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Peace Efforts Close to Collapse; Ukraine Aid Package Passes; Powerful Earthquake Hits Chile; Search for Flight 370

Aired April 2, 2014 - 05:30   ET


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Breaking news, the search for missing Malaysian jetliner moving east. The plane vanished as you know without a trace 26 days ago. Right now ships and aircraft scouring the Southern Indian Ocean looking for any sign, any wreckage, any debris, anything of Flight 370.

This morning, police giving new information on the criminal investigation into why the plane may have crashed, as frustrated families are headed into a private room by Malaysia's government. What was said, we have live team coverage on all the latest breaking details.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And another big breaking story this morning. The death toll rising after a massive earthquake just off of Chile's coast. Buildings on fire. Residents evacuating after a tsunami alert. We are very -- we are live with the very latest on that. Welcome back this morning, Wednesday morning to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

FEYERICK: And I'm Deborah Feyerick. It is now 32 minutes past the hour. And first, let's get to Chile.

The death toll there now at five after a powerful earthquake shook the northern part of the country. The quake measured, get this, 8.2 and caused major evacuations and a tsunami warning. That's now been cancelled but the damage has already been done.

Take a look at some of these pictures. Tens of thousands forced from their homes. Fires were erupting in some areas and aftershocks, several aftershocks continued late into the night.

Reporter Martin Arostegui is live in Chile with the latest.

Martin, still dark out right now, but what are you hearing, what are you being told in terms of the overall damage given that this quake did hit about 100 kilometers offshore?

AROSTEGUI: Well, again, it is difficult to assess because there is still no light. It is still -- it is still dark. And much of the electricity in the most affected areas, the cities of I Iquique and Arica, remains cut off. So we know there's been flooding. We know there's been flooding. We know that, for example, 40 fishing vessels have been destroyed by what does appear to have been a small tsunami that did enter, that did go about 200 meters, 600 feet inland. The death toll remains at five, although that is likely to rise. Damage has been done to the outlying small towns and outlying towns outside of the main cities where buildings are a lot -- a lot more rudimentary. (INAUDIBLE) a lot more damage which no one at this stage knows exactly the extent of.

FEYERICK: And we understand also -- we're looking at pictures right now. I don't know if you can see them but some store video there. A lot of things falling off the shelves as people raised to get out of there. But we do understand that there were some inmates who escaped from a prison. What do you know of that?

AROSTEGUI: Yes. A women's prison I believe in Iquique. And police authorities are saying that most of them -- most of them have been rounded up. I think some 90 escaped and police are saying that they've managed to recapture about 70 of them. Again, you know, that is what the authorities say. I think they may be painting a rosier picture than actually exists.

FEYERICK: All right. Well, it'll be interesting to see. A couple hours away from sunrise.

Martin Arostegui, thank you so much. We appreciate your firsthand reporting there.

ROMANS: All right, now to Australia where 10 planes and nine ships are out looking again today for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. It has now been 26 days since the jet simply disappeared.

And in just a few hours, Malaysia's prime minister will arrive in Perth to see the efforts firsthand. But time could be running out to locate the so-called black boxes. Their batteries may only have a few days left.

I want to get the very latest now from Atika Shubert. She's live for us this morning in Perth, Australia.

And Atika, any success so far in finding any debris today that's connected with this missing flight?

All right. We cannot hear Atika. She's in Perth for us. She's -- this is the time of morning actually -- this is the time of morning, Deb, when you start to see the planes coming back in.


ROMANS: The pilots give a briefing with the reporters to say what they saw out there, what the conditions were like, it's been one of the sort of the rhythm of this investigation so we'll try to get back with her when we can see what's happening when they're coming in from the search area. Search area has moved to the east a little bit. Coming into the search area and what those pilots are saying.

FEYERICK: What's incredible is with all that debris that is out there and there have been so many hopeful signs, but still nothing.

