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Thousands Feared Dead, Missing In Libya Flooding; Death Toll From Morocco Earthquake Climbs Past 2800; Rescuers In Morocco Face Challenges Reaching Hard-Hit Areas; Russian State Media: Kim Jong-Un's Train Enters Russia; American Safe After Falling Ill Over 1000 Meters Underground; Zelenskyy Tells Ukraine To Prepare For "The Long War"; Source: Biden Expected To Make Final Decision Soon On Sending Long- Range Missiles To Ukraine; Morocco's Army Sets Up Field Hospital to Help Victims; Mount Fuji's World Heritage Site Status at Risk. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 00:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. Thousands feared dead, thousands more missing in Libya after torrential rain causes two dams to collapse and washes away entire neighborhoods in multiple cities.

Rescue crews reach the epicenter of the devastating earthquake in Morocco, but for many, help has arrived too late. And role reversal, Kim Jong-Un arrives in Russia holding the upper hand in talks with Vladimir Putin over the sale of artillery shells and other munitions.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

VAUSE: Thanks for joining us here on CNN NEWSROOM. We begin with another natural disaster in North Africa. Just days after the deadly earthquake in Morocco, Libya is now struggling to cope with major flooding, which has wiped out entire villages, reportedly killing thousands.

Images from the region shows collapsed high-rise buildings, submerged cars, and torrents of water rushing through city streets. The Libyan National Army says more than 2000 people are dead, 5 to 6 thousand are missing. But with communication to many areas cut off, those numbers cannot be verified.

The city of Derna appears to be hit hard by flash flooding, which authorities say was caused by the collapse of two dams. Three major bridges were also destroyed. Phone lines are down. The same storm system which caused devastating flooding in Greece last week dumped about eight months of rain on the region in just one day.

The Red Crescent is leading relief efforts with aid supplies and rescue teams now arriving from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. More details now from CNN's Paula Newton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Swept away, that's what a top Libyan official says was the fate of some coastal areas after devastating floods inundated the eastern part of the country. One of the hardest hit places centered in the coastal city of Derna.

Video shows water flowing through the town. Buildings, roads, and embankments left in shambles after the deluges caused by heavy winds and rain overpowered the city. The spokesperson for the Libyan National Army that controls eastern Libya says it was a catastrophic series of events that led to such sudden and intense flooding.

AHMED MISMARI, LIBYAN NATIONAL ARMY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Two dams in south Derna collapsed, leading to the valley and the city filling up. As a consequence, three bridges were destroyed. The flowing water carried away entire neighborhoods, eventually depositing them into the sea.

NEWTON (voice-over): The death toll could be staggering. In Derna alone, the LNA says more than 2000 people have been killed and thousands more are missing. Though the head of the Red Crescent Aid Group in the region says the figures are only in the hundreds.

Some residents say they were caught off guard by the floods. Witnesses say they were asleep and woke to find their homes surrounded by water, measuring three meters high in some places. Search and rescue missions are underway to look for the stranded and the missing, and some hospitals have had to be evacuated, too waterlogged to be functional.

Authorities say the scale of the destruction is still unfolding and they expect it to get worse since many areas are still unaccessible. Libya's divided political system is adding another layer of complexity to this crisis. The country is divided between two rival administrations, the LNA in the east, and the internationally recognized government in the west.

The western entity has declared three days of mourning for the flood victims. A political council that works with both governing bodies has asked for international assistance. So far, the UAE, Turkey, and Qatar have pledged to help. Paula Newton, CNN.


VAUSE: Now to the latest in Morocco, and more than three days after the country was rocked by a devastating earthquake, state media reports the military has reached the epicenter of the quake, bringing much-needed aid as well as heavy equipment to clear roads blocked by debris.

The death toll, though, has climbed to more than 2800 now confirmed dead. And with aid slow to reach some of the hardest hit remote villages, the government is facing growing criticism for its response to this disaster despite promises of compensation.


