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Eastern Europe In Dire Straits As COVID Cases Spike; U.K. Hits Highest Level Of New Infections Since July; Melbourne, Australia Reopens As COVID Restrictions Ease; Gang Leaders Threatens To Kill U.S., Canadians Hostages; FBI Identifies Human Remains As Brian Laundrie; Refugees Stranded Along Poland-Belarus Border; Scientist: Need Deep Emissions Reductions This Decade; Scores Killed Amid Torrential Rains and Flooding; Syria Executes 24 People Convicted in 2020 Wildfires; Children of Detained Former Foreign Minister Speak Out. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired October 22, 2021 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Surging COVID infection will rise dramatically.
A high profile manhunt ends in the United States after the fiance of a murdered woman is found.
And despite a planetary climate crisis, hopes of unity and sense of common purpose as world leaders are falling fast ahead of the UN COP26 summit in Glasgow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.
VAUSE: Across Europe, but COVID-19 infections have been rising rapidly. The response has been mostly the same. Reimpose lockdowns and other restrictions, masked mandates are back. And despite that, as temperatures fall heading into the northern winter, and people gather indoors, most public health experts' view the numbers will only go up. Almost all of Europe and Russia are already in some shade of red.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MIKE RYAN, EXEC. DIR., WHO, HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: So the reality is that in the situation where there is intense social mixing, in the winter period where people inside. We are going to see for the transmission of the virus. The question is whether that transmission turns into severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: With more people dying from COVID every day in Russia than ever before, Moscow has announced a 10-day lockdown beginning next Thursday, only about 30 percent of Russia's population has been vaccinated. But no such restrictions for the UK even though more than 50,000 use cases were reported on Thursday, the highest in four months.
The government has taken a damn the torpedoes approach. The Prime Minister insisting for now there is no need to reimpose restrictions. Instead, he's urging vaccinations. And right now the worst of the COVID outbreaks is in Poland and Hungary.
In many countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. There remains a deep trust of mistrust, I should say of all things government, which is leading to incredibly high levels of vaccine hesitancy. CNN's Paula Newton has that report.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Romania, hospitals are beginning to buckle. Some of the patients now feeling regret.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I said let's wait and see about getting vaccinated, but it wasn't OK. I regret it now. If I could start over, I would be the first in line.
NEWTON: As a fourth wave of coronavirus crosses Romania, one person is dying of COVID-19 every five minutes. This week, the country had the highest death rate per capita in the world.
Neighboring Bulgaria was close behind. The two countries are struggling to contain recent outbreaks as they also battled skepticism.
Vaccine hesitancy there and across Eastern Europe appears widespread.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The frustration is fascism. Those who rule this country will definitely be sentenced. I am sure about that. A person must have a free will.
NEWTON: Across Latvia new lockdown that started this week is set to last until mid-November, a spike in COVID cases there reached record highs Thursday, as the country recorded its most infections in a single day. In Estonia, Poland, Latvia and Croatia, far fewer adults are fully vaccinated than the rest of the European Union. Even further below the EU average Russia, Romania and Bulgaria as well as Ukraine, were just over 15 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.
Citizens of former Soviet Bloc countries might be particularly suspicious of getting the jab some analysts say, after decades of communist rule that eroded areas of public trust.
Now as new waves of the pandemic spread through the region, restoring faith and authority may be as difficult as containing the virus itself. Paula Newton, CNN.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VAUSE: Shoshana Ungerleider specializes in internal medicine at California Pacific Medical Center. She's also founder of endwellproject.org. And she is with us from San Francisco. It's been a while so welcome back. DR. SHOSHANA UNGERLEIDER, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, CALIFORNIA PACIFIC MEDICAL CENTER: Thank you, John. It's nice to see you.
VAUSE: Thank you. Now with new infections weigh up across the UK, I want you to listen to the British Prime Minister. He's explaining why there is no need at least for now for new mitigation. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The numbers of infections are high. But well within the parameters of what the predictions were what spy M (ph) and the other said we were we would be at this stage given the steps that we've taken so we're sticking with our plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: But Matthew Taylor, who's the head of the an organization which represents healthcare systems in England, Wales, as well as Northern Ireland, he told The Guardian on Tuesday, we are right on the edge, and it's the middle of October, it will require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.
