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Search for Flight 370 Suspended; Flight 370 Families Outraged; Landslide Death Toll Rises; Australian Officials Describe Search

Aired March 25, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, suspended. The search for Flight 370 called off. The weather is just too dangerous. We talked to Australia's defense minister. Does he think they can find the wreckage?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Anger and anguish, families of passengers outraged marching the Malaysian embassy, shouting out for answers as China demands to see the data that Malaysian officials say they have.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly mudslides. A daunting number for officials, more than 170 people reported missing in Washington state, more than a dozen confirmed dead. But that number is expected to rise. We're live at the scene.

Your NEW DAY continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

PEREIRA: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. I'm Michaela Pereira, alongside John Berman. He's in for Chris Cuomo.

Breaking overnight, new developments in the search for Flight 370.

BERMAN: Malaysian officials are now focusing their search on a very, very specific area not far from where Kate Bolduan joins us live now from Perth to explain.

Good morning, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Malaysian officials cutting off their search of the northern corridor, now focusing solely on the southern corridor. Why? The Perth air force base is the heart now of the search effort. And today, conditions are so dangerous in the southern Indian Ocean, that the search for any sign of Flight 370 has been put on hold. The search area hit with very powerful winds, large waves, heavy rain and importantly very low cloud cover. So, visibility almost zero.

Also new, the Malaysian ambassador to China, he appeared inside the Lido Hotel in Beijing where family members are staying to meet with the passengers' family members. One relative though called the meeting shameless as the ambassador couldn't even answer the most basic of questions.

Meantime, the airline is now telling distraught and angry family members they will never see their lost loved ones again.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Airline officials repeating this morning the sad news first delivered by the Malaysian prime minister the night before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must now accept the painful reality that the aircraft is now lost and that none of the passengers or crew onboard survived.

BOLDUAN: This morning, the prime minister defending his announcement, telling parliament he only wanted to be fully transparent that the data from British satellites proved what had happened.

And airline officials are also defending their decision to send a text message alerting families of the news.

AHMAD JAUHARI YAHYA, MALAYSIAN AIRLINES CEO: Our sole and only motivation last night was to ensure that the incredibly short amount of time available to us, the families heard the tragic news before the world did.

BOLDUAN: As for the search, today's severe weather has halted operations, even forcing ships to move out of the search area.

I spoke in an exclusive one on one interview with the Australian defense minister and vice chief of defense about the setback.

(on camera): Do you think there's a chance we'll never find this plane even if it landed in the Indian Ocean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's always a possibility. Actually we might not find something next week or the week after. I think eventually something will come to light. But it's going to take time.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): More time and patience in the frustrating operation that has so far left them empty handed, though they still see promise in the debris spotted yesterday by an Australian team.

(on camera): How confident are you of the debris that has been spotted so far? The Success had to move out because of the weather. How confident are you when they move back in they'll be able to locate it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think that we'll be able to get back in there in a couple days time. But, you know, this is a part of the world estimating the weather is very, very difficult.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): An added challenge as even though leading the search admit they're not exactly sure where to look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not searching for a needle in the haystack. We're still trying to define where the haystack.


BOLDUAN: They still see promise in the objects spotted from the search plane. They have not identified, they have not found them, they have not identified those objects. The important thing, they have the setback, 24 hours. Planes have been on the ground. Ships have had to move out of the area because of the rough seas. They've got a lot of ground to make up.

The only good right now, we can tell you, that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority expect searches to ramp back up tomorrow because weather is expected to improve.

We'll continue to follow it here in Perth, Australia.

Back to John right now in New York -- John.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Kate. You know, Kate talks about need for patience. The question is, can they afford to be patient?

Let's analyze the current situation as it stands right now, bringing in our experts. Pilot and international captain from Northwest Airlines, David Funk, CNN safety analyst, former FAA inspector and author of "Why Planes Crash", David Soucie, and airline accident investigator and faculty member of Ohio State University, Shawn Pruchnicki, I should say.

Shawn, I want to start with you here and bring you in on the new piece of information, analysis of the flight data, the so-called satellite handshakes. Definitive enough according to Malaysian officials to tell family members of those on board there's no chance of survival? Do you find it that definitive?

SHAWN PRUCHNICKI, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: No. I find it very surprising. There's a little bit of a leap here. I mean, I do believe the airplane probably is in the water. But to use those data points to make that announcement, that did seem like quite a bold leap.

BERMAN: Yes. I mean, David, you know, probably in the water is a big leap from telling family members there's no chance of survival.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes, as Mary Schiavo said earlier in the segment earlier this morning, taking a leap in any investigation to draw conclusions for these families is in my opinion pretty inappropriate. You say the facts. You let them draw their own conclusions about it. You tell them this is where we received the last information, apparently was out of fuel and let that lie.

