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EARLY START

Harvey Leaves Devastation In Its Wake; Trump Changes Tone; 20th Anniversary of Princess Diana's Death. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 31, 2017 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: For example, Anheuser-Busch halting beer production to make cans of water, donating more than 100,000 cans to the American Red Cross. Our bakery owner friend there mentioned that story. Bass Pro Shops also providing 80 rescue boats to contribute to that effort.

So, good to see corporations helping out.

EARLY START continues right now with the latest on the flooding in the Houston area.

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Harvey is --

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MARSH: Well, Harvey is moving north, but the scope of damage done in Texas is just coming into focus. New evacuations, a climbing death toll, and a chemical plant on the verge of exploding. We are live in Texas.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Thursday, August 31st, 4:00 a.m. in the East. It is 3:00 a.m. in Houston, Texas, where the skies above southeast Texas clearing, but as Harvey heads north, it leaves many worries in its wake.

The human toll just keeps getting worse. The number killed in the storm jumped overnight to 37, and is still expected to rise. The number includes the six bodies of the Saldivar family, you see here, found Wednesday in their white van that had been washed away in this flood.

MARSH: At the reservoirs upstream from Houston, a controlled release is happening now at the Addicks Dam to ease water spilling out around the ends of the reservoir. A mandatory evacuation order was issued in some areas around the Barker Dam. We'll have more details throughout the morning.

BRIGGS: Well, more round of heavy rain taking a hard, parting shot at Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas, on the Louisiana border. We've just learned the city of Beaumont has lost its water supply after pumps failed in floodwaters. Even official shelters where people had taken refuge started flooding. Now, workers at the Texas Health Care Emergency Operations Center are

keeping a close eye on hospitals and nursing homes. Patients at one nursing facility in Port Arthur evacuated yesterday as hallways flooded.

MARSH: And at least 16 hospitals in Texas remain closed. Already- strained medical centers bracing for an influx of new patients as roadways start to clear. In some cases, that will take time.

Take a look at this. This is Interstate 10 east. Look at it -- you would think that it's the shore if it wasn't for those highway signs. It's just unbelievable.

BRIGGS: Yes, that's just a remarkable image.

MARSH: Yes.

BRIGGS: This morning, emergency officials hold a news conference to discuss the dangerous situation at the Arkema chemical plant. That's outside Houston. The company that owns it says the most likely outcome is that this plant will explode.

MARSH: And we're learning more about the heroic rescue efforts taking place. You're looking at a human chain formed to save an elderly man whose SUV had been swept away by the flood. The man was saved thanks to this brave, spontaneous act of teamwork.

Now, for the latest, we turn to CNN's George Howell. He is live for us in Houston at a shelter there.

Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rene, good morning to you. So, this is the scene here. You get a sense of what's happening, a little more activity. But keep in mind, a lot of people are sleeping, trying to get a good night's rest. Some 8,000 people here at this main convention center downtown in Houston, and at the nearby NRG Center.

So, they have the capacity to hold 10,000 people. We understand that they have 8,000 cots. You really do get a sense of how many people are in need of help in this area.

Let's talk a bit more about the storm itself. Harvey now a tropical depression. It's moved out of this region, but it's left a great deal of damage. At least one-third of Houston is still under water. We're talking about these neighborhoods, places near bayous, near rivers, where flooding is still a concern.

And according to one military official, it's still unclear how many people are still in need of rescue. The Houston Fire Department even going door to door, canvassing to see what more work they need do. You guys touched on this, but let's talk about Beaumont, Texas.

So, the Navy conducted search and rescue operations. They airlifted 25 men and women from dangerous situations there. And this storm broke a weather record. So, it dropped 52 inches of rain in a single storm. You really do understand this storm left a lot of water. It left a lot of damage. And now people are just left to do their best to recover.

BRIGGS: George, you did a lot of interviews. I saw someone on my way into work. You spoke with local police officers.

What is their situation? What do they need? How are their spirits?

