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More Than 2,000 People Dead After Morocco Earthquake; Biden On His Way To Vietnam For High-Level Talks; Ukraine Condemns G20's Final Declaration As Inadequate; Biden & Other Leaders Pay Respects At Gandhi Memorial; American Coco Gauff Wins Her First Tennis Grand Slam; Rescue Mission Underway To Save American Caver In Turkey. Aired 1-2 am ET

Aired September 10, 2023 - 01:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. We're following two major stories for you this hour. The devastation in Morocco with more than 2,000 dead and a frantic search for survivors now underway after that powerful earthquake rocked the country.

Also the G20 summit wrapped up in India, but as world leaders prepared to head home, how much did they actually accomplish? We're live in New Delhi with the latest.

But we begin in Morocco where three days of mourning have been declared after more than 2,000 people were killed in the country's deadliest earthquake in decades.

Emergency teams have been desperately combing through the rubble of collapsed buildings to search for survivors. Some of the worst hit areas are remote villages on the foothills of the high Atlas Mountains.

Survivors there say they're in desperate need of life-saving aid and basic supplies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are living in a crisis situation. We ask that King Mohammed VI intervenes and sends us some help because we are living through a traumatizing situation that people don't have electricity. They have nothing to eat or drink, no bread, nothing.


HOLMES: Now as local residents struggle to cope with the disaster, many tourists are now leaving the country and returning home to safety. Some of them have spoken about the devastation they saw before they left Morocco.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was in my room and suddenly my bed was lifted up and I started running. The walls came down next to me. I have some pictures. It's unbelievable. The walls next to us in the hotel collapsed. You could hear people screaming. It was horrible. Two girls who were at the hotel with us died. So it was a double shock for us.


HOLMES: And we'll get more details now from CNN's Sam Kiley, who's in Marrakesh.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Marocco's King Mohammed has declared three days of national mourning here in Marrakesh and that is because his country has been completely devastated by an extraordinary earthquake totally unexpected in cities like this, Marrakesh.

This has been the scene here in the Medina, the most ancient part of this ancient city. Here a building clearly ripped away by this earthquake but the scenes have been even worse in the interior of the country where one woman who was trapped for some 12 hours was pulled from rubble in a remote village.

Now there are 13 people dead here in Marrakesh across the country more than 1300 people have died and the authorities here expect those numbers to climb with some rapidity. Their problem though is getting out into the areas that are worst affected.

The epicenter is about 45 miles south of Marrakesh but the areas that have been really badly devastated according to the local authorities have been villages in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. These are villages that aerial photographs have already showed have been completely flattened with one or two houses remaining looking as if they've been built on scree.

That scree, that rubble was once villages and is in those areas where the authorities are most concerned that the numbers of casualties of the dead and injured will climb. But of course the other problem for the authorities is that getting to these locations is really going to be very, very difficult because they're saying large numbers of the roads, the communication networks have been severed by this earthquake which is completely unanticipated.

No locals I've spoken to here in Marrakesh can remember any history of earthquakes. Here elsewhere in the country yes but here they say they'd never experienced a no-tail, no history they say of any kind of earthquake. But this is the result. Bedsteads, bedding, carpets left hanging over the edge of walls that have been utterly sliced away as this ancient city has been rebuilt over the last few decades. Enormous amount of effort has been put into the reconstruction of Marrakesh particularly here in the Medina, one of the prides of Morocco, very much a tourist destination but also a location of one of the king's major palaces.

It is very much the cultural center for many Moroccans and this is what this latest earthquake has done. Sam Kiley, CNN in Marrakesh.



HOLMES: Benjamin Brown is a CNN researcher who joins me now by phone from Marrakesh. Thanks Ben for doing so. We spoke this time yesterday just after the earthquake struck, 24 hours later. What have you been seeing over the course of that time?

BENJAMIN BROWN, CNN RESEARCHER: The scenes in Marrakesh are really, obviously, quite heartbreaking when we look at the material damage but also personal injury. And at the same time, they're also feeling that some parts of the town are getting a sense of normality back.

