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Izium Residents Living in Freedom Without Resources; Ukrainians Outsmart Russians in War; Kremlin Denies Allegation of Torture; United Kingdom Bid Goodbye to Queen Elizabeth; U.S. Navy Mark Frerichs Freed Via Prisoner Swap; Sheriff Wants to Investigate How Migrants Were Lured; Hurricane Fiona Devastated Puerto Rico; Zero COVID Policy Killed 27 People in China. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, the Russian invaders may be gone, but life in newly liberated parts of Ukraine is far from easy. CNN goes inside a city where they don't have any electricity or running water.

A goodbye fit for a queen. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth has been laid to rest. So, what's next for the British monarchy.

And catastrophic damage. Hurricane Fiona tearing through Puerto Rico, leaving large parts of the island damaged and in the dark.

UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Thanks for being with us.

Ukraine's counteroffensive is pushing deeper into the Luhansk region while Ukrainian forces try to hold recent territorial gains. Ukrainian military leaders in Luhansk claim another village have been liberated. One official says it's a hard fight for every centimeter of land.

The Ukrainians say a Russian military base in a still occupied part of Luhansk was destroyed on Monday. And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his forces are digging in.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Meanwhile, Moscow is denying accusations of war crimes in areas where its soldiers retreated. The Kremlin claims the alleged evidence of torture found in a mass grave near Izium is a lie. Ukrainian authorities said Monday, they exhumed more than 140 bodies, two of them children.

Meanwhile, new video from the Ukrainian 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 street.

Ukrainians in newly liberated towns are adjusting to their freedom after months of Russian occupation.

CNN's Ben Wedeman spoke with residents of Izium about coping with the daily struggles of life after liberation.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Help arrives in Izium bags of barley meal, tins of food. Waiting her turn, Ineza (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: We've got half of a year, six months without any help. You can understand what -- what do they -- what just imagine what do they feel?

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

Lubav (Ph) and her daughter, Angela (Ph) 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 a house Russian soldiers commandeered. Bread crumbs still on the table. Insects make a meal of fruit half 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. What does she think of him?

"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.


CHURCH: Colonel Cedric Leighton is a CNN military analyst and he joins me now from Washington. Thank you, sir, for being with us.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: And it's a pleasure, Rosemary. Good to be with.

CHURCH: I do want to start by getting your assessment of the current battle of Ukrainian troops to retake the cities of Lyman, Lysychansk, and ultimately, Severodonetsk as their counter offensive pushes on in the east of the country. How do you think it's progressing right now?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think, Rosemary, it's progressing quite well from the Ukrainian viewpoint because they have moved very quickly. And even when we think they're going to take an operational pause, they seem to be moving forward anyways, and that's, that's a major achievement.

Because we don't think that the Ukrainians have an extensive logistical tale. And we also don't, you know, know them for a large and extensive armed force, especially compared to the Russian armed force. But it's very clear that what they've been able to do is not only employ their forces in a very adept manner, but also, they've been able to bring those forces to bear where they needed to use them in a way that has actually been quite creative.

So, I think it's going well for the Ukrainians so far. There are obviously some issues that, they may have in terms of weapons resupply, and logistical issues. But from an overall perspective, they're doing quite well.

CHURCH: And Russia, apparently, has no reserves left as Ukrainian troops surround Lyman and make advances in the east. How is it even possible that the Russian military, which outmans and outguns, the Ukrainian military has failed so miserably and made so many mistakes?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think that's one of the biggest surprises of this conflict, Rosemary. When you look at the paper quality of the different forces and you compare them side by side, in some categories the Russians have as many as 10 to one advantage, including personnel, including some armaments, and, it is quite surprising that they haven't actually brought the forces that they have on paper to bear in this fight.

It's quite frankly, you know, from my standpoint, a waste of manpower, a waste of personnel, a waste of weapon systems and material. And it's in essence, a real disaster from that standpoint. On the other hand, the Ukrainians have been able to use their resources quite wisely. And, that has of course proven itself on the battlefield, especially when it comes to this counter offensive. CHURCH: Yes. I mean, that is a situation, isn't it? Russia has surprised people by its failures. Ukraine has surprised everyone by its successes. And how do you think they have achieved that so quickly, certainly in the last couple of weeks? And do you think they can maintain that momentum?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think it's going to be difficult for them to maintain the momentum, but it's not impossible. The reason that they've achieved this is multifaceted. On the one hand, what they've been doing, the Ukrainians, is they've been able to give their non- commissioned officer corps, their sergeants, a lot of authority at the tactical level. And that means a lot.

