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Search Area Grows Again for Flight 370; Gunmen Seize Police Station in Ukraine; Obama's Visit to Malaysia Has New Spotlight

Aired April 13, 2014 - 06:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST: Well, just as we thought the search area for missing Flight 370 was narrowing, we're learning this morning it is actually growing again. So why is the Australian prime minister so confident? The black box search, is it really within reach?

CHRISTI PAUL, CO-HOST: Leave the center of town and take cover in your apartment. That is the warning this morning from Ukraine's interior minister as pro-Russian militants continue their advances. And now Secretary Kerry is warning Russia to back off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can't keep us down, and these kind of events, these terrorist acts that keep happening, you know, we need to rise above them.


BLACKWELL: Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the Boston bombing. Today, runners remember the terror and prepare to honor the fallen in this year's race. Your NEW DAY starts now.

PAUL: Take a nice deep breath, a good exhale out this morning, as it is Sunday. And it's -- OK, let's get it together here.

BLACKWELL: Center yourself.

PAUL: I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Six o'clock here on the East Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

You know, the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is growing, and it's growing more desperate. It's has been five days since crews last detected what may have been a ping from the airliner. And many fear the worst, that the batteries inside those black boxes, at least the locator beacons, the pingers, may be dead, and the jet possibly may never be found.

PAUL: Yes. I mean, today the search area has expanded yet again, by 43 percent, in fact. It was about 15,000 or 16,000 yesterday. Today it's 22,000 square miles. That's about the size of Maryland and Vermont combined, just to give you some perspective.

Now, just yesterday the search area had shrunk, as I said, to 16,000 square miles. That was the smallest size so far.

BLACKWELL: Today, 12 planes, 14 ships are scouring the southern Indian Ocean in a dire attempt to find any sign of the plane, and that search grows more complicated by the hour. Currents in the Indian Ocean can move a piece of debris up to 25 miles in just a single day.

PAUL: Also not getting any smaller: the list of suspects. The country's transportation minister is once again saying no one can be ruled out until those black boxes are found.

BLACKWELL: Well, for more, let's bring in CNN's Erin McLaughlin. She is live in Perth, Australia.

The search about this time every day wraps up, at least the aerial search. What's happening today?


Well, the search for those elusive pings is continuing. As far as we know the Ocean Shield and the British vessel, the HMS Echo, continue to comb the waters for any signs of the black box pinger.

Efforts by air as well. Today, there were surveillance planes overhead, trying to pick up any pings from the sonobuoys that they have deployed out onto the waters.

But as far as we know, it's been silent since Tuesday. Authorities have long said they want to exhaust this effort. They want to be absolutely certain the black box pinger battery has completely expired before they deploy the underwater vehicle, the Bluefin-21 provided by the United -- the United States Navy to go and find the actual wreckage. The question is when. At this point, given the fact that it has been silent for some days, will they feel comfortable in making that assumption -- Victor.

PAUL: I wanted to ask you, Erin, do you know why they expanded the search area after they had narrowed it yesterday?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they didn't give us a specific reason. Every day they've been refining this search area based on their analysis of the oceanic drift (ph). Keep in mind, this is the search area for the debris, and today they expanded it by some 6,000 square miles, which may sound like a lot.

But considering that the current search area is about a quarter of what it was some ten days ago, it's really not that much. While they have made a lot of progress in terms of narrowing down the search field, what they haven't done is made a lot of progress in terms of finding any debris from the plane. Despite hours and hours and hours of scouring the ocean, they have yet to find a single piece.

But then again, it is some 36 days since this plane went missing, and they have some 36 days of oceanic drift to contend with -- Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Erin McLaughlin for us live in Perth, Australia. Erin, thank you.

PAUL: Now let's talk about this with Mary Schiavo. She's a CNN aviation analyst, former inspector general with the U.S. Transportation Department.

BLACKWELL: We have David Soucie with us, as well, a CNN safety analyst and author of "Why Planes Crash."

Good morning to both of you. And first to you, Mary. I'll ask you the question that Christi just put to air. Why do you believe this search area is growing?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think probably what they did is they were continuing to refine their data. They have algorithms that they apply to where those pings are located, and based on that they estimate where it could be from each ping. It could be, you know, five or so miles distance and how many miles deep, and they keep refining that data.

So I suspect, with the absence of any more pings from any sonobuoys, they've got those four pings that they have. They're just doing their best to try to calculate where it might be in relation to those four pings. Not an exact science, unfortunately.

PAUL: You know, David, just yesterday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had said the search was, quote, "narrowing" and that he was confident they were going to find the black box.

Now on day 37, as we sit here, we're getting all these conflicting reports and these messages. What do you make of this investigation? And we know that things change during investigations, but this has been 37 days of ups and downs and twists and turns. Would you have expected them to have something more concrete by now?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I think that there's a bit of confusion, at least in my mind, right now. They're not -- they're not really being specific when they say they expand the search. Is it the air search that they've expanded or is it the search for the black box?

