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Novak Djokovic Appeals Decision; Kazakhstan Power Grab Plays Out after Crackdown on Protests; Brazil Boating Disaster; Calls for Tougher Measures as U.K.'s NHS Struggles; Pakistan Snowstorm Claims at Least 21 Lives. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired January 09, 2022 - 00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world, I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, more questions than answers: we are learning about Novak Djokovic's vaccine exemption as photographs emerged of him on the day he tested positive for COVID.

A harrowing incident in Brazil: boaters enjoying a day at the lake instead find themselves a victim of a disaster.

And a return to La Palma: The massive volcanic eruptions may be over but some residents are going home to find nothing but destruction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: Less than 24 hours from now, Novak Djokovic could find out if he will be allowed to defend his title at the Australian Open or be sent home. An Australian court will consider whether to reinstate his visa, which was canceled on arrival in Melbourne for allegedly not meeting the vaccination requirements for entry.

Court documents submitted by Djokovic's attorneys confirmed the world number one men's player is unvaccinated. Now photographs posted online show him maskless at several events last month, at the same time his lawyers say he had tested positive for COVID-19.

They also claim Australian authorities granted him a vaccine exemption after he recovered.



(WORLD SPORT) HOLMES: Well, after a violent crackdown on the protesters in the streets of Kazakhstan, the president now appears to be moving to consolidate power behind the scenes.

On Saturday, officials said the nation's former intelligence chief was detained on suspicion of treason. That move coming days after he was fired from his post. The intelligence chief was an ally of the former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was also removed as the head of the security council this past week.

He retained that post after leaving the presidency and still wielded significant political power. His press secretary denied rumors that Nazarbayev left Kazakhstan.

Now the current president seems to have succeeded, meanwhile, in restoring the semblance of border with the help of Russian-led regional forces. But it's not easy to see what is going on inside the country right now. Matthew Chance with more from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very difficult to get a clear picture of exactly what the situation is in Kazakhstan at the moment because the internet is still patchy.

Foreign nationals are not being permitted in; we're not allowed to go in ourselves to see exactly what the situation is.

But I've spoken to contacts on the ground, in the main city, Almaty. They tell me that the situation has improved dramatically since the worst of the clashes over the course of the past week.

There is a relative calm, it has descended on that main city in Kazakhstan, although it's still very tense because, apparently, there is still gunshots that can be heard ringing out occasionally, particularly near checkpoints manned by the Kazakh security forces, perhaps fired into the air as warning shots.

So nevertheless, a degree of stability. But that stability has come at a very high price because dozens of people have been killed; not just protesters, according to the official figures, but also a high number of security forces as well, essentially killed by the rampaging mobs.

Also, nearly 4,000 people have been detained by the Kazakh security forces; that's according to official figures as well.


CHANCE: We don't know what has become of those people and what will happen to them (INAUDIBLE) be processed.

Also, foreign forces are on the ground in Kazakhstan after an invitation went out by the Kazakh authorities to its allies, particularly Russia, to send forces, nearly 2,500 foreign troops, most of them Russian paratroopers, have now been deployed into Kazakhstan. Also forces from Belarus, from Tajikistan and from Armenia as well;

these are all allies of Kazakhstan. And they are providing security outside installations inside Kazakhstan, in Almaty, elsewhere as well. We don't know exactly what their mission is because that hasn't been made clear publicly.

Nor, crucially, do we know when the Russian forces will actually leave. It's said to be temporary but Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, issued a sort of warning, sort of a tongue-in- cheek warning earlier, saying, look, when you let the Russians into your house, you don't know when they're going to leave.

The Russians have responded quite acutely to that, saying, basically, that's not the sort of joke that we think is very funny. And they say, you know, for instance, when you let Americans into your house, you don't know whether you're going to stay alive, be robbed or be raped.

So these are the kind of barbed comments that are being exchanged, particularly significant, of course, on the eve of these crucial Russian-American talks that are set to get underway in Geneva at the start of next week -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: And the White House, meanwhile, laying out some ground rules ahead of those high-stakes talks between the U.S. and Russia that Matthew just referred to. A senior official says President Joe Biden is open to discussing missile deployments in Ukraine and Europe, as well as the possibility of restricting U.S. and NATO exercises.

But only if Russia makes, quote, "reciprocal commitments."

