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CNN International: Search and Rescue Turns to Recovery After Bridge Collapse in Baltimore; U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Abortion Pill; Desperation in Gaza; Feds Raid Sean Diddy Combs' Homes. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2024 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to suspend the active search and rescue efforts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole bridge just fell down. The whole bridge just collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To actually see that the bridge has fallen, it's like, whoa, it's like mind-blowing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not just going to build the bridge back, but we're going to build it in a way that honors the people of this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protecting Palestinian civilians from harm is both a moral necessity and a strategic imperative.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what survival in Gaza has come to, fighting for food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Agents were authorized to search his homes for documents, phones, computers, and other electronic devices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a huge stain on his reputation, to say the least.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers around the world, as well as the United States. I'm Eleni Giokos. Max Foster has the day off.

It is Wednesday, March the 27th. It's noon here in Abu Dhabi. 4 a.m. in Baltimore, Maryland, where the U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search and rescue operations for six people missing after that container ship collided with the Key bridge. We brought you the breaking news at this hour yesterday.

Now authorities say the water is too cold for anyone to survive this long and too dangerous for divers. A charity group that works with immigrant families says one of those missing is Miguel Luna, a husband and father of three who has lived in Maryland for nearly 20 years. Here's the state's governor.


GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): It's a really heartbreaking conclusion to a challenging day. We put every single asset possible, air, land and sea assets, to bring -- to add to the members' survivability for these families. While even though we're moving on now to a recovery mission, we're still fully committed to making sure that we're going to use every single asset to now bring a sense of closure to the families.


GIOKOS: Let's take a look at what, how and how it happened. At 12:28 a.m. Tuesday, the container ship, the Dali, leaves the port and then begins to move headed toward the bridge. At 1:26 a.m., the ship begins to change course, leaving the planned route.

It loses power and then heads for the bridge's pillar. Experts say the pilot did everything he could to avoid hitting the bridge. All 22 crew members on board the container ship are safe as well as accounted for. They're all from India.

Now investigators are planning to board the ship today and retrieve the voyage data recorder. The U.S. Coast Guard has an elite team examining 13 damaged containers on the ship that may contain hazardous material.

And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has activated a team of more than 1,000 personnel to help in the aftermath of the bridge collapse.

More now from CNN's Brian Todd reporting from Baltimore Harbor.


MOORE: This is not just unprecedented from what we're seeing and what we're looking at today. It's heartbreaking.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The middle of the one and a half mile long Francis Scott Key Bridge plunged 185 feet into Baltimore's Patapsco River early Tuesday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be advised the entire bridge, the entire Key bridge in the harbor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't get to the other side, sir. The bridge is down. We're going to have to get somebody on the other side Anne Arundel County MSP to get up here and stop traffic coming northbound on the Key bridge.

TODD (voice-over): A container ship billowing dark smoke was moving at about eight knots near the bridge when the ship lost power, according to Maryland's governor. Before the bridge collapsed at 1:27 in the morning, the ship's crew called in a mayday when it became clear there'd be a collision despite having dropped its anchor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need one of you guys on the south side, one of you guys on the north side, hold all traffic on the Key bridge.

There's a ship approaching and just lost their steering.

TODD (voice-over): A move officials say saved lives.

MOORE: We're thankful that between the mayday and the collapse that we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so more cars were not up on the bridge. Many of the vehicles were stopped before they got onto the bridge, which saved lives.


TODD (voice-over): National Transportation Safety Board and FBI teams are on the scene.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, U.S. NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD CHAIR: We are standing back to allow the Coast Guard and Search and Rescue to continue their search and rescue operations.

TODD (voice-over): Authorities on the ground say they have a tough task ahead.

CHIEF JAMES WALLACE, BALTIMORE CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: The bridge itself, it does present a challenge. It presents a challenge as we navigate on the surface, but more likely a greater challenge is subsurface and underwater.

TODD (voice-over): In addition to a search from the air, officials had about 50 divers operating in the harbor hours after the bridge came down.

WALLACE: The water is frigid here right now. We believe this to be about a 60-foot dive. It makes this an extraordinarily difficult challenge for our teams.

TODD: Officials have said they have tracked a few vehicles that they believe fell into the water from the bridge. And you can see the distance that they might have dropped from the height of the bridge there into the water.

It's going to take days just to get floating cranes and other heavy equipment here in order to start the salvaging operations and in order to remove some of the remnants of the bridge here. And once they get here, they have to chop these remnants of the bridge into smaller pieces just to remove them.

