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Flight 370 Families Told 'All Lives Are Lost'; More Landslides Possible, 108 People Missing; Tuesday Search Called Off Due to Weather

Aired March 24, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: breaking news in the Flight 370 mystery.

Grieving families lash out at the Malaysian government after its announcement that everyone on the plane is lost. One group claims delays and possible cover-ups by authorities may amount to murder.

Search crews are doubling down in the Southern Indian Ocean. Could they be close to finally find a scrap, a scrap of debris? We're live from the search zone.

And will we ever know what happened inside the cockpit? We're nothing new details on the investigation into the pilots and interviews with their families.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get to the breaking news this hour, a new more targeted round of searching for Flight 370 as day breaks over the Southern Indian Ocean. Malaysian authorities now sound more sure that the plane crashed in that area and search crews are ready to zero in.

There are critical questions that still need to be answered after the Malaysian government's gut-wrenching announcement that all 239 people on board are presumed dead.

Our correspondents are covering the story all around the world as only CNN can.

First, let's go to our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, for the latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Malaysia Airlines has told families in a simple text message that -- quote -- "None of those on board survived," now that Malaysian officials believe that the flight ended over the Southern Indian Ocean.

The crushing grief and the anger of the families unleashed after they finally got an answer, but certainly not the one that they were hoping to hear.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): In a last-minute press conference, a grim-faced Malaysian prime minister confirmed the worst fears of family and friends of those on board Flight 370.

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: According to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.

SCIUTTO: For loved ones, the news was simply too much to bear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My son, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter are all on board. All three family members are gone. I'm desperate.

SCIUTTO: Malaysia Airlines sent them a simple text message with this stark conclusion: "None of those on board survived."

RAZAK: For them, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking. I know this news must be harder still.

SCIUTTO: Seventeen days after the 777 jet vanished, the conclusion came not from new evidence, but deeper examination of the clues experts have been poring over for days.

An exhaustive and unprecedented study, the British communications company Inmarsat concluded that pings received from the plane in its final hours placed it, without question, over the Southern Indian Ocean, ruling out the northern arc that had at one point been considered a possible path for the plane.

CHRIS MCLAUGHLIN, INMARSAT: If you look at the plots that we have using our recent adjusted techniques, we can say that the most likely route is the south and the most likely ending is in roughly in the area where they are looking now.

SCIUTTO: The new satellite data comes as search aircraft spotted possible debris in the southern corridor search area, including at least one item that appears orange. Satellite images over the weekend from France and Australia also captured much larger pieces of possible wreckage.

An Australian ship sent to recover them, however, has so far found nothing.


SCIUTTO: Now that the search is concentrated in the Southern Indian Ocean and the area there is getting smaller and smaller, China will likely send more ships, including one with a data recorder locator, as this mission moves from rescue to recovery.

The U.S. Navy is also sending a locator as well as an underwater vehicle which would used in the search. And we have learned that the Malaysian government and the airline will have other news conferences tomorrow with hopefully more news -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much. Now some new details about the investigation on the ground. Malaysian authorities say they have interviewed more than 100 people as they struggle to try to figure out what went wrong on board Flight 370.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has got new information.

What are you learning, Pam?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Malaysian authorities saying today it could take up to a year before the investigation is complete and they say so far there have been full cooperation from the more than 100 people they have interviewed, and that's including family members of the passengers and the crew.

But with few clues and no wreckage, investigators continue to dig deeper into the backgrounds of the pilots, Zaharie Shah and Fariq Hamid, looking for anything that could help explain Flight 370's disappearance.

Tonight, back in the U.S., forensic experts and outside consultants working with the FBI continue to retrieve from both pilots' hard drives, including files apparently deleted from Shah's home flight simulator in the weeks before the plane disappeared. Sources tell CNN nothing they have found so far from the interviews and background checks indicates foul play.

CNN is learning however when Flight 370 took off for the very last time, it was the co-pilot's first time at the controls of the Boeing 777 without supervision and only his sixth time flying that jumbo jet. But, Wolf, we spoke with experts who say the fact that Hamid was right out of training may actually be a good thing because he had all of those checklists fresh on his mind and that the focus should be less on his technical skills and more on the pilots' psychologist state.

