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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
State of Emergency: Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
Aired September 4, 2005 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: State of emergency. Our continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I am Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Anderson Cooper is in New Orleans and will be with us in just a moment.
Well, there he is right now, but first, Anderson, we're going to have the latest developments in "Mission Critical."
There's been more trouble in New Orleans. The Associated Press reports police there shot eight gunmen today, killing at least five. It reportedly happened on a bridge connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. The Associate Press says the gunmen had fired on Army Corps of Engineers contractors crossing the bridge.
And more aid is pouring into the hurricane disaster area. The U.S. Navy is delivering boxes of supplies from Pensacola, Florida and 95 critical medical patients have been evacuated from New Orleans in the last 24 hours and volunteer doctors are converging on the region to care for the sick but red tape is keeping hundreds of others out.
Texas is filling up as thousands of hurricane victims are still entering that state. This was the scene in Lubbock today. The governor is making plans to have some of the evacuees airlifted to other states offering help.
And New Orleans officials hope to have two large pumps working by tomorrow to start pumping water out of the city. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also bringing in pumps and generators from around the country to help in the de-watering process. It's expected to take up to 80 days.
Well, now that you have the big picture, Anderson can give us a better idea of what's been happening just in the last couple of hours down there in New Orleans. Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Carol, thanks. Yeah. There's a curfew in effect here on Bourbon Street. A street which would normally be packed with revelers at this point at this time of night especially on this weekend. It is really not the case now. There are a few people, residents who have stuck through the storm. You can't come into the city if you don't live here at this point. You need badges.
There is still 50 percent of the city underwater. Parts you simply just can't get to and there is no sense of exactly how many people have died and may still die in the City of New Orleans tonight. CNN's Nic Robertson has been working this story for quite some time now today. Looking at the urban search and rescue, and also at where they used to have large numbers of people who are displaced. Nic joins me now. Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Anderson. One of the things I did this morning to try and get a bigger picture, if you will, on what are the priorities in the search and rescue, what are the priorities in terms of security. I went to meet with Mayor Ray Nagin. I talked to him about what his priorities were and one of the top things for him at the moment, he says, is to make sure that he can get his police and firefighters rested and give them counseling. He says this is very, very important for them at this time, but, of course, one of his biggest priorities he says is getting the city drained.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Mayor Ray Nagin's optimism is coming back. A few days ago he was slamming the federal government. Now ...
RAY NAGIN, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: We can rebuild and we can rebuild something and this is where the president got me choked up. He said, Mr. Mayor, I got it and we're going to make sure you get the resources to rebuild New Orleans into a shining example for the entire world.
ROBERTSON: I caught up with the outspoken New Orleans mayor as he heads out to marshal those resources.
NAGIN: We have to drain the city. We have to get these dead bodies out of the water and out of homes.
ROBERTSON: How many bodies are there?
NAGIN: I don't know, man. There's thousands.
NAGIN: I think so, thousands.
ROBERTSON: With the resources now arriving, his wishes are becoming action. Scores of boats search for dead and the living. Helicopters are also aiding the rescue and recovery and get the best vantage to see the scale of the problem.
Mayor Nagin takes a ride in one every day. He couldn't be more worried about what he sees.
NAGIN: I want to make sure these dead bodies get out of the water, because mosquitoes are going to start to take effect, their larvae are hatching as we speak, they are going to bite these dead people and they are going to spread diseases, not only in Louisiana but all over the South.
ROBERTSON: A new drainage plant may also help stop the spread of disease once levees are fixed in the next few days, he says, the city could be drained in weeks, not months, as originally feared.
NAGIN: I would think within a week or two weeks we should have the city drained.
ROBERTSON: Just two weeks, maybe?
NAGIN: I'm hopeful. There's another technique we're looking at using where we're going to have these dredging pipes, they're 48 inch pipes and we're going to drape a couple of those over the levee systems and pull the water out while we're pumping.
ROBERTSON: He has other priorities, too.
NAGIN: I've got some firefighters and some police officers that have been pretty much traumatized and we've already had a couple of suicides so I am cycling them out as we speak, but we have a problem.
ROBERTSON: No place to send them and no money to do it with.
NAGIN: You know, running into a little bureaucracy about what FEMA can pay and I said, screw it, I don't care what they pay. I'll pay it and then we'll figure this out later. But I have to get these men out.
ROBERTSON: As we talked, he tells me he won't forget those he holds accountable for all the deaths after Katrina passed. Those he thinks didn't act fast enough, although he won't name names now. The fire hasn't gone out of him, he says, he just doesn't want to pick a fight right now.
NAGIN: This should never happen again. That's going to be my mission come hell or high water. This should never happen again.
ROBERTSON: You've had hell and you've had high water.
NAGIN: We've had hell. We've had high water. We've had death. The spirit of death has been over this city for seven days and it's got to go. Okay?
