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Search For Missing Plane Suspended Due To Bad Weather in Southern Indian Ocean; About 100 People Are Still Missing After Washington Landslide That Killed At Least 14; Interview with Chris McLaughlin; Interview with James Wood

Aired March 24, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Thanks for joining us. The breaking news tonight a big setback, with the sun now up in the prime search area for wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and for the first time hard science behind the decision to look there.

There is late word that bad weather has halted the search, weather that could turn conditions hostile, as you can clearly see in this video from the same area. This is video taken from a few years back. But this is not the search going on. But it does give you a sense of just how rough these waves can be. How bad this area can get. Gigantic waves here. Big kink in an effort to confirm or disprove that some newly spotted debris in the water come from the missing Boeing 777.

In the meantime, there will be more focus on the high-tech guess work behind the latest assessment that the Boeing 777 probably ended up flying south, not north, and ran out of fuel over empty ocean. And Malaysian authorities will once again be speaking to the public. The news conference expected at 12:30 p.m. local time here, 12:30 a.m. here -- excuse me, 12:30 p. m. local time in Kuala Lumpur. 12:30 a.m. here Tuesday morning, about four and a half hours from now.

We will bring that to you live, we'll be live on the air for that. It comes after a harrowing 24 hours for the families of the 239 people on board who were told first by text message and then by Malaysia's prime minister that the time for hope is over. As you know, in China, in Beijing, many erupted in anger at the news. They were gathered together in a hotel room, there were cameras and maybe you've seen the images throughout the day.

This program tonight, we're not going to show you that video of grieving people, screaming. We know what grief looks like. Just out of respect for their privacy, I just don't think it's appropriate. In a moment, though, representative of the satellite company whose analysis went into the prime minister's conclusion. We're going to talk to him to try to understand how Inmarsat, the company, came to this conclusion.

In addition, we'll cover new ground on possible causes, including a very scary look at some very flammable cargo that we now know was on board in large quantities. Flight 370 was carrying nearly a quarter ton of it. And even small amounts can burn white hot. First, though, the very latest on the suspended search effort from Kyung Lah, who joins us from the airbase just outside Perth, Australia.

Today's search, it's been called off. Are conditions expected to improve? And does that mean ships even have left the search area?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, the ship has left the area, the weather not expected to improve today. What they're seeing, high winds, exceptionally high winds, dangerous conditions. It is simply too dangerous to search.


LAH (voice-over): After 17 days of hope and anguish, this is not the news families were waiting to hear.

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: With deep sadness and regret that I must inform you Flight MH-370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.

LAH: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak saying that based on new information from the British satellite company Inmarsat the 777 went down west of Perth, Australia, nowhere near any possible landing site. Malaysian Airlines also sent this text message to the families.

"We have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH-370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived."

Some families want evidence that the plane went down.

BIMAL SHARMA, CHANDRIKA SHARMA'S BROTHER: I don't know why I just want to see some debris off the aircraft and the black box to know what exactly happened because there are too many unanswered questions.

LAH: China's government demanding that Malaysia share all information and evidence. While frustrated Chinese relatives released a statement condemning the Malaysian government's handling of the incident saying, "The Malaysian government and Malaysian military continue putting off, holding back, and covering up the truth of the incident as well as trying to deceive the families of passengers and people of the entire world."

While there's no evidence of a cover-up, there is vexing question of just what did take down the airplane. There are new questions about the experience of co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. This was only his sixth flight on a 777 and the first without a supervisor. Malaysia Airline saying this is in line with company policy.

And new details about the flight's path, a source close to the investigation tells CNN that military radar tracking shows the plane flew as low as 12,000 feet at some point before it disappeared from radar. As the search continues in the South Indian Ocean, new signs of hope for locating the wreckage.

FLIGHT LT. JOSH WILLIAMS, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE: We're looking for debris in the water. And we saw a number of objects both from the surface and beneath the surface visually as we flew over the top of it.

LAH: Crew members aboard an Australian aircraft reports spotting two objects, one gray or green in color and the other orange. A Chinese aircraft spotted two different large floating objects and several smaller white ones dispersed over several kilometers, but finding those objects continues to be challenging at best. The search area has narrowed, but it's still 600,000 square kilometers wide.


COOPER: And, Kyung, I mean, for everybody, the fact that the search has been suspended today is just so frustrating. There were so much momentum obviously and so much given all the reports that have been occurring all weekend about possible debris being sighted, they must have really been hoping today would have been very productive.

