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"Cruise from Hell" Finally Ends; Obama in Chicago to Push Gun Control; Close Encounters; Kangaroos Interrupt LPGA Australian Open

Aired February 15, 2013 - 06:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are glad to be on dry land. Our -- it's just been a horrible experience for us.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The nightmare cruise is over. But home is still far away for many weary passengers this morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, the "Blade Runner", Oscar Pistorius breaking down in tears in court, shaking uncontrollably. He is accused of murdering his model girlfriend.

ROMANS: Two close encounters from outer space in the same day. An asteroid speeding close to Earth as we speak and just hours ago, a meteor exploded over Russia, causing hundreds of injuries and disrupting potentially cell phone service there. We're talking to Bill Nye the science guy this morning.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans, in for John Berman this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Well, they are home at last. More than 3,000 passengers on board the ill-fated Carnival cruise ship Triumph will be waking up on dry land this morning. The vessel was towed into an Alabama port late Thursday. And a steady stream of relieved passengers began to disembark about an hour later.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be back on solid ground, and, you know, you think about a good three-day cruise that we had and then a bad four-day camping trip. So --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After being on that boat for that long and not knowing when or how we were getting back, it was just so good to finally be back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You really don't realize how fortunate we are to have a flushing toilet, running clean water and water to drink.


SAMBOLIN: All the stuff we take for granted.

The cruise line is compensating the passengers and they admit they really messed up.


GERRY CAHILL, CEO, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: I like to reiterate the apology I made earlier. I know the conditions onboard were very poor. I know it was very difficult, and I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests to that. We pride ourselves in providing guests with a great vacation experience. And, clearly, we failed in this particular case.


SAMBOLIN: And some of those passengers from the crippled ship are waking up in New Orleans this morning. They were put up in hotels by the cruise line.

Brian Todd is there live. And did you talk to anybody after they've gotten a little bit of rest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are getting some rest, finally, Zoraida. They are very relieved to be back on dry land. Some of them just wanted to lay down in a clean bed. And so, they're just very, very happy to get here.

Others are looking so exhausted. They're really just beyond exhausted, just shell shocked. So, you know, they don't really wanting to talk to you about their experience. They just want to get inside, get some hot food and get into bed.

These buses have been rolling in here for the last four hours from Mobile, Alabama.

Now, some of the passengers are getting back on buses to go to the airport or to go back to Texas to Galveston, Texas, where some of them left their vehicles.

But we did get some of them to give pictures, still pictures from the cruise ship, just showing hallways overrun with sewage and feces, things like that, the conditions that we've been hearing about over the past days. We've got some fresh pictures in showing that from the passengers this morning.

Some of them saying, you know, you had to wait three or more hours in line for food and then when you got to the end of the line, there was little or no food available. Sometimes just condiments that they could give you. Things like that, you're just hearing these stories over and over again, Zoraida. But, right now, a very palpable sense of relief and happiness that they are back on dry land, getting some food, getting some showers. SAMBOLIN: I don't know if you noticed, but some of the folks behind you were actually waving good-bye while you are there live.

So, we've been hearing from passengers who quite frankly are very angry, but others are really in good spirits. They're actually praising the crew. Have you heard some of those stories there where you are?

TODD: Just about everybody we spoke to had high praise for the crew, Zoraida, saying they did everything they could as far as getting them food, medical care, trying to keep the place clean when they could. But there were some bad behavior on the part of some passengers that we heard about.

I spoke to a young lady named Maria Hernandez a short time ago. She talked about some fights that broke out onboard. Take a listen.


MARIA HERNANDEZ, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: There was about three altercations and fights, because either people trying to get phones charged or just pushing in line for food while they were drunk.


TODD: But she and other passengers said the crew did what they could on those situations to try to keep order on the vessel, break up fights and just get people the stuff they needed, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Brian Todd live in New Orleans for us -- thank you.

