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Ferry Disaster: Searching for Survivors?; Search for Flight 370: New Help on the Way?; Crisis in Ukraine: Diplomatic Deal

Aired April 18, 2014 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS. CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight, a frantic rescue effort to save anyone who could still be alive and trapped on board a sinking South Korean ferry. Hundreds are still missing this morning. The death toll rising. At least 28 people dead. We are live with what's happening right now.

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

ROMANS: Crisis in Ukraine. A diplomatic deal reached to stop war from breaking out. Russia is calling for protesters to stand down. But will it be enough to stop the bloody battles in the streets? The very latest as this horrifying scene plays out, anti-Semitic fliers demanding Jews register. We've got all of these new details in Ukraine.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you this morning. It's Friday, April 18th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we do begin with breaking news in what is still a search-and- rescue operation off the coast of South Korea. This coming two days after a ferry carrying hundreds of passengers, most of them teenagers, capsized and sank. Divers have entered the submerged ferry now, but coast guard officials say, so far, they have found no more bodies.

We're also learning that the ship's captain was not at the helm when the vessel capsized. The 3rd officer was in command. There are 28 confirmed deaths right now, but that number is going to go way, way up. Officials expect the death toll to rise dramatically with some 271 people still missing.

CNN's Pauline Chiou live in South Korea for us this morning with the very latest.

Good morning, Pauline.

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. We have an update on that dive operation that you touched on. The coast guard has given us more details. They said 17 divers were involved in the operation today. Two of them were able to enter the ship and they were able to get to a certain area where they could put a guide line in place. This is a line that attaches the divers to the rescue vessels, and they were trying to put this in place for the other divers that were supposed to come behind them.

But the waters were so rough that they ended up having to come up, and they said there were a lot of large obstacles. Before they came up, however, they were able to open the freight door. Now, in this ferry, there was a freight area that carried more than 1,000 containers and more than 100 vehicles, but they said once that door opened, it was too dangerous for them because there were too many obstacles floating around.

So, that's what happened in terms of the dive operation today. There are also four cranes on site right now, but they are idle because they want to make sure more divers can get in, just in case there are survivors, before those cranes actually start moving that ship.

Now, earlier in the day, the families got some very bad news at this gymnasium where most of them have gathered. They were speaking with the marine agency police, and in the afternoon, the police announced that the death toll had risen to 28.

Many of the relatives devastated, raw grief with many people wailing and crying. Two women collapsed and had to be taken out on stretchers. Later on, relatives were taken away to identify the bodies.

Behind me is Mokpo hospital. Now, this is about an hour away from the harbor where the families are.

Right now, 13 survivors from this ferry accident are recovering. One of them a 71-year-old woman who had an incredible story. Her name is Shin Yong-ja (ph), and she talks about how she was on vacation with four other friends.

She was in a large common area where many of the passengers were sleeping. As soon as she felt that jolt, the ship started listing, she said, and water started coming in. It happens to be that she's a very good swimmer. She was always active her whole life.

She started swimming towards these cabinets that carry life jackets and life preservers. And she said that other passengers started ripping the doors off those cabinets and using those cabinets like a staircase to get above the water. She said she tried to pull herself up, and this is what happened next.


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.


CHIOU: Now, the rescuers tried to break that window open. It took them a little while, but finally, they were able to break the glass and the passengers that were on top of these cabinets were able to get into the rescue vessel.

Now, in that rescue vessel, the woman said that she was talking with the young man who saved her, but she said that she never got his name and she doesn't even know how to find him. And she said she would like to find him some day to thank him because he saved her life.

She also, John, amazingly, didn't know that she had broken her back during this whole accident. But when that ship jolted, that's when she broke her back, and it wasn't until she was in the rescue vessel that she started to feel immense pain -- John.

BERMAN: Pauline, the stories of these survivors simply so amazing, even as there are more questions about why so many more people did not survive.

Our Pauline Chiou covering this for us in South Korea -- thanks so much.