It's really, there's really a split in the city. If you look into the old town, the Medina, it resembles a ghost town in large parts, residents have actually blocked off parts of the city because it's too dangerous, a lot of rubble.

But if you're in the newer suburbs of Marrakesh, you see that there's a sense of people tempting to return to normality. That obviously is in stark contrast to the scene that we're seeing outside of Marrakesh.

I was at a hospital yesterday where people were being brought in from these rural areas and then the emergency operation was very much still ongoing. So Marrakesh at the minute kind of stuck between these two realities of the safer, more modern areas that haven't been struck as hard. In some cases, haven't no damage visible at all. And the old city that's been in parts flattened.

HOLMES: And much of the damage and we're looking at some of it now from outside of Marrakesh. And some of it just devastating. What are you hearing about that and what the Moroccan government is doing for these people? Because a lot of the roads and infrastructure getting into this place is being damaged?

BROWN: Yeah, that's -- that's a conversation we were having as well yesterday at a hospital where people had been -- were only being brought in us into -- into tomorrow's noon and then after that even. Many people at the hospital of Marrakesh the emergency unit we were at, weren't actually from Marrakesh. The victims from here or those injured had been treated. But it was then mainly those people who had been affected in the rural areas freed by the rubble and then transported there in this massive ongoing rescue operation who were being seen to.

So, in terms of the -- in terms of the response it seems to be a very much ongoing -- ongoing operation. And many of the people that we that we saw in here was very, very bad injuries outside this hospital and had obviously been stuck under rubble in some cases for hours. We spoke to people who had family members still remaining under the rubble, some hopeful. One woman we spoke to said that her husband and her daughter were stuck under the rubble and she said she had no hope. So heartbreaking scene that's like this hospital obviously as the news comes in from the rural area but the rescue operation there still continuing.

HOLMES: Yeah, we appreciate the reporting you've done for us over the last 24 hours. Benjamin Brown in Marrakesh, thanks so much.

Now, the U.S. Geological Survey says the powerful quake struck at a relatively shallow depth and that made it more destructive. It had a magnitude of 6.8, that means it's classified as a, "strong quake." More than two million people felt strong shaking when it hit and a powerful aftershock was felt nearly 20 minutes later. The U.S. Geological Survey warns there could be more aftershocks in the coming days and weeks.

And joining me now from Golden Colorado is David Wald. He's a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. It's good to see you again. And let's talk about that. What is the potential when it comes to those aftershocks? I know it's impossible to be specific, but in general, how many could there be? How strong and for how long?

DAVID WALD, USGS RESEARCH GEOPHYSICIST: Good to see you again, Michael. The aftershock sequence has been pretty light. We can only record earthquakes around four and larger, and there's only been one to date, a magnitude 4.9, shortly after the main shock.

But you'd expect to feel many, many earthquakes over the next few weeks. And we certainly could have a smaller chance of comparable size earthquakes in the magnitude 5 to 6 range.

HOLMES: Morocco has had earthquakes before but it's not common so speak to how unusual or not is a magnitude of this type in that part of the world?

WALD: Well, there have been several fairly deadly earthquakes, as you reported, in 1960 over 12,000 people were killed. And that was a small earthquake. And then in 2004, there was a considerable fatality of 600 fatalities, about also in Morocco.

So it's not unusual. It's just that it's few and far between. In this case, it's really not the size of the earthquake. It's really what the population is exposed to the shaking.


So in this case, Marrakesh was shaken, but it was certainly spared the strongest shaking, which really struck the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and the mountainous towns themselves. And that's where the building problem comes into place, because the rural areas have the weakest structures, the informal construction that we can talk about.

HOLMES: Yeah, because, you know, it makes you wonder, even in Marrakesh, I mean, it's curious how, and we'll talk about the rural areas in a moment, but these -- some of these structures that have been around sometimes for centuries, how do they then fail in a single earthquake? What are the factors that would, you know, factor into that?

