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Mugabe's Last Stand; Argentine Navy Search Effort Tripled for Missing Submarine; Trump Takes Twitter Shot at Basketball Player's Dad; Russia Investigation; CNN Freedom Project: Slave Trade; Rural Nevada Town Struggles Without Hospital. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired November 20, 2017 - 00:00   ET


[000040] CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Robert Mugabe's last stand, The Zimbabwean autocrat does not resign despite an ultimatum to impeach him.

"Very ungrateful" -- Donald Trump fires back at basketball provocateur LaVar Ball as his latest Twitter feud goes into overtime.

Plus, a race against time, bad weather slowing down search efforts for the missing Argentine submarine and its crew.

I'm Cyril Vanier from the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta. Thank you for joining us.

Zimbabwe's president is down but he's not out. Robert Mugabe ignored calls to leave office on Sunday after being sacked as the leader of his own party. The party also threatened to impeach him if he doesn't resign in the coming hours.

Mr. Mugabe responded in this rambling televised address. He's been under house arrest since Wednesday's apparent military coup but despite the pressure, he said he would preside over the party's congress next month.

CNN's David McKenzie is following the turmoil from Zimbabwe's capitol. He filed this report.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well the entire country was anticipating this address by President Robert Mugabe, live from state house, flanked by his generals. He'd been under detention for days during a de facto military takeover. And then he didn't resign.

In a deliberate sometimes rambling speech he called for unity in the country.

ROBERT MUGABE, PRESIDENT OF ZIMBABWE: Given the failings of the past and the anger this might have triggered in some quarters, such as developments -- such developments are quite understandable.

However we cannot be guided by bitterness or vengefulness, both of which would not make -- would not make us any better party members or any better Zimbabweans.

MCKENZIE: President Mugabe even said he would preside over next month's Zanu PF ruling party conference despite the fact that the leadership of ZanuPF met in Harare and threw him out as the leader of the party, giving him less than 24 hours to resign. So the clock is still ticking.

On Monday noon local time, they say that clock will run out and then they will move to impeach President Mugabe. So questions are well, why didn't he resign in this live address? What have the generals done with their negotiations with him and just what is next in this bizarre turn of events in Zimbabwe?

David McKenzie, CNN -- Harare, Zimbabwe.


VANIER: So if Zimbabwe's parliament does move ahead with impeachment, here is how that would work according to the country's constitution, the 2013 constitution.

A simple majority of the members of the senate and the national assembly must approve a joint resolution setting impeachment in motion on one or more specific charges. That's how it begins.

A parliament committee would then appoint a panel to investigate. If the panel recommends impeachment, a two-thirds vote of both houses of parliament would remove President Mugabe from office.

Let's bring in Piers Pigou now, who joins us from Johannesburg. He's a senior consultant for Southern Africa at the ICG, the International Crisis Group.

Piers -- I've covered a few coup d'etats in that part of the world. Each one is unique in its twists and turns but this non-resignation speech was still very surprising to me. How could the generals not have known that Mr. Mugabe would not resign, or if they did why let it happen?

PIERS PIGOU, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Well, it is difficult to imagine a situation where they didn't know what was in the contents of that speech. What the speech provides for the generals is immediate legal cover because Mugabe made it very clear at the beginning of this speech that this was not a coup. And this was the concern that many in a security establishment had.

[00:04:55] And certainly in the face of an emergency (INAUDIBLE) summit that is due for tomorrow there is some thinking of course that this was indeed choreographed to allow Mugabe to exempt them from that particular charge in order for the impeachment process to follow tomorrow.

Now that's one theory. As you can imagine, the whole country is fueled with speculation about what really happened because I think most people were completely floored by what they saw last night with the president's address. VANIER: Robert Mugabe says he's going to preside over his party's

congress next month. What are the chances of that happening in your view?

PIGOU: I think it's pretty unlikely given that, as you pointed out in your piece earlier, that Zanu PF effectively fired him yesterday, expelled his wife and a number of senior members of the party. He gave a speech last night which totally ignored those facts as if they were divorced from his reality.

It's difficult to see in what capacity he would preside over that congress. And questions are being asked as to whether he even knows that he's been fired as the first secretary and president of Zanu PF.

VANIER: Ok. So listen to this now -- the very end of the speech. Wonder what you made of this.


