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CNN International: Devastation in Libya, at Least 5,000 Killed; Crews in Morocco Having Little Succes in Search for Survivors; Ukraine Claims Andriivka Retaken in Fierce Fighting; China's View on Deeper Russian-North Korean Alliance. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: And a warm welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world. I'm Max Frost in London. Bianca is off this week, but just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It heals like a war zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a calamity of epic proportions. We knew that there was a storm, but nobody expected the magnitude.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What they've been targeting is a building just on the other side that has Russian infantry and Russian artillery inside. The drones been guiding them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go, go, go, go, go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, for the first time in our history we will strike all three of the big three at once.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

FOSTER: It's day, September the 15th, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 10 a.m. in eastern Libya, where the UN says many of the deaths from the catastrophic flooding this week could have been avoided with early warnings and evacuations. Libyan authorities are demanding an investigation of who's to blame for the tragedy. Doctors Without Borders puts the death toll at 5,000, but the mayor of the hardest hit city, Derna, says it could be four times that number. The World Health Organization is sending emergency medical supplies to the area.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, W.H.O. DIRECTOR-GENERAL: This is a calamity of epic proportions. Even while the death toll is increasing, the health needs of the survivors are becoming more urgent. W.H.O. is releasing 2 million U.S. dollars from our emergency contingency fund to support our response.


FOSTER: The UN is requesting more than $71 million for the most urgent needs. It says 300,000 children are at risk for disease and displacement. The marine port into Derna is now accessible to ships delivering supplies. More now from CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, who's arrived in Derna.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It took us more than seven hours to get from Benghazi to the city of Derna and that is a drive that typically takes about three hours. And that is because so many roads, so many bridges around Derna have been destroyed. And you can imagine what that means for the aid, for the relief, for the support that would be coming into the city and how difficult it is at this time.

And driving in at night, this felt like a ghost town. It is eerily quiet and everywhere you look, you see damage and destruction. It's dark, it's night time, but we can still see so much destruction around here. It is just -- it feels like a war zone. It feels like a bomb had gone off here. A big bomb had gone off here.

And it's very hard to stand here and not imagine what people in this city went through. Thousands of people lost their lives. More than 10,000 right now unaccounted for. And everyone you speak to here fears that that death toll is only going to rise in the coming days. And all this destruction, the loss of life. Officials are telling us this all happened in less than two hours, perhaps an hour and a half they believe after those dams burst and the water came sweeping through the city. Wiping out entire neighborhoods, they say, sweeping buildings, infrastructure, cities, homes, families into the sea. It is just unimaginable what has taken place in the city.

And it has left so many people here in shock. Libyans tell us they're used to war. They're used to death. They're used to lost. But nothing could have prepared them for this. On our drive into Derna, we saw so many cars coming in from different parts of the country -- from the far west, from the south, Libyans coming together, coming here to deliver aid, to volunteer, to support the people in this part of the country and the people of Derna.


And it seems that this divided country has come together. That this tragedy, this loss has brought them together, at least for now.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Derna, Libya.


FOSTER: Joining me from Tripoli, Ami Barghuti is a UNICEF communications and advocacy officer for Libya. Thank you so much for joining us. Just describe the problems you're having getting aid into Derna. AMI BARGHUTI, UNICEF COMMUNICATIONS AND ADVOCACY OFFICER, LIBYA: I mean, it's a nightmare what's happening in Derna and also and the other affected cities, Al Bayda emergency there as well. Well, getting there now, thankfully is accessible, but there is a severe conjunction in the city and moving around to do -- due to flooded area. Our partner on the ground are still working with the authorities and rescue teams to save as many people as they can. And also to retrieve dead bodies under the rubbles. For supplies, we're also like providing safe foods for families to go out, and also for this place to go on shelters. There are a lot of displaced people, thousands, actually. They're taking the schools, public areas and also some of them they're going to relatives for hosting.

We are now cooling and we are our priorities are to provide life saving materials, life saving supplies, shelters, safe drinking water, medical supplies, because assembly people are, you know, left without anything, basically, not even the essential. So this is what UNICEF now is focusing on. Today and tomorrow our team are conducting a field mission to Derna, and Al Bayda, Al Marj to do more in depth assessment to the situation to the destruction of the area, and for a medium and the long term support.

FOSTER: There's only one route into Derna isn't there? And that's very congested because the amount of aid workers effectively trying to get in.

BARGHUTI: Exactly, yes. I mean it's -- Derna's accessible from only one and that is like humanitarian aid trucks and also people trying to get out. So it's a bit challenging for humanitarian aid right now, but we're still, I mean, get to the city.

