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U.S.-Led Coalition Launches New Round Of Strikes In Yemen; White House Seeks To Prevent Attacks On Troops, While Avoiding Full- Scale Conflict With Iran; South Carolina Republican Primary To Be Held On Feb. 24; Protesters Call For New Government In Israel; Life- Threatening Flooding, High Winds Expected In California. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired February 04, 2024 - 05:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber, ahead on CNN Newsroom. A U.S.-led coalition of nations hits dozens of Houthi targets in Yemen. We're live in Amman and Abu Dhabi with a look at what this means for efforts to minimize conflict in the region.

Plus --


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: This is not just a campaign, this is more of a mission. We cannot -- we cannot -- we cannot lose this campaign for the good of the country.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden's touting his victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary and warning supporters the stakes couldn't be higher. Look at what's ahead for South Carolina's GOP primary.

And another atmospheric river moves in. The mayor of Long Beach says his city could see more rain this weekend than they do in a typical year. This is parts of California have been issued evacuation orders.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN Newsroom with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: The U.S. says it carried out a new strike against Iran- backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, this time destroying an anti-ship cruise missile that was prepared to launch. Now, earlier Saturday, American and British forces hit 36 targets in Yemen at 13 locations.

FAA team jets and a pair of U.S. destroyers struck what the U.S. says were facilities involved in attacks on international shipping. The British Defense Secretary says the strikes are about protecting innocent lives. The U.S. and the U.K. are at the forefront of an international

coalition trying to stop the Houthi attacks. In a statement, the group said, quote, "Today's strike specifically targeted sites associated with the Houthi's deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems and radars.

Now, the strikes in Yemen come just one day after U.S. strikes on Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. said those were retaliation for an attack that killed three American soldiers in Jordan earlier in the week.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is standing by for us in Abu Dhabi. But first, let's go to Ben Wedeman who's in Amman with the latest on the Yemen airstrike. So Ben, the Houthis remained defiant in the face of those new strikes, take us through the reactions so far.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we heard from Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, who's a member of the Senior Political Bureau of the Houthis, who said that the Houthis in the aftermath of these U.S. and U.K. strikes will meet, in his words, escalation with escalation.

He said that until the crimes of genocide in Gaza are stopped and the siege on its residents is lifted, they will continue. And it's worth noting that many across the Middle East actually support the Houthis in this effort to disrupt ships heading to Israel, that by and large they see the Houthis as doing what many Arab regimes are not doing, which is doing something concrete to influence the course of events in Gaza.

We also heard from Nasser Kanaani, who's the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Minister, who accused the U.K. and U.S. fueling chaos, disorder, insecurity and instability, contradicting the American and British claims that they are trying to minimize the possibility of regional war.

Certainly, in light of the American strikes on Syria and Iraq over the weekend and the continued strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, it does seem that whereas before we were talking about a low-intensity conflict, the intensity of the war between the indirect war between the United States and Iran is increasing. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Ben Wedeman in Amman. Thank you so much.

I want to bring in Paula Hancocks now from Abu Dhabi. She's following the U.S. air strikes on Syria and Iraq. So Paula, we just heard Ben there talking about the accusations that these strikes are just feeling a broader regional conflict. Is that happening, do you think?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you hear from the American side is that this is not an escalation. They're pointing out, in particular, when you look at the strikes overnight from Friday into Saturday in Iraq and Syria. They're pointing out that this is in retaliation for a deadly drone attack that happened last month. An Iranian-backed militia, they say, carried out this drone attack and killed three U.S. service members, injured dozens more. And they said that this was something that they had said would happen.


In fact, we understand from U.S. officials that very quickly after that attack took place, President Biden agreed to a number of options that were put on the table by his military chiefs. And then it was Monday in the Situation Room, just two days after that attack, that he gave the green light for this to take place.

Now, when you hear from the other side, though, there is this belief, we heard most recently from the Iranian Foreign Ministry saying that they believe that this is making the chances of a negotiated ceasefire or some kind of diplomatic movement even more difficult in the region.

But the U.S. has made it very clear that what we saw in those attacks against Iraq and Syrian-Iranian-backed militias over the weekend is just the start. They've made it very clear that they continue -- they will continue to carry out these strikes.