AZIZ AKHANNOUCH, MOROCCAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): After this committee's meeting, there was an agreement and clear instructions from His Majesty to compensate the citizens who were affected. Indemnity will apply to allow the people to take part in the rebuilding of their homes.


VAUSE: The earthquake struck around six pm Friday, local time. About 86 hours ago. Rescue crews often focus on the first 72 hours. After that, chances of finding survivors begins to dim. CNN's Nada Bashir reports from one of the worst-hit areas within the quake zone, where residents are losing hope.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Stone by stone, hour by hour, a desperate search for survivors pushes on.


The silence in this remote mountainous village punctured only by the wails of those who survived, now left to mourn.

BASHIR: Well for the rescue team here, this really is a race against time. There is a woman and her 12-year-old daughter buried beneath the rubble. And for their family waiting anxiously for news of whether they have survived Friday's earthquake, they are quickly losing hope.

BASHIR (voice-over): Berzika has already buried 19 members of her family. Now, she fears she will soon have to bury her niece, Shaima.

BERZIKA, MOROCCAN EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): On Saturday morning, we could still hear her voice, she tells me. She was alive. Now, we can't hear her. They took too long to get here. Until now, we've been digging through the rubble with our bare hands. If help had arrived sooner, we could have rescued them in time.

BASHIR (voice-over): Though small in size, the village of Imi N'Tala was among the hardest hit by the earthquake, the deadliest Morocco has suffered in decades. But three days on, rescue teams have only just arrived. The high mountains range simply too remote. The roads, up until now, still obstructed by debris from the quake. And with time running out, rescuers say this has now become a recovery operation.

SAAD ATTIA, INTERNATIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE VOLUNTEER: I think they are all working, working very hard. But until now they don't need a dog for search for life. So they confirmed to us that all the victims in this rubble has already passed away.

BASHIR (voice-over): Few lives in this close knit community have been untouched by death. Each body recovered, a gut-wrenching reminder of the climbing death toll, already in the thousands. It's unclear just how many in this village are still missing. But for those buried beneath the rubble, just like little Shaima, rescuers fear it is already too late. Nada Bashir, CNN, in Imi N'Tala, Morocco.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: One reason why help is being slow to arrive is where it's needed most. High up in hard-to-reach mountainous areas. Here's CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray with a closer look.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Where this earthquake occurred in Morocco is going to pose a huge logistical challenge when it comes to recovery efforts. You can zoom in a little bit. We can see that the terrain is really mountainous. We are looking at peaks that are as much as 10 to 13 thousand feet high.

So you have to think getting to these small villages around the mountains is not only going to take crews much, much longer, but also the roads might be much more narrow than, say, if you are just going to one large city.

You know, these are very rural areas in the mountains. And so logistically, it's going to be a huge challenge for rescuers, not only to get in there, but also to get the equipment that they need into these small towns and villages high in the mountains as well.

I want to show you the forecast because moving forward, we are going to see a pretty dry forecast, which is good. We've been very hot in this region over the last couple of days. And so, we are going to see a couple of passing clouds.

But as far as rainfall goes, we are going to stay dry, which is good. We do hit the 90s once again Wednesday and Thursday. So the hot temperatures will stick around for the foreseeable future.

VAUSE: Thanks to Jennifer Gray, and for more information about how you can help victims in the Morocco earthquake, please go to

According to Russian state media, Kim Jong-Un's green armed train has now crossed over the border from North Korea into Russia. The North Korean leader is en route to Vladivostok for a face to face talk with the Russian president which western officials believe could lead to an arms deal. The two leaders are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum.

The Kremlin says this will be a full scale visit and has dismissed warnings from the United States about any weapons sales. North Korean state media published images of Kim Jong-Un ahead of his departure. CNN's Will Ripley has details now on the journey and what each side stands to gain from this face to face meeting.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A growing arsenal of ballistic missiles, but not a single bullet train. One of many contradictions, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un slowly rolls towards Russia in Soviet era armored train cars painted green.

