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Hundreds Missing After Perry Sinks; Bluefin-21 Scans the Floor; Ukraine: "Anti-Terror Operation" Now Underway

Aired April 16, 2014 - 08:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: a dire rescue operation right now as a massive ferry is sinking after capsizing off the coast of South Korea. Hundreds are missing, many of them high school students. The U.S. Navy now helping the search. We will go there.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Back on mission. Bluefin in the water once again after a technical glitch forced another abbreviated search overnight. We have the very latest.

CUOMO: Happening now: Ukraine on the offensive, battling back pro- Russia demonstrators as Vladimir Putin warns a civil war is coming. What will the U.S. do next?

Your NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: All right. Good morning and welcome once again to NEW DAY.

Breaking news this morning we've been tracking throughout the morning, a massive rescue operation is under way after a ferry carrying 459 people went down off South Korea's coast, just off the coast really. Dramatic video showing the ship on its side, slipping quickly into the water.

Officials say nearly 300 people are unaccounted for at this hour and at least four people are dead. Most of the passengers on board were high school students.

Let's get to Paula Hancocks in Jindo, South Korea, with the breaking details -- Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I'm standing outside the auditorium which has turned into the staging point for the rescuers bringing the survivors, at least earlier this morning when the survivors were still coming. This now is where we're seeing heartbreaking scenes of parents arriving of those hundreds of students who are still missing.

There is a list behind me that you can see. If we have a look at it now, it's basically showing the names of those who have been rescued. And parents are turning up here desperately scouring those names, looking for their child's name. And, of course, when they don't see their child's name there, they are breaking down in tears, an absolutely heartbreaking scene that we're seeing here.

We know at least 74 students that did survive were brought to this auditorium. Some of them were taken on to hospital if they were injured. Many of them have gone home. But 291 people are still missing.

Now, we do know the search and rescue operation is on going. The coast guards tell us that nothing has changed just because darkness has fallen. They're still intensifying their efforts to try and find anymore survivors. But, of course, it is a worrying situation at this point for those trying to find survivors. We know those waters are very cold and we know from the coast guard earlier on this Friday when it was still light and there was still hope, they said people could survive up to two hours in the water itself -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Much longer than that at this point. You can only imagine how desperate parents are behind you trying to find the name of their child. They're waiting there for any news. Are you hearing anything at this point about how this happened, what may have caused such a huge ferry to start sinking, Paula?

HANCOCKS: Well, what we've been hearing from a student on board is that he heard a loud bumping sound. He said that many people fell over on impact. That's when some people were injured. He said then the ship started to list. They were basically given life jackets and told quite quickly to get into the water.

It was only a matter of hours before this very large vessel actually started to sink. It listed dramatically to start with. For a couple hours, all you could see once it flipped over was the blue top or bottom of that ship, just submerged -- the rest submerged. We know that divers have been down there trying to get into the ship to see if they can recover anybody. But there are strong currents down there. They're finding it difficult to try to find any survivors.

We know there were a lot of navy ships, official ships that are plucking people out of the water. Also local fishermen were getting in their boats and trying to help the effort. We do know there were life boats as well. We could see from the vision that were -- had people filled.

But, of course, the worry is that some people couldn't get to the deck in time before that ship sank.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right. Paula, thank you very much.

And as we're seeing from the videos, the orientation is all off, just because you're on board, doesn't mean you can just off. They're literally having to climb it, scale it like a mountain there in the Yellow Sea as the ferry goes down. Now, joining us for some perspective on phone is Peter Boynton. He's a retired captain from the U.S. Coast Guard.

You're currently the director of the Kostas Research Institute at Northeastern University.

Can you hear us, professor?

CAPT. PETER BOYNTON (RET), U.S. COAST GUARD (via telephone): Yes, I can.

CUOMO: All right. So, just to review this current situation: someone on board says they feel a bang, they're told quickly to abandon ship. It does sound like a suggestion that they hit something.

Fair appraisal?

BOYNTON: Well, I think so. Initial report that some type of a loud impact, so either hitting something or something very significant inside the ship going wrong, whether that was shifting of cargo or some other internal damage. But it does sound from initial reports it was more likely that something was struck.

