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South Korean Ferry Disaster; U.S. Conduct Military Exercises in Eastern Europe; Search for Flight 370

Aired April 20, 2014 - 07:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We've got much more ahead on the next hour of your NEW DAY. It starts right now.


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Seven o'clock now on the East Coast, 4:00 out West. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

First up, heartbreak, anger, grief in South Korea today as the search of a capsized ferry brings up only bodies, no survivors.

KAYE: The death toll has been increasing all morning. It now stands at 58 from Wednesday's disaster. Boats have been bringing the bodies to shore, 244 people still missing, many of them as you know were students from the same high school.


BLACKWELL: These are the family members here, they tried to march to Seoul from Jindo, the site of the search operation. They're frustrated over the search efforts and the information they're getting. You could see here that they were blocked by police, so that march did not happen.

KAYE: And again today, divers are going back into the water, racing against dwindling time to find any survivors. Nearly three dozen planes, more than 200 ships are aiding in that search.

BLACKWELL: And we're also learning more this morning about why hundreds of passengers on a doomed ferry could not get to those life boats.

KAYE: CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us from the port city of Jindo in South Korea.

Paula, first tell us some new radio transcripts. We know have just been released from those moments that the ship began to sink, it began to list. They're pretty harrowing, aren't they?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and part of the transcripts which we're focusing on happened about ten past 9:00 in the morning, bearing in mind the first distress signal went out 8:55 in the morning.

So, 15 minutes later, the traffic controllers are asking the person on the ship how are the passengers, and asking if they can be evacuated. But the person who is communicating from the ship is not clear who it is at this point is saying that the ship is listing too much and it is difficult to move.

So, of course, there has been a lot of controversy about the fact that the passengers were not told to evacuate. They were told do not move. It's more dangerous if you move and parents are asking why their children were told not to evacuate a sinking ship. But this is showing that within just 15 minutes, the person in control in the seawall (ph) was basically saying it is too difficult to move.

So, it seems as though the ship did start listing quite significantly, quickly. It took around about two hours to sink completely although part of it was still above the surface of the water, but judging from these transcripts, it may have been fairly quick, the listing and the difficulty to get out of that ship happened.

BLACKWELL: Do you know, Paula, when those cranes that are near the site of this ship will be used?

HANCOCKS: It's not clear at this point. It's not just a practical decision as to when you involve these cranes because basically what they'll be doing is hooking up to the ship and lifting the ship higher as it is sinking to the bottom of the sea at this point, lifting it higher so divers can get inside or even towing it to shore. It's not just a practical decision, because the families have to be involved.

This is what officials are telling us they want the consent of the families if you start moving the ship, then it is really an implicit acceptance that all life has been lost on that ship, and any potential life pockets which -- air pockets which many of these parents are hoping is the case is simply not the case. So, they're saying that if the cranes are involved, does that then mean there's no longer a search and rescue operation, this is simply a search operation, so that will be a very difficult day to make that decision, when the parents have to accept that they believe that all life has been lost.

BLACKWELL: And those parents as we can see from that video are not willing to accept that today, now day five.

Paula Hancocks for us there on Jindo Island in South Korea, thank you.

Breaking overnight, a drone strike in Yemen has killed at least four al Qaeda militants including senior leaders. This is the second one in two days. Yesterday, at least 10 suspected al Qaeda operative were killed in al Bayda province, on their way to another province that's considered a hotbed for this terror group.

Officials say the suspects were in a pickup truck when they were hit and the strikes come days just after this video surfaced showing a huge gathering of suspected al Qaeda militants in the same region in Yemen.

KAYE: More violence on the streets of eastern Ukraine. This morning, an attack near a pro-Russian checkpoint turned deadly. There are conflicting reports on the number of people killed but Russian state media is reporting at least four.

BLACKWELL: This is all happening as pro-Russian militants refuse to lay down their arms following an international order to vacate public buildings. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live in Kiev.

