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Queen Elizabeth Laid To Rest After Solemn State Funeral; Queen's Death Raises Questions Over Commonwealth's Future; New Chapter For British Monarchy After Queen's Funeral; Ukrainians In Newly Liberated Areas Struggle To Cope; Taliban Trade Navy Veteran For Convicted Drug Smuggler. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN Newsroom. Coming up, Queen Elizabeth II has been laid to rest. The nation pays tribute to a life of service, duty, dignity. Maria was a four, Fionna a one, but still Puerto Rico's power has been knocked out. Water service has cut off, buildings and homes badly damaged almost five years to the day Maria made landfall.

And who gets to decide when a pandemic is over? It's complicated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: For 70 years and 214 days, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II was a steady constant presence for the people of Great Britain and countries of the realm. But now comes a new era with a new monarch, come new uncertainties, new questions about what the future will hold. Her Majesty was laid to rest at Windsor Castle on Monday alongside her late father, mother, sister, and husband.

During the Capitol service, her reign came to a symbolic end as a crown was removed from her coffin and placed on an altar. Those within the royal family close to the Queen were there, including her son and heir King Charles III, who was also by his mother's side as her procession moved to Windsor from London. Thousands of mourners lining the streets to pay their respects. Britain's new prime minister honored the Queen, with the reading from the Bible.


LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: And so, 10 days of national mourning are now over. So to be possibly the most intricate, well-planned and detailed operation ever in British history. CNN's Bianca Nobilo reports now from Windsor.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the day a nation said goodbye. After more than a week of remembrance, Queen Elizabeth II, the U.K.'s longest reigning monarch was finally laid to rest. Thousands made their way to watch the funeral with the national newspapers dedicating their front pages to her.


NOBILO (voice-over): As the casket made its way into Westminster Abbey, her children King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward all followed behind. Also in line, Princes William and Harry and two of the Queen's great grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. On the coffin, a note from her son King Charles, in loving and devoted memory.


NOBILO (voice-over): Around 2,000 people attended the funeral, with politicians and leaders from home and abroad coming to pay their respects.

MOST REV. JUSTIN WELBY, ARCHBISHOP OF CATERBURY: Her late majesty famously declared on a 21st birthday broadcast, that her whole life would be dedicated to serving the nation and Commonwealth. Rarely has such a promise being so well kept.

NOBILO (voice-over): A short trumpet call announced two minutes silence, that hushed the nation. Broken only by the National Anthem.

From there, the pageantry and mourning continued as the Queen's coffin was led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Escorted by the Royal Family and flanked by thousands of guards, and onlookers. Cannons fired as her coffin passed by, ready for her final journey to Windsor.


As a final smaller service with a symbolic handover, the Queen's coffin was lowered into the royal vault, as the sovereign Piper played, a personal request of the Queen herself, according to Buckingham Palace. On the eve of her funeral, Buckingham Palace released an unseen picture of the Queen taken earlier this year ahead of her Platinum Jubilee, a fitting tribute for 70 years of service.

Bianca Nobilo, CNN, Windsor


VAUSE: CNN's Scott McLean is live outside Buckingham Palace for us, is with us now. So, Scott, I guess, the last 10 days, it's all been about Queen Elizabeth and the coming days, the coming weeks will be about King Charles. So how are people seeing him right now, now that he is essentially, you know, free to rule?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think people have been thinking about King Charles even in the last few days, John, because of course, King Charles is older stepping into this role. He comes with a lot more baggage than obviously his mother did when she was crowned as Queen of this country when she was much, much younger.

But I've asked a lot of people this over the last 10 days, and by and large, the answer that I've gotten is that we will be just fine that Charles, now that he stepped into this role, and especially with that first speech that he gave, the first address that he gave after the death of his mother has really stepped into this role and really seen to appear as a king, not just the Prince of Wales, but really seem to appear as a king. Though, there was a poll taken before the Platinum Jubilee back in June, John, that said that two-thirds of Brits support keeping the monarchy, 86 percent supported the job that the Queen was doing, but only 65 percent supported what Charles, then Prince Charles, the job that he was doing.

