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Out on Strike; Libya Death Toll Could Rise; Iran Protests Mark Death of Mahsa Amini. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 17, 2023 - 03:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak.

Out on strike, autoworkers in the U.S. still don't have a deal with automakers in the first strike against all of the big three.

And the death toll from floods in Libya will likely keep rising as the search goes on. We'll talk to a former health official about how recovery efforts are going.

And an increased police presence as protests break out across Iran. It's all to mark the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.

No breakthrough, but reasonably productive discussions, at least with Ford. That's how the United Auto Workers are describing labor talks on day two of the union strike against three top U.S. automakers. While striking union workers picketed outside the Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, Ford has responded to the walkout by temporarily laying off some 600 non-striking workers at that plant, saying the strike is causing a lack of parts.

And G.M. is threatening to lay off 2,000 more. The union and Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis are far apart on wages and benefits. The union is essentially demanding double the wage increases the automakers are offering along with other enhancements.

While hundreds of striking UAW members out on picket lines Saturday, said they are prepared to wait to get an agreement that suits them.

CNN's Gabe Cohen reports.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Saturday, we saw the first small signs of any progress in these negotiations between the union and really any of the three big automakers. This after Ford met with union officials.

A source with the union telling CNN, quote, we had reasonably productive conversations with Ford today. Reasonably productive, certainly no deal, but a big step in the right direction after days of hostile back and forth between the sides. Ford saying in a statement that they are committed to reaching an agreement with UAW that rewards our workers and allows Ford to invest in the future.

But we're also starting to see the ripple effect from the strike with Ford and General Motors announcing that the companies will lay off an additional, at least 2,600 workers at two other facilities in the days ahead because those factories can't operate as long as these three are on strike.

But still, so many of the workers we have spoken with who are out here on the picket line making $500 a week in strike pay tell me they're ready to stay here for as long as it takes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their $20 proposal to pay TPTs (ph) is ridiculous. Six years, and I have not had a raise in almost two years now. I tap out at $19.28. So, I've been taking $19.28 for two years, trying to raise a family, and with inflation, it's hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me hopeful that they're getting the message that we're on strike, and we're ready for this and we've been preparing and, you know, bring a good offer to the table.

COHEN: And why did you want your daughter to be here today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I just brought her out to just to kind of get her involved, just so she knows what's going on with dad at work.


COHEN: And Shawn Fain, the head of the Auto Workers Union, has said more of these factories could go on strike in the coming days depending on how negotiations play out.

Gabe Cohen, CNN, Toledo, Ohio.

HARRAK: Harley Shaikin is a professor at University of California, Berkeley, an expert on labor and the global economy, and he's joining me from Switzerland. Sir, so good to have you with us.

What are the ways the United Auto Workers' historic strike could impact the U.S. economy?

HARLEY SHAIKEN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: It could impact in many ways, and it is truly a historic strike. First, the auto industry is about 3 percent of the GDP of the entire economy. That doesn't sound like much, but it affects so many other industries. And in the key states, such as Michigan, it's about 7 percent of the economy.


If the strike lasts a long time, we could see some serious economic slowdowns in key sectors. HARRAK: Would you go as far as to say that it could push the country into a recession?

SHAIKEN: Probably not. It would be more minimal on a national level. But the last time there was a strike, UAW strike against General Motors, in 2019, it pushed the state of Michigan into a recession for a quarter. And that's not incidental from where we sit right now. Michigan is a critical battleground state. So, Michigan in a recession could be damaging to President Biden.

HARRAK: Now, from a consumer point of view, will cars now get more expensive?

SHAIKEN: Not necessarily. One of the things that has been remarkable about the auto industry is the strong productivity increases over the years. What's going to make the industry competitive is productivity, quality and innovation. The wages that are likely to be agreed to will fit into that, not raise prices on cars.

HARRAK: Right. Professor, I want to pick up on innovation, a key word that you've used. Is this just about workers wanting a salary boost? What role does the move, for instance, to new technologies, like electric vehicles, play in all of this?

SHAIKEN: We're in a transition point on technology. The move to electric vehicles is the biggest change the industry is seeing since the introduction of the moving assembly line over 100 years ago. There are estimates, including from top auto industry executives, that for a given number of vehicles, it will require 30 to 40 percent fewer workers.

