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THE SITUATION ROOM
Mystery of Flight 370; Do Satellite Images Show Missing Plane?; Three Dead, 63 Hurt in New York Blast
Aired March 12, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: breaking news in the mystery of Flight 370.
Satellite images revealed that may -- repeat -- may show the missing Malaysia airliner. The data is now being analyzed. Investigators are desperate for a break in this baffling case.
And we will see if these new images lead searchers in a direct direction after five excruciatingly difficult days with no trace of the plane.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And we begin with the breaking news this hour, a potentially -- repeat -- potentially critical new lead in the mystery of Flight 370 five days after the jet vanished without a trace. The Chinese satellite has detected what Chinese officials are calling a suspected crash area at sea.
The three images that appear to show floating objects were captured on Sunday, a day after the plane disappeared, relatively near the jet's original flight path, but we must caution we don't know if this is indeed wreckage from Flight 370.
Our correspondents and analysts are working their sources. We're getting new information about the breaking new story. We're updating it all the time.
But let's get some perspective now.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has the very latest, because these images are very intriguing.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question, but, as you say it's early. We have had a lot of confusing information about this flight, some of it even conflicting information. So this is just a clue, but it's a potentially significant clue.
These satellite images here, they may not look like much at home. They look small, but they're in fact large, 40 by 60 feet, 40 by 60 feet, another 70 by 80 feet, larger than a flatbed truck. The location is key because they were found where this X is just to the south and the east of the last correspondence with this plane when that transponder, that automatic signal it sends out went off.
So you can guarantee, as light comes up, it's still early over there, but as the first light comes up, this area where they have been searching before with no luck, you can guarantee a lot of those ships are going to be looking down here to see if these do indeed turn out to be part of that plane.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, new satellite images released by the Chinese government may suggest that the plane went down close to where it lost contact. But there's still no reasons as to why. Five days after MH-370 vanished, investigators are still examining every possible explanation.
The list remains mechanical failure, hijacking, bombing or other sabotage or even pilot suicide. Today, they searched the home of one of the pilots for possible clues. They questioned a friend of the two Iranian men who were traveling on false passports.
And they scoured radar data to establish what the plane did after its transponder stopped sending a signal. Steven Wallace is former director of the FAA's office of investigation.
STEVEN WALLACE, FORMER DIRECTOR, FAA OFFICE OF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: Airplanes can go off course because of a mistake by a pilot. They can go off course because a pilot deliberately flies them off course. We have the Ethiopian pilot recently fly to Geneva.
SCIUTTO: Also of interest, the plane's last communication occurred right at the transition between Malaysian and Vietnamese airspace, which could add to the confusion in finding the plane.
DAVID GLEAVE, AVIATION EXPERT: The point of maximum confusion, where Malaysia thinks -- the civilian air traffic control think, everything is fine, it suddenly disappears. And that gives it the maximum opportunity to fly in any particular direction unmonitored.
SCIUTTO: Tonight, Malaysian authorities are still searching on both sides of the Malay Peninsula. They have now asked American authorities to help interpret all radar data.
One key question now is, what other data streams was the plane sending out after its transponder stopped? Rolls-Royce engines like the ones on the Boeing 777 have the capability to send out data. But Rolls- Royce won't say if they did on this flight.
SCIUTTO: You talk about conflicting information. So the state of play now is you have the Chinese government using its satellites saying that it sees signs of the plane here to the south and east of the where that plane last had its communication. You have the Malaysian government talking about radar data that shows a plane, possibly this plane, going all the way here to the south and west, opening up a whole 'nother search area here. Wolf, you talk about how this is like searching for a needle in a haystack. This is like searching for a needle in two haystacks. Imagine the difficulty with limited resources. And we're five, six days in and still just these signs being possibly the most promising signs so far, but only clues.
BLITZER: Clues, the mystery, though, clearly continuing. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Let's go to Malaysia right now. CNN's Andrew Stevens is joining us from Kuala Lumpur.
What are you hearing, Andrew, over there?
