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Global Stocks in the Red After SVB Collapse; Winter Storm Continues to Pummel Flooded California Counties; China Plays Mediator To The Middle East, Strengthen Ties with Russia. Three Leaders Met In The U.S. to Formalize AUKUS Submarine Plan; ICC to Open Two War Cases More Than a Year After the Russia-Ukraine Invasion. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 14, 2023 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us the United States and around the world. You're watching "CNN Newsroom", and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, winter storms bearing down on both coasts in the U.S. One system could leave a foot or more of snow in parts of the northeast. Well another atmospheric river is set to dump rain on already flooded parts of California.

Plus, after the biggest U.S. Bank failure since 2008, regional banks fear a broader financial crises as their stocks tumble.

And former U.S. President Donald Trump in Iowa, taking swings at Republican rivals just days away from a potential indictment.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is "CNN Newsroom" with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us. And we begin here in the United States, where confidence in regional banks remains shaky despite assurances from President Joe Biden that America's banking system is safe. Monday was a volatile day on Wall Street as shares of dozens of regional banks plunged to record lows following the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Mr. Biden promised to do quote, "whatever is needed to protect the U.S. banking system." He also promised to hold those responsible for the collapse fully accountable.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The management of these banks will be fired. If the bank is taken over by FDIC, the people running the bank should not work there anymore. Third, investors in the banks will not be protected. They knowingly took a risk and when the risk didn't pay off, investors lose their money. That is how capitalism works.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me now live from London. Good morning to you, Clare. So, how are global markets reacting to news of two failing banks, and of course, now the government measures in place to calm nerves?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Rosemary, I think it is fair to say that those soothing words from President Biden have not calmed the situation on global markets. European markets were down, the main one some 3 percent yesterday. I think that we can take a look how they are opening this hour. It looks like we haven't got the new number yet but we can check back on that.

But I can tell you that in Asia we did see some fallout, particularly in Japan where the Nikkei was dragged down by some of the country's biggest banks which we saw a sharp falls in the region of some 7 percent.

In some cases now, this is not about to deposit. This is not about a run on Japanese banks. This is about the situation that got SVB into the situation that it ended up in its huge interest rate hedge.

Japan is also a major holder of U.S. government treasuries and those big banks in Japan are now having to reprice their estimation of where there is treasury yielded should have come up sharply in the past couple of years. Its interest rates have risen of where they are going to go in the future.

Now, the questions are being raised and markets are pricing and perhaps a slower path of interest rate rises from the front. This is a macroeconomic issue that we are not dealing with alongside the banking issue in the United States.

And speaking of interest rate in the Feds today -- in the U.S. rather today, we'll bring U.S. CPI inflation number, a key part, obviously, of the calculus for the Federal Reserve. That will be closely watched and could bring some more marketable volatility. I think we can look at U.S. futures they're coming up a little bit today, not too much volatility. It looks like certainly when we get those settings.

CHURCH: Absolutely. Clare Sebastian, Many thanks for that roundup, appreciate it.

From coast to coast, major storm systems set to pummel California and the U.S. Northeast. Out west, the Golden State was already dealing with major flooding. Some 30 million people across California are under flood watches. And on the other side of the country, a major nor'easter is expected to cover New England and parts of New York in snow. Millions of people were under winter alerts ahead of the storm.

Days ago, U.S. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in more than 30 California counties. That includes Monterey County on the central coast where officials are warning that rising waters from the Salinas River could cut off the Monterrey peninsula from the west of the state.

[03:05:01] Some 5,000 residents there were under evacuation alerts on Monday, and that number could rise.

In Massachusetts, a local energy official says wind is among the biggest threats to residents of the state. Boston is under a winter weather advisory beginning a few hours from now. In New Jersey, the government declared a State of Emergency in five counties, which could receive significant snowfall. The back-end of the storm could bring potentially damaging wind gusts from today into Wednesday with possible power outages. A state police official has urged residents to stay off the roads.

Our meteorologist Britley Ritz has the latest forecast. So, Britley, what are you seeing?

