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Search for Flight 370; Ferry Death Toll Rising; Biden in Ukraine

Aired April 22, 2014 - 04:00   ET


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Forty-six days and still no sign of Flight 370 this morning. The air search for the missing Malaysian airlines jet is suspended as an unmanned sub scours the ocean floor again. We are live with the latest.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Begging for forgiveness. The company in charge of a sunken ferry says it is sorry, as divers grimly retrieve the bodies of the victims. We're live with the search for the nearly 200 people still missing.

KOSIK: A show of support in Ukraine. Vice President Biden brings U.S. aid and U.S. pressure to Kiev as Russia blames the Ukrainian government for breaking a truce.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you this morning. It is Tuesday, April 22nd. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And we do begin with the exhausting, and so far, unsuccessful search for Flight 370 -- a tropical cyclone forcing authorities to call off the air search overnight. The underwater search is ongoing, if not fruitless, so far. The Bluefin-21 making its tenth dive overnight, despite growing concern that the hunt for Flight 370 might be heading back now to square one.

Erin McLaughlin live from Perth in Australia this morning.

Erin, 10 trips down, and so far, nothing to show for it.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And even though that tropical cyclone managed to cause them to suspend that aerial search, four planes did go out today, one U.S. plane, a Chinese aircraft and two Australian.

Now, we understand the Chinese plane turned back, but the American and the Australian plane, last we checked, were still out there, and the Joint Agency Coordination Center putting out a statement saying it would be up to the individual captains to decide whether or not to turn back. The weather conditions, though, had been described as hazardous and difficult.

Now, despite those conditions, the bluefin-21 continuing its search today. It wrapped up its ninth mission this morning and was on dive ten with two-thirds as of yesterday of this more narrowed search area covered. Not clear how much ground it was able to cover in that ninth dive.

But as far as we know, it's still down there, still searching. No signs of the missing plane. And this is really a critical area that it's searching in now, because it's basically their best guess as to where the black box could be, based on the very limited information that they have already. Already, authorities saying that if they come up empty, they're talking about possible next steps, John.

BERMAN: And what are those possible next steps, Erin? Because they're at least two-thirds of the way through this search in the area they're focused on right now. They should be done in a day or two, and if they come up empty there, have they given any sense what they will do then, because there's no signals coming from those black boxes anymore, presumably?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, at that point, Australian authorities saying that they're really going to stop and reassess, weigh all options. A source of the U.S. Navy telling CNN they're considering a number of options, possibly broadening out the search area, possibly introducing more submersibles. They're talking about maybe a long-term game plan lasting all the way through July. Another analyst we've been talking to saying that one possibility, that they could start focusing on another one of those points of detection.

Right now, they're searching in the area around the second ping detection, a 6-mile radius, and they're searching there because it was the strongest signal. But perhaps they could search in the area of the other detections the towed pinger locator had picked up. All options currently on the table. But again, all eyes on the Bluefin-21 as it finishes what is searchers' best bet where to find the black boxes.

BERMAN: Nothing coming easy in this process. Erin McLaughlin live for us in Perth this morning. Thanks so much.

MCLAUGHLIN: And understandably, many Flight 370 families are reaching their breaking point. They're furious with Malaysian officials over what they call a lack of information and unwillingness to update them about the search for the plane.

Our Flight 370 coverage continues with Sumnima Udas from Kuala Lumpur.

Communication has really been an issue for these families, hasn't it?

SUMNINA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alison. And particularly, these briefings. I mean, they don't happen very regularly here at all. So there's always a lot of expectation around these briefings. In fact, the last time that family members and -- family members of those on board MH370 and crew members, the last time they were called to a briefing was at least two or three weeks ago.

So, as you can imagine, there's a lot of expectation as those families are walking in, they're very anxious, they're prepared with a list of very specific questions, about 26 questions for the officials. We have some of them here. They wanted to know how the authorities can conclude that the plane ended in the Indian Ocean, where there's not a shred of evidence. They want to see that Inmarsat data. They want to know how authorities can conclude based on just that Inmarsat data. They wanted to know, what is the flight's log book? But after that two-hour meeting, Alison, the families left even more frustrated.