Because the black box, from what I've got, information-wise, is that it's actually stayed the same. It hasn't gone anywhere. It's the air search, the drift that's gotten larger, and that would make sense to me. Because by now the ocean has spread the drift, spread the debris out, if there is debris, has spread it out. So they would have to increase that search size, of course less which areas they've already searched. But that would make sense to me if we defined it as two different search areas. But the ping are I would -- I'm pretty confident that has remained the same.

BLACKWELL: So Mary, today at this news conference, the acting transportation minister says that the attorney general is in London, the Malaysian attorney general is in London discussing, and it is the quote, "who actually has custody over the black box" with the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization and other legal experts.

Do you expect there will be a fight over custody of the black boxes, once those are retrieved?

SCHIAVO: Well, not if the Malaysians are smart about it. I mean, the treaty does technically, the international civil aviation organization agreements, which all aviation nations agree to comply with, does give Malaysia the primary authority.

However, there can be differences on that, and if Australia -- and I don't think Australia would do this, technically, they claim it's theirs because it's nearest to them or there's some dispute over who could actually do it, then theoretically, I guess, ICAO could weigh in and have an opinion on just who should have that.

But given what I've heard in that the Malaysians have already said they don't have the capability of analyzing that black box, I am fairly confident they will have to call in one or all of four nations, which would be Australia, Britain, France, and the United States. Those are the four countries that could realistically do that work on the black box. And it would be a huge mistake for Malaysia to take it and try to work on it themselves, because they've already said they don't have the expertise.

PAUL: David, what do you make of the back and forth, too, about the passengers, the crew, the pilots? You know, one minute they're cleared. The next minute everybody's a suspect. Do you think that they would have more information on them and be able to even release more to us, to get more information maybe from the public about some of these people? It doesn't seem like they've done that. Or is that just not protocol?

SOUCIE: Yes, well, protocol is something I haven't seen a lot of from the Malaysian government actually. There's -- even this morning when the Malaysian prime minister, the minister of transport had said this morning that "I don't see that any place chief could exonerate or make a determination on these passengers as to whether they're -- nefarious intent was carried out by them or not." I'm not sure how he put that exactly, but the point is, is that he's referring to the police chief as though they have their own direction, their own place to go and have their own reports going on.

And it just doesn't seem -- maybe there's something I don't understand about the Malaysian government, but in the United States, that wouldn't happen. The inspector in charge would be the one communicating. And it's been very confusing from the beginning, not only from me but can you imagine the families and what they're going through, with trying to get all this different information put into place.

PAUL: Exactly. Exactly, that's why I think for them.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Tormenting is the word that some of them have used, as this goes on and on and on.

Mary Schiavo, David Soucie, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We'll continue to talk throughout the morning.

SOUCIE: Thank you, Victor, Christi. PAUL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: The tensions escalate in another part of the world, Ukraine, amid reports of pro-Russia gunmen storming government buildings. Look at this video. Just grabbing this man by the throat. We'll have more of the video and a report from the region. This story is still developing at this hour.

PAUL: And think about this: President Obama prepares to visit Malaysia, right in the heart of the search for the missing plane. No doubt something he had not imagined when this trip was planned. We have that report ahead.


PAUL: You hear it there, the sounds of gunfire. Can you hear the cheers, too? Cheering "Moscow, Crimea, Russia." That's what you're seeing and hearing on the streets of several cities in Eastern Ukraine this weekend.

BLACKWELL: Pro-Russia groups wearing mismatched combat fatigues stormed a police station, seized hundreds of weapons. Meanwhile, Ukraine is sending in troops to tackle this situation.

Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh joins us on the phone now from Sloviansk.

Nick, we saw that video. Has more violence been reported this morning?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): That's certainly the case, according to the interior minister. Now he announced what he called an anti-terror (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to take on the pro-Russian militants in the town I just left.

They haven't had much success because those same protesters are still in control of the secret -- security service building and the police station that they took yesterday. They're still armed and everyone there remarkably calm. So whatever operation has been launched -- and we have seen helicopters in the skies (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- that operation's not had the success of removing the armed men inside those buildings. In fact, the interior minister himself said that the security services are now regrouping.

So we're in a difficult situation here, because clearly for the first time, Ukraine has chosen to use force against pro-Russian militants after -- in Crimea, being highly impactive, and after much international reprovals, trying to avoid bloodshed here.

But now as we see a series of coordinated moves across buildings, Government buildings, police stations, being taken by protesters, often with pro-Russian militants backing them up, which the State Department says addressed and behaved extraordinarily similarly to those who are anchored in Crimea. Of course many people in the crowd here insist everyone involved is purely local and there are no outside forces assisting. We are seeing a very dangerous, new development here. Many people wondering if this is the beginning of some broader move to try and occupy or remove parts of eastern Ukraine away from the mainland, or whether we're seeing slow decisions by local groups of people crying out for independence or referendums to bring them closer towards Russia. Very worrying last 24 hours here, Victor.

PAUL: Nick, I wanted to ask you to expand on that a little bit. As we watch this, we're wondering, are the people, the pro-Russian protesters in these cities, were they there all along and they were just, you know, kind of silent, because they were under Ukrainian control? Or are these protesters that have come from other places and are moving further east in the Ukraine?