ROMANS: I want to bring in now, excuse me, Ruby Dunn, who was stuck on board the carnival Triumph. She was just reunited with her husband, Ronny, who was waiting for her in Mobile.

Nice to see both of you.

You know, Ruby, tell me, what it was like when you saw your husband in Mobile? You must have been so happy to be reunited?

RUBY DUNN, PASSENGER OF CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: Yes. We were -- we were so ready to be off the boat. These last eight hours were the worst, just because we were so anxious to be off. The rest of it, most people were pretty patient. By the time we got there, we were just ready.

ROMANS: Ronnie, whether did you realize that this trip was going to be not just a day or two delayed, but this was going to be a four or five-day extra ordeal? What was going through your mind?

RONNIE DUNN, WIFE WAS STRANDED ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: Probably late Sunday afternoon, it started to sink in that it was going to be a while before my wife returned, and then once again when they notified us that they were taking them back to Progreso, you know, I realized it was going to take her a while to get home, and, you know, started making provisions to get our kids to and from school, and make sure everything was OK. So --

ROMANS: Well, it's essentially hitting the pause button on your life.

Ruby, you thought you were going for a bachelorette party for a few days. That is some bachelorette party, where now you've got three, four, five extra days where you're not home. Tell me, how were your friends? How was the bride-to-be? What was the mood like with your group?

RUBY DUNN: In our cabin, we were surprisingly upbeat. We had a couple days where it was really hard to get through and then after that, I guess we got bored, just decided to have fun. We just, you know, clowned it up. Did what we could.

ROMANS: What did you do? Other people said they read a lot of books. What were you doing?

RUBY DUNN: We put on our bathrobes and pretended to sumo wrestle in the hallway with pillows and would run up and smash against each other. We just go up and visit up and down the halls with other people. And, you know, just pretty much a lot of that.

There were a couple of things that Carnival had set up, live bands and such. Anything that didn't require power that they could do.

ROMANS: You guys have kids, yes?

RUBY DUNN: So, we endured, you know, that. Yes.

ROMANS: And how happy, Ronnie, are these kids going to be? How happy will be your kids that mom is coming home?

RONNIE DUNN: She's going to be pretty happy. She wanted to see her mommy. She's definitely a mommy's girl, and our oldest daughter, she's always one of those that really worries about everybody, so she'll be relieved that -- when we get on the way home.

RUBY DUNN: Our little one doesn't really quite understand. She just knows mommy stayed on a longer vacation.

ROMANS: Ruby and Ronnie, thanks so much. Best of luck to both of you. Ruby and Ronnie Dunn, thanks, guys.

I can't -- my kids at home, I can't imagine.


All right. We're taking a look at top CNN trends on the web this morning.

What started as a food fight turned into a full-scale brawl at a south suburban, or south school -- a high school, excuse me, in Minneapolis. As many as 300 students were involved in this. Look at the ambulances they had to call.

Teachers and school security tried to stop it, but the violence continued even after officers arrived on the scene. Officer has to use mace to break it up.

ROMANS: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg changing the way the NYPD handles marijuana arrests. Those in possession of under 15 grams of pot will now be charged with a violation instead of a misdemeanor, and those violators will receive a desk appearance ticket and won't have to spend the night in jail anymore.

SAMBOLIN: An incredible event took place while you were sleeping. Take a look at this. A meteor exploded in the sky, hundreds of injuries are reported on the ground. Bill Nye the science guy is going to shed some light on this for us when we come back.


SAMBOLIN: Soledad O'Brien is off today. Brooke Baldwin joins us now with a look at what's ahead on a special edition of "STARTING POINT".

Good morning, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Zoraida and Christine. You can sort of hear the collective sigh of relief from these 4,000-plus passengers and crew who are onboard up until a couple of hours ago. Onboard that Carnival cruise line Triumph. We are live in Mobile this morning. We will be talking to several people who endured these filthy, smelly conditions while trapped for five very long days.

We'll also ask the question, do these people have legal recourse against Carnival?