CUOMO: Was somewhat overcast. We were told this portion of the Yellow Sea, the channel that's dredged is very deep. But alongside that channel, there are shallow areas where there could be structure that could damage the ship. And is it easy to lose the channel?

BOYNTON: Well, it certainly has happened before. We've seen incidents in the last several years, including with well-equipped ferries and cruise ships that go out of the channel.

I think the other indicator, and again, there's initial reports and we always have to be careful because the information can change. But the speed with which this ferry began to list and then roll over on its side suggests significant damage mostly like causing major flooding that would cause a vessel of this size, almost 500 feet long, to quickly roll onto its side. That's a result of significant damage.

CUOMO: Fifty hundred feet long. I mean, we're calling it a ferry. But really, it's the same size as many cruise ships.

We also know that complicating its ability to take on water could be these inventory doors because it carries cars. We're told as many as 150 could be on board and they, once breached, can dump water inside very quickly. Yes?

BOYNTON: Also with auto ferries, it's typical that there's a large auto deck, and once that area is breached, it's typically open to very significant flooding. And again, we're still going on initial reports here. But that could explain why the ferry in just a matter of hours began to roll onto its side so quickly.

The other thing that I think is notable here, again, based on initial reports is that there appears to have been a very significant and rapid response with scores of boats, many helicopters out there quickly. And I think with the very cold temperature of the water, that will likely prove to have been a big factor in the lives that were saved.

CUOMO: Right. They are dealing with low water temperatures. We're told about 40 degrees in this area, 20 kilometers or so off the mainland. It gets colder as it goes away from land. And they're also hampered by very quick currents there, which is making it difficult for divers.

The opportunity would be to get inside and find air pockets that must exist if they're able to sustain some buoyancy as some of the ship is still above water. But how does that compromise your ability to dive if you're dealing with those currents?

BOYNTON: Well, it's a number of factors. The cold water temperature is a challenge for the divers as well. The currents make it extremely difficult. And earlier reports are that water visibility is very low. Of course, it's not going to be helped by the fact that it's nighttime there now.

So, the underwater challenges are very, very significant here and pose I would think tremendous risk for the people who I'm sure are doing their best to help under very challenging conditions with the current, the low visibility and the low temperature of the water.

CUOMO: Among the missing, we believe that hundreds are students. On the upside that means you'd have young, healthy, strong people. On the upside (ph), you have people who are more prone to panic.

I guess the best hope right now is that there are a lot of air pockets in there. If the ship can stay up, maybe there's survivable space inside?

BOYNTON: Well, that's certainly a hope. I know everyone is hoping for the best outcome here. And it is possible that there are air pockets inside some of the compartments. The temperature will lead to hypothermia quickly.

The other thing to keep in mind is that once the ship goes on its side or flips over, it's tremendously disorienting, everything is sideways or upside down. You're no longer walking on decks or floors. You're walking on bulk heads or walls or even trying to move along an inverted ceiling.

It's most likely that either the emergency power is shorted out. If that's the case, then it's darkness inside. So, tremendously disorienting conditions and enormous challenges for the people on scene doing their best to respond. Very, very challenging conditions.

CUOMO: And now, with maybe as deep as 100 feet or more under water. Certainly, there are a lot of challenges. But we'll keep optimism as the priority in the absence of reporting to the contrary.

Peter Boynton, thank you very much with your perspective this morning.

Kate? BOLDUAN: All right. Now, let's turn to the search for Flight 370. Right now, the underwater vehicle, Bluefin-21, is scanning the Indian Ocean floor, looking for any sign of plane debris.

Earlier, the device was forced to resurface because of technical issues. Let's get to Erin McLaughlin who's the latest developments on the search from Perth, Australia.

Good morning once again, Erin.


Well, we've been pressing authorities here in Perth for more information about the nature of that technical glitch which forced Bluefin-21 up to the surface early. Authorities have been pretty tight-lipped about it.

But what we do know they brought Bluefin-21 on board the Ocean Shield. They downloaded its information, analyzed it. They didn't see any objects of interest. And crucially, they were able to put it back in the water to continue its mission.

Now, there have been lots of questions about whether or not Bluefin-21 is up to the task at hand given it is operating in the upper reaches of its depth capacity, capacity that has been revised. Engineers analyzing the equipment. They now believe it can operate at some five kilometers beneath the ocean surface, instead of the original 4.5, but it would need to be reprogrammed.

