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CNN Shows Mom Stranded Girl; The Conditions On The Carnival Cruise Ship; Cruise Ship Is Now Just Hours Away; Obama Proposes Universal Pre-K; Pistorius Charged with Murder

Aired February 14, 2013 - 13:00   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

Of course, we are following that breaking news. You are seeing there the exclusive video, CNN video. Pictures there from the Gulf of Mexico. This is the cruise ship Carnival Triumph that is now being towed in. It is at a very slow pace. This is moments ago, video that was taken from our own chopper from above. Our chopper now getting refueled so we can bring you those aerial pictures. But this from just moments ago, just within the last hour or so we've been following this breaking news as we've trained our eyes, our sights, on this cruise ship that is traveling towards the Port of Mobile, Alabama. Less than 50 miles away, but clearly this is a long and arduous ride for many of these passengers. More than 4,000 when you include the crew.

There, there those pictures showing that they are going to be still in the water from seven to 10 hours or so because the port where they'll be arriving is so far away. I want you to see that sign there. It says "help get us out. Get us to Louisiana." Simply sheets that were drawn across the deck there so that people could see and hear just the desperate situation that some of these passengers have been in.

That ship has been dead without power since Sunday or so after a fire broke out. You can see just the scale of this. When you think about it, it really is just like a -- it's like a hotel that is floating in the water, traveling at a very slow pace. It's being pulled in now by tugboats. We saw at least four tugboats. It's traveling just six to seven miles per hour.

I want to bring in -- because my colleague Ashleigh Banfield did such an incredible job of really taking us on board that ship and painting a picture, if you will, of passengers who are talking directly to her. And one of the folks that she had a chance to speak to is 10-year-old Allie Taylor, and she was waving from the ship earlier today. She was wearing a pink sweater. She was able to actually look up to our helicopter and give a big wave, a big shout out there. She's with her friend Rebekah Poret, the 12 year old who is actually in the yellow there. You see them jumping up and down. They were so excited when we were able to talk about it. And we see Allie there, she's in pink. She's waving wildly. And I think we have Allie on the phone. Allie, can you hear me? It's Suzanne Malveaux at CNN.


MALVEAUX: Allie, I think we've got your mom on the other line as well, Kim Taylor. Kim, are you there?


MALVEAUX: Kim, what have you -- have you been able to talk to Allie since this -- since this happened?

K. TAYLOR: No, this is the first time I've gotten to talk to her since Monday.

MALVEAUX: All right. Well, Kim, what would you like to say to Allie?

K. TAYLOR: Oh, I love you so much and I can't wait to have a big hug. I miss you.

A. TAYLOR: I miss you, too.

K. TAYLOR: It will be soon, baby, very soon. You'll be here tonight.

A. TAYLOR: I know.

K. TAYLOR: Won't you be happy to be on land?

A. TAYLOR: I know.


MALVEAUX: Kim, where are you now?

K. TAYLOR: Are you doing OK? Huh?


K. TAYLOR: OK, good deal. Hello?



MALVEAUX: No, you guys, stay on the phone if you will. It's OK. We'll listen in a little bit. That's OK.

K. TAYLOR: I miss her so much, I just can't stop. I just -- I just miss her. It's so good to hear her voice.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Allie, how you doing?

A. TAYLOR: What?

MALVEAUX: How you doing, Allie? What would you like to -- what would you like to say to your mom about how things have been going?

A. TAYLOR: I just want to say I really miss her. When I get to land, I'm just going to hug her to death and have a really good happy meal. MALVEAUX: Kim, what would you like to say to Allie? I know she really misses you, we've finally had a chance -- have you had a chance to see the pictures of her waving?

K. TAYLOR: No, I haven't got to see a chance of them waving at all. She's, like, mom, the helicopter's coming closer, I can wave! Do you see me? And I haven't got to see her yet so --

A. TAYLOR: She didn't see us yet.

MALVEAUX: Allie, tell us what it's been like.

K. TAYLOR: I can't wait.

MALVEAUX: Tell us what it's been like --

A. TAYLOR: What?

MALVEAUX: -- on the ship.

A. TAYLOR: What?

MALVEAUX: Allie, tell us what it's been like. Are you eating enough? Are you -- do you have enough food? And what have you been eating lately?