HOWELL: You know, their spirits are high. But the police chief, Art Acevedo, explained what it was like in the early days, Dave, those early days where his men and women were not allowed to go home.

[04:05:06] They couldn't go home because they had so many calls to take on. And they were prioritizing those life-threatening calls, and those calls kept coming and coming and coming in the days that continued on.

These men and women and law enforcement, they are getting those breaks. They're able to go home. Some even staying here just, you know, easier I guess to turn around shifts.

But you do understand law enforcement has been busy, fire department has been busy, coast guard has been busy. And here's the other thing -- just men and women who are not in any official service picked up their boats, they're doing the best they can also to find people that are in need. So, the searches, they continue.

BRIGGS: Yes. Probably the takeaway from this will be Houstonians helping their neighbors and friends and pitching in to this effort. George Howell, a Texan, live for us in Houston, thank you, sir.

All right. Harvey, now, a tropical depression headed into the Ohio Valley. The flooding still a major concern in the wake.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis has the latest on the storm's path and the flooding conditions there in the Houston area.

Good morning, Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Rene.

Just to give you a perspective, all of the aerial flooding around Houston and surrounding areas including those all critical reservoirs that heretofore have been recreational areas but have really become undated with the floodwaters here -- well, now we compare the flooding around Houston, even into western Louisiana, 33,000 square miles, which is roughly the size of the state of South Carolina, if you can imagine that.

But we're not finished yet. In Beaumont, Port Arthur, Texas, they saw 24 inches of rainfall in just 26 inches of rainfall in just 24 hours. It's been dangerous situation there for days now.

But the river, the Neches River runs through Beaumont. They have a beautiful river park there. The river is continuing to rise. The pumps have shut down because of the high waters there that they have seen over the last several days.

Now, the record was set back in 1994. It was set at 13 feet. It is now over 15 feet. So, we've already shattered that record. It continues to rise all the way into Saturday morning.

It should crest at just over 19 feet. Now, the people in Beaumont say that they can't really do anything about the pumps until the river starts to drop. And it is not going to drop for days.

And that storm system, what's left of it, is going to move through the Mississippi River valley and, in some cases, produce two to four inches of rain but isolated areas of as much as 10 inches -- Dave, Rene.

BRIGGS: Boy, long way from out of the woods there.

Karen Maginnis, thanks so much.

Some people in Houston tell me they don't expect rivers and bayous to recede for days, maybe weeks. It is a long way before we get a true sense of the damage done.

MARSH: Absolutely.

And we've been telling stories of people who jumped in to help those in need. Our next guest is one of those, a civilian rescue team.

They have been key to saving lives in this widespread flooding. We have Josh Beaman on the phone, actually, we have you here live. Great. He's one of the many volunteer rescuers who've been putting their own life at risk. You're joining us now on Skype from San Antonio this morning.

I want you to -- first, good morning -- tell us, what have you seen, what have you heard, as you went to save people's lives?

JOSH BEAMAN, VOLUNTEER RESCUER: Good morning. Yes, really, really, it all started Sunday night really when the mayor of Houston put out the call that they needed help. Anybody with boats, anybody with high-water trucks to head to Houston, wherever you were, come to Houston, help.

And one of the big things is -- I'm also a State Farm agent. Part of our mission and call is to -- no matter if you're insured with us or not, is to help people recover from the unexpected. And this is one of those situations that nobody expected on Thursday, Friday of last week, that this storm was going to develop into what it did.

Luckily, we live in such a great state that anybody is going to pick up the call and head over. And that's exactly what we did. And what I did. My wife's -- works for an environmental consulting firm out of San Marcus. Her boss, the owner, had plenty of boats.

I called them out Sunday night and around midnight said, hey, I'm going to Houston tomorrow. Can I borrow a boat? He said, show up at 7:00, we'll load it up, and you can head out. I went over there, got a boat from him, and headed into Houston.

Hit a little bit of high water on I-10 on the way over there. But jumped in with a convoy of boats and trucks that were coming over from west of San Antonio. I'm not sure where they were from. But we -- we went in and went directly into Katy to the Harris County precinct five where they directed us where to go.

