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EARLY START

South Korean Ferry Disaster: Could There Still Be Survivors?; Search for Flight 370; Diplomatic Deal to Ease Ukraine Crisis; 8 Million Enrolled in Obamacare

Aired April 18, 2014 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight: The frantic rescue effort to save anyone who might still be alive and trapped on board a sinking South Korean ferry. Hundreds still missing this morning as the death toll continues to rise. At least 28 people dead. We're live with what's happening right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, an underwater search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The Bluefin submarine in the middle of its fifth mission now, combing the ocean floor for any sign of the vanished jetliner, a slow, painstaking process that could soon dramatically speed up. We're live with the new help search crews may soon see.

BERMAN: Crisis in Ukraine. A diplomatic deal reached to stop war from breaking out, for now. Russia calling for protesters to stand down, but will it be enough to stop the bloody battles in the streets? This as a shocking scene plays out. Anti-Semitic fliers demanding Jews register. We are live this morning with the very latest.

Good morning, everyone. Great to see you today. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Friday, April 18th, it's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin with breaking news and what is still a search-and-rescue operation off the coast of South Korea, two days now after a ferry carrying hundreds of passengers, most of them teenagers, after that ferry sank, that ship sank.

We're learning now the ship's captain was not at the helm when it capsized. The third officer was in command.

The ferry is now completely submerged, the death toll rising overnight. It's now 28. There are some 271 still missing, while families cling to the hope more survivors will be found, there is growing anger that the actions of the crew may have cost many lives.

CNN's Pauline Chiou live in Mokpo, South Korea.

They are still hopeful they can find some bodies, but they are putting the pieces together and a lot of people are angry about the moments after the ship started to list, Pauline. Tell us about it.

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and they're angry because of some of the new information coming out today. The state prosecutor is now saying that the captain was not in the steering room at the time of the accident. In fact, it was the third mate.

So, they're looking at that, they're investigating that aspect. Families are very, very disappointed and very angry today. They were in the gymnasium in Jindo, which is that area near the harbor where many of the families are waiting.

They were speaking with the marine agency police and emotions started running high, when just a few hours ago, police announced that the death toll had risen to 28. You heard many relatives screaming, wailing. It was raw emotion of pure grief. Two women collapsed and had to be taken out on stretchers. Also, several relatives were taken away to identify the bodies that have come in.

Now, behind me is the Mokpo hospital where 13 survivors are right now recovering. We met an elderly woman today, a 71-year-old woman, who explained what happened to her when she felt that jolt on the ferry. She says she was in a large common area where many people had been sleeping. She was traveling with four of her friends. She was watching television at the time, and suddenly, she felt that jolt and felt the ship listing, and then water coming into that room.

She happens to be a very good swimmer, so she swam to an area of that room which had cabinets of life jackets. Other passengers were tearing the doors off those cabinets and using those cabinets as a staircase to get higher. She says she tried to climb these cabinets, and then this is what she says happened next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I didn't have enough strength to climb up. The young man in front of me pulled me up and said, "Hold on tight." Then when we got to the top of the cabinets, I saw the window. A man near me was banging on the window with a life jacket. And somebody saw us. Then they turned the rescue boat toward us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHIOU: And she also has a broken back, which is why she couldn't sit up there in the hospital bed. She said she didn't realize she had this injury until she felt the immense pain when she was inside the rescue boat.

And, Christine, she also said, how could this be? How can an old woman like me survive and all of those young people still in the water? Christine?

ROMANS: Just heartbreaking, and they're still looking for some 271 still missing.

Thank you so much, Pauline Chiou. BERMAN: Such a tragedy, and hope of finding more survivors, as Pauline said, is fading fast.

But could passengers still be alive in the sunken hull? Just last year, there was this remarkable case of a Nigerian man who survived for three days trapped in the air pocket of a capsized tugboat before he was rescued. The survivability question was discussed Thursday on "CNN TONIGHT."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. HAKEEM OLUSEYI, PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS, FLORIDA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: The best chance you have for survival in a situation like this is having a well-trained and professional and competent crew, and it seems that in this case, there are some questions about that crew and led by that captain. And, you know, a ship has many compartments with hatches that are water-tight and air-tight.

And so, decisive, quick action, correct action when things went wrong is what would have saved many lives, right, leading to a proper evacuation, but also making sure these compartments are air-tight and water-tight.

And to the extent that that occurred, then there could very well be air pockets, and people have been known to survive for quite some time in very deep water in these air pockets. People that survive the actual capsizing of the ship, three dangers that they face: one is the temperature, right? If you're in the cold water, you're not going to last for very long. Another now is, as you're in that air pocket, you're going to use up oxygen, and the act of breathing is going to create a lot of carbon dioxide, and carbon dioxide toxicity is your main threat.

