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Evacuation from New Orleans Ordered; Police Surround Bankcorp Building in Gulfport; New Orleans Officials Work to Plug Levee Breaches; New Orleans Refugees to Be Moved to Texas; Federal Officials Hold News Conference on Katrina Response
Aired August 31, 2005 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, HOST: New Orleans, now an extremely dangerous place. Looting, shooting, the threat of disease. It's time to get everybody out.
And a relief and refugee crisis in enormous size is brewing. What's ahead for the thousands of people that are stranded, suddenly homeless and struggling to survive?
Recipe for death: a toxic gumbo that could keep the body count increasing for months.
Also this hour, we'll bring together a family separated by the storm. You're going to see their reunion live.
From our newsroom in New York, I'm Kyra Phillips. CNN's LIVE FROM starts right now.
Hell and high water, one and the same, again, today, in a city overwhelmed, under siege, in the grip of unmitigated, unprecedented catastrophe. Katrina's long gone, but the broken levees surrounding New Orleans have inundated at least 80 percent of downtown with up to 20 feet of water from Lake Pontchartrain.
Add to that violence, deprivation, desperation, the rising threat of disease, and officials say, enough is enough, everybody out. Though how and when and where they'll go, well, it's still anybody's guess.
We do know that some 23,000 refugees in the squalid and sweltering Superdome will soon be headed to the Astrodome in Houston. Officials in Texas tell us that 475 buses will bring the Superdome dwellers more than 300 miles to the fully intact, fully air- conditioned, rarely used Astrodome.
Several hundred soldiers will help with the process that everybody hopes can be completed by Friday. We get a live report later this hour.
And storm survivors not in the Superdome but still in danger are relying on the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and local first responders. The Coast Guard alone rescued 1,259 people as of midnight. A figure surely higher by now and growing as we speak.
But here, even rescues bring problems. Helicopters used to pluck terrified people off rooftops are unavailable to drop giant sandbags into gaps in levees. It's a quandary for New Orleans' mayor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY NAGIN, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Yesterday, I was a little frustrated. I was expecting the levee to be plugged with some 3,000- pound sandbags, and it didn't happen. So we have command centers that are spread out in different locations. And this morning, we're going to bring all our command centers together so that we can get all the varying opinions in one room and start to work, you know, in synergy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: And that leaves law and order not a top priority for at least a few more days. We've got reports of looters cleaning out the gun department in a newly opened Wal-Mart and New Orleans' homeland security chief warns that are armed gangs roaming the city.
Louisiana's governor is asking Washington for more help with search and rescues so National Guard troops can focus on security. Let's go straight to John Zarrella. He's in New Orleans. He joins us by phone.
John, I can't imagine what you're dealing with.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, actually, we are part of a convoy of CNN personnel who are -- who left the city. We evacuated the hotel this morning. And as part of the evacuation, we helped evacuate people from the hotel, brought them over to -- through the high water, which was, you know, almost waist deep in place, knee deep, certainly. We drove on the sidewalks, to stay high enough out of the water so the cars would not bog down, until we made it over to Canal Street.
Canal Street was dry in the middle. We stopped where the police were and I asked one of the officers, I said, "We have these evacuees from the hotel. We were told to drop them here with you."
He said, "Well, we're not going anywhere. We're only here because we can't get back to our station. Everything is flooded and under water." So they're sitting in the middle of Canal Street.
So we took the evacuees another couple of blocks to an area by another hotel, where they were bringing these evacuees into and dropped them off there.
We wound our way through the city this morning, through back streets and side streets, downed power lines, around downed trees, driving on the wrong side of the road periodically, up along the Mississippi bank, along the levee and finally made it over the Huey T. Long Bridge on Highway 90, and are making our way up to Baton Rouge now. We've just now left the city. And Highway 90 is, Kyra, a steady stream of traffic.
But everything you pointed out in the opening is exactly what's taking place in the city. There's no system of water. There's no sanitation any longer. The knee deep water in the hotel lobby, it just reeks with stench. It is a miserable, deteriorating situation in the city that's growing worse by the hour, and the water is rising.