A. TAYLOR: Well, we've been eating these really cold sandwiches. I tried hard to get them really hot. And we have to use the restroom in a bag because the water doesn't work. And Jen is talking right now, hold on. I can't hear.

MALVEAUX: Who's talking, Allie?

A. TAYLOR: Hello?

MALVEAUX: Hello, Allie? Can you tell us who's talking on board?

A. TAYLOR: I can't -- who's talking?

MALVEAUX: I can, Allie.

A. TAYLOR: This girl named Jen.

MALVEAUX: Are you hearing an announcement on board?

A. TAYLOR: Yes, ma'am.

MALVEAUX: What are they saying? Can you tell us?

A. TAYLOR: What?

MALVEAUX: Can you tell us what they're telling you on board, the announcement?

A. TAYLOR: Hold on. What did she say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said hold on --

MALVEAUX: All right. We're going to -- we're going to try to get back to Allie, see what they're actually telling her. But I want to bring in our Sanjay Gupta to talk a little bit about the conditions on board. We've been talking to so many people for days now and it really sounds awful. I mean, you know, like three hours to wait in line for food and going to the bathroom in bags and people outside on the deck because the smell is so bad indoors. Describe what that's -- the conditions that they're under and what does this mean for people's health?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think -- you know, I think, mainly, this is just miserable for them, psychologically, you know. And I think in terms of specific health conditions, you're hearing obviously some pretty unhygienic, unsanitary conditions. You want to ask the basics, though, still, do people have water? Are they able to be hydrated? Can they refrigerate their medications? And are they getting any kind of food? It does sound like they're getting it. It's not great, by all accounts, and it just doesn't sound very good. But, you know, do you remember -- do you remember Katrina, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Sure, of course.

GUPTA: And people were -- there was unsanitary conditions for days. People were stuck in buildings, even outside, but you didn't see the infectious disease outbreak.

MALVEAUX: I want to -- I want to go to David Mattingly, who's actually on the ground, and he's talking to folks who are waiting anxiously. They see the ship coming in there. I can only imagine, David, what they're going through. I mean, kind of the excitement, the anticipation of seeing them.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the hard part has just been the last several days. You know, when this disaster first happened and the fire was on board and the ship was disabled, there was all sorts of phone calls that came out that first Sunday and maybe a little bit on Monday, frantic calls to home, people talking about how worried they were, how scared they were, the terrible conditions on board. And then nothing. That's because the ships that have been coming up to this disabled cruise liner do not have an active cell tower on them, so people weren't able to call home. No one was able to call them.

And as you heard just -- maybe just a little while ago, in the last hour, I was talking to one man who expressed a lot of frustration about not getting a lot of detail from the Carnival Cruise Line, when he would call in and talk to them. I've heard from that from other families as well, not getting a lot of detail, nothing specific about their families and nothing really specific about the conditions that are on board. We had a press conference on site here just a little while ago from a vice president for Carnival Cruise Lines. He said that the ship was in good shape. He was talking about how they airlifted a generator on board so that they'd be able to provide more hot food to the people on board. Well, then we hear from the people who are actually on board, and they're telling us that there hasn't been enough hot food these past few days. They say there has been some, but the lines have been so long that the hot food usually gives out before the people at the end of the line get there. I spoke to one man on the phone who told me that he's been eating a lot of tomato sandwiches and cucumber sandwiches these last few days. So, they are getting fed but that hot food has been a rare commodity there.

Also, we were told earlier, by Carnival, that they were able to re- establish plumbing to a portion of the ship. That is true but apparently not nearly enough to accommodate the thousands of people who are on there. I spoke to one little girl, in fact, you were just talking to her earlier, 10-year-old Allie, had a short conversation with her --


GUPTA: -- and I'm probably going to embarrass her by saying it, she said the worst thing about being on there was having to, quote, "do her business in a can."

MALVEAUX: Yes. She's --

GUPTA: And that's something -- that's a memory that is probably going to be sticking with her for quite some time.

