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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Dispatches from Katrina
Aired June 2, 2006 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from New Orleans. The hurricane season of 2006 has officially begun. Tonight, the threat of what could happen and the reality of what has happened. Dispatches from the storm, then and now, stories from Katrina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From the watery rescues ...
COOPER: The rescuer is going down. We believe there may be at least two more people in the house.
ANNOUNCER: ... to the victims who could not be saved ...
COOPER: The smell, it's overwhelming.
ANNOUNCER: ... the chaos at the Convention Center ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not the way we live.
ANNOUNCER: ... a Hospital under siege ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no showers or toilets at all.
ANNOUNCER: ... and cops under attack ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just heard a gunshot.
ANNOUNCER: ... they are the images and the stories we will never forget. Tonight, "Dispatches from Katrina." From New Orleans, here's Anderson Cooper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Welcome to this special edition of 360, "Dispatches from Katrina." The winds of Katrina had began blowing off the coast of Africa in late August of 2005. They ended up here in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, destroying countless lives.
This is what's left of someone's home nearly a year after the storm hit, the debris is still all around. You can still find children's toys scattered amidst the wreckage.
More than 1,500 people lost their lives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It is very possible there are still bodies that have not been accounted for, bodies which are laying here somewhere underneath all this wreckage. The tragedy of the storm was compounded by the fact that it wasn't just a natural disaster, it was also a man-made disaster. Failures at ever level of government -- local, state, federal. There is plenty of blame to go around.
Tonight, we don't want to forget what happened here. So we're looking back at our "Dispatches from Hurricane Katrina." We're also looking forward at what may happen in the months ahead.
We begin with the warnings of the terrible storm called Katrina.
COOPER (voice-over): This was the calm before the storm. The soft winds, sunny skies and placid ocean gave no clue of what was soon to come. But the forecasters knew Katrina was on her way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The headline I put in, Hurricane Katrina, most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969.
COOPER: She would make landfall three times in the United States. And in the days before she slammed into the Gulf Coast, Katrina was downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 3 storm -- a distinction, the experts said, without much of a difference.
MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: The fact that we went from 175 miles per hour down to 165, that's a difference between being run over by an 18-wheeler or by a freight train, and neither prospect is good.
COOPER: When Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, she hit hard.
(on camera): This rain is now flying loose. It was pointed completely in the other direction about half an hour ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm fine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the worst I've seen yet. This hotel is literally coming apart.
COOPER (voice-over): In the early morning hour, Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour. Far lower than predicted. She battered the shoreline for hours. But it was the massive surges created by the storm that did the damage. Up to 28 feet in parts of Mississippi; 10 feet in Mobile, Alabama. And in New Orleans, broken gauges made it difficult to accurately measure the surge's size.
But even at the height of Katrina's fury, it was impossible to imagine the damage she would leave in her wake.
COOPER: When Hurricane Katrina came ashore early Monday morning, I was in Baton Rouge reporting on the storm live. I knew it was bad, we all did. But we didn't really have any idea of just how bad. New Orleans was virtually cut off. Gradually, however, the stories started to emerge.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve was here reporting live on the phone.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As I left tonight, darkness, of course, had fallen and you can hear people yelling for help. You can hear the dogs yelping. All of them stranded, all of them hoping someone will come.
But for tonight, they've had to suspend the rescue efforts. It's just too hazardous for them to be out in the boats.
There are electrical lines that are still alive, there are gas lines that are still spewing gas. There are cars that are submerged, there are other large objects the boats can't operate.
So they had to suspend operations and leave those people in the homes. We watched one woman whose leg had been severed.
Mark Beyelow (ph), one of our cameramen went out in one of the boats to help shoot. He ended up being out for hours, and told horrific tales. He saw bodies. He saw other just unfathomable things, dogs wrapped in electrical lines that were still alive that were being electrocuted.
When the boats were in the water, as the boats went around through the neighborhood, they yelled and people yelled back. But Mark, when he came back, told me that some of the people they just couldn't get to. They just couldn't get to them. They couldn't maneuver the boats.
And these people are people of not much means. Some of them, I would guess, do not have cars and didn't have the option of driving away from here. Some of them, I would guess, did not have the money.
Clearly, there were many warnings to evacuate and people were told. They were sheltered downtown. I can tell you that the rescuers tell me that everybody they picked up regretted their decision to stay where they were. But clearly, getting out of their homes would not have been easy for these people.