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Light to moderate rain right now, Rosemary, coming in to the California coastline. Most of the rain concentrating from Central to Northern California, but this is expected to pick up later on into the morning and especially through the afternoon, one to two inches possible, widespread, isolated higher amounts. If you look at the legend there, the yellow and orange, you'll see it in Northern California and especially along the southern coastline. We could pick up four to six inches of rain through Wednesday, part of the reason why we still have a moderate risk for flooding especially on the northern coastline Monday overnight. But into Tuesday, we have the high risk of the southern foothills in that fuchsia color, and along the southern coastline of California, as well.

So these are areas that are most vulnerable, especially as we get up to 5,000 feet or lower. When we get all of this rain to push on the shore, which is expected Tuesday morning 6 o'clock local time, and then that's on top of the melting snow. So, we have catastrophic flooding within these locations. The rain doesn't really taper back until we get into, let's say, Wednesday as it starts to push farther east. So, all of Tuesday, we'll be going to be inundated with rain.

Now, that first A.R. that happened earlier on, all that moisture has tied in with this nor'easter that's really starting to work its way in. Some of that heavier snow already falling in the interior New England, like the Berkshires. This is just going to be an ongoing process, through the morning and into the afternoon, where the heaviest snow expected through the Catskills as well as the Adirondaks.

And these are areas that can be picked up to two to three feet of snow, and some of the snowfall rates expected two to three inches per hour. So, widespread power outages is a possibility with that heavy, wet snow, tying in with wind gusts of 40 to 60 miles per hour into Tuesday afternoon. And that shifts further north as we roll into Wednesday.

So it's an ongoing situation over the next 24 hours where we are expected to be dealing with travel concerns. We're already starting to see delays in places like Boston and the airports. So, if you're traveling, it's one of the things to keep an eye out for, the delays, and I'd say just stay indoors, if you can Rosemary.


RITZ: It's going to be cold anyway.

CHURCH: Very good advice. Britley Ritz, many thanks.

Joining me now, Nicholas Pasculli, is the County Communications director for Monterey County, California. Appreciate you being with us.


CHURCH: So bad weather across parts of California has been relentless. And now, more rain and flooding is on the way. What's your biggest concern with the Salinas River and any flooding threat it may pose to the Monterey peninsula and surrounding area?

PASCULLI: Yes. We are concerned with the Salinas River. It has over top last night already, and it has flooded some local streets and has approached some neighborhoods in and around the Salinas area.

Of course, there's a lot of agricultural land that the water from the river is draining into. And so, we are concerned for the agriculture industry, as well.

CHURCH: And what about the current situation with the Pajaro River levee breach? What do residents need to be doing right now to say stay safe in that area?

PASCULLI: Well, the Pajaro community is still under a mandatory evacuation order because there is still water in the community. The community is very much inundated with water, although the water is receding, which is good news.

So, we would need to do a damage assessment. And we need to go and look at the safety conditions in the community before we were able to allow to go back to their homes. As you know, water damage is -- can bring around some very serious health and safety issues.

CHURCH: Yeah. That is critical. You mention the evacuation order. There are others currently in place across the region. And are residents for the most part complying to the evacuation orders?

PASCULLI: These storms have been very unpredictable. And the rivers in this case, the Pajaro River and the Salinas River, have been behaving unpredictably as well.


So, residents are patient. Of course, they are concerned and anxious to get back to their homes and to get their lives back to normal. Our hearts go out to all the people have been impacted by this.

And the town of Pajaro, roughly (inaudible) and are not in their homes. And that is heartbreaking for us, and we want to do everything we can to normalize their lives and get them back to where they belong.

CHURCH: Where can residents find the closest emergency shelters if they have to evacuate?

PASCULLI: We have a shelter in Watsonville, which is the adjoining community to Pajaro, which happens to be in Santa Cruz County at the Santa Cruz County fairgrounds. We also have a shelter in Castorville. A lot of folks who do not go to shelters are staying with family or if they have the means or go to hotels or motels and wait the system out.

CHURCH: Nicholas Pasculli, thank you so much for talking with us. And we wish your county and others all the best as they deal with this just incredibly relentless bad weather that keep coming. Thank you so much.

PASCULLI: Thank you for shining a spotlight on it.

