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Search Of Northern Corridor Cut Off; Families March To Malaysian Embassy In China; Mudslide Site Still Very Unstable; Two Dead In Naval Station Norfolk Shooting; Obama At The Hague For Summit; Obama Looking At NSA Data Overhaul; Steenkamp Texts Read At Murder Trial; Search For Flight 370 Suspended

Aired March 25, 2014 - 06:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. I'm Michaela Pereira with John Berman in for Chris Cuomo. We would like to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. We begin NEW DAY with breaking news in the search for Flight 370.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Malaysian officials have been giving a news conference over the last several minutes, updating the search for Flight 370. And the news is this, the search has been called off for today because of bad weather in the search areas. There are no planes flying; there are no boats in the vicinity of where they believe that wreckage is at this point.

You're looking at the Malaysian defense minister right now. He again going over how they have come to the conclusion that Flight 370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean, laying out the case again for reanalyzing that Inmarsat satellite data, explaining why they now think the plane flight ended in the area that's about 400,000-500,000 square nautical miles off the coast of Perth, Australia.

And that's where we're going to go to right now. Our Kate Bolduan is live in Perth, Australia. She has been covering every angle of the search over the last several days -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, John. Good morning everybody. Coming to you live from Perth, Australia, as John says.

Malaysian officials have been giving everyone kind of a technical update discussing the positioning of the plane in concluding based on data analysis from a British company that they no longer will be searching the northern corridor that we've been talking so much about. But they are going to be focusing all efforts on the southern corridor, which is this search effort are coming out of here at Pierce Air Force Base in Perth, Australia.

Also new this morning, the Malaysian ambassador to China appeared inside to meet with some of the passengers' family members. One relative described that meeting as shameless saying that the ambassador couldn't even answer simple questions that they were trying to pose to him. Much more on that ahead.

Today, conditions are so dangerous in the Southern Indian Ocean that search for any sign of Flight 370 is on hold until at least tomorrow. The search area we're told has been slammed with powerful winds, large waves, heavy rains and also importantly when it comes to these searches, very low cloud cover.

I'll tell you we're experiencing these gale force winds right here and we are on the coast. That's not even -- you know, it's four hours out into the ocean where this search area would be. The airline, Malaysia Airlines is now telling distraught and angry family members the horrible news that they will never see their loved ones again. Here is an update on everything.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Airline officials repeating this morning the sad news first delivered by the Malaysian prime minister the night before.

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: We must now accept the painful reality that the aircraft is now lost and that none of the passenger or crew on board survived.

BOLDUAN: This morning, the prime minister defending his announcement telling parliament he only wanted to be fully transparent that the data from British satellites proved what had happened. And airline officials also defending their decision to send a text message alerting families of the news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was to ensure that the incredible short amount of time available to us, the families heard the tragic news before the world did.

BOLDUAN: As for the search, today's severe weather has halted operations, even forcing ships to move out of the search area. I spoke in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Australia's defense minister and vice chief of defense about the setback.

(on camera): Do you think there is a chance that we will never find this plane even if it landed in the Indian Ocean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's always a possibility actually we might not find something next week or the week after, but I think, eventually, something will come to light. But it's going to take time.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): More time and more patience in the frustrating operation that is so far left them empty handed. Though they still see promise in the debris spotted yesterday by an Australian team.

(on camera): How confident are you of the debris that has been spotted so far? The success had to move out of the area because of the horrendous weather as you describe. How confident are you when they move back in, they'll be able to locate it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think we'll be able to get back in there in a couple of days' time. But you know, this is a part of the world where even just estimating the weather is very, very difficult.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): An added challenge as even those leading the search admit, they're not exactly sure where to look.


BOLDUAN: Overnight, hundreds of relatives of friends and family of Flight 370, the passengers on board, they were so angry of Malaysia's handling of the crisis that they marched toward the Malaysian embassy in China. But also when they got there, they were met by hundreds of police officers who blocked them from reaching the embassy.

Let's get the very latest from Pauline Chiou who is live in Beijing this morning. So Pauline, what happened?

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the families are so angry that they decided to get together and protest. They're angry because they're not satisfied with the Malaysian government's explanation of why and where the plane went down. In fact, they say they are not ready to close the door on this. They want hard evidence. They say they want to see a piece of luggage or they want to see a seat cushion or some marking from Flight 370 on airplane debris.