With glistening white interiors, gourmet meals, and live music like the North Korean luxury train I rode in 2018, windows boarded shut to block our view of the destitute countryside. Kim has made this journey before to the Russian city of Vladivostok. But this trip could have huge ramifications to Russia's war in Ukraine, for North Korea's growing nuclear arsenal.


Kim is expected to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Like Kim, a global pariah, and now, potential partner. U.S. officials warned last week of possible arms negotiations. Putin desperately needs weapons and ammunition to fight his war in Ukraine. North Korea is sitting on a huge stockpile. What could Kim get in return?

Money and missile technology so he can bypass sanctions to build more nuclear capable ballistic missiles. Moscow has a huge arsenal and decades of know-how. In July, Kim hosted the Russian defense minister in Pyongyang, showing off his latest ICBMs and drones. Analysts say they bear a striking resemblance to U.S. military models.

South Korea's spy agency warned last month of growing military cooperation, warning of a possible transfer of Russia's core nuclear and missile technology to North Korea. Analysts fear a potential return to cold war politics, a partnership giving Putin more firepower, and Kim more nuclear power. Two rogue nations potentially teaming up to take on the free world.

RIPLEY: And this is the reality the world now faces. Russia and North Korea, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, partners in crime, standing shoulder to shoulder. Kim's weapons can help Putin in Ukraine, and Putin's nuclear knowledge can help Kim grow his nuclear arsenal, posing an even greater threat to the United States and the west. Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


VAUSE: Well now to Beijing, our bureau chief Steven Jiang is standing by, he joins us live. So Steven, these, sort of, face to face meetings usually don't take place, unless whatever's been negotiated has been settled way ahead of time.

So I guess, moving a step forward here, is there any indication that if this deal goes ahead with the artillery shells and the ammunition, how will North Korea actually deliver this artillery to Russia? Is there any way the U.S. and its allies could actually prevent it from taking place?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: That is indeed the question a lot of people are asking because the devil is always in the details. And there are some analysts, of course, who have cautioned about, you know, not to blow this potential deal out of proportion, given North Korea may only have this one train linked to Russia to deliver these artillery shells and rockets.

But of course, this trip itself, as Will was saying, it's important because it's likely to turn this largely symbolic relationship between Moscow and Pyongyang since the 1990s into something a lot more substantive. Now standing where I am so far the Chinese have not officially commented on this meeting. But their state media has been covering this extensively as well. If

you read the comments which are often a reflection of official viewpoints, given how censored the cyberspace here is, there is a large amount of support and even cheering for this quote-unquote growing alliance between Moscow and Pyongyang.

Now that probably is not surprising given the, you know, anti U.S. sentiment here often being fed by state media and officials as well. And when you think about it, John, this is also where China shares the same grievances with Pyongyang and Moscow, when it comes to their opposition to this western dominated world order and they're desire to reshape this, right?

And they are, in that sense, natural allies, which is also why China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, with veto powers in recent months have been working together to block U.S.- led efforts to impose and or strengthen sanctions against North Korea because of Pyongyang's increasing missile testing activities.

And all of that is why, you know, this kind of united front, if you will, is only going to strengthen. But where China differs from Moscow and Pyongyang of course is its economy is a lot more intertwined with that of the West.

So that's why Beijing is probably going to strike a more delicate line here, so if and when they do comment, they're probably going to rehash a lot of their old talking points about their neutrality on the war in Ukraine, as well as their support for any nation to pursue an independent foreign policy that includes their opposition to global hegemony, John.

VAUSE: Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang live for us in Beijing, good to see you. CNN contributor Jill Dougherty has spent decades reporting on Russia, the Soviet Union, and Vladimir Putin. She's a former CNN bureau chief in Moscow. She's currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She joins us now this hour from Washington. It's good to see you again.


VAUSE: Okay so here's the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, confirming that North Korea's Kim Jong-Un's visit to Russia is on. Here he is.


DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Like with any neighboring, we consider ourselves obligated to establish good, mutually beneficial relations. We will continue to strengthen our friendship.