LAH: Yes, they got to be disappointed. We haven't been able to hear back from the U.S. team, because they're actually getting a down day today. They're trying to catch some sleep, but certainly, what all of the search teams have been telling us is that they want to give these families closure. They want to be able to give them a peace, bring them that proof.

Because certainly it is one thing to hear from the Malaysian government that it is over, it's an entirely different thing to have the evidence that it actually is -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kyung, thanks very much for the reporting.

As we speak, the U.S. Navy is sending what's being described as the world's best hearing aid to locate Flight 370's data in cockpit voice recorders. It's called the toad pinger locator 25. It listens for the underwater sounds coming from those boxes until the batteries run out which is about two weeks from now. Narrowing down their location could come down to those other pings from the plane's satellites and the analysis of those pings as Kyung Lah mentioned by the company Inmarsat.

Let's dig deeper now with Chris McLaughlin, a senior vice president at Inmarsat.

Mr. Chris, the Malaysian government made its announcement today that the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean based on data and analysis from your company given to them by U.K. officials. How confidence is Inmarsat that that is in fact what happened to Flight 370 that it ended in the water?

CHRIS MCLAUGHLIN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, INMARSAT: Well, very reluctantly, we've been looking at the ping data for the last six or seven days, comparing it with other Malaysian Airlines 777s in that region and looking at the flight data that we can get from the pings.

What we did was to map those pings against the southern and against the northern route. I can say there's a strong correlation with the southern route and absolutely no correlation with the northern, it went south.

COOPER: So you can definitely rule out that northern route?


COOPER: Can you say, though, that with 100 percent certainty, that the plane ended up in the water?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we have to bow to wider knowledge that the investigation team has. We can say that we saw the plane in a number of pings to our network over a period of hours. That period of hours coincides with the amount of time that the Malaysians say the plane was fueled up for. And the range that it had.

And that would tie in with some seven pings or communications, if you like, from the last known one through to the plane possibly running out of fuel. And in which case it would have been over the Southern Indian Ocean.

COOPER: I don't even know if -- how to ask this, or how you can answer it. But is all the information that you've given the Malaysians, has that all been stated publicly or is there other information or other data perhaps that you shared with them, that would make them, you know, lead to this conclusion in a way that you're not able to say.

MCLAUGHLIN: No, we're holding nothing back. We've been very open with the investigation from the outset from within the first few hours of it going missing to coming up on the 11th with the concept of a north-south route and to the investigation and the further thoughts yesterday. We shared everything that we have. There's no data that we're keeping back.

COOPER: I think a lot of people don't -- didn't realize really until this, that it's quite common for planes to disappear in a sense from radar, when it's over large bodies of water and the like, it's really just up to the pilots at a certain point to just communicate their location. Is there a technology that could change that?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, there's no question, we could do it now. There are 10,000 wide bodied jets fitted with the same system that was on board this Malaysian Airline. It's a classic arrow system. It's a 64 kilo bits system that's capable of sending out text based messages with the data where the plane is, what speed it's going at, which direction it's going in and anything else you want to, included in little packets of data.

Other systems which is currently being evaluated for safety service with broadband allows you up to half a mega bit of connectivity, the same as a CNN journalist would use to report back from a front line story somewhere, so that could allow even more streaming of data. The systems are there and they're available today.

COOPER: And that's just a question of what airlines are deciding to use them? Or governments deciding to use them? Whose decision is that? MCLAUGHLIN: The decision is regulatory. It's already mandated for the North Atlantic because there are so many aircraft up there and there's capacity issue. It's not mandated the rest of the world, perhaps it should be, I mean, given the five years since the Air France was lost. Perhaps it's now time to say it is an absurdity that -- and incomprehensible that a commercial airline could go missing for six or seven hours.

Had we have automated reporting of position as we do with long-range identification and tracking on ships at sea, then we would have known certainly within 15 to 20 minutes of the plane being lost where it was.

COOPER: Chris McLaughlin, appreciate you talking to us today, thank you.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: I want to bring in our panel who have been -- really been with us for the last several weeks and also going to be with us throughout the hour tonight, and also in our 11:00 hour we're going to go from 11:00 to 1:00 a.m. covering that press conference from Malaysia.

CNN's safety analyst David Soucie is back with us, author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator's Fight for Safe Skies," Les Abend is a 777 captain, CNN aviation analyst, David Gallo, co-leader of the search for Air France Flight 447, he's the director of the Special Projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Also with us, former Department of Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo. Currently she represents accident victims and their families.