We've heard from U.S. officials that more than 160 attacks have been carried out against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria since October. And they say that this is a way of trying to give deterrence, to try and stop certain groups from targeting them quite so much.

In fact, there has been one militia, Kata'ib Hezbollah, which has said that they're suspending attacks against U.S. assets at this point. Of course, it's anyone's guess as to whether this is the deterrent that they are feeling.

We've certainly heard many experts suggest that the U.S. saying that they would go after these groups has made some of them think twice. We simply don't know for sure when it comes to that, though. But what we're seeing is this continuation of the U.S. targeting these Iranian- backed groups, whether it is the Houthis launching missiles into the Red Sea, whether it is those in Iraq and Syria launching attacks against U.S. and coalition forces. But of course, we have seen the level of strikes, the level of attacks, intensify since those three U.S. service members were killed at the end of last month.

So I think there's certainly a sense that the dangers increased, that the escalation did happen at that point. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much, Paula Hancocks in Abu Dhabi. Appreciate it.

The U.N. Security Council is planning to meet Monday to discuss the U.S. air strikes in the Middle East. Russia says it requested the urgent meeting. The Russian foreign ministry criticized the strikes, calling them a, quote, "blatant act of U.S.-British aggression against sovereign states.

Now, earlier I spoke with Maha Yahya, Director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, and she told me she doesn't think these strikes will deter Iranian-backed militias. There she is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAHA YAHYA, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MIDDLE EAST CENTER: The danger in this situation is that as more and more strikes are conducted on both sides, whether it's Houthi attacks in the Red Sea or as we've seen in the various non-state groups across the region, and now the U.S. responds to these strikes, the danger of an accidental escalation becomes much greater.

We're understanding -- as we now understand, that the strike against the U.S. troops last week was an accident. It was not meant to take out U.S. lives, but these accidents are going to occur more and more, unfortunately.

BRUNHUBER: But all of these attacks, they're tied to Israel's war against Hamas. Iran, as we heard, has said that these U.S. strikes make diplomacy harder. Of course, they would say that, but are they right here?

YAHYA: I don't think so. I mean, yes, absolutely. I mean, the U.S., I think, needs to double and the international community or Western countries have to double down on their diplomatic efforts. Conducting military strikes without a parallel diplomatic track just does not make sense. That diplomatic track has to begin with a ceasefire, a total ceasefire in Gaza.

Your -- the previous report was talking about a framework from the Palestinian perspective, they're very concerned because there's nothing to stop Israel from continuing to wreak havoc on Gaza once it gets what it wants out of the deal. So we need to have a framework, not just for a total ceasefire in Gaza, but also for what will happen across the region. The Lebanon border is one area where serious diplomatic effort is underway to calm things down. We need similar efforts in different parts of the region as well.



BRUNHUBER: All right, much more to come here on CNN, including the latest from the race for the White House as President Biden clinches his first official primary win in South Carolina. Plus, I'll speak to a reporter in the Palmetto State as its voters gear up for the Republican primary later this month.

Also ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're expecting a storm that could bring between five and seven inches of rain here to Long Beach, starting on Sunday -- with heavy rain on Sunday, lasting through Tuesday. That's more than we usually get in a year, so it's a lot of rain.


BRUNHUBER: A report from the CNN Weather Center on the potentially life-threatening flooding bearing down on almost all of California. We'll have all that and more here on CNN Newsroom. Please stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden has clinched a landslide victory in South Carolina, the first official Democratic primary leading to the election in November. Now, CNN is projecting, he's crushed his two opponents, Minnesota lawmaker Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson with more than 96% of the votes and he'll pick up all of the state's 55 delegates.


The President hailed his projected win saying the voters have set him on the path to winning the presidency again. Here he is.


BIDEN: This is not just a campaign, this is more of a mission. We cannot, we cannot, we cannot lose this campaign for the good of the country. It's not about me. It goes well beyond me. It goes about the country. And I think everybody knows it, and I think people are beginning to dawn on people. American people get it. They understand what's going on. We're going to be able to say, God willing, that this generation helps save democracy.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Eva McKend reports South Carolina's black voters once again played a crucial role in Biden's win on Saturday.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Though the results of this primary contest not surprising, this state's still hugely consequential for President Biden. It was South Carolina and the black voters in this state that brought his campaign back to life in 2020.

