Return to Transcripts main page


Ferry Overturns Off Coast of South Korea; Search Continues for Missing Malaysian Plane; Ukraine Soldiers Surrender to Pro-Russia Troops; Scare in Boston on Anniversary of Marathon Bombings; NYPD Desbanding Controversial Surveillance Unit; Reports that Armed Kidnappers Have Taken Two Ukrainian Officers Hostage;

Aired April 16, 2014 - 07:00   ET


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really very upsetting for these families. Darkness has now fallen, as you can see, and of course with darkness fallen so do the hopes that many more survivors if any could be found. And 291 still missing, still possibly in the water, still possibly in that ship itself. We understand divers have been trying to get inside the ship but the strong currents have been preventing them from it getting inside.

The search and rescue operation is still very much under way. One of the USS Navy ships from the U.S. seventh fleet is also helping out. Helicopters are trying to look to see if there are any other survivors. But at this point there are great concerns about those almost 300 still missing. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Paula, what are the families being told about how this happened, where the ferry was? What details have they been given?

HANCOCKS: Well, we know that the ferry at this point is about 20 kilometers off the mainland, 20 kilometers from where we are now. It was on its way to a tourist hot spot, the Jejudo Island, just off South Korea. We heard from one of the students who was on board and managed to get off the boat that he said he felt a bump and then many people fell over. Then the ship started listing, and then it started to sink. They were basically given life jackets and told to jump t in the water. It is cold water. And we are hearing that really the chances of survival are really about two hours in that water. It's about 11 hours since the first distress signal went out. Chris?

CUOMO: Paula, one last quick question. Any word about whether there were life rafts on board? Does that have anything to do with why they were told to jump in the water as opposed to getting in the life raft?

HANCOCKS: This is a question we've been trying to find the answer to. But I think one of the things that's worth mentioning is the fact that this ship listed very quickly and it tilt did very quickly. And it was really within a couple of hours that it tilted over completely. And all you could see was the blue hull off the ship. So it completely turned over. So it really was a very quick sinking, that could have been part of the reason why they jumped in the water. But we don't know about the life rafts. We didn't see any from the pictures. Doesn't mean they weren't there.

CUOMO: Paula, listing, solid rationale there. Thank you for the reporting. Let us know what you learn there from the families, a horrible waiting game for them. Once again we have to tell a story like that.

Now, as this rescue operation for these nearly 300 missing continues, they are facing a lot of variables there. There are the currents, very quick there. And the water temperatures themselves are going to be a major concern. Let's bring in meteorologist Indra Petersons for this. Good information from Paula. She said the ferry was said to be 20 kilometers off the mainland.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately that's not good news. That means the water is cooler. You can actually see here, the water temperature, sea surface temperature when you're closer to South Korea itself, those temperatures are very cold. We're talking about just in the range of the 40s. They do quickly rise up to the 50s by time you get to the island just offshore they were trying to get to, but unfortunately being closer to the shoreline those temperatures are cold and people will not be able to stay warm for long periods of time if they are in the water.

The other thing I want to show you are the currents and the wave heights. They're generally lower in this region. That is a little piece of good news we have at this time. But just keep in mind it's the undertow, the strong currents that a lot of people are concerned with and of course what we're afraid of is the currents could be stronger farther down south. As you notice just around the tip of the island, the currents are not that strong even underneath the water. So a little bit of good news, but unfortunately it's those water temperatures they're going to have to deal with first. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Indra, thank you very, very much.

Let's talk more about really I think what's important to talk about here is the challenges that the searchers are up against at this moment. Let's bring in David Gallo back in, who is co-leader of the search for flight Air France flight 447 and the director of special projects at Westfall Oceanographic Institution. David, thank you very much. We're all kind of watching this unfold all together. One of the most urgent situations right now is the rescuers.


BOLDUAN: One of the big problems I think they're up against right now is the currents. Indra was talking about the challenges of the water temperatures as well. They have not been able to get inside the vessel yet because of the strong currents. What are these rescuers up against?

GALLO: There's that. There's how to get into the vessel and then how to work with the currents to get into the vessel, and the vessel is sinking at the same time. So they're up against every sort of obstacle. And, you know, not knowing exactly their way around the ship, too, they have to worry about that. Once they have access to the ship, then what? It's dark on the inside. It's just an absolutely, positively horrific situation. It's nightmarish for anyone who has been on a boat and spent time on a boat, especially in a case like this where you know there are undoubtedly people stuck on the inside. The ship is still sinking. Inside people are now standing on the ceiling rather than on the floor.

