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Hundreds Missing After Ferry Sinks; Crews Race to Find Survivors; Oil Slick Not From Flight 370; Obama: Russia Destabilizing Ukraine

Aired April 17, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And why was only one life boat deployed?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the Bluefin completes its first full mission in the search for Flight 370. The latest on what it saw. Plus, new questions this morning, was the plane on auto-pilot heading to Australia?

CUOMO: Breaking overnight, Vladimir Putin speaking out, calling Ukraine's efforts to crackdown on pro-Russia militants a, quote, "grave crime." This morning, Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with his Russian counterpart. What is the message?

Your NEW DAY starts right now.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, April 17th, now 6:00 in the east. The race is on to hopefully rescue some 300 people missing from a sunken ship that was ferrying mostly high school students on what was supposed to be a dream vacation. At least nine people reported dead, but after more than 24 hours in freezing water officials fear that number will rise. CNN Paula Hancocks is live in Jindo, South Korea -- Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, night is falling as you can see here for a second time and the relatives of those 287 still missing are desperately waiting for any news. Many parents here waiting to see if their child is even still alive. The weather has not been cooperating today. There have been very strong currents. Three divers at one point were carried away. They were later picked up by a fishing vessel. They were safe, but they had to suspend the diving for some time.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Beneath these frigid waters nearly 300 people, mostly teenage students and their teachers remain missing. The ship's captain with his head down telling police, I'm sorry, I'm at a loss for words. Overnight, three bodies were recovered from the sunken ferry bound for a resort island off the southwest coast of Korea. The miraculous rescue of a 6-year-old girl was caught on tape. Her parents and brother were not found.

Grief stricken family members gather at a harbor in Jindo waiting into the night desperate for any information. A mother's anguish as she recalls encouraging her daughter to take the trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just go. It will be a great experience for you, for your school days. So I'm very regretting -- I'm very regretting this.

HANCOCKS: Dramatic video of the first 24 hours of the frantic rescue shows passengers clinging to guardrails and being airlifted to safety. Most of the crews about what could have caused the ship to sink have come from eyewitnesses who report hearing a loud bang and feeling the ship beginning to tilt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds like he hit a submerged object, which caused a gash in the hull which would allow a lot water.

HANCOCKS: If that's the case the gash apparently was large enough to impact several compartments below and ultimately capsize the ship. Also in question, the handling of the evacuation. According to passengers they were initially told to stay on board. This cellphone video thought to be from inside the ship shows passengers all wearing life jackets.

Outside the ship, only one of 46 life boats deployed. These instructions heard from the crew saying, do not move. If you move, it's more dangerous. Do not move. Could have cost many lives. One of the ways relatives found out about their loved ones was through text messages.

There are a few people in the ship and we are not dead yet so please send along this message. Another student texted his friends. I think we are all going to die. If I did anything wrong to you, please forgive me. I love you all.


HANCOCKS: Now, the government tells CNN that the ship did not actually deviate from its intended route much. This was a report earlier on suggesting that could have been the reason for this accident. Of course, the question is at this point, what exactly happened? Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Of course, the key question in everyone's mind. Paula, thank you very much.

We have breaking news in the search for Flight 370 for you this morning. The oil slick discovered by search crews does not belong to Flight 370 after much analysis that everyone was waiting for. An Australian official telling the "Wall Street Journal" also that the plane may have been flying toward Western Australia possibly on autopilot when it went down.

Australia's prime minister saying the best leads in the search will be exhausted in about a week. After that, it may be time to regroup. All of this as the Bluefin-21 mini-sub completes its first full mission after some technical issues that cut the previous two attempts short. Miguel Marquez is live in Perth, Australia with all the very latest on the search effort. We now finally have the final determination of that oil spill -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that will come as a frustration to many people because it was hoped that would be the first physical evidence of that plane actually going down there. Despite those pings that they believe are from the flight data recorders of MH370 they have no physical evidence of that plane so far. But they believe now that the Bluefin-21 is beginning to operate the way it should, down now for a full 16 hours. They are downloading that massive amount of data and then that Bluefin will go back down again in order to continue to survey the bottom of the Indian Ocean in this area.

