Return to Transcripts main page


Deadly Earthquake Rocks South Asia; Fishermen Save Toddler after Migrant Boat Sinks; Fighting for Olive Branches in West Bank; New Video of Raid to Free ISIS Hostages; WHO Report Links Cancer to Red Meats; Contentious Synod Ends with Compromise. Aired 10-11 ET

Aired October 26, 2015 - 10:00:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, there everyone, welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center.

We begin with breaking news this hour. Authorities are still scrambling to assess the damage across South Asia after a 7.5 magnitude

earthquake struck the mountainous Hindu Kush region of Northeastern Afghanistan. The Reuters News Agency reports at least 100 people are dead.

Police in Afghanistan say a dozen schoolgirls were crushed in a panic to leave their classrooms. Violent shakings sent people running from homes

and buildings across the region, even in New Delhi 1,000 kilometers away.

The U.S. Geological Survey warns that significant casualties are likely and potentially widespread.

It was 10 years ago this month that a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck in neighboring Pakistan. At least 86,000 people were killed and tens of

thousands injured. It happened along the same mountainous range, where earthquakes are common and often involve heavy casualties due to the

relatively crude construction of homes and buildings.


CURNOW: It may be days before officials can gauge the scope of devastation of this quake.

Our Ivan Watson, who's covered the region where the quake hit, in depth is monitoring the latest developments and joins us now from Hong


Hi, there, Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn. That's right. This was a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. It's been about five

hours since it struck with the epicenter in Northeastern Afghanistan, in its very mountainous and sparsely populated Badakhshan province.

But to give you a sense of the power of it, it was felt, as you mentioned, far to the east in India, in the capital, New Delhi. It was

also felt in the north in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan and the capital, Bishkek, there, where eyewitnesses said the Earth shook for a surprisingly

long amount of time.

Afghanistan is no stranger to earthquakes but everybody I've spoken with in the capital, Kabul, says this was the worst earthquake they've seen

in decades. It went on for more than a minute, the shaking, and everybody was out in the streets, as populations almost instinctively do when the

buildings around them start to shake.

Surprisingly, our producer in Kabul does not report any structural damage there. The extent of the damage around the epicenter, well, that is

difficult for us to know right now because the phone lines have been down. The sun has set now in that part of Northeastern Afghanistan.

But if some of the casualty figures we're starting to get from across the border in Pakistan are any indicator, then there could be some very bad

news in the hours ahead because, in Pakistan's Khyber district, which is right on the border with Afghanistan, their disaster management official

tells CNN at least 71 people were killed and at least 589 injured.

In one specific instance in Northeastern Afghanistan, in the town of Taluqan, we know that at least 12 schoolgirls were killed as they were

trying to flee their school and got caught in a stampede in the stairwell of that school.

The U.S. Geological Survey has put out an orange alert, saying that when there have been earthquakes of this magnitude in the past, they have

required a regional and national response.

We've heard from the leadership of Afghanistan, the president, the chief executive and from the prime minister's office in Pakistan as well as

in India, that they're all meeting with their national disaster management teams. They're trying to rush emergency workers to the stricken areas.

CURNOW: Like I said, Ivan, you've been there. Describe to us what it's like.

WATSON: Badakhshan province, I was there 14 years ago for the first time, there wasn't a single paved road in that mountainous province. Now

things have changed. There's certainly paved roads now but it was so mountainous that there were some passes that, around the end of the month

of November, they would be snowed in and then they were impossible to cross by land.

To give you a sense of how rugged the countryside is there, it is largely rural agricultural communities and population there that mostly

build their homes out of mud brick. And having covered other earthquakes there, these structures, even if they're only one, two stories high, they

tend to come tumbling down when the Earth shakes.

And that's where the majority of the injuries then happen.


WATSON: It's falling roof, it's falling bricks falling down onto people. An additional threat or risk here is the threat of landslides.

We know that just across the border on the Pakistani side of the border they'd had record rainfalls last weekend, which were already leading

to landslides and avalanches.

And that's going to be an additional worry in the stricken Afghan part of the area because, of course, you have villages built up on mountainsides

that are extremely vulnerable -- Robyn.

CURNOW: We really just don't have any idea yet of the extent of the damages and the casualties. Ivan Watson, thank you for bringing us up to

speed on this. Appreciate it.

European leaders have come up with an emergency plan to help cope with the stream of migrants flowing into the continent. One point includes the

setup of reception centers to accommodate an additional 100,000 people in Greece in the Balkans.

