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Ferry Disaster: No Air Pockets Found; "Object of Interest" Found in Australia; President Obama Heads to Asia

Aired April 23, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news just in to CNN, no air pockets found on the capsized South Korean ferry as divers find more bodies of those trapped in the sinking ship. We are live with the details.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Also happening right now -- an intense underwater search for missing Malaysian Airline Flight 370. The Bluefin-21 submarine has covered 80 percent of that prime search area without finding a single piece of debris.

Could hope of finding the vanished jetliner be fading fast? Might they need to regroup with the new plan? We'll also take you live to Perth, Australia.

BERMAN: And President Obama arriving shortly in Japan, beginning week long diplomatic tour through Asia. But, it is one Asian world power he will not be visiting that will end up monopolizing the conversation. We're live in Tokyo.

Good morning, everyone. Great to see you this Wednesday morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow. It is 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast. Wednesday, April 23rd.

We begin with breaking news from South Korea, where officials now confirm to CNN, the divers have not found any air pockets on the third and fourth floor of the capsized ferry. This morning, they are looking for survivors, but they're only finding victims. The death toll now stands at 150, roughly the same number are still missing. We are finding new details of what happened in the moments after passengers and crew realized there was something wrong.

Let's go straight to CNN's international senior correspondent Nic Robertson in Jindo, South Korea.

Nic, what can you tell us?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, this latest news we are hearing from the divers that they found no pockets on the third and fourth level of the ship is perhaps going to be a: (a) a grim milestone, and (b), a turning point here, because the hope had been the air pockets would be where some of the students would be holding out. They were believed to be on the third and fourth floor. Now, of course, divers haven't searched the whole ship, there may be air pockets elsewhere aboard somewhere else on the ship. But the focus was the third and fourth floor where the students were believed to be. So, it is potentially beginning to move from a rescue to recovery operation. That is not being said by government or any officials here at the moment.

What we are hearing from the divers really is very bad news for many of the families who are waiting. The divers are only searching the third and fourth levels at the moment. They would be able to bring out bodies. If there was hope, that they thought there would be people surviving on other levels of the ship, they would be focusing on that, having essentially declared that they won't find anyone alive on those two levels they're searching right now.

So, it's not good news at all this day. They continue to bring up or as we continue to see the police maritime ships, bring those bodies ashore. But for the family, today, it's been another tough day of waiting. A memorial service in a school near Seoul where many of the children attended school, even before their parents know what's happened to their children. So, this news, very tough news for everyone here, Poppy.

HARLOW: And, Nic, we also know that the offices of the ferry operator, along with the residential home of the owner being searched by authorities because there are so many questions of how this all happened.

You've got nine arrests of crew members. And at the same time, news now that a young boy, a passenger first called emergency officials three minutes before any of the crew sent a distress signal. Is that right?

ROBERTSON: It is. It's incredible. At 8:52 in the morning, the young boy called the 119 emergency service here. They try to connect him with the coast guard. The coast guard is asking for latitude and longitude, which, of course, he didn't have. His message was simply: help us, the ship is sinking.

It's three minutes after that before the ship's crew actually called the maritime emergency services to try to get help for the ship. There were also other calls made by passengers on board to emergency services as well because they were panicking about the situation. The search now, as well, we are hearing that the owners of the ship that their premises and offices have been searched, again, will be very troubling. The crew members, senior crew members arrested, these offices being searched. We have heard as many as 30 senior members of the company that ran this shipping line may be under scrutiny at this time as well -- Poppy.

HARLOW: So many questions, and your heart breaks for the families. As those bodies as you said, Nic, have been coming in behind you ship after ship and the grieving parents waiting for news.

Thank you. Appreciate the report this morning.

BERMAN: Five minutes after the hour right now.

Breaking news overnight in the search of Flight 370, Australia's prime minister is speaking out, promising to keep looking for the jet, which is now missing jet. But the prime minister also indicating that the strategy may soon change, also saying the search will not go on forever.

This is ten underwater missions are complete with no sign yet, at all, of any debris from the missing Boeing 777. Bad weather today is hampering the search from the air. The planes were forced to turn back because of the remnants of a tropical cyclone over the search zone.

We are expecting an update from Malaysian officials in just about an hour. Stay with us for that.

