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Ship Sinks Off South Korea; Bluefin-21 Resumes Search for Flight 370; Crisis in Ukraine; Families Waiting for Word from Malaysian Officials

Aired April 16, 2014 - 05:30   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight. Hundreds of people missing when a ferry suddenly sinks into the sea. Dramatic rescues playing out. But it may not have been fast enough. We are live.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, an intense underwater search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. The Bluefin submarine on its second day of scanning the ocean floor for any signs of the plane's wreckage. We're live with the very latest on the search and how families of those on board the vanished jet liner are holding up this morning.

BLACKWELL: Violent protest taking place on the streets of Ukraine. Soldiers and pro-Russian protesters going head-to-head as the days- long standoff escalates into violence. We are live with what's happening on the ground and who could be responsible for the sudden uprising.

ROMANS: All right. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Now 31 minutes after the hour.

ROMANS: Breaking news right now off the coast of South Korea, a desperate search for the missing after a ferry carrying hundreds of people suddenly capsized and sank. Many of those on board were students. Right now, nearly 300 are unaccounted for. At least two people are dead.

Reporter Andrew Salmon is live in Seoul with the latest for us.

Andrew, tell us first who was on board this ferry.

ANDREW SALMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, on the board the ferry, there were 459 people, total, that includes some 30 crew, 89 regular passengers and 325 high school students and their teachers who are taking a trip to Jeju Islands. They were leaving from Seoul. They left the Port of Incheon, the port serving Seoul, and were heading down to Jeju which is a subtropical vacation island for a school trip.

So this -- the poignancy of these young people being aboard is adding to the sense of tragedy here.

ROMANS: Real chaotic. We're showing pictures right now of wrapping up some young children, people, teenagers being put on stretchers and taken to this sort of staging area for the casualties.

What can you tell us about the search underway for the missing? Is it hoped that some of these missing may have already been picked up by other boats?

SALMON: That is the hope. Particularly in the early stages of the rescue operation, much of the rescuing was done by civilian craft in a small vessel fishing boats in the area. So, again, the hope is that these people were rescued and then were taken to different locations and just haven't shown up at the central casualty clearing station which is in a stadium.

However, hope is beginning to fade. This instant took place at 9:00 this morning, it's now 6:30 in the evening. As you can see behind me, it's beginning to get dark here. We haven't had any word from the government now for two and a half hours. The last we heard, 293 people unaccounted for. That was two and a half hours ago. The latest we know 293 people are still unaccounted for.

ROMANS: Do they know what happened? Any idea what happened? I know you're telling us earlier that the weather seemed fine and the conditions in the sea seemed fine.

SALMON: Weather fine. Visibility fine. Sea conditions good. Well traffic route. Well chartered waters. What they could have hit, we don't know. It appears to be an underwater object of some sort, a rock, a reef, or something else, who knows. Survivors report a sort of bang or a crash and then the ship starting listing quite heavily before eventually capsizing. All that's left of it now just a small section at the bows above the water.

It seems unlikely that anyone is actually still in the water, you know, so many hours after the instant in which so many vessels, so many air assets on and circling the scene. But as noted now, it's getting dark. Any rescue efforts under way -- and the rescue efforts under way now are submarine efforts. We've got people under the water, Navy divers, special forces divers, salvage divers actually going under water tethered with lifelines searching inside the submerged haul of the ship for survivors or perhaps now for the bodies of those lost.

ROMANS: Terrifying and chaotic. Thank you so much, Andre Salmon in South Korea for us. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Now the breaking news from the Indian Ocean. Right now the Bluefin-21 is scanning the seabed looking for any wreckage from Flight 370. That's the unmanned sub that's trying to build a map of the ocean floor hoping to find this jet missing for 40 days now.

Erin McLaughlin is live in Perth, keeping an eye on the search efforts.

Erin, we know that in about four and a half hours, I guess, this second mission is expected to wrap up. But there have been some developments on how to overcome the challenge that ended the first mission early. ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Victor. We are actually not entirely certain when to expect the Bluefin-21 to re reemerge on the surface of the water given that the fact that -- this latest mission had been cut short. But that's right, we are learning a new analysis of the Bluefin-21's capabilities. Engineers taking a look and determining that it can withstand more pressure than previously thought.

It can travel, engineers now saying, some five kilometers beneath the ocean surface compared to the 4.5 kilometers previously thought. But they would need to program that in order for it to be able to do that first.

Some questions surrounding whether or not the Bluefin-21 is up to the task. And this is a monumental task for really any underwater submersible given the types of depth and pressure it's facing in 2.8 miles beneath the ocean's surface. It exerts pressure equivalent of 2.5 family cars on any given inch of any underwater submersible that would go down to the ocean floor at these depths.