That means that they can improvise on the fly. They have also from a logistical perspective, been able to use equipment to reuse Russian equipment that they've captured. They've been able to jerry rig old Soviet equipment that happens to be in their possession. They have also been able to use some western equipment in rather unique ways.

And they're doing things like repurposing normal commercial and even personal vehicles, such as station wagons, and I guess we call them caravans, as well as trucks like Toyotas for the purposes of, you know, arming them with the machine guns and things like that.

So, it's been quite, you know, interesting to see how quickly, they've adapted. So, I would say the Ukrainian military force has been quite adaptive. They also use intelligence quite well, and they've been able to shoot down, I think at last count about 55 Russian aircraft using various means.

And that is pretty extensive, you know, damage to the Russian air force. And that really means that the Ukrainians while they don't completely own the sky, they at least have made it impossible for the Russians to do that.

CHURCH: It certainly has been stunning watching Ukrainian advances. If they continue in this way, what could this ultimately mean for Russia do you think? And how do you see this ending?


LEIGHTON: Well, for Russia, I think Rosemary, it's going to be a really difficult situation. Militarily, they have not achieved any of the goals that they've set for themselves. I, and as far as the Ukrainians are concerned, I think if they recapture the territory that they've lost since February of this year when the invasion started, that could mean that they would have a very strong bargaining position at any potential peace negotiations that look right now as if they're a long way off, but eventually they're going to happen.

So, it's going to be very important for the Ukrainians to gain as much territory or regain as much territory as possible. And I think they have the capacity to do that.

CHURCH: Colonel Cedric Leighton, always a pleasure to get your military analysis. Many thanks. LEIGHTON: You bet, Rosemary. Always a pleasure.

CHURCH: Well, Ukrainian forces are uncovering horrors as they liberate more towns in the east from months of Russian occupation. A former Ukrainian soldier says he was held prisoner here where Russian forces tortured him. He says he was interrogated, given electric shock, and shot.

This after Ukraine says it found at least 10 torture rooms in other parts of the country recently liberated from Russian occupation. And as authorities exhume bodies from a mass burial site near Izium, Ukraine's prosecutor general says Russia is repeating the atrocities seen in Bucha.


ANDRIY KOSTIN, UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL: The main response is that what Russians did in Bucha and 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 -- the same, how to say it, the same tortures.


KOSTIN: The same rapes and the same people killed.


CHURCH: CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me now live from London. So, Clare, how is Russia responding to these claims of torture chambers in newly liberated parts of the country?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary denial and deflection, literally just like you heard from the Ukrainian prosecutor general, comparing it to the situation in Bucha, but when Russia does that, they are repeating what they said about Bucha was, which is that they believe that the allegations are a lie and that they will defend the truth, were the words of Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson.

I think, look, what we saw with Bucha was really a sort of deflection designed for the digital age, where you see images of what happened multiply. And Russia can't really pretend that nothing happened at all. So, they started to talk about how the images were fake and were staged while presenting no evidence. That that was starting to see signs of that as well with what happened in Izium.

But look, they are on the back foot here. Zelenskyy talked about panic among the Russians in his address on Monday night. There is -- there are signs of that. We heard from the Russian-backed head of the Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, who called for his counterpart in Luhansk to urgently, sort of, join forces to bring about a referendum on joining Russia.

That speaks to concern in the Russian side that the Ukrainian advance is really sort of gaining momentum here and taking shape in the Donbas, which is of course the area that Russia has stated that it wants to take control over as part of what it still calls its special military operation, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Clare, the U.K.'s new prime minister, Liz Truss has announced her plan for military spending to help Ukraine in 2023. What is she vowing to do?

SEBASTIAN: Continuing along the lines of her predecessor, Boris Johnson, Rosemary, she has, has promised to meet or exceed the amount of aid pledge to Ukraine in 2022. In 2023, she says that this will be a sign that the U.K. will continue to be right behind Ukraine. Your security is our security, were her words.

She plans to outline this in her address to the United Nations general assembly at this Thursday. So clearly, look, Ukraine's western allies have seen the difference that these weapons have made on the battlefield. Just like we saw the atrocities with Bucha were a turning point in the war when it came to sanctions and the provision of weapons from Ukraine's western allies.

