Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

At Least 19 Dead and Dozens Injured in Bronx Apartment Fire; Bob Saget, Comedian and "Full House" Star, Dies at 65; Djokovic Wins Visa Appeal, Can Remain in Australia; Omicron Complicates In-Person Learning for U.S. Schools. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and right around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London and just ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are, indeed, a city in shock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't seen anything to this magnitude in a very, very, very long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a horrific, horrific, painful moment for the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see these people every day. It's hurtful.


SOARES: At least 19 dead including 9 children. The worst apartment fire in New York in decades. We have the very latest for you.

Drama in the courts. Novak Djokovic wins his visa battle and can now remain in Australia. Now the ball is in the Australian government's court. Will they challenge it or back down?

And trying talks. The U.S. and Moscow meet this hour in a bid to de- escalate tensions as Russian troops build up on Ukraine's border.

ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Isa Soares.

SOARES: Welcome to the show, everyone. It is Monday, January 10th. We are following the aftermath of a deadly apartment fire in New York City's Bronx neighborhood. Now at least 19 people are dead, and that includes 9 children. The fire commissioner says 32 people were also sent to hospitals with life threatening conditions. Residents describe the horrifying experience. Have a listen.


CHANASIA HUNTER APARTMENT RESIDENT: Usually we always hear the fire alarm going off so it's -- it's something that we're used to. So, when you don't know that it's a fire, like you know how was you supposed to know if the fire is always going off. So, I received a phone call from somebody who's on the third floor where the fire was at and I looked out the back of the window and that's where I see like the fire just fighting just outside the window. And they had to break open the windows to let people out.

DAISY MITCHELL, APARTMENT RESIDENT: I don't want to go through that experience again. It's crazy. I don't -- I don't -- you know, I was really scared. I was really scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear the fire alarms?

MITCHELL: Yes, I did. It went off for a couple of minutes. I mean, it was like they don't know how to work the bell or how to turn it off. It was crazy but some people didn't knock on the doors there was a fire, we would have stayed up in there.


SOARES: Absolutely terrifying. Well, the fire broke out on Sunday morning quickly spreading throughout two floors. An open door in an apartment where the fire started sent heavy smoke throughout the building. And many people couldn't find their way out. Firefighters were on the scene withing minutes and quickly began rescuing people inside.


ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Thank you to the men and women who went in these buildings. Some of these firefighters, their oxygen -- their oxygen tanks were empty and they still pushed through the smoke. You can't do this if you don't feel attached to the city and this community and I really want to thank them for putting their lives on the line to save lives.


SOARES: Now the mayor described the fire as one of the worst the city has seen in modern times. Officials say the building's residents are now being housed in a middle school next door and the Red Cross is helping families get what they need. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more now from New York.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It took only hours for fire investigators to locate what's being described as physical evidence that confirms that it was a space heater that initially started this fire that quickly broke out just before noon on Sunday. When that fire broke out investigators say that it wasn't the flames that caused so much death and destruction but it was the smoke. In fact, some of the pictures that you're able to see from the scene, you can actually see how that smoke was billowing out of windows. Even on the top floors of the 19-story building.

We now know at least 19 people confirmed dead and there is concern that that death toll could potentially continue to rise. And we also know that many of the dead are children. Simply adding to that heart break and much of that heart break the governor of New York actually seen firsthand as she spoke with some of those affected families.

KATHY HOCHUL, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: We are indeed a city in shock.


It's impossible to go into that room where scores of family who are in such grief, who are in pain. To see it in a mother's eyes as I held her, who lost her entire family. It's hard to fathom what they're going through, but I went table to table, helped children make their Raman noodles and eat their pizza and let them know one thing, and the mayor and I are united in this, we will not forget you. We will not abandon you. We are here for you.

SANDOVAL: And in the days ahead, the community continues to come together. In fact, late Sunday night you can actually see as many members of the community coming together going into a neighboring school that was serving as a temporary shelter. Making sure that those affected families have not just a warm place to stay, but also a warm meal. Back to you.


SOARES: Thank you very much Polo Sandoval there. Well, here's what we know about the Bronx apartment building. It has 19 stories and the apartment where the fire started spanned the second as well as the third floors. Records show the building is 50 years old with 120 units. No major building violations or complaints have been reported to the city. The Bronx Borough President describes the buildings residents as vibrant made up of working-class families.


