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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Japan Airlines Jet Bursts Into Flames Landing at Tokyo Airport; South Korean Opposition Leader Lee Jae-Myung Stabbed in Neck; Today: Trump Set to Appeal Colorado & Maine Ballot Removals; 35+ Aftershocks Hit Japan After 7.5 Magnitude Earthquake. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 02, 2024 - 05:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024.

And we begin here with breaking news. A Japan Airlines plane bursting into flames as it touches down at Tokyo Haneda Airport. That's according to the national broadcaster, NHK.

CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Tokyo.

Will, this just happened. Information is still coming here to CNN. What can you tell us at this hour?


Well, the headline here is that all nearly 400 people on board this plane, as horrific as these pictures look, they walked away. They evacuated safely after this, what appears to be some sort of a collision between two planes on the runway at Haneda Airport, about 20 minutes from where I am here in Tokyo. This is an airport that sits right next to a Japan coast guard base. It's right in the same area, right along the bay.

And what national broadcaster NHK is reporting, and CNN's working to confirm independently, is that as this Japan airliner from the power, which is a popular tourist destination this time of year in Japan, which is why the plane was packed with 367 passengers and 12 crew members, it touched down at Haneda Airport right around 6:00 local time. It was actually scheduled to touch down about 20 minutes earlier, however the plane might have been running a bit behind schedule.

So, as this plane touched down, there's actually video of this. You can see a second plane kind of coming from the same area, and then the two planes had a collision, burst into flames, and then separate it apart. They're large a learning basically was with its engine touching the ground, basically a fire that began with the engine in the back of the plane, as well. It continued to spread in a matter of minutes. The entire plane was engulfed.

But, what Japan airlines is saying is that the crew members were able to safely get everybody on board, all the passengers, all the crew members, around 400 people off that plane safely. Now, the Japan coast guard, according to NHK, they are still trying to determine the status of the half a dozen or so people who are on board that much of smaller coast guard aircraft. We're working to confirm details about that right now.

We don't know their conditions, but it looks a very bad for both planes, frankly, and the fact that this pact airliner, this Japan airliner, an Airbus A350, which such a dramatic fire, just minutes after this instance got all the passengers of. They've been posting videos on social media, Kasie, from inside the plane where you can see the engine on fire. You can hear people in the cabin realizing that something had gone terribly wrong, obviously reeling from the jolt of the impact with another aircraft, and yet, they were able to somehow pick themselves up from that, get off the plane, get off safely.

That is a truly extraordinary and certainly a piece of good news that Japan badly needs right now, especially after the earthquake that rattled the west coast of central Japan just hours after ringing in the New Year and the death toll from that earthquake continues to tick up. The fact that this story has a different ending, Kasie, is something that people across Japan can certainly take comfort in during these difficult times for this nation.

HUNT: Indeed. And, Will, I just want to let everyone know that the pictures we are watching right now of this airliner burning our live pictures. So we are actually seeing firefighters try to get this blaze under control. What a relief to know that those passengers are off this plane safely.

Will, can you give us an idea, my understanding is that the airport is now closed. How much traffic comes through Haneda airport, and how many people will see something like this and think, wow, that could have been me?


RIPLEY: Well, I flew in a couple of hours ago from the other airport that serves the Tokyo metropolitan area, Narita Airport, which is about a 90-minute drive from here.

Haneda Airport is right nestled in the city, it is actually very convenient and it's usually my airport or choice when I'm flying into Japan and working from this area. It's also where our CNN Tokyo Bureau is located.

I've flown into Haneda Airport many times. It is busy, it's a lovely airport, and they are very meticulous about safety at Haneda, which is why they are going to be really digging into what exactly caused this. Was it some sort of miscommunication with the air traffic control tower? How did these two planes, in such a safety conscious nation that has never even had a single fatality for the bullet trains that they've been running since the 1960s and has one of the best safety records for public transit in the world, despite the earthquakes and all the other natural disasters that Japan has to endure, how did this happen that these two planes ended up in the same place, colliding in such a violent manner?

Those are going to be some very hard questions that Japan is going to be asking. If past disasters tell us anything, Japan will do everything they can to learn exactly what happened from this and take very, very detailed and specific steps to try to prevent it from happening again. That's how it works here, that's why it's so safe here most of the time.

And, frankly, it's probably why the passengers and crew of this packed airplane that has now in flames as we speak, we're able to get off safely. Because at a really, when you get on board as Japanese airline, that safety video. They are in the aisles, all airlines are diligent when it comes to this, but they are particularly so here in Japan. And it seems as though those efforts certainly would have paid off. This is an extraordinary situation that is unfolding before our eyes tonight.

HUNT: That's why we should all stop and listen to the flight attendants as they tell us what to do here.

Let's listen, briefly, we have a little bit of sound from inside this airliner. Let's take a look at what it was like in there.


HUNT: Very brief there. Someone clearly posting this to social media. You can see the lights seem to be dim it in the cabin, I'm not sure if that is smoke, but it certainly appears that that might be the case.