CHURCH: The leaders of the U.S., U.K, and Australia gather in California to talk about China and make a big announcement about submarines. We'll have a live report.




CHURCH: It is been a busy stretch in Beijing with China flexing its power on multiple fronts. It's just a wrapped up a huge political event, the National People's Congress, with the president vowing to build the Chinese military into a Great Wall of Steel. Meanwhile, China has been playing mediator in the Middle East while building stronger ties with Russia, and taking swipes at the United States.

CNN's Selina Wang explains.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chinese leader Xi Jinping vows to build the country's military into a Great Wall of Steel in his first speech of his unprecedented third term as President. But the biggest applause from the rubber-stamp parliament came after Xi repeated the pledge to unite Taiwan with the motherland. It marks the end of a week long political meeting that saw Xi further consolidate his power and drive home how China needs to fortify itself against America's campaign to contain the country.

Less than a day after the speech, U.S. President Joe Biden hosting British and Australian leaders to discuss details of the new AUKUS defense pact that is seen as a bid to counter China in the pacific.

China's new foreign minister Qin Gang has accused Washington of plotting an Asia-Pacific version of NATO, and called America's China strategy a reckless gamble. But Li Qiang tried striking a more conciliatory tone in his first

press conference as premier, China's number two official. Li said that U.S. And China decoupling is hype, pointing out that trade between the two countries reached a record high last year.

One of Xi's most trusted proteges, Li is the former Shanghai Party boss that oversaw the city's brutal two-month COVID lockdown last spring. He tried downplaying Beijing's crackdown on tech and private businesses, calling on officials to support private sector growth.

But Li steps into premiership with a tough road ahead, the economy, still battered after three years of tough COVID restrictions, U.S. sanctions, and deteriorating diplomatic relations with the west. But China's economic and political powers are growing elsewhere. Beijing hosted talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran that led to a breakthrough. The two nations agree to bury the hatchet and restore ties. It's a geopolitical win amid growing concerns of Beijing's deepening ties with Russia, and refusal to call the conflict in Ukraine an invasion.

ALFRED WU, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, LEE KUAN YEW SCHOOL OF PUBIC POLICY: Xi Jinping makes it very clear that he wants to restore China's position. China will play a leadership role in the international arena. So, I will say that Xi Jinping tried to learn from Putin to consolidate his power. So, he sees Russia and also Putin leadership as a role model. Their leadership is too deep.

WANG (voice-over): But Beijing is trying to use that relationship to build the narrative that Xi Jinping is a global problem solver, one who calls the shots at home and abroad.

Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


CHURCH: A closer look now at the Australian, U.S. and U.K. plan for a new Indo-Pacific submarine fleet. The three AUKUS leaders met in San Diego Monday, announcing details of a deal which would see Australia gain its first nuclear-powered subs. This long term three-way partnership is made to deter Chinese naval dominance in the region. The U.S. president stressed that the agreement will not produce any nuclear armed sums, only nuclear powered ones.

So, let us bring in CNN's Kristie Lu Stout. She joins us live from Hong Kong. Good to see you, Kristie. So, the only problem with this, of course, is that those subs are a long time coming right there? What more we learn about this?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the deliveries not expected until early next decade. And we are monitoring the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing that is underway right now for any fresh comment to this AUKUS submarine deal. But already, China has repeatedly expressed its firm opposition to the deal, a deal that is widely seen, not just in China, but widely seen as a move to counter China, and it's move from military dominance in the pacific.


What you have these leaders of the U.S., U.K. and Australia, they jointly unveiled this very ambitious plan to launch a new fleet of advanced nuclear-powered submarines. And under this deal starting early next decade, Australia will receive at least three advanced submarines.

In the meantime, an agreement was struck that U.S. Submarines, including the USS Missouri will be allowed to rotate through Australian ports. We heard earlier from the prime minister of Australia, and he declared this a historic deal. Listen to this.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The AUKUS agreement we confirmed here in San Diego represents the biggest single investment in Australia's defense capabilities in all of our history.


LU STOUT: Now, AUKUS officials, they do emphasize that these are nuclear power submarines. It would not be carrying any weapons -- nuclear weapons on board. But Thursday, that was when we last heard from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs official in Beijing, again, reiterating the displeasure, the opposition to the deal.

