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Smog in China; Mexico Braces for Hurricane; Imprisoned American's Mother Speaks Out; Titanic Violin; Greek Couple Charged in "Maria" Case; Dangerous Turbulence Injures Fliers from Dublin; Fires Threaten Sydney

Aired October 21, 2013 - 12:30   ET


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police have just released the mug shots of this couple. They released them following today's court hearing there, now, identifying this couple by name, a 39-year-old, Christos Salis, and 40-year-old Eleftheria Dimopoulou.

They have been charged with the abduction of a minor as well as falsifying records. They are not releasing them. They will remain in custody.

What police are hoping to achieve by releasing mug shots, they want members of the public to come forward with more information about this mysterious little girl, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, I know you've got some new video of the little girl and mother dancing.

Can you explain the significance of that? What does that actually tell us of this story and their relationship?

MCLAUGHLIN: I spoke to a CNN producer who was outside of the courthouse. She said the family, the family members of this Roma family that were outside, they were very upset because they very much viewed this little girl as one of their own.

And they released this video of the little girl dancing with a woman that appears to be the woman who was posing as her mother to sort of show that this little girl had a good life with this family.

But and again, you know, there are serious questions here, police saying that the couple's story keeps changing, and they really want to get to the bottom of just who this little girl is and how she ended up in this community.


MALVEAUX: All right, Erin, thank you so much. We appreciate.

We're also following a flight from Dublin hitting severe turbulence injuring several passengers.

We've actually got the call from the pilot to ground control. That's up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Sounds like a nightmare when you think about this. This is United Airlines confirming now that one passenger was actually taken to the hospital, others hurt, as well, after severe turbulence on the Boeing 757.

Now, this plane was headed to Dublin, went from Newark, making its descent when this emergency happens.

Now, the pilots radioed into air traffic control for ambulances. Just listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dublin, United 23.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United two-three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we are going through the drop like about 15-20 miles ago. We hit a pretty bad down draft. And we had some passengers hurt. So we need some ambulances to meet the flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. I'll organize that, united two-three. United two-three. Do you reckon one or more ambulances do you need?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As many as six or so people. So it might be a couple ambulances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, thanks. United two-three, are any of those people hurt, very seriously hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not really sure. But we would like to have the trucks standing by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, fine. Thanks, united two-three, and there will be. Rescue en route.


MALVEAUX: All right. Want to bring in Richard Quest joining us from New York.

They sound pretty calm but we know that there were a couple people injured pretty badly. One passenger actually had to be taken to the hospital for severe turbulence that occurred.

Do we know why it was just a couple of people, the condition of that one passenger in particular?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL'S "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Well, from what the airline tells me, no, we don't really know much more than one was taken to hospital and the others were just slightly treated.

The severe turbulence, you've got to bear in mind the phraseology used here by the airline and by everyone involved. The phrase severe turbulence isn't being used accidentally. It is a term of art in aviation.

To look at the definition of severe turbulence, it's turbulence that causes large abrupt changes in altitude and attitude. Occupants are forced violently against seat belts. Unsecured objects are tossed about. Food service and walking are impossible.

Now we know the fasten seat belt sign was on during the turbulence. What we don't know is whether it was on before it began.

And it wouldn't be surprising because, Suzanne, severe turbulence, particularly in this particular sort of situation, can be unexpected and unanticipated.

So it's highly likely passengers were walking around the cabin maybe just going to the restrooms before landing

MALVEAUX: Do we have any idea if the people who were seriously hurt who were taken to hospital, whether or not they were wearing seat belts or that might have been a situation where, as you had mentioned, they're getting up, they're doing something and it just wasn't as bad as it was for the others?

QUEST: Well, I'm going to go basically and say, clearly, they were not wearing seat belts. If they had been wearing seat belts, I'm guessing seven people won't have been injured.

It's a reminder you always have your seat belt fastened because unexpected turbulence can happen at any point.

But what this is really about is at what point the turbulence happened, whether the fasten seat belts sign was on. Was it expected? I'm guessing not. And in that case -- or were passengers ignoring the fasten seat belt sign. We don't know the those facts yet.

And we can also gauge that this was really nasty because the return flight, Flight 22 from Dublin to Newark was canceled. And my guess is, that it was canceled because United, quite rightly, are checking out the aircraft.

Severe turbulence is the sort that could cause minor damage to the aircraft. And my guess is they were checking out for any structural problems.

MALVEAUX: All right, Richard Quest, thank you as always.

Coming up next, we'll talk about severe weather impacting around the world.


MALVEAUX: To Australia, this is where more than a dozen wildfires are now burning. There are 63 separate fires that are threatening communities.

This is near Sydney, scorching an area that is larger than New York City. More than 200 homes have now been damaged or destroyed, and officials are now warning that the dry, the windy conditions have the potential to create what they believe is a mega fire.