That is why he pushed so hard for this state to hold the first in the nation primary. And when you speak to black voters across the state, the reviews are mixed. Some are really excited about Biden. They still give him a lot of credibility for being Barack Obama's vice president. Others have economic anxieties. And feel as though routinely voting for Democrats, they have very little to show for that.

And then you have pragmatic voters, people who are so concerned about former President Donald Trump returning to the White House. They think voting for Biden is a safe bet.

Listen, Democrats here, they say that they are excited about the black turnout, that they were able to get to rural parts of the state like never before via bus tours and other mechanisms. And they say the enthusiasm here from black voters will be mirrored across the country. Eva McKend, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BRUNHUBER: And joining me now from Greenville, South Carolina is Savannah Moss. She's a reporter with Greenville News. Thanks so much for being up early with us here. So first in the nation, I mean, the Democrats moved the calendar just for this moment. Has that helped boost the mood and enthusiasm among Democrats?

SAVANNAH MOSS, REPORTER, GREENVILLE NEWS: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. Yeah, so first in the nation, the South Carolina Democratic Party has been traveling all across the state to get the excitement.

With no exit polls, it's a little bit hard to tell what that voting has been like and if it's been increased, but I know that they are saying that, that turnout has been good. I know that it was about 4% of voter turnout.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, there were some reports that the voter turnout was actually down. One thing that they're looking specifically at, though, is the black voter turnout. An important demographic, and there have been more efforts by Democrats to reach them, as we heard in that report, a demographic that's been believing some support, at least to Donald Trump. Not by a lot, but still it could be significant in a close race. This primary was seen sort of as a litmus test for the party's outreach to that community. From what you're seeing, how successful have they been, do you think?

MOSS: So from that report that we heard earlier, I'm also hearing the same thing, a little bit of a mixed bag with black voters in South Carolina. Some are very excited. Others, like was mentioned, are a little bit hesitant to vote democratic and especially with the economic troubles. And they're just not seeing the promises that they think were made prior.

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. More broadly, there seems to be, you know, a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats. And it might not be helped by the latest head-to-head polls showing Donald Trump with a narrow lead over Biden. And, interestingly, Nikki Haley has a big 13-point lead in a head-to-head with Biden. So how big of a worry is that among Democrats right now? Are they just seeing this sort of as a snapshot, a moment in time, rather than sort of a worrying trend that might not change?

MOSS: I do think it is a little bit of a snapshot. I think that's a great way to put it. Nikki Haley, it is her home state, but a lot of Republican politicians have been endorsing Donald Trump. So it's not clear how big of a threat that Haley is currently presenting to the Democratic Party.

BRUNHUBER: All right, well, you mentioned Haley, let's turn to the Republicans here. Their primary there in your state, near to the end of the month, Donald Trump, you know, as you say, has a big lead. And there's been a lot of pressure on Nikki Haley to drop out, she insists she won't. How is that being seen there, particularly in her home state, these efforts to sort of bully her out of the race.

[05:20:04] MOSS: A lot of voters are -- there's a lot of Trump support in the Palmetto state. A lot of voters that I've been talking to have been wanting her to drop out. But like you said, she's been very clear that she -- she wants to maintain the race, at least until the Republican presidential primary at the end of this month on the 24th.

BRUNHUBER: You touched on the economy as being a key issue. The election may, in fact, hinge on it. Now, the last time the unemployment rate was this low for this long, Richard Nixon was in the White House. Biden is trying to trumpet this wherever he goes. Will that work, do you think, or is the general pessimism about the economy explained basically by the partisan divide? About half the country will see the economy as doing badly, basically, as long as Biden's president?

MOSS: You know, it's really interesting. Yesterday, when I was around talking to voters, a lot of them were saying, oh, I don't think Biden is getting the credit that they think he deserves for how well the economy is doing.

But if you talk to other voters, that's their main concern. They're telling me I have to work two to three jobs in order to make rent to be able to survive. So it's definitely a mixed bag, but it is interesting when you talk to different voters.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah. What's one thing that you'll be looking for in the Republican primary coming up that you think maybe the -- the mainstream media hasn't been focused on that as a local reporter that you're -- you're sort of keen to -- keen to see how it plays out?

