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Flight 370 "Ended in Southern Indian Ocean"; Families Told "All Live Are Lost"; 108 Unaccounted for in Washington State Landslide; Equipment Used for Search

Aired March 24, 2014 - 12:30   ET


CHRISTINE DENNISON, OCEAN EXPLORER AND EXPEDITIONS LOGISTICS EXPERT: The Navy commander that we spoke with last night said that they do have a ship that's heading to scene that will be carrying the towed pinger locater, the TPL, which will be able to reach or can reach maximum depths of 20,000 feet.

Now, the hope would be that the seas are calm and that they can deploy this "tow fish," as some people call it, into the ocean, and they will drag it behind the ship, trying to pick up acoustics.

Now, again, hopefully, this particular tow can go to 20,000 feet. This is a very deep ocean. Ideally, it not going to be -- the maximum depth is 26,000 feet and we can hopefully have -- that would be the next phase after they pick up the debris or look for it, to start looking for sound, to see if we have more under the water.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Just to be clear, they won't start looking under the water until they have some confirmation of the debris floating on the surface, that that debris is connected to Flight 370.

DENNISON: That's correct. I still think they're concentrating their efforts in this search grid. I think they're going to remain there.

They're still trying to pick up that debris, but I'm pretty confident they have that in that location.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CO-ANCHOR: So, Tim, just maybe if you could chime in with what Christine has been talking about And specifically with respect to what's in front of you, the submersible.

How does that factor in? Well, I'll have to call it by its name, the TPL-25, tow pinger locater. If that can't be deployed until there's actual wreckage, what's the use of the gear that you have?

TIM TAYLOR, SEA OPERATIONS SPECIALIST: Well, that's true. This is kind of for later on.

What they're going to have to do, as Christine stated, get empirical data, and that can be the wreckage, as well. And they're going to have to plug as much in as they can.

And, as Mike said, the Inmarsat data seems like they have worked out a closer track. So that may be some really good data that narrows down the search.

But once they get that, they're going to have to run extensive computer programs, plug everything in there, and essentially they run millions and millions of different scenarios, and they get higher probability hits.

When you're done, it looks like a big fried egg data plan with, you know, thousands and thousands of hits per square mile, projected, and those are likely higher likelihood areas.

They've got to narrow down the search, and that's what they're going to do next.

BANFIELD: I'm glad you said they've got to narrow down the search. But absent of that happening, how many of those devices would be adequate for the kind of search that's need?

TAYLOR: This is a shallow-water device. This I brought in to show you what the big units are.

The big units are the size of trucks. They are -- this will go to 200 meters, max. The bigger units are 6,000-meter units. So they don't go full-ocean depth. They're 2,100 feet for the big AUVs.

But this thing does exactly the same thing in shallow water. It has -- you have to go down to the bottom to take the pictures. This takes pictures with sound. It shoots sound out, retrieves that sound. It's radar under water.

But it cannot -- it has to get close to the bottom to do it. So flying it down autonomously, which is what this is, an autonomous vehicle, is the state-of-the-art way to do this.

The old way, and still done today, is towing big surface ships with cables, but those ships -- there's 15 to 20 of those types of operations in the world. And there's a handful, say maybe 20 or 30 AUVS.

But AUVS are the future and the fastest, most reliable, steady data you can get will be those AUVS when they deploy them.

BANFIELD: We're still talking about millions of miles, though, again, truck-sized or not. How many would be needed in a perfect world?

TAYLOR: Oh, in a perfect world? Depends on the search area, but they cover anywhere from 10, 15, square miles a day, looking. So you do the math.

How big is the search area --

BANFIELD: Thousands.

TAYLOR: -- by how many vehicles you deploy.

And frankly, there's only less than probably 20 vehicles in the world that can do this. And I'm being generous there. And add that on to the fact that you've got so many square miles, how big is the area you're going to be searching, so it's a massive situation there.

BANFIELD: And I think that's what makes it feel, so sadly, hopeless.

Tim Taylor, stand by, if you will. Christine Dennison, thank you and stand by. We've got more questions for you coming up.

BERMAN: That's right. We're covering the breaking news announced by the Malaysian prime minister that Flight 370 ended in the Indian Ocean, the families told no hope for survivors it at this point.

The news hit them very, very hard. We'll check in on their reaction, just after this.


BANFIELD: And we've got additional breaking news we want to bring you out of Washington state.

We knew the number of missing from a massive landslide had dramatically increased.

BERMAN: Yeah, just a short time ago, we learned just how dramatically, the number of missing and unaccounted for, now up to 108. That's with eight people confirmed dead. But 108 people unaccounted for.