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're still about an hour away from sun up here, Wolf. We got calls and we haven't got any response yet from the Malaysian government.
But certainly this does at this stage look like one of the stronger leads. The search here has just been getting wider and wider and there has been no clear direction really to this search. As Jim was just saying, the focus has been on the last day or so, which has been also mired in confusion, this radar track which took a plane, an unidentified plane roughly from where the Flight 370 lost contact back across Malaysia and out into the Strait of Malacca.
Looking at that track, the officials were starting to say that this search area which they were starting to focus on just could extend right out into the Indian Ocean, which could be not a matter of days, but weeks to look across such a vast area of sea.
Having these new images coming in from the Chinese government suggests that at least that there is a lead here. It's going to come as massive -- I don't use the word relief, but it's a piece of news that the families of the passengers on that plane can actually hold on to, that there is maybe something tangible out there, rather than the confusion and the sometimes conflicting reports we have been getting here in Malaysia and the way this investigation, this search has been expanding, expanding.
It doubled in size yesterday. The actual search area doubled in size just yesterday. Both sides of Malaysia are being looked at now. This at least offers a focus.
BLITZER: A focus. Let's hope it plans out, if in fact it pans out. We will see. We don't know yet, but it's an intriguing clue, to be sure. Andrew Stevens in Kuala Lumpur.
From Kuala Lumpur, let's go to Beijing. CNN's David McKenzie is joining us from there.
David, what are you hearing?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we're hearing is that this is coming from a Chinese state organization.
They released these three photographs taken from satellite images. Definitely significant because of the size and the location where they say these objects are, which they're calling a "potential crash site." They say these are in the vicinity nearby, southeast of where that plane vanished early Saturday.
Two questions I had. One, why did this take so long to come out? The answer to that might be either they were examining these details for some time, wanting to be sure, or, for some reason, which would be more disturbing, they took their time to release them.
The second question we all have is, is this significant or is it just another false lead that we have been having for days since the beginning of this mystery, Wolf?
BLITZER: And most of the passengers, two-thirds of the passengers aboard that Malaysia airliner were from China.
I assume the grief there continues. Give us a little sense of how people in China are reacting to what's going on.
MCKENZIE: Well, the people who are in that hotel near the airport, yes, they are sad, they're angry, they're frustrated, Wolf.
Every time there's this kind of lead, it really gives them some hope of closure. I think at this point, there's very little hope that they will see their loved ones again. One poignant detail, I spoke to a woman late in the evening. She said she hopes the plane was hijacked because then there's some chance that her son might be alive.
Really, they're clinging on to any kind of hope at this point. Interestingly, the Chinese media, state media, has barely mentioned this mystery objects that the satellite have seen. It indicates that the government doesn't want to talk too much about this issue in general here in China, which for me is an interesting fact, because they are right in the middle of important meetings here and this whole thing is a distraction for the Communist Party -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting point. David McKenzie in Beijing for us, thank you.
Let's bring in our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. She's getting more information as well.
What are you learning, Rene?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the big question is what happens next? How do they go about looking into this, determining if this is truly what we believe it may be?
We know that from past ocean crashes, both air and sea assets, meaning boats, as well as aircrafts, they will go to this scene and also scientists, they will be helping in determining the impact of ocean currents and the winds on the debris, because, remember, this satellite imagery that we're looking at, it's not from today. You have to account for that, that perhaps it was there at one point, but at this point it may be in a totally different place because of winds and current. Now, we just spoke to Dave Gallo of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. And he tells us that the sea depths in that area, they vary. It can be as deep as 300 feet. It can be as shallow as 15 feet.
Even at its deepest, though, keep this in mind, the water is shallower than the plane is long. This is a very, very long plane that we're talking about here. Of course, the experts suspect that the plane is really badly damaged if it did actually crash on impact. It would really just break apart. But this would be very different. This sort of search would be very different than that 2009 crash of Air France off the coast of Brazil.
