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Mayflower Devastated by Tornado; More Money Going into MH370 Search; Small Towns Devastated by Tornado; More Fallout from South Korean Ferry Disaster.

Aired April 28, 2014 - 11:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The death toll from the powerful tornadoes has been revised. 16 people are confirmed dead after these vicious storms ripped through small towns across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri.

MICHAEL PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities say that one of those tornadoes was half a mile wide. Look at what it left in its wake. Homes flattened in the towns of Mayflower just north of Little Rock, Arkansas. We're told rescue crews are searching for more victims. We expect to hear from authorities at the center of the storm damage shortly. There's a news conference scheduled for Mayflower city hall. We'll bring you the news conference live when it happens.

BERMAN: We'll bring in Chad Myers. He's in the town, Mayflower, devastated by the tornadoes.

We see you standing amidst of twisted metal and debris. Give us a sense of what it's like.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Irony is there's a smoke alarm going off right behind me that hasn't gone off all day. I got closer to it to give you perspective. I can show you the wide shot. It doesn't give you the scope of what we're seeing here. What people are doing, the cleanup that has to happen after a tornado. Obviously now these people are cleaning up. This place has been searched for survivors. Every time they put a little orange x here, that's the orange x that says last night we were here when this happened. They were searching these vehicles. They were searching boats and pulling things out of boats in case things were hunkered down trying to find survivors. This place has been searched but damage is everywhere. What I can see is probably F-3 damage. 150 miles per hour. That will take the sides off of a home but leave the interior walls. What we know about the Vilonia farther to the northeast where the storm may have cycled stronger is there are homes that don't exist anymore. All there is just a concrete slab where the home was. That would indicate a storm stronger than 150 miles per hour. These storms will move to the east. It's cool here. That's good. This is over for us. This is done. We're not going to get anymore. It's cold air. The warm air is in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, even parts of Tennessee. And that's where the severe weather could be later on this afternoon.

BERMAN: When we see the damage behind you, it's terrifying there may be place where damage could be even worse.

Our Chad Myers in Mayflower.

PEREIRA: We'll pick up the story with a storm chaser, Brett Adair, joins us by phone. He's is in Arkansas. He witnessed the touchdown yesterday in Mayflower.

Brett, really good to have you with us. I talked to you earlier this morning. You told me about the fact you take this thing very personally. Your hometown in 2011 in Alabama was wiped out and that's why you do what you do. Tell us what you're seeing where you are. Are you able to hear us?

Brett, are you able to hear us?

Obviously, in these storms, connections go in and out at all times. It's hard to maintain that connection. Obviously to help those affected by the storm, you can visit We list ways you can impact our world on that website.

PEREIRA: Nice to hear Chad Myers talking about neighbors helping neighbors. Earlier they tried to offer first aid to people performing first aid on people.

BERMAN: He brings an Army medic with him as he drives for that situation.

PEREIRA: We're following this today, the search for flight 370. Almost two months. Officials are all in putting more money into the search. We'll tell you what this means ahead.


BERMAN; After 52 days in the search for missing Malaysian flights 370, officials now say they plan to embark on a much more intense underwater search that could last another six to eight months and the cost some $56 million.

PEREIRA: That's $233,000 a day. The Bluefin-21 found no evidence of the aircraft's data recorders. The Bluefin will be joined by other devices towed by ships. It will do broader sweeps over a larger area, 23,000 square miles. Unlike the Bluefin, they'll deliver data without having to come to the surface after each mission to download that data. Also, there's new word that aerial searches will be suspended.


TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I am now required to say to you that it is highly unlikely at this stage that we'll find any aircraft debris on the ocean surface. By this stage, 52 days into the search, most material would have become water-logged and sank.


PEREIRA: Joining us now, Fabien Cousteau; and our aviation analyst, Jeff Wise. Good to have you both with us @ THIS HOUR.

Jeff, I'll start with you.

Do you agree with his assertion that all of the debris that would have floated would be water-logged at this point and sunk? Do you agree with that assessment?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That seems strange. Maybe some clothing perhaps but a lot of these things are very sturdy like the galley carts that meals are served from. Those are honeycombed metal. It's not a log.

PEREIRA: Not heavy enough to sink on its own.

WISE: Exactly.

BERMAN: 52 days of searching, it seems odd to me that they are shifting resources to under water. Why will this underwater search be different than all others? Why now might this be successful?

FABIEN COUSTEAU, OCEAN EXPLORER: That's a very good question. I'm not sure it will be. I'm not sure it will be any different. The realities are that until we have more evidence this is still an educated guess. As far as debris is concerned, things like insulation may float for years. That's why we have garbage patches out there.

PEREIRA: We talk about the expanded search area from 154 square feet to 23,000. It's interesting that that kind of went backwards. Normally, you start with a bigger area and zoom in and now we start with a small search and zooming out.

