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Ferry Death Toll Rises to 58; MH-370 Surface Search Tedious, Frustrating; Tensions Continue Over Easter in Ukraine

Aired April 20, 2014 - 06:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST: Inexplicable but understandable grief as families in South Korea watch body after body return from the sunken ferry. Although rescuers are still searching for survivors, hope is fading.

RANDI KAYE, CO-HOST: New overnight pictures from the Bluefin AUV in the hunt for Flight 370. This morning the eighth mission underway.

BLACKWELL: And Pope Francis giving his Easter mass. We'll take you live to Vatican City. Your NEW DAY starts now.

KAYE: Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye in this morning for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Happy Easter. It is 6 a.m. here on the East Coast. We've done this before, you and I.

KAYE: It's been a while, but we sure have.

BLACKWELL: It's been a while. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY. It's good to have you with us. We're going to start with what's happening in South Korea, this situation for the distraught parents. They're waiting and praying near a harbor in South Korea, hoping their children will come back to them alive and safe.

KAYE: Instead, body after body is being brought back to shore today. Divers are bringing them back from a sunken ferry. The death toll has now risen to 58 from Wednesday's disaster. Two hundred forty-four people still missing, many of them high-school students who were on a field trip.




BLACKWELL: Look, the grief and frustration here turned into anger. Parents tried to march in protest to Seoul from Jindo at the site of the search operation. You see here they were blocked by dozens of police.

KAYE: And again today divers are combing through that capsized vessel, racing against time to find any survivors. Nearly three dozen aircraft and more than 200 ships are aiding in that search. BLACKWELL: Just-released radio transcript indicates passengers on this doomed ferry could not get to the life boats, because it was tilting too much.

KAYE: CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now from the port city of Jindo, where that search operation is based.

Paula, good morning to you. Divers faced very rough conditions yesterday. How is it there today?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Randi, it was rough yesterday. We had to come in from our fishing boat, but today another CNN team on the water said it was a lot calmer. And they -- they said the divers were able to continue the search throughout the day.

Now, of course, that has been reflected in the very sad fact that this death toll is rising, the fact that bodies are being retrieved from the Sewol, and they are being brought back here to the harbor.

Now, they're being brought back on stretchers, covered and taken to tents. That's about 100 meters way from the waterside. And what we're seeing are very heartbreaking scenes of the grieving families and the desperate families, having to go through these tents and try and see if their child or their relative is among those that have been laid out. So very heartbreaking scenes here.

We are seeing more bodies coming into the harbor. As you say, 58 are now confirmed to have been retrieved from that ship. So it is the case that the divers are able to get into other areas they haven't been able to in the past. The fact that the weather conditions are better is conducive to this search-and-rescue operation, but unfortunately at this point, nobody is being found alive.

BLACKWELL: Paula, those cranes are standing by there in the harbor there, the site. When might those be used?

HANCOCKS: Well, Victor, those cranes are actually out at sea at this point. I saw four of them from when I was out there yesterday. They're just around where this sunken ferry is at this point. They're not being used, but what we're being told is they may be used soon.

This isn't just a practical decision, though. Officials are saying they are going to make sure that they have the consent of the families. So it's an emotional decision as well as a practical one. The families have to agree that they can be used, because effectively when you start to use those cranes and you start to lift the ship up, it's almost like an implicit acceptance that life -- all life has been lost on that ship. So this is why authorities are saying that they want to make sure all the families agree.

But of course, it is five days since that ship did sink, and we haven't seen any survivors come off that ship since Wednesday, when it actually sunk. At this point, unfortunately, it's only the deceased that are being retrieved from the vessel itself.

KAYE: And Paula, speaking of the families, family members of those who have been lost at this point, they tried to march in protest to Seoul. They were blocked by police. Why is that?

HANCOCKS: Well, where we are in Jindo is actually about a five- hour drive from Seoul. This was clearly quite an emotional time for the families. They wanted to feel that they were being -- they were doing something.

And remember, they are sitting in an auditorium, these particular families, and they are just sitting and waiting for information. They have some briefings, but they are not getting the information that they want. It is incredibly heartbreaking and frustrating for them. And this is why this anger is spilling over.