I think, what we're seeing come out of Izium as Ukraine retakes territory there will spur on more actions. We're seeing signs in the U.S. as well that senators are getting behind. An idea by the Biden administration to attach more aid to Ukraine as part of a new, sort of, interim budget resolution there.

So, all of this is coalescing, and as we go into the U.N. general assembly this week, I think we might hear certainly more, sort of, requests from Ukraine's president for weapons and more western allies, rallying behind them.


CHURCH: All right, Clare Sebastian, joining us live from London. Many thanks.

A new era is dawning in Britain and the Commonwealth after the funeral of long-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. She was laid to rest at Windsor Castle on Monday alongside her late father, mother, sister, and husband.

During the committal service, her reign came to a symbolic end as her crown was removed from her coffin and placed on an altar.

Several members of the royal family were there including her son and heir King Charles III. He was also by his mother's side as her procession moved to Windsor from London where thousands of mourners lining the streets to pay their respects.

Britain's prime minister honored the queen by reading from the bible.


LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In my father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would've 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, their ye may be also.


CHURCH: Monday's state funeral was a mix of mourning, reflection and royal pageantry.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo reports 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.

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.

Around 2,000 people attended the funeral with politicians and leaders from home and abroad coming to pay their respects.

JUSTIN WELBY, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY: 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 been so well kept.

NOBILO: 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. At 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.


CHURCH: And we want to get more now from CNN's Scott McClean in London and Nada Bashir in Windsor. Good to see you, both.

Scott, I want to start with you. And so many memorable moments on a most solemn day, and you had an opportunity to talk with so many people in attendance. What were they telling you? What were they saying?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rosemary. Yes. So, technically the royal mourning period is going to go on for another seven days. And for everyone else, this is the day when life carries on.


The 36 kilometers of barricades around the city will be taken down. Of course, stores will reopen, people will go back to work. The flights will be back on time. But it is difficult to understate the impact that this event has had on this country.

As you said, I've been talking to people for the last 10 days or so. And I've been struck by a couple of things. First, just how far people have come for this event. I'm not talking about people who came here on vacation and just happened to be here. I'm talking about people who booked a flight when they heard the news about Queen Elizabeth's passing and came from the United States, Canada, South Africa, the list goes on and on.

I've also been struck by the volume of people. You look at the crowds of people lining the procession route here in London and in Windsor yesterday. And it is absolutely jam packed in the so-called line of duty or the Elizabeth line that we've seen over the last few days of people lining up to pay their respects to the coffin of Queen Elizabeth.

I interviewed last Wednesday people whose wrist, numbered wristbands were in the single digits or the double digits. And then just yesterday, I interviewed people whose wristbands were 243,000. So just a huge volume of people.

And what I found really remarkable is the number of people who were genuinely, who felt some genuine emotion after filing past the coffin of the queen. For instance, I met the last two women to file past the coffin and here's what one of them told me afterwards when I asked her how it was.


Astonishing, absolutely astonishing. And as we went through the snake, it just got more emotional and more emotional and it built up. And the realization of not seeing her again, not having her around sunk in. And then when I went up and I bowed, I didn't want to leave. I kept turning around to look again just one more time.


MCLEAN: So, Rosemary, now that the Elizabethan era has come to an end, people are now having to get used to the Carolean era, the reign of King Charles III. And of course, this is a man who is older than his mother was when she took the throne who comes with some more baggage. People know him better than they knew her when she became the queen.

And, if you consult recent polls, he is also far less popular than his mother was or even her -- his son, William, Prince William is, the prince of Wales. And so, I -- he has that to overcome. But from speaking to people over the last few days, there are some people who, of course wish that the crown would pass directly to William.

But the vast majority of people that I met said that, look, in seeing King Charles over the last 10 days since the death of his mother, he looks like a king and he's presenting himself as a king as he goes about his duties. So, for the vast majority of people, they think that the monarchy will be just fine.

CHURCH: Yes. There's still quite an adjustment for many people there. And Nada, as the royal family in the world's most powerful leaders gathered in London for Queen Elizabeth II funeral, how significant was it for the funeral to end in Windsor and for the queen to be laid to rest there?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Rosemary. It was extremely significant and it was remarkable to see the pageantry, the tradition and the history coming to this town. This is of course, a place that was deeply dear to the queen and to the royal family. It's a place where she spent much of her time later on in life. It's somewhere that has now become home to this prince and princess of Wales and their children as well.