Until they see that, they do not want to close the chapter on this. So as a result, they're angry with the way this message was delivered. They are angry with the way the search has been going. They got together and filed into buses in front of their hotel, but Chinese police would not let those buses go. So then the protesters decided to walk on foot to the Malaysian Embassy about 2 miles away.

And the police kept the media away. They cordoned us off so we couldn't get to the Malaysian Embassy. They did allow the protesters eventually to stand there and protest. They handed something called a letter of complaint to an official from the Malaysian Embassy.

And then they came back here to this hotel behind me where they later met with the Malaysian ambassador to China and also they met with Chinese government officials. But we were texting with some family members. They said nothing satisfactory really came out of that.

John, we should mention that initially, these Chinese families were very reluctant to go to Kuala Lumpur even though they were invited by Malaysia Airlines. But at this point, they say they are so frustrated with the Malaysian officials here.

They say they are not very effective here in China that they're willing to get on a plane and go to Kuala Lumpur because they want to confront the highest level, the officials at the highest level of the Malaysian government -- John.

BERMAN: All right, our Pauline Chiou in Beijing with those families clearly frustrated with the level of evidence that they have been given over the last 24 hours. So let's talk about that evidence, that new data, that new analysis. Let's bring in our panel of experts. Pilot and former international captain for Northwest Airlines, David Funk, CNN safety analyst, former FAA inspector and the author of "Why Planes Crash," David Soucie, and CNN aviation analyst and former Department of Transportation inspector general, Mary Schiavo. Guys before we dig into this new evidence, this new data, I want to kind of give you a rapid fire poll and a few points here just so people understand the level of confidence we have with this new information. So let me go down the list here.

Mary, let me start with you. How confident are you, Mary, at this point that this data does show definitively that Flight 370 ended as they say in the Indian Ocean, one sentence or less?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, I'm confident because the other routes have less evidence, have no evidence at all for any route. With this satellite data being smoothed out, I think it's the right place to look, and I think that's what happened.

BERMAN: David Funk, just as confident?

DAVID FUNK, PILOT AND FORMER INTERNATIONAL CAPTAIN, NORTHWEST AIRLINES: Same thing. A lot of confidence in the Brits and the fact that the Australians did not see anything on this radar.

BERMAN: David Soucie.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Very confident. I've spoken with people at Inmarsat and I'm confident in them.

BERMAN: All right, all three of you are confident that this flight did end in the Indian Ocean. Do you feel though that the level of data they have for the mathematical analysis, is enough in and of itself or do you feel they have other evidence that they're not revealing? David Soucie, you first.

SOUCIE: In and of itself, it carries its own weight.

FUNK: Absolutely agree with David on that one.


SCHIAVO: Same for me. I agree.

BERMAN: All right, this is interesting to know because I think a lot of people out there are wondering, they must know more. This is really just a new mathematical way to look at data they they've had before. You three who know a lot about this seem very, very confident that this flight did end in the Indian Ocean.

Mary, a little more expansive now, though, because you've talked about this evidence even though you believe that it is in fact enough to hang this on, you do not think that you would have told the families definitively, there are no survivors.

SCHIAVO: No. Because I'd like to lay out the facts. That's just the way I like to do anything, investigations, cases, just lay out the facts. You know, they can draw their own conclusions that their loved ones are not coming back. The facts that we know that the coordinates point, the plane went the southern route. There is no way that the plane could have gone any further at this point. The data says this is the last point of communication.

There are no airports there. I don't think it was necessary to really hammer them with the awful news. But on the flip side, it was fairly brave of the prime minister to say those words. Those are awful words that no one would want to say.

BERMAN: No. No one wanted to hear that. Not the family. I think no one following this investigation right now. David Funk, how much does this narrow down the search area now? You know, it rules out the northern corridor, but that southern corridor is a very, very big space. Does this new analysis allow them to narrow down the search area to a much more concise area?

FUNK: It does. We're going from essentially a search area larger than the United States, the lower 48, to probably somewhere between the size of New Mexico and the size of Massachusetts as they continue to narrow this down. It just gets easier for the search crews. Not easier for the recovery crews, but easier for the search crews to pinpoint some specifics that we can then backtrack and figure out where the stuff drifted from.

BERMAN: Easier if they can get out there. David Soucie, how big of a setback is it right now that they have suspended the search for 24 hours because of the weather? There is no plane flying. There is no boats out there searching the area. Twenty four hours lost, can they afford this at this point?

