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Two Dead at SXSW Festival; At Least 6 Dead in Building Explosion; Where is Flight 370?; Severe Winter Storm

Aired March 13, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Big developments overnight in the search for Flight 370. Do these satellite images show wreckage of the plane? And the stunning report the plane might have flown for four hours after its last reported contact. Big implications in this mystery. We are live with the very latest.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The death toll rises. Six killed, dozens more injured when two New York City buildings suddenly just explode. This morning, investigators are on the scene trying to figure out how it happened.

ROMANS: The Northeast bracing for a blizzard. A powerful winter storm canceling hundreds of flights, shutting down highways, ripping trees from the ground.

Indra Petersons tracking who will be the hardest hit this morning.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, March 13th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. A lot going on this morning.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: We do begin with breaking news from the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. At least two people are now dead after a car plowed into a crowd outside a club where a musician was performing. The car apparently barreling through barricades right into the crowd, leaving nearly two dozen people hurt, five of them critically.

Look at these pictures.

This happened just after midnight. You can imagine how crowded it must have been. Police say the driver just sped off, had sped off from a DWI stop, racing the wrong way down a one-way street before crashing and trying to run away.

The entire thing -- this entire episode took less than a minute. The driver is now in custody. As of now, his name is not being released.

ROMANS: All right, also this morning, investigators and rescue crews still on the scene of that horrific building explosion in New York City. And overnight, the death toll has risen. At least six people are now dead, six people. More than 60 people have been hurt. Several others still unaccounted for. After the blast destroyed an apartment building and another building nearby, damaging some buildings, shaking the ground so strongly, it showed up on earthquake sensors.

This is what it looked like before the blast. This is what it looks like now.


ROMANS: The local utility, Con Ed, says it started getting calls a little after 9:00 a.m. about the smell of gas. Con Ed sent crews, but just 18 minutes later, the building was gone.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was so powerful that you heard the boom, and then it rocked the whole apartment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My neighbors came banging on my door telling me to get out, that I guess they were evacuating the building. And I couldn't get out. My door was jammed. Everything off my windowsill fell, and I guess the impact of the explosion jammed the door as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As I was walking, getting ready to go down the stairs, I smelled like gas. And I said, let me go inside, because I might have just left the stove on, but when I went inside, it wasn't my stove. It wasn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will be looking at all reports. We'll be looking at Con Ed's call logs to see when the first calls started coming in.


ROMANS: Some in the neighborhood say they had been smelling a gas odor for weeks, not a strong gas odor, but they had been smelling gas on and off for weeks. New York's fire chief says the fact crews had not yet made it to the building may have actually saved their lives.

BERMAN: Again, there are still people missing in that disaster.

All right, we have breaking, new developments overnight in the search for Malaysia Air Flight 370. It has now been more than six days since that Boeing 777 disappeared. These satellite images, these are the ones offering the latest clues as to its whereabouts. At least, that was the hope.

The photos from Sunday show large pieces of something floating in the South China Sea along the plane's planned route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, but overnight, Vietnamese planes flew over that area looking for evidence of just what happened to the jet. They found nothing.

Now, this happens as there's really a stunning, new report from the "Wall Street Journal," suggesting that engine data shows the plane may have flown for four more hours after it disappeared from the radar. Just think of the possible implications there. How far could the plane have gone? Why would it have kept flying without contact for four more full hours?

So many questions raised by this report. We are awaiting a live briefing from Malaysian officials about the search efforts as they stand at this hour.

Let's go now to Jim Clancy live in Kuala Lumpur with the latest.

A lot to discuss, Jim.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: John, some disappointment there with the Vietnamese reports coming back from the scene of where they should have found some debris spotted by a Chinese satellite.

The Chinese aren't dissuaded at all. The premier says they're going to pursue every clue. They've moved, I think, about 10 satellites in to assist in this effort. Of course, most of the victims, most of the people aboard that aircraft are Chinese nationals.

Now, on to "The Wall Street Journal" report, which is really creating waves here. It says that it carried on for about four hours, the plane, on the same route, basically, that CNN revealed in an exclusive this week using an air force officer as a source here in Malaysia, saying that it was Malaysian radar records that confirmed that that plane was flying away from the south China sea, flying toward the Indian Ocean.