One item not on the table, the number of American and NATO troops stationed across the region. Kremlin and U.S. delegations are set to meet in Geneva Monday.

A day at the lake in Brazil turned into a nightmarish disaster. An enormous part of a rock wall collapsed onto several tour boats. Next, the latest on the search and rescuer efforts.




HOLMES: A harrowing video of a deadly incident in Brazil to show you -- and a warning, the images are disturbing. What you'll see is a massive section of rock wall collapsing. There it goes there. As you can see there, it smashes on to several tour boats on Saturday, killing at least 7 people. This happened at a popular lake.

Now Rafael Romo, joining me live here in Atlanta.


HOLMES: Utterly terrifying video.

What more do you know?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, Michael, divers in charge of the search and rescue operation stopped the search at dusk due to security reasons and that's according to Colonel Edgard Estevo from the Minas Gerais fire department.

He confirmed at least seven people have died after a canyon wall fell onto boats below, injuring about 30 others. Earlier, local media reported there was as many as 20 missing but as Estevo said, the number of unaccounted for now stands at three.

It happened at Capitolio Canyon, a tourist attraction located in Furnas Lake, a hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian central state of Minas Gerais. As people watched, the canyon walls from tourist boats a short distance away, a massive rock formation collapsed, falling on top of at least four boats, carrying tourists, according to authorities.

Video posted on social media showing tourists on other boats in Furnas Lake, shouting, "Get out of there."

And then right before the canyon wall fell onto the lake. Minas Gerais governor Romeu Zema Neto blamed torrential rains that have hit the region for the canyon wall collapse.

He said, "Today we are suffering the pain of a tragedy in our state, due to heavy rains, which caused the detachment of a wall of stones in Lake Furnas in Capitolio."

He added that search and rescue teams with the Minas Gerais civil defense and fire department have been at the site since the first moments of the collapse, to help victims and those affected.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who also retweeted the video of the collapse, said the navy deployed a relief team to join the search and rescue efforts. Authorities are now urging the public to avoid places in the area, with high risk of land and rockslides, as well as flooding due to the recent rains. Very, very horrible indeed, Michael. Back to you.

HOLMES: And briefly, give us a bit more of a sense of Lake Furnas.

It is the main tourist attraction in the whole area, isn't it?

What makes it special?

ROMO: Lake Furnas is really a manmade lake; a hydroelectric dam. And it's huge, Michael, more than 1,400 square kilometers, which is the reason why it is also known as the Sea of Minas. It's the main attraction in the region because of its canyons and waterfalls.

That explains the reason why there were so many people enjoying the view and also getting close to the canyon walls today, just before this horrendous collapse. HOLMES: Yes, just a freak thing and just a horrible result. Rafael

Romo, thank you so much for the reporting.


HOLMES: Even as COVID rages across the continent, Europeans marched on Saturday against coronavirus restrictions.


HOLMES (voice-over): French president Emmanuel Macron has said that he wants to, quote, "piss off" the unvaccinated. A direct quote there. And if that's his plan, well, it seems to be working.

Angry protesters taking the streets to Paris as lawmakers mull a vaccine pass to get into bars and cafes.

Demonstrators and so on gathering in Turin, in Italy. They are furious over a vaccine mandate for people older than 50 and other restrictions. Under new rules, the unvaccinated won't be able to use public transportation nor sit at restaurants in Italy.

And, across the Channel, the U.K. has joined only a handful of countries, reporting more than 150,000 total deaths from the pandemic. CNN's Nada Bashir with more from London.



NADA BASHIR, CNN PRODUCER: With cases across the continent continuing to make record-breaking levels, many European leaders are tightening their COVID-19 measures, focusing in on the unvaccinated.

In France, the government is looking to make it mandatory for people to prove vaccination before accessing public venues and for interregional travel, as opposed to previous options, showing a negative lateral flow test.

In Germany, they're focusing in on the booster jab. Now, even if you have been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID infection, you will have to provide a negative lateral flow test in order to access bars, restaurants and cafes.

Only those who've had the booster shot will be exempt.

Meanwhile, in Italy, the government is mandating vaccines for all of those all over the age of 50. Those who don't comply could face a hefty penalty and even suspension of pay from their workplaces.

There has been some backlash to the titling of COVID-19 restrictions in Europe, with protests taking place across parts of the continent. But in the U.K., where the government takes a somewhat softer approach to restrictions, some health care leaders have warned that the NHS, the National Health Service, is already overwhelmed.