MOSS: What's been really interesting is that there's been this push for undecided voters or independent voters to vote for Nikki Haley in the Republican primary as opposed to voting for Joe Biden yesterday.

They're hoping that voters that didn't vote yesterday are going to show up for Haley and give her that kind of push that she needs in her home state so that there's not another Trump nomination.

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. We will be watching. I really appreciate getting your take on all this. Savannah Moss, thanks so much for speaking with us.

MOSS: Thank you so much for having me.

BRUNHUBER: All right, for the first time ever in Northern Ireland, a nationalist politician is the first minister, Michelle O'Neil of Sinn Fein was sworn in on Saturday, marking a seismic shift in Northern Ireland's history.

Her party was once considered the political arm of the Irish Republican Army during the violent period called "The Troubles." Now, she'll share power with the Unionist Deputy First Minister. The two are pledging to work together and serve all of Northern Ireland, regardless of party affiliation, religion or background.

The U.S. and U.K. say they've carried out new airstrikes in Yemen, the latest from the Pentagon next on CNN Newsroom.

Plus, Israeli protesters step up their rallies for the release of hostages from Gaza, just as the top U.S. diplomat makes a new push to bring them home. That's coming up. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada, and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN Newsroom.

More now on the day's top story. The U.S. says it carried out a new strike in Yemen, destroying an anti-ship cruise missile that was preparing to launch against ships in the Red Sea.

Now, this follows a series of U.S. and U.K. airstrikes in Yemen. American officials say they hit 36 targets at 13 locations. The U.S. says those targets were facilities involved in attacks on international shipping.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron says, the Houthi's, quote, "reckless actions are putting innocent lives at risk, threatening the freedom of navigation and destabilizing the region." Now, the strikes in Yemen come just one day after U.S. strikes on Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria. American officials say they were retaliation for an attack that killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan last Sunday.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann has more on the airstrikes and the Houthi attacks that led to them.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: For the third time in recent weeks, the U.S. and the U.K. carried out joint strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. This time the coalition airstrikes targeted 36 targets across 13 different locations in Yemen as the U.S. and the U.K., backed by a coalition of Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, tried to disrupt the ability of the Iran-backed rebel group to target international shipping lanes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

It was U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets taking off from the deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as two destroyers. The USS Gravely and the USS Kearny launching Tomahawk Land Attack cruise missiles that took part in these strikes. The U.S. went after underground storage facilities, command and control, missile systems, drone storage and operation sites, radars, and helicopters of the Houthis.

So, in that target list, you see the effort of the U.S. to try to disrupt the abilities of the Houthis to continue to attack commercial vessels as well as U.S. warships. In the statement from the joint coalition, they also specifically mention a January 27th attack when the Houthis successfully hit the Marshall Islands flagged oil tanker, the Marlin Luanda. This is worth pointing out because the ship had to issue a distress call because it was burning, forcing a U.S. destroyer to respond, as well as others.

And that's the grave nature of what the U.S. sees here, and what the U.S., the U.K., and others see it as so important to respond to the Houthis and let them know that if the attacks continue on international shipping, so too will the U.S. and the U.K. strikes on Houthi targets. Again, that attempt to throw off or disrupt their ability to continue these attacks. Despite these latest U.S. strikes, the Houthis promise the attacks will continue.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, in the Pentagon.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on a clean standalone bill providing $17.6 billion in aid for Israel. Speaker Mike Johnson made the announcement on Saturday. Now, this news comes as the Senate prepares to unveil its own bipartisan legislation, which pairs border security with aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. Senate negotiators are expected to release the measure's tax no later than Sunday, with procedural votes starting next week.

So as U.S. lawmakers debate future aid for Israel, the country's Prime Minister is coming under more pressure at home. Protesters marched towards one of Benjamin Netanyahu's private residences on Saturday, calling for his removal. Demonstrators in Tel Aviv blocked a major highway and wrote the word help on the pavement. Their message, they want the Netanyahu government out and the hostages currently held in Gaza back home.


But Hamas is digging in on its demands for any possible deal, which includes ending Israel's military operations. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed to the region later today, his fifth trip since the October 7th Hamas attacks. For more, Elliott Gotkine joins us from London.