One final point, Kyra, on the radio just a little while ago, the emergency manager from Jefferson Parish literally was pleading, Walter Mainstreet (ph) was pleading with the folks from FEMA to get in and bring them more help, as they just are overwhelmed, and the water is rising there as well -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, John, as you can imagine, I've got a number of questions for you. But I just want to point out that we're getting new video in, right now, John. These are aerials, via helicopter, there in New Orleans. Once again, just giving our viewers a sense for how this city is under water. We're looking -- this actually looks like the Kenner Metairie area to me not far from the airport over along the water.
As we continue to watch this videotape, John, you said you're having to evacuate. Right?
ZARRELLA: That's correct.
PHILLIPS: So let me ask you: is it getting so bad, so dangerous, and -- from the health issues to the security issues, do you get a sense that at some point we're not going to be able to cover this story because everyone's going to have to get out of there. Do you think it's reaching that point, with regard to security, that it might come down to that?
ZARRELLA: Well, at this point, yes. Until they get more National Guard in, until the regular Army gets in, and I assume -- from what we're hearing, they're moving in that direction.
But the fact of the matter is, Kyra, that as this bowl, as they call it, is filling up, the estimates of time that it's going to take to get the water out of the bowl are three to six months. You could be sitting there in absolutely untenable conditions, in water that is filled with disease and germs, for months to come, walking through it, slogging through it.
So quite clearly, it is a situation that, with the looting that's going on that we saw yesterday, with the deteriorating sanitation conditions, and it is a situation where you can't cover the story, because you can't venture out from the hotel, for many reasons.
Just because it's so dangerous, one, because the water is getting higher, two, and because the disease factor that is beginning to run -- and there's no food, there's no water. That's beginning to run out quickly. And in fact, the hotel was talking -- and we did help evacuate some people from the hotel today, and they may be trying to go ahead now and evacuate the entire hotel.
PHILLIPS: Our John Zarrella there, via telephone. John, stay connected, please. John telling us that, of course, he's having to evacuate the city because of the health and security issues there in New Orleans.
But I am being told that we do have Kim Segal, one of our producers, still inside of New Orleans, as John is sort of making his way out of there. Kim is still there in New Orleans. Kim, exactly -- tell us exactly where you are and just describe your surroundings to us.
KIM SEGAL, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Kyra, I'm actually in the middle of Canal Street, next to -- the part closest to the Harrah's Casino if you're familiar with it, close to the Mississippi. The water is running and pushing us to drier land, rock by rock, and we're getting closer and closer to the river.
That said, four of us did decide to stay. It was quite a task. They're evacuating everyone from the hotels. And they're trying to do it with truck loads. And people are just leaving their belongings all in the hotel and just getting in trucks and getting out of there.
The odd thing about where we're standing right now is we hope to bring you live pictures up, within the next 15 minutes -- is the fact that people are still out on the streets. They're looting. They're looking for the right-sized shoes to wear. I mean, it's incredible, because I know a lot of them don't have radios. We do. We're listening to what's being said and how dangerous and lives that are going to be lost and these people are worrying about what size shoes they're going to pick up, you know, from a store they looted.
I mean, it's really a little crazy down here. The cops aren't really stopping the looting. Here and there they do, but I think they think, at this point, safer to just let them go on, instead of causing any kind of riot.
We did have some big problems at night. It's scarier. During the day now, because the sun's out, you feel a little safer. You see a few Guardsmen come down the street. Of course, the state police. But right now, we're doing all right, but we keep getting pushed.
PHILLIPS: Kim Segal, stay with us, Kim. I understand we've got a situation going down in Gulfport, Mississippi. We're going to go from new Orleans now over to that area where Kathleen Koch is. Not quite sure what's happening. I'm just being told there's something going down.
Kathleen, where are you? What's happening?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, we're in downtown Gulfport, Mississippi, where about 45 minutes ago, our cameraman saw a man wearing a DEA shirt, carrying an M-16, enter the Bankcorp South building. This is one of many buildings obviously destroyed in the storm.
It has now been surrounded by police cars. We've seen six, eight police cars. And police officers are walking around the building, carrying weapons of their own. We do not know if any currency remains in this building, if there's still any cash in the Bankcorp South building. But as you've heard, John Zarrella describing in New Orleans, the desperation that is beginning to rise, that same sort of thing beginning to happen here. So we don't know if this person is trying to rob the building, if this person is a civilian, if they are a DEA agent who is responding to something that was occurring earlier in the building. We just don't know.