BASHIR (voice-over): And they're calling for tougher restrictions. At least 24 of England's NHS trusts have so far declared major incidences, due to what they describe as extreme and unprecedented workforce shortages, with the health service reporting a nearly 60 percent increase in workforce absence in the week leading up to January 2nd, due to health care workers being off sick or having to self isolate.

The prime minister himself has described the health service as being on a war footing and is now deploying some 200 military personnel in London to support hospitals, to deal with the workforce shortage and an alarming rise in hospital admissions.

For now, the government says it is sticking to plan B, its mask- wearing and work from home guidance. But many health care leaders this may not be enough. And the government says it is keeping data under constant review -- Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


HOLMES: In northern China, more than 13 million people will be tested for COVID, after authorities said they found locally transmitted Omicron cases. Health officials say new cases in Tianjin city mark China's first, quote, "community spread" of this highly infectious variant. Now to other big COVID-19 stories in China.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. As the Chinese city of Xi'an enters a third week of hard lockdown, a second pregnant woman has suffered a miscarriage due to delayed medical aid. This is according to state media.

A Chinese vice premier is telling hospitals not to turn patients away under any excuses. The Xi'an hospital told CNN they initially turned the first pregnant woman away because they were following government COVID rules.

After that incident went viral, local health officials were suspended. The director of the Xi'an municipal health commission bowed and apologized. But for angry citizens, it isn't enough, with one saying, "COVID-19 might not kill you but bureaucrats can."



IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. Some senior government officials, here in the city, are issuing public apologies on their way into government quarantine.

This is after a bunch of lawmakers and top officials attended a crowded birthday party, with more than 150 people, in a Spanish tapas restaurant Monday night. Days after the top health official in the city instructed residents to avoid large gatherings, saying the city was on the verge of a fifth wave of COVID infections.

The chief executive of the city saying that she is deeply disappointed there have been at least two positive COVID cases from the partygoers. Now at least 19 lawmakers and the home affairs secretary and the head of the independent commission against corruption are all going to get a firsthand taste of government quarantine facilities.


HOLMES: Ivan Watson reporting there.

One woman said her property looked like a graveyard. How Spain's La Palma island is recovering after months of volcanic eruption. That's coming up.




HOLMES: At least 21 people are dead in northern Pakistan, after thousands of cars were stuck on a road during a blizzard.


HOLMES: This happened on Saturday. Officials say stranded tourists were running out of food but rescue crews got them out. Pakistan's prime minister said he is shocked and upset. He described the snowfall as unprecedented. Police say roads in the area are, now, clear.

Residents, returning home on Spain's La Palma island. Officials have declared a massive volcanic eruption, over after it wreaked havoc for months.


HOLMES (voice-over): Blue skies, once again, over Spain's La Palma island. Officials say, the rain of fire from the island's volcano, rumbling to life in mid September and erupted for the next three months, is finally extinguished.

Around 1,000 people were allowed to return to their homes this week; ash is everywhere. Around 3,000 properties and more than 1,000 homes and banana farms, have been destroyed.

Some houses still standing but encased in hardened lava. Others, coated in dusty debris. This man says he feels lucky that his neighborhood was spared the worst of it.

He says, "We have been fortunate enough to return. But others have lost their homes. I really feel for them."

In another part of town, it's a tougher cleanup; emergency workers use bulldozers, trying to dig through the solidified lava clogging the streets. Experts say the damage could exceed $1 billion and it could take several years to remove all of it.

Also, they warn it is still not safe.

One volcanologist says, "The exclusion area is still pretty dangerous." He says the flows of lava may have gotten colder on the surface but when you take a sample or watch them up close, the flows are still holding so much heat. And there are also gaseous emissions.

Many homeowners face months of backbreaking work before their houses are functional again. Many are without water, because of damaged pipes. Trips around the island to get basic supplies, of course, take much longer because of blocked roads.

This woman says her property looked like a graveyard when she first saw it; everything was black. But she said she is hopeful with each load of ash she removes, that, one day, she will have her house back.

And the once thundering giant in the distance will stay silent.


HOLMES: Thank you for spending part of your day with me, I'm Michael Holmes, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @HolmesCNN. Do stick around, "EXPO 2020" starts after this short break.