VANESSA GIBSON, BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT: A lot of the residents have lived in this building for a very long time. You have generations so I met a young lady whose parents live in the building and her grandparents and, you know, that's what we see. And we just want to assure a lot of people because there will be a concern that anyone who is an immigrant or undocumented, should not fear sharing information, withhold their household information. We are not evicting anyone. We are not sharing information with I.C.E. or any deportation agent.

We are going to make sure that everyone is protected, they are safe. If they want to relocate, we will help them. If they want to return, we will also help. Because the goal as borough president is to make sure we heal from this and we remember those that we lost. But we also know that the dozens of families that live in this building need to return to some sense of normalcy.


SOARES: and that was Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson speaking earlier. Of course, we'll continue to follow the story and bring you updates throughout the hours right here on CNN. Now, actor and comedian Bob Saget has died. The 65-year-old star was

found deceased in an Orlando area hotel room on Sunday. Authorities found no signs of foul play or drug use and say the cause of death will determine by a medical examiner. Saget is perhaps best remembered as the star of "Full House."


BOB SAGET, ACTOR: Hi, girls.


SAGET: I'm sorry I'm late. At the last minute ...


SOARES: Now he played the role of widowed father Danny Tanner from 1987 to 1995. During an interview last year, he explained how he landed that role.


SAGET: I was doing audience warmup for "Bosom Buddies" as a comedian, when I lived in LA trying to get my career going. And then "Full House" was an accident. I got fired from a job on CBS and was asked to be in "Full House" and wasn't available and I got the show. And it was made by the producers of "Happy Days," which was another show. It was Tom Miller and Bob Boyette and they made "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley." All of these classic sitcoms and so, I was kind of the Richie Cunningham on "Full House" and Stamos was Fonzie and Dave was Ralph or Potsie.


SOARES: Now he later became host of the TV show, "America's Funniest Home Made Videos" making his audience laugh with clips sent in, of course, by viewers. CNN's Brian Stelter has more now on Saget's legacy.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: "Full House" came on the air in 1987 and went on for eight years and then continued on for many years thereafter in reruns and syndication, et cetera. We don't have television shows like "Full House" anymore, that appeal to tens of millions of people who all watch at the same time, and that created a type of success and fame for Bob Saget that is now incredibly, vanishingly rare in the entertainment world.


SOARES: Brian Stelter there. Well, Saget's costar on "Full House," John Stamos remembers Saget in this Tweet: I am broken. I am gutted. I am in complete and utter shock. I will never, ever have another friend like him. I love you so much, Bobby. Another costar on "Full House," Candace Cameron Bure tweeted: I don't

know what to say. I have no words. Bob was one of the best human beings I've ever known in my life. I loved him so much -- she tweeted.

And Robert Iger, Disney's former CEO wrote: Devastating news about Bob Saget today. He graced ABC with his presence in two shows, "Full House" and "America's Funniest Home Videos," making us laugh and smile a thousand times over. Hard to accept that someone so full of life is gone so suddenly.


Of course, will stay on top of this story and bring you all the tributes.

Now to another top story today, the world's top men's tennis player has won a legal battle in an Australian court. A judge in Melbourne overturned the cancellation of Novak Djokovic's visa and order him to be released from immigration detention. The ruling comes one week, of course, ahead of the Australian Open and just days after Djokovic's visa was canceled on arriving to Australia -- if you remember.

At that time, authorities determined he was not qualified for a medical exemption from the country's COVID vaccination requirement for entry. CNN, of course, is covering all the developments. Our Phil Black is standing by in Melbourne, Australia. And CNN World Sport Patrick Snell is joining us from Atlanta.

Phil, let me start with you. This is a significant win for Djokovic. I'm not sure the government will like it much. Will they challenge it or will the government back down here -- Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the government won't like it, Isa. And yes, they may do. The closing moments in the court today the government's lawyer said the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, would consider whether or not to use his personal power to essentially unilaterally cancel a visa. And it was noted in the court in those final moments that that was a pretty serious thing. Because it would also come with a three-year ban on entering the country. That would have a big impact on Novak Djokovic's ability to return to Australia in successive years in order to compete in the Australian Open.

So, a potential escalation is still very much possible and we wait with some anticipation to see precisely what the Australian government's reaction is to the extraordinary developments in this court today. The court has effectively released a whole bunch of documents following the decision today, including an affidavit, sworn -- given to and sworn by Djokovic to his own lawyers, submitted to the court. Essentially his account of why he was here, what happened and so forth.