ROMANS: Let's go to Atika Shubert. She's in Perth for us. We have her sound back.

Atika, what are -- what are they saying? Are they finding any debris yet they can tie back to MH-370?

SHUBERT: No, not yet. We haven't had any reports of potential debris from either the ships or the planes. But the first planes are coming back now. In fact the P-8 Poseidon is on its way back from the search area. And sometimes, if the pilots are available, they will answer questions from the press. And sometimes they tell us what they've seen. If anything is sighted, we'll definitely get back to you -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Atika Shubert, thank you so much, Atika.

FEYERICK: And this morning, police in Malaysia are admitting they're no closer to figuring out just what happened to Flight 370 and what made it disappear, though they're calling it a criminal probe and that it's now collected nearly 200 statements as part of the investigation.

Jim Clancy has that part of the story from Kuala Lumpur.

Jim, police have now spent 26 days, they have been interviewing anybody who they think may have been close to the pilot, to the crew, to any of the passengers on board. Where do they go now absent any sort of information either from a black box or a wreckage found?

CLANCY: They can't go very far. I think what we have seen over the course of the past week has been a process of going back over the passenger manifest, going back over the interviews that they have, trying to piece together, trying to determine if there's anything they missed.

The police inspector general said yes, he's conducting this criminal investigation, as he calls it, but he needs to gather evidence. He said today, he told reporters at the police academy where he was at an event that, in fact, they even had explored the possibility of food poisoning on board Flight 370 as just one of the things, you know, they're trying to eliminate things.

We're not going to get a briefing this hour as we normally would. Frankly, they have told us, government officials, if we don't have anything new, it's frustrating for everyone. The prime minister, as you well know, is down on Australia. He's going to be thanking the crews that are out there conducting the search, specifically because they know on the ground, here in Kuala Lumpur.

But until and unless they recover the flight data recorders, they're not going to know the real answers, they're not going to know what happened inside the cockpit of Flight 370 -- Christine.

FEYERICK: Right. Yes. And you talk about food poisoning. You talk about there are other things that maybe there were lithium batteries that sort of knocked the pilots into unconsciousness. The decompression, that sort of high dive, so many different theories.

All right, Jim Clancy, thanks so much. We appreciate the update. ROMANS: Fire, mechanical problem, some sort of food -- I mean, we just --


ROMANS: It's all possibilities and so little evidence.

Let's bring in Indra Petersons. What we do know is we know what the weather looks like in the search zone today as they're on day 26 now looking for this flight.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. I mean, it's such an unstable part of the earth. And you're talking about the weather in this region, very tricky.

Now let's talk about what the weather looked like the last several days. Unfortunately, they had some inclement weather. You can actually see those system from just yesterday, kind of pushing through that region, that correlated to some high wave heights, some strong winds and even some poor visibility.

This is the system that's responsible for that. The good news we actually have today, this system a making its way out of the region and conditions will improve. Very easy to see those still an unstable environment. Although conditions are improving, it's not going to be a perfect picture here.

So you can actually see, and you look at the clouds as we go forward in time, definitely sending out, there's going to be periods of visibility should increase, but again just behind it that could deteriorate again, but at least in the next 48 hours or so things will improve.

Rain still expected to be in the vicinity so we cannot rule that out. What we do want to watch is the winds. Notice where these greens and yellows, this correlates to some of those stronger winds. As we forward in time, you really see those move out of the picture. So this is the best piece of news I have for you yet. Of course that correlates to those stronger wave heights.

You talk about that really increment weather and looking at those waves. That should be dying down as of course the conditions improve. But again short window, guys. Only about 48 hours.

FEYERICK: Yes. No question. And obviously the winds and the weather affects the pattern of the currents and the waves and everything else --


FEYERICK: You've got wreckage that could potentially just be fanning out to an even greater range than anybody can imagine.

PETERSONS: So many concerns in that region. Such an occurrence as well.

ROMANS: All right, thanks, Indra.