This is what we heard from Mao Ning, saying this quote, "We urge the U.S., the U.K. and Australia to abandon the cold war and zero-sum game mentality to faithfully fulfill their international obligations and engage in efforts conducive to peace and stability in the region," unquote.

This deal is widely seen to further inflame tensions with China. Australia has said though that it offered a briefing to Chinese counterparts to talk to them about the nature of the AUKUS submarine deal, but no word on whether China accepted the offer.

Back to you, Rosemarie.

CHURCH: And Kristie, looming over this deal, the increasingly tense U.S. relationship with China, what are U.S. officials saying about the state of relations and will it be a Biden-Xi phone call to address that you think?

LU STOUT: Yeah, we've heard interesting comments overnight from the national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who said that there could be a phone call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden, especially now that the China's National Peoples Congress has wrapped up, and a new slate of political elite are in place.

Now, no date has been established it for this potential Xi-Biden call. But President Biden has indicated a willingness for such a call, and this comes at a time when tensions between the U.S. and China have reached a new level, especially last week when we heard those comments from Xi Jinping directly accusing the United States and its allies of containment or trying to contain China. We also heard comments from Qin Gang, the new Foreign Minister of China, blaming the U.S. for the frayed relationship between these two great superpowers. U.S. officials have also acknowledged that type of rhetoric is the most direct rhetoric they've heard so far. Back to you.

CHURCH: All right. Kristie Lu Stout, joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea of its east coast. South Korea's military strongly condemned the launches, calling them a grave provocation, threatening the region's peace and security. The U.S. says the missiles did not pose an immediate threat to its territory for it's allies.

Still to come, the International Criminal Court is reportedly planning to open two war crimes cases related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Plus living in a war zone, we will hear from Ukrainians in Kupyansk on why they're refusing to evacuate even as Russian forces move closer. We're back in just a moment.




CHURCH: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country's future is now being decided on the battlefield in Eastern Ukraine. The city of Bakhmut is among those on the front lines where one deputy commander describes a tense situation and nonstop fighting at close quarters. Ukraine says that Russian forces are doing everything they can to advance in Bakhmut as they try to encircle the city. Mr. Zelenskyy thanked those defending their positions in fighting to save their country from Russian aggression.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): The situation in east is just very tough and very painful. We need to destroy the enemy's military power and we will, Vilhorivka, (ph) and Marinka, Avdiivka, and Bakhmut, Vuhledar and Kamianka, and all other places for our future that is been decided, ehere our future, the future of all Ukrainians is being fought for.


CHURCH: For the first time since the invasion of Ukraine began more than a year ago, Russian officials could be facing war crimes charges. "Reuters" and "The New York Times" report the International Criminal Court is planning to open two cases, and issue arrest warrants for several people. One case will focus on Russia's unrelenting attacks on civilian infrastructure; the second, centering on the alleged abduction of Ukrainian children from Russia. And CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is following developments. She joins us live

this hour from London. Good Morning to you, Salma. So, what more are you learning about these ICC plans?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Rosemary. So, the International Criminal Court planning to open to war crimes cases against Russia, tied, of course, to its invasion of Ukraine. This would be the first international charges brought against Russia since the start of this conflict.


It is very significant here and something that Ukraine, Kyiv has been asking for some time.

Now, what is going to happen next is that the chief prosecutor of the ICC is going to present evidence to a pretrial panel of judges. That panel of judges will determine whether or not the chief prosecutor has enough evidence to go ahead with these cases, to issue arrest warrants or whether he needs to go back and get more evidence to meet that required threshold.

Now, the chief prosecutor was in Ukraine just last month, digging into the two cases that the ICC is looking to bring forward. The first is a case, as you mentioned, regarding the abduction of children. So, Ukraine alleges that hundreds of Ukrainian children have been forcefully deported to Russia, put in education camps, used in propaganda videos.

Russia does not necessarily deny this, Rosemary. In fact, we've seen these propaganda videos and propaganda events, even with President Putin in attendance alongside these allegedly abducted children being used again as political pawns, as propaganda tools. This is a very poignant case that will mean a great deal to Ukrainians.

