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Australia Minister of Defense Holds Press Conference; Search Called Off for the Day Due to Severe Weather; Malaysia Airlines Holds Press Conference; CEO Says Obligation to Families Is the Priority; Malaysia Airlines Victims' Families Await Proof; Deadly Mudslide: 176 Unaccounted For

Aired March 24, 2014 - 23:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Don Lemon. That's it for us tonight. "AC360" starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, it is 11:00 pm here on the East Coast of the United States, 11:00 am on the west coast of Australia where the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been suspended because of dangerously bad weather on the southern Indian Ocean. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that Australia's prime minister is promising to restart it as soon as possible.

It was suspended just hours after Malaysia's prime minister said that effort has become a recovery mission saying the Boeing 777 is now presumed to have turned south and flown until it ran out of fuel and that no one on board, none of the 239 passengers and crew survived, that from Malaysian authorities.

That conclusion is based in large part on a sophisticated analysis of the plane's last electronic pings with an orbiting satellite. In a moment you will hear how it was done by the company that did it.

Some of the families, though, do not think that is enough. They are demanding hard evidence and say Malaysian authorities should have gotten the same before declaring 239 lives lost.

Here's the front page of Tuesday's "New Straits Times," the English language Malaysian paper, "Goodnight, MH370," the headline reads, with a message of condolences in small print above.

Now as you can imagine, the families were overcome by the news today. We are not showing you the video of it. We all know what grieving people look like. They have been through enough already, even though it's been shown a lot. I just don't think it's appropriate.

Breaking news: we have just learned that relatives of some of the Chinese passengers are heading from a hotel in Beijing to the Malaysian embassy there to express their anger.

There's that. And in about 90 minutes, Malaysia Airlines officials will be talking to reporters. We will bring you that press conference as it happens.

First the very latest from Kyung Lah outside Perth, Australia.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) After 17 days of hope and anguish, this is not the news families were waiting to hear.

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: With deep sadness and regret that I must inform you Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

LAH (voice-over): Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak saying that based on new information from the British satellite company Inmarsat, the 777 went down west of Perth, Australia, nowhere near any possible landing site.

Malaysia Airlines also sent this text message to the families.

"We have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived."

Some families want evidence that the plane went down.

BIMAL SHARMA, CHANDRIKA SHARMA'S BROTHER: I don't know why I just want to see some debris off the aircraft and the black box, to know what exactly happened, because there are too many unanswered questions.

LAH (voice-over): China's government demanding that Malaysia share all information and evidence.

While frustrated Chinese relatives release a statement, condemning the Malaysian government's handling of the incident, saying, "The Malaysian government and the Malaysian military continue putting off, holding back and covering up the truth of the incident as well as trying to deceive the families of passengers and people of the entire world."

While there's no evidence of a cover-up, there is the vexing question of just what did take down the airplane. There are new questions about the experience of co pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. This was only his sixth flight on a 777 and the first without a supervisor.

Malaysia Airlines saying this is in line with company policy. And new details about the flight's path, a source close to the investigation tells CNN that military radar tracking shows that the plane flew as low as 12,000 feet, at some point before it disappeared from radar.

As the search continues in the south Indian Ocean, new signs of hope for locating the wreckage.

FLIGHT LT. JOSH WILLIAMS, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE: We're looking for debris in the water. We saw a number of objects both on the surface and beneath the surface visually as we flew over the top of them.

LAH (voice-over): Crew members aboard an Australian aircraft report spotting two objects, one gray or green in color and the other orange. Chinese aircraft spotted two different large floating objects and several smaller white ones dispersed over several kilometers.

But finding those objects continues to be challenging at best. The search area has narrowed, but it's still nearly 250,000 square miles wide.


COOPER: Now, Kim, we are anticipating this press conference from Malaysian authorities that is supposed to occur about an hour and a half from now But I understand you've just gotten word about a possible press conference in Australia?

LAH: Yes, this is very unusual. The military actually came out and announced to the press that they wanted all of us to gather because at noon out time, which is one hour from now, midnight Eastern Time, the Australian defense minister wants to say something.

We don't know what the topic of it is. We just know that he has something he wants to either announce or discuss. The defense minister wouldn't be coming out to the cameras unless he had something significant to say, Anderson. So we're expecting that in just under an hour, 55 minutes from now.

COOPER: All right. Obviously we'll bring that to our viewers live and then also the Malaysian press conference. So a lot to stick around for. We're going to be on as long as it takes, at least to the 1:00 am hour.

Kim, let's just talk about the search that was suspended today. Obviously devastating news, because there has been so much anticipation given what has occurred over the last really 72 hours over the weekend.

Can -- I mean, do they expect to resume tomorrow?

I suppose it just totally depends on the weather and the conditions out there in the water.

LAH: They're hopeful that they can do it tomorrow. But if you look at the weather forecast, the weather is a lot like today. It is simply too dangerous for the planes to get out there and the ships to get out there. The weather isn't really expected to improve until Thursday.

So -- as far as getting back out there we know that everybody who is a part of these search teams are itching to get out but they just can't because this is the area known as the Roaring 40s, right at 40 longitude. The winds are so intense that pilots refer to it as the Roaring 40s. Throw in a little bad weather and it's just too dangerous, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Kyung. We'll come back to you obviously for that statement by the defense minister in about 54 minutes from now. Some other late developments to tell you about. The U.S. Navy is sending a sophisticated piece of gear to seek out Flight 370's flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

The Navy just tweeted out a picture of it being loaded aboard a cargo plane. It's a gadget called the towed (ph) pinger locator 25 and it listens for the underwater pings coming from those boxes until their their batteries run out.

The problem is, their batteries are run out about two weeks from now and given what Kyung was just saying about the weather, the clock is certainly ticking.

As for the electronic pings from plane to satellite, which the Malaysian government puts so much stock in today, I want to dig deeper with Chris McLaughlin, a senior vice president at Inmarsat, that company that received and analyzed them.


So, Chris, the Malaysian government made its announcement today that the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean based on data and analysis from your company given to them by U.K. officials.

How confident is Inmarsat that that is in fact what happened to Flight 370, that it ended in the water?

CHRIS MCLAUGHLIN, CEO, INMARSAT: Well, very reluctantly we have been looking at the ping data for the last six or seven days comparing it with other Malaysia Airlines 777s in that particular region and looking at the flight data that we can get from the pings.

What we did was to map those pings against the southern and against the northern route. I can say there's a strong correlation with the southern route and absolutely no correlation with the northern; it went south.

COOPER: So you can definitively rule out that northern route?


COOPER: Can you say, though, that with 100 percent certainty, that the plane ended up in the water?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we have to bow to the wider knowledge that the investigation team have. We can say that we saw the plane in a number of pings to our network over a period of hours.

That period of hours coincides with the amount of time that the Malaysians say the plane was fuelled up for and the range that it had.

And that would tie in with some seven pings or communications, if you like, from the last known one through to the plane possibly running out of fuel, in which case it would have been over the southern Indian Ocean.

COOPER: I don't even know if -- how to ask this or how you could answer it.

But is all the information that you've given the Malaysians, has that all been stated publicly or is there other information or other data perhaps that you've shared with them, that would make them lead to this conclusion in a way that you're not able to say?

MCLAUGHLIN: No, we're holding nothing back. We've been very open with the investigation from the outset, from within the first few hours of it going missing to coming up on the 11th, with the concept of a north-south route and to the investigation and further thoughts yesterday. We've shared everything that we have; there's no data that we're keeping back.

COOPER: I think a lot of people didn't realize really until this, that it's quite common for planes to disappear, in a sense, from radar, when it's over large bodies of water and the like. It's really just up to the pilots at a certain point to just communicate their location.

Is there a technology that could change that?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, there's no question, we could do it now, there are 10,000 wide-bodied jets fitted with the same system that was on board this Malaysia Airlines. It's a classic arrow system.

It's a 64-kilobit system. It's capable of sending out text-based messages with the data of where the plane is, what speed it's going at, which direction it's going in and anything else you want to include in little packets of data.

Another system, which is currently being evaluated for safety services, swift broadband, allows you up to half a megabit of connectivity, the same as a CNN journalist would use to report back from a frontline story somewhere.

So that can allow even more streaming of data. The systems are there and they're available today.

COOPER: That's just a question of what airlines are deciding to use them? Or governments deciding to use them? Whose decision is that?

MCLAUGHLIN: The decision is regulatory. It's already mandated for the North Atlantic. There are so many aircraft up there and there's capacity issue. It's not mandated for the rest of the world. Perhaps it should be,

I mean, given that it's five years since the Air France was lost. Perhaps it's now time to say it is an absurdity that -- and incomprehensible that a commercial airliner could go missing for six or seven hours.

Had we had automated reporting of positive as we do with long-range identification and tracking on ships at sea, then we would have known certainly within 15-0 minutes of the plane being lost where it was.

COOPER: Chris McLaughlin, appreciate you talking to us today, thank you.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: I want to bring in our panel, who'll be with us throughout the two hours tonight, CNN's safety analyst David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator's Fight for Safe Skies;" 777 captain and CNN aviation analyst, Les Abend; aviation correspondent Richard Quest and former Department of Transportation inspector general Mary Schiavo. Currently she represents accident victims and their families.