So, Frederik, if you can, kind of clear up this conflict between reports that the right sector, this right wing group was involved in this mission by the pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine.


Yes, we've been in contact with the right wing group. They're called the Right Sector and they say it's absolutely not true that any of their members were involved in that incident.

We've also been in touch with the interim government here in Kiev, and they say they believe that what happened there in the east of the country at that checkpoint is a provocation by the Russians. They say they believe the Russians are looking for some sort of pretext to invade eastern Ukraine. Of course, that really ratchets up the rhetoric again after it looked over the past couple of days things might be calming down just a little bit.

But, clearly, that agreement that was reached in Geneva on Thursday is something that while it might not yet be falling apart is certainly in a lot of trouble. The government in Kiev for its part has been trying to calm the situation down over the Easter holidays that are currently going on, calling for a unilateral truth, saying their anti-terror operation will be put on hold over the Easter holiday. Clearly you see from the shooting incident there is a volatile situation. Things clearly are not calm in that area.

And as you see, the pro-Russians for their part are saying a right wing nationalist group was involved in that shooting incident but again, both the government here in Kiev as well as that group itself says no members from any ultranationalists groups were involved in that incident. They are still trying to get a hold of the facts. There is a lot of confusion as to what exactly happened there overnight, Victor.

KAYE: And, Fred, maybe could you help us understand more, too, about these planned military exercises, the U.S. is planning to conduct them, a series of them in Eastern Europe in the coming weeks. What do we know about them?

PLEITGEN: I think it's very important what you say, Randi. This is a series of military exercises. It's going to start off with about 150 U.S. troops going into Poland, 150 also going into Estonia. Those are two vital countries in all of this. They are two countries that are very close to NATO, very close to the U.S., especially Poland has wanted a stronger U.S. presence and a longer term U.S. presence on its soil for a very long time. It's a very close ally of the U.S. It's been buying a lot of U.S. military gear.

And clearly the people there, the government there are very worried about what's going on in Ukraine right now. They feel threatened by the Russians and have for a very long time. So, any presence on the U.S., of U.S. forces on the ground there is going to do a lot to calm them down and also going to bolster the government here in Kiev. They say anything that NATO does, anything that the U.S. does is of help, no matter how small it is.

So, 150 soldiers in those two places might not sound like very much but it is certainly something that will bolster the confidence of the government here in Kiev, of the one in Warsaw as well, Randi.

KAYE: Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much for clearing all of that up for us.

Well, after coming up empty seven times, the drone scanning the ocean floor for Flight 370 is now in the water again. Look at the Bluefin 21's progress, coming up.

BLACKWELL: And parents of hundreds of children missing from that capsized ferry -- they face off with police.


KAYE: Take a look here. That's an animation of the Bluefin-21 sub which just finished its seventh mission scanning the ocean floor searching for missing Malaysia Flight 370. And a lot of the area it is scan is truly uncharted territory.

BLACKWELL: Yes. As it turns out, what little we do know of the area could help searchers.

Christina Symons, who worked with film director James Cameron on the deep sea challenge, spoke to CNN yesterday about this area.


CHRISTINA SYMONS, GEOLOGIST: Well, so this is a bathymetric map of the sea floor. On land, we'd call it a topographic map that represents evaluation and it's no different on the sea floor. The zenith plateau where they've been focusing the search indicated there by the red box stands about a mile and a half, two miles above the surrounding sea floor and they're operating just on the north slope.

The red box indicates an area about equal to 100 square miles, so give you some sense for what they've about completed surveying. So, it's a large area. We don't -- this isn't a very detailed map, so we can't account for small changes and rocky surfaces, but our best guess is that it's covered with sediment which is good for trying to find a debris field or manmade object on the sea floor. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So, the Bluefin-21, vehicles scanning for any trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is in the water now for the eighth time, up to 11 military planes, 12 ships are also in on the search today.

