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THE SITUATION ROOM
Ukraine Crisis; Ferry Disaster; Search for Flight 370
Aired April 17, 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: The results are in from the first complete underwater scan for wreckage from Flight 370. Stand by for the newest information about the search and new hints about a backup plan.
Plus, a deadly new attack in Ukraine, diplomats scrambling right now to calm the crisis as a stunning example of ethnic hatred surfaces that the United States is calling -- quote -- "grotesque."
And rescuers are working 24/7 to find survivors in a sunken ferry. Nearly 300 people are still missing. Some high school students may still be alive and trapped in the wreckage right now.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This hour, the window is open to launch the fifth underwater search for Flight 370. Even as planes prepare to take off to scan the ocean's surface once again, we're learning new information about data downloaded by the Bluefin-21 drone and a potentially critical piece of evidence that's been ruled out. We will go live to the staging area for the search in Perth, Australia. CNN's Michael Holmes is there. And we always have a team of experts here in THE SITUATION ROOM. They're following all the breaking developments.
But, first, the latest information from our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, CNN is learning the underwater robot just finished its fourth dive a few hours ago, 15,000 feet down. And right now experts are studying are sonar images, hoping that this time the Bluefin may find something.
BROWN (voice-over): Four days of searching underwater and still no signs of wreckage.
HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: The visuals that we managed to get from the Bluefin-21 were very clear, not in finding what we were looking the for, but what the seabed looks like, and that gives us a bit of relief as to the next few days, we're going to intensify the deep-water search.
BROWN: The underwater robot, Bluefin-21, has been moving back and forth, searching the area where pings, believed to be from the black boxes were first detected. Still, some officials now say if nothing turns up in the next few days, it may be time to switch gears.
HUSSEIN: If we don't find the wreckage, then we will regroup and reconsider. I think that has been our case from the start.
BROWN: Expanding the underwater search not only will take time, but also cost a lot of money. Australia's chief air accident investigator says a long search and salvage mission could cost up to $234 million.
Today, more bad news for families searching for answers. Tests from a suspected oil slick found on the water Sunday show the oil was not from the missing plane. Families still worry if investigators are searching in the right place.
JAMES WOOD, BROTHER OF MISSING PASSENGER: They're only looking in one place and they're putting all their eggs in within basket. They have really laid everything they have got on this one thing, hoping that they hit a home run. But what if they don't? You know, how much time have we lost?
BROWN: Now, if investigators do not find any aircraft wreckage in the area they're searching, it, of course, is a major setback, but they are back to square one. The next phase could be moving out along the arcs created by those satellite handshakes. The problem, of course, the larger the underwater search area, the longer it will take -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Huge problem, indeed. Pamela, stand by.
I want to go live to the base of the operations right now in Perth, Australia.
CNN's Michael Holmes standing by there with more.
What are you learning, Michael?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, four dives now completed. That's a bit of a good development. The third dive was particularly successful, they say, in terms of what it covered.
Bluefin-21 has now searched about 120 square kilometers. That's nearly 50 square miles over those four trips above the ocean floor depths of between 3,200 and 4,700 meters. The third trip, as I said, that was about 19 hours, and they have analyzed the data on trips one through three. Didn't find anything, but they say at least Bluefin-21 is working well.
They're getting good images down there. Mission number four, as we said, is now over, but we don't have the data on that yet. We hope to get it in the next hour or two, if we're lucky, and also waiting on word that trip number five has started. As Pamela said, this is a very slow process. They're already looking at where they might look next, if they don't find anything in this concentrated search area they're working on now.
But we are hearing that there is a level of confidence, no real detail on why, but there is confidence among those searchers, Wolf.
BLITZER: As far as the air searches are concerned, looking for debris that may be floating on the surface of the Indian Ocean, I suspect, based on what we have heard from some of the organizers over the past few days, they're getting ready to wrap that up, right?
HOLMES: Yes, that's right. Angus Houston, the man sort of heading up this search effort, he said at the beginning of the week that he thought that that aspect of the search, the air and surface search, would be wrapping up, in his words, in the next few days.