The comments by both the transport minister in Malaysia and by the prime minister here in Australia saying in about a week if they do not get a positive hit on that plane, they're going to have to regroup. That means going back to the math try to figure out again exactly where that plane may have gone down and looking for another part of that ocean in order to search -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Miguel, thank you very much for that update. Let's bring in David Gallo, co-leader in the search for Air France 447 and the director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and also Shawn Pruchnicki, air safety expert and aviation teacher at Ohio State University. Good morning to both of you.

David, we just have this latest news on the oil spill. I believe in our past conversations not many had put a lot of hope that this oil spill would be the plane.

DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST: Yes. Like in the early days of this investigation, weeks ago, we saw so much trash floating around on the surface of the ocean. There's also an awful lot of oil out there. It's not that surprising to many of us.

BOLDUAN: But you need to run each one of these leads down, right?

GALLO: Absolutely. Anything might be a key that we're looking for to break open this investigation, sure.

BOLDUAN: In terms of the investigation, Shawn, the Australian prime minister telling the "Wall Street Journal" if we don't find the wreckage, we stop, we regroup, we reconsider. That seems pretty basic, pretty understandable. He also talks about moving into a different phase of the search. I feel like no one has really talked about what's beyond this underwater Bluefin stage because everyone believes that this is going to turn up the plane. What would the next phase be, in your mind?

SHAWN PRUCHNICKI, AIRLINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: Well, one of the significant components of the next phase is going to be simply to expand the search area. That we went and focused or they're focusing on their best guess based on the data they have, but now that it appears that they're not finding any of the debris field, simply a matter of expanding out to some of the other areas. I don't really see this although disappointing as necessarily that negative of an event other than this is a logical place for them to start, it looks like it's turned up nothing, so let's move on to the other areas and let's go find the debris field.

BOLDUAN: Many folks are going to say, David, what other areas? This was the targeted area. Many believe it's right around that first ping that had the longest duration of two hours.

GALLO: Right.

BOLDUAN: There are three other pings that were detected. That's an area of some 500 square miles all together.

GALLO: It's up to that team in Perth and Kuala Lumpur to decide what the next area is. But I think I really do believe it's far too early to give up on Bluefin yet in this one area. It's just had the first solid mission. Give them two or three more days to get up to speed and see what turns up or not.

BOLDUAN: Yes, because it can all change in one moment.

GALLO: It takes one thing on the seafloor to tell you that this is the right spot. They haven't had that chance really yet.

BOLDUAN: Yes. You can almost say it really almost finished the first real mission because the first two were so abbreviated.

GALLO: Sure. In our case we would probably start outside the primary to make sure everything was working properly before we moved into the most significant area. You want to make sure that everything is tuned right, the team is working properly because you don't want to miss anything.

BOLDUAN: Especially now that they want to dive, they can dive a little bit deeper and now they tweaked it.

GALLO: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Shawn, the head of Australia's Transportation Safety Bureau, said something that I believe this is the first time I have heard this that the revised data that they're working off of had suggested that the plane had been flying toward Western Australia, toward Perth and may have been on autopilot at the time when it went down. That's a pretty significant change in the assumptions they're working with.

PRUCHNICKI: Well, it is. But you know, this is one of the things that we've all of us have been talking about for quite some time now, from almost the beginning of the investigation. Certainly when we started getting data points that were leading us much further south like this, that this is exactly what we thought could have been one of the -- one of the scenarios.

I don't believe there's really any other information that supports him saying that other than this has been something all along that we've all talked about. It certainly would explain or be a part of that puzzle understanding how the airplane could have been this far south.

BOLDUAN: What piece of data, what assumption, what revised analysis would lead them towards the path of thinking, this was on autopilot rather than being flown by the pilot at the time. Do you know?