The second case is around the targeting of civilian infrastructure. We've seen a great deal of this, Rosemary, right? Massive barrages of missiles that seem to occur on rather a regular basis. That target the electricity grids, water supplies, essentially infrastructure that makes daily life possible in Ukrainian cities, even in Kyiv, even in Lviv, even in places that aren't actually where the fighting is taking place. That was another matter that the chief prosecutor is on the ground last month, to collect evidence around.

And again, this is something that Kyiv has been looking for since the beginning of this conflict, really. You will remember the horrific Bucha massacre. Very soon after that, there were investigators on the ground. That scene has been repeated. Any time there is a major attack against civilians, any time there is a major incident, you find investigators, Ukrainian investigators, on the ground collecting evidence.

That -- and here's the catch: These with the ICC can take many, many years. It is highly, highly, highly unlikely, of course, that Russia would hand over any alleged criminals to the ICC. So, it makes it mostly that this could be a largely symbolic, if any justice is served, a largely symbolic justice served after many, many long years. Rosemary?


CHURCH: All right, Salma Abdelaziz bringing us that live report from London, many thanks.

Kupiansk in Eastern Ukraine is also being hit with relentless Russian attacks prompting an urgent effort to evacuate more civilians. Still, hundreds are choosing to remain in the city that Ukrainian troops took back just months ago during a counteroffensive.

CNN's Melissa Bell has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what the war has left of Kupiansk, a city in Eastern Ukraine that the front line has never strayed far from.

The police called by a civilian who found this. A cache of Russian ammunition. Six months after they were driven out, Russian forces now less than five miles away.

You hear those explosions, says the police chief. Those are rockets flying towards the civilian population. People here are suffering.

Yet, overcoming the human instinct to run, (INAUDIBLE) and her husband refused to leave. Artillery destroyed their neighbor's house a month ago, narrowly missing them.

That noise.

The worst, she explains, is at night. So, she and her husband hold hands. It keeps them safe. This is their home, she says, not the Russians. Besides, she says, it is getting warmer now. With the rain water they collect in buckets, they will survive.

Kupiansk was one of the most strategic (INAUDIBLE) of Ukraine's four counteroffensives, but at huge costs. Now, with Russian forces closing in again, civilians are being evacuated to safer parts. Residents leaving Kupiansk and its neighboring villages with not much more than their keys, a heavy heart, and the hope they will return.

Those left surviving as best they can, a city of around 27,000 now reduced to two and a half thousand, according to local police.

(On camera): It is because the main market in the center of Kupiansk has been entirely destroyed that this makeshift one has been created. The last couple of days, we are hearing, have been a little bit quieter, and that is why people are selling what they can while they can.

[03:35:05] (Voice-over): Of course, we are afraid, says (INAUDIBLE), who says she now knows the sound of artillery, both outgoing and incoming.

We won't go anywhere, she explains. We are not (INAUDIBLE). We will not abandon our city. If we do, who will take over?

The last civilians of Kupiansk determined, like some of its buildings, not to be blown away by the shifting winds of this brutal war.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Kupiansk.


CHURCH: Donald Trump is on the campaign trail, dishing out bile and blame for his expected 2024 Republican rivals. Before a stop in Iowa, Trump told reporters his vice president, Mike Pence, was to blame in many ways for the U.S. Capitol insurrection. He also took aim at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who visited Iowa on Friday.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ron DeSantis. Did anyone ever hear of DeSanctis, DeSanctimonious? Ron was a disciple of Paul Ryan, who is a rhino loser, who currently is destroying Fox. Ron reminds me a lot of Mitt Romney.


CHURCH: Meantime, his attorney says Trump will not appear before a New York grand jury investigating alleged hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. But his former personal attorney did testify.

CNN's Kara Scannell has details.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former President Donald Trump's one-time fixer, Michael Cohen, testified for three hours on Monday before a grand jury hearing evidence about Trump's alleged role in a hush payment scheme. Cohen's attorney said that Cohen will return on Wednesday to continue testimony. Our cameras caught up with Michael Cohen as he was entering the prosecutor's office. Take a listen to what he said.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: This is not revenge. Right? What this is, is about accountability. I don't want to see anyone, including Donald Trump, indicted, prosecuted, convicted, incarcerated simply because I fundamentally disagree with them. This is all about accountability. He needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds.