So, Elliot, Antony Blinken traveling to the region again. Do you expect this trip to be any more tangibly successful than the previous four?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN JOURNALIST: Well, there's always hope, Kim, the fact that he's traveling again, that he presumably wouldn't be undertaking this trip if he thought it was all going to be a waste of time. He's going to be visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank.

And he has a familiar-looking entry and issues to deal with. So, perhaps when he's in the rest of the Arab world, outside of Israel and the West Bank, he will, of course, be discussing the situation involving the hostages, particularly with the Egyptians and the Qataris, who are the main mediators there.

And I think perhaps in Saudi Arabia, you may also have more discussions about his longer-term vision, or the U.S. administration's longer-term vision, for the region, i.e. an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel in exchange for Saudi recognition and other issues relating to aid and reconstruction and all of those things as well.

So, quite a, you know, tall order that Blinken is facing. And one of the other things that he'll be dealing with, particularly in Israel and in the West Bank, will be the issue of the Israel-Hamas War, which is now, what, 120 days into it?

He'll be discussing things like getting more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and also getting some kind of humanitarian pause. And, of course, in that whole trip, putting pressure on all sides to try to facilitate some kind of deal that would see the more than 100 hostages who were kidnapped during the Hamas-led massacre of October 7th, get them out of the Gaza Strip and back home in Israel. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: A tall order as you say, then Elliott on those protests that we're seeing in Israel, take us through what's driving them?

GOTKINE: So there are a couple of things. There were actually two protests, really. One was very much focused on keeping up the pressure on the Israeli government to do whatever it takes to bring those hostages home.

The other was more focused on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government itself, trying to call for his, or calling for him to step down so that there can be fresh elections. But the two protests kind of bleed into one another, not just because of their geographical proximity. They take place, at least in Tel Aviv on adjacent streets, but also because of their ultimate objectives, which are to get the hostages home as well. And some of those protesters feel that Netanyahu is actually an obstacle to doing that.

They feel that he wants to put off a deal and thereby remain in power longer, because as soon as the deal is done and there's a pause in fighting, that would lead not just to an inquiry into what happened on October 7th under Netanyahu's watch, but also that it would lead to elections, which all opinion polls suggest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would lose.

And they would point to things such as a leaked recording of a conversation between families of the hostages and Prime Minister Netanyahu, in which he was very critical of the Qataris. They will point to statements by Netanyahu, saying that Israel won't be releasing, in his words, thousands of terrorists in order to get a deal done for the hostages, and also comments by his right-wing national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gir, saying that if there is, in his words, a reckless deal with Hamas, the government, he would bring down the government.

And of course, the backdrop here is this kind of framework agreement that Israel and Hamas appear to have agreed to, which would see a phased release of hostages in exchange for a larger number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for something like a six-week pause to begin with in the fighting.

And then that could lead to a longer pause in the fighting as well. But Hamas is insisting Israel withdraw from the Gaza Strip and stop fighting. Israel doesn't want to release thousands of prisoners. And as a result, the two sides still seem quite far apart. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Elliott Gotkine in London, thanks so much.

Russian officials say at least 28 people were killed after a strike on a building near the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Moscow claims Ukraine was targeting a bakery when it hit a two-story building in Lysychansk, a town occupied by Russian forces.

Now CNN can't verify these claims, and Kyiv hasn't commented on the incident. Lysychansk was captured by Russian forces in July of 2022. It was one of Moscow's last conquests before Ukraine's successful summer counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region.

And we're hearing reports that journalists were detained after Russian police cracked down on a protest at Vladimir Putin's election headquarters. One Russian source says authorities pulled men from the crowd of protesters in Moscow. Seven journalists were taken to one police station, at least another 27 people, only one of them an actual protester were driven to another station, a source says, one state media employee has been released.


Now, the protest was part of a growing movement of women demanding that their husbands and sons be brought home from the war.

All right, still ahead. Millions in California brace for heavy rains and severe flooding. How communities are preparing to weather the storm. Look at that, and how this atmospheric river event may be more dangerous than some of the ones we've seen before. Elisa?

ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A dangerous and life-threatening flood event is unfolding in California. We now have a high risk of excessive flooding. That's very rare. We'll explain why, talk about timing and totals. That's coming up next.