VAUSE: All those of Reuters News Agency reported, Putin and Kim's meeting will be a full scale visit, the Kremlin says.


And this visit by Kim Jong-Un marks a total reversal in that friendship or relationship between Russia and North Korea. Interestingly, North Korea has been relying on Moscow and Beijing. But now, Putin needs North Korea, needs it badly, and it seems we're now in some sort of uncharted territory in a way.

DOUGHERTY: Well, certainly, when it comes to ammunition that Russia is using in Ukraine, they have been burning through a lot of ammunition, so they really need more. And where they can get it is from North Korea.

Now, these are not, you know, sophisticated weapons. It's artillery shells, et cetera, things that the North Koreans can manufacture. But they don't have to be very sophisticated. Russia is just pounding Ukraine and using it up. And they simply need more.

VAUSE: Yeah, with that in mind, here is the assessment from U.S. joint chiefs of staff on how North Korean weapons supplied to Russia might impact the war in Ukraine. Here he is.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, U.S. CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think they will get some munitions, but I don't know that they're going to get so much that it will make a substantive difference.


VAUSE: So is a bigger concern here, long term, what Russia might provide North Korea in return in terms of technology for, say, nuclear submarines or spying satellites?

DOUGHERTY: Oh, definitely. I mean, the North Koreans really would love to get their hands on high technology that they cannot get because of sanctions and the Russians could provide that, and especially, at least experts in the field of nuclear weapons say that would be the most dangerous ball.

I mean, they do need, the North Koreans, they do need high technology for what they want to do now, which is dealing with spy satellites that they would like to build, and nuclear submarines, et cetera, that they simply can't do it at this stage.

Russia could very much help with that. But I think it would get more dangerous if you have Russia supplying, let's say, the assistance to North Korea in the fuel for ICBMs, the big missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and any type of defense against other missiles. That would get pretty dangerous and would be a grave concern to a lot of countries in the world.

VAUSE: There is some reporting that the South Korean intelligence believes that Russia would be reluctant to go that far down the road because it could end up posing a threat, a strategic threat at some point in the future to Russia. DOUGHERTY: True. That is one of the problems. I mean, this would be a serious step by Russia. The United States obviously is urging nothing be done like this. But, you know, there is this also, John, kind of a geopolitical part in this too, because, you know, you figure Putin is really now trying to kind of gather his friends.

And he doesn't have a whole lot of major countries that are friends. He has Iran to get drones, and he has North Korea to get ammunition. But after that, it's really just pulling them together because they are opposed to the West.

VAUSE: Well what's interesting is that the focus of the last face to face meeting, which was in 2019, between Putin and Kim Jong-Un, it was all about restarting nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington. Here's part of a report from CNN's Matthew Chance at the time. Here he is.


KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I hope this visit will be successful and useful, Kim told Russian state media. And that during negotiations with esteemed President Putin, we can discuss resolving the situation on the Korean peninsula, developing bilateral relations, he added.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Kremlin says talks focused on the nuclear issue have been scheduled for Thursday. But the exact itinerary remains shrouded in secrecy.


VAUSE: Back then, Putin was putting on this image of potential mediator, almost an international statesman, at least in image. Fast forward to this meeting, which is most likely to end in a weapons deal, and potentially a violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

It's interesting seeing how far isolated Russia is now compared to back then, how far Putin has traveled in terms of his standing internationally, and how these roles have changed from North Korea to now being in the driving seat, because Putin is so desperate for ammunition.

DOUGHERTY: Yes, I mean, really, I think it is shocking. If you look at the difference between that report in 2019 by Matthew and now the role that Putin is playing, it really is shocking. And it just shows that at this point, Putin is willing to do things that he would not have done, even a couple of years ago.

And you could say looking from the outside, it diminishes him. I think maybe part of the, let's say, rationale behind it would be something that I saw in a quote from Russian TV today, which was, well, you know, the United States is looking at Kim Jong-Un and saying, they are afraid, what will he do?

