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New Orleans Police Chief Resigns; Michael Brown Testifies

Aired September 27, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: From New Orleans tonight, a city dealt a new shock today. The top cop says he is retiring. The question is, why?
It's 4:00 p.m. on the West Coast, 7:00 in the East, and 6:00 p.m. right here in New Orleans.

360 starts now.


ANNOUNCER: Ex-FEMA chief Michael Brown points fingers.

MICHAEL BROWN, FMR. FEMA DIRECTOR: My biggest mistake was not recognizing that Louisiana was dysfunctional.

ANNOUNCER: But does that excuse fly? Does Brown really deserve blame for the tragically botched response to Katrina, or is he merely a scapegoat?

Victims, again and again. First Katrina, then Rita. And the latest smack comes from the courts. Tonight, tougher bankruptcy laws. So if you survived the hurricane, can you afford to put your life back together? Could you be next?

A few residents come back to New Orleans. But where are the kids? With schools and parks closed, are families afraid to return to an almost childless city? How long will New Orleans remain for adults only?

An extraordinary look. Tonight, Anderson has an all-access pass inside the guard's base in New Orleans. See what life is like for these heroes working nonstop since Katrina.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Hurricane Rita: the Aftermath."


COOPER: And good evening again. I'm coming to you tonight from 40th Street in the Lakeview section of New Orleans. It is eerily quiet tonight, it is literally a ghost town.

In all the countless small towns along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, people are just now beginning to face the awful mess Hurricane Rita made of their lives. That was the order of the day in Washington, too, facing the mess, but of Hurricane Katrina, as former FEMA director Michael Brown submitted to congressional questions but was otherwise not particularly submissive at all.

Take a look.


BROWN: My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional.

COOPER (voice over): Former FEMA director Michael Brown admitting a mistake and in the same sentence pinning the blame on others. Brown appeared today before a select committee investigating failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

BROWN: I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off.

COOPER: Later, Louisiana's governor was critical of Mr. Brown's testimony and called for an independent investigation of exactly what went wrong.

In New Orleans, there was a big shakeup in city government today. Police chief Eddie Compass announced that his time in the eye of the storm is over.

SUPT. EDDIE COMPASS, NEW ORLEANS POLICE: And every man in leadership positions must know when it's time to hand over the reins.

COOPER: Compass says he'll be leaving his post soon but didn't specify why.

Some residents returned home to this beleaguered city today, spending a little time with what remains of their houses and their belongings. For some, it was simply too much to bear.

CAROL CAMPO, ST. BERNARD'S PARISH RESIDENT: Forty-three years gone. We've been married 43 years. Everything we've worked for -- our daughters both lost their homes.

I have four sisters, and they lost their homes. All of our friends, our neighbors. This parish is gone.

COOPER: In southwestern Louisiana and Texas, many spent today trying to recover from Rita.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd think that we were hit hard here in Jasper-Newton County.

COOPER: Jasper, Texas, is far from the Gulf, but it was right in Rita's path. Residents in Jasper, Texas, have been without food or water for days. Thousands of trees are down, power is out, and it may not be restored for two months.

The president on board Marine One took a tour of towns ravaged by Rita. Some, like Cameron, Louisiana, are still under a foot or more of floodwater and have been nearly obliterated by the storm. On the ground in Beaumont, Texas, the president praised the state's governor and promised once more that this time the government's local, state and federal would work together faster to help victims recover.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I appreciate the planning that the governor has put into this. The state of Texas is -- took precautions before the storm hit and is now responding. And our job is to work with the state.


COOPER: I want to focus more now on the decision by New Orleans' top cop to retire. Earlier today, the New Orleans Police Department said that 15 percent of its force, about 250 police officers, could face disciplinary action for leaving their posts in the days after Hurricane Katrina. They said they are going to look at it on a case- by-case basis, that some of those officers may have had a good reason not to show up to work.

They will not have to answer to superintendent Eddie Compass, though. That we learned today, because this afternoon Compass retired.

Mayor Ray Nagin said nobody forced Compass out. But the decision to leave comes amid new questions about his leadership during the darkest days of the city's history.


COOPER (voice over): New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass is a lifelong friend of the mayor. They new each other as kids, and in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina, he's been the mayor's staunchest ally.

But now Compass is under fire for statements he and the mayor made in the days after Hurricane Katrina. Statements that seemed to have been based on rumors rather than facts.

This is what he told Oprah Winfrey...

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: So are there still many dead people inside the houses, do you think?

COMPASS: Oh, yes. Thousands.

WINFREY: Thousands.

COMPASS: I would say thousands.