David, let me start off with you. You talked to some other folks Inmarsat, just kind of drilling down on some of the details, the technical details on this.

What can you tell us that you heard from them?

How confident are you in the information that Inmarsat has given to the Malaysians?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, after speaking to them I'm very confident in it, Anderson. I talked with them about how they could do the triangulation. And there is no such thing at triangulation on these satellites.

So I asked them how could they possibly have determined where it went and what it was doing.

So what they explained to me is that as the -- if the center of the satellite is further from the aircraft it takes longer to make that connection. It takes longer to make those transmissions, to make the handshake and transmit data.

As it approaches closer to the center of that satellite, that time decreases.

So the brilliant scientists there take those calculations and figure out that at this point it was traveling towards the center and then at another point it was traveling away from the center and based on other information that I don't -- I'm not smart enough to understand, they were able to figure out where at that point the aircraft was.

COOPER: It's interesting, Richard, the man from Inmarsat earlier was saying that there is technology that would allow planes to constantly communicate so that the planes wouldn't disappear as this one did for lengths of time, as many planes do over large tracts of water. And yet it's not mandated. It's not required.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: It is on certain routes. Les will be able to assist more on that. It is on certain routes like the North Atlantic. But by and large --

COOPER: Where there is a lot of traffic in a place like --

QUEST: -- but by and large it's not. It's not mandated. The technology exists and the data streams exist. If you talk to the cynics they will say the airlines don't want to spend the money on the data because it would raise costs.

And if you have got 800 planes or 600 planes in your fleet or 500, whatever number, that is going to be a sizable cost that will eventually go on the ticket. You have to weigh that against the sort of incident that we're now facing here.

COOPER: It's a question for municipalities, for regions to mandate it?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It is in the North Atlantic. It is as Richard's been saying. But it's interesting to me that there would be a discrimination between that area of the world versus this area of the world.

Like Mr. McLaughlin said, the technology is available.

So why would you stop the data from streaming going down to South America or into Asia versus just the North Atlantic?

Just simply, yes, it is mandated but how much more expensive can that be?

COOPER: Mary, I do think this whole tragedy is going to start to raise a lot of questions by passengers about aircraft they are now flying on in the future in terms of what their rights are and what is in the cargo holds of the planes, in terms of what the capabilities of the aircraft are.

And as we've talked about before, passengers as of now really have no right to know what is in the cargo hold of the plane they are flying. They can't ask about the ACARS system on board the aircraft, correct?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER I.G., U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: That's right. They have no way to find out, no way to ask. It's even difficult for them to get information about how their airline stacks up against others.

Is there maintenance done offshore or in the United States?

All those questions about a carrier that would help you judge whether you want to fly on that carrier and whether it's safe are locked away in the -- you know, the records of the carrier. And if you ask the Federal Aviation Administration they will not produce it either. They say it's proprietary information.

COOPER: And Richard, it's important to again point out what we still do not know, what investigators still do not know. I mean, given the news from Inmarsat and U.K. officials and the Malaysian government. We'll hear more at 12:30 am and also apparently from the defense minister in Australia about 45 minutes from now.

But we simply do not know what happened to this plane. We do know it did turn left and was able to be tracked for some time. But the bottom line is the mystery remains.

QUEST: We do not know. We can speculate to our heart's content. We can come up with some magnificent theories about who took over what. And we don't even know, Anderson, if this altitude change took place.

COOPER: A source telling CNN --

QUEST: Yes, we don't know.

COOPER: -- that the plane might have dropped to 12,000 feet.

QUEST: Right. We don't know because the Malaysians haven't confirmed it.

Now here's the point: at what point do they have to confirm or deny every source and every rumor that is out there?

At what point are they obliged to respond in that fashion to the fact that one network or another network -- and we're not -- we are talking about every network in the world is on this at the moment.

Let's go back to the pre-programmed waypoint changes of last week that we all reported. That turned out to be false.

Now the Malaysians are getting the bad rap for that because everyone said they said it. There's no evidence of that at all.

But they put out the statement on Saturday saying that ACARS says after 1:07 nothing happened. So we have to separate fact from myth, from what we believe has been said. And the truth, Anderson, is, at this point, we have absolutely no idea officially what took place.

ABEND: And to add on what Richard said, this is an accident investigation. There is a lot of proprietary information that at least in the States -- and Malaysia probably has the same system, is that it's an organized investigation process.

And a lot of that information is not going to be released to the public because of the interpretation of the data and the effect, really, of what you are doing to the families and friends of (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: You also have a lot of countries are not wanting to give out radar data or publicly release it because it comes from their military and that gives a sense to their enemies of their military capabilities.

We are going to take a quick break. I want everybody to stay with us. As I said, we are waiting to hear from the Australian defense minister or ministry officials, some Malaysia Airlines officials as well. A lot to -- at least hoping to get a lot of new information throughout the next two hours.

Coming up next, dealing with the anguish of families getting the worst possible news today. I'm going to speak to a grief counselor who's been helping some of them get through these days.

And, again, we're not showing images of the families, not invading their We know what grief looks like. But we do want to talk about what this grief counselor, what he is trying to do for these families and what he has been seeing and working with.

And later more breaking news. We will take you to Washington State where acres of earth simply gave way. The death toll has risen and so has the number of people unaccounted for, now 176.


COOPER: Good evening. More breaking news, the Associated Press reporting that China is now demanding that Malaysia turn over satellite data that went into their announcement today that Flight 370 crashed with no survivors. Now among the flight's 239 passengers, 154 of them were Chinese nationals.

In fact, as many Chinese families simply do not trust Malaysian authorities or airline officials, they want proof and a committee representing some of the families of Chinese and Taiwanese nationals issued a statement, accusing Malaysian authorities of a deliberate cover-up.

It reads in part, "If our 154 relatives aboard lost their lives due to such reasons, then Malaysia Airlines, Malaysian government and the Malaysian military are the real murderers that killed them."

Again, we are not showing video or pictures of grieving families. They've gone through enough as it is. But psychiatrist Paul Yin has been counseling some of them. He joins me tonight.

Paul, you talked about how in grief counseling there has to be a starting point and that starting point is knowing what happened.

Were the families given that starting point today?

PAUL YIN, GRIEF COUNSELOR: I don't think they quite got it. I think there are a couple of reasons.

One is over the last two or three days it has been quiet in the Lido Hotel. You can tell most people are not as interested in all the little pieces of news or rumor or information as they were before. They were just basically waiting for the one final definitive answer.

And you have the feeling that everybody is bracing for impact. And today when it came, unfortunately, it came as a technical conclusion based on things that they -- the people could not understand and given from a source that they do not quite trust.

So most of the people, they didn't want to accept it. So I think that's one part.

I think there's another part that is really interesting right now. They have been in limbo for so long, they've been going from hope to despair for so many times that even if -- and I think many of the people, I think their rational mind, they have probably have come relatively close to accepting that their loved ones are not coming back, but even if their rational mind accept it, the emotional mind is still very reluctant or refuses to accept.

So it is still going to take a little time for them to reconcile the two.

COOPER: And while you're talking we're not showing any pictures from families today where they were leaving that meeting, obviously distraught because I just think it -- we know what grief looks like.

I just think it's too invasive for people who didn't agree to be on camera at a time like this or don't like to have cameras pointed at them in a moment like this, but I know a lot of family members agreed to receive updates from Malaysia Airlines via text message. I also know that the airline did send a text telling the families that the flight was lost, that no one survived.

Did you speak to any of the families about that?

Because it's one thing to agree to receive text messages and I clearly understand the desire to get information to the families before it is leaked out to the media or before it's even announced publicly.

But did the families react to that?

YIN: Yes. Many of them very angrily. And also in some cases it is so unfortunate that I think it's causing so much more pain because there was this one instance where this person received this text message, but they don't understand English. So they couldn't understand the message.

And then they heard that there was going to be a major announcement, telling everyone to go to the press conference. So she was quite excited and she forwarded the text message to a friend of mine, with the following message, "I have a good feeling that they have found them."

And so she went to the announcement, expecting that they were going to tell them that they found the people alive.

COOPER: Are most of the families you are talking to, are they still waiting for actual debris to be found, to be located and be in physical possession?

Is there a level of sort of reality that they need to see for this?

YIN: I think so. I think because right now, they have been actually given something that they could not comprehend. It is a technical conclusion, which really, you have to be a -- not only of a high- technical mind but I think also you have to have a willingness to accept it.

And we know how -- and willing they are to accept this, so you have to give them something really concrete, something they can see and they can touch. I think if they can see a piece of the plane or touch something from the plane, then they would be able to accept it and that would probably be the closest thing that can come to closure, if there is such a thing as closure. COOPER: Yes. And you and I have talked about that. I find that is often such a TV word and for families living in grief this kind of pain never goes away, though time, perhaps, does help.

Paul, again, I appreciate all your efforts. Thank you.