ROMANS: Hope of finding more survivors in that disaster fading fast, but could passengers still be alive in the sunken hull? Just last year, remember, there was this remarkable story 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."


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.


ROMANS: Miracle. Stay with us for continuing coverage for the search for survivors in that ferry disaster here on "EARLY START" and later on "NEW DAY."

BERMAN: Now to the hunt for Flight 370, missing for 42 days. The Bluefin-21 submersible back in the water now for a fifth time. Officials from Australia say analysis of the drone's fourth mission in the underwater search area yielded nothing. The Bluefin has covered about 110 square miles.

In the meantime, the search for debris on the surface continues with nearly two dozen ships and aircraft combing the Indian Ocean. A reminder that day two have found nothing after more than 40 days.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin live in Perth, Australia. So much hope, Erin, in this underwater search in the Bluefin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Overnight, the Bluefin-21 reaching new depths in the search for missing Malaysian Flight 370. During that fourth dive, it managed to go down some 4.7 kilometers beneath the ocean surface, compared to the 4.5 kilometers originally believed to be on the upper reaches of its depth capacity.

And it's really important that the Bluefin be able to go down into some of these deeper waters. You may remember, it had to cut its first mission short. And this is the area where they believe is the most likely place that they're going to find the black box, based on that very detailed acoustic analysis that they did of those four pings that were detected.

So, it's a good sign that the Bluefin-21 overnight was able to reach those depths, but of course, as you mentioned, it has found nothing of interest as far as we know. And today, Malaysia's acting transportation minister tweeted out this morning that they're considering the possibility of putting more subs into the water, more subs, meaning that they could cover more area, perhaps, in a shorter period of time.

No comment from the Australians as yet on that particular development. I understand that the Bluefin is currently engaged in that fifth dive and we are awaiting for an update on if it, in fact, found anything this time around -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Erin McLaughlin, we will wait for that update. Thank you so much. We'll check back with you in a little bit.

ROMANS: All right. This morning, a diplomatic deal is in place to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, but plenty of skepticism.

Secretary of State John Kerry says he hopes Russia lives up to the pledge to curb the violence in Ukraine. Meantime, tensions in eastern Ukraine very high this morning, and there is international condemnation for some fliers, fliers handed out by masked men, ordering Jews in the city of Donetsk to register with authorities. There is also plenty of doubt about their authenticity.

CNN's Phil Black live in Donetsk for us.

And you know -- I'm sorry because we don't have Phil, but he's going to tell us about this new sort of detail and injection of anti- Semitism into the already very, very tense situation in the east. We're going to get back to him when his connection is good for us.

BERMAN: Yes, the fliers were return addressed to pro-Russian militants, but there are serious questions about whether they come from them or is Ukrainian intelligence trying to stir things up, but one thing is clear, that people are throwing the Jewish population now into the middle of this divisive moment.

Nine minutes after the hour.

Drivers in a Midwestern city terrified to get on the road. A gunman randomly targeting cars on the highway for months. Three people wounded in the attacks. But this morning, a new development in this case. We'll tell you all about it next.


ROMANS: Thirteen minutes after the hour. Welcome back now.

We have Phil Black with us now. Let's go right to him in Ukraine on the situation there.

Phil, bring us up to speed on this peace deal, this deal to defuse tensions there and also this injection of anti-Semitism into the situation in the region.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, this is a disturbing development in a country that lost millions of lives during the Nazi occupation of World War II. But masked men are being seen outside a synagogue here in the city of Donetsk, handing out fliers that have shocked members of the Jewish community here, because they call for all Jewish people over the age of 16 to register their identities, their property and the vehicles they own as well. And it says that this is necessary because it claims the Jewish people supported protesters in the capital Kiev, who you remember, drove out the former president of this country.

And this is all happening under the name, according to this flier, of pro-Russian separatists, those who are still occupying government buildings here, trying to encourage this region to split away from Ukraine and form an independent republic, or perhaps join the Russian Federation.