MUGABE: I thank you. And good night. Sorry. (INAUDIBLE)

It was the wrong speech.


VANIER: Now, in a situation where really everybody is listening to every word, scrutinizing everything Robert Mugabe says, the last thing he says is "sorry, it's the wrong speech".

PIGOU: Well, you know, there's a lot of debate on social media last night about that -- was he saying "it's the wrong speech" or "it's a long speech"?

I mean we all know that Robert Mugabe gave the wrong speech in parliament last year. So a number of people are saying perhaps this was the wrong speech. There was a lot of social media showing pictures of General Chiwenga, moving papers around underneath his chair and so forth.

So, you know, we really don't know what is happening with respect to Mr. Mugabe, the extent to which this reflects a situation out of control or one that is being choreographed.

And a key question to ask is where is the president elect and the newly elected first secretary of Zanu PF, Emerson Mnangagwa? We haven't seen him. And it's a peculiar kind of leadership, when faced with as to who actually is in charge of Zimbabwe.

VANIER: Piers Pigou -- thank you very much for your time. That was indeed an odd moment, difficult to know what to make of it with generals who are pushing out Robert Mugabe, politely clapping. Thank you very much for your time.

PIGOU: Thank you.

VANIER: The families and friends of 44 Argentine navy members are anxiously waiting for new clues. Relatives wrote messages of hope at the port where the missing submarine was scheduled to arrive on Sunday.

Yesterday, we told you several signals have been sent and were being analyzed to determine whether they were sent by the crew; well, there's still no certainly on that. The sub disappeared on Wednesday off Argentina's southern Atlantic Coast.


CAPT. GABRIEL GALEAZZI, ARGENTINE NAVY (through translator): I want you to know that we have tripled the search effort both on the surface and under water with ten airplanes. We have 11 ships from the Argentine navy, from municipalities and from countries that have collaborated with research ships such as Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Peru, the United States and England.

These ships are following the submarine's planned route and they're sweeping the whole area. And we also have navy ships sweeping from the north to south and from the south to north.


VANIER: Let's go to the CNN weather center now. Pedram Javaheri is looking into this for us. What is the weather like in the search area -- Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's not going to look good the next couple of days. Cyril there is a brief improvement there coming on Tuesday into Wednesday and that's about it. It goes back downhill again.

And this portion of the world is well-known from sailors many, many years ago. They would call this area the roaring 40s, the furious 50s or the screaming 60s. And what that relates to is a reference to the latitude. Once you get from the 40 degree latitude to the 50 degree latitude down towards the 60 degree latitude -- tremendous winds between these regions were persisting year-round.

That's translating now to about 70 kilometer per hour winds just offshore or six to eight meter high wave heights across this region. So certainly any sort of visual cues -- you want to see because we know navy protocol says that if you lose communication with the submarine, they're supposed to come to the surface.

The surface -- winds are extremely high. We know it will stay that way and potentially get stronger later into the week. Some rainfall is possible, not a tremendous amount of rainfall. But the concern is really the wave heights.

[00:09:59] The yellow indicative of nine meters and you notice we get a brief break and then going to Thursday, once again the yellow returns indicating significant wave heights in store across this region.

Cyril -- watching this area right here, this is the Argentine shelf. I dug deeper into this. Going down to the surface here, the depth across this region sits roughly at 2,200 meters down but it's essentially three (INAUDIBLE) stacked on top of each other. So this is deepest the submarine could be if it's down below across this region. But it kind of puts it in perspective of the area that we're kind of watching across this region -- Cyril.

VANIER: All right. Pedram -- we hope to hear good news from that submarine. Pedram Javaheri right from the CNN Weather Center -- thank you very much.

And the war of words on social media escalates. Why President Trump says he should have left three American basketball players in jail in China.

Plus, U.S. Senate investigators say Jared Kushner has failed to give them key documents but his lawyer tells CNN that lawmakers are playing a gotcha game with his client.

Stay with us.


JAVAHERI: The lake effect snow machine on full blast across the great -- Midwestern United States and across the Great Lakes as well. We have very cold air beginning to push its way directly over a relatively warm body of water. That energy transfer that takes place here sets up stage for the snowiest places across the United States there and it could see some significant snow in parts.

But look at Chicago, ten degrees, sunny skies; New York City remains somewhat chilly there around 8; Montreal 2 below; Winnipeg, some freezing drizzle possible with 1 in the forecast.