A volunteer firefighter shot the video while making a harrowing drive through the fire lines. You can see the video there.

He tells CNN that a last second wind shift spared his home from the flames. Now these terrifying images, they were shot from a helmet-cam. Look at this, unbelievable.

Crews from the Mount Victoria Rural Fire Brigade, right in the thick of all of this, trying to protect homes and property.

Our Robyn Curnow, she's got the very latest from Katoomba.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, we're at the bush fire control center. And it's from here that many of these operations are being coordinated.

Now this is an around-the-clock operation, firefighters out now, more than a thousand of them trying to contain the blazes. This is what the rural fire chief had to say.


STUART MIDGELY, NSW RURAL FIRE SERVICE INCIDENT COMMANDER: We will pick roads and fire trails. We will back burn from them under mild weather conditions.

Go in, mop out or put out the fire between that break and the main fire. That takes the fuel out between the main fire and the break, and therefore, the fire will go out because it has no fuel anymore.


CURNOW: And authorities have their work cut out for them because forecasters expect the weather to deteriorate by Wednesday. They're forecasting extra gusty winds, stronger winds as well as higher temperatures, and don't forget, a lot of the undergrowth, the vegetation is very dry.

So they're concerned that these fires will fuel -- be fueled even further, creating perhaps one big mega fire which will be endangering perhaps even the outskirts of Sydney.

Now, authorities also saying that volunteers are doing everything they can. Firefighters have been coming in from across the country to try and reinforce the work that has already been done here in New South Wales.

But really this is of real concern because these fires are coming much earlier in the season. Just remember, there are bush fires every year here, but these are much worse, particularly because the size of them is much larger and they're much faster than normal.

Just think about it. In terms of size, the land that has already been burn out by these bush fires is equivalent to the size of a city such as Los Angeles, so really a lot to battle against in the coming days. Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you, Robyn.

And talk about low visibility here. Eleven million people in China can't see a thing.

A major city now shut down, we're going to take a look what has caused this dangerous problem.


MALVEAUX: These pictures really speak for themselves when you look at it. This smog is so thick in parts of China. It's really just hard to see just a few feet in front of you. And the dense fog has forced now some schools actually have got to close. It's disrupted flights, public transportation, bus routes, all of that. So want to bring in our Chad Myers to talk about this.

So what is going on? Why is it - why is it so thick like that? I mean it's pretty extreme.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They fired up the coal plant to make heat for the city. Ten million people. One coal plant makes heat for everybody, kind of like the steam heat you see in New York City with the steam coming out, of course.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Sure.

MYERS: They're burning the corn stalks in parts of the plains where they grow corn in China and the wind hasn't blown in about three days. People say that they're holding hands walking down the street and they can't see the face of the person they're talking to. That's how bad it gets sometimes.

MALVEAUX: How -- it's really, really bad. I mean, how do you dissipate something like that? How long is this supposed to last?

MYERS: You need a cold front. And that comes 48 hours from now. So it does go away. But for now, this is 20 times -- the pollution is 20 times what the U.S. calls safe. So not even close to what we would consider safe. They can't see the traffic lights. There are crashes at the intersections because people can't tell whether it's red or green. That's not good.

MALVEAUX: So the bottom line, they should be staying inside for the next 48 hours till all that clears.

MYERS: Absolutely. No question about it. Any -- elderly, kids, all inside. That's why the schools are closed, too.

MALVEAUX: Unbelievable when you look at that.

I want to switch gears here because you know we're talking about a hurricane that is strengthening around Mexico. MYERS: Yes. Cat three. Yes, category three, 120 miles per hour. Now, so far so good. It's not going to slam into Mexico. But it's right along the coast. And that's not good because rain is just right along that mountain range. And all that rain is going to pile up. And where is it going to go? Right back into the ocean. That's two to four along the coast, maybe up to eight to 10 inches in the mountains. What happens when it rains in the mountains? Even in America, it all washes downhill. People get in the way. We're going to have mudslides. It's going to be ugly.

Now the good news is, this storm does get close to the coast, but it doesn't (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: And they were hit before. I mean they're going to get slammed again, right? Right?

MYERS: Three times now. I know. Yes. And we've had nothing, thank goodness.

MALVEAUX: And it - yes, so we've had nothing. Why? Why is it so mild?

MYERS: Don't know yet. That will be somebody's Ph.D. paper.

MALVEAUX: Is it - are we - are we close to the end - are we close to the end of the hurricane season?

MYERS: It's cold outside, right? When it's cold, the hurricane season just goes away. So, we're close to the end.

MALVEAUX: All right, good.

MYERS: There's still a chance for a Gulf storm, though.

MALVEAUX: So we might be in the clear.

MYERS: Pretty close.