YIN: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, it has been a heartbreaking time for the families, to say the least, as they try to get information about their loved ones. Later tonight, we are waiting for a news conference from Malaysia Airlines scheduled to happen at 12:30, one hour from now, 12:30 Eastern Time in the United States, am, which is 12:30 pm in Kuala Lumpur.

Also from one of the Australian -- there's someone at the Australian defense ministry -- not sure if it's the defense minister himself or just someone from the defense ministry, that is supposed to occur in about 33 minutes from now.

We'll also bring that to you live.

Our other breaking story tonight, the number unaccounted for after a landslide in Washington state now tops 175. The death toll has also risen. We're going to take you there next and talk with a woman who fears she lost four loved ones.


COOPER: We have breaking news tonight. The number of people unaccounted for has almost doubled to 176 after Saturday's deadly landslide in a remote town north of Seattle and the death toll has now risen to 14.

George Howell joins me now from Arlington, Washington, with the latest.

George, this is such a horrific situation, a small town. What do we know about those still unaccounted for? It's not necessarily that they are missing; it's just they are not accounted for. There is a difference.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's very important to point out. That number, 176, those are 176 reports, Anderson. So basically it could be a family that put up a website looking for their loved one. That could be a report.

It could be a Twitter query looking for a relative or it could be a vague description, something like, "Haven't seen Paul at that house. That's where he lived." That could be a report.

Investigators are looking into all of those reports, trying to compile them and narrow them down. Again, we initially started with over a dozen. That went up to 108 and now at 176. The hope was to see that number decline. But again, we are seeing the number rise. Investigators say again they are doing everything they can to bring all of those reports together to find people, to have people accounted for and hopefully and quickly reduce that number.

COOPER: And George, obviously this is a dangerous thing for rescue workers.

Are they able to work in the darkness?

HOWELL: We learned a little bit more about what it's like to be out there. We understand that it took some of these firefighters -- some of the rescuers, took them five minutes to go 50 or 60 feet, just a short distance, and that's because is it so muddy and in many places the land is very unstable.

We know that they had a very robust plan this morning to go out with machines to move the mud. They wanted to have people on the ground to probe with electronic equipment to look for people in the mud. They had to stop around midday. But then they resumed that search. They had to stop because the land was very unstable.

HOWELL: George, I appreciate your reporting.

As George mentioned, 176 people still unaccounted for.

Nichole Webb Rivera's parents, daughter and daughter's fiance are among the missing. She joins us now by phone.

Nichole, thank you so much for joining us. I spoke to you during our commercial break. Your parents live right where this landslide happened. Your daughter, her fiance were visiting your parents.

When was the last time you spoke with them? Have you heard any news?

NICHOLE WEBB RIVERA, MOTHER OF MISSING DAUGHTER: The last communication we had from any of them was about 9:40 on Saturday morning. My daughter commented on a Facebook post.

And we haven't heard anything. When I first heard about the slide I texted everybody that's not here. I'm from Houston. And I just said please check in. And Delaney and Allen did not.

And so I called and their phones went straight to voicemail and that's when it was pretty evident that my fear that they were caught in the house with my folks, which is quite far in this field, had dry neighborhood, you know, after calling family up here and her friends, it really became clear that they were most likely there and we have not had any contact or sign of them.

COOPER: Well, I know there are two things you wanted to get across to our viewers tonight. One, you wanted to just praise the work that you have seen by first responders.

RIVERA: Yes. Absolutely. I can't imagine doing that job. And I'm just so very grateful for them to be out there on that unstable ground. It's really unsafe for them. And so I'm just so grateful. COOPER: And I'm sure that's echoed by dozens of family members who are waiting for word.

The other thing that you wanted to get across to our viewers tonight is just the impact of this event in this community.

RIVERA: Yes, Derrington is a town of about 1,200 people. This is catastrophic for our community. And all of us who are waiting for word on our family members know each other. We know the other family members that are missing. It's such beyond the scope of my four missing family members that it's just -- it's grief for our whole town. So just pray for our town, please.

COOPER: I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us and I just wish you strength and peace in the days ahead, Nichole, and our thoughts are going to be with you in the days ahead. And our hearts go out to you and to your family as well.

RIVERA: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Nichole Webb Rivera.

There is a new twist in the breaking news out of Beijing. And those family members of Flight 370 passengers who've been trying to get the Malaysian embassy -- to try to get to the Malaysian embassy to express their anger. We'll tell you about what is going on right now, ahead.


COOPER: In about 22 minutes we are expecting a news conference from Australian's defense minister on the search for Flight 370 and around 12:30 am Eastern Time, we will also bring you a news conference from Malaysia Airlines officials. We'll be live all throughout that.

The search for the plane has been suspended due to dangerously bad weather. We're going to check in with Chad Myers later on tonight.

The setback comes at a fraught time just hours after Malaysia's prime minister told the families of the missing that the Boeing 777 went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors. He said new analysis of data had erased any doubt.

Jeffrey Thomas is editor-in-chief and managing director at He has given us great insights over the past two weeks. He joins us again tonight from Australia.

So Jeffrey, last week when we spoke, you were very certain that they were looking in the right spot. And given today's news it seems you were absolutely right. You also thought there was more to this than we are being told. Do you still feel that way? And if so, why?

JEFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, Anderson, absolutely. As soon as Australia was tasked with the role of looking after the search zone for the southern part of this arc with the help of the American -- with American intelligence and with the help of the -- of British intelligence, some search areas were defined.

And now we find that those search areas are exactly where the debris is and precisely where the airplane is now confirmed to be by Inmarsat. So they obviously, a week ago, they had a very, very good idea of what has happened to this airplane and where to find it.

COOPER: The suspension of the search effort today, obviously that is a big blow to everybody who was hoping that there would be some news today, especially the family members who wanted to actually get some debris spotted by human eyeballs.

You're -- I mean, in terms of the weather in that region, particularly in that search area, is this a portent of things to come? I mean, it just -- the clock is ticking here. It's just getting worse and worse, right?

THOMAS: Look, absolutely right, Anderson. This is very much a portent of what is to come. For about eight months of the year, the region we are looking, that region is like a North Atlantic gale for about eight months of the year. So I expect the searching of this airplane will be probably suspended more times than it's not.

And in a month or so's time it will just be too difficult to try and search for it. We also know that the Australian ship, HMAS Success, has had to leave the area because it's too rough.

So for search and rescue vessels that are trying to maneuver with submersibles and cranes and all those sorts of things, there is just no way that they can operate in those sorts of conditions. So I expect the overall search to be suspended completely through the winter.

COOPER: Wow. I mean, that would obviously be horrific news for the families here.

There is anticipated to be a statement by Australian defense ministry officials, I understand in about 18 minutes or so.

Do you have any idea what the specifics of that are?

THOMAS: Look, we understand, Anderson, that yesterday from one of the Orions, they spotted an orange object and a green object; we also know that photographs were taken of those objects by the Australian Air Force.

Those pictures have not been released. My sense is that the defense minister, to make a special trip here to Perth from Canberra and have a special media briefing, he may be revealing that these objects have been identified as from this airplane. That's just my speculation on it.

But I don't think the minister would come all the way across here and have a special announcement unless he had something major to say.

COOPER: So you really believe -- and again, we don't know. But -- and we'll know in 17 minutes or so. But you believe that he must have something significant to say for him to come all the way?

THOMAS: That is my sense. It's like the prime minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, a week ago, getting up in parliament and saying we have some photographs of wreckage.

For him to say that -- again, he was backed by intelligence that said we really are on to something here. We know what we're doing.

And so, again, for a defense minister, whether in Australia or Malaysia or the United States, to get up and make a special announcement, it has to be something significant.

COOPER: Jeffrey, you said photographs were taken.

Do you have any idea -- and, again, you may not -- but do you have any idea what sort of altitude these pictures were taken from?

Was this low-flying aircraft?

THOMAS: My understanding was that it was a low-flying aircraft. I'm not sure how low. I mean, some of these airplanes have been getting down to 200 feet. I know the Poseidon, the American P-8 Poseidon, U.S. Navy one, was down to 200 feet yesterday. It's the lowest it's ever operated, trying to identify various objects.

But was thwarted by sea fog. So they're really making an enormous effort to try and pinpoint this wreckage, get some absolute crystal definition that this is from the airplane. You know, no effort is being spared.

COOPER: Jeffrey Thomas, we always appreciate talking to you. Thank you very much and from your location is where this press conference is going to take place or the statement is going to be made about 15 minutes from now. We'll bring that to you live, obviously, hearing from Australia's defense minister.

We're going to be right back. We'll take a short break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.


COOPER: A dramatic update to the breaking news out of Beijing where families and friends of Flight 370 passengers are trying to get to the Malaysian embassy to protest the way the investigation is being handled. They planned to take buses. Chinese authorities prevented them from boarding those buses. Now they're actually going on foot.

On the phone from Beijing is Connie Young. She's a freelance producer working for CNN.

So Connie, just explain where you are, what you are seeing around you, because the buses that these protesters had planned to take were basically stopped by Chinese authorities. CONNIE YOUNG, FREELANCE PRODUCER: Yes. They basically marched off the buses after they realized that they weren't moving. There were three public buses full of relatives of victims of the flight and now they are marching towards the Malaysian embassy. I'd say they are about halfway there. It's about 300 people, relatives and friends here, marching towards them and just about as many policemen as well.