ROBERTSON: I asked him how many thousands of people thought might be out there. He said, look, perhaps there were 50 or 60,000 people that didn't leave the city. What could it be? Five percent, 10 percent, even 20 percent of those. At this stage, those kind of statistics, Anderson, point to many, many thousands and as you were seeing and as I'm seeing out here, the recovery and rescue of those people and the bodies as well is still very much an ongoing process.
COOPER: Yeah, Nic. Thanks very much. I mean, yeah, as the waters are falling a little bit, and they are falling a little bit. About 50 percent of the city is underwater. At one point it was some 80 percent or so but those bodies are being discovered because the waters are being drained out of the homes. Right now you can't even go to people's homes to find out if they are alive or if they are dead and frankly if we haven't heard from them by now and they are in their home, it is likely they are dead and when that water falls that will become very clear indeed and those numbers - well, we'll have to wait and see. That will not be a pleasant day when we start to see that.
CNN's Rick Sanchez is over by the airport down here in New Orleans. Rick, what's the latest where you are?
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I tell you, Anderson, just a little while ago we talked to Maurice Brazil (ph), he is in charge of the medical side of this massive operation taking place here at the airport. He told us in the last five days they've seen more than 50,000 people here at this sight. Now we have the opportunity to talk to the man who is in charge of the actual airlift on the military side of this operation.
He is Colonel Richard Walberg from the U.S. Air Force. He's good enough to take some time to talk to us. I know you're a busy man. Did you ever imagine that you would be handling an operation like this one? What can you possibly compare it to?
COL. RICHARD WALBERG, U.S. AIR FORCE: Oh, absolutely, I can imagine it because I lived through it in Saudi Arabia in 1990 at Daharan (ph) Air Base, only that was a different nation, we were getting ready to go to war then. This is a humanitarian relief for one of my own cities and my own country, but the scope of the operation, I've been there and done that.
SANCHEZ: A lot of people are wondering whether you got the call soon enough. When did you get the call? When were you actually told to be prepared to be here?
WALBERG: Okay. We watched the storm coming. The storm cleared this airport and this city on Tuesday, and my God we were on the ground on Wednesday about 9:30 at night local time here, starting to offload support and relief supplies to help the city. I would say 24 hours is pretty timely.
SANCHEZ: Colonel, were you told before the actual hurricane hit to be prepared?
WALBERG: Oh, absolutely. We were watching the storm, weren't sure whether it was going to track across the Atlantic or come across Florida like it did. My guys came in here on Wednesday night. On Wednesday night I was in Cairo, Egypt, last Wednesday night. I got the call that I would be coming home. Thursday I left Cairo. Saturday afternoon I fell in on top of my guys here.
SANCHEZ: So you're satisfied with the effort thus far.
WALBERG: I absolutely an satisfied with the effort thus far. I think it's it - I heard some of the criticisms, I understand when you're watching your neighbors and your house and everything you love and know get destroyed. I understand that. The flip side is it takes some time to be able to move hundreds of thousands of people out of a city and I think the response was on time. SANCHEZ: One of the criticisms that's been leveled is because perhaps we have so many troops and so much of our hardware overseas, we haven't had enough to be able to deal with this issue. What do you say to those who say that?
WALBERG: Well, I would say simply I came here manned to run about 50 airplanes a day through this airport on the airlift side, not just the choppers. Army's running that piece. I pick them up and move them and yesterday I ran 114 missions. I'm not looking for work.
SANCHEZ: Do you feel like you've had enough hardware, enough aircraft, enough people to do the job.
WALBERG: I absolutely think I've got enough people to do the job, yes sir.
SANCHEZ: Can you give us a sense of where the people are going and how you make this decision as to where you send them after you take them through the process in here?
WALBERG: Certainly, but that decision is made with FEMA working with the surrounding states, because as I understand it, and again, I got here on Saturday, Texas, they worked with the governor of Texas, they started filling up refugee camps that the governor opened up and went through and they filled all those camps up. As they were filling up, they were negotiating with other governors.
I know last night they had Ft. Smith up in Arkansas, the governor of Arkansas, we are sending 15,000 people to Ft. Smith.
SANCHEZ: Richard Walberg, thank you sir for taking time to talk to us.
WALBERG: Yes, sir.
SANCHEZ: Certainly appreciate it.
There you have it. The situation from the man who is in charge of this massive undertaking here at New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport. Anderson, let me send it back to you, now.
COOPER: Rick, thanks very much. It is surreal when you see all the different law enforcement agencies working here. We just got passed by a convoy from the Border Patrol. They are now working in New Orleans, trying to help keep the order here and there is, no doubt, a lot more order here in the City of New Orleans. There is a heavy police presence, a National Guard presence, to the extent that they are here and we're seeing helicopters in the skies all the time, but of course there is still a lot to be done and there is still a lot of scared people in their homes right now in this grand old city.
