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Is "Object of Interest" from Flight 370?; Currents in the Southern Indian Ocean; Divers Find No Air Pockets on Sunken Ferry; Obama in Japan; U.S. Army Arrives in Poland for Exercises; NASA Spacewalk to Repair ISS; Big Meteor Could Strike Sooner Than Thought

Aired April 23, 2014 - 11:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Has a piece of debris from Flight 370 finally surfaced? Officials leading the search for that missing jetliner say an object of interest has washed ashore in Australia.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: A terrible blow to the rescue operation in South Korea, divers could not find any air pockets in key parts of the sunken ferry, the chance of finding survivors fading quickly.

PEREIRA: And another thing for you to worry about, a new study finds a killer asteroid could hit Earth sooner than we think.

Do we now have to have a plan for the asteroid (inaudible)?

BERMAN: (Inaudible) another thing to worry about. If there's an asteroid coming to Earth, I think you worry about that first. That's just my opinion, by the way.

PEREIRA: Hello. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's 11:00 a.m. in the East. It's 8:00 a.m. out West.

Those stories and much more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

We're beginning with a potentially major development out of Australia right now. A sheet of metal with rivets is being examined as we speak.

The big question, is it a piece of wreckage from Flight 370? That's what authorities are trying to figure out.

PEREIRA: The so-called object of interest was recovered today on the coast of Western Australia about 186 miles south of Perth.

Meanwhile, deep in the Indian Ocean, the high-tech submersible drone, Bluefin-21, is completing its tenth underwater mission. So far, it's found nothing after scanning 80 percent of the search area.

Now, just a short time ago, Malaysia's government announced its forming an international investigation committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN ACTING TRANSPORT MINISTER: We are in the process of identifying the members and their accredited representatives and will be recruiting the members for the team in accordance with international standards. We will announce the names of the members next week.

Indeed, it is imperative for the government to form an independent team of investigators, which is not only competent and transparent, but also highly credible.

As I have consistently said since the beginning, we have nothing to hide.


BERMAN: The big news this morning, the so-called object of interest, this piece of metal now being examined so carefully by officials in Australia.

Our Erin McLaughlin joins us now live from Perth, and, Erin, after six-and-a-half weeks of false leads, conflicting information, seemingly one twist and turn after another, I know authorities are being very, very careful.

What are you learning about this object? Where did it wash up? What are they telling you?


We understand that it washed up onshore about 190 miles from here. We're still trying to get more information about how exactly it was found and who exactly found it.

We have been talking to the head of the Australian transportation and safety bureau, and he tells us that the ATSB are currently analyzing photographs of this object that he described as a metal sheet with rivets.

Another Australian defense source telling us that they are currently looking at this, that it appears to be fiberglass coating, and it was described as kind of rectangular but torn and misshapen. Those were his very words.

Now, Dolan saying that it was sufficiently interesting, but he added a note of caution, saying that the more they look at these photos, the less excited about this find they are.

Now, we understand from the Australian maritime and safety authority that they are bringing it to Perth for further analysis.


PEREIRA: We're going to talk to Mary Schiavo and Jeff Wise in a moment about that object, but, Erin, let's talk about the weather. It certainly has been an issue. We know that cyclone stirred up some wind and waves in the area. Bring us up to speed on the aerial search, as well as what's being conducted under water.

MCLAUGHLIN: That's right, Michaela. We know they had to suspend that aerial search due to those adverse weather conditions. Not clear on how that affected the Bluefin-21 today.

We know from the acting Malaysian transportation minister that it wrapped up its tenth dive earlier this morning, no objects of interest found.

We also know that it's covered over 80 percent of this very important area, an area they say is critical to find or they're most likely to find the black box. They have another 20 percent to go.

We heard from the Australian defense minister today saying that that could take another two weeks for them to search that area.

Michaela and John?

PEREIRA: All right, Erin McLaughlin, we appreciate that.

So this object of interest that was pulled from the water, it's been described, as you heard Erin mention, as a sheet of metal with a lot of rivets on it.

Now, the question is, could this be a piece of Flight 370?

BERMAN: Let's talk about this with our aviation analysts, Mary Schiavo and Jeff Wise, along with Chad Myers, meteorologist.