But now this building is becoming surrounded by police officials. And we're all just waiting and watching.
We -- behind us, I'll describe some of what's happening. There's also major cleanup going on, if you hear a lot of banging and changing. There are backhoes. There are dump trucks that are picking up the debris from the port of Gulfport shoved up on here by the massive storm surge from Katrina. So they're cleaning that up behind us. They've been working on that for several hours.
But again, in the Bankcorp building what we've seen as far as activity today have been what look like employees coming in and out, carrying boxes of what looked like papers, other types of information. Perhaps what office records they can salvage that weren't destroyed by the wind, by the rain.
And, again, the police -- you can see them. They're walking, actually, with our cameraman, Emmanuel, there in the orange shirt. He's walking with this officer. So maybe they're going to go around to front. He's going to describe what he saw.
It's beginning to rain here now. Something that actually is a source of relief to a lot of people who have been suffering in the extreme, extreme heat that we've been having today. No running water anywhere in Gulfport, Mississippi, anywhere we go. We're hearing Long Beach, Mississippi, may have some running water. So I will bet that we will have a lot of people standing out in this rain and perhaps getting their first shower they've had in several days.
Kyra, you want to ask me any questions?
PHILLIPS: Kathleen Koch, thank you so much for bringing me -- bringing us that report. I was just being told -- I was trying to listen to you and also I'm hearing that emergency management in Louisiana is holding a news conference. We're going to listen in to there.
We'll go back to Kathleen Koch in Gulfport, Mississippi, where a man with a gun has entered that building. But let's listen in now to emergency management in Louisiana.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if I can add too much to that, other than answering some of your questions. The good news here is that we've restabilized. Water is not rising in the city. And, in fact, since yesterday, the lake has reduced its level by two feet.
And as the general indicated, that level is reducing by about an inch, a half-inch an hour. You take that into consideration and, hopefully, by high tide tonight, we may not even see the effect of high tide. So things are looking very positive from that perspective. We have a lot of equipment out there. We've got a lot of options that we're pursuing. Not just pursuing one option. You heard the 3,000-pound sandbags. You heard the 20,000-pound sandbags. You heard about the rock. You heard about the sheet pile. Those are the good stories. We've got a lot of things working at one time a lot of people mobilized to try to make this thing and to breech this thing successfully.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you explain how that sling works?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a regular sling. The problem is, is that these slings are being used with helicopters. So you've got to release the whole thing and you can't keep the sling.
So the issue that we had was not enough slings. OK? So when you release a 3,000-pound bag of sand, the sling goes with it. So you've got to get another sling. So we've got that problem solved in that we've got 250 slings ordered and on their way. We've secured those.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do the same -- do the numbers again, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which numbers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twelve hundred, 3,000, 20,000 pound, whatever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are 3,000 -- you can stand here and help me verify this. There are 3,000-pound sandbags that have gone -- some have gone in, OK? We've got another hundred that are ready to go into the hole as soon as the slings arrive on location.
We have 20,000 pound sandbags that are going to be filled and ready for dropping into the hole sometime later today and tonight. Are those the numbers you wanted?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the numbers -- 1,200 of the -- I do not have the number of the concrete barriers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The barge?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's there are 250 concrete barriers that have been delivered. They're on site already.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How high will they have to build up, do you think, to restore the integrity?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sounding that we took yesterday said the gap, the depth of it was 25 feet, although that's -- that is -- we need to confirm that, because it just doesn't sound right. But we'll have to -- we'll have to -- clearly, we'll have to build it up quite a bit before we restore just a temporary integrity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us about the barges...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a contractor with them that has three barges of rock that's out on the lake now. And of course, the challenge is getting access to the site and inside -- inside the canal to the floodwall breach. But it possibly can be used at the entrance to the lake.