Well, it hasn't, and we do know that planes are going to be going out again this morning. The ships, we know, are still out there. So they're still searching in that area where they looked a couple of weeks ago. And so they obviously haven't given up on that yet. We kind of expected it would be done by now given the guidance we were given by Angus Houston, but no sign of it ending yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: Michael Holmes in Perth, we will obviously stay in close touch with you. If you get some more information, you let us know right away.
Let's bring back our panel. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is with us, along with our CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz and our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.
Peter, they're suggesting they may have to expand the search area if the Bluefin-21 keeps going down, comes up with nothing of substance, other than nice pictures of the ocean floor. Let's say they don't find anything. The pinger batteries are clearly dead by now. Where do day go from here?
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think they go back along the arc. But that's not going to happen for at least six weeks. They have got a lot of territory to recover. They're doing it methodically. If that fails, then they're going to have to reassess and plan for the long haul, which means tracing it back along that entire arc.
BLITZER: Because that will -- if they do that, Tom -- because they haven't found any debris at all over the past month. But if they have to start going along that arc and just looking and looking and looking, that's going to delay this for a long, long time.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it will get into the time where people have said before where this might take weeks, it might be months, it might be years. Now we could be looking at the months and years aspect, if that happens.
BLITZER: You're talking to some of these investigators, your sources, Pamela. Are they losing hope? Are they very frustrated? Or are they still pretty confident that they're at least looking in the right area? BROWN: I think they're cautiously optimistic, Wolf. So far, the Bluefin has covered about 46 square miles of the ocean floor. And this is really their best bet, this concentrated area.
And as we heard Michael say, they are confident that this is really the area they need to be focused on. And just remember, we're four days in. No one thought we'd be finding any wreckage just a few days into the search. This is a long process, and we just need to exercise patience.
BLITZER: Four days with the underwater search, if you will, and 40-plus days overall search.
BLITZER: They finally came back to us and told us that the oil that they took, there was a little oil slick there, had nothing to do with the plane. They brought it to Perth, they put it in a lab. It's not any lubricant or any oil from the airliner.
GOELZ: Yes, that was always a long shot. I mean, the idea that there would be any fuel or lubricants left on the surface from this aircraft is just -- it's just not going to happen. But they were obligated to test it. I'm sure if they come across another oil sheen, they will have to test it. But that's going to be highly unlikely that that's going to test positive.
BLITZER: There was some hope, but obviously that didn't pan out.
Stand by, guys, because Geoffrey Thomas is joining us once again. He's the editor in chief of AirlineRatings.com. He's in Perth, Australia.
Any new information you're picking up over there, Geoffrey? You're pretty plugged in.
GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, nothing specific, Wolf, but there is a very high level of confidence that they are looking in the right area.
I mean, let's not forget, this is where they got four solid pings, two fadeout pings. This is the area where Inmarsat said, this is where you need to look. This is the spot where the last partial handshake occurred. And, yes, absolutely. We didn't expect to sort of go down and find it mission one.
And we're only four days in. There is, on the ground, a high level of confidence that this is the right spot. And at the same time, while we thought the air search would be wound down, it's proceeding at the same level, 13, 14 airplanes going out today to this area that they have searched about almost two-and-a-half weeks ago.
They have gone back out there over the last few days, and they're continuing to do so. So there's -- you know, there's strong optimism that they're going to find something.
BLITZER: And how do they explain the frequency? When those pings were detected, especially that two-hour ping from the black box, which is really orange, as all of our viewers know by now, that it's supposed to be 37.5 megahertz, but it was really only about 32 megahertz. How are they explaining that discrepancy?
THOMAS: As explained to me, there is -- because of the depth, of course, the ocean layers, the -- and all the dynamics of that, there is a range of about 10 percent, either way, that is acceptable and is still believed to be from the black box.
Let's not forget that one of the world's most famous wreck hunters, David Mearns, said, as far as he's concerned, they have found it from those pings. That's how positive he is that they're on to the right location.
BLITZER: Peter Goelz, you worked at the NTSB for a long time. Are you positive they found the right location?
GOELZ: I'm optimistic. These guys have worked hard. They have used cutting-edge analysis. They believe they're on the spot. I'm with them.