BERMAN: Yes, and as you mentioned, this is still an investigation David Funk. And that could be where a great area of focus is right now that we're not hearing about, the backgrounds of everyone on that plane -- still the investigation and background of the pilot and co- pilot. DAVID FUNK, PILOT: Absolutely. We want to know not just about the pilot and co-pilot, but we want to know about every person on the airplane, everyone that serviced the airplane the last month, what are the airplane records, things that we can determine now to reduce the likelihood that it was a nefarious event or point us in the direction when we find the wreckage -- I believe we will find it -- when we do that we'll know where to start looking.

BERMAN: Well, will we find it in time, David Soucie? That's the big question right now because the clock is very much ticking right now to find the black box, the flight data recorder, the cockpit data recorder.

You know, I'm reading here that two pinger locator, it won't arrive in the search area until April 5th. If you do the 30 day timing on how long the battery sends out the ping, that would be April 8th. They don't have much time here.

SOUCIE: Now, they really don't. It can go past the 30 days, 30 days it the regulatory requirement to make sure it goes there's a safety feature built in. It can go further than that. We looked for 447 after the fact. It took years. We had to wait through the winter, had to wait to come and find that.

So, this is the most critical time now. We knew where that was and still took us that long to find it. We don't know where this is yet. So, I'm very concerned about that. Finding the debris is going to be key, though, because at that point, they stat -- going back to where that most likely is, where that box is.

BERMAN: They're back out searching tomorrow with more ships and planes than they've had. That's good news assuming the weather breaks.

Shawn, I want to talk about the scenario from this data. You're not convinced it's as definitive as they say. You seem willing to accept the plane probably ended in the southern Indian Ocean somewhere.

So, the question becomes, you know, what put it there? What are the likely scenarios that put it on that path flying in the southern corridor for as long as it was?

PRUCHNICKI: I think that the reasonable or potential explanations would be crew incapacitation on board the flight fire in the cargo hole or avionics bay, something that disabled the communications, the transponder. I mean, all these pieces certainly kind of point that direction. But we're such a long way from being able to establish anything meaningful from this data.

I think what's really important is to understand how sparse these data points really are. We are making significant leaps trying to piece this together.

BERMAN: Talk about the lithium battery, Shawn, because one thing we know, there were lithium batteries in the cargo hole. We also know that lithium batteries have been an issue on previous flights. Is this something we should look into more seriously now?

PRUCHNICKI: I believe so very much. This is a concern. You know, we don't allow these on passenger flights in the cargo hold. We do in the United States on cargo flights.

And I was quite surprised when I heard that announcement. There hasn't been a lot of chatter about that really.

I think that's a significant piece of this puzzle that points more toward that type of explanation. But, just because we have a missing airplane and there were lithium batteries on board, it certainly that doesn't tie that together. But what I think it does mean is that, if we find the debris field, that that is going to be one of the areas of focus they're going to look at. I mean, right -- you know, when we find the debris field, they're not going to be able to bring everything up. They're going to have to pick and choose what they want.

If they see something that looks like these types of item, that would definitely be something they want to go after and look at a little bit closer.

BERMAN: All right. Shawn Pruchnicki, David Funk, David Soucie, thanks for being with us to unpack the situation, all this new information we've been getting and what we can expect in the days ahead when they get back out in the ocean to search that debris field -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Thank you so much John.

We'll get back to our Flight 370 coverage in a moment. But right now, let's get a look at the rest of the day's stories from Christine Romans.


Breaking overnight, an investigation this morning into the shooting death of two men at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. The victims were a sailor and civilian suspect who was killed by naval security forces. Base officials say the incident took place on the USS Mahan just before midnight. No other injuries have been reported.

With border tensions rising, the Ukrainian parliament just voted to dismiss the country's acting defense minister. This is a day after the new president ordered Ukraine's military out of Crimea as Russian forces consolidated control there.

Meantime, the U.S. and its allies suspended Russia's membership in the G8 over the annexation of Crimea. President Barack Obama says the aim to prevent Moscow from pressing further into Ukraine, he's threatening more severe economic sanctions if necessary.

The president is calling for an overhaul of the NSA's controversial bulk collection of phone data. Right now, the NSA sweeps that massive amounts of call data storing it for years. A new proposal would allow phone carriers to keep that data and require the NSA to go through a federal judge to obtain that information. Congress still has to approve this proposal. The current system is extended for 90 days.