Carol Lin is joining us now from Atlanta. Carol?
LIN: Hey, Anderson, it is interesting that you saw the Border Patrol because we here at the CNN Center got a notice that the Border Patrol was going to be offering up some video that they are taking in these search and rescue operations, so we may have a better chance of seeing some of the operations, the rescues on the ground as they try to get into some of these homes that you were talking about. Pretty good stuff.
We'll be right back with you. When we return, our very own Christiane Amanpour, who is a woman who has covered every major war in the last 15 years will give her take on the Katrina disaster.
And did race play a role in who was evacuated from the Crescent City? I'll ask former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. Many of her family members are missing.
Our other big story today, looking at the life of Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin makes it pretty easy to understand what's at stake.
COOPER: And welcome back to this special edition - our special coverage of the continuing disaster here in New Orleans and all along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi and points around. One of the things that so angers people here is that basically a week into this disaster, and that's what it is, it's a disaster, no doubt about it.
A week into it, loved ones - people still cannot tell their loved ones that they're alive. There's no phones and there's no systematic way to get a message to a loved one. People come up to TV crews. We've been putting them on the phone. People handing messages, saying just say my name and that I am alive. We give them our satellite phones.
It is incredibly frustrating, the lack of information, and you hear people on talk shows saying, well, you know, they can log into our Web site or they can call our 800 number. You hear that from the Red Cross. Well, there is no electricity, there is no phone, there are no Web sites.
An ambulance moving through the streets of the city. We have gotten very used to hearing the sound of ambulances.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour joins me now. She has been here for quite some time. This is not the New Orleans we know.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, you're saying people are very frustrated about not being able to find the people they are looking for, people in parts of the city that's still underwater. We had an incredible situation yesterday.
We started off in Baton Rouge. We were having breakfast early this morning. There were two young girls there and they recognized us from CNN and they were telling us about having lost their family and because CNN and other organizations had been offering help, we felt the least we could do was offer them help because they expect it, of course.
And we brought them here because they wanted to look for their family. So they rode with us into town, they may not have gotten in otherwise, and we rode around trying to find seven members of this young girl's family. This is the story.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Lily Nguyen (ph) is looking for her in- laws. She left New Orleans before the flood, and now, for the first time in a week, she has come back and tried to find her husband's mother, father, sister and his two brothers.
You know, I feel real guilty. I didn't know that they were missing.
AMANPOUR: Lily's in-laws, Vietnamese-Americans, insisted on riding out the hurricane, but Monday, when it hit, was the last time they spoke.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They went into the second floor and said the water is still coming up and they lost contact.
AMANPOUR (on camera): This was before the levee broke?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now, six days later, access to the Lakefront church her family took refuge in is still blocked.
(on camera): All of this is underwater. Look at that.
(voice-over): We asked two men sitting on their waterlogged porch how to get there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know there's a lake all the way to the end. That's where my parents live.
AMANPOUR (on camera): It doesn't look good, does it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Worse, we can't get information, either from the police or from the sheriff.
(on camera): Do you know anything on Lakefront? What's the situation there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't say. Other than possibly outings (ph), I can't say.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): When we see a body on the road, Lily wants to know who is it? Is it Vietnamese? Is it a man or a woman? But nobody knows.
A few truckloads of National Guard troops pass by. Some helicopters ferry supplies overhead. Most residents have been evacuated now, but those who remain are very much on their own.
With Lily in tears, a firefighter explains there's still at least 12 feet of water in her in-laws neighborhood.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where can we go to get information?
AMANPOUR: He can't tell her where to get more information. Staring at the watery obstacle in her way, Lily says somehow she'll try to come back with a boat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to know. I need to find them.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Well, incredibly, and it really is incredible, just before we came on air, we had a phone call from Lily's family and they told us around the time we were looking for them, for these family members, that they had been rescued, flown out to Alabama and are now on their way to meet the other members of the family who have been evacuated to Houston, to Texas. So that really is a happy ending.
COOPER: So they're all okay.
AMANPOUR: Yeah, they're okay and it shows that there's still hope and even people who haven't been heard of for a while may still be okay and there's still rescue operations going on.
COOPER: That's certainly true and if anybody is listening in and has lost hope about their loved ones here, that is not something they should do. As any organization will tell you, it is simply just very hard to communicate and very hard to get information across and so if you haven't heard from a loved one, it doesn't mean the worst has happened.
You've got to stay hopeful. There is still many days ahead. Christiane, thanks very much for that report. We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back.
LIN: It's an accusation the Bush administration vehemently denies. But some black leaders insist is true. That race played a role in the government's slow response to the crisis. Well, today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called that claim untrue. Before attending a church service in a hurricane-damaged community outside Mobile, Alabama, Ms. Rice says, Dr. Rice said, and I'm quoting here, "Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race."