Also ahead this morning, the gripping Valentine's Day shooting involving Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius goes to court. The so-called "Blade Runner" is charged with murdering his model girlfriend. What we now know after his hearing this morning.

We hope you join John Berman and myself live from the special two hours of "STARTING POINT" beginning at the top of the hour.

Ladies, back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Brooke.

ROMANS: We won't miss it.

Just in a few hours, President Obama is going to speak to a group of Chicago high school students. He's going to talk about the need for tougher gun laws to curb deadly violence in that city and across the country. It's the latest in a series of campaign-style visits this week, pushing proposals that the president outlined in the State of the Union.

He's made gun control a priority following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and, of course, Chicago is his adopted hometown, where gun violence is a crisis.

SAMBOLIN: A major problem. Cool air rolling into the South this weekend. Indra Petersons is live from the CNN weather center in Atlanta. Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. It's the word you don't want on my weather map, right? Cold air, that is making its way back down to the South, meaning temperatures will be a good 10 degrees below normal once again.

We're still going to be dealing with the stationary front in Florida. So, some heavy rain. In fact, we have a tornado touch down on Boynton Beach yesterday, likely just an EF0, but of course we need to investigate that.

Other than that, we're going to be talking about a couple of lows once again, bringing chances for minimal amounts of snow into the Great Lakes and, of course, the Northeast. But overall, nothing major like we saw last week.

But nonetheless, we could see about one to three inches in towards New England, maybe a little more out towards West Virginia, and, of course, out towards the Great Lakes, so we have lake-effect snow. We could see some of those higher amounts, about four to six inches possible.

But there you go. It's all about the cold air. Look at Atlanta, today, beautiful, nice and warm, 63 degrees, of course as we go through the weekend. You never want the cold air on the weekend, but once again, we're going to be trying to stay indoors, 45 degrees for us, it's cold. Look at Minneapolis, 18, average there about 29. So, everyone kind of just feeling that chill. But overall, nice and cold.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Indra Petersons live at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Thank you.

PETERSONS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: So, we have been telling you about the meteor that exploded over Russia. This was just a few hours ago. We're also getting a first look at that asteroid that is getting close to Earth right now as we speak. We're tracking it.

So we're going to Bill Nye the Science Guy to find out if we have anything to worry about this morning.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START, a one-two punch from outer space. A meteor shower raining down on Russia's Ural Mountain region overnight injuring 500 people. And right now, an asteroid is hurdling toward Earth and is expected to come uncomfortably close to us earthlings.

So, joining us now from Los Angeles to talk more about these happenings from above is Bill Nye the Science Guy. We're so grateful to have you this morning. We want to start in Russia because we know that that meteor caused 500 people to go to the hospital. A 100 were hospitalized. Is there any warning that that is happening and how unusual is it that there are injuries from a meteor?

BILL NYE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE PLANETARY SOCIETY: Well, it's unusual so far. But as the world becomes more populous, there'll be more injuries from stuff like this. So, the most famous one is 1958 over Siberia, not to single out that continent, but there was an airburst. This is where the meteor, the asteroid, the cometary material is coming into the Earth's atmosphere so fast that the Earth's atmosphere acts like concrete.

And the thing disintegrates in mid air, so called air burst and the pressure wave from that, the shock wave knocked out windows, and I guess, hurt people somehow and there was a lot of -- there were reports of debris, but then I also heard a report that it was just the pressure. So, these things happen.

SAMBOLIN: We see this plume of smoke right now as are you talking about this. And, so, the question becomes, is there any fair warning? We're waiting for this asteroid to come awfully close to us.

NYE: The warning is keep watching the skies. Now, this asteroid which is unrelated but related is asteroid 2012 DA 14, and it was discovered through a grant from the planetary society, and this is an organization 30,000 people around the world who are just interested in this kind of thing.