[00:20:15] So part of it could also be, you know, trying to exploit the fear factor for the West. You know this is something that Russia has to do, and in taking the chance that this could be very dangerous. So there are messages, there are dollars, or whatever money they're going to use, and there is military weapons. But there's always a message, and that is what Russia is trying to project right now.

VAUSE: Jill, thanks so much for being with us. So good to have you with us especially on stories like this. Your insights are very much appreciated. Thank you. Well, as Russia and North Korea ham out what could be a new arms deal, Ukraine is urging its allies to send long range missiles and send them as fast as possible.

More on that in a moment. Also, finally back on the surface after days trapped in a Turkish cave a kilometer below the surface. We have the very latest on a complicated rescue of an American caver.


VAUSE: More than a week after he fell ill at the bottom of a cave, an American researcher has thanked his rescuers for saving his life. Mark Dickey was dropped there ill because of an internal gastric bleeding. It took three days and a team of international rescuers to bring him to the surface a kilometer or 3500 feet. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has details.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shortly before one am local time in Turkey, the cave rescue operation of an American caver, Mark Dickey, came to an end. A successful one as we saw those images of his stretcher being pulled out of Turkey's third deepest cave. Dickey appeared to be smiling, giving thumbs up.

We heard from Turkish officials saying that he seemed to be fine and that they were going to get him on a chopper out of there and move him to Mersin hospital in southern Turkey where he will be headed for the medical treatment he needs. Now, this has been a very, very complex operation. It has lasted days.

Mark Dickey, an experienced caver, was part of an international and local expedition when he fell ill at about more than three thousand feet -- more than one thousand meters from the surface of the cave. This was as a result of gastrointestinal bleeding. We understand he lost a lot of blood.

But over the past few days, he had been stabilized. He was improving. He was walking. He was talking. We even saw a video recorded by -- released by Dickey where he spoke about his condition, but also explaining that he was still not okay on the inside.


And that he needed medical treatment. And this was such a complex operation, again, because this is one of the deepest caves in the world. We are also talking, according to experts, about a cave with very narrow and winding passages. So putting him on a stretcher and getting him out of there would have been very, very difficult.

So, they had to look at the different options, consulting the doctors to make sure they can get him out of there. And finally, this operation, this extraction began on Saturday and it involved nearly 200 rescuers from different countries. It was a real multinational effort to try and get him out of there.

And they moved in phases over the past few days. They would move. They would stop, rest a bit. And then move again until they made it out of that cave. There certainly is going to be good news for the family, friends, and colleagues of Mark Dickey and all those who have been involved in this rescue operation that has brought an end to this ordeal. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


VAUSE: A warning from the Ukrainian president to his fellow Ukrainians to prepare for a long war with Russia that will not end anytime soon. And he says Ukraine will need increased military assistance from the West and that includes long-range missiles.

Germany's foreign minister visited Kyiv Monday promising $21 million in humanitarian assistance to help Ukraine prepare for another long winter of Russian missile attacks. And Ukraine's foreign minister is asking for the maximum assistance Germany and the West can give.


DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Today's key weapon related topics that we discussed include the supply of air defense systems as we are approaching another winter.

We expect Russian attacks on energy infrastructure on our peaceful cities. We are also in need of our air defense systems to protect our ports so that Ukraine can export its grain to other nations of the world.


VAUSE: And Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the progress of the counteroffensive and the lives of Ukrainian forces now depend on the West sending long range missiles. CNN's Melissa Bell has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ukraine has repeated its call for American long range missiles, specifically the Attack Ms that the spokesman for President Zelenskyy's office says would make a big crucial difference on the battlefield. These are long range American missiles that can reach some 190 miles.

The idea is that it would allow Ukraine to make that progress against Russian supply lines, specifically where it's hoping to get them between Russia and Crimea. The aim of the southern counteroffensive. We hear on Monday that there has been more progress along that line with intense fighting both to the south and to the east of Ukraine. Both fronts seeing intense fighting along several points there, even

as early results from the voting over the course of the weekend and several Russian held regions in Ukraine suggest that with little surprise, the Kremlin-backed candidates appear to be winning. The elections had largely been decried, not just by the international community in Ukraine and allies, but by Kyiv as a sham with Ukrainians urged not to vote.