KAYE: But the weather, that's the problem. It's certainly not helping. And nearby cyclone is making for some windy and rainy conditions.

CNN's Miguel Marquez rode along with the crew that's played an integral role in the surface search and here is his report.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another day, another search, another hope of finding something, any scrap of debris related to Malaysian Flight 370.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our mission to find it. We want to be the crew that does find it but it takes time.

MARQUEZ: Captain Tim McElvery (ph), some 30 search flights under his command, has been everywhere from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca and now here, 1,000 miles off the Australian coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's roughly analogous to Canadian border, to Mexican border, is the distance we've flown for two and a half hours on station and then climb out now.

MARQUEZ: This New Zealand crew in a P-3 Orion, its classified and sophisticated equipment made for hunting enemy submarines, stared at screen and at the sea. Flying at times just 200 feet above the water. The plane's wing span 100 feet. They spot just about everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the nature of the game. We're looking for absolutely anything that could possibly be MH370.

MARQUEZ: In past sorties, they've seen more. Examples, what's this? A tangled fishing net or a tangle of straps from an airplane cargo-hold? This crew, the first so far to see an item and successfully direct a ship to pluck it from the ocean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We patrolled and detected a small red object we believed to be not more than one meter by one meter.

MARQUEZ: The Australian ship Perth responded from 20 miles away, launched a team in an inflatable raft, the P-3 had enough fuel to stay on the scene and direct them to the object.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a large bread basket or bread tray the kind you'd find in a supermarket holding 20 loaves of bread.

MARQUEZ: Not from MH370. Another frustration. The mission goes on.


KAYE: And Miguel joins us live from Perth, Australia.

Miguel, do we have any sense of how this search is going?

MARQUEZ: Well, it's certainly not stopping anytime soon, at least under the ocean. The surface search has been said that it will stop soon, but I don't think any country wants to back out of that. The bluefin 21 continues in concentric circles, something along those lines, covering that area of about 200 square miles of the ocean floor there, a little over half way through that now in this eighth search, we'll find out how much of that they got through as well, they are moving toward the most likely point of the area, where the strongest ping came back from, back on April 8th - Randi.

KAYE: Miguel Marquez, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY: as searchers find more bodies in the capsized ferry in South Korea, families of the missing hope and pray as they wait for word on their loved ones.

But, first, you know him from "The Biggest Loser." And this morning, he's on Sanjay Gupta coming up at 7:30 Eastern Time.

Good morning, Sanjay.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Randi and Victor, I'm excited to have "Biggest Loser" trainer Bob Harper back on the program. He's got a book full of recipes for power breakfasts, and satisfying snacks and I think they will help you slim down and keep the weight off. So, we'll see you in a few minutes, at the bottom of the hour.



KAYE: Heartbreak and grief boiling over into anger in South Korea. Dozens of relatives of passengers missing from that capsized ferry confronted police.

BLACKWELL: They were trying to march to Seoul from the port city of Jindo to protest at the South Korean president's official residence. Now, they're frustrated that the search efforts and the information they're getting. They say they want to tell the president about this situation, and as you can see here, they were blocked by police.

KAYE: It is just heartbreaking. The grief those parents are going through is unimaginable.

BLACKWELL: And the threat of suicide there is very real. Kyung Lah explains from Jindo, South Korea.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It defies the natural order, a parent whose child may have died first. Hundreds of parents now face the unthinkable. Some so grief-stricken they refuse to eat, connected to I.V.s.

Many, like this couple, whose son is missing, expressing this common sentiment among the parents, "I don't want to live."

"If it I don't have my younger child, I want to jump in the sea," she says. "Thinking about my child in the sea, how can I, as a parent, eat or drink? I hate myself for this."

That's not an idle threat say counselors who are stationed where parents wait for news. The mental health workers are unfortunately not busy.

"No one came to us for counseling," says this therapist. "Families don't care about their safety or well-being."