But I think it's important to realize here that operating in waters this deep is a very difficult task under any circumstances. There's a tremendous amount of treasure exerted on the under water submersible. There's not a lot that is known about the floor of this particular ocean. They believe that it's rolling, possibly flat, but they're not absolutely certain. Then, you have the silt complicating the picture.

So, there's a lot of pressure on Bluefin-21 both literally and figuratively as it continues its mission -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: A slow, painstaking process playing out before our eyes.

Erin, thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN safety analyst and former FAA inspector, David Soucie.

Good morning once again, David.


BOLDUAN: So, as Erin was pointing out, it was forced to resurface once again. After two -- let's not call them failed attempts, because we know this is going to be a long process. Let's call it two abbreviated missions down there.

How do you adjust? SOUCIE: You have to rely on your preparedness. There is no checklist for what they're doing here. You look at the Navy's research and recovery manual. It talks about the equipment. Talks about how it should be used, what's best, what's most preferred.

So, the training that they have individually is very important. But now, you're talking about strategy. You have to be adaptable. You have to be able to see what's going on and use that information to change it again. And that's what it looks like to me, that they're being adaptable, changing the game plan.

You know, I'm pretty impressed with their ability to think out of the box and figure out how to get this thing --

BOLDUAN: All happening in an environment that could easily be described as hostile, that is very much unknown to most -- the smartest experts on how to handle a deep sea expedition, expedition like this.

So, U.S. Navy official said the engineers believe they're making an adjustment to software, if you can believe it, to allow Bluefin to dive even deeper, to even safely breach its maximum depth, to go down to some 5,000 meters. How key is that? What will that mean for them?

SOUCIE: Well, what that allows them to do is to not have these interruptions that aren't really threatening to the mission. You have safety factors, obviously. In the aviation world we call it ten to the minus ninth safety factor. So, that's a lot of zeros. That means your odds of failure are extremely low.

So, what they're saying here is -- let's let those odds slip a little. Let's go to ten to the minus three safety factor. I don't know what the engineer of that too. But, nonetheless, we're saying this is a unique situation, as I was saying before, adaptability, flexibility.

How do -- how do you change this? What can we do? They're turning off those alarms. They're turning off the alarms so it doesn't automatically turn around when it says we might have a problem. Now, it's going to wait until it does have a problem before it surfaces.

BOLDUAN: You know, David, this kind of -- that issue of flexibility speaks to some of the concerns that have been raised by some experts. Why not bring in some of the other types of vehicles, under water vehicles that have a little more capability in terms of their maximum depth?

There are examples, the U.S. Navy has, other nations have. Why not bring those in -- would you suggest moving down that road at this point?

SOUCIE: Well, the strategy that they have, and I'm not in the planning, obviously. But the strategy it appears they're using is more isn't always better and more doesn't make things go faster. I think that's where they are with this.

They have a real clear idea of where it is. All these other ones, like with 447, the reason they had so many was to narrow the field, to say here is where we're going to look. Because they have that big long ping, where they received it from the TPL, they're very confident from what I can tell -- they haven't told me this. But I can speculate they're probably very confident about it.

So, there's no point in bringing in search -- it just seems like to me, they've got a really definite place to go.

BOLDUAN: It seems like at this point it will take a long time to get these larger under water vehicles even to -- we already know it takes forever to get out there, even if you're coming off the coast of Australia.

SOUCIE: Look how long it took to get the oil back to the shore. I mean, that's two liters of oil. Can you imagine you've got to get these other subs out there?

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's exactly right.

I do want to get your take on one part of the investigation just to better understand why they're doing it. The Malaysian cabinet announced they're going to create an international investigation team.

Is that common for every kind of investigation like this and search like this?


BOLDUAN: What does this mean?

SOUCIE: The same words are used to describe two different things. It's just a matter of scale.

The first team, the joint committee that was formed, that includes Boeing and includes manufacturers of all the different parts of the aircraft. Lucas Aerospace, for example, who makes windshields and all that stuff. They're all involved at some level or another, and that's the task force, because they want the most knowledgeable people in the room when they have to find out what's going on. That's that.

This is different. This is not -- from what the Malaysian --

BOLDUAN: The transport minister.