In that case, the plane disintegrated and it settled some 12,000 feet deep. That required specialized equipment to go and recover the so- called black boxes. We're talking about the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. Now, in this case, at depths of about 300 feet or so in the area that we're talking about, it would be much easier to try and locate and recover the data recorders, simply because that water is much more shallow than what we saw in 2009.
Let's talk a little bit about those recorders. As we have been saying, they are equipped with underwater locator beacons. And what those beacons do is, they emit a signal essentially. And those signals are activated once it hits water, whether it's freshwater or saltwater. It starts sending out this pulsing, one time per second.
You have to be within a certain radius in order to pick it up. And it's designed, that pulsing action is designed to last for about 30 days. You can't hear it with the human ear, but if you have specialized sonar equipment, you can detect that signal.
So you can bet if it does come out that perhaps this is what we're looking at, parts of the plane, they would then go ahead and deploy that kind of equipment so that they can find those critical, critical pieces of the plane, which is those data recorders, Wolf.
BLITZER: Rene Marsh with that important information, thank you.
Let's bring in our national security analyst, Fran Townsend.
She's a member of the CIA's External Advisory Board.
Fran, yesterday, we heard from the director of the CIA say he's not ruling out terrorism at all, not at all, he said. I know you're pretty well plugged in, but what's your sense right now on what's going on? We obviously don't know, but what are you hearing?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, there's no question that the CIA is working with its allied intelligence services around the world. The CIA here in the United States has got tremendous relationships throughout that region. And you be sure that they're talking to those folks to find out what are they hearing. They will also be working with their technical intelligence counterparts, so the NSA. You will work with -- especially in this case, where you see satellite imagery, Wolf, they will be working with the National Geospatial folks, who analyze classified satellite imagery.
The Chinese have turned this over. It's not clear that the Chinese would have revealed their -- even their best satellite images. There are techniques by which you can let's call it fuzz the mop, right? So it's not exactly clear the strength of the satellite, the angle of the photograph. They would have put them out to have been helpful, but they probably wouldn't have wanted to reveal their most technical capability.
Similarly, the United States wouldn't either. You can bet, Wolf, that right now, as regards the debris pictures from the Chinese satellites, American satellite capability is being turned to this and looked at, at the highest levels, including our greatest technical capability, so that they will get the greatest fidelity, they will be able to help measure things like water current, wind, the effects on it.
They will get a much more capable understanding about what that debris is in the water to be able to either confirm that this is airplane debris from the Malaysia flight or dismiss it.
BLITZER: Yes, it's now daylight over there, too, so they will have a better shot to take a look at those coordinates where the Chinese satellite images show this kind of debris.
Richard Quest is with us as well.
Richard, you're a little bit more upbeat, optimistic that this may be the real deal, right?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I am.
I mean, I have heard your previous experts questioning the size of the items and all those sort of things and they don't fit the profile of the 777, the wings or the bits that would float. I still -- look, I could be completely and utterly off-beam here. And this is -- whichever way you look at it, Wolf, this is the best clue we have had so far.
In fact, I will go further. It's the only clue we have had so far. If this does not prove to be the wreckage of 370, then the search is back to square one, and we're back to looking at all that very peculiar business over radar images. We have to hope to some extent that this is the plane.
BLITZER: And you know, Richard and Fran, but let me throw the question to Richard, there were some eyewitness accounts that people say they saw something suspicious in this general area.
Now, eyewitness accounts can be wrong, as we all know. They can be misleading. You don't know if you're seeing something accurate, inaccurate. But this is in the general area where that transponder stopped sending information back about where the plane was.
QUEST: You know, again, hostage to fortune in saying this, because in three hours' time, I could be eating the words. It looks right. Metaphorically, it feels right. It's got the right sense about it, in the sense that the Chinese have released this information, and they're going to be very sure that it is.
But this is really -- what's important here, Wolf, is that now we as the public are seeing exactly just how difficult this is. You have got satellite imagery that looks, feels, could be, and then in the flash of a moment, it could turn out to be absolutely not, and we will be back to square one.