Mary, you've been involved in a lot of investigations. If you had this data, but you were told that it's not 100 percent accurate, would you tell family members of the passengers that their relatives were dead? That all souls were lost?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I wouldn't tell them. I would let them draw the conclusion, but I would definitely tell them data. If I was running the investigation, I would tell them every piece of data I had, because that's what they want. They want to know and they want to draw their own conclusions. And that's what every family I ever represented said. Just tell me the facts and we'll figure out how to deal with it.

COOPER: Chris Gallo, talk to me about these toad pinger locator devices that are now being brought in by the U.S. Navy. For that do you have to have a very specific area to listen for?

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: Well, Anderson, on paper they're pretty good, and you can hear them over a very long range. But in practice I think, you know, the oceans can play a lot of games with sound. You can hide a military submarine beneath a thermal area and not hear it with the best sonar. So I think that the sound is -- in fact the pings are affected by topography, by thermal layers, and, you know, I think you've got to be in the right place at the right time for them to be truly effective. But you've got to try. You can't just not do that.

COOPER: David Soucie, you've talked to people at Inmarsat. How confident are you -- at Inmarsat, excuse me. How confident are you in the data that they released?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I'm very confident in it. I spoke with them. They have a little bit more technical explanation than Mr. McLaughlin did there. And I can talk to that if you'd like me to.

COOPER: Sure. Yes.

SOUCIE: OK. The -- what they've done is -- I'm really very impressed with what the scientists were able to pull off here because it's not designed to do this. He mentioned that they were comparing other Malaysian flights against this -- against this flight to compare it. What they're really comparing is, the amount of time that it takes to make the connection and to send a specific bit of data or number of bits of data at a certain rate.

As the aircraft approaches the center point of that -- of the satellite, that time period gets shorter and shorter and shorter, as you can imagine. Then as the aircraft goes away from that center, it becomes longer and longer again. So using that data, there's a thing called the spot -- I think it's called -- what do you call it, the spot -- spot beam system, and then the spot beam system, almost like a cell phone, goes from different region to different region.

So they're able to actually take the combination of that data and where these spot beams were, and make those -- make those a map and a track of where the aircraft would have gone.

COOPER: Les, what do you make of what you heard today? I mean, all along you've said that you believed maybe this was some sort of electrical fire, some sort of incident on board the flight. What do you make of what you heard today?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No, I'm not going to totally eliminate that, Anderson, you know, I'm still -- there's pieces of the puzzle that are baffling to me. You know, this is above my pay grade, you know, as far as being a pilot is concerned with reference to Inmarsat data. You've got to take it as gospel because you've got some really smart folks at NTSB.

COOPER: But you -- I mean, there's obviously so much we still do not know, so many pieces of this that are yet to be filled in?

ABEND: Yes, I mean, the conflicting data with reference to, you know, way back last week, we got the airplane climbing to 45,000 feet above its surface ceiling.

COOPER: Right.

ABEND: Going -- you know, going different levels. Now the other night, we got it descending to 12,000 feet. I'm not -- so if it was at 12,000 feet, my problem is, if it remained at that altitude, it's going to be almost double the fuel consumption.

COOPER: Right, if -- it can't have -- if in fact it did go down at 12,000 feet, as this source has told CNN in Malaysia, it would have to have gone back up to a cruising altitude because if it had stayed at 12,000 it would have burned through fuel at such a great rate it couldn't have reached the distance that Inmarsat is saying it did.

ABEND: Exactly right. Exactly right. Yes.

COOPER: And, Mary, the debris that was spotted over the weekend, the fact that there are different shapes to these objects, I mean, on the one hand you can look at this as hopeful, there's a circular one, the other is orange or rectangle. There's also just a lot of junk floating around in the ocean, a lot of debris?

SCHIAVO: Well, that's true, but the fact that it was colors, some of them were the colors of the plane, it's certainly better than, you know, the standard rectangular ones that are the size of shipping containers off of ships. And the circular one was interesting and the fact that one was orange or bright yellow, again, it's the color of the emergency slide exits and the rafts that are in the ceiling of the plane.

So that's why people are hopeful that it was a brightly color -- a brightly colored object that we know are on planes. Whether it was on this plane or not, who knows.

COOPER: And, of course, if it is the raft, that brings the full question of the ELT, which we've talked about a lot on this program.


COOPER: David Gallo, we now know weather is a major issue for Tuesday's search. I mean, it's 8:15 here on the East Coast of the United States. At night. It's 8:15 in the morning in Perth. There had been a lot of hope about what today might bring in terms of that search but that search has now been called off for the day.

