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Ship Sinks Off South Korea; Flight 370 Families Wait for Word; Russian Flags Seen on Ukraine Streets

Aired April 16, 2014 - 05:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight: tragedy when a South Korean ferry sinks into the sea there, rescuers racing the clock to get people to safety this morning. Hundreds reported missing, the very latest ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the underwater search for missing Flight 370. That search resumes. The Bluefin submarine combing the seabed for the second day. Can it find any sign of the vanished jetliner and will it be able to withstand the very deep depths of the search. We're live with the very latest this morning.

BLACKWELL: Violence in the streets of Ukraine this morning. Troops taking on pro-Russian protesters who have occupied government buildings for day. Demonstrators not backing down.

Is civil war imminent and could Russia be scheming to tear this country apart? We are live.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ROMANS: Nice to see you again today. I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday, April 16th. It's 5:00 a.m. on the nose in the East.

BLACKWELL: Up first, the breaking news overnight: a desperate rescue off the coast of South Korea where a ferry capsized and sank, carrying hundreds of passengers, many of them students. Officials say many have been rescued but nearly 300 are still missing, and two are confirmed dead.

It's unclear what caused the vote to sink, but witnesses say they heard a loud bump just before the ship began to lift. And right now, U.S. Navy warship is en route to help with the rescue.

We'll take you live to South Korea for the very latest in just a few minutes.

ROMANS: Now to what's happening right now deep in the Indian Ocean. An unmanned vehicle, Bluefin 21, scanning the ocean floor looking for any debris from Flight 370, missing now for 40 days. This is a slow process set to go on several more hours. They may not know for hours longer, just what it found, if anything.

Erin McLaughlin is live in Perth with the latest.

Erin, the sub did come back to the surface for some technical problems. They did download the data from the earlier search. Did they find anything?


No, they did not find objects of interest from that information that they managed to download. But I think the good news here is they put, despite the technical glitch, they put the Bluefin-21 straight back down into the water to begin searching again.

Many are questioning whether the Bluefin-21 is up to the task at hand, given that it is operating in the upper region of its depth capacity. Engineers having looked at it and saying, well, actually, it can go some five kilometers beneath the ocean surface instead of the 4.5 that was originally thought, that it would need be reprogrammed in order to that.

But I think the important thing to remember here is it's very, very difficult to operate at the depth. Consider the pressure. Some 2.5 family vehicles worth per inch on any underwater submersible operating at some of these depths. And then you have the terrain, relatively unknown to man. They think it's flat and rolling, but they're not entirely sure. And whatever is down there, the Bluefin-21 is going to have to be able to navigate.

And then consider on top of that, the silt on the ocean floor. They think it's there. They're not sure how, it's further complicating the picture literally. It could interfere potentially with the Bluefin- 21's ability to take sonar imaging.

So, all of that factors considered, it is a monumental task ahead. And we understand that it's still beneath those waters searching. No word on when it will resurface again -- Christine.

ROMANS: Erin McLaughlin for us this morning -- this afternoon for her -- in Perth, Australia.

Now, the Bluefin-21 scanning the ocean floor using sonar, bouncing sound waves off the seabed. Many objects that create a map of what might be down there. This area of the Indian Ocean is uncharted and it's not clear what the Bluefin 21 might find. But oceanographers say it's a search perfectly suited for an unmanned sub.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For all that I've known in doing oceanography now for 30 years, I think the worst thing to do is send a manned vehicle down. I think everything we learned is that, you know, if you look at the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, they were able to fix that with what we call an ROV, remote operational vehicle.

We have lots of experience with deploying remote operational vehicles that can cut, hold wrenches, they can do things and certainly can bring black boxes up and they can work 24/7. If you're (INAUDIBLE), you don't have that much time in the bottom. You are much better off with these remote tools, in my estimation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: For the families who have loved ones on Flight 370, the reality may finally be settling in. Forty days after the jet went missing, that it might be a very long time before the plane is found.

Ivan Watson is live in Beijing where he's been talking with the families this morning.