His son, Prince William, got 80 percent approval, he was much, much more popular. And so while there were a few people that I met over the last 10 days or so who said that they wish that the crown would pass directly to William, that's not how the system works. And now it seems like people are really coming around to the idea of King Charles. And it seems like he's really stepping into this role. But of course, he's got some work to do to really shore up this support for the monarchy, especially in the Commonwealth realms, places that have the king as their monarch.

There are referendums expected in at least one of those realms as to whether they'll keep him as the head of state. And the question remains as to whether or not he can hold on to this wave of public support that he's gotten with the passing of his mother and whether he can really shore up support for the broader monarchy, John.

VAUSE: Find out in the coming days is how much of the support or the outpouring of grief was for Queen Elizabeth and how much of it was support for the monarchy. And you've watched his people have waited for countless hours to have that moment just to walk past the Queen as she was laying in state. I guess, for them, this has obviously been a moment that has been very special and very moving.

MCLEAN: I've been amazed, to be honest with you, that line of duty, as they call it, of people who are -- had been waiting for four and a half days, there was a period of four and a half days where Queen Elizabeth's coffin was open to the public so that people could file past it and pay their last respects. And in that queue of people, they were giving out wristbands.

I interviewed the people who were number one to 10 in that line. I also talked to people who were 243,000 in that line, and I spoke to one woman -- one of the last women to actually pay her respects to the Queen, and I was really struck by how emotional she was. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Astonishing, absolutely astonishing. And as we went through the snake, it just got more emotional and more emotional and it builds up. And the realization of that seeing her again, not having her around, sunken. And when I went up, and I bowed, I didn't want to leave, I kept turning to look again, just one more time.


VAUSE: And John, I have to tell you, reactions like that were not uncommon from people at all. I was also struck by the number of people who brought their kids here, because they thought that it was important that they might have some memory of the Queen because it is likely that many kids today won't see another queen in their lifetime.

VAUSE: Yes. Scott, thank you. Scott McLean live for us at Buckingham Palace, pulling early morning duty. Thank you.

Queen Elizabeth's funeral was attended by a long list of global leaders, more than 500 dignitaries including kings, queens, one emperor, presidents, prime ministers, all there. The high-profile list including U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as leaders from Commonwealth nations like the Australian Prime Minister and the Albanese Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, all and others. Busy day.


We're told the Commonwealth includes 56 member states with a combined population of 2.5 billion. 15 of those countries have the British monarch as head of state. But after the Queen's death, the question of who should be the head of state is once again on the agenda for some nations of the realm. CNN's Nic Robertson reports.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Away from the glitz of Queen Elizabeth's 1953 coronation, Britain's once great empire was in tatters. India, Pakistan and many others had broken bonds, they felt shackled them to second class status. Through her reign, the Queen strove to find threads that united the old empire and pull together the Commonwealth of nations.

SIR DON MCKINNON, FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: By growing with it, she just has this immense breadth and depth of knowledge about so many people and so many issues, which covers, you know, a third of the world.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Today 2.5 billion people in 56 countries are members. India the most populous, others, tiny islands like Saint Kitts and Nevis. Aligning in the Commonwealth helps trade ties and political stability. Australia, Britain, Canada and 12 others kept the Queen as their sovereign. Now its future is in King Charles' hands.

MCKINNON: He will grow into that job and he will learn to love the Commonwealth. ROBERTSON (voice-over): But the challenges will come fast. Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister says within three years, they'll vote on becoming a republic. Barbudans voted to become a republic last year, dropping the Queen as sovereign, but planning to remain a Commonwealth nation.

Even at home in the U.K., unease over the Empires ugly legacy, the slave trade has grown a voice that won't accept to whitewash past. What binds the modern era Commonwealth are sports, business, culture, shared values, but even New Zealand and its apparently loyal role subjects may be straining to uncouple now their beloved Queen is gone.

MCKINNON: I would think there would be a lot of people saying, well, you know, it's time we became a republic in their own right and we should be debating that.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The last Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting the Queen attended was in the U.K. in 2018. Her increasing frailty kept her from traveling, making it harder for her to hold the Commonwealth together. King Charles will have had this on his mind just a few months ago, attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda.