SCANNELL: Sources tell CNN that prosecutors are weighing charges against Trump for falsifying business records and falsifying business records to conceal or commit another crime. In this case, campaign finance laws. On "Good Morning America," Trump attorney, Joe Tacopina, said no crime was committed. This was a personal payment to stop embarrassing allegations from being made public.

JOE TACOPINA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: He made this with personal funds to prevent something coming out false, but embarrassing to himself, his family, his young son. That is not a campaign finance violation. Not by any stretch. So personal funds and personal use of funds.

Spending to fulfill a commitment and obligation on expense of a person that would be existing irrespective of a campaign is not a violation, and that is what you have here.

SCANNELL: Tacopina told CNN on Monday that Trump would not appear before the grand jury after prosecutors extended an invitation to Trump, something that is required under New York law. These are all signs that the historic decision of whether to charge the former president is expected soon.

Kara Scannell, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Just ahead, a state of disaster is declared in Malawi after Cyclone Freddy devastates parts of the country. We will have a live report from the region.




CHURCH: Malawi has declared a state of disaster in the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy. The storm hit Southern Africa again over the weekend, killing at least 99 people in Malawi alone. Deaths have also been reported in neighboring Mozambique.

A police official in Malawi told CNN that the storm has flooded roads and triggered blackouts in the worst-hit areas.

CNN's Larry Madowo is following the storm and its aftermath. He joins me live from Nairobi, Kenya. So, Larry, what more are you learning about the situation in Malawi right now?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, tropical Cyclone Freddy is on track to be the longest running tropical cyclone in history, according to the World Meteorological Organization. And to understand how we got to this situation in Malawi, we got to start where it made landfall again over the weekend in Mozambique with the rains of up to 148 kilometers per hour. About 22,000 people have been affected in Mozambique, especially the central Zambezia region, which is where it made landfall again.

Because this cyclone did something that is very rare, it did a loop around and made landfall a second time, this time in Mozambique, and then made its way upward into Malawi. These are two neighboring countries that suffered a lot of these tropical cyclones, but nothing quite like this has ever been seen, according to all the people that live around there, the government officials, and even residents.

Roads have been uprooted. There have been mudslides in many of these places there. There are still people who are trapped under the rubble, under some of these homes that have been submerged. So, the numbers could increase.

Because the 99 number that we're talking about is just from Malawi alone, when we combine the people who have been affected in Mozambique, in Madagascar, the number is well over 100. Those numbers are still something that is going on because search and rescue operations are going on in several of those countries.

But the minister of health in Malawi said that they're almost overwhelmed by just the impact of this cyclone and how many people are showing up in hospitals. Listen.



KHUMBIZE KANDODO CHIPONDA, MALAWI HEALTH MINISTER: We're doing our best to manage the situation because we're receiving (INAUDIBLE) like every five minutes. We're almost overwhelmed. But we're very fortunate that we have erected these tents last year due to COVID. But now, we have them to cater for this crisis that has befallen on us.


MADOWO: What an extraordinary situation. The tents that were erected for COVID now addressing those who are coming in to hospitals because of the impact of tropical Cyclone Freddy.

And this is especially bad for Malawi. It has already been suffering its worst cholera outbreak in years. More than 10,500 people have died because of the cholera outbreak. And this will make that worse because hospital facilities are strained. People don't have the best places to live. The situation is getting well out of hand. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right, Larry Madowo, keeping a very close eye on situation in Malawi from his vantage point in Nairobi, many thanks.

Young text savvy professionals are increasingly falling victim to cyber scams. Across Asia, there is a growing number of people who thought that they were traveling for high-paying jobs but instead were forced to work as cyber criminals.

For CNN's "My Freedom Day," Kristie Lu Stout takes a look at the growing human trafficking trend that's targeting new unsuspecting victims of modern-day slavery.


