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Ferry Death Toll Rises to 58; Terror Suspects Killed in Second Air Strike; Drone on 8th Mission in Flight 370 Search

Aired April 20, 2014 - 08:00   ET


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

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Now, 8:00 here on the East Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

And first this morning, divers are back in the murky waters off South Korea's coast.

KAYE: They are inching through a sunken ferry hoping to find survivors. But so far, they're only coming across bodies. They're bringing those bodies back to shore one-by-one as heartbroken families are watching.

BLACKWELL: The death toll from Wednesday's disaster has been climbing all morning. Right now, it's at 58, but likely could go much higher. Two hundred forty-four people are still missing. Many of them are teenagers who all went to the same high school.

KAYE: Grief-stricken families tried to get from Jindo, the base of the search effort, to the capital Seoul. They say that they want to tell the government about their situation. They were stopped by police.

BLACKWELL: And prosecutors reportedly are seeking to keep the captain and two crew members in custody for as long as 30 days. "The New York Times" reports the third mate was steering the ship through a difficult waterway for the first time when it tilted and began sinking.

Now, there have been a lot of questions about why more of the people weren't able to get on to those lifeboats and why the lifeboats were not deployed when the ferry capsized.

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

And, Paula, first tell us about these new radio transcripts that have just been released from the moments the ship began to sink. They're shedding light on the situation facing the passengers and also the difficulty that the crew had communicating.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Randi. We initially knew we had transcripts from 8:55 a.m. on Wednesday morning. We now have the transcripts from 9:06 a.m. until 9:38 a.m. That is when the last transmission went out.

Now, we did understand that at 9:12, in talking to the Jindo vehicle traffic service, an unidentified person within the Sewol ship was told that the passengers should put life jackets on and also saying have the passengers boarded life rafts and rescue vessels. Now, the person onboard the Sewol says, no, they cannot at this point, they can't move because the vessel has lifted.

So, just very shortly after that first distress signal went out, we understand from these transcripts that the tilting was quite significant. Those -- that one person in the steering room of the sea wall is saying it was impossible for them to be able to move. Now, of course, there has been a lot of criticism questioning why there was not an evacuation order given to some of those passengers and some passengers who survived said they were actually told to stay put because it was more dangerous for them to move. So this sheds some light, the crew member who they were talking to actually said it was too difficult for them to move at all at 9:23 a.m.

Jindo also said, tell them to wear life jackets. And at that point, the person who was in charge of the ship said they were unable to broadcast. At which point, they were told to go in and physically tell people to put their life jackets on.

BLACKWELL: All right. Paula Hancocks there for us in Jindo, South Korea. Paula, thank you.

KAYE: Taking a closer look now at the search operation. Mary Schiavo is joining us. She's the former inspector general of the Department of Transportation.

BLACKWELL: Mary, although hope is certainly dimming, families are clinging to hope that their loved ones have survived this. What do you think the chances are that there are survivors still inside this capsized ferry and possible air pockets?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN ANALYST: Well, you know, there is the story of a previous sinking. Of course, that was in Africa where one person was saved many days later. But given the temperature and that the ship now is completely under water, I wouldn't want to give anyone false hope. I think it's pretty unlikely.

KAYE: And if the ship is moved, Mary. I mean, what happens to those air pockets? Do they disappear? And I guess at what point will officials decide to lift the ship?

SCHIAVO: Well, those air pockets not necessarily will disappear, but they will shift around. They can move around, and if there is, you know, increasingly more and more water taken onboard the air pockets do dissipate over time. So, moving the ship probably would change them dramatically. And if there was anyone in the air pocket, it would -- it would make the chances dim.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Mary, there's something I've wanted to ask you about since I've read it. The prosecutor Lee Bong-chang in this case says that the captain is charged with causing the ship to sink by failing to slow down while sailing the narrow route and making the turn. It wasn't the captain at the helm, it was the third mate.

How is it possible the captain faces the charges when he was in the state room tending to something else?

SCHIAVO: Well, we have parallels. Everyone might remember the Exxon Valdez, which, of course, up in Alaska, failed to stay within the channel and had run aground and there was, of course, a tremendous fouling of the sound up there.