Not really frankly as the coldest spot here as we get more multiple areas of intrusions there of cold air from early week eventually towards mid and late week and then going into the weekend. Could see additional blasts of colder air but much of it really stays confined to extreme northern portion of the United States.

So here's the trend for Washington. It warms up to 14 eventually back down to 8. In places like the southern U.S., Charlotte and Atlanta do cool off just a little bit towards the latter portion of the week but not a significant change in their forecast.

Here's what's going on around the western United States. You have an active track of weather here bringing in tremendous rainfall across the lower elevations and significant accumulations from the cascades down toward the Siskiyou, get up towards Whistler, B.C. There are the skiers and snowboarders who will be loving life with significant snow in the forecast there.

Down in the tropics, San Juan gets a few showers; around Guatemala City, a pair of 2; Chihuahua, sunny and 23; Mexico City, 23 degrees.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VANIER: The U.S. President is blasting the father of a UCLA basketball player, calling him ungrateful. LaVar Ball's son is one of three players, who was arrested in China on shoplifting charges.

[00:15:08] And while his son initially thanks Donald Trump for securing their release, father has since downplayed the President's role in getting them out.

President responded on Twitter saying that he should have left them in jail. And he didn't leave it at that.

Boris Sanchez has more.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: President Trump has never been one to back down from a public feud especially on Twitter. This latest one, aiming at LaVar Ball, the father of one of those three UCLA students that were detained in China during the President's 12- day trip through Asia.

The President found out that the students were detained and White House officials tell us that he personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping if those students could be released so that they could return home.

They were and in that process the President wondered aloud on Twitter whether or not these three students would thank him for his role in their release. They did and the President actually tweeted about them subsequently writing that they should be weary of the many pitfalls in life.

We thought it was over until LaVar Ball, father of LiAngelo gave this comment to ESPN that downplayed President Trump's role in the return of his son. And so the President took to Twitter on Sunday morning targeting him on two separate tweets hours apart.

The second one, the President writing, shoplifting is a very big deal in China as it should be -- five to ten years in jail. But not to father LaVar -- should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful.

The President though is catching flak for this suggestion that he would not have gotten these U.S. citizens, student athletes released from a Chinese prison had he known that one of their parents would not give him credit in public.

Boris Sanchez, CNN -- at the White House.


VANIER: Julian Zelizer joins us now. He's a CNN political analyst, a historian and professor at Princeton University. Julian -- the President's latest Twitter spat pits him against LaVar Ball, somebody who has no discernible talent apart from being the dad of promising basketball players and relentlessly plugging his brand -- surprise, surprise -- by picking fights with people more famous than himself.

The President took the bait. Your thoughts?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not surprising. The President's selection of who to go after through Twitter is not always rational. It's not always based on hierarchy, it's based on who angers him and who provokes him.

But obviously at the end of a weekend, at the end of several weeks of an Asia trip here -- this is what we're talking about again. And you know, the question is, is this some kind of strategy of distraction, or is this a president acting through pure emotion and in some ways, wiping out something that he did very effectively in terms of getting the players released.

VANIER: Yes. You're a historian, is there any president in U.S. history who's had a temperament similar to Mr. Trump's?

ZELIZER: Yes. There's been presidents who had bad temperaments. Bill Clinton had a fierce temperament. Lyndon Johnson would yell at people all the time but they didn't do it in public and they didn't do it via something like Twitter.

So all of this was something you learned about decades later or if you worked with the President you knew at the time. This is all happening on the public stage. And that's what makes it so different.

VANIER: Mr. Trump tweeting about LaVar Ball and the Ball family and basketball players, is this a diversion? A misdirection at a time when the Roy Moore scandal was saturating the air waves and also there was a connection between that and it was resurrecting the allegations made against Mr. Trump of sexual misconduct last year?

ZELIZER: It is and it isn't. Meaning it's a diversion, yes in that it moves the news away from these other issues which potentially could be more damaging to the President, which many would say are more substantive.

It isn't in that his base loves this. They love the fighter and they love when he will go after people who anger him. And so in that respect it's not a diversion at all. This is a continuation of what we've seen throughout the campaign, giving the voters the Trump that they love.

