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Bluefin-21 Scans the Ocean Floor; Families Wait for Word; Crisis in Ukraine; Ship Sinks off South Korea; Extreme Cold Follows Storms

Aired April 16, 2014 - 04:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, an intense underwater search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. The Bluefin-21 submarine on its second day of scanning the ocean floor for any sign of the plane's wreckage. We are live with the very latest on the search and how families of those on board the vanished jetliner are holding up.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Violent protests taking place on the streets of Ukraine. Soldiers and pro-Russian protesters going head to head as a day's long standoff escalates into new violence here. We're live with what's going on, on the ground, what's happening and who could be responsible for this sudden uprising.

BLACKWELL: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you this chilly morning in the northeast.

BLACKWELL: Nice to be with you.

ROMANS: It's 31 minutes past the hour.

BLACKWELL: We're going to start with the breaking news this morning.

Nearly 300 people are missing off the coast of South Korea after a ferry capsized and sank. It was carrying hundreds of passengers, many of them students, to a resort island and was close to the end of its trip when something went wrong. Witnesses say they heard a loud bump just before the ship began to list (ph). Now, right now -

ROMANS: Oh, my (ph).

BLACKWELL: Two are confirmed dead, 295 still missing. We'll bring you the latest from Seoul on the search in just a few minutes.

ROMANS: More breaking news this morning from the Indian Ocean, where right now the Bluefin-21 is scanning the seabed looking for any wreckage from Flight 370. That's the unmanned sub trying to build a map of the ocean floor, hoping to find this jet, missing now for 40 days. Erin McLaughlin live in Perth, keeping an eye on the search efforts.

Any sign, Erin, of anything significant in today's search?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Well, nothing so far. We understand the Bluefin-21 having to resurface early from its second mission due to a technical glitch. It was brought onboard the Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield. They downloaded the data, they analyzed it, saw no objects of interest. But I think the good news here is they were then able to just put it right back down into the water.

We're also awaiting test results of that oil slick that had been detected near the area of the Ocean Shield. They went to great lengths to bring a two liter sample to shore. It traveled by chopper, it traveled by jet and military ship to get here. It was expected this morning. We understand they're going to be comparing it to samples provided by Malaysian Airlines. And there has been speculation that possibly this could be from the engine of the plane, but simply just speculation at this point. Authorities saying they absolutely do not know what it is. There has been -- have been false leads in this search so far, so they're treating this with caution. And again, we're waiting for those results.


ROMANS: A very deep part of the ocean. It will take a long time to find what they're looking for, no question.

Erin McLaughlin, thank you.

You know officials think the Bluefin-21 is their best hope of spotting anything on the ocean floor that could be from this flight. It uses sonar to bounce sound waves off the sea bed and that data could point to any debris. This area of the Indian Ocean is unchartered. It's not clear what the unmanned vehicle might find. Oceanographers believe the sea floor is covered in rolling hills and silt, which could make the investigation easier.


JULES JAFFE, RESEARCH OCEANOGRAPHER, SCRIPPS INSTITUTION: If you were in canyons and valleys and if you have sort of all kind of crevices and big boulders around. So, rolling hills is not a bad place for a sonar. It's a matter of figuring ground. We want to see the figure from the ground. And if it's just rolling hills and if the actual sentiment is absorbing the sound to some extent, things that are sitting on top of it, reflective things like manmade components of jets and other metallic objects, in principle, should give us some specular reflections which would allow us to see the difference between the manmade objects and the rolling hills.


BLACKWELL: Well, most of the passengers on Flight 370 were Chinese. And for those in China, the agonizing wait continues today for any word of what happened to their loved ones. Ivan Watson is live in Beijing. Ivan, these families, understandably, are angry, frustrated that after crews seemly got close to finding the jet, they now learn that the wait could be much longer.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And some of that anger exploded today. You had dozens of relatives of some of the 154 Chinese passengers aboard that missing flight. They stood up and stormed out of a conference room when they were supposed to be having a video conference with Malaysian authorities in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur when the audio didn't work. And after 20 minutes, they just gave up, walked out, stormed out, some of them yelling "liars" at the Malaysian officials who were sitting in a conference room in Kuala Lumpur on the video screen. And I think that is just symbolic for the tension that has built up between the hundreds of relatives of missing Chinese passengers who have been put up by Malaysian Airlines at a number of hotels here in Beijing. Frustration and anger from these relatives at the lack of information that they feel the Malaysian authorities have provided them.