But despite the onset of winter, the pace of refugees entering Europe is just not slowing. About 62,000 have arrived in Slovenia in little more

than a week.

Migrants are now dealing with dropping temperatures. The danger of crossing into Europe by sea has been a constant threat. New video shows

the dramatic rescue of a toddler found drifting in the Aegean. Our Amara Walker shows us how fishermen were able to revive him.


AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Baby Mohamed Hassan clings to his mother in Turkey, their journey to get here a harrowing one;

their survival, miraculous. Just days ago, fishermen off Turkey's coast spotted the 18-month old and others floating in life jackets in the Aegean

Sea. Video of the rescue shows a fisherman rushing to pull the bodies from the cold water.

The boy is brought into the boat. The fisherman tries frantically to clear the water from the boy's lungs. He is barely responsive. But he is


Fearing hypothermia, the fisherman proceeds to remove the child's wet clothes and wrap him in a warm blanket.

The fishermen were able to pull some 15 refugees from the water, including baby Mohammed and his mother. They were among 30 refugees aboard

a small boat headed for Greece, a boat they hoped would take them to a better life, but capsized before reaching shore.

More than 500,000 people have arrived by sea in Greece this year, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands have died. But to

Mohammed and his family, lucky to have made it to solid ground, these fishermen are heroes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): You both gave him a second life. We are grateful to you. May God bless you.

WALKER (voice-over): Amara Walker, CNN.


CURNOW: Hard to watch, isn't it?

Well, five British nationals are dead and one person remains missing following the sinking of a whale watching tour boat off British Columbia.

It isn't clear what caused the nearly 20-meter boat to sink but one witness says it happened close to rocks; 21 people were rescued. The

Transportation Safety Board of Canada is now investigating.

Well, coming up here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, new images of a raid to rescue ISIS hostages in Iraq are leading to questions over what exactly

the U.S. mission to advise and assist really means.





CURNOW: Hi, there. Welcome back.

A day of remembrance in Israel. Israel is commemorating the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It's been 20 years since he

was gunned down by a far right Jewish nationalist at a peace rally.

Rabin served two terms in office. Current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at today's memorial at Israel's national cemetery. More

events are scheduled throughout the day.

For weeks we've been telling you about the growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Now even olive trees, historically a symbol of

peace, are being fought over. West Bank olive groves have been the scene of attacks on Palestinian farmers because of the land the trees grow on.

But as Ben Wedeman reports, some Israelis and international volunteers are trying to promote a peaceful harvest.



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Armed with a knife, a masked man kicks and punches Rabbi Arik Ascherman on a West

Bank hillside near the Jewish settlement of Kedumim. Over the years, Rabbi Ascherman has had many run-ins with settlers. He heads a group called

Rabbis for Human Rights, which brings volunteers to help Palestinian farmers harvest their olives.

RABBI ARIK ASCHERMAN, RABBIS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: I think we have, of course, maybe the most, the government most supportive of the settlers

ever. And I think that gives the message to settlers and other Israelis, who have that violent tendency, that they can get away with things.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Israeli police are investigating the incident.

Nearly 400,000 Israelis have settled throughout the West Bank, their settlements often on or near land where Palestinians have cultivated olive

trees for generations. The settlers claim they are attacked and harassed by Palestinians.

What isn't in dispute is that the olive harvest is yet another time when tensions flare. The troubles that come with the annual olive harvest

go to the very heart of this conflict.

Yes, religion does play a part in it. But at its very essence it is all about control of the land.

London resident David Amos comes to the West Bank village of Burin every year to help in the harvest. And last week, another masked settler

beat him with stones during the harvest.

Israeli police acknowledge that, with the recent rise in tensions, there have been dozens of attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.

DAVID AMOS, BRITISH VOLUNTEER: Because I am British, because I am international, then that is news. It makes me ashamed so that makes me


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Avo Ahmad (ph) witnessed the beating and complains that many such attacks have been under the eyes of the Israeli


"We are surrounded by the army and settlements," he says.

"And the settlers are protected by the army. They don't come without them."

Balel al-Eid (ph) brought his wife and son and other relatives to their olive grove in the shadow of an Israeli settlement. He insists,

despite regular harassment, he's --


WEDEMAN (voice-over): -- not going anywhere.

"Where can we go?" he asks.

"We aren't going to leave our village. We aren't going to give up our land. And the only way we will leave is if you shoot me and bury me here."

This year's olive harvest is expected to be average but, as always, one tinged with bitterness -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Burin on the West Bank.