PRUCHNICKI: Well, it's -- the answer to that is going to be getting the boxes, unfortunately.


PRUCHNICKI: That there's really nothing -- there's no other data points we're going to have if we had more data track, if we saw an extremely steady course, then that might lead us to be a little more comfortable thinking that. But outside of having that, which we don't, the next step is, go near the place you're going to find that information is in the boxes, unfortunately.

BOLDUAN: And in your experience that was exactly what changed the investigation for the understanding of what happened to Air France Flight 447, right?

GALLO: As far as we know those are the only two witnesses, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder of the events that happened in this case.

BOLDUAN: And why it remains the primary goal in what they need to find.

GALLO: The only goal right now.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. David Gallo, Shawn Pruchnicki, thanks, guys. Thanks so much -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Kate, we have some significant and deadly developments in Ukraine. In a televised question and answer session, Vladimir Putin denied ever planning to annex Crimea, but did admit to having troops there during last month's referendum. President Obama is unconvinced and is putting Putin on notice saying there will be consequences if Russia doesn't scale back its aggression toward Ukraine.

However, while politicians talk, people are now dying on the ground. A deadly shoot-out between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces is feared to signal worse things to come. Let's get to Phil Black in Ukraine with the very latest -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, yes, this event overnight is easily the most violent of the crisis so far in the southern town where the Ukrainian government says 300 pro-Russian militants attacked a Ukrainian military unit. The Ukrainian military unit was able to repel them, killing three attackers, injuring around 13. Arresting dozens more. No word on Ukrainian military casualties yet.

It is a sign of just how chaotic things on the ground currently are. We have had the arrival of a large Ukrainian military force here with the intention of driving back pro-Russian forces. But so far they have dismally failed to do so. Numerous cases we've seen them stopped not by pro-Russian gun men, but my locals, villagers, people who don't want them here, block their path, swarm them and put them in the humiliating position to negotiate their retreat.

Sometimes giving up the weapons that they are carrying. Sometimes giving up the armored vehicles that they are driving in convoy. Just down the road in a town we saw some six armored vehicles last night really being shown off like trophies by pro-Russian gunmen here. Very proud of what they had captured, very confident they can hold off the Ukrainian military.

What all this means is that the Ukrainian government continues to be in a very weak position. Its authority on the ground is really under question. It can't control its own military because the soldiers don't want to use force against their own people. That means coming into these talks in Geneva today the Ukrainian government is in a weak position as it tries to thresh out a solution to this crisis -- Chris.

CUOMO: Phil, as force becomes more of a reality on the ground we're still being told that diplomacy is the best hope. And so a high-level and certainly high-stakes summit is under way in Geneva. Secretary of State John Kerry and a top E.U. official are meeting with foreign ministers from Ukraine and Russia. The question is, what will the message be this time? CNN's Reza Sayah is live in Geneva with more -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is taking on a lot of complicated global crises during his time serving in the Obama administration. This crisis in Ukraine ranks up there. Many describing this crisis as one of the most significant crises ever since the end of the cold war and that's why you have Secretary Kerry along with top diplomats of the EU, Catherine Ashton, foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia also here trying to figure things out.

So much at stake here. We're not just talking about the future of Ukraine, we're talking about the future of U.S./Russia relations. These are two heavyweights among world powers. They sit together on the U.N. Security Council. If relations sour moving forward they can certainly make life difficult for one another.

Also tremendous pressure, domestically, on the Obama administration, to make the right decisions moving forward. Things seem to be escalating in Eastern Ukraine. You have pro-Russian militant groups taking over police stations, government buildings. Now three people killed yesterday. It won't be easy. Expectations are low. But these diplomats are going to give it a shot today. We'll tell you what happens at the end of the meeting -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: At least they're all sitting down, that's the important part at this point. The dialogue has to begin. Reza, thank you very much.