BLITZER: Yes. I think that's an excellent point, Richard.
Fran, even if it is the wreckage, it doesn't tell us why this plane, the wreckage is in the water. There's all sorts of explanations, all sorts of theories, from catastrophic electrical power outage, engine disruption, or whatever, or some sort of human involvement in bringing this plane down, whether -- and we have heard some experts suggest hijacking potentially could be a possibility, because that transponder, the two transponders, once they were shut down, that's very, very significant.
I went back just to double-check my memory. I went back to the 9/11 Commission report, Fran, to see what those four planes that were hijacked by those 19 hijackers, those al Qaeda hijackers back on 9/11. Let me read to you from the 9/11 Commission report. It may or may not be relevant in this case. Here's from the report.
"On 9/11, the terrorists turned the off the transponders on three of the four hijacked aircraft. With its transponder off, it is possible, though more difficult, to track an aircraft by its primary radar returns."
As I say, this is all highly speculative right now, but if in fact this is some sort of act of terror, turning off those transponders would be sort of part of the game. The hijackers on 9/11 did that immediately.
TOWNSEND: That's right, Wolf. And you don't know -- and I think that explains exactly why the CIA director here in the United States said he would not rule out terrorism.
You know, if this is the wreckage of the plane, it begins to provide some forensic clues, but that's what they are. They're clues that will have to be pieced back together. The voice recorder from the cockpit will be very important. Remember, in Egypt Air 990, now there was a pilot who decided to commit suicide and take that plane down.
But that was put to rest. You knew exactly what happened there, not by finding the wreckage, but by listening to the voice recorder. You understand exactly what happened in the cockpit and that that had been a pilot who made a tragic decision and took the entire plane down with him. And so finding the wreckage is very important, but because it is a pathway then to additional forensic information and potentially finding the black box and the voice -- the cockpit voice recorder.
BLITZER: Fran Townsend, thanks very much. Richard Quest, thanks to you as well.
The story, the mystery continues.
We are going to have a -- take a quick break -- much more coming up as our special report continues.
BLITZER: For our viewers in North America, "CROSSFIRE" won't be seen tonight so we can bring you more of our special report on the flight, Flight 370 mystery.
We're following the breaking news, the Chinese government revealing three satellite images that may -- repeat -- may show the missing Malaysia airliner. Officials are scrambling to assess this information and whether these images actually show a crash site or if this is simply another false lead.
Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. He is joining us from our virtual studio.
Tom, what are you seeing, what are you hearing?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're doing the same thing. We're analyzing the information about these images to see if it fits into the narrative we know so far.
We know what happened. Let me bring in the big map here. We know the plane took off. We knew that it flew for about an hour, and then it vanished utterly about here. We know now that the Chinese say these pictures came from right over here.
So, the distance between where the plane disappeared and where the Chinese say they got this picture, about 140, 141 miles, so some distance between the two. This is not a terrible area in which to search for wreckage, about 200 feet deep here. There are a lot of currents to deal with, if you go about that grim job.
You see that little circle there, that's where the Chinese say they took these pictures. And if you look very closely at these images of currents there, there are enough pushing around that depending on when they took the pictures it could have pushed wreckage on the surface quite some distance, not just water currents, but air currents as well.
But let's look at the image itself, because that's really the challenge here. These are not very good images, as Rene noted a short while ago. The Chinese must have better pictures to work with, because, in terms of satellite pictures, this is pretty low quality when you consider the size of the objects. We have been talking since they were reported, Wolf, that the smallest one of these is roughly 40 to 60 feet, 40 by 60 feet in size, the largest between 70 on one side, 80 on the other. So, as a ballpark, let's say that's about half the size of a basketball court. Can you get something like that out of a plane like the 777?
Let's talk about the dimensions on the 777 because this is an immense aircraft. And it's important to bear that in mind. If you were to start on that wing over there, if you stood on the wing, then you could walk right through the middle of the plane to the other wing. When you stepped out on the other side, you would have covered about 36 feet.