As investigators continue to probe that angle, they're also still looking at hijacking, sabotage, personal problems of the passengers and the rest of the crew, and tomorrow we may learn more about where the investigation is heading as we're told the inspector general of the police in Kuala Lumpur is expected to speak.

We'll be following that angle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Pamela, thanks.

We're also told a groundbreaking process was used to analyze satellite data, data that led Malaysian authorities to announce that Flight 370 crashed in the Indian Ocean.

Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here with this part of the story.

What do we know and what are we now learning about the final path of this airliner?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we should say the satellite analysis and this data has never been used for an investigation like this before, but today it is shedding new light on where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is, and for the first time it's also helping us to rule out certain theories about what happened on board.


MARSH (voice-over): It's one of the most remote places on Earth and new calculations say this is where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went down. The plane flew south before crashing into the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia. This new information is helping plot the flight path.

STEVEN CHEALANDER, FORMER NTSB MEMBER: If this is indeed the crash site, it does sound like that the flight path is directly from the original turn after the last broadcast and it stayed pretty much on a straight line.

MARSH: If the analysis is accurate, after Flight 370 turned left, it then flew for six hours. By the time it reached the Southern Indian Ocean, it was running out of fuel.

Steven Chealander, a former NTSB board member, says certain theories are now more likely.

CHEALANDER: It sounds to me like there was an incapacitation in the aircraft and that possibly they just flew it out on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.

MARSH: With the new data off the table, the possibility the plane went north or any chance it landed somewhere safely. Chealander says a fire on board is less likely, too.

CHEALANDER: I think if you had a fire that was that severe that it took the airplane out, it would probably have burned the airplane to a point that it couldn't fly long before running out of fuel.

MARSH: Experts also say reports the plane was flying at 12,000 feet are hard to accept if it was at that altitude for a long time. Flying low and changing altitude burns fuel faster and would make it difficult to get to the South Indian Ocean.

So how did Inmarsat, the satellite company behind the data, conclude where Flight 370 crashed? They measured pings from similar planes and compared them to the missing aircraft, but that required some assumptions, like a speed of about 400 miles an hour, the autopilot speed.

MCLAUGHLIN: I would love to hope that we're wrong, but the fit with the southern ocean model and with southern ocean pings indicates the southern ocean.


MARSH: Well, at this point we are still only talking about probabilities and we cannot draw any conclusions until we actually find a piece of this plane. We still have no clue what happened on board.

Of course, the data recorders would paint a picture as to what went wrong.

BLITZER: Yes, like one of these. This is a flight data recorder that emits that small pinging noise. Hopefully, they will find it at some point.

Rene, thanks very much.

China says it is sending more ships to the Southern Indian Ocean. A new day of searching for Flight 370 is about to get under way.

CNN's Kyung Lah is joining us from Perth, Australia, right now. That's the staging area for the search.

I take it planes are getting ready to take off, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If they are not in the air already. You can see that the skies are lightening up behind me and we have generally gotten notification from the Australian government after they have taken to the skies.

Here's how the day breaks down. The first planes take to the air just about now. They are followed and staggered throughout the day, so they can cover as much of the sea as possible. We have seen every single day more and more planes taking to the air.

This becomes now today trying to bring the evidence home, yesterday, a good day. The Australian plane as well as the Chinese plane did spot in two different locations suspicious debris. Now, that debris has not been brought on to any sort of sea vessel. That vessel has got to be able to bring it back here to Perth, so it can be analyzed, so again another day of hunting, trying to bring some of this evidence home -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah in Perth, we will check with you.

Let's check in with our panel right now. Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is still with us, along with our CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien, "New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt, and former naval oceanographer Van Gurley.

I want to play for you an exchange I had earlier today with Chris McLaughlin. He's the senior vice president of Inmarsat. That's the British satellite company that gave this analysis to the Malaysian government. Based on that analysis which was never done before, that kind of analysis, the Malaysian prime minister says the airliner is in the Indian Ocean.

Malaysia Airlines says that everyone on board, 239 people are dead. Here's the exchange that I had with McLaughlin.


BLITZER: Do you know for sure, without any doubt whatsoever, that the plane went into the Indian Ocean and that there are no survivors?