WINFREY (voice over): Inside the Superdome, he had seen horrors that will haunt him the rest of his life.

COMPASS: Babies in there. Babies getting raped.

COOPER: Just yesterday, however, the New Orleans "Times- Picayune" published an article revealing that the soaring body counts and rape accusations were part of "scores of myths about the dome and convention center treated as fact by evacuees, the media, and even some of New Orleans top officials."

Many police officers we've talked to feel Compass didn't adequately prepare for the storm, and they say they were left with little ammunition and no clear plan. We spoke to one New Orleans police officer who didn't want to be identified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had nothing to work with in advance. The chief, I'm sure -- I've met the man many times, and he's a hard- working, very committed man. But no matter how hard working and committing any of the people were beforehand or during, our poor planning really, really broke us down, and I think cost some lives.

COOPER: Today, when Compass resigned, his old friend, Mayor Ray Nagin, hailed him as a hero, calling this a sad day for the city. As for the outgoing police chief, he says this is the right time for him to leave.

COMPASS: I will be going on in another direction god has for me. I want to -- I would ask you to respect my privacy, respect my decision, and just respect my right to be by myself.

Thank you.


COOPER: We've heard a lot of negative stories about the New Orleans Police Department, but we've also met a number of hard- working, many hard-working dedicated police officers here who are doing the best to rebuild this city, and who stayed on the job even in the worst of times under deplorable conditions.

To help them, the Police Association of New Orleans is accepting donations to officers in need. There are officers who are homeless, there are also officers whose homes have been ruined. One officer was shot in the head and is recovering now in a hospital.

Checks can be sent to P.A.N.O., that's P.A.N.O., Police Association of New Orleans, P.A.N.O., 13544 Minou Avenue, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 70809, or you can call the number 225-756-2886.

A lot of police here feel that they have been abandoned by those above them and around them. And there are a lot of people here I know around the country who would like to show their support to the police officers who are here and have been here and continue to work hard.

We've already mentioned Michael Brown's appearance today on Capitol Hill before a congressional committee looking into the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina and its consequences. He's still under attack for how he managed that response, and he's also on the attack. So we thought it would be a good idea to check what he said against the facts.

CNN's Congressional Correspondent Ed Henry investigates.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Michael Brown was grilled for over six hours and spent most of the time shifting blame.

BROWN: My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional.

HENRY: Brown was referring to the weekend before Katrina hit when Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin were slow to call for a mandatory evacuation. The former FEMA director charged that delay was a tipping point for everything that went wrong.

NAGIN: I think it's unfortunate. I think that for a FEMA director to be, you know, in Washington and trying to deflect attention off of, you know, his performance is unbelievable to me.

HENRY: The reaction was just as rough in the hearing room, especially when Brown claimed he was merely a coordinator during the crisis.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: And that's why I'm happy you left, because that kind of, you know, look in the lights like a deer tells me that you weren't capable to do the job.

BROWN: I take great umbrage to that comment, Congressman.


BROWN: Because FEMA did -- what people are missing in this entire conversation is the fact that FEMA did more in Hurricane Katrina than it did in Charley in Florida and the others.

SHAYS: Why is that relevant?

BROWN: We moved all of those in there.

SHAYS: Why is that relevant?

BROWN: We did all of those things. And things were working in Mississippi and things were working in Alabama.

SHAYS: No, but see, why I don't...

BROWN: And so, I guess you want me to be this superhero that is going to step in there and suddenly take everybody out of New Orleans.

SHAYS: No. No, what I wanted you to do was do your job of coordinating.

HENRY: Brown claimed that before the storm, he privately warned the Bush administration and unnamed lawmakers that FEMA was not getting enough funding. This led a Republican to charge the reason Brown is still on the federal payroll for another month is that he's being paid back for not going public with the budget problems. SHAYS: And so I'm left with the feeling like the administration feels they have to protect you because you warned them. But you didn't warn us.

BROWN: Well, you should come over here and sit in this chair and see how protected you feel, feel how it feels to be yanked out of where you were trying to do your damnedest to make something work, and told to go back home, and make the decision that you're going to quit because you no longer are effective, and you're no longer effective because the media is spreading lies about a resume.

SHAYS: No, because you didn't do a good job is why you were let go, because you were clueless about what was happening.

HENRY: Only two Democrats showed up for the hearing, with most boycotting because they say the Republican-led probe will let the White House off the hook. They want an investigation by an independent commission instead. But Republicans did press Brown when he tried to dodge a question about his conversations with President Bush and top aides about Katrina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Brown -- excuse me, Mr. Brown, you discussed it with "The New York Times."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I think at least what you shared with "The New York Times," I think you could share with this committee.