And in that case, the captain did face charges and had been below -- had been relieved of his duty because he'd been serving for a long period of time, the captain in charge of the ship. And while in this country and eventually there, of course, the law had to work its way, you know, the captain had to work his way through the system, which took a very long time.

But we require actually guilty mind. In other words, a captain has to make a decision, has to have a bad decision. There, if you're in charge of the ship you don't take care to take care of it, it's a different legal system.

Of course, you're also in charge of making sure that your crew is trained, that your crew knows how to use a lifeboat so the crew knows what to do, once you've run aground, et cetera. So you can't simply say I'm not responsible because I was resting. That's not how it works. You're responsible for the whole -- for the whole operation of your ship. That is why the captain should be and will be facing those charges.

BLACKWELL: Hmm, it clarifies it for me.

KAYE: Mary, thank you very much. Nice to see you.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Breaking overnight, a suspected U.S. 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 operatives were killed in the al Bayda province on their way to another province that's considered a hotbed for the terror group. Officials say the suspects were in a pickup truck when they were hit.

And the strikes come days after this video surfaced on the Internet showing a huge gathering of suspected al Qaeda militants in that same region in Yemen.

KAYE: Right now, the drone looking for any sign of the missing Malaysia Airlines 777 is in the water. The eighth try in an effort now that has come up empty. Up to 11 military planes and 12 ships are also in on that search today.

BLACKWELL: You know, the weather is certainly not helping. A cyclone is nearby, of course, that's causing cyclones caused -- wind and rainy conditions.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Perth, the home based of the search.

Miguel, how much of a factor is the weather today?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it won't be much a factor for the underwater search. Those ships are very large and used to being out in fairly rough weather. And somewhat higher seas will cause problems and inconvenience for those on board those ships. But for the most part, the drone will continue to do its business. It spends 16 hours down there and bring it back up, you know, rough seas will make some of that more complicated.

Certainly, it makes things more difficult for those doing the search from the air and looking for debris on the surface of the ocean. But this many days on since the crash, it is going to be very, very difficult for them to find anything at all. Back to you guys.

BLACKWELL: Yes, day 44 of the search.

Miguel Marquez, thank you.

KAYE: Coming up on NEW DAY, just days after top diplomats ordered pro-Russian militants to lay down their arms, another deadly clash on the streets of Ukraine.

BLACKWELL: Plus, a second drone strike targeting al Qaeda militants this weekend. As we said, it comes days after the al Qaeda video taken in the same region surface. We'll talk more about it.


KAYE: Welcome back, everyone. About 12 minutes past the hour.

After days of rejecting a diplomatic deal to try and solve the escalating crisis in Ukraine, pro-Russian demonstrators clashed once again with Ukrainian nationalists in the eastern part of the country this morning.

BLACKWELL: And there are conflicting reports, but Russian state media is reporting at least four people were killed at a pro-Russian checkpoint.

KAYE: This all happening as militants refuse to lay down their arms following an international order to vacate public buildings. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live in Kiev. Bring us up to date, Fred.

All right. We seemed to have lost Fred right there. So, we'll try to get him back on the line as soon as we can and get that update, as well.

BLACKWELL: Another story we're following here on NEW DAY. Another drone strike targeting terror suspects in Yemen.

KAYE: So, are two strikes in two days unusual? Well, we're going to ask our terror expert next to find out.


Before the break, we were talking about the crisis in Ukraine and how militants are refusing to lay down their arms following an international order to vacate public buildings.

BLACKWELL: We've got CNN's Frederick Pleitgen on the phone now with us now from Kiev.

Frederik, bring us up to date.


Yes, we were talking about that incident that happened last night where apparently there were some cars that went up to a pro-Russian check point in that eastern town there. There was a shootout. And we just actually got off the phone with the Ukrainian service a couple of minutes ago and confirmed this incident did happen. They say it was about three cars that went up to that pro-Russian check point, opened fire, people at that check point returned fire. At least four people were killed in that incident.