CURNOW: In Iraq, we're seeing video of coalition warplanes destroying the prison where hostages were being held by ISIS after the raid to try and

rescue them. Now the Pentagon has just released this video of the airstrike. Nick Paton Walsh shows us how the rescue operation unfolded

second by second before the prison was destroyed. Take a look.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Very secretive world you're about to get a very rare and intimate window into. The U.S. special

forces working with the Kurds, the Kurdish Peshmerga special forces, well, they've always on an advise and assist mission. No one really knew quite

what that meant they were involved in the fighting.

But in this video, it's pretty clear they're right up front, the tip of the spear.

WALSH (voice-over): You're now right inside the jailbreak that revealed America's changed role in Iraq. They think they're rescuing Kurds

from this ISIS jail but look who staggers out -- terrified Iraqis. Even their eyes lit up by fear caught on the Kurdish soldier's helmet camera.

It's edited but U.S. officials tell CNN it's genuine. More cells opened, it seems, and the Iraqi soldier and civilian hostages keep coming.

An office, an ISIS flag; more cells and perhaps a target through the light of the door. Then, a quick close-up, likely of an American commando.

"Don't be afraid," he cries, as they search the prisoners.

Remember, they were expecting Kurds. Perhaps these men are ISIS, have guns or bombs.

It's the Americans who seem in charge here, the captives' relief palpable, U.S. officials saying they faced imminent execution.

It's unclear when, before or after this footage, the Americans here learned one of their own was gunned down. But their mission went on to

rescue 70.

That first combat death since 2011 in Iraq, forcing public acknowledgement American commandos were now boots on the ground.

WALSH: When the last hours defense gone through CENTCOM have released what they say is cockpit video of an airstrike that destroyed that

particular compound in which you've just seen the intense fighting, laid waste, really, by that explosion and it brings perhaps an end to that

chapter there in which the United States lost one of their commandos, Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, age 39, a veteran of 14 tours of

Afghanistan and Iraq, remarkable figure.

And it reminds you, really, of the depth of involvement the United States have had in what used to be called the war on terror in Afghanistan

and Iraq and how that has now morphed into the extraordinarily messy and complex task of taking on ISIS, one which the White House does not want to

send U.S. ground troops in to do.

But at the same time recognizes increasingly day by day will require people to actually do the fighting, to do the jailbreaks, to release the

hostages. And this footage, such a close-up view of quite how much tip of the spear these American commandos were -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Southern



CURNOW: Our thanks to Nick for that report.

And as Nick was saying the U.S.-led coalition effort in Iraq has turned into a war against ISIS.

Well, in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, former British prime minister Tony Blair acknowledged the Iraq War was connected to the rise of

ISIS and he apologized for what he calls mistakes in intelligence and planning but says he doesn't regret ousting Saddam Hussein. Take a listen

to this.


TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Of course, you can't say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the

situation in 2015. We have tried intervention and putting down troops in Iraq; we have tried intervention without putting in troops in Libya. And

we've tried no intervention at all but demanding regime change in Syria.

It's not clear to me that, even if our policy did not work --


BLAIR: -- subsequent policies have worked better.


CURNOW: Well, Tony Blair there. Tune in for that special report, "Long Road to Hell: America in Iraq," that's Monday night at 9:00 in New

York right here on CNN.

Still to come here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, do hot dogs cause cancer? The World Health Organization says processed meats are in the same

category as smoking and asbestos. The details after the break.




CURNOW: Welcome back.

Now for anyone who had bacon or sausage for breakfast this morning, just how dangerous was it?

A new report from the World Health Organization says processed meats can lead to cancer. Well, our Fred Pleitgen joins us now from London.

Really, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was shocked as well. I mean, I have to say I do also enjoy my bacon

sandwich, bacon and eggs, sausages for breakfast.

But indeed the World Health Organization has come out and placed processed meats in the same category as, for instance, cigarettes, asbestos

or arsenic, saying that there is a link between processed meats and cancer, specifically colon cancer. So it certainly is quite a health warning.

However, there is a certain caveat to it as well. The World Health Organization itself says, listen, you don't have to stop eating these

products; however, what we do recommend is that you eat less of them if indeed you are eating a lot.

So one of the recommendations, for instance, they say that if you eat 50 grams a day more of processed meat that could increase your risk of

getting colon cancer by about 18 percent.

Now processed meats was one thing, Robyn. The other thing was red meat. So, for instance, beef, for instance, lamb, they say that could also

be linked to cancer. That puts that in a category at which they call 2A, which is the second highest category of --


PLEITGEN: -- potentially cancerous things that you can consume. So certainly not great news for people who consume a lot of meat.