FOSTER: There are also so much focus on Derna. You're right to point out the other cities affected. Are other cities as badly affected? Are we going to be getting some really horrifying pictures out from there too?

BARGHUTI: Yes, yes. Also on my regional by this area, they have like now completely flooded areas. There are also -- I mean, there are rescue teams there. There are a lot of displaced people. But Derna was like the most affected and damaged around like 3-, 8000 people were displaced from Derna only. And the other five are from Al Bayda, Al Marj, Susah.

FOSTER: I know you don't get involved in politics, but there is a unique situation where you're operating because there are effectively two governments running the country. How easy has it been to get the permissions that you need to help the people in need?

BARGHUTI: As UNICEF, our key priority now is helping the affected children and communities and also the provision of much needed life saving supplies. Now we are getting all the required support from the authorities. We're coordinating closely with its emergency responses partner Libya and the Cresent Society and also with the Crisis Cell Committee, in the east and also in the west, in addition to coordination with international cooperation officers at Lion Ministries. I think this is the time to leave like all politics aside and just focus on the on responding to this situation. I think authorities are doing that perfectly.

FOSTER: OK, Ami Barghuti, good to hear. Thank you for joining us from Tripoli in Libya. And thanks you for sparing the time which is so precious right now.

Now, one week after a devastating earthquake ravaged parts of Morocco, international search and rescue teams are staying hopeful as they search for survivors in the rubble. They admit things are not looking good. They say they aren't ready to give up.


JIM CHASTON, OPERATION COMMANDER: We haven't the success of actually rescuing any people. We have done some first aid and some medical evacuations from some of the other villages. So that's really played our part. And moving forward, you know, we're going to continue as long as the Moroccan people want us here.



FOSTER: Roads in many villages to the High Atlas Mountains remain blocked by landslides following the 6.8 quake that killed nearly 3,000 people. The government says it's doing everything it can to help quake victims, but some people are taking steps to get what they need on their own.


MOUHAMED ZIDAN, AWFOUR VILLAGE RESIDENT (through translator): We use donkeys to transport aid and goods because the roads do not exist and we live in the mountains. People were greatly affected by this earthquake and they have nothing. We live in the open and we have nothing.


FOSTER: The September 8th earthquake was the deadliest to strike Morocco since 1960, and most powerful in more than a century.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be in New York next week to speak at the UN General Assembly. Sources tell CNN the two leaders will talk one-on-one at that time, although it's not clear if that meeting will take place in New York or Washington. The last time they spoke in person was on the sidelines of July's NATO summit in Lithuania.

Ukraine's military is now reporting it has retaken a key village south of Bakhmut, and in its words, liquidated the Russian garrison there. It's being called a significant victory in breaching Russia's defenses. Ukrainian troops are often outmanned and outgunned on the battlefield, and it shows as both sides trade non-stop artillery fire across the frontline. CNN's Melissa Bell spent time with one unit and has this report.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aiming for a specific target, the fury of Ukrainian artillery. Nothing in this war goes unseen. Not even the Russians walking into this house eight kilometers away. The target spared by a Ukrainian miss.

As they try to move the Zaporizhzhia frontline forward, these gunners must now wait for better coordinates from the surveillance drone, even though they too are constantly watched and more often than not outgunned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translated text): The Russians are learning. They copy our tactics. As soon as our guys strike, they strike back. They can respond to one of our howitzer with two or three of theirs.

BELL (voice-over): And 20th century artillery is slow to move and far too easy to see with 21st century technology.

MARIAN, GUNNER, 128TH MOUNTAIN ASSAULT BRIGADE (through translated text): There are a lot of enemy drones flying here. That's why we constantly hide our positions because when the enemy sees us, they start shooting.

BELL (voice-over): Russian surveillance and attack drones are never far. But neither are Ukrainian ones, says Odesa, the battery's commander.

"ODESA", BATTERY COMMANDER, 128TH MOUNTAIN ASSAULT BRIGADE (through translated text): We use aerial reconnaissance. We watch the flight of the shell and adjust (the gun) to hit target so we waste less ammunition.

BELL (voice-over): Odesa tells his men to lower the gun one notch. Between drones and artillery, nothing is left to chance.

BELL: What they've been targeting is a building just on the other side that has Russian infantry and Russian artillery inside. The drone's been guiding them. They're about to fire for a third time and what they say is that we should then expect incoming Russian artillery in response.

BELL (voice-over): This time it's a hit, not just the building but Russian ammunition and artillery too, which means that the retaliation should be swift and it's time to go as fast as we can. The reply doesn't take long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translated text): Now we are targeting their-- Lay Down! Incoming over there!

BELL: They're hitting over there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. So let's go.