Dozens of ships still stranded at the port of Houston this morning as the oil containment efforts stretch into day four. A barge collision led to a massive 170,000 gallon spill this weekend in the Houston ship channel. Coast Guard officials are re-evaluating whether vessel traffic can resume today, but caution it will be done in a tapered fashion. That's a very, busy, busy way for all kinds of different imports and exports to go through, most notably petroleum products.

BERMAN: And interesting on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez, the 25th anniversary. And there will be a special on CNN tonight remembering that really, really interesting time in our history.


BERMAN: I know.

All right. Next up for us on NEW DAY, a NEW DAY exclusive. Our Kate Bolduan speaking with top Australian officials who say they are doing everything they can now to find Flight 370's wreckage.

PEREIRA: And we're going to take you back live to the enormous mudslide in Washington state that's left more than a dozen people dead, close to 180 missing.

We're going to speak to the emergency official about the disaster.


PEREIRA: Welcome back this morning.

Hopes are dimming as rescuers search for survivors at the scene of a deadly mudslide north of Seattle. At least 14 people are known to have died, 176 remain unaccounted for.

Washington state Senator Patty Murray says it's the worse devastation she has ever seen.

Ana Cabrera is live in Arlington, Washington, with the latest of the efforts that are expected today -- Ana.


We're still a few miles from the landslide but this is as close as we can get. It's just too dangerous near the site of the slide with that slurry described to be like quicksand 15 feet deep in some places and flight potential for even more slides.

For those waiting anxiously for answers, it's a helpless feeling.


BRENDA NEAL, STEVEN NEAL'S WIFE: None of us feel like he's gone. CABRERA (voice-over): Brenda Neal's 52-year-old husband, Steven, is among those still missing after a massive landslide on Saturday in Snohomish County. This hill gave way swallowing a square mile of land and everything in its path.

BRENDA NEAL: I've been at the fire hall at midnight looking for anything. I've seen the rescuers covering in mud and the despair on their faces is very evident, that they want to help.

CABRERA: Steven, a local plumber, was on a service call when the landslide hit. His daughter, Sarah, describes him as a survivor.

SARA NEAL, STEVEN NEAL'S DAUGHTER: I think if anyone had a chance it would be him. I think if he was there with other people, he would keep them alive too.

CABRERA: Officials say the outlook is grim.

FIRE CHIEF TRAVIS HOTS, SNOHOMISH COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: I'm very disappointed to tell you that we didn't find any sign of any survivors.

CABRERA: But volunteers taking tremendous risk combing through the mud and rubble aren't giving up hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just heard this morning that another dog got rescued. If we're still finding dogs alive, why can't we be finding people?

CABRERA: Three days ago, first responders saved this 4-year-old boy taking this photo moments after pulling him from the mud.

ROBIN YOUNGBLOOD, SURVIVED LANDSLIDE: I took all his clothes off because he was freezing. Wrapped him up and held him and told him I was a grandma and couldn't find the rest of his family.

CABRERA: Cory Kuntz lost his aunt and his home to the slurry but his uncle survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They heard him pounding on that roof. He had a little air pocket. My neighbors and friends came and started digging him out.

CABRERA: He and neighbors have formed their own search crew in the hopes that more will be found alive.


CABRERA: Still more help is on the way. We know search crews from California are on their way today. Also, federal resources are being called in after an emergency declaration was issued. And it is a race against time with even more rain in the forecast -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Yes, the clock is certainly ticking. It's good to know they're going to get federal help. Ana, thank you so much. Keep us updated on the ongoing search effort. We should point out, it is still an active search at this point. In a moment, we're going to speak with emergency management director for Snohomish County. And we also want to let you know that if you'd like to help the victims of the Washington landslide, and "Impact your World," go to

We're going to take a short break here. Go ahead, John.

BERMAN: Next up, a NEW DAY exclusive. Our Kate Bolduan speaking with top Australian officials who say they need to identify the debris in the water as soon as possible, to find out if indeed Flight 370 is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

Plus, the Malaysian authorities are coming under criticism for their handling of this crisis. The families in outrage and torn apart after yesterday's news. So, are officials handling correctly? We'll ask our investigation experts.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. I'm coming to you live from Perth, Australia.

As we continue to cover the search for Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean, now focused on that southern corridor. Right now, the search is on hold because of really rough weather. Strong wind, heavy rains and low clouds have sidelined the effort at least for now.

And this morning, an Australian official described the search as not looking for a needle in the haystack. It seems to be that would be a kind way of describing it. He says they're still looking for the actual haystack.

I spoke one on one with the Australia defense minister and vice chief of defense about the search. Take a look.