MALVEAUX: Yes, I think one of them was saying, went from horrible to -- from bad to worse to horrible. I want to bring in our Victor Blackwell who is actually on the water there. Victor, how close are you to the ship? Can you see it from where you are?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I certainly can see it at about five miles from here. But because this ship is so tall, 14 stories, it looks like it's much closer than that. And we're told by our boat captain that -- and we apologize for the shaky shot. We are on a 41- foot cutter in a pretty rough area -- that people on shore at the port, they might be able -- might be able now -- to see a white blob from where they are. They can't see the details as much as we can, but we are approaching this ship and we'll be able to see from water level the people who have been there for all this time.

And there's one other thing that we have to consider. I was discussing with Kim McKerreghan, when I spoke with her yesterday very early, is that there are people who have concerns and issues that they had to deal with off the ship. Her who is on the ship, there may be parents who have had child care only up until Monday for their children, but now that has stretched into Thursday, maybe Friday, until they get back. They have jobs they have to return to. They have responsibilities off the ship that they've been kept away from. So, yes, that comparison to being kept in an office building and you can't get out. There are people who need to go home and there are things they have to take care of.

Let's talk about conditions on the water, though. Our captain tells us that things have calmed down a bit, gone from that chop and the wind going from 10 to 15 miles per hour. It's calmed a bit although a ship of this size would not have much difficulty navigating that. And the channel. The channel, at some point, goes 50 feet or more deep. The bay, though, is very, very shallow. At some points, which is very close to the channel, 10 feet deep, three feet deep. And he said it's a shelf. There is no gradual kind of drag off. It just goes pretty shallow and then straight down. It would be catastrophic, we're told by the director of the port, if those tugs cannot keep it within that channel and they run aground. The last major cruise ship we saw run aground was Costa Concordia at more than a year ago, and we all know what happened there.

So, the important thing is to keep this in the channel. The port manager says that they're confident they can do that, because cruise ships, up until 2011, Carnival ships specifically, came along that channel, large cargo ships came along that channel without a problem. So, he's confident. He said he didn't want to be cavalier about it, because, yes, this is a ship that's being towed in, not coming in on its own, but he's very confident that it will make it to port. The only problem now, the hesitation, is how long will it take. And we're told it will take several more hours. But they can see land. And we're told now, the people waiting for them can see them only -- it's just that little tiny white blob on the horizon -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Victor, we're going to get back to you as you get closer to the cruise ship, the Triumph there, you can see it. This is CNN live exclusive pictures of that ship slowly making its way to port, seven to 10 hours away from port. A lot of anxious relatives who are waiting for their loved ones and, of course, those families whose vacations just turned into a nightmare aboard that ship when the power went out, when that fire broke out five days ago.

We are following this every moment, every step of the way, from the air, from the sea, from land. We're going to bring all of the details and watch that ship come in.

We are also watching another story, that is President Obama about to speak in Decatur, Georgia before a group of students. We're going to take that live as well. We'll be right back.


MALVEAUX: The end just can't come soon enough for folks on that ship. It's just a matter of hours now before the passengers, the crew who are stranded on the ship back on land. We are following that every step of the way. You can see exclusive pictures of that ship coming in.

Also this hour, we are taking a look at a live single, this is the school, this is where the president is going to be arriving very shortly. This is out of Decatur, Georgia, not far here from Atlanta. In just a moment, the president is going to unveil a proposal. This is how he would like to give every four year old a better education. We're talking about preschool, universal preschool.

And, of course, South Africa, something else we're following this hour, top international news story. We are talking about the superstar. He is amazing. The athlete, Olympic sprinter, Oscar Pistorius. Well, he is in jail now charged with murder. His girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, she was shot to death inside his house earlier today. 29 years old, a professional model and, of course, the charges, the ins, the outs, their relationship. What does any of this mean? Well, we're going to take a look first at South Africa's most famous and unlikely Olympian.

Robyn Curnow live in Johannesburg. Robyn, first of all it was really quite a shock for us to hear this news, this information, what do we know about surrounding this murder and, secondly, was there anything in his history or his past that would help explain why he's being charged with murder now?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know it's funny, it's one of these news stories, isn't it, Suzanne, that you just sort of take a double take at it, you think, no, this can't be happening, because I think for many of us all around the world, watching Oscar Pistorius' journey to the Olympics was such an inspiring thing. I think everybody felt like he was just one of those role models that perhaps couldn't do any wrong. I mean, a man who had no legs, made it to the able-bodied Olympics and ran in the semifinals. It still is quite an extraordinary story.