BELL: Let's go. Because as expected, that incoming artillery followed. We're now having to drive away as quickly as we can. Although what they explain is that it isn't just the incoming artillery. One of the most dangerous things about driving around these parts are the drones.

BELL (voice-over): From his position at the back of the pickup truck, Odesa can hear and see the incoming fire.

BELL: Go, go, go, go, go!

He's telling us to drive fast because of the incoming artillery.

BELL (voice-over): In all, nine artillery rounds were fired back, a measure of Russian anger and today for these soldiers of Ukrainian success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translated text): After you have experienced this, you begin to understand the value of life.


BELL (voice-over): The rush of survival for today at least.

Melissa Bell, CNN, in Southern Ukraine.


FOSTER: Katie is with us to look at the current situation on the ground. That's, you know, one particular frontline. What's the wider picture looking like?

KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Well, Max, we've been seeing a lot this week, a lot of focus on Crimea as well. We've been talking about this attack on Sevastopol on Wednesday, the next day, Thursday, Russia reported 11 Ukrainian drones that they intercepted. And then just overnight, we've been hearing the Ukrainians say that they intercepted an air defense system in the Crimea area as well. All of this is being hailed. Zelenskyy described it as a triumph last night in his nightly address. There is a lot of messaging, public messaging from the Ukrainian side here that is saying this counteroffensive is very much still making progress and is very successful.

And Crimea is key really. They've always focused on it. It's been annexed by illegally by Russia since 2014. And there's been a strategic logistical hub in Crimea for Russia during this war. So targeting these areas, for example, that ship repair facility in Sevastopol is key for hampering how Russia continues this war.

Now Ukraine have argued that apparently, according to them, after this attack, they actually destroyed several ships, which resulted in Russia being unable to produce any more ships for this conflict. Now, of course we can't independently confirm that. I'm sure Russia would deny that.

But that is the kind of ambition here that Ukraine are trying to achieve. They want to show and there is a lot of signaling here as well. It is not just about the achievements on the battlefield, it's what their allies see and what the West sees and where the U.S. see their money going. Remember, there's a $1 billion assistance package that has been put into Ukraine. Are they making these achievements? And they are showing with Andriivka, as you mentioned, that village they've just claimed to have recaptured. And also with Sevastopol that they attacked earlier this week, that they are still making some quite considerable gains.

FOSTER: Zelenskyy will be meeting many of those allies, won't he, next week?

POLGLASE: Absolutely, and that's going to be key again for shoring up that support. So one of the people he is supposed to be now meeting face to face is with President Joe Biden. That's not just at the UN General Assembly, but also there are now reports he meant to be going and seeing him in Washington and DC meeting other members of Congress as well.

And again, this is key because while the U.S. have been openly supportive of this war, Blinken, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in town just last week and President Biden is now considering giving these long-range missiles that could help Ukraine counteroffensive. There is some indication that U.S. public support is waning for funding this war, and that is obviously a concern for Ukraine and what Zelenskyy wants to see when he goes to the United States to talk about and ensure that that support is very much still there.

FOSTER: We had the meeting, didn't we? Between Putin and Kim Jong-un yesterday in front of the cameras all about optics, all about being global statesman. Is Zelenskyy doing some of that as well with his visit to America with all these world leaders do you think?

POLGLASE: I'm sure it will happen. He's giving a speech at the UN as expected and he is a very good statesman, as we've seen. He's very good with his public image of gaining support in that way, giving impassioned speeches about what is right for Ukraine and why the world still needs to back their war and their counteroffensive against this Russian invasion. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of this.

And also the imagery we've been seeing, this imagery of Putin and of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, seeing imagery face to face of Joe Biden and of President Zelenskyy together talking face to face, all of that is really good PR. Really good imagery for Ukraine, showing that they have one of the most powerful backers in the world very much still behind them.

FOSTER: Absolutely. And Katie, thank you so much.

Ukraine and China are two of the countries closely watching the North Korean leader's visit to Russia. Kim Jong-un toured a strategic site just today. We'll be live in Beijing for you.

Plus, reaching the point of no return. How the mayor of Lampedusa is describing the influx of migrants arriving. Plus, an unprecedented move from the Justice Department indicting the

son of a sitting president. We'll have details on the charges that Hunter Biden is facing after the break.



FOSTER: North Korea's reclusive leader is on the move in Russia's Far East, but it's not clear where he's heading. Russian state media has released footage of his private armored train leaving the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, where he had received a red carpet welcome. We showed you a bit of that before earlier. Kim Jong-un toured a plant that makes fighter jets. It's reportedly the country's largest aviation manufacturing facility. Kim is expected to visit several military sites following his high stakes summit with the Russian President, fueling Western concerns about a possible weapons deal.