One thing we saw that was -- I just couldn't imagine being in this situation, one of the boats had managed to pick up a fairly large group of people and it brought them in. And the only land that was above ground were some railroad tracks. And they put them there.
And then they had to sit there for what seemed to me to be a couple of hours before another boat could pick them up and bring them in to the highway. And then when they got to the highway, there was no truck to bring them into the city and they set off on foot.
And may I say that the crew was extraordinary. We had very difficult situations. A cameraman has worked with a broken foot since 9:00 o'clock this morning to try to get this story to you.
COOPER: In that piece, Jeanne Meserve talked about hearing stories about bodies laying in the streets. And, of course, those stories were all too accurate. More than 1,800 people have lost their lives in wake of Hurricane Katrina. In fact, here in the Lower Ninth Ward they're still finding bodies buried amidst the rubble, bodies disintegrated in people's attics, in people's crushed homes.
It's a hard thing to contemplate that there are still victims out here who have yet to be found.
On Wednesday after the storm, I was in Mississippi. And I went to a town called Waveland, a town that I found nearly obliterated by the storm.
COOPER (voice-over): Days after Hurricane Katrina in Waveland, Mississippi, they are still finding bodies every hour.
A FEMA urban search and rescue team from Virginia has been told there are four bodies inside this house. Sally Slaughter, a neighbor, discovered them this morning.
SALLY SLAUGHTER, HURRICANE KATRINA VICTIM: I went up in the attic and nothing. You know? So I broke that window out and they're right there. I mean, right inside the window.
COOPER: Inside, a family of four drowned by the storm surge. They didn't evacuate because they were scared of looters.
(on camera): People boarded up their homes right before the storm. Some of them were hiding inside the homes that were all boarded up. So these four people -- a man and wife and two children have died in this home. And they've been inside for 48 hours now. So when the rescue workers break inside the home and open up the windows, the smell, it's overwhelming. It just goes down the block.
In Waveland the living have become used to the smell of death.
SLAUGHTER: My family thinks I'm dead because I haven't been able to get hold of anybody, you know, to let them know because they thought I stayed at home.
COOPER: I hope you're going to be all right.
SLAUGHTER: Hopefully my family sees this and I'm OK.
COOPER (voice-over): Just down the block another victim, another body, swollen by the water.
DAVID CASH, RESCUE WORKER: Apparently she died probably during the storm surge in one of these buildings here and since there's still people living in these buildings, the residents moved her over here and kind of dumped here, as this apparently has been the dumping ground for people that have died. But there are still people actively looking in the areas that they died.
COOPER (on camera): So her neighbors actually moved her body to over here?
COOPER (voice-over): David Cash is a 10-year veteran of Virginia's Search and Rescue.
CASH: This was different. People didn't heed the warning to evacuate. And they were kind of caught at the last minute, in a very bad situation. Do they stay and try to ride it out? Do they try to get on the road and risk being injured on the road?
And, you know, unfortunately, the people we're seeing today thought that this was going to hit New Orleans. The people down here, unfortunately, put up with this a lot. And they thought that this was going to hit New Orleans. And when it took a northeasterly turn at the last minute, they got the brunt of it.
COOPER (voice-over): A few blocks away the team finds yet another body.
(on camera): One body has already been removed from this house. There's a woman whose body is laying in the corner next to an overturned couch. The team has seen a photo of a woman with an infant, a baby, and they think there may be an infant inside. They're searching for the infant's body right now.
(voice-over): After a 10-minute search, they can't find the baby. They have to move on. There's more work to be done identifying the dead, trying to help the living.
COOPER: According to Waveland's fire chief, 23 people died in Katrina 221 people died in all of Mississippi. And here in Louisiana, the death toll is 1,577 people.
In those days, it was so surreal. People were wandering around, separated from family members, unable to contact their loved ones. People would come up to you begging to use your cell phone, your satellite phone, because often that was the only phone around. And you try to give it to as many people as possible.
All the conversations started the same. It was always grown men calling up their moms and saying, "Mom, it's me. I'm alive," and then just breaking down into the tears. There were certainly a lot of tears shed in those days.
And so many stories I'll just never forget. In particular, one man who was searching for his wife.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HARDY JACKSON, WIFE KILLED DURING KATRINA: We got up on the roof, all the way to the roof. And water came in high just opened up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who was at your house with you?
JACKSON: My wife.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is she now?
JACKSON: Can't find her body. She's gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't find your wife?
JACKSON: No, she told me -- I held her hand as tight as I could. She told me, you can't hold me. She said take care of the kids and the grandkids.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your wife's name in case we can put this out there?