COOPER: And do you know what they are hoping to do once they get to the embassy?

YOUNG: (INAUDIBLE) that they -- that the Malaysian government has been lying to them and they want the truth. And they've also been saying that they want their family members back.

COOPER: Do you -- is there a sense or have authorities said anything about what they are going to -- I mean, will they allow these family members to actually get to the embassy?

YOUNG: Well, initially when they were on the bus, it looked like police were standing in front of the bus, not letting them go. And then so the family members started getting off the bus. And it -- there was a little bit of a struggle but not too much. I think the police ended up just letting them march on. They have been helping with stopping traffic and letting them march through. So not too much resistance from the authorities.

COOPER: Are they holding signs? Are they chanting?

YOUNG: They are holding signs, saying that they want their sons and their daughters back, the Malaysian government is lying, things like that.

COOPER: And you are actually walking with the protesters right now?

YOUNG: Correct, yes.


How far is it to the Malaysian embassy? How long will it take for them to get there if, in fact, they are allowed to get there?

YOUNG: I'd say we have been walking for about half an hour and maybe 20 more minutes and we'll be at the embassy. It's a rather smoggy day in Beijing today. But they're marching onwards.

COOPER: Have people on the streets been reacting to this crowd of family members?

This is a video obviously from a producer onsite.

Have people on the street been reacting to this?

YOUNG: Yes, everyone basically has been stopped on the streets. I mean, traffic -- I don't know if you can hear that.

COOPER: Yes. YOUNG: Basically, the traffic has come to a standstill. The police have stopped traffic just, I think, for safety reasons and people are getting out of their cars to take home video of what's going on.

COOPER: This is essentially a public protest through the streets of Beijing as these family members and also their friends and associates are walking to the Malaysian embassy.

That's a rare sight in Beijing, isn't it?

YOUNG: It is a very rare sight. The only time we ever see something like this is when they are protesting the Japanese. It's rather unusual to have people walking through the streets protesting.

COOPER: Has this -- in terms of the coverage in Beijing and in China, has this received -- the plight of these families, this story, the entire drama and mystery of what happened with Flight 370, has it been receiving a lot of coverage in the state media?

YOUNG: Yes. There has been a lot of cover of this in Chinese media and state media.

However, I would argue that CNN has probably been covering it more than state media in terms of headline news.

COOPER: Well, as you said, we will -- we're going to continue to follow this with you. We are just looking at these images from this protest, a very rare sight, as you said, on the streets of Beijing. Family members and their friends stopped, it seems, from boarding buses and going to the Malaysian embassy to protest.

Now walking the streets of Beijing, heading toward there, they are about 20 or 30 minutes away.

Connie, we'll check back with you to see what happens when they actually get to the embassy.

As we wait to hear from Australia's defense minister, that's going to take place, we believe, in about seven minutes.

It's worth quickly taking stock. I want to bring our panel back, Mary Schiavo you just heard from Jeffrey Thomas, who's been very consistent believing there was nefarious human involvement that caused all of this.

What do you make of his statement that he believes that the Australian defense minister would not come forward to give a public statement in seven minutes if he did not have something of significance to say?

SCHIAVO: Oh, I agree. I mean, the last announcement was fairly significant. This one, too. I'm hoping -- I'm sure everyone's hoping that it's not what we had heard in the previous guest about perhaps calling off the search.

But I don't know how they would identify for certain that the pieces that they are looking at and seeing are from the aircraft without actually having picked them up and put them on board a ship for inspection. But maybe that's what it is going to be. And that certainly would be helpful news at this point.

COOPER: Richard, you heard from Jeffrey as well. You know him, well- placed gentleman.

QUEST: Known Jeffrey for many years. There's none better in the industry.

I don't know whether he is right. It might be that the Australian defense minister, David Johnson, is feeling the need to come forward and give an overview and a route map forward, now we've had some significant information.

And he wants to talk through the various options over the next three to four weeks, five weeks onwards. But I don't think it would be out of the realms of a possibility that he is going to actually identify some of the parts.

COOPER: David Soucie, if weather, as Jeffrey was saying, clearly on the side for the search and only getting worse and worse and worse. I mean, you have two weeks left basically with the black box sending out signals.

But Jeffrey was saying it could get to a scenario in a couple of weeks where a search has to be suspended for months and months.

SOUCIE: Yes. And that's, again, the clock is ticking with -- against those boxes. But to have weather come in like that, I have had to postpone investigations over the winter before, especially in the high mountains of Colorado. By the time you get there, there is a lot of evidence that's been damaged and in this case a lot of the evidence will be spread so thin it will be extremely difficult to get the evidence needed to try to reconstruct what happened.

COOPER: I just want to show our viewers what we are -- explain to our viewers what we're looking at. That is the location where the press conference is going to take place, or at least the public statement. We don't know how much of a press conference there's going to be. About four minutes from now, we believe Australia's defense minister. We are going to take a quick break. We're going to take that break so that we don't interrupt this press conference in any way.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. We are one minute to midnight here on the East Coast in the United States and one minute to noon in Perth, Australia, where Australia's defense minister, David Johnson, is about to talk to reporters. We are going to bring that to you live when it happens.

We do not know what specifically he is going to be talking about. We just talked to Jeffrey Thomas, very well-placed aviation reporter in Australia, who believed the defense minister would not be coming out to say something if it wasn't significant. Again, we don't know; we'll certainly have answers in just a matter of a few seconds as we -- as we watch this.

But, Richard Quest, who is joining us along with our panel as we wait for this press conference, the idea that this search might be stopped or might have to be stopped for a given length of time, it's not something we certainly have never heard of. We've heard that before; that happened with Air France flight 447, though the plane had already been found.

QUEST: Right, but we're way early on that. You're not going to -- we're not talk -- I don't think for a moment we're going to be talking about stopping at any time soon. Remembering the southern hemisphere winter -- it's coming into fall now, then winter will be coming along shortly.

So I think we're some way off. This is not -- I'd be very surprised if he's going to announce he's bringing the friends home tomorrow. But absolutely once winter arrives in the southern hemisphere, the depths of winter, you won't find them going out. It would be too dangerous with the planes and it would be fruitless. They will do what they did with 447, they will regroup, they will look at the evidence again, and then they will set up a new plan for where they're going to start.

COOPER: But, David, I mean, can this debris -- I mean, some of it would sink after a certain amount of time.

SOUCIE: Well, what is floating will stay floating for longer than you might expect. Because the fact that like the bottom of the cargo compartment, which by the way is a green zinc chromate color.

COOPER: And part of it -- one piece of debris that was seen was said to be green?

SOUCIE: Correct. Yes, which is fairly unique to that particular model of aircraft, by the way. Zinc chromate is a protector for the aluminum that they put on there, but then typically they're all painted white and have a different color inside. This aircraft doesn't; it's green.

But back to the floating of the material, it's a honeycomb structure, it has sealed epoxyed together piece of aluminum on top and on the bottom with honeycomb in between, which has sealed air compartments inside it. So if it's floating, it's likely that it'll continue to float but certainly not through the winter.

COOPER: And Kyung Lah is standing by also for us in Perth. We're anticipating obviously this press conference getting started any time soon. At this point, Kyung, are there are no assets now on scene in terms of the search, even -- obviously aircraft are not flying given the bad weather, but even ships on the surface that were in the region, had they left the search area?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was ordered out of the search area. There was one ship in the area and it was ordered out because of the waves. The Australian military saying the wave length has been extreme, 6 1/2 waves and the swells have been double that. So the conditions have not been ideal. It is foggy. This is an area known to pilots who we've spoken as a roaring 40s, right at 40 latitude and all of that coming together, you toss in just a little bit of bad weather and it really just makes it simply too dangerous to be there either on the water or in the air.

Now, the press conference that you're seeing, as we show you a split screen here, that press conference is quite unusual. It's actually just right over my right shoulder. It's a bit of a walk, but that press conference is nothing that we've seen here since we arrived. You don't have the Defense Minister simply fly in and gather the reporters. We haven't had the military come over to us and say, OK, everybody, gather up, it's time to make some sort of announcement. So we're guessing at this point it must be something significant. The first highest level minister we've heard from through all this and we were called to it. So we're very anxious to hear what he's going to say.

COOPER: Richard?

QUEST: Yes, I've just been advised by one of our producers there who says that the Minister of Defense will be joined by the Vice Chief of Defense staff and the Deputy Chief of Joint Operations. So they're pulling in the big brass here.

I'm guessing we're going to get a very good operational overview and a road map, unless of course (INAUDIBLE) where they're going to tell us that they've identified something. But I think it's going to be more operational; this is what we're doing; this is where we're going; this is where we expect to move it forward.

COOPER: Kyung, most information which has come out, how does it come out from the military, from Australian authorities? There's not regular press briefings like this you said?