BROWN: I told them we needed help.


HENRY: Governor Blanco was blistering in her response, firing back that these falsehoods "show the appalling degree to which Mr. Brown is either out of touch with the truth or reality."

So the war of words continues. And, in fact, Governor Blanco will start being able to tell her side of the story when she appears on the Senate side of the Capitol tomorrow -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Ed, thanks for that.

For all the finger pointing from federal, state and local officials, let's not forget the people who have been directly effected by Hurricane Katrina, good people like Kathy Singleton, who has recently returned to this neighborhood right here in New Orleans.

Kathy, thanks for being with us. You came back, you saw your house. It's gone, yes?

KATHY SINGLETON, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: It's gone. We have nothing. It's gone.

It's just -- I don't know how to describe it. It's just, I don't want to go back to it. You know, last week we came in, and I guess like in a state of shock we tried to retrieve everything.

COOPER: Tried to pick up objects.

SINGLETON: Objects, anything. Anything that was tangible that you could take with you, because it's gone. When I say we have nothing, I have nothing. The house I can live with, but it's the content in the house.

COOPER: And you tried to clean those objects.

SINGLETON: I tried to take clothes and tried to wash. And I have washed and washed and washed. And the stench is still in the clothing.

COOPER: And when you -- I mean, you lived in this neighborhood for 46 years?

SINGLETON: Forty-six years.

COOPER: You came here when you were six years old. I mean, looking at it -- I mean, you look around it now, it's hard to imagine what it was like before.

SINGLETON: When I came, this house didn't exist. A lot of these houses didn't exist. Most of these immediate houses are new construction.

And they were beautiful houses. There's a house a block away that's sitting on top of another house that used to sit right there on that lot.

COOPER: How has it been for you? You're not in a shelter. You're in Baton Rouge. I understand you called the Red Cross last night to get some information, get some help. What time did you call them?

SINGLETON: I went to a Red Cross shelter three times looking for assistance. And then, you know -- and then they never could find my name. And they had a list. I can't tell you thousands of names, not alphabetized.

COOPER: It's not alphabetized?

SINGLETON: No. And I had to go through this list, I can't find my name to get assistance.

So they tell me I have to call the 1-800 number. I called the 1- 800 number, I'm on the phone for four and a half hours on hold.

COOPER: They put you on hold for four and a half hours?

SINGLETON: Four and a half hours. And I said, "I'm trying to get my parents and my mother-in-law," because they're elderly, they're in their 80s.

COOPER: What do you want people to know who are watching right now?

SINGLETON: It's not easy. It's just -- it's difficult.

People in general have been wonderful to us. But it's just no one has answers for you. I just feel like sometimes if I was in a shelter it would have been easier for me.

The shelters are horrendous. I can't even start to describe. Just like my husband says, and I agree, what got us out, we had an American Express card and we were able to get out. We were fortunate. But no one's helping on the outside.

You have these long waits. I hurt in just looking in my neighborhood. No one -- I feel like no one'' helping us here in our neighborhood. It's just -- and the people in Mississippi, neither them.


SINGLETON: It's just -- you know, they keep focusing...

COOPER: You feel like you've been forgotten?

SINGLETON: Yes. I hurt.

It's just, you know, I've lost just as much as anyone else. I have something because I've worked all my life for something. It was here today, and it's gone tomorrow.

It's -- this was a pretty neighborhood. It's just, as I said, it was a middle working class neighborhood, a convenient neighborhood.


SINGLETON: And unfortunately, it's gone. And will it come back? Will I come back? I don't know.

It's just, you know, I look at the break over there. And of course I'm sort of angry about it because we just -- I don't understand, I don't know all the politics and the Corps of Engineers, but they knew this would not hold up. And my understanding was...

COOPER: I wish you a lost luck. And I hope things get better for you.

SINGLETON: Well, thank you.

COOPER: And that's all I can do. I wish...

SINGLETON: People have been wonderful.


SINGLETON: And it's just like I want to say, I've been nursing for 31 years, and now I'm on the other end. I'm receiving instead of giving. It's a roller coaster ride. I want it to come to an end because it's a nightmare.

COOPER: I hope it comes to an end soon.

SINGLETON: Thank you.

COOPER: All right.

Kathy Singleton. And there are people like Kathy all around this neighborhood. And when they come back, they can tell you the same thing.

Still to come tonight on 360, your tax dollars. A gigantic blank check supposedly going to hurricane relief. Where is FEMA actually spending the money? We're going to investigate that.