BOLDUAN: David, when something like this happens with such a big vessel, you would think that this would happen slowly, gradually, allowing for time to deploy rescue craft and to get everything kind of -- get off in an organized fashion. It sounds like that is not what happened here, that people were given their life vest and told to jump into the water and abandon ship as quickly as possible. We haven't really seen any lifeboats out. Where are the lifeboats?

GALLO: I saw some video earlier that showed lifeboats still on deck, about 12 of them still, life rafts.

BOLDUAN: What does that tell you?

GALLO: It's hard to say, because the crew, hopefully there's some leadership on board that tells you exactly what to do. I heard that the order was given to abandon ship, jump in the water, also not to move because it's dangerous to move. Some people were told to stay still. So that doesn't help the situation when you've got people in panic. They need to have someone say this is exactly what to do.

And the crew, you don't know if the crew is experienced, if they're just relatively new to the ship. So have they practiced this lifeboat drill before? Normally the answer is yes, but this kind of situation is one of the worst kinds of situations you can be in, where the ship is on one side. It's tough to get off the other side because it's underwater. This side you're way up in the air and the ship is on its side.

BOLDUAN: And they're dealing with an abbreviated time frame. They probably don't assume they have to get out as quickly as they did.

GALLO: That's exactly right.

BOLDUAN: We have no information yet really about what happened, how this all unfolded. That part we're trying to figure out what's going on in the little bit. First of all they need to find where people are.

GALLO: Right.

BOLDUAN: From your experience, what is the deciding factor in how to successfully escape a horrific situation like this versus the opposite?

GALLO: Sadly, it's all having a plan ahead of time, and normally ships do, especially ferries. But having the passengers that have -- they always tell you where the life rafts are, where the life preservers are, these are the doors you go out. But often, people normally don't listen to that. They're more to focused on where I'm going.

BOLDUAN: Anything working in their favor at this point?

GALLO: No. I think it's horrific. Getting off the ship and now you're in this water which is incredibly deadly as well.

BOLDUAN: And the cranes we were told they are going to be brought in to right to ship and get it out of the water, they're not going to be able to get there until Friday.

GALLO: That's not going to help. It just seems like that too long. So whatever rescue has got to happen has got to happen right up front in the next few hours. It's not -- as I said, it's just a horrific situation.

BOLDUAN: And unfolding right before our eyes. David Gallo, thank you so much as always. Chris?

CUOMO: Let's take a quick check on the search for flight 370. Right now the unmanned mini sub, as we know, the Bluefin-21 is back in the water scanning the Indian Ocean floor. That's good. But it has had issues. That's bad. It had to be pulled back out of the water for what they're calling, quote, "Technical trouble." Let's bring in former FAA inspector David Soucie. David, they anticipate having problems here. They don't know what they're dealing with under water. What do we know about the problems they're having?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It's literally uncharted territory here. They are operating in an area that it may not have been designed for necessarily. So they knew when they exceeded those limits. Remember yesterday we were talking about they had to bring it out because it was too deep. Now they've said we've reprogrammed it, changed our parameters. Now they're operating in a really touchy area. So I think that they're anticipating they would have mechanical issues or experience something new.

CUOMO: People don't understand how easily also and damaged, especially that depth, if you hit anything, the pressure is so great that it immediately damages the vehicle. You lose it and who knows how long it takes to get another one.

SOUCIE: That's right.

CUOMO: Now, something came out that to me is more of an advance of this story than anything going on with the Bluefin. Word from the Malaysians that they will put together an international investigative team to look into the 777 itself, what is known, take a second look at all the data, do fresh analysis about why this may have happened. That's good news, isn't it?

SOUCIE: It is to me. You know, after the Air Alaska accident and after the airbus 300 in the northeast, the -- Nick Sabbatini was the associate administrator at FAA, and he decided, we need to look at ourselves. What is the FAA, how did we contribute to these accidents? Is there something we could do better systemically within our organization? And that's what this is about, I believe. There are teams already set up to talk about what happened on this particular accident, the proximate cause issues, things that could have prevented the accident before it happened, things like ABSB, those things that could have prevented it at the last minute. But what made it happen in the first place? What kind of vulnerabilities are we looking at systemically? And that is really, really advanced thinking. It's really advanced. The FAA only recently started doing this.

CUOMO: Part human nature, part how the investigators frankly have spun this story. We are drawn to conspiratorial - the hijacking, it's somewhere in Pakistan, and all this other stuff that we don't have any facts to lead us in that direction. But isn't it the case that more often than not what makes a plane go down is the plane itself? That it's not going to be about the pilots or something nefarious or conspiratorial. It's going to be about more likely these warnings that were out about the 777 that you guys have been talking about from the beginning about different structure cracks and problems with the wings, et cetera.

