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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Special Edition: Katrina's Aftermath

Aired August 30, 2005 - 19:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I am live in Gulfport, a city just devastated in Mississippi, one of many cities you'll be seeing tonight in this special edition of 360.
It is 7:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 6:00 p.m. here in Gulfport, and 4:00 p.m. in the West. 360 starts now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Hundreds feared dead in Mississippi. Shreds of cities remain. Hurricane Katrina spares nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We watched houses just disappear, you know, the water level get up over the roof. And then when the water receded, the houses just weren't there anymore.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, we're live from Gulfport, Mississippi, Ground Zero for Katrina.

When the levee breaks. In New Orleans, from nightmare to nightmare. A day after Katrina, a levee built to protect the city ruptures. What about pressure on other levees? Will the giant lake swallow New Orleans?

When the Superdome transforms into a super home. Temperatures near 90. No power, no air conditioning, no way out for 30,000 people -- three times the number there yesterday -- taking shelter.

By air and by boat. More than 1,000 daring rescues in 24 hours. Tonight, how they saved the lucky ones and how many more need to hold on.

Downed power lines, chemical spills, wild animals. Tonight, what else Katrina unleashed.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Hurricane Katrina: The Aftermath."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Welcome back to this live edition of 360. We are in Gulfport, Mississippi, on the coast of Mississippi. And to say that this is a city stunned, a city on its knees, would not be an overstatement.

We just arrived in this city about two hours ago, and we have never seen things that we have seen over the last two hours. And we're going to be bringing you that in the next hour on this special edition of 360.

Gulfport is on the south coast of Mississippi. It is just west of Biloxi. It is east of New Orleans. It is a city that has become a destination city for tourists, for people coming to casinos. All of that is destroyed at this point.

In New Orleans, we have seen all day long -- there's a helicopter now passing over. It's an Army helicopter. We've been seeing that all day long.

And in New Orleans, we have been seeing scenes of just incredible rescues. People, literally, their lives hanging in the balance, being plucked from the roofs of their homes. It is a chaotic scene in New Orleans. We're going to take you there live in this next hour, as well.

There's so much to talk about. I-10, the highway which goes along the coast, is completely broken up in some places, collapsed, destroyed, in pieces. It is virtually impossible to get from one point to another. All of that will be covered in this next hour.

First, let's show you what the last 24 hours have been like. Here's CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In the evening hours, after Hurricane Katrina struck, we still were getting close-ups of the crisis. Mere hints at that point of the devastation, the loss, and the struggle to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any animals, broken bones?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

BLITZER: Into the night, it started to become evident. This truly is a disaster beyond what many people had imagined.

So many rescues. The Coast Guard carrying at least 100 people from one community, boatload after boatload to safety.

So many stories to tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Horrific. It was horrific. I kept what I think a cool head, told my wife we were going to survive, but she was panicking.

BLITZER: The morning after, 80 percent of New Orleans was under water, up to 20 feet in some places. The flooding made worse by a break in the 17th Street Canal, unleashing a gusher that swallowed homes and entire communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city's like a bowl. It's like a bathtub with large parts below sea level. The estimates are it would take, you know, three months, 90 days, to get rid of that water. BLITZER: A city in ruins, from the vast cavern of the Superdome to downtown hotels, and so many homes, and so many people who live there trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a rescue in progress.

BLITZER: Or worse.

HARVEY JACKSON, LOST WIFE IN HURRICANE: We got up in the roof, all the way to the roof, and water came. And the house just opened up and divided.

JENNIFER MAYERLE, CORRESPONDENT, WKRG-TV: Who was at your house with you?

JACKSON: My wife.

MAYERLE: Where is she now?

JACKSON: Can't find her body. She's gone.

BLITZER: In Mississippi, dozens are believed dead, up to 30 of them killed in one beachfront apartment complex alone. The casinos of Biloxi, once luxurious, now ravaged. A church split wide open.

In Alabama, a major bridge in Mobile closed because Katrina jammed a loose oil rig under it.

All across the disaster zone, more than two million people have no electricity. The water isn't drinkable. Power lines are down. Danger is everywhere. The tens of thousands of people still in shelters are being told to stay there.

The enormity of it all seems overwhelming. But still, there is hope.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: We're not going to solve that with a snap of a finger. But little by little, we'll get back to where it's tolerable. And then we'll rebuild. And the coast will be better than it ever was.

BLITZER: Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It has been such a difficult day for people here in Mississippi, for people in Louisiana, in New Orleans. In a moment, we're going to take you to New Orleans, because what is happening there, well, it's just hard to imagine, frankly. But we'll bring you there live in a moment.

First, I just want to show you what downtown Gulfport, Mississippi, looks like right now. Over my shoulder, first of all, you see a semi truck, a tractor-trailer. And behind it -- I don't know if you can make that out -- there are just dozens of tractor- trailer trucks piled on top of each other. Now, those aren't supposed to be there. That's not a parking lot. All those have been swept just hundreds of yards into what is now just a burial ground for these trucks.