Again, we should underscore, as well as been purporting for us this morning, that all of the passengers and crew, according to Japan Airlines, were evacuated safely from this plane.

Here's a little bit more video of what may have happened on landing here. You can see out the window there of this plane as it touches down at Haneda Airport.

Will Ripley, is there anything else that I -- you are learning now as we start to see pictures and video come in on social media of what we're seeing here? And just reminding everyone that we are looking at live pictures of this blaze at this airport in Central Tokyo.

RIPLEY: So the person who posted the video that you just saw, one of the things that they've said on social media as they thought they were going to die. Yet, granted, that is a very short clip. So we are, of course, already at the airport, hoping to speak to whatever passengers we can. We have a crew over there.

Because one of the questions that arise in my mind, what was it like inside the cabin? That short clip, that video, you didn't hear a huge amount of panic. But, of course, the video stopped abruptly. Actually, the rules are in Japan, you're not supposed to ever record on your phone during an evacuation. I remember that from the safety video that I watched on my flight, which landed just a few hours ago at a different airport, at Narita Airport. This incident happened at Haneda Airport, which is probably my favorite airport in Tokyo. The two major airports that service Tokyo, because it's so convenient.

And for these passengers that were coming from Sapporo, likely a lot of international tourists on that flight because Sapporo in northern Japan is always a popular place to visit, especially during the winter months. People love to ski, they love to go and take tours of the Sapporo bureau, they love it to experience the beautiful nature up there and basically these flights will come from Sapporo to Tokyo, Haneda, one of the major airports that they transit and move on to other international destinations.

So, it will be interesting to see who is on this plane, where did they come from, what are their stories? A lot of questions for these people who really survived to something that looks on the surface like it would have been unsurvivable. Yet they are all, almost 400 of them, they are all alive, Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah. Thank God.

All right. Will Ripley, thank you very much for your reporting. We will let you get to it. We have a lot of interviews to do. We'll come back to this as it warrants.

But now we want to go to another dramatic developing story. The leader of South Korea's main opposition party is in the hospital with suspected damage to his jugular vein after he was stabbed in the neck during a news conference. We do want to warn you that this video is disturbing.



HUNT: Terrifying.

Officials say Lee Jae-Myung was bloodied about conscious after the, attack which happened during a tour of the construction site for a new airport in the southern city of Busan.

CNN's Marc Stewart is live for us at South Korea's Seoul National University Hospital.

Marc, good morning to you.

The opposition leader is said to undergo surgery to repair the damage from this attack. What's the latest on that?

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kasie, a bit of a mystery right now. We were told by hospital officials that there would be a news conference once Lee wrapped up surgery and was recovering. But now, that news conference has been canceled. We don't know what that means, as you mentioned, there was concern

about his jugular vein, there was concern about bleeding. But at this point we don't know the specific circumstances as to why this news briefing, this news conference has been canceled.

But as you have seen, this video is a very dramatic. And Mr. Lee is a very well-known politician here in South Korea. He is a household name, although, at times, controversial. He's now the target of an investigation, but he is the leader of the opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party. He has been on the campaign trail helping other politicians gain prominence as South Korea enters its general election. As we have seen in this video he was walking with a group of people, some reporters nearby, when a man in his 60s went up to the side of him, ask for an autograph, and then was attacked by a knife.

We saw one image of him lying on the ground with someone applying what appears to be a handkerchief to his neck, perhaps to quell the bleeding. As far as this man in his 60s, this accused suspect, we don't know his name, we do not know any kind of motive of what would perhaps prompted this.

As far as this election, this is a very contentious time in South Korea and both parties have condemned this attack. They don't want this to be politicized, Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah, political violence anywhere is something we need to pay attention to.

Marc Stewart, thanks very much for that report.

Still ahead here, what's behind Israel's decision to withdraw troops and expand the war in Gaza at the same time?

Plus, hundreds of names associated with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein could soon be revealed.

And, five big fights of facing Congress as lawmakers return to work this week.

We'll have all that more. Back in just a moment.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Donald Trump's legal team facing a very busy day ahead. Trump lawyers expected to appeal to decisions to remove him from primary ballots in Colorado and Maine.

Colorado secretary of state yesterday underscoring her support for the decision by that states Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JENA GRISWOLD (D), COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it is important to note that we are only here because Donald Trump incited the insurrection. He has created the situation for himself. There is a clear language in the Constitution, in Section Three of the 14th Amendment, for this exact situation. I believe he is a threat to democracy, the right to vote in the future stability of this nation.


HUNT: Trump's lawyers are also set today to file an appeals briefing in his federal election subversion case after District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump's claim of absolute immunity for acts taken as president.

Let's bring in Christian Hall. He's national politics reporter for "Bloomberg".

Christian, good morning to you. These things need to be settled pretty quickly and that is affecting how things are proceeding, but looking ahead this is going to be an issue in states across the country.

Where -- what kind of pressure is the Supreme Court under on this and what are the politics look like?