Also tonight, as if two hurricanes were not enough, some survivors are about to get socked by new bankruptcy laws. And it could happen to you. We'll tell you what it all means.


COOPER: And welcome back. We're in the Lakeview section here in New Orleans. Just block after block, it is completely destroyed. There's almost no color here anymore. Everything is just covered with dust.

We're going to have more on the aftermath of Rita in just a moment. But first, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we're following tonight.

Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson. Good to see you.

We start off in Iraq tonight, where officials are praising a raid that led to the killing of a top militant. Abu Azzam is described as the second most wanted operative for al Qaeda in Iraq. In fact, Iraq's national security advisor calls the killing the most important get by U.S. and Iraqi forces since the capture of Saddam Hussein.

In New York, a grim discovery near Ground Zero. Construction crews have found bone fragments of a possible 9/11 victim. The fragments were found on the roof of a neighboring skyscraper.

The building was hit by falling debris when the twin towers collapsed. It has been vacant since while crews decide how to safely demolish will it. The medical examiner's office will run tests on those bone fragments to determine whether they are in fact human, and then if so will try to identify them.

In Georgia, a shocking admission from Ashley Smith. She's the woman who was held hostage by suspected courthouse gunman Brian Nichols. In her new book, Smith says she gave Nichols crystal meth during the 7-hour hostage ordeal back in March. Investigators say they have no plans to charge her with drug possession.

You might remember Nichols let Smith leave the apartment. She called police. Nichols was soon arrested.

And in Washington, D.C., Anna Nicole Smith's legal fight headed now for the Supreme Court. The justices have agreed to consider Smith's fight over her late husband's estate. The former "Playboy" playmate and reality TV star was not in his will.

She's fighting for nearly a half-billion dollars, Anderson. All the way to the Supreme Court.

COOPER: It's too easy to make a joke about it, so I'm not going to.

HILL: It's better to leave it alone.

COOPER: Erica Hill -- I think so, too. Erica Hill, thanks very much. We'll let her have her day in court.

Katrina and Rita left tens of thousands of Americans without homes and without jobs. The worst may not be over for many of them. Many of the families are now facing financial ruin. You just heard Kathy Singleton here talking about her problems just trying to get some aid through the Red Cross and others.

Their only protection is to file for bankruptcy, for some people, that is. On October 17, new bankruptcy laws go into effect, and they're going to make it even harder and more expensive for people to get debt relief. This applies to everyone, not just hurricane victims.

Helping to explain why is CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who joins me from New York.

Jeff, good to see you.


COOPER: What's the most significant change, recent change in the bankruptcy laws, and how does it impact Katrina victims?

TOOBIN: Well, it's harder to declare bankruptcy and get rid of your debts. And the biggest impact on Katrina survivors is that they're going to have to produce records of their tax returns and pay stubs to show their prior six months of income to set out a payment schedule. At least that's the theory.

COOPER: So hurricane victims, I mean, where are they going to find their payment stubs? Probably not -- nowhere.

TOOBIN: Well, that's the issue. And even if they could prove their income, what the means test showed, what they could afford to pay six months ago, do they still have a job? Do they still have a home?

Unlikely in these scenarios. So it's very hard to know how they will be able to pay what their expected to pay under the new law. COOPER: So this thing starts October 17. That's the deadline. What if you're trying to beat that deadline, you have everything organized? What other obstacles, you know, do people confront.

TOOBIN: Can you find a lawyer? The lawyers are in trouble in Louisiana, too.

Can you find a courthouse to file? There are no functioning courthouses in Louisiana. The nearest one is in Baton Rouge.

Can you get the paperwork together by October 17? All those factors have to be settled by October 17, or you're covered by the new more onerous law, and good luck in those circumstances.

COOPER: All right. Supporters of the law argue that hurricane victims would still find debt relief under the special circumstances clause. What does that encompass?

TOOBIN: Right. Well, there is a provision for giving exceptions to certain people under so-called special circumstances. But the law isn't even in effect yet.

So no one really knows what special circumstances mean. The majority in Congress rejected an attempt to make natural disasters like hurricanes a specific exception to the law. So that suggests that maybe hurricanes don't count as special circumstances.

All this is going to have to be sorted out after October 17. And you're talking about people who don't have records, don't have jobs, don't have tax returns to show. So it's going to be very difficult for people to function under the new law.

COOPER: Yes. And people have to wait in line at a shelter to use the phone. I mean, it's not that easy for them to just sort of research this. Jeff, thanks. We'll continue to look into it.

Research shows a lot of people do, in fact, file from bankruptcy after a hurricane. So this new law is going to likely have a huge impact. Here's a 360 "Download."

