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Tornado Outbreak Kills 18; L.A. Clippers Owner Accused of Racism; New Phase in Search for Flight 370

Aired April 28, 2014 - 08:30   ET



We're following breaking news this morning. Eighteen fatalities reported so far after tornadoes ripped through the central United States. Sixteen of those killed were by a tornado in the northern suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas. Rescue teams are going block by block. They have been overnight searching for more survivors as more than 100 people have been reported to have been treated at local hospitals.

Joining us live to find out what happened and what they need now, David Maxwell, director of Arkansas's Department of Emergency Management. He's in Vilonia, Arkansas, one of the hardest hit areas.

Mr. Maxwell, thank you so much for jumping on the phone with us. I mean the pictures really tell the story, unfortunately, and how things unfolded. As the sun is coming up today, what do things look like to you?

DAVID MAXWELL, DIR., ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Well, unfortunately, we've seen this too many times in Arkansas with the damage from tornadoes and, you know, I think the counties are -- the county is doing a very good job getting folks out. And I think the most important thing is for people that absolutely don't have to be in the area to stay out, to let the emergency workers do their jobs.

BOLDUAN: Because I wanted to ask you if you believe the danger has passed because overnight we are hearing from residents and local mayors saying that gas lines are spewing, power lines are down. What can you tell us?

MAXWELL: Well, I know crews are working to take care of those issues. But, yes, it's still very early in this and people need to be very careful as they go about their business.

BOLDUAN: We spoke with a spokesperson from the local hospital that took in many of these patients who said they believe that they'll be getting more of the walking wounded coming in today. Do you believe you have a good sense on the numbers at this point? Do you know how many people are still missing?

MAXWELL: We do not. I think it will take a little while after the sun comes up and people start to contact their families so that they know who's missing and who's not. You know, I know crews were extremely busy going door-to-door last night, but it's just so hard to do with the power out after dark.

BOLDUAN: Do you - do you have - I mean if you had to say, do you believe that the death toll is going to rise?

MAXWELL: I'd prefer to stay optimistic that it won't, but, you know, you have to - there was a lot of damage..

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I mean all too often you said you have too much experience with this. How does the destruction, the preparedness as well, how does it compare from overnight to the last big tornado and storm system that you guys were hit by back in 2011?

MAXWELL: Well, you know, Vilonia was hit then as well. So they know how to do this and I think people were very prepared. But it - you know, storms do what they do.

BOLDUAN: Do you -- what help do you need from the outside? I know Arkansas is well prepared for this, unfortunately. Where you're situated in the country, you get hit by these storms all too often. Do you need help from the outside?

MAXWELL: Not at this time. I think we've -- sharing resources within the state, we've been on the phone with FEMA in the event we need any federal resources. And though at this time I think it's covered, but, you know, as the crews have a chance to see what's going on in the daylight, we'll know better.

BOLDUAN: Where are most of your assets being focused right now? We've heard most of the stories we've heard are coming out of Mayflower and Vilonia, where you are. Where is the biggest focus this morning?

MAXWELL: I think both of those areas.

BOLDUAN: All right. Well, we'll be focused on that as well. David Maxwell, thank you so much for your time. You've got a very busy, not just today, but many days ahead. Thank you so much for jumping on the phone with us.

MAXWELL: Uh-huh. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kate, thank you.

Time now for the five things to know for your new day.

As you've been seeing, and we've been talking about all morning, tornadoes have killed 18 people in three states, including 16 in Arkansas, where a half-mile wide twister flattened neighborhoods in suburban Little Rock. More tornadoes are expected today.

The search for Flight 370 entering a new phase. Authorities announcing plans to refocus and scan an even larger area as the Bluefin-21 continues now its 16th mission.

NBA superstars past and present slamming racist talk attributed to Los Angeles Clippers Owner Donald Sterling, saying he should be kicked out of the league if reports are accurate. The Clips wore their warm-up shirts inside out during the game on Sunday in a silent protest.