Now, of course, Malaysian radar only goes so far. Well, now we're hearing that the engines, the Rolls Royce engines were sending back data twice an hour for four hours. That's perhaps 2,000 miles or more that this plane could have traveled that would put it well out into the Indian Ocean or some other destination, if it changed course again.

Now, we have talked to the CEO of Malaysian Airlines, who said there's no comment about this. The director general of civil aviation here and a spokesman for the prime minister's office both told me that they were trying to confirm these reports and trying to make sure that they were accurate. They said they could not do that. We have been pressing them, trying to get this data, not just for today, but for days, to find out if this plane completely left this area of the map and was moving someplace else.

Now, if it's true, this raises the specter of all kinds of hijacking theories or other theories that may come up, so it's a very important point. We're hoping to hear something in the press briefing coming up here in about an hour and 20 minutes time. We're going to be closely following that, trying to get all of the information that we can for you -- John.

BERMAN: Jim Clancy, as you said, stunning implications here, because if it flew on for 2,000 miles, that's almost an impossibly large search area, and as you said, it just raises so many questions about why or who may have been flying it for four hours after the fact.

Jim Clancy for us in Kuala Lumpur. Again, we are awaiting new word from Malaysian officials and we'll bring that to you when it happens.

Happening today in Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder is set to endorse a plan to reduce mandatory sentences for some drug crimes. Holder will speak before the U.S. Sentencing Commission as it moves ahead with proposed changes in how long nonviolent offenders do spend in prison. Holder's expected to say that the move will make the criminal justice system more effective and efficient.

ROMANS: President Obama today is set to order the Labor Department to strengthen its rules regarding overtime pay, changing the definition of what constitutes a supervisor so more people, more people can be eligible for time and a half if they work more than 40 hours. As it stands now, supervisory employees can be exempt from overtime if they earn more than $455 a week. The new rules likely would not take effect until next year.

BERMAN: Today on Capitol Hill, the House could start debating changes to how Medicare is funded, this as they work to repair a $138 billion hole created when lawmakers agreed to hold off a cut in payment to doctors. House Republicans want to include a five-year delay in penalties for failing to sign up for health coverage over Obamacare in this, but the House says that's -- the White House says that's a nonstarter.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told lawmakers on Wednesday that health premiums are likely to rise in 2015, but at a slower pace than in the past.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, the Obama administration facing another lawsuit over the health care overhaul's contraceptive mandate, a group of some 200 Catholic employers looking to stop parts of that law requiring them to provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan. They say doing that violates their religious beliefs. The Supreme Court is set to hear two other similar challenges to that provision later this month.

BERMAN: Fresh off his victory in a special election to fill a vacant House seat in Florida's 13th congressional district, David Jolly is being sworn in today in Washington. The Republican will serve out the term of longtime Florida Congressman Bill Young, who died last year. Jolly's win is seen as a very big blow to Democrats. His race against Democratic rival Alex Sink was considered an early test of Obamacare as an election issue going into the 2014 midterms.

ROMANS: All right. Tough, new questions for General Motors, now that the automaker has revealed it knew of ignition issues on some models as early as 2001, but a federal filing does not make clear whether that issue is related to a defect that prompted a recall of more than a million cars last month. General Motors previously said it learned those problems linked to 13 deaths back in 2004. Both Congress and the Justice Department are investigating.

More disappointing economic news out of China has investors on edge this morning. Today, it's word that China's industrial production retail sales growth eased. Japan's and Hong Kong's stocks closed lower. Stocks in Shanghai added a little bit of ground. European stock markets off to an OK start, I would call it this morning. Futures here flat, but you know, they might lean a little higher. We'll watch that.

The Dow closely slightly lower yesterday, lower every day so far this week, by the way.

BERMAN: That's not good.

ROMANS: No, it's not, but it has been a relatively quiet week, I think, overall for Wall Street after all the volatility last week. Lower, but quiet. A little erosion, but the Dow stands close to its record high, about 1.4 percent away from a record high.

BERMAN: All right, better than the weather, we should say today.

ROMANS: That's true.

BERMAN: Spring is just a week away, but taking a big detour today. Rain and snow falling on the Northeast as temperatures plummet. This is a stark reminder that we still do have a week left in this winter.