According to a study done by Professor Robert Lawless of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, there is an 11 percent increase in bankruptcy filings the first year after a hurricane in the effected region and almost a 30 percent increase two years after a major hurricane.

Coming up next tonight on 360, the cattle left to roam after Rita, they're drinking saltwater. Some of them are going crazy. We'll have an update on what's being done to help.

Also tonight, inside the Coast Guard's camp. You've seen all the rescues these men and women have been doing. Tonight you'll hear them tell you what it has been like.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back to the Lakeview section of New Orleans. It is just -- it is surreal to be here in this street. Sides of houses are completely gone.

What you're looking at now, you shouldn't -- probably there was a window there. Maybe you could have seen into the house. The window is gone, the whole side of the building is gone. You could walk right into that person's house, or I should say what remains of that person's house.

You know, there have been a lot of heartbreaking pictures of animals left behind, fending for themselves in the aftermath first of Katrina and now of Rita. Suddenly, ownerless cats and dogs clearly hungry, clearly uncomprehending, started staring out at passengers from porches and windows from atop mounds of rubble and trash. It is heartbreaking. Large animals have also been left ownerless, and they, too, are suffering right now, as CNN's Randi Kaye reports.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The cows of Cameron Parish are up to their ears in water.

Luckily enough, I got all my cattle out Wednesday night out, and I got all my cattle out to higher ground.

KAYE: Charlie Bonsel (ph) had 100 cows at his ranch in Grand Chenier, a community of about 400 in the parish. Just last spring, he leased land on higher ground in case. All his cattle survived, but with 70 to 90 percent of the cows dead in Cameron parish, Bonsel (ph) is doing his part to save the others.

Bonsel (ph) and the 82nd Airborne guided us in on roads unpassable just yesterday. Cows littered the roadways, hoofs frozen since the hurricane. Some on the street, others in the water. All of them drowned.

Their deaths and decaying bodies made our mission even more critical.

(on camera): How much time do these cows have? How critical is the need?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another two to three days. It's going to be real critical. If we can get them some fresh water, they'll be all right.

The main thing now is to get them fresh water. If we can get fresh water to them, they will survive. And then we can get them out of these tight quarters.

KAYE: And what if you can't get the water to them, or many of them, at least?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they're going to perish. They won't be able to stand. They're going to perish. KAYE: Part of the problem in even getting to the cows is all of the debris in the road. This road is covered with marsh vegetation. There's a house blocking the street. They're going to have to move that before they can go in deeper and get to more cattle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once they come in, we'll link up.

KAYE: The plan is to drop hay and fresh water at a farm, one of the few still standing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When cattle are in distress like that, if you can get them fresh water, they'll travel for a mile or so. They can smell fresh water. And the same thing with that hay. If they get hay, they'll come out to the hay.

KAYE: Time is running out. The cows can't stomach the saltwater. It makes them weak, dehydrated. They become aggressive like this one who charged our truck, then ran away. Bonsel (ph) says most are now blind from the surge of saltwater in the storm.

How do you think that one's doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She'll be all right. We'll get her out of there.

KAYE: As we edged closer to the pasture to make our drop, the water grew deeper. Even in these trucks, the army wasn't sure we'd make it. Cows now swimming where they once grazed watched, hungry and hot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a dozer or something to come through in here.

KAYE: Five hours after we set out, we reached the farm on the edge of the parish. Cows watched from a distance as we dropped the hay. Fresh water isn't far behind. We hope we're not too late.


KAYE: And we weren't just rescuing and saving cattle today. We were actually working on saving dogs and cats and whatever we could find with the 92nd Airborne. We found this little guy. His front yard was full of cow carcasses. There was nobody home. So we picked him up.

We want to show you video of his rescue. We actually took a Black Hawk helicopter from the area we were in today in Cameron perish. The 82nd Airborne provided that. And we lifted this little guy to safety, brought him back here. He's been getting lots of love and attention, he's been getting a lot of beef jerky. He even had some ribs for dinner.

And from what I understand, they're collecting some of the animals. I want to show you another animal, if we could, over here. This guy. He pretty adopted the army. You want to turn around? There you go. Say hi. This guy adopted the army pretty much. He came over to the wildlife refuge where we've all been working everyday. And he too is eating burgers and beef jerky. And everybody's taking good care of these. But these are just two of the many dogs and cats that are loose and roaming on streets. And Anderson, I know you've seen that all over New Orleans, as well. It's really tough to see. And we hope to find them some homes.

COOPER: That would certainly be some good news. So many animals in need right now. Randi, thanks very much.

