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Malaysian Press Conference with New Developments; Most Promising Leads Yet in Search for Flight 370

Aired April 7, 2014 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- detected overnight. Let's listen to the Malaysian defense minister.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To start off the press conference this evening, I hereby call in Hishammuddin bin Hussein, acting minister of transport, to deliver his statement.

Sir, if you would please do us the honor.

HISHAMMUDDIN BIN HUSSEIN, ACTING MINISTER OF TRANSPORT: Ladies and gentlemen, it has been 31 days since MH370 went missing. As we enter this new week of the search operations, there have been a significant lead in the search for the missing aircraft. As stated by the Joint Agency Coordinating Center in Perth earlier today, the towed pinger locator deployed from HMAS Ocean Shield has detected signals consistent with those emitted by aircraft black boxes.

While they may be a step closer to us finding MH-370, there are still many steps to be taken before we can positively verify that these signals are from MH-370.

This morning, Prime Minister Najib Razak had a call from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who updated him on the signals detected. According to the joint agency coordination center in Perth, two separate signal detections have occurred 1,650 kilometers northwest of Perth within the northern part of the defined search area. The first detection was held for approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes. HMAS Ocean Shield then lost contact before conducting a turn and attempting to reacquire the signal. The second detection on the return leg was held for approximately 13 minutes. On this occasion, two distinct pinger returns were audible. Significantly, as stated by Angus Houston, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.

Separately, the Chinese ship Haixun 01 has also detected similar signals twice. In line with nations' consistent stand on verifying and corroborating evidence since day one of the operations, I would strongly urge all of the parties concerned to treat this information responsibly and to give time and space for the authorities to conduct further verification. Malaysia also concurs with the statement by Prime Minister Abbott that all parties must be cautious about unconfirmed findings and making conclusions.

I've also personally spoken to Air Chief Marshal, retired, Angus Houston earlier today, who has confirmed the above and has briefed me on the ongoing operations based on information received from all parties concerned. Despite all this, we are cautiously hopeful that there will be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours.

As I have elaborated last Saturday, the government, in order to streamline and strengthen our ongoing efforts, has established three ministerial committees, namely, the Next of Kin committee, led by Hamzah Zainnudin, the deputy minister of foreign affairs; the Technical Committee, led by Abdul Aziz Kaprawi, the deputy minister of transport; and the Deployment of Assets Committee, led by Abdul Rahim Bakri, the deputy minister of defense. These three committees have started their respective tasks and will be reporting to the public on their findings in due course.

I would also like to confirm the efforts to appoint an independent investigator in charge, based on ICAO standards, to lead an investigation team is under way. Three groups have been established, namely, an air-worthiness group to look at issues such as maintenance records, structures, and also of systems; an operations group to examine things such as flight recorders, operations and meteorology, and medical and human factors group to investigate issues such as psychology, pathology and survival factors. We are in the process of identifying to include accredited countries into this investigation team.

Ladies and gentlemen, the new developments over the last few hours has been the most promising lead we have had. I urge all Malaysians and the international community to unite in their prayers and not give up hope. We will continue with all our efforts to find MH-370. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, ladies and gentlemen, the Q&A session will start with the local media first. Please, second row.

REPORTER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). How reliable are the signals then, from the briefing that you have been getting? How confident you are that we will conclude this search with a positive result?

HUSSEIN: Unless corroborated and verified, we have been through a real roller coaster ride based on leads that we have received. But as usual, some leads are much more positive than others. Speaking to Angus Houston earlier today, I am more optimistic than some of the leads that we have had, so I would like everybody to continue to pray. And this is something that is much more positive than others, but yet, I'm very cautious about saying any more than that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Sir. Yes. Row three. Yes, please. Would you stand up and identify yourself, please, sir?

REPORTER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). Should the black box being recovered from the aircraft, who will have the ownership over the black box, and who will lead the investigation of the black box? HUSSEIN: I have spoken to the attorney general this morning. We will follow ACAO practices, and we will inform the developments in respect of investigations based on whatever we find in due course. But our focus right now is to find the black box first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Yes. Last row.

REPORTER: Hi. Su Ling (ph) from (INAUDIBLE). Regarding the ping detector, it's detected in the loneliest place on earth. So, what else could it be if it not belongs to the MH? And also, since it is also consistent with the frequency, is there any possibility it could be anything else but the black box?