In the meantime, Erin McLaughlin live in Perth with the latest on the search this morning.

And, Erin, we do understand you have some new information.


We have new information from the Joint Agency Coordination Center, responsible for organizing the search efforts here in Perth, telling us that western Australian police have attended to a report of material washed ashore, of 10 kilometers east of Augusta in Australia. They have secured the material. They say the Australian Transportation and Safety Bureau is currently examining these photographs to see if it has any relevance to the search for MH370. The ATSB provided photos to the Malaysian investigation team as well.

We have reached out to the western Australian police for comment on the latest development. No comment so far.

But there have been plenty of leads in this search, John, so I think it's important to say that authorities really make a point of considering all these leads and trying to rule them in or either rule them out as being potentially connected to missing Flight 370. The last lead we heard of was an oil slick discovered in the vicinity of the Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield. There was speculation at the time that potentially it was from the engine of MH370. But later, exhaustive testing rules that out.

So, I think it's important to treat these kinds of leads with caution. But again, the Joint Agency Coordination Center saying a report of material washed ashore 10 kilometers east of Augusta, they secured the vehicle and the ATSB currently looking at it.

BERMAN: As you said, the list of leads that have existed over the last month and a half is long and fruitless, from satellite pictures to debris spotted from the airplanes, you know, to apparently the oil slick and of course, we don't know about those pings that were heard under water.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that they did tell us at least about this debris that they are looking at that washed upon shore. It's been one of the lingering question for some time, six weeks after they believe this plane disappeared.

You know, if it disappeared where they said it did, would there be any sign on shore of debris and when might that happen?

MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely. And it must be said, that hours and hours and hours of searching by plane, by satellite, by sea, scouring the ocean for physical signs of MH370. They have all turned up to be garbage at this point. That effort continuing in earnest, despite the fact that Australian authorities said it's looking less and less likely that they are going to find debris from the missing plane.

So, certainly, if it did you want turn out to be from MH370, it's the first physical piece of evidence they have discovered so far. But again, treating the leads with caution, authorities are working to rule them in or out at this point -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Erin McLaughlin live for us in Perth, with the news Australian officials are looking at objects that washed up on shore. They are analyzing them. There's a news conference expected within an hour from Malaysian officials. Perhaps we'll hear more then.

Our thanks to Erin for that.

HARLOW: Yes, 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time, we'll bring it live here on CNN and give you the latest as soon as we have it. If they do have some sort of objects, we should hope to get some sort of answers soon.

All right. Also, now, in just a few hours, President Obama touching down in Tokyo for the first leg of a long delayed trip to Asia. He will visit South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

But, first, he will spend time in Japan.

Our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is live in Tokyo.

Michelle, this is a trip that was planned for October then delayed because of the government shutdown. It is now happening. What's the goal?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And this is a really important trip for the U.S. and for these four countries that the president will visit with. I guess if you could pick a sort of overarching theme, it would be relationships and reassurance, kind of affirming and redefining the U.S. commitment to this region both in the short and long term.

These are some of America's closest allies, but, you know, that doesn't mean there aren't problems or tensions. Here in Japan, the focus will be trade, trying to hammer out this transpacific partnership, a trade deal. But with Japan at least, talks are at a stalemate and the credibility of both sides to affect progress has been called into question. Other countries have different issues, but no less serious, maybe even more serious, you might say. South Korea, of course, it's the North Korean threat. The U.S. has a security commitment to this region as well.

And when you look at Malaysia and the Philippines, they are both involved in territorial disputes with China. So, you know that relationship, as well, sort of overshadows a lot of the discussions that will happen on this trip.

I mean, the U.S. doesn't want to set up a stance so it seems like China is on the opposite side or these countries, in the meetings feel like for the future, they need to choose between an alignment with the U.S. or an alignment with China. The key is to strike a balance and lay some more groundwork for cooperation on all sides, if possible -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Absolutely. We'll check in with you later on as you continue to travel with the president. I appreciate you reporting this morning. Thank you, Michelle.

Well, the crisis in Ukraine escalating. Ukraine and Russia blaming one another for this uprising in the eastern part of the country. Is civil war imminent? We will take you live there straight ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, we have details this morning in the high school student that police say flew from California to Hawaii in the wheel well of the plane. New information about why he may have done it. That's coming up next.