ROMANS: Parts of western New York already feeling it. This is what it looked like along Lake Erie. Wow, looks like Christmas. The winds, though, made this all but impossible to see anything. The winds are really crazy. Some areas near Buffalo got more than a foot of snow already.

BERMAN: We have some snowy conditions blamed for dozens of accidents in Ohio, including crashes like this pileup on the Ohio turnpike. Parts of that road were closed for hours. At least three people died in accidents there and a state trooper was seriously hurt.

ROMANS: In the South, high winds were toppling trees, this one near Atlanta fell on to a home.

BERMAN: Oh, wow.

ROMANS: Luckily, no one was hurt inside there.

The winds really something here this morning. Indra Petersons tracking the late winter blast.

Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Right? It's rough enough that the temperatures are dropping so much, but then you talk about these winds this morning. It makes it feel so much worse. It's so easy to see this huge temperature drop that we have seen in just 24 hours, guys.

I mean, this morning, notice the difference. New York City is only 21 degrees. But like you said, once you add in these winds -- and they are strong -- we're talking about gusting as high as 40 miles per hour out towards New York City, Philly also seeing gusts about 43. Now, we talk about the feels-like temperatures, right?

Many places feeling like subzero again. I mean, it's March! What is going on? Detroit feels like 4 below. Pittsburgh right now feels like 7 below.

It is a rough day. The good news, it's not going to last long, but let's talk about what we have seen from the storm that's already been out there. Cleveland, Ohio, yes, about 4 inches, Detroit saw about 6 inches.

But again, out towards Buffalo, they had a blizzard, saw over a foot of snow and more snow still expected on the way, but you can tell it is winding down and pushing off toward the Northeast. Still some places could see heavier amounts. I doubt we're talking about almost over a foot of snow here still, but it looks like 3 to 5 inches still expected in the Northeast, more likely than what we'll take from this model.

Just keep in mind, it is cold. It is not going to last. By tomorrow, thank God, a lot better temperatures. They're going to go up where they should be, maybe 40s, 50s and even some 60s out towards D.C.

ROMANS: That will help melt all this stuff.


ROMANS: There's still a lot of snow in the Northeast that needs to go.

PETERSONS: Please melt it.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Indra.


BERMAN: As we said, there's a lot going on this morning, including the crisis in Ukraine. Days away from a crucial vote that could change that country forever, the U.S. is issuing a new warning to Russia. We're live with the details right after the break.


ROMANS: Happening today: Ukraine's prime minister goes to the United Nations where he'll speak before the U.N. Security Council. And there's a big question this morning if Russia's ambassador will show up to hear what he has to say, this three days before Crimea votes, that important vote on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia permanently. The U.S. and Europe working on sanctions, and Secretary of State John Kerry says it's important Russia make the right decisions here.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't want to go into all of the detail, except to say this, it can get ugly fast if the wrong choices are made. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Many in Crimea are choosing now to get out, heading for Ukraine and elsewhere with the referendum on the horizon.

Diana Magnay is live there for us this morning.

Diana, you've been to the train station there. You know, what are you seeing? How are people dividing here before, three days before this vote?


Well, it's true that many are choosing to leave, but most are deciding to stay. And really, you get the sense that the majority here do want to join Russia. The choice that they'll have on Sunday is whether to stay a part of Ukraine or whether to join Russia. This is a predominantly ethnic Russian region, whether there is a sort of 60 percent ethnic Russian majority.

And when you speak to them and they are very visible on the streets, they will tell you, we are looking forward to going home, back to mother Russia. But, of course, there are ethnic minorities here, there are ethnic Ukrainians, there are Tatars and some of them are leaving. Not so much within the Tatars community, who have been in exile for 20 years and only back in their so-called motherland for 20. So they are very keen to stay.

But a lot of worried people three days before this referendum, a referendum the West consider illegitimate. But Christine, it looks like it will happen anyway.

ROMANS: Yes, illegitimate, although some are saying illegal, but certainly proceeding. Thank you so much, Diana Magnay.

BERMAN: Seventeen minutes after the hour this morning.