You might see that bird there. There are animals -- there's wildlife just kind of stunned. That bird has been unable to fly, just walking around. And if you zoom out, that bird is standing in front of this casino. It says "CPA Casino."

You know, when I first saw that, I thought, OK, you know, that building's got some wreckage. Let me tell you. That building was not there 48 hours ago. That building was about half a mile or so to the east. That has been picked up by this storm and deposited over there intact. It is an extraordinary sight that is simply hard to wrap your mind around.

We are seeing people here just kind of stunned, wandering through the wreckage, just unable to kind of piece together what has happened to them in the last 24 hours. And more and more, we are hearing just tales of anguish.

And we are seeing anguish and hearing it from the people who lived through this storm. This is one man, his experience in New Orleans. Just listen to what this man has to say, what happened to him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER MAYERLE, CORRESPONDENT, WKRG-TV: How are you doing, sir?

JACKSON: I'm not doing good.

MAYERLE: What happened?

JACKSON: The house just split in half.

MAYERLE: Your house split it half?

JACKSON: We got up in the roof, all the way to the roof, and water came. And the house just opened up and divided.

MAYERLE: Who was at your house with you?

JACKSON: My wife.

MAYERLE: Where is she now?

JACKSON: Can't find her body. She's gone.

MAYERLE: You can't find your wife?

JACKSON: No, she told -- I tried. I hold her hand tight as I could. And she told me, "You can't hold me." She said, "Take care of the kids and the grandkids."

MAYERLE: What's your wife's name, in case we can put this out there? JACKSON: Tonette Jackson.

MAYERLE: And, OK, and what's your name?

JACKSON: Harvey Jackson.

MAYERLE: Where are you guys going?

JACKSON: We ain't got nowhere to go. I'm lost. That's all I had. That's all I had. This is all a horrible joke.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It is really hard to imagine what people are going through right now. And I know we keep saying this over and over again, but our hearts go out to them, because there's just not help to be had right now for the people who are suffering.

Yes, there are people working hard trying to get relief to them, trying to save them, doing search-and-rescue operations. And they're doing tremendous jobs and saving lives.

But there are people who are desperately in need right now. You know, they have no place to go right now. They've got no water. They're just kind wandering around.

Captain Bruce Jones is with the U.S. Coast Guard. He has taken part in some just remarkable rescues, saving, without a doubt, dozens, if not hundreds and thousands of people.

Captain, does anything prepare you for something like this?

CAPT. BRUCE JONES, COMMANDING OFFICER, COAST GUARD AIR STATION: No, we've never seen anything like this. The devastation is really overwhelming. Never seen flooding like this. Never seen so many people stranded, so many people needing assistance.

Our crews have been working through the night. Immediately after the hurricane passed New Orleans yesterday, we were on scene with the Coast Guard helicopters.

We've got 11 H-65 helicopters, three Coast Guard H-60 helicopters. They've been performing rescues the last 24 hours nonstop, night vision goggles throughout the night and now the daytime, and preparing to go out again tonight.

We've rescued hundreds, and there are hundreds more still stranded.

COOPER: Thank God for the U.S. Coast Guard. I mean, what you guys have been doing, just extraordinary in the last 24 hours. What are some of the rescues that you have seen? Who have you gotten? What kind of conditions are they in?

JONES: We're arriving in the flooded areas where we're finding -- we're seeing handkerchiefs waving through cracks in roofs. We're seeing holes where people who made it up to the attic as the waters rose were able to take axes or other tools and knock holes in the roof and stick their arms through.

We're dropping our rescue swimmers down with hatchets to enlarge the holes and pull people through. We're seeing people in the water. We're seeing people in windows. We're seeing many children, many elderly people.

This morning, we hoisted a woman who weighed in excess of 400 pounds who had recently had very major surgery. She had gangrene. She'd been in the home unattended for two days.

People in all conditions. It's been very difficult, very dangerous and demanding rescue conditions for all of our personnel. And all of our men and women out there are doing a good job, without regard for the fact that their own homes may be flooded and destroyed and their own family's futures in jeopardy.

COOPER: That's the thing so many people don't realize. I mean, these members of the Coast Guard, they live in these communities. They have their own problems, their homes, as you said, their friends, their family in jeopardy. And yet they're still out there doing this job.

I mean, it's an extraordinary work that they are doing. How do people call the Coast Guard? I mean, the cell phones aren't working. So is it just you happen to be flying by, you're looking for people, and they're waving that handkerchief?

JONES: It's really as simple as that. Our helicopters are out there scouring the areas that are flooded, and they're seeing signs of distress, waving hands, waving T-shirts.

Last night, I was out on scene when it got dark. And as soon as it got dark, we put on the night vision goggles. And immediately, hundreds of flashlights flashing at us from people on rooftops who we couldn't see during the day.

They're making their way through their attics to the roofs. Just in the last half-hour, our last crew came and landed and said there's at least 200 people out to the east, south of Chalmette, where they were operating.