JACKSON: Toni Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, and what's your name?
JACKSON: Harvey Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you guys going?
JACKSON: We got nowhere to go. Nowhere I can go. I'm lost. That's all I had. That's all I had.
COOPER: We're told Hardy Jackson now lives with his children and grandchildren in a home in Palmetto, Georgia.
The storm left many parts of this city looking and feeling like a war zone.
And the New Orleans police got negative publicity for leaving their post. And while many of them did, the vast majority of New Orleans police officers stayed on the job doing whatever they could.
CNN's Chris Lawrence spent one very long and difficult night with New Orleans police from the 1st District who felt that they were under siege.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police officers under siege in New Orleans prepare to defend their station.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know too much about the rest of the parishes (ph). I only know what goes on here, and it's been hell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officers being shot at continuously. Same thing every day. People want help. We try to help them. We don't get there fast enough, so they shoot.
LAWRENCE: With the city in chaos, an officer delivers this message home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to tell my wife, I love her. Her name is Rachel Weatherly (ph). Rachel Weatherly. I love her. I love you.
LAWRENCE: The police are undermanned and often overwhelmed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to have something to say, and of you all could get it out, I want you to get it out to the them. All the cowards that are here on the New Orleans Police Department that fled this city in the time of need -- when you raised your right hand, you were sworn to protect these citizens.
LAWRENCE: Police say a third of the force deserted after the hurricane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For all you cowards that are supposed to wear the badge, are you truly, are you truly -- can you truly wear the badge like our motto say? Evidently you can't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody up on the roof, on me.
LAWRENCE: It's pitch black when they take the posts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got guys out here, you know, shooting at the police. Like I said, raping kids and women.
LAWRENCE: One officer compares the catastrophe to September 11th.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think just the number of people dead is going to be worse. And we're not going to...
LAWRENCE (on camera): We just heard a gunshot. We were just talking to one of the officers, and just like that, you heard a gunshot just go off, aimed somewhere near us. It's hard to even tell where he was aiming.
(voice-over): That was early on. This came later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had three people shooting at us from the project. I picked up the flash on the last shot, and I put about five shots over there, and quieted down.
LAWRENCE: Just as the night winds down, a chemical fire explodes off in the distance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting everybody off the roof, getting them downstairs. And that's about all we can do right now until we get further orders.
LAWRENCE: Finally, the sun rises through the smoke, and police offer some perspective on Hurricane Katrina. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think the real story is finished yet. This is only part one. Part two is where we are right now, dealing with all of this. The aftermath and the city, with the flooding, with the looting, with the killing, with the raping. Part three, that's the story that isn't finished yet. What's going to happen to this city? We're going to rebuild.
LAWRENCE: Questions right now with no answers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will survive. I know that, but we need to do more than that. We need to go back to living with faith, and with hope, even with compassion for some of the people who didn't have any for us.
LAWRENCE: Chris Lawrence, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: This is where the roof of the 1s District police headquarters looks right now. You'd never know the chaos that once took place right here on this spot.
Police now, looking back, believe that a lot of the shots you heard in Chris Lawrence's piece were from people trapped in their own homes. They think they did get some incoming fire, but they think a lot of those shots were people trapped in their homes trying to shoot their way through the roofs of their attics.
When we come back, we'll take you to Charity Hospital. Nurses and doctors trapped, desperately trying to keep people alive with no electricity, water or food. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta was there. He'll take us inside.
And sweltering heat and squalid conditions inside the New Orleans Convention Center. We'll take a look at how a place that was supposed to help people fell into madness.
And a story of rescue by chance. The case of being in the right place at the right time, when this special edition of 360, "Dispatches from Katrina," continues.
COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360, "Dispatches from Katrina." This is what's left of Charity Hospital. Windows still boarded up, the hospital has never reopened.
In the days after the hurricane hit New Orleans, the doctors inside Charity Hospital faced a medical crisis. They had dozens of patients, but virtually no water and no electricity.
CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You in the tree? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're in the water?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the first people were rescued from the floodwaters of New Orleans, some were brought here to Charity Hospital.
Charity has always been the hospital of last resort for many of the city's poor, uninsured and often forgotten.
DR. JAMES AIKEN, CHARITY HOSPITAL: We see people who present challenges. It is a real marvelous commitment to taking care of patients first.
GUPTA: Dr. James Aiken did his residency at Charity Hospital over 20 years ago. Now the hospital's director of emergency preparedness, he has spent years planning for disasters. But nothing prepared him for this.