And it seems whenever there are these growing numbers of COVID infections without vaccination and these mitigation efforts like masks and social distancing. Surely as night follows day the rate of spread will increase any questions how fast and how bad.
UNGERLEIDER: Well, John, that's right. The overall global curve of new COVID case -- of new COVID cases is trending down as it is here in the U.S. But what we're seeing in Europe is a rise in new cases for the third consecutive week. And in the U.K., for example, were many people, as you said, have returned to back to social gatherings in large crowds, indoors without using mitigation measures. This is not surprising.
You know, what we see is that the U.K. is having quite a large problem with the transmission of COVID-19. However, hospitalizations and deaths are not rising as substantially and that's directly related to their high vaccination rates.
But you know, as the world looks on and tries to learn from this, it's not clear exactly what's causing these increases in cases. Certainly, we need to be careful to not overwhelm the healthcare system. As we move into potentially flu season and the winter, it's possible that more testing is picking up more cases.
And then also we know that children in school in the U.K. aren't required to mask or distance which could be leading to more community transmission. And it may also be related to waning immunity from the vaccine.
I think, you know, this pandemic is very far from over sadly, and I suspect, we'll continue to see peaks and valleys of cases for the foreseeable future until the majority of the world is vaccinated.
VAUSE: In the U.K., the numbers are still fairly small here but what they're showing is that even among those who've been vaccinated, infections arising, and like I said, the numbers are very small. But again, small numbers with COVID-19 quickly become very, very big numbers if nothing is done.
UNGERLEIDER: That's right john and what we know is that immunity wanes over time from these vaccines. And so it's quite important that we look ahead to the recommendations around booster shots. If you are eligible, of course, here in the U.S., they're coming out with lots of information on the vaccine front. The CDC advisors just voted to recommend booster doses of Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, in addition to the already recommended Pfizer booster.
And these boosters are six months or more after receiving an mRNA vaccine for people 65 and older and adults 18 and older who live in long term care settings or have underlying medical problems or if you live or work in in a high risk setting. And then adults 18 and older who received Johnson and Johnson can get any vaccine at least two months later.
So what we're seeing is that we are needing for likely for everybody coming of boost to your immunity. Certainly, you know, breakthrough infections are happening, they are quite rare. And certainly the best way to prevent becoming sick or spreading COVID other people is becoming fully vaccinated.
VAUSE: The interesting thing about the CDC recommendation or endorsement here, it's actually advising that mixing and matching the vaccines. If you get a booster is actually preferable it's more effective, right?
UNGERLEIDER: That's right. So yesterday, the USFDA authorized booster doses of both COVID-19 vaccines and said that any of the three authorized vaccines could be used as a booster in a mix-and-match strategy which actually can provide, it looks like from the data significantly higher levels of neutralizing antibodies. So that that's good news and we're waiting here in the U.S. to hear from my doctor Rochelle Walensky to finalize this but that should be coming very soon here.
VAUSE: Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, good to see you. It's been a while and we appreciate your time.
Melbourne, Australia is emerging from the longest period of pandemic lockdowns in the world. Six separate statehood orders a total of 262 days now what are they celebrating for many. Friday was Freedom Day had finally arrived.
More let's get live in Australia now, Angus Watson in Sydney. So this is freedom today, I guess, you know, with this pandemic. The question is how long will it last?
ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Absolutely, John, that's a very good question. Authorities know that by lifting restrictions, they will see case numbers rise but earlier this week, the premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews said that's no longer the number that we should really be focusing on the number of new COVID-19 cases per day. He wants instead to look at Victoria's high vaccination rate over 70 percent of adults in the state of Victoria capital Melbourne.
There have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine 90 percent of adults have had at least one shot, that is what's giving people the confidence to go out and celebrate today in Melbourne celebrate the end of the sixth lockdown that they've had to put up with, as you say, since the pandemic began. And this one is a very interesting one, John, because they're opening up with far more cases then they went into the lockdown with each day.
They're out there celebrating today on a sunny day in Melbourne, Victoria, John. Here's what some people had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Visiting family Friends it's just fantastic. It's been such a long time since we've been able to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brain sort of separated from what I do for so long. It's super nice to be back to that. And it's a sunny day so it's perfect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: More good news for Victorians as well. Today John, the state Premier announcing that as of the first of November, it will open up its international border through the airport there in Melbourne to all Australians residents and their families who are double vaccinated. They won't even be made to quarantine.