KING CHARLES III, NEW MONARCH: I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): As the Queen manage change, so will he. Rise or fall, the Commonwealth in his hands now.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Joining me now is CNN European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. So well, the British monarch has virtually no authority, no real involvement in the affairs of state, the influence the Queen had was simply for being there, a constant presence. Now she is gone. It seems like there's another layer on certainly on top of what, you know, an untested new prime minister on top of the uncertainty of an economy which is heading for some very tough times. And Britain hasn't really seen anything like this before.

THOMAS: No, you're absolutely right, John. And I think that in so many ways, what happened over the past few days was the sort of acting out or acting on that. You're absolutely right, no matter what people thought of the monarchy, the fact was that the Queen was a constant present through a whole range of historical moments, and including all the way up to this latest round of political uncertainty.

And I think that what was -- we saw with this sort of outpouring are the ways in which so many people in this divisive political environment, this environment defined by the sort of polarizing politics of Brexit, over the last few years, came together to share together in some kind of experience that has defined Britain for essentially, their lifetime. And I think what was so paradoxical about it is, of course, it shifted the focus away from the new prime minister, Liz Truss, who's, of course, emerged from this embattled, internal Conservative Party and affair.

And as we wake up tomorrow morning, the focus will be back on politics and the distraction will now be the opportunity for the royal family and primarily, the new king to find his feet and to define and map out what that new role will be. And those will be big shoes to fail, John.

VAUSE: Absolutely. And we also know that there was this incredible respect from world leaders, we saw that obviously at the funeral. She was monarch for 14 U.S. presidents meeting all the except for LBJ. I want you to listen now to President Joe Biden.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She was the same in person issue as her image, decent, honorable and all about service. And our hearts go out to the royal family, King Charles, and all the family. It's a lawsuit leaves a giant hole.


VAUSE: And that decency, you know, that stoicism, I guess was enough for some of the 15 members of the Commonwealth to put off declaring independence or even sort of talking seriously about becoming Republic's. But in Australia, for example, and other places, that is our serious debate about their future under King Charles as a monarch.

THOMAS: These are very important questions, John. I think that the key word really in the first part of what you're doing there in this segment is about duty. And once again, whatever one thought thinks about the monarchy, the fact is that she devoted her life to public service. And they're looking over, the legacy of that comes at a time when so many political leaders around the world are in office for the sole purpose of serving their own particular interests.

And let's not forget that the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was essentially ousted eventually, because he was such a terrible public servant. He put himself ahead of taking care of the British people. And I think that's an important aspect.

To the second point, Liz Truss tomorrow heads to the United Nations. She's going to be mapping out there yet again, this Conservative Party Plan for global Britain. And I think you're absolutely right, both when it comes to the U.K. government and to the future of the monarchy, that in many ways the U.K. has become the periphery for these areas of the world. They are no longer the center that was occupied when the Queen came to the reign in 1952.

And I think there's a great disconnect between that aspiration of a global Britain today, and the desires politically for people, for climate change, environmental issues, and so on. And it's reconciling those two that are going to be important both for the monarchy and for the U.K. government moving forward, John.

VAUSE: It does feel as if this is a moment in history that there is a turning point, if you like. We have the Queen has now gone, we have Brexit, as you say, there is so much happening within Britain and so much around Britain, which is taking place. It does seem that we're emerging from a period where Europe is moving in one direction, and the U.K. is moving in a separate direction.

THOMAS: It is and that goes with the government and it goes with the monarchy. And what you talk about here of historical change, you're absolutely right. I mean, we've witnessed in the past just say the last 10 years, a seismic change culturally, politically, socially with Me Too, with Black Lives Matter. And these European countries, whether they are E.U. member states or the U.K., have still not fully reckoned with that history of colonialism or the history of empire, to which once again, the royal family is inextricably linked.

So there's a reckoning there once again as to what is the pertinence of Britain today, what is the pertinence of the monarchy today, as we make our way into the 21st century. And the success of both the country and the monarchy will depend on their capacity to look at that particular history, to look at themselves in the mirror and to find a way of mapping out their pertinence and relevance for the 21st century. If not, they will be threatened with extinction, John.

VAUSE: Dominic, thank you. Good to see you. Dominic Thomas there in Los Angeles.

THOMAS: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Liberated from Russian forces, but not from the scars and trauma left behind by a brutal occupation.

Coming up, life in many parts of Ukraine would never be the same again. Plus, a prisoner exchange with the Taliban has a U.S. Navy veteran on his way home from Afghanistan.