The man who leads that movement, his name is at the bottom of this notice, but he has told us that he has absolutely nothing to do with this. And indeed, the Jewish community believes that this is some sort of political exercise. They are being caught up and are being used in a game between Ukrainian people who want the country to remain united and those who want to split away.

Regarding those people who are still occupying the buildings, we're really waiting, watching to see what they do next after this agreement was thrashed out in Geneva in those four-party talks yesterday. Because the key points of that agreement are that weapons should be laid down and public buildings that are being occupied illegally should be vacated. So far, there has been no response from these occupying groups, these separatists and pro-Russians, who have now for some days and weeks been consolidating their hold on their region of eastern Ukraine.

Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Phil Black, glad we could get that connection and get that report. Thank you.

BERMAN: Another big story to tell you about developing overnight. A high-altitude avalanche on Mt. Everest, killing nine Sherpa guides and leaving three others seriously injured. A group of about 50 Sherpas were hit by this avalanche at an elevation of more than 20,000 feet, just above their base camp. Officials say rescue teams have gone to search for other members of the group who are still missing. That's got to be such a difficult search.

ROMANS: The terror trial of radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri is under way in New York. In opening statements Thursday, prosecutors describe 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 starting a jihad training camp in Oregon. He has pleaded not guilty. He's expected to take the stand.

BERMAN: Police believe they have their man in a string of highway shootings, as many as 20 in that city. This began last month. Police say the suspect has been randomly shooting at cars, injuring three people, putting drivers on edge, really, for weeks. Now, the suspect has not been identified. No formal charges have been filed as of yet, and police still do say this investigation is ongoing.

ROMANS: Ex-NFL star Darren Sharper is due in court in Los Angeles 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 there say DNA matching sharper has been found on one of those women. Sharper currently in jail in California, where he has pleaded not guilty to similar charges.

BERMAN: Texas agents have seized the secluded Yearning for Zion Ranch for the followers of imprisoned 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 that he took as child brides. The ranch, which the FBI raided in 2008, taking some 430 children into protective custody, was owned by a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church, although the Latter-Day Saints disavows any connection with this group.

ROMANS: Let's look at markets right now. Asian stocks closed slightly higher today. Markets around the rest of the world are closed for the Good Friday holiday, including here in the U.S. all three major indices in the U.S. closed higher for the week. Corporate earnings driving the market ahead of the holiday weekend. Shares of IBM and Google down on disappointing numbers. On the other hand, GE, seen as a bellwether for business in the U.S., is better than expected.

If you don't think your salary is fair, a new survey from Glass Door shows two in five Americans don't believe they're paid fairly, two in five, John Berman. And half of Americans believe the pay gap between executives and regular workers is growing. Glass Door went on to ask workers what they want, if a raise wasn't possible -- 61 percent said, you can't pay me more? Give me more vacation days.

BERMAN: Take that and snacks. More vacation days and snacks.

ROMANS: You know, the tech companies all have really amazing snacks.

BERMAN: They have snacks?

ROMANS: And people are happy.

BERMAN: Do they start their day at 4:00 a.m.?

ROMANS: I don't think so.

BERMAN: Interesting. That's why we need snacks.

President Obama says the latest health care enrollment numbers add up to success. That's what he says. Eight million people have now signed up for private health insurance under the affordable care act. Those new White House numbers, 35 percent of those enrolled, the White House says are people under 35.

The president in a press conference saying it is proof positive that he thinks Obamacare is working and that it's time for Republican critics to stop trying to fight it.

ROMANS: 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 reportedly given a clean bill of health in November. Still no word from his dad on his political plans for 2016.

BERMAN: You can't stop him. You can only hope to contain him. We are talking about Toronto's mayor, Rob Ford, otherwise known as Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford, who launched his bid for re- election Thursday. I suppose you could say in typically sedated fashion.

(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.


BERMAN: Toronto's city council stripped ford of most of his powers after he admitted using crack in a drunken stupor while mayor. He does face a tough battle against two major challengers this fall.