So it seems as though more people are coming out of the woodwork, coming out of their attics over the last 24 hours, as they get overheated, they're hungry, they're thirsty. It's been almost 100 degrees here today. And those who are elderly or sick already are beginning to deteriorate.

So we're throwing everything at it that we can. And not only our Coast Guard helicopters, we have National Guard helicopters from Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. And we have local officials in small boats, sheriff's boats, fire department boats, good Samaritans who are out going between the streets, looking for people in distress...

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Well, Captain, I know you got to go. I appreciate all the hard work. And Godspeed to you and the men and women of the Coast Guard. Thank you very much.

I want to talk with David Mattingly who is on I-10. Parts of that highway just completely destroyed, by the way. David, what are you seeing where you are?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, because this is high ground, so many people have sought refuge here after they had to exit their homes when the flood waters started rolling in.

In some cases, they escaped from their homes by walking, wading through the water. And they said the water was chest-high, sometimes up to their chin, as they tried to get out of here. Adults were carrying children on their shoulders, walking to the expressway, trying to get away from those flood waters.

They managed to do that in large numbers. There are hundreds of people up here. But they were fully expecting someone to come along to give them a ride to some kind of shelter. And that ride has not come along.

So we've had hundreds of people, elderly people, people in need of medicine, some in need of medical attention, children, all of them out here all day long with no shade in the blazing sun. It has been oppressively hot today.

Tempers are wearing thin, I can tell you that. People want to know, where is the ride that they've heard is coming but so far hasn't showed up?

Earlier today, we went out with some state officials in boats as they continue to rescue people from their homes. There are still people in their attics here in the eastern parts of New Orleans who are still calling for help. And that help is arriving very, very slowly.

Anderson?

COOPER: David Mattingly, we'll check in with you a little bit later. Dave Mattingly, one of the CNN reporters who has been covering this storm from the beginning, working really just around the clock. David, thank you for that.

We're getting a lot of e-mails, thousands of e-mails from viewers, asking how they can help. If you would like to help in any way, we're putting some numbers on the screen, some organizations that are doing work here.

You can also go to the CNN web page, CNN.com, for more information on who is working here, what groups are working here, what they're doing. And if you want to help them in any way, you can.

I also just want to show you something just very briefly. Over my shoulder, as this light is going down, there is a Dole truck, pickup truck, one of the many -- it's not a pickup, it's a tractor- trailer -- that has just slammed into a hotel about 100 feet from here.

It just shows you the force of this storm. And it's so surreal in Gulfport right now. I mean, you see these images of things you don't expect. I mean, a truck in the lobby of a hotel.

We're also seeing all these -- well, we all know about the levees in New Orleans, which have been a major point of concern, trying to keep that water out. Water continues to come in, flooding New Orleans. It's just getting worse, as a matter of fact right now. It's not getting better. We're going to talk about that a little bit later on after this break.

We're also going to show you some of the animals affected by this storm. There are thousands of them. No doubt many have been killed. Well, there are snakes here in the water. There are birds walking around. There are even seals which have been left in parking lots. We'll have their story when we return.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got family all around. And maybe they're seeing this and I'm OK, but I can't get out, call anybody. There's no way to let anybody know that, you know, I'm OK. But, yes, we're fine. And everybody lost everything, but we're, I guess, pretty resilient. We're going to make it and possibly move away from here. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, right now in New Orleans, there are tens of thousands of people stuck in the Superdome. There's no electricity. Parts of the roof have broken. Water has been coming in. The bathrooms have stopped functioning.

I mean, imagine for a moment -- I know a lot of you are probably sitting in your homes right now elsewhere in the country. And hopefully, you are dry. And hopefully, you are safe.

But, you know, as you go to sleep tonight, just think about those people in the Superdome right now and what they must be going through. And there are thousands and thousands of stories of people stuck in their homes right now.

No electricity. No ice. Nothing cool to drink. They don't know where to go. They don't know what to do. And they don't really have any information. And that's one of the things.

And we keep hearing from people, everywhere we go -- I was in a Wal-Mart earlier in the day. And people just come up to you at the Wal-Mart and they're like, "Have you heard about my town? Do you know what's happening in my town?" And we don't know the information, you know? We just drove down here ourselves to see for ourselves what Gulfport was like. And, I mean, there was no description that could have prepared us for what we have seen and what you're going to see over the course of the next hour. I want to talk, though, a little bit about New Orleans and what is happening there and the levees there. That is a city which is under sea level, as you all know by now. So the levees are key in protecting that city, and they have been for decades now.

A levee broke yesterday. Another levee broke today. Water is still pouring into that city. It is just getting worse.

Tom Foreman takes a look at the levees and how important they are.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rain stopped falling, but the water kept rising. In New Orleans and its immediate suburbs, areas are now flooding that were largely clear at the storm's height.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The water is also, if we can take a look now, creeping up the sides of the buildings here. Earlier today, none of this was standing here. So it is continuing to rise.