BLITZER: I suspect they also have confidential information, secret information that they are not sharing with us why they think they're pretty optimistic that this is the location, Tom.
FUENTES: Well, we're hoping that's the case to support it.
BLITZER: It would make sense. One thing, because I know you have been checking with some of your former colleagues at the NTSB. If they find this black box, the NTSB really does want to be the first to inspect what's inside.
GOELZ: Well, I have thought about that and I have talked to a number of people, and they actually are the most qualified to get it.
Not only do they have the most advanced equipment. They have got the Boeing Corporation here, and they have got the maker of the black box here as well. So this would be the best place to take care of the downloading of the data.
BLITZER: The Malaysians, Geoffrey, would have to agree to that, to let the U.S. get first crack at the black box, and the Australians, presumably, would have to agree to it. What are you hearing there? If they find that black box, who will inspect it first?
THOMAS: Well, look, really, Wolf, it's up to the Malaysians.
Under ICAO, they are leading the search, as is their right. They have included the Australians as a party to the full investigations. I'm sure the Australians would be very happy to work with the U.S. NTSB on this. I mean, the bottom line is, we want the very best equipment to study the black box and if the very best equipment, if the very best brains are in Washington, D.C., well, then, why not? And it's not as though it's a secret thing. We all share this information. We're all part of the investigation. And I would imagine there would be Australian inspectors going with the black box to Washington, D.C., to work with their colleagues at the NTSB.
BLITZER: Assuming the Malaysians agree to that.
And it's nice to believe, Tom, that there would be this kind of cooperation. But there could be a fight about it.
FUENTES: I don't think there's going to be any fight between the U.S. and Australia.
BLITZER: No, I'm talking about with Malaysia, maybe.
FUENTES: Well, I think Malaysia is going to be feeling the pressure to get this to the best experts in the world, or they're going to continue to face the kind of criticism that they have put themselves through for 40 days.
BLITZER: What are you hearing from your sources, Pamela?
BROWN: Honestly, just reflective of what Tom just said, I think that once this black box is found, everyone is going to want to work together to figure out what happened here.
And the sources I'm speaking with are saying basically that right now it's a waiting game, that in many ways, that they're not getting the answers they need from the investigative standpoint, looking at the passengers and crews, so they're really waiting on pins and needles for this black box to be found and to provide the proof they need.
BLITZER: Pamela, thanks very much. Peter and Tom, thanks to you guys.
Geoffrey, we will check back with you tomorrow as well.
Still ahead, a leaflet threatening Jews, it's a new provocation of the crisis in Ukraine, along with a deadly attack on a military base and it's all prompting some very strong words from the U.S., including from President Obama.
BLITZER: "CROSSFIRE" won't be seen tonight so we can bring you more of the coverage of the mystery of Flight 370 and other news. More on that in a moment, but, first, another urgent story we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The crisis in Ukraine is turning deadly. Three pro-Russian militants were killed overnight during a raid on a Ukrainian military base. These photos of the attack are just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, as many question whether the powder keg that is East Ukraine is about to explode. Let's begin with our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh. He's joining us from Eastern Ukraine with the very latest.
What are you seeing, Nic?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, despite this Geneva agreement, which is a road map, effectively, between these foreign powers, who aren't really in presence much on the ground here, suggesting there could be a ray of light in diplomatic pressure, we have seen very little change on the ground here at all.
Catastrophic news this morning, as you said, the first three deaths among the pro-Russian protesters, miraculously, very few of them killed or hurt in the past week or so, 63 of them arrested in apparently a moment...
BLITZER: I think we lost our connection, unfortunately, with Nick Paton Walsh. We're going to get back to him in a moment.
The Pentagon, obviously, is also closely monitoring the situation on the ground, troubled by those reports of anti-Semitic leaflets that were distributed outside a synagogue during Passover in one town in Eastern Ukraine, the U.S. getting ready to step up some aid to the Ukraine at the same time.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has details.
What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what officials are telling is regardless of who was behind these leaflets, which the U.S. is now calling disgusting, whoever was behind them, it's a provocation and it's very unsettling and it destabilizes further the political and military situation in Eastern Ukraine.