There are a number of jumps there. What I can tell you, for definite, is that as the operator of the world's Global Maritime Distress Service for the last 34 years, we have a lot of experience. We feel the sadness of the families, and we do feel for them at this point. But if you look at the plots that we have using recent adjusted techniques, we can say the most likely route is the south, and the most likely ending in roughly the area where they're looking now. But, of course, nothing is final.

We're not earth observation satellites. We're data satellites. So it will require a lot of different skills, a lot of different people, not least the naked eye, to finally confirm what happened to 370.

BLITZER: Because as you point out, most likely is not necessarily perfect. And for the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines to inform the family members that their loved ones are dead, that is a jump from what Inmarsat, your company, has told them, based on what I'm hearing you say now.

MCLAUGHLIN: We have originally, on the 11th, put forward to the investigation a possible north-south route.

Our engineers and scientists have continued working on the data and comparing it with other similar flights from Malaysia, to lead to us conclude it was the southern route. I would simply point out that the Malaysians are obviously stating that there was on seven, seven and a half hours of fuel, and that if the plane went to the south, it most likely went into the Indian Ocean. I'm not an expert. I'm just simply saying that does look the inevitable experience.


BLITZER: Miles O'Brien, most likely for these families is not good enough.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No, it's not. Most likely is simply not good enough. I suppose he's correct to say most likely, but, you know, these loved ones need a more definitive answer.

BLITZER: I'm not blaming Inmarsat. I'm just questioning why the Malaysian government, the prime minister of Malaysia would be so definitive and Malaysia Airlines would send out a text message to the families saying, they are dead.

O'BRIEN: This has just been mishandled on so many levels and the way the families have been treated is really scandalous in my view.

It's just a horrible situation for them to be in. The other question that I have is about the range. If it was in fact down at 12,000 feet, and that's the last information we have through our sources here at CNN, the range would have been reduced by on the order of 50 percent.

Maybe it didn't get quite as far as that, but the fact of the matter is, I still wonder if they are searching the right place.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Van Gurley, because you know this Indian Ocean. You understand what is going on.

Why is it so difficult to find these pieces of debris, whatever it is that the Chinese, Australian, the French, they have seen images of something -- why is it so hard to find it so you can determine once and for all that this is wreckage from the airline?

CAPT. VAN GURLEY (RET.), FORMER NAVY OCEANOGRAPHER: Well, everybody is focused on the number of days.

The real metric to watch is the number of hours of search time. These aircraft take four hours to get out, four hours to get back with only one to two, maybe three hours on station to actually search. We think of a 24-hour period and why haven't they covered more when in fact three hours is what the limit of one aircraft and its endurance.

And then it's a matter of once the aircraft think they see something, getting a ship there to positively relocate it and identify it. Right now, there's only one ship that's in the area because of the remoteness of the area and that is what is slowing things down.

I would say, though, given the fact that the Australian P-3 saw several clumps of objects that were suspicious yesterday, my assumption -- I don't have for a fact -- my assumption is that they dropped marked buoys on those positions, so as soon as daybreak gets there, the Australian ship that is down right now can get to that location and see what is really there.

BLITZER: Because it is daylight now. The sun is coming up.

So my assumption is, Michael, because you're doing a lot of reporting on this, is that the Malaysian government must know more than simply this Inmarsat analysis, which you heard the vice president of Inmarsat basically saying they believe that's where it is, most likely, blah, blah, blah. But they can't say 100 percent.

But they probably have more information from the U.S. government, from the Australians, Chinese, or whomever.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I don't know if that's true, because the Malaysians from the beginning haven't had a lot of credibility, because they didn't say anything in the first week and then they came out and said we think it's foul play and then they kind of went back and tried to correct the record or whatever.

And now they come out with this and I think people are very skeptical of it and say, and they say, why should we believe it? Why should we go along with that? The prime minister did not really explain why we should believe it. He said, yes, there's information or whatever, but now the media had to go to that company to get the explanation from them and it didn't come directly from the prime minister.

It makes you wonder, did they just want to sort of bookend this? Or as you say, is there other information? I'm not really sure. BLITZER: It sounded to me -- and I hope I'm wrong -- that the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines simply wants to throw this under the rug and move on, because they are under so much enormous pressure so they have come to this conclusion, the plane is in the Indian Ocean and no one survived.