And then also consider the terrain. They don't know exactly what kind of terrain is down there. They think it's largely flat, largely rolling, but they're not entirely certain. And the Bluefin-21 having to navigate whatever it finds down there regardless than further complicating the picture you have, this silt. They're not entirely sure how deep that silt goes but could potentially affect its sonar imaging effort.

So a lot of factors there to be considered and officials here in Perth have long warned that this could be a slow and painstaking task. Again, the Bluefin-21 as far as we know still underneath those waters, still searching, probably much to the relief of the crew aboard the Ocean Shield, given the technical glitch it experienced earlier today and again no word on when we expect it to resurface -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, officials think the Bluefin-21 is the best hope they have.

Erin McLaughlin there in Perth for us, spotting anything on the ocean floor that could be from Flight 370. 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, as Erin said, and it's not clear what the unmanned vehicle might find. But oceanographers believe the sea floor is covered in rolling hills and silt, which could make the investigation easier.


JULES JAFFE, RESEARCH OCEANOGRAPHER, SCRIPPS INSTITUTE: You would be much worse off if you were in canyons and valleys, and if you have sort of all kinds 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 ground.

And if it's just rolling hills and if the actual sediment 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: And coming up in a few minutes, we'll go to Beijing where the families of those on Flight 370 are growing more frustrated by this search. So stay with us for that.

ROMANS: Let's turn now to Ukraine where tensions are close to the breaking point this morning. War could be close. There are reports this morning of tanks flying Russian flags on the streets on the move in eastern Ukraine and pro-Russian militants now taking more government buildings now that Ukraine's military is fighting back, launching its own offensive to try to force the militants out.

Phil Black live in Eastern Ukraine for us. Phil what's happening there right now?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, I am on the road to Slavyansk, this is the city that remains the focal point to this Ukrainian-military operation to dislodge pro-Russian militants and protesters have really consolidated control over this town in recent days.

You mentioned there these images of armored vehicles, tanks, other personnel carriers, progressing, advancing under a Russian flag. It really shows the complexity of the situation we are dealing with here. Russian media is saying that those vehicles, those armored vehicles are now being driven by Ukrainian military who've effectively switched sides having being deployed here to deal with the pro-Russian forces. Ukrainian media says that these military --

ROMANS: Obviously we lost signal with Phil Black. You can see those pictures behind him and he was explaining that there seems to be two different versions of who's driving those tanks and who those tanks are aligned with. We'll get back to Phil Black in eastern Ukraine when we can.

Meantime, a bomb scare in Boston clearing the streets on the anniversary of the deadly marathon attack. Who police arrested and what they found inside his backpack, next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. This morning, a man is in custody in Boston after what police say was a bomb hoax along the Boston marathon route. This on the anniversary of the marathon bombings. The man was allegedly acting suspiciously carrying a backpack that contained a rice cooker. He was near the marathon finish line. That's the same place where the pressure cooker bombs went off last year killing three and leaving more than 260 hurt.

Police blew up that backpack. They checked another that had been left nearby. The man has now been charged with possessing a hoax device. All of this happening as the city paused to mark that solemn anniversary. Thousands turned out including J.P. and Paul Norden. Both injured last year when the bombs went off, each losing a leg. It didn't stop them from walking across the finish line themselves this year to raise money for charity.


J.P. NORDEN, BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING SURVIVOR: I don't even think it hit me yet, but it's an amazing feeling, it really is. So happy right now. It just brings me back for the last year and how they were with us the whole time anyway. So it's kind of like the same thing. Every day that we needed something there were there. And they still is so. It's a lot to take in right now. And we're getting it but it's good so.


ROMANS: Meanwhile, it's back to court today for lawyers for the marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev currently in jail facing 27 counts for the three people who died in the bombing and an MIT police officer killed during the manhunt afterward. His lawyers plan to argue 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 leaders. This videos 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 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: Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us now.

Hey, Chris. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Hey, how are you doing, my friends?

We're following this rescue operation that's going on in South Korea. It's very tricky. We're using the word ferry, but really it is a big ship. There are hundreds and hundreds of people on board. It capsized quickly, they are not sure why. You see the smoke. There's some type of mechanical situation going on.

Here's the challenge. There's a lot of that ship under water as well and it's sinking rapidly. So rescuers are frantically trying to find a way in to collect the obvious people who were there. Find a way of ingress to gate in from the top side but also figuring out how to go under the water as deep as 50 to 60 feet to get back up into the interior to see who may be trapped there.