And, you know, later in the afternoon, when some of these relatives were able to sit down face-to-face across from a Malaysian diplomat and an official from Malaysian Airlines, it was really like a cross- examination, Victor, where you have a representative from the planes' families who was asking for questions that had been submitted yesterday and the day before to be answered and the Malaysian officials were just kind of hapless. They could not answer those questions and were basically being insulted by the families of the Chinese passengers who had been waiting, as you mentioned, more than a month for some kind of information and now are directing a great deal of anger and frustration against the Malaysian authorities.


BLACKWELL: And I'm sure that most people can understand why that's happening. Ivan Watson for us in Beijing. Ivan, thank you.

ROMANS: Let's turn now to Ukraine, where tensions are close to the breaking point this morning. War, civil war, could be very close. After days of talking about it, Ukraine's military is now fighting back against pro-Russian militants who have overtaken government buildings in the eastern part of the country, launching an offensive and retaking an airport. This as international officials grow closer to a critical meeting aimed at defusing the crisis. Overnight, Germany's chancellor spoke with Vladimir Putin. Just the latest phone call between the west and Russia's leader. Diana Magnay has the latest from Moscow.

And it just seems as though, you know, the Ukraine prime minister demanding that Russia, quote, "stop exporting terrorism." You know, the war of words here, very dangerous, but there actually is violence and escalating physical tension, too.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The war of words is extremely dangerous. And, of course, Russia has consistently denied that it has any involvement with the events on the ground. But it has also consistently warned that there should be no violence or force used by the Ukrainian authorities, which Russia considers to be illegitimate, against their own people. And that's why in that telephone call between the German chancellor and Vladimir Putin last night, Vladimir Putin told Angela Merkel that the country was effectively on the brink of civil war.

And you remember that the Russian parliament back in March authorized the use of force, the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, should they feel that the interests of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking citizens in Ukraine are threatened. That is the backdrop, that is the concern that the west has that Russia may use this and the existence of force and violence on the ground as a pretext for invasion.

Russia, for now, seems to be pushing for a diplomatic solution. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, he's on a tour in Asia at the moment and keeps saying, we want to see a political solution on the table. We want to see a very inclusive national dialogue where by people in all the regions can get together and discuss a constitutional reform. And that, in Russia's view, seems to be something which would fall along a much more federalized Ukraine where presumably the regions in the east would still be able to maintain close economic and political ties with Russia.


ROMANS: All right, Diana Magnay for us this morning in Moscow. Thank you, Diana.

BLACKWELL: Breaking news this morning. A terrifying scene off the coast of South Korea. A packed ferry suddenly sinks. Frantic rescues are happening right now with hundreds still missing. But, was the response quick enough? We're live, next.


BLACKWELL: A desperate rescue underway right now off the coast of South Korea. A ferry carrying hundreds of people, many of them students, suddenly capsized and sank, leaving at least two dead, hundreds are still missing. Reporter Andrew Salmon is live in Seoul with the latest.

Andrew, how did this happen? And tell us what's happening right now to find these 295 or so people who are still missing?

ANDREW SALMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What happened is still a mystery. This was a ship traveling in clear conditions, in clear weather, a good sea state, close to shore, lots of shipping around, a very well-navigated route, a very well-chartered route. And it appears to have collided with an underwater object. How that could happen, why it's happened, as I said, no one really knows. Right now people much more focused on the rescue operation than finding out the actual cause. That question will be answered later, we hope.

What's happening right now is the ship, after hitting this apparent underwater object, listed for we believe around two hours before capsizing. The situation right now is just a section of the bow of the ship, the front of the ship, is above water. There are about 160 navy divers from the South Korean special forces and their underwater salvage unit on the scene. You can see a sort of perimeter of ribs (ph), these ridged inflatable boats, around the scene of the sinking, dropping divers into the water. So these guys are going under water with lifelines, you know, tethered to their boats, searching inside the submerged hull of the ship. A very dangerous operation.

BLACKWELL: Andrew, the last report that I read indicated that there were still about 30 people inside the ship still. Do you know if they've cleared the ship and have confirmed that everyone's at least off that vessel?