Let's get to meteorologist, Indra Petersons who is keeping a track of the latest forecast -- Indra. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: At least I have good news. Record lows and snow to Easter Sunday. Not two things that usually go together. Let's talk about what we saw yesterday morning. We saw 5 below, record in Michigan. Upper Midwest, we get that. South to Florida, we were still seeing these very atypical temperatures yesterday. The good news is we're going to start rebounding. Cold air still there. Freeze warnings still here even this morning around D.C. even all the way back down through Charlotte.

Watching the system make its way out, that's good news. A couple of flurries left over in the Upper Midwest. It's down to the southeast. We are shifting our focus. This guy pulling in all the moisture from the Gulf and bringing some heavy rain. I mean, really, the chance for flooding here. We talk about over four inches towards Tallahassee, 2 1/2 inches in Atlanta over the next several days.

Also want to keep that in mind if you're flying out in the Southeast, we could be talking a delays.

All right. Now to the better news, yes, temperatures have been cold. They have been below normal by a good 10, 20 degrees. We already rebounding today. By tomorrow, getting even better. Hello weekend. So close, right?

Look at this. By the time we get to Saturday we look at average temperatures. More importantly what we all care about, Easter Sunday, staying dry now. Change in the forecast. No longer seeing rain on the East Coast for Easter, maybe showers out towards Kansas City, Dallas, and Pacific Northwest.

Most people seeing normal temperatures and staying dry, except for a few cities. That is huge. Please clap because, yes, that's huge.

CUOMO: Good info, good info.

BOLDUAN: Making us appreciate the spring again when we dip back down into the cool temperatures.

PETERSONS: Yes, yes, I appreciate it already.

CUOMO: Those of us forced to hide eggs that will never be discovered by children who are too young to find them and will end up rotting in our yards.

PETERSONS: You find it in the summer they start rotting.

BOLDUAN: These hard boiled egg --


CUOMO: First of all, I do nothing. I was referring to the Easter bunny. Of course, Kate Bolduan.

BOLDUAN: Obviously.

CUOMO: However, when that bunny comes, one, it does not like rain and it does not like leaving eggs in places that are easy to find for children. So, they rot and draw vermin.


CUOMO: Vermin with a V.


CUOMO: Free booze draws Berman with a "B."


BERMAN: Hard to find, let's just say that.

BOLDUAN: Okie-dokie.


CUOMO: Vermin with a V, that's good. That was good insult.

BERMAN: Yes. I'm sensitive here.

BOLDUAN: He was anticipating the onslaught.

CUOMO: All right. Anyway, we're going to take a break here. NEW DAY with a D -- still, a rescue operation on that sinking ship, with troubling new information. Listen to this: Of the 46 life boats, only one was deployed.

We're also hearing passengers were told to stay put while the ship was going under. What was going on?

We're going to talk with a retired coast guard captain about how this could be.

BOLDUAN: Plus, scanning the seafloor for Flight 370. We're going to look at the challenges both above and below the water for getting the Bluefin submersible to operate at peak efficiency. Big challenges ahead.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

There are a lot of questions about what happened to this ship, so we're going to take you through what we understand with the help of the magic wall here. OK?

So, the first point we want to make is, this voyage was delayed because of fog two hours delayed, a little bit of insight into what difficulty there may have been with the conditions. But otherwise, we're told the voyage was normal.

But then something happens below the water line. We're not sure what. Passengers report on board hearing a loud bang. What could that be? Usually means contact with something. The channel was well-dredged. But we're told on either side and it's pretty narrow, there are things that could have been hit. Now what do we learn?

They're told while it's listing, stay put. Not get into life boats, not get ready to abandon ship. Now, remember, each minute lost makes it that much harder to escape, shifting cargo and cars. It had 150 vehicles on board and doors that could flood easily once there was impact.

So, now what happened? It goes from listing to completely submerging and it starts to rotate over. What does that mean?

Well, now, instead of just hopping off a boat, you literally have to climb at a 45-degree angle like climbing on a mountain. Still, there would be hope. Why? Even with the boat completely upside-down like this, if the bow is out like this, the bottom side of the bow, that means there's air pockets inside, you could be surviving.