Ivan, 40 days on, understandably, they are frustrated.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. An explosion of anger here at Beijing's Lido Hotel which is one of the hotels where many of the relatives of the 154 Chinese passengers of Flight MH370 have been staying at the expense of the Malaysian airlines. We saw dozens of relatives stand-up and storm out of a conference room. While also some of them hurled abuse at Malaysian officials who were supposed to be conducting a video conference session with the relatives via video conference from the capitol of Kuala Lumpur.

Well, the audio didn't work. The officials were sitting up there 20 minutes on screen, on video screen. There was no communication between the sides.

Finally, these Chinese families stood up en masse in protest and marched out. Some of them hurling abuse at the screen, yelling things like "liars", "shame on you".

Later on in the afternoon here, a poor diplomat from Malaysia and another Malaysian Air official, they sat face-to-face with the families as they do every day. It was like a cross-examination. You had representatives of the passengers' families who are asking questions saying they submitted questions in previous sessions and the mid-level officials were unable, just simply did not have the information to answer those questions.

You can imagine, Victor, 40 days into this agonizing vigil, the fury, the frustration of some of these Chinese relatives, some of whom were saying you have clearly no respect for our lives or our time. These were the statements being said to the faces of these Malaysian officials saying we are trying our best, this is all we have. It's clearly not enough for these desperate people waiting to hear about some news about their missing loved ones -- Victor and Christine.

BLACKWELL: Clearly not enough. Ivan Watson in Beijing -- Ivan, thanks.

ROMANS: Now to the situation in Ukraine growing more dangerous and closer to war by the hour. This morning, there are new reports of tanks on the streets flying Russian flags as the Ukrainian military is now fighting back against pro-Russian militant, retaking an airport, promising to do more to force the militants out of government buildings.

This is just one day before Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and European Union are all going to sit down to find a diplomatic way out of this crisis. Phil Black live in eastern Ukraine for us this morning.

Phil, bring us up to speed. What is the latest on the ground there where you are?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, where I'm standing, this is the road to Slaviansk. Slaviansk appears to be the town which is now a focal point for Ukrainian military operation to dislodge, Pro- Russian militants and protesters. It is the town where perhaps more any other across this eastern Ukrainian region, of these pro-Russian forces really consolidated their control, seizing government buildings, setting up roadblocks, not letting Ukrainian government officials in, declaring their intention to break away from Ukraine.

Yesterday, we heard the Ukrainian government say it was launching what is called an anti-terror operation. This is really an operation to get these separatist movements that we saw Ukrainian military moved to within a short distance of this town. They seized a nearby airfield there.

Where I'm standing now, as I say, from the northern approach to this town, there's a heavily armed police checkpoint here with police checking all the people that are heading south towards Slaviansk. The people, the documents, all the contents of their vehicles and just around the corner from where I am, I can't quite show you, but it looks like another Ukrainian military staging point with a large number of Ukrainian soldiers, armored personnel carriers. They've also been a number of helicopters from this location as well. Military helicopters including attack helicopters.

For the moment, these forces are standing back at this distance from the northern side of Slaviansk. The question now is, what are the forces going to try to do? Are they going to try to move into this town and take it back by force or for the moment, are they simply content with circling it and cutting it off? That decision, those movements will really determine just how this escalating situation lays out over the course of today and indeed, possibly, the coming days and weeks as well, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Phil Black for us this morning in Ukraine -- thanks, Phil.

BLACKWELL: The breaking news this morning: a terrifying scene off of the coast of South Korea. A packed ferry suddenly sinks. Frantic rescues are happening now with hundreds of people reported missing. We are live, next.


ROMANS: Welcome back.

Breaking news this morning off the coast of South Korea where rescuers, right now, desperately trying to find hundreds of people missing after a ferryboat capsized and sank. Right now, at least two people are dead. Most of those on board were students.

Let's go live to Seoul.

Reporter Andrew Salmon has the latest on this.

And, certainly, we hope -- we hope other boats are picking up many of these missing people. I know it's a chaotic scene with a lot of boats there trying to help with the rescue. What can you tell us right now?