WALD: Well, it's interesting because the ones that failed are the ones you notice, of course, but many are still standing. And so there's a randomness to it, which ones are still around after centuries is somewhat random.

But in general, buildings in Morocco are not built with standard earthquakes. And that's more so true in the rural areas than in the urban areas. There have been building codes introduced after those earthquakes that I mentioned earlier, but they only apply really to new buildings and engineered buildings that go into urban areas and they don't apply to retrofitting over buildings, particularly in the rural areas.

HOLMES: Yeah, is there much that can be done in historic cities with old buildings to be prepared in a structural sense? I mean retrofitting presumably would be out of the question.

WALD: Yeah, that's right. It's not the question, it's just an expensive proposition, and there's so many competing interests. But really, what we talk about for historical areas is the inherited vulnerability. The newer buildings are going to do well if they're built to code. But you inherit centuries of buildings that are there that can be destroyed in a single earthquake if they're not retrofit or slowly replaced. And in a historical area, they're very slow to replace these structures.

HOLMES: Yeah, and as you were saying, the hardest hit areas are going to be those rural zones. And I was reading about those today. I mean, a lot of them are just built out of earth and many of them built by the owners or local tradesmen, not in any sort of way with, you know, plans and regulations and so on, right?

WALD: Exactly. And so it's local materials. It's materials that are handy. It's not done by professionals. So there's no architect or engineer or professional masons that are involved. And they use the local materials, which are really good for typically mud brick and adobe.

They're really good for keeping in the -- keeping out the heat and keeping out the cold. They're very heavy and they're good for thermal insulation. But when they do collapse, they're so heavy that they tend to be more fatal than other types of construction like wood frame structures in other parts of the world.

HOLMES: It's good to get your expertise on this, David. David Wald, thanks so much for being with us again. Thank you.

WALD: My pleasure.

HOLMES: And for more information about how you can help victims of the Morocco earthquake, go to Plenty of resources there that have been vetted, trustworthy organizations that you can contribute to if you so wish. President Biden has wrapped up his visit to India at the G20 summit.

Now he's travelling to Vietnam. But before taking off for Hanoi, he and other G20 leaders took part in a week-laying ceremony at the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi. We'll have a live report from New Delhi coming up.

Also more on the devastating earthquake in Morocco, why some are choosing to sleep outside instead of returning to homes?



HOLMES: U.S. President Joe Biden on his way to Vietnam right now, having wrapped up his participation at the G20 summit in India. Earlier, he and other G20 leaders paid their respects at the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi.

That was the place where the independence leader's body was cremated. The G20 leaders took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the site.

Now, the just concluded G20 did manage a final declaration after a lot of diplomatic wrangling, but Ukraine not happy with the language regarding the war, saying it fell far short of condemning Russia's aggression.

Let's turn to Kevin Liptak, who joins me now from New Delhi. And yeah, the last declaration in Bali was stronger than this one. It was a watered-down statement, didn't even mention Ukraine or Russia, but was it a case of better something than nothing?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, I think it certainly was heading in to the summit. It was not a foregone conclusion that the leaders would be able to come up with a consensus document, particularly pertaining to Ukraine. Because remember, this is a block that not only includes Russia, which is the perpetrator of this war, but a number of other countries who haven't taken as firm a stance as the United States or the West, including the summit's host, India, which maintains a relationship with Moscow.

And these statements always do tend to reflect the proclivities of the host nation. And so over the course of those diplomatic discussions, the Indians say it was 300 hours of talks, 15 different drafts that they went through. They were able to come up with this section on Ukraine, but it does not explicitly condemn Russia's invasion. It doesn't actually mention Russia by name at all. And it is short of what I think the Western nations of this block would themselves come up with.

Now, the White House has been satisfied with it. They call this a consequential statement about the conflict in Ukraine. That was the word that the U.S. National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, used.

And they make the point that this builds on the declaration from Bali and that it also includes all of these other important facets, things like debt restructuring in the developing world, admitting the African Union to the G20 for the first time. A number of other accomplishments that came along with this summit.