Although we prefer to use something more temporary that we can remove quickly so when we want to -- when the flow reverses itself and we drain the city, we've got to be able to move quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the sandbags are just for the breach and then the rocks and the concrete are for the lake and the canal?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sandbags and the concrete jersey barriers are to dump into the floodwall breach. What we're doing at the entrance to the -- connection to the canal and the lake is the levee board is working on sheet piling, and we also have rock available. And we're also looking at containers, to drop containers into that gap, to block the flow of the lake into the canal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any truth that there was water going into Jefferson -- East Jefferson Parish earlier this morning? There were some reports, that some of it might have been connected to the 17th Street Canal? Do you know anything about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's London Avenue Canal, which we have a report this morning, there's a gap in that floodwall, at that canal. And so that would be the only other -- in the Orleans Parish area, that I know of.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that name again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: London Avenue Canal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: London Avenue?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no evidence that Jefferson was flooding due to an encroachment there at 17th Street.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So on the whole, the situation is a little more positive today? It's not getting any worse in terms of flood waters?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long will it take to get this temporarily stabilized and then...?
PHILLIPS: You've been listening to emergency management there in Louisiana holding a news conference.
As we're watching, brand-new video just coming in to CNN. As you can see now, individuals that are having a hard time moving around, individuals that are getting sick and are not able to get out of these devastated areas. Now, as you can see, they're being transported in these large orange boxes. People moving supplies, moving people in and out of the city here, under water, completely submerged in this area of New Orleans. Actually, you can also see the military, moving in, via trucks, various law enforcement officers and military moving into the city, obviously to assist in what's going down.
Now emergency management saying, probably the best news that these individuals have been able to bring us right now, is that according to those out there surveying the water situation, the water is not rising. Emergency management officials saying the water is not rising, that they have stabilized the situation there with regard to the water and the threat of it even getting higher.
They said things are looking very positive right now with regard to no rising waters throughout the city. And that they're looking forward to and helping orchestrate now a number of helicopters coming in, bringing in sandbags, sheet piling, rock and concrete, to help stabilize those levees, those levees that have been breached.
You're watching rolling coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath, here on CNN. We'll bring you more right after a quick break.
PHILLIPS: Straight to Houston, Texas, now a news conference we want to listen in to, concerning all the refugees that will be moved out of the Superdome in New Orleans into the Astrodome in Houston. Let's listen in and find out more information.
JUDGE ROBERT ECKELS, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: ... for several days now, as Louisiana continues to be experiencing worsening conditions. They will be coming in, into the Astrodome complex. Our facility can handle that kind of a crowd very easily. It is not designed for long- term service. It is a facility that is designed for crowds. We will provide those basic services the mayor mentioned.
We'll point out this is not a project of Harris County. It is one that we're coordinating. We're providing the facility, but it will take the efforts of everyone in this community, the city, the county. The Red Cross will be coordinating the shelter and bringing in services from our county public health, our municipal facilities, our faith-based community and many people from this region who will come together. We will be coordinating through FEMA and the governor's Office of Emergency Management.
The first bus has not left New Orleans yet. But we do expect it to be doing so any time. It is about a seven-hour drive. And we know the road conditions around New Orleans are not that good. So we will be working, coordinating, with them along the way.
The donations -- we've had a lot of calls on donations, people asking about what to do with donations. Again, the mayor's comments, Red Cross, their fund is the easiest and fastest way to help with getting supplies in. The United Way is coordinating donations, as well, and we'll provide those numbers to you, as well.
Mayor, do you want to -- I guess we'll just take questions. We'll take questions.
We have here with us representatives of the Red Cross, the various providers from the services here in the community, our Harris County and city emergency management officials, health officials. We'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will take care of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
ECKELS: The dome is not designed for long term. The dome will be fine for a few days, even could go for weeks for some of these folks. But our goal would be to get them in and out.
And it's not so much the physical facility. We do have water in the dome. We have locker rooms and showers in the dome. We can set up more. We have air-conditioning. We can serve through our kitchens in the dome and through the crowds that it is designed to serve, the kinds of people that are coming in today.
More importantly, though, is the social conditions and the psychological conditions of living in a family of 20,000 people. Folks just don't tend to do well with that over a long period of time. And the Red Cross can fill you in more on that. Our hope is we can move those people through and into other facilities as quickly as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will they sleep on the floor in the dome?