This is terrifying to workers in the Detroit-based companies, and it should be. They want to be beneficiaries of the change to electrification, not its victims. And that's why this set of negotiations is historic not simply for the fact that all three companies are on strike at once and their partial strikes to-date, but also because it is defining the future for electrification and workers in the United States and who will benefit and who will lose.

HARRAK: Final thought. Let's widen aperture. Globally, what are you seeing in terms of the disruption caused by this shift to electric vehicles?

SHAIKEN: I think this is a disruption that can absolutely be managed, but it has to be managed. And one of the benefits that may come out of the strike and the negotiations in Detroit is a way to ensure that auto workers feel they will be recipients of the gains here. That will result in innovation on the shop floor, in a better product and a smoother transition that benefits the entire economy and all of us.

HARRAK: U.S. Berkeley Professor Harley Shaiken, sir, thank you for joining us, thank you for this conversation.

SHAIKEN: Thank you.

HARRAK: To Libya now, where more than 11,000 people in the city of Derna have been killed by floodwaters that ravaged the region last week. That's according to a U.N. report, which warns the death toll will likely rise as emergency crews continue to search for the missing.

Also, fire workers have pulled dozens of bodies from the sea along the Derna Coast, but rescue missions say most of the victims who were swept away are still in the water. And, soon, the task of retrieving the bodies could become impossible without additional resources.

CNN's Larry Madowo joins us now with more. Larry, this is a massive tragedy that is still unfolding.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Laila, because we just don't know how many people actually died in this catastrophic flooding, as all the emergency rescue teams, the aid agencies, the two governments still say that the number of people that we know have died could likely be much higher. Because a lot of the people that were killed in this flooding, probably those bodies are still in the water. And as you've been saying, the task of retrieving the bodies will become almost impossible. The bodies are quickly decomposing. And even the death toll is still unknown at this point.

And part of the problem here is Libya's fractured government. There is the internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, and the eastern parliament-backed one which covers this region of Derna. So, that is making coordination impossible. There's also lots of different countries that sent in teams to bring aid to try and help in the search and rescue, to try and help in trying retrieving bodies for those who were killed.


And this is just making it almost impossible to get the full extent of how many people were killed here, how many wounds. The U.N. says at least 10,100 are missing in Derna alone, considered the wider reach of this catastrophic flooding after Storm Daniel dumped this amount of water. It could much higher.

And at least Libyans are coming together to try to help where they can, such as donating blood, but also decrying the divided nation that they live in.


MUSTATA RAJABANI, BLOOD DONOR: We feel sorry for those who lost their lives, and we ask God Almighty that he take pity on the others. Unfortunately, we hate to admit that this catastrophe has highlighted the fact that we do not have a state capable of dealing with a crisis of this scale.


MADOWO: That's absolutely right, it highlighted the differences in the administration of the country, but also the early warning systems that didn't quite work effectively, the crumbling infrastructure. And all of that has led to this tragedy, which continues to be a tragedy in the response, Laila, when so many people need so much help and so little of it is coming so far.

HARRAK: Larry Madowo reporting, thank you so much.

And let's get more perspective no from Dr. Reida El Oakley, consultant cardiac surgeon at the Libyan International Medical University and a former health minister of Libya, and he joins us now from Benghazi. Doctor, thank you so manufacture for your time, thank you for joining us at this difficult moment for the people of Libya.

The U.N. now reports that at least 11,300 people were killed in these terrible floods, another at least 10,100 remain missing. How are Libya's rival governments impacting recovery efforts of this scale?

DR. REIDA EL OAKLEY, FORMER LIBYAN HEALTH MINISTER: Well, I think the good news of the Libyan people have actually come together, and a lot of people from east, south, and west have actually driven all the way to Derna carrying personal belongings and things to support the people of Derna.

But I agree totally that the political division doesn't help, not just from the rescue effort, but even from the maintenance issued to Derna dams. We had two dams in Derna if we had decent or this unified government, maybe those dams would have been renovated and looked after to prevent this calamity.

HARRAK: It is a calamity, and the images that we've been seeing all week have been truly shocking. I mean, words really fail us. What are the chances now of finding survivors weeks since this terrible event?