I was there maybe five minutes when they said, hey, we need you over at an apartment complex down the street. Water's coming in fast. And we've got to get these people out. Went in, rescued an elderly gentleman about 90 years old that couldn't really even remember where his family is or who to contact.

We just -- he just said he wants to go. So, we put him in the truck, got him out, and then a sheriff -- sheriff and I went back in and got another eight families out that were on the second floor of this apartment. They -- we knew the water was going to be over that second floor within about three to four hours.

So, they were willing and ready to go. We loaded them up, got them out, and it's lucky that we got them out when we did because even my truck that sits pretty high was having little tough time getting back out of the complex at that point. But it's basically, I got there at 9:00, 10:00 Monday morning and was in the water from that point until dark on Monday.

MARSH: And how many families do you think you saved there?

BEAMAN: In that complex, I got -- myself and the sheriff's deputy I was working with, we got about eight out of there before they sent me over to north of I-10, because that operation was south of I-10. By the time I got the second family out and got them to the staging area that was being used as a shelter at that point and got back over there, the BPS had arrived with three of their high water, swift-water teams, and were not allowing civilian rescue teams back in there. There was only one entrance in and out of the complex.

So, at that point, they sent me back to the staging area. And within about ten minutes, they sent myself and five other crews north into the Morton ranch area of Katy that was taking on water quickly. We got there, unloaded the boats, and basically from that point until dark is where I was. It's probably the most soaked I've been since I was in high school hunting hogs and stuff. So, it's been crazy.

BRIGGS: Josh, saving a family of eight with a special-needs son, an 8-month-old pregnant woman, what's both the sense of desperation you're seeing in these people, and the gratitude once you do rescue them?

BEAMAN: Absolutely. Tuesday was really where I think myself and a fellow agent of mine, Steve Yang, he's actually there in Sugarland, where I think we made the biggest difference. I woke him up at 6:30 because he actually had a friend who commented on one of his posts -- and I didn't sleep at all Monday into Tuesday. And I saw that, I called him and woke him up. And he immediately said, pick me up, and we're going. This is 6:30 in the morning. We head out there, picked them up, got

her family out. And then he -- while we were doing that, he sent a message to a big group of people he knew and actually got some responses.

The pregnant lady we rescued in the group, within about two hours later, her friend was the one who directed us to her. And so, we got there got on a boat -- they hooked up to my truck to get this boat into the water because theirs wasn't sitting deep enough. So, we got it in the water and immediately got out there.

Channel 13, we were pulling away, and Channel 13 asked, we jump on, we heard where you're going. And we said, absolutely, as long as you don't get in the way.

And so, we headed out there. She was -- by the time we got there, she was very ready to go. She didn't know we were coming for her. Stuck her head out the door -- we said, we're coming directly for you. Don't get in the water.

MARSH: Right.

BEAMAN: He was extremely ready to go. But I think most of all, her son, 1-year-old, was the most ready.

[04:15:05] I mean, if you've seen the footage -- y'all were able to get it from Channel 13. That little boy was screaming. Whenever I got him, he didn't want to let go of mom. He was pulling her hair. And -- he wasn't very happy.

So, they had been waiting for about five to six hours for somebody to get there to pull them out.

BRIGGS: We will get that video. Thanks for sending us the pictures of your experience. I suppose the State Farm ad writes itself.

Josh Beaman, volunteer rescuer, thanks for helping out there in the Texas area. You are the Texas spirit. We appreciate it.

BEAMAN: Yes, sir, yes, sir. In a time now where we hear so much negative from all over the country, it's very refreshing to have you guys reporting on these stories. Not just myself but every volunteer in Houston.

First responders, everything, that are showing what America really is all about. So I thank you guys for that. And I really appreciate it.

MARSH: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Thanks so much, Josh. We appreciate it.

