organizations receiving funds from the U.S. government.

S. JAWAD: We have to start everything from zero.

BROWN: But they at least felt safe unlike their final weeks in Afghanistan, when the Taliban was rapidly taking over. Abed (ph) Jawad says he worked alongside a U.S. Defense company and knew his family could be targeted.

S. JAWAD: Our daughter was our concern, was our priority. That's what made us move out. I couldn't just make myself eat. I was like so stressed since the day we stepped in this country I don't see myself to stop eating.

BROWN: The Jawad are among an estimated 60,000 Afghans resettling in the U.S. after a rapid and chaotic withdrawal from the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: So many of them have gone through a tremendous amount for us, that we consider it not only our obligation, but quite frankly a privilege to dedicate our resources for them in return.

BROWN: But the unprecedented relocation efforts have come with challenges like finding affordable housing, and airtight vetting and security procedures for people entering the United States.

MAYORKAS: We take their fingerprints, we get their biographical information, we take their photographs.

BROWN: Do you know of any instances where someone didn't pass the screening and they couldn't come through?

MAYORKAS: Oh, yes, we have. And quite frankly, if we learn of information at any point in time, remember we have our enforcement authorities as well that we could bring to bear and have brought to bear.

BROWN: In September a measles outbreak among Afghan refugees halted evacuations for a few weeks. But resettlement efforts have resumed after the CDC made new vaccine and quarantine requirements against infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Where refugees initially ended up in the U.S. depends on their status.

MAYORKAS: If in fact they are U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents or visa holders, they are actually able to resettle directly into the United States. But if they are not, then they go to one of eight military facilities where a tremendous amount of resources are dedicated to their well-being.

BROWN: The U.S. government accommodations for Afghans have raised questions about why the same isn't being done for migrants arriving at the southern border and record numbers.

Look, the U.S. government was able to set up the system so quickly for Afghans, why not set it up so quickly for those that are in need coming to the southern border?

MAYORKAS: Remember, we are working with countries to the south that are dealing with a border management challenges themselves, resource constraints and like so the challenges are very different here than they are with respect to the Afghan nationals.

BROWN: The Jawads are now living in a one-bedroom apartment in Virginia, they found through one of the resettlement organizations. But Miry Whitehill, Founder of Miry's List, a group that helps incoming refugees says housing alone is not enough to make refugee families feel at home in the U.S.

MIRY WHITEHILL, FOUNDER, MIRY'S LIST: Imagine you know coming to a new country being dropped off, we can intervene to make sure that the arrival is a completion to the refugee experience and the beginning of a resettlement experience. These are our newest Americans. We have a tremendous opportunity to show up for them.

S. JAWAD: It's handmade by someone who doesn't even know us.

BROWN: The Diwan family says Miry's List gave them comfort items like this handmade blankets and toys for their daughter and comfortable beds to sleep in.

S. JAWAD: That's it OK, we need beds. And then she said what type of beds and that was surprising for me. I was like OK, I get to choose what type of beds?


BROWN: Soora and Abed will be on their own pain for rent after two months and are both looking for work. Abed as an accountant and Soora potentially finishing her pursuit of becoming a heart surgeon.

S. JAWAD: I did my MD, and I was halfway to become a heart surgeon. I was in third year of my residency. It's a five years program. Well, I had to leave. I hope I can do something to be useful to the society.

BROWN: The Department of Homeland Security says it is working to match skills from eligible Afghans with job opportunities in the U.S. and there are many ways that you can help. Miry says the easiest way is a handwritten note welcoming a family here, you can go to Miry' Click on List and find a refugee family to help directly. And please visit for more ways to assist. Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CURNOW: And coming up on CNN, the uncertainty and isolation of the global pandemic has taken a toll on our mental well-being. We take a closer look at that just ahead.


CURNOW: Welcome back. It's 28 minutes past the hour. I'm Robyn Curnow live in Atlanta.

So. one of the first studies of its kind was published a few days ago by the medical journal Lancet, examining the global mental health impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It's an important study, and it found reports of major depression and anxiety have jumped by more than 25%. Women and younger people were disproportionately represented among the additional cases. Researchers say the result shows that there could be and should be greater access to mental health services.