Well, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun has a much different take on the matter.
FORMER SENATOR CAROL MOSELELY BRAUN, (D) IL: The racism was a sin of omission. It wasn't that people intended to do this to black and poor people, it's that they don't see them, they don't see poor people, they don't see black people, they don't think about them, they don't care about them and the result was that they were left to their own disasters in a situation that was a natural disaster and a national tragedy.
LIN: Well, joining me now on yet another perspective on this question, Alexis Herman. She was the secretary of labor under President Clinton and has been personally affected by the tragedy in New Orleans. Madame Secretary, I am so sorry to hear that - what, about a dozen family members at last count are still missing. Do you have any word on them?
ALEXIS HERMAN, FORMER SECRETARY OF LABOR: Well, we received word just last evening that one cousin and her two year old and four year old child were rescued.
LIN: Oh, hallelujah, that is great.
HERMAN: They'd been in an attic for five days with water up to the rooftop, so we ...
LIN: That is amazing. Christiane Amanpour just did a report also on a woman who thought that she had lost her husband's whole family and they were found in Alabama, so hope still remains.
HERMAN: We hope so.
LIN: And yet every time you see a helicopter out there or a National Guardsperson or the Coast Guard searching now, so many people on the ground, as you know, Madame Secretary, are asking where were they four days ago, five days ago, when my mother, my brother, my sister could have been underwater.
And when you see those faces outside the New Orleans Convention Center, a sea of black faces, poor black faces, it's an obvious question, whether race played a part in the government's response. What do you think?
HERMAN: Well, for me, because I am still so personally frustrated and angry that we've got still 10 missing family members, I have to say that it's difficult to separate out the question and the poorest of the poor who were left behind in New Orleans. The people who could not get out, the people who were trapped couldn't do so in large part because many of them didn't have the resources.
But you know what, Carol? At one level, I don't know if it matters what you think about the race question being a factor here or even what I think. The fact of the matter is those survivors believe this. They believe that race was a factor. Many people around our country today, black and white, people around the world, believe that race was a factor and so we have to deal with the perception as much as the reality.
LIN: Well, what do you say to people? It's as if they're saying, you know, Mike Brown from FEMA was sitting in a room or the homeland - security - Homeland Security was gathering together saying, you know what? We don't have to hurry because look who's down there. I mean that is an unrealistic portrayal.
HERMAN: That is an unrealistic portrayal and I think that we're going to have a lot of time to dissect what did and did not happen in this horrific situation. Obviously, a lot of questions have to be answered. I personally hope the president is going to appoint an independent commission.
LIN: So you think this needs to be investigated on a national level.
HERMAN: Oh, I definitely believe that we have a lot of questions that have to be answered but right now I want us to keep the focus on continuing to rescue the people who are still left in New Orleans, not just because of my own family members but hundreds and thousands of families that are still missing. We've got to care for those survivors that have been sent to places all around the country and we've got to give out (ph) the business of rebuilding this great city.
LIN: And I know you feel those people's pain. Will you please let us know as soon as you hear about the rest of your family?
HERMAN: I certainly will, and thank you.
LIN: All right. We hope to give people the good news. Thanks very much, Alexis Herman.
Well, earlier today, I asked mega-preacher T.D. Jakes (ph) if he believes race played a part in the government's response. He has some definite opinions and this is a man who doesn't like to get political. That interview coming up on CNN SUNDAY NIGHT at 10:00 Eastern.
All right. Inside New Orleans security. Our Deborah Feyerick goes on a ride along, she is going to go live from Baton Rouge. You'll see the scenes straight ahead.
HARRY ELLIS, LOOKING FOR WIFE (video clip): My name is Harry Ellis and I am looking for my wife Marilyn (ph) Ellis and the rest of the family. I'd like you to know I ma alive and I don't know where I'm going.
ALVIN SEYMOUR, LOOKING FOR CHILDREN (video clip): I'm Alvin Seymour. I'm talking to my children. We're fine. I'm okay. I'm with your mother. She is fine. She is okay. I'm trying to get in touch with you. Get in touch, I don't know how, but I'm looking for you.
JOHNNY PATTERSON, LOOKING FOR FAMILY MEMBERS (video clip): My name is Johnny Patterson. I am talking to my mama and my cousin and all of you all there. You all come down and get me? I'm tired, I'm hurting, the children (ph) (inaudible) all week. Please help us. Please, come by, help us.
LIN: Well, last night here we were covering the aftermath of Katrina when we heard the sad news that William Rehnquist, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (sic) had passed away from complications from thyroid cancer.
You have a situation here just as confirmation hearings are about to begin for John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the president of the United States may be facing, now, two openings on the U.S. Supreme Court at a time when he was dealing with a national disaster.