When they resume the search, the ocean floor, how difficult is that to deal with? I mean, still they're searching on the surface of the water, but once they bring in these other devices for under the water. How difficult is this kind of --

GALLO: Sure, Anderson, if it's in the same place that they've been searching in the past, then the sea floor there is well known to oceanographers. It's an east/west trending underwater volcanic mountain range. It's -- in Air France we had the rocky mountains, here we've got something like the Blue Ridge Mountains, it's much more gentle so not intimidated by the topography at all. It's the seas above it, the storms, the winds that are going to make working there very difficult.

COOPER: David Gallo, there's another question I want to ask, and I want to be consider in how I ask it. Because it involves what happened on Air France to the people on board that aircraft. When that plane hit the water? Were people left -- people were still alive, correct?

GALLO: There's some bit about the medical examiner in Brazil said that some of the passengers may have survived the crash itself. And survived the impact, but drowned, but he said that they're more than likely unconscious. So, you know, what a horrific thing, but so be it.

COOPER: David Gallo, appreciate it.

We're going to take a short break, you can follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper. Tweet us using #ac360 with your questions.

Coming up next, dealing with the anguish of families getting the worst possible news today. As I said, we're not going to be showing you video. I'm going to talk to the brother of one of the missing Americans, somebody who wants to speak out about his brother in Flight 370.

Later, more breaking news, we're going to take it to Washington state where acres of earth simply gave way. The death toll has arisen tonight. And the number of people unaccounted for. Still extraordinarily high. We'll bring you details on that.


COOPER: The breaking news tonight. We are expecting to hear more shortly from the Malaysian officials on Flight 370. That and the search itself in the air and on sea being called off due to bad weather in the area which means the search for debris will be delayed, delaying the hard facts that would confirm or disprove today's grim announcement. The fact is, many families simply do not trust Malaysian authorities or airlines officials.

As we mentioned at the top, a committee representing some of the families of the missing 154 Chinese and Taiwanese nations on board the flight issued a statement accusing Malaysian authorities of a deliberate cover-up.

Again, we're not showing videos or pictures of grieving families. They're going through enough as it is. They don't need that. Three Americans are among the missing, one is Phillip Wood, an IBM executive who was heading back to Beijing one last time before taking up a new assignment in Kuala Lumpur.

We've spoken to his brother James before. He joins us again tonight.

James, I know you watched the press conference today. You've heard all the latest information. How are you dealing with all this?

JAMES WOOD, BROTHER OF PHILLIP WOOD, MISSING ON FLIGHT 370: Well, when I got the information this morning, I was really thinking that we had something very definitive. I really did, and now that the day's gone on, it's almost felt like a miniature rollercoaster within the day. I'm hopeful and I'm hopeful -- very hopeful that they're going to find something very soon.

COOPER: When you heard that the Malaysian prime minister was going to give a press conference, you expected that there's be more absolute information? More concrete?

WOOD: Sure. Yes, I really thought that someone already -- someone had already put eyes on the water and found something when they made a statement that was so definitive. That's a bold statement to make without having an actual piece of information to -- a tangible piece of evidence.

COOPER: You told one of our producers something that really struck me. I know you said -- that you told your wife that you want to be able to say hello to your brother or good-bye to your brother and you haven't been able to do either?

WOOD: I can't. I can't.


I've actually been struggling with a lot of anxiety the last week because that holding pattern that we're in that we're just waiting and waiting, and not getting any answers one way or the other.

COOPER: You have been speaking out, a number of families have chosen not to. In a situation like this, it's obviously a very personal decision and a difficult decision, and I never in anyway want to pressure anybody to speak.

What do you want people to know. What do you want people -- I mean, you've talked about your brother a little bit, and I enjoyed hearing about him, you described him as a deep thinker one minute, but he could also be, you know, a very funny guy, the next. You've also spoken a lot about your faith and how that is getting you through.

WOOD: I want people to know that, look, we're all human and we all hurt. We all struggle through things, so I'm not the first one to go through something like this, and I'm certainly not going to be the last one. But, you know -- I don't like being trite when I say my faith is getting me through this, it sounds cliche to say it. It's a hope that we have that this is not the end of all things.

No matter what the outcome, no matter how this turns out, whether it's for good or ill, I believe in heaven, to be quite frank about it.

COOPER: And I understand there's a -- there's a passage that your father cited to you that has given you some strength?

WOOD: It has. Psalms 46:10 says, be still and know that I am god. It's hard to do right now.

COOPER: To you, the power of that is what? What is the message of that to you?