That's what the U.S. does not want to see at this point. Now, I spoke to a senior rabbi in Eastern Ukraine just a short time ago, to ask him how things were going directly. He said, it's very peaceful, that people there generally get along. They're upset about these flyers. They know that they're not true. Nobody's obeying these instructions in the flyer to register.
But what he said that was so interesting is that people in the region are worried about war. And what they're worried about is a Russian invasion. That's what their top worry is. And many of them are the elderly people in Eastern Ukraine, who remember the terrible years there of World War II.
So it goes back to the point of Russian intimidation, Russian provocation. And today the top U.S. general in Europe -- and he's also the military chief of NATO -- had a very extraordinary statement, General Philip Breedlove. I want to read a little bit of it to you, General Breedlove saying -- quote -- "It's hard to fathom that groups of armed men in masks suddenly sprang forward from the population in Eastern Ukraine and systemically began to occupy government facilities. It's hard to fathom because it's simply not true."
General Breedlove very directly going on to say that he believes and NATO believes Russia is behind some of these provocations that we are seeing in the region, some of the violence taking over certain areas. The Pentagon believes that Russian Spetsnaz, Russian special forces are very much in Eastern Ukraine right now and they say they don't have total proof, but they look at the pictures of the people fighting there, their uniforms, their weapons, their discipline, how they are acting, how they are operating, and the U.S. has come to the very firm conclusion at this point that Russia is behind much of the provocation in the region -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And explain, Barbara, what the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, meant today when he said the U.S. would start providing some non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine.
STARR: What he's talking about, Wolf, is things like medical supplies, uniforms, generators, water purification, anything but weapons.
Some of it will go to the Ukraine army. Some of it will go, interesting, to the Ukraine state border guard, because they certainly are trying to keep their borders secure at this point. The Pentagon has made a decision this is not the time for lethal weapons, not the time for weapons to go to Ukraine. They want this situation to calm down -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. Thank you.
Let's go over to the White House.
President Obama is addressing the crisis. He's calling for diplomacy to de-escalate the situation.
Our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is joining us. She's got more.
What's going on there?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf.
The president addressed this directly today. On this, the first day in many weeks that we have seen so much as a glimmer of progress in the crisis, he did not sound very optimistic.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): The president's reaction to Vladimir Putin's four-hour-live television Q&A today and the agreement, at least, by Russia to start ramping down the Ukraine crisis? BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think we can be sure of anything at this point. I think there is the possibility, the prospect that diplomacy may de-escalate the situation.
KOSINSKI: While Russia's foreign minister showed, according to the administration, a willingness to engage in constructive dialogue, Putin didn't miss any chances to launch digs at the U.S., covering everything from his right to roll troops into Ukraine, if he decides he has to, to emphasizing that Russia doesn't spy on its citizens' communications, after a question posed by none other than Edward Snowden, still living in asylum in Russia.
But Putin kept a little window open to the now tattered U.S./Russian relationship.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I agree that a lot of trust has been lost. But why is that happening? We consider this not our guilt. Russia is interested in developing relations with the United States and will do what it can to restore this trust.
KOSINSKI: That relationship, though, continues to spiral downward, even as Putin keeps calling President Obama, and possibly, possibly will move forward on Ukraine instead of backward coming out a meeting in Geneva today.
OBAMA: We're not going to know whether, in fact, there's follow- through on these statements for several days.
KOSINSKI: For all of the ugly, at times, back and forth we have heard, especially from lawmakers on both sides, today during his ramble, Putin at one point called President Obama decent and courageous and said he thought that, if Putin were drowning, that Obama would save him, but no word on the White House on that, Wolf.
BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski with the latest from there, thank you.
I want to go back to Eastern Ukraine right now. Nick Paton Walsh is on the scene for us.
Nick, we were interrupted a few moments ago, but when Ukrainians hear that the U.S. is ready to start providing some non-lethal equipment, medical supplies, water purification, to Ukraine, is that simply symbolic support or do they see it as much more significant?
WALSH: No, I think people we spoke to in a pro-Ukrainian protest here were quite clear they don't sort external intervention. They want to sort it out themselves.