The U.S. and Europe set to announce new sanctions against Russia today, while violence escalates in eastern Ukraine. A local mayor who was shot in the back this morning but unidentified gunmen is fighting for his life.

Breaking news. New York Congressman Michael Grimm is in federal custody this morning. It follows a two-year FBI investigation into campaign contributions.

We always update those five things to know, so be sure to go to for the very latest.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we'll take a quick break here on NEW DAY, Mick, and then we're going to push two big stories forward for you. First, the search for Flight 370. There's a brand new location for the search and a discouraging timeline. Eight months. Will this search turn out the way the first one did? We're going to ask the experts and explain why the changes are happening.

And, former NBA great Dominique Wilkins live on NEW DAY to talk about those racist comments attributed to the owner of the L.A. Clippers? What can the league do? Should anything happen outside the league? We'll discuss it.


CUOMO: It is being called a defining moment for the NBA. L.A. Clippers Owner Donald Sterling allegedly caught on tape making racist statements. Everyone is calling for action. But what can be done? What should be done? For their part, the Clippers wore their uniforms inside out during pre-game warm-ups. They threw them on the ground there, as you're seeing it, covering up the team logo in silent protest.

Let's bring in Dominique Wilkins. He's a former NBA player and executive for the Atlanta Hawks.

Mr. Wilkins, a pleasure to have you on the show.


CUOMO: Sorry it is about this topic, but it demands conversation. The players, the onus shouldn't be on the players, right, this talk of them boycotting their team. Do you think that is what should be done in this situation?

WILKINS: Well, I think the players have to play for themselves. That's what it's about. It's not about the ignorance of one person. You have to play for who you are. You know, you work your whole life and your -- early in your career to achieve a goal. Your goal is to play in an NBA championship. That should be their focus. And, unfortunately, this is the distraction for this team and it's unfortunate as - the timing is so bad. But, you know, they have to make a stand, no question about that, and I would do the same. But at the same time, I'm not playing for Donald Sterling. I'm playing for me. I'm playing for my pride and my respect. And that's what it's about. Nothing else.

CUOMO: And, Dominique, give us some perspective. You were such a star for so many years. You now know the management side. Do these comments stand out, for this man and for ownership and management in the league, is this outrageous?

WILKINS: Oh, yes, no question. It put a blemish on the owners' side. It's a blemish on their watch. So now they're looking at this, that we don't - we don't condone this. This is not something that we're happy about or even can fathom that one of our owners can even put something like this out there. Not necessarily put it out there, but have this leaked out. And if it's authenticated, if it's real, there would have to be some stiff penalties for Donald Sterling. There's no room for people like that. Forget about just basketball or sports in general, but in society there's no room for people like that. You know, get over that stuff. You know, move on.

And Sterling has had some issues in the past, you know, that people know about. So, you know, it's appalling that he would say this kind of stuff. It just - it just makes no sense, particularly when you've got all these African-Americans on your team and has been on your team for many, many years. For you to have that type of mentality, maybe it's time for you to go do something else.

CUOMO: So, if it's not hype, if this is, you know, real and warranting of the outrage, the question becomes, what can you do? What do you think the league can do? What do you think owners should do? I know some have come out, but they haven't come out as a collective yet and they often do on issues. What do you think can be done and should be done?

WILKINS: Well, I think the owners are letting Adam Silver do his due process investigation. And I think they're handling it the right way. Adam Silver is going to do what's necessary if this is real. He's going to do what's necessary to bring about some sort of penalties and sanctions. So, you've got to let him do his work and you see what the outcome is. But if this is real, people are going to be wanting some sort of, you know, penalties or something done to have Donald Sterling move on and do something else. Because I think at this point he needs to go and maybe there's another career plan that he has or other business. He's a very wealthy man, so I'm sure he won't have problems doing something else. But you don't need that kind of stuff. There's just no room for it.