There are some families that think authorities have not done enough. They simply weren't quick enough in getting to the ship.

And, of course, there's a lot of anger, as well, about why more people were not told to evacuate the ship as it was sinking. We are hearing some transcripts between the traffic controllers, if you like, in Jindo in the harbor here and the ship itself. This was about 15 minutes after the first distress signal went out, and the person who's on the ship -- it's unclear who is talking -- but is basically saying that people cannot evacuate because the ship is listing too significantly.

BLACKWELL: As you mentioned, Paula, now five days since this ship tilted and then capsized, and the funerals have now started, including one for a teacher who lost his life trying to save his students. Tell us about this teacher.

HANCOCKS: That's right. This is one teacher who did lose his life on the ship itself, and listening to what some of the students, some of those who actually escaped with their lives were saying about him, they say he basically stayed back so that he could try and evacuate as many students as possible. He was helping them evacuate the ship and kept going back, would not get off the ship himself, even though he had the chance to escape himself. He wanted to make sure that as many of his students as possible could escape.

Now there were something like 300 students, 15 teachers along with those high-school students. They were on their way, a field trip to Jeju Island, a tourist hot spot here in South Korea. It was supposed to be a very happy occasion. But he refused to leave until he could get as many students off as possible. And we saw a huge crowd at his funeral, a lot of mourners wanting to pay their respect for a man who here in South Korea is being hailed as a hero.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Paula Hancocks live for us this morning from Jindo, South Korea. Paula, thank you.

And we know that more than 500 divers are helping in this search for the missing.

KAYE: CNN's Will Ripley is actually on a boat just feet from the wreckage off the coast of South Korea's Jindo island, seeing firsthand a very, very sad scene -- Will.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, Randi, another day of searching in the area where the Sewol ferry went down and, sadly, another day of grim discoveries.

We watched as several bodies were pulled out of the water from Korea coast guard ships. What's been happening is the dive teams have been going -- going out in groups, in teams, and they enter in the ferry using five different entry points. And they're searching the inside of the boat. They're searching the hallways and the cabins. They're also searching the area outside of the boat, as well.

There's also equipment here that will be used for a salvage operation, including a very large crane that can actually help pull the boat out of the water, which you might see in the distance behind me. But that crane, that salvage equipment is not being used right now. It is only the divers, because these families do not want anything done that could disturb the ship and potentially disturb an air pocket if there's a slim chance that somebody may still be alive under there.

But sadly, as we see each new body found, it appears that this search mission is turning more into a recovery mission, but still they're holding out hope.

Will Ripley, CNN, Jindo island, Korea.


KAYE: For the eighth time, the Bluefin 21 drone is underwater in the Indian Ocean, scanning for any trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

BLACKWELL: Now so far, it's covered about half of the intended search area. Up to 11 military planes and 12 ships are in on the search today. They'll be focusing on two separate zones that together cover more than 18,000 square miles.

KAYE: Mother Nature certainly not playing along. A tropical cyclone is hovering nearby. And it won't be a direct hit, but it will make for some windy, rainy conditions.

BLACKWELL: Now, if the Bluefin comes up empty and finds no trace of the Boeing triple-7, the Malaysian transport minister says the search will not end there but that the scope will be widened, and the use of other assets may be considered. Let's go now to Perth, Australia, home base of the search.

KAYE: CNN's Miguel Marquez rode along with the crew that's played an integral role in that surface search, and here's his report.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day, another search, another hope of finding something, any scrap of debris related to Malaysian Flight 370. CAPTAIN TIM MCELVEREY (PH), ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE: It's our mission to find it and we want to be the crew that does find it, but it takes time.

MARQUEZ: Captain Tim McElverey (ph), some 30 search flights under his command, has been everywhere from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca and now here, a thousand miles off the Australian coast.

MCELVEREY (PH): It's roughly analogous to Canadian border to Mexican border. This is the distance we've flown for two and a half hours on station and climb out now.

MARQUEZ: This New Zealand crew in a P-3 Orion, its classified and sophisticated equipment made for hunting enemy submarines, stare at screens and at the sea, flying at times just 200 feet above the water. The plane's wing span 100 feet. They spot just about everything.