LAH: No. And it's actually been quite difficult to get information out. I've certainly not had anyone in the military come forward and say, hey, we'd like to gather you all together to say something. We've actually had to, in some ways, because they've been so overwhelmed by our phone calls -- call and call and call and call. Or they've released it via social media or through press releases on their web site. They haven't done anything like this. That's why all of us here on the base are really quite interested in what's going to be announced, because Richard may very well be right, that this is just a plan of what it's going to look like now that we're into day six. But, you know, this is a high-level minister flying into this military base from a distance and, you know, wanting to talk to reporters. We think this might be something significant.

COOPER: When was the search called off for today? It's obviously just past midnight here, very early Tuesday morning, very late Monday night, however you want to look at it. It's Tuesday afternoon in Australia. At what point was the search called off?

LAH: It was publicly announced about 55 minutes after the first plane was set to take off. In that vein of how do we get that information, it came via press release, it came via social media. It didn't come through an announcement. And that's a pretty big deal to simply say we're not going to be searching today. That's very significant.

Internally, they must have called it off sooner than that because they knew that the weather was going to bad, they decided early on that they simply had to ground everybody. I did notice this morning that the cars were arriving, that the crews were arriving. It did sound like they were going to take off. We had been given no indication that today was not going to be a day that they fly. In fact, we had been told that they were going to again take to the air. But weather always is the determining factor of whether or not you can continue an operation like this.

So, you know, about 55 minutes, Anderson, is when it was at least publicly told to us that it was not going to be happening today.

COOPER: And this press conference or statement should be really any minute. We anticipated it about six minutes ago. We should also give you heads up that, about 24 minutes from now, there's a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, that is supposed to take place.

I mean, the fact that there are these two different press conferences, it does give you a sense of just, on a very limited scale, micro- scale, the complexity and the scale of this entire operation and investigation. I mean, the communication has got to be -- it's coordinated, it shows the difficulty and the breadth of, you know, we have this situation in China right now where you have family members heading toward the Malaysian embassy. You have the situation in Kuala Lumpur where they're preparing for this press conference investigation; a press conference about to take place in Perth, Australia. This involves so many countries, so many different nationalities, so many personalities.

SOUCIE: Yes, the complexity of any investigation is just unbelievable. But when you throw in all these countries, the thing to remember about an accident investigation, I don't care how big it is or how small it is, is you never know what you did right, you only know what you did wrong. And that's really a difficult position to be in. And I really feel for these folks doing this investigation. I've never done an investigation that after the fact want second guessed and even myself second guessed. That's part of getting the experience to do it and I just feel for them right now. They're going through a lot.

COOPER: In terms of the investigation, there are representatives from the NTSB, from British authorities, from different authorities in Kuala Lumpur working with Malaysian authorities. How does something like that get coordinated?

SOUCIE: Well, in what we do, we have an inspector in charge, whether that's the NTSB or if it's delegated to the FAA in some smaller cases. But there's an inspector in charge, so that gives you a single point of contact and that would be incredibly difficult with all these countries and varying levels of experience in what they can and cannot do. And the NTSB is cautious to not to go there and try to take over things. They're very experienced, but when they're not the IIC, they're not the inspector in charge, they're in a difficult position as well. They're in kind of a tender position of trying to build and contribute to the team without trying to take over and step on egos and everything else that's involved.

COOPER: We heard a short time ago, the family members in Beijing are heading toward the Malaysian embassy to protest. There has been a lot of criticism, Richard, of Malaysian authorities. Fair or not fair?

QUEST: It's not been a Rolls Royce of an investigation. It's not ban gold standard investigation that you might have expected to see out of the NTSB or the AAIB in the U..K or the BEA in France, but I think the truth is it's been nowhere near as bad as people are saying. The reality is if you were to say how many facts have they got wrong? Almost none. Have they had to correct or tweak things? Undoubtedly. That's the normal way you do things. But to start this mass --

COOPER: I'm sorry, let me just -- Malaysian Airline spokesman is telling CNN Malaysian Airlines is not sending family members anywhere until they find wreckage of the flight or until they receive emergency notification from the search and rescue operation in Australia. Just been given that word.

So earlier in the day there had been reporting they were looking to possibly flying family members, once the debris was found, to Australia. But, again, it's going to depend on when actual debris from the plane is found. Go ahead, Richard.

QUEST: Yes, I just think that this has been unprecedented, everybody agrees. But two weeks ago -- I'll give you an example of what we're talking about here. Everybody says why do they continue looking up in the north when clearly there was radar tracks and all this stuff showing that the thing turned around. Because it had to be verified. It had to be confirmed. We know it was sent backwards and forwards to the U.S. and to K.L. They needed it confirmed again.

They would have been excoriated if they sent ships all the way down to the South Indian Ocean, 2,500 thousand miles on a hunch and a wing and a thought. And that's why I say it's very easy to criticize the Malaysians; they know what they're doing, they just haven't done it and it's been messy. But others may disagree.


ABEND: You know, this is an overwhelming situation in its magnitude.

COOPER: The likes of which we have never seen in modern history.

ABEND: It's unprecedented absolutely. But, I mean, an accident investigation in and of itself is an overwhelming thing from every standpoint, down right to emotion, as you might imagine. And they probably withheld information as part of the investigation process, because some of this has not -- is not for public knowledge because it's detrimental to the families, to the friends of the passengers.

COOPER: Even national security issues are involved given military radar versus civilian radar in countries like Malaysia and elsewhere. Countries are loath to let their military capabilities be known to regional enemies or even regional allies.

QUEST: And of course it got worse. The plane wasn't where it was expected to be, but you're starting to hear rumors that it's actually gone in the opposite direction. And you've got no evidence. Now, if there is a criticism, it goes to the Malaysian military for not spotting the 370 going across on the night.

COOPER: And that -- there's still a big question about how that could have happened, how could this plane have crossed Malaysian airspace without the Malaysian military realizing.

QUEST: Correct. But the core issue of expecting them to have known that the plane was two and a half thousand miles in the opposite direction, when there was no trace. And even that Inmarsat said, you know, had to go back and look at this two or three times. I think there needs to be a reality check in terms of how this has been progressed.

COOPER: And you see on the screen a bunch of reporters basically waiting around, waiting at the location where the Australia's Defense Minister is said to be making a statement or give a press conference. It was supposed to take place 12 minutes ago. So obviously -- just as we are waiting just as the reporters are kind of hanging out waiting in the sun there just outside Perth, Australia.

Kyung, any word on -- have officials given any word on what's going on?

LAH: We don't. I have a colleague at that press conference right now and about 10 minutes to 12:00 was told that they were given a ten- minute warning, that the press conference was scheduled to happen at noon. So we -- noon or midnight Eastern Time.

We don't know exactly what the delay is all about. We know he's traveling in, the Defense Ninister is traveling in. So perhaps there's a travel delay. We simply don't know.

But if I could just add one thing to what you and Richard were talking about, you know, you mentioned about criticism about Malaysia Airlines. I was told by a Chinese journalist here that they're under the impression that the Chinese families are coming here and coming very soon. We've heard a number of reports of fathers of the passengers heading to the Kuala Lumpur airport because they were told by Malaysia Airlines that they were going to be traveling to Australia.

So there is a lot of mixed messaging happening and it's very frustrating for the families, it's very frustrating for the people who are emotionally and directly involved. So, yes, there is all this criticism out there but the effect of it is that it's making it much more painful for the parents and the children of the passengers.

COOPER: Our David Fitzpatrick is at the press conference awaiting it. David, what are you hearing?

DAVID FITZPATRICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there will be two other members of the Australian Defense Ministry staff joining the Defense Minister David Johnston here. So far there are about 50 or so members of the media here. There are a line of four Orion P-3 airplanes that the minister will be standing in front of, but so far we've got zero word about the content of this news conference. We just have to sit here and wait, Anderson. Just waiting. As soon as we see people walk up, we'll certainly let you know.

COOPER: OK. We'll obviously bring that. And, again, this is just a sign of the kind of coordination on a small scale that has to take place. Malaysian officials are supposed to be giving a press conference 15 minutes from now, whether they'll be waiting to hear what Australian officials have announced.

On something like this, would -- I mean how much communication is there or would there be between the investigation taking place in Malaysia and Australian officials? Coordination even of something like a press conference like this or the release of information?

SOUCIE: Well, again, it just goes back to the fact that there's no singular person in charge of the accident investigation or controlling the information back and forth. As Les pointed out, at some point, you have to say what is real information, what's not and what's worth -- what do we need to spend resources investigating? You could go down all kinds of different routes, but at some point you make up a priority matrix of the theories and philosophies, what's going on, and then weigh that against the facts, and literally put weights on that to come up with mathematical figures in this Bayesian (ph) theory type of model to try to figure out what is the most likely scenario.

COOPER: On -- sorry, go ahead.

SOUCIE: I'm sorry, but to try to dilute that map of what's going on with all of the different participants has got to just be painstaking.

COOPER: OK. We're told the press conference will begin shortly. We're going to take just about a 90-second break. We'll bring it to you live when we come back.


COOPER: I'm told the press conference is about to begin. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David Johnston, the Minister for Defense, and the Vice Chair for Defense Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, to make some comments regarding operations in the south Indian Ocean and also Australian and international efforts to hopefully find something regarding MH370.