WOOD: I'm sitting here in Oklahoma City far, far away from everything that's going on, and I have no control over this situation. But what I do believe is that God's in control, it doesn't necessarily mean my answer is going to be a good one that I like. But he's got this.

Someone that's gotten forgotten in all of this is my sister. And I -- the reason why I want to talk about her is because her and my brother are so close in age. And --


COOPER: They were both 22 months apart?

WOOD: And she's just been very quiet through all this. Yes, yes. She's just -- they grew up together. A lot of media reports have talked about his brothers and it's not just his brothers, it's also our sister, Paige.

COOPER: Well, I appreciate you telling that. It's an important for people to know all those who are in pain right now, and who are in need of thoughts and prayers. And I appreciate you talking to us, James.

WOOD: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Just ahead, Martin Savidge and flight instructor Mitchell Casado join us from the flight simulator that's helped visualization so many pieces of the story. What investigators themselves are trying to piece together. We're going to drill down on some new about the altitude of Flight 370. New reports on what it might mean for the investigation?

Plus we're going to look again at lithium batteries. They brought down a Boeing cargo plane in Dubai. Killing both pilots. Flight 3870 was carrying nearly a quarter ton of the highly flammable cargo. Could that be a part of this mystery? We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back, tonight the breaking news is set back in the search for the wreckage from Flight 370. It has been called off for today now due to bad weather. It's 8:30 here in the East Coast of the United States. It's 8:30 a.m. in Perth, Australia.

This stretch of ocean is known for its brutal conditions. This video was taken during a yacht race. Last year in the same area, the reason we're showing to you, it's not to germane to the search because obviously it's from last year. But it just shows you how rough the conditions can be, what it's like for ships in the region.

Gyrating currents make it treacherous, it would hard to find a more challenging place to search, authorities say. The delay obviously comes at a crucial time. Air crews were poised to resume the hunt for newly spotted debris. Malaysian authorities are expected to give a news conference at 12:30 p.m. local time in Kuala Lumpur. That's 12:30 a.m. here so that's four hours from now. We are going to bring that to you live as it happens. We'll be on the air again from 11:00 all the way until 1 a.m. this morning.

Today the families of those on board Flight 370 got the word that they were dreading first in a text then from Malaysia's prime minister. New information shows the 777 went down in the South Indian Ocean presumably with no survivors right now. We want to drill down on that piece of information that's surfaced. Radar data that a source says shows Flight 370 dipped as low as 12,000 feet after making that left turn on the South China Sea.

Martin Savidge and flight instructor, Mitchell Casado are back in the flight simulator tonight. CNN aviation correspondent, Richard Quest also joins me. Martin, this new information from a source about the plane dipping to 12,000 feet, which as I said, a source is telling CNN has not been officially verified. Would there be any reason for the plane to dip that low?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, there could be a number of them. I think, you know, when we first heard of a turn and a descent, we were thinking, all right, this seems that some kind of an emergency scenario. For instance, say you had a sudden deep compression and air is quickly going out of the aircraft, there would be a natural instinct to get this plane down, which is what Mitchell is demonstrating now. Get the plane going down to an altitude at which people can breathe, they will have oxygen but only for a short while.

So we need to get down to 12,000, ideally 10,000 feet, but you also have to do that at a controlled rate, because you have to anticipate the aircraft has been damaged. The air frame as a result of a decompression so you don't want to descend too sharply, in other words, to tear the plane apart and you're turning because you're going back to maybe where you came from, or some emergency airport that is off to the left.

But and I'll ask Mitchell to level off, the problem with that scenario is that the turn is actually described as one that took 2 minutes to complete. Assuming it's maybe 90 degrees, 2 minutes for that kind of turn is actually rather gentle. We'll try to simulate it's not a hard banking emergency maneuver, but more of just an ease of direction.

So that doesn't necessarily indicate emergency, what I'm saying here is that it's still correctly, a turn like that may not mean an emergency. We just can't draw that conclusion right now. There are number of ways you could read this information.

COOPER: Martin, you mentioned about the oxygen, I'm curious, do you know how long or does Mitchell know how long oxygen lasts for both for the pilots and for the -- you always hear about the oxygen mask coming down, how long does it last for?

MITCHELL CASADO, COMMERCIAL PILOT/INSTRUCTOR: Typically in the back, from the oxygen in general. It's about 15 minutes. It's more than enough time for most emergencies to get down to about -- below 10,000 feet, which normally takes at cruise altitude typically generally speaking about 5 to 6 minutes.