MCELVEREY (ph): Well, that's the nature of the game. We're looking for absolutely anything that could possibly be MH-370.

MARQUEZ: In past sorties, they've seen more. Examples? What's this? A tangled fishing net or tangle of straps from an airplane cargo hold? This crew the first so far to see an item and successfully direct a ship to pluck it from the ocean.

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT PETER JACKSON, ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE: We patrolled and detected a small red object we believed to be not more than one meter by one meter.

MARQUEZ: The Australian naval ship launched a team in an inflatable raft. The P-3 had enough fuel to stay on the scene and direct them to the object.

JACKSON: It was a large bread basket or bread tray, the kind that you would typically find in a supermarket holding 20 loaves of bread.

MARQUEZ: Not from MH-370. Another frustration. The mission goes on.


MARQUEZ: Now that was just one sortie in many hundreds of sorties that have happened across a wide swathe of the oceans here, looking for this flight. These guys are so good and so dedicated, despite how tedious and monotonous this work is, they can literally still pick out birds even when there's whitecaps along the ocean, as well.

Incredible work, very difficult work, time-consuming work, but they are still out there doing it. They say the searches -- the surface searches may end soon, but no country wants to call them off too soon. Back to you guys in Atlanta.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's amazing what they can find, but now 44 days and nothing. Miguel Marquez for us in Perth, thank you.

KAYE: And still to come on NEW DAY, more violence in Eastern Ukraine as diplomats push for a peaceful solution.

BLACKWELL: And live pictures here of Pope Francis celebrating Easter with a message to the faithful in Vatican City. We'll take you there. You're watching NEW DAY SUNDAY.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: And the breaking news, 15 after the hour, Reuters is reporting more al Qaeda militants have been killed in an air strike in Yemen. This is the second one in two days.

Yesterday at least ten suspected al Qaeda operatives were killed in al Bayda province on their way to another province that's considered a hot bed for the terror group.

Officials say the suspects were in a pickup truck when they were hit. A Yemeni official tells CNN three civilians in another truck were also killed.

The strikes come just days after a video surfaced on the Internet showing a huge gathering of suspected al Qaeda militants in that same region in Yemen.

And also breaking overnight, a deadly clash on the streets of Eastern Ukraine between Ukraine nationalists and pro-Russian protesters.

KAYE: There are conflicting reports on the number of those killed near a pro-Russian checkpoint. But Russian state media is reporting at least four. Now this just one day after a meeting in Kiev to hammer out a solution to the crisis showed little sign of progress.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live in Kiev. What's the latest there, Fred?


And of course that incident is what's on the top of the agenda. As you said, the pro-Russian forces are saying that it was a clash between Ukrainian nationalists and some pro-Russians at a checkpoint there in that Eastern city.

However, we've talked to that right-wing Ukrainian group, and they say the people that were involved certainly were not members of their organization. So as you said, those reports are very conflicting. It's unclear what happened. We do know that at least one person was killed. There's reports of up to four people being killed. So at this point, that is something that's still in dispute, but it's also something, of course, that's causing a lot of uneasiness. What the Kiev government here wanted is they wanted a truce over the Easter holidays, which are going on here in the Ukraine right now. And clearly, that's something that's not materializing. It's always been a one-sided truce from the get-go. And that, of course, again sheds a dim light on that Geneva agreement that was signed on Thursday with all those parties involved to try and get some sort of momentum into this, to try and de-escalate the situation. That clearly isn't something that's happening.

Those people who are occupying those buildings in the east of the country have now made additional demands saying that if they're going to get out of those buildings, if they're going to disarm, they want the government here in Kiev to resign, and clearly that's not something that's going to happen.

So right now it's a very difficult situation on the diplomatic front and clearly also one that remains very difficult and very volatile on the ground in those Eastern regions where you have those standoffs, Victor.

KAYE: And Fred, we know that the U.S. is planning to conduct a series of military exercises in Eastern Europe, in the coming weeks. What exactly do we know about those so far?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know, very interesting, Randi. Because their exercises, they're not very big, apparently involve about 150 soldiers, U.S. troops on the ground in both Poland and in Estonia.

