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Severe Storms Hit Midwest and South; New Phase of Search for Flight 370; New Sanctions against Russia; Video Shows Rescue of South Korean Ferry Captain; Russian Reaction to Possible New Sanctions

Aired April 28, 2014 - 05:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. The death toll rising as the path of destruction cut through towns from Oklahoma to the Carolinas. Tornadoes destroying homes, leveling businesses and leaving families this morning broken. The worst part, the threat is not over yet. We are live with what you need to know.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And it may take months. Australia's prime minister saying they plan to expand and intensify their search for missing Flight 370 after nearly two months and countless missions have turned up nothing. Where is the plane? We are live in Australia with the very latest.

BERMAN: Held captive in Ukraine. International observers taken hostage by pro-Russian separatists as the U.S. and Europe set to impose new sanctions on Russia within hours. That region inches closer to war with no end in sight.

Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. A lot going on this morning. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow. It is 32 minutes past 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast. We begin with breaking news overnight. The death toll from a round of violent storms keeps on climbing. Right now 17 people are confirmed dead from tornadoes in the Midwest, in the south. Some areas were just leveled by the twister.

BERMAN: Sixteen of those deaths in Arkansas. The damage in at least two towns near Little Rock is very, very severe. The mayor of Vilonia, Arkansas, spoke to CNN about the tornado aftermath in his town.


MAYOR JAMES FIRESTONE, VILONIA, ARKANSAS: There were people everywhere bandaged and bloody, people trying to help them. They set up a triage center just across from city hall at the old bread store.

We're just trying to do a search-and-rescue and see how many people we do have injured and try to help those first and wait until the sun comes up in the morning to see how bad the damage is.


HARLOW: Meantime, a tornado touching down in northeast Oklahoma is blamed for at least one death in the small town of Quapaw. That is near the border of Kansas and Missouri. Police say about half of that town suffered extensive damage and emergency officials are conducting search-and-rescue operations right now.

BERMAN: Severe sadness for a family in North Carolina. Eleven-month- old Gavin Soto has died from the injuries he suffered on Friday when a tornado sent the roof of this family's home crashing down inside. Multiple tornadoes destroyed hundreds of homes in North Carolina.

HARLOW: And people in parts of Kansas are also reeling this morning from damage caused by a tornado there. You can see those funnel clouds, shocking pictures, hanging over the town of Baxter Springs, Kansas. Officials report significant damage there with dozens of homes and businesses also destroyed.

BERMAN: President Obama weighing in on this deadly round of storms while he was speaking at a news conference in the Philippines just a short time ago.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want everyone affected by this tragedy to know that FEMA and the federal government is on the ground and will help our fellow Americans in need, working with state and local officials. And I wanted everybody to know that your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild as long as it takes.


BERMAN: We're going to get a better sense of the damage that these storms caused as the sun comes up.


BERMAN: We do know that the worst may not be over yet.

Indra Petersons tracking all of this for us this morning. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good morning. The last thing you want to hear, though, that danger is still out there, and unfortunately, that is the case this morning.

Let's talk about it. We've already seen 31 damage reports from tornadoes from the squall line as it made its way across. You can actually see anywhere from Iowa, Nebraska, even all the way back especially in through Arkansas, the devastating consequences from this powerful storm that made its way through.

One of the things we've noted is one of these has been actually tracked as a long track tornado. You can actually see as it made its way across. The biggest concern yes, right around Vilonia, we're hearing reports that some of these houses were completely leveled down to their foundation. That brings to attention the thought that these could be EF-4 or even EF-5 tornadoes. Of course, the National Weather Service does need to go out and survey that damage today and say whether or not that is the case. One of the places you can actually around Mayflower where you see this pink, that is a debris ball. You can actually see that signature there on the radar itself as it did make its way across.

This morning, still looking at tornado watch boxes. The danger is still out there. Memphis, Little rock, even out towards Shreveport, we still have these tornado watch areas as the instability continues in the afternoon, we will see that rise. We still have the warm, moist air, the dry air behind it, a low making its way across.