Chad, I want to go to you first. So if we accept that this flight ended in this section of the Indian Ocean that's being searched right now, would it make sense, would it be possible that this piece of debris could have washed up some 190 miles south of Perth.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Six hours ago, I would have told you no, the current is going the other way. But now we've really -- we've gone down on some of these very small currents, not the gyre that we've been talking about a long time that would have sent the debris well off into the Indian Ocean, but a little bit closer to home.

A little bit closer to Australia, there are some smaller, smaller currents. One here that could potentially take where we are now, a little eddy through here, take that stuff back up toward Australia and then down here to the Leeuwin Current, and that's where it would have landed, right there.

Now, could it make it? Well, 47 days times 24 hours, that's about one- mile-per-hour, about a thousand miles. So, yes, it could get there.

There's nothing -- and this has been the story of this plane the entire time. There's nothing that we can rule out. We can't say, no, that just couldn't happen. There's the Bluefin going around behind the Ocean Shield right there. That's what it's been doing. There are the pings here. So if this is where they really do believe that the plane went down, guess what happened about 10 days after the plane went down? A giant cyclone, 160-miles-per-hour right over the area down here where that plane went.

So we believe, at least if anything was sticking up, that sticking up stuff would have been blown off to the west.

But here you go. There's ping location. It circles around. It could get into this gyre, into the new current and then down along the coast of Australia.

So, yes, it's certainly possible at one-mile-per-hour, these little, crazy currents going every little direction, back and forth and back and forth.

It's not like the Gulf Stream that runs all the way up and down the East Coast, straight up. This stuff goes every direction.

PEREIRA: Chad, I think it's so important to illustrate all the factors at play, and again, Cyclone Jack was in the area. We know that it contributed to the weather there.

Mary, let's turn to you. We know that the Australian authorities are choosing their words very carefully. They are being very cautious about this debris.

We know it's in their hands. We know they're examining it. But they're saying the more that we look at it, the less excited we're getting.

What do you think of that? What do you make of it?


PEREIRA: Jeff. I mean -- I'm sorry. Mary. You've got me confused.

SCHIAVO: Well, you know, there's useful and interesting things about it that sound like a plane and then there are things that aren't.

For example, that it's a piece of metal with a lot of rivets on it sounds like a plane. A plane has about a million rivets in the wings, about a million rivets in the fuselage.

But then you get to the part about the fiberglass insulation. That doesn't fit with an aircraft, because aircraft insulation, they are big, insulating blankets. They are acoustic insulation, and they are thermal insulation and they are water resistant.

That would suggest that it would help it float, but they're not fiberglass. They're a special polymer.

So some of it sounds like an aircraft part. Some of it doesn't. It's like everything in this investigation.

BERMAN: Like everything in this investigation indeed.

Jeff, two-part question, first, your general reaction to this piece of debris, what you think it might be.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think it's interesting that -- you know, I think what Mary says is very germane, that it's not -- it doesn't exactly match up with what we would expect to find.

But it's very interesting, isn't it, that a couple weeks ago they were looking for surface debris near where the plane might have gone down.

Now it's been so many weeks that now we're expecting to find pieces probably very far, widely dispersed.

Pieces could be here and there and everywhere, and we're going to start to -- if it is indeed in the ocean, as you said, then we are going to start to expect to find pieces, people walking on the beach, maybe people out fishing, finding something.

So we could find pieces over a very wide area.

BERMAN: Officials said that months -- a month ago. Six weeks ago, they were saying, look, at some point in this investigation, we could very well see debris wash up on the shores somewhere.

WISE: We certainly would expect to. I mean, presumably if this hit the water with any force at all, you would have many, many pieces, sort of shotgun blasts all over the ocean, and with these currents, as Chad showed us, they pull things in every single direction.

And, so, after a year or so, you could expect to find things on the other side of the world.

PEREIRA: Mary, really quickly, what do you make of this notion, too, that the Malaysians announced that they're forming this international team.

But, again, 46 days in, do you think they are bowing to the frustration and criticism and pressure?

SCHIAVO: Well, I think they are, but again, the question is they should have set this up a long time ago.

The committees they've set up are the very typical committees that you set up to investigate after an air crash like what the NTSB does, but the fact that they're making it an international committee should -- and I think is a direct result of the distrust of their work and their secrecy.

But then the same time they did that, they announced that they weren't going to make the preliminary report public. There goes the trust and transparency.