CNN's Elaine Quijano now at the White House. Elaine, how is the president at this time going to deal with this question of who should be chief justice?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's still very much an open possibility at this point, Carol. No indications yet from the White House publicly about which way the president might be leaning, but you're right, this is a very busy time for the White House, addressing now a number of major developments. It was late last night that President Bush learned of Chief Justice Rehnquist's death. This morning after the president and first lady attended church services, Mr. Bush praised William Rehnquist from the Roosevelt room.
The president also saying that he would like to name a successor soon.
GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT (video clip): There are now two vacancies on the Supreme Court. And it will serve the best interests of the nation to fill those vacancies promptly. I will chose in a timely manner a highly qualified nominee to succeed Chief Justice Rehnquist.
QUIJANO: Now, Tuesday confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin for Judge John Roberts. As you mentioned, the president's choice to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, but with Rehnquist's death, the Senate Judiciary Committee could postpone the hearings. Unclear whether or not that will take place.
Now, President Bush has dozens of options available to him which could affect Judge Roberts' confirmation process. One of those the president could press for Roberts to fill Rehnquist's spot as chief justice while Sandra Day O'Connor continues to serve, but that could make Roberts' confirmation battle even more contentious, but whatever the president decides, it comes at a time when his attention is divided among several pressing matters.
Today, in fact, at the Red Cross had quite appearance (ph) just minutes after the president made remarks on Chief Justice Rehnquist. He headed to the Red Cross here in Washington, making a public appeal, once again, for donations for Hurricane Katrina victims. The president very much trying to send the message that the government is on top of the situation. He'll head to the region again tomorrow to visit Mississippi and Louisiana. Carol?
LIN: Elaine, thank you very much.
Well, the chief justice was one of the most conservative jurists in U.S. history and during his 30 plus years on the high court, he nudged it even more to the right. Experts say judicial restraint is part of his legacy so let's bring in senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin in New York.
Jeffrey, I really benefited from your expertise. I know that you have been watching this case very closely and waiting and wondering what might happen with Chief Justice Rehnquist's health.
In his passing, now, where do you think it's going to happen? There are so many options. Do you think that the hearings will go forward for John Roberts?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I do, actually. Senator Hatch, senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee came out very strongly today in favor of having the hearings go forward.
One of the things that congressional hearings do is delay makes trouble. Delay creates opportunities for people to get organized in opposition. They are ready to go with these hearings. These hearings are scheduled practically to the minute. Chairman Arlen Specter has said that he expects the entire hearing to be over by Saturday, which is very short by Supreme Court nomination hearing standards and I think they want to get John Roberts confirmed.
If they want to nominate him later to be chief justice, they can do that, but I think they want to get this train moving.
LIN: Well, what are the chances that Sandra Day O'Connor would rescind her resignation?
TOOBIN: Well, I think it's important to remember what she said. She has not resigned. She has said that she will resign when her successor is confirmed. So there is only one vacancy, the chief justice's seat at the moment.
She is prepared to hear a few more cases if necessary so it is very far from a crisis for the Supreme Court right now so I think John Roberts will very likely be confirmed as her successor but in the event that that there some hold up, she is there and she is fully capable of doing the job.
LIN: So do you think the president in the meantime, is there a possibility that he may ask Sandra Day O'Connor to be chief justice.
TOOBIN: You know, it's possible, but I think it's very unlikely. Being - people run for president with the hope of naming Supreme Court justices and President Bush is very committed to overturning Roe v. Wade, to fostering what he calls the culture of life. Sandra Day O'Connor was the vote that saved Roe v. Wade in 1992. She is not in tune with his judicial philosophy, though she is a very admired person.
I think he is going to pick someone like John Roberts, perhaps John Roberts himself, but who is a conservative in the mold of Antonin Scalia, in the mold of Clarence Thomas, not like Sandra Day O'Connor and someone who can serve a long time, not a 75 year old woman who has obviously said she wants to quit right now.
LIN: Well, and obviously the president does still have a short list with other names on it but we'll have to discuss that on another day. Jeff, thank you so much.
TOOBIN: Okay, see you, Carol.
LIN: We're going to go back to the state of emergency. For days we have seen the aerial pictures of New Orleans looking more like a lake than a city. But how did this happen? We know it was a natural disaster, but could so much of it have been prevented? When we return, our Tom Foreman has the latest on the water, the rescues, and the controversy.
Plus the doctors at Charity Hospital in Downtown New Orleans worked through the flooding, power outages and violence to save lives in that hospital. What was it like? Well, two doctors finally got out and they are ready to talk about their experience.
Ahead, you're watching CNN LIVE SUNDAY.
LIN: You could have walked through this New Orleans neighborhood a week ago but now it takes a boat to navigate the flooded streets. This part of the city is empty but officials fear thousands of corpses are left behind inside homes like the one behind that dog.