But certainly the divides of the G20 still very much on display here in New Delhi. The absence of the Chinese and Russian leaders, perhaps most explicitly showing you that this is a block at a fractured moment. And certainly President Biden didn't necessarily paper over those divisions while he is here, but certainly looking at openings to talk to the developing world, talking to poor nations and really kind of reiterating that the U.S. remains a reliable partner, Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah, indeed. We just saw images of Joe Biden getting ready to leave on Air Force One. He's heading to Vietnam, a country with close ties to Russia and China. What's going to be the aim of that trip?

LIPTAK: Well, certainly the President is going there. And the centerpiece of this will be an elevation of the U.S. relationship to Vietnam. Currently, the U.S. is kind of at the lowest rung of diplomatic relations with that country. They are elevating it to the top rung, and that's notable because the other countries in that stature are Russia and China. And this is a trip that is meant to sort of counter a Beijing's influence in this region.

Hanoi certainly right in China's backyard there, and it sort of represents the full evolution of American influence in that country. Of course, it was a wartime rival. There were decades of a trade embargo, and now relations are sort of coming back, really putting that era to rest. And that's no small part because of China's growing aggressions in the region, economic aggressions, military aggressions.


And what President Biden is trying to do is provide a counterbalance to those aggressions, not necessarily forcing Vietnam to choose between the United States and China, sort of realizing that there's no way that Vietnam could sever ties to Beijing entirely, but certainly providing an alternative.

You see him doing this in other nations in the region as well, including here in India, but also in the Philippines, trying to bolster relationships with the most stalwart American allies in Japan and South Korea, really trying to extend American influence in a region at a very fraught moment for Asia. Michael.

HOLMES: All right, great wrap up there. Kevin, thanks so much. Kevin Liptak there in New Delhi for us.

Now back home in the U.S., there was a political showdown in Iowa at the state's biggest football rivalry game. Several Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, showed up to court voters. CNN's Kyung Lah has the story.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Ames, Iowa today all about college football, the big rivalry game between Iowa State and University of Iowa. But for the presidential candidates running in this first of the nation caucus state, it is for them a political opportunity. Both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis were at this game. Both sat inside the stadium, DeSantis sitting with the crowds, sitting beside Iowa's popular Republican governor, and Donald Trump sat in a box, a stadium box.

I want you to listen as what the crowd was saying, how they looked as the former president left the stadium.


LAH: You can hear the chanting. You can hear the loud applause. This is imagery that the Trump campaign certainly wants Iowa voters to see. Now ahead of all of this going inside the stadium, both DeSantis and Trump were tailgating.

Trump stopped at a tailgating party hosted by a fraternity. We saw him flipping burgers, signing footballs, even tossing some of those footballs into the crowd. Ron DeSantis also was tailgating, but he focused his comments on the political, saying that he's visited the state of Iowa more times than Trump, far more times. A total of eight visits, and that he has visited more than half of Iowa's 99 counties.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm actually starting to hear a lot of people saying, because you're showing up, I'm supporting you, because that's the way you got to do it. Iowans don't want the campaign to be about the past, or to be about the candidates' issues. They want it to be about their future, and the future of this country. And that's what I represent.

LAH: More than 60 ,000 were at this game today. A game again focused on football. A lot of students say they sure did enjoy the spectacle of it, but it was really the game that was their emphasis. And as far as the end score, Iowa topping Iowa State 20 to 13. Kyung Lah, CNN, Ames, Iowa.


HOLMES: Plenty more to come on the program, including more on the devastating earthquake in Morocco, how authorities are responding to the disaster and what the country needs to recover. And quite the celebration at the U.S. Open as American tennis phenom 19-year-old Coco Gauff won her first ever grand slam singles title and did it on home soil. We'll have the full story from Arthur Ashe when we come back.