BOLDAUN: The most important thing, what's the message for families who wait for any answer of where the debris is and what happened to the plane?

DAVID JOHNSTON, AUSTRALIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: With respect to families, all I can say is how tragic this whole mystery this has been for them. The emotional rollercoaster they have been on. I know my prime minister and myself are concerned not to give false expectations. We are doing everything we can.

The first thing we want to do is extract wreckage if there is any from the surface of the ocean down there, 2,500 kilometers from Perth. And identified as being part of the aircraft, that is the first threshold issue that we are focused upon.

BOLDUAN: And you're not comfortable enough yet to say, you believe this is debris from the plane? You were just looking for that debris that was spotted, correct?

JOHNSTON: All we are doing is responding as basically we can until something positive comes up. We've got to get a boat in the water, we got to hook up a the debris depending on its size, we get it on (AUDIO GAP). We're going to have experts tell us whether it's part of an aircraft.

BOLDUAN: Now, I want to ask about that process. You can probably help with that. Let's say success finds debris, bring it on board. Is it identified right there on the ship? I know it's a huge ship. Is it brought back to Perth? What is the process?

MARK BINSKIN, AUSTRALIAN VICE CHIEF OF DEFENSE: They'll move into the area. As they start to recover the debris, they'll look for serial numbers, shape of it, the color, or the markings. They'll find as much as they can. They will pass that back to the coordination center. Then they will start looking at that and start looking and talking with experts and describing it to see if it's possibly a part of wreckage and then we'll collect more.

Some wreckage, if there's serial numbers or things it becomes obvious. If it's other part, it might be difficult to do. But it is a big task.

BOLDUAN: As someone helping to lead one of the major parts of this effort, the investigation here as the minister of defense. Do you think the criticism of your counter parts in Malaysia has been fair? Because there's been a lot of focus on that in this investigation.

JOHNSTON: Hindsight is always a wonderful thing in a mystery such as this. The blame game is a long way from even being credibly started. Now, my heart goes out to Malaysian authorities. Not to mention the family and friends of crew and passengers.

Look, this has been a tragedy. It has come from nowhere. Who would have anticipated anything like this, an aircraft going off the radar? An d now, we believe it's far from where it's supposed to be as its last point of identification. Now, you know, I must say, in one of the most outrageously remote parts of the planet.

BOLDUAN: You're working hard to spot this debris. Are you confident this effort will find the debris at some point? Do you think there's a chance that we will never find this plane even if it landed in the Indian Ocean?

BINSKIN: Again, it's difficult to speculate. We take every bit of information that comes in, being shared by many nations to try and refine the search area. But there's always a possibility actually we might not find something next week or the week after. I think eventually something will come to light. It's going to take time.

BOLDUAN: Yes, time and patience is something very difficult in trying times when you know they have a limited number of hours left on that black box.

Gentlemen, I really appreciate. Thank you very much for your time and good luck with the search. Everyone is hoping and waiting with you.

JOHNSTON: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much, sir.

BOLDUAN: They have a huge task ahead of them. It ramps back up tomorrow as with the good news, the weather is improving out there in the search area. They believe they'll be able to get the airplanes back in the air. They're going to do it in a big way. They're expecting as many as 12 aircraft, that would be the most so far to make it over the search area.

Tomorrow, the big ships are going to be moving back into the area. Still, they have not been able to spot, to reach that debris and identify it that was spotted by the Australian search crew this week. So, they still have a huge task ahead of them. And that continues and ramps up tomorrow.

We're going to continue to cover from here in Perth, Australia.

Let's get back to Christine Romans in New York for five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

ROMANS: Thank you, Kate.

Number one, officials narrowing the search sight for Flight 370, saying a positioning analysis shows the plane went down in the Indian Ocean, along the southern edge of the southern corridor. The search has been suspended today as you reported for rough weather.

They're actively searching for survivors of a mudslide near Seattle. But emergency officials say the outlook is grim. Fourteen people have died, 176 are still unaccounted for.

President Barack Obama wrapping up meetings with other world leaders at a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands. From there, he heads to Brussels, second stop on his European trip this week.

It's day 15 of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa. The defense went through numerous intimate text messages between Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp in the days and weeks before she was killed.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holding a town hall expected to discuss plans for a second round of federal relief funds for victims of super storm Sandy. We're always updating the five things you need to know. So, got to CNN -- for the very latest, you guys.

BERMAN: Thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. You know, you heard Kate talking about it, in Perth, Australia, the disappearance of Flight 370 has put the Malaysian government under intense, intense scrutiny. A lot of people saying they're withholding critical information. Is this criticism fair?

We'll discuss that coming up.