That gives you an idea of how big it is. If you started on a wing tip, like this one right here, and you walked all the way to other wing tip over there, 212 feet.
So, yes, Wolf, you could get pieces that big out of an airplane this large. And that is another reason why they were looking at this evidence so closely and wondering if this leads to the very grim business of going underwater and salvaging what's left of it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Tom, thank you, Tom Foreman in our virtual studio.
We will take another quick break, resume the breaking news coverage. We have some experts standing by to assess what's going on.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Once again, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
The breaking news: China has released what it says are satellite images that may -- repeat may -- show debris from the Malaysia Airline Flight 370. We're investigating. We've got experts who are taking a closer look at these images.
Joining us now, the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jim Hall. Also joining us Steven Wallace, a former FAA director of accident investigation.
Jim Hall, what do you make of these images? Some are suggesting they may not necessarily be any debris from that airliner. Others are saying it could be a very significant moment. What do you think?
JIM HALL, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NTSB: Well, it appears to me, Wolf, just from images I've seen on television, that there's a strong possibility that it could be Flight 360 [SIC]. And my thoughts, of course, first go to the families, because they will not have peace of mind until this wreckage is found.
BLITZER: Flight 370, to be precise.
HALL: Three-seventy. I apologize. BLITZER: That's all right. We don't know, and some are nervous; some are cautious about this.
Steven Wallace, you've taken a look at the size of these three big chunks that China has seen on their satellite images. And your conclusion?
STEVEN WALLACE, FORMER FAA DIRECTOR OF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: Well, and I heard your analyst just say that they estimate the dimensions of this debris as about 40 by 70 feet. Well, when an airplane goes into the water, whether it impacts intact or breaks up at high altitude, what floats are lighter weight, typically, interior components. Major structural components will sink.
So if this image is a blurry image -- I'm sure it will be more carefully analyzed. If it's true that the piece of wreckage is 40 by 70 feet, I would be very skeptical as to whether it's part of that aircraft.
BLITZER: Yes. The three chunks -- and Jim Hall, I want you to weigh in on this. One chunk 43 by 59 feet, one chunk 46 by 62 feet, one chunk 79 by 72 feet. And the Chinese in releasing the objects, they told us the units in meters, 13 by 18, 14 by 19, 24 by 22.
You agree with Steven Wallace that these are pretty large chunks, and it would be unusual for wreckage from an airliner like this to be able to have these large chunks floating?
HALL: Well, Steve is an expert in this area, and I would defer to his judgment. I'm just hoping because it is in the vicinity, that that aircraft might -- the wreckage may have floated.
And these aircraft, I've seen three or four of these situations and there are various pieces. And sometimes a very large tail piece can be found floating on the ground -- I mean, on the water.
BLITZER: On the water. So it's -- it may or may not be. But as far as losing, you know, any contact with that huge 777, Steven, the fact that the transponders, both of them went out, the plane simply vanished, disappeared. It could be the result of some sort of catastrophic engine collapse or power outage or whatever, but it could be an act by an individual, an act of terror or somebody getting into the cockpit or pilot suicide. I don't know if you've studied all of that. But what's your sense?
WALLACE: Well, you know, investigators don't want to speculate, but they want to learn from what they've seen in the past. We've seen airplanes blown up, Air India in 1985, Lockerbie in 1988. We've seen Egypt Air in '99 flown deliberately into the water. So we've seen those sort of criminal acts, suicides or bombings.
Again, I think we have to be careful here not to replace yesterday's red herring with today's red herring. We can't -- the last thing we were talking about was this radar track. And this -- what we found today, if we think that's part of the wreckage, well, that completely is inconsistent with that primary radar track we were discussing earlier in the investigation.
BLITZER: Take us behind the scenes, Jim Hall. You're a former chairman of the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB, they announced they have individuals, they have experts on the scene now in Kuala Lumpur working with Malaysian authorities. What are they doing?
HALL: Well, Wolf, I certainly hope we have some of our forensic radar people there to assist them. This investigation to this point has been without effective leadership, and you know it's been very unfortunate all this information that's come out and then been corrected.
