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Search for Flight 370 Resumes; U.S. Sends Underwater Vehicle to Australia; Obama in Belgium for EU Summit

Aired March 26, 2014 - 05:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the search narrows and intensifies for the missing Malaysian jetliner that vanished from the sky nearly three weeks ago. Right now, investigators scouring the southern part of the Indian Ocean by air and by sea. New technology on board to help find that wreckage and reveal what went so terribly wrong. We have live team coverage of everything you missed overnight.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in for John Berman today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to have you here, Poppy. I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday, March 26th, it's 5:00 a.m. on the nose in the East.

Let's start with the search for Flight 370. Back in full swing this morning. You've got 12 planes and ships from six countries desperately looking for any sign of the missing jetliner in the south Indian Ocean. China is now heavily involved, sending in four ships, sending five aircraft to assist. Nothing so far.

Meanwhile, family members in China, they are furious. Many of them trying to storm the Malaysian embassy in Beijing in search of answers.

Let's bring in Andrew Stevens. He's monitoring the search for this flight from Perth, Australia, this morning.

It's morning here, but evening there. This is the time of day when you look to hear from authorities what they have found.

Have they spotted anything? Have they brought anything on board a ship just yet? And so far, what are they saying about this full day of searching?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All of those questions still unanswered at this hour, Christine, frustrating for everyone. Not the least the families, of course.

You're right. We usually start hearing from the authorities leading the search around about now. Anytime now, it could be -- it could be two or three hours. So it's an enact timing, really. Depending on what they've got to say.

But certainly, this has been a -- the big search so far today, 12 aircraft, as you say, in the air today, there are five ships in the search zone. That's critical, because they need ships there. They need people actually looking across the surface of the sea.

There's the Australian mobile vessel there. Three Chinese naval vessels now. They have plus, the Chinese icebreaker. Four Chinese for a total of five in that area.

This is critical. They've been going out all day. They've had eyes on that zone for hours now.

If you look at the map of what they're looking for, if you look at the flight path, the last known flight path of MH370, they are looking a few hundred miles to the east of that. It is a zone they targeted before. They've actually color-coded the different days that they're actually searching. And the colors are now overlaid on each other.

So, they keep on going back to this same zone. This is a zone where they saw -- the Chinese saw some sort of debris, two relatively large objects they describe them and several white -- smaller white bits of debris, in the radius of a couple of miles. That's not also not far from what the Australian air force saw, two rather large objects.

They describe them one being described as gray in color, one being orange in color. That does seem to be the target. They've gone back there after missing 24 hours, because of the weather conditions they've gone back there.

I should say, Christine, that the weather conditions aren't ideal today. But they're obviously good enough to get every asset they've got back down there. There is a window down here because we're being told that weather could close in at anytime.

This is a very, very difficult part of the planet to predict the weather patterns because it is so far south. Storms can blow up very quickly. So, every hour virtually counts.

ROMANS: Every hour is critical because there's only a certain amount of time that the data from these flight recorders will be broadcasting. They've got to narrow on where those are. Time is so critical here.

STEVENS: That's right. The U.S. has sent two very sophisticated devices which are now in Perth. One is a locator. It's dragged behind a boat, a ship, to look specifically for the beacons, the pinging coming from the flight recording boxes which are somewhere, we assume, on the bottom of the sea.

They also have a submersed -- it's a drone submarine which can map out the seabed. It's crucial to remember here, Christine, as one oceanographer put it, we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the globe's seabed. So, it does give you an idea of what they're up against.

These assets are still sitting here in Perth. Now, the U.S. Navy has been quite clear to say, we want to move them as close to the zone, but we're not going to actually want to actually take them out there until we get a positive ID on an object that is directly linked to 370.

The problem here is when they get that positive ID, they are still perhaps four or five days sailing away, if it's in that zone that they're focusing on in the moment. They're four or five days away from that zone by sailing. So, it is all time-critical that they've made that decision, that they're not going to be send them until they have a better understanding of where the main part of the wreckage could be.

ROMANS: And it makes sense. Andrew Stevens in Perth for us this morning -- thanks. Let us know if you get any word from officials if they found anything from that first full day of searching since that bad weather. Thanks, Andrew.

HARLOW: And, you know, it makes it difficult, it's a three or four- hour flight for the search planes just to get to that area. They have two, max three hours to search and they have to turn back.