So Victoria and Melbourne they're joining Sydney and New South Wales, which has already announced that date of the first of November in which it will open up to the rest of the world to welcome back Australians and residents because of course you, John, one of the ways that Australia has tried to keep the virus out its best its can is with these very strict border rules, which has seen Australians and residents locked out of their own country since the pandemic began. Now as of November those people will be able to travel into Sydney into Melbourne and as of December into Tasmania as well.
Victoria will open it state border to other states in New South -- in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, meaning that the entire country is starting to come together to live with the virus. Some states are holding out hoping to go on with this COVID zero plan for a little longer until their vaccination rates catch up. Hopefully, the country can start to get together again in the New Year. John.
VAUSE: Angus, thank you. Angus Watson live for us there in Sydney.
With COVID infections also on the rise in New Zealand, pandemic restrictions are set to continue. The prime minister is taking a hardline saying lockdowns and other measures will only end with 90 percent of those eligible for a vaccine have been fully vaccinated. Once the district reaches that target, then a new traffic light system will come into effect using vaccination certificates.
So far, the vaccination rate stands at 68 percent, so ways to go. A lockdown of Auckland, the biggest city in the country now into its 12th week. Nearly 130 new cases a record were reported on Friday.
A Haitian gang leader is threatening to kill the 17 members of a missionary group he's holding hostage unless his demands are met. Wilson Joseph posted a video Thursday. Apart from the chilling threat, there was no mention of a deadline or his demands.
Earlier, Haitian government official told CNN, the gang wants a ransom of $17 million, a million dollars for each hostage. A U.S. State Department official says the video appears to be real. Kidnappers provided evidence Thursday proof of life confirming the hostages are still alive. They belong to the U.S.-based group Christian Aid Ministries. Five of them are children, including an eight-month-old baby.
In the U.S., a major development in the Gabby Petito case. The manhunt for her fiance, Brian Laundrie, has officially come to an end. But questions still remains running the timeline of his disappearance. CNN's Leyla Santiago has details.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the FBI has confirmed that skeletal remains found in the Carlton Reserve are those of Brian Laundrie. The FBI confirming in a tweet, "A comparison of dental records on Thursday confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve and the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park Wednesday are those of Brian Laundrie.
JOSH TAYLOR, SPOKESMAN, NORTH PORT POLICE DEPT.: Certainly the clothing, you know, that was there as well. It's consistent what he believed he was wearing.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): The Laundries were informed this evening when police visited the house, their attorney putting out a statement on their behalf saying, "Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve are indeed Brian's. We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundrie's privacy at this time."
Investigators continue to process items found near the remains. Items believed to belong to Brian Laundrie, including a backpack and a notebook.
TAYLOR: The notebook, to my understanding, has not been opened, you know. It -- that will need to be processed and we want to make sure that that's handled as carefully as possible.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Also today, North Port Police pushing back on the account the Laundrie's attorney gave to CNN Wednesday night about how quickly Brian disappeared.
STEVEN BERTOLINO, LAUNDRIE FAMILY ATTORNEY: Let the record be clear. The Laundrie reported Brian did not come home the night he went out for the hike. I actually reported that to the FBI personally. On Friday the 17th, the FBI called me, we didn't call them, they called me and said, "We have a tip that Brian was seen in Tampa and we want to see if he's in the house."
On Friday, when the FBI came to the Laundrie residents, we then said, yes, we will fill out a missing person's report. That got twisted, as though the family waited until Friday to report him missing, which is not how it happened.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Today, North Port Police Department spokesperson Josh Taylor telling CNN that's not true.
TAYLOR: If we had that information, there's a million things we would have done differently. I mean, you can look at our actions very publicly that don't coincide with that information at all.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): For example, he says, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison, publicly called out the Laundrie attorney on Twitter Wednesday, September 15th, saying, "Mr. Steven Bertolino Esquire, the North Port Police needs your help in finding Gabby Petito. Please call us to arrange a conversation with Brian Laundrie. Two people left on a trip and one person returned."