SALMON: We really have no idea. This is one of the big questions. We've got 293 persons unaccounted for. So where could they be? It's unlikely they're actually at sea because the sea state is very good, visibility is very good and they would have been picked up by the many, many vessels in the area. So are they either trapped inside the sunken hull, which is the worst possible case, or, fingers crossed, hopefully some of these people have been picked up by different vessels taken to different locations and will eventually trickle in to the central casualty clearing station, which government authorities have established in a sports stadium on Jeju (ph) Island. That's what is hoped for right now.

BLACKWELL: Was the weather any concern there? I mean was there -- was strong winds or anything in the area?

SALMON: No. I mean, as I said, it's a mystery why this has happened. If you look at the very, very first pictures which came up which showed the ship listing very, very heavily on to its side, the weather was good, the sea was not rough, there was no rain, snow or anything like that and very, very little fog. Visibility was good. So, again, you're in a very, very well navigated part of the sea, well charted. A route that many ships have plied (ph) hundreds of thousands of times before. So, yes, big question.

BLACKWELL: All right. Andrew Salmon reporting for us there. So many parents still waiting to hear if their child has been found. Andrew, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, new evidence this morning that a nuclear deal with Iran may be working. Diplomats tell the Associated Press, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency will report Tehran is now further away from building a nuclear bomb and has been complying with terms that it dilute the materials that could be make into weapons grade uranium. As negotiations over a longer term nuclear deal continue.

BLACKWELL: A bomb scare in Boston.


BLACKWELL: Clearing the streets on the anniversary of the deadly marathon attack. Who police arrested and what they found inside his backpack, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: This morning, a man is in custody in Boston after what police say was a bomb hoax along the Boston Marathon route on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. The man was allegedly acting suspiciously, carrying a backpack that contained a rice cooker near the marathon finish line. The same place where pressure cooker bombs went off last year killing three and leaving more than 260 hurt. Police blew up that backpack and checked another that had been left behind and the man has now been charged with possessing a hoax device. This all happened as the city paused to mark that solemn anniversary. Thousands turned out, including J.P. and Paul Norden, both injured when the bombs went off, each losing a leg. And that didn't stop them. They walked across the finish line themselves to raise money for charity.


JP NORDEN, BOSTON BOMBING SURVIVOR: I don't even think it hit me yet, but it's an amazing feeling. It really is. Just so happy right now.

It just brings me back to the last year and how they were with us all the time anyways. So it's kind of been like the same thing. Every day that we needed something, they were there and they're still there.

It's a lot to take in right now and we're getting there, bud (ph). It's good.


ROMANS: God, what an amazing city and what an amazing group of people.


ROMANS: Meanwhile, it's back to court today for lawyers for marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, currently in jail facing 27 counts for the three people who died in the bombing and the MIT officer killed during the manhunt afterwards. His lawyers plan to argue that some of those counts should be dropped because they duplicate other charges. Tsarnaev's trial is set for November.

BLACKWELL: Captured on camera, an extraordinary meeting of al Qaeda fighters, along with one of their top leader. Look at this. The video shows the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula talking to trainees in Yemen, insisting he plans to go after the U.S. and with seemingly no concern over a possible drone strike. U.S. officials tell CNN, they are analyzing the pictures to see if any new attacks are being plotted. This looks like a convention. But analysts want to know whether any action was taken to go after the meeting while it was happening.


PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is quite an extraordinary video. The leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al-Wahishi, who's also the number two of al Qaeda worldwide, addressing over 100 fighters somewhere in Yemen, taking a big risk in doing this. PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The main problem about this group is that it has a bomb maker who can put bombs on to planes that can't be detected.


BLACKWELL: U.S. officials tell CNN they believe the video is recent, but it's not clear this morning what the U.S. plans in response to the message that the U.S. could be targeted.

ROMANS: New York's police department is putting an end to its controversial program to eavesdrop on Muslims. The NYPD had, for years, sent plain clothed officers into Muslim neighborhoods to gather information about where people ate, where they prayed, where they shopped, defending the operation saying it was a legitimate way to gather intelligence. But the new mayor and police commissioner have abandoned it, they say to help ease tensions with the Muslim community.

BLACKWELL: The suspect in the shooting deaths of three people outside a Jewish center and retirement home near Kansas City has now been formerly charged. Frasier Glenn Cross, also known as Frasier Glenn Miller, is now facing capital and first degree murder counts. The avowed anti-Semite made a brief statement on video before a judge. Listen.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a copy of the complaint in front of you?