VAUSE: Ukraine's counter-offensive is pushing deeper into the Luhansk region while elsewhere, Ukrainian forces try to hold recent territorial gains. Ukrainian military leaders in the Luhansk claim another village has been free. One official said was a hard fight for every centimeter of land.

And a Russian military base and is still occupied part of Luhansk was destroyed Monday according to the Ukrainians. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says now the military is digging in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): We are stabilizing the situation, holding our positions firmly, so strong that the occupiers are really panicking. Well, we have warned the Russian soldiers in Ukraine have only two options -- to flee from our land or surrender.


VAUSE: Meanwhile, Moscow has denied accusations of war crimes in parts of Northeast Ukraine, where Russian soldiers retreated. The criminal claims the alleged evidence of torture found in a mass grave in Izium is a lie. Ukrainian authorities said Monday they assume more than 140 parties, two, with children.

Here's what Ukraine's Prosecutor General told CNN.


ANDRIY KOSTIN, UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL: The main response is that what Russians did in Bucha and the Irpin, they proceed, and they do the same in other places in Ukraine. So this shows pattern of Russia's behavior and treatment over Ukrainians. So the same stories, the same, how to say it, the same tortures --


KOSTIN: -- the same rapes and the same people killed.


VAUSE: Meantime, new video from Ukraine's Defense Ministry shows damage to a 16th century monastery in a town in the Donetsk region. The area was recently liberated from Russian forces and destroyed Russian tanks and armored vehicles litter the streets.

But Ukrainians in towns and cities where the Russian soldiers have withdrawn are now adjusting to their life of freedom. CNN's Ben Wedeman spoke with residents of Izium, about coping with the daily struggles of life after liberation.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Help arrives in Izium, bags of barley meal, tins of food. Waiting her turn, Inessa (ph) shrugs off the tribulations of late, she's seen worse.

We survived World War II when I was little, she tells me. Surgeon Oksana Karapetian hands out medicine. Sedatives are in high demand.

OKSANA KARAPETIAN, KYIV RESIDENT AND SURGEON: They've got half of a year, six months without any help. You can understand what do they -- just imagine what do they feel.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Liberation from Russia isn't the end of Izium's troubles. Much of the city was severely bombarded before falling and spring to the Russians. There's no running water, no electricity, no heat. Crowds gathered to charge cell phones off an army generator and make calls 10 minutes per person, using internet provided by a satellite connection.

Liubov and her daughter Angela are calling relatives, they want to leave. Winter is coming. People will freeze, Angela warns. Older people won't survive. They also fear the Russians could return.

Nearby, the signs of their hasty retreat. Helmet strewn outside the house Russian soldiers commandeered. Bread crumbs still on the table. Insects make a meal of fruit have eaten.

On the edge of town, the remains of Russia's once vaunted army, before a monument harking back to a different time, which now seems like the distant past. Natasha shows me a newspaper distributed during the occupation.

(on-camera): What do you think of him?

(voice-over): I haven't thought anything good about him since 2000, she says. He destroyed everything in Russia. The paper does, however, come in handy.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Izium, Ukraine.



VAUSE: The war in Ukraine is expected to dominate the 77th annual U.N. General Assembly, which we'll hear from a parade of world leaders in the hours ahead. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy seem to hint that he will address the gathering by video later this week. And here's European Union's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell.


JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN MINISTER: Last year, we were talking about Afghanistan. You will remember. Afghanistan was the key issue. This year, Ukraine will be very high on the agenda. It will be unavoidable. There are many other problems we know. But the war in Ukraine has been sending shock waves around the world.


VAUSE: On Monday, American poet Amanda Gorman delivered an inspirational speech urging action to fight climate change, to try for gender equality and put an end to hunger and poverty.

U.S. Navy veteran Mark Frerichs is a free man after spending the past 31 months in captivity in Afghanistan. The Biden administration agreed to swap him for a convicted drug trafficker, Bashir Noorzai, a prominent member of the Taliban. CNN's Kylie Atwood has details.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The release of Mark Frerichs was the result of a prisoner swap that was signed off on by President Biden himself. Back in June, he granted clemency to an Afghan drug trafficker who was serving time in U.S. prison. And according to U.S. officials, during their back and forth negotiations in recent months with the Taliban, what they discovered is that that man Noorzai was the key to securing Mark Frerichs.