SOUCIE: The transport minister, thank you -- what he was saying is we're going to look at what we're doing. We're going to look at what Boeing is doing. We're going to systemically look at these interrelationships, because they're all interdependent on each other. Everything we do here has an effect on what we do here.

So, this is deeper, it's bigger. It's much better in the long term. Our safety system is incredible already, 23 million to one is the chance that you would have any fatality on an airplane accident. You'd have to fly 63 years, 24 hours a day to have those odds.

BOLDUAN: That's a lot of frequent flier miles. SOUCIE: There you go.

BOLDUAN: Not an odds I'm going to test, my lifetime I don't think.

SOUCIE: This is going beyond that even, dialing in the (INAUDIBLE)

BOLDUAN: David, thank you very much. The search continues and now we can see they're doing some sort of an internal review at the very same time. David, great to see you.


CUOMO: Let's take a quick break.

When we come back, are they rescuing any of the hundreds unaccounted for, many believed to be high schoolers on the ferry that's rapidly sinking this morning. The search is continuing. We have the latest.

And Ukraine teetering on the brink of armed conflict. Diplomats scrambling for a peaceful solution. Is the Obama administration doing everything it can to stabilize? We'll examine it.


CUOMO: Welcome back.

Tensions between Ukraine and pro-Russian supporters near a break point. And dozen of armed protesters have taken over a Ukrainian mayor's office.

Also this morning, tanks bearing Russian flags rolled through eastern sections of Ukraine.

Joining me now is the editor of "The Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol, and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala. To note: Paul at one time advised the pro-Western anti-Yanukovych reformers in Ukraine. Full disclosure not especially relevant.

So, Paul, let me start with you. Give me a quick take. How has the U.S. handled this situation to date and what does it need to do going forward?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first off, the president has answered this aggression frankly much more robustly than his predecessor did when Mr. Putin moved into Georgia, where there was great talk and even Dick Cheney was calling for strong, strong action and nothing happened.

So, he's got to use the tools short of military, right, even the most hawkish Republican there is the state are not saying we should put boots on the ground and fight for eastern Ukraine. He's ratcheting up sanctions. He's punishing particularly those oligarchs who surround Putin and I think help to empower him.

The hardest part I think is rallying the Europeans because the truth is I'm for stronger sanctions, frankly. I think we can do a lot more. The problem is that we. You've got to keep Europe united.

And the truth is, the more you sanction particularly Russian financial interests, the more you punish European and London-based banks, which is fine with me. But it's not going to be easy to get the Europeans to stay on board.

CUOMO: You've got a lot of Wall Street has their money in Russian markets also and you have the U.S. government doing a lot of business with Russian contractors of the military variety. They'll have to cancel those contracts. That will cost money also.

Mr. Kristol, what is your take? Do you agree President Obama performed better here than President Bush did in 2008 with the Georgia situation?

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: No. I think he's performed equally badly. The Bush administration was exhausted in September of '08. And candidate Obama attacked candidate McCain for calling for more robust response to Putin's invasion of Georgia.

And indeed, President Obama has followed the line of candidate Obama, which is to be weak, just talk about red lines in the case of Syria and to do nothing. That was a terrible signal for Putin. Now we have very weak sanctions.

He's ruled out ahead of time boots on the ground. The first sentence out of his -- first thing he ever says is of course we're not sending any troops to Ukraine. In fact, we probably should send a couple of brigades as a kind of signal to Putin that we're serious.

Well, I'm sorry, Paul. That shocks you, you know? That's what American troops have been doing in Korea, and in Asia, in Japan and Europe for years since the end of the Cold War. That's helped preserve the peace.

I don't believe Putin -- thinks that weak sanctions and talking a lot with the Europeans is a serious deterrent.

CUOMO: Paul, do you believe boots on the ground is a sign that we mean to keep the peace or sign of aggression that escalates it?

BEGALA: Right. It's not the same as well. I think bill oh, a terribly bright guy. I think you're wrong about this.

You send American troops into Ukraine. The Ukrainians aren't asking for them, for goodness' sakes. It's not the same thing as a stable situation South Korea where we have had troops for half a century.

It's not at all analogous. I think it's an unwise move. I mean, thank goodness the president isn't sending American troops in.