And within it, it contains an interesting fact. We knew from his lawyers that he tested positive or he underwent a test that resulted in a positive result on December 16th let's year. In this affidavit he appears to confirm that he was aware of that result on December 16th. It's important because something we've been talking about in recent days, is the fact that there are social media posts which show Djokovic at various events on the 16th and the 17th with people, including groups of children unmasked and seemingly showing no effort to distance himself from anybody.

So, it is one of those things that regardless of how the issue of his visa continues to play out, he's going to face questions about this you would expect in the coming days and weeks -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, many more questions. And if the government does pursue it. Perhaps, one of the questions they shall be asking. Patrick, let me go to you. There was so much at stake, of course, for Djokovic in this tournament. And now the preparations of course begin if the Australian government doesn't go any further with this. And I suspect -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong -- that this may fire him up?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: You would think so. One week today, Isa, the Australian Open starts. Yes, he's looking to win it for a tenth time. He's looking to win grand slam title number 21. And if he does that, he'll become the most decorated and successful male tennis player in history in terms of grand slam titles.

But, you know, it's going to be very interesting because we've never seen anything like this before. I would doubt Djokovic has ever been anything like this before. What toll will it take on him? You've got to factor in the mental anguish as well he's been through. You can't prepare, I would imagine, for anything like this at all and it's going to be very interesting to see, you know, he is an elite athlete. His preparations are all finely tuned. Will those meticulous preparations have been absolutely completely derailed over the coarse of the last few days since he stepped foot on Australian soil?

So, it's going to be fascinating to see how it all pans out. However, if there is someone who can rise to the challenge, assuming he does get to play, and again, we're still watching that one very carefully. It is that man Djokovic. He is absolutely determination personified. He is driven by history. He wants number 21 and he wants it as soon as possible in Australia.

SOARES: Yes. I would like to see what sort of treatment he will get from Melbournians, of course, if he does go ahead and play because the mood is incredibly sour at the moment. Patrick Snell for us in Atlanta. Phil Black, thank you to you both.

Now talks between U.S. and Russia are underway in Switzerland over Ukraine. We are live for you in Geneva and Kiev. That is coming up.

Plus, the impact on Omicron variant on children in the U.S. we'll see how it's disrupting the return to the classroom and sending the youngest kids to the hospital. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.



SOARES: Now a dire warning from health experts on the U.S. health care system. New data from the Department of Health and Human Services show nearly 1/4 of hospitals have critical staffing shortage. Now some states have deployed National Guard troops to cover short falls at hospitals and testing sites as healthcare workers get sick with COVID themselves. The explosion of the highly contagious Omicron variant has pushed hospitalizations -- as you can see there -- to near record levels. And admission among children are also at record levels, especially kids under 5 years old who are still too young, of course, to be vaccinated.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Here's what I can tell you about our pediatric hospitalizations now. First of all, the vast majority of children who are in the hospital are unvaccinated. And for those children who are not eligible for a vaccination, we do know that they are most likely to get sick with COVID, if their family members aren't unvaccinated. So, the most important thing we can do for the children to keep them out of the hospital is to vaccinate them and to vaccinate their family members around them.


SOARES: Now the surge in COVID cases are also affecting how kids get educated, of course.


The city of Chicago has canceled in-person classes for the fourth day in a row amid a standoff with the teachers union. It's a scene really playing out all over the United States as parents and educators grapple with what's in the best interest of school children as well as teachers. CNN's Nadia Romero has more for you.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, here in Georgia the Atlantic Public School District will be back to school starting on Monday after spending a week with remote learning. And that means mandatory testing for all teachers at least twice a week. And students can undergo testing as well as long as they have parental consent.

But testing remains a big issue when it comes to school districts in Chicago and in New York City. The teachers unions in those cities are battling with their city mayors over how to keep kids in school and do it safely.

Let's take Chicago, for instance, they had three consecutive days last week without having any school at all. The teachers union this weekend said they would be willing to come back for virtual teaching, meaning they would be in the classroom teaching while the students were at home remote learning. But the Mayor of Chicago, along with the Mayor of New York City says they only want to see in-person learning and here's why.

ADAMS: Science dictates one thing, the safest place for children is in a school building and what we want to do is not get in the way of preventing children from coming into that building.