ANDREW SALMON, REPORTER: Yes, I mean as you say, it's really unclear where the 293 missing persons are. Are they trapped in the submerged ship or have they actually been rescued. Bear in mind, the very rescue efforts, many were undertaken by local fishing boats, which were circling the stricken ship.

So, these people may -- just may and we have this is the case -- have been taken to different locations and, as time goes on, will as time goes on arrive at the central casualty clearance station established by the government in a sports stadium on the island of Jeju. But right now, that is the biggest question hanging over the situation. Where are those 293 missing persons?

ROMANS: The other key question, what exactly happened here? A well traveled route. The sea was not rough. The weather seemed fine.

And then, what? They think it hit something under water? Do they have any idea what caused the ferry to capsize?

SALMON: I can't answer these questions. As you say, a well traveled route, good visibility, close to land.

It's a mystery. Any underwater obstacle surely would have been on charts and would be a navigated routes, which indicates, was the ship sticking to its route? That we don't know that at this point.

There's another question which hangs over this situation. As far as we can tell, the ship, after hitting this obstacle, whatever it may have been listed heavily over to one side, which would have given people time to get on upper decks, get in to life vests, get in to a situations where they should have been able to get off a sinking ship or be picked up and be rescued as many were.

So, this question is, why were people, apparently, still below when the ship capsized. Once the ship capsized and started sinking, by the stern, that would leave them trapped below.

Again, we don't have an answer to this question. But let me reiterate, it's still, we can't be sure, 100 percent there are people aboard the haul of the ship. They may and hopefully have been removed and just haven't shown up in the casually clearing station, yet.

ROMANS: And quickly, we said that this was -- many of these people were heading to an island. They were students. Can you tell us who was on board this ship?

SALMON: Yes. I can, yeah. We have a full manifest. There were 30 crew members, 89 ordinary passengers that we don't have specific information, 15 teachers and 325 high school students heading for a school trip from Seoul. They left the port serving Seoul and were heading down to a subtropical vacation island off the south coast, sometimes known as the Hawaii of Korea. Tragically, they never reached the island.

ROMANS: Three hundred and twenty-five students, 15 crew, really, a sad situation. We'll check in with you again. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Well, there are some rattled nerves this morning in Boston after a scare on the anniversary of the Boston marathon bombings. Listen to this -- police have arrested a man they say was carrying a rice cooker in a backpack near the marathon finish line. That's the same place where pressure cooker bombs went off killing three and leaving 260 hurt.

The backup was blown up and happened as a precaution. The man was charged with possessing a hoax device.

Meanwhile, the anniversary remembrance brought thousands to Boston, including JP and Paul Norden. They're brothers and each lost a leg in the blast. They have been at the marathon to cheer on a friend. But on Tuesday, they were the ones being cheered as they walked across the finish line themselves, raising money for charity.


JP NORDEN, BOSTON BOMBING SURVIVOR: I don't think it hit me yet. It's an amazing thing, it really is. So happy right now.

It brings you back to last year and how they were with us. It's the same thing. Every day we needed something, they were there are.

It's a lot to take in right now. We are getting there.


BLACKWELL: Lawyers for the marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, they'll be back in court today arguing some of the charges should be dropped. Dzhokhar faces 27 counts now for the deaths of four people and three bombings and one MIT police officer in the manhunt afterwards. His lawyers say some of the charges are duplicates for the same alleged crimes and wants the judge to throw some of the charges out.

ROMANS: This morning, we're getting extraordinary new glimpse of the inner workings of al Qaeda -- through this video, a video that appeared on jihadist Web sites. It shows one the terror network's top leaders, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, addressing fighters, many fighters in Yemen talking about how he wants to go after the U.S. out in the open, with seemingly no concern for a possible drone strike.

This is being called the largest and most dangerous al Qaeda gathering in years. This morning, the U.S. isn't saying if they knew about the meeting or tried to take action to stop it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an extraordinary video. The leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who's also the number two of al Qaeda worldwide addressing over 100 fighters somewhere in Yemen taking a big risk in doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The main problem about the group is it has a bomb maker who can put bombs on to planes that can't be detected.


ROMANS: U.S. officials tell CNN they believe the video is recent. They are analyzing it to learn if any new attacks are being planned.