TAYLOR: We received no response. I mean, I think most people would find it appropriate to get a response saying, who is missing? That didn't happen.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): As to why he thinks the lawyer is saying this now --
TAYLOR: Well, he's protecting his clients?
SANTIAGO: And the attorney for the Petito family saying in a statement in part, "They are grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter. Gabby's family will make a statement at the appropriate time and when they are emotionally ready."
Leyla Santiago, CNN, North Port, Florida.
VAUSE: Well, filming for Alec Baldwin's latest movie is on hold after the 68-year-old actor fatally shot his director of photography and injured the director. The movie is being made in New Mexico and Baldwin is also the movie's producer, was holding a prop gun when it discharged. Investigators say the Director of Photography Halina Hutchins died from her injuries. So far, police say no charges have been filed.
Still to come on CNN Newsroom, E.U. leaders have fresh criticism for Poland over its treatment of refugees stranded on the border with Belarus. Also for the first time, the U.S. government officially linking climate change to migration and all sorts of other geopolitical risks.
VAUSE: Britain's Queen Elizabeth is back at Windsor Castle in good spirits after spending a night in hospital. Buckingham Palace says the 95-year-old returned home Thursday afternoon after undergoing preliminary investigations on Wednesday.
Apella (ph) source says the overnight stay was for practical reasons. The Queen has now returned to work. All this comes after she canceled a trip to Northern Ireland on medical advice.
When E.U. leaders meet it just a few hours, Poland is expected to be on top of the agenda with not one but two major disputes. For most member states, Warsaw's challenges to E.U. treaties is a threat to the Batory (ph) Foundation. And then there's Poland's treatment of refugees trapped along the border with Belarus.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen has that report.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Utter desperation in the dark and cold, refugees screaming and Polish border guards begging to be led out of Belarus. They're literally caught in the middle of a standoff between Belarus and the European Union. This video provided to CNN by an activist chose a group of Kurds and Yazidis stranded without shelter for days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): The situation is not good, we are here for 10 days, people died here. They won't let us pass and they won't let us return.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Please come and rescue us, we are here with our Yazidi brothers. There is no food here, there is nothing. They are treating us as a game, they send us back and forth.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): While E.U. leaders accused Belarusian strong man Alexander Lukashenko of manufacturing this refugee crisis, Poland is also facing criticism after it declared a state of emergency in the area around the border banning journalists, NGOs and initially E.U. officials from coming in.
Many of those who do try to help the refugees, refugees often lost in the vast forests of the border area, say Poland is keeping aid workers and reporters out because border guards are forcing people back into Belarus, a practice known as push backs, says Piotr Bystrianin, of the A group Ocalenia.
PIOTR BYSTRIANIN, FUNDACJA OCALENIA: They know that people will be dying there and they know this and they are continuing to do this. That's why they need to be stopped. The international community need to put the pressure on Polish government.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): While the Polish government has vowed to remain tough even replacing barbed wire at the border with a wall and passing an amendment allowing migrants to be pushed back at the border, the U.N. refugee agency says that the new law contravenes the 1951 Refugee Convention and other laws by undermining the fundamental right to seek asylum.
But the Polish president says Belarus's cruel policies are the real problem.
ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT (through translation): The situation on the border is as it is. What you can see are hybrid activities from the side of the Belarus authorities. There is no doubt, migrants from different countries are being deliberately pushed across on purpose.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Poland says it's recorded more than 21,000 attends to cross its border all of which it calls illegal and release this video the government says shows people trying to force their way into the country. The E.U. says it might impose sanctions on airlines that fly refugees to Belarus.
HEIKO MASS, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translation): We will have to talk about consequences for these airlines. We need sanctions that make clear that we are not prepared to tolerate these kind of actions any longer.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): A solution doesn't appear to be in sight and those suffering the most are the ones trapped in the border area. Several have already died, Polish authorities say. And the approaching winter will make the situation here even worse.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, London.
VAUSE: Another round of dire warnings on what our future will be like on a warming planet, they come from the Biden administration with the headline, "Climate Change, We Far Reaching and Create Problems for Every Country." Four major reports were released Thursday, they examine current and future threats to the U.S. The studies also cover how climate change will drive migration and could cause another financial crisis.