And many people in this town will tell you they had become accustomed to seeing members of the royal family in this local area, including the queen. And of course, her late husband, Prince Philip, the duke of Edinburg.

So, this was a place that was deeply personal to the royal family. And it is of course, her -- the queen's final resting place. She was buried yesterday alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, her parents, and her sister. And of course, this is someone that many people visit to get a chance to really see the history of the royal family.

When we saw that yesterday, the pageantry and the tradition, thousands lining the streets of the long walk leading up to Winsor Castle for a chance to catch a glimpse of that procession. We spoke to so many people who have been queuing up overnight even for that chance to see the procession.

Many tourists coming in, people from across the globe, people from across the country. But we also spoke to dozens of people who are local to this area and spoke of the importance that the royal family has in this town. The significance that they hold many said that they felt like they were seeing neighbors when they saw members of the royal family.

So, it is deeply significant. We've seen people coming to this town to leave flowers on the side of the castle just behind me. The barriers are still up. Although the crowds have now gone home. And as Scott said, the country is now getting back to normal. It is moving on. But for this town, they will remember the queen as being a central part of Windsor's identity.


CHURCH: And Nada, I mean, there has to be said that people there have been incredibly respectful, but no doubt, a cleanup operation is underway. Talk to us about that.

BASHIR: Yes, I have to say it is pretty cleaned up already. It seems very orderly. The -- we've seen stewards and volunteers already on the streets. There is somewhat of a police presence on the ground. Because of course this was a large-scale security operation, not only in Windsor, but also in London, of course, thousands and thousands of people descending on London and Windsor for a chance to pay their respects to be part of this moment of history.

And of course, thousands of volunteers of stewards and metropolitan police officers and others, police services on the ground, as well as ambulance staff and healthcare workers on hand to support those who had come yesterday to pay their respects.

We've seen very early on in the morning, of course, people lining the streets taking part in that cleanup operation. That is looking as though it is almost complete. Although the barriers are still up. The Union flags are still hanging in the air, of course today.

This is a moment that many will remember for time to come. But of course, there was also a significant media presence here in Windsor and across London. There was lots of infrastructure being built to support that media coverage.

So, this town is still getting back to normal, but they'll be seeing a lot of work underway today and tomorrow trying to get the city, the town back to the state of normality. But of course, for the castle behind me there will be many tourists still visiting, hoping to be a part of this movement of history.

CHURCH: Of course. Nada Bashir joining us live from Windsor. Many thanks.

Time for sure break. But when we come back, a prisoner exchange with the Taliban has a U.S. Navy veteran on his way home from Afghanistan.

Plus, a Texas sheriff announces an investigation into the flights that took dozens of Venezuelan migrants to a resort island in Massachusetts.

We're back with that and more in just a moment.


CHURCH: At least five people have reportedly been killed in protests in Iran over the suspicious death of a young woman while in police custody. A human rights group monitoring the event says they were shot and killed by security forces.

The protest started over the weekend after Mahsa Amini was arrested by the morality police then died in custody. Police deny witness reports that the 22-year-old was beaten inside their van. State media released an edited video of a Amini collapsing at a reeducation center where police say she had a heart attack.

Demonstrations have spread across Iran over the past few days in one video shared by the Free Union of Iranian Workers, protestors marched through the streets chanting death to the dictator.


U.S. Navy veteran Mark Frerichs is a free man after spending the past 31 months in captivity in Afghanistan.



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: 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 convicted drug trafficker Bashir Noorzai, a prominent member of the Taliban.

CNN's Kylie Atwood has details.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: 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 drugs trafficker who was serving time in U.S. prison.

And according to us 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 moved forward to green light that release, which then led to the release of Mark Frerichs.

Now Frerichs himself is currently on his way to Germany. He's 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 who are held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: A Texas sheriff has opened an investigation into the flights which carried 48 Venezuelan migrants to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Javier Salazar says he's been told one of the migrants was paid to recruit others from a center in San Antonio. They were flown to Florida then onto Massachusetts where they were dropped off on the wealthy resort island.


JAVIER SALAZAR, SHERIFF, BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS: I believe that they were preyed upon, somebody came from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with promises of a better life, which is what they were absolutely looking for.

And with the knowledge that they were going to clinging to whatever hope they could, they could be offered for a better life, to just be exploited and hoodwinked into making this trip to Florida and then onward to Martha's Vineyard, for what I believe to be nothing more than political posturing.