However, of course, time is of the essence. The water is about 50 degrees. It's cold. The air is cold. The currents are strong. So this is a desperate search to be sure.

Let's bring in retired Coast Guard Captain Paul Roden for some perspective now, joining us from Washington.

Captain, thank you very much for joining us. Let's deal --

CAPT. PAUL J. RODEN, USCG (RET): Good morning.

CUOMO: -- with what you need to hit to impact a ship this way. We understand here in the Yellow Sea, the channel is well dredged. Major shipping lane. We're told it's tight, you have to know where you're going. When you hear there was fog, what does it mean to you?

RODEN: Well, good morning, Chris. And thanks for having me on.

Yes, you're right, there would be -- have to be something unusual to happen to the ship. It would likely be something like hitting a rock or hitting rocks that would cause damage along the length of the ship, enough to cause enough flooding to cause the initial list to one side, healing over.

CUOMO: Right. Now, also, there are complicating factors, right? This is a car carrier, this vessel. So, it has those doors that open, a little different than on a regular container ship. What happens if those are breached in terms of exacerbating flooding, making it happen faster?

RODEN: Exactly. On a ship, one thing that protects it from damage is to have compartmentations so that you have water tight bulk heads that prevent flood throughout the length of the ship. In this case, if there is damage throughout the length or those water tight boundaries are not maintained, then there could be progressive flooding that allows the ship to heal over. CUOMO: So, how the crew responded becomes essential. We have to find out whether or not they were closing those doors to stem literally tide that was entering. Then we hear that only one of the life boats was deployed.

Again, this is a report. Things haven't been completely confirmed yet. But you could see in pictures of the ship as it was listing that there were boats mounted on the side.

What does that tell you?

RODEN: It tells me the procedures that should be carried out perhaps were not. Immediately, time is of the essence, so immediately life boats should be deployed so that those trying to escape the ship have a place to go.

CUOMO: When do you tell people in a distress situation, stay put, don't get ready to abandon ship? It seems like you only hear the opposite in distress situations.

RODEN: Well, exactly, as I mentioned, time is of essence. It's critical to respond, especially in a ship or emergency. And I can't -- I can't imagine. I've tried to think of howl it would be probably to say stay in place.

But personally, I'm not sure how that would be appropriate.

CUOMO: Now, when you're dealing with teenagers you get a mixed blessing, they're young, they're strong. They may be able to endure more. However, when told to stay put, they may not be thinking for themselves, right, they may just do what they're told.

RODEN: Exactly.

CUOMO: So, that complicates in terms of what happened, in terms of reaction time. We're getting text messages that go along with that.

Lastly, Captain, explain -- once that ship begins to list and heel over, what do you start dealing with when you don't have when the boat is righted?

RODEN: Well, the ship is not designed to support transit through the ship in an upside-down condition. So, obviously, it becomes much more difficult. Passengers would need to find their way out by going up, making their way up ladders that were not designed to enable transportation or transit in that way.

Also, I understand that they may have lost ship's power in doing so in the dark, if they were not emergency lighting in place, would make it that much more difficult.

CUOMO: And we keep saying, and the calls of optimism, if there's some of this vessel still above water, that must mean that there's some air supporting ballasts down there. It does give a window of hope in your estimation that there could be compartments with air? RODEN: Well, there could be throughout the ship, actually. What it means that the ship is still flowing is that the weight of the ship given all the water that's come on board is not heavier than the force of buoyancy allowing it to stay afloat. So, there could be air pockets throughout the ship, yes, sir.

CUOMO: And I know as time passes those chances get less, but you have to hold out hope until you have reason not to.

Captain Roden, thank you very much. Appreciate your take on that this morning.

RODEN: Yes. Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, it took three attempts but investigators are now analyzing information collected from the underwater drone that has been scanning the ocean's floor for wreckage to try to find Flight 370.

And this morning, officials say it could take less time than originally thought to complete that search. More on the challenges, ahead.