VANIER: All right. So tell me about this current moment in the U.S. society and this current political moment with these multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against multiple high-ranking politicians here in the U.S.

The three biggest newspapers in Alabama have called on their readers to reject Roy Moore who, of course, had been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women at this stage. Now's he's been running an anti-media, anti-establishment campaign so does that help him ng or hurt him?

[00:19:57] ZELIZER: Well, it's not helping him in that he's losing support in the polls and now he's losing some support in the newspapers.

Obviously there's not many strategies that you can use to overcome these kinds of stories. They're horrendous. I mean the allegations are as bad as they can get.

So in some ways this is his best shot, in some ways discredit the allegations, to discredit the process, and to play a little Donald Trump and say this is him against the system.

But it's hard to wipe that away. And that's why in Alabama, a red Republican state right now, the Democrat actually has a chance of winning -- Doug Jones.

VANIER: And that fact that the papers are from Alabama, not Washington --


VANIER: -- does that undercut Mr. Moore's argument that the Washington establishment is out to get him?

ZELIZER: Absolutely. And you have to remember evangelicals are big part of the Alabama electorate and so part of the question is, where do their moral values take them? Do they take them in a partisan direction to stand by any Republican candidate?

Or do the allegations that have come out from multiple women lead them to say, we're either going to stay home or we might even vote for a Democrat. But those papers are not from Washington. They're not from New York City. They're from Alabama.

VANIER: Right. Julian Zelizer -- great to talk to you. Thank you for your time.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

VANIER: And new details are now emerging about a notorious meeting involving several members of Donald Trump's campaign team. If you'll remember that Donald Trump Jr., the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort all attended a meeting last year with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin.

Well, Trump Jr. had been offered incriminating information on Hillary Clinton in an e-mail. That e-mail was sent by British music publicist Rob Goldstone who represented the pop star son of a Russian oligarch.

Goldstone tells the "Sunday Times" that he puffed up the wording in his e-mails to Trump Jr. to secure the meeting. Adding this, if I'm guilty of anything -- and I hate the word guilty -- it's hyping the message and going the extra mile for my clients.

Goldstone also says he's ready to meet with Robert Mueller's investigators and Senate committees looking into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Speaking of Jared Kushner, his attorney says he wants to set the record straight on his client's interaction with Senate investigators. Lawmakers looking into alleged collusion with Russia say Kushner did not turn over all key documents that they requested but his lawyer tells CNN's Evan Perez that's not the case.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: For months there has been a growing perception that Jared Kushner hasn't been upfront about Russia contacts. From his failure to list them in security clearance application to this past week when the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a bipartisan and public letter to Kushner saying he hadn't turned over documents that the committee knew existed.

The committee says that the documents cover everything from campaign contacts with WikiLeaks to a Russian back door proposal to connect Russian President Vladimir Putin with the campaign. An idea that Kushner rejected.

In an interview Sunday with me, Abbe Lowell, Kushner's attorney pushes back against those accusations.

ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR JARED KUSHNER: The committee investigations unfortunately are devolving into political gotcha games. If committees selectively leak parts of interviews or send me letters through the media or turn Jared Kushner's very clear e-mail that there should be no contacts with anybody in a foreign country into what they call as a missing document, then they're undermining their own credibility.

The issue of Russia interference in the 2016 election is a serious one but these committee actions are not.

PEREZ: So what I hear you saying is that you don't believe that there's any missing documents and you don't really plan to provide any additional documents?

LOWELL: Now, let me be clear. What we told the Judiciary Committee is that we would send them what we had already sent the intelligence committee and then we'd work with them if there was anything else that was relevant. And then what they decided to do is to create a media event. That undermines the seriousness of their endeavor.

PEREZ: So do you not plan to allow another interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee? That seems to be what they're asking for.

LOWELL: Mr. Kushner has been very clear, that will cooperate as he has been voluntarily with all bipartisan requests from committees on anything that's relevant. He's done it and he'll do it again.

PEREZ: So in these cases, as you know, the perception is often as important as the facts. And the perception that has been built here is that Jared Kushner perhaps has something to hide because these committees say that he's not being as forthcoming as others have been. They received the same request -- the same broad requests for documents and they provided documents that Jared Kushner did not provide. Is there a problem with Jared Kushner's ability --

LOWELL: Let's be clear again.

PEREZ: Right.