And, you know, I think the International Civil Aviation Organization is going to have to look at restructuring how international investigations are done. If we're going to have a country that can operate this type of aircraft, then we need to anticipate the worst and have a coordinated investigative effort. And I think the rules are going to have to be changed.
BLITZER: Let me bring Steven Wallace back into this conversation. The Malaysian Airlines CEO was at a news conference today. He was unable to answer whether the FAA's calls for inspections on possible cracks in the triple-seven that could lead to decompression, loss of structural integrity. He was unable to answer whether or not they had dealt with those FAA calls for further inspections. What does that say to you?
WALLACE: Not too much. It's really -- if his director of maintenance didn't know, that would be a big concern, but this really is a bit below because these directors there are hundreds of them out there.
BLITZER: You don't think after a plane disappears, they would go -- he would go back to his experts and say, did we do something wrong? Did we miss some inspection? Did we not follow the directives?
WALLACE: Some of those directives are issued with a great deal of conservatism, and so they were concerned about a minor crack growth that might have resulted in a skin failure, which the plane is designed so that the skin fails it vents benignly.
BLITZER: So that couldn't cause a crash?
WALLACE: Very, very unlikely. But I would like to add to what Chairman Hall said that this investigation has just gotten off to a very slow start. And I don't know whether the fact is it's a national airline there's a lot of pride or the military/civil relationship there because there's been expert FAA. The people that Jim hoped were there, they are there, the radar experts.
So the sharing of the data has been slow, and even this Chinese photo apparently was taken several days ago. So this investigation has not gotten off to a start you would expect.
BLITZER: Let's say, Jim Hall, that these images that the Chinese satellite agency have released, turn out to be a false lead. Let's say that the Malaysian air force, which yesterday suggested the plane after the transponder went off maybe U-turned, flew back over Malaysia for another hour and ten minutes. That turns out to be a false lead. Where do we go from here, Jim Hall?
HILL: Well, we have to keep looking. We can't, in this day and age of terrorism, have a missing aircraft of this size. We all know from 9/11 what can happen.
So that's why I have been an advocate for a decade for deployable recorders that are used on the F-16, F-18 and the military. Certainly in our country, at least, where we have sophisticated technology, we need to have everything available. We couldn't have it. If this was a U.S. airline, can you imagine the situation, Wolf? We need to be prepared in the future to take steps to learn from this unfortunate set of circumstances.
BLITZER: Yes. Doesn't look like either one of you has a whole lot of confidence, at least right now, in the way Malaysian authorities have been conducting this investigation.
There's some suggestion, Steven Wallace, that these satellite images they're a little blurry, and there's some suspicion the Chinese deliberately blurred them for whatever reasons. They didn't want to reveal their capabilities or whatever. Do you buy that?
WALLACE: I think that's rather rampant speculation. I think that the Chinese, of course, the majority of the passengers on this aircraft were Chinese citizens. The Chinese have a tremendous interest in this. And so I would hope that they would share those photos in the pure undoctored form. It certainly would be their responsibility.
BLITZER: I hope they're sharing them at least with other authorities like the NTSB and others. Do you have a final thought there, Jim Hall, before I let you go?
HALL: Well, I mean, we can't have an international accident investigation without competent people in charge of the investigation. There's so many cameras. There's so much media attention. You could see in Malaysia people getting carried away by being on television for the first time, wanting to release this information and that information.
Nobody's been in charge of this investigation. That's got to be addressed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, because there are too high of stakes now involved in between major nations and with all the conflict in the world. So this -- we certainly don't need to repeat this any time soon.
BLITZER: Yes. And I know you want to wish all your former colleagues at the NTSB, who are now investigating this in Malaysia and elsewhere, the best -- the best of luck. Jim Hall, the former chairman of the NTSB.
Thanks very much, Steven Wallace, former FAA director of accident investigation, thanks to you. And well, we're going to continue the breaking news coverage. The mystery surrounding Flight 370, are these satellite images a long- awaited break in what's been a seemingly oh-so-troubled investigation?