AIKEN: There were some things you can plan on and some things you can't. What happened afterwards was not part of the plan.
GUPTA: Monday afternoon, a breach in the levee starts pouring water into downtown. 29-year-old Dr. Michael Abatzis, a resident with Charity's intensive care unit, watches the flooding.
DR. MICHAEL ABATZIS, CHARITY HOSPITAL: You could actually see the water rising. It was going up maybe about six inches an hour the first night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here we were up to our ankles in water.
GUPTA: By Tuesday, Charity's emergency generators are underwater. With dwindling power, staff members scramble to keep their patients alive.
ABATZIS: We found an area of the hospital where the emergency generator was working. We just ran hundreds of feet of extension cord into the ICU to run our life support stuff.
GUPTA: Trying to comfort patients under war zone like conditions, doctors and staff cope with the situation that's only getting worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have electricity. We don't have water. You know, we can't run labs, we can't take x-rays. I mean, we're basically back to primitive medicine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no showers or toilets at all.
AIKEN: Every night was a very, very scary situation. I mean, you could hear the gunfire. We even had a S.W.A.T. team come through the hospital because they had gotten a report of a hostage situation. So things were getting very, very tense.
GUPTA: Their only comfort, a promise that help is on the way.
Wednesday dawns, still no sign of relief.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We come before you at this precious time, dear Lord.
ABATZIS: We kept on being told, hey, help's on the way. Don't worry about it. This is going to be all FEMA. They're going to move out all your patients.
GUPTA: Faced with the realization that no one was coming to rescue their patients, staffers take matters into their own hands.
AIKEN: So that night I began to make phone calls on my own. And Wednesday we began to set up to sort of orchestrate our own evacuation plan.
ABATZIS: One of the other doctors in the ICU, Jeff Williams had actually called CNN.
DR. JEFFREY WILLIAMS, CHARITY HOSPITAL (on the phone): We have not been able to evacuate almost anyone. I think three people yesterday and two today out of, you know, 250.
GUPTA (on camera): Did you ever think when you were working at Charity Hospital that you'd be moving around in a boat to get to work?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
GUPTA: With possible snipers over your head?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I didn't.
GUPTA (voice-over): I managed to arrive at Charity with the CNN crew the next day.
The conditions I find are deplorable. The E.R. is forced to move to higher ground. The morgue is flooded. And bodies are now being stacked between floors 11 and 12.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would compare it to being on the "Titanic." It was dark, the lights were blinking, the water was starting to come in through the windows.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just asking, begging for help.
GUPTA: The staff pleads with us to get help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could just tell the United States, please, help us. Thank you.
GUPTA: After impassioned pleas by phone, helicopters are finally promised. They must get their patients to a makeshift helipad they are sharing with Tulane University Hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have been waiting here for hours trying to get them out. We have been crying for help. Anybody who will listen, we have a need.
GUPTA: The charity staff watches as Tulane's people get out, while their own patients are ignored.
ABATZIS: We were just incredulous that this was going on. I lost my voice. I was doing a lot of yelling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two of them have already died here on this ramp waiting to get out. In this very spot.
GUPTA: Suddenly, all evacuations come to a halt. Sniper fire breaks out. After two more frustrating days of fighting for their patients, Charity Hospital finally gets them all to safety.
AIKEN: When that last patient went off and the last staff person waved, that to me was the moment that I knew we'd pulled of something that we never would have imagined being able to pull off before all this started.
GUPTA: Now back in New Orleans as part of the relief effort, Dr. Aiken's work continues. As he looks toward saving even more lives, he reflects back on how he was able to save one.
AIKEN: I do remember a time at the very end when I was helping to position a gurney to put this patient on a very hard floor in an 18-wheeler. You could see it was coming, and he reached -- he reached up and shook my hand.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: That was Charity Hospital then. Charity Hospital now is -- well, this is it. This is the emergency room. It's completely empty. There are no doctors around, of course, there are still patients' beds. Equipment is still all around. There's a hospital gurney still lying around.
There's pails and office equipment, computers that have been wrapped up, medical devices. There's even, you know, doctors' gloves and surgical tubing and forms, a consent to release information, a waiver of confidentiality form.
There are no plans to open up Charity Hospital any time soon. And in fact, most people in New Orleans will tell you this building will never serve as a hospital again. More "Dispatches from Katrina" when we return.
It became an emblem of everything that went wrong after Katrina, the Convention Center that turned into a hellish nightmare for thousands of evacuees.