ROMANS: And for the spotters when the weather isn't ideal, as you were saying. Then you've got white caps, you think you saw something, did you see something, which is why the colors of what they thought she spotted is so important. When you can actually see colors and shapes, that's when they think they're on to something.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Well, you know, finding any piece of that debris that may be connected to Flight 370 is the only hope that investigators have for locating the plane and that critical data recorder.

Take' look at this exclusive video of the high-tech, what's called an autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV. It has been sent to the search by the U.S. military. It is on hold, on standby. It has really sophisticated sonar that can detect wreckage at depths of nearly 15,000 feet. The Pentagon says it is there in case it can be used. They just have to wait for a much smaller search area for it to be defined for it to be actually effective.

HARLOW: In addition to that, search teams have hydrophones at their disposal. These are microphones designed to be used under water. They were originally develop to ferret out enemy submarines, believe it or not. Now, they'll be used to locate those pings and hopefully the wreckage. Then the sonar comes in and creates a 3D map of what's on the ocean floor.

Here's our Stephanie Elam off the coast of Australia. She's got this really insightful demonstration of how all this works.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really interesting technology. And it is a difficult task we're talking about.

I'm joined right now by James Coleman. He's a senior hydrographer. He's with Teledyne Reson and he is going to show us the hydrophone, first of all.

Show us the difference between this and a sonar. So, let's start with the hydrophone. How does this work?

JAMES COLEMAN, TELEDYNE RESON: Exactly. So, this is a hydrophone. So, there's a number of varieties of hydrophones. But basically a hydrophone is an underwater microphone.

This is the type of device that they're going to be using either towed behind the boat in long tails or by dipping over the side of an aircraft, in order to listen for the underwater pinger.

ELAM: And then how far can it hear, how wide?

COLEMAN: Only about five miles.

ELAM: Only about five miles. So, this is how you're just trying to find the basic area of where any flight data recorder might be?

COLEMAN: Exactly. You need to find the wreck site.

ELAM: All right. So, if we go from this -- let's take a look at the sonar, because the sonar is what you're going to do to get a little bit closer or if that battery dies on that flight data recorder.

COLEMAN: Exactly. This is the example of a sonar. The difference is the sonar is going to emit sound down to the seafloor. As it receives a signal coming back from the seafloor, it's going to interpret that and build a 3D map of what's on the bottom.

So, this device is used to map out what's on the seafloor.

ELAM: But you've got to be right on top of it for that work?



ROMANS: Deploying this cutting edge technology is crucial to the search but as also painstaking and, of course, very time consuming.

HARLOW: This morning, China is demanding the Malaysian government turn over the satellite data all of that used to determine that 239 people on board Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 are lost. That data is being used to narrow the search in the Indian Ocean.

But what does it tell us about the fate of Flight 370 and the possibility that foul play may have been involved?

Jim Clancy is live for us this morning in Kuala Lumpur.

And, Jim, you have been tracking this throughout. There are numerous investigations going on right now, including, of course, a critical search for any debris in that data recorder. But now, you are telling me there's a new information by the Malaysian air force, is that right?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's correct, it was announced last night by the defense minister//transport minister. And it's being conducted by the royal Malaysian air force. We're not being given any details on what that investigation will focus on.

But clearly, they are concerned about the military radar and how it was implemented, how it was analyzed, how it might have helped with this search. You can be sure that they're under pressure from a lot of sources. If you recall, the plane disappeared on one Saturday. It wasn't until a week later the next Saturday, that the prime minister, Najib Razak, announced they were in this words, expanding the search area.

Well, what they were really doing is moving the entire search area from the South China Sea where the plane wasn't to the Indian Ocean, where they suspected it probably was. Why did it take so long to analyze that data?

Well, it was turned over to the U.S. federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board for analysis, but why couldn't the Malaysians have analyzed that themselves? (AUDIO GAP) military told earlier enough that this flight had gone missing, that it wasn't just another domestic flight coming back. That it was a missing airliner.

It will focus on all of those things. I don't think we're going to hear much on that. And, unfortunately, we're not going to hear much into the all-important investigation into the people, the motives, who could have taken over the jetliner? Was it steered off course intentionally? Was this just a matter of catastrophic mechanical malfunction?