CHURCH: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claims credit for the flights paid for with taxpayer money. He says the migrants signed consent forms, got maps of Martha's Vineyard and were treated very well.

We still to come, hurricane Fiona may have moved on but rain in Puerto Rico continues to make recovery difficult. How the territory is coping in the storm's aftermath.



CHURCH: Hurricane Fiona has now grown to a category three as it barrels towards Turks and Caicos. The storm is sustaining winds of 115 miles per hour, and gusts even more powerful after leaving its mark on the Dominican Republic. Heavy rains and strong winds rip through cities, destroying buildings and homes. More than one million people are without running water in the Dominican Republic. And officials say, it's too soon to know the exact number of power outages. It's only a glimpse of the power of this storm. That's expected to get even stronger through the week.

And our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has been keeping a very close eye on this. So, Pedram, what are you seeing? Where's this storm now?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Rosemary, you know, this storm system has everything it takes, all conditions that are going to be conducive for development. As you noted here, pushing in towards the Turks and Caicos the Cochran town region, which is the capital of Turks and Caicos. On that eastern periphery of the islands, that is where about 5,000 people live. And that is certainly where the brunt of this storm kind of moving through this region.

One hundred fifteen mile per hour sustained wind. So, we're talking about 180 kilometers per hour, gusting to about 130 miles per hour. Well, over 200 kilometer per hour wind gusts here. And notice the hurricane warnings that have been prompted across the eastern periphery of the Turks and Caicos.

And the storm system is a quick mover. Still producing quite a bit of heavy rainfall just to its south across portions of western Puerto Rico, eastern areas of the Dominican Republic still seen a few flood alerts that have been left in place here. And that's after over 30 inches or 800 millimeters of rainfall came down in a matter of last 24 or so hours.

Ninety percent of the island still remains in the dark here, but the system is quickly on the move. And again, the Turks and Caicos, especially on the eastern islands there going to be most severely impacted by this storm system. And then very quickly, all conditions, environmental conditions are conducive for this system to strengthen into a category four. Some models taking it into a high-end category four before they bring it in very close to Bermuda sometime Thursday morning. And eventually, the Thursday afternoon evening makes that close run possibly on the Western periphery.

Some models want to bring it closer. The majority of the models want to keep it west of the islands. If that remains the case, this will be essentially a fish storm once we get past the areas of Turks and Caicos. But you'll notice, quite a bit of time left before we get to the stage.

Now, when it comes to rainfall, we talked about 30 inches coming down across these southern areas in Puerto Rico. An additional 10 inches could fall across areas of Turks and Caicos. And of course, This region is a far more flat landscape than what we saw a little farther towards the south. So, the storm surge threat becomes really the primary concern here with one and a half to two-and-a-half-meter storm surge across parts of the Turks and Caicos.

Now, anytime you get a storm surge that gets up above say, one-meter pushes up close to two meters. You're going to have water encroach on some of those first-floor areas of communities. And that is the concern here for any coastal communities with a storm surge of this magnitude. Flooding will certainly take place.

And you'll notice, a very broad wind field with the storm system as it skirts in past Bermuda sometimes Thursday. So, we do expect at least indirect impacts with the storm system, Rosemary, once we get to Thursday afternoon across Bermuda.

CHURCH: All right. Thank you so much for keeping such a close eye on all of that. Pedram Javaheri, I appreciate it.

Well, at least two people have died in Puerto Rico as a result of hurricane Fiona. The National Guard says more than 1,000 people have been rescued from the life-threatening flood waters since the storm made landfall on Sunday. But even though the hurricane has passed, the rain continues to fall. Only a third of the territory was -- were -- has working water services and much of Puerto Rico is still without power.

Jon Najarian is the co-founder of and he joins me now from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thank you so much for talking with us at this very difficult time.

JON NAJARIAN, CO-FOUNDER, MARKETREBELLION.COM: Thank you, Rosemary. Yes, you're right. It is difficult. I've been spared much of the difficulty because I've been up here in San Juan, but I've driven around the island a little bit and certainly seen some of the devastation up close.

CHURCH: So, talk to us about what you're seeing there, just in terms of the extent of damage and of course, current conditions on the island.

NAJARIAN: Well, now the southwest side of the island is where they really got pounded hard. That's where the storm more or less just down by Ponce and then up towards Rincon on the western side of the island. That is the closest that the -- the heart of the storm got to the island and the rest of it was really what they call, I guess, the eye wall. I'd never heard that term before, but that's what a lot of the island got.