And these amateur astronomers, diligent astronomers in Spain have gotten very good at looking for these things. So, we know about one percent of them. So, there's another 99 percent of these objects which could destroy a city in an instant that we really don't know where they are or how fast they're going or whether they're going to cross the Earth's orbit or not.

You know, if things have been about 15 1/2 minutes different that is to say if the Earth were 15 1/2 minutes farther along in its orbit, if this asteroid DA 14 were 15 1/2 minutes closer, there would be an impact, and it would be big enough to destroy a major city with level 2,000 square kilometers just like that. So, this little thing over Russia is a warning. It's a warning shot for us humans.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, but in this situation here with the asteroid that's hurdling towards us, do we have nothing to worry about, because when we're talking to somebody in Moscow, they said the communications went down, cell phone communication went down. They were not certain if it was the meteor or if it was the number of people that were getting on their cell phones to try to call their loved ones?

NYE: This one, DA 14, 2012 DA 14, no, absolutely no way it's going to hit us. No way. It will not hit any of our satellites. Just very, very, very unlikely. Apparently, there is a spent rocket fuselage that may have been a military rocket years ago that it's going to come within 100 kilometers of 60 miles, but even that is a miss. The whole thing everybody is we don't know how many more of these objects are out there, and if one of them hits a city or hits anything, it's going to destroy it. Just destroy it. And so, this is a warning shot for us humans to watch the sky. If we had enough warning, if we had several years' warning, we could easily -- or easily.

We could do something about it. We have the spacecraft technology, the space bearing nations in the world could slow it down or speed it up just ever so slightly, and it would miss us. And there are science fiction stories about asteroids and so on, but they're based on fact.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

NYE: And this is something for everybody to think about.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. The timing of this is really, really, really scary.

NYE: It's kind of cool.

SAMBOLIN: Kind of cool.


NYE: Scary, but it's also -- it's an opportunity.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We're really happy that they're funding you in order to continue watching the skies. We really appreciate that.

NYE: We're non-profit. So, thank you. Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Bill Nye the Science Guy, thank you. We appreciate it. Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Olympic star Oscar Pistorius broke down this morning when he was officially charged with murder. Pistorius accused of killing his model girlfriend on Valentine's Day.

Joe Carter is here with the Bleacher Report.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Hi. Good morning. Yes. CNN reporter Robyn Curnow, who is in the courtroom this morning, said Pistorius not only broke down in tears, but his entire body shook uncontrollably and he sobbed desperately after the murder charges read to him. Now, according to several reports, Pistorius shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, four times through a bathroom door at his house.

Police say Pistorius had previously faced, quote, "allegations of a domestic nature." Now, Steenkamp was a model who has a reality TV show that's debuting this weekend on South African television. Pistorius's bail hearing has been postponed until Tuesday. He's going to remain in custody. Prosecutors say they will argue that Pistorius committed premeditated murder.

All right. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Miami's Lebron James, arguably the two best players in the NBA, leading the two best teams. It's a rematch of last season's NBA finals, and it was all Miami, all game. Lebron James scored over 30 points again, 39 to be exact, but he failed to shoot over 60 percent, which means his NBA record comes to an end. He actually shot 59 percent. Oh, so close.

Miami won by 10. They won seven straight. They've also beaten the Thunder six straight times, including the playoffs.

The LPGA Australian Open was delayed by what else? Kangaroos. Look at that. Dozens of them bounced up and down the fairways. They actually had to stop play for a short time. Watching this got us thinking, what if the kangaroo were to pick up a player's ball? According to rules, that player would not be penalized, because kangaroos are not considered a part of the course.

For more entertaining sports news, check out Guys, this is the exact same course that Daniela Holmquist was bitten by a black widow spider the other day.


CARTER: So, you got spiders, you got kangaroos, and you also have to worry about being the best golfers in the world. No pressures at all.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of action going on there. Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, Joe.

SAMBOLIN: All right. EARLY START back right after this quick break.


SAMBOLIN: That's it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. "STARTING POINT" with John Berman and Brooke Baldwin starts now.