BRUNHUBER: Millions of people in California can expect heavy rain, severe storms and life-threatening flooding as another atmospheric river is moving in as we speak. Officials say millions of sandbags are available and rescue equipment has been prepared.

A number of places in Southern California have issued evacuation orders because of the flooding risk and also the risk of mudslides, landslides and debris flows. CNN's Camila Bernal has the latest on efforts there to get ready.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials here in Los Angeles say there's a few easy ways to prepare. Avoid unnecessary travel, have an emergency kit ready, and come to your local fire station because that's where you're going to be able to find sandbags.

Take a look behind me. There's been a steady flow of people coming to fill up their sandbags. And a lot of them saying that in previous storms, their garages, for example, flooded. So, this time around, they want to be prepared.

Now, that is the before the storm. During the storm, officials are saying that personal safety is and should be your number one priority, not going to flooded areas. Because what they say is that those currents can be very deceiving. Officials also saying they are prepared as well.

Take a listen to what the L.A. fire chief had to say.


CHIEF KRISTIN CROWLEY, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPARTMENT: We've got our swift water rescue apparatus boats. We also have our teams that will be fully staffed, ready to respond to any water-related emergency.


Now, these teams are highly trained in swift water technical rescues. They stand ready to respond on a moment's notice. We've also bolstered our air apparatus, our helicopters, our air resources, adding skilled pilots and rescue teams to our helicopter fleet.


BERNAL: And officials also saying that there are crews ready to address power outages if that happens or if there is that need. There have also been outreach teams that are targeting the homeless population and telling them to find shelters, especially those that are currently in areas that are near the river or that normally flood, and, overall, officials just telling people to take this seriously because it could be dangerous.

Camila Bernal, CNN, Los Angeles.


BRUNHUBER: And it's not only the heavy rain and the risk of life- threatening flash and urban flash flooding. The National Weather Service now says wind gusts of 95 miles per hour can be expected in some places. CNN Meteorologist Elisa Raffa has the latest.


RAFFA: Dangerous and life threatening, those are the words that the National Weather Service is using to describe the flood event that will unfold Sunday and Monday in California. We now have a level 4 out of 4 high risk of excessive flooding for parts of Southern California. And that's incredibly rare, not just for California, but really for the U.S. when you get that high risk.

Now that's issued fewer than 4% of the days that we have that flooding risk issued, but it's responsible for 80% of our flood damage across the U.S. and nearly 40% of flood related deaths. So you really can't take these words lightly. Dangerous, life-threatening are really the words to describe what can unfold the next couple of days.

There's the flood watch that's in effect from Sacramento down to San Diego for widespread, three to six inches of rain for more than 40 million people. And you can see why there's that moisture plume that just sits over California over the next couple of days. That's part of the problem is it's going to sit and it's going to stall. And it's also fueled by really warm ocean temperatures. Those ocean temperatures are one to three degrees above average right now and that can really pump that sponge even more.

So, dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding is really on the table. And we're talking about flooding at rivers and urban in the streets as well. Mud and debris flow could cause some landslides as well, especially over previous burn scars. Down trees and power lines can also be an issue, especially where you're saturated from all the rain that you've got the last couple of days. And then having insult to injury, this storm is not just about water, it's also about wind.

We have high wind warnings in effect where we can see gusts 65, 70, even 80 mph possible, could see some lighter gust in that lighter tan shade there, 45 miles per hour gusts. But something to really watch out for, especially as that ground is so saturated. You can see some of those colors pop up, some of those wind gusts over 40 to 50 mph.

Here's that storm kind of hitting land by Sunday morning. The heaviest rain goes north first, then slings into Southern California as we go into the afternoon and evening hours. L.A. kind of getting the brunt as the Grammys will be going on. We'll find some of that heavy rain continuing to pile in Monday and Tuesday as that fire hose just continues to sit there.

So again, all the yellow widespread, three to six inches of rain, some of the oranges and reds showing where we could see some of those locally higher amounts. And then don't forget where it's colder in the mountains, we're looking at several feet of snow.


BRUNHUBER: All right, so as Elisa mentioned, that rare level 4 out of 4 risk of excessive rain and flash flooding has now been expanded to include Los Angeles just in time for the big Grammy Awards ceremony tonight, which is arguably music's biggest night is set to begin at 5 p.m. local time in Los Angeles. The National Weather Service predicts periods of heavy rain and wind gusts of 35 miles per hour around that time.