And that is why President Biden move forward to greenlight that release, which then led to the release of Mark Frerichs. Now Frerichs himself is currently on his way to Germany. He is going to undergo some medical treatment. We're not sure exactly how long he'll stay in Germany. But, of course, his family is welcoming this news today. They said that they had been praying every day for the last 31 months that he was held hostage in Afghanistan.

And, of course, the Biden administration is doubling down and saying that they will continue to work on the cases of all Americans were held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad.

Kylie Atwood CNN New York.

VAUSE: Still to come, Hurricane Fiona may have moved on but rain in Puerto Rico continues to have a recovery efforts. We look at where the storm is heading. That's next.



VAUSE: At least two people have died in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Sunday. The storm has now moved on as a category two and is battering parts of the Caribbean, gaining strength as it heads into the Atlantic.

More than a thousand people have been rescued from life-threatening floodwaters according to Puerto Rico's National Guard and much of the island remains without power.

U.S. President Joe Biden has promised Puerto Rico's governments ongoing federal assistance. And the head of FEMA will travel to the region on Tuesday to assess the most urgent needs.

And according to the governor there, most of the territory's damage has come from torrential rain which is still bearing down on the area. Here's what he told CNN a little earlier.


PEDRO PIERLUISI, PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR: The damage that we have suffered because of the hurricane is rain-related mostly. It is going to -- by the time the tail leaves Puerto Rico, we will have gotten roughly 35 inches of rain. That's a huge amount of rain.

So the damage relate to flooding all over the island. I'm talking about primarily the mountain region of Puerto Rico. But urban areas in the north are being impacted as well because the rivers are discharging towards the north and that is causing flooding.

We got a total blackout when the hurricane hit us. We still only have roughly 115,000 customers of our power authority with power. And bear in mind that there are 1.4 million customers so the percentage is quite low.

The water and aqueduct system is also not providing the service we need. There are only about 35 percent of our customers are getting a water service. And a lot of it has to do with the river flooding.

The water filtration plants were heavily impacted by this excess rain. So it is quite tough what we are going through.


VAUSE: The governor hopes Puerto Rico's electric grid will be back online in the coming days.

Frankie Miranda is the president and CEO of the nonprofit advocacy group The Hispanic Federation. He joins us this hour from Washington D.C. Thank you for taking time to be with us.


VAUSE: Ok. So Fiona made landfall two days short of the anniversary of Hurricane Maria. Which caused more damage to Puerto Rico than any storm ever. That was five years ago. How can it be that thousands of homes on this island still have blue tarps for roofs and thousands are still living in damaged homes. Why haven't they been better prepared? Why isn't, you know, the repairing after Maria being done and dusted by now?

MIRANDA: Well, we need to remember that of all the billions of dollars that Congress approved for the recovery of Puerto Rico five years ago, there was a federal administration -- the Trump administration that was determined to block any funds to actually reach the people of Puerto Rico by creating barriers and creating artificial barriers to anything that has to do with like disbursing these funds to Puerto Rico.

We can actually say that the recovery of Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is three years behind. I mean (INAUDIBLE) with the impact of Hurricane Fiona.

VAUSE: A general with Puerto Rico's National Guard actually talked about the difference between these two storms on Monday. Here he is. Listen to this.


MAJ. GEN. JOSE REYES, ADJUTANT GENERAL, PUERTO RICO NATIONAL GUARD: The biggest difference between Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Fiona is the amount of rain that this hurricane brought to Puerto Rico, in many areas over 30 inches of rain.

Yes, Hurricane Maria brought about 40 inches but it was in a specific area along the center of the island. That is not the case with Hurricane Fiona, it brought rain all over the island. And many of the areas and suburban areas were completely flooded.


VAUSE: But what was not mentioned is that Maria like made landfall as a category 4 and the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. Fiona was a category one and it still kind of quite the punch but, you know, two-thirds of the island is without water services right now.

The power grid has been shut down. It will take days before electricity is restored. So right now, Puerto Rico cannot cope with a category one storm.

MIRANDA: That's correct. And it's because it makes evident that the reconstruction of the power grid has not taken place properly. It's being a series of band-aids, because the funding has not really reached the agencies in Puerto Rico.