But they say that it's very important to bring these sorts of recommendations out, not because any single person might be at risk of

cancer by eating these things but they say it's very important, for instance, for global dietary recommendations and regulations.

For instance, for a country to put together a certain diet that they believe their citizens should eat in order to stay healthy, so for them

it's very, very important. They do expect that some countries are going to change their dietary regulations as a result of the study that came out

today -- Robyn.

CURNOW: What's the chance they're wrong or that there's this sort of cry wolf syndrome going on here? We've had apocalyptic declarations before

about SARS and bird flu and even Ebola.

I mean, is this as bad as they say?

PLEITGEN: There certainly have been a lot of them in the past and there certainly are some organizations, there are some research institutes,

some of them, of course, linked to the meat industry, that are saying, listen, we don't believe that there's a link there. We believe all of this

is overblown.

Now what you have here, however, is you have a panel of experts from the World Health Organization, 22 experts in all, and they've taken a look

at a lot of studies, they've taken a look at a lot of evidence, they've taken a look at cases of where people have been getting sick.

And they say, as far as their research is concerned, they see a link between specifically colon cancer and eating processed meat. They say that

link is very, very strong and they also see a potential link, that they say they haven't been able to fully say, that there is a link there between red

meat and catching various forms of cancer as well.

But, again, there are institutes out there that say they don't believe that that evidence is as strong as the World Health Organization says. And

certainly you can feel that the meat industry, which, of course, is huge, not just in the United States, not just in Europe, but in many other

countries as well, is already -- you can feel that is already fighting back in the media, putting up its own experts and saying they believe the

evidence might not be as strong as the World Health Organization says -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks for that, putting it all in perspective, Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it.

Well, ahead, we return to our top story. It's very difficult to assess the damage right now but we do know at least 100 people are reported

dead and many more wounded in the South Asia earthquake. And the toll is expected to grow. We'll take a look at the difficulties facing rescue






CURNOW: Welcome, everyone, to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center. Here's a check of the headlines.


CURNOW (voice-over): European leaders have agreed to accommodate an additional 100,000 migrants in Greece and the Balkans. They're also

sending 400 police officers to Slovenia to help the small nation deal with the surge of refugees flowing in from Croatia.

Moscow has offered military support to the Free Syrian Army in response to the Western-backed group says it's open to cooperating if the

Kremlin stops supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad with airstrikes. Russia has been accused of using its new air campaign to target anti-Assad

groups, including the FSA.

Reuters News Agency reports at least 100 people are dead after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck South Asia, hundreds more wounded. The quake

was centered in the mountainous Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and shook buildings as far away as New Delhi.


CURNOW: Well, the quake also shook buildings and caused panic in Kabul. Journalist Mustafa Kazemi joins me now via Skype from the Afghan


Hi, there, Mustafa.

Tell me, how did it feel?

What was it like when the quake hit?

MUSTAFA KAZEMI, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Well, it's panic the first time that you notice this earthquake. The first thing people usually do is to

get out to open area.

And this was the second most powerful earthquake since 1997 that I remember. I was sleeping in the bed, I fell down and that's how I woke up

with the quake. And we all rushed outside, children, women, everybody were shouting until the quake stopped.

CURNOW: How long did it last?

KAZEMI: It lasted about 25 seconds, as I counted.

CURNOW: So it's not long but the devastation -- we're still trying to understand the impact across the whole region, aren't we?

KAZEMI: Yes. Actually, the reason for the vastness of this destruction is because most of the houses located in the areas that were

affected, more were close to the epicenter of the quake. They're made of mud and bricks.

And we had a lot of rain in the past month, which made those houses more vulnerable to collapse. And this was just something to trigger the

houses to fall down.

We have about 1,400 houses destroyed in one area and about 100 houses destroyed in the east in Afghanistan. All of them were mud houses. And

the casualty numbers are getting higher and higher.

CURNOW: So obviously the issue of landslides, mudslides, you're an old military guy, tell us, do you think the Afghan authorities are capable

or are able to try and help effectively?

KAZEMI: Well, I hope they are because it is one of the -- humanitarian relief is one of the tasks of the military organization. But

the Afghan government has -- I spoke to one of the army officials. He told me they have mobilized about 12 units from the military police headquarters

here in Kabul to be on standby in case there's a need for a relief operation anywhere in the country, which, I guess, most probably might be

in the province near Hindu Kush.