All the elements are coming together here for another day of even a moderate risk. So the enhanced risk is out there today. About over about three million of you are still anywhere from Huntsville back in through Jackson. But notice how many of you are still in that slight risk area, so we're still looking from Indianapolis back in through Louisiana for the threat for severe weather today as this frontal boundary does continue to push farther to the east.

So that's going to be the concern, again, in the afternoon, really firing things up through the overnight again. And then tomorrow, even a larger swath, about 55 million of you, so still going to be looking for this threat of severe weather and of course the heavy rain that's associated with strong thunderstorms. The flooding concerns are going to be high as well.

HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely. Thanks. Appreciate the update. I hope the worst is over, that is for sure.

Also breaking overnight, in the hunt for Flight 370, Australia's prime minister announcing a new phase in the search, covering a much larger area of the ocean floor. This operation long term, expected to last some six to eight months. Meantime, the Bluefin-21 submersible is conducting its 16th underwater mission.

Let's go straight to CNN's Miguel Marquez, he's live in Perth, Australia.

Miguel, what do you make of the comments we heard from Tony Abbott this morning about the new phase of this search?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it's going to be a multifaceted sort of phase as they move into this. The Bluefin-21 is going to -- continue to search areas north of the initial area where it was searching. This is still the area they believe is where Flight 370 came to a rest at the bottom of the ocean. At the same time, he says they're going to go back to all of their partners, including the U.S., Malaysia, New Zealand and China, and they're going to re-crunch the data, probably using private sources as well, and look for other areas.

The U.S. Navy telling CNN that they would probably move north to where the first ping location was heard first and search that area, which is just north of where they've been searching right now. And then if they can't find anything in these more promising areas, much smaller areas, they will expand it enormously, some 21,600 square miles they're talking about combing through using a device that would be towed behind ships and it would take a very broad picture of the ocean, and they believe that they could do that and they would eventually find this plane, but they are saying at the best, it would take up to eight months, if they have to resort to that plan.

Poppy, John, back to you.

HARLOW: And, Miguel, I'm wondering, they're not stepping back at all from their belief that the Inmarsat satellite data is correct and that the plane did go down in the southern Indian Ocean, correct? They're just broadening the area there.

MARQUEZ: Yes. If anything, they reiterated that.


MARQUEZ: Both the Inmarsat data and the pings they got said it was incontrovertible, it has to be the plane, it has to be down there. It's just a matter of finding it. They were asked about the silt and the mud down there, which could be extraordinarily deep. Experts we talked to say even if there is tons of mud down there, the Bluefin and other devices are good enough that they could determine metal from mud.

Back to you guys.

HARLOW: All right. Appreciate it this morning, Miguel. Thank you.

BERMAN: So a day after visiting Malaysia and promising to support the search for Flight 370, President Obama is in the Philippines today meeting with the president there, detailing plans to return a large number of U.S. troops to that nation. But the big story there this morning, Ukraine.

The president announcing an expanded sanctions against Russia will be coming in a matter of hours.

Our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, traveling with the president.

Michelle, give us the details this morning.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, what we're looking at in the next couple of hours are more targeted sanctions against individuals. Putin cronies, as the administration has called them in the past, also businesses, possibly even U.S. high- tech exports to Russia. And President Obama said that they weren't appropriate in this environment. So, in a sense, you could say it's more of the same.

I think in the three rounds of sanctions now that we've seen, they have been somewhat anticlimactic, right? The questions being, will they work, have they been doing any good, haven't they really not been a deterrent, and don't we really want to target Putin directly now at this point? But President Obama answered some of that, and he also got defensive to an extent when asked, well, why don't we just send the military in there? Why not go to that point? When you see the escalation right now within Ukraine. And as President Obama said yesterday, Russia has not lifted a finger to de-escalate the situation.

Well, Obama answered by saying, why should we send the military in, that his job is to use the military wisely. And what would that really do? Would it really work? He also acknowledged that sanctions might not work. But what he and the administration have been focusing on in the multiple, multiple times these same questions have come up is that it's the long term, that this is a calibrated effort to try to change the calculus in Russia.