EL OAKLEY: I think the chance would be very, very minimal, I think, unless if you are still alive under rubbles on the ground, it's unlikely that we will find any significant number of alive people in Derna today.

HARRAK: And how long do you think, Doctor, it will take to find all missing persons?

EL OAKLEY: Probably never. I think we may never be able to recover all the missing people, for obvious reasons, because the bodies were actually washed off to the sea. And as you can expect, it would be extremely difficult to see any more bodies surfacing to the seaside for -- presumably for decomposed bodies might not float. Some will float. Others, of course, will sink, unfortunately, and be taken away or eaten away by the fish.

HARRAK: And, Doctor, eyewitnesses have described the city smells of decomposing bodies. Are there plans to evacuate survivors? Could this humanitarian crisis be further compounded by a massive health crisis?

EL OAKLEY: Evacuating survivors in the affected area, I think, is mandatory and it should be done because the problem could happen again. However, there are areas, which is in the higher side of the mountain in Derna, where the families or the residents of that part of Derna will be reluctant to evacuate, particularly if the routes to Derna are restored, which have not been restored until now. And the six dams between either East and West of Derna are badly damaged. So, even transportation between both sides of the city are very difficult.

However, we hear that there were some temporary solutions now to link both sides of the city, but that will not sustain with the next attack of heavy rain. I think it will damage that road that had -- makeshift road that was made to link both East and West Derna.

So, it will not be surprising to see a lot of people leaving Derna on their own accord.


And if the situation gets any worse, the health situation or the environmental situation becomes worse, it's highly likely that the government would take a decision to evacuate the remaining people in Derna.

HARRAK: And, Doctor, what are the biggest challenges in the days and hours ahead?

EL OAKLEY: Well, the biggest challenge really is trying to identify the dead bodies, especially there have been some mass graves without -- apparently without taking DNA samples. That would be a major challenge, number one.

The other challenge would be trying to support the IDPs, nearly 40,000 IDPs, internally displaced people, in Libya in and around Derna who will need to have their life back. That is the second challenge.

The third challenge would be trying to think of how -- what would happen if we have another storm coming to Derna without the presence of dams at the moment, and, of course, the issue of recovery of the city and sort of renovating or rebuilding the city will be another major challenge ahead and many years from now.

HARRAK: Doctor, our thoughts are with people of Libya. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Reida El Oakley, thank you.

EL OAKLEY: Thank you, Laila.

HARRAK: Right now, we head to Tropical Cyclone Lee, which has made a second land fall in Canada, this time in New Brunswick, with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles or 95 kilometers an hour. Lee's initial landfall was Saturday afternoon in Southwest Nova Scotia with winds just under hurricane strength.

The storm surge caused coastal flooding, downed trees, and knocked out power. But crews are making headway in restoring electricity at last check. Some 170,000 customers from Maine through the Canadian Maritimes were still in the dark.

The leader of North Korea sits down with Russia's defense minister to discuss military cooperation between the two countries. That story is just ahead.

Plus, gritty video from the frontlines as Ukrainians slowly advance under Russian fire. We'll explain why Ukraine is calling this battle especially important. That's just ahead.



HARRAK: As far as we know, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is still in Russia, where he's toured the latest in Russian weaponry and its Pacific fleet. According to North Korean state media, Kim held discusses on Saturday with Russia's defense minister. Well, those talks were said to be focused on further cooperation between their two militaries on issues of national security and defense. No arms deals have been announced during Kim's visit, but Ukraine and its allies are closely watching for any potential signs of North Korea aiding Moscow's war effort.

The Russian military claims it intercepted five Ukrainian drone attacks early Sunday over Moscow and Crimea. No casualties or damage were reported, but airport operations around Moscow were disrupted.

Meanwhile, Russia's defense minister reportedly is disputing that Ukrainian forces have retaken the village of Andriivka, near Bakhmut. It's been the scene of fierce fighting along the frontlines fighting along the frontlines.

Newly released video shows Ukrainian soldiers taking cover after entering the village under constant, incoming Russian fire.