HOLMES: More now on our top story this hour, authorities in Morocco say more than 2000 people have been killed in the country's deadliest earthquake in decades. The tremor completely ravaged remote villages on the foothills of the high Atlas Mountains. Many survivors lost their homes and need shelter urgently. Others who still have a place to live are hesitant to go back inside. Fearing their houses could be brought down in another earthquake. So many people are now sleeping outside with their families.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My kids were afraid. I couldn't lead them to go to work. So I stayed with them. I remained by their side. But when it comes to food, the shops have closed their doors. Here we are enduring hunger and thirst. And we pray to God that things will improve.


HOLMES: And Stephanie Busari, CNN's Senior Editor for Africa. She joins me now live from Lagos in Nigeria. Stephanie, these first few days after an event like this are critical. What is the status of rescue and aid operations, as we know?

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, AFRICA: Yes, it's really a race against time for rescuers to try to reach trapped victims. Many of them in the remote mountain villages where the epicenter of this quake really hit the hardest and access to those roads, to those mountain villages has been difficult.

People telling CNN that the roads are blocked by debris and so far we know that more than 2,000 people have died and more than 1,400 people critically injured and that number will rise as rescuers struggle to try to dig through the rubble of these high atlas mountain homes and so it's a really tough situation that the authorities are facing and we've been speaking to people on the ground who have been telling CNN what they've been witnessing. Take listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People talking about like a lot of building that collapse in the Medina. And it happens just down this road too. And when you go like further and further, there is a lot of damage that happens to a lot of buildings. Some of them are mosques, some of them are houses. A lot of communities got hurt. Balla (ph) is one of the poorest areas in the city. And those people need help like food, water, blankets, whatever, whatever you can help.


BUSARI: So Michael, as you have there, these people are desperately in need of medical support and humanitarian assistance. Marrakesh is actually one of the largest cities near the center of this earthquake, and that is more accessible.

And we're hearing that people, and that attracts large amounts of tourists and people are sleeping on the streets because they're too afraid to sleep in their homes. Michael.

HOLMES: Morocco, as far as we know, Morocco hasn't officially asked for international help, although offers have been pouring in. Is that likely to happen? How equipped is Morocco to handle this without outside assistance? BUSARI: It will be virtually impossible. They will need all the help

they can get. I mean, this is one of the world's biggest tourist attractions, but it is actually quite a poor country. And they will need all the aid that has been pouring in from around the world. The authorities appear to be assessing the situation, which is one of the worst earthquakes in the country for six decades.


So they've not had to deal with something on this scale for quite a large number of times. So they will need all the help that's pouring in. The U.N. has offered search and rescue support and humanitarian efforts. The World Bank has also pledged its full support, as have global leaders all around the world. So it appears that the government is assessing. There's no sign that they will not respond and accept this offer of aid. But they are assessing the situation and trying to really get to those people who are trapped in the buildings, Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah, yeah, yeah, a lot of countries offering assistance with teams to do just that. Stephanie Busari in Lagos appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Now Mohamed Oulkhouir is Vice President of INSAF, a non-profit organization. He joins me now from Casablanca in Morocco. And thanks for doing so. Your group focuses on mothers as well, but specifically children in need. And as I understand it, have group homes near the epicenter of the quake. What are you hearing about those? What happened there?

MOHAMED OULKHOUIR, VICE PRESIDENT, INSAF: Good morning. Actually, yes, our nonprofit organization INSAF mainly help and provide assistance to women in distress and children, and especially young girls. We have actually in the epicenter of the earthquake some of our teams that were operating and working from there.

So what we know now at that stage is in some villages, probably most of the building collapsed. And mainly there is a strong need for basic product so that people can face the situation. So that's what we are doing now, trying really to collect basic products and send them over. That's what we started to do since yesterday morning.

HOLMES: So the group provides homes for children who need them to get them back into school and all of that sort of stuff. Has a lot of that infrastructure just gone? And we were looking at images, I know you're pulling together as much as you can get in terms of aid to get to them but I imagine it's very difficult to even get to them?