SOUCIE: No. It's a devastating set back. You think about how much time they have left on the pings on that black box. Even if we started the search today and had just a hundred square mile area to look, it would be difficult to get this done before winter sets in.

BERMAN: With the wind blowing away with those currents going, who knows where that data could be tomorrow when those planes get out there flying again? Mary, I want to shift gears right now to the families because you work with families of victims of plane accidents and mishaps. We now know they've been offered $5,000, that's just to cover the cost right now of this waiting period, the logistics of the last few days and few weeks. That's $5,000. How much can they realistically expect going forward? What kind of lawsuits do you anticipate there will be?

SCHIAVO: Well, there will be lawsuits because that's how it has to be done. And for the airline, it's covered under a treaty called the Montreal Treaty. That governs how you go about bringing actions against the airline. Basically, the airline is responsible for the damages automatically for the first approximately 175,000. And after that, to unlimited amounts unless the airline can show it took all reasonable measures to prevent whatever happened.

Since we don't know what happened, I think the airline can't prove that, so they will be liable. Say there was a mechanical failure or a problem with the engines, that is not governed by the treaty and that would be brought and it's a lawsuit. Each family is separate. It's not a class action. That would be brought where the family lives or where the defendant is located. That 5,000 is just to help them along with expenses. That is not the amount that they are expected to recover.

BERMAN: No. There'll much more of course depending on what the investigation turns up. So let's talk about the investigation, David Funk. This new analysis of the Inmarsat data ruling out the northern corridor, showing that it did end in the southern corridor. Does this rule in or rule out in your mind any possible scenarios for what happened on board that plane?

FUNK: The only thing we know for sure is we lost all communications with the airplane and then it flew on for several hours. I tend to think having done accident investigations, I look for the simple answers. We'll follow the evidence, but I still lean towards it being a mechanical problem. It could have been something else more nefarious, but until we have a full background check on every member of the crew, every passenger and every person that serviced the airplane in the last 30 or so days, that's going to take a lot more than, we checked them out, they're OK.

BERMAN: Mary is nodding. She agrees with you, but David Soucie, I'll give you the last word here. Does this rule in or rule out any possible scenario and a lot of people wondering, look, if this flight did end off the coast of Perth. That's an awful long ways away from the Malaysian Peninsula. Could it have flown that far that long without any communications?

SOUCIE: Only if something had failed on the aircraft in my mind. The nefarious part of it is that the ACAR System we thought had gone off automatically or someone had turned it off and the transponders, both of those pieces of data have now been debunked. I do believe mechanical failure of some kind of fire. We don't know what, of course. I don't rule that out.

BERMAN: All right, this discussion very much continues as the investigation continues. David Soucie, David Funk, Mary Schiavo, great to have you here. Stick around. We do have a lot more to talk about -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: We certainly do and we'll get back to our coverage of the missing Flight 370 in a moment.

There's another big story that we are following. The ongoing search for survivors in a mudslide that has engulfed one square mile of Snohomish County in Washington State, north of Seattle. We know at least 14 people are dead, 176 remain unaccounted for. While they are treating this as an active rescue operation, hope is certainly fading fast.

CNN's Ana Cabrera is live in Arlington, Washington. They haven't pulled somebody out alive since Saturday. Hope is certainly fading.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. But people are hanging onto that a little bit of hope. Good morning to you, Michaela. This mudslide is about a whole square mile wide and deep and about 15 feet deep in some places. This is as close as we're going to get on the west side. Any closer we're told conditions are really still treacherous. We're also told that there's still potential for even more slides. For the families of those missing, it really is a helpless feeling as they await answers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of us feel like he's gone.

CABRERA: Brenda Neal's 52-year-old husband, Steven, is among those still missing after a massive landslide on Saturday in Snohomish County. This hill gave way swallowing a square mile of land and everything in its path.

BRENDA NEAL, STEVEN NEAL'S WIFE: I've been at the fire hall at midnight looking for anything. I've seen the rescuers covering in mud and the despair on their faces is very evident, that they want to help.

CABRERA: Steven, a local plumber, was on a service call when the landslide hit. His daughter, Sarah, describes him as a survivor.

SARA NEAL, STEVEN NEAL'S DAUGHTER: I think if anyone had a chance it would be him. I think if he was there with other people, he would keep them alive too.