FOREMAN: To understand why at least two of the levees around the city have failed, think of New Orleans as a fortress protected against water on all sides by walls, levees, which are large, earthen dams.

Officials say the first failure, likely caused by water flowing over the levee and eroding it, happened on a boat canal at the east end of town. That's a low-lying area. So that flooding was contained.

The second levee failed in the same way. However, it was on a drainage canal in the north, near Lake Pontchartrain. This is critical. A side view of the city with the lake on the right, the Mississippi River on the left, shows almost the entire town is below lake level.

So unless the levee is plugged, water will flow until its level in much of the city is the same as the level of the lake. Only a small part of the French Quarter, which is at a higher level, and other areas with natural protection might stay dry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But right now, our first primary emphasis is try to get that closure so we can stop the water flow and so we can start getting the water out of the city.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how long that will take?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't have any idea.

QUESTION: Days, weeks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't have any idea.

FOREMAN: For now, officials say, until the levees are fixed and the massive pumps that failed during the storm are restarted, the water is going nowhere. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Big difference here between New Orleans and any other city in this country. Most other cities' drainage systems are set up so that naturally, if you leave water alone, it wants to leave town. It flows downhill and goes somewhere is else.

New Orleans is downhill. Without the pumps working, without the levees fixed, the water will just sit there, a health hazard, a menace to travel, a problem in every single way. These are top priorities right now. They're trying to figure out how to do it in a place where you can barely move and you can barely get information.

Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, Tom, the information is such a hard thing to get. I appreciate that report.

And Tom brings up a good point, which is the health hazards of this water. There are so many things you don't think about in normal life. I mean, when there's all this standing water around, bacteria, germs, disease -- we're all carrying around anti-bacterials that we're putting on our hands, because you just don't know what is out there. It's a potent mix.

We're going to talk to Elizabeth Cohen, a medical correspondent, a little bit later on about that.

There are also animals in the water. I mean, snakes, all sorts of animals to watch out for. So you've got to really be careful. We're going to talk about that, coming up.

We're also going to show you some just remarkable rescue efforts in New Orleans and elsewhere. And also, in Biloxi, we're going to take you to an apartment complex where 30 people in this one complex, 30 people were killed in the blink of an eye. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were sitting there in the storm. And we did not even know -- have any idea of the destruction going around us. When we got out and saw the destruction, we just feel so blessed. And thank God we're alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got a lot of people that we can't get back in town. The roads are bad. We don't know if we're going to be able to buy gasoline to come back. It really would be nice just to have the local officials of Louisiana, Mississippi, try to tell us a little more. What are we going to do about gasoline and the routes to get back home? I'm sure you all will give us the information as soon as you can, but we sure would like to know something now, thank you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COOPER: That's just some of our viewers who called in to tell us their experiences, their concerns, and their thoughts about this storm after they survived it.

Just want to show what -- I mean, there are so many things that are happening right now, even here in Gulfport, as night has fallen. We've been smelling gas for the last hour or so, which has obviously been a concern.

Some officials have come up and are now -- they found the source of the gas leak. They're trying to get a handle on it right now, trying to fix it. They are working -- I mean, it's just so surreal here. I've got to tell you. They're working in front of this Dole truck, it's a banana truck, that has just been picked up, moved hundreds and hundreds of yards by the force of the water, and just slammed into a hotel.

There are literally dozens of these pickup trucks, of these tractor-trailer trucks, which have just been tossed like a child's toy. And you see that block, after block, after block here in Gulfport. It is just surreal. And it's hard to describe for you.

Just another quick note -- and I know I'm sort of rambling -- but there are so many people out there who are desperate for information. And there's been a lot of frustration that I've been hearing on the radio and talking to people. Why aren't you telling us about Pass Christian, Mississippi? Why aren't you telling us about some of these smaller towns?

And to be honest, we would if we could. We are very limited in just moving around. It took us, you know, about five hours of driving down from Philadelphia, Mississippi, just to get here to Gulfport.

And, you know, basically, we're going through what everyone else is going through, in terms of limited supplies. You know, we're low on gas. So it's tough for us to get to these places.

Gary Tuchman, our reporter, has been there throughout the day moving around on this coast as few have. We're going to talk to him in just a little bit.

But I want to talk to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen for a little bit, because there are so many dangers you don't think about. In all this water that is just laying around, bacteria, disease, and animals. Elizabeth Cohen takes a look at some of the dangers you might not realize in the debris and in the wreckage of this storm.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not just the rising water. It's not just the devastated homes. A big part of Katrina's legacy will be the health problems she leaves behind for a very long time. Many people have no clean water to drink and no safe food to eat. Mosquitoes will breed West Nile virus in the pools of water. People have already died of carbon monoxide poisoning because they lost electricity and tried to use generators in their homes.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're always racing the clock. We're racing the clock in terms of possible injury. We're racing the clock in terms of illness. We're racing the clock in terms of food and water.