That investigation continues here as well -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Jim, thank you so much. Appreciate the update this morning.

ROMANS: All right. It's been nearly three weeks since Flight 370 for family members it's unimaginable grief and it's outrage. Many of them suspecting the Malaysian government is withholding information. Few of them accepting its pronouncement that the jetliner and everyone on board is gone.

Pauline Chiou has been spending a lot of time with the families. She joins us live from Beijing.

What is the latest this morning? We know they tried to storm the Malaysian embassy on Tuesday. We know they're demanding more answers from the Chinese government, or, from the Malaysian government. What is the latest?

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're demanding more answers at this moment in a meeting right now with Malaysian government officials, military officials, as well as officials from Malaysia Airlines. Also, Malaysia Airlines has sent a senior Boeing 777 pilot to this briefing that's going on at the moment to answer technical questions.

And they're going over satellite data, the speed of the plane, possible flight paths. Relatives are asking, why did you narrow it down to this particular flight path? It's quite technical and dry. And my producer that's inside actually said, it's so technical that some of the relatives have fallen asleep. We're going into to the second hour of this briefing.

But the big picture is that these relatives are not satisfied with the explanation that the Malaysian government has given them. And they say, how can you draw conclusion from just a PowerPoint presentation? We want hard evidence.

One relative says he's really just not convinced yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tired of an irresponsible conclusion with no direct evidence. They're going to give us the conclusion that the flight went down in the south Indian Ocean. And no one survived, how can they give such a conclusion?


CHIOU: So, that's a big question. How can you come to this conclusion? That's what the relatives are trying to get at this briefing right now.

It has also gotten quite heated at moments. One woman stood up and said to the Malaysian officials just within this past hour -- your country killed our relatives.

ROMANS: That is where the diplomatic issues begin for China and Malaysia.

Pauline Chiou -- thank you, Pauline.

HARLOW: Well, of course, we'll continue to follow the latest on the long mystery of flight 370 throughout the morning.

But, first, death toll. The death toll is rising in a tragic mudslide. Up to 24 people killed, dozens more missing. This morning, an intense search for possible survivors in Washington state. The very latest, straight ahead.


HARLOW: Welcome back to EARLY START. We're going to return to our Flight 370 coverage in just a moment.

First, though, this is a very important. The search for survivors continues this morning after that deadly Washington state mudslide. It is growing more grim by the hour.

Fire officials now believe up to 24 people are dead. Scores are still missing. Investigators admitting chances of finding anyone else alive are pretty slim.

I want you to listen to this 911 call. It comes from the moment right after the landslide began, followed by the fire chief's sobering assessment of the devastation.


CALLER: No, no, no, there's a freaking mudslide. All see is dirt. We've watched hundreds of trees come falling out of (INAUDIBLE).

DISPATCHER: OK, is there --

CALLER: I'm on Sea Post Road. Highway 530. And there's not even a house here anymore.

DISPATCHER: Are there any injuries?

CALLER: Yes. There's people yelling for help.

CHIEF TRAVIS HOTS, SNOHOMISH COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT 21: What we're finding is these vehicles are like twisted and tore up into like pieces. You know, I saw a car, and I saw one piece of the car, like one-eighth of a car, it was just all twisted. And it -- it is just amazing the magnitude and the force that this slide has created and what it has done.

It's not just done that to cars. It's done that to these buildings. So, you know, carpet and photo albums and vehicles and boats and wood piles and all these things. All this mud that's heavy.


HARLOW: Well, it is believed that as many as 170 people, 170 additional people are still missing and unaccounted for. Our hearts just go out to all of them.

ROMANS: All right. President Obama in Belgium this morning for the E.U. summit. Talks continue for the crisis in Ukraine. European leaders expected to press President Obama for more natural gas exports from the U.S. so they can reduce their dependency on Russian energy and punish Moscow for invading Crimea.

White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is traveling with the president. She joins us live from Brussels.

What's the latest on the president's trip?


Well, today, he'll meet with the leaders of the E.U. and NATO. And what an added significance those relationships have taken on, precisely because of the situation in Ukraine. I mean, this trip originally, of course, it was planned well in advance, was supposed to be about emphasizing those ties between nations but now it's become really acting together to try to figure out what to do about Russia and what's going on in Crimea.