TODD (voice-over): President Biden says he's directing federal resources to help with recovery and rebuilding.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm directing my team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible. TODD: All major ship traffic coming into and out of Baltimore Harbor

has now been halted indefinitely, and that's going to cause significant economic disruptions. One example over here, there's a vessel that carries cars and light trucks into the port of Baltimore. That vessel now cannot move.

Baltimore is a major harbor for handling the transport of cars and light trucks into the United States. This processed about 850,000 vehicles last year. That's all come to a sudden stop.

Brian Todd, CNN in Baltimore Harbor.


GIOKOS: We've got CNN's Ivan Watson following developments from Hong Kong for us. Ivan, look, we've got a little bit more information. We know there were power outages. We know there seems to be some kind of mechanical malfunction. But what do we know about this vessel and its seaworthiness?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, well, it is called the Dali. It is owned and operated out of Singapore. It was constructed in 2015 and is just under 300 meters long. That's under 1,000 feet long.

Now, many of our viewers might never have gotten close to one of these enormous container ships, so that's why we're here in the port of Hong Kong, to give you a sense of scale here. That container ship in front of me, which is not related to the Dali, not operated by the Dali's owners, is about 70 meters longer than the Dali, and you can see it loaded with containers.

The Dali had a capacity of up to 10,000 containers like this, and at the time of the collision, the operators say it was carrying more than 4,700 containers. It had a crew of 22 Indian nationals on board. All of them are OK, according, again, to the operator, Synergy Marine.

Now, investigators are going to be looking at the Dali's safety record in the wake of what has happened. It has been inspected dozens of times since its construction in 2015. In September of last year, it was inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard, which found no problems on board.

However, in June of last year, authorities in a port in Chile did find what they described as a deficiency involving propulsion and auxiliary machinery gauges and thermometers. That may be important because the operating company, Synergy, says that the crew reported to them shortly before the collision in Baltimore that there was a temporary loss of propulsion and that then the ship lost control and led to that deadly, deadly disaster.

Now, I want to provide a little more context here, Eleni. Look here. This is another example of one of these gargantuan container shipping vessels. This one is about 100 meters longer than the Dali, just huge.

And look at it right next to moored, right next to Hong Kong's Stonecutter Bridge. So that gives you a sense of the scale of how big these ships are next to a critical piece of infrastructure like that. At the time that the Francis Scott Key Bridge was constructed, that's in the late 70s, industry experts tell me that ships like this and the Dali simply didn't exist.

The shipbuilding industry was not making container ships of this size then. And so there is a new reality here that perhaps we're having to get to grips with. Case in point, up the Pearl River from where I'm floating right now, from Hong Kong Harbor, there was just last month a deadly incident involving a Chinese ship hitting another bridge in the city of Guangzhou.


It brought down part of that bridge, killed at least five people as vehicles plunged off of that bridge, some of them actually hitting the ship itself, Chinese officials initially blamed the ship's crew for that accident.

So the fact that you've had two incidents like this almost back to back on opposite sides of the world, well, perhaps it suggests officials have to look more closely at these types of risks, particularly when you're talking about vessels like this that are just simply enormous -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: Absolutely, they are enormous. It's great to have you out at sea to show us the scale and close calls and how quickly an accident can happen. Ivan, great work. Thank you. Ivan Watson for us in Hong Kong.

Look, another major story that we're following, it's an abortion decision looming for the U.S. Supreme Court after hearing arguments in a case over access to the pill Mifepristone. It's the primary drug used for medication abortions. While a ruling isn't expected for months, a majority of justices already appearing skeptical of a nationwide ban or new limits on the pill.

CNN's Paula Reid has details from Washington.


PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of protesters gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court as the justices considered the most significant abortion case since they overturned Roe v. Wade.

CROWD CHANTING: We will ban them, yes we will!

REID (voice-over): This case focuses on expanded access to Mifepristone, one of two drugs typically used in the process known as medication abortion, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of abortions in the U.S.

But during Tuesday's arguments, a majority of the justices appeared likely to maintain the expanded access to the drug, which was first approved by the FDA in 2000. NEIL GORSUCH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: We've had,

one might call it a rash of universal injunctions or vacatures. And this case seems like a prime example of turning what could be a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly on an FDA rule or any other federal government action.

REID (voice-over): Shortly after Roe was overturned, a conservative group of anti-abortion doctors and advocates sued the FDA over its approval of Mifepristone, and the case now focuses on FDA approval of expanded access to the drug.

CROWD CHANTING: Don't you agree? No!

REID (voice-over): But during the hearing, justices from across the ideological spectrum pressed the group challenging the drug as to whether it had standing or the right to bring the case, asking their lawyer about what harm the group faced.