They said not a single one of their questions was answered. And after the briefing, we actually asked the authorities why that is the case, why they can't be more transparent. And they said this is an unprecedented situation. This is an answer they always give. This is an unprecedented situation, and they simply don't have the answers themselves. They can't relay any of the information they have to the families until all of this is verified.

Of course, on day 46, a lot of the family members want specific answers -- Alison.

KOSIK: OK. Very frustrating. Sumnima Udas from Kuala Lumpur -- thanks.

BERMAN: From one tragedy to another. With each passing hour, the numbers grow more grim. The death toll from the South Korean ferry disaster now stands at 108 -- 194 others are still missing. Divers are pulling out body after body from the sunken ship this morning. Horrified family members are watching it all unfold.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us live now from Jindo, South Korea, this morning.

Nic, this has just got to be a brutal process for these families.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And no place almost harder for the families to be seen than the harbor side this morning. The pace of the bodies brought ashore by police has really picked up, and it is an indication that the divers are getting to grips better with the location, the locations they're searching inside the ship, but as the bodies were coming ashore today, carried from the boat into a temporary, sort of white tented mortuary on the harbor side. And then with great dignity and solemnity, stretcher bearers carrying each individual body to a waiting ambulance, and the ambulance is driven away, and then another group of three or four ambulances brought in, and another group of bodies taken away.

So, it's a very moving process for everyone involved, terribly difficult for the families. Obviously, the arrival of the bodies. For some of the families, this means the waiting is near to an end, but for so many others, there's still so much uncertain, John.

BERMAN: Any leads yet now, Nic, on the investigation? I know the divers right now are focused on the recovery efforts, you know, dealing with the bodies and dealing with the families. Is there a simultaneous investigation under way that they've been able to make progress on into what caused this boat to sink?

ROBERTSON: You know, I guess you could look at the investigation. There isn't really a technical investigation going on right now, because under water, they're putting the effort into what they're still calling a rescue operation, but we're getting some indications outside of the court buildings where some of the seven crew members have been taken, four additional crew members taken to court today, charged also.

There was sort of a question-and-answer session on the steps of the courthouse where some of those people, crew members, the two first helmsmen taken in, one of the second helmsmen, the chief engineer, and very revealing in some of the answers they were giving, indicating that they were in the deep water -- they were in the waters with the strong currents, that the ship reacted oddly when it was turned. They couldn't really explain that.

They did say something that is obviously going to give some interest to investigators. They talked about some renovation work that had been done on the ship, some expansion work. There were questions whether or not that was legal. Obviously, the crew members couldn't answer that. But this is -- you can see where the investigation is going to begin to look here, John.

BERMAN: All right, Nic Robertson for us in Jindo, in South Korea, again, where this grim process has picked up pace, which only makes it harder for the families there. Our thanks to Nic.

KOSIK: Breaking overnight, North Korea could be growing closer to a nuclear test. Officials in South Korea say they've seen stepped-up activities at a nuclear site in the North, leading to increased worries that a test could be coming soon. It's not clear what the North is working on. Its last test was in February of last year, when it conducted an underground detonation.

BERMAN: Yes, and the timing of this is absolutely fascinating. These provocations are happening as President Obama heads out on a trip to Asia and will visit Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea.

On his way there, he will stop in Washington state, where he'll meet with families who were affected by the deadly mudslide northeast of Seattle. The death toll in that event now stands at 41.

Again, the timing of this trip and the timing of the North Korean provocations, fascinating, fascinating. Not only will the president be visiting Asia, but it's happening while South Korea's dealing with the ferry tragedy right now. A lot of people are thinking North Korea's trying to capitalize on that.

KOSIK: Good timing.

BERMAN: All right. Depending how you look at it.

Happening right now, Vice President Biden in Ukraine meeting with the president and prime minister, promising U.S. support. But with protesters still demanding independence in the East, will this trip make any difference? We are live in Ukraine with the latest, coming up next.


KOSIK: Welcome back to EARLY START.