So, how did it come to this, that it -- at the predawn hours at his home on Valentine's Day, his girlfriend was murdered. Apparently four bullets were shot at her, her head, her arm, and her chest according to local media. And the police say that Oscar Pistorius was the shooter. He's going to be formally charged on Friday. But how did it come to this? A lot of questions. Not a lot of answers. I think they're all going to come out in the next few days.

MALVEAUX: We have been hearing that there were disturbances at the house before, that there was domestic issues. Is that true? Do we know anything about a history of problems the two of them had?

CURNOW: There was one incident in 2009 where there was apparently a drunken woman who tried to get into his house during a party there. Oscar apparently tried to shut the door on her and a piece of wood fell off that door and hit her, fell on her. Now, she laid initially a charge of assault against him, when the police investigated it, they found there was no evidence that he tried to assault her. That is the one incident that we are aware of where police perhaps know of an assault charge, but it was dropped because of evidence. The police today said that they were looking to oppose his bail because there had been other previous incidents, domestic incidents. If there's anything in addition to the one I've told you about, we, the press, are unaware of it. It could perhaps come out in court. But beyond that all we know about Oscar was this -- was an Olympian who was a good man. So, what's happened, is there another story? It's just very confusing and very shocking to all of us, isn't it?

MALVEAUX: Robin, there was something that struck us, I think it was local press that was reporting this, that, of course, the neighborhood that he lives in, it's a very lovely neighborhood, but there's a lot of violence in South Africa, that it is not uncommon to have a weapon in the house and that some reports that maybe he thought there was an intruder. Does that have any credibility at all?

CURNOW: Absolutely. I think that's why many people when they woke up this morning and heard this news, that Oscar had shot his girlfriend, the initial reports were that this had been an accident, a case of mistaken identity. It was very early in the morning. It was dark. And he had thought that there was an intruder in his house. That's -- the police say is not a line of questioning they're pursuing, although something else might come out during the trial.

What is important within that context is that most South Africans would recognize that fear. This is a country when you go to sleep at night, even I know, you know, you sometimes, you know, hear noises, you think uh-oh, because there is a huge amount of house breaking, of burglaries, of murder, of rape. This is a very violent, criminal society on many levels. And people coming into your house, breaking into your house, is unfortunately very common. And we've had a number of cases of people mistaking other people and shooting them. Recently a few years ago a rugby player shot dead his teenage daughter who had snuck out of the house to visit her boyfriend. And he shot her dead. There was another incident of a man who shot dead the son of a worker on his property. Lots of examples of people who are armed, who are scared, who are nervous and use alarm systems and all of that, but the last line of defense for many people is a weapon and we know that Oscar had a weapon.

MALVEAUX: And Robyn, finally, what is next? He know he's in custody and tomorrow he's formally charged with murder.

CURNOW: Yes. That is -- that is what we understand will happen tomorrow in a magistrate's court. The police have worryingly for Oscar said they will oppose any application for bail, so they believe they have a strong case against him. In terms of his career, in terms of his track career, I mean, do we expect to se him on the track anytime soon? I don't know. People now asking, no matter what even if he's proven innocent in the long run, how does this impact on his career and, you know, is -- the big question is, is this the end.

MALVEAUX: All right, Robyn Curnow, thank you very much.

We're also waiting for President Obama. He's going to be speaking in Decatur, Georgia. We're going to bring that to you live as soon as it starts.

And, of course, we are also watching the amazing story out of the Gulf of Mexico. The Carnival Cruise Line ship Triumph, just limping towards land. It is going to still be a long journey for the 4,000 -- more than 4,000 aboard that big ship, four tugboats slowly bringing it in to shore. Passengers waiting on -- waiting on board. Loved ones waiting on shore for the big reunion that is going to happen hours away.


MALVEAUX: We're awaiting a live event. The president is going to be speaking in Decatur, Georgia, right outside of Atlanta to talk about education. He wants to push forward a proposal, a plan to make it universal that preschool would be provided for all those here in the United States. We are also, of course, hearing efforts under way -- a compromise, some kind of compromise of key Republicans to get the president's defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel the 60 votes he needs to overcome a filibuster, a Republican filibuster.