COHEN: In a conference call Tuesday morning, officials from states pummeled by Katrina pleaded for assistance from the federal government and from neighboring states.

Mississippi asked Florida to get food and water to people in Biloxi near the border. Florida responded that it already had sent emergency workers who'd found people completely out of contact with the outside world, desperate for food and water.

An Alabama official warned about a significant hazardous material situation in Mobile Bay. A Mississippi official put it bluntly. He said, people will be dying not because the water is coming up, but because we can't get them medical treatment.

MIKE LEAVITT, HHS SECRETARY: We have several dozen public health officers who are currently on the ground. We have several hundred additional ones on standby and on the way. We have dozens of pallets of supplies, first-aid material, medical supplies, basic things being shipped to the region.

COHEN: One of the biggest problems, contaminated water.

IVOR VAN HEERDON, LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY: It's all the chemicals within the city, from the gasoline storage facilities, storage plants, and, of course, coffins. We will have a large number of coffins released. This whole mix together in New Orleans is what we term this toxic gumbo.

COHEN: Another, contaminated food.

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, CDC DIRECTOR: Don't eat any perishable food that's been without refrigeration for more than four hours.

COHEN: Of course, for the millions without power, those four hours passed a long time ago, leaving many people without food, without clean water, without medical care, and officials trying to figure out how to get it to them.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, it's just not disease you've got to worry about. It's also animals in this wreckage, because there's stuff you just can't see, snakes, a lot of wildlife out there. A little while ago, Kyra Phillips talked to wildlife expert Tim Williams about some of the dangerous critters which are out there in the wreckage. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's gators like this that you're concerned about out in these rising waters, right?

TIM WILLIAMS, GATOR WRANGLER, GATORLAND: Oh, my gracious. Those poor folks out there have got so many problems. And part of that's going to be these wild animals that are washed out of their homes. They don't have any place to go. They're going to see animals turning up in backyards and porches and underneath houses that they never thought they'd see out there.

PHILLIPS: What about snakes, Tim?

WILLIAMS: Oh. We've got some great snakes. I brought one of the prettiest ones that we had. This little guy here is a representative of some of the other snakes that could be out there. This is a rat snake. They have rat snakes throughout the Gulf states. And this snake likes to climb. So with the waters coming through, these types of snakes and rattlesnakes, cottonmouth, water moccasins, copperheads, all these different types of snakes will be flooded out of their dens and boroughs. There's a chance you could see those up in trees, bushes. They could swim into houses and, as the water recedes, be up inside some of the homes.

You know, people need to take caution for all the downed power lines and all the things we'd normally think of. And a lot of times we forget that these animals are out there crawling around. And we really need to be careful.

PHILLIPS: Well, Tim, you're holding this rat snake like it's no big deal. How lethal is a snake like this?

WILLIAMS: This snake's not. This snake is actually a constrictor. Eats mice and rats. It doesn't have venom. But the rattlesnakes and cottonmouths have very big fangs and some very potent venom. And if you're going to be out around these areas, especially cleaning up, watch what you're doing. You have trash and debris, snakes will get up in there. Use rakes, shovels, hoes to turn this stuff over. Wear gloves. Don't walk around barefoot. Wear shoes or boots, so in case someone unfortunately gets a bite from one of these animals, they have some -- a little bit of protection there.

PHILLIPS: What are the things that we hear time and time again that simply, they're just not true?

WILLIAMS: Well don't suck the venom out. Don't put on tourniquets. Don't cut it. Don't put on ice. The best thing to do is seek professional medical attention as quickly as you can.

PHILLIPS: It's not just gators, it's not just snakes. There are other animals out there too, right, that individuals need to be aware of?

WILLIAMS: Yes. They're going to find raccoons, possums, and nutria, and skunks, and fox, and all kinds of animals running around. Again, hurt, injured, displaced, lost, hungry. So be very, very cautious of these animals. And just leave the things alone and let things as quickly as you can get back to normal.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Those people have so much to worry about, this is just one more thing.

WILLIAMS: Our hearts go out to them. We know what they went through, down here in Florida. And it wasn't as bad as what they're having right now. And we really have our thoughts and prayers with all those folks out there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well they certainly do. We came across an animal a little bit ago, a seal just here in Gulfport, just about 100 yards from where I'm standing right now. This, I mean, just one of those surreal things you see. The seal has been there since the storm. It was basically carried out on the water from this marina, from this, sort of, animal park, seal park, that's about a half mile away or so. And it was left in this parking lot. People have been trying to save this animal, pouring water on it, trying to keep it hydrated. We'll tell you a little bit later on what is going on with the seal right now.

A lot more ahead.

Jonathan Freed is going to take you to an apartment complex in Biloxi, Mississippi, where 30 people in this one apartment complex were killed in the blink of an eye. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a truck driver. My name is Dave. And I'm headed north down on 75 in Florida. I just wanted the people over there to know that the cavalry is on the way. Electric company trucks and tree removal trucks, firefighters, and rescue trucks on the way up. So they're coming, just hold on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Some of our 360 viewers who have called in to talk about their experiences during Hurricane Katrina.

