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EARLY START

State of Emergency in Mississippi; New Focus in Flight 370 Search; Protesters Clash against Pro-Russians; Families Briefed about Flight 370

Aired April 29, 2014 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. Tornadoes tearing a deadly path through the south overnight into the morning. More tornadoes touching down just moments ago. Indra Petersons tracking these storms and who needs to be alert right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Could change soon be coming to the Los Angeles Clippers? In just a few hours, the NBA's set to make an announcement about its investigation into the team's owner and racist remarks caught on tape, as sponsors pull their support from the team. Is the NBA ready to hand its own punishment?

BERMAN: And breaking news overnight, an official ending to the surface search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, as investigators reveal new information to the families of those on board, playing for them the last audio recordings received from the cockpit of the vanished airliner.

You're going to hear these recordings. We'll bring them to you live, just ahead.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour this Tuesday morning.

There is breaking news this hour from the south, where more dangerous storms hit overnight. We've got watches and warnings up for a big part of the southeast right now. The death toll stands at 29 in six states.

BERMAN: Mississippi among the states worst hit. The entire state there is under a state of emergency right now, this after a tornado hit Tupelo, in the Tupelo area. At least 100 homes were damaged. At least eight people there now dead.

You can see the impact. Cars just thrown around. Look at this SUV. It's lifted on top and placed right on top of another one. You can only imagine what it's like to try to ride out a storm like this. Some people did that about 100 miles south in Lewisville, Mississippi.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay here. Oh, my god. No, no, no, no, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop. Everyone listen. Everyone listen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Northern Alabama also struck by tornadoes that tore apart homes and businesses. At least two people are dead west of Huntsville, the result of what the National Weather Service called the large, violent twister. Another person was killed in Tuscaloosa. A major tornado also touched down just across the state line in Tennessee. At least two people dead there.

BERMAN: Very dangerous situation in Georgia, too. Take a look at this cell phone video from southwest of Atlanta, spotting a possible tornado on the ground. There's damage, though luckily no fatalities there. Fifteen Georgia counties are under a tornado watch this morning.

Arkansas is cleaning up this morning and they're trying to make sure there are no more victims from the tornado that caused severe damage and at least 14 deaths in two towns west of Little Rock. Those who witnessed this storm call it just unbelievable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRYANT PRUIT, VILONIA, ARKANSAS RESIDENT: It was huge. It was -- it was by far the biggest one I've ever seen, and not that I've seen that many, but yes, it was a -- it was just a huge, black cloud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: hen it just popped back up real quick and then I ran inside and about a minute it was over. I come outside and what you see is what we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Southeastern Kansas also affected when a two-mile-wide tornado marched its way through Baxter Springs, ripping the roofs off homes, knocking down walls. Amazingly there, no deaths reported. The governor is promising quick help for those victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could have been in that. Could have been dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: A few minutes, the difference between life and death in Keokuk, Iowa. A tornado dropping debris on that minivan. Luckily, that woman wasn't inside the vehicle yet. Another person nearby died from the storm that damaged, as you can see there, severe and extensive. Indra Petersons is tracking these storms, these storms with the threat not over yet this morning.

We just heard a few minutes ago, Indra, of more twisters touching down.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and of course this morning, we're still talking about this huge risk area. It's even gone farther, spread even wider today for severe weather.

We're talking about 73 million of you under the gun for just the slight risk area. Where is that? That's in Detroit all the way through Virginia Beach, down into the south, so out towards Tallahassee, and going to be extending back to Louisiana. But today already another moderate risk, the enhanced risk is already out there from Birmingham to just north of Mobile, Alabama.

This is going to be the concern, 2.5 million of you still looking at the threat for severe weather. Very easy to see, still looking this morning at tornado watch boxes, including Atlanta, just east of Montgomery, kind of just north of -- it looks like Panama City Beach.

This is the concern, this line of storms already powerful this morning. Just a few minutes ago we did have a confirmed tornado. Easy to see. Once you let the sunlight in the afternoon, these storms really ramp up. Very easy to see yesterday.

Eighty reports of tornado damage, especially in that focus area where we had that enhancement yesterday, even enhanced to all the way up to a high risk.