BLITZER: Our breaking news, a Chinese satellite has taken images of a suspected crash site from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, showing what appears to be some large pieces of floating wreckage. That comes even as the search has been stepped up along with the investigation on the ground.
Brian Todd is taking a closer look at what's going on. He's joining us right now.
Brian, this investigation in many respects only just beginning.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And you know, those new satellite images from the Chinese now sending Malaysian investigators again into a scramble for information as this case takes more turns.
CNN has learned that police in Kuala Lumpur today searched the home of the pilot of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. The video we've gotten from inside that home shows why it's of interest.
TODD (voice-over): This is the pilot of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Today police in Kuala Lumpur were searching his home for clues, where we know from this video the captain had a flight simulator in his home. Could that simulator provide answers to this mystery?
As each day passes, it seems each clue raises more questions than it answers. All part of a pattern of confusion and, some say, a lack of coherent information from Malaysian officials. Their Vietnamese counterparts say they're pulling back on their search until they get better communication.
PHAN OUY TIEU, VIETNAMESE VICE MINISTER OF TRANSPORTATION (through translator): Up until now we only had one meeting with a Malaysian attache. However, the information they have provided is insufficient.
TOM HAUETER, FORMER NTSB DIRECTOR OF AVIATION SAFETY: I am surprised they haven't had more meetings. Maybe the meetings are going on at different levels. But I would think that they'd be in contact with all the governments in the region to see what data they have and how it plays out.
TODD: Tom Haueter investigated hundreds of crashes for the NTSB. His criticism of the Malaysians is far tamer than Congressman Peter King's.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: So far they seem to have dropped the ball at every level. I hate to be the Monday morning quarterback, but it appears as if they've basically done nothing right so far.
TODD (on camera): The search area has also been a point of contention. On day one, Malaysian officials had the search area here near the flight path, in the Gulf of Thailand. Then they expanded it over land and into the Strait of Malacca. Then they expanded it again. The search area now covers 27,000 nautical miles.
(voice-over): Critics say the search area should be smaller by this stage, not wider. Tom Haeuter disagrees. He says investigators are just responding as new information comes in.
HAEUTER: Situation like this you have to start with all the data you have. So you initially start, you think the airplane's on the flight path.
Now if you have data that says it strayed from the flight path, we have to expand the search.
TODD: One Malaysian official was grilled.
"You've searched east, west," a reporter said. You don't what you've seen on radar. And several days in --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is utter confusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so. I think it's far from it. It's only confusion if you want it to be seen to be confusion.
TODD: But there's more now adding to this confusion. The head of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Department now says his agency has not received or even seen the newly-released satellite images from China -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very, very strange indeed. And Brian, Mary Schiavo, the former investigator for the U.S. government suggests U.S. officials should take over the lead in this entire probe. What are you being told about that?
TODD: Former NTSB officials tell us that cannot happen, Wolf. It's got to be officials of the country of the plane's origin or the country where the incident occurs who have to take the lead. That's according to international treaties. The Malaysians have got this right now. They're going to have to just make do with it.
BLITZER: They're going to get a lot of help. No doubt about that. Thanks very much, Brian.
Now Flight 370 families, they are sharing more of their anger, more of their grief.
Look at this. Passengers, relatives threw water bottles at Malaysia Airlines officials in Beijing and accused them of being liars. Two hundred thirty-nine people were on board where the plane suddenly vanished five days ago, including two brothers from Indonesia who were traveling to Beijing on business.
CNN's Saima Mohsin spoke exclusively to the third brother who appeared in shadow because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself. He discussed the pain, the uncertainty his family is experiencing right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Extremely sad. We've been crying. There's a feeling of loss, but for sure we're still hoping. Because the plane hasn't been found, we still hope we'll be together the way we were before.
SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are you hoping for now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hope is that they'll be found soon, as soon as possible. That the plane and the people on board will be found, and we're hoping for a miracle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So are we, every day we're hoping for more.