LOWELL: In my communications with the Senate Judiciary Committee I said take these documents and let's talk about what else is relevant. They jumped the gun to make a media event.

And any perception that Mr. Kushner has been anything but not only cooperative but if you look at the contents of these documents, he's the hero.

[00:25:04] He's the one who's saying there shouldn't be any contacts with foreign officials or foreign entities -- that's what the Senate Judiciary Committee should pay attention to and not create some sort of partisan gotcha game.

PEREZ: The perception though is built because of the SF 86 -- the fact that he didn't disclose all those contacts at first and the fact that these documents they say are missing that were provided by others.

LOWELL: So when you say that he did not disclose on his SF -86, again a misperception. It was sent first time with a hit of a send button before it was complete and then within days and weeks it was completed. I mean that's just silliness.

PEREZ: It took a couple of months for the hundred additional contacts.

LOWELL: It took a couple of months to get it thorough and also make sure that it was complete. That's not atypical in this process.


The bottom line here is that Kushner is not promising to provide an interview to the Senate Judiciary Committee and while his attorney says he's cooperating with Congress, Kushner has another investigation to keep in mind. That's the criminal investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

And right now Mueller's still working through a roster of White House officials who are coming in for interviews. And we expect Kushner will be one of them.

Evan Perez, CNN -- Washington.


VANIER: Coming up, hundreds of people gathered outside the Libyan embassy in Paris this weekend. Why an exclusive CNN report prompted this demonstration.

Plus opioid is the drug that fuels the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. We'll show you how new opium seeds could bring in even more cash for the militant group.

Stay with us.


[00:30:04] VANIER: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.

Let's look at your headlines this hour.



VANIER: Cries of "No to slavery" filled the streets outside the Libyan embassy in Paris over the weekend. The demonstration came just days after a CNN exclusive report shone a light on auctions in Libya, where human beings are bought and sold.

Following our report, Libya's government said that it launched a formal investigation into the migrant slave trade, which will be overseen by its anti-illegal immigration agency. Officials say their goal is find those who have been sold, bring them to safety and then return them to their countries of origin.

During CNN's investigation, Nima Elbagir and her team witnessed a dozen men, sold like commodities at auction. Here's part of her report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We were ushered into one of two auctions happened on the same night. Crouch at the back of the yard. A flood light obscuring much of the scene. One by one men are brought out as the bidding begins - 400, 500, 550, 600, 650, 700. Very quickly it's over. We ask if we can speak to the men, the auctioneer, seen here refuses.

We ask again if we can speak to them, if we can help them.

No, he says.

The auction is over with. And we are asked to leave.

That was over very quickly. We walked in and as soon as we walked in, the men started covering their faces. But they clearly wanted to finish what they were doing. And they kept bringing out what they kept referring to in Arabic as the merchandise.

All in all, they admit that had there were 12 Nigeriens that were sold in front of us. And -- I honestly don't know what to say. That was probably one of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen.


VANIER: CNN was told of auctions at nine locations throughout Libya. But many more are believed to take place each month. CNN's Robyn Kriel now has more on the impact of this investigation.


ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Images from Libya that shocked the world. An exclusive CNN investigation that revealed the ugly slave trade that's happening on Europe's doorstep.

For the past year, a CNN team has $worked tirelessly to shine a light on this dark practice. And the scenes they filmed inside Libya have provoked both protest and promises of action.

On the streets of Paris, hundreds of demonstrators shout, "No to slavery," demanding that Libyan authorities investigate, which they say they will do. Protesters could barely contain their anger. The leader of the African Union, Alpha Conde, also reacted harshly.

[00:35:00]"On behalf of the African Union, I express my outrage at the despicable trade of migrants currently taking place in Libya and strongly condemn this practice of another age."

As thousands continue to make the perilous journey from Libya to Europe, the International Organization for Migration warns that smuggling networks in Libya are, quote, "growing stronger, more organized and better equipped," all of which allows the hidden horrors to flourish.

A glimpse inside a nightmare many didn't even realize still existed in the 21st century -- Robyn Kriel, CNN.


VANIER: Opium production in Afghanistan is up 87 percent this year. That's according to a new U.N. report, which calls the increase "frightening." Opium is a major source of cash for the Taliban insurgency. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh filmed this next report back in July, taking a close look at the reasons for the uptick in the drug's production.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heroin, setting Afghanistan aflame, its opium fields targeted for eradication. Just as it tears up America's streets in the new opioid crisis, both the misery and the money here.