CHRISTIAN HALL, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: I mean, yeah. We get to first take a look at the historic nature of this decision. Never before have we seen a presidential candidate being deemed ineligible to participate in a primary election ballot.

But, as you just said, I mean, the Supreme Court is going to be the end-all be-all on this subject. If Trump and his advisers, which they have signaled that they plan to do, if they decide to appeal the decision, then I think the courts will have to make their final move. I think we have to acknowledge that the Supreme Court has not been the friendliest towards Trump in his election-related cases, but you also have to realize, look, there is a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Three of the justices on the Supreme Court or former Trump appointees.

So, I mean, we will have to see what is going to happen in this situation.

HUNT: So, Christian, I mean, this sets up, you know, the former president has kind of made a -- he has built this case running on the idea that the system is rigged. I certainly have spoken privately to a lot of Democrats who are concerned about these moves to throw him off the ballot, with the idea that, perhaps, it lends ammunition and potentially makes the situation more combustible than it might be otherwise.

We are at the start of what's said to be a very contentious election year. I mean, what are you hearing as you kind of report this out about what -- how it could impact the discourse overall?

HALL: I think the concerns that you are hearing from Democrats are legitimate concerns. I mean, I have traveled to the early primary seats all over the country, to be honest, and when I talked to voters, specifically those who are supporters of Donald Trump, these things really motivate them to come out more and more to the polls. I mean, they believe Trump's narrative that this is some Democratic objective to -- a witch hunt, right?


And it motivates his supporters.

I talked to a few and they do say, look, we would love to have a candidate who has a little bit must drama following, them but the overwhelming majority of Trump voters believe that this is a witch hunt from Democrats and it excites them even more to get to the polls.

HUNT: All right. Christian Hall of "Bloomberg", thank you very much for being with us this morning, I appreciate you rolling with a very busy breaking news morning today. Appreciate it.

HALL: Thank you.

HUNT: And as I just noted, we are following breaking news, because there is an airliner on fire right now in Tokyo. We're going to have another live report from the scene, just ahead.

And, what Russian Leader Vladimir Putin says he will never do in his New Year's speech. We'll bring you that.



HUNT: Quick hits across America now.

Officials in California say they have arrested a man and his 10-year- old son after the boy shot and killed another child using a stolen gun he found in his dad's car. Deputies say the boy bragged his father had a gun before the shooting.

Court documents naming dozens of victims and associates of Jeffrey Epstein could be unsealed as soon as today. The billionaire was indicted on charges of running a sex trafficking ring in 2019.

2024 starts with one very lucky person who won the Powerball jackpot. The lottery says one single ticket worth about $842 million was sold in Grand Blanc, Michigan, a suburb of Flint. It is the second largest jackpot ever won in the state.

And, more than 35 aftershocks of a 2.5 magnitude or greater of his Japan after the powerful earthquake struck its west coast New Year's day, triggering multiple tsunami warnings. Officials removed all tsunami alerts last night.

Our weatherman, Derek Van Dam, joins us now with the latest on this.

Derek, happy New Year. Good morning. What is the latest there? DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, it's a tumultuous

start to 2024 across Japan, to say the least, with all the breaking news coming out of that country today. But we are still following this mega 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck yesterday and we have course have had so many aftershocks that have registered about 2.5 magnitude or higher. We've had roughly a 38 since the original 7.5 struck, again, occurring late last night and overnight.

That forced, of course the tsunami warnings. We are recovering this across the Ishikawa prefecture that is in the western side of the country should. You can see some of the resulting damage left over from the tsunami that brought in a wave of water into Suzu, Japan, in that area. We anticipate more aftershocks to continue, a potential here for some larger aftershocks, maybe 5.5 or 6.5 or greater.

Unfortunately, to make matters worse, there is some wet weather or even some higher elevation snow anticipated across, near and around the epicenter. That is something that we're monitoring, as well.

And, hey, you know, Casey, I'm not sure if you felt this, but we've got to -- we got to mention this. This is a far cry from what happened in Japan, but nonetheless, it is noteworthy. There was an earthquake just northwest of D.C. overnight, actually occurring about 12:51 in the morning.

People in the D.C. suburbs actually reporting that their house and windows shook for roughly 10 seconds when this 2.3 magnitude earthquake struck the region. It was a rather shallow depth.

I'm curious, Kasie, you live in D.C., I believe. Did you feel it?

HUNT: I do. I was fast asleep, thank God.

VAN DAM: Good.

HUNT: Wow. That is a very rare event in this area. I remember when we had one in Virginia, that, of course, did some damage to the Washington monument, and the National Cathedral. Other places here in town.

I hope everyone is okay here. Weatherman Derek Van Dam, thank you for bringing me local news this morning, in addition to that. Be well, my friend, see you tomorrow.

VAN DAM: You, too.

HUNT: All right. Right after this, we're going to have a live report on our breaking news. Flames on the runway after two planes collide in Tokyo. We're told that passengers on an airliner involved managed to escape.

We're going to have more details on that, up next