And incredibly, some people who didn't die and remain in New Orleans are refusing to evacuate. Many are determined to wait things out in what remains of homes and businesses.
Now those pictures courtesy of Anderson Cooper and his team in New Orleans. Let's go back to him now. Anderson, incredible pictures and the people who would choose to stay behind ...
COOPER: Well, Carol, there are a lot of people who are afraid to leave their homes because of looters. That's in a lot of cases why they didn't evacuate before the storm. They just didn't want to abandon their homes in poor neighborhoods where their homes might get looted and they feel like, look, they've lasted this long. They can maybe stick it out but I mean, some of the pictures you saw I was just in this flat bottomed boat in the Ninth Ward.
And it's so disturbing. Floodwaters haven't really receded there. They are still very deep, well up to your neck in some parts and there are dogs that are alive that are in trees that are just scared and when you try to approach them to help them they shrink back.
There are bodies floating, it is an extraordinarily difficult scene to see and it we are a going to be seeing that more and more as we go out on these boats and we're going to see more and more bodies as the waters do start to subside.
Deborah Feyerick went out on patrol with some of the top cops here in New Orleans. She joins us now from Baton Rouge to tell us about what her patrol was like. Deborah?
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Driving into New Orleans, Highway 10 is filled with convoys, army trucks stocked with soldiers and supplies. Empty buses that will carry out the stranded. We're traveling with Wendell Shingler.
WENDELL SHINGLER, LAW ENFORCEMENT COORDINATOR: Yes. Yes sir. I'm okay.
FEYERICK: He's been put in charge of coordinating law enforcement for agencies in the Department of Homeland Security
When you first got into the city, what did you see?
SHINGLER: It was total devastation. It looked like a war zone, actually.
FEYERICK: They use military terms to describe New Orleans. Now, it's a theater of operations. SWAT teams patrol the streets and the silence of the city is severed by the constant whir of choppers.
You knew exactly what your mission was right from the start?
SHINGLER: We were ready the second we got in. As a matter of fact, we were one of the first down in the city.
FEYERICK: In fact, they got in Monday afternoon and for several days after the hurricane, Federal Protective Services, the agency run by Shingler, was one of the only government agencies in New Orleans. They locked down courthouses and federal buildings, then eventually started providing security to emergency workers and the Army Corps of Engineers.
SHINGLER: There was rumors about sniper attacks on them. It's just better to be safe than sorry.
FEYERICK: They're still in New Orleans helping local police restore order. At times, that means dropping an old man at a hospital. Or handing our a few precious bottles of water. It's kind of against the rules, but the rules seem impractical now.
SHINGLER: These folks here probably still have some food and water. The next phase will be to come and get them because the mayor has asked that everybody leave the city.
FEYERICK: At the convention center, the choppers came every few minutes. Even as the evacuation of 20,000 people was in its final stages.
(on camera): You see the buses. People lining up. People waiting to be helicoptered out. What does this remind you of?
SHINGLER: Virtually a war zone. The evacuation of Vietnam after the war. People just dying to get on a bus, to get out, to get a life again.
FEYERICK (voice-over): We're warned there might be snipers, so we wear bullet-proof vests.
(on camera): What's not to say that some of the guys who were terrorizing the city haven't just slipped out on one of these helicopters?
SHINGLER: They could well have. I won't say that they didn't. They could have got out on the buses by pretending to be one of the regular people. However, it's a good thing because we're going to get the ones that are here.
FEYERICK (voice-over): That's the mission now. Find them and lock them away so rescuer can find the living or recover the dead in peace.
FEYERICK (on camera): And the woman that was buried in the makeshift grave on that street corner, two people apparently had been looking at her body decompose under the heat of the New Orleans sun. They took bricks from the building that had collapsed, put them around her, covered her with a tarp and said, "Here lies Vera, may she rest in peace."
COOPER: Thanks very much. Appreciate that report. A horrible thing to see. Just saw a National Guard humvee driving down the street, driving down Bourbon Street as night is approaching here. A very different Bourbon Street than we are used to seeing. There are no revelers out, just a few people kind of sitting around to try to weather out the storm here. The floodwaters have receded here. There is no flooding here, but a curfew is in effect and it is strictly in force tonight.
Tom Foreman took a look for us at - took a map basically of New Orleans and divided it up and took a look at exactly where the problem spots are now and what we have seen in some of these neighborhoods, because it's confusing for people who are not here right now to kind of get an overall view of how bad things are right now and where the worst pockets really are. Here's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Coast Guard says after nearly a week of around-the-clock rescues, the number of people being plucked from rooftops is falling. But the 60 helicopters working the skies and dozens of boats below continue to find people.
Exhausted, hungry, dying on upper floors and in attics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you upstairs?