WALSH: It's very hard to tell specifically and prove, but I've had lots of locals try and prove me that they are from that town, in particular. Frankly there's no reason to doubt that much of the way, because they seem very comfortable. They seem to know where they are. You're not seeing them coached (ph) from outside.

So it does seem that a lot of these protesters are local in many ways. In fact, one of the checkpoints on the highway from the main city of Donetsk out to Sloviansk, a man pulled out his I.D. and showed, "Look, I come from the village just down the road," showing his birth place on there, as well.

So there's certainly a lot of local support for this. The question is, has that been coordinated and fomented from outside or is this entirely a grassroots movement? You have to ask yourself how is it possible that in so many towns, similar moves, all backed up with similarly clothed pro-Russian militants. It can't be happening without some broader coordination.

Some suggest it's those inside the Donetsk administration building we'd seen a few days ago running all this, although of course the U.S. State Department and others much more suspicious about the Kremlin.

BLACKWELL: Wow. The violence there is ramping up fast. Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh on the phone for us from Sloviansk, Ukraine.

Thank you, Nick.

PAUL: Meanwhile, Vice President Biden is going to be traveling to Kiev on April 22, next Sunday, to meet Ukrainian leaders.

BLACKWELL: The White House said in a statement, "The vice president will underscore the United States' strong support for a united, democratic Ukraine that makes its own choices about its future path."

And speaking of the White House, no doubt the president hopes that, by the time he arrives in Malaysia, they will have located Flight 370. Either way, this obviously this is not what he envisioned when he agreed to visit Kuala Lumpur.


PAUL: Well here's some, let's call it ironic timing. Later this month, the president, President Obama, is visiting Malaysia.

BLACKWELL: Yes. He was hoping to point to Malaysia as a mostly Muslim nation that is ramping up economically, opening up politically, you know, give them a little shout out.

PAUL: That's a little bit tougher now, whether they've found the plane or not by the time the president arrives. Here's CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last October, U.S. President Barack Obama postponed a trip to Malaysia, due to Washington's government shutdown crisis.

Now as he prepares for his rescheduled visit later this month, Malaysia is reeling from a crisis of its own. The missing airliner, MH-370, has thrust this mostly Muslim country into the international spotlight and put the party that has controlled the government for decades suddenly on the defensive.

The forces of mass media, carefully controlled in the past, are beginning to assert themselves in new ways.

It's rush hour in Kuala Lumpur, and evening drive talk radio at this English-language station is filled with chatter about the missing plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Tom back on with Caroline and Ezra right on the evening edition. We're asking you, one month since the disappearance of Flight MH-370, what type of impact do you think it's had on Malaysia's image?

JOHNS: It's been going on for weeks. Callers are concerned about the government's sometimes contradictory messages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country needs to have a more coherent story, more for the facts and it must be done in a more proper way.

JOHNS: The constant drumbeat on radio and television, and newspapers and on social media, is starting to take its toll on the government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the people that I speak to, everybody has got a pretty bad perception of the people in charge of this whole incident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have been outraged. People have been upset. There's a lot of empathy and sympathy and frustration.

JOHNS: A recent poll here showed 50 percent of respondents dissatisfied with the way the government has handled the missing plane crisis. Forty-three percent said they approved of the government's conduct, and 7 percent were not sure.

IBRAHIM SUFFIAN, DIRECTOR, MERDEKA CENTER: The government over many years have been respected by the people. And I think this crisis has brought about a kind of realization of the limits of the capacity of the Malaysian government in handling this particular crisis.

JOHNS: While the polling numbers track with general political attitudes in Malaysia's urban areas, and even though the majority party's base is rural, the intensely focused attention to the government's sometimes uneven handling of the crisis is still a wake- up call for the country's leaders, who point out that none of this is easy.

HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, ACTING MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: The search operation has been difficult, challenging, and complex. But in spite of all this, our determination -- determination remains undiminished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Malaysian public now demands more of our leaders, more so than in the past five, ten years ago.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


BLACKWELL: Of course we'll continue to follow the effect on Malaysia's image, as this continues.

Still to come on NEW DAY, the search area for Flight 370, that search zone just expanded, not just a little bit; by more than 40 percent. We'll have the latest on the investigation action and the search for debris. Still nothing out there.

PAUL: Plus a dream vacation? Let's just say it is not one for at least 300 cruise passengers. Why the CDC is getting involved now.


PAUL: Got your mortgage update. Rates have dropped. Take a look.


PAUL: Well, it's the bottom of the hour, maybe time to get a little bit of breakfast, get your day going. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. No rush, though. Stay in bed if you need to. Let's start with five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Up first, at least four people are dead, more than 500 homes destroyed. Look at this. This is the wildfire that is raging near the Chilean capital of Santiago. Officials say the blaze, which has spread across more than 600 acres, is being fueled by the strong winds there. Three thousand people have been evacuated from the area, and authorities plan to move 2,000 inmates out of a jail to avoid fast- moving flames.

PAUL: No. 2, witnesses to that deadly crash in California have now told the NTSB a FedEx truck was already in flames when it slammed into that bus.