And also, secondly, is there a possibility for the plane to have landed on the water in one piece, giving it a few minutes to actually probably deflate the lifeboats, and also, if so, is the SARS operation also focusing on looking for survivors on life crafts and not just focusing on looking for the black box?

HUSSEIN: I will only answer the part about the survivors, because the others are all speculative and very technical. Whether there could be other signals from other objects but from the black box, we will know in due time.

As far as survivors are concerned, that's always been our priority, and I've said that over and over again. But the leads that we have received, either from satellite images or from other sightings, did not indicate or show survivors. But I have always said, especially to the families, miracles do happen, and if we are just still hoping against hope, we continue to hope and pray for survivors.

REPORTER: Do you think that the ping --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. Could you stand up please? Thank you.

REPORTER: Could you confirm CNN's report quoting a senior Malaysian government officer that MH-370 at least skirted around the Indonesian air space before it makes journey to the southern Indian Ocean? Apparently the second route is designed to avoid the radar detection?

And also, back to the question just now, on the black box. If Australia manages to recover the black box, you're saying we are not sure yet if Malaysia's going to take over the investigation or Australian?

HUSSEIN: I said that it depends on the international practices, and we will go back to the ACAO on that. In regards to the radar, it is untrue. I've got the chief of defense force Malaysia to contact his counterpart in Indonesia, and they have confirmed that they had no sighting of the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Second row back.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). What is the status in the investigation on the two pilots as well as the flight simulator that has been seized? And have police had any leads regarding the background checks of the crew and passengers?

HUSSEIN: No change from the last indication on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Please. Behind you, sir. The lady, yes. Your question, please.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). When will the families be taken to the site, if in case upon finding the black box, how soon will they be taken?

HUSSEIN: We'll go over to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not so sure about the date line at the moment. What we are looking at is the wreckage. Once we find, then we will decide, from that day onwards, we'll give a certain date to bring all these next of kins to Perth to a minimum base, which we will also decide also later. We will announce it as soon as we set up these date line sort of time for the next of kins to be sent to Perth. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Could you stand up, please, and identify yourself? thank you.

REPORTER: TV China. My question is more to the incomplete handshake maybe eight minutes after the sixth handshake. Is there any new information we can get from this new data? And, for instance, maybe the more exact route of the aircraft or another? Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The area where the Ocean Shield and the Haixun is operating now searching now looking for the pinging or detection of the black boxes are taking into account the last -- that's been taken into consideration. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we go to the foreign ones. Yes. On the corner there, please. Please.

REPORTER: Hi. My name is King Chiang (ph) from Sky News. In light of the latest developments, have any of the family members expressed a specific desire to go to Perth? Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what we have been doing at the moment, to identify the real next of kins. So, the thing is that at the moment, we have a number of next of kins. We have almost like 500, 600 people. We are making sure to identify one by one to get the power of attorney to next move, because we are very uncertain at the moment whether we still will get bodies in the wreckage and all sort of things. Depending on that, we'll decide later. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the next one, please. The one in the blue T- shirt. Yes, thank you.

REPORTER: Thank you. From "The Wall Street Journal". So, I have just one clarification. Sorry? One small clarification first, then a question. Twice this evening you mentioned ACAO, are you talking about ICAO?

HUSSEIN: ICAO, yes. Thank you so much for clarifying that. REPORTER: The question that I have is all the experts (INAUDIBLE), if you notice the Australian press conference this morning by the investigators, everybody seems to be convinced that the aircraft is lost and there are no survivors. For the next processes to start, you know, because all the families have certain banking issues and insurance issues, at what stage will Malaysia come out and say, OK, we accept that the aircraft is lost and there could be no survivors?

HUSSEIN: I'm aware of all those issues that have been mentioned in our discussions with the families have indicated many requests, some conflicting. Some do not want to speak about claims, insurance or otherwise, or bank accounts that have been frozen, but there are others who want to have more details about what happens in the event that we do have some signals from the black box.

It is a very fine line that we are walking. And so far, we have done that walk through that very fine line. It really depends very much on how we move forward on deciding on the timeline and how the families cope with the situation. Right now, our main focus is on this new lead that we have. This is something very positive and this is something that is ongoing as we speak. I really do hope that we find something concrete out of this so that matters that you have asked for just now could be implemented.