And stranded in the darkness, alone and blind, an elderly woman refuses to leave because she doesn't want to leave her companion dog behind.
COOPER: This is what it looks like at New Orleans Convention Center today. The cleaned up Convention Center.
Welcome back to this special edition of 360, "Dispatches from Katrina." As we showed you earlier over at Charity Hospital, the patients had no food, no water or electricity, but at least they had medical attention. At least they had some doctors trying to do whatever they could to help.
The same can't be said of the thousands of people who were here at the Convention Center, literally stuck, sprawled out all around this area and the surrounding blocks.
They had been told to come here by city officials. They had been told that there would be aid here. They had been told that there were buses to take them out. There were no buses, of course, for days. They were stuck here without any help.
CNN's Chris Lawrence takes us back to what it looked like here in those terrible days after Katrina.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): It's hard to believe something like this could be happening in a major American city.
This older woman in a wheelchair died, but no one comes to get her. So she sits on the side of the street covered in a blanket. That's another body on the ground next to her wrapped in a white sheet.
VIRGINIA KEYES, DISPLACED BY HURRICANE KATRINA: These people couldn't leave because they couldn't afford to leave. Superdome people went in that shelter because they couldn't afford to leave. And now we're dying?
LAWRENCE: Virginia Keyes is here with her daughter and grandchildren, living on the street with almost no food or water.
KEYES: We dirty. We waded in that water, that dirty, filthy water and we're dirty. This is not the way we live.
LAWRENCE: Mothers and their babies, stuck outside the New Orleans Convention center, surrounded by filthy trash and raw sewage, forced to live like animals.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two days with no food.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't see how ...
KEYES: We're hungry.
We don't have no running water. We can't bathe ourselves. We hungry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss, miss we don't either.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Concentrate on breathing.
LAWRENCE: We saw a man have a seizure in front of us. But there is no doctor or ambulance to help him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going to be all right.
LAWRENCE (on camera): Some of these people have been waiting outside now for more than three days. And we're not talking just a few families or even a few hundred families. There are thousands and thousands of people waiting outside the New Orleans Convention Center and they have no idea when help is coming.
SHAREEF HASSAN, SCHOOL TEACHER: And we're not angry so much as frustrated and hurt that we felt deserted because not one time did I see or anybody see an official step out here and talk to these people.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): By mid afternoon, National Guardsmen dropped MREs on the crowd, but it's not enough to feed all these people. And it won't protect them from the rioters.
KEYES: They left us out here with no lights and no security. This is not fair.
LAWRENCE: Virginia Keyes and thousands like her survived Hurricane Katrina, but really aren't sure they'll make it through the catastrophe left in its wake.
Chris Lawrence, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: There were a lot of stories, a lot of rumors about what was going on inside the Convention Center. A lot of people who swore they saw things with their own eyes, it turned out not to have seen those things.
What we know now is this. Four people lost their lives in this Convention Center in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. When we come back, we'll take you to one of the worst hit sections of the city.
We'll relive the scene in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, a scene of unspeakable horror.
Plus a survivor who suddenly counted on us to rescue him, when this special edition of 360 continues.
COOPER: Just some of the destruction still evident here in New Orleans.
Welcome back to this special edition of 360, "Dispatches from Katrina." A look back at what we saw then and what may happen in the months ahead. When we first got to the Lower Ninth Ward, it was a Saturday after the storm had hit. And for the next several days we traveled around this whole area by boat, shooting both with beta cameras, but also with the little small home video cameras.
This is what I saw through my own lens, a reporter's notebook, the first time I got to the Lower Ninth Ward.
COOPER (voice-over): Parts of New Orleans may be drying out, but in the Ninth Ward, the streets are still submerged under several feet of water. On some streets the water is so deep the only way to get to see them is by flat bottom boat. The water is black, a toxic mix of gas and mud, oil and excrement, garbage and human remains.
It is difficult to know how deep it is. Best not to think about what's really in it. Dead dogs are everywhere. So are living ones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's alive.
COOPER (on camera): Wait, we got some water. Here.
There's only so much you can do. The water is too deep, the dogs too scared. They are starving, abandoned, stranded in trees.
Around a corner we find a Coast Guard helicopter hovering.
Even now seven days after the storm, rescuers are still finding people trapped in their homes in flooded areas. They're trying to pluck somebody out right now from their home. It is amazing to think that this person has lasted this long living in this condition.
Right over there. I don't know if you can see them. They're right -- look up there -- look there on the porch.