We have just gotten some news in to CNN from the Homeland Security Chief Michael Chernoff who has announced that there will be an involuntary call-up of Coast Guard Reserves in order to help in the search and rescue efforts. That just in to CNN. Homeland Security saying there will be an involuntary call-up of Coast Guard Reserves to help in these rescue efforts.

I just want to show you if you're just joining us, we're in Gulfport, Mississippi, a town very hard-hit. And we're still trying to assess the damage. Behind me, this casino barge, which as you know in Mississippi there's a state law, all casinos have to be on the water on these barges. So that barge, you can still see some of the slots inside it. That barge is now on the land. And it's moved several hundred yards. It was just picked up by this storm and deposited right here now on the land. It is extraordinary. You know, when I first saw it, I thought it got a little bit of damage just on the ground. I didn't realize the whole thing had been picked up and deposited right here.

There has been loss of life here in Mississippi. Perhaps the most in one spot that we know of at this point -- and it is still early days -- was in Biloxi, Mississippi, where 30 people were killed in one location.

CNN's Jonathan Freed has their story.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I can tell you that I had an opportunity to take a walk along the beach today here in Biloxi. And that walk has changed the way -- it has forever changed the way that I will think about these storms. That -- that is how extensive the devastation was today.

I would call it total devastation. I felt like I was walking on the set of a disaster movie. It was truly surreal. And it has forever changed me.

We took a left turn, and we came upon the apartment complex that you just spoke about, where we are told as many as 30 people could have been killed during the storm surge and the raging winds the other day.

Now, the damage is so extensive, though, officials are saying that that number could be higher as well. They say it could be lower. They think that they're comfortable with that roughly 30 figure. It could even be significantly larger for the general area of Biloxi as well.

But so twisted was all of this wreckage, it's so difficult to distinguish what you're looking at, that they say it's going to be a long time for them to really properly comb through all of the debris, to try to get a handle on who's missing -- who is simply missing, for example, who actually got out of the way and because of the problems we're having with communication and cell phones, Anderson, who are simply missing -- and who is actually dead.

One of the things that I wanted to know -- I was walking around, and I kept asking myself, what did this look like when it happened? What -- what was the nature of the force that could possibly do this? And I found myself asking, what did it sound like?

Well, we had a chance to talk to a couple of the people who actually experienced it today, and I made some notes for you. They told me that the water was loaded with debris. So much wood from all the broken-up homes, Anderson, they say that it looked like a moving and rolling floor, which -- it's such a vivid image. And I can see it. When you look at that debris, you can just see how the water could have been loaded with that.

And when I asked them what it sounded like, some of them said it just sounded like a roar. And it just chilled them right to the bones. And they knew that they simply had to get out of the way, and that they had made a big mistake in deciding to stay.

Anderson.

COOPER: Jonathan, have the families of the people who have died there, have they been notified? I mean, do we know their identities at this point?

FREED: No. Officials are not even going that far. And it's somewhat frustrating for us and it's frustrating for them. They want to give us more specific information, but because of the nature of the destruction, they say it's just too soon. I think they really need to start crunching data as much as sifting through debris, to start matching up who's missing and who's just simply not around and unable to contact people to let them know that they're OK, and who's actually dead.

COOPER: That is just such a horrible thing. Jonathan Freed, we'll check in with you a little bit later on, as our prime-time coverage continues.

Again, we are getting so many e-mails from viewers asking how they can help, what they can do -- because I know sitting in your home, it's frustrating seeing all this -- and wanting to do something. You can check out -- we're putting some information on the screen that might be able to give you some help on that. You can also check out our Web site, CNN.com. That will have more information about what groups are doing work here, and how you can help them in some ways.

We have a lot more ahead. Some remarkable search and rescue efforts that are still under way. We'll show you some of the efforts, people being taken, plucked from their attics, from the roofs of their homes.

A lot more ahead on this special edition of 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We are in Gulfport, Mississippi, live. I'm with Commander Alfred Sexton with the Gulfport Police. What can you tell us about -- I mean, what are the search and rescue operations going on right now?

ALFRED SEXTON, COMMANDER, GULFPORT POLICE DEPARTMENT: You know, basically, again, everything's being coordinated through our Harrison County Civil Defense and Emergency Management. They're out there responding, trying to check areas. They have a plan in place to go across our area and to ensure that we still check every point that we can to ensure, you know, the safety and the rescue of those individuals.

COOPER: There's so many people around the country and especially in Mississippi watching this, wondering what's happened to their communities, to their loved ones. How do people find out information?

SEXTON: You know, again, you know, the best thing is the media outlets. You all have been doing a good job getting out there. Unfortunately you've had to show the bad side to get the seriousness out there. The radio stations, the Web sites.