DAVID JOHNSTON, AUSTRALIA DEFENCE MINISTER: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for keeping everybody informed as to what is going on in what is most important event in terms of aviation and maritime safety.

Today I'm here to speak to the crews and the maintainers of these magnificent aircraft that are behind me. I want to take the opportunity to publicly thank all of the crews and all of the teams that keep these planes flying. As you know, it is a four-hour trip down there, two hours on station and then four hours home. This is an extremely remote part of the world. It is 3,500 meters deep, 2,500 kilometers from Perth. It's a massive logistic exercise. There are four Australian P-3s, two Japanese P-3s, one New Zealand P-3, a P-8 from the United States, two Aleutians from China, and who else have a missed? There's a P-3 coming from Korea with a C-130H this afternoon.

Now I want to take the opportunity to thank all of those countries for their assistance and their commitment. I've just had lunch with the Chinese and Japanese teams. They're all working exotically (ph) long hours to keeping their aircraft flying, to keep their crews up to the minute in terms of enthusiasm. It's been a long, hard road two weeks in. You know, we've got a sea state 7 down there, HMS Success has had to deployed 120 kilometers to the South to avoid -- for those of you who understand sea sites -- horrendous weather conditions. This is a major operation.

Can I say that the prime minister has today announced visa fees will be waived for the families of the passengers and crew of this Malaysian aircraft. We will be very pleased to welcome them here to give them some closure in what is an extreme tragedy for them.

Aside for that, I come back to the fact that this is an amazing example of international cooperation, particularly between militaries. And may I say, as a Western Australian, we are very pleased to host the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, the New Zealanders, and the Americans into Western Australia.

REPORTER: Are facilities being offered for the families to come here and to be either flown over or taken by sea to the crash area?

JOHNSTON: Well, I think those logistical operations will need to be considered very carefully. I don't want to speculate because it is a major operation. This is, as I say, probably one of the most remote parts of our planet. We want to get that right. We want to assist these families and friends to have some closure, but let's talk about that when we know how many are coming and when they're arriving.


REPORTER: After the Malaysians announced that last night, is it very clearly now a case of not looking for survivors but looking for debris and looking for those black boxes?

JOHNSTON: Well, let's be clear. To this point in time, we have not successfully identified and recovered any debris from the aircraft in question.

REPORTER: Can you confirm this is the place that the plane crashed?

REPORTER: Senator, the Malaysian Prime Minister was clear (ph) that in his view that the plane was in the Southern Ocean. Do you share that strength of view? JOHNSTON: Well, if I think if we're going to go on data and information giving us a hint as to what has actually happened, that's all we've got to go on. I think the telemetry from the satellite, the Inmarsat satellite, generating on an hourly basis, the telemetry from those motors (ph) and the performance of the aircraft I think is all we've got to go on. I think we've got to rely on that and that's what we've been doing.

Hang on, this lady over here would like to ask a question.

REPORTER: Thank you very much. So would you say you are confident with the prime minister's assessment that the fate of Flight 370 ended in the Indian Ocean? Are you confident about that?

JOHNSTON: I am confident about that because that's the best we've got to this point in time.



REPORTER: So you're not surprised that they made the call last night, sending the messages to families?

JOHNSTON: Look, I'm not surprised about anything with respect to this. This is a mystery and until we recover and positively identify a piece of debris, everything is virtually speculation.


REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) yesterday, what's the idea with the search in the planes?

JOHNSTON: Well, when you've got to suspend operations for 24 hours because of weather, these beautiful aircraft behind me are all on the ground as you can see. Because it's unsafe to fly down there. Now, remember, this part of the world, this Southern Ocean, has shipwrecked many, many sailors in our history in Western Australia. It is rough, sea state 7, you know, there are 20, 30 meter waves; it is very, very dangerous, even for big Panamax-class ships.

REPORTER: Have you received further details from Malaysia can support the conclusion delivered by Malaysia premier?

JOHNSTON: Look, I will hand over to the Vice Chief of Defense Binskin will tell you that everything we have you know about and that we are doing everything we can to, first of all, make a positive identification on a piece of debris. That will mean that we're on the right track. Now, that's not going to happen I wouldn't think for at least another 24 hours because we've had to redeploy our ship given the bad weather.

REPORTER: Can you verify anything from the motoring (ph) and the satellite images and the photos that the Chinese provided?

JOHNSTON: I have nothing further to add on that. I think you've seen all the information that is out there.

REPORTER: Senator, were you informed before Prime Minister Najib made his statements in the Malaysian Parliament last night?

JOHNSTON: Well, I probably wasn't because I was probably traveling somewhere and on the way back to Western Australia. The prime minister, I'm sure, has been informed by the Malaysians as and when events have come to pass and they've been confirmed.

REPORTER: Do you understand the HMS Success to be confident that they're close to what was seen from the air yesterday?

JOHNSTON: Well, look, it's very easy to speculate about being close. Close in this part of the world could be several hundred kilometers. Just remember we are looking for an aircarft in Victoria from Perth in Western Australia. That's what we're doing, if you want to put it in some sore of analogous description. We are looking for an aircraft in the State of Victoria from Western Australia. It is a very, very difficult task.

And I tell you, this deployment that you can see behind me, and all of the aircraft that I have named, is probably one of the largest efforts you'll ever see in terms of maritime surveillance, and joint operations from China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, United States, Korea, et cetera.

REPORTER: How urgent is task given that there's 13 days left for that beacon battery to tell us where the black box flight recorders are?

JOHNSTON: Well, obviously everything's fairly urgent. But we cannot put pilots and crews at risk. We can't put a ship's company at risk. We just have to deal with this location as best we can in terms of its weather and its inhospitability.

REPORTER: How much information has been relayed to the Malaysian authorities, because objects have been found but it hasn't been confirmed, before they actually made the --

JOHNSTON: Well, as I say, the turning point for us I think will be when we pull some piece of debris from the surface of the ocean and positively identify it as being part of the aircraft.


REPORTER: Do you have any other details on the support that will be provided to families that will come over here?

JOHNSTON: At this stage I don't. But bear in mind the prime minister is very, very fixed on assisting Malaysia, who is a very good friend of Australia, in dealing with the families of the crew and the passengers on board this aircraft. We'll do what we can within reason.


REPORTER: Chinese families are not convinced. REPORTER: How long are you prepared to keep looking for this plane? Is there a chance we may never find any wreckage?

JOHNSTON: Now, I'm going to hand over to Vice Chief of Defense Binskin, who as you can see is with the Royal Australian Air Force. He's going to tell you about some of those (INAUDIBLE).

AIR MARSHAL MARK BINSKIN, AUSTRALIA'S VICE CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: If I can put the analogy of what we've got at the moment, we're not searching for a needle in a haystack. We're still trying to find where the haystack is. So that's just to put it in context.

You're seeing a multi-national effort going on. It is difficult for HMS Success to in these weather conditions be able to find small bits of debris that is washing around in the southern Indian Ocean at the moment. As the minister said, for safety concerns, today, we had to pull the assets off the search and put Success to the south. But we're hoping for good weather in the coming days where the search effort will be joined by a number of Chinese ships. We'll have the Korean P-3 online so we'll have more aircraft, more ships in the area, and we'll start to be able to refine the search.

REPORTER: Vice Chief, it's becoming more of a recovery operation than it was before. There are new Australian assets, including the Ocean Shield(INAUDIBLE) heading out there. What's its role? How does it help? What can it do?

BINSKIN: Ocean Shield will be joining the search in the coming days. She is sailing from Sydney, as you would appreciate, it takes time to come down and around into the search area. The aim for her will be working to put specialist equipment on board so that, as we further refine the search area, that we might be able to go out and look for the black boxes.

REPORTER: Has there been a 100 percent collaboration between the nations in terms of the search? Iis it under one specific umbrella? Or are there --

BINSKIN: Actually, the collaboration has been very, very good between nations. For the start of it, there's been a lot of cooperation between the U.S., U.K. and Australia in analyzing that satellite imagery. In fact, it was the U.K. part of the team that first put us into the location we're in now and that's been refined by more imagery from China, the DigiGlobe imagery that everyone's getting a chance to look at. So that side of it is very, very collaborative.

From the aircraft and the ships, there's a lot of cooperation going on by the moment. It is a relatively small operation but it is growing by the day. And we do that in support of AMSA at the moment; AMSA are the lead nation in Australia. I know the question is information being passed to Malaysia? The answer is yes.


REPORTER: Do you have information or evidence that maybe there's still doubt that MH370 actually did go down in the Indian Ocean? BINSKIN: As the minister said, the best information that we have, and we continue to refine any information that comes out, as I understand -- and I haven't seen the report -- but the information from the British overnight passed to Malaysians seems to indicate more assurity that it went down in the southern Indian Ocean. But, as you'd imagine, as you get more information, people get a chance to look at more and more data, we continue to refine the search data.


BINSKIN: I won't go into those details. We won't have time for that. But it is -- initially it did find the wreckage and get an indication where you're searching before you can even refine down that.