But Barack Obama too said very clearly that the military option is off the table here. There is no concept, really, I think of future U.S. involvement imminently certainly, unless the game changes enormously here. But this Geneva agreement, while it is a piece of paper that Russia, the U.S., Ukraine, and the E.U. can all put their names to, it's a complex, messy agreement document.
It calls for further talks, for observation missions here, but it also says that all illegally occupied buildings and all illegally armed groups should disband immediately, and that's complex, because the pro-Russians consider that to be the protesters still in Kiev backed up by what they say are far-right militants, and those in Kiev say of course it means the people taking over buildings with armed militants here backing them up to.
So that could fall apart quite fast. The people in the occupied administration building behind me here in Donetsk, they were even paying much attention to what is happening in Geneva. They want a referendum by May 11 to decide the Donetsk region can be independent in itself.
We're hearing reports tonight of continued clashes around the region, unconfirmed because of the massive amount of information going around here. But it seems though on the ground, Geneva has made very little difference, momentum so squarely behind those pro-Russian protesters -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick, those anti-Semitic leaflets that were distributed outside a synagogue there in Donetsk where you are in Eastern Ukraine, you have been speaking to Jewish community leaders and others. Give us some perspective on what's going on.
WALSH: Well, they're not overly concerned.
The chief rabbi here, you would have thought if he was deeply troubled, would have taken this moment to express fears about anti- Semitism, but he didn't. He said that these leaflets left outside the synagogue by three balaclava-wearing men after a Passover service were actually aimed at provoking tension between the Jewish community and the pro-Russian Donetsk protest and the Donetsk community as a whole.
He said they get along fine, let's just stop talking about this. Plus, the guy who has supposed to have signed these leaflets, these posters, Denis Pushilin, the chairman of the self-declared Donetsk's People Republic in the occupied building behind me, I spoke to him.
He said it wasn't his handwriting on it, wasn't the title he uses for himself, called the whole thing a fake, an unprofessional one at best, and also said this is designed to provoke hatred too. On the ground here, people are trying to basically push this aside quickly. There's so much tension already for different reasons. They don't want anti-Semitism to come into the mix. It's not really been part of the protests here or part of the motivation at all.
But there's so many accusations between both these sides now, calling each other fascist, remarkable that John Kerry chooses to focus on this, of which there's not so much actually in reality here on the ground, there are plenty of other issues too, in his speech today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the ground for us in Eastern Ukraine, thanks very much.
Let's continue the conversation. The U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Daniel Baer is joining us now.
Do you want to give us your perspective on those anti-Semitic leaflets? Because we did hear the secretary of state, John Kerry, say they were disgusting and chilling. You heard the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine tell our own Jake Tapper they were chilling.
What do you know about this, Ambassador?
DANIEL BAER, AMBASSADOR TO THE ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE: Well, I think, as Nick said, you know, the question remains on the ground whether -- where they came from, who they came from, et cetera.
No matter where they came from, they're offensive and disgusting, and I think it underscores the fact that there's a lot of unknowns right now, and that tensions are very high, and anything like this can and should be seen as a provocation and rejected for the disgusting hate it represents.
BLITZER: Are you confident, upbeat, worried? Give me an analysis of this deal that seems to be emerging in Geneva right now. How confident are you that it will really de-escalate all those tensions?
BAER: Well, I think I'm -- you know, I'm confident that the recipe there is one that can be one step toward de-escalation.
The handover of buildings, the disarming of illegally armed groups, you know, that's an important step forward, and obviously, the discussion in Geneva today underscored the role that impartial international monitors through the OSCE could play in actively facilitating that.
But, overall, the situation remains very grim. As we have heard earlier in the broadcast, there's strong evidence that Russia is behind the illegal armed takeover of a number of municipal buildings in the Eastern Ukraine. These were coordinated efforts. This is not grassroots activism. This is Russian organized criminality.
The guys who are taking these over are operating in a professional way, professionally armed, with equipment that would cost many, many months' salary in Eastern Ukraine. So the situation remains very grim.