ANNOUNCER: A few residents come back to New Orleans. But where are the kids? With schools and parks closed, are families afraid to return to an almost childless city? How long will New Orleans remain for adults only?

An extraordinary look. Tonight Anderson has an all access pass inside the guard's base in New Orleans. See what life is like for these heroes.

This special edition of 360 continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to 360 coming to you from the Lakeview section of New Orleans where there are cars and homes destroy for blocks, as far as the eye can see in this neighborhood. The water is gone. The devastation, however, remains. And for a lot of people here, it's just begun. Here's a look at some of the stories making news right now, this moment, let's get you up to date.

Former FEMA Director Michael Brown is blaming local and state leadership in Louisiana for the botched response to Hurricane Katrina. During a congressional hearing today, Brown acknowledged some of his own mistakes but stressed that FEMA is not a first responder.

President Bush says the victims of Hurricane Rita are eligible for $2,000 in immediate emergency aid per household. That's the same amount of aid offered to victims right after Hurricane Katrina struck.

The military's floating hospital, USNS Comfort, is on its way to New Orleans. It will arrive Wednesday afternoon to help provide medical resources to the city as it rebuilds. There's not a downtown hospital that's open right now prosecutor there are more confirmed deaths tonight from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Katrina has killed at least 1,119 people, the third deadliest storm in U.S. history. There are now nine confirmed deaths from Hurricane Rita.

The Coast Guard's motto is Semper Paratas, "always ready." Over these past few weeks they have certainly lived up to that and over the years to come they'll likely always remember those they saved and those they couldn't.


A. COOPER (voice-over): After Hurricane Rita's storm surge stranded residents in southwestern Louisiana, Coast Guard choppers were once again called into action.

Now, however, floodwaters are receding. The command center at Air Station New Orleans is relatively quiet. Lieutenant Commander Tom Cooper finally has time to reflect on the people he save and those he had to leave behind.

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER TOM COOPER, U.S. COAST GUARD: The images stay with you. You never get to talk to them, Anderson, because the helicopter is so loud. Just verbal communications inside is almost impossible. You would hear them yell thank you every once in awhile. But most of the communications was just done, you look in their eyes and could you see that they were grateful that you came and saved their life. It was like an out of body experience you know, to see that.

COOPER: In the six days after Hurricane Katrina, Coast Guard pilots out of Air Station New Orleans saved 6,471 lives, that's nearly twice as many as in the past 50 years. It is truly a team effort. The choppers are flown by two pilots. There's also a diver lowered into the water by a flight mechanic.

T. COOPER: The flight mechanic will be up in this position here operating the hoist. They'll have this hatch open. See if I can lock it up here. Have the hatch open and they'll be controlling it using this hoist panel here. And they'll sometimes use this. Yeah, they'll sometimes use this, as well.

COOPER: There were so many rescues after Katrina, that after awhile, they began to seem routine. When you witness them up close, however, they are anything but.

He's going down again. The rescuer is going down. We believe there may be two more people in the house. He reentered the water and then walks into the house, wraps protective bindings around the people and then hoists them up. It is remarkable to see.

LT. JR. GRADE MARIAN ROERICK. USCG: Everywhere you looked, you turn, there's somebody over there, there's somebody over there. You had to start sorting people out and saying, there's kids. There's elderly. I think they need medical attention over there.

COOPER: Lieutenant Junior Grade Maria Roerick had just been certified as a Coast Guard pilot when Katrina hit.

ROERICK: Overwhelming and frustrating because you can't get them all. You want to scoop them all up. When you see the look on people's faces, that's what really connects you. You go to bed at night completely exhausted knowing there are still thousands of people out there. It was very sad.

COOPER: Sixteen of the Coast Guard personnel at this air station lost their homes. Now, they are cleaning up. Fixing the choppers and waiting to be called on again. Hurricane season isn't over yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: That statistic is just amazing that from New Orleans Air Station, they rescued more than 6,000 people over the course of six days. That's nearly double the number of people they have rescued, that station has rescued, in all of the last 50 years. What they did is truly historic and just incredible.

Cameron Parish in Southwest Louisiana, hard up against the Texas line was what everyone called a sportsman's paradise. Dozen of miles of beaches, abundant wildlife and fisheries, vast tracts of unspoiled wilderness. Well, the wilderness is still there but not much else. Eight of 10 of the parish's houses are gone. President Bush went to see Cameron Parish for himself today. So did CNN's Henry Schuster.


HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of the first things you see driving into Cameron is a church. Its sides ripped off, steeple crushed, a dead cow lying where the pews once were. The floodwaters from Hurricane Rita are mostly gone now, but this town of 2,500 is almost completely level. Hard to believe no one died here.