BLACKWELL: An anxious return to campus this morning for students in a Pennsylvania town shattered by a knife attack. Franklin Regional Senior High School holds classes for the first time since the 16-year- old sophomore Alex Hribal allegedly stabbed or slashed nearly two dozen people last week. Officials are working to make the return as normal as possible opening up to campus for a walk-through a day early.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just hard to walk back there and I think walking through really helped.

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


BLACKWELL: Well, now the FBI is analyzing computers, video games and other electronics belonging to the suspect, including a cell phone seized from the locker and cutlery holders with two missing knives taken from his home. Hribal has been charged as an adult with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. Four victims remain hospitalized, two in critical condition.

ROMANS: All right. Global stock, a quick check at the markets trading higher. Futures are up here as well. You can thank China for that.

A report shows Chinese economy grew at 7.4 percent in the first quarter. Now, that's a little more than economists were expecting. It shows growth there is slowing. Chinese economic growth is still slowing. One stock that will get a boost from China today, Yahoo. The company reported better than expected earnings last month and reminded investors about Alibaba, the Chinese Internet giant.

Yahoo owns about a quarter of that company and it's going public in the U.S. this morning, earning Yahoo billions of dollars. So, watch Yahoo shares today, but it looks like markets overall couldn't be higher.

BLACKWELL: Do adults wear mittens?

ROMANS: Do adults wear mittens? I don't know.

BLACKWELL: OK, because if so, I need a pair. I need a pair inside and outside the studio. It's chilly here, even colder outside.

A big chill in the East Coast overnight. Springtime snow. Really? Indra Petersons is tracking how long you need the winter jackets and mittens, next.

ROMANS: In today's "Road Warriors", look at the expense report. If you are like business travelers, you likely spend a lot of money at Starbucks. A report says the coffee giant is the most expensed aren't. McDonald's came in second, Panera Bread and Dunkin' Donuts all at the top five.

As for airlines, it looks Delta is the favorite pulling in 20 percent of air travel expenses. United, Southwest and American round out the top five.


ROMANS: Hello. It's the middle of April and a clean up under way in a big part of the country with storms rolling through. Look at this -- taking down trees, dropping a ton of rain. These are pictures from Orlando. Winds in that part of Florida topping 46 miles per hour.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but you know what's coming behind the storm? Cold.

ROMANS: Quiet, no.

BLACKWELL: No, I mean, you know, quiet snowstorms.

Here in New York, actually overnight where heavy, wet flakes fell, more than an inch fell in Chicago despite the calendar saying it's spring.

ROMANS: So, Indra Petersons is here to explain to us how long -- you warned us. You warned us.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: At least, I warned you. And I just say it was overnight, if we are going to see it, these are like tucked in to our coverage, right? I mean, March, that's when we typically see the last snow in New York City. Not today, not in April. I mean, easy to see here. You can actually see that cold air that filled in behind the cold front.

This is an hour or so ago, they were seeing snow in Boston. Yes, the flurries are out there, but they are moving out, which is more important. That's the key here as the system makes the way out. Just keep in mind cold air. I mean, we are talking record temperatures so cold we saw records from Minnesota back down through Texas. It's been a cold winter.

Let's talk about the numbers. Detroit, even Flint, had the snowiest winters on record. There's the proof there that it has been absolutely miserably cold this winter. Freeze warnings, yes, they are in effect all the way down even into the South this morning and talk about the highs and look at the drop from yesterday. D.C. yesterday with 72, 53, not so bad. That's a pretty big chunk there, about 20 degrees cooler than yesterday.

System finally moving out, we want to say there's nothing left in the mix. But, unfortunately, here comes another one. We're watching that next system makes its way in, which means by Easter Sunday eventually, potentially some rain, it looks like.

Well, I should say more like Friday, Easter weekend as it pulls up moisture from the gulf. Not snow this time, a winter system this time changing slowly.

ROMANS: Ridiculous.

BLACKWELL: Yes, ridiculous.


ROMANS: Thank you, Indra.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

Happening now, the breaking news: a ferry sinking and hundreds of passengers on board still missing. We're live, next.