The elections that were both regional and municipal elections held throughout Russia, also held in those four regions, none of which are entirely in the hands of Russian forces. Still, the early votings suggest that, as expected, it is the Kremlin's candidates that have won. Melissa Bell, CNN, in Zaporizhzhia.


VAUSE: Meantime, a U.S. official tells CNN President Biden is soon expected to make a decision on sending long-range missiles to Ukraine. The source adds that although no decision has been made as of yet, there is a much greater possibility of that happening now than before. Still to come on CNN, much more on the earthquake in Morocco.

One survivor is describing how he rescued his sister and other neighbors from beneath the rubble. Also, more rain on the way to eastern Libya where thousands are believed dead, and thousands more believed missing. Entire villages washed out to sea from major flooding.



VAUSE: Welcome back to our viewers all over the world. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


Authorities in Eastern Libya reported at least 2,000 people are dead in major flooding. The Libyan National Army says another 5 to 6,000 people are missing.

CNN cannot independently verify those numbers, but images from the region shows the utter devastation, with entire villages swept away.

The storm system caused catastrophic flooding in Greece just last week. It could bring another 50 millimeters of rain to Northern Libya and Egypt over the next few days.

In Morocco, the death toll from Friday's powerful earthquake is now more than 2,800 as rescuers continue searching the rubble for survivors.

Another 2,500 are believed injured. That's according to state media. Many are sleeping outdoors, too afraid to return home. Some are sharing heartbreaking stories of trying to rescue loved ones and neighbors from amid the rubble. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMED OUCHEN, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): I heard people screaming as they were dying, "Please pull us out." After I managed to leave, I rushed to save people. We were busy rescuing, because we didn't have tools. We used our hands. Her head was visible, and we kept digging by hand. We rescued 25. Eight are still in the hospital. The rest returned.


VAUSE: State media reports the Moroccan army has set up a field hospital for victims, one of the hardest hit areas, and CNN's Sam Kiley is there.


SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Asni, the royal American armed forces established a field hospital in response to this earthquake.

But the problem in this location, Asni, at the bottom of the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, is that people are going to be coming down off those mountains seeking urgent medical assistance.

And this is a highly sophisticated hospital that's been deployed around the world to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Jordan, and elsewhere, to deal with emergencies internationally.

But here, they're dealing with emergencies locally, obviously, but they've got radiology. They've got laboratories. They've got operating theaters. They've got pharmacological tents, and they've even got such a great help, as well.

Ultimately, though, the real problem is for the rescue services up in those mountains where the needs are greatest. Because the roads up there have been cut.

Helicopters are being sent in to deliver aid, to try to pick up patients, to try to do assessments, to try to figure out how wide this catastrophic problem really extends in this country.

There have been some amazing successes, because this is still within the golden hours of three days when people buried under the ground have a reasonable chance of survival.

People have been pulled out in almost miraculous recoveries around the country, particularly in these very isolated areas. The doctors here have said that one of the really striking things for them is the importance of the psychological help.

Because everybody recognizes here that, even after the end of the emergency response to this massive earthquake, the shockwaves, the psychological shockwaves are going to be felt by the country for years to come.


Sam Kiley, CNN, in Asni.


VAUSE: For more information about how you can help victims of the Morocco earthquake, go to

In just over an hour, Israel's Supreme Court is expected to begin hearing arguments in an historic case over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to overhaul the country's judicial system.

For the first time ever, all 15 Supreme Court judges will sit together, and decide to either uphold or strike down a law passed by the Israeli government, designed to limit the court's ability to nullify government decisions deemed unreasonable.

Israelis have been protesting for months over the issue. Critics say it erodes the country's independence and is a threat to Israeli democracy.

Still to come, Japan's Mount Fuji under threat. Too many tourists and hikers could cost the majestic sight its important designation, and they're leaving a lot of trash behind, as well.