WISE: This whole search has been unorthodox. As I said before, you start with debris on the surface and you narrow it down and listen for pingers and bring in Bluefin that's a very precise instrument. Now as you say we're back to the big area. They are abandoning pings they put so much hope on. The Australian prime minister said they were confident this was the black box.

BERMAN: They are in the broad area but just expanding beyond the strongest ping.

WISE: They are going way beyond the pings. Remember, since they searched the area around the best ping and didn't find anything within that detection radius, that means that something else caused that ping. The frequency was always dodgy. 33.3 instead of 37.5 and that is indicating the pings didn't come from the black box.

BERMAN: Fabien, are you not sure the mathematical calculations are correct at this point.

COUSTEAU: A lot of these things are estimates. As I mentioned before, best guess scenarios and unfortunately those best guesses are based on information coming from various sources that are not necessarily accurate.

PEREIRA: Also, we know that acoustically sound can travel in strange ways.

COUSTEAU: Acoustics underwater are a nightmare. Travels faster under water, sound does. And you have those valleys and mountains and anyone who has been hiking in mountain ranges knows that sound travels all over the place.

BERMAN: Fabien, stick with us. We'll touch on your expertise more. You know about this underwater stuff through vast exploration where you stay under water for 31 straight days.

Jeff, thank you for being with us.

We'll talk to you about the ferry in few seconds, Fabien.

For more on the search and other information on flight 370, always check on

PEREIRA: We know the sun is up across the Midwest now. People living in areas that were hit by the tornadoes are having a chance to survey the damage. Imagine that heartbreak. The latest on the tornado outbreak and a look at where this extreme weather is headed next.


BERMAN: The death toll from the powerful tornadoes that hit a big part of the country has been rev revised. Authorities now say 16 people are confirmed dead. This after the vicious tornadoes tore through small towns in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri.

PEREIRA: Authorities say one of the tornadoes was half a mile wide. Look at the devastation on your screen. Flattened home after home in towns like Mayflower and Vilonia. Rescue crews are searching right now for more victims.

Storm chaser, Brett Adair, joins us by phone from Arkansas.

We were able to make a connection with you. We know you witnessed the tornado touchdown yesterday in Mayflower. Brett, tell us what you saw and experienced.

BRETT ADAIR, STORM CHASER (voice-over): Yesterday was a very somber day. We witnessed a tornado go through Mayflower yesterday and unfortunately it did significant damage and caused injuries and fatalities in some of the areas we actually did search and rescue in.

BERMAN: What was the scope of the devastation? We're seeing pictures right now of areas just simply flattened. As you were seeing it go through, how widespread was the damage?

ADAIR: The damage was pretty widespread. I believe that half-mile path was accurate as it crossed I-40 in Arkansas. We saw several mobile homes that were just completely destroyed. The frames were bent and smashed all around. As the tornado crossed I-40, several vehicles were thrown off the road. Homes were damaged. To the northeast of Vilonia, the storm seemed to get stronger and wiped out homes completely. PEREIRA: Brett, we know that there were advisories and warnings of tornadoes in the area in some of the areas of the six states. Do you think those warnings were heed and do you get a sense that it could have been much worse if people hadn't gotten out of the way?

ADAIR: Absolutely. When you're on an interstate and especially in the state of Arkansas where you have a lot of foliage around tree debris, it's easy for a tornado to be hidden by a tree until it's on top of them. National weather service did an excellent job to get warnings out. We tried to provide reports as fast as we could when we had a visual on the storm. I think the process worked well. Unfortunate that some of the people were able to make it and get in their safe place at times.

BERMAN: Brett, you often are following these storms. I found it fascinating you travel with a medical adviser right there to help treat people. When do you jump in? Where do you draw the line between observing and chasing to actually jumping in and trying to treat and assist people?

ADAIR: Well, one of our main guys that work for our company was a medic in the Army. We knew yesterday when we saw the tornado come across the bluff that it was very wide and very powerful. We had radar in the car and we were observing the weather service and media outlets and the tornado came across and we knew that it would be a dangerous situation if it hit a neighborhood. We were prepared at that point to put the cameras down and go into search and rescue mode and we had everything prepared in the back. We had an emergency kit, get out, try to help those people as much as possible.

PEREIRA: Brett, we want you to take care of yourself. We know you're going to keep following this tornado. We know it's moving east. Obviously, there's some more severe weather to be had in the next day. So please take care of yourself, OK?

ADAIR: Absolutely, we might be back on with you, hopefully not, so we're headed to the Mississippi area now, where (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: We're glad to hear from you. Let's hope we don't have you back because let's hope these storms don't hit again.

Still, the forecast does not look good.

