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Plane Carrying 54 People Missing; Death Toll Climbs to 112 in China Blast; Trump Breaks Golden Rules at Iowa State Fair. Aired 7:30a-8a ET

Aired August 16, 2015 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] DAVID SOUCIE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That's where the safety problems lie.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. David Soucie, Mary Schiavo, stay with us.

We want to get up to date all the people who are just joining us now at the bottom at the bottom of the hour. The breaking news this morning -- a passenger plane carrying people, including children and infants -- we know there were two children and three infants on board. It's missing in a remote area of Indonesia.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we're going to show this map here so you can get a good idea.

It was flying from Jayapura to Oksibil. The plane took off from that airport there. It looks like it's directly south. About a half hour into this flight, air traffic control lost contact.

And here's the problem at this hour -- night has fallen, which means it's dark there, this is a densely forested region. It's very mountainous. In fact, we've got mountains that are 10,000 feet high in some areas. And officials have called off the search because of that.

We had a statement actually from the transportation ministry spokesperson that said a search was launched earlier today but called off because of bad weather. And it's called off now. And again, they will resume that search tomorrow.

Here's a look at the plane or the type of plane that it was. This isn't the exact plane, an ATR-42 turbo prop.

But Kathy Novak is live for us in Seoul. And she has more information for us on what's coming in this morning.

Kathy, what do you know?

KATHY NOVAK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, while we're talking about it, you're looking at the map there and the kind of region that we're talking about. It's very remote. It's very mountainous. And that's the very reason people are taking these short flights to get from place to place, because a lot of places in this particular region are relatively inaccessible any other way. So, it's pretty normal for people to be flying around these small local carriers.

What we know as David Molko pointed out a short time ago is that this plane was about ten minutes away from its scheduled landing which puts it in that mountainous region with the very tall mountains we're talking about. It took off at 2:22 p.m. local time. And we're told that at that time, the weather was clear. But the plane lost contact at 2:55 p.m. local. Just 10 minutes before it was scheduled land.

But there were no reports or indications that there was a distress call from the plane. And as we keep stressing, the transportation ministry spokesman at this stage is saying they are not saying that the plane crashed. But it will be difficult to get any more concrete information for many, many hours now with this search called off until morning.

PAUL: Kathy, aren't we expecting some sort of a press conference on this from Jakarta in the next hour or so?

NOVAK: We've been speaking to the transportation ministry spokesperson. I understand that they are giving updates in Jakarta. So, we're trying to learn exactly what it is they're doing, what they might have suspected could have gone wrong. We know we're being told it was bad weather, that the region is very remote.

The questions that are going to be asked is anything else that could have contributed to any possible problems, was it potentially over crowded, were there maintenance problems. These are the questions that people are going to be wanting to ask of the authorities as they wait until the morning to continue their search.

BLACKWELL: Kathy, have we heard anything from the airline or from the transportation ministry about the families of those board? Of course, the major question is what happened here, where is this plane. But these 49 people who are onboard, also the five crew members, they have relatives who are waiting for them or saw them off in Jayapura. Any idea where they are gathering?

NOVAK: Absolutely, and you would think that they -- that's where your mind goes first, of course, that these people were expecting their loved ones to land in ten minutes and then they learned that the plane had lost contact. And now it has been about five and a half hours since they would have had any news. We're talk about 54 people as we discussed, and among them two children and three infants.

So, you can imagine the family members, the loved ones of those people would be very distressed. And that country, as we've been discussing, unfortunately has a very patchy aviation record.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kathy Novak there for us in Seoul, South Korea, getting us the very latest. The search which has been suspended will be resumed tomorrow. PAUL: David Molko joining us now I believe from Singapore. But he

knows this region, very, very well. You are talking to us a little bit earlier about the terrain in which it is believed this plane disappeared.

Help us understand, you know, how difficult the terrain is going to be for the search.

DAVID MOLKO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Christi, Victor, extremely rugged, extremely remote.

[07:35:02] The province of Papua and West Papua, no real major population centers in the interior. This town Oksibil where the plane was landing may be a few thousand people, something like that.

The thing is, ten minutes to landing, how close was it to the airport? How close was it to the runway? That may be one hope in this case if the plane has indeed going down at this point. Authorities still saying it is just missing.

Of course, night falling there, making it even more difficult. There is a mountain range, I should point out, running across the island of New Guinea. Some of those peaks upwards to 10,000 feet. And that is just before you would get to the plane's destination, where it was headed. Difficult to say more at this point.

From covering the AirAsia crash, from covering AirAsia 8501 in December, we know that the military and search and rescue officials will try to get their ducks in a row quickly. They will respond as best they can. We also know, though, from that experience that in these first few hours, which are critical hours, there's a lot of misinformation that comes out. So, it would not be unusual for officials to say one thing and a short time later for us to learn something knew or something different.