We'll take a quick break. We've got more of the breaking news, the Chinese satellite images may or may not be genuine showing aircraft, the airliner crash site. We're watching what's going on.
Also, a shattering explosion levels a New York City apartment building. We'll go live to the scene of that deadly blast.
BLITZER: We'll have much more on the mystery of Flight 370 in just a moment. But we're also following other important news.
Take a look at these smoke plums towering over the New York City skyline. Tonight, officials are blaming a national gas explosion with (AUDIO CLIP) two buildings in this city's historic Harlem neighborhood.
CNN's Poppy Harlow is on the scene for us with an update.
Poppy, what's the latest?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
We just got a new number of fatalities in from the New York City mayor's office. Three people, three people, we know two women for sure. We don't know the identities yet but three people have died because of this massive tragic explosion that took place just behind me.
Let's zoom in so you can see dozens and dozens, well over 50 first responders, firefighters, police officers, all day have been digging through the rubble of what were two five-story residential buildings here in East Harlem, also known as Spanish Harlem. They were very old buildings. People here tell me well over 100 years old.
It is expected we're told by the utility company and the mayor's office that this was some sort of gas leak that led to this explosion.
We also know at this hour 63 people, that number has gone way up, 63 people have been injured because of this, some critically, some with minor injuries. And at this hour, 10 people remain unaccounted for.
That is the key question right now, with where are those people that they cannot find. All day, I've been talking to family members frantically up here looking for their loved ones. I spoke two nieces whose an aunt, 67 years old, lived for two decades on the second floor of one of those buildings and they still have not heard from her. That is the case for families of at least 10 people.
The mayor, Bill de Blasio today in a press conference calling this all the more tragic because there was little to no advance warning. At 9:15 this morning, a call came in from somewhere nearby saying they smelled gas. By 9:30 a.m., this massive explosion took these two buildings down to the ground. Now, they are investigating not only the Department of Buildings, police here, but also the NTSB coming in, because this had to do with a pipeline investigating what may have caused this.
I can tell you, they do know now that the structural stability of the surrounding buildings is OK, so people will eventually be allowed to go back home, but really tragic. Three people did, 63 injured. And we still don't know where at least 10 are -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A real tragedy indeed. Poppy Harlow on the scene for us in Harlem in New York City.
It's early Thursday morning over in Malaysia and China where we're expecting more new developments in the investigation of the mystery of Flight 370. Chinese officials, they have released satellite images that may show the plane's wreckage.
Stay with CNN for the very latest. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We'll continue monitoring the developments in the mystery of Flight 370. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" will have the latest right at the top of hour.
Let's take a quick look at some other important news.
Ukraine's interim prime minister met with President Obama over at the White House earlier today. The meeting comes as pro-Russian forces tighten their grip on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. President Obama again threatened to punish Russia with sanctions, telling reporters an outside country cannot dictate how Ukraine should conduct its internal affairs.
President Obama also says he's committed to declassifying a pending Senate Intelligence Committee report on controversial Bush era interrogations and detention practices related with terror suspects. President Obama says he won't weigh in on the explosive accusations that the CIA secretly removed information from those computers but did not want congressional investigators to see.
Just days before spring a powerful storm the blanketing snow on parts of the United States from the Midwest to the Northeast once again. This is Vermont where some areas could see as much as two feet of snow. A winter storm warning is also in effect there until tomorrow night.
The controversial governor of Arizona says she won't run for re- election. Republican Jan Brewer making the announcement earlier today amid questions about whether she could legally seek another four years in office. Brewer may best be known for signing a 2010 law requiring immigrants to carry registration documents at all times, a case that was partially struck down by the United States Supreme Court.
Not much movement on Wall Street today. The Dow and the S&P barely moved. The NASDAQ posted a modest gain. That's despite some sharp losses in global markets over concerns on China's economy that helped drive down many indices in Europe and Asia, more than 1 percent.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Remember you can always follow what's going on behind the scene, tweet me @WolfBlitzer, you tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.