MIRANDA: So, what is important right now is to really focus on the federal government working with the government of Puerto Rico. Just taking away any kind of barriers to make sure that the power grid in Puerto Rico is restructured (ph), is being reconstructed.

But also, Puerto Rico has a goal of renewable energy by 2050. Right, now that potential of solar power in Puerto Rico on just the roofs of the structures in Puerto Rico can actually relieve the power or everything that the charge that the power grid needs, supplying all of this energy to Puerto Rico.

So right now what we need to ensure is that the biggest threat to Puerto Rican life right now is the lack of power and that we need to work vigilantly to make sure that the power grid response to the needs of what is right now the new reality of climate change.

VAUSE: Is there a number in terms of dollars of what is needed to be invested into Puerto Rico's infrastructure so that it will on par with other parts of the United States.

MIRANDA: Well, the damages of Hurricane Maria alone were around $90 billion and some other estimates was $100 billion. Congress approved around, you know, $63 billion for Puerto Rico but only $19.8 billion has arrived to island just for the power grid. It's $12 billion that are allocated. But it has to be done the right way.

And that is what Puerto Rican, American citizens that happen to live in the island of Puerto Rico deserve that we do this right and that the power grid is basically recovered and being done the right way.

We know that close to 3,000 in some estimates or 5,000 deaths of Hurricane Maria were because of lack of power. And we're going to see more of that right now with Hurricane Fiona, if we don't deal with the issue of power in Puerto Rico which was after Hurricane Maria, the longest blackout in American history with some towns not having power for over 12 months. VAUSE: Yes. And these storms are only becoming more intense and more

frequent. So it's something for the future which needs to be looked at now.

Frankie Miranda, thank you so much for being with us.

MIRANDA: Thank you so much for this opportunity.

VAUSE: Fiona is now headed to Turks and Caicos after leaving behind a trail of devastation in the Dominican Republic as a Category Two hurricane. Heavy rains and strong winds destroyed buildings and homes. More than a million people are without running water. Officials say it's too soon to know the exact number of people with power outages.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us all with a projection of the storm's path. Where is it heading?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, you know, you mentioned Turks and Caicos, the worst of the storm certainly yet to come. We think the storm has the potential to increase to category three, maybe category four before it is all said and done.

And of course, the landfall across portions of Puerto Rico was a category one system. But you will, notice 175 kph. The current sustained winds right now on the eastern periphery of the Turks and Caicos. Just three kilometers per hour or one mile per hour shy of what would be considered a category three major hurricane.

So, we do have hurricane warnings prompted across this region. While hurricane watches going to expire here in the coming hours across portions of the Dominican Republic. You'll notice on the southern periphery of it, still seeing quite a bit of heavy rainfall across areas of western Puerto Rico here before it's all said and done.

And a few pockets of flood alerts still remaining in Puerto Rico after an incredible 32 inches or 800 millimeters of rain fell near the city of Ponce there. So incredible rainfall, it's actually a year's worth of rainfall in (INAUDIBLE) and some coming down in a matter of hours out of this one tropical system.

So, power outages almost 90 percent of the island remaining without power at this hour. Notice again, becoming a category three in the coming hours, possibly category four in a span of the next 18 to 24 hours.

And it kind of skirts in this north -- northerly direction, northeasterly direction over the next couple of days. It could impact areas of Bermuda as early as Thursday afternoon. Right now, models suggest it will pass just west of Bermuda. But you'll notice, a cone of uncertainty still places of Bermuda on the right-hand side of this storm system.

Now, the rainfall amounts, we went from about 800 millimeters to the south, possible highest amounts here John, look to be closer to 250 millimeters mainly because the elevation across the Turks and Caicos at its highest about 50 meters versus several thousand meters in the mountains for the south.

So rainfall amounts are going to be a little bit less of a concern here but because it is such a low lying landscape, we know the storm surge threat to be very high -- one and a half to two meters for those coastal communities going to be hard hit is.

VAUSE: Pedram, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

For more information on how you can help those affected by Hurricane Fiona, please go to There you will find a list of verified organizations, ready to help you make a difference.