MARSH: And coming up, the president with a shift in tone coming under fire for forgetting victims during his visit to Texas. We'll show you what he's saying now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:20:25] BRIGGS: Today, Vice President Mike Pence set to visit Texas to view Harvey's devastation.

President Trump will return to the gulf on Saturday. He's already changing his tone after coming under fire for failing to focus on the storm victims during his Texas visit.

MARSH: Yes. He tweeted yesterday: After witnessing firsthand the horrors and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas.

Later in Missouri for a speech on tax reform, the president kept his focus on people hit by the storm.

White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president and he has more from Springfield, Missouri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Rene and Dave, President Trump came to Missouri on Wednesday, focusing on tax reform but also again addressing the citizens of Texas, Houston directly, and Louisiana, about the storm recovery effort. Now, this, of course, is going to be something that is front and center in his administration's agenda going forward in the fall, that recovery package.

But on Wednesday in Missouri, he talked specifically to those victims.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the people of Houston and across Texas and Louisiana, we are here with you today. We are with you tomorrow. And we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover, and rebuild. Our thoughts and prayers remain firmly with the citizens and our fellow people -- people. Great, great people.

ZELENY: So, the president certainly adjusting his message from one day earlier in Texas. He received a wave of criticism for not directly addressing the victims and acknowledging that rising death toll. The president did do that on Wednesday in Missouri.

And going forward, the recovery effort now, the government aid package, is something that his administration is focused on. This, of course, now is at the front of the president's agenda. Tax reform, other issues will take a step behind -- Rene and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Tax reform will not be easy, to Jeff Zeleny's point. Will it be reform? Will it just be cuts? Can they get all the Republicans line up before taking aim at the Democrats?

MARSH: Right.

BRIGGS: Long way to go.

MARSH: Well, coming up, Princess Diana is being remembered today across Europe, 20 years after her stunning death. We are live in Paris.

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[04:27:11] BRIGGS: Four-twenty-seven Eastern Time.

A somber anniversary in Europe this morning. Twenty years ago today, Princess Diana died in a horrific car crash that shocked the world. Diana, her boyfriend, and their driver killed in a high speed crash inside a Paris tunnel after being pursued by paparazzi on motorcycles.

CNN's Jim Bittermann covered the crash, that fateful night. He joins us live from the very tunnel where that crash occurred.

Jim, good morning to you.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. We're right on top of the tunnel, in fact. This has become the Princess Diana memorial here. It's actually something that was established.

And people have come here off and on practically every day since her death. There's no official ceremony today, but in fact one of the people who came by was Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris. She came by early this morning just to lay a wreath and recognize her memories of Princess Diana. She said she was about the same age, the princess, the same age as the mayor.

Just a couple of minutes ago, a number of people today -- about a couple of minutes ago here, there was a guitarist who came up here, and started singing songs and whatnot. And there have been a number of people lay wreaths and notes and that kind of thing this morning. No official ceremony. In fact, a lot of people are -- having strong memories today -- David.

BRIGGS: Ten-twenty-eight there in Paris. Jim Bittermann live for us, thanks so much.

A lot of documentaries out about this, in particular on Netflix, that remind you that no one could have predicted the outpouring of emotion from across the entire country. It just stopped this country in their tracks as hundreds of thousands of people poured their emotions out. A day that most of us will never, never forget.

MARSH: Yes. Everyone remembers where they were --

BRIGGS: Yes, absolutely.

MARSH: -- if you were around at that time.

And EARLY START continues right now.

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BRIGGS: Harvey is moving north, but the scope of damage just coming into focus. New evacuations, climbing death toll, and a chemical plant on the verge of exploding. We're live in Houston. Good morning, everyone. Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 4:29

Eastern Time, 3:29 in Houston, Texas.

MARSH: I'm Rene Marsh. It is just 29 minutes past the hour. And we welcome all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

The skies above southeast Texas are clearing, but as Harvey heads north, it leaves many worries in its wake. The human toll just keeps getting worse. The number of people that were killed in the storm, that has jumped overnight to 37. And it is still expected to rise.