PEREIRA: Yeah, talking out of both sides of their mouth, to be sure.

BERMAN: A special kind of transparency there. PEREIRA: All right, Mary and Jeff, we want to ask you to stand by to answer some questions that our viewers are sending in about the search and the mystery.

Don't forget you can tweet questions to us at #370Qs. Also on Facebook, @ THIS HOUR.

Chad, great to have you here explaining those currents and what's at play, weather-wise.

BERMAN: All right, we're looking at some other major headlines @ THIS HOUR.

Divers say they have not found any air pockets on the third and fourth levels of the sunken Korean ferry.

This really is devastating news there. That is where they thought that most of the almost 150 missing passengers might be. The chances of finding any survivors now seem very, very slim.

Meantime, police arrested more members of the ferry crew and even searched the ferry owner's home.

We will have a live report from South Korea in just a few minutes.

PEREIRA: President Obama is in Japan today, starting a week-long Asia trip. He began his trip by reassuring Tokyo of U.S. support in Japan's bitter territorial dispute with China over a set of islands.

China's foreign ministry says the U.S. should not be taking sides.

Mr. Obama will also visit South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as part of this tour.

BERMAN: In Ukraine, officials say they will ...


BERMAN: ... new anti-terror measures across the country of Ukraine. They say militants who seized government buildings are showing no signs of giving them up despite the international agreement.

Meanwhile, U.S. Army paratroopers are arriving in Poland now to begin military exercises. The aim? To reassure nervous allies after Russia's annexation of Crimea last month.

CNN will have House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers in the 1:00 p.m. Eastern hour to talk all about this and the implications.

@ THIS HOUR, NASA astronauts, making repairs outside the International Space Station, they're taking a spacewalk to replace a dead computer. They should have it repaired, we're told, sometime by next hour.

PEREIRA: Now, I don't want to alarm you, but an asteroid so very powerful it could destroy a entire city may actually come sooner than we think. There's new data from a private space foundation. It has found the strike rate for large space rocks could be as high as once every 100 years.

Now, it was previously estimated once only every 3,000 years, a bit of a discrepancy there.

The scientists based their report on sensors that detected 26 asteroid blasts in the Earth's atmosphere over the last 14 years.

Now, remember this? This was a meteor explosion over a Russian town last year. It injured more than a thousand people, blew out windows many miles away.

NASA described that just for some perspective as a tiny asteroid, John.

BERMAN: Where is Bruce Willis when you need him?

PEREIRA: You need the Hulk or Godzilla in there.

BERMAN: No, no. It's "Armageddon." Really, is there any better movie about destroying an asteroid than "Armageddon?"

PEREIRA: Put this on the list of things to worry about now.

Coming up, the water is slicked with oil. No survivors have been found since the day that ferry sank. Does this mean the rescue mission is over?

BERMAN: Then, debris is found along the Australian coast. Could it be from the missing plane?

What investigators are looking for @ THIS HOUR to try to make the connection, the latest on flight 370.


BERMAN: A week after the ferry disaster in South Korea the rescue operation has suffered a major set back this morning. Divers have not found any air pockets where they had hoped to. That means honestly that the chance of survivors is fading fast.

PEREIRA: In fact no survivors at all have been found since the day the boat went down. Almost 150 people are still listed as missing @ THIS HOUR. Our Will Ripley is covering the story from Jindo, South Korea. Will, they are still calling it a rescue operation?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are Michaela, at least for now. We know that the diving continues 24/7. Divers going down searching areas of the ship looking for survivors as well as looking for bodies. They didn't find air pockets in the area of the ship believed to be most full of passengers. But we also know there's equipment in the area ready for the transition to a salvage operation. The U.S. ship on standby if need. Cranes that would be used in the salvage operation as well. Also ships have now surrounded the perimeter with nets to potentially catch any bodies that may be drifting away from the area.

BERMAN: No air pockets on the third and fourth level. In that cafeteria, which was news that broke right here yesterday on this show, Will, they reached the cafeteria where they expected to find bodies, they found nothing. Where are they searching now?

RIPLEY: It was a surprise to the searchers who thought there would be a lot of passengers that would be in that cafeteria. So now that they pretty much covered the third and fourth floors, they move are moving on to the fifth floor to see if perhaps people were trying to get out of the lower levels of the ship and might have gotten stuck in there. That is what we understand is happening right now.

