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Thailand: 300 Objects Spotted By Satellite; Obama in Vatican City; New Fears Russia May Invade Ukraine

Aired March 27, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero visibility with severe turbulence and severe icing.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: nasty weather grounds search planes as Thai satellite spots as many as 300 objects. Could they be from Flight 370?

Plus, renewed speculation about the captain. His son is now speaking out.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this morning: the leader of the free world face-to-face with the leader of 1 billion Catholics. We take you live to the Vatican.

PEREIRA: Swept away. Survivors of the deadly mudslide in Washington speaking out. One woman caught up right in the middle of it. Now, the governor tells CNN the death toll is expected to rise.

Your NEW DAY continues right now.


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

PEREIRA: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to NEW DAY. And welcome to Thursday, March 27th. It's 8:00 in the East. I'm alongside Mr. John Berman who is in for Chris Cuomo.

Kate Bolduan is flying back from Australia.

As the search narrows for Malaysia Flight 370, another possible big field of debris has been spotted by satellite in the Indian Ocean. Thai satellites picked up about 300 object potentially linked to the plane, about 120 miles west of where more objects were spotted earlier this week. BERMAN: Search planes were out today but they were called back because of the bad weather. They'll have to wait before they go out again to search the area. Six ships are still out on the water searching.

Let's get more now on this potential debris spotted. Malaysia is preparing to send a delegation to Australia, including navy, air force, airline and aviation personnel.

Andrew Stevens has the latest for us live from Perth.

Hey, Andrew.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Good morning to you. Good morning, Michaela.

Yes, very disappointing day for the air search here. It was called off, but some of those aircraft did manage to get down those far southern reaches and get some time over the search zone, a couple of hours. We spoke to an Australian pilot. They returned about three or four hours ago. They said the conditions were very poor down there. Very poor visibility.

But, sadly, they've seen nothing. And that has been the story endlessly. They're not relocated by the vessels on the ship but having said that, there was perhaps the potential new breakthrough from these new satellite pictures.


STEVENS (voice-over): New this morning, Thailand's state news agency says a Thai satellite has spotted about 300 floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean, a possible debris field linked to Flight 370. These pieces located just over 120 miles from the area where a French satellite spotted 122 floating objects.

Those images released on Wednesday, that potentially debris spotted Sunday, more than 1,500 miles off the coast of Perth, Australia. That's about the distance from Washington, D.C. to Denver, Colorado. The objects scattered over 154 square miles, about the size of Denver.

This as today's aerial search for wreckage called off, severe weather in the southern Indian Ocean forcing all planes to return to base. The reconnaissance teams beaten up by turbulence, icing and low visibility in the remote search area.

Ships will continue searching despite the rough seas. The Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield on its way to Perth to be outfitted with the U.S. unmanned underwater robot and listening device to assist in the search. The full search effort expected to resume Friday.

Teams are now racing against time as new information suggests the batteries for the plane's pingers may already be dead.

CNN's safety analyst David Soucie says a mechanic who inspected Malaysian Airlines told him the batteries may have been stored improperly.


STEVENS: So the search is expected to begin tomorrow, Michaela. But at this stage, we don't know exactly when because it's still pretty rough weather we're getting reports from down in the search zone. It's important, too, to remember since this latest satellite image came out from Thailand, there's been two days of non-flying because of the weather has been so bad there.

So, any of this debris could well have been scattered over quite a wide area given the strong winds and the high seas and also the normal currents there. So, all that combines to make the job a really, really tough job even harder, Michaela.

PEREIRA: Andrew, every day that they're not flying and searching is certainly a setback for them. Thank you so much for that.

Now, aside from locating the plane, the big question all along has been whether it was lost by accident or perhaps was taken down on purpose. "USA Today" is reporting the Malaysian authorities have narrowed their investigation to Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and believe it could have been a premeditated decision to bring down the aircraft.

U.S. officials tell CNN both pilots are still being looked at but that nothing is jumping out so far on either of the men. Now, the pilot's son is defending him.

For more on all of this, let's get to Jim Clancy live in Kuala Lumpur -- Jim.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, his son Seth came out for the very first time. The family has been in seclusion. Came out for the very first time and he said, "I'm not paying any attention to all of the speculation." He said, "I know who my father is." And he said, "We understood one another, even though his father was gone on long trips that his first interview that we know of, that anyone in the family has granted since this plane disappeared on March 8th."

Meantime, the former CEO of Malaysia Airways coming out as well and remembering Captain Shah, the senior pilot on this flight, as a man who always had questioned, even as a young cadet 30 years ago. He said it was obvious he had a love of aviation. And he, too, doesn't believe the accusations, the innuendo, the speculation if you will, about his role in the disappearance of Flight 370.