COOPER: Richard, one of the things, you know, we talk about the possibility based on a source, again, not officially confirms, flying at 12,000 feet. It could not have remained at 12,000 feet? RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: No, it couldn't. Mitchell, you're still with us. Mitchell, what sort of fuel burn will you increase by going down to 12,000 feet?

CASADO: You'd have to look at the manuals, but rough guesstimate would be anywhere between 35 and 55 percent.

QUEST: Right.

CASADO: It's drastic, it's an incredible increase.

QUEST: So we know, if this is correct, then the plane had to go back up to optimum altitude of 35,000 feet. Mitchell, how would you take the plane back up from 12,000 feet to say 35,000 feet? You would either have to do it manually by pulling back or you'd have to once again reset the auto pilot?

CASADO: Yes, and if you reset the auto pilot, there's electrical power in the airplane.

SAVIDGE: And you're going to burn fuel to climb back up.

COOPER: So if this report is true, and again this is a source telling CNN, it hasn't been officially confirmed, but if in fact the plane did go down at 12,000 and then went back up to a cruising altitude, which it would have had to in order to have gone as far as it did, given the amount of fuel it had. Are you saying it would have had to have been under human control?

CASADO: Yes, I would say that's correct. I mean, for these maneuvers to be done, no one is sitting here. I mean, the auto pilot is auto pilot. It's going to stay where you set it. It went down to 12,000 feet. It's going to stay there until somebody tells --

SAVIDGE: We had to enter a new coordinate there to make it climb back up to a reasonable altitude. So somebody would have to have done that or pull back in the yolk to make the plane go.

COOPER: We have to take another break. Mitchell Casado, Martin Savidge, good to have you on. Richard Quest as well.

Up next, could the same type of cargo that likely brought down this UPS 747 nearly four years ago in Dubai also have impact to Flight 370? We are going to show you how lithium batteries could ignite a catastrophe. That's what happened in Dubai. The question is we know they were on board in large quantities on board 370. Did that have an impact?

Plus the other breaking story we're following tonight. We're going to up to Washington State, the death toll has risen. Rescuers are searching for those who might be trap after a massive landslide.


COOPER: Well, tonight, the mystery of Flight 370 is far from solved, how the Boeing 777 ended up in the South Indian Ocean remains as big a puzzle as ever. Tonight, we have some new information from Malaysia Airlines about what the plane has in its cargo hold. Among other things, it was carrying nearly a quarter ton of lithium batteries, which are very flammable piece of cargo. Now the airline CEO said the batteries were packed properly and not considered hazardous. But they've cause problems on planes before, sometimes a deadly result. Randi Kaye tonight takes a look.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 30,000 feet this laptop may be enough to bring down a jumbo jet. Watch closely, it's about to catch fire. Inside is a lithium battery. When it gets too hot it ignites, just like this FAA training video demonstrates. In the last two decades or so, the FAA reports more than 140 incidents involving batteries in cargo or baggage. In most cases, the batteries were undeclared, baggage handlers noticed luggage on fire or hot to the touch.

On board laptops, even flashlights started to smoke. Even though lithium batteries can cause this, they're still allowed in electronics in the passenger cabin. But in 2008, the FAA banned loose batteries in checked luggage, a limited amount of batteries are still allowed to be checked if packaged properly. The concern is they could short circuit.

(on camera): A short circuit could happen by chance. Say a loose battery in a person's checked luggage comes into contact with keys or coins or even jewelry that can create a circuit or a path for electricity. The current flowing through that short circuit creates extreme heat leading to sparks and fire.

(voice-over): Lithium batteries burn so hot they can melt the body of a plane.

KIT DARBY, RETIRED COMMERCIAL PLANE: Nothing brings the fear of God to a pilot like having a fire or smoke in the airplane. You can't just pull off to the side of the road and hop out like you can in a car.

KAYE: This YouTube video shows how quickly lithium batteries can fuel a chain reaction. In 2006, fire forced a UPS plane to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Investigators found electronics containing lithium batteries in the cargo. The pilot survived. And this is what was left of a UPS plane after it crashed in Dubai in 2010.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aircraft impacted the ground. The sky lit up and there is almighty ball of flames.