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're going to have to go house to house in this city. We're going to have to check every single place to find people who may be alive in need of assistance. This is not going to happen overnight but it is something that is very, very important. FOREMAN: An army of critics is pointing out that this kind of flooding from a storm like Katrina was predicted in many studies over many years. Federal officials, however, in a Greek chorus keep saying the levee breaks were not expected.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Natural disaster of historic proportions.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I mean the scope is just huge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The disaster continued on and grew and grew.
FOREMAN: Neither the controversy nor the floods seem to be receding much at the moment. This satellite picture was taken right after the storm and much of the middle of New Orleans from the Superdome north reportedly remains underwater.
(on camera): So are some of the neighborhoods on the west side of the city proper and to the east. There appears to be a good bit of flooding in the neighboring parishes of St. Bernard and Placaman (ph).
(voice-over): Among bright spots, much of the garden districts, the central business district and the French Quarter escaped serious flood damage. Chris Owens has owned a famous night club on Bourbon Street for years.
CHRIS OWENS, NEW ORLEANS CLUB OWNER: You go inside and you think you're ready for business.
FOREMAN: Still, even with levee repairs nearly complete and the city's water pumps being repaired, getting all the floodwaters out will take, at best, a month or more while the search for lost souls goes on and on and on.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, there are so many remarkable stories here that we have seen in this disaster would have been much worse were it not for people like the two doctors you're about to meet. People who are working around the clock in impossible conditions. These two doctors from Charity Hospital tell their stories when we return.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (video clip): Hello. My name is Betty Robinson (ph). I'm trying to get in contact with Susie Pearce (ph). Please tell her I'm alive and well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (video clip): I'm Gabriel Whitcomb (ph), I want to let my dad Jim Whitcomb (ph) know that we are okay, me and Courtney are fine. Everything is okay. We're just wondering where you are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (video clip): I'm Dan Riverhartcom (ph), I'm think about all my nieces and nephews over there. My sister in law and my brother and I'm okay over here and I'm just letting you know I'm doing pretty good.
LIN: Well, we all heard the horror stories earlier this week about the awful conditions inside Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Doctors and nurses had to treat their patients in conditions that some later compared to developing countries. With me now are two doctors who battled through those difficult days inside charity hospital.
Dr. Ruth Berggren and Dr. Tyler Curiel (ph) are now in Dallas, Texas. How are you guys doing? Are you okay?
DR. RUTH BERGGREN, CHARITY HOSPITAL: We're a little shaky. We're extremely grateful to be here and to be alive. But we're all right and we're worried about New Orleans.
LIN: Yeah. I bet you are. Do you have any idea, Dr. Curiel how your patients are doing, wherever they may be right now.
DR. TYLER CURIEL, CHARITY HOSPITAL: Well, the patients that I evacuated from Tulane Hospital, which is where I was for the first three days, they're gone, I hope they're all way. We saw them go out and we really don't have any information on those patients but Dr. Berggren does know at least the condition of one or two of her patients that was evacuated from Charity Hospital.
LIN: That's got to be heartbreaking or maddening. You are in a position to save lives and you were put in a position that was virtually impossible. Was it true that your staff had to hand ventilate some people just to keep them breathing, Dr. Berggren.
BERGGREN: That did happen. I was not in an intensive care unit, but we had a period of time when there was no diesel fuel to power the backup generators and during that time people were hand bagging the patients and keeping them alive that way. That was a scary, scary time for us.
LIN: I can imagine. I can only imagine. And the horror and the fear for the loved ones. It's hard enough to put their loved one in a hospital, much less under those conditions.
What do you think you will take away from this experience? Dr. Curiel?
CURIEL: The most important thing to me is we've talked about the chaos, the violence, but the most important message is that most people who operated, most people pulled together. Everyone that was working on the teams at both hospitals, in Tulane and Charity, never complained, never talked about themselves, their personal losses. These are people that some of them have lost their homes. The staff, everybody was focused on taking care of those patients and getting the patients out and it's just very gratifying to see everybody rallying to do that.
LIN: It was almost like a spiritual experience watching some of our Sanjay Gupta's tape out of Charity Hospital. The staff coming together, singing hymns, trying to keep their spirits alive, as well as the patients
CURIEL: Absolutely. And there were times when people said, how do you keep going, how can you keep doing this and I don't think any of us really thought for a moment about the work of what we were doing, how many flights of stairs we'd gone up and down. We just knew we had to take care of those patients and that was the focus and that kept us going.
LIN: Yeah, go ahead, because I wanted to ask you if there was a single patient or a case that you were always going to take with you for the rest of your life.
BERGGREN: There's a young woman I want to mention, J.G., who desperately needed dialysis and in addition to having renal failure, she had heart problems and it was getting critical for her and we knew that she was going to die if she didn't get dialysis and it was very painful for me to go in day after day and tell her mother than there was no dialysis and they weren't being rescued.