Nevertheless, parallel to our search-and-rescue, we have formed committees. We have formed material -- ministerial committees, we have formed international inquiries, we have linked up with international agencies -- AAIB, NTSB, BEA of France and also the CAAC, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, and the AAID, the Accident Investigation Department in China, have all come on board. So, of all these agencies and committees had been set up in the event that we do trigger what needs to be done as asked by you.

But the actual timeline, I personally would like to engage the families and see what would be the best time for us to do that. But I feel, to be fair to them, the finding debris, survivors, if at all, and the black box would be a very significant point in time as far as timeline goes.


REPORTER: Good evening. I'm Megumi, Japan Business Press. Maritime authority has been telling the world that you will continue to the search as long as it takes. However, in terms of your case of the Air France 447, they only took place for a month from the beginning due to the cost.

HUSSEIN: Which one, sorry?

REPORTER: The Air France 447, the search first, they took place for one month and temporarily is closed because of the cost.


REPORTER: Then later on, they spent the next year, following year. Actually, who exactly is bearing this cost for the international massive search? Is it Malaysia government or Malaysia Airlines? In fact, the financial status of Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines has been quite severe. What is your comment that actually 53 percent of GDP and then Malaysia Airlines, the deficit of 3013 (ph) has been 1.2 billion ringgit, has been actually three years consecutively a deficit. Who exactly is bearing?

And then, secondly, the CEO of Malaysia airlines, we have passed one month already. How do you see this tragedy affecting your airlines not only financially but also on the basis of the reputation of the airline? And do you intend to resign because of that sooner or later? Thank you very much.

AHMAD JAUHARI YAYHA, CEO, MALAYSIA AIRLINE: First and foremost, obviously, this incident has affected the airline, but the investigation is still ongoing. We have a lot of work to do, OK? The airline obviously needs to get itself together, and if you notice experience of other airline, you can take them up to about six months to recover from what you call a market reputation issue. And we intend to do that. We intend to do that quicker.

As far as my own personal position, I have work to do here.

HUSSEIN: If you speak to Jean-Paul Troadec, who was the head of the French investigation team, he will be first to say they didn't stop after two months. It took two years before they found the black box. And we are working very closely with Jean Troadec to see what we need to do to go that distance. Even this morning, during the bilateral between the two prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, there were new information and offer of cooperation, with regards to what Singapore went through with the Silk Air.

So, as we go along, I think there will be so many more people who come forward to assist us, and I'm working very closely with Minister Lee of Singapore to see what they actually did with the Silk Air crash, and they had no hesitation and definitely didn't talk about dollars and cents when looking for the aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. All right. You, sir.

REPORTER: Thank you for taking my question. Joe Johns with CNN.


REPORTER: The location of the pulse detected by Haixun 01 seems to be 650 kilometers from the Ocean Shield's find. How do you account for that? Chinese aircraft also photographed objects over the last day or so. Is there any reason to believe that has to do with the plane?

HUSSEIN: Doesn't matter, as long as we find it. And I think both locations, whether it is found by the Chinese vessel or the signals that came from the Australian Ocean Shield, the main point is to make sure that every possible asset that is able to identify those signals, and those signals belong to MH-370, becomes established. So, it doesn't matter whether we need to -- I say that they're so different because we have not even found the black box yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. One last question from the lady there, please. Thank you. Could you stand up and identify yourself please?

REPORTER: Christine Negroni, ABC News, New York.


REPORTER: I have two questions. The first is, when we last spoke, I asked you about that route that the airplane had taken and that the families had been shown some slides and that some documents had been presented showing that the plane headed in a westerly direction, then pivoted, did a little zigzag, pivoted north and turned back south. Can you confirm whether that was indeed the direction of the airplane?

And my second question is, most accident investigations usually involve one or two investigative bodies. You've mentioned now five. Is there a reason why Malaysia thinks the input of so many investigative agencies would be beneficial? In America, we would say that's trying to design a horse by committee. What would be the benefit of that?

HUSSEIN: Well, I'll just quote Prime Minister Abbott, when he said that this is the most difficult search in human history. It means it is unprecedented. It's never been done before. So, no matter how many agencies it takes, what do we benchmark it against? So, it's very irresponsible to judge what we have right now. The more experts we have, the better, in a situation where it is so unprecedented. And that quote came from the Prime Minister of Australia, not from Malaysia.