No, it might not do anything in the short term, but the isolation and the economic hurt that will result over the long term is what is really going to potentially change things down the road. It's just disturbing to see, you know, what's going on on the ground versus what the U.S. and other nations are trying to do, especially when the U.S. and Europe aren't even fully coordinated on what those next steps should be -- John.

BERMAN: No, the president calling for patience, his critics not patient at all this morning.

Michelle Kosinski in the Philippines. Thank you so much.

Coming up in just a few minutes, we're going to go live to Moscow for Russian reaction to this, to the new sanctions and everything else there.

Diana Magnay will have the latest. Stay with us for that.

HARLOW: Also this morning, South Korea is changing its tactics and trying to reach more than 100 bodies still on board that sunken ferry. This as we get new heartbreaking look at what was happening on board when that ferry was sinking. We are live with the very latest, next.


HARLOW: Breaking news this morning. The death toll rising in Oklahoma and Arkansas after severe weather and tornadoes tore apart towns overnight. Rescue crews have spent the night looking for victims, a process expected to pick up once the sun rises.

Right now, 17 people are confirmed dead in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Stay with us for the very latest throughout the morning.

BERMAN: This morning we're hearing chilling details of what it was like on a South Korean ferry when disaster struck and that ship began to list and then sink. Search crews planning new tactics to reach the more than 100 bodies still on board, trapped on that sunken ferry. In the meantime, prosecutors have announced three more arrests in connection with the disaster.

Our Nic Robertson is live in Jindo, in South Korea. And, Nic, tell us about the arrest, and also I understand new video of the captain being rescued from the ship.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, quite a few new details, John. Three people arrested, accused of destroying evidence linking the Korean Shipping Association with the ferry company, the company that operated the ferry. This is part of a broadening investigation, investigations including off the coast guard here as well as the 911 service. Investigators want to see if they responded quickly enough.

What we are seeing today is a video that's shocking Koreans here. That is, images from the coast guard as they helped rescue the captain of the ship. He is coming out of a -- coming out of port hole or a door on the side of a ship. He is in his underwear.

When I was watching this this morning, one Korean standing next to me said if he was in his underwear, most likely that means he was coming from his bed, that he had been in his bed before. We don't know that for sure, but the coast guards we talked to, who helped rescue him, we talked to them earlier this morning, they told us they had no idea he was the captain. They said that they knew that there were 400 to 500 people on board the ship.

They didn't know how many people they'd taken off, but they said they had no idea this was the man who was responsible and in charge of the ship -- John.

BERMAN: Raising more questions. All right, Nic Robertson in Jindo. Appreciate you being with us this morning.

Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us now.

Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John, Poppy. How are you? Hope you had a good weekend. A lot of bad situations to be reporting this morning, breaking news. Deadly tornadoes wreaked havoc on the Midwest. Homes have been leveled, communities are in pieces. The death toll is rising.

The problem is, more severe weather on the way. So people who are trying to recover are going to get hit again. We will take you on to the ground in Arkansas, one of the hardest hit areas. We're going to hear from people who lived through the storms. Wait until you hear the interviews of people who chase these storms, the mayor, who had to go through his own town, didn't even recognize it.

Plus, there's just growing anger after these racist comments allegedly made by the owner of the L.A. Clippers, Don Sterling. We're going to break down what reportedly was said in this confrontation between him and his girlfriend, and then we're going to get the take from players on his own team and former players and people who are in positions of authority in the league. They're saying that this is a defining moment for the league. We have big names with us. We have Greg Anthony, Otis Birdsong, Dominique Wilkins, will be here talking about it. Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star, now the mayor out there. So we're going to talk to everybody about this.

Of course, we're going to give you some latest information on Flight 370 that you're going to want to know about. The search is changing. It's going to be a new phase, there's going to be new equipment and there's going to be some new expectations. We'll tell you about all of it, guys.