Why are we still talking about the severe weather? It is such a slow- moving system. The reason for that is a huge low spinning in the northeast. This guy is pretty much blocking this system behind it. So this entire system almost staying in place. You had that cold front, you have all that warm, moist air coming out of the Gulf, really spawning up these thunderstorms into the southeast.

That is the concern. So even as we go in through tomorrow, that same cold front slowly makes its way off to the east. We're still talking about advisories here from D.C. all the way down through Jacksonville for severe weather. The thing I want to point out, although the system itself is moving slow, these cells, these thunderstorms and tornadoes are moving very quickly, even as fast as 50, 60 miles per hour.

So when you hear a warning, please adhere those warnings. You do not have much time. Still heavy rainfall at the other side of this. Three to five inches of rain, even through New York City today. What are we talking about? The next step is going to be some flood watches out there. And that's from New York City all the way back through Mobile.

But that's the key thing. Everyone knows it's a slow system, but the tornadoes are not. Some very fast moving, do not have time. Go straight downstairs. ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: All right. Be alert. Thanks, Indra. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. This morning there are more calls for the NBA to eject L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling in light of those racist comments he's alleged to have made to his girlfriend. More sponsors have now pulled their support of that team as the coach, Doc Rivers, admits he believes that it is Donald Sterling on these tapes, but he passed on a chance to speak to the owner about the controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOC RIVERS, COACH, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: These last 48 hours or more have been really hard for our players and for everyone, and I would just like to reiterate how disappointed I am in our -- in the comments attributed to our owner, and I can't tell you how upset I am, our players are.

KEVIN JOHNSON, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: When a hit of cancer is shown, you have to cut it out immediately. And I feel that's where the players are today. They don't think he's worthy to be an owner. So whether there's a sanction that includes a suspension, whether there's a sanction that includes a hefty fine, at the end of the day, the players feel very strongly that he's not fit to be an owner and a part of this NBA family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The NBA commissioner is expected to make an announcement about its investigation at a news conference this afternoon.

The Clippers play their next playoff game against the Warriors this evening. Warriors coach Mark Jackson, he's calling on fans to stay home to send a message to Sterling.

BERMAN: You know, maybe they won't have to. Maybe the NBA will step in, in time before that game to make some kind of dramatic announcement. Maybe the fans can go and support those players who have done nothing wrong, to be clear.

ROMANS: I'm interested in legally what the league can do if someone owns the team.

BERMAN: Murky. Murky. But it seems as if they can be suspended or they can put a lot of pressure on him to sell at some point.

ROMANS: Can they force him to sell?

BERMAN: Forcing is hard, it's very hard. The charter, the NBA charter is a private thing, but I think when all the sponsors pull out, when the players say I don't want to play for him, when the coach doesn't back him up, when everyone in the league makes him a pariah, I don't think he'll want to own that team for much longer.

Let's move on now to the search for Flight 370, an official end to the hunt by air for this jet which has now been missing for nearly two months. The focus is now under water after officials acknowledge they need to search a bigger area to try to find the Boeing 777. This process now, they say, could take months.

Miguel Marquez live in Perth, Australia.

Good morning, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning there, John. A lot of things happening all at the same time here. That air search came to an end today with the commemoration and farewell service for the many, many hundreds of air personnel from seven different countries that got together at Pearce Air Force Base -- Royal Air Force Base just north of Perth here to take a group photo. And it's a very impressive group photo, among the many planes that they used during this search over the many months.

Personnel we spoke to, Americans talking to Chinese counterparts, very pleased to take part in this, frustrated, though, that they didn't come up with anything.

As for the search for the plane itself, it will continue and intensify under water. The Bluefin will continue to dive, even though it's already searched 100 percent of the most likely area where they thought the airliner was. It will continue to search north of that. They will also target an area that is about 10 kilometers or six miles north of that area, where the first ping was picked up.

And then they will also prepare for a much longer search that could involve a lot of different types of devices, probably towed-type devices, side sonar devices that they can get giant scans, very fine scans of the ocean, and that would be towed by ships that would take, you know, this is an area that's 21,600 square miles. It is going to take a lot of time. They say if everything goes perfectly, it could take eight months, but probably longer.

BERMAN: That is a very long time.

Now, Miguel, officials have said they are following up now on every lead. We just got word a few minutes ago of a possible debris sighting that they're following up on now in the Bay of Bengal. That is not close at all to where you are.