And as far as the route that you mentioned, that question was actually answered by Director Azohar (ph) two pieces ago.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. That concludes this session --


BERMAN: The Malaysian defense minister on the detection of pings by an Australian vessel off the coast of Perth. He says he is cautiously hopeful that there will be positive developments in days, if not hours. And he calls the detection of these pings the most promising lead we've had yet.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And he says how reliable are those signals, he was asked. He said this has been a roller coaster ride, no question, each detail, but this, this is something that they are the most pleased about trying to get in terms of solving this mystery.

Let's bring in senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. He's in Kuala Lumpur for us this morning. This is, you know, this is an investigation team that has really been following loose ends for more than three weeks now. This seems to be the most -- the most solid lead they've had.

NIC ROBERSTON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the fact that he says that he's hopeful even within hours gives an indication perhaps he's getting more from the lead of the Australian investigation and Angus Houston of what he's discovering.

He had said in the press conference in Australia, the Air Commodore there, that it was perhaps days before they would get a clarification. And it seems that the transport minister here feels even more optimistic than that. So perhaps he's had a more detailed briefing than that that's been made public so far.

I think that was a very interesting point. Also, they're confirming again that the aircraft didn't fly over Indonesian air space, but he didn't answer the question about what we have heard from other government officials there, that this was intentional on behalf of who was flying the aircraft.

BERMAN: It was sort of a non-denial denial there, Nic. He did not deny that it skirted Indonesia. He said Indonesian radar did not pick up anything, which, of course, wasn't really the question there.

Just to bring everyone up to speed on the developments that have been happening over the last couple hours here. An Australian naval vessel towing an American-made towed pinger locator has detected signals consistent with those that could be coming from the black boxes of Flight 370. One detection was over two hours long, one detection was about 13 minutes.

And Nic Robertson, again, who is with us from Kuala Lumpur, this detection was about 370 miles from where a Chinese vessel had detected pings over the weekend. And this Malaysian defense minister, he was asked about that.

ROBERSTON: He was, and he dismissed it in a very cursory way. He said it doesn't matter if that debris that was spotted not far from where the Haixun on Friday and Saturday picked up those pings. It didn't matter, he said, that the Haixun's detection on Friday and Saturday were so far from the Australian detection of today and yesterday. For him, the most important thing, he said, focusing on just finding those black boxes, identifying them.

And an interesting question he was asked as well about when do you draw a line under this? And he really made it clear that his reference was going to be the families, but he was going to want to have that physical, the evidence of the black boxes being properly identified, the ruling out of any possibility of survivors as well as the sort of physical evidence of the wreckage of the aircraft before he will draw a line under it.

But again, really referencing the families as being -- wanting to take his lead from them and when they're ready as well. It does indicate how sensitive it is here. But also, again, there are things in the investigation that, perhaps, he's not as familiar with. He doesn't want to get into the technical details, he said.

ROMANS: Nic Robertson for us this morning in Kuala Lumpur, again covering this press conference and this breaking news on the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We're going to give you all of those developments and all of the new details from this press conference when we come back.


ROMANS: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of the search for flight 370. Officials now calling these latest details their most promising lead yet. Here's what we're talking about, two separate signals consistent with black box frequencies detected overnight by a U.S. Navy pinger locator being towed by an Australian ship. An American underwater drone now being called in to assist with the search. These waters are 2.8 miles deep.

BERMAN: And just moments ago, we heard the Malaysian defense minister say he was cautiously hopeful, cautiously hopeful there will be positive developments in days, if not hours.


BERMAN: So, they could be coming soon, which is why you have to stick with CNN. "NEW DAY" is covering all the latest breaking news right now.


HUSSEIN: The new developments over the last few hours has been the most promising lead we have had.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. First the Chinese, now the Australians pick up an underwater signal that may be coming from Flight 370. They're calling it the most promising lead yet. The race now to find it before the black box batteries die.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New information this morning. Officials say the plane never entered Indonesia airspace and may have been doing so to deliberately to avoid radar. We break down what this could mean.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking overnight, remembering a Hollywood legend. Mickey Rooney, once the biggest star in the world, has passed. We remember his remarkable career that spanned an unbelievable nine decades.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.