More than 50 people have died and more than a thousand homes damaged by wildfires in Chile. Have a look, you can see beachgoers stare and wonder at ominous skies blackened by the heavy smoke. The situation is particularly dire near Valparaiso. Official tells CNN the death toll is likely to rise. Nearly 400 residents are reported missing in one coastal city. More

than 90 fires are burning in different parts of Chile, affecting more than 100,000 acres.

All right, still ahead, excitement built to a fever pitch when Lionel Messi showed up in Hong Kong for a friendly. We'll go live to the city to see why the cheers turned to booze before the match was over. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: All right, turning now to our sports stories here in the U.S., the Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry had a historic performance Saturday night, scoring a whopping 60 points against the Atlanta Hawks. Another superstar left fans wanting a lot more after he shut up in Hong Kong for a preseason soccer match.

Lionel Messi didn't play when his Inter Miami squad took on a team of local Hong Kong standouts. The game drew some 40,000 fans and many of them say they want a refund. CNN Sports Correspondent Carolyn Manno is standing by in New York. But first go to Kristie Lu Stout who is outside the Hong Kong Stadium.

So, Kristie, I mean I remember when Inter Miami came here to Atlanta, Messi didn't suit up. It was a huge disappointment, but for folks in Hong Kong there, I mean it must have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they -- they may have missed here.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, what was initially Messi media here in Hong Kong is turning to Messi disappointment. You know, tonight some 40,000 fans clamoring here for the opportunity to see the Argentine football legend, but he was a no show on the pitch.

Initially there were cheers in the stands, it turned to jeers, booze, even chanting of, where is Messi and refund, refund, refund. Fans came here tonight because they wanted to see Messi play with his team Inter Miami in a preseason friendly against Hong Kong.


This is Inter Miami's first ever international tour. It's co-owner David Beckham also in the house as well. But when Messi failed to get up from the bench, the mood inside Hong Kong stadium, maximum capacity 40,000 people all sold out, the mood soured, the crowds have been leaving disappointed.

And joining me now is a super fan here in Hong Kong, Christer Jorge Leung, who's the head of the Hong Kong-Argentina Team Support Federation, the big club here. How are you feeling tonight?

CHRISTER JORGE LEUNG, HEAD OF THE HONG KONG ARGENTINA TEAM SUPPORTERS CLUB: Very disappointed as everyone else here is. However, I am -- I am not super disappointed that he didn't play because I know he's suffering from injury and he's getting older so he needs more rest. LU STOUT: How did you feel when people started saying refund, refund, refund?

LEUNG: I didn't like that at all. I expected it, but I didn't like it. And I wish it didn't continue for so long. I think they got the message, right? I mean, David heard it. And I couldn't hear what Beckham was saying at all, because they were so loud. The boos were loud.

LU STOUT: But people paid a lot for these tickets.

LEUNG: Yes. And so did I. They weren't cheap. Most expensive football ticket ever in Hong Kong, I believe. So I totally understand the sentiments and the disappointment. And --

LU STOUT: How much did you pay for your ticket?

LEUNG: Mine was 2,280, I think.

LU STOUT: Yeah, and you didn't get to see your hero. You named your son after Lionel Messi. You didn't get to see him tonight? How are you really feeling?


LEUNG: -- very far away and he's on the bench. I am -- like I said, I am extremely disappointed but I'm not about to, you know, I won't boo him I don't think that -- that's -- that I'll ever do or anybody.

LEUNG: You will still be a Messi fan. What about Inter Miami? How is Inter Miami is a brand going to do in Asia after this?

LEUNG: I will support whoever Messi plays for, but I think many people will -- you might see people burning jerseys for social media, you never know, right? But I heard people saying, no, I'm going to sell my Messi jersey and buy Ronaldo's jersey. So, I mean, I won't do any of that, but I think it will definitely hurt the Inter Miami brand.

But they're one of the most, I guess, club with the most money in MLS, so I think if they play their cards right and buy some players, they can rebuild the brand, but yeah, it definitely hurts.