OULKHOUIR: Yes, it's quite difficult. So that's why our team are in contact with local authorities and with the government institution really to try to find out the best way to be able to have this basic products reaching the population in the areas. As you know, it's -- it's mountain areas with a lot of roads that has been that have been cut. I think some of them are now back to work and are operating again. Some others not yet. So it's quite difficult.

So there is a real need to organize and synchronize everything with the authorities so that we are able to reach out our colleagues over there.

HOLMES: And I know your group has put out a call for help to rebuild these facilities and communities that you help run. How determined are you to rebuild what's been lost?

OULKHOUIR: Oh, I think we are 100%, not to say 200% determined to really put things back as it was before this tragic situation. So obviously, our nonprofit organization is really focused on helping women and children. We have been doing that for decades. We will be continuing to do that after this situation and this event. So yes, obviously everything will be back and we are quite sure of that. It's just a matter of time.

HOLMES: Well that's good to hear. I know that you do a lot of important work particularly for young people. Mohamed Oulkhouir, thank you so much, really appreciate the time.

OULKHOUIR: My pleasure. Have a good day.

HOLMES: And for more information about how you can help victims of the Morocco earthquake, if you wish you can go to Plenty of well-vetted resources there of organizations that do terrific work to help.

Now, the U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to arrive in Vietnam in the coming hours. During his 24 hours in Hanoi he'll hold a series of high-level talks. We were discussing this with Kevin Liptak earlier.

Now before he and other G20 leaders paid their respects at the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi. The G20 leaders taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the site.


The just concluded G20 meeting managed to produce a final declaration after a lot of diplomatic wrangling and passing of language. But Ukraine was not happy with the language that was passed regarding the war, saying it fell short of condemning Russia's aggression.

CNN's Vedika Sud joins me now live from New Delhi this hour. It was interesting because I wanted to ask you about the images we saw there about this visit to Raj Ghat, which is the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, because it was -- it's a very important place for Indians, isn't it?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Oh, absolutely. It holds a lot of significance. And you had world leaders from the world's biggest economies converging there to pay their respects to the father of the nation as Mahatma Gandhi is called here in India.

What you did see is also the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking to these leaders and talking to them about why this place is symbolic. He had in the backdrop an image of the Sabarmati Ashram. That is the ashram or the place where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay, one of his homes while he wasn't traveling or wasn't in jail protesting against the British. So highly symbolic there to have all those leaders converge with. Michael, that's something that state leaders do when they are on an official visit to India. They usually do go to the Raj Ghat to pay their respects there. And that's what you saw with the leaders of the top economies across the world.

But also it's taken a lot to really get to that declaration which I really want to also talk about here. Today seems to be an easy day for these leaders compared to the tension that could have been in that room yesterday. A lot of people weren't really anticipating that the joint declaration would be out last evening itself. We were assuming it would be out today but it seems that there has been a consensus on many issues.

But the section in Ukraine clearly like you mentioned has been watered down. And according to an official here who is India's G20 Sherpa, it's taken 200 hours of nonstop negotiations, 300 bilateral meetings and believe it or not, 15 drafts to get everyone's consensus well at least most of the countries and their consensus on the section on Ukraine.

HOLMES: Yeah, indeed. I wanted to ask you though, this was an important summit for Mr. Modi. I mean, his time on the world stage, both globally and nationally as well. Is he going to feel he got what he wanted? Not just in terms of world standing, but politically he's got an election campaign not far off.

SUD: Well, it sounded like he's got what he's wanted because he did mention it at the beginning of the second session of the summit yesterday that there seems to compromise that has been reached by the leaders at the G20 summit and he seemed to be pretty pleased with it.

But yes, this is going to be an important, you know, an important move and an important moment for the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We're about 68 months away from the national elections. He will be standing for the seat of Prime Minister for a third consecutive term here and given the amount that they've spent on the G20 reportedly more than a hundred million dollars, it seems that he's got what he wanted, not only reaffirming himself as a global statesman or reaffirming India's position in the global order, but also giving the domestic audience what they need, that India is a power to reckon with.