FEYERICK: Well, happening right now, tensions are rising in Ukraine as the West implements new sanctions against Russia. We're live with the latest when we come back.


FEYERICK: This morning, Ukraine is closer to getting new American support. A new aid package has passed Congress and is awaiting the president's signature. Included in that bill, tighter sanctions on Russia. This as the same time NATO is suspending all cooperation with Russia because of its annexation of Crimea.

Karl Penhaul is live in Kiev this morning.

And Karl, do you think or do the Ukrainians think that these sanctions, these moves are going to have any long-term effect on what the Russians do?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Deborah, we just got back late last night from the north eastern border of Ukraine with Russia. And there really, there is little confidence that anything that the Western powers including the United States do will affect the Russian's point of view.

The Ukrainian military up on that northeastern border is still digging in armored vehicles, mounted with canons. They're doffing in ante- aircraft guns, they're digging in battle tanks as well. Because they are taking very seriously still the threat of a possible Russian invasion that civilians as well looking, dividing themselves into self-defense committee, saying if the Russians roll in, we have to launch some kind of guerilla war against them even old ladies coming up to the Ukrainian troops doing their bit as well. Bringing up jars of pickles, jars that preserve right cooking well as well.

All the preparations on that northeastern border are for war. So there's a great distrust by ordinary Ukrainians that the West is really doing anything significant to halt the Russians, to stop them in their tracks. Many people just say the West is wagging they're fingers, why aren't they doing anything concrete?

And you asked that question, and of course, the Ukrainians realize that the West including the United States has no stomach for a shooting match with the Russians, but also at the same time, the Ukrainians doubt whether the West really has any stomach to get embroiled in an economic or a trade war with Russia because Russia in many sense holding the economic card as well.

The question of natural gas. Around half of Ukraine's natural gas comes from Russia. About 30 percent to western Europe. And so the West doesn't want to jeopardize that even just earlier this week, Russia's already said it's going to increase natural gas prices to Ukraine 40 percent. That's going to hit the Ukrainians hard in the pocket. And still, that eastern border, Russian troops continue to mass according to NATO and U.S. officials -- Deborah.

FEYERICK: Yes. Really using energy and the flow of it as a weapon against the Ukrainians by the Russian.

All right, Karl Penhaul for us, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Yes, and their gas bills just went up 40 percent just like that in Ukraine.


ROMANS: Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us now.

Hi, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Hey, how you doing, Christine? I'm waiting for that narrative to come out of Russia about all the divestitures of money there that you were telling us about a couple of weeks ago. That $60 billion out in March, right?


CUOMO: It's almost equal to everything that happened last year. Maybe they'll have their own economic scenario to deal with, maybe that will change the politics. Maybe time is working in favor of diplomacy there.

This morning, we're going to touch on that story obviously. We're also going to be following two breaking news stories. The first is an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Chile. We'll give you the latest from there. At least five people have been killed, but it's very early. There was a tsunami warning issued in -- stretched all the way to Hawaii so we'll take you through all of that. Show you what's going on in that country. What it'll take to recover.

And of course, we're going to check in with the search for Flight 370. There is some new information coming out of the investigation. The nature of the investigation itself. Why is there an insistence on it being criminal? What do they now know about the pilots? Or better to say, what do they not know? What is this about the food on the aircraft that's now under consideration?

We're going to look into that as well. We have our experts and correspondents on the ground everywhere that is relevant. We're going to take you through our special maps and show you were there could have been chances to pick up this plane on radar and how they were missed and why.

We're also going to be following that GM recall. There were big hearings and it's more right now about what isn't being said.

ROMANS: Right.

CUOMO: Guys, than I think it is about what is being said. So we're going to be all over that story. I believe the GM story is just the beginning.

ROMANS: I do, too. And the scrutiny on the CEO who has spent her career at GM, but now gets to say this is the new GM and we're going to fix this and we're going to be more pro-safety. That's interesting.