SOUCIE: Right. And people will fault me for saying this because everybody thinks pilot error is the single most common cause, and it is for the proximate cause, because they're the last person that could have prevented the accident before it happened.

CUOMO: Proximate cause meaning the last thing in the chain of causation.

SOUCIE: Exactly right. Latent causes are those causes that are way up the chain -- management, reducing training budgets. Well, that's going to have an effect. It's going to put a pilot in a vulnerable position. These are the kinds of things that I say that Malaysians are now working on, the Malaysian government. They see their faults. It's always more important, I think, people make mistakes. That's part of learning process. But to then reevaluate yourself and have the hutzpah to say, here, international community, we can learn more, we know we can learn more about you about how to do this better.

CUOMO: Defects in aircraft, bad handoffs between towers, all relevant. David Soucie, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Kate?

BOLDUAN: We're following breaking news also out of Ukraine, tensions with pro-Russian supporters hitting a new high across the country. Ukraine is now trying to secure the release of two kidnapped soldiers and armed protesters have taken over a mayor's office in eastern Ukraine.

Also this morning, tanks bearing Russian flags rolled into the city of Slavyansk. That's where we find senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh with the very latest. Nic?

NIC PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, central Slavyansk behind me, what you are seeing is one of those many pro -- sorry, Ukrainian-armed vehicles which seem to have changed hands a few hours ago. That has now had Ukrainian soldiers go into it, take out their stuff, and now it's loading up with pro-Russian militants.

Let me tell you how we got here. We saw Ukrainian troops moving in armored vehicles around these towns in the past few days. Some of them moved into the town south of me. They met a lot of local resistance, people getting in their way. And then somehow pretty fast those armed personnel carriers changed hands, five or six of them. Then they came in Slavyansk with the Russian flag and Ukrainian paratroop unit from Ukrainian soldiers defected or surrendered, not sure, are inside the building behind me being fed lunch. Some have come out to this vehicle behind me, taken out their stuff.

And now you will hear a chant in the crowd, pro-Russian crowd, as the armor we personnel carrier begins to move away. These pictures are the worst nightmare for the Kiev central government. We seeing here the force they sent in to take on these pro-Russian militants effectively giving up their armor within hours of being here.

And now these pro-Russian militants moving this vehicle out. Let me tell you a little bit more about who they are. Some of them extraordinarily well-trained, good modern weaponry, serious modern weaponry, some of them. Others seemingly more local, less well equipped, less well organized. One of them telling me in fact he's from Crimea, the part of Ukraine Moscow now considered part of Russia that changed hands a manner of weeks ago.

It seems here quite remarkable because people have been wait for the Ukrainian government or army response. It seems like they tried moving in today, and that armor now in the hands of pro-Russian militants. It feels very calm here. We wouldn't have been able to do this, broadcast like this to you a couple of days ago. People I think really feel now the tensions have past, perhaps the moment is over.

Really what happens now? Does this stay part of Ukraine or a separate republic or part of Russia? Those are the big questions. But this armor changing hands without violence quite a nightmare for the Kiev central government. Back to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That actually was going to be my question for you, Nick. It's really unbelievable that you can be broadcasting standing right there and this tank changing hands right behind you. This seems really unbelievable, but not a-typical I guess from what you've been seeing on the ground, right?

WALSH: Well, I mean, this tank was already under control of pro- Russian militants. But you saw the Ukrainian soldier basically go in and take his stuff. I think it's kind of remarkable in many ways. It shows the relations between the two sides here are reasonably relaxed. Certainly the Ukrainian soldiers, we saw them yesterday roaming around the countryside, the farmland here, they're not particularly well equipped at all. Their vehicles and equipment is so much more last decade to the new stuff the Russians have been given.

Its' not looking like it's possible there will be a Ukrainian-Russian cooperation at this point in terms of their armed forces, because it seems to have happened here, this town is calmly now it seems in the hands of these pro-Russian militants. We spoke to the mayor outside the office here, the new mayor. He said the Ukrainian soldiers had in fact not defected by surrendered, were being fed inside this building here. And it's bizarre how the new reality is taking grip here quite so fast and quite how absent the Ukrainian government are here. Back to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Quickly, it all happened and unfolded right before you.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. Nick, we'' check back in with you.

Let's get now over to Christine Romans who's in for Michaela for some of today's top stories.