We've said all along that there needs to be a diplomatic way forward, and that includes engagement between Russia and Ukraine, and the use of international monitors. And obviously, part of what was discussed today was how those monitors can play a role going forward. But we're very much still in a test and verify, not in a trust and verify zone right now.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the role that the organization, you're the U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. They want monitors from your organization to go there. Walk us through how many are going to go there, what their role will be, will they be armed? Give us a little perspective on these international monitors that are about to head over into this area where it's very tense right now.
BAER: So the monitors -- the monitoring mission began with 100 people. It will scale up likely to 500 people. That's in the process right now. And they are actually already on the ground. They've been on the ground. They reached their full force of 100, the initial 100 this week. But they're on the ground in Donetsk and in other cities in the east and have been reporting this week. So they are on the ground and ready to help facilitate the handovers of buildings, the disarming process, etc. And we'll offer their good offices to do that.
The other thing that they're prepared to do and that we hope that they will do is as people hopefully will realize that taking over municipal buildings maybe a short-term, tactical win, but not a long- term success in terms of addressing grievances, we hope that the OSC monitors can play a role in facilitating dialogue, facilitating town- hall meetings, et cetera.
The Ukrainian people as a whole have a real chance coming forward next month. They'll have presidential elections on May 25. And this is a real opportunity for the Ukrainian people to turn the page on the Yanukovych era, to move forward together, to start a new era with not corrupt government, with good governance, that can protect the rights of all Ukrainians. And I think that's what we're looking to -- and we should keep that goal in mind.
BLITZER: Let's hope it works. Ambassador Daniel Baer joining us. He's the U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. That's what they need a little bit of right now, security and cooperation, especially in Eastern Europe and Eastern Ukraine, specifically. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, we'll have a live update on the desperate search for survivors inside that sunken South Korean ferry. Time may be running out, and the weather isn't cooperating.
The U.S. Navy is now involved in the search. I'll talk to a top U.S. Navy officer who's at sea right now. She's going to tell us what she knows about the rescue operation and the passengers who still may be trapped.
BLITZER: The death toll is rising in South Korea after yesterday's ferry disaster. We're getting brand-new video of some of the passengers' families. They're engaged -- enraged that the captain of that ferry abandoned the ship and survived.
The South Korean coast guard now says at least 25 people are dead; 276 people are still missing. They're believed to be trapped aboard the ship. So many of them are high-school students. CNN's Kyung Lah is at the scene for us. She's joining us with the very latest -- Kyung.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you that certainly the mood here is beginning to shift after what has been a 24 hours of frustrating search, because of, primarily, the weather.
I want you to take a look over my shoulder. What you're seeing over there is a gathering of parents. This is the dockside where they're waiting for news. The search is actually 12 miles away from here.
And take a look at this video. This is something we shot just a short time ago. And what you're seeing are parents who not only are grief-stricken, but now, they are also enraged. They want answers. They keep chanting, "Captain, come out." They want to know why the captain survived while their children were aboard this sinking vessel.
They are still grieving. They feel that the news is not coming out quickly enough from the government. So what we're seeing here is this, as conditions get more desperate, as the death toll begins to rise and is expected to grow, the families are becoming increasingly enraged -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are they giving up hope, or are they still maybe a little bit upbeat that their loved ones might still be alive?
LAH: They're not giving up hope completely, but certainly, we are sensing a different mood. They are becoming more desperate. They feel that the information, especially because the last 24 hours, were so dismal, that they don't know what to think. There was not oxygen pumped into the capsized boat, as they had hoped. There were no survivors pulled out over the last 24 hours.
You can see them clinging to cell phones. They want answers. They're hoping for some texts. They're praying that their children have found a dry air pocket aboard this capsized ferry.
But the facts are against them. Hypothermia sets in after just two hours. We're now into the third day. So they haven't given up hope. I can't say that we've spoken to anybody where you get that sense, but they are increasingly more desperate.
BLITZER: And the notion that there were -- the captain survived, the captain got off, but so many others are still trapped, that must be fueling a lot of outrage?
LAH: Fueling a lot of outrage, certainly. They want to get this captain in front of them. That is certainly the sense that you're getting, from at least today.