Right now, they're saying the plane was about 10 minutes from landing, and they're saying there was no distress call -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Yes, David, we know in situations like this, especially in breaking news, that early on the details initially that we get initially are revised, let's say, as we learn more and the picture becomes clearer.

David Molko, stand by for us there in Singapore. We'll be back with you in a moment.

We'll take a quick break and push forward on this breaking news, a missing plane carrying 54 people disappeared on what was supposed to be a 50-minute flight from Jayapura to Oksibil on Papua province. We'll be right back with the very latest.


[07:40:52] BLACKWELL: We're working to get more on the breaking news this morning, this coming from the province of Papua. A plane carrying 54 people missing this morning. It took off at about 2:21 p.m. local time there, and roughly 30 minutes into the flight, that plane you just saw, that very jet, went missing.

And the air traffic control operators lost contact with it. Onboard, 44 adults, two children, three infants, five crew members. Again, a total of 54 people.

We know from the transportation minister there in Indonesia that the search which began obviously shortly after the plane disappeared, was called off because of bad weather. It's also dark there now. But they have not said this has crashed. They will resume this search in the morning. We have our analysts and our reporters out working to learn more. We'll get you more in a moment.

PAUL: We do want to get you to a developing story out of China right now too. There is a desperate search underway. Chinese teams trying to find an untold number of people who may be trapped underneath the rubble from Wednesday's blast.

Now, earlier today, a 50-year-old man was rescued. He's in critical condition. He's being treated at an area hospital. Yesterday, there was a rescue as well.

So, today some of the hope they have is, we understand, turning into fear because of this. Environmental groups are warning of a toxic chemical stored at that site which may have been sent airborne in this blast.

Will Ripley is live in Tianjin, China. So, Will, first of all, let's talk about these rescues. We're talking about Wednesday, so four days later and they're still able to find people who are alive buried in rubble.

What are you learning?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They found two people who were alive. They found a 50-year-old man, as you mentioned, who was just some 50 meters from the epicenter of the explosion. And you've seen the video, you know how powerful it was. It was really was incredible.

They also rescued a 19-year-old firefighter. He survived for 21 hours laying on the charred ground. He has horrible burns, chest injuries, a crack in his skull. But both of those men are expected to be OK.

But as you mentioned, you look at the power and what the explosion did to this, which was a temporary offense building at a construction site near the blast zone. There's diminishing hope anyone could have possibly survived the two huge fireballs that ensued.

Ninety-five people are missing, 85 of them were firefighters, Christi, who are trying to respond. Those fighters, by the way, the government now confirming they did use water in the initial response to the fire. And number of the different chemicals, not only very toxic, but could actually have an explosive reaction when they're exposed to water. That's the big fear now when it rains, chemicals that when airborne and if landed in areas like this, if they're exposed to water, what's going to happen.

PAUL: Yes. And were provisions made by the government there to try to assess that and protect people?

RIPLEY: Well, I have to tell you, you know, the Chinese government sent their premier, the number two in command to the crash zone today. And they made a point of showing him on camera not wearing a safety mask. They say they've been checking the air and they say the air is safe.

And I do have to say the air quality has improved from this time yesterday. They are trying to down play the risks here.

And again, there is major concern because you saw how far debris was thrown from the explosion. I mean, the force of an explosion that could do this to buildings and those chemicals that were likely being stored with criminal negligence, that they would have shot out and landed around the area as well.

But yet the areas continue to be open. People are walking around. We're able to get access to places like this.

And we're obviously keeping a very close eye. We have heavy duty hazmat mask and suit with us in case we encounter anything. And certainly again, the big fear -- the water from any rain.

[07:45:02] And there's actually word that the government has been trying to take precautions to prevent rain in this area, even going so far as to shoot substances into approaching rain clouds to disperse.

So, even though that's not being said publicly, there's great concern here about water interacting with chemicals that maybe around here for kilometers.

PAUL: All right. Will Riley, we so appreciate the update. Thank you, sir.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, we'll have more on the plane that disappeared over Papua province after a quick break.


PAUL: We're following breaking news this morning. A passenger plane carrying 54 people, including two children and three infants is missing right now in a remote area of Indonesia. You see the map there.

BLACKWELL: Yes, take a look. The plane took off from the city of Jayapura. That's on the country's northern coast. It was supposed to be about a 50-minute flight. But 30 or 35 minutes in, air traffic control lost contact with that plane.

PAUL: And let's focus here on the problem that they're having right now. I mean, you've got families wondering where this plane is. It was only ten minutes from its scheduled landing, and now, they're getting word that they can't find the plane. It's night there now.

Where it disappeared is in a densely forested region that's very mountainous, we understand. We're told bad weather has moved into that area, so officials say they will resume the search tomorrow because they did, they say, initially start searching and they had to call that off.

BLACKWELL: Aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is joining us now.

[07:50:01] She's on the phone.

And, Rene, I know you've been working this morning to learn more about this airline that operated this plane. What have you learned?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Right. And not only the airline but actually, Victor and Christi, the aircraft itself. We do know based very reliable data base that this aircraft is about 27 years end. We also know that this airline in July of 2007, the E.U. added it to its list of banned carriers.