ELENA KAGAN, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: May I ask Ms. Hawley about your basic theory of standing? I mean, you're just saying even FDA admits that there are going to be some adverse events, people are going to show up in emergency rooms, people are going to come face-to-face with one of our doctors who objects to some aspect of the treatment.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: Just to confirm on the standing issue, under federal law, no doctors can be forced against their consciences to perform or assist in an abortion, correct?

REID (voice-over): And Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson pressed on why the group believes restricting everyone's access to the drug is necessary given that doctors can raise religious objections under federal law.

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: I mean, it makes perfect sense for the individual doctors to seek an exemption, but as I understand it, they already have that. And so what they're asking for here is that in order to prevent them from possibly ever having to do these kinds of procedures, everyone else should be prevented from getting access to this medication. So why isn't that plainly overbroad scope of the remedy the end of this case?

REID: We expect this decision to come in late June, which will of course be the heart of the presidential campaign season. Now, whatever the justices decide here could potentially be a factor in that critical race. Since Roe was overturned, the Democrats have used the abortion issue to galvanize their supporters.

Whereas former President Trump, who has taken credit for Roe being overturned, has also said, look, when it comes to Republicans, there need to be some concessions on this issue because, quote, we need to win elections.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


GIOKOS: London's High Court has paused extradition proceedings for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a ruling Tuesday. The court gave the U.S. three weeks to make assurances concerning Assange's first amendment rights and to confirm he would not receive the death penalty.


Assange has been in the U.K. for more than a decade. His wife remained supportive outside the hearing.


STELLA ASSANGE, JULIAN ASSANGE'S WIFE: Julian is a political prisoner. He is a journalist and he is being persecuted because he exposed the true cost of war in human lives.


GIOKOS: Well, Assange faces an 18 count indictment in the U.S. dating back to 2010 when he began publishing large amounts of classified documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An attorney for embattled media mogul Sean Diddy Combs says his client is the target of a witch hunt. Sources tell CNN Combs was headed to a spring break trip with his teenage daughters when federal agents searched his two homes. And while it's unclear where Combs is now, his attorney says he is innocent and will fight the allegations. CNN's Josh Campbell reports.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sean Diddy Combs, music mogul. Now the target of a federal investigation carried out by a team that specializes in human trafficking crimes. Two homes belonging to Combs, one in Los Angeles and one in Miami Beach, were searched Monday, according to a law enforcement source briefed on the investigation.

A second law enforcement source familiar with the search warrants tells CNN agents were authorized to search his homes for documents, phones, computers and other electronic devices. Armed vehicles descended on the property simultaneously, a precaution related to armed private security teams employed by Combs. His homes were searched by HSI, the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, with personnel stationed across the globe, which specializes in countering human trafficking, focused both on rescuing victims and identifying and prosecuting suspected traffickers.

This investigation coming on the heels of several civil lawsuits.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: All of them were incredibly graphic, accusing Diddy of rape, grooming, sexual assault, drugging women. There's a lot of similarities in these lawsuits. CAMPBELL (voice-over): One of those from a former girlfriend, Cassandra Ventura, who goes by the stage name Cassie, alleging rape and physical abuse, was settled in November. In a December statement, Combs responded to the claims in all the lawsuits, saying: Sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday. Let me be absolutely clear. I did not do any of the awful things being alleged.

Cassie's attorney responding to Monday searches and the investigation: Hopefully this is the beginning of a process that will hold Mr. Combs responsible for his depraved conduct.

Another lawsuit filed in February by a former employee, producer Rodney Jones, who goes by the stage name Lil Rod, accusing Combs of, among other things, sexual assault. The musician was not at either home at the time. His whereabouts still unknown.

WAGMEISTER: This is a huge stain on his reputation, to say the least. And this really feels like a fall from grace for one of the biggest stars and moguls in the music world.

CAMPBELL: Now, we received a statement today from Combs' attorney, blasting the show of force by armed tactical federal agents outside both residences. The attorney calling this a witch hunt and a gross overuse of military level force. Still, he says that Combs is cooperating with investigators.

He goes on to say in the statement that: Neither Mr. Combs nor any of his family members have been arrested, nor has their ability to travel been restricted in any way. There has been no finding of criminal or civil liability with any of these allegations. Mr. Combs is innocent and will continue to fight every single day to clear his name.

Of course, the big question still, what, if anything, did federal investigators find at those residences? And how might that information be used in any possible criminal investigation? As of right now, investigators aren't saying.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Los Angeles.