For the civilians who once lived in the town, there's nothing to return to. But Ukraine says the territory is strategically important and retaking it has been a key objective of the ongoing counteroffensive.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is closely following all of these developments and joins us now live this hour from London. Clare, a very good morning.

What is the strategy behind these drone attacks on Russian soil, which have become a feature of this war?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and a feature of this counteroffensive, Laila, I think that is crucial to understanding this now that we see them happening with such regularity. The counteroffensive not just on the frontlines, as you showed just there, but what some are calling Ukraine's deep battle, these attacks far behind enemy lines.

Just this morning, case in point, as you said, five drones, Russia says, were intercepted, some over Crimea, which has become an increasing focus certainly in the last week or so. Just in the last week, Ukraine claims to have damaged several ships in the Port of Sevastopol, claims to have knocked out a sophisticated air defense system in the east of the peninsula as well.

But Moscow, I think you have to sort of question what's the military utility here. Yes, I think there are attempts to sort of crack the propaganda facade to remind the Russian people that this is, in fact, a war. There may also be an attempt to keep Russia's air defenses trained on the capital and away from Ukraine itself.

But, look, as we see the debate around weapons supplies certainly ahead of President Zelenskyy's expected visit to the U.S. this week, this is a part of this war that Ukraine does not, we understand, rely on western supplies for. They are producing a lot of their own drones. The head of the drone program saying to CNN just recently that they've increased production 100 times since the start of this war.

So, this is a way for Ukraine to show that it has its own agency in this war, a war, of course, that Russia is fighting in part to try to essentially delete Ukraine as a sovereign nation. So, I think it's worth viewing these overnight attacks, which are happening increasingly frequently in that context. Laila?

HARRAK: All right. Clare Sebastian reporting in London, thank you so much.


The exact number of Ukrainian troops killed in the war is not clear, but it's likely staggering. But each one was special to those who loved them. The family who reluctantly saw them off to fight a war they would not survive.

CNN's Melissa Bell has the story.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There's been no shortage of grief in Ukraine. Today in St. Michael's Cathedral, it's the turn of Yevgen (ph) Shayan's mother to say good-bye to her 42- year-old son killed on a frontline he volunteered for.

How many have died, neither side will say. For Ukraine, the number is believed to be many tens of thousands. Today, though, for Yevgen's (ph) wife, Karina, her own grief is all there is.

Saying goodbye too soon is part of everyday life in Ukraine now, but never any easier for it. Yevgen (ph) Shayan will rest amongst his own, many like him had never fought before, all died too soon.


BELL: Yevgen had been a speechwriter, a political analyst who put down his pen to pick up a gun, he told his wife, so that she might live in safety.

Everyone here describes a man who was larger than life. Now, his optimism and light have given way to grief and disbelief that he's gone.


BELL: The priest has urged those here to forgive Yevgen (ph) for dying. Besides, he says, heroes never really die. And of heroes, in cemeteries across Ukraine, there is no shortage either. Melissa Bell, CNN, Kyiv.


HARRAK: The U.S. autoworkers strike is putting the squeeze on President Biden. Coming up, we'll explain why the president is facing a dilemma, pitting his pro-union stance against concerns about the U.S. economy.

And Texas attorney general survives impeachment, but his legal troubles are far from over. That story and more after the break.



HARRAK: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak and you're watching CNN Newsroom.

There has been no sign of any significant progress on day two of the United Auto Workers strike against three major U.S. automakers. The two sides appear to remain far apart on wage and benefit increases, and it's putting U.S. President Joe Biden in a very difficult position.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez explains.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Joe Biden weighed in on the autoworkers strike on Friday as he faces the biggest labor crisis of his presidency so far. In his remarks, the president provided an explicit endorsement of the auto workers' negotiating position, saying that record profits should equal record contracts.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I do appreciate that the parties have been working around the clock. When I first called them at the very first day of their negotiation, I said, please, stay at the table as long as you can to try to work this out. And they've been around the clock, and the companies have made some significant offers.

But I believe it should go further to ensure so record profits mean record contracts for UAW. I'll say it again, record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for UAW.


ALVAREZ: Now, the strike reveals attention to president Joe Biden as he casts himself as the most pro-union president, but also as his administration stares down the potential economic ramifications of this strike extending days or months and the destabilizing risk of an auto manufacturing shutdown.