They also have deployed six helicopters, three squadrons, just a few minutes after the earthquake to scan Kabul City from the sky in case there

is any damage so they can find out. I hope they are capable of providing humanitarian aid.

CURNOW: OK. Mustafa Kazemi, journalist --


CURNOW: -- thank you so much for giving us the perspective there on the ground in Afghanistan.

KAZEMI: Thank you.

CURNOW: Thanks for joining us.

Well, you're at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. One archbishop says debates during the Catholic synod were "spicy." We'll look at some new ideas for

the modern church and how they're going down.




CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK.

Now a contentious three-week-long meeting with Catholic bishops has ended with a recommended path for divorced and remarried Catholics to

participate more fully in church life, a top priority for Pope Francis. But it was part of the slimmest of margins highlighting a division between

the traditional bishops and a pope who wants a more merciful church.

For all of this I want to bring in Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, who joins us now live from Rome.

Hi, there, Delia.


You're right. It did pass by the slimmest of margins and it was one of the most divisive issues at this meeting, the question of what to do

with divorced and remarried Catholics.

Currently in the Catholic church, if you're divorced and you have not annulled your first marriage, the church doesn't recognize your second

marriage. In fact they consider it adulterous. So they say you cannot participate in many church activities such as being a godparent or reading

at mass and receiving communion.

So the bishops suggested to Pope Francis that there might be a way to make an exception for some couples. They say it's not fair to place all

divorces under the same umbrella. There are cases where somebody may have been left, for example, and therefore doesn't have fault in the divorce.

And they have suggested via this internal forum, they say, a kind of spiritual counseling between the couple in question and their priest or

bishop to see if there are grounds to readmit them to certain activities of the church.

But as you mentioned, it just barely received the two-thirds majority necessary to recommend it to Pope Francis, suggesting that there's still

strong opposition to the proposal. By that, it is to say, look, it's in the Bible that marriage, a second marriage is adulterous. We can't change


So what the bishops have effectively done, Robyn, is put it back in the pope's hands to say you make the decision. This is one way we think it

could work but it doesn't have total support -- Robyn.

CURNOW: I think they're calling it consensus through ambiguity, which clearly none of us know what that means. So I want to just ask from a

wider perspective --


CURNOW: -- Pope Francis has just come off this extraordinary trip to the U.S. and to Cuba, where he was feted and loved and seen as a man who is

going to sort of bring the Catholic Church into the 21st century but at the same time stay true to its principles.

Back there where you are in the Vatican, he's not as popular as he is perhaps on the streets of Washington, is he?

GALLAGHER: Well, he's not but, you know, I'm not sure that he doesn't want it that way. I think actually this synod has been very useful for

Pope Francis in the sense that really I think he wanted to hear what his bishops had to say. That's what he said. And that's certainly what they

gave him.

I mean, we really haven't seen such open and frank discussion publicly amongst the cardinals back and forth in -- ever at the Vatican.

So I think the pope actually now has a good idea of where they all stand on some of these questions. And so if he does want to make any

changes, he knows who's against him and who's with him. So probably he's not too concerned that he's popular or not here. He just wants to know

what's the feel in the rest of the church if he does want to move forward with some changes.

CURNOW: But let's also -- sorry -- about the popularity but more about the support and this sort of sense of whether from within the church

the kind of change that perhaps people in the U.S. or the West are looking for is indicative of the kind of change other bishops, perhaps from Africa,

don't want. And there's this sort of clash between the conservatives and people who might want a bit more like Pope Francis.

GALLAGHER: Correct. And it's one of the things that this meeting brought up. That is that you have here what they call the universal

church. So you had some 270 bishops from about 120 countries around the world, talking about problems of the family.

Well, in different countries around the world there are different problems. And so it was brought kind of to a head on the question of gays

and lesbians, for example. There was some indication that maybe they would change their language. They call it gay sexual orientation disorder.

But, in fact, the bishops did not do anything on that issue. They restated the traditional teaching. And the cardinal of Vienna told us

Saturday that the bishops felt the question was too delicate, given the political and cultural context of that question in the different countries

around the world, i.e., Africa.

So it points to one of the problems that they had here that they had to try and get priorities and balance priorities in order to achieve a

consensus. But that cardinal did say it didn't mean that that question wasn't important for the churches in North America and Europe.

CURNOW: OK. Delia Gallagher, all eyes on Pope Francis as usual. Thank you very much.

Well, that does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Thank you so much for watching. I'm Robyn Curnow. WORLD SPORT is next.