They're also very upset about the issue of the lifeboats. There were so many lifeboats aboard, but there are local news reports that only one of them was actually deployed. There were dozens of them aboard the ship. So why weren't they used? Why were the children -- and I'm going to call them children, because there were so many high school students aboard this capsized ferry -- why were they told to stay in their rooms, to stay below the top deck? Those are a lot of questions that these parents are asking, and they want answers. They don't feel it's coming quickly enough from the coast guard or from the government or from the ship company or the captain, frankly.
BLITZER: Kyung Lah, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now on the search efforts. Commodore Heidi Agle is joining us, the commander of Amphibious Squadron 11. She's aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard out there in the region.
What is the role of the U.S. Navy, Commodore, right now, as far as this rescue operation is underway?
COMMODORE HEIDI AGLE, COMMANDER, AMPHIBIOUS SQUADRON 11 (via phone): Wolf, the capability that we bring to this effort is search and rescue. We are doing everything that we can to continue the effort to search for survivors.
BLITZER: So what are you specifically doing? How kind of equipment do you have there? How many personnel are involved in this operation?
AGLE: Our contribution has been hampered by the visibility in our area. We have two very capable MH-60 search-and-rescue helicopters outfitted with MPH radar that can tell if there was a warm area in the water. We were able to employ them for several hours yesterday morning, but the weather, the fog moved in for the majority of the day. We couldn't see the bow of our ship. And we were not able to fly in that weather.
It is still foggy this morning. As soon as the weather clears, we'll put the helicopters back in the air and continue.
BLITZER: Any indication -- we have some video from your ship about these bad weather conditions. There you see some of them. It's pretty dangerous to start flying over there, given the fact that the weather is that bad. Is that right?
AGLE: That's absolutely correct, Wolf. And we have weathermen that we respect and live by as professional mariners and aviators, and sadly, we were not able to contribute but a few hours yesterday.
BLITZER: Is this a real international operation, or is it the U.S. and South Korea basically in charge?
AGLE: South Korea is definitely in charge. And we are assisting. To my knowledge, we're the only other country that is contributing. The South Korean coast guard and navy are heavily involved. Our counterparts on their flagships, we've recently worked with during exercises. And our deepest condolences go out to the family and the crew and our thoughts and prayers are with them as they struggle through this.
BLITZER: Do you know, Commodore, what happened, why this ferry capsized? AGLE: Sir, I am not privy to that information through official channels, and I would hesitate to say anything. The only information I have is what's been given in the open press. I would assume that it is a matter under investigation by the South Korean Maritime Agency.
BLITZER: And reaching those air pockets, if, in fact, there are air pockets in that capsized ferry, where individuals may still be alive, how difficult of an operation is that, Commodore?
AGLE: Extremely difficult. There are heavy currents in this area. The ship itself is not stable in the water. So you are, by default, putting a diver at risk, as the divers that have been assisting have been very frayed and very forward in their approach. The water temperature is in the very low 50s. So you're in immediate hypothermic conditions, so requiring dry suits to spend extended time in the water. The water is very murky, so there are many things that are working against them.
And to add to that, we have a period of bad weather that's moving in over the weekend, where we're expecting continued reduced visibility and higher winds, up to 30 knots an hour.
BLITZER: Have you ever seen anything like this before, commodore?
AGLE: Wolf, I have not. This is just tragic. It was a distress call that we responded to immediately and will continue to stay on scene as long as the Koreans need us to be here.
BLITZER: Captain Heidi Agle is the commodore of the U.S. Amphibious Squadron 11 joining us from aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard.
Good luck to all the men and women of the United States Navy involved in this -- the Marines as well. Good luck to the South Korean military. Let's hope they find some people alive.
Just ahead, some very dramatic evidence that passengers may, indeed, be alive in that wreckage of the sunken ferry. It's actually happened before.
BLITZER: It's the best hope right now for the families of the missing passengers involved in a deadly ferry disaster. It is possible that some of them may still be alive trapped inside the sunken wreckage.
Brian Todd is looking into this.