At this hour, Vice President Biden is meeting with Ukraine's top leaders in Kiev. A show of support for the country's embattled interim government. But in the eastern part of Ukraine, pro-Russian gunmen are not letting up, seizing more government buildings in a dozen towns and cities.

Let's bring in Fred Pleitgen. He's tracking the latest developments live from Kiev.

So, is the vice president at this point making any headway in getting the Russians to back off?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's something that's very difficult, and his mission that he came here for is certainly in a diplomatically very difficult situation.

What he's trying to do is basically two things. He's trying to bolster the government in Kiev, and his visit alone goes a long way towards doing that, but he's also offered incentives to the Ukrainian government, Alison.

One of the things, he says there's a new economic aid package he's going to announce today. The other thing he says is very important is energy security for the Ukrainians, because one of the big cards that the Russians have been playing is their energy card. Ukraine gets almost all of its gas from Russia, and what the vice president wants to get European countries to sell gas that they buy from Russia back to the Ukraine so that they can be independent from Russian gas.

But he's also telling the Ukrainians that, quite frankly, they need to weed out corruption in their political and economic system just to make sure that the Russians don't have any arguments coming forward to the election that's going to be held here on May 25th.

Now, is his visit going to make a difference? It certainly can. It's going to bolster the government here in Kiev in the best-case scenario. At the same time, there are diplomatic efforts going on between the U.S. and Russia to come to some sort of agreement to deescalate the situation.

It's still a process that will take a long time, but certainly, his visit is viewed as one that is very significant for the current Ukrainian government -- Alison.

KOSIK: Is this a delicate dance for the U.S., not trying to upset relations with Moscow, but also trying to help Ukraine at this point?

PLEITGEN: Absolutely. I mean, you see that two-pronged approach in everything that the U.S. does. On the one hand, they are trying to ramp up pressure on Russia, threatening additional sanctions. They're trying to get Ukraine to generally be more independent of Russia.

But they're also telling the Ukrainians, you have to get your act together, you have to make this a viable Democratic country without any sort of corruption in the system, or at least fight corruption to the point that you can. At the same time, there are still those ongoing talks all the time between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry, who maintain a very good working relationship, even in spite of the difficult situation between these two countries right now.

So, yes, the U.S. is always trying to keep those diplomatic channels open, but at the same time, they are making clear to the Russians that there is a price for the things that are currently going on in the east of Ukraine, and certainly, that price will increase exponentially if the Russians move forces into the east of the country.

The U.S. says that it has evidence, which was ultimately shown to CNN, of Russian troops inside of Ukraine, part of those people who are occupying those buildings in the east of the country. They're calling the Russians out on that, but at the same time, they're always saying there is still a diplomatic channel open, there is room to de- escalate, and that is something that they believe that the Russians need to do very, very quickly, and especially in light of the fact that, as you know there was that Geneva Accord that was signed last Thursday that calls on the Russians to vacate those buildings that pro-Russian separatists hold in the east of Ukraine, Alison.

KOSIK: OK. Fred Pleitgen live in Kiev -- thanks.

Aviation experts are calling it a big security breach, doctors a medical miracle. This morning, the 16-year-old runaway turned stowaway who hid in the landing gear of a jet and flew five hours from California to Hawaii is with child welfare services. The 767 soaring to 38,000 feet and exterior temperatures plummeting to well below zero, but miraculously, the teen emerged unharmed.


DR. BEN HONIGMAN, ALTITUTE MEDICINE CLINIC U. OF COLORADO: He probably became unconscious rather quickly at that elevation, and perhaps with the cold, and if it was in the range of zero to perhaps 30 degrees, then perhaps he went into what we call this slowing down of the machinery state or hibernation that might have protected him and caused him not to need as much oxygen as normally we would if we were exerting ourselves or even sitting here on TV.


KOSIK: That's one lucky kid, I'd say. Police in San Jose say they're not going to pursue any charges. Investigators are still trying to figure out how the boy managed to slip past security.

BERMAN: So many questions still there.

KOSIK: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, officials in Yemen are testing the DNA of some 65 suspected al Qaeda militants killed in a series of huge and unprecedented assaults that appeared to be targeting high-level terrorists. Yemeni officials tell CNN that the operation is a joint effort with the United States, which blames al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for a string of recent terror plots.