CABRERA: Officials say the outlook is grim.

FIRE CHIEF TRAVIS HOTS, SNOHOMISH COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We did not find any sign of any survivors.

CABRERA: But volunteers taking tremendous risk combing through the mud and rubble aren't giving up hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just heard this morning that another dog got rescued. If we're still finding dogs alive, why can't we be finding people?

CABRERA: Three days ago, first responders saved this 4-year-old boy taking this photo moments after pulling him from the mud.

ROBIN YOUNGBLOOD, SURVIVED LANDSLIDE: I took all his clothes off because he was freezing. Wrapped him up and held him and told him I was a grandma.

CABRERA: Cory Kuntz lost his aunt and his home to the slurry but his uncle survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had a little air pocket. My neighbors and friends came and started digging him out.

CABRERA: He and neighbors have formed their own search crew in the hopes that more will be found alive.


CABRERA: More help is on the way today. We know teams from California are joining the search and rescue operation when day breaks this morning. We are also learning federal resources are on the way as well after an emergency declaration was issued. It can't come soon enough for the dozens of people who are displaced and with more rain in the forecast -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: And that's the real concern that there is more rain further causing that already porous land to remain unstable. Ana, thank you so much for that. What a devastating story. We're going to continue to follow that obviously. Let's get to Christine Romans. She's got some more of the day's top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More news. Breaking overnight, two people found dead after a late night shooting at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. The victims were a male sailor and a male civilian. Base official say the incident took place just before midnight. The investigation is ongoing. We will bring you the latest developments throughout the morning on that.

President Obama spending a second day at The Hague in the Netherlands as the Nuclear Security Summit wraps up. From there, he travels to Brussels. The next stop on his European trip, the president and other leaders met on the sidelines at the summit Monday and essentially decided to kick Russia out of the G8 over its annexation of Crimea. They agreed to boycott the planned G8 Summit meeting in Sochi. A meeting instead as the group of seven in Brussels. Russia dismissed the move as unimportant.

A new White House proposal could dramatically overhaul the NSA's controversial phone data program. The agency has come under fire for gathering huge amounts of user data keeping it on file for years. The proposal would allow phone companies to keep the call data instead and require the NSA to get a court order to access the information. That proposal needs approval by Congress.

In South Africa, more compelling testimony in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. The defense is cross examining police Captain Francois Muller who detailed the text messages Reeva Steenkamp sent to the Olympic sprinter, those text messages in the days and weeks before he shot and killed her. Some of the text show Steenkamp was sometimes scared of Pistorius.

But the defense pointed out that a few of them were friendly conversations between the couple. Vast majority of these are friendly mundane conversation between lovers. Some of them though are lovers' quarrels via text and she a couple of times said that she was afraid of his temper.

PEREIRA: We'll be combing through all that. Christine Romans, thank you so much.

Yesterday, a little cooler for some folks in the eastern part of the country. We turn --

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's going to be chilly today and even colder as we get closer to the weekend. Of course, all the ingredients are coming together. We have rain in the Carolinas. We already have snow in West Virginia. This is going to be our next major storm. We have blizzard watches in effect for the Cape. We also have winter storm watches in effect for parts of Massachusetts. Let's track this thing. We're going to see rain anywhere from say Raleigh to the south. This is Wednesday, 8 p.m. and you can see D.C., New York, Boston, even Maine, ail covered with snow. Of course those famous models we were talking about yesterday still cannot agree and this thing is happening today. Here's the American model, our favorite, has New York less than an inch, Boston, an inch and a half.

And then look at that European model. Still 3-1/2 inches of snow in New York, 8 inches in Boston and possibly a foot or more around the cape. Something, we are watching, of course. The winds are also going to be a major concern. Gusts up to 55 at times. The temperatures also another thing to note. New York City, 38 today, 36 on Wednesday.

Finally, starting to warm up just a little bit more by the time we get to the end of the week guys. The seasons are changing, so you have to hope that this could be maybe the last one?

PEREIRA: Maybe it's the currency exchange that explains the discrepancy in numbers.

BERMAN: They don't understand baseball. It's almost baseball season, right?

GRAY: One season that matter it's March Madness. Everyone should stay home.

BERMAN: All right, Iowa State.

PEREIRA: Thanks, Jennifer. Good to have you here with us.