JOHN LEBLANC, CAMERON PARISH EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: You walk down Main Street, it looks like downtown Beirut. You know? Everything's a disaster.

SCHUSTER: This is John Leblanc's hometown. Now he's sleeping in his truck along with his golf clubs.

LEBLANC: I got a driveway. That's all I have is a driveway. I don't even see pieces of my house so -- all of the landmarks that you used to know, that you could pinpoint where you were at are totally gone. Devastated. Especially from the air. When I was flying around, it was hard to pick out where you were at. Because there were no visible landmarks you could recognize.

It was a hustling, bustling oil field town, commercial fishery town. Great residence.

SCHUSTER: All that's left here is the courthouse. Leblanc is deputy director of emergency preparedness. His job now is to start rebuilding.

LEBLANC: This was the investigators' building. This part stayed fairly well together. The investigators' building for the sheriff department. This was a vacant lot and across was some law offices, and as you can see it's just basically all pushed across the road here.

This is our office. Test, test, one, two.

SCHUSTER: Just getting a radio working was a small victory.

LEBLANC: Got a generator cranked, got it going here, talking on the hand set on the desk.

SCHUSTER: As he's outside, President Bush's helicopter flied overhead.

If he could hear you up there, what would you tell him?

LEBLANC: Well, we need all the help we can get. We want the same support that New Orleans has been getting to rebuild. One thing is you don't want to tear that courthouse down. It stood through two major hurricanes. So I think that's a symbol of strength right there. If you look at the courthouse it's a symbol of strength. I wouldn't want to do anything to it. Just wash her down.

SCHUSTER: Leblanc is ready to start on a new house as soon as he can get the parish government up and running.

LEBLANC: We're going to rebuild here. Don't count us out. We're going to come back stronger and better. So don't count us out.

SCHUSTER: Henry Schuster, CNN, Cameron, Louisiana.


COOPER: Don't count anyone out in this part of the world. Coming up next on 360, the waters have receded. The bills are rising. However will we find the money to pay for the things that need to be done?

Plus, here in New Orleans some residents are returning. This is still a childless city. We're going to look at what effect that may have on the rebuilding effort.


COOPER: While life is far from normal here. You can see all around me, homes destroyed. There are parts of New Orleans are slowly emerging from disaster. In the French Quarter there are some stores and restaurants are reopening, people returning except for the children. This is a childless city. There are no schools here. It may be that way for a long time to come. CNN's Adaora Udoji takes a look.



ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the horrors of Katrina, Lynn Kennedy, a New Orleans native, still wants to go home but she worries about her three children.

DAJANNE KENNEDY, DAUGHTER: I have a lot of friends there. And I don't want -- I hope they're OK.

UDOJI: Forced from their city, Kennedy enrolled her four-year- old son and nine-year-old daughter into new schools outside Atlanta. Her fiance's homeland security job moved with them.

LIN KENNEDY, MOTHER: I don't think that we'll have that in New Orleans. I mean, I wouldn't let them play outside. They're probably terrified. Even Mayor Ray Nagin says children shouldn't return. The city's too bruised and abandoned. He says right now it's not safe.

UDOJI: Life is at a standstill. Many blocks are eerily quiet with barely anyone around, barely any kids. There's no electricity or water or garbage pick up or fully-staffed hospitals. Playgrounds are filled with dangerous debris. Hardly a safe environment for children.

L. KENNEDY: All these stories about e coli, toxins, dead bodies, it makes me sick just saying it and thinking about the fact that my kids wouldn't have clean water. The schools couldn't possibly be the same.

UDOJI: Many schools reek of the rancid flood waters that engulfed them for two weeks or more. They're empty except for mounds of trash pulled in by the currents.

(on camera): This is the courtyard at Jones Elementary School just north of downtown. It's just one school where 900 neighborhood kids attended. And there's lost to clean up. It was underwater. You can see the line all the way around the building marking exactly where the flood water stopped.

ROBERT ROBERTI, NEW ORLEANS PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Once we have a lot of the unknowns answered, I think it will be a lot easier for us to say you know, when it'll be safe for children to return.

UDOJI: So for now, the already are poorly performing school system is out of business. That's 65,000 children it can't teach and 38,00 teachers with no class rosters, no paychecks. Officials are not sure when that will change and they worry those teachers will find jobs elsewhere.

ROBERTI: The question really becomes how many of those children return? They're spread out over 48 states. We know there's kids as far as Alaska.

L. KENNEDY: I just know that it's just not going to be the same.

UDOJI: Kennedy might be among thousands of parents who decide as much as they want to go home, they can't, leaving New Orleans childless at least for a while, while the city recovers from catastrophe.