There's plans in place that are going into effect. You know, again, we're just coming out of this. We're still in the recovery mode. So there's going to be things in place that, unfortunately, our state has learned from Florida. The things that they went through in the last year, that hopefully will save us some time. The key thing is that if you don't really need to be in the area, you don't need to be here. And you may want to, but just let us do our jobs.

COOPER: Right. Because if you're on the roads, you're taking up space that a rescue vehicle could be using. What a lot of people don't realize about the police is, I mean, you guys have gone through this storm yourselves. You've got homes which are damaged, loved ones affected as well. How bad is it here? I mean, it looks terrible.

SEXTON: Well you know, it is. And you're right. You brought up a unique point, about the second side of this coin is that we're emergency personnel first, but we have families, we have a lot of officers that don't have homes. But they're out here, they're doing their jobs, and they're proud of what was they're doing. And you can see it in their faces, as they're doing these 18 hours, and these 20 plus hours, on out there. On every call that they go on it's important to them to try to do what they have to do, and working with their fellow law enforcement. With the highway patrol coming in, and everybody coming in to help us, you know it was like a star in the night.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Commander, we appreciate you joining us. I know you've got a lot of work to do. Good luck to you and God speed.

SEXTON: I appreciate it.

COOPER: Thank you very much. So much work to be done here tonight. We appreciate all their efforts.

We have a lot left on this special edition of 360. We're going to show you some just extraordinary rescue efforts.

Also, we've been -- we came across a seal, if you can believe it, of all things, just about 100 yards behind me, a little bit earlier on. We're going to show you what has happened. It's just one of those things you come across here that you don't really expect.

First, a lot of other headlines to cover. Let's check in with Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS. Erica, good evening.

ERICA HILL, CNNHN ANCHOR: Hey, Anderson. Good to see you.

We actually start off tonight with some suspects in a shocking assassination. Today, a current and several former top Lebanese officials were taken into custody, being held for questioning, in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The popular politician and 20 others were killed in a car bombing in Beirut last February. Those detained include the head of the president's guard, two former security officials and an intelligence leader.

In Iraq, new uncertainty about the constitution, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq making it clear he thinks more changes are expected before a final draft is approved.

Also today, U.S. Marine air strikes targeting insurgents in Western Iraq. There is one report dozens of civilians were killed, while the Marine Corps says seven militants were killed when the 500- pound bombs were dropped.

And she was born the year Vincent Van Gogh died. Today we say goodbye to the world's oldest person. She passed away in the Netherlands this week. She had turned 115, Anderson, on June 29. Quite a life. She said you should eat herring every day, by the way.

COOPER: All right, Erica. We'll check in with you again in about 30 minutes. Thanks very much.

You know, we just got to Gulfport about two hours ago, and I have simply been stunned by what we saw. When we come back from this break, we're going to show you, sort of, my reporter's notebook of, kind of walking around downtown Gulfport. Because what we saw was just truly extraordinary.

But first, I want to check in with CNN's Adaora Udoji who is in New Orleans with breaking some news. Adaora? Adaora, what can you tell us? Adaora, it's Anderson, you're on the air? What can you tell us?

We're trying to get communication with Adaora Udoji working out -- Adaora, this is Anderson, you're on the air. What can you tell us?

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson, hello.

COOPER: Go ahead, Adaora. What can you tell us?

UDOJI: We're in downtown New Orleans, Anderson, right outside of the Superdome. And we ran into police officers who are telling us that there's a massive looting going on in the downtown area, particularly in those areas that have been flooded. They tell us that the water has continually been rising, that at some points it is up to 12 feet. They say it was in the last couple of hours that there have been a couple of shootings in the area. And they're very concerned that the situation could deteriorate as we move into nighttime.

It's actually also begun to rain. They told us that there have been a couple of reported incidents of various people, some of these I guess you could call them Katrina refugees, who are packed along the highway, trying to take others' cars because they're trying to get out of town. They were certainly advising us to be very careful. Really, they advise us not to go in the downtown area.

Anderson. COOPER: Adaora, just, you know, there are so many people listening to this, and desperate for any kind of information. We don't want to alarm people in any way. Do you have any sense of how extensive this looting is? How many people have been shot or arrested?

UDOJI: They told us there have been three different shootings, and they were in and around the Superdome area. They were not all at one particular location. At least two of them, we were told, were in apartment buildings or near apartment buildings. When they talked about the looting, they said Canal, which is one of the main arteries in downtown New Orleans, that there had been massive -- a lot of looting going on in that area, which is right -- very close to where many of the hotels are. And again, they were just expressing concern of the possibility of things deteriorating overnight.

Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Adaora, appreciate that. This is the first information we've gotten on that. We will continue to follow it over the course of this evening and bring you any updates as warranted. We have a lot ahead in this continuing hour, this special edition of 360, live from Gulfport, Mississippi, one of the hardest-hit towns. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband is a Gulfport, Mississippi, police officer. I cannot contact my husband. And I'm really, really, worried, and I don't know who else to call. (INAUDIBLE) waiting to hear from you (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A woman came up to me in Wal-Mart earlier today and said, please tell us about what is going on in Bay St. Louis. We're not getting any information out of there.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has been there and has a remarkable rescue that took place. Here's his piece.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A small Mississippi town in ruins. Bay St. Louis, which suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Camille in 1969, was hit even harder this time.