Now, leading up to the strike, the president and White House officials have been closely monitoring negotiations. And on Friday, the president announced that he would deploy his senior adviser, Gene Sperling, as well as Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su to serve as the go between for the administration in these talks.

Now, those talks are ongoing and the president and staff are watching all of it closely and what it might mean for the economy moving forward.

Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, traveling with the president.

HARRAK: The Republican Party may be united against President Joe Biden and the Democrats, but they're far from united on what to do about Donald Trump. Though the GOP did just hand the former president a win in Florida, sort of, Republicans in that state just scrapped plans to make presidential candidates sign a so-called loyalty pledge for whoever became the party's nominee.

Trump had refused to sign a pledge to back candidate that wasn't himself. A loyalty pledge would have helped Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. So, the fact that it's now abandoned is seen as a major defeat for the DeSantis campaign.

But Trump may soon suffer a defeat over what he can and can't say even on social media. Federal prosecutors are asking for a narrowly tailored gag order on Trump, citing his attacks on people working the case and possible witnesses. The order would prevent Trump from making statements that could be considered disparaging and inflammatory or intimidating.

California is suing five of the world's biggest oil companies over climate change. The state claims they have known since at least the 1960s that burning fossil fuels would warm the planet and change the climate, but instead says they downplayed the risks and misled the public. The state claims the result was damaging wildfires, unclear air, deadly heat waves and record-breaking droughts, costing California tens of billions of dollars.

Chevron pushed back, saying climate change requires a coordinated international policy response, not piecemeal litigation for the benefits of lawyers and politicians. But California's local courts have no constructive or constitutionally permissible role in crafting global energy policy.


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted on Saturday in his state senate's impeachment trial. The hard line conservative and Trump ally faced 16 articles of impeachment, which stemmed from accusations that he repeatedly abused his office to help a donor. But the acquittal isn't the end of his legal trouble.

Ed Lavandera has the details.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN U.S. SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ken Paxton is celebrating his victory in his impeachment trial by calling the case that House managers brought to the Senate as a sham and a shameful experience. Paxton's lawyers say that this vote today is a total vindication of the attorney general, who will now be reinstated into his job. In fact, it was a resounding victory of the 18 voting Republican senators, only two of them crossed the aisle to vote to convict Ken Paxton. So, he had an overwhelming support among Republicans in the Texas Senate. And his lawyers say Ken Paxton is ready to get back to work.


DAN COGDELL, PAXTON DEFENSE LAWYER: This is a trial that should have never happened, period, full stop. The right result happened but it shouldn't have gotten this far.

TONY BUZBEE, PAXTON DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We are proud of the case we put on. We should not have had to prove our innocence, but that's what we did. And we believe that the court reached the right verdict. We're very proud of the work we did.


LAVANDERA: This impeachment vote has erupted what can only be described as an all-out civil war among Texas Republicans. The Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, after the trial, spent several minutes blasting House Republicans for voting on these articles of impeachment and bringing these charges to the Senate side.

On the House side, the speaker of the House, Dade Phelan, shot back at Dan Patrick, saying that it was clear, based on that speech, that this entire voting process was orchestrated from the very beginning, essentially accusing senators of predetermining their vote before hearing all of the evidence, and also going on to say that this process cheated the voters of Texas of justice in this case, and also, Democrats and some Republicans saying that this vote is essentially condoning corruption at the highest levels of Texas politics.


STE REP. ANN JOHNSONO (D-TX): Our lawyers, the board of managers presented overwhelming evidence that Ken Paxton is the most corrupt politician in the state of Texas at this time and the Republicans in the Texas Senate just returned him to the office of top cop. I will to rely on what I said on the floor of the Texas House, God help us.


LAVANDERA: Now, Ken Paxton still has legal trouble that he is facing. There is a state securities fraud trial that he is facing, and he is also under federal investigation stemming from the very issues that came up in this impeachment trial, so all of that is still issues he will have to deal with in the months ahead.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Austin, Texas.

HARRAK: Iranian authorities ramped up security across the country, but that didn't stop demonstrators from marking the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini. We'll have the latest. Plus, the climate crisis is even affecting the Panama Canal. We'll have details how it's impacting traffic on one of the world's most important trade routes.