BERMAN: Yes, Kevin Johnson, a central player in this whole situation.


BERMAN: And the human highlight reel coming up on "NEW DAY" as well.

CUOMO: Dominique Wilkins.

BERMAN: I was talking about you, but you -- you got Dominique Wilkins, you know, that's fine, too. See you. Appreciate it. We'll see you in a little bit.

HARLOW: Thanks, Chris.

BERMAN: Other big news this morning, they say they're guests, but they're being held against their will. International observers taken captive in Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists, this as the West moves to impose new sanctions on Russia.

We're live with what Moscow is saying this morning. That's coming up next.


HARLOW: New sanctions coming in just hours from Washington against top allies to Russian President Vladimir Putin. President Obama saying it may not work in the near term, but this is a long-term strategy focused on the crisis in Ukraine.

Let's go straight to Diana Magnay, who is live in Moscow this morning.

Diana, I'm interested in how the Kremlin is responding. And it's interesting, because it seems that there's a bit of a division between the sanctions on how far the U.S. is willing to go and how far the U.S.'s European allies are willing to go.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is, and that's because there's so much more at stake for Europe in business terms. Europe has $250 billion of trade with Russia. Compare that to what the U.S. has, $40 billion. You can see why there's so much more at stake for Europe.

That's why what we expect from our sources to see is that the U.S. will impose additional sanctions targeting individuals within Mr. Putin's inner circle, his cronies, if you will, whereas the EU will stay with 15 more names, but who are specifically tied to the situation in Ukraine and Crimea, so that it's less politically focused and more focused on the acts, you know, the situation on the ground for the EU. That's probably what we're going to see in the coming hours.

As far as the Kremlin's reaction, well, there hasn't been one as of yet to the possibility of this latest ratcheting up of sanctions. They've talked about it in the past. In fact, Vladimir Putin has pretty much laughed it off and said that it might improve things for the Russian economy.

Now I think that's putting a very positive spin on things, but if you do talk to economists and analysts, Poppy, they say that this really is a long-term game. And until we see much broader sectoral-specific sanctions, targeting the mining sector, targeting the energy sector, you're not really going to feel much impact on the ground in Russia.

There's been a bit of a cooling off on the Russian economy, but it's not going through a good situation anyway, irrespective of sanctions. And fundamentally, it doesn't look as though sanctions are going to change Mr. Putin from his course in Ukraine -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, interesting to hear the president really blasting back at critics on that this morning. Appreciate it this morning, for us live from Moscow, Diana, thank you.

BERMAN: So when we come back, a new warning this morning about your Internet browser and a bug that could leave you exposed to hackers.

We'll have the story just ahead.


BERMAN: If you use Internet Explorer, which is pretty much everyone --

HARLOW: Everyone.

BERMAN: -- be afraid. There is a new warning this morning. Microsoft says some versions of the browser have a security hole that could allow hackers to break into your personal files, even delete data from your computers. And guess what? There's no fix available yet.

HARLOW: Every day we're hearing about something like this.

All right, meantime, quick check of the markets here before U.S. markets open this Monday. U.S. futures pointing to a higher open on Wall Street. The big news this morning in the pharmaceutical sector. Pharma giant Pfizer has renewed its bid for rival drug maker AstraZeneca. This is a $100 billion offer, which would be the biggest ever foreign takeover of a British company, if it goes through.

So far AstraZeneca has not responded. The two companies create drugs for virtually every illness you can think of, from diabetes to arthritis to cancer, so that is a big, big deal. BERMAN: A lot of big words. All right, "NEW DAY" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, tornadoes tear through America's heartland, leaving death and miles of devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in it right now. We're in the tornado.

CUOMO: At least 17 killed, and this is the reality for survivors -- homes gone, buildings leveled to their foundation, cars and trucks tossed like toys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Downtown area seems like it's completely leveled.

CUOMO: We're live in one of the hardest hit towns.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. The search for Flight 370 now enters the next stage.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: An intensified underwater search.

BOLDUAN: Covering a larger area of the ocean floor that could take up to eight months.