But everyone says the same thing. We need to find the data recorders. You need to prove the case. You need to find out what happened in that cockpit, aboard that aircraft, what caused it to go missing and go missing so far off-course.

At the same time tonight, everybody is waiting and watching to see what comes of that search down in the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean. It's going to be tough. People know we're running out of time. Back to John Berman.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Clancy, thanks so much.

Let's talk more about that search now. Aided by these new satellite images, perhaps 300 objects in the southern Indian Ocean. We want to talk about this.

Miles O'Brien is a CNN aviation analyst and a science correspondent for "PBS NewsHour".

Mary Schiavo is the CNN aviation analyst and the former inspector general of the Department of Transportation. She's also an aviation attorney and represents victims and families after airplane disasters.

Miles, let me start with you here. Yesterday, when we got the French satellite images of 122 possible objects, your first reaction was, wow.


BERMAN: So, today, we have this Thai satellite picture, 300 possible objects. Is this also a wow?

O'BRIEN: Yes. It adds an exclamation point to the wow, I think, John. That's a debris field. I don't know what else to call that.

I'm not a photo analyst, but what I see there is a pattern of debris that's very similar. And, you know, we've been talking a lot about garbage in the ocean, which is a problem, obviously. And the separate issue we can discuss later. But I'm going to assume looking at that image that if it was in fact, a bunch of garbage from various sources, it would look a little dissimilar.

So, what I see there is something that seems to be somewhat metallic and shiny. Looks like airplane wreckage to me. I also see some surfaces that look like they're aerodynamic.

BERMAN: Right. And this is about 120 miles, we should say, from the object spotted by the French satellite. These pictures were taken one day apart.

Mary Schiavo, you know, you have investigated accidents before, air disasters. Is there any design, any model, any consistency when a plane or flight ends in the ocean about what happens to the debris, how it breaks up, what it looks like? Are these images consistent with that?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The images are consistent. And I echo what Miles said. When the plane hits the water, it's not a soft landing. Only Captain Sullenberger and Jeffrey Styles could do that.

But it breaks apart as if it hit cement and then the current starts carrying the parts far and wide. So, it's not uncommon to see parts that had traveled many, many miles and are picked up much later. I had one accident that was in the Pacific and weeks later, they were -- fishermen were finding parts and they found my client's purse weeks later.

So, it does widely disperse and the currents take it widely apart and will break it up even more.

BERMAN: Of course, the fact that these satellites were taking these pictures on Sunday and Monday, yet today on Thursday, they had to call the planes back because of bad weather. It shows the frustration, the difficulties in this search.

Miles, I want to talk about another element of this that many people think may be the most exciting clue to date. It has to do with the Inmarsat satellite data, the handshakes and partial handshake perhaps at the end of the flight for flight 370. You've really been digging in to this data. You have some questions. And if not questions, you certainly think there's a lot that's either missing or not being told.

I wonder if you can explain this to people like me who don't have the technical background you do about what we should be looking at here.

O'BRIEN: Well, first of all, you know, Inmarsat did a great job, basically turning a satellite that is a data acquisition satellite, into a tracking satellite, using some fancy mathematics. They haven't released the underlying mathematics. They've turned it over to the authorities in Malaysia. It's proprietary information. I do understand all of that.

But there are reasons -- the whole world wants to know what's going on here. And there are reasons to release some of this data. Now, what we know, however, is this half handshake or whatever you want to call it. These handshakes, by the way, are not unlike your cell phone just trying to find a cell phone tower. Anytime your cell phone is on, you may not be using it, but it's trying to find the nearest cell phone tower.

So, this satellite device is just trying to communicate, hey, I'm here and I'm available. And so what happens, though, is if for whatever reason it loses its lock on the satellite, just like your cell phone if it loses its cell tower, it's going to try to seek it out again.

And so, what we're seeing a series of these pings where it's trying to reacquire its connection to the satellite. And that could occur if the airplane was moving in some sort of drastic way or if there was some sort of power surge that reset that satellite transmitter device.

So, that last handshake as we call it, it didn't complete, if you will, is one we want to look at, because it probably takes us very close to the site of the wreckage. You know, it may not be the haystack. Could be the farm, though.

BERMAN: Right, certainly the site at impact which of course is so crucial here because the wreckage that we may or may not find, this debris that may or may not be connected to Flight 370, could be very, very far away from that moment of impact.

And, Mary, that's what I want to focus in on right now because the black box is the Holy Grail here. It will tell us potentially what was going on mechanically in that plane. The flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder maybe could give some sense of a conversation of what might be going on in that cockpit, although it may only be the last two hours of the flight there, which is a problem.