The Kremlin has confirmed the two leaders will meet again in Pyongyang, but did not reveal exactly when.

The other key player in this regional dynamic is China, of course, which has so far said very little about this summit. CNN's Paula Hancocks picks up that story.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is Kim Jong-un's first known trip outside of North Korea in more than four years. Not to China, the country that's propped his country up for decades, but Russia, historically North Korea's second-closest ally.

ANDREI LANKOV, PROFESSOR, KOOKMIN UNIVERSITY: He is basically hedging against possible change in Chinese position. China might make a deal behind his back with the Americans. China might get in serious economic trouble.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Beijing has said the Putin-Kim meeting is a matter for those two countries, but in recent years has made a clear move towards Russia as relations with the United States worsen. Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin 40 times in 10 years. That's according to U.S. think tank CSIS, in bilateral and multilateral settings. The Kremlin says another meeting is upcoming.

While China is not believed to have provided arms to Russia, an unclassified report by U.S. intelligence says it has given technology that is helping Moscow in its war on Ukraine. Xi's no-show at the recent G20 in India also points to his diplomatic priorities.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's actually gone beyond just this meeting. The meeting that China held of the BRICS nations bringing in Iran and other countries was an effort to show that China could organize an alternative bloc to the West. And, of course, Russia is a part of that.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): South Korean intelligence assesses the idea of bilateral military drills between Russia and North Korea was pitched by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu when he was in Pyongyang in July. Interaction Pyongyang is not generally party to, but could learn a lot from. Military cooperation, which experts believe could then include China.

LANKOV: I think it's possible and indeed highly likely, because it will be seen as a kind of symmetric answer to the recent joint military exercises near the Korean Peninsula by the Americans, Japanese and South Koreans.

HANCOCKS: Nothing unites more than a common enemy. And Russia, China and North Korea would all like to see an alternative world order. A world where the U.S. is less powerful and where United Nations sanctions have little, if any, bite.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


FOSTER: Let's go to CNN's Steven Jiang live in Beijing. Steve, why do you think we've heard so little commentary from China about the visit in Russia?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I think so far I think they're trying to have this delicate balance here as well in terms of not commenting on what's happening between Moscow and Pyongyang. But probably more importantly, there are not that concerned because as far they're concerned, the two increasingly isolated regimes actually would need more of their support going forward on the international stage, both politically and economically. So that's why, even though they may probably very likely are keeping close tabs on what's happening in Russia's Far East, they are not concerned as the West has been.


Because, as Paula was pointing out, these three countries are natural allies when it comes to their shared grief, grievances and their that perceived U.S. containment strategy against all of them.

But as far as this role reversal between Moscow and Pyongyang is concerned. You mentioned how Kim is continuing his tour. This solo leg of his tour is very much with a weapon focus as well. You know that fighter jet facility he toured, actually his father went there as well, as Russian officials pointed out. So they're trying to highlight those -- this lineage, those bonds forged over the decades as well between those two countries. And of course, he was shown some of the most sophisticated Russia fighter jet, the Su-57, also a demonstration of the Su-35 all made in that facility. And that's the kind of technology he actually exactly is what he wants from Russia to advance his own country's weapons program. And that is also why for the first time he maybe see he -- he may be see an opening given what Russia wants from him, that is those 10s of millions of rockets and artillery shells that North Korea does possess -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Steven in Beijing. Thank you so much for that. Meanwhile, Australia, echoing concerns over the summit in Russia, the

Australian Foreign Minister stressed that any Russian purchase of arms from North Korea would violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions and be a sign of desperation from President Putin. She urged him to observe the sanctions against North Korea.

Microsoft says Iranian state backed hackers are targeting specific industries in the United States and around the world. It says hackers are hitting satellite, defense and pharmaceutical firms. The goal are likely to help build up Iran's domestic production in those industries.

Microsoft's director of Intelligence Strategy tell CNN, while it's difficult to know exactly why Iran may be targeting these sectors. He suspects Iran may have difficulty generating things in house from these industries with the sanctions in place.

According to analysts, the hackers have broken into a few dozen of the thousands of organizations they've targeted since February.

Now, in a few hours, the Dominican Republic says it'll shut its entire border with neighboring Haiti over a water dispute. At issue is a Haitian construction project seeking to create a water channel from a shared river. The government in Santo Domingo says the closure will last as long as necessary to stop that project. The move will further isolate Haiti, which has been besieged recently by gang violence and growing hunger.

Still ahead, a potentially devastating blow to the U.S. economy. Members of the United Auto Workers launched a targeted strike against the big three automakers.