HARLOW: In Ukraine this morning, it appears a fragile truce has now completely unraveled with the acting president promising the government will restart the operations to go after pro-Russian separatists and that claims the politician there was tortured and killed. The other side is saying it's the Ukrainians who are committing the atrocities. A lot of them, both sides pointing fingers, a complete mess as John Berman has been describing it accurately this morning.

Frederik Pleitgen is live in Kiev this morning.

What can you tell us in terms of the developments there, especially in the eastern part of the country?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very murky, Poppy. What we have heard from the Ukrainian government is that the body of this politician turned up yesterday in a river and apparently had signs of torture. The government here in Kiev blames these pro-Russian separatists and also says that these separatists have been holding as they say, quote, "an entire region as hostage." And that's why the Ukrainian government wants to launch an anti-terror operation, which means its military moving into the east of the country again to actively trying and get those pro-Russian separatist protesters out of those buildings. The pro-Russian side for its part is saying that they believe that this politician was murdered by a nationalist Ukrainian group. So, they point the blame in the other direction.

There's another incident that is significant that Ukrainian surveillance which was flying over one of these towns was held by pro- Russian separatists was apparently shot at and sustained several bullet holes but was able to return to its base here in Kiev safely.

So, at this point in time, it does appear as though that truce that was called over Easter unilaterally by the Ukrainian government seems to be unraveling. They say they want to relaunch that operation in the east. They say they want to get that over with in a couple days. However, it's still very much up in the air, very much up to question, how long such an operation would take and, of course, how many casualties there would be.

And, of course, once you get into that and there's casualties, there's always the danger of the Russian side moving its forces, which is right on the boarder with Ukraine into this country and launching a full-on invasion, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. It just brings into question whether there's a chance of de-escalation at this point. We certainly hope there is.

Appreciate the reporting. Fred, thank you.

BERMAN: Seventeen minutes after the hour right now. We are finding out new details this morning about the teenager who hitched a ride on a jet from California to Hawaii, apparently hiding in the plane's wheel well.

A law enforcement official tells CNN that the 15-year-old was trying to get to Somalia to see his mother. He seems to have picked the first aircraft he reached after jumping a fence to San Jose Airport. He didn't realize the jet was headed to Hawaii. The teen spent some six hours on the ground before the jet took off.

He told police he ran away from home. Classmates say he was a quiet and shy kid.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was really shocked, you know. Glad he made it and is all right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wouldn't see him doing this. Probably the last person you would expect.

REPORTER: He never talked about going to the airport?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that was a surprise.


BERMAN: Officials at the San Jose Airport are reviewing security, trying to figure out how this guy scaled a six foot fence topped with barbed wire and avoided being spotted by employee patrols.

HARLOW: Well, European stocks are slightly lower. Futures here basically flat after some gains on Wall Street yesterday. The story everyone in New York City is watching today, Airbnb. Have you heard of that company?

Well, it is the company that allows travelers to rent a room, maybe your apartment or your home instead of staying out of hotel. Well, the service has become wildly popular, operating in 34,000 cities nearly 200 countries.

But here in New York City, lawmakers are saying, look, you are violating some of the rental laws. They are asking Airbnb to hand over the names of New Yorkers who rented out their home on the site.

John Berman not to be named. I'm kidding, totally kidding.

According to Airbnb's fine print, it's likely that those individuals will be on the hook if the business model is found to be illegal.

This has been a long, ongoing debate over Airbnb, and the legality of it, and the tax issue of it.

BERMAN: That's right. Are they paying their fair share? Hotels have to pay certain taxes.

HARLOW: And I had to explain to you what it was.

BERMAN: Yes, I didn't understand what it was about 20 minutes ago. Now, I am an expert. Welcome to the morning news.

Eighteen minutes after the hour right now.

Let's talk about the weather right now, that could become very dangerous today in the Plain states.

Chad Myers is here with a check of the forecast.

Great to see you this morning, Chad.


You know, good morning, Poppy. Haven't seen you all week.

HARLOW: Good morning.

MYERS: Welcome back.