So how likely, Brian, is that?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the odds are decreasing with each passing hour. But experts say if there are air pockets inside that vessel and if the passengers can get to them and use them effectively, there could be a shot. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TODD (voice-over): Rescuers in South Korea are in a calculated but furious scramble. They're working under the assumption some passengers aboard the sunken ferry may still be alive. Past accidents tell us it's very possible.
November last year, an overcrowded double-decker ferry sank off Thailand. About 200 people were rescued.
February 2006, an Egyptian passenger ferry sank in the Red Sea. More than 300 were rescued there.
There were even underwater rescues after the Costa Concordia cruise ship capsized off Italy in 2012. How can passengers survive when a vessel is capsized, even completely underwater? There's no more dramatic example than this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is alive. He is alive.
TODD: May of last year after a tugboat capsized off West Africa, a rescue driver thought he found the hand of a corpse. But crewmember Harrison Okene had been alive for two and a half days inside a four- square pocket. His boat had come to rest upside down about 100 feet below the surface.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just reassure him. Pat him on the shoulder.
TODD: The supervisor talked to Okene and the rescue diver through it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your head underwater and breathe comfortably, OK?
TODD: In less than that 20 minutes, Okene was brought out safely. If there are survivors on board the Korean ferry, they could take steps to help themselves, though they probably don't know it.
UNIDENTFIEID FEMALE: They need to find a watertight door such as this one, that they would close and seal it.
TODD: Former Navy diver Bobbie Scholley showed us where air pockets can be found and how potential survivors could use them.
CAPT. BOBBIE SCHOLLEY (RET.), FORMER NAVY DIVER: When they're in a small compartment like this with an air bubble, they really have to stay calm and breathe shallow and conserve the oxygen in that space.
TODD: There was an effort to pump oxygen into the Korea vessel with the hope that it could create air pockets. But that attempt failed because of bad weather.
Given those conditions, the cold temperatures and the time elapsed since that ferry went down, the odds for survival here are decreasing, Wolf.
BLITZER: There are other dangers involved in pumping air into a vessel like this.
TODD: This sure are. That Navy diver Bobbie Scholley says if a rescue team drills a hole into a compartment that already has air in it, there is a risk of letting air out of that compartment and having the vessel sink even further than it is now. And that could put survivors in there, if there are any, any greater danger.
South Korean rescue teams know this. They're very good. But it's very dangerous.
BLITZER: Let's hope they succeed. That would be excellent news for everyone. Thanks, Brian. Thanks very much.
Just ahead, a very different story we're following. The Clinton family's life-changing announcement.
BLITZER: Now, a wonderful announcement by the Clinton family. It has absolutely nothing to do with Hillary Clinton's presidential prospects.
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar. She's got the news -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after years of dropping, not subtle hints, the Clintons are finally getting a wish that they wanted. Coming this fall: a grandbaby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: I have one more thing to say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, yes.
CLINTON: Very quickly. I also want to thank all of you for being such an inspiration to us and to me in particular. Mark and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year.
And I certainly feel all the better, whether it's a girl or a boy that she or he will grow up in a world full of so many strong, young female leaders.
So thank you for inspiring me. And thank you for inspiring future generations.
I just hope that I will be as good a mom to my child and hopefully children as my mom was to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So, in October, Chelsea Clinton told "Glamour" magazine that she and her husband Marc Mezvinsky had decided that 2014 was the year of the baby.
So, not totally unexpected here. But, Wolf, she certainly kept it under wraps until now. It really came as a surprise today at this event.
There were quick congrats from her mom and dad on Twitter. Hillary Clinton saying, "My most exciting title yet, grandmother-to- be." Bill Clinton excited to be grandfather-to-be.
And, of course, Wolf, the political question. Is this going to be whether Hillary Clinton runs for president? I've heard it argued both ways by those close to Clinton who want her to run in 2016 that she might not want to miss out on being a grandparent. As you know, campaigning just takes so much time. But conversely, the possibility of being the first female president is certainly an alluring legacy to leave for a grandchild.
BLITZER: Very, very exciting time for the Clintons. We want to wish them happiness and only, only the best.
KEILAR: Yes, definitely.
BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very, very much for that.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. You can tweet me. Go ahead, do it right now, @WolfBlitzer. You can certainly tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
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That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.