That doesn't mean necessarily that they're fatalities or injuries, but still that number very, very high.

George Howell joins us live now from Arlington, Washington.

You know, George, you've been with us all morning. And, again, that number, 108, doesn't mean they're all fatalities, but it's much, much bigger than we were hearing earlier.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, certainly, that number has risen significantly, but it's really important to break that number down so you can understand exactly what we're talking about.

So, 108 reports of people missing or unaccounted for, some of these reports are reports that people put out on their own, setting up a Web site, looking for loved ones or reaching out for social media.

Some of the reports are simply identities, for instance, making up a name here, a person saying, hey, John lived on that corner there. I haven't seen him in a few days. That's a report.

They're looking at all of these different reports, 108 of them, to basically narrow it down. They're asking people to call in to one specific number if they can account for people, or if it's a person who has been reported missing to basically check in.

But they're trying to narrow that number down. They believe the number will drop significantly over the next several hours as that number becomes available.

But that's what they're looking into with reports of missing.

Also, important to talk about what we learned with the structures that are in that slide zone. We learned today there are 59 lots in the slide zone, 49 of those lots had a structure on them, either an r.v. or a home, something of that nature.

And, today, we learned that at least 25 of those homes were occupied full-time, 10 of them part-time and the other unknown.

Keep in mind, this happened on a Saturday, not a day during the week when people could be at work, but on a Saturday when people were at home.

So, this is a time when a lot of people would have been in their homes. That's something that they're concerned about as they continue to search today.

BERMAN: All right. The pictures are just stunning, George Howell for us in Washington state.

Again, the news, 108 people now unaccounted for in that landslide we've seen out there, eight confirmed deaths already, 108 unaccounted for.

But as George put so eloquently, it does not necessarily mean that those are all fatalities, investigators now looking into it as best they can.

BANFIELD: It's incredible, one square mile that this landslide encompasses, just a massive, massive --

BERMAN: And more than 40 residents, too, that's a new piece of information, right there. Gives you a sense how many people could have been living in that area.

BANFIELD: And we're continuing to follow the other breaking news, the Malaysian prime minister announcing live on television this morning that, based on a new configuration of existing data, a brand-new theory and perhaps the most final theory, at least for the families, that that plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean, and with it, the people on board, as well.

We're going to go live to Beijing with reaction to how these families took that news, just after this.


BERMAN: Welcome back.

We are covering the breaking news this morning, the announcement from the prime minister of Malaysia, based on a new analysis of satellite data, they now say that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean, and they say there are no survivors. BANFIELD: That might be the kind of news that many who have been following since the beginning, the 17 days of this mystery, may have expected might be inevitable news.

But, mark my words, the families held out a lot of hope, those families in Malaysia and those families Beijing who've been waiting for every shred of information every day.

This was absolutely not the information they wanted, nor were they prepared for it. We have some video we're about to show you and we caution you it's extremely heart wrenching and sensitive. But this is how many of the families took the news when they were told earlier today.

BERMAN: You know, they have been through so much, the tragedy and the difficulty of not knowing where their family members are for all these days, added to the limited and sometimes conflicting information they were getting from Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines, that's if they were getting information at all, and now the news today which is simply, simply heartbreaking.

BANFIELD: You know, there's no good way to break this news to a family member that's in this kind of circumstance, but they at least had it -- they had medical experts on hand. They had, as you could see in the video, stretchers on hand. The text messaging has raised a lot of eyebrows in terms of notifying family members that way, but they also held a lot of meetings and phone calls.

Our David McKenzie is standing by live in Beijing.

I don't even know how you were able to get through the morning and do this kind of reporting, being surrounded in so much sadness and heartbreak. But fill us in for what the pictures didn't tell us, David.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, certainly it's been heartbreak today and many days of agonizing, waiting, has ended for these family members. As you say, some of them got the news via text message from the Malaysia Airlines saying that beyond any reasonable doubt, MH-370 plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean. And there were reactions like this.


MCKENZIE: And that all her family members were on board, completely overwhelmed by the sense of loss. Some people, Ashleigh, couldn't walk, had to be carried out. There was also a great deal of anger on the scene. People, when they finally got this news, lashing out at the camera people on the scene, as well as people just physically unable to walk, placed on stretchers and wheeled out of the room. Some of them put in ambulances and sent to hospitals throughout Beijing. So certainly, you know, counselors I've spoken to have said, when this news did finally come, and it has now come, it's almost overwhelming for many of these people.

BERMAN: It is so, so difficult to see. All right, our David McKenzie in Beijing. Thanks for being there for us, to show us what these families are going through. Really appreciate it.