Now, the government here in Kiev blames Moscow for it. They say this is a Russian provocation. Saying it was some sort of nationalist Ukrainian group that attacked them. We've been actually able to reach that nationalist group and they say they were not any of their members.

So, it is sort of tit for tat thing. And, of course, it is something that is really very bad for this delicate situation you have here on the ground where you have that agreement that was reached between all sides trying to disarm those pro-Russian forces in the east. Clearly, that's not happening. They say they're not disarming.

And they also say they're now making counter demands where they're demanding the government here in Kiev step down, as well, if they were to disarm. So, right now, seem it is agreement that was reached at the very least is in a lot of trouble if it doesn't fall apart altogether. So, not a good situation right now even though it seems as though at least the Ukrainian authorities are trying to de- escalate the situation.

They call for a one-sided truce over the Easter holidays. But as we saw with the incident that happened, there is still a lot of volatility in the situation in the east of the country, victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Fred Pleitgen on the phone for us from Ukraine -- thank you, Fred.

Some breaking news overnight, several suspected al Qaeda militants are dead after a suspected U.S. drone strike on training camps in a remote area of Yemen. This is the second strike in two days.

KAYE: Yesterday, 10 suspected extremists were killed after leaving a different site in a pickup truck, three civilians also died. These strikes come soon after a video showing a large gathering of al Qaeda members in Yemen surfaced. So far, no indication these strikes had anything to do with that video.

CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen joining us live from Washington to talk more about this.

Peter, good morning.

So, we have now, two attacks in two days. Is that unusual?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's not as unusual as you might suspect, Randi. We've seen strikes take place on the same day in different locations in Yemen. That's not at all typical. But we have seen strikes bunched together in different locations. And we've seen nine strikes so far this year.

BLACKWELL: Can you talk more, Peter, about the threat that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula specifically presents to the U.S. and the role that this video surfaced recently plays into the reaction, the response by the U.S.

BERGEN: Well, you know, this video speaks for itself. We've got 100 people gathered together and meeting the top leaders of al Qaeda and Yemen and seemingly to do it with impunity. You know, I think it shows quite a lot of comfort on that part.

It's strange because they are, you know, taking quite a lot of efforts to be very careful with their communications using couriers since revelations there was a spy in their ranks, and also, of course, the NSA revelations.

What kind of threat do they pose to the United States? Well, they have a very skilled bombmaker who has managed to get bombs on to an American commercial jet, the underwear bomber in 2009 and also American cargo planes bound for the United States. Luckily, those devices didn't work, but this is a bombmaker who has been able to make bombs undetectable by conventional security measures, Victor.

KAYE: And I think, Peter, a lot of people might be surprised that leaders in Yemen are not totally opposed to the U.S. drone campaign there. Is that because they're having difficulty containing the threat themselves?

BERGEN: Well, Yemen is a very complex place, Randi. I mean, it's the poorest country in the Arab world. It's running out of oil and water. There are three different wars going on simultaneously. The government has a lot on its hands.

And certainly, the government has actually defended the present prime minister that came to the United States and made the defense of the drone program. A couple of years back, he also gave an interview to "The Washington Post." So, it's not as unpopular in Yemen as it is in Pakistan, where it's very unpopular.

But, you know, there are civilian casualties. There were civilian casualties yesterday, three civilians reported killed in that strike. Every time you have a civilian casualty, that doesn't help your cause.

BLACKWELL: What U.S. officials are saying about these civilian casualties, three yesterday.

BERGEN: They aren't saying anything, Victor, because -- I mean, the position of the United States, well for a long time was of total silence. You know, on background, they will brief about the strikes, but they're very reluctant to engage in that issue.

You know, one of the themes of the program is if you're a military-age male in an area where a drone strike is happening, the U.S. will often regard you as a combatant when often that is not the case. Not every military-age male is, in fact, part of al Qaeda in Yemen.

So I think the U.S. government tends to avoid that discussion.

KAYE: And when it comes to drones, Peter, and you look at the Obama administration and the Bush administration, do you see a difference in their approach?