The intelligence assessment also points the geopolitical flashpoints and risks to national security. And they come just 10 days before President Biden will attend the U.N. Climate Conference known as COP26 in Scotland.
Kim Cobb was the lead author of the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She's also the director of the Global Change Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. And welcome back.
KIM COBB, DIRECTOR, GLOBAL CHANGE PROGRAM, GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: Thanks for having me. VAUSE: OK, so even before this summer begins, there's been this push by some nations to sort of, you know, also reality. Saudi Arabia has asked the authors of the report to remove a scientific calling for the energy sector to rapidly shift to zero-carbon sources and actively phase out all fossil fuels. Australia rejected the statement in the draft report that retiring coal-fired power stations is necessary to achieve zero emissions in energy systems. Japan asked the author's to delete estimates or add additional context to what it called a misleading paragraph about retiring fossil fuel power stations.
So as a scientist, as someone who has worked on compiling data on this climate crisis, as well as what is needed to done to try and mitigate that crisis, how much is open for debate and interpretation? How much can you change here?
COBB: Well, the report is very clear that if we want to keep warming levels to a bare minimum by mid-century, we're going to have to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Noting that we need to make deep and sustained emissions reductions this decade. This opportunity is slipping through our fingers, and we are going to have to go for an all of the above approach that's going to require, turning away from fossil fuel infrastructure and energy sources and towards renewable lower carbon energy sources as well as many other things.
VAUSE: And that's to keep the planet from warming any more than 1.5 degrees because right now it's on track to, well, at 2.7 degrees.
COBB: Yes, that's pretty precise. I'm not sure we can say with such precision. Of course, you know, looking at two plus, three plus warming levels, noting that we are currently at 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than preindustrial times and look at the headlines we are reeling through day to day, thinking about an additional half a degree C or so. Almost inevitable to mid-century and then thinking about reserving the right to cool later this century. That's what's at stake here.
VAUSE: OK, so among four U.S. government reports on the impacts from climate change, the director of National Intelligence has actually warned, "Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. The increasing physical effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as states take steps to secure their interests."
And, you know, that seems to be already happening now to some degree before COP26 with this sort of horse trading, if you like. But instead of being united by a common crisis, is it looking at the scenario could be potentially wars over dwindling resources?
COBB: Well, first of all, it's really important to note that this is the not the first conversation of the Department of Defense around the threat that climate change poses a national security. Noting a 2019 report released by the Department of Defense noted many bases around the world at threat from ongoing sea-level rise and noting any number of mitigation planning that would be required to mitigate those kinds of threats.
These reports coming out today are reflecting the administration's approach to a whole of government approach to addressing the threat of climate change, going way beyond based threats in a physical sense, going into intelligence, going into Department of Homeland Security planning. And yes, touching on climate migration caused by the vast troves of climate refugees expected in the coming decades of increasing climate extremes.
VAUSE: So for the first time, the United States has recognized this link between the climate crisis migration as well as conflict. So you put these three things together, and they say, nearly 30 million people are on the move every year because of these three factors combined together. It's 30 million now, what would be like a decade from now?
COBB: Well, the report clearly trying to get ahead of that wave, both at home, at our own borders here, but also around the world, as increasing numbers of climate refugees seek refuge from this spate of droughts, wildfires, extreme rainfall, that will render some territories virtually uninhabitable. So yes, these reports peering into the future, trying to ask how the United States can prepare policies and provisions and programs to stay ahead of this coming crisis. And yes, it's a critically important aspect of keeping our nation safe in an era of accelerating climate change.
VAUSE: Just very quickly to finish up here, if this COP26 Summit is really our last best hope of preventing the planet from becoming a living hellscape, it's not off to a good start, is it?
COBB: Well, certainly, I would hope that we would have had some wins here at home, on the Biden climate agenda that's making its way painstakingly through Congress, and that we might be able to take that to the table and argue that we can match our ambitions to action here at home. And that we can trust our allies and nations around the world to come together and enact the kind of bold, ambitious plans that would be in line with keeping warming levels below that most ambitious target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Obviously, a lot on the line here, the stakes could not be clear. And that's what I really hope is a scientist is very clear, that report delivering with -- really without pulling any punches, very different, stark differences in a future, climate future for our country and the world in sharp focus. And this is the futures that we're going to be deciding on this very fall in Scotland.
VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. Kim, thank you so much. It's a good point to finish on. We appreciate that. Thank you.
COBB: Thanks so much.
VAUSE: And U.S. President Joe Biden says Democrats are close to a deal on infrastructure and his sweeping social agenda, including a plan to fight climate change. In a CNN Town Hall, President Biden acknowledged there's disagreement over his Clean Energy Program. But he said the government could use tax incentives instead of his electric grid proposal to help reach his goals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you have to do is you look at those multiple ways in which we can deal with climate. I'm going off to COP26 in Scotland, and I don't know, I guess it's two weeks or a week. I'm losing track of time. And I'm presenting a commitment to the world that we will, in fact, get to net-zero emissions on electric power by 2035 and net-zero emissions across the board by 2050 or before. But we have to do so much between now and 2030 to demonstrate what we're going to -- that we're going to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Mr. Biden also says the U.S. is committed to Taiwan's defense, should it be attacked by China.
Torrential rains killing scores of people in northern India and Nepal after the break the latest from CNN Weather Center, and what's behind of the damage (ph).
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN Newsroom. At least 150 people are dead after torrential rains and flooding hit northern India and Nepal. Climate change is being blamed for an unusually long monsoon season which has destroyed crops, triggered mudslides which have washed away homes and bridges. CNN's Vedika Sud has our report.
VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Rescuers with the hands and (inaudible), trying to fend off the deluge of water in the streets of this North Indian town. They are creating a human chain to evacuate stranded people. Unseasonal torrential rains have been found in northern India and Nepal for days, killing and injuring hundreds of people. In the state of Uttarakhand, heavy rains caused landslides and left not just homes but people's livelihoods underwater.
FATIMA, AFFECTED VILLAGER (through translation): We have nothing left, our television, refrigerator, washing machine, clothes, groceries, everything was washed away. Our beds are also destroyed, and the house and flooring have also developed cracks.
SUD: The downpour has destroyed crops and blocked roads, disrupting the lives of locals and tourists alike during one of India's best of months.
PUSHKAR SINGH DHAMI, CHIEF MINISTER OF NORTHERN UTTARAKHAND STATE (through translation): We are trying everything possible to provide and supply necessities for those affected. Our government is with the flood hit victims. The farmers have faced losses, so we are trying to assess that and provide compensation as soon as possible.
SUD: Similar scenes unfolding in neighboring Nepal, where entire airports including tarmac and runways are flooded. Nepal began receiving heavy rainfall on Monday after low pressure system developed to the northern India, which brought in moisture from the Bay of Bengal causing heavy rainfall over the region.
In villages waterlogged homes mean people don't have a place to sleep, with some dragging their beds out to dry areas. Farmers are trying to salvage what they can from submerge paddy fields, but losses are mounting. Monsoon rains usually only lasts until September. But experts say the longer monsoon season can be tied to climate change. Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.
VAUSE: For more now, let's go to meteorologist Derek Van Dam.
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, you know, John, with every one degree of warming for our planet, the Indian monsoon increases by 5%. So, we see the direct impacts by climate change.
Now, the loss of life is indeed tragic, but we heard just a moment ago about the loss of some of the crops in the agricultural as well. That has a huge impact on their economy considering that agriculture employs about 250 million farmers from India that's roughly 50% of their population. And that accounts for about 20% of their GDP.
So, when we get heavy rain events like this, every single year, it seems like we have stories just like this that we report on. It really does impact their economy in such a major way. And this is a prime example of just too much rain for the infrastructure to handle. That is in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Now, this is incredible to see because the monsoon can go wax and wane from too much rain in the season to too little rain in the season, of course, creating water shortages. And then if we have too much rain like this particular season, we have the damage to infrastructure and of course the loss of life and also the impact of agriculture.
Now look at the rainfall alerts that the India Meteorological Department has in store for the weekend. Notice what's happening on Saturday, we expect a bit of an influx of moisture across the northern states and into Kerala as well. That is an area where we have a watch that shading of yellow near Kochi. The Indian southwest monsoon still moving through that part of the Indian subcontinent. We continue to monitor its progress.