ECKELS: I'll refer you on the Red Cross on how logistically they do that. We provide the space. And let me go ahead and ask -- I don't know which -- who's going to come up and talk about the Red Cross on logistics of how they work within the facility.
TIM KIDWELL, DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY SERVICES, GREATER HOUSTON CHAPTER OF AMERICAN RED CROSS: I'm Tim Kidwell, director of the emergency services for the Greater Houston Are chapter of the American Red Cross.
We just did a walk-through of the dome, and we laid out, kind of organized how we would set it up as a shelter. The floor area of the dome would be the sleeping area. We've set up an area that -- for actually food distribution. The food distribution's going to be contracted. The meal service is going to be contracted out.
We've set up an area for a nursery, for people who have kids where they -- if they can't sleep and the kids can't sleep, there's a place where they can remove the kids from the sleeping area, and take care of the -- and take care of the crying kids.
We've set up an area for mental health. We've set up an area for first aid.
So we've tried to organize the dome as best we can to accommodate all the different needs that we have in running basically a small city of 23,000, or 24,000 people. Any other questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The weather -- sleeping (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
KIDWELL: Cots, cots are en route...
PHILLIPS: ... what Tim Kidwell, with the American Red Cross there, is describing to reporters in Houston, Texas right now, basically what has happened is those refugees that will be moved from New Orleans, Louisiana, into Houston, Texas, into the Astrodome.
A number of people speaking there: the mayor, Judge Robert Eckels, who's helping with this effort, and also Tim Kidwell, with the American Red Cross. You just heard from him, talking about they're going to create virtually a small city inside the Astrodome.
But they're saying that the goal is not to keep these people -- these refugees -- in this area for an undetermined amount of time. They want to get them out, get them in, take care of them, and move them to other places, because they're very concerned about the psychological conditions.
Making the point that, for anyone to be inside an area like that and not in a comfortable place, or in their home, psychologically can be extremely damaging.
So there are rooms, showers, bathrooms, air-conditioning, in that -- in the dome, in Houston. And they want to get folks in, help them, and get them out.
They've set up a nursery, a mental health facility, a first aid facility. We're looking at pictures now, actually, of the Astrodome there in Houston, Texas, to kind of give you a sense about what it looks like, what it hooks like inside, and where these thousands of storm refugees will be staying and living and trying to, somehow, find peace of mind and comfort for a short amount of time as the Red Cross and the mayor and others there within emergency management in Houston, Texas, are trying to respond to this disaster that has struck Louisiana and Mississippi and other parts of the United States, Alabama, of course, we've been talking about.
Well, the public health crisis looming in the wake of Katrina is almost beyond human comprehension. Disease, inevitably, will result from the total lack of sanitation. We've talked so much about that.
Also, the massive amounts of standing water. It's a perfect incubator for mosquitoes that may carry the West Nile Virus. That's latest concern, as we've been following all that.
And add to these factors the ongoing health needs of any community. Accident victims, pregnancies, diabetics, heart patients. You know, with an affected area four to five times the size of Hurricane Andrew's impact zone. Just think about that.
Well, one CDC official may be in the running for understatement of the year, saying that this is going to be a long-term event. Former director of the CDC and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher joins me now from the CNN Center in Atlanta to talk about what needs to be done and where to begin. I've just got to ask you, sir, from your experience, from surgeon general to the CDC, have you ever seen anything like this in the United States?
DR. DAVID SATCHER, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Kyra, I don't think any of us has ever seen anything like this. I was involved with Hurricane Floyd and the flooding in North Carolina. We lost 50 people.
But I don't remember anything that compares with this. I think this is sort of beyond our imagination.
The threat is a real threat. And the immediate one, of course is survival. And everybody has to be concerned about the survival of people who are still left there and the conditions of so many people who are out but who don't know where their relatives are, the mental health problems of children and families.
Let me just say a few things that are critical. Water safety is critical. And people need to be aware of the fact that water can be very dangerous, after and during a flood. So it's very important to limit consumptions to bottled water, to treated water, and to boiled water if that's possible.
It's also important to be careful with food at a time like this. And to make sure that contaminated food is not consumed, food that has been contaminated by floodwater. But also food spoils if it's not maintained in refrigeration.