CUOMO: Well, I mean, he may have a big problem with it, right, because he's denying that this is what he's about, that these statements don't reflect him. And if we look at the Marge Schott example, right, you remember her, she was the owner of the Cincinnati Reds. She had a lot of things on her record that were really ugly, borderline illegal some of the things, they would up being - you know, alleged illegality that wound up pushing her to trade a percentage of ownership of the team away. The MLB seemed to really struggle with getting it done there. Do you think the NBA can do better?

WILKINS: Again, I think Adam Silver will do what's necessary if this is true to bring about some sort of penalties to Mr. Sterling. And I think he should. And I think the public wants that. You know, the league wants that. You know, if you hear comments throughout the league, just from players alone, nobody wants to play for this guy. I mean I wouldn't want to play for him. I mean when you have an owner that has that type of mentality, you know, a zebra doesn't change his stripes.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting, as people react to this on the fan side, there is a little bit of an undercurrent of people saying, oh, you know, these white owners, they all think this. You know, this guy just got caught. Is that fair criticism or do you think that this man is an exception?

WILKINS: I don't think that's a fair criticism. I think this is just one bad apple that's trying to spoil the bunch. And - but, you know, you can't let one situation taint who we are as a league and who these owners are because I've played for some great owners, Ted Turner, who is a personal friend of mine to this day.

Of course, I was with him the longest of any other owner. And so I understood who he was and what he was as a person, forget about an owner. It was a great relationship. And currently our owners are Guerin family, (inaudible) -- those guys are good people. I went to school with one of those owners in (inaudible) so I know who these people are. So no, that's not the way it is.

CUOMO: The league stands out when it comes to not only the participation, but the power of the African-American, specifically the male. It's not just that you have great players. It's that you've become powerful in the league. You're becoming more and more powerful in management and coaching all the time. Is that why you think Kevin Johnson is saying this is a defining moment, because this league really needs to be the standard?

WILKINS: I don't even look at it as a league issue. I look at it as a national issue that people should not have to deal with such discriminations and accusations that Sterling has displayed or anybody else for that matter. There's just no room in society for such ignorance. And there's no substitute for ignorance.

CUOMO: Well, Dominique Wilkins, you were on a poster on my wall for many years. You were a reminder of what I'd never be able to do in the game. And thank you for reminding us today about what the game is all about and keeping this conversation going. Pleasure to have you on.

WILKINS: Thank you, thank you. My pleasure.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the underwater search for Fight 370 is expanding in a big way. We're going to take a closer look at the new phase of the search. What makes officials think they have the right area this time?


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Breaking this morning: the search for Flight 370 entering a new phase now -- search teams expanding the underwater area to over 23,000 square miles. Joining us once again, CNN aviation analyst and former advisor to the U.K. Ministry of Defense, retired Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kay. I feel like I should at least genuflect or curtsey.

Good to see you my friend.

LT. COL. MICHAEL KAY: Good morning. No need to curtsy.

PEREIRA: No need.

Let's talk about the expanded search area. I think it's really interesting for us to know, this is the search area that the Bluefin has been looking at. Looks like a tiny dot. That actually is 150 square miles which is really not that small.

However, Michael, they're talking about expanding this area now, something like this, to about -- I'm just terrible at writing on this thing, 23,000 --

KAY: It's going well so far.

PEREIRA: -- that's like that equals 150 times the amount that they've been searching.

KAY: Yes. Well, it's disappointing that we haven't come up with anything so far. I don't think we should be disheartened.

PEREIRA: But doesn't that dishearten you, this new search amount?

KAY: Let's understand why. There was a lot of expectation built into finding ocean debris on this second ping at the first roll (ph) --



KAY: Sound propagates in water, travels though water in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.

PEREIRA: It plays finally -- right yes, yes.

KAY: And it's all dependent on the medium of water, and its elasticity and its density. Now, that's affected by the temperature of the water, the pressure of the water and the salinity of the water which is how much salt the water contains.