Gary Stix is a Senior Editor of Scientific American, he wrote a piece entitled, "Pandemic Year 1 Saw Dramatic Global Rise in Anxiety and Depression." He joins me now. Gary, hi, great to have you on the show because this is so relevant. Hi, lovely to see you. It's so relevant. This pandemic is not just about infection rates. It's not just about death rates, is it?

GARY STIX, SENIOR EDITOR, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: The consequences that may be worse from this pandemic and then may last for a generation may have to do with mental health. And the study that you're referring to looked at the first year 2020 of COVID. And what that meant for mental health not just in the U.S. or Western Europe but worldwide.

CURNOW: And for you, what were the main takeaways? What is the most concerning thing?

STIX: The most concerning thing was the absolute magnitude of the figures in a normal year, statistics for anxiety and depression --



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: And for you, what were the main takeaways, what is the most concerning thing?

GARY STIX, SENIOR EDITOR, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: The most concerning thing was the absolute magnitude of the failures. In a normal year, statistics for anxiety and depression, which are two of the major mental illnesses that affect the most people, went up by over 25 percent.

That is 53 million from major depressive orders, and 76 million for anxiety disorders. That is enormous. The researcher from the University of Prince (ph) Island, Australia, who I talked to said this is an absolute shock to the system, because usually, figures don't go up that much.

CURNOW: And this is about extrapolating data, it is about modeling, it is also obviously about interviews, good scientific practice. But do you think these figures hide perhaps even a larger number of people who have, struggled with anxiety and depression and continue to do so?

STIX: They very well could. There are whole areas of the world, take the entire African continent or South America for which they did not have data. So, they were using some very intricate statistical modeling to extrapolate these conclusions.

However, nobody else has done this, and there are undoubtedly some figures that are underestimated. There are undoubtedly some figures that are overestimated. It was still an exercise worth doing because nobody has done it before.

CURNOW: Yes. And also as you said, you know, it is so important to put these numbers officially, alongside the infection and the death rate numbers because this is as much an impact on people's lives.

I want to break it down because these researchers said listen -- young people, teenagers, I think, and young twenties, as well as women have really borne the brunt of this -- just struggled and continue to struggle.

I want to break that up into two groups. Let's just start with young people. They have lost so much, haven't they? No wonder. I mean it is justifiable that they are feeling depressed, and anxious.

STIX: Absolutely. UNESCO said this has been the largest disruption to education, for young people, that has ever occurred, in terms of a period of time that has been measured. Nothing like this has ever been seen before.

It's been over, I think -- let me just see -- 1.6 billion people were actually out of school in 90 countries in 2020. That is an astounding figure.

CURNOW: And women. Why do you think -- I mean many of us who are women know exactly why this has been a very difficult 18 months, and still struggle with it. But why -- you know, for our viewers -- why do you think women have really felt this so intensely?

STIX: Well, they have had to take up reorganizing their lives around their household so that they are dealing with both normal household duties and conversion of their homes into a workplace.

A lot of women who were living on their own are in a lower income stratum. And there is a number of reasons like that that have exacerbated the issue for women. The women were estimated to have experienced 52 million excess cases over what was normally expected worldwide as opposed to 24 million for men.

CURNOW: And I sigh because I think many people around the world are exhausted. And I think there is that sense that, you know, these numbers they mean something, everybody has a story, it's not just about loss and grieving. It is also about a future that seems undeterminable how you fit into this new world. All of those questions that are big questions. So where do we look at in terms of the years ahead? Because if this is the first year of the pandemic this data is from, there is many expectations that the next year or the next set of data might just be worse?


CURNOW: This is not ending anytime soon.

STIX: That is true. I think that the biggest danger is the fact that -- there are various figures on this -- but the fact that there is less than a percent to 2 percent of the world vaccinated so far.


STIX: That can divert from a necessary focus and emphasis on mental health issues which probably will last longer. It is very easy to forget those issues while we continue to deal with things like hospitalizations, deaths and some of the political issues that have surrounded protecting people from the virus.

CURNOW: And all of that runs concurrently because no doubt, your anxiety increases if you are in a place where there's, you know, not a lot of vaccination. At the same time, you know, even if you are fully vaccinated, there are different types of depression in terms of where you are, you know, in terms of demographics and your economic status. All in all, this is certainly a great equalizer, all these numbers because everybody seems to have been affected.

Gary Stix, it makes for fascinating reading. We'll have you back on again soon. This is an important issue. Thank you.