We have seen this area of severe weather kind of popped up recently. What we haven't had, not many tornadoes this year, just yet. We have 58 in New York City, 61 in D.C. So, the cold air is here, but the warm, moist air is here. That's where the storms could pop up later this afternoon.

Windy across the Northeast. What I'm expecting here is airport delays. You know, when you get 34-mile-an-hour wind gusts, that's where we're expecting New York City, you can't use all the cross runways all the time. You have to use one to take off the one to land, you can't get as many planes off the ground and on the ground, as you would like.

There's the risk of severe weather from Nebraska down to Texas. Here comes another round of severe weather possible for later on in the weekend, again into the weekend. But there you go, New York City, another rainy day for you, rainy night on Friday. Saturday and Sunday, in the Plains, there's another round of severe weather.

Do you guys know the technical term for two rainy days, following five sunny days?

BERMAN: Bummer.

MYERS: Weekend.

HARLOW: Right.

Thanks for the technical term, Chad. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up for us next, a history making night for one of baseball's great Albert Pujols joins a very exclusive club. Joe Carter breaks it all down coming up next in the "Bleacher Report".


BERMAN: We are following breaking news from Australia this morning. This just in: Officials saying they have an object of interest in the search for Flight 370. It washed ashore about 150 miles south of Perth. It's apparently a long piece of metal.

Now, officials are cautioning, they have no evidence it is from the missing jet. They are looking into it. They are investigating. They put out this release a short time ago. They have been taking a look at the photos and they're trying to get their eyes on a physical object. We'll bring the latest from Perth in a few minutes.

Meanwhile, some other news to tell you about -- Albert Pujols is now the member of a new poll, the 500 Club.

HARLOW: That is right. And Berman is very excited about it this morning. The slugger hit two home runs in one game last night to reach the baseball milestone.

Joe Carter is here with the "Bleacher Report".

Good morning.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Hi. Good morning, guys.

You know what? Before the game last night, Pujols told his teammate that he was going to hit the two home runs in the game. And, of course, he went out and did that. He hit two out of Nationals Park last night to reach the 500-career home run mark. At 34 years old, he's the third youngest to reach the 500 Club. Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Fox each got theirs at age 32.

Now, Pujols is contracted with the Angels through 2021. He averages 41 home runs a year. So, 700 is certainly a possibility, 600 feels definite.

And get this -- the fan who caught the home run ball is an Air Force serviceman from California. He returned the ball to Pujols, no charge.

All right. For all those who thought Indiana was finished after losing to the eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks in game 1 of the series, you've got to simmer down because the top seed in the east played like the top seed in the east last night. The Pacers led by Paul George's 27 points, came away with a dominating 16-point win. The series is now even at one game a piece. Game three and game four move to Atlanta where Indiana's newfound momentum will certainly be put to the test.

The Washington Wizards are trending this morning on This very young team went to Chicago and snatched the first two games of the series from a much more experienced Bulls team.

Chicago had a chance last night. Kirk Hinrich was fouled in the final three seconds in the first overtime. He had to make two at the line. He missed the first. So, obviously he had to intentionally miss the second.

Chicago could not come away with the rebound. So, Washington goes on to win. They go up, 2-0 in the series. Games three and four are in D.C.

And check this out, a huge crowd outside Air Canada last night before the Raptors/Nets game. I love that Toronto showing love to their basketball team in the middle of playoff hockey season. The Raptors tied the series up last night with a five-point win over the Nets. Toronto's DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points in the win.

We've got three more games tonight. The Bobcats and Heat were on TNT at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Mavericks/Spurs at 8:00 p.m. on NBA TV, and the tonight, Blazers/Rockets at 9:30 Eastern.

And finally, guys, the NFL will release its 2014 regular season scheduled later today. The NFL season officially starts in 134 days. My Broncos in 134 days, will get a run to another Super Bowl title.

BERMAN: Right. Good luck with that. I think the 49ers and Seahawks and Patriots have something to say about that.

Joe Carter, great to see you. Where have you been my whole life? Nice to have you back, my friend.

CARTER: Good to be here, guys. Good to see you both. HARLOW: All right. We also have breaking news out of Australia this morning where an object of interest has been now found on the coast just about 150 miles south of Perth. The big question, could it be from Flight 370? We are finding out more. We will have the latest developments for you, straight ahead.