And, of course, we are following the ship, the cruise ship, that is making its way -- you can see CNN exclusive video. Making its way to shore. I want to bring in Sandra Endo. She was actually on the chopper earlier today. Where we were able to get these exclusive pictures of that ship. Was able to get really kind of the birds-eye view, if you will, of the passengers who were waving, those who were excited when they first were able to talk to their loved ones, were able to actually see some of the signs that were draped over the side, asking please help get us to Louisiana. Sandra is now on the ground. Can you hear me?


MALVEAUX: Tell us what you saw from up there.

ENDO: Well, it was incredible the view we were able to see from the helicopter. We went out early this morning to try to find this Carnival Triumph ship. We understood that it was farther out, actually, than originally anticipated. But then we took off again a couple hours later this morning, and we were eventually able to find it. And as we approached the ship we could just see how massive an effort it was to actually get this rudderless ship really towed, and that is why the effort is going so slow. And as we approached the ship, we saw passengers bundled up in their white robes. As they saw us they were waving towels at us, waving at us, basically asking for help. They had signs draped out of their stateside balconies, in their state rooms, actually, saying help us get off Triumph, save us.

And I was able to see up close their faces, and it just looked like so many of those passengers were worn out. They were tired. They were cold. They were bundled up in mattresses that they've taken from their rooms outside on the deck. And we're hearing reports of how awful the sewage and the smell is on board, and that's why a lot of these passengers took these mattresses outside so that they could sleep. But obviously the temperatures are pretty cold outside in the morning time especially. And they were all bundled up, and it just looked like, you know, a lot of these passengers just had broken spirits on board and they were just desperate to get to shore. But as we were hovering over the Triumph, Suzanne, we saw a supply drop. So, obviously a lot of people, the coast guard, carnival, trying to get supplies to that ship. And we saw them trying to load -- off-load, actually, some food and other supplies to the passengers as they were making their way and approaching the mouth of Mobile Bay. And once that ship gets to the mouth of Mobile Bay, that is when more agencies will take over, that's when more help will help the ship navigate its way up the channel. And that will be about 25 miles until it actually docks at the port here.

MALVEAUX: I understand that you are actually refueling right now. How long is it going to take you to refuel and will you get back in the air and give us more of a sense of the tug boats that have surrounded the ship and actually how far they are out from the dock? I believe it's right now about 40 miles or so.

ENDO: Absolutely. We are trying as best as we can to refuel as fast as we can. We understand the necessity of showing what the conditions are like on board that ship and what the passengers are going through as well as the tremendous effort it's taking to make sure this ship is towed into the dock. And keep in mind, it's only going about five miles per hour, and it's over 100,000 tons. So, it is a big effort. We're seeing all these tugboats, the coast guard, the customs and border patrol agents boarding that to process some of the documents needed for the passengers as well. So, it is a multi-agency effort under way right now at sea.

And what I can tell you is that we were actually flying about 15 miles off the edge of Dauphin Island. There's a lighthouse that is kind of a marker to the mouth of Mobile Bay, and so we were flying quite a distance out there. We know there are crews, CNN crews, in place on Dauphin Island that will eventually get to see the ship as it approaches. But it's still a pretty far distance away. When you think about how slow it's being tugged.

MALVEAUX: All right, Sandra, thank you. I want you to stay with us.

I want to bring in, this is Jay Herring, a former senior officer with Carnival Cruise Lines, you know this ship in and out-backwards and forwards. You have actually sailed on Triumph. how long will it take them to get to shore?

JEY HERRING, FORMER SENIOR OFFICER FOR CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: Even under normal sailing conditions, once you see and land, it's still an hour or two before you can actually dock. With tugboats it will be much, much longer.

MALVEAUX: Can you give us an idea -- Sandy has said a little bit about the ship, 14 stories, about 900 feet long, 46,000 horsepower. It is just being dragged very slowly. It's going to be a little while. You know what, Jay? I want you to hang in with us. We're going to get back to you in a little bit. The President is speaking live at this event. Want to dip in and listen.