MARSH: Wolf, it doesn't make it any easier considering that this technology, the satellite data that they are analyzing has never been used for this purpose before.

Everyone is right to be skeptical about how accurate it is. That being said, I spoke to many people who say, look, this -- it does allow us to narrow the search, so that we're not wasting resources in the north, if that's not where the plane is. However, not really a game-changer until we start to find this debris and then we can answer some more questions about what potentially may have gone wrong on this plane, because from that debris you're going to be able to pull out a lot of other information. So narrows the search a bit, but not quite a game-changer.

BLITZER: Miles, even let's say the prime minister of Malaysia is right, the plane is in the Indian Ocean, we don't know why the plane is in the Indian Ocean, whether it was a mechanical problem or whether there was a human being that forced it to go there.

O'BRIEN: There are so many aspects about this that are just opaque to us and right for starters, I would love to see what this magical Doppler shift technology is that Inmarsat has come up with.

We're talking about basically simple handshake between a device that was turned off and a satellite. It's not tracking capability really. They are doing a good job of trying to come up with an arc. But I feel like they're investing technologies that I would like to learn a little bit more about.

This goes along with everything else in the investigation. We still haven't heard conversations between the controllers and the crew.

BLITZER: I don't know why they are not releasing that audio.


BLITZER: They should release that if they really want to be transparent.

We're hearing more about the co-pilot. Mike, what are you hearing about the co-pilot? The investigation, I know the FBI is involved in looking at the hard drives of the co-pilot and the pilot and everybody else.

SCHMIDT: They want to talk to the family members as well.

BLITZER: Haven't they done that already?

SCHMIDT: Yes, but the FBI wants them to go back and do it again.

BLITZER: You mean just the Malaysians have spoken? FBI has not talked...


SCHMIDT: No, no, no.

But they are still looking at this hard drive, and what we do know is they haven't said anything back to the Malaysians saying, hey, we found anything. That tells you something. They haven't really found anything yet.

Here we are two weeks out and we don't really know much more about anything on that.

BLITZER: Why couldn't they wait, the Malaysians, Malaysia Airlines, for some wreckage, some tangible evidence to show the plane is in the water before making this announcement and based on this analysis, which may be a brilliant analysis? But you heard from Inmarsat, they can't say it's perfect.

GURLEY: Well, that's a central question that I can't answer.

Why the decision was made today to make this public announcement certainly indicates to me that someone has a lot of confidence in the method. As Miles said, I would be very interesting in understanding how Inmarsat came to their conclusion in being open and showing their methods and their data, so that they can get, as we would call in the scientific community, peer-reviewed.

BLITZER: "The New York Times" reported about a week the plane went up to 45,000, went down to about 23,000, went back up to 30,000.

CNN reported over the weekend it went down to 12,000. You can't do that on autopilot. Someone is going to be either under force or willingly has to do that. What are you hearing the latest on the altitude shifts?

SCHMIDT: Well, the thing that the Americans thought when they saw this, we are kind of skeptical at this, because we're relying on Malaysian military radar.

BLITZER: Was that the source for the altitude shifts?


That's where it was coming from. They said, hey, this doesn't make any sense. I still -- to them, they said, look, if it was doing all of these things and then it continued on, like they said it would, that doesn't add up to them. And they have not believed that from the beginning.

BLITZER: What do you think, Miles, about that? Because if it's on autopilot, it's going to go steady at 35,000 or whatever.

O'BRIEN: Once you set it, that's what the autopilot does.

But you have remember this military radar is not very accurate. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Malaysian military radar.

O'BRIEN: Yes, military radar.

What we're talking about is radar that is designed to find bad guys and give the air force an idea of where in the sky to find them. It's not as accurate. Now, 45,000 feet, down to 12,000 feet, that's quite a wide spectrum. And that would imply that somebody was changing altitudes.

BLITZER: Or there was a struggle in the cockpit or something.

O'BRIEN: Forced to do it or doing it because they want to do it for some reason.

BLITZER: That's one of the mysteries that has not been -- do you want to add?

MARSH: Well, just one last thing.