REPORTER: How long do you think the search will be off due to weather and how much of an impact is it going to have on the debris that was spotted yesterday?

BINSKIN: Well, AMSA are very, very good at measuring the currents. We've dropped buoys out there from the last few days, being able to measure the movement of the water. So they will keep a very good track on where the current debris field should be. As the weather clears, we'll be able to go back in. But at the moment it's visible by aircraft and then we have to (INAUDIBLE) and get ships in to pick up. It could be any debris from anywhere around the world; we've got to make sure that anything we pick up we can possibly identify as being wreckage and then we can further refine the search area.



COOPER: Out of this press conference, we're awaiting now a press conference from Malaysia Airlines scheduled to happen about two minutes from now in Kuala Lumpur, which is about 12:30 in the afternoon. We're going to bring you obviously that, that's the scene of that press conference.

Frankly, not a lot of news coming out of the Australian press conference, which Richard Quest suggested was more of an overview, defense minister saying essentially he had flown there to thank all the crews involved in the search. He also thanked all the countries involved and who have actually sent air assets and ships -- Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea sending an asset later today. He also talked about waiving visas for family members of the crews and the passengers and just talked about the rough conditions, the swells that are out in the search area which have forced officials to call off the search at least for today. No word on if the search will continue.

Let's listen in to Kuala Lumpur.


TAN SRI MD NOR YUSOF, CHAIRMAN, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: My name is Mohammed Yusof, chairman of the Malaysian Airlines. As you will be aware, last night the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, announced new evidence regarding the disappearance of MH370 on the 8th of March. Based on this evidence, the prime minister's message was that we must now accept the painful reality that the aircraft is now lost and that none of the passengers or crew on board survived.

This is a sad and tragic day for all of us at these airlines. While not entirely unexpected after an intensive multi-national search across 2.24 million square mile area, this news is clearly devastating for the families of those on board. They have waited for over two weeks for even the smallest of hope of positive news about their loved ones.

This has been an unprecedented event requiring an unprecedented response. The investigation under way may yet prove to be even longer and more complex Than it has been since March the 8th. But we will continue to support the families, as we have done throughout, and to support the authorities as the search for definitive answers continues.

I will now at this juncture ask our group chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari, to provide you with fuller details of our support of the families. .

AHAMAD JAUHARI YANYA, CEO, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: Thank you, Tan Sri. I stand before you today not only as the group chief executive officer of Malaysian Airlines but also as a parent, as a brother and as a son. My heart breaks to think of the unimaginable pain suffered by all the families. There are no words which can ease that pain. Everyone in Malaysia Airlines family is praying for the 239 souls on MH370 and for their loved ones on this dark day.

We extend our prayers and sincere condolences. We all feel enormous sorrow and pain. Sorrow that all those who boarded flight MH370 on Saturday 8 of March would not see their families again. And those family will now have to live, they have to live on without their loved ones. It must be remembered that 13 of our own colleagues and fellow Malaysians were also on board.

And let me be very clear on the events of yesterday evening. Our sole and only motivation last night was to ensure that, in the incredibly short amount of time available to us, that families heard the tragic news before the world did. Wherever humanly possible, we did so in person with the families or by telephone, using SMS as the last resort of ensuring fully that nearly 1,000 family members heard the news from us and not from the media.

Ever since the disappearance of Flight MH370, this airline's focus has been to comfort and support the families of those involved, and also to support the multi-national search effort. We will continue to do this while we also continue to support the work of the investigating authorities in the southern Indian Ocean. Like everyone else, we are waiting for news from those authorities.

We know that while there had been an increasing number of apparent leads, definite identification of any piece of debris is still missing. But after 17 days, the announcement made last night and shared with the families is the reality that we must face and we now must accept. When Malaysia Airlines receives approval from the investigating authorities, arrangement will be made to bring families to the recovery areas if they so wish. Until that time, we will continue to support the ongoing investigation. And may I express my thanks to the Malaysian government and all those involved in this truly global search effort.

In the meantime, Malaysia Airline's overwhelming focus will be the same as it has been from the outset, to provide the families with a comprehensive support program, through a network of over 700 dedicated care givers, care givers for each family -- the loved ones of those on board have been provided with two dedicated care givers and they provide care, support and counsel to the families. We are now supporting over 900 people under this program, and in the last 72 hours alone, we have trained additional 40 care givers to ensure the families have access to round-the-clock support.

In addition, hotel accommodation for up to five family members per passenger, transportation, meals and other expenses, have been provided since 8 of March and that will continue. Malaysia Airlines have already provided initial financial assistance of $5,000 U.S. dollar per passenger to each next of kin. We recognize the financial support is not the only consideration, but the prolonged search is naturally placing financial strain on the relatives. We are, therefore, preparing to offer additional payment as the search continues.

This unprecedented event in aviation history has made the past 18 days the greatest challenge to face our entire team at Malaysia Airlines. I've been humbled by the hard work, by dedication, heart-felt messages of concern and offers of support from our remarkable team. We do not know why, we do not know how, we do not know how this terrible tragedy happened. But as Malaysia Airlines family, we all are praying for the passengers and crew of MH370.

YUSOF: Ladies and gentlemen, member of the media, I now open the floor for our question-and-answer session. Please state your name and media organization before you ask the question.

CAROL CHAU, PHOENIX TV: Yes, I'm from Hong Kong Phoenix TV. My name is Carol Chau. Actually just now you showed your sorrow to the family members and we heard their shouts and screams, especially in Beijing, the hotel. So up till now, they said you delayed the investigations. What is the evidence, exact evidence that you show to get the result? And some of the family members told us they want to -- they went to Australia, they want to go to Australia, so could you arrange the trip for them? Thank you.

YUSOF: First and foremost, you will appreciate the missing plane was reported to the authorities and since then it was a matter for the authorities to take over the seeking and the searching and finding the plane. And it is since then the domain of the authorities.

But as I mentioned earlier, our focus, our center of action throughout this period, painful period that is, was to provide care and assistance to our passengers. Certainly this is a time of extreme (ph) emotions and we fully understand that impact on people, our family. In terms and how they react is emotional, as you may understand.

As regards to going to Australia, as mentioned Ahamad (ph) just now --

YANYA: With regard to going to Australia, we have been informed by Australian authorities that visa will fully be given or granted to those family members, once evidence has been established. I'm talking about the (INAUDIBLE) evidence.

YOSUF: Yes. Next question.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) I'm from China news service. My question is so far you haven't found any evidence of wreckage of the missing plane. How are you so sure you about you have determined to believe that the plane has crashed. How do you believe that? And just based on the analysis of the images and the like?

YUSOF: Fair enough. I think that's a very fair question. But as you would also appreciate, especially last night, the prime minister came out himself to share that he has been given fairly credible leads that would point to where the plane ended its flight. And as he mentioned, that position is very far away, very remote, away from the nearest land mass. And after 17 days, we could only bring ourselves to reach certain conclusion. Yes, please.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) China News (ph) Post. You talked in your statement just a minute ago that this conclusion was not entirely unexpected. Why wait so long for the families then to actually be told that their loved ones are basically dead? And why such a hurry then to conclude your part of the investigation, could you resign?

YANYA: As far as (INAUDIBLE) was mentioned, we take lead from the investigation that continues that has been led by DCA (ph). And yesterday when the prime minister made the statement, it was very evident that the aircraft ended its flight in the middle of south Indian Ocean. So we will have to be -- we just have to follow those evidence as have been presented to us. And what we did yesterday was to share that as quickly as possible to the next of kin. And will I resign? It's a personal decision.



REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) from Sinpan (ph) News Agency. My question is, has the Malaysian side provided all the information and evidence for the timeline (ph) that leads to the conclusion of the MH370 flight ending in the Indian Ocean?

YUSOF: My answer is that Malaysia Airlines is the first affected by this (ph). The investigation is with the authorities and it is best to ask the authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, the next one, the lady in --

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) from China. I have a question, the first one I would like to rephrase from my (INAUDIBLE) media colleague (INAUDIBLE). Now we confirm that the plane has ended in the middle of the south Indian Ocean, but can the survival chance of the passengers be totally avoided? This is the first question. The second question one is now there are some reports about they find the MH370 missing could be about (INAUDIBLE) problem, which is very closely similar as the incident that happened in 2005. Also major airplane and also the Boeing 777. That airplane is from (INAUDIBLE) to Perth, and they happened a sharp turn around and very unstable altitude flying reports. So perhaps a coincidence, they have very similar (INAUDIBLE). So could these events this day could be caused by some machinery failure? Do we have any information on that?-

YUSOF: I'm sure that will be very important concentration to be taken by the investigators. Thank you.

REPORTER: But the (INAUDIBLE) questions, the first one, the survival chances, could it be totally (INAUDIBLE)?

YUSOF: At the moment, that's how we are looking at it, because the plane ended at a place simply remote from any land mass.

REPORTER: So can you repeat, be more clear on that? Can you repeat what you are saying about the survival?

YUSOF: This by the evidence given to us and by the rational deduction, that we could only arrive at that conclusion. It is for Malaysia Airline to declare that it has lost the plane and by extension the people on the plane.