STIX: Thank you.

CURNOW: And so coming up on CNN, blocks of lava, the size of buildings are now flowing from that volcano in the Canary Islands. Details on the latest eruptions, that's ahead.


CURNOW: Take a look at these images, live images, from that erupting volcano in the Canary Islands. Blocks of lava, as large as three-story buildings have rolled down the hillside of the island of La Palma.

The lava has been flowing for more than three weeks, and we also know that tremors are still being felt in the area.

About 6,000 people have been forced from their homes. More than a thousand buildings have been destroyed.

La Palma's airport has reopened though after being forced to close on Thursday due to volcanic ash.

Well, Ben Ireland joins me now. He is an intern with GeoTenerife and was on the ground when that volcano first erupted. Ben -- hi, good to see you. Just talk us through. I know the images we are playing, right now, as we're having a conversation with you are live. They are very dramatic.

In your experience, I mean what was it like to be there on the ground?

BEN IRELAND, GEOINTERN, GEOTENERIFE: Yes. I mean, it was obviously a brand-new experience for me. And, I guess all of your senses -- just an assault on the senses really -- you know, I mean visually, especially, you know, close and especially at night, it was -- you know, it dominates the sky with the ash cloud and the sound. You can't really get over the sound.

It felt like the loudest thunderstorm you've ever heard. But just felt never ending. So I mean for example, we were staying about 20 kilometers away and you know, we (INAUDIBLE) of the volcano there and our windows would shake every so often.


IRELAND: So yes, it's just a really sort of dominating experience being there on the ground. You know, as well as the physical aspects of it, obviously. It's a very tense, somber environment, you know, there's been a lot of destruction and a lot of people lost their homes. So, it was unique, for sure.

CURNOW: And you are also -- you're an expert, you are starting to be an expert in this field. Besides being there and sort of trying to take in the sensory awe of it all. From a professional point of view, what do you make of this volcano and the fact that we are seeing lava spewing out constantly over three weeks now? And a lot of it is huge. The size of 3-story buildings were reported.

IRELAND: Yes. Yes. So I mean, you may find it hard to believe, but on the scale of all volcanic eruptions, this is more towards the small and gentle scale. And so what we were really expect on the Canary Islands and on La Palma.

You know, the average eruption here maybe once every 50 years or so with the last being in 1971. Also (ph) roughly in similar in size, but definitely in the same sort of in style as this one. I guess the biggest difference with this one is that in like the others which have thankfully occurred sort of away from populated areas that they've had some.

And I guess, you know what we are seeing with the lava flows and with the big blocks that are going down is, sort of, the main area (ph) is quite unstable. Obviously, when it sustained explosions (INAUDIBLE) occasionally, bits of that will collapse and, you know, creating these huge outpourings of lava which are making big blocks some of which we saw a couple of days ago.

CURNOW: I mean it is very dramatic, and it certainly must be terrifying. So many people have lost their livelihood.

But it's also this chain reaction. So we're seeing these dramatic images live, as I said, of the lava spewing out, moving down towards the sea. And then there's been chain reaction, where we see these also amazing images of how -- there we go, there, the picture is there -- of this connecting, you know, at the (INAUDIBLE). What does that tell you?

IRELAND: Yes. So, when the lava reaches the sea, obviously it cools very quickly. So you get sort of this delta growing on the coastline. So, sorry, I can't quite see the images you're trying to show there.

CURNOW: Yes. I mean basically, what we are seeing is a lot of steam, and a lot of it seems like clouds of sort of gas, toxic gases, that are being created by this.

IRELAND : So, what happens there is, obviously, the lava would make contact with the sea water, the sea water is vaporized, so you get this big cloud of steam.

And you know, you're right in that that, you know, gases dissolve in a lot of the stuff like sulfur, stuff like chlorine, that can be incorporated into this cloud. And it can be toxic.

But when you do see these clouds, you know, the vast majority of the gases in them, you know, it is just water vapor, really. And salt --

CURNOW: Still, it's quite dramatic.


CURNOW: And again, it really is fascinating. Thank you very much. Thanks for sharing all of your experiences of seeing it, and also your expertise.

Ben Ireland, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

IRELAND: Robyn, thank you.

CURNOW: So I'm Robyn Curnow. Thank you for watching.

"AFRICAN VOICES" is up next.