And today, President Obama is expected to give a speech to the Belgium people. And the White House hasn't wanted the entire trip to be shaped by the situation in Ukraine. But it's expected that he may mention it. People are waiting to hear what he might say about that.

And some of what he's already said has turned heads. Yesterday, for example, during a press conference, he called Russia a regional power. Said that it's coming from a position of weakness and isolation, and that all of those troops, 30,000 of them, massed at the Ukrainian border seem to be an intimidation tactic.

Not everybody agrees with that. And the president has been dogged by questions whether the U.S. has underestimated the possibilities over there and what Russian President Vladimir Putin is actually planning.

The White House said they're under no illusions about what could happen. And the U.S. remains deeply concerned about the troops and of course is watching the situation. Also that the U.S. and E.U. will act in concert accordingly, if the situation does change.

So, that's what we expect to see today. Of course, this trip continues on from here, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Michelle Kosinski for us in Brussels this morning -- thank you.

HARLOW: Well, with the Obamacare deadline less than a week away, the White House is giving some people a little bit more time. This is an extension for those who tried to sign up online, but were blocked by all of the technical problems.

But here's the catch -- they have to prove it was the glitches that were to blame. Several states have taken more steps with their own exchanges. General enrollment for Obamacare, so that you avoid a penalty, it ends on March 31st.

ROMANS: All right. Let's look at your money right now. Global stocks trading higher today. Asia up on news the consumer confidence in the U.S. is at a six-year high. Europe kicking off a second day of gains after the central bank signaled it would do whatever it takes to safeguard the economy. The euro surging over the past year, the bank has been worried about inflation.

One currency that doesn't have to worry about inflation -- bitcoin. Why? It's not a currency, at least according to the IRS. Uncle Sam ruled yesterday bitcoin is property. It can be taxed as property. Not as a currency -- it's not a currency.

The IRS points out while bitcoin may be used by the currency, no country accepts it as legal tender. And, oh, they were on fire. The crypto currency folks were on fire on Twitter and online about the IRS ruling on that. Very interesting.

HARLOW: People are just talking about it more and more. It is fascinating. But try explaining in ten seconds. Very confusing.

ROMANS: I know. All I know is that Warren Buffett said it might not be around in 10 or 20 years. So, there you go.

HARLOW: He tends to get things right. All right. Well, the search window narrowing for investigators, trying to find missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Right now, a very intense search being carried out in the air and by sea. We're going to take you live for the very latest.

But first, here at home, major snowstorm set to pummel the East Coast. What? Not spring yet. Jennifer Gray explains, next.


ROMANS: All right. Welcome back. You know, there are flowers in our lobby.

HARLOW: There are.

ROMANS: There are beautiful tulips. All of the signs of spring.

I mean, our building has embraced it. The calendar says it's spring.

HARLOW: No, Jennifer Gray is here with a look at your forecast.

So, I walked out this morning, 1:00 a.m., no hat, no boots, and I'm going to regret it when I go home, right? Snowstorm coming?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, definitely you're going to regret.

Where is spring, right? We have this storm, this nor'easter on our heels. And it's actually past New York. It's on its way to Boston. Looks like New York dodged a bullet when it comes to snow, the potential was there.

But we just saw a few flurries. It's mainly battering the Cape. We will be dealing with very cold temperatures and we'll have the wind all across the Northeast.

Here are the snow totals so far. Atlantic City, four inches, D.C., almost two inches. Looks like the Cape will be the hardest hit. We still have blizzard warning in effect for that area.

And as we track this area, it is going to be moving out later this evening. So, we'll all be clear of the snow but we'll still be dealing with the very cold air and wind.

Here are the snow totals. Boston could pick up four inches around the Cape, about eight. So, yes, not spring yet for the Northeast. Also, the winds are going to be a huge problem gusting up to 35 in New York City. Almost 55 in Boston as we go through the afternoon.

But temperatures will moderate by the end of the week. We're back in the mid-50s, but it looks like rain for the weekend.

ROMANS: Eighty and sunny in L.A.

HARLOW: Too bad, none of us are there, right? Thanks, Jennifer. We appreciate it. Right now, investigators searching in planes and in ships on the sea for the missing Malaysian jetliner. We're going to bring you a live update on that investigation, straight ahead.