And for many people here, it's a moment of national pride to see all of this happening. I mean, the top leaders of the world converging in Delhi for the summit and according to the Indian government, it has been a success. There has been some sort of consensus that they have reached on Ukraine, though there's been no explicit condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Michael.

HOLMES: All right, I appreciate all of that. Vedika Sud in New Delhi, thanks.

Now, Ukraine's spy chief is confirming that the Starlink satellite service temporarily went offline over Crimea. He didn't say when it happened nor how long it lasted, but he spoke after revelations in a new biography on the company's owner, Elon Musk.

The book says that he turned off the service last year to stop Ukrainian naval drones from attacking Russia's fleet. Musk was reportedly concerned Moscow could respond with nuclear weapons, as Russian leaders had suggested to him.

Ukraine's spy chief is still praising the Starlink system, which his troops use for drones and other purposes. But Moscow claims Ukraine is not giving up on attacking Crimea with aerial drones. The Russian Defense Ministry says eight of them were shot down near the peninsula in recent hours.

Ukraine says its air defenses also had success taking down Russian drones over Kyiv. Officials say 20 of them were intercepted around the capital on Sunday morning, some drone debris crashing to the ground and leaving one person wounded.


Meanwhile, it's the last day of elections in Russia and occupied parts of Ukraine that the Council of Europe say are a violation of international law. The elections in the occupied territories are widely dismissed as a sham both by Kyiv and internationally.

A pro-Ukrainian resistance group claims some polling stations in the administrative capital of Crimea have largely been empty. But in Moscow, the Russian President Vladimir Putin is urging people to take part in the process and have faith in online voting. That's one of the options for voters along with casting ballots at home or at a polling station.

A dream comes true for 19-year -old American tennis player Coco Gauff, winning her first career Grand Slam title in doing it on home soil at the U.S. Open. We'll have more on that when we come back.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so excited for her. She's so young, she's such a good role model. She is so grounded, I'm so excited for her. Congratulations, Coco. We love you.


HOLMES: All right, I couldn't agree more. She's all of those things. The American Tennis fans there celebrating Coco Gauff first Grand Slam title almost as much as she is. The 19-year-old has had the pressure of high expectations for a while now, but her hard work paid off and it paid off on home soil.

She rallied from behind to beat the world number two, Aryna Sabalenka, in three sets to make history at the U.S. Open.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, I can't think of anything right now. It's just fantastic, you know. I love her. I love Coco. Oh my gosh.


HOLMES: After Coco lost the first set, the crown seemed to lift her game with chance of let's go Coco. The third set she was incredible. CNN's Carolyn Manno with more now from outside Arthur Ashe Stadium.


CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The crowd here at Arthur Ashe Stadium was looking for any reason at all the entire night to stand on their feet and cheer on 19-year-old Coco Gauff. And as this match wore on, she started giving them more and more reasons to do so.

It didn't start out that way. The first set was really tough for Coco. Her serve looked very shaky. She was overpowered by Aryna Sabalenka, who's one of the biggest hitters in the sport. But then Coco started to play so much better in the second set.

She found confidence. She had clarity and she started to blow Sabalenka away. Sabalenka lives and dies by that power. She plays right on the edge and she started overplaying because Coco simply was not missing.

The rallies delighted the crowd. Coco's athleticism on full display in the third set. She is one of the greatest movers in the game. When she broke Sabalenka to go up 5-2, I can tell you the crowd absolutely went wild. And every subsequent point after that was met with a ferocious roar for Coco Gauff. The woman who many thought would win this slam, even at the ripe age of 15 years old and now at 19, finally she was able to savor the moment.


COCO GAUFF, US OPEN CHAMPION: Oh my goodness. It means so much to me. I feel like I'm a little bit in shock in this moment. You know, that French open loss was a heartbreak for me, but I realized, you know, God puts you through tribulations and trials, and this makes this moment even more sweeter than I can imagine.