MALVEAUX: We're talking about three weeks or so?

MYERS: Four.

MALVEAUX: Four. All right, keep your first crossed.

All right, thank you, Chad, appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Well, he has been a prisoner in North Korea for the past 11 months. Well, still to come, American Kenneth Bae's mother finally gets a chance to see him. She's talking exclusively to CNN about her recent visit. Also, her worst fears.


MALVEAUX: We're taking you around the world. This to the Korean peninsula. This is a report on an American being held prisoner in North Korea. Now, Kenneth Bae, he has been retained now for 11 months. Last year he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for what North Korea called hostile acts and plotting to overthrow the government. Well now, for the first time, we hear from his mother in an exclusive interview about her recent visit to see her son. CNN's Paula Hancocks has the story from Seoul.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An embrace filled with emotion as a mother hugs the son she fears she could lose. Kenneth Bae has been held prisoner in North Korea for 11 months. His mother, Myunghee, speaks exclusively to CNN about her recent visit.

MYUNGHEE BAE, MOTHER OF KENNETH BAE: My heart was ache when I saw him with a hospital garment in a confined -- in a small space.

HANCOCKS: Myunghee Bae says his health has improved a little since this interview was filmed in August. Bae was hospitalized suffering from a catalog of illnesses including diabetes, heart problems and back pain.

BAE: I really cried a lot after I saw this picture. I really could not believe that prisoner is my son.

HANCOCKS: Bae, an American citizen, was arrested in November of last year. He was sentenced in May to 15 years hard labor for what North Korea called hostile acts and plotting to overthrow the government. His mother says he didn't discuss the reasons for his arrest when she met him, but he does have a love for North Korea and its people.

BAE: I think his faith was so strong. He wanted to convey some -- his way so that is the very conflict over the - their way (ph). That's last here (ph).

HANCOCKS: Bae was allowed to visit her son in hospital three times while in North Korea, which she is very grateful for, but was unable to meet with any officials to plead his case. She begs the regime for mercy and is terrified Bae will be sent back to the labor camp.

BAE: That's my worst fear because I don't think his body can endure eight hours labors a day, six days a week.

HANCOCKS: Vigils have been held back home in Seattle for Bae. His mother tells me letters from supporters around the world help to keep him mentally strong. Bae told his mother he is being treated fairly and is being held in a special labor camp where he is the only prisoner surrounded by guards and doctors. Myunghee Bae tells me of the moment she had to say good-bye.

BAE: I mean how long did it take to see him again? How long should I wait for him to return? Actually, very hard to leave him over there.

HANCOCKS: Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


MALVEAUX: I can only imagine the mother's pain.

Well, it must be one of the most famous violins in history. This is an instrument that was played by one of the musicians on board the ill- fated Titanic. Our Carl Azuz, he's got more on this instrument and the hefty price tag, of course, that it fetched.


CARL AZUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This violin once belonged to a musician named Wallace Hartley. If the name's unfamiliar, you'll know the ship he sailed on. Hartley was the band leader of the Titanic. That's the reason why the instrument fetched $1.7 million in auction October 19th in England.

Unlike many other Titanic artifacts, the violin didn't fall to the ocean floor. Historians believe it was strapped to Hartley's body when it was pulled from the water days after Titanic sank. It turned up in attic in Britain several years ago. And what helped identify it was an engraving from Hartley's fiancee, "for Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria." The violin was returned to her after the shipwreck. Maria never married.

To be fair, other historic violins have gone for more. A rare 1721 Stradivarius once fetched almost $16 million. This violin is one of many Titanic artifacts, including others from Wallace Hartley to come up for auction. It may be the most symbolic though. It tells a story that is at once a romance and a tragedy. As remembered in films about the Titanic, this is believed to be the instrument Hartley used for the hymn "Nearer My God To Thee," as the band played on and the ship sank into the icy Atlantic.

AZUZ (on camera): It's not playable and it may never be again. Like the Titanic itself, Hartley's violin keeps its secrets locked deep inside.

Carl Azuz, CNN, Atlanta.


MALVEAUX: I remember that scene from the movie "Titanic."

Well, thank you for watching AROUND THE WORLD. CNN NEWSROOM continues, starts right now with Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now the president has thrown down the gauntlet saying there are no excuses for the problems on his health care exchange's website. He says they will be fixed, but he adds, Obamacare is more than just about websites. We're going to hear from both sides of the debate.

And right now, the Dow Jones industrial average a little bit lower. Investors are waiting on the delayed September jobs report that's now due out tomorrow morning.

And right now, outside Reno, Nevada, two people are dead and two boys are in critical condition after someone opened fire at a middle school. That according to local officials in Sparks, Nevada. Police say the suspect has been, quote, "neutralized." It's not clear right now if there are more victims.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting today from Washington.