STOUT (voice-over): Maybe you've seen one before a friendly text from stranger that could be the beginning of a cyber scam.

LU XIANGRI, TRAFFICKED BY CYBER-SCAMMERS (through translator): These cyber scam companies are doing all kinds of scamming. The first company I went to was looking for Chinese people. They are tricking them to invest.

LU STOUT (voice-over): Lu Xiangri worked as a cyber scammer in Cambodia against his will. He was lured to (INAUDIBLE) with the promise of a management job, only to be held captive, forced to work as a cybercriminal.

XIANGRI (through translator): More than a dozen security guards were out there with guns. We were not even allowed to step out of the door.

LU STOUT (on camera): We spoke to people from Bangladesh, China, and Taiwan who all say that they were trafficked by cyber scam companies and they all share a similar account. They were lured by a dream job, forced to scam with fake identities, and some even sold from company to company.

MINA CHIANG, FOUNDER, HUMANITY RESEARCH CONSULTANCY: All of them are mostly educated because to conduct scams, it is very different from other kind of a job that you just need labor.

LU STOUT: According to the International Labor Organization, 50 million people worldwide are now enslaved, up 25% from the last estimate in 2016. Experts says cyber scam traffickers have exploited unemployment from the COVID-19 pandemic to lure tens of thousands of people.

PATRICIA HO, PRINCIPAL LAW LECTURER, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: Taking advantage of joblessness was one thing. But also taking advantage of the fact that people really wanted to travel. So, the idea that you could travel somewhere for a job project was something that was quite exciting for many.

LU STOUT (voice-over): China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam have all issued warnings about high salary job offers from Cambodia. Hong Kong authorities are warning travelers at the airport of scams and have set up a dedicated task force for victims. But many victims are too afraid for to ask for help.

HO: We have to find ways to encourage them to go to the authorities. Giving them immunity from prosecution isn't -- it's an absolute necessity.

LU STOUT (voice-over): Cambodia has acknowledged that foreign nationals have been trafficked by cyber scammers and carried out high- profile rates. But activists say many large-scale operations are still running.

CHIANG: It is still ongoing. I mean, they are very (INAUDIBLE) showcasing to the international community but it was nothing compared with the whole scale.

LU STOUT (voice-over): Lu managed to escape when he contacted local officials. He became a volunteer rescuer, determined to help others avoid his fate.

(On camera) And what is your message to people who think this would never happen to me?

XIANGRI (Through translator): You can earn $20,000 for one person you scam. Many would be willing to do it even if it means selling their relatives and friends.

LU STOUT (voice-over): Lu is one of the lucky ones. Activists say thousands of others remain captive, trapped by a dream job that turned into a nightmare.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


CHURCH: One of many shocking stories. You can join CNN this Thursday for the 2023 "My Freedom Day" and tell us what freedom means to you. Share your message on social media using the hashtag "My Freedom Day."

And still to come, an Oscar for "Navalny." We will hear from the daughter of the jail criminal critic after a CNN documentary about his live wins at the Academy Awards.



CHURCH: It seems jailed Russian opposition activist Alexey Navalny knows all about the Oscar win for the CNN documentary based on his life. The film "Navalny," which explored the plot to kill the outspoken Kremlin critic, won the Oscar for best documentary feature at Sunday night's Academy Awards. His daughter spoke earlier with CNN's Erin Burnett.


DASHA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S DAUGHTER: He knows that we won an Oscar. It's crazy to say out loud. But I am sure that he is incredibly happy.


As you know, from watching the documentary, he wanted this movie to be a thriller-like documentary. And us getting the Oscar and our incredible film team receiving this amazing award, this shows that this an incredible documentary that anyone should be proud of.


CHURCH: Navalny is currently serving a nine-year sentence at a maximum- security prison east of Moscow.

And more people tuned in this year to see that and all the other winners from Sunday. This year's Academy Awards average nearly 19 million viewers. That's a 12% increase from the previous year. The show also held its own against the season finale of HBO's hit "The Last of Us." In 2021, the Oscars dipped to an all-time low of only 10.5 million viewers.

And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Have yourself a wonderful day. "CNN Newsroom" continues with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo, next.