MANNO: As you might expect, Gauff was very emotional after the match. She called all of her family members right on the court. She held her head in her hands at one point and then thanked her parents who have been with her every step of the way.

She recalled watching Venus and Serena Williams here at the US Open as a young child imagining what was possible. And she also thanked the doubters after this match was over. She said those who have criticized her more recently were fuel to her fire, which is interesting. And you consider everything that she's been through and how hard she has worked to retool her game over these last couple of months. We're seeing all of that hard work come to fruition tonight as she ends the night as a U.S. Open champion.


HOLMES: Carolyn Manno there. Now, Hurricane Lee is still churning in the Atlantic Ocean with sustained winds of 105 miles an hour. That's around 165 kilometers an hour. According to the latest advisory, it's a Category 2 storm at the moment, but the National Hurricane Center says it will likely re-strengthen in coming days.

It's expected to move well north of the Leewood Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. But in the next several days, those areas and other Caribbean islands can expect dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents.

Forecasts have the storm making a hard turn to the north in the coming days. And it's not clear where or even if it will make landfall. But the forecasters say it's going to create hazardous conditions along the east coast of the U.S. regardless.


Now in parts of Greece people are trying to pick up the pieces after extreme flooding left at least 10 people dead and several missing. This is some of the damage left behind in the town of Palamas after the rain turned streets into raging rivers ripping apart buildings and bridges and leaving homes, businesses and farmland submerged underwater.

Many people forced from their homes obviously from the damage there. And while hundreds were rescued one man says he turned his liquor store into a place for several elderly family members to stay until help arrives.


DIMOSTHENIS TSIAPAS, PALAMAS, GREECE RESIDENT (through translator): We are waiting for some help. I don't know how someone, the authorities to show interest. They are completely bedridden with 90% disability and we don't have beds to put them in. So we put them here on the store shelves.


HOLMES: Coming up on CNN Newsroom, a complicated operation underway right now in Turkey to rescue an American man trapped deep underground in that cave. You're watching CNN Newsroom. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: Nearly 200 rescuers have started their delicate operation to bring an American trapped in a cave in southern Turkey to the surface. Their descending into a cave more than 1200 meters saw around 4100 feet deep.

Their goal is to reach Mark Dickey, who is stranded underground. He was on an exploration mission with an international team when he fell ill with suspected intestinal bleeding. One photographer on site shows us where Dickey is now.


AGNES BERENTES, PHOTOGRAPHER: 1150-meter-deep camp, so almost the bottom of the cave. And it's a very comfortable camp, but not more than 10 days. I think it's too much. But this is a vertical cave with a lot of water. It's for Celsius degrees, the temperature inside the cave.


NADA BASHIR, CNN PRODUCER: Nada Bashir now with an update on what is a complicated rescue effort.


BASHIR: Well, a week on since alarm bells were first sounded around Mark Dickey's health and an operation to rescue him from Turkey's third deepest cave is now underway. The American Cave has over the last week been receiving urgent medical attention at base camp more than three and a half thousand feet below ground for what is said to have been a case of gastric intestine bleeding.

Now according to rescuers on the ground Dickey has received a blood transfusion and is now said to be in a stable condition but this is a complex operation and a lot of careful preparation has gone into this rescue mission.

In its latest update Turkey's Caving Federation says Dickey is currently being transported by stretcher through the passages of the cave. And you can imagine how tricky this will be giving the narrow and winding nature of many of these passages.

The actual ascent is said to be divided into seven parts according to the European Cave Rescue Association with each segment being overseen by different rescue teams. And this truly is a multinational rescue effort. More than 180 rescuers are on the ground from countries including Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Italy and while this route would typically take an experienced cave around 16 hours to reach the surface under ideal conditions Dickey's rescue is expected to take days. The priority of course is ensuring that the American cave remains in a stable condition throughout. Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching CNN Newsroom, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Don't go anywhere, our coverage continues with my friend, colleague and decent human being Paula Newton after the break.