Rainfall totals throughout this area over the next three days could total of over 150 millimeters. This is on top of a very saturated environment. So that means flooding possible. Once again, we know the mountainous regions that really just line the Nepal and northern India region, this creates the potential for landslides and mudslides, which we've already seen play out with this latest round of heavy rain. John.
VAUSE: Derek, thank you. Derek Van Dam there with all the details.
With a short break, when we come back, Nicaragua's government continues to target political opponents ahead of upcoming presidential elections. And the family members of a jail former foreign minister now fear they may never see their dad again. That's coming up.
VAUSE: Syria has imposed the death penalty on those accused of lying last year's devastating wildfires, which killed three people and scorched 1000s of hectares.
The Syrian Ministry of Justices, 24 people were executed on Wednesday after being convicted on terrorism charges. The ministry says they all made a full confession, don't they always, nearly a dozen others received life sentences with hard labor.
A crackdown on political opponents has ramped up ahead of presidential elections in Nicaragua next month. Two prominent businessmen were jailed Thursday, including Michael Healy, who's seen in this picture there. Police say the other businessman is Alvaro Vargas, long list of charges includes money laundering and undermining Nicaragua's independence and sovereignty. Those two executives joined 37 others detained since May. Among them seven presidential hopefuls, lawyers, and opposition figures and there's also a former foreign minister, his children are now in the United States and as Isa Soares report, they fear they may never see their father again.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Was denied permission to leave the country and my passport was retained. Those were the last words Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa exchanged with his children, Georgie and Roberto in the United States on July 27. Words that shook them to their call.
ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA, SON OF FRANCISCO AGUIRRE-SACASA: They took my father out of the car, and that's the last time my mom saw him until, you know, a month later, when he was in jail in Managua federal prison.
SOARES: And that's the last time anyone has seen Francisco Aguirre- Sacasa as a free man. A doting grandfather with a lawful life but also a D.C. man at heart. Now at 77, the former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. remains behind bars in the notorious Chipata Prison for allegedly committing acts of conspiracy and treason under a law passed last year, empowering the government of Daniel Ortega to lock up opposing voices as coup plotters and traitors to the nation.
DANIEL ORTEGA, NICARAGUA PRESIDENT (through translation): Criminals who have attacked the country. SOARES: Charges the Georgie and Roberto, the creator of the hit series Riverdale, say are simply baseless.
R. AGUIRRE-SACASA: And nothing concrete has been said or given to anyone who's working with my father, on our father's case. So, it's kafkaesque.
SOARES: I have in my hand here, the government's report on what they say is the evidence against Francisco. Now, I can't show you it, for further my source could face reprisals, but I can tell you this. There's no real evidence here. What it does indicate is that he's been arrested simply speaking his mind. For instance, the government cites as evidence online videos where Francisca describes U.S. sanctions against your take regime as extraordinary and important.
R. AGUIRRE-SACASA: It's outrageous what's happening. You know, in the United States' backyard as we like to say about Central America. Our father sadly, was caught up in those, in that machinery.
SOARES: This very machinery has, according to Human Rights Watch, arrested 37 opposition leaders and critics since May, many of whom says the watchdog group are facing human rights violations and abuses.
The State Department says Nicaragua's presidential election next month has lost all credibility. And while the E.U. and the U.S. have already imposed some sanctions, Latin American expert Christopher Sabatini says the Biden administration can and should do more.
CHRISTOPHER SABATINI, SENIOR FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: If the U.S. cannot act on this egregious case of human rights abuses within its own sphere of influence, it really sends a very strong signal, not just in Nicaragua, and not just in Cuba and Venezuela, but to other aspiring autocrats throughout the hemisphere, and of course, globally.
SOARES: For Georgie and Roberto, this isn't political. It's personal.
R. AGUIRRE-SACASA: I think my biggest fear is that one day we're going to get a phone call from someone in Nicaragua that says that our father died in jail.
GEORGIE AGUIRRE-SACASA, DAUGHTER OF FRANCISCO AGUIRRE-SACASA: So here we are speaking up for those that don't have a voice right now, hoping that our efforts afford us the opportunity to see him again.
SOARES: Isa Soares, CNN.
VAUSE: Which CNN has asked to comment from Nicaragua's public ministry, we continue to wait. I'm John Vause, thank you for watching. More CNN Newsroom at the top of the hour. Meantime, standby for inside Africa.