LU STOUT: Let's see. Christer, thank you very much indeed for that. You know, the Hong Kong government here, they were also hoping that this event would be a major draw that would turn Hong Kong into a hub for major events across the region. When you talk to the fans, it's never about the economy. It's all about the beautiful game, about the chance to see their beloved Lionel Messi on the pitch. And that was a dream that was denied tonight. Back to you.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, revenge buying Ronaldo jersey's, ouch. Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong, thanks so much.

All right, I want to go to the CNN Sports Correspondent, Carolyn Manno, who's joining me now from New York. So, going back to the NBA, Carolyn, even with Steph Curry's 60 points, let me get this straight, the Golden State Warriors didn't have what it took to win?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, fans were delighted to see one of the biggest superstars that's ever played in the NBA but despite the second highest scoring game of his career, the Warriors just did not have enough in the tank against the Hawks in Atlanta. Curry gave it his all he dropped 22 of his 60 points in the fourth quarter to keep Golden State a float Kim and that included the final 13 points of regulation. But Trae Young in the Hawks won on an 11 nothing run to open things up and over time. Atlanta going on to win by seven points with the loss the Warriors now four games under 500 and in 12th place in the Western Conference.


STEPH CURRY, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS GUARD: It's frustrating obviously not coming away with the wind, knowing a couple of plays here, a couple of plays there. It's a different outcome and we're celebrating individual performance like that, but just adds to the frustration of our season.


MANNO: LeBron James and the Lakers have been in one of the most inconsistent teams in the NBA this season, but they still had enough to shut down the hottest team in the league. L.A. snapping the New York Knicks nine game win streak behind a lockdown defensive performance in the fourth quarter. LeBron finishing with 24 points in the 113-105 win. And after the game, James said the team can really build on this victory.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: We have one more game left on this road trip and we've had back-to-back great wins, one in Boston, one here. you know, two of the hottest teams in the league and, you know, we finish it off in Charlotte and we have to be professional and I understand that at the end of the day, that is the NBA team and if we don't come to play, they will beat us.


MANNO: Meantime, the Bucks gave new Head Coach Doc Rivers' first win in three games at the helm by virtue of the 25-point comeback win against the Mavericks on Saturday night. Milwaukee has the Eastern Conference's best record among teams with coaches eligible for all- star game duties, so Doc will be on the sideline in Indy in two weeks. The 62-year-old says he plans on giving the all-star game bonus and ring to former Coach Adrian Griffin, who was like go by the Bucks despite a 30 and 13 record in his rookie season as head coach.


The NHL holding its all-star game in Toronto on Saturday and a hometown hero giving the crowd the ending that it won in Maple Leaf Star Auston Matthews scoring twice, including a game winner and had an assist to beat reigning MVP Connor McDavid's team 7-4 in the final of the three-on-three tournament. Matthews named MVP. He is the first Toronto player to win the honor in more than 30 years. A successful weekend there.

And we are one week away from the Super Bowl, Kim, and what will likely be nonstop coverage of Taylor Swift to his dating Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce, but 49ers running back. Christian McCaffrey's mom, Lisa, says she wants nothing to do with it.


LISA MCCAFFREY, CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY'S MOTHER: I refuse to listen to Taylor Swift songs for the next 11 days. I love her, I love the relationship, but yep, we are boycotting.

Any Swift songs, and it's hard for me because I have her on my -- my running playlist and everything. So, but if she pops up on the radio station and my oldest son Max and I are big Swifties, nope, she's dead to us this week.


MANNO: Let the games begin, Kim. I think they've begun already, but 49ers fans putting a ban on anything Swift related. Although they probably will see you at the Grammys.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, exactly right. Carolyn Manno, thank you so much, appreciate that.

Well, before we go, seven-time Formula 1 world champion, Lewis Hamilton says his time with Mercedes has been incredible after that announcement that he'll join Ferrari next year.

The racing sensation who's been with Mercedes for 11 years insists that he's focused on the upcoming season right now, but Hamilton says driving for Ferrari is something he's wanted to do for a long time.

Even on social media, quote, "I feel incredibly fortunate after achieving things with Mercedes that I could only have dreamed of as a kid now that I now have the chance to fulfill another childhood dream driving in Ferrari red."

There you go, just about got through that. That wraps this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For viewers in North America, CNN this morning is next. For the rest of the world, it's Connecting Africa.