BERMAN: Next up for us on NEW DAY, the Indian Ocean is remote and hostile. That's on a good day. So imagine what it's like when the weather is as bad as it is today. A unique look at the area where searchers are now focused as they hunt for Flight 370.

PEREIRA: Also, we have a CNN exclusive for you, top Australian officials telling our Kate Bolduan, there finally might be a solid clue in the search. The one on one interview you'll only see on CNN coming up.


BERMAN: All right, welcome back, everyone. The search area for Flight 370 now focused on the southern corridor and that search that's on hold this morning because of awful stormy weather. Malaysian officials announced the plane they believe went down somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean, which is really one of the most remote places on earth. So even though search crews have more of an idea of where to look, it is a very, very difficult task still that they are facing.

Joining me here on our giant floor map is ocean explorer and former naval officer, David Jourdan. David, thank you so much for being here. First off, I do want to talk about the weather because the news we received today, that search area in the last three or four days, that has been suspended for 24 hours. Just talk to me about how weather in general affects ocean searches.

DAVID JOURDAN, OCEAN EXPLORER: My expertise is searching under the water. Can we go underneath this floor?

BERMAN: I wish.

JOURDAN: If we could do that, it would help. But under water, the weather is a different problem. You're mainly concerned about the surface waves and recovering and deploying vehicles. Under water, it's nice and quiet. In a hurricane, a submarine is unaffected.

BERMAN: Well, the submarine is unaffected, but those surface vessels are not. We understand today the waves are anywhere from 1 or 2 meters to 3 or 4. They are seeing waves 20 feet high in some cases. Can you conduct any kind of effective search in waves like that?

JOURDAN: You really can't. It's impossible to recover your vehicles or if you're toeing something, to tow it safely. Fog is not a problem. Rain is not a problem, but high winds and high seas are definitely --

BERMAN: We do understand that the Australian naval vessel, "The Success" had pulled back about 120 kilometers south of this search area looks very small. I think there are two separate issues as you point out, searching the square from the air and from surface is one thing. How big is this square for you when you're searching under water? Is that something you can even approach?

JOURDAN: I think the folks we were talking to earlier said maybe 10,000 square miles. That's an area the size of Massachusetts. That immense. There are areas the size of Nebraska where you don't have a single data point in the Pacific Ocean. I don't about this particular area where we decide to search, but at 1 nautical mile per hour, it could take months and months to search that area. From the air, we can see sometimes tens or hundreds of miles from satellite even longer and you can move at high speeds. Under water, we're limited to maybe a mile with sonar and moving at a couple of knots. You can cover maybe a square mile per hour. You do the math, it takes forever.

BERMAN: So an area like this is almost impossibly big for you under water, until you can really narrow down that search area to somewhere much, much smaller. Talk to me about sonar, what can sonar show us and what are the limitations there?

JOURDAN: Well, the limitations are physics and that hasn't changed. So we can't do anything technologically to improve what we can do today. We can see objects the size of a meter, which would be big enough to detect the plane or pieces of the plane from maybe a mile away. That's not very far. Beyond that, it gets very fuzzy. Other things like rocks on the sea floor or geology will begin to interfere.

BERMAN: You can see with sonar, there is an object there, but until you get a camera on it, you don't know what that object is. You need to be, what, a few feet away to get a camera on something?

JOURDAN: That's right. I equate it to maybe a radar blip. You don't know what that blip is until you see the object in the air. In this case, we would need to get very close, within a few dozen feet to see something clearly enough to identify it.

BERMAN: Quickly, the assets that will be on the scene over the next few weeks, the Blue Fin submersible sub and also the tow, you know, ping locator, how effective will these be?

JOURDAN: Well, the ping locator may not be very effective. It may be 2 miles away before you even start. So you'd have to be right on top of it to find it and of course, it has a limited life. That's not going to be a very helpful tool I think in the future.

BERMAN: And a submersible, you need a much better area of where to search with to begin with, but that will be on scene to help with that search. Hopefully they will find debris and be able to narrow that down that search area soon. All right, David Jourdan, thank you for helping us understand what they're up against here in this very, very still large search area -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, thanks so much for that, John.

Next up on NEW DAY, if and when wreckage from Flight 370 is found, Australia will likely haul it from the water and maybe give the world the first answers in this ongoing mystery. The defense minister talking about that exclusively with our Kate Bolduan next.