Usually, you'll see that situation if it's concerned about safety standards or concerns about regulatory environments in that country where the aircraft is from. So we saw that happen in 2007. And what essentially what that means is that airline is barred from operating in European airspace. So, we do know that about the airline.

This same database is also -- and, again, as officials are saying, that they're still classifying this as a missing plane until they get out there and they're able to search and find evidence of the aircraft. But the same database is saying that in 2009, there was another airline that was flying along the same route when that plane unfortunately crashed into the side of the mountains there.

And we heard David talk about the rugged terrain. So, that's the issue, of course, they're going to be focused as well. Of course, as you mentioned, they were not far from their destination and just passing over that region. So, that will be a focus for search and rescue when the sunrise comes up tomorrow.

BLACKWELL: All right. Rene Marsh, thank you so much for calling in and getting us the latest on this airline, Trigana, and we're learning about this plane. We'll take a quick break, and we'll be right back.


[07:55:40] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: And the breaking news this morning coming to us from the province of Papua. A plane carrying 54 people disappeared on its flight from Jayapura to Oksibil. We're expecting a news conference at the top of the hour in Jakarta, and we'll get you the very latest and the highlights from that as soon as we get them in.

PAUL: Meanwhile -- that's a plane that disappeared. So, again, we'll get you posted on that.

But let's talk about Donald Trump because he's heading back to New York where he's going to report to jury duty tomorrow. Do you think he's going to get picked for a jury? Just asking. But he's being responsible. It is his duty after all. BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: This, of course, after a quick trip to the state fair where he arrived in really dramatic fashion. He skipped out on a soapbox. Huge crowd scrambled to see the GOP front-runner as he went through the fair apparently trying some fried foods, gave some chopper rides. Mr. Trump also spoke with media.

One of the major topics he addressed was Hillary Clinton's e-mail server controversy. Listen to this. What he said to CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a criminal problem. I mean, it's going to be a very serious problem for her, Jeff. It's going to be about as serious as it gets. You look at General Petraeus and he was destroyed over a much lesser event. So, I think she's got a very big problem.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: But his e-mails were marked classified. Hers were not.

TRUMP: Well, I think some of his were. And it seemed like they took a lot of markings off. I mean, somebody's got a big problem and it looks like it's Hillary.

ZELENY: Any worry Republicans could overplay their hand on this e- mail controversy?

TRUMP: Look, it is what it is. It was a terrible thing she said, which is actually a very foolish thing. There was no reason to do it. And she's got a big problem.


PAUL: CNN's Eric Bradner is on the ground there in Iowa.

Eric, you know, I'm wondering what the lingering feeling is there this morning after everything this weekend?

ERIC BRADNER, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Hillary Clinton was dismissive of that Donald Trump attack, talking about the partisanship. But as she was leaving this became the Donald Trump show. His helicopter flew in, emblazoned with the Trump logo and there was a massive circle around him.

It was not just people who are interested in politics, regular people who are ignoring other candidates, ignoring all the other candidates just to get a glimpse of Trump. Now, whether these people will actually participate in the Iowa caucuses, which is only a small fraction of the state's registered voters, remains to be seen, but Donald Trump put on a show unlike any other candidate here.

PAUL: All right. Eric Bradner, appreciate the update. Thank you so much. It makes you think in 2008 when everybody thought Obama was a rock

star, and everybody wanted to see him. Trump's already kind of garnering some of that.

BLACKWELL: He certainly has the crowd around him. He's certainly that.

Let's talk more about Trump's campaign, Clinton also at the Iowa state fair, with CNN political commentators Ben Ferguson and Maria Cardona.

Good to have both of you.


BLACKWELL: Hey, Ben, I want to start with you on this policy paper expected to be released this morning from Donald Trump about immigration. It seems like he's starting to put meat on the bones that people have been asking for.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think it's a smart move by his campaign, because you can only be a rock star for so long without having to actually it up. And I think that him saying not only am I willing to spend a billion dollars in this sucker, but I'm also going to put out some campaign policies and papers, is a warning to other GOP candidates, which is saying you'd better play nice because I might spend a lot of money and ruin your day if you get the nomination as a third party candidate.

So, I think it's a very smart move by his campaign to do this. It's a big threat, and I think he's willing to back it up.

BLACKWELL: So, Maria, this weekend there's been reaction to the comment made by Clinton about joining Snapchat, saying that those messages disappear all on their own -- kind of a reference to the e- mail controversy. And there are people who are questioning if that was a smart move that -- should she have made that comment? What do you think?

CARDONA: Well, I don't think any of those people who were questioning it were the Democrats who were expecting red meat from her, and that's exactly what they got. She got a very good reaction to that comment.

That's exactly what the Iowa state fair is about. And, look, it also gave her the opportunity to underscore the partisanship that has become this whole issue about e-mail.