While we don't know how accurate this satellite data is, simply because it's so new, we should also point out that it's right in line with the area that NTSB says we should be searching this area and they are really good when it comes to figuring out where we need to be zeroing in on and that kind of falls in line with that, if that makes anyone feel any better about we're now focused in the southern corridor.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

Still ahead, anger and disbelief. Flight 370 members are demanding proof, proof of the Malaysian prime minister's announcement that their loved ones are lost.

What kind of legal charges might be leveled against Malaysia Airlines or the Malaysian government? One group is throwing out words like cover-up, even murder.


BLITZER: To our North American viewers, "CROSSFIRE" won't be seen tonight, so we can bring you more of our special report on the mystery of Flight 370.

Many family members are having a very, very rough time accepting today's announcement by the Malaysian government that everyone on Flight 370 is now dead. One group is accusing the Malaysian authorities of a cover-up and even worse.

CNN's David McKenzie is joining us from Beijing, where most of the passengers are from in China. Two-thirds of the passengers are Chinese.

David, some very serious accusations are being leveled by the Chinese against the Malaysians. Tell us what they are saying.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these families are angry. They have been frustrated for days, Wolf.

And now with this news coming in, some of them getting it via text message from the Malaysian authorities that this plane went down. They are reacting with anger and also pointing fingers. One group of families saying through their statement that, in fact, the Malaysia government and the Malaysian authorities are murderers, that they effectively killed the people on board because of the mishandling of this whole incident.

That doesn't necessarily represent all of the families, but it does show the level anger and the hatred almost in this process. Through this evening, there were terrible scenes here in Beijing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They made this announcement today. Is it really true? What is their proof? First of all, they have not been able to confirm any suspected floating objects. They simply made this announcement today, telling us no one survived, everyone sank into the ocean. What's your proof?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our relatives were on that flight. This wasn't an accident. Instead, it was caused by the Malaysian government. They are covering up something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's been 17 days. They simply just give us this result. How can people bear this? The Chinese government of ours should come forward and clarify and tell us. My mother, this happened on the 8th. She died on the 9th. Tell us, how do I live?


MCKENZIE: Wolf, some of the people there who were reacting to this were taken away on stretchers and to ambulances in the area, just really horrifying scenes really of anguish in this time.

And the people there, some of them not all reacting this violently. Many of them also just quietly coming out of the conference room, their hands on their faces, shedding a tear, resigned to the reality that they have lost their loved one, but certainly a portion of them not accepting this, want to see concrete proof that this plane went down in the sea.

And they are certainly pointing the fingers at the Malaysians at this time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The Chinese Foreign Ministry, the Chinese government not necessarily accepting the Malaysian statement that everyone is dead.

They issued a statement, David, as you know, saying they want more information, they want all of the information and they are anxious to get it. Clearly, they are frustrated that they are not getting everything that they want.

MCKENZIE: Well, they are and they have pointed it out several times over this two-week period, Wolf, that they are not happy with the way that this has been handled by the Malaysians.

Also, you have to consider that the Chinese government is trying to point the finger to Malaysia to deflect any criticism of themselves. So it's all kind of creating this very unfortunate level of anger, frustration. It's all boiling over.

And you have got to feel for those families, all hundreds of them really stuck in this hotel in this kind of cauldron. As they get this information, this terrible information for them. They just haven't been able, really, to process it at this point. And some of them feel they are political pawns -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David McKenzie in Beijing for us, thank you.

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and our aviation analyst, Peter Goelz. He's the former managing director of the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board.

You know, he mentioned, David -- I'm going to read the statement. These are from Chinese family members. "Such despicable acts not only emotionally and physically fooled and destroyed us families of the 154 Chinese passengers, but also misled and delayed search efforts and wasted most precious life-saving time. If our 154 relatives aboard lost their lives due to such reasons, then Malaysia Airlines, Malaysian government and Malaysian military are the real murderers that killed them."

Our heart goes out, Peter. You -- when you were working with the NTSB and dealt with families, and you often dealt with families, you understand their pain?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I do. I mean, I've done family briefings. I did it for five years at the NTSB, and they are extraordinarily difficult. And what we learned was that both transparency and giving them facts from day one are critical. And unfortunately, that has not happened in this case.

BLITZER: Did the Malaysian government do the right thing today, based on this Inmarsat satellite data, if you will, announcing that everyone is dead?