But what should our hopes be reasonably now for ever finding this black box because, look, this was 20 days ago now. The signal could be running out if it's running at all. David Soucie has got some doubts about whether it's pinging at all. Set our expectations.

SCHIAVO: Right. Well, I think if they go to where the half handshake is what we'll call it was, if that was the point of impact, you know, the black boxes don't float. And the part of the plane that -- one is back in the tail and the cockpit voice recorder, as you mentioned, might not have any data or might not have any voices at all because it's the last two hours and if the pilots were incapacitated or deceased, there would be nothing except the sounds of the engine and maybe a few clicks if the airplane did things automatically, if that's the case, if there was no more talking.

But those flight data recorders, a modern plane will have over 1,000 parameters, closer to 1,500 bits of data about the engines, the control services, the communications, the problems, what broke, what was working. And usually, you find it near the point of impact because it does not float. It goes right to the bottom.

So, that is where I would search if the debris field comes up empty. I'd go back to there and put the submersibles in there.

BERMAN: Search by site a by submersible which is how they may be left to do it if the ping wears out.


BERMAN: Mary Schiavo, Miles O'Brien -- Miles, I do want to leave with the one quote you gave us. "Wow with an exclamation point" on this new satellite image. This debris field found by Thai satellite. That is the breaking news today. We hope to learn more about that going forward.

All right. Miles, Mary, really appreciate it.


PEREIRA: All right. John, thanks so much.

President Obama and Pope Francis' highly anticipated first meeting, now one for the history books. They met for far longer than the 30 minutes scheduled. So, what exactly did they discuss?

White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is following the president. She joins us live from Rome.

Hi, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Really remarkable to see those pictures. Rare look inside the papal palace. A palace this pope has declined to live in, saying it's too ornate for him and goes against his values that he wants for the church, in his words, being poor among the poor.

It was interesting to see President Obama on the other side of that big wooden table as the pope's guest. We don't know exactly what they talked about inside for nearly an hour. But we have heard a little bit about what they wanted to discuss.

In fact, when President Obama gave an interview here to an Italian newspaper, he was almost spelling out his own policies in a way that he seemed to feel they aligned with the pope's values, talking about his efforts to raise the minimum wage, saying that closing the income gap is not just an economic issue but a moral issue. Also talking about his efforts to emphasize human rights and use diplomacy in dealing with the situation on Ukraine.

So, the meeting, it looked like started out formally in the beginning. But as they were leaving, you could see warmth between the two men. They were laughing at times. Smiling and shaking hands. We know that the president cracked a few jokes in there.

They also exchanged gifts. And the pope gave President Obama a booklet of his writings and Obama said, oh, I could probably use this when I'm deeply frustrated in the Oval Office. It might give me some strength and comfort.

He also said the pope may be the only person in the world who has to deal with more protocol. As they were leaving, in fact, President Obama asked the pope to pray for his family and Pope Francis said that he would -- Michaela and John.

BERMAN: All right. Michelle Kosinski with a beautiful shot there outside St. Peter's, traveling with the president. One of the things on the president's mind right now, very much the situation in Ukraine.

There's serious and growing concern this morning that Russia could invade the eastern part of that country. A new classified intelligence report has top officials in Washington very, very worried.

Our Barbara Starr at the Pentagon has the details.

Good morning, Barbara.


The Russians have been telling the Pentagon, don't worry. It's all just military exercises we're doing.

Now a senior U.S. military official tells me the intelligence shows no evidence, none, that the Russians are actually engaging in exercises. Instead, what the U.S. has seen is more than 30,000 Russian forces on the border with Ukraine, a build-up of additional forces further back in Russia. Altogether it will give the Russians, if they decide to move if they do, the ability to move so quickly. There would be no warning that it's coming, U.S. officials say. They have armored vehicles. They have airborne units. They have special forces, the complete capability now to move into Ukraine.

And it's because of the build-up, no sign of doing military exercises. No sign they are going back home. This is what's leading to the growing concern that they may be about to make their move, if Vladimir Putin orders it -- John.

BERMAN: Very little the U.S. and European allies could do to stop it.

All right. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon -- thanks so much.

Let's go to Christine Romans for some of the day's other top stories -- Christine.


Officials in Washington say the number of people thought to be missing and feared dead has dropped dramatically there from 90 from 176 just a day before. As many as 24 people have died. No one has been found alive in the mud or debris since the weekend. But workers on the scene insist this is still a rescue operation.