HARRAK: Protests erupted in several Iranian cities Saturday commemorating the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran's morality police, well, that despite ramped-up security across the country.


HARRAK (voice over): A show of force in Iran to deter any would-be protesters from marking the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini. It was just a year ago the 22-year-old died while in the custody of Iran's morality police after being arrested for allegedly failing to wear her head scarf properly.

Her death sparked months of unprecedented protests followed by a brutal crackdown by the government, in which more than 500 people were killed, according to the human rights group, Human Rights Activist News Agency.

A year on, there were some daring acts of defiance, like this couple chanting, women, life, freedom, in the streets of Tehran, as drivers honked their horns in support, or these protesters blocking traffic in a Kurdish city just a few hours away from Amini's hometown.

But state-affiliated media says security forces were able to quash several protests, and several people referred to as counterrevolutionaries and terrorists were arrested. Iranian journalists and rights groups say Amini's father was also briefly detained, though Iran state media denies this and says it prevented an assassination attempt on his life.

Rallies to show solidarity for the people of Iran and commemorate Amini's death were held around the world in cities like Paris, Brussels, London and Berlin. Many protesters saying they felt the need to raise their voices when so many in Iran cannot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even though we are very far away, a few thousand kilometers, we still -- we are still with them with our hearts and with our minds. And we are going to keep fighting until the mullahs are gone.


HARRAK (on camera): Italian fire officials say a young girl is dead after a military jet crashed, sending debris flying onto her family's car. It happened in Northwest Italy near Turin on Saturday.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau is in Rome with the details. BARBIE NADEUA, CNN REPORTER: A day meant for celebration ended in horrific tragedy after a five-year-old child was killed when an Italian Air Force jet flying in formation exploded into a fireball and hit the car she was traveling this with her family.

The flying debris struck the family car, carrying four people. The five-year-old girl was killed, her nine-year-old brother was severely burned and her parents are also being treated now for burns.

The jet lost altitude shortly after takeoff, flying in formation with the other jets. And the Air Force is speculating it might have hit a flock of birds. The Air Force say it have not determined decisively the cause of the crash but that is the speculation at the moment.

The crash happened within the perimeter of the airport, which means the jet fell within the fence of the airport, and the family was actually driving on a country road on the outside perimeter when the fiery debris struck their car ending in tragedy.


The Air Force says that they'll be conducting a full investigation into the matter.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.

HARRAK: Electricity is slowly being restored along roads in Morocco's Atlas Mountains as the region begins its long recovery from the devastating September 8th earthquake. Crews geared up to try to restore power to villages where earthquake survivors have been using flashlights to see at night, although lack of electricity also has knocked out street lights along mountain roads, hindering the transport of vital aid.

The government has promised to build some 50,000 houses for those whose homes were destroyed, but residents fear it could take months or years before it gets done.

The climate crisis and other issues are affecting one of the world's most important trade routes. The water level in the Panama Canal is falling. As Patrick Oppmann reports, it's slowing international shipping ahead of the busy holiday season.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Panama Canal is running low on water. A persistent drought caused in part by the El Nino water pattern left water levels dangerously depleted. Now, the global supply chain is under threat as their holiday season approaches.

The 80-kilometer waterway connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and is a vital route for transporting goods, handling an estimated 5 percent of the world trade.

The canal was completed in 1914, revolutionizing how goods could be transported and further expanded in 2016 to meet the skyrocketing demands of global commerce.

But over the last 20 years, decreasing rainfall has reduced the water level of Panama's Lake Gatun from 27 meters above sea level to 24 meters.

RICAURTE VASQUEZ MORALES, ADMINISTRATOR, PANAMA CANAL AUTHORITY: call it climate change, whatever you want to call it. The true fact is that precipitation levels are changing. And as I have said repeatedly, the Panama Canal is the only global maritime route that uses fresh water.

OPPMANN: Canal officials have imposed draft restrictions, forcing ships to lighten their load. A ship's draft is the minimum depth of water it can safely navigate. And if a ship carries too much cargo, it risks getting trapped in the canal.