There can be a lot of air pockets. This is about as sophisticated and difficult the type of water rescue they can do. We know this because of what happened with the Costa Concordia. You remember that in Italy. I was there for that rescue. And it's very sophisticated. A lot of people inside.

The U.S. Navy has joined. So we're going to talk to one of the officers there who understands the ongoing operation. And we'll take you there and you can see what the latest is. This is a very urgent situation. Hundreds of people, most of them high school students, unaccounted for.

We'll also give you the latest on the search for 370. The good news, the Bluefin, the submersible, back in the water, back searching. Bad news, had another problem yesterday. Why? Because the thing doesn't work well? No. Because this is uncharted territory. They don't know what's down there. They're not aware of the depth. A lot of challenges that they have to deal with on the fly. This is going to take a long time. But we will give you the latest.

How is that? Victor, Christine?

ROMANS: That sounds like a full show, my friend. A lot going on.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Chris.

ROMANS: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Pleasure.

BLACKWELL: There's some new images this morning of the families on board missing Malaysian Airlines Flights 370. They are furious, screaming here at Malaysian authorities over the search. What about this meeting has them so angry? We are live with that answer, next.


ROMANS: We are following breaking news this morning from the Indian Ocean where an unmanned underwater vehicle, the Bluefin-21, right now scanning the sea floor looking for any debris from Flight 370. The sub had to surface briefly today to deal with a technical issue but then was quickly returned to the water where it's expected to remain for several more hours.

Cold comfort for the families of those on board who are still waiting for word of what happened to their loved ones.

Ivan Watson is live for us this morning in Beijing.

Ivan, the families can't be happy. But after crews seemed so close to finding their jet, their wait, their wait could be much, much longer.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think the families are very much aware of that. But that hasn't stopped tempers from flaring. Today when there was supposed to be a video conference between the families of 154 Chinese passengers of the missing flight and Malaysian authorities in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, when there was a technical glitch and the video conference didn't work, the families got up en masse, some of them shouting liars at the video screen, and all stormed out of the conference room.

And that's just emblematic of how strained the relations are right now between the families of these missing passengers and the Malaysian authorities right now. But some of the Chinese families, some of the relatives calling the Malaysian authorities liars, left here on the ground to face their frustration and impatience, mid-ranking Malaysian diplomat and an official from Malaysian Airlines.

And during their daily briefing, they are subjected to what I can only describe really is a cross-examination as representatives of the families ask them questions that these officials clearly do not have the information to answer. The families are trying to take matters into their own hands. They are asking for things like the serial number of the black box on board Flight MH-370.

The Malaysian officials are not giving them that information. And that leads to these retorts and these exchanges where the Chinese, very anguished family members say things like you clearly don't care about our lives, you don't care about our time, we don't trust you.

So that's just giving you a sense, Christine, of the impatience and the antagonism that you feel in the hotel behind me, the Lido Hotel, where many of the relatives of these missing passengers are currently being housed. Malaysian officials telling them, we're trying -- we're doing the best that we can but clearly that's not enough for people who have been waiting more than a month now for news about their missing relatives and loved ones -- Christine.

ROMANS: And the waiting goes on. All right, Ivan Watson for us in Beijing, thanks, Ivan.

BLACKWELL: And we'll be right back.


ROMANS: Quick check of markets around the world, stocks are higher, relieved by a reading on Chinese economic growth. The world's second largest economy grew 7.4 percent in the first quarter. That's slower than in the past. But a little stronger than they had expected. So U.S. futures pointing to a higher open. One stock to watch today, GM.

CEO Mary Barra, front and center at the New York Auto Show, now declining to comment on how many people played a role in that botched ignition switch recall. She said the company still has a lot of work to do. GM also filing a motion to stop lawsuits tied to that recall, citing its 2009 bankruptcy as legal protection.

BLACKWELL: Good to be with you this week.

ROMANS: You, too.

BLACKWELL: All right.

ROMANS: Have a safe trip home.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

"NEW DAY" starts now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. A huge ferry is sinking off the coast of South Korea right now. There's a desperate rescue under way to save hundreds of passengers. Most of them are high school students. This as the U.S. Navy joins the search. We will go there.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the Bluefin back in the water. Another technical glitch slows the search, though, for Flight 370. What has it detected so far on the ocean floor?

CUOMO: Breaking overnight. Ukraine strikes back. The government moving town by town, taking on pro-Russian demonstrators as Vladimir Putin warns a civil war is coming. What will the U.S. do next?

Your NEW DAY starts right now.