REPORTER: Thank you. I'm from Chinese 2 news organization. During these several days, I have interviewed some people in Malaysia, in crews and family members. Most of them said they're not satisfied with the reaction to this emergency. What's your opinion about this? And why do you isolate them to the outside world? Thank you.

YANYA: They are saying they are dissatisfied with the opinion? Can you repeat the question, please?

REPORTER: During these several days, I have interviewed some people in Malaysia, including some family members. Most of them are not satisfied to your reaction to this emergency. So what is your opinion about this? And why you isolate them to the outside world? Thank you.

YANYA: I would say our first concern, particularly for the families from China, is for their safety and comfort and to do privacy. And that is the main concern that drive whatever we tried to offer the family members. And in terms of why we keep them hanging on is simply we all shared their hope as well.

REPORTER: Why you isolate them from the outside world?

YUSOF: I would say probably isolating them is not the correct impression. We certainly put them in a place where they're comfortable and that also is where they could have privacy and our care givers -- they have given access to care givers with whatever they require, like visiting the places of worship for them to offer their prayers, and things like that. So they are not being closeted.


REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) from Reuters. My condolences. The (INAUDIBLE) police have now narrowed the investigation to the crew members and the pilot in particular, just (INAUDIBLE) anything probable. Could you comment on that? Could you also talk to Malaysia Airlines, have you had any problems in the past, any disciplinary issues with the pilots or the crew, anything that would point to anything? Thank you.

YUSOF: I appreciate that. I think it is a fair question. That, if I may, that brings us back to the purpose of this press conference, is to share with other than the families of our affected passengers and crew about what we had done last night, that is to break the news, and what we do next, particularly in terms of continuing with our care giving to our passengers' families and what we do in terms of the normal process as you mentioned for events like this. So your question is correct, but I think the direct forum is when we meet investigators. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, the next question will be from the gentleman over there.

ANGUS WHITLEY, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Angus Whitley from Bloomberg News. You referred earlier to the information that led to last night's announcement, but can you say exactly what the new analysis was and what the new data was that gave you enough certainty to make that statement?

YUSOF: That's fair. The best time is this afternoon's proceeding with the Ministry of Transport. They will be there to explain. We are just another affected party as well.

WHITLEY: But you knew, presumably, what the analysis was? What was it?

YUSOF: We had been given the indication that we should now arrive at that very sad conclusion.

WHITLEY: The questions are unanswered from last night. Can you give any more clarity?

YUSOF: As I said, the best time is when we have the Ministry of Transport this afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. The next question will be from the gentleman over here.

JEREMY GRANT, FINANCIAL TIMES: Jeremy Grant, Financial Times. In the spirit of helping the families understand what has happened and bearing in mind that you now do have more information which led you to the conclusion that the prime minister announced, what is your best analysis of how the plane -- what actually happened, bearing in mind that we have quite some hours before the next press conference.

YANYA: I don't want to speculate in terms of what happened to the aircraft. I think the investigation is ongoing, OK. I think our focus is really for the family members, how to help them moving forward and that's really our focus here. Otherwise, we are just speculating and I think the investigation is not concluded, I don't want to speculate any more than that.

YUSOF: We're spending our time now and the process going forward in terms of how we can meet our legal as well as moral obligations to the families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. OK, the next question from the gentleman at the back.

REPORTER: Thank you. Steve (INAUDIBLE) from CBS News. I want to ask a question about the perception. This has been dealt with a little bit so far at the news conference. Some people, the family members, have not been happy with the way this all has come down as far as their isolation in some cases, whatever. Some people have suggested or implied that Malaysian airline officials have been heartless. Have you been heartless? Can you respond to that?

YUSOF: Firstly, we can appreciate that. No two persons affected by the event would have a similar reaction, emotional response. So depending who you speak to, you get different version. So there are also in our numbers who have shown appreciation for what we have done, and we're really touched by that. And (INAUDIBLE) even more. So this question of limitation and practical limitation that we're looking at, but coming from our bottom of our heart, we're really reaching forward, because we realize that 13 of the missing passengers and crew and one passenger, member of our family. Malaysia Airlines is an extremely closely knit organization; we feel for each other. And that sort of expands and extends to our passengers as well.

So the first thought is to provide the comfort. From the first day we literally formed these family assistance centers all over the place and we dispatched our care givers to show that we remain one with this thing (ph). And we properly enabled them to provide whatever was, you know, which we can do. And certainly no amount of compensation or consolation will make up for any loss of life, and we appreciate that.

REPORTER: And could I add just one follow-up. Are you going to attempt or will your high ranking executives attempt to meet and talk to every family that has suffered a loss?

YUSOF: It's being done all the time, sir. We do not display our names when we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. The next question from the gentleman in red shirt.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) from Global Brazil. How do you see -- I know it's a difficult question, but how do you see this position of Australian government that only will grant the visas for the families when no evidence is found? Maybe still there is hope in Australia's opinion?

YANYA: Well, actually, I can't speak on behalf of Australian government, but --

REPORTER: That's why I say it's a difficult question. Do you agree with his position?

YANYA: Whether I agree or don't agree, this position that the Australia government takes, like I said, we are here to ensure that we support the family, right, and to make sure we fulfill their wishes.

YUSOF: You have to understand a bit more, especially here, in this time of human challenge, compassion will rise. So I think, protocol notwithstanding, I'm sure, (INAUDIBLE). As we say, this is unprecedented event and we may be looking at some unprecedented way to resolve this. So we not necessarily look at the book literally (ph).


YUSOF: I'm sure that the issue will arise and I'm sure it will be addressed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next question?

REPORTER: Jason from the Wall Street Journal. I know -- I understand you're stressed and your focus right now is to help the families as well, but Malaysia Airlines is also a party to the investigation in they own (ph) the aircraft. So can you tell us, after one or two weeks, what is the most likely cause for this? Can you tell us confidently that it's not a plane problem, it's (INAUDIBLE)?

YUSOF: I really appreciate your curiosity, as we are also, but we have to draw a line between what is, you know, should be in the formal domain and what we can do. Our focus at the moment is more in terms of what we can do, which is outside the investigation area.


YUSOF: Yes, thank you. Yes, certainly we will not want to jeopardize or dissipate anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have the last question from the local (INAUDIBLE)?

REPORTER: Yes please, yes please. Can I have one question before we go? Melissa (ph) from Channel NewsAsia. I would like to talk about future for MAS. May I know how badly has it affected business for MAS and how (INAUDIBLE) and what are you going to do about it?

YANYA: Well, obviously it has affected the airline. But so far, like I said, we're doing our best to ensure that those that bought Malaysia Airline tickets, we ensure they are being served, make sure they're being flown safely, comfortably. Moving forward is something that we will look into. Obviously it is something that we must basically share with the families of those on board. We must empathize with them and I think this is a very painful period for the airline and something that we have to, you know, we do share this spirit with the families and passengers and the crew.

Our procedures are Code (INAUDIBLE), not necessarily actually declaring Code (INAUDIBLE) now, but we have actually ratchet up our process and procedures to the level of Code (INAUDIBLE) to ensure safety and security of all parties.


REPORTER: (Speaking in foreign language).

YUSOF: (Speaking in foreign language.) We can have a separate one, thank you.

So my final remarks are still the same as original. We still need total proof for the event (ph) and our hearts and prayers are with the family. Thank you.


COOPER: Just been listening to a press conference given by the chairman of the Malaysia Airlines, also by the CEO of Malaysia Airlines. Essentially, any questions of substance relating to the investigation they basically tossed over to those leading the investigation. They repeatedly pointed out they are not leading the investigation. They say their responsibility right now is trying to figure out the legal and moral obligations to the families. They say so far they've so far paid out $5,000 per passenger to each next of kin; they're preparing to offer additional payments. They've assigned two care givers.

They denied one of the reporter's question about whether or not families had been isolated. They said they had not isolated families; they were trying to give them privacy, give them as much support as possible. Did not answer a question about any past problems with the pilots, again referred to the ongoing investigation, and reiterated what the Malaysian prime minister had said early morning, saying the airline is now lost and none of the passengers and crew survived. That was a quote from the chairman of Malaysia Airlines.

Quick thoughts from our panel here, Richard?

QUEST: What I take away for tonight's press conference, a justification for sending of the SMS messages -- a last resort. We wanted to make sure they wouldn't hear it from the media. And the core question on why they've made this announcement, following on from (INAUDIBLE), the reality we must face.

COOPER: David Soucie, your thoughts?

SOUCIE: I think it's just a -- at this point a matter of accepting where we are and I think it's finally the families getting some kind of closure around it, but it's been a sad day for them. That's where I'd like to leave that tonight.

COOPER: Les Abend? ABEND: As frustrating as it is for the family, as bad as it is for the family, I think it's positive from the standpoint we're narrowing this investigation and we can find answers hopefully.

COOPER: And that's really the frustrating part is that the search as called off for the day; we'll see what happens tomorrow.

That is 360 for now. I want to thank our panel and all our correspondents around the world. We'll see you again tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on 360. Right now I'm going to turn things over to CNN International's John Vause and Rosemary Church.