VAUSE: A major earthquake in western Mexico has left at least one person dead. Damaged buildings knocked out power across the region. The 7.7 magnitude quake struck near the coast line Monday and was felt as far away as Mexico City.

It coincided with the anniversary of two other powerful quakes. When in 1985, which killed thousands. Another 2017. Some Mexicans now believe this is a sign from God. And that September 19 is cursed.

Just ahead, a deadly bus crash in China has sparked widespread anger and (INAUDIBLE) criticism of Beijing's zero COVID policy. A lot more on that in a moment.


VAUSE: So according to Joe Biden, the pandemic is over. Here's the U.S. President speaking to "60 Minutes".


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We are still doing a lot of work on it. It is -- but the pandemic is over.


VAUSE: That sparked pushback from both sides of the aisles and White House aides have scrambled to contain the fallout. One saying there is no change in COVID policy. The public health emergency remains in place through at least October 13th.

But Republican leaders in Congress say the presidents remarks will make approval for additional COVID relief funding more difficult.

Joining us now is Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research. He is also a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine. Good to see you again.


VAUSE: Looking at the numbers, just the numbers. new cases continue to fall, the number of in hospital deaths is down dramatically from just over 15 percent when the delta variant was dominate. It's about 5 percent now with omicron.

The stock market certainly took notice of what the president said. Vaccine maker Moderna stocks dropped amid President Biden signaling an end to the COVID pandemic.

You know, all these factors which support a claim that the pandemic is done, the problem is it seems there is no internationally agreed to definition or criteria which sort of means it's open to interpretation.

TOPOL: Right John, well I think the best way to consider if we are going to have the pandemic pronounced as over, it would mean that we have contained the virus. And they would not have 400 to 500 Americans dying every day for the last six months. We wouldn't have millions of new infections each month. And we have absolutely no way to counter long COVID transmission infections.

We are not set now to get containment of the virus. The virus is just keeping its evolutionary arc. And it's getting more formidable. And we already know of some tough, tough variants on the horizon which are already in the United States, over the 1 percent level. They are going to grow exponentially.


VAUSE: Well, one thing is for certain is that the coronavirus is not going anywhere. This is from a CNN opinion piece.

"As we near the end of the third pandemic here, the accuracy of most prognostications have been dreadful. The coronavirus always seems to be several steps ahead of our understanding despite our best attempts.

And while we might have the upper hand right now in terms of, you know, vaccines and better treatments, how quickly could that change?

TOPOL: Well, the good part here is that we are in dissent of this really tough BA.5 win. We're going to have several weeks even a couple of months where it is going to be relatively quiescent.

But we know there is going to be another wave following this. The inevitability of these even more immunity evasive variants. We are staring at those right now. So our vaccines may not hold up as well against variants that are very different, very challenging.

And we aren't doing well on getting boosters, at least in Americans. We're half of the rate of boosters of every other rich country in the world here. And the most vulnerable people, people over age 50 only one in four have had a fourth shot, which is essential. It is life- saving, prevents hospitalizations and severe COVID.

So we are vulnerable, not in the next several weeks when things are looking favorable, it is after that. And we haven't gone after the things that could really secure the exit of the pandemic. Like the nasal vaccines. Like the (INAUDIBLE) virus vaccine. We are just not taking aggressive steps to get ahead of the virus. When we have the opportunity.

This is interesting, the W.H.O. boss -- the director general essentially said the pandemic was, or the end of the pandemic was in sight. Here he is.


THEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic.

We are not there yet. But, the end is in sight.


VAUSE: He added an extra element of caution there but talking about the pandemic in terms of winning a race or a wartime victory, is that appropriate in the sense that, you know, we probably need to learn to coexist with the virus, rather than defeating it all together.

TOPOL: Right, well there is not any uniform definition of what is the end of a pandemic, how is it defined. It's only really defined when you look backwards and say hey, we went several months and things were in good shape. We had some outbreaks but we did not lose a lot of people and we did have monstrous numbers of infections.

So you can't make the definition proclamation ahead of it. You have to achieve that.

The other thing, Dr. Thedros, who is I think right about the end is in sight. That could be a year from now. It is in sight, only because we have built an immunity wall from so many infections. So many vaccines and boosters.