KAYE: The Boeing 747 was carrying 80,000 to 90,000 lithium batteries. A chain reaction fire filled the cockpit with smoke. Both pilots died. Following the UPS crash in 2010, the FAA wanted to tighten the rules on battery shipments in cargo planes too. Even classified them as dangerous good. Industry groups and lobbyists fought back hard. The final compromise approved by Congress in 2012 blocked proposed tougher federal rules on transporting lithium batteries on planes. Instead, relying on international standards set by the U.N. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: I want to bring in our panel again, David Soucie and Les Abend, David Gallo and Mary Schiavo. Les, you saw on Randi' report, I mean, as a pilot, you've always talked about the idea of some sort of fire on board. That being the greatest threat for pilots. How concerned are you to hear about the large amount of lithium batteries on the plane?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That's quite a scenario, yes, that would put the fear of Gods in me. That being said, the video, that's the good part of the video that you saw, the fire. The bad part is, when you think that fire is extinguished from a laptop battery, it could reignite so we have a whole procedure for flight attendants, ourselves.

COOPER: You have a whole checklist --

ABEND: A whole checklist exactly to try to extinguish that battery in giving the warning that this thing could re-ignite depending upon how it did ignite in the first place.

COOPER: Mary, there are questions about how well traditional fire suppression systems work against those types of fires, right.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: And we learned this through the Boeing 787, the Dreamliner fires and what they found is that lithium batteries do not respond well to traditional ways of putting out the fire. They came back to the Boston Fire Department in fact when they fought the fire there on a Dreamliner said, the same thing that Les just said, they thought they had it out, it came back and reignited. And the suppression systems in the wide body planes, there's questions whether they could put that out. Hopefully we'll learn more lessons through the Dreamliner fires.

COOPER: David Soucie, there's the issue of lithium batteries carried by passengers. There is also the issue of quantities in the cargo hold and the issue of lithium batteries used operationally like in the Dreamliner?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Right. Mostly I would be focusing on what was in that cargo hold because lithium batteries not only the fire issue, of course, but there is halon down there to try to put it out and as Les mentioned, it doesn't always work.

COOPER: Halon?

SOUCIE: Yes, that would be the fire extinguisher unit in the cargo area to try to put the fire out. Once it's smothered and the system believes it's out, it's not because as soon as oxygen comes back in again, it could be activated. I'm mostly concerned about the fact that the hydrogen chloride fumes that come off of that could be armful if not deadly. That's the biggest concern for me.

COOPER: Mary, did you want to say something? SCHIAVO: Yes, and what David says is so right on because remember the fix for the Dreamliner problem was in casing those batteries. They thought they had done it, but it still wasn't good enough. They had to make sure they encased those batteries in a fume proof, flame proof, explosion proof cabinet in a box. Even then, they had to put insulation and spacing between each of the batteries to make them OK to go back in again on the 787 Dreamliner.

COOPER: David Gallo, if lithium batteries played a role how does ocean water affect the kind of evidence you would need to recover to determine the cause.

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: We have all sorts of sensors, we can do a complete forensic analysis. So I think the investigators are very well versed in picking out damage caused by lithium batteries. It's just a matter of getting them the information they need.

COOPER: Mary, I think all of us have been following the story the last several weeks, have learned a lot about things we didn't know about airlines, about these lithium batteries that could be in cargo holds, about the ACARS system, I mean, as a passenger now I kind of feel like passengers shouldn't be able to know more about the aircraft they're flying on, about what's in the cargo hold, what kind of ACARS system -- if I'm flying on a foreign carrier, I would like to know, do they have the top of the line ACARS system. There are no rights for the passengers, are there?

SCHIAVO: No, have you no rights to know what's in your plane, et cetera, you have a right to select your fare and ticket, to know the kind of plane. You only have a right to know if it's jet service or prop service. That's about it, and if they switch the plane, the only thing you get is a jet for a jet. You have no rights to know what's in the cargo hold, what's under your feet. What's literally a few feet from you that could be dangerous, hazardous or explosive?

ABEND: We don't know until the time of departure. The only way to stop that kind of shipment is to ship it on a cargo aircraft.

COOPER: We'll be looking more on than, of passenger's rights coming up later on in the coming days, no doubt. David Soucie, Les Abend, David Gallo, and Mary Schiavo, appreciate it.

Up next, more breaking news, we're going live to Washington State where the death toll has risen, the search is on for about 100 people who may be draped or at least unaccounted for after the landslide north of Seattle. Investigators say they've never seen anything quite like it, dozens injured after a train derailment this morning at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Details ahead.


COOPER: Breaking news here in the United States, President Obama has issued an emergency declaration for the state of Washington after Saturday's deadly landslide in a remote town north of Seattle. About 100 people still unaccounted for. The death toll has risen from the landslide, 14 people now confirmed dead. Officials are calling it an active rescue operation. Crews had to be pulled back because of fears of another landslide.