(voice-over): A boat of rescuers from a nearby town try to radio the chopper that they can help, but they don't have direct communication.
There he go.
(on camera): What's frustrating for a lot of rescuers, though, is the lack of coordination. There's people here -- there's a crew here from Destin on boats. They could have gone in had they known these people were here. They tried to signal to the chopper that they could do it -- he's going down again.
The rescuer's going down. We believe there may be at least two more people in the house. He re-enters the water and then walks to the house, grabs some protective bindings around the people and then hoists them up. It is remarkable to see.
(voice-over): On the next block we find the Humphrey family. Dierdre (ph) and her son, Emanuel. They have rescued several dogs and don't want to leave them. If forced to leave, they say they plan to hide the dogs in their bags.
DIERDRE HUMPHREY, RESCUED SEVERAL DOGS: Just be quiet. Yes, we don't want him to die, too.
COOPER (on camera): So you're telling him to be quiet so that he doesn't give it away.
HUMPHREY: Be quiet. Be quiet.
COOPER (voice-over): Every day Dierdre feeds a dog stranded in her next door neighbor's backyard.
HUMPHREY: Uh-oh, it got caught on the line.
COOPER: Today her aim is off. The bag of food eventually drops into the water.
The Humphreys are going to have to evacuate. This water is toxic and this city must be cleaned.
(on camera): There's really no way of telling how many people have died here in New Orleans at this point. There probably won't be for many the days if not a few weeks.
The floodwaters are still high. Homes are flooded. People haven't been able to -- rescuers haven't been able to get inside the homes to check on bodies. You do find bodies just floating in the water. There's a man over there, who is dead on the top of a car.
(voice-over): As bad as it is, as horrible as it looks, it's only going to get worse. When the water is gone and the homes searched, the number of dead will finally become clear.
COOPER: That's actually the house that the helicopter rescued some people from off the porch that we watched back then. And now they're taking some refrigerators away that were sitting out in front of it, trying to clean up that house. We never found out exactly what happened to those people who were taken away.
There were people everywhere though who needed to be rescued, some of them by helicopter. Other times when we'd be on the boat, people would come up to you and ask you to rescue them, as we found out firsthand.
COOPER (voice-over): In New Orleans, you never know where the day's going to take you.
(on camera): We set out to do a story on what's in this floodwater.
DR. GREG HENDERSON, PATHOLOGIST: In this water, you can expect that anything that lives in the human intestine tract is thriving and growing in this water.
COOPER (voice-over): Dr. Henderson is a pathologist. In the dangerous days after the hurricane, he says he set up a treatment center for New Orleans police and also tried to help the approximately 15,000 evacuees stuck at the Convention Center.
HENDERSON: Very simple words, this is the dirtiest water you could ever possibly imagine.
COOPER (on camera): We just started motoring around when we spotted this man wading through the water.
HENDERSON: You need help?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need everything.
HENDERSON: You need to get out of that water. Can we help this guy out?
COOPER: Of course, absolutely.
HENDERSON: Where have you been?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been in that building up there for I don't know how long.
HENDERSON: So they didn't come check you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody knew I was up there.
COOPER: Here you go, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it.
HENDERSON: My man, my man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm all right.
COOPER: Here, have a seat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all watch your own self.
COOPER: We brought Thomas onto a highway on ramp. We were trying to figure out what to do next.
HENDERSON: Is there anybody else up in there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a lot of people. There's people on the eighth floor. They would leave -- they'd come to stand in the water.
HENDERSON: Has anybody been up there? Has any federal officials, anybody...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody been up there. HENDERSON: Anderson, we spent -- a few minutes ago, you asked me what was it like at the Convention Center. 15,000 people in this condition. This man is symbolic of what was here in New Orleans and what's still here in New Orleans. This is who we got to treat. This is who we got to think about. This is who we got to take care of.
COOPER (voice-over): Dr. Henderson is fed up with the slow federal response he's seen in New Orleans. He calls it a national disgrace.
(on camera): And is it a crime what's going on here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't need none of that. I don't want nothing to get...
HENDERSON: It's about as close to a crime as you can get. I hate to call anybody a criminal. I hate to call anybody a criminal, but this is just a damn bad situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got my ID right in there.
HENDERSON: I know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got my RTA bus card, my food stamp card.
COOPER: He says there are 25 people holed up in that building over there. He said he's seen helicopters passing overhead for days now, but no one has come to that building.