Now, the news today that Flight 370, as the Malaysian prime minister said, ended in the Indian Ocean, still doesn't answer a whole lot of questions, namely how it went down or why it went down.

BANFIELD: No, and those families have been told that ultimately they'll be moved to Perth, Australia, if and when wreckage is found. But so far, that move is not happening. And yet something's been spotted. After the break, we're going to figure out just what exactly it is and how soon we're going to know more about it.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right. As you can imagine, there are so many military assets now looking for Flight 370 or what might be left of it. For more than two weeks, satellites, planes, ships, have been deployed to scour just huge swaths of ocean. More than two dozen nations are involved, and the United States has provided some very sophisticated and some very costly equipment.

BANFIELD: Boy, I'll say. Just take a look at the list that we've put together for you. The satellites come from China, the United States and the Australians. They've all put satellites into play in this search. When it comes to space cameras, NASA is deploying a remote controlled camera from the International Space Station to get images of any possible plane debris sites. As far as aircraft in the air, especially the Lockheed-built P-3 reconnaissance planes, the United States, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand have all deployed the P-3s. A newer version, the P-8, and more sophisticated version, is also being used, and that comes courtesy of the United States.

BERMAN: All right, CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us right now.

Barbara, give us a sense of this arsenal being deployed.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's not just the equipment, but the number of countries that have come together in this very unexpected coalition. I mean this is the size and the coalition of what you do for a real military operation. Here, of course, a humanitarian effort to find out what happened to the people on board this flight.

And it is going to grow as they begin to locate potential debris because now the U.S. Navy has added something to the mix. In fact, today, flying from JFK Airport in New York will be a very sophisticated piece of equipment that the Navy is going to send out there so they can help search for the data recorders if it comes to that. This is essentially a piece of equipment that goes into the water, is towed by a ship, and listens, if you will, for the pings from the data recorders. They still -- they must find debris first, calculate where those data recorders may be and then they can use this new equipment to go look for the data recorders.

BERMAN: That is the next step they are hoping they will be able to undertake if this debris does turn out to be part of Flight 370.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

BANFIELD: Want to bring in Richard Quest and Colonel Michael Kay on this as well, to the two of you, and, Richard, I'll start with you, make it brief if you could, all the gear in the world, all the most sophisticated technology in the world, given what we've heard today, is it even enough?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because it's all you've got. They will -- and there's one piece of technology you haven't added, human endeavor and perseverance. Right at the beginning, I said, they'll keep going at this, and they will keep going until they find more evidence of where this plane is. They may have to stop for the winter, for the bad weather. They may have to take a break to regroup. They may have to reanalyze everything. But they will not just certainly say, switch off the lights, we think we know where it was, let's leave --

BANFIELD: Very, very optimistic sounding. But in the end, I look at this space, I look at the area and I look at how much we don't know, Colonel Kay, and I wonder if all eyes are enough.

LT. COL. MICHAEL KAY, FMR. ADVISOR TO THE U.K. MINISTRY OF DEFENSE: Yes. I think Kate Bolduan really (INAUDIBLE) earlier in her report about technology versus the human eye. And I think we've got to temper our expectation on technology because of the - the nature of the area that we're looking in. We touched upon the P-8, touched upon the P-3. We've also got two Chinese, a Lushin (ph) 76 maritime surveillance aircraft that are going down into the region as well.

But the three (INAUDIBLE) of maritime surveillance aircraft is the P-8 Saigon (ph). The Americans have only just got this capability, initial operating capability, in December 2013. So it's still rolling out. The Indians have got it. The Australians are going to get it. It's got some fantastic equipment on it. It's got synthetic (ph) aperture radar. It's got wes (ph) cams for thermal imaging. It's got a massive (INAUDIBLE) intelligence capability. So what the drones have. But it's all geared towards finding big submarines under the ocean. It's not geared for finding non-phosphorus metal. So I think we just have to be cautious. And, again, the human eye will be massively important in this search.

BERMAN: Right. Richard, we've got about 30 seconds left.

QUEST: Sure.

BERMAN: Quickly, the investigation still continues, because even if we agree with the Malaysian prime minister that this flight went down, we don't know why or how.

QUEST: Correct. And the Malaysians will be leading it. It's in international waters. Therefore, as the state of registry, state of operator, this looks like it will be a Malaysian investigation.

BERMAN: Our Richard Quest, Colonel Michael Kay, thank you so much. KAY: A pleasure. Thanks.

BANFIELD: And we're continuing our coverage on CNN of this breaking news. Clearly this is one of the biggest developments so far with the news that the Malaysians suggest that the lives have been lost and that the plane is in the south Indian Ocean.

Please stay tuned. Our colleague, Wolf Blitzer, takes over after this break.