An Indian diplomat is no longer facing charges in the United States that she exploited her housekeeper. A federal judge dismissing the claims against Devyani Khobragade because she had diplomatic immunity. Khobragade was at the center of an international controversy when she was arrested in New York, drawing fierce condemnations from the Indian government. She's since gone back to India. Prosecutors say they may still refile the charges in this case.

ROMANS: Arizona's governor is calling it quits at the end of her term. Jan Brewer announcing she won't run again this fall. Brewer has been in office since 2009 when she took over for Janet Napolitano. She was re-elected in 2010. Under Arizona law, governors can only serve two terms, but some had argued Brewer was eligible to run again since she had not served two full terms.

BERMAN: New details this morning about the big San Francisco fire that destroyed an apartment complex under construction in the city's Mission Bay neighborhood. Fire investigators are now looking at welding work as a possible cause of the fire, which was really the biggest the city has seen in years. Two firefighters were injured battling the five-alarm inferno. The intense heat forced hundreds of nearby residents to evacuate.

ROMANS: All right, behold, a year's worth of sausage and bacon, Berman. You're looking at right now a 500-pound --


ROMANS: -- eight-foot-long wild hog, bagged by North Carolina hunter Jett Webb.


ROMANS: Hunters in the area have known about this beast for years. They have captured pictures of it, but no one has ever been able to bring it home until now.

So, what was it like to come face to face with the mother of all hogs?


JETT WEBB, HUNTER: It was very surreal. It was -- it was a shock. It was very humbling, to say the least, when you walk up on a beast that big and you say, oh, my gosh, I had no idea that there could be something that big running around the woods of eastern North Carolina.


ROMANS: Webb says he set out to just put a little meat in the freezer and came on home with enough pork to feed his entire family for the year. I'm -- for the record, I feel kind of bad for that big hog. The hog survived over man for so long, and then --

BERMAN: Decidedly bad ending for the hog, but look how big he is! Was.

ROMANS: That's unbelievable.

BERMAN: Oh, man!

ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: All right, coming up, Kobe Bryant officially shut down for the season, but not without some really brutal words for Lakers management. Wait until you hear what he has to say. Andy Scholes breaking it all down in the "Bleacher Report," coming up next.


ROMANS: Bad news for Lakers fans, Kobe Bryant done for the season. Now he's calling out the team's front office.

BERMAN: Yes, this is not the way it's supposed to go down.

Andy Scholes explains it all in the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

This has been a frustrating year for Kobe. He worked his way back from that torn Achilles only to hurt his knee after playing just six games.

And now, Kobe is questioning the direction of the franchise going forward.


KOBE BRYANT, NBA PLAYER: It's my job to go out there and perform. No excuses for it, right? You've got to get things done.

Same thing with the front office, the same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court is the same expectations I have for them up there.


SCHOLES: Kobe's comments come just a day after his former coach, Phil Jackson, is reportedly close to a deal to run the New York Knicks. "The Sporting News" is reporting Kobe has no interest in playing for current Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni next season.

Nets and Heat squaring off last night in Miami. Game tied with two minutes left to go. Paul Pierce, the driving layup to give the Nets the lead. Brooklyn goes on to get the win 96-95. They are now 3-0 against the Heat this year.

All right, out West, the L.A. Clippers continue to be red hot. Check out Blake Griffin with the monster put back slam! He had 30 points and 15 rebounds as the Clippers get their ninth straight win, beating the Warriors 111-98.

Trending on right now, Revis Island relocating to New England. According to reports, NFL star cornerback Darrelle Revis is going to sign a one-year, $12 million contract with the Patriots.

Not to be outdone, the Denver Broncos continue their spending spree, the team inking former cowboy defensive end Demarcus Ware to a three- year deal. Guys, looks like the Denver Broncos are going all in next season with Peyton Manning getting up there in age.

But, John, I'm sure you're happy with your patriots making the biggest splash in free agency, getting Darrelle Revis.

BERMAN: It's hard to bring a former Jet to New England, but I'm trying to come around to it. He's so good, I think I'll allow it.

SCHOLES: They always find a way to keep that rivalry interesting, the Jets and Patriots.

BERMAN: Indeed. All right. Andy Scholes, great to see you this morning. SCHOLES: Have a good one.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking news this morning, a tragedy at a popular music and tech festival. At least two people dead, almost two dozen more injured -- the very latest and all your headlines after the break.