GOELZ: Well, I can see what they were trying to do, but it was kind of ham-handed again. They did not preface this; they did not build up to it. To drop it on the family members like this -- and there is no new information today. When you look at it, it's the same information repackaged.

BLITZER: You understand why the Malaysian government made this announcement today, based on this analysis, as opposed to tangible evidence, if you will, wreckage from the plane?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't. I mean, obviously, they have been improvising, to put it charitably, as we go along, and this -- this had the feel of an improvisation that certainly didn't settle or resolve anything.

BLITZER: And the Malaysian Airlines, in a text message to family members, in a text message to family members, they said this: "Malaysia airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH-370 has been lost and that none of those onboard survived. As you will hear from the next hour from Malaysia's prime minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean."

You're our legal analyst. So what kind of legal recourse do these families have, assuming their loved ones are dead?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there is a treaty called the Montreal Convention which says that, basically, in any plane crash, the carrier, the airline, has to pay each person. the family each person, $175,000. But that's really just the start of the process.

Beyond that, individual family members, the estates of the people who died, can sue if they can identify fault. Was this the fault of the airline? Was it the fault of the airplane manufacturer? Was it the fault of a subcontractor? I mean, that's where things can get very complicated and, of course, that conversation, much less the litigation, can't begin until we know what happened.

BLITZER: Which country's court will have jurisdiction over lawsuits that inevitably will emerge?

TOOBIN: Think about the complexity here. You have a Malaysian airline, mostly Chinese passengers, an American manufacturer in a plane that apparently -- apparently -- went down near Australia in international waters. Most likely, as I understand it, the litigation would start in China and Malaysia, but there will certainly be an effort to bring some of the cases to the United States, because that's where the deepest pockets are and that has the most plaintiff-friendly litigation.

BLITZER: Because Boeing is the manufacturer of the triple-7. And there are, what, about 1,100 triple-7s flying.

TOOBIN: Exactly.

BLITZER: This is a very popular aircraft, a very safe plane. You're familiar with this plane. If it was a mechanical problem that caused the plane to go down, is Boeing doing anything to check that right now? I assume they're trying to go through a lot. I haven't heard that any planes have been put on standby as we -- as we investigate.

GOELZ: Well, you know, Boeing's hands are tied in terms of public statements, like all participants in the investigation, because of the way in which it's structured.

But the answer is yes. They are going through their own investigation. They dedicate tremendous resources. It's their flagship product. BLITZER: But no -- but they're not standing down. They're not recommending to airliners out there, don't fly this plane for now as we investigate?

GOELZ: No. There's absolutely no evidence to indicate that that's the correct decision. They have state in the past, if there's a problem, they'll stand their fleet down and fix it. But in this case they've got nothing.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

We've all seen the satellite pictures showing what may be debris -- repeat, may -- be debris. So why is it so important for searchers to find just one -- just one confirmed piece of the missing plane.

Our aviation correspondent, Richard Quest -- there he is -- he's standing by. We'll join him in a moment.


BLITZER: It's day 18 in the disappearance of Flight 370, and even though Malaysia's prime minister now says Flight 370 went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, plenty of questions remain about the information used to reach that definitive conclusion. China, in particular, wants the Malaysians to share all of their evidence.

Let's bring in CNN's Richard Quest, who's watching this story for us.

So what do you make of the headline that, based on the Inmarsat, the British satellite company's data, the Malaysian government says , basically, is dead right now? Is that enough to tell these families that their loved ones are gone?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I think you have to take it as more than just Inmarsat. Inmarsat looked at the data, the pings. They also looked at the fact -- and they went much further in the triangulation.

They then passed that evidence on to the double-A-I-B. That's the British equivalent of the NTSB. Enormously experienced. And there was a vast or very large peer review of what they said.

And then they went on and said, "Look, we've got no evidence of any radar from any country in the northern corridor. Not from Thailand, not from Myanmar, not from Kazakhstan. No one has said they saw it." So it's not just one piece of evidence that they had. They took the data. They then mapped it on top of everything else they knew.

And yes, Wolf, I think you do come to a point when you have to say, "This is our best information, and it takes the story beyond a reasonable doubt."

BLITZER: And they couldn't have waited a few more days to see if they found any wreckage? QUEST: And upon that, Wolf, you and I would have been the first people to have been screaming, "How dare you not tell us, that you sat on information that could have..."