LORI LIGHTFOOT, CHICAGO MAYOR: And fundamentally what we cannot do is abandon the science. We know that the safest place for kids to be is in schools and we've spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make our schools safe. They are safe. We've got the data that demonstrate that. We've got to get the teachers union to get real and get serious about getting back into in-person learning.

ROMERO: Now, along with the issues we're seeing in the school room, we're also seeing a rising number of pediatric hospitalizations across the country, especially when you look at the age group of those who are 5 and younger and who are not eligible to get vaccinated. That age group we're seeing about a 48 percent increase of pediatric hospitalizations for 5 and younger. When you look at the week of December 4th compared to the week of January 1st and that is an alarming statistic.

Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta.


SOARES: Well meanwhile, schools in Los Angeles are battling skyrocketing cases by implementing new safety measures. The district is requiring all students and employees to show a negative COVID test before returning to the classroom.


VICTOR NAVARRO, 10TH GRADER AT ARLETA HIGHT SCHOOL: My group chat, they're all testing positive for some reason. I think -- I think it's the new virus or something like that that's going around. Yes. Yes, like all my group chat got positive. We always get tested in school so I don't know. And then we always have this daily pass that we have to enter school with and then if it doesn't come out, that means you tested positive and you can't get in school. Honestly, it's just extra safety. So, yes, it's not that much a big of a deal.


SOARES: And people in the district who test positive are now blocked from setting foot on campus. That would affect about 50,000 people who've tested positive in the past week.


KELLY GONEZ, PRESIDENT, LOS ANGELES BOARD OF EDUCATION: We're so grateful to all of our employees who have come back and gotten tested. As of this morning 85 percent of our employees have done their baseline test and more than 70 percent of students have done their baseline test. And that's allowed us, as you said, to protect staff and students on Tuesday because we've caught 50,000 positive cases of COVID using those baseline tests. Which means that our schools and classrooms will be significantly safer come Tuesday.


SOARES: Now the Los Angeles district hasn't had to close any of its more than 1,000 schools this academic year.

Now some countries in Europe are imposing new rules to limit COVID spreading, including Italy where a top restriction has just gone into effect. We'll give you the details in a live report next.

Plus, talks between the U.S. and Russia are underway this hour in Switzerland. What the negotiations could mean for Ukraine and the Kremlin's military buildup. That is next.



SOARES: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares. If you are just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.

Actor Bob Saget has died at the age of 65. He was found dead in an Orlando area hotel room on Sunday. Authorities say there were no signs of foul play or drug use. Saget, of course, was best known for his role as Danny Tanner on ABC sitcom "Full House" and as the host of "America's Funniest Home Videos."

And at least 19 people are dead including 9 children after a fire broke out in an apartment building in the Bronx Borough of New York. Officials say a space heater sparked the fire in one of the apartments. It is the worst fire the city has seen in decades.

More now on the breaking news we've been following here on CNN, for about an hour or so. Tennis star Novak Djokovic has won his visa now appeal and can now remain in Australia to play in the Australian Open. Now, the ruling comes just days after Djokovic was detained, if you remember, in Melbourne over issues with his COVID-19 vaccination exemption. I'm joined by Tracey Holmes in Sydney, Australia. She is the host of "The Ticket" podcast focusing on politics, governments and the business of sport. Tracy, great to have you on the show. Let me get your take now on what is going to happen here. Will the government, you think, Tracey, appeal this?

TRACEY HOLMES, HOST, THE TICKET PODCAST: Well, that is definitely something that is being considered by the immigration minister now. So, as we know, the original cancellation of the visa was done by a border force at the Australian airport. That comes under the Home Affairs Minister. So, the court case, as it unfolded today, was with regard to that decision. That decision being quashed, the court ordering that Novak Djokovic be released. That he had his passport and all personal items returned.

But right at the end just before the court adjourned counsel for Home Affairs did alert the judge to the fact the immigration minister now was considering his options. Now under particular part of the immigration act, the minister may cancel a visa held by a person if the minister is satisfied that a ground for canceling exists and the minister is satisfied that it is in the public interest.

So, this is something that is going to be weighed out very heavily by the federal government and the immigration minister and of course he's been very, very -- this government in particular has been very, very tight on border control and many people in the Australian public support that position in this era of COVID and trying to keep that sickness out of this country.