So, for that Nigerian chef, given the size of his air pocket, he could have survived for about 70 hours. And lucky for him, he was saved after 60.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Stay with us for continuing coverage of the search for survivors in this ferry disaster. We'll have more here on EARLY START, and later on "NEW DAY."

ROMANS: Now to another desperate search, the hunt for Flight 370, missing now for 42 days. The Bluefin-21 submersible back in the water for a fifth time. Australian officials say analysis of the drone's fourth mission in the underwater search area yielded nothing. The Bluefin has covered 110 square miles so far.

Meantime, the search for debris on the surface continues with nearly two dozen ships and aircraft combing the Indian Ocean.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin live for us this morning in Perth, Australia.

Erin, what's the latest?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

Well, officials so far still confident they are looking in the right place for the missing plane. As far as we know, the fifth dive still under way, the fourth having concluded overnight. And during the fourth, they reached new depths, some 4.7 kilometers beneath the ocean surface, instead of the 4.5 originally thought to be at the very edges of the Bluefin-21's depth capacity.

Engineers having analyzed the Bluefin-21's hardware, now determining that it can go as much as 5 kilometers beneath the ocean surface, but it would need to be reprogrammed in order to do that.

We did notice that during that fourth dive, rather, they did manage to cover some 8 square miles as opposed to the 15 square miles originally thought to be covered in any given particular mission. No reason given by authorities here in Australia for that, or it could be the fact that they are testing its limits.

But as you mentioned, no objects of interest found as yet, as far as we know, in any of these dives. A couple days ago, the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, was quoted as saying that they will exhaust their most promising leads within a week.

And the transportation minister, the acting transportation minister for Malaysia, today tweeting out, saying that they are considering the possibility of putting additional submarines in the water. Of course, additional submarines, meaning that they will be able to cover more area in a shorter period of time -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Erin McLaughlin in Perth for us this morning. Thank you, Erin.

The Flight 370 families still demanding answers from investigators. They held a prayer vigil in Beijing.

CNN's Ivan Watson will be live with details on that a bit later on EARLY START.

BERMAN: This morning, there is a diplomatic deal in place to resolve at least part of the crisis in Ukraine. There is still plenty of skepticism, however.

Secretary of State John Kerry says he hopes Russia lives up to its pledge to curb the violence in Ukraine. Meantime, tensions in that eastern part of the country remain very high. There is international condemnation for fliers reportedly handed out by masked pro-Russian separatists, ordering Jews in the city of Donetsk to register with authorities. The authenticity of these fliers very much in question.

CNN's Phil Black is live in that city for us this morning.

Phil, what's the latest?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, what we know is someone is trying to inject anti-Semitism into this ongoing political crisis, someone on the ground here in the city of Donetsk, because it was outside the city synagogue earlier on this week that four masked men were seen distributing these fliers. And the chief rabbi of the synagogue tells us that when he looked at these fliers, read them, he was shocked, because as you said it demanded all Jewish people over the age of 16 in this region register their identities, their property and vehicle ownership.

And it said this was necessary because the Jewish community in this region had supported protesters in the capital Kiev who earlier this year drove out the country's former president, and this demand was coming, according to the flier, from pro-Russian separatists, those who are still occupying government buildings here, trying to break away from Ukraine and establish what they describe as the people's republic of Donetsk.

The flier was signed by the man who leads that movement. We've spoken to him, and he denies any knowledge, says he has nothing to do with it, says he believes it is a provocation. And indeed, the feeling among the Jewish community, the feeling on the ground at the synagogue is that, yes, someone has tried to insert fear, perhaps create a pretext for violence, but they believe that the Jewish community is being used in the ongoing wider political game between those who want Ukraine to stay together and those here in the east who are trying to break away and become independent, or perhaps, join the Russian Federation -- John.

BERMAN: Dangerous, ugly game being played right now on the streets. Our Phil Black in Donetsk, thanks very much.

ROMANS: All right: Drivers in the Midwestern city terrified to get on the road. A gunman randomly targeting cars on the highway for months. Three people wounded in these attacks. This morning, there is a new development to tell you about in that case.

BERMAN: And dramatic, new 911 calls after a bus full of teenagers suddenly crashes. Several people killed. You'll hear from one student who survived as she was running away from the fiery wreck, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Tragedy at the top of the world. A high-altitude avalanche on Mt. Everest killing nine Sherpa guides and leaving three others seriously injured. A group of about 50 Nepali Sherpas were hit by the avalanche at more than 20,000 feet, just above their base camp. Officials say rescue teams are going to search for other members of the group who are still missing.