ROMANS: Another massive Clinton document dump on the way today, the fourth and largest batch of papers, some 7,500 pages coming from President Bill Clinton's White House. The previously confidential documents expected to involve the Oklahoma City bombing and the Rwanda genocide some 20 years ago, and also, communications between President Clinton and his spiritual advisers, we're told.

Papers from the former first lady's office will also be included.

BERMAN: From a stack of papers to a bundle of joy. Chelsea Clinton with her beaming mother at her side, announcing she is expecting her first child.


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


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.


BERMAN: Now, as for the father -- or I should say, the expected grandfather, Clinton tweeted his excitement about being a grandfather- to-be, and the former secretary of state called grandmother-to-be her most exciting title yet.

Of course, there is already speculation about how this news might influence her decision to seek, perhaps, another title in 2016.

ROMANS: You know, she had said last year that 2014 would be the year of the baby. This was the year of the baby. So, Chelsea Clinton, she's a planner.

BERMAN: Year of the baby is 2014. The question is, what happens in 2015 and 2016? Mm-hmm.

All right, severe storms threatening to tear through parts of the country this weekend. That's all Indra Petersons' problem right now. We'll have the full forecast coming up next.

ROMANS: Do cross-country or international flights leave you wondering, who, what, where, when or why once you step off the plane? We're playing jetlag myth-busters this morning to help you road warriors stay spry while you fly.

Myth number one, have a drink to help you fall asleep. While it might help you nod out, too much could dehydration and keep the body from entering a deep sleep, giving you a groggy feeling. Consider just sticking to water.

Flying may be a time to binge watch your show, but the artificial blue light from screens on phones and laptops could interrupt your sleep cycle and keep you up. Researchers suggested powering down an hour or two before planning to catch some zzzs.

If all else fails, try an app. Researchers have developed an entrain map to find out how much light you need to keep your Arcadian rhythm in sink while you travel to new time zones.


BERMAN: Severe storms set to hit a lot of this country this weekend. Just where? Indra Petersons tracking it all for us.

ROMANS: Hey, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Can we just start with the fact that it's Friday?

ROMANS: Yes, please.

PETERSONS: And it's beautiful, it's getting warmer? Such a Debbie Downer, Berman. Let's talk about the temperatures.

I want to start here, because I kind of want to show you how we are starting to recover. Notice the temperatures, many of you still below normal today, but by tomorrow, look at this. As we go right into the weekend, we already start to see the recovery. We're going to see temperatures really start to bounce back. In fact, many of us will be above normal, except for, yes, down in towards the southeast.

So, let's talk about what is going on in the Southeast. One of the things we could watch, any time you get energy, we talk about the gulf. Why does the gulf matter? Well, you look at the moisture that goes over the gulf, and it really picks up all this energy.

Look how this pops up. What is that? That is warm, moist air. Once you see that entering into the Southeast, you're talking about heavy amounts of rain. I mean, look at this, talking 3, 4 inches of rain, so flooding concerns are going to be high.

Let's talk about how much rain they've already seen. I mean, 3 to 6 inches has already been seen, so well above normal for the month of April already, and we're not even halfway through yet, so definitely the flooding concerns will be out there, even the threat for severe weather in through Florida today.

Otherwise, let's talk about Easter, what everyone wants to know. Here's that big storm system exiting offshore, so by Sunday, yes, just right there on the immediate coastline you will have a chance for slight showers and maybe some pop-up showers in Wisconsin, back through Texas. Not going to be a big deal.

Overall, most of you are seeing beautiful temperatures on Easter and most of that weather should be out of the Southeast. Maybe a little soggy in the grass, but overall -- I mean, it is a good weekend for Easter. Things are improving, on the up side.

ROMANS: Great.

BERMAN: The eggs rot faster, though.

ROMANS: Debbie Downer, John Berman, Debbie Downer. You know, Indra just calls it like she sees it.

BERMAN: I read out loud. It said there are storms that are going to hit a big part of the country. I don't invent this stuff.


ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.


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