We're learning more this morning about two firefighters killed in the line of duty in Boston. Forty-three-year-old Lieutenant Edward Walsh, 33-year-old firefighter Michael Kennedy died Wednesday in a massive fast-moving nine-alarm fire at a brick brownstone. There are reports this morning the two went into the basement where the fire is believed to have started. They were trapped there when strong winds caused a back draft. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Convicted terrorist Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will be sentenced in September, just three days before the anniversary of 9/11. The son in law of Osama bin Laden was convicted in New York Wednesday, the highest ranking al Qaeda suspect ever tried in a U.S. civilian court. Abu Ghaith gave a series of fiery speeches following the 2001 attacks warning of a storm of planes to come. He faces up to life in prison.

Bank of America has agreed to pay $9.3 billion to settle claims it sold faulty mortgage bonds. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which bought the securities ahead of the financial crisis, of course. The settlement includes $6.3 billion in cash with the rest going to buy back some of those securities. Of course, homeowners have long said they'll not be made whole five years after the fact. The settlement too late for many of them.

PEREIRA: Oh, absolutely.

BERMAN: Still the ripple effect is astounding.

PEREIRA: Struggling to come back from that is a really hard prospect for a lot of folks. BERMAN: All right. Next up for us on NEW DAY: no resource being spared in the hunter for Flight 370. It is, though, a race against time to find this jet before the black box stops pinging. But could it already to be too late? We'll have the latest on the search and some new leads just ahead.

PEREIRA: And to Washington state where there is so much sadness in Snohomish County. But a tremendous story of survival. This woman was buried in her house. Somehow she survived. That remarkable story ahead in her own words.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

One hundred percent devastation. That's how Washington's governor is describing the landslide that buried a community just north of Seattle. It killed at least 24 people. We know 90 remain unaccounted for.

Robin Youngblood's house was destroyed by the landslide. She was actually inside it when it hit. But somehow she managed to survive. She shared her remarkable story with our Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Robin, first of all, I am so glad that you are OK. Walk us through what happened Saturday morning.

I understand you were sitting in your living room with a friend. All of a sudden, you heard this huge roar.

ROBIN YOUNGBLOOD, LANDSLIDE SURVIVOR: Yes, I've never heard anything like it before. I said, what the heck is that? And we walked over to the window.

There was a wall of -- it took me a second to realize it was mud and it was racing like 150 miles an hour across the far end of the valley. And I said, oh, my God and then it hit us.

COOPER: What happened when it hit you? What did it -- what did it feel like? Could you actually see the mud as it came up to the house?

YOUNGBLOOD: I didn't see it hit us. It hit so fast that we went down. We were under water and mud and we have mud in every orifice and the house was moving. And I just remember thinking, OK, Creator, if this is it, I might as well relax. And I just let myself go limp.

COOPER: How long did it go on for?

YOUNGBLOOD: Couldn't have been more than 30 seconds.

COOPER: That fast really?

YOUNGBLOOD: From the time it hit us until we landed. Yes.

COOPER: And I understand it actually ripped your house off the foundation.

YOUNGBLOOD: My house is match sticks. There's nothing left. It ripped the roof off. And that's -- I thank God for that because if the roof had still been on, the house would have filled up with mud and water. We would have drowned.

The only way we got out was the stuff out of our nose and mouth so we could breathe. But I was able to stick my way through debris and get up to the top and call for my friend from Holland, my student who was with me for a week.

And she was pinned under a tree that had fallen and I couldn't get to her. There was nothing to stand on. So I just yelled at her to dig herself out somehow. Even if she was hurt, better to be hurt and alive because I can see that the house was going to fill up with mud.

COOPER: So you were actually -- I mean underneath the mud? I mean, you were completely covered?

YOUNGBLOOD: Yes. There wasn't a dry place on my body when we got in the ambulance. They had us strip down. Everything was sodden. We were in hypothermia by that time.

COOPER: And I understand the house was actually moved a long distance. About how far?

YOUNGBLOOD: A quarter of a mile.

COOPER: That's extraordinary thing. Your house was moved a quarter of a mile in a very brief amount of time. I mean, you were so lucky to be alive.

YOUNGBLOOD: Don't I know it. I have no idea how that happened. And I have a hurt finger and lots of bruises and a torqued back but no broken bones. God knows how that happened.



PEREIRA: God knows how that happened.

BERMAN: You know, what luck, but what perseverance and strength also.

PEREIRA: It's so beautiful she got to meet the rescuer that pulled her out.

BERMAN: Fantastic.

All right. Next up for us on NEW DAY: bad weather grounding the search by air for flight 370. But resources from around the world are being used to try to find some trace of that plane. Is it enough, though? And can crews get to it before the ping on the black box goes silent.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)