While that number is not [SIC] very small it is something that is very significant not just to those countries, Estonia and Poland, because they want American presence on the ground as much as possible. Because they feel if there's American soldiers on the ground it is something that will sort of insulate them from what they perceive to be a Russian threat, especially in light of the situation in Ukraine, but it's also something that's clearly going to bolster the situation of the government here in Kiev.

I was able to speak to the country's prime minister only a couple of days ago. And he said any sort of help, any sort of show of help is something that's going to -- that's going to be of service to them, and it's something that's going to help them out in the current situation to at least bolster their situation.

The other thing that's very interesting about those military exercises, they're not a one off thing. From what we understand is that they're going to keep rotating U.S. forces in and out of those areas, and even though it's only a very small contingent, it is certainly something that's being perceived here in Ukraine and certainly also in other European Eastern countries, especially, of course, Poland and Estonia, and it's certainly something that's being viewed very positively, because it is the first time that any sort of NATO force has bolstered its presence on those borders, Randi.

KAYE: Yes. Certainly important to many there. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much. BLACKWELL: Thank you, Fred. There is -- I don't know if you heard about it -- a slow-moving landslide in Wyoming. It's now picking up speed, and it's threatening to devour parts of a small hillside town. We've got more of these amazing pictures.


BLACKWELL: Crews in northwest Wyoming are trying now to stabilize a landslide that's devouring one hillside town inch by inch.

KAYE: The once slow-moving hillside has now doubled in speed and split one home apart. It's about the size of two football fields and is threatening now even more homes.

BLACKWELL: So it's not clear why this is happening, but officials there say it's unlikely the ground will collapse like last month's deadly landslide in Washington state.

One of the Sherpa guides who survived the single deadliest accident on Mt. Everest says a big piece of ice suddenly just came off the mountain.

KAYE: Friday's avalanche at the 20,000-foot mark of the world's highest peak, killed 13 guides. Three others are still missing. They had all been helping to set ropes for an upcoming climb. Still no decision whether or not it will continue as planned.

BLACKWELL: All right. It is Easter Sunday, and if you are planning an Easter egg hunt today, it looks like, for most people, the weather will cooperate.

KAYE: Let's hope so. So let's find out and check in with meteorologist Karen Maginnis. Karen, good morning.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. I hope everyone has a good start to your Easter Sunday, although it does look like it's going to be fairly soggy along the Eastern third of the United States, especially across the southeast and the mid-Atlantic, where temperatures, they're hovering right around normal. But if you're in St. Louis, temperature running about 10 to 12 degrees above where it should be this time of year.

In Minneapolis, 73 degrees, but you'll keep the showers in the forecast.

Well, the reason we're looking at the soggy skies across the southeast and mid-Atlantic is a fairly stubborn area of low pressure. If you are headed to the beach, Myrtle Beach or Wilmington or Nags Head or the Outer Banks, even into northern Florida, there's going to be a rip current. So watch out. Very dangerous water conditions there.

But if you do head to the beach, you're not going to see much in the way of sunshine. Very overcast and rainy with these rainfall totals. Five to almost seven inches of rain for the month of April alone, from Charlotte to Jacksonville, to Mobile, Alabama. And these amounts are running about three and four degrees or inches above where it should be for this time of year. Now we're watching a lot of things developing over the next 24 hours, severe storm potential across west central Texas.

You could see the potential for some large hail, also damaging winds and the potential for tornadoes, and if you are headed to Boston for the marathon, tomorrow starting out should be in the mid-40s, should be a fine day for the marathon.

Back to you guys.

BLACKWELL: So maybe I was wrong. Maybe...

KAYE: Just a little bit.

BLACKWELL: I have great weather for Easter egg hunts, unless you're hiding them in the basement.

KAYE: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Maybe that's where. Karen Maginnis, thank you.

KAYE: Well, Still to come on NEW DAY the death toll from the South Korea ferry accident is rising, as more bodies are being pulled from the sea.

BLACKWELL: And right now the drone that's looking for clues about missing Flight 370 is in the water again. It's the eighth dive for this drone, and so far it's been fruitless.


KAYE: Mortgage rates ticked up this past week. Have a look here.