Since May, ships have had to reduce their cargo by as much as 25 percent. The Panama Canal Authority has also limited the number of vessels authorized to enter the canal each day, creating a bottleneck with some ships waiting as long as 14 days to get through. As of Tuesday, 116 vessels were waiting to pass.

The canal's administrator warns the number of authorized vessels could decrease further if the drought continues into next year.

MORALES: In the coming months, I think there's the possibility in March and April, if the rain pattern remains the same as now, there would be possible water restrictions. Now, before reaching this point, the Panama Canal would have to make further restrictions on the number of transits. It will depend on the amount of water in the Alajuela Lake, for example.

OPPMANN: This has led to rising freight costs, which are likely to continue in the months leading up to both Christmas and the Chinese New Year. The canal's administrator has said the drought could wipe away $200 million in revenue in 2024. And he says they may need to build a new dam or connect the canal to another nearby lake to keep water flowing, as the ever-increasing thirst for global goods crashes into the new realities of climate change.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN.


HARRAK: And a water war of sorts between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Haiti is building a channel to divert water from a river it shares with its neighbor. But the Dominican Republic says that violates a treaty going back to 1929.

Haitian volunteers kept working on the channel Friday while the Dominican Republic shut down the border because of the project. Haiti insists its government has the sovereign right to tap into its natural resources, and the Dominican Republic has the same right.

Still ahead, Messi missing in action. The football superstar skips a match with his new team for the first time. And his absence clearly felt by Inter Miami. How the club fared against Atlanta. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HARRAK: Former Philadelphia Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel has suffered a stroke. The baseball team released a statement saying Manuel had a stroke during a medical procedure in Florida on Saturday.

Well, Manuel left the Phillies to the 2008 World Series Championship. He played in the big leagues for six seasons between 1969 and 1975. Well, the team says doctors were able to remove a clot, and added that the next 24 hours are crucial for the 79-year-old.

And for the first time since joining Major League Soccer, Lionel Messi has skipped a match with his new team, Inter Miami. The superstar was sorely missed on Saturday as the club got hammered by Atlanta in front of 72,000 fans. As CNN's Don Riddell reports, his absence was also felt by the crowd.

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: When you're the greatest of all-time, it's a big deal when you play and it's also a big deal when you don't play. On Saturday here at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Lionel Messi missed his first game since moving to Inter Miami earlier this summer.

Messi has been a smash hit ever since arriving in the United States and many fans had paid hundreds, if not thousands of dollars above face value to see him. And some in the massive crowd of more than 71,000 fans were bitterly disappointed that he wasn't even on the bench.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I paid a lot of money for coming to see Messi, Messi not coming.

RIDDELL: Do you mind if I ask how much you paid?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go home right now.

RIDDELL: Really? You want to go home?



RIDDELL: Oh, wow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Because I just -- we just come for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish he'd been able to at least come and we'd seen him in person, even if he was on the bench. Because even seeing him, it's like it makes the money worth it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think it's only a mind game. We think he's going to pop up for the second half and play for at least ten minutes, so we are ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of disappointed. I wanted to see him. I finally had the chance but he's not here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It hurts a little bit just because you come here, you come all this way, pay all this money, come to see Messi.

He'll show up next game. I still get to watch him on T.V. It's not the same. But I'm not too mad at the man.


RIDDELL: This was a really crucial game for Miami in their push for the playoffs, but they were beaten 5-2, their first defeat since Messi arrived here in July. And once they'd fallen behind in the game, they couldn't call on him to come and try and turn things around because he was more than 600 miles away at home.

When he plays again next week, Miami will hope that he's rejuvenated from almost two weeks' rest, and they'll also hope the points drop here aren't too costly. For now, they're second last in the Eastern Conference.

Don Riddell, CNN, Atlanta.

HARRAK: And we want to close out this hour with some heartwarming video for you out of South Africa. Well, these two baby seals were struggling to get out of this tangled net, so beachgoers carefully worked to free the pair, cautiously cutting the net.

And then this happened. After a quick dash back to the sea, the two baby seals then stopped to cuddle. Following a few moments of bliss, they headed back off into the sea.

That wraps up this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Laila Harrak.

Kim Brunhuber picks up our coverage after a quick break, and I'll see you tomorrow.