CROSS: Yes, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're charged with capital murder and first degree murder. Do you have financial resources to hire your own attorney or are you requesting the court to appoint an attorney?

CROSS: I request - I don't have the money.


BLACKWELL: Cross is being held on a $10 million bond. A hearing is scheduled for next week. Prosecutors have not yet announced if they will seek the death penalty on the capital murder charges for the deaths of 69-year-old Dr. William Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson Reat Underwood.

ROMANS: Classes resumed today at Franklin Regional High School. The school where a 16-year-old sophomore is accused of going on a stabbing and slashing rampage, injuring 21 people last week. Officials there say they're working to make the return as normal as possible. They even let students visit early to work through what today would be like.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just hard to go back there and I think walking through really helped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of eager to get back to normal, get back into the old schedule.


ROMANS: Get back to normal. Investigators are pouring over computers, video games and other electronics taken from the home and the locker of the suspect, Alex Hribal. He's facing charges as an adult, including attempted homicide and aggravated assault. Four victims remain hospitalized, two of them are in critical condition.

BLACKWELL: Well, the deadline has now passed to get your tax return or extension request in the mail for Uncle Sam. Hope you made it in time. Good news, though, the chance the IRS will audit you is lower this year than it has been in quite some time. Less than 1 percent. The IRS simply does not have the staff any more to closely inspect every return. Still, the risk rises with income. If you make $200,000, the risk is 3 percent, but it's nearly 11 percent for those who make more than $1 million a year.

ROMANS: You know, 85 percent of all the returns were filed electronically this year. That was a high, 85 percent electronically.

BLACKWELL: I did not know that, but I'm not surprised that you do.

ROMANS: Did you file yours electronically?

BLACKWELL: Oh, I filed electronically and in February.

ROMANS: Oh, the early bird gets the worm.

BLACKWELL: I'm ahead of the game.

ROMANS: Great.

BLACKWELL: All right, this morning, a Nebraska toddler is safe, back with his family after getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a bowling alley. The three year old boy apparently wondered across the street from his apartment to the bowling alley, then up into the machine through the prize door, getting stuck inside. Witnesses say this little guy was not scared. He just kept playing with the stuffed animals inside until the machine could be unlocked. He is said to be doing fine. That is -- toddlers are the most terrifying creatures in the world. They have a mind of their own. They can do anything. They can walk right out the front door. Parents - oh, my gosh, the poor thing.

BLACKWELL: Toddles are the most terrifying creatures in the world. You hear that two-year-olds?

ROMANS: They are. That's proof right there. We'll be right back.


ROMANS: And it's nothing to laugh about, but I was just telling Victor in the break, this winter has been ridiculous. A meteorological term, ridiculous.

BLACKWELL: Complete with hyphens.

ROMANS: And here we are again. It's going to be a very cold day. It is spring, but it's going to have record setting cold. Jennifer Gray has a closer look at today's ridiculous forecast.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Christine and Victor, all that rain we saw yesterday pushing off the eastern seaboard for today. Should see a much calmer day.

The big story, though, this morning, we could see record-breaking cold temperatures for the morning, basically anywhere east of the Mississippi. We're talking cities like Boston, Atlanta, also Pittsburgh, a very cold morning. We will be rebounding nicely, though. Temperatures will end up in the 50s and upper 50s, especially in Atlanta. Fifty-five in Chicago. A little bit warmer today than yesterday. And temperatures really nice across the deep south.

We're going to see those temperatures drop again tonight. The cold weather sticking around. Temperatures in the 30s in the northeast. D.C., 35. Thirty-six in New York and 33 in Boston. Chicago, you'll bottom out around 41 tonight.

Tomorrow's forecast, though, we will bring the sunshine into the southeast. High pressure in control across the northeast. Not much happening across the country. We'll see a little bit of rain and snow in the pacific northwest and some scattered showers starting to develop across the whole country of Texas.

Now, high temperatures tomorrow, a little bit warmer. Gradually warming throughout the week. Sixty-nine in Memphis, 64 in Atlanta. Temperatures in the 50s across the northeast.

Victor and Christine.


BLACKWELL: All right, we'll get ready. OK. Thanks, Jennifer.

ROMANS: EARLY START continues right now.