Of course, as you mentioned, John we have better treatments than we had before. But, the key here is, to the point where we achieve containment, how many more people are going to get hurt? How many are going to suffer or die. That is what we should be doing. Just countering that, rather than just letting more bad things happen between now and whenever that phase is going to really achieve containment of the virus.

VAUSE: Good point to finish on. Thank you very much, Eric Topol.

TOPOL: Thank you John, always good to talk to you.

VAUSE: China's zero COVID policy was already causing anger and outrage. Now, after a bus crash with patients heading to a quarantine center killed 27 people. There is widespread outrage and lots of it is online.

CNN's Ivan Watson has more now from Hong Kong.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A deadly bus crash in southwestern China, sparking anger over the country's strict COVID policies.

The vehicle carrying dozens of residents from the city of Guiyang as well as their driver, seen dressed in a hazmat suit, to a faraway quarantine center.

Hours later, the bus overturns, killing at least 27 people and injuring at least 20. A worker later seen spraying disinfectant on the wreckage.

The bus departed the southwestern city of Guiyang shortly after midnight on Sunday. With the goal of reaching a quarantine center in remote Libo County (ph), located more than three hours drive away.

Authorities say the vehicle tumbled into a ravine at 2:40 am. raising the question, why was it so important to rush suspected close contacts of COVID patients, such a long distance, so late at night especially in a province where officially there've been only two deaths from COVID since the start of the pandemic.

The Chinese government is obsessed with eliminating all traces of COVID from the country. Locking down entire cities for weeks and even months.

Authorities confined nearly 2 million residents of the city of Guiyang in their homes, starting on September 2nd. Days later, trapped residents suffering from food shortages, voiced anger and frustration.


WATSON: Where is the communist party, one man yells. We've trusted the party and the government.

Things are worse in more remote areas. In the western Xinjiang region, a desperate mother films her children, sick with fever and complains that COVID restrictions prevent her from taking them to a hospital.

Recording of another call for help to the authorities in Xinjiang's capital. This from a gastric cancer survivor, who says he is dying from lack of food.

The man, who we won't name for his safety, shows CNN pictures of his empty refrigerator. He says he needs frequent small meals since doctors removed most of his stomach for cancer treatment and says that police detained and beat him, after he went out on the streets looking for food.

In the capital of Tibet this month, officials marched residents off to quarantine camps. The Chinese government sends suspected COVID cases en masse, to sprawling makeshift facilities where some complain of wretched conditions.

After Sunday's deadly bus crash, a deputy mayor apologized and promised an investigation into the accident. But even on China's heavily censored Internet, critics are chiming in.

What makes you think we won't be on a late night bus one day, one person writes. They have a point, while the rest of the world moves on from the pandemic, in China, there is no end to the campaign to eliminate COVID no matter the cost.

Ivan Watson, CNN -- Hong Kong.


VAUSE: We will take a short break. When we come, back the final farewell to Queen Elizabeth, a moving look at her last journey to Windsor Castle.


VAUSE: Britain's longest serving monarch has now been laid to rest after a nation in mourning came together to say farewell to Queen Elizabeth. Her final journey took her to Windsor Castle where she was buried next to her husband of 73 years at St. George's Cathedral.

A look now at the Queen's last journey home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's been our neighbor for 34 years. This is a really sad day. But it almost feels like she's coming home.


REV. DAVID CONNER, DEAN OF WINDSOR: We have come together to commit into the hands of God, the soul of his servant, Queen Elizabeth.

Here in St. George's Chapel, where she so often was. We are bound to call the line someone who's uncomplicated yet profound Christian faith bore so much fruit.

It has pleased Almighty God to take out of this transitory life unto his divine mercy the late most high, most mighty and most excellent monarch, Elizabeth II.


VAUSE: There was one uninvited guest which gained worldwide notoriety at the Queen's funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday. They were seen by some keen observers. The itsy-bitsy spire. Made it on top of the Queen's casket, coming across the card, for the flower bouquet (INAUDIBLE). And naturally all of this went viral on the web, dubbing the big royal spider. others calling it spider mom. One tweet called it the most famous spider in the world right now.

Why do we think it's still alive?

Another post suggested the spider was a good omen because spiders can symbolize patience, feminine power and ancient wisdom.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Spiders also eat flies which is a good thing.

I'll be back with another hour of news after a short break.