BERMAN: The terror trial of radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri is under way in New York. In opening statements Thursday, prosecutors described a man who trained terrorists while hiding behind a cloak of religion. Al Masri faces 11 terror-related counts, including conspiring to kidnap Americans in Yemen and planning to build a jihad terror camp in Oregon. He's pleaded not guilty and is expected to take the stand. ROMANS: Police in Kansas City believe they have their man in a string of highway shootings, as many as 20 highway shootings in the Kansas City area. They began last month. Police say the suspect has been randomly shooting at cars, injuring three people, putting drivers on edge for weeks. The suspect hasn't been identified.

No formal charges have been filed yet, and the police say the investigation is ongoing.

BERMAN: Ex-NFL star Darren Sharper due in a Los Angeles court today. The former New Orleans Saint has been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting up to nine women across five states. Thursday, he was denied bail in an Arizona case involving three alleged victims. Detectives say DNA matching Sharper has been found on one of those women. Sharper is currently in jail in California, where he has pleaded not guilty.

ROMANS: Texas agents have seized the secluded Yearning for Zion Ranch, where the followers of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs once lived in near isolation. Jeffs is serving a life sentence after a 2011 conviction for sexually assaulting two young girls he took as child brides. The ranch, which the FBI raided back in 2008, taking some 430 children into protective custody, was owned by a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church.

BERMAN: Chilling 911 calls released in the horrific California bus crash that injured dozens and left 10 people, including five students, dead last week. A FedEx tractor-trailer reportedly smashed into the tour bus carrying 44 high school students. One student who escaped moments before the bus exploded into flames struggled to describe the scene.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OPERATOR: What's your name? Are you still on the bus or are you off the bus at this point?

CALLER: Everyone got off the bus. The bus is on fire!

OPERATOR: I understand that. Are you away from it or are you still on it?

CALLER: Yes, we're getting away from the bus, actually.

OPERATOR: OK. OK. Go as far away as you can safely get, OK?

CALLER: OK.

OERATOR: OK. And what did the bus hit?

CALLER: What?

OPERATOR: What did the bus hit?

CALLER: It hit on the -- I guess the left side? It hit the --

OPERATOR: Can you just -- with one or two words, tell me what the bus hit?

CALLER: The bus hit the FedEx truck. The FedEx truck hit into us.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: Investigators have returned to the scene north of Sacramento to reconstruct parts of that deadly collision.

ROMANS: President Obama says the latest health care enrollment numbers add up to success. Eight million people have now signed up for private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Thirty- seven percent of those enrolled are people under 35 years old. The president says it is proof positive that Obamacare is working. It's time for Republican critics to stop trying to fight it.

BERMAN: Some political news. Beau Biden has made up his mind. The vice president's son will not seek a third term as attorney general of Delaware. Instead, he's seeking higher office, planning to run for governor there in 2016. The 45-year-old has had a spate of recent health scares but was reportedly given a clean bill of health in November.

Still no word from his father on the vice president's political plans for 2016. Theoretically, there could be two Bidens running for office in Delaware.

ROMANS: Rob Ford -- speaking of elected officials of a completely different stripe. Rob Ford at it again, running for office. The divisive, crack-smoking mayor of Toronto firing up his re-election campaign in front of cheering supporters Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: By re-electing me, friends, by re-electing me on October 27th, the people of Toronto, you folks, you folks will continue to have the most open, honest, fair, hard-working mayor that this city has ever seen.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The city council stripped Ford of most of his powers after he admitted using crack in a drunken stupor while mayor. He faces a tough battle against two major challengers.

BERMAN: He trademarked the phrase "crack-smoking mayor." The dude will be rich, because every time you say it, you say crack-smoking mayor.

ROMANS: Well, usually a politician is like, the embattled so-and-so, and they don't like that you keep saying embattled. Beyond embattled, crack-smoking.

BERMAN: I'm trying to help with investment tips. It's a money thing. Appreciate it. All right. Another huge Clinton document dump today coming, the fourth of a largest batch of papers, some 7,500 pages coming from President Bill Clinton's White House. The previously confidential documents are to include the Oklahoma City bombing, the genocide in Rwanda and communications between President Clinton and his spiritual advisers. Papers from the former first lady's office also will be included and scrutinized, to say the least.

ROMANS: And from papers to a bundle of joy, Chelsea Clinton with her mom at her side, beaming, announced she is expecting her first child.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year, and --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think anyone was smiling bigger than your mom with that announcement.