VAUSE: Spectacular images of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, which began erupting again Sunday after nearly three months. Some visitors were able to see the eruption up close.

Hawaii's volcano observatory has lowered the alert level from warning to watch, saying the eruption (ph) has stabilized and is not a threat to nearby communities.

Kilauea is the youngest and the most active volcano in Hawaii.

Wildfires, heat, and floods are prompting some travelers to rethink their holiday destinations in Europe, which is likely to impact the continent's economy.

In its latest economic forecast, European Commission says climate change is one of the downside factors that could severely hamper economic growth and prosperity as soon as this year. An increasing number of summer travelers now looking to Central and Northern Europe instead of traditional places, such as Italy and Greece in the South.

Climate may also affect more than just tourism. Experts cite agriculture, construction, and manufacturing as major economic drivers that could also be hurt by a warming planet.

And the climbing season has ended on Japan's Mount Fuji, and it's a much-needed break for the UNESCO world heritage site, where the number of visitors has skyrocketed in recent years.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout explains the surge in tourism could cost the mountain its world heritage status.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Human traffic jams on sacred Mount Fuji.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like a traffic jam.

STOUT (voice-over): An ambulance on route to an injured hiker, litter on the mountainside. It's a side to Japan's popular tourist site that is not in the guidebooks.

But for Mount Fuji ranger Miho Sakurai, it's just another day on the job.

MIHO SAKURAI, MOUNT FUJI RANGER: There are definitely too many people on Mount Fuji at the moment. The numbers are much higher than they were before.

STOUT (voice-over): Famous for its snowcapped volcano, Mount Fuji has inspired artists and been a pilgrimage site for centuries.


Less than two hours away from Tokyo, Japan's highest peak attracts visitors globally, and in 2013, became a UNESCO world heritage site.

Over-tourism has become a big problem. This year, a post-COVID tourism boom has brought thousands more hikers to Mount Fuji, according to a Yamanashi prefecture government official.

The environmental damage being done could cost Mount Fuji its heritage status, according to the local government.

MASATAKE IZUMI, YAMANASHI PREFECTURE GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL (through translator): Fuji-san is screaming out in pain. We can't just wait for improvement. We need to tackle over-tourism now.

STOUT (voice-over): Volunteers take away tons of trash each year. Climbers are urged to donate $7 to help keep the mountain clean, but not everyone pays up. As Sakurai says, some behavior is even harder to control.

SAKURAI (through translator): People of all experience levels come here, including first-timers. We want to prevent accidents, so we give them advice.

STOUT (voice-over): The risk of altitude sickness and hypothermia has been increased by a trend called bullet climbing, where hikers begin their ascent at night, pushing on until dawn, according to the Yamanashi tourism board.

According to the local government, they start their hike from a place called Fuji's 5th Station, where the number of climbers arriving here from Tokyo has more than doubled between 2012 and 2019. The local government also says it wants to shift from quantity to

quality tourism. It says replacing the main road to Fuji with a light rail system would be a more sustainable solution.

SAKURAI (through translator): I'd be devastated if Mt. Fuji's world heritage status was taken away. I wanted to have that status forever, so we'll do our best to keep it that way.

STOUT (voice-over): But with no easy fix in sight, Sakurai will keep doing her bit to protect the mountain she loves.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


VAUSE: Far above the Earth, an American astronauts has just spent [SIC] a new record -- set a new record for time in space. He kind of did it by accident.

Dr. Frank Rubio has now reached his 356th consecutive day in space, just there by himself, the longest any U.S. astronaut has spent in Earth orbit.

We think he's on the International Space Station. But it wasn't supposed to be this way. He was meant to return to Earth after just six months -- just six months -- but the spacecraft he was slated to take home spun a coolant leak, so he stayed. Stayed a little longer, and then stayed a little longer yet.

He's now scheduled to return home later this month, extending his stay to 371 days. Did anyone miss him?

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, back with more news at the top of the hour. In the meantime, please stay with us. WORLD SPORT starts after the break.