GIOKOS: Less than three weeks before the start of Donald Trump's first criminal trial, the Hush Money case, a judge has forbidden him from making statements about most of the people involved in that trial, including the porn star at the center of it and Trump's former lawyer and fixer, who are both expected to be witnesses. A New York judge issued the gag order Tuesday, noting that the former U.S. president has a history of going after people at all levels of the justice system, even jurors.

Judge Juan Merchan said, quote: These extrajudicial statements went far beyond defending himself against attacks by public figures. Indeed, his statements were threatening, inflammatory and denigrating.

Judges in other Trump cases have issued similar gag orders. Meanwhile, Trump's media company, which includes Truth Social, is off to a soaring start on the Nasdaq. It shot up to $78 a share on its first day of trading before closing at 58.


Now, this marks the first time in decades that any part of Trump's business empire has gone public. But experts warn the windfall will likely be short lived. Truth Social is hemorrhaging money as well as users. It's lost about $49 million over 9 months last year and less than half a million active users in February. Trump's companies also have a history of going bankrupt.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has announced his running mate, Kennedy, named Silicon Valley, attorney and entrepreneur Nicole Shanahan as his vice presidential pick. Shanahan is a first time candidate who isn't well known outside the tech sector. She first backed Kennedy during his stint in the Democratic primary. But both are now running as independents.


NICOLE SHANAHAN, U.S. INDEPENDENT VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is only one antiwar candidate today and you won't find him in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. He is an independent, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

And it is his commitment to peace and to the welfare of hardworking people in America that draw me as a person of compassion to his candidacy.


GIOKOS: Well, Shanahan reportedly gave $4 million to a pro Kennedy super PAC to help pay for a Super Bowl ad that ran earlier this year. And she could play a key role in boosting fundraising for the campaign.

And still to come, another airdrop of lifesaving aid over Gaza resulting in deaths after the parcels land in the sea.

Plus, firefighters in eastern Mexico are trying to control a number of wildfires burning through some tough terrain.

And later, a new law in Florida aims to restrict social media access for children. We'll explain hard works right after this. Stay with CNN.


GIOKOS: Welcome back. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant has been attending back-to-back meetings with top U.S. officials in Washington. He's believed to have met CIA Director Bill Burns Tuesday night after talks with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier in the day. A U.S. official says Austin discussed with Galant alternative options for Israel's proposed ground operation in Rafah. Austin also urged Israel to urgently ease the humanitarian crisis in the enclave.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Protecting Palestinian civilians from harm is both a moral necessity and a strategic imperative. In Gaza today the number of civilian casualties is far too high and the amount of humanitarian aid is far too low. Gaza is suffering a humanitarian catastrophe and the situation is getting even worse.



GIOKOS: Meantime, Hamas is calling on countries to end, quote, offensive aid air drops into Gaza. This comes after Palestinian paramedics say at least 12 people drowned while trying to retrieve aid packages from the sea.

It is the latest incident involving deaths during aid deliveries. At least five people were killed and several others injured earlier this month when air dropped aid packages fell on them.

For more now I want to go to CNN's Ben Wedeman live in Rome for us. It seems that any aid delivery is becoming synonymous in many ways, Ben, with death and catastrophe. Look, give me a sense of what you're hearing in terms of the latest. Again, a tragic incident while the world is calling for more aid into Gaza.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the absurdity of the situation whereby Israel is putting restrictions on aid entering Gaza. So countries have to go to absurd lengths to get aid into Gaza. Air drops, the Americans are talking about opening up a seaport to bring aid in.

And clearly the United States isn't willing to put enough pressure on Israel to ease things up. Although yesterday American officials did say that on average the number of aid trucks being allowed into Gaza is approaching 200 a day compared to 100 a day last month.

But as much of the attention is on Gaza, we see the tensions are increasing between Israel and Lebanon. Overnight there was an Israeli airstrike on the town of Hebbariye on an emergency and relief corps. It's a group that's affiliated with what's known as Al-Jama'a al- Islamiyya or the Islamic group, a militant group in southern Lebanon. Where, of course, as I said, seven people were killed in that strike.

Now, in response, Hezbollah has launched a series of rocket strikes on Kiryat Shmona, an Israeli community on the border. According to reports, as many as 30 rockets were fired on Kiryat Shmona and there are reports of casualties there.

GIOKOS: Ben, I also want to --

All right. It sounds like we've lost Ben, but thank you for that update for us. Ben Wedeman in Rome. All right. And still ahead, much more on the bridge collapse in

Baltimore, including a timeline of the events leading up to the disaster.

Plus, an eighth suspect has been charged with terrorism after the deadly attack on a concert hall near Moscow. Details of how he allegedly helped. That is coming up next.