COOPER: That was Adaora Udoji reporting.

Coming up next on 360, promises, promises, promises made to cover the cost of Katrina and Rita. But who will pay for it?

And take a look, the look of a city hit hard twice. Live pictures of New Orleans. We'll show you how this part of the once vibrant city has been ripped apart by the hurricanes.


COOPER: Welcome back. It's probably going to be a long time before we know exactly how much these two hurricanes are going to cost. Estimates have been all over the place. It's very likely Katrina alone is going to rank as the costliest hurricane to hit the U.S. Ideas to pay for it are all over the place, as well. And what about the money that has already been dished out? Where exactly is the money going? CNN congressional correspondent Joe Johns investigates.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The varying estimates are enough to, well, make you feel overwhelmed. Totally waterlogged. $250 billion say Louisiana lawmakers. More likely $100 billion say others or maybe less.

REP. CHRIS SHAYS, (R) CT: No, I have no sense of what's happening with the money. That's the problem.

JOHNS: But with Congress up in arms over the potential costs accounting still matters. Here's what we know for sure. FEMA got 60 billion from Congress. They've already committed 16 billion, sketched out in weekly reports, breaking it down in categories. Human services, operations, administration, infrastructure. But critics say the reports are broad and vague.

REP. DAVID OBEY, (D) APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: I don't think we know where the money's going because I don't think they know where the money is going.

JOHNS: Do you have a sense where the money's going?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, (R) GA: I don't think anybody does at this point.

JOHNS: Senator, what are you doing on Katrina? Do you think they know where the money's going?

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MINORITY LEADER: Why don't you ask Brown? He still works there.

JOHNS: But what do you think?

That's Michael Brown, the recently resigned head of FEMA. Is Mike Brown already here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe so, sir.

JOHNS: Is there any way I could get a message to ask him to talk to us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on a second.

JOHNS: In fact, as you know, Brown was busy here on cholesterol trying to explain what went wrong with the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

MICHAEL BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR: Should have called in for the military at least 24 hours earlier.

JOHNS: And not so worried about what might go wrong with the flood of money to fix things. We were also curious why FEMA had only spent 16 of the $60 billion. So we waited for Shays.

SHAYS: Take a picture of this. This is a sick man here.

This is a hell of a lot of money. And we're not talking millions, we're talking billions.

JOHNS: Over and over again we heard lawmakers calling for a chief financial officer to take control of the money and a CEO to run things.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) AZ: We should have an overall administrator, someone like Rudy Giuliani, Jack Welch, Lou Gerstner, Colin Powell, we need an overall administrator, the go-to guy that can tell everybody what to do or woman -- Saved.

JOHNS: Many now dismiss the initial estimates as inflated. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's take.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: The first wave of appropriations was a panic appropriation designed to send a press release that said gee, we care.

JOHNS: So the fiscal sky isn't necessarily falling and those who said it was are taking heat. The "Washington Post" editorial page called the Louisiana senators, Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican David Vitter who asked for a quarter trillion dollars the "Louisiana looters"

You might have read that "Washington Post" article that called you "Louisiana looters." What do you think of that?

SEN. DAVID VITTER, (R) LA: I think it's grossly unfair.

JOHNS: Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, most everyone agrees on at least a couple things. We have no idea how much money will be need and not much better idea of how it's being spent. Joe Johns, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COOPER: We'll keep on the story. 360 next, we'll look at what the destruction in this neighborhood, what the hurricane left behind.


COOPER: Welcome back. We're in the Lakeview section of New Orleans. There are some parts of town here where people are being told they can come back. But just to give you a sense of what awaits people when they try to come back to their homes, just for blocks and blocks, this place is completely destroyed.

And everyone's possessions are laying around. Down here look, there's a child's sandal. You can see it in the rubble. There's air conditioning vents here. People's clothing here. Looks like a ladies purse, a Chanel bag.

Look at that bedroom right up there. If you pan up, that's the mattress, that's someone's bedroom. The whole wall is just completely gone.

This is a roof -- it's so surreal. You can't figure out which house belongs where. This is the roof of a house that has been picked up and moved from somewhere else and slammed into this house which is just standing here.

So you have the roof of the house. I am not even sure where the house is. That somehow got slammed into this house and left this house untouched except the side of the roof is all gone.

We're going to have a lot more tonight on a special edition of NEWSNIGHT, two hour edition with Aaron Brown, myself, 10:00 East Coast Time until midnight. I hope you join me for that.

Right now our primetime coverage continues with Paula Zahn. Hey, Paula.


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