George Howell joins me live from Washington with the latest. What more do we know about the fatalities and those still missing?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, as far as those who are still missing. We know that the number right now is at 108 reports. I want to break that down, though, when we talk about reports it could be a number of different things. A family member that puts up a website looking for a loved one or even reports queries on Twitter, social media, and even vague reports.

For instance a neighbor who noticed his other neighbor is not at his home. That could be a report and identity that these investigators are looking into. These 108 reports that they hope to narrow down over the course of the next several days. But we know that they will be going back into that area as soon as they can. They're concerned because the land is still very unstable.

COOPER: You know, George, it's hard from the images -- just to get a sense of the scope of this or their size. Can you kind of give us the big picture on this? Sort of what time of day it happened, how big an area it affected?

HOWELL: Yes, when you look at it, and you're right, it's a lot of devastation. It looks really big, we're talking about one square mile here. It happened on a Saturday. That happened, you know, when people were at home, not like during the week when people are away at home. It happened when people are at home, that's a big concern for investigators. When you look at it, that mudslide covered the river and State Route 530, who knows how many people were on that road when it happened. Who knows how many people were at home when it happened?

These are the questions that investigators have as they go into that area searching for survivors. The hope is, that they find survivors. Again, this is, as you mentioned, an active search, they're calling it an active search. It's not a recovery effort at this point, but Anderson, CNN does confirm 14 now are dead from this mudslide. That's the latest we're getting from investigators.

COOPER: Obviously, a difficult, dangerous for investigators searching with the conditions. George, I appreciate it, George Howell.

We want to get caught up on some of the other stories we're following. Randi Kaye is here with the 360 Bulletin -- Randi.

KAYE: Anderson, Ukraine's interim president has ordered the withdrawal of all Ukrainian armed forces from Crimea. A spokeswoman says that order is because of Russian threats to the lives of military staff and their families after Russian troops seized most of Ukraine's bases in the peninsula. A senior defense official tells CNN that the United States doesn't know Russia's intentions, but believes Russia have enough troops that they could move against Ukraine at any time.

Text messages between Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius were read in his murder trial today. During one chat session, less than three weeks before he shot and killed her, Steenkamp told Pistorius, she was afraid of him sometimes and how he snapped at her. But a police captain testified that 90 percent of the messages between the two were loving.

A federal investigator says he has never seen anything like this. A train derailed at Chicago's O'Hare airport early this morning sending the lead car up an escalator, 32 people were injured. The cause now under investigation.

COOPER: All right, Randy, appreciate it, thanks very much. Up next, remembering the passengers of Flight 370, we'll be right back.


COOPER: For 17 days now, the family and friends of the people aboard Flight 370 have endured the agonizing wait for answers as they hold on to some sort of hope. We're going to continue to ask questions, look for answers and will continue to honor the 239 people who were on that plane.


COOPER (voice-over): Paul Weeks is a husband and father of two, he was on his way to start a new job in Mongolia, his dream job. Before he left his home in Australia, he gave his wedding ring and watch to his wife, Danica.

DANICA WEEKS, WIFE OF MISSING PASSENGER: He said, I'm going to leave my wedding ring here in case something happens to me. I want the ring to go to the first son married. I said don't be stupid, just come back. I'll give it to you and you can give it to them.

COOPER: Muktash Mekerigi and Shao Mobai has been on vacation and were on their way home to their two young sons in Beijing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Parents, nothing was more important to them than those kids. Everything they did was surrounding those kids. You go to their house, it was covered with pictures of their boys.

COOPER: The 30-year-old, Huang Yi, was also on her way home to her 5- year-old daughter. She works for a semiconductor company based in Austin, Texas, and was on board with 19 of her colleagues. Rodney was looking forward to becoming first time grandparents after returning home. They were beginning a long planned trip with their good friends, Catherine and Robert Loden. The Lodens were known as doting grandparents. A friend described them as passionate travelers.

This group of artists in China were in Malaysia to display their work. Most of them were on the flight back to Beijing. Among them, the oldest passenger on board, 76-year-old, Lou Rosheng, a renowned calligrapher traveling with his wife. The loved ones of these passengers have waited with prayers and with hope. Strangers, mostly children have left pictures at the airport in Malaysia. This one reads, we miss you, we love you. This one simply says, please come back. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that does it for us. We'll see you again at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time for another live edition of 360. We are going to stay on the air through the midnight hour until 1 a.m. because the Malaysian government is expected to hold another news conference at 12:30 a.m. Eastern Time, United States time, that's 12:30 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur. We are going to bring that to you live as always.

If you can't stay up, you should set your DVR every night so you can watch 360 whenever you want.

"PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.