PEREIRA: Word coming out the ferry company's owner's office and his home have been searched. What exactly are authorities looking for there?

RIPLEY: We know that they are looking at a lot of different angles in this investigation. The office specifically evidence of was there too much cargo on this ship? Did they sign off on more than the ships capacity would be able to handle? Was there expansion work done to the ship that might have been outside of specifications. We also know that they are looking at this owner very carefully for a host of other issues including tax evasion. Obviously this whole company now under a considerable amount of scrutiny.

BERMAN: Our Will Ripley for us in South Korea following the investigation into this ferry. We'll speak more about this in an expert and rescue salvage operation to find out what they're up against now. Thanks to Will.

PEREIRA: Real heartbreaking when you think about the fact that two- thirds of the kids on board were high school students on a field trip. Think about the fact that most of them were from the very same high school. Imagine how that community is reeling with that kind of loss.

BERMAN: I can't imagine what they're going through right now.

Other news for us. An object of interest found on the Australian coast. The question now, is it connected to the missing plane? that's coming up next.



HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, ACTING TRANSPORT MINISTER, MALAYSIA: In the next few days, we'll talk to other entities to look at the possibility of increasing the assets for the next phase. The time line I have to discuss with Angus Houston, but it will not be in the next few days. What is more important is that the search continues and this is an assurance that we'll give to the families of the passengers.


BERMAN: That was Malaysia's acting transport minister confirming that more assets might be added in the next phase of the search for flight 370. That's six and a half weeks since the jet liner vanished. Still not a single piece of debris has been confirmed, but questions now is about whether that could be about to change.

PEREIRA: We stress could because a sheet of metal with rivets washed ashore on the coast of western Australia about 186 miles south of Perth. They are calling it an object of interest. We know that it's been photographed and being examined and tested as we speak.

We want to bring in our CNN analyst, Rob McAllen, he joins us. Of course you know he's an ocean search specialist and professional expedition leader to talk about all of this. Good to have you with us again, Rob, @ THIS HOUR. Flights, we know, first of all postponed for a second day because of stormy weather. There was a tropical cyclone in the area a month ago. Another cyclone in the past week might have kind of whipped up the waters and the winds and potentially debris. How much of an effect does that have on an expedition such as this?

ROBERT MCALLEN, CNN ANALYST: Well, you know, any surface storm, anything that whips up the surface of the sea place havoc with AUV operations. We have already seen Bluefin delayed on one mission because whether. As winter approaches any AUV that requires launching and retrieving everyday we will suffer the same kind of setbacks. In terms of the debris, we're a long way into this now and I think that you'll start to see the search for debris wind right back over the next few days.

BERMAN: Wind down over the next few days you said?

MCALLEN: Yes, I think that is the case. I mean any debris that's been out there has been floating for a long time now. Interestingly this morning the report of debris washing up ashore in Australia will is a reminder that whatever debris is out there will eventually end up on a coastline somewhere. And that will be our first tangible clue as to where the airliner might be.

BERMAN: The Bluefin, we are told, is 80 percent done searching underwater in that search area. You've been through searches of this nature before. What are the chance that this submersible missed something?

MCALLEN: You know, it's always possible. The Bluefin has searched 80 percent of its assigned area and there are other areas it may be assigned to. When you use side scan sonar you are beaming sound through the water in order to collect imagery and any time the platform vehicle, the autonomous underwater vehicle, makes a turn or has to adjust altitude to avoid collision with terrain, that's when you can get squidges (ph) or gaps in the data. It is important that the data that's collected is reanalyzed by a fresh set of eyes to make sure nothing was missed and if it was, go back to blank spots.

PEREIRA: Hopefully they'll do that. Also we should point out that the Malaysia transport minister says they could be adding further assets in the coming weeks as the reconfigure their plan. Rob McAllen Thanks so much for joining us again giving us some insight into challenges of an underwater and oversea's search that is going on. Thanks so much. MCALLEN: Thank you.

PEREIRA: It has certainly also been a challenge for those crews that are searching desperately for the victims of the South Korean ferry disaster. Coming up we are going to speak to a man who led the search after the Costa Concordia tipped over. You remember that, off the coast of Italy. He'll explain what it's like for crews, in South Korea, to search for victims and evidence all in deep, murky water. That's ahead.