MARQUEZ: No, it's not close at all, and it's a bit of an odd one. This one has caught the Internet by storm overnight. There's an Australian company that claims to have found evidence of an airliner in the Bay of Bengal, mainly because they picked it up on -- by spectral analysis, basically. They have not shared any of their specific data. They say that they've written letters to the agency here coordinating the search and to the Malaysians, but they've had no response.

Malaysians now saying they're looking into it. The Joint Agency Coordinating Center here, the main coordinating center for the search, says, look, it's not even in the radar track that Inmarsat gave us and we're not investigating it as serious, we don't think it's real, we're going to keep concentrating down here. We believe we have the right place down here.

So it's not clear that this company, where their data is coming from and what it is, but the Malaysians now saying that they will look into it and figure out whether there is anything to it -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Miguel, thanks for shedding some light on that at least. Good to see you this morning.

MARQUEZ: You bet.

BERMAN: Miguel Marquez in Perth, Australia.

In Beijing overnight, families received a new briefing and new details about this investigation.

Our Ivan Watson was there. He'll tell us what the families heard, ahead in just a few minutes.

ROMANS: All right, breaking news this morning. North Korea launching new military exercises, drawing a -- harsh warning from the south.

BERMAN: Plus, riots in the streets of Ukraine. Protests turning violent overnight. We're live with the latest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: In eastern Ukraine this morning, tensions boiling over. A rally turned to show support for keeping the country united turned violent when separatists and demonstrators clashed. This just hours after the U.S. put in place new sanctions against Vladimir Putin's closest ally. This in an effort to put pressure on Russia. Moscow says it will only make things worse.

Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh in Slavyansk, Ukraine, this morning.

Nick, give us a sense of the latest.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Those European Union sanctions are in many ways weaker than what we heard from the White House yesterday. Yes, there are key figures in the self- declared Donetsk, People's Republic, those pro-Russian protesters, targeted and there are also some aides to Putin, but none of the big figures that Barack Obama announced moves against yesterday.

On the ground here, we are still seeing the pro-Russian militants moving against buildings. They took another town last night -- sorry, yesterday in the morning. And the concern, of course, is now we're seeing unrest spreading to that key city of Donetsk that had been so calm despite the fact that its main administration building was occupied by protesters now for weeks.

Last night, the pro-Ukrainian rally attacked by pro-Russian demonstrators. Sticks, clubs, anything they could lay their hands on. There were people badly hurt in that, but above all now, I think a sense of shock that that kind of unrest was possible in the heart of the biggest city in this region and the police did little really to stop the clashes breaking out.

Back to you -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, no sign of this violence waning any time soon, an election scheduled just a few weeks from now.

Nick Paton Walsh, in Ukraine, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, live fire exercises now under way by North Korea in the Yellow Sea, this very close to the South Korean border. North Korea did notify the South of its plans, but Seoul is warning, it will take action if any artillery shells fall on its side of the border.

Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Kate Bolduan joins us this Tuesday morning.

Hi, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning, guys. We're following those deadly tornadoes that you guys are as well, ravaging the Midwest and southern United States today. Seventy-five million people still under severe weather threat and face the possibility of more tornadoes. It's moving slowly, it's moving through these states, and the threat isn't over yet.

We have everything you need to know, including where the storm is expected to hit next.

Plus, we're going to bring you never-before-released audio of Flight 370's final communications with the control tower. We're going to break down what it means for the investigation.

And we also have the latest on those racist comments allegedly made by Donald Sterling, the owner of the L.A. Clippers. They've obviously been all over the news this week. The NBA commissioner will hold a news conference about it today. What does the league plan to do about it? What can the league do about it? We're going to be talking with former NBA players about it and get their take, what should be done and what should be done from here going forward.

BERMAN: Cedric Maxwell, former Celtic great, headed on your show. Very good booking, strong.

Kate Bolduan, thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: John brought his camera so he can get as many pictures with him as possible.

(LAUGHTER)

All right, as Kate mentioned, we're hearing for the first time the last radio communications from Flight 370 to the tower. Much more on that live from Beijing next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: This morning the families of those on Flight 370 are getting some answers, and they're hearing what the pilots said to the tower the night the jet disappeared. The Malaysian government briefing them overnight in Beijing.

Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, was there. He joins us this morning live.

And Ivan, can you tell us, what were the families told? They've had so many questions for so many weeks now. They're finally getting some of those details.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it was welcome hearing these details. For example, as you mentioned, audio recordings from what the Malaysian authorities said were the final radio conversations that the crew of MH-370 had with ground control.

Let's take a listen to an excerpt of it. It's hard to make out. It's playing in a conference room speaker system, but it is something that the families have been asking for now for basically a month and a half. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delivery Malaysian 370, good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malaysian 370, stand by, and Malaysia Six is cleared to Frankfurt via AGOSA Alpha --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Christine, the last of the conversations that we hear -- that's just an excerpt there, a sampling -- ends with a crew member from Malaysian Air Flight 370 saying, "goodnight, Malaysia 370," but there was a lot more that was also shared here. The Malaysian authorities basically describing a chronology of the last communications with the plane. And one thing sticks out here.

At around 2:00 a.m. on March 8th, Malaysian Airlines from ground control sent a message, telling the crew to start communicating with ground control in Vietnam, which is on the itinerary of the plane. It was supposed to fly from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China. There was no response from that, they say .

At 2:22, that was the last time that Malaysian Air Force, that its radar pings to the plane. And then some five hours later, Malaysian Airlines tried to call the cockpit and didn't get an answer there. Malaysian Airlines estimates that the plane would have run out of fuel about an hour after that.

We don't know what kind of -- what was going on for five hours there and why Malaysian Airlines didn't try to communicate with that plane during that five-hour period there. Also, details about the handshakes, the so-called handshakes between a satellite over the Indian Ocean and the plane over a six-hour period, and those handshakes basically showing that the plane was very far off course in relation with the elevation of that satellite.

So details finally, as well as serial numbers of the black box, the flight data recorder of the plane. These were well received by the families today. For once, a meeting that did not result in people screaming and yelling and insulting the Malaysian officials that they met with -- Christine.

ROMANS: And that truly is remarkable and a turning point.

Nick, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Just ahead from us, a financial news update from Christine Romans that could change your life forever. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. The Obama administration will be able to keep its drone strikes secret. The Senate has stripped a provision from an intelligence bill requiring details of who was killed by drones. They want those details made public.

The administration has said revealing that information could undermine operations overseas. Critics say lawmakers are avoiding an important debate.

BERMAN: The president heading home right now on his way back to Washington after wrapping up his week-long trip to Asia. His last stop was the Philippines. The president laid a wreath at an American cemetery in Manila before getting back aboard Air Force One for the long flight back.

He probably won't be happy to see some new poll numbers awaiting his return. The ABC News/"Washington Post" survey gives the president just a 41 percent approval rating. That is the lowest of his presidency in the ABC News poll. 53 percent of voters now say they'd like to see Republicans in charge of Congress. What's most interesting about this poll is that the economy is dragging down the president's numbers.

ROMANS: Interesting.

A quick check of stocks right now. In Europe, they're trading higher. Futures for stocks here pointing to a higher open on Wall Street as well.

The big buzz this morning, though, about a new fare structure for Frontier Airlines. Get ready for a new Frontier of fees, specifically, 25 bucks to put something in the overhead bin. 25 bucks for the overhead bin, and if you don't pre-book that carry-on space, you're paying 35 bucks. The airline announced this yesterday as part of a new ultra low-cost model, similar to their rival airlines Spirit.

Frontier will now, quote, "unbundle its pricing." In theory that policy give passengers a cheaper base price and then charges you for the services that you use, like the overhead bin. That means fees for more than overhead bins, extra legroom, even picking your own seat will cost you money. If you want the cheapest fares, book online ahead of time, and not at the airport.

BERMAN: Yes, and you have to really a wear like a track suit and carry a wallet, that's if you want --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Duct tape, strap everything to your body, although that would probably be surprising.

BERMAN: Yes, I'm sure. That's not going to over well with the TSA.

ROMANS: All right, that won't work.

BERMAN: I wonder if you still get the cookies at Frontier. They give you cookies.

ROMANS: Do they?

BERMAN: But don't put them in the overhead bin, because that will cost you 25 bucks.

(LAUGHTER)

All right. "NEW DAY" starts right now.