We were hugely relieved on the night that she got out of the hospital Wednesday night. I put her on the truck, I looked right at the soldier with the gun and said this is a legal minor, this is her guardian and I put them on the truck together and we were all just so overjoyed that they got out.
We later learned that they were separated and mother went to the New Orleans Arena, didn't know what happened to her daughter, the daughter sat in New Orleans Airport with no medical attendant and we were desperate again for her and we prayed for her together as a staff and miraculously on Friday we got a phone call from Dallas-Fort Worth, from the physician that had received her and he wanted us to know that she was all right, that she was on dialysis.
We put his cell phone up to his ear and she spoke to me and she sounded wonderful and we felt that our prayer was answered.
LIN: Your prayers indeed.
CURIEL: We also had to make some terrible decisions with these patients. I was ordered at one point to make about a 30 minute assessment of Tulane Hospital and just decide which patients were the number one priority to fly out and number two and so on and I had a woman in the bone marrow transplant unit, 21 years old and had had a bone marrow transplant and wasn't doing well and we had to decide whether she was a priority going out or not and I was forced to make a decision about whether I would take a 21 year old, leave her behind knowing that she might die or putting her on a helicopter, knowing that she might jeopardize somebody else's chances.
LIN: And very quickly what happened?
CURIEL: My decision we did not send her out on the first wave. We sent other patients we thought had a better chance of survival and these were just terrible decisions that we had to make. I don't know what's become of her. LIN: We'll try to find out. Dr. Curiel, Dr Berggren, I hope you never find yourselves in a situation like this or ever have to make those kinds of choices again. Thanks very much and be safe.
We'll be right back with much more of our special coverage.
LIN: Welcome back to our special hurricane coverage. We have just learned that the president of the United States, as this nation mourns the losses from Hurricane Katrina has ordered that all flags at government buildings and state buildings be flown at half staff, and as you are looking at the video of Chief Justice William Rehnquist who passed away yesterday at the age of 80 that the Supreme Court has announced that his body will lie in repose on Tuesday and Wednesday at the court and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday immediately following funeral services.
Now after his passing, across America the plight of Hurricane Katrina evacuees is prompting an outpouring of giving. Gary Nurenberg samples some of the efforts to provide some of that help.
GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scenes of suffering have moved Americans to pitch in.
BUSH: This country is coming together to help people who hurt.
NURENBERG: In Albuquerque, volunteers washed cars to raise money, lined up to give blood, donated food. In Charlotte, David Lance (ph) is opening his home to strangers.
I'm blessed, I've got so much to offer, I just want to help somebody or some family.
NURENBERG: The Thompson family left New Orleans and accepted a similar housing offer in California.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody out here is so nice out here in Sacramento. It's just unbelievable.
NURENBERG: In Washington, the resident of this building thinks there's room to squeeze three evacuees into his one bedroom apartment.
Brad Bauman says it will be a little crowded here.
BRAD BAUMAN, VOLUNTEERING HOUSING: We're staring at a catastrophe of biblical proportions and I can't just sit back and watch as people down there are suffering.
NURENBERG: Near the United States Capitol, DC residents staged a vigil Saturday evening. And gathered donations Sunday afternoon.
MICHAELA BROWN, VOLUNTEER: From that situation, how horrible it would be to not know if I could feed her, give her diapers, clothing, all that kind of stuff.
NURENBERG: In New York, bus drivers and cops lined up to head south.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just glad to help.
NURENBERG: And when volunteer rescuers start, they have trouble stopping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's some folks in wheel chairs we just couldn't tend to and we're intent on getting back to get them out.
NURENBERG: All the volunteering, all the giving is having an impact on evacuees who are beginning to build new lives.
JOHN GIBSON, NEW ORLEANS EVACUEE: I see all of these wonderful people. It's really heart wrenching, because it's like they do care what's going on.
NURENBERG: Even as everyone understands this is only the beginning.
Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.
LIN: And this just in to the CNN Center. You're looking at a horrifying sight. That is a rescue helicopter in New Orleans that has crashed. We don't know the circumstances of what happened but you can see it tipped on its side. The smoking wreckage as it lays by the water, no remnants that we can see yet of the crew onboard or what sort of specific rescue mission that it was conducting but all day long we have been watching as Coast Guard crews and military crews have been going, sweeping by people's rooftops to see if anybody is standing on the rooftop and they are able to lower a basket and rescuer to grab many of these people. We've been watching those rescue operations all day long and a tragic outcome here which we don't know any details really at all accept that a rescue helicopter has now crashed in New Orleans.
We will bring you more information on that situation as it comes in now to the CNN Center.
In the meantime, please stay with CNN because up next, we have a special CNN PRESENTS, "Sudden Fury, In Katrina's Deadly Wake."
At 9:00 Eastern Time, "Relief and Rescue," a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE and at 10:00 Eastern on CNN Sunday night, fear and frustration on the Gulf Coast.
I'll be right back.
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