Nicky Nichelson moved here two years ago.

NICKY NICHELSON, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: Here is my dream. I came here from New Orleans two-and-a-half years ago with a wonderful dream to have a B & B on the beach and I did for a very short period of time.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And Nicky, I can't even see where it was anymore. Where was it?

NICKELSON: I know. It was right here. This beautiful tree was in my front yard.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Her bed and breakfast is now rubble, just like many of the homes and businesses on Main Street, just like the mile-long bridge which is part of U.S. 90 across the St. Louis Bay. Each of the stories is unique, but Nicky's is harrowing as well as lucky.

NICKELSON: This house had withstood Camille and withstood the huge wind of 1947. And -- so, I felt we were safe. I felt safe in the house.

TUCHMAN: So she and six other people remained in the bed and breakfast. But a tidal surge came in. And then --

NICKELSON: My house literally crumbled.

TUCHMAN (on camera): While you were in it?

NICKELSON: While we were in it. Crumbled, just crumbled.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And that's where this tree comes into the story. The seven were propelled by the storm surge to the tree. As the winds whipped and the torrents of rain fell, they grabbed on to a limb, literally for dear life.

NICKELSON: We held on, it was amazing, for almost three hours. And it just finally, finally slowed down. But I mean, it was washing over our heads -- over our heads.

TUCHMAN: One of the employees of the B & B, Kevin McNeil, was next to Nicky on the limb.

(on camera): So, Nicky was here. You were where, Kevin?

KEVIN MCNEIL, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: Right up there.

TUCHMAN: You were up there and the waves were hitting the branch. And what were you thinking?

NICKELSON: I started to pray a lot. I truly didn't know if we'd make it. I really didn't.

TUCHMAN: You must have been terrified.

NICKELSON: Absolutely.

MCNEIL: I was just trying to keep her calm.

NICKELSON: You know, and every once in a while we'd look at each other and touch, you know, a finger to each other.

MCNEIL: It was stinging so bad with the rain.

NICKELSON: It was awful.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Minutes later, four of the seven, including a couple in their 80s, lost their grips and floated away. The three left on the tree were despondent.

(on camera): Did you think you were going to die?

NICKELSON: Yes. Yes, I did.

TUCHMAN (on camera): No doubt about it?

NICKELSON: No. No doubt about it. No doubt.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But the water started to recede. Nicky and her friends were safe. And the four who floated away were later rescued.

(on camera): What were you thinking while that water was climbing the tree and you were on it?

NICKELSON: That I would be a little bit more religious; have a little more faith.

TUCHMAN: Have more faith?

NICKELSON: Yes.

TUCHMAN: If you lived?

NICKELSON: Yes. And my brother's a priest. He'll be very happy with that.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Kevin hadn't been able to contact his nervous mother in Louisiana to say he was all right. We let him use our satellite telephone to do that.

MCNEIL: Love you. Love you. Bye. Bye.

TUCHMAN: And Nicky is now mulling the future with her faithful friend, Mattie the Scottish terrier, who by the way, was on that tree branch with Nicky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Unbelievable, Gary. Has anyone died in -- do we know, has anyone died in that town?

TUCHMAN: In Hancock County, where Bay St. Louis is, authorities are telling us they've had a number of deaths. They won't say the exact number, but what they're doing is they're putting red paint on the houses of those who have died -- most of those houses in the water -- so they can go back and get the bodies with refrigerated trucks that aren't there just yet.

COOPER: So at this point, they're not even able to get the bodies out? They're just leaving them in the ruins. TUCHMAN: They've gotten some of them. They haven't been able to get all of them.

COOPER: That's so horrible. Gary Tuchman, thanks. Amazing reporting over the last 24 hours. Thanks very much.

A lot ahead. We've been following the story of this seal who we found a couple of hours ago in this parking lot. It has been swept hundreds of yards. It has not ended well for this seal. So many animals in need right now and of course, so many people desperately in need as well. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We are still live in Gulfport, Mississippi. Three seals were washed from the aquarium where they were -- have been living -- washed hundreds of yards. They were deposited in a parking lot. For the last 24 hours people have been trying to keep at least one of these seals alive.

We found a woman pouring water over the seal. Sadly, we need to tell you that just in the last hour or so, police shot that seal to death twice in the head to put it out of its misery because simply there is no -- there was no place to bring that seal. Nothing to do.

So many animals in need, so many people in need. If you want to help in some way, here's how you can do it. On the screen, some information. You can also log on to the Web site, CNN.COM -- a lot more information.

Our prime-time coverage continues though of the aftermath of this disaster as it will for several days now, with CNN's Paula Zahn. Paula?

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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