CLINTON: I just hope that I will be as good a mom to my child, and hopefully, children, as my mom was to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Bill Clinton tweeted his excitement of becoming a grandfather-to-be, and the former secretary of state called grandmother-to-be her most exciting title yet, and yes, speculation has begun about how the news will influence her decision to seek another title in 2016.

BERMAN: Totally. Will she want to be a full-time grandmother and maybe not run for president? Or will having the baby around the house inspire her to plan for the future and run for office?

ROMANS: I don't know.

BERMAN: You don't have the answer?

ROMANS: I do not know, but I do know that Chelsea Clinton said hopefully children, so she's planning on more than one child. That's what I heard there.

Start saving your 529 plans right now.

BERMAN: So many answers that Christine Romans doesn't have. Chad Myers now has a look at the weather -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A pretty decent day out there, especially if you're flying today. A couple of bumps across the Southeast, heavy rain in parts of Georgia and Florida, but the Northeast cool, but at least sunny for the next couple days.

Here are the highs, 50s and 60s up and down the East Coast, 56 Atlanta, 53 New York, not a big difference there, but 44 in Boston, the cool spot across the Northeast.

For tomorrow, things get a little bit bumpy through the plains. We could see some severe weather. Colorado, back into Kansas, Oklahoma and West Texas with the next storm. The rain from the Southeast moves offshore, and it still remains quite nice across the Northeast.

Maybe not as warm as you'd like, but still pretty nice. And for Easter Sunday, decent weather D.C., New York, New York City about 60, New York City, a beautiful day, sunshine all day long, 64 D.C., 79 for Memphis and 74 in Atlanta -- a beautiful 70 and sunshine in L.A.

ROMANS: A good Good Friday. Good Good Friday weather.

All right. A slow, so far, fruitless search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, leaving families of those on board frustrated, they are heartbroken, this morning, holding an emotional candlelight vigil. We are live in Beijing with that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Here's the latest in the search for Flight 370. The Bluefin-21 plunging the depths of the Indian Ocean for a fifth time now in this underwater search area. Analysis of the data from the drone's fourth mission yielded nothing. Malaysian officials have raised the possibility of deploying more underwater search vehicles.

Meantime, the Flight 370 families still demanding answers from investigators. Last night, a group held a memorial service in China.

CNN's Ivan Watson live in Beijing.

They're still very frustrated, but a memorial service. You know, what is the significance of that? What are they saying this morning as they're trying to move on?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was a prayer service, Christine, and it was held by a gathering of the spouses of Chinese passengers of the missing flight, so these were husbands and wives. It was highly emotional. They were weeping as a prayer was being led.

Now, you may be, perhaps, surprised to hear that I'm told that many of these people still believe that their loved ones are still alive. They are desperate for some kind of an answer, an explanation for where the plane is.

One of the wives that I spoke with, a young woman, she said that she'd only been married a month before her husband disappeared aboard that plane more than 40 days ago, so you can imagine the agony that she is going through.

Now, originally, these spouses had hoped to hold the prayer ceremony at a park very close to the hotel in Beijing where these meetings have been taking place. Apparently, the Chinese authorities did not allow that, and instead, it was held indoors.

Afterwards, after people had dried their tears, they still walked out into the streets and walked towards that park. They were closely followed by Chinese police, both uniformed and plain-clothed police, to give you a sense of how closely the authorities are watching them. And I think that underscores why these hundreds of Chinese relatives are determined to remain gathered here in Beijing, to put pressure on the Malaysian authorities. They are desperate for some answers from them on what happened in the final hours of this plane's flight before it disappeared, and by extension, on the Chinese authorities as well.

This is a part of the world where governments are not known for their transparency. The Malaysian authorities say they will send a high- ranking technical committee to come and meet with the families here in Beijing on Monday.

But a representative of Malaysian Airlines today, Christine, he said that they would not be volunteering some information that has been requested, such as the serial number on the black box on the missing plane. He says that has to remain private with the investigators, and that is something that is frustrating the Chinese families here, many of whom have expressed distrust and suspicion about the Malaysian authorities and have suggested that there is some kind of a cover-up here -- of course, accusations that the Malaysian officials have denied.

ROMANS: Yes, I mean, they've called -- some of these family members have called the Malaysian officials liars, and it's almost as if they want to have their own investigation from start to finish because there is so much mistrust.

Ivan Watson, thank you so much for that, Ivan.

Later on EARLY START, CNN's David Mattingly goes deep, giving us a firsthand look at what the ocean floor retrievable operation could look like from inside a manned and cramped underwater vehicle.

BERMAN: Happening right now, rescuers so far failing to find anyone alive in the sunken ferry off the coast of South Korea, this as we learn new details about who was at the helm of this ship when it suddenly sank. We're live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)