BERGEN: It's huge, Randi. On to President Bush, there was one drone strike in Yemen. Under President Obama, there have been around 90 drone strikes and about 15 cruise missile strikes. So, I mean, President Obama has launched incredibly aggressive campaign in Yemen. And that's because most people agree that the threat from al Qaeda and Yemen is the one most troubling to the United States right now.

KAYE: All right. Peter Bergen, thank you so much.

BERGEN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Peter.

An international deal to ease tensions in the Ukraine sparked -- in Ukraine rather, sparked hope this past week that a solution to the crisis was in sight. But escalating violence and pushback from pro- Russian demonstrators have a lot of experts worried, diplomacy will not be enough.

KAYE: Candy Crowley is the host of "STATE OF THE UNION" and she joins us live from Washington.

Good morning, Candy.


KAYE: So, tell us more about that. What do you have coming up?

CROWLEY: Well, we have, actually, the top diplomat in Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt on the show because I think you're exactly right. People are saying this deal made in Geneva is being rejected by the, you know, pro-Russian forces along the eastern Ukraine. So those are the folks that are trying to get to calm down. If they're not accepting this agreement, the question is, then what? The president and Western Europe has rejected any notion that U.S. or Western Europe troops would go there. The Ukrainian military is so outgunned and outmanned by Russia that if Russia came across, they could do pretty much what they did in Crimea, which is take over.

So, the question is, now what? And that's exactly what we're going to put to the ambassador.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you, Candy. We'll look forward to it.

You can catch "STATE OF THE UNION" today 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

KAYE: Still to come on NEW DAY this morning, royals are spending Easter in Australia and were at a Sydney church this morning for Easter service. We'll tell you the other interesting place they visited, coming up next.


JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS: Coming up on "INSIDE POLITICS", President Obama pushes his fellow Democrats to stand up and be proud of health care reform. Any takers?

Also, you don't hear this very often, do you? Vice President Joe Biden racks up a very, very good week. But was it all upstaged in the end by the Clinton family.

Plenty to talk about "INSIDE POLITICS". We'll see you in a few minutes.

KAYE: Nearly 100,000 Christians have gathered in Vatican City this morning to celebrate Easter with Pope Francis.

BLACKWELL: The pontiff led the Easter mass earlier this morning and gave his twice yearly blessing where he called for world peace and the end of social injustices. Easter marks one of the holiest periods of Christians around the world. It's the day Christians believe Jesus was resurrected.

KAYE: Well, if you're planning an Easter egg hunt, hopefully, you'll get some good weather and hopefully, the sun will be shining for you.

BLACKWELL: We hope. But meteorologist Karen Maginnis joins us now.


BLACKWELL: Yes, the soggy forecast for a lot of people.

MAGINNIS: Randi, Victory, you know, meteorologists were always looking for the bad weather. That's the thing we're going to tell you about first of all.

In the Southeast, yes, it looks overcast, kind of rainy, stubborn area of low pressure, producing rainfall and rip currents along the east coast of Florida through South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. So even if you're celebrating Easter along some of those coastal areas, it's going to be soggy, a little bit windy, as well, and the rain has really been kind of pounding this area. They have seen substantial rainfall for the last month or so.

Well, in the forecast for today, rainfall across the interior west and showers, maybe some storms and the storms across the west central portion of the state of Texas. While across the Southeast, it looks like it's going to be overcast. As we go into Monday, we'll have live coverage here on CNN. Boston, you're looking at temperatures and a fine forecast for the marathon.

Back to you guys.

KAYE: All right. Karen, thank you.

BLACKWELL: The royal family is celebrating Easter Down Under in Australia today. A short time ago, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge arrived for a Sunday services at a church in Sydney.

KAYE: And if you're wondering where Prince George is, he's probably tired out, taking a nap after his big day. Very busy day he had. The royal family took a trip to Sydney's world famous zoo earlier.

And the city of Boston is preparing its first marathon since last year's deadly bombing.

BLACKWELL: This morning, churches blessed runners at the finish line of the 26.2. Here's video from the Copley Square and security remains high with more than 36,000 people expected to run in the race. It's up nearly 10,000 from last year.

Thanks for starting your morning with us. Happy Easter to you.

KAYE: Happy Easter, everyone.