Let's bring in Jennifer Gray from the Severe Weather Center to get a sense where these storms are headed now -- Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Michaela, we have a tornado watch in effect right now. That covers portions of northeast Louisiana, on into Mississippi. This is going to expire in the next couple of minutes. This expires at noon. Some of the stronger storms are up in Tennessee. We're seeing them on the outskirts of Nashville. Right along i-40, you can see. We're also seeing some of these heavier showers right through Nashville, just on the south side. Also around Columbia, crossing 65. These storms are going to die out in the next hour or two. Some of these areas are getting sunshine. So we're going to have that warm moist air coming in once again. We have that cooler air from the west. That is going to pull in the possibility of these storms redeveloping this afternoon and some of those could be rather strong. In fact, you see the moderate risk area for today, it's east of Arkansas. That's important to note. The target today is through Jackson, Huntsville, on into southern Tennessee.

John and Michaela?

PEREIRA: They're saying some five million people are going to be affected by that severe weather tomorrow.

Jennifer Gray, thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead for us @ THIS HOUR, the South Korean ferry disaster. CNN getting its hands on the first video of the ferry as it turned on its side. It is tragic to see. We will show you it to you. Plus, we'll give you the latest on the investigation just ahead.


PEREIRA: More fallout from that deadly ferry accident. 189 bodies recovered. Three members of the shipping association now also accused destroying evidence.

BERMAN: Search warrants have been issued for emergency operators as well as members of the Coast Guard for dereliction of duty. A day after South Korea's prime minister resigned over this disaster. This video, taken by witnesses, shows what the ferry looked like when rescuers first discovered it listing. Eventually, as we all know now, it just sunk.

We also have heartbreaking cell phone video. This is just devastating. Taken by a teenage boy who died on the ferry. His father turned over the memory card to South Korea TV. South Korea's TV network. Saying he couldn't bear to watch the entire clip. In it, some passengers appear to take comfort that they're wearing life vests, but now, as we know too well in the end, the life vests did not save them.

Joining us to talk about this again, ocean explorer, Fabien Cousteau; and international maritime attorney, John Kimball.

John, I want to start with you.

A lot of arrests, an incredibly high number of arrests from the captain to, you know, more than ten other crew members as well. Now three members not associated directly with the ferry. Search warrants. You know, this is an enormously wide investigation. The breadth here to me is very surprising.

JOHN KIMBALL, INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ATTORNEY: Not to me. It's a very difficult case for the Korean authorities to investigate. They have to understand the ship's stability, what her condition was at the time the vessel began her voyage. They have to look closely at the stowage. They have to understand exactly what navigation orders were given. And they have a lot of people to speak with. There's going to be quite a bit of confusion in the story. So piecing it altogether is very difficult. It's very important for the Korean authorities to cast their net as wide as possible at this point and get as many people talking to them and understanding, so they can understand what happened.

PEREIRA: We're getting an idea of some of the confusion inside the boat in those moments. We saw just chilling and eerie cell phone video that young boy took on his cell phone, showing the futility of putting their life jackets on. We also hear on that recording a voice saying in the ship's loud speaker, did not move, please do not move from your current location, absolutely do not move. It seems apparent that if the kids -- remember, two-thirds of the passengers on board were children, high school students, that more of them would have lived if they had not done that.

COUSTEAU: It makes all of us very upset. Me, in particular, because I love kids. It's one of my focuses, kid's education. And the fact that the orders were not given to abandon ship when it was obvious that they were going to have serious problems is not only a dereliction of duty but borderline criminal. I'm not going to go into the legal aspects obviously. It's unforgivable that all those lives, or most of those lives, could have been saved, given the proper order and actions.

BERMAN: Fabien's not going to go into the legal aspects, John, but you can. I wonder if you could address that. Also back to the number of people who have been arrested. If so many people are responsible, does that mean that no one's responsible? It seems to me that one or two people would be a greater focus perhaps. Would put the responsibility more squarely on someone --


KIMBALL: There's no question the captain has to be the focal point. He was the person in charge. He's the one who should have given the evacuation order much earlier. He has to be the focal point. They also need to understand how the cargo was loaded. How it was stowed. How it was put in place. Whether it was properly tied down. They have to understand the stability of the vessel. And whether the vessel was built properly for the sea conditions it encountered.

PEREIRA: Certainly, several bodies, still other 100 bodies need to be recovered. Those efforts continue for quite some time.

John and Fabien, really a delight to have you both here.

BERMAN: We should say, of course, Fabien, working on the mission 31 expos exposition, a very exciting thing.

COUSTEAU: Stay tuned, we're going to announce the aquanauts this week for Mission 31.


BERMAN: Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

COUSTEAU: Thank you.

PEREIRA: That wraps it up for @ THIS HOUR. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.