It's hard to tell exactly how accurate he's being, but, you know, then we think, all right, we'll go over there, but then they could be armed. So you think all right, well we'll try to call some police, but how do you call the police? I mean this -- there's not that level of organization at this point. You don't know who to call, exactly who is in charge. So we're going to try to figure out what to do.
(voice-over): We decided to take Thomas to a triage center that Dr. Henderson helped set up.
HENDERSON: Everything you see right here, everything that was started and gotten running was done by people, resourceful people on the ground.
Look, man, anybody who is trying to tell you that there's failure from ground up wasn't at the ground where I was.
I was at those police officers who didn't sleep for six and seven days. I was with those police officers who didn't sleep for six and seven days. I was those police officers who had open wounds on their legs and walked in that water.
COOPER: Thomas was checked out by physicians and then evacuated to Baton Rouge. It is not clear where he'll end up.
Dr. Henderson told his emergency coordinator the location of the building where Thomas came from, where he said there were other survivors. She promised she'd check it out.
And the lesson of all of this is what? The lesson of what we saw in the boat, what we saw with Thomas is what?
HENDERSON: The lesson on the boat, is this ain't over yet. Anybody who is sitting there thinking OK, the worst has passed, the worst has not yet passed.
COOPER: There's no way to know how bad it will get. No accurate number of how many people still need to be evacuated, how many people have died in their homes.
Today one man named Thomas reached safety. The question is how many more like him remain behind?
COOPER: And we're joined now by Dr. Greg Henderson.
You stayed in New Orleans. You've been here this whole time. How is the city doing?
HENDERSON: It's getting back on it's feet. But it's slowly, you know? We have had our high points. We had our Mardi Gras, we had our jazz fest. Those are the things that kind of reminded us what's wonderful about New Orleans.
COOPER: When you look around the city, when you go to the Lower Ninth Ward, does it shock you that all that stuff is still there?
HENDERSON: It just is such a stark reminder. It's always in your face. And so you want it to be quote, "cleaned up and repaired" because it needs to be cleaned up and repaired, it needs to be fixed.
COOPER: Does it feel like at times that the rest of the country have moved on, that people have forgotten?
HENDERSON: We can't turn our attention away from it. Because, Anderson, what -- the way we respond to what happened in New Orleans is going to be reflective of how we respond to anything else in the nation. That's why it's so important. Not only that this city itself is so important, but it's going to be a reflection of our culture, who we are, when a city of our own, a group of our own people are destroyed.
COOPER: We'll have more of "Dispatches from Katrina," in a moment.
COOPER: Welcome back to "Dispatches from Katrina," a special edition of 360.
In those days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, we often didn't know what stories we would tell on any given day. We'd just get into our SUVs and drive around the city and sort of stumble upon things. We'd see people and we'd start to talk to them.
That's how we found this next person, Miss Connie.
MISS CONNIE, DISPLACED BY HURRICANE KATRINA: (SINGING)
COOPER (voice-over): In a ramshackle rental in a poor part of town, an elderly lady waits for a sign.
The dog is Abu. The woman, Miss Connie. A preacher, a widow. She's alone and legally blind.
MISS CONNIE: And he's my service dog. Now, my dog goes where I go or I don't go. This is what fell. You see my skylight?
COOPER (on camera): That's your skylight?
MISS CONNIE: Oh, yes, my skylight, for lack of a better...
COOPER (voice-over): Police finally came this morning to evacuate Miss Connie. They told her Abu would have to stay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Temporarily.
MISS CONNIE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will be taken care of, ma'am.
MISS CONNIE: No. No, dear. No, dear. I'm sorry. I'm not being hard case, but I can't see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I guarantee you, you won't be left alone.
MISS CONNIE: And my dog goes where I go. Now, that's not too hard to do for a dog.
I don't trust very much law officials for this reason. They can't make up their mind.
COOPER (on camera): Miss Connie's not sure what to bring with her besides her dog, Abu. She doesn't have any bags to put things in, she says, so she's going to try to take a couple of pieces of clothing. And she's not sure where she'll end up.
MISS CONNIE: Let's rephrase that one.
COOPER: All right?
MISS CONNIE: I'm not sure where I'll end up, but I'm very sure that God knows where I'll end up. And my son, who isn't very religious, backed it, and said, your ministry is done here. It's time to move on and minister to other people somewhere else.
COOPER (voice-over): A few blocks away, evacuees from around the city are brought in by police and soldiers. Nearly all have pets, and the soldiers let them in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are trying to get a flight. Hopefully we can fly them.
COOPER: Back at Miss Connie's, the police have decided she can take Abu along. She believes it's a sign the time has come to go.