A disturbing scare in Boston on the anniversary of the marathon bombings. And just hours after a memorial ceremony police arrested a 25-year-old man who was carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker. You may recall pressure cooker bombs killed three, injured more than 260 last April.

The backpack was detonated as a precautionary measure. Police say it did not contain a bomb. A second unattended bag also sparked a scare. It was destroyed and cleared. It turns out it belonged to an unnamed media outlet.

A defense expert is testifying right now in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial disputing a pathologist findings about wounds Reeva Steenkamp sustained the night Pistorius shot her to death. The Olympian says it was an accident, that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder. Prosecutors say he killed her in a rage after an argument. After tomorrow's session, the trial will adjourn until May 5th.

The NYPD is debanding a controversial surveillance unit that collected intelligence on Muslim communities. The unit started after the September 11 terror attacks sent undercover officers to Muslim communities to monitor businesses, to monitor mosques, even to eavesdrop on conversation. Advocacy groups have long criticized these tactics. Now in a reversal, the department says community outreach could yield the same results. Chris and Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Christine, thank you very much.

Let's take a break. But coming up next on NEW DAY, we're monitoring the dramatic search and rescue out of South Korea right now where some 300 people, many of them high school students, remain missing after a ferry suddenly began to sink.


CUOMO: Welcome back. Extraordinary developments across the eastern part of Ukraine. Reports armed kidnappers have taken two Ukrainian officers hostage. Protesters seizing a mayor's office. And Ukrainian tanks rolling under Russian flags.

The question this morning, how much of this is due to Russian sympathizers or just Russians themselves?

Joining me now is Anissa Naouai, a host of "In the Now" and senior political correspondent for "Russia Today".

Anissa, thank you for joining us. There are two battles going on. There's' one on the ground, and there's one in the air. And by that I mean in the media about what's going on on the ground.

What is your take about who is causing the trouble in Ukraine?

ANISSA NAOUA, "IN THE NOW": Absolutely. I agree. The media war is rampant. First of all, it's really difficult most of all to confirm what's coming from the ground.

I'm in Moscow myself. There are lots of video, lots of accusations on social media, especially. And it's really hard to confirm. Last night, we had video of tanks rolling across Ukraine towards the east. We had reports of gunfights, four people reportedly killed. That's really difficult to confirm.

But what's coming -- the rule of the game that's been set up is basically that everything that comes out of Russia is automatically deemed Russian propaganda. Everything that's coming out of Kiev is automatically taking as fact. And that's where it becomes really difficult, because certainly the foreign ministry here in Moscow and even the Kremlin, some of their statements have been very calm, to the point, yes, but they try to base them on facts; whereas, the stuff coming out of Kiev is also really difficult to verify.

And your very own reporter -- I was listening earlier on the ground -- talks about that, talks about how much misinformation and different information is coming out of eastern Ukraine at the moment.

CUOMO: Yes, and taking that point into context, not painting you as a sympathizer of Russia, necessarily. You're a New York native, right? You're from America, even though you're in Russia now, so your perspective is going to be an interesting balance --

NAOUAI: That's right.

CUOMO: -- of what your influence is. CNN has the benefit of so many assets on the ground. We, as reporters, have the benefit of the U.N. high commission on human rights. And what we get is the picture that's that what's coming out of Russia about what's causing this tension is either inaccurate or, by Russia's own hand, either by infiltrating the Ukraine army or having these pro-Russian sympathizers that may be just thinly masked Russian military. It does seems that blame should be on the Russian side, doesn't it?

NAOUAI: There's absolutely no evidence that those so-called masked infiltrators are Russian. First of all, our reporters on the ground spoke to many of them. They showed us their Ukrainian passports. Yes, they associate themselves very closely with Russia because they speak Russian. They don't speak Ukrainian. They have ties to Russia. And so, Nick Paton Walsh on the ground yesterday -- we were listening to his report -- he's saying that there are no signs -- CNN's very own correspondent, that these people are Russian or even affiliated with Russian any more than the sense that they speak Russian and that they feel like their rights as a minority in the country, even though in the east they're basically the majority, are being undermined by the illegal government in Kiev.

CUOMO: But you have two counter points. One, most of the country speaks Russian for purposes of what happened while they were part of the Soviet Union. So who speaks Russian isn't dispositive on who is sympathetic to Russia, necessarily. And from the beginning, our reporters --

NAOUAI: Well, Kiev and Russia were one country for 300 years.

CUOMO: Right. Right.

NAOUAI: It wasn't just the Soviet Union. Three hundred years it was one country.