KOSIK: Boston took back the finish line. Over 35,000 marathoners running Monday under spectacular blue skies and extremely tight security. Explosions ripped through the finish line last year, killing three and injuring over 360 people.

This year saw the first American male to win since -- excuse me -- 1963. Thirty-eight-year-old Meb Keflezighi says he kept thinking Boston strong. Kenyan's Rita Jeptoo was the female winner.

BERMAN: It was a wonderful, wonderful day.

KOSIK: You were there.

BERMAN: It was great to be there.

Another story to tell you about right now -- bloodshed in a Salt Lake City courtroom. Officials say a U.S. marshal fatally shot a defendant Monday after he rushed a witness on the stand. Siale Angilau, a reputed gang member, was shot multiple times after reportedly grabbing a pen and angrily charging the witness, who was testifying about gang life. Angilau who is facing racketeering charges died at the hospital. The judge has declared a mistrial.

KOSIK: Netflix prices are about to go up.

BERMAN: Mm-hmm.

KOSIK: Are you doing Netflix?

BERMAN: Oh, yes.

KOSIK: How do you feel about this?

BERMAN: It was inevitable.

KOSIK: The video company saying in the coming months, subscription plans for streaming customers are going to rise $1 to $2 a month. Existing customers currently pay $7.99, which will stay the same for now. The streaming service has nearly 36 million subscribers in the U.S. and 48 million worldwide.

You know, the last time they raised prices, everyone went crazy, the stock price went --

BERMAN: I think this time they have too many hooked. They'll get away with it this time.


BERMAN: All right. Nineteen minutes after the hour.

Let's get an early look at the weather now with Jennifer Gray. JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Alison, your forecast for today, showers east of the Mississippi, anywhere from South Louisiana, all the way up through the Carolinas and even pushing into the Northeast for today. None of those expected to become severe. High pressure will stay in place across the country's midsection, and possible showers for the Pacific Northwest.

Highs today warm, 80 degrees in Denver for this afternoon. We'll be at 83 in Dallas, and the mild weather continues across the East Coast. D.C. hitting 77 degrees today. And New York City a nice 68.

As we move forward into tomorrow, though, the possibility of severe weather in the Plains, from Texas all the way through Nebraska. We could see anything from damaging winds, large hail, even isolated tornadoes. So, that's going to remain in place for tomorrow across the plains. Sunny conditions across the Southeast, and we'll still see a few lingering showers into the Northeast.

Temperatures tomorrow will stay warm across the South, 85 in Dallas, Memphis at 75. In the 50s, though, across the North -- John and Alison.

KOSIK: Thanks, Jennifer.

This morning, as families hope for a miracle, divers are making a desperate effort to find survivors in a capsized ferry. We're going to tell you what those divers are facing under water, next.


KOSIK: This morning, divers again are trying to find the missing from the sunken ferry off the coast of South Korea. Right now, the death toll stands at 108; 194 people are unaccounted for.

Former Navy rescue swimmer Alan Kipping-Ruane tells Erin Burnett he's hopeful survivors may still be found, but divers face a tough task.


ALAN KIPPING-RUANE, FORMER NAVY RESCUE SWIMMER: Not only is it dark, but there's a lot of sediment and stuff getting moved around, so it's almost like a sand cloud, where you can't see your hand right in front of your face. So, the divers are experiencing just darkness. They're trying the best they can currently.

You know, a ship's built so the hull stays intact, so now it's on its side. It changes the ball game regarding where they can or can't go.

So, that's the limitation they're facing, but I know they're trying as best as possible. You know, we talked about it. It's their personal responsibility to find as many survivors as they can currently. So, you know, I don't want to say that they're restricted right now, other than the hull being on its side, but they're going through or finding ways that they can, to get in places that they probably didn't think they could.


BERMAN: Still very, very difficult. We'll have the latest from South Korea in just a moment, along with an update on the search for Flight 370, missing now for 46 days.

Stay with us. That's coming up next.