WALSH: (INAUDIBLE) really beautiful at this time of night but below us are some of the richest, most fertile land for opium growth in all of Afghanistan, the river valleys that run through Helmand. This is a money pit, really, the Taliban insurgency.

WALSH (voice-over): Even the sparkle from the solar panels (INAUDIBLE) rich on the annual opium harvest, now a new twist to this ancient Afghan curse risks sending already record opium production out of control.

And it's just this: new opium seeds, yet different in one special way. They can be harvested three times a year, not just once. It's already changing the way these opium farmers in Helmand's (INAUDIBLE) district go about life.

"Those seeds," he says, "called Chinese, are ready in 70 nights, a short time. Some are good in hot weather, some in cold weather. We cultivate three times a year," he says, "first season, middle and last."

"If you grow something like corn," another says, "we don't make a profit because we don't have proper water or electricity to maintain them."

"Smugglers go to every bazaar, we can even set it in front of our houses."

Afghan officials are testing the new seeds with U.S. and British scientific help to see where they're from and how they can be stopped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We also believe this year, we might have a bit higher (INAUDIBLE) production. And one of the reasons will be because of this seed.

The farmers here, them, they'll tell you it's a Chinese seed but we don't know yet.

WALSH (voice-over): Only about 1 percent of America's heroin is Afghan; most of it hitting Europe. But that could change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) production, they would be finding themselves market. And it's not that far away that they could reach out to U.S. also.

WALSH (voice-over): Syrian field that hide a potential time bomb, the heroin spread in the West -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Helmand, Afghanistan.


VANIER: Still to come on the show, in a medical emergency, the fight to survive is much harder when there's no hospital close by. Next, we'll take you to a town that's been dealing with that terrifying problem for years now. Stay with us.





VANIER: Across the U.S., rising health care costs are causing hospitals to close. And this is most prevalent in rural areas. Some entire communities do not have access to emergency care. Such is the case in Tonopah, a small isolated community nestled in Nevada's vast desert. The town is more than 100 kilometers and hours and hours away from the

nearest hospital. Residents there are forced to rely on each other in times of crisis. Simon Ostrovsky reports.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dispatch, medic 11.


SIMON OSTROVSKY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the EMS crew of Tonopah, the small mining town in the middle of Nevada that 2,400 people call home. There's no professional ambulance service here and Tonopah's only hospital closed its doors for good in 2015.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Medic 11, on scene.

OSTROVSKY (voice-over): So local residents have taken matters into their own hands.

Dawn Gudmunson (ph) is one of several voluntary EMTs, who act as the community's only lifeline.

DAWN GUDMUNSON (PH), TONOPAH VOLUNTEER EMT: It's scary. It's scary to live here. I'm scared for residents. I'm scared for my family.

OSTROVSKY (voice-over): When Tonopah's hospital closed, the entire county, the area roughly the size of the U.S. state of Massachusetts, was left without any emergency medical care. Any area that's more than 30 miles away from a hospital is known as a hospital desert. Tonopah is more than 200 miles from emergency trauma care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you need trauma care, you're looking at either Reno or Las Vegas, which is 3.5 hours by vehicle. I know of some people that did not make it on the transport, they expired en route.

GUDMUNSON (PH): My aunt, she had a lot of medical problems and we weren't able to get her to higher level of care quick enough. So she passed in our ambulance.

It was just hard. Like she taught us how to be EMTs and then we were working on her and there was just nothing more that we could do. And if we would have had a hospital, they have years of knowledge and it would have been different.

OSTROVSKY (voice-over): Dawn is bringing her latest patient to the airport. But by the time the plane arrives from Las Vegas, they've already been waiting on the tarmac for two hours.

OSTROVSKY: This is increasingly the reality of living in rural America. If you get injured or sick, you have to be driven to the airport so you can get flown to a hospital hundreds of miles away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that, because we're so rural, people tend to forget about us.

Why are we not worthy of health care?

We're people, too. We need help.

OSTROVSKY (voice-over): Simon Ostrovsky, CNN, Tonopah, Nevada.


VANIER: All right. That's it for now. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back at the top of the hour. But first, "WORLD SPORT" takes it from here. Stay with us.