BLITZER: No, no, no. On that I disagree, Richard. I would have said, "Here's the report that Inmarsat gave us. We're going to release it publicly. Richard Quest can read it. Miles O'Brien can read it. Here's the footnotes. Here's the index. Go through the whole thing." This is what they're telling us.

We are not yet ready, though, to conclude 100 percent definitively that everyone is dead, because even Inmarsat, the senior vice president, told us earlier today that most likely this is the conclusion, but they can't reach it 100 percent.

QUEST: Fair point, Wolf. I think that's something that the Malaysian -- the Malaysian prime minister will ultimately have to live on his own conscience if it's proved to be incorrect.

And looking at the statement today from the Malaysian prime minister this morning, it seems -- and looking -- and speaking again to Chris McLaughlin, they are fairly -- well, they're more than fairly confident. They are saying that the level of integrity in the information is such. And bearing in mind they may not find objects and debris for days if not weeks, if not months, that it was the right conclusion to come to that conclusion.

BLITZER: What's the latest on this notion that the plane went up to 45,000 feet, went down to 23,000, went back up to 30,000, eventually was at 12,000, all the altitude shifts? Because if it's on autopilot, if it's a catastrophic failure, it's on autopilot, you're not going to see those kinds of shifts.

QUEST: No, and the 45 to 25 or 23 has not been confirmed. Sources tell CNN that the plane went down to 12,000 and then backtracked over the Malaysian Peninsula. That arguably was down to prevent any traffic coming in the opposite direction.

But then it would have had to go back up to 35,000. Because, Wolf, one pilot I asked specifically, if you're flying at 12,000 feet, how much is your range, which is how much is your fuel burn increased? He says by about 40 to 50 percent.

So at 12,000 feet, it would have never got anywhere near the south Indian Ocean, and we don't know on that point. That is one of the key issues that has to be confirmed by the Malaysians, by the investigation. Did it actually go down? Because as you rightly point out, going down and going back up again, that does show human intent, not autopilot in command.

BLITZER: Are we any closer, Richard, to figuring out whether a human being caused this plane to disappear or some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure?

QUEST: That's a very, very tough question. I would say that it starts to move -- no. I would say we're not. And from my -- from my way of thinking -- and I've been in the middle all the way here, and I've been looking one way or the other -- there will be those, Wolf, who will say this clearly shows "X." They'll be those who say clearly shows "Y." I still say it doesn't show either. It merely shows the tragic ending of this particular flight.

BLITZER: We may never know, unless they recover this flight-data recorder. I have one here on the desk. It's the so-called black box here, even though it's orange, which can be more easily spotted. And that pinging noise is still going on, that beeper noise, for another, what, how many, 17 days, 13, 14 days now?

QUEST: Twelve -- I mean, 12 to 17 days, if it's on a good ratio. Yes, the best hope now is that they retrieve objects which turn out to be debris, because from that they will be able to work out where the main debris field should be and even those individual pieces of debris, as Rene Marsh was explaining earlier, even they will be able to give little clues if they're the right piece from the right part of the plane.

We have moved considerably forward in the last 24 hours. Make no bones about that. We've moved forward in terms of where the plane will be and might be. We haven't moved forward in understanding why or how it got there.

BLITZER: That's absolutely true. Richard Quest, we'll continue this conversation. Thank you so, so much for all your excellent reporting.

We're going to continue to watch all the developments in Perth, Australia, and in the Indian Ocean, where it's already Tuesday morning. Planes will be heading and they've already started, by the way, heading off to the Indian Ocean to resume the search for Flight 370.

Another search is under way in Washington state where at least 108 people are now missing. Missing after a deadly landslide. Now officials worry there could be new landslides. We'll have a live report.


BLITZER: And we may never know unless they recover this flight data recorder. I have one here on the desk. It's a so-called black box, even though it's orange, which can be more easily spotted, and that pinging noise is still going out, that beeper noises for another, what, how many, 17 days, 13, 14 days now.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, 12 to 17 days on a good ratio.