By the way, the war in Iraq is one of the big reasons we have fewer options, right? We spent $2 trillion there. We lost 4,500 troops. And it weakened America. Now you're seeing a function of that weakness.

But I don't think even if we had no Iraq war, I don't think wise people would want to be sending troops into Ukraine right now.

KRISTOL: I'm not saying that's the first thing we do. I'm saying you don't rule that out ahead of time. What signal does that send to Putin? And you don't rule out doing anything tough and don't have secretary of state saying endlessly, we sympathize with the Russians, we're very aware of their concerns.

You've got to be tough with Putin. Putin understands toughness. He doesn't understand sympathy.

CUOMO: So, let me ask you this, though, Bill, when you look at what happened in Georgia. And again, this isn't about being boring and looking back. It's a straight analogy to the current situation.

Georgia took the offensive, decided to defend itself, and it led to a lot of bloodshed. Here, Ukraine has kept it hands up. Some see that as a sign of weakness.

But do you think encouraging resisting force as long as possible is the right thing to do here?

KRISTOL: Look, that's obviously up to the Ukrainians. They're being as tough as they can be with little support from us or the Europeans. No one wants to encourage people to die pointlessly, but they will end up fighting for their country.

This will be like the '30s. We'll say don't fight, don't fight. At the end of the day, there will be fighting somewhere.

Putin will keep going until he's met with strength. And the idea that we can tell the Ukrainians to keep their hands up as Putin takes little chunks of Ukraine and not so little chunks of Ukraine every week, every month.

There's an election coming here in Ukraine. Here I think Paul and I would agree -- America can do a lot, Europe can do a lot, to ensure real elections.

But, again, Putin is doing an awful lot now to try to destabilized Ukraine prior to those elections and that's where America needs to be forward leaning over the next month in a half.

CUOMO: You put boots on the ground, Paul, there's going to be violence. That's almost always what happens when you have a presence.

KRISTOL: That is not true. That's not true. There's not violence when there's boots on the ground. There's violence when you don't have boots on the ground and you signal weakness, and then the aggressor goes too far.

CUOMO: Where do you have an example of where the U.S. came anywhere there was on going aggression going, there are conflicts right now in Ukraine, how would the U.S. avoid them if they were on the ground?

KRISTOL: Do you think it was a mistake to intervene in the Balkans? Do you think it was a mistake to intervene in '98 in Iraq, when Bill Clinton should used force --

CUOMO: There's mass genocide. There's mass genocide going on. We don't know if that's the case here.

But, Paul, you answer the point.

BEGALA: Right. In fact, when we bombed Iraq in 1998, we did not put boots on the ground. When we drove back aggression in the Balkans, we did not put boots on the ground until the situation was stabilized.

But I think this is a mistake perhaps that some are making when they analyze the situation. And as you noted, I worked over in Ukraine.

It's not about America. So much of our analysis here is, understandably, American-centric. As if Putin is sitting around calculating his moves based on America. There was George W. Bush who I thought was far too trigger happy on wars. My God, he was water- boarding people, for goodness sakes. That didn't stop Putin for moving into Georgia.

I don't know, Dwight Eisenhower was a strong president. That didn't stop the Soviets from moving into Budapest. LBJ had a giant war going in Vietnam, it didn't stop Soviets from moving into Prague in 1968.

I mean, the Russians do what the Russians do because they have this long expansionist history. They're a serious threat in the region. But they're still just a regional power. Putin's entire military budget is about $88 million. Ours is $650 billion. So, I do think it's not wise to pretend this is some sort of a war thing.

But Russia is doing what Russia does. They're not calculating the moves based on whether they perceive the current president be strong or weak.

CUOMO: Bill is shaking his head because the concern, is, Paul, if he takes a step into Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania, now, you're going to trigger NATO. You have to stop them before an all-out conflict. Maybe a show of strength sooner winds up averting that. That's the point that makes Bill, even if he's getting ahead of even members of the right.

But I appreciate the perspective from both of you. Thank you very much. Love to have you back on this going forward.


BEGALA: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Thanks, Chris.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the hunt for Flight 370 relies on a single 16-foot drone scanning an area more than 40 times the size of Los Angeles. We're taking a look at the challenges of that massive effort.

And also this, the desperate effort to find close to 300 people on that sunken south Korean ferry. Coming up, the dangers that rescue crews are facing right now.