They hope that will change before more will follow the vice principal of the high school where the missing students attended. Two days after rescues pulled Kang Min-gyu to safety, police say he hanged himself in the hills, just outside this gym where parents wait. He left a note to the parents saying he suggested the student field trip, so it was all his fault.

A horrific turn, but in South Korea, suicide is a real threat. South Korea has the world's highest rate of suicide among OECD countries , with many high profile examples. Former President Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death in 2009 in the wake of a financial scandal. Hyundai President Chung Mong Hun leaped off a building during a corruption investigation. Korean starlet Jang Ja Yeon (ph) distraught after her husband's affair hanged herself. Her brother, husband and former manager all committed suicide.

There may be many underlying reasons, South Korea's ultra- competitive society and unwillingness to accept failure, a culture where shame carries a heavy burden, to simple societal acceptance, whatever the cause, with so many parents screaming this at Jindo, "How are we going to live now?" she screams. A country braces for the fallout of an already heartbreaking disaster.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Jindo, South Korea.


BLACKWELL: Well, in South Korea, families usually have just one or two children.

KAYE: And that is the reason this tragedy makes it so much harder for them to bear. Listen to what one expert had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In South Korea, you have one of the lowest birth rates in the industrialized world, only 1.2 children per woman. So, that is very low and that means that many families only have one child, possibly two.

And secondly, a tremendous amount is put into their upbringing. Some 55 percent of household income goes to their education. So, the parents give everything during that period, and it's just so tragic to lose all of these young students perhaps it will be 300 individuals and just terrible time.


KAYE: Well, still to come on NEW DAY, a 50-foot sink hole opens up in Florida.

BLACKWELL: But filling it, is filling it with cement and sand enough to stop it from swallowing two homes?

KAYE: But, first, for you all tennis players and tennis fans, you know the frustration of determining was the ball in or was it out.

BLACKWELL: Pat Cash looks at something called Hawk-Eye that puts all that doubt to bed.


PAT CASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an invention that's been embraced by tennis players worldwide, known for its pinpoint accuracy and cutting-edge technology.

Alison Marr leads a group who work around the clock to make sure that technology is in place long before Roger, Rafa or Serena take the court.

ALISON MARR, SYSTEMS ENGINEER, HAWK-EYE INNOVATIONS: We make pin cameras around the stadium. We measure the court at each venue that we go to as every court is different.

When we take our calibration images, we have to do this under floodlights at night time to ensure that we can track in all conditions straight with it.

On court testing is ensuring that we are accurate to 3.6 millimeters.

This is the Hawk-Eye booth. We're here for every match. We track every ball.

Pat, would you like to have a go at playing for a challenge?

CASH: I'll play for a replay, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take part of that.

CASH: This one. This one here.

Look at that. And it's out. No, it's in.

Oh, I got it wrong.



KAYE: Now, that makes you want to clap your hands, doesn't it? Good morning, Miami. Look at that gorgeous shot. A live look at Biscayne Bay as the sun is warming up south Florida. High today there, 83 degrees. Partly cloudy. How nice.

BLACKWELL: Hmm, 83 degrees. Hey, while we're in Florida, look at this. Crews are rushing to fill this sinkhole that's threatening to swallow two homes there.

The people living in those homes have been safely evacuated, but neighbors could be asked to leave if that sinkhole rose, understandably. It's believed the sinkhole is about 50 feet deep right now.

Almost 100,000 Christians have gathered in Vatican City this morning to celebrate Easter with Pope Francis. Watch.

KAYE: The pontiff led Easter mass earlier this morning. He also gave his twice yearly blessing where he called for world peace and end to social injustices.

BLACKWELL: The Easter marks one of the holiest periods for Christians around the world, it's the day they believed Jesus was resurrected.

And if you are a believer, happy Easter to you. We'll see you back here at the top of the hour, 8:00 Eastern, for more NEW DAY.

KAYE: "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D" starts right now.