Thanks, Chris.

FEYERICK: Yes. We'll be right back.


FEYERICK: And this morning, the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is shifting east. Ten planes and nine ships scouring an area about 926 miles from Perth. But with this plane now missing for 26 days, police in Malaysia are admitting they may never know just what happened on board.

Joining us now from London is former British Airways pilot, Alastair Rosenschein. He's an aviation consultant.

And Alastair, one of the big things here is that even if they find debris, they may not even find the wreckage because they don't know how the plane broke up, they don't know how far of a distance the currents may be taking all these various pieces. The haystack -- we don't even know where it is -- may be getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. Is that -- is that a fair assumption?

ALASTAIR ROSENSCHEIN, FORMER BRITISH AIRWAYS PILOT: I think that's a very fair assumption. But I might add that the floating debris may well have clues as to what happened. You can see smoke residues or fire residue, even explosive residue. And you can see buckling of metal plates, you know, the aluminum body of the aircraft. There are a number of clues that may turn up would be floating debris.

And also, it does of course narrow down the search area somewhat from the entire Indian Ocean or at least a large part of it to a much smaller area. So no, floating debris is very important. It's also very important to actually say, yes, the aircraft did come down, it did come down here.

ROMANS: Yes. Alastair, let me ask you, we're talking about narrowing down the search area, but at the same time, this criminal investigation, this criminal probe in Malaysia not able to narrow down any potential scenarios, including we're hearing this morning, the potential of maybe food poisoning on that flight. They're actually looking into the food on that plane. That is really an interesting new wrinkle.

ROSENSCHEIN: Well, first of all, it's right and proper that all these things are looked into. And of course the criminal investigation. The food poisoning one sounds a little unusual to me because to knock out effectively both pilots at the same time and not to make a radio call for a return to base is a most strange one indeed. I don't think I would -- it's not so plausible.

ROMANS: You wouldn't spend too much time on that theory?

ROSENSCHEIN: No, I wouldn't. ROMANS: All right, Alastair Rosenschein. Thank you.


FEYERICK: More news coming up, top of the headlines, right after the break.


FEYERICK: We now know the NSA was searching the content of American e-mails and other communications, not just bulk data. The nation's top intelligence official admitting that in a letter to lawmakers saying it was an effort to collect intel on foreign terrorists. Critics say this exposes a loophole in surveillance allowing the government to search and eavesdrops on citizens without a warrant.

ROMANS: Today the president heads to Michigan to push one of his top priorities, raising the minimum wage. He'll speak to students at the University of Michigan this afternoon and calling on Congress to increase the Federal minimum to $10.10 an hour. A big priority for this president. After that he heads to Chicago for two Democratic Party fundraisers.

All right. Stock market gains around the world at this hour. And a cautious push here to all-time highs. Futures are higher. If that holds, we'll be at levels never before seen in the S&P 500.

A focus on GM stock today as well. It's taken a major hit during all these recalls. Look at that. But interesting to note, sales have not been hurt by these recalls and by, you know, the fact that it's having to defend itself from this ignition problem. Numbers released yesterday showed GM selling 4 percent more cars this March than last. Its CEO Mary Barra heads to Capitol Hill again today to answer questions about its recall, what it knew when.

FEYERICK: Certainly good news for GM and Mary Barra.

OK. Well "NEW DAY" starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We expect about another 8.8, 8.9 earthquake here sometime in the future.


CUOMO: Breaking news. A deadly 8.2 earthquake rocks the country of Chile shaking buildings, sparking fires, forcing the evacuation of thousands. A tsunami advisory stretching to Hawaii. We're live with the latest.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking, police in Malaysia acknowledge they may never know what caused the disappearance of Flight 370. This as they ramp up the investigation. Now reportedly looking at whether the airplane's food was poisoned. MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: In the hot seat, another round of grilling for GM CEO today. She answers questions before the Senate. Angry family speaking out. Did they get answer?

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.