CUOMO: Right, but the point stands, speaking Russian is not a great indicator of whether you're sympathetic with Russia. It could be because of these 300 years of history, which you just pointed out.

Also, from the beginning, our reporters, when asking these people who had weird uniforms on that just seemed to be missing a Russian insignia, they were identifying themselves as Russia. We also know that a lot of the reports about, and it's here in the human rights report from the U.N., unless you want to say the U.N. is also wrong, that reports were exaggerated, that things were wrong, that it was misinformation about what Russia was putting out about what was causing civil tension.

Do you dismiss the human rights report from the U.N.?

NAOUAI: Yeah, I've read -- I read those reports from the U.N. I thought they made some good points. They pointed out that the attacks on people who do associate themselves with Russia were happening. They were not as wide spread as some of the Russian journalists were reporting. Perhaps that's true.

But let's not forget that the right sector in Kiev, they would have never been able to take over the government without their help first of all. Second of all, the Sovoto (ph) party, which is in the government right now, openly associates itself with Hitler, openly has slogans saying that Russians should burn in hell. And for a country that lost 30 million people fighting fascists in World War II, any kind of indication that this is where Ukraine is going is scary to them, and they're not going to sit by and be silent. CUOMO: That's an understandable point of why Russia would have a very specific and sensitive interest in what happens in Ukraine. But do you understand why that's a very different posture than saying we will influence what happens in Ukraine? We will put our troops on the border? We will have troops come in? We will take Crimea?

You know, there's a difference between fearing what Ukraine does as a sovereign and then deciding to invade Ukraine because you're afraid of what's going to happen, big difference. NAOUAI: Let's not forget that Russia has not invaded Ukraine. Russia does have a border with Ukraine, and yes, there are military fields, military warehouses right on the Ukrainian border. Yes, there are -- is military hardware there. They haven't crossed the border.

I think it's important to not misinform people that some kind of invasion is taking place at the moment. That is not happening. What is happening --

CUOMO: What happened in Crimea?

NAOUAI: -- is Russia is being surrounded. You have NATO just today saying that NATO is sending more fighter jets to Romania. You have (inaudible) troops in Romania. You have F-15s in the Baltics on the north.

If you want to talking about military build-up, we should look at both sides, is what I'm saying.

CUOMO: Absolutely. And that's what we're doing. But when you look at Crimea, it's hard to see that as something short of an invasion. And when you talk about why there's a military build-up, well, certainly the west doesn't want one. It fears having anything that stops the flow of natural gas and the economic exchanges that are going on with Russia right now. They don't want it. That's why sanctions have not been put in place sooner.

Certainly, you know as a U.S. person in your background and as journalist that the U.S. is war weary. Certainly the U.S. doesn't want an armed conflict here. So you must come to the conclusion that any buildup --

NAOUAI: War weary? The U.S. --

CUOMO: -- is done because of Russia.

NAOUAI: -- spends more money on military -- on its military than most -- 16 biggest military budgets in the world. I wouldn't call the U.S. military weary.

But if you want to -- if you want me to answer your question about Crimea, again I don't think it's fair to label it invasion. I think that's what the mainstream media did. And again, I think it was misinformation.

Again, I watched CNN the day before the referendum. There were reports on your very own channel about how a majority of the population there wanted to peacefully vote to become part of Russia. No violence occurred.

CUOMO: Listen, I understand what you're saying. And as you know, the leader of Russia or the de facto leader of the Ukraine right now says he's open to a referendum, but it's got to be done on their own terms as a sovereign. And the real concern is this. We all remember what happened in 2008 in Georgia. The only real material difference right now between Georgia and here is that Georgia decided to fight back. And when they did, it gave an opening for Russia to go in, and there was a lot of bloodshed.

This time the Ukraine has kept its hands up and said, "We will not use force." And hopefully, right now that holds because we do not want to see more bloodshed. But I do think going forward we have to be very careful in seeing what is propaganda and what is in the influence of Russia versus just trying to give the benefit of the doubt to the unknown on the ground because we all know the next couple of steps down the road could be very dangerous ones. That's why this conversation is important.

Appreciate you having it with us, Anissa.

NAOUAI: Thanks so much for having me.

CUOMO: All right.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, it's a race against time truly. Rescuers desperately trying to find nearly 300 missing people, many believe to be teenagers after a ferry in South Korea suddenly sank in frigid t frigid waters. We'll look at what challenges rescuers are now facing.

And also this, on Inside Politics, we're going to look at Mitt Romney, why the former presidential nominee has political insiders raising their eyebrows.