And since Puerto Rico was created by these tectonic plates, Rosemary, that smashed into each other and created these very large mountains in the middle, you've got 4,200 foot El Yunque right in the middle of the island.

And of course, it can be something that storms rebound off of, but it can also be something that if the storms just dump rain, which this one did, it can be devastating because that rain is coming down nearly a mile through the jungle, and picking up speed as it goes down the mountain.

And I think it was the Rio Grande, one of the rivers that's normally like a creek, that went up by 16 feet in just one hour. So, that gives you an idea of how devastating it must be to be on the receiving end of that.

CHURCH: Absolutely.

NAJARIAN: Luckily that was not here in San Juan.

CHURCH: Yes. And of course, as you've been talking with us, we've been looking at those images of flooding. I mean, it is just devastating, isn't it, for so many people as you say, particularly in the southwest. And U.S. President Biden acted swiftly issuing an emergency declaration for the island of Puerto Rico. What will that mean in terms of getting help to those most in need and ultimately, restoring power to most of the residents there?

NAJARIAN: Right. Well, you nailed it, Rosemary. The power went out on the entire island yesterday that was Sunday at about noon, I'm going to say it went out completely. And it's been coming back a little bit here and there about 100,000 homes at a time have been turned on. They don't want to overload the grid all at once, but they're definitely better prepared now than they were prior. But still, this is an island that is feeling the aftermath of Maria and several other large storms, even this year that weren't named storms but dropped an awful lot of water and water can be one of the biggest problems. Obviously, high winds are a huge problem. But the flooding you get from the water is something that -- this is my first hurricane, Rosemary. So that was one of the things I was very shocked by.

CHURCH: And you would say that that flooding the water, I mean, that is probably the biggest challenge right now, isn't it, for residents?

NAJARIAN: Yes, because it carries so much junk with it. And it overwhelms the sewers and the ability to process the water. So, a lot of places, quite frankly, on the island, even in the more affluent areas are running out of water. And so of course, when a storm like that is hitting, they say, fill your bathtubs up with water. That's going to be mainly used for dishes and or for flushing your toilet, quite frankly, not for your drinking.

But a lot of places have been running out of water because the plants that normally would be sending water and taking desalination process and sending that out to residents are not able to when all the electricity is down. And that's why it's so important to get the grid back up, at least for those emergency responders so that they can keep helping people out in these areas.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. And of course, we do understand that there are about 400 FEMA officials on the island. Are you seeing that help? Certainly not what -- I'm guessing they're going to be concentrated in

the southwest. You wouldn't be seeing much of that where you are.

NAJARIAN: No. We see a very large police presence. They're driving down the streets with their lights on. They're not doing that to keep people off the streets, but they seem to be just, sort of, driving through and making sure people are avoiding underpasses that would flood when the water hits.

Because in the past, quite frankly, there have been situations like that where you don't really know how deep the water is under a particular bridge or overpass. And then people try to go through it and get carried away. And in some cases, have died. So, in this case, the police are being proactive and trying to keep people away from those areas. So, they don't try to make a silly decision when they don't know how deep that water is.

CHURCH: Yes. Very dangerous situation right now, people do need to take care. Jon Najarian, thank you so much for talking with us. I appreciate it.

NAJARIAN: Thank you, Rosemary. Have a great night.


CHURCH: And for our viewers who want to help those affected by hurricane Fiona, you can go to, and you'll find a list of verified organizations ready to help you make a difference. Do take a look.

A major earthquake in western Mexico has left at least one person dead with buildings damaged and power knocked out around the region. The 7.7 magnitude quake struck near the coastline Monday, but was felt as far away as Mexico City.

And coincidentally, this happened on the same date as two other powerful quakes in Mexico. One in 1985, which killed thousands and another deadly one in 2017. Some Mexicans see it as a sign from God and now believe September 19th is cursed.

Well, just ahead, a deadly bus crash in China has sparked widespread anger and stinging criticism of Beijing's zero policy. We'll have a live report.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, there is renewed anger over China's strict zero COVID policy after a bus transporting people to a quarantine facility in the middle of the night crashed into a ravine killing 27 of those on board.

And CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us now from Hong Kong with more on this. So, Kristie, this tragic bus crash has sparked this fury over China's tough pandemic policy. What is the latest reaction? How are officials responding to this?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Rosemary, this deadly quarantine bus crash has ignited anger across China over China's punishing zero COVID policy sensors in China have been racing to try to cover up the outrage. And yet, one hash tag linked to the incident managed to generate over 450 million views.

So, this is what happened. On Sunday, a bus carrying residents of Guiyang City taking them to a far-flung remote COVID 19 quarantine facility crashed in the middle of the night, 27 people were killed. If you could look closely at the first image on your screen that you see there will bring back to you, the one of the busses taken at night. And you see up close there you have it, the driver wearing full Hazmat suit.

The driver's entire body is covered except for the eyes. And then we bring up the second photo. In that photo you see just the crushed wreckage of the bus and bizarrely there is an anti-pandemic worker spraying disinfectant on the wreckage. An investigation into the cause is still underway. I want you to listen to this from the deputy mayor of Guiyang City.


LIN GANG, DEPUTY MAYOR, GUIYANG CITY (through translator): The rescue work at site has completed. Treatment for the injured is underway and we are looking to properly handle the aftermath of the accident. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LU STOUT: Now the crash has sparked a huge outcry over China's increasingly over-the-top implementation of its top zero COVID policy.


There has been anger in Guiyang City in the province of Guizhou. Anger in more remote areas of China that have been under COVID-19 lockdown, including Xinjiang and Tibet. Anger in Chengdu as well. Chengdu of course, is the capital of Sichuan province, a mega city home to 21 million people who have been subjected to a citywide lockdown for over two weeks. That is only now beginning to wind down.

Now in the wake of the deadly quarantine bus crash, I would like to share this post on Sina Weibo that went viral on social media in China. The Chinese netizens writes this. Quote, "what makes you think that you won't be on that late night bus one day?" That post picked up more than 250,000 likes before it too was scrubbed off the internet in China.

And yet another netizen commented this, quote, "we're all on the bus. We just haven't crashed yet."

Back to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: It is just chilling, isn't it?


CHURCH: And Kristie, you are there in Hong Kong and that's where they also have first strict zero COVID policy in place. And local media are reporting the city plans to lift hotel quarantine. What are you hearing about that?

LU STOUT: Yes, local media, including the South China Morning Post are reporting that Hong Kong officials have reached a consensus about ending hotel quarantine and replacing it with a seven-day home surveillance program, which would be very welcome news for the citizens here.

Look, at its peak, Hong Kong had a 21-day mandatory hotel quarantine order. So, all new arrivals had to spend 21 days in the government designated quarantine hotel before they were allowed into the city. That was eased down to seven days last week, it was eased from seven days to four days with an additional three days of this home medical surveillance.

And now, we're just waiting with bated breath for an official announcement the end to Hong Kong's hotel quarantine regime. We'll see. Back to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. We will. Kristie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong, many thanks.

And still to come, how Queen Elizabeth's death has renewed questions over the future of the British Commonwealth and monarchy.

You're watching CNN Newsroom. We're back in just a moment.


CHURCH: Britain's longest reigning monarch has now been laid to rest after a nation in mourning came together to bid a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth. The queen's final journey took her to Windsor Castle where she was interred together with her husband of 73 years at St. George's Chapel. Crowds lined the road to see the queen's coffin pass by for the last time at her state funeral in London.

The royal family was joined by dignitaries from around the world for the somber service at Westminster Abbey, where they gathered to honor and pay tribute to the queen.

Meanwhile, the future of the British Commonwealth is once again in the spotlight. It's comprised of 56 countries around the world with a combined population of two and a half billion people. But the queen's death has renewed questions about whether the time has come for some countries to abandon the Commonwealth and forge a new path as independent republics.

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 pulled together the Commonwealth of nations.

DON MCKINNON, FORMER NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: 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: 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: But the challenges will come fast. Antigua and Barbados prime minister says within three years they'll vote on becoming a Republic. Barbados 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 empire's ugly legacy, the slave trade has grown a voice that won't accept a whitewash past. What binds the modern era, Commonwealth, sports, business, culture, shared values, but even New Zealand and it's apparently, loyal royal subjects may be straining to uncouple now that 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 our own right and we should be debating that.

ROBERTSON: 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, KING OF UNITED KINGDOM: I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many.

ROBERTSON: As the queen managed change, so will he rise or fall the Commonwealth in his hands now.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


CHURCH: And thanks so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with another hour of CNN Newsroom after a short break. You're watching CNN. Do stay with us.