KAY: And it plays around with the signal.

PEREIRA: To your point, that happened there, now it's only going to do those things in this larger area still.

KAY: Well, it is. And this was the big decision that Angus Houston had to make. The whole way this investigation has been conducted is unorthodox because we've gone straight in for the needle on the haystack. We haven't found the haystack.

PEREIRA: Started big -- right, that's right.

KAY: And so the expectation has been built up to get the black boxes straight from the get-go. That never happens. It's the other way around. You find the debris and then you zone in on the black boxes through the Bluefins. That's what happened with Air France 447. So we should expect this, that expectation has been built to find something here. The Bluefin has only been in the water for 14 days -- remember.

PEREIRA: That's actually a very good point.

All right. Let's move on to the fact that another aspect of this is the cost -- they talked about the cost. They've actually attributed $56 million -- this is what the cost is going to be which if you look at how much that is a day, that's $233,000 a day.

Part of this, I wonder, speaking to your point about debris, aerial searches are for the most part being suspended because they say or Prime Minister Abbott was saying that floating debris would have become waterlogged and sunk. Do you believe that's a fair estimation?

KAY: I don't think he can say that 100 percent unequivocally. And that's because the aircraft is made up of three main materials. The first one is this carbon fiber plastic composite. That's about 50 percent of the aircraft, mainly the fuselage. We know that wouldn't be able to absorb water.

PEREIRA: So it wouldn't sink.

Kay: It would all depend on the way that the aircraft has come to its resting place in terms of how did it break up -- did it break up into lots of small little pieces. If it did, there's a greater chance they would sink. If they're big pieces, then you have a greater surface area and there's a greater chance that it will float.

But then you've got the other external factors like cyclones and weather and sea state and everything else.


KAY: Then you go for steel, which is mainly the undercarriage --

PEREIRA: And that would just sink.

KAY: -- we've got the aluminum which is in the wings, that is more likely to sink. I think the thing we need to go to on the aerial search is that we've been going now for over 52 days. And the crews in the airplanes have been operating at a tempo, a search tempo that they just can't sustain.


KAY: So they're going to have to have a natural pause and break anyway. I think it will now go to a more reactive than proactive search. What I mean by that is it's been proactive and they're even flooding the area with all these maritime surveillance assets.


KAY: Now I think he'll step back and he will react to things that may be seen. And that way, you don't have to have aircraft out there 24 hours a day or at least during daylight hours.

PEREIRA: Right. Because that's going to add to the cost as well.

KAY: Absolutely. I mean the fuel, the operating cost of these aircraft are absolutely huge, and that will contribute a big part to this $56 million.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. Private contractors being brought in, we're told, as well -- we'll see what that means in the coming days.

Michael Kay, always a pleasure to have you here.

KAY: Great to see you, Michaela. Thanks so much.


CUOMO: All right, Mick.

Coming up, before you leave this morning, you have to take a look at what's going on after these tornadoes. They've just devastated the heartland. More are expected today. We're going to tell you what you need to know.

BOLDUAN: And also we have breaking news. The U.S. has officially announced new sanctions against Russian officials and companies regarding the situation in Ukraine. We're going to have details ahead.


CUOMO: We've been telling you about what's happening on the ground in all these areas where the tornadoes have just devastated communities. Indra's been telling us that there are more to come.

So let's get you to the "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello for the latest. Good morning my friend.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Sadly a lot happening so let's get right to it. "NEWSROOM" starts now.

Happening now in the "NEWSROOM", deadly tornadoes storm through the Midwest.


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


COSTELLO: Arkansas hit hard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the biggest by far the biggest one I've ever seen.


COSTELLO: It's the deadliest outbreak so far this year.


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



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram, and it bothers you.



COSTELLO: Unsterling comments.


STERLING: You can do anything, but don't' put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.


COSTELLO: Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, a man who was supposed to receive the NAACP lifetime achievement award, allegedly caught on tape with his girlfriend.