Yes, the best hope now is that they retrieve objects which turn out to be debris, because from that they will be able to work out from where the main debris field should be and even those individual pieces of debris, as Rene Marsh was explaining earlier, even they will be able to give clues if they are the right piece of the right part of the plane. We have moved considerably forward in the last 24 hours. I don't think that -- make no bones about that. We've moved forward in understanding of where the plane will be, might be. We haven't moved forward in understanding why or how it got there.

BLITZER: That's absolutely true. Richard Quest, we'll continue this conversation. Thank you so, so much for all of your excellent reporting.

We're going to continue to follow all of the developments in Perth, Australia, and in the Indian Ocean where it's already Tuesday morning. Planes will be heading and they have already started, by the way, heading off to the Indian Ocean to resume the search for Flight 370.

Another search is under way in Washington state where at least 108 people are now missing -- missing after a deadly landslide. Now, officials worry there could be new landslides. We'll have a live report.


BLITZER: We're certainly keeping our eyes on the latest news coming in from the search for Flight 370.

But in Washington state, there is deep concern about new landslides as searchers and emergency officials try to locate 108 people reported missing after a deadly landslide this weekend. We know eight people are confirmed dead but some of those missing might be alive.

Let's go to CNN's George Howell. He's on the scene for us with the latest -- George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf -- so, you know, we know that earlier this morning they announced a very robust plan to go in there with search dogs and people on the ground to search the land for survivors but they pulled that plan back because geologists say the land is just too unstable. For many of the families here it is another day of waiting, wondering. And we know the number of unaccounted for has risen significantly.


HOWELL (voice-over): It's unclear exactly how many people could still be trapped in this square mile of mud and debris. But as each day passes since this cliff gave way, the uncertainty of not knowing is the worst part for people like Caroline Neal.

CAROLINE NEAL, DAUGHTER OF MISSING DAD: My dad is really a quick thinker. And he's someone that takes action in an emergency.

HOWELL: Her 52-year-old father who works as a plumber was on a service call in the area when the wall of mud slammed through in seconds.

NEAL: If he had any warning at all, we just have to think he is somewhere and he's safe and they just can't reach him right now. HOWELL: The number of missing has shot up dramatically, as officials try to compile reports from social media or even personal Web sites the families may have set up in search of loved ones. Investigators are now looking into 108 reports of people unaccounted for.

JOHN PENNINGTON, SNOHOMISH COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR: It is a consolidated list. In some cases the list is very detailed. It is John who has brown hair, blue eyes and live in this particular neighborhood. And a lot of cases it is a name like Frank. I met him once. I think he lived over there.

HOWELL: A little more than 48 hours since the massive mudslide, the rescue effort intensified Monday with crews probing the ground with electronic equipment to search for survivors. By midday they had to scale the operation back because the ground was still unstable. So far, they have not found any survivors.

CHIEF TRAVIS HOTS, SNOHOMISH COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We are still in a rescue mode. I want to let everyone know that the situation is very grim. We haven't -- we are still holding out hope that we are going to be able to find people that may still be alive. But keep in mind, we have not found anybody alive on this pile since Saturday.

HOWELL: As it happened on a Saturday, officials believe more people were at home instead of being away at work. We learned today they are searching an area of more than 100 properties that were in the slide zone, 49 of those lots had some sort of structure on the property like homes, vacation rentals or RVs.

Officials say 25 of the homes were occupied full time and 10 of them occupied part-time, the others unknown. The majority of those homes either damaged, buried in several feet of mud or destroyed.


HOWELL: Now, we know obviously that this is still being called an active search and it is not called a recovery operation at this point. But, Wolf, keep in mind -- we know that the ground is still very unstable. The search on the ground has been halted until geologists give them the OK to go back.

BLITZER: George Howell on the scene for us. Thanks for that update.

We're getting some new information on the search efforts for Flight 370. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news, the search operation for today has been cancelled. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority just released a statement saying that because of bad weather, they have suspended all air and sea search activity today.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says it has undertaken a risk assessment and determined that the current weather conditions would make air and sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew. Therefore, AMSA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, has suspended all sea and air search operations for today due to this weather conditions.

They say they have consulted with meteorologists. They say weather conditions are expected to improve in the search area in the next few days. They say search operations can be expected to resume tomorrow if weather conditions permit.

In the meantime, no search activity today going on. It's already Tuesday morning in the search area in Australia and in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, the search activity for wreckage from that airliner will not happen on this.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.