MISS CONNIE: I believe the Lord gives you guidance and will talk to you if you will listen. And, if you'll do.
COOPER (on camera): God is still watching over New Orleans?
MISS CONNIE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Will she rise again? Yes, indeed. Absolutely.
COOPER: It's very disorienting driving around here in New Orleans because everything looks so different. Some places that were flooded, of course, are no longer flooded. The trees have been cleaned up off the road. Some places look different. We've been trying to find where Miss Connie lived. We think the building has been torn down. We haven't been able to find her, however. So we're not sure if she's even back in the city.
Coming up, it wasn't just people who were affected by the storm. It was animals as well.
CNN's Gary Tuchman tells us the story of some dolphins let loose by the storm.
COOPER: The stories of survival in the wake of Hurricane Katrina aren't just about people, they're also about animals. There were so many volunteers who came down here, trying to help out animals, pets that had been abandoned in the storm. You used to see them running around, all around here in the Lower Ninth Ward.
But it wasn't just household pets. There were farm animals as well. And some very exotic animals as well.
CNN's Gary Tuchman followed the story of some dolphins very much in need of a rescue.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From this destroyed aquarium in Gulfport, Mississippi, eight dolphins were swept to sea in the middle of Hurricane Katrina. They have all been spotted alive and together. Five minutes after motoring out into the Gulf of Mexico...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dolphins are right there! TUCHMAN: ...we see the six female and two male bottlenose dolphins that only know how to survive in captivity, not being used to the wild.
Now after a few days of getting food and medicine, the hard part -- rescuing them. A mat attached to a buoy is in shallow enough water to pull the dolphins on top. And it works.
25-year-old Jackie is rescued, the sickest of the dolphins. Skinny, with lacerations and abrasions from the hurricane. But now in the care of people she knows. She's put on a stretcher and loaded on the boat.
Next, another dolphin brought to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that Toni?
TUCHMAN: This is Jackie's offspring, Toni. She's 15. And like her mother, might have only lived for a few more days in the sea.
How you feeling?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speechless. It's unbelievable. Keep our fingers crossed for the rest of them.
TUCHMAN (on camera): The water started getting choppy, so the rescue efforts has to be suspended. They'll try again on Friday to capture the other six dolphins. They'll go out with high hopes, but knowing there are no guarantees.
(voice-over): The 350-pound dolphins are put in a specially equipped dolphin mobile. And then a police escort through the streets of Gulfport to bring them to their temporary home. A swimming pool at the Holiday Inn, where they'll stay for now as plans are put into place to send them to other aquariums around the country.
The dolphins' trainers are also their rescuers.
Are these like your children?
SHANNON HEYSER, DOLPHINS' TRAINER: Oh, yes, yes. Yes, they're our babies.
TUCHMAN: These two dolphins have been diagnosed as anemic.
So what's their prognosis?
DR. CONNIE CHEBRIS, DOLPHINS' VETERINARIAN: To get food in them and keep them stable for the next seven to 10 days. I think we'll do pretty good. So, it's kind of critical for these next few days.
TUCHMAN: The experts and the trainers are amazed all eight dolphins, who were not even together in the aquarium, have stayed together in the Gulf. They hope they'll all be together again very soon. (on camera): It's late at night and these dolphins are still quite active. We asked the trainer -- nice toss -- I'm all soaking wet. We asked the trainer if these dolphins, Jackie and Toni -- nice throw -- might want to catch a few wings tonight.
And she told me something very interesting, that the experts -- nice throw -- aren't even sure if dolphins do sleep. So, these dolphins will continue to do their thing while the rescuers continue to do theirs. One more throw? And the hope is -- wow, this is really amazing. The hope is that they get all eight of the dolphins by Monday at the latest.
COOPER: That report was by CNN's Gary Tuchman. The eight dolphins rescued are now healthy, we are told, and they are living in a resort in the Bahamas. One of the original owners of the dolphins wants to rebuild the Gulfport aquarium and bring the dolphins back to Mississippi. He's now in a court battle with one of the other owners of the dolphins who wants them to stay in the Bahamas.
We'll have more "Dispatches from Katrina," in a moment.
COOPER: We continue to report this story. We continue to come back here to New Orleans and to Mississippi because we think it's important that what happened here never be forgotten. Too many people lost their lives. Too many mistakes were made. It could all happen again. We must keep the memory of what happened here alive.
Thanks very much for watching this special edition of 360, "Dispatches from Katrina."
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