You mentioned the mosquitoes and the concern about the West Nile fever. That's a real threat here with standing water, so people need to be aware of that. That probably will come a little later.
Injuries can lead to tetanus if people get puncture wounds. So we're dealing with all of these things. We're dealing with the danger of people going back into buildings prematurely. That's very dangerous. Dangerous, acutely, because the buildings are unstable, but also because the...
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Dr. Satcher, hold that thought for a minute. Stay with us.
PHILLIPS: Because I'm being told that we have Ed Lavandera on the phone with us inside New Orleans talking about exactly what you are addressing right now.
Ed, tell me exactly where you are and what's going on.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra.
Well, we're at the New Orleans International Airport, which is on the north side of town. And this is where we are embedded with a medical unit from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And what they've done here is in the last four or five hour is finalize the setup of a field hospital inside the terminal of the airport.
And in the last 10, 15 minutes, we've started to see three U.S. Coast Guard helicopters that have landed here and dropping off what are patients for this field hospital. We're still trying to -- in the last few moments, they've been pulled off these helicopters, so we're still trying to assess if these are people who have just recently been rescued or if they're being brought in from some other part of the region for medical treatment here.
But this is a regional, a field hospital, that is essentially open for business now. And as we've been told by officials here over the last couple of hours, that they do expect to see a lot of people. We've seen some people brought off in stretchers, some in wheelchairs, some who have walked away from the helicopters under their own power.
But we were just told by one official here that we expect to see this scene that you're seeing unfold here on the tarmac of the New Orleans International Airport to continue to unfold in the hours ahead today.
PHILLIPS: So, Ed, let me ask you, are there enough doctors, nurses, medics? Is this a situation where maybe other doctors and nurses around the country need to come forward and say, hey, let me help, let me get on one of these helicopters and come into one of these field hospitals?
LAVANDERA: Right. If you have a hard time hearing me, I apologize. The Coast Guard chopper you're seeing is about to take off. But I'll try to answer the questions as quickly as possible.
Essentially, these teams are what FEMA called DMAT teams, Disaster Medical Assistance Teams. And they are made up of doctors, nurses, nurse's aide from around the country that we've rolled in with a caravan that was about a mile long overnight. And these are teams, people from -- we've seen people from Texas, Washington, California, Georgia, from around the country.
And this is just one of nearly 40 of these field hospitals that have been set up around the region. So this is a scene that we're seeing, not just here. This is probably going to be one of the principal sites because it is the airport. The airport is open and functioning, the runways are open, so a lot of material and medical equipment and food and water will be able to be flown into this area. So this is becoming what officials here suspect will be a principal site in this relief mission.
PHILLIPS: All right, Ed Lavandera, coming to us by videophone there at the New Orleans airport, talking about the field hospital that is now being set up there in New Orleans. United States Coast Guard bringing medics and supplies in and out and basically setting up a working hospital to deal with the victims there of Hurricane Katrina in that city of New Orleans.
Also, Kim Segal, one of our producers, now able to bring us pictures via her videophone. She's down there off Canal Street, right in the center of downtown New Orleans. She was telling us about the looting and the chaotic nature of what's taking place down there right now. Here are those pictures we're now able to see for the first time.
Kim, tell us where you are and describe what we're seeing.
KIM SEGAL, CNN PRODUCER: We are on Canal and Exchange Place, which is on the outskirts of the French Quarter here. Canal Street is back up towards the Mississippi River. It's the only place that's dry.
What you're looking at now, I mean people are out of their houses. They're looking for stuff in the stores. They're all out here looting. The problem is, I guess, people down here, they're not taking this seriously. And they're no more worried about getting stuff out of these stores than they are getting themselves out of here.
PHILLIPS: Do you see any police officers anywhere? Has the NOPD been able to respond? What about military?
SEGAL: A little bit. Not as much as I expected to see, based on, you know, covering other hurricanes. But there are a few cops down here. The police officers down here, some of them are trying to stop the looting. Others are just, as long as it's peaceful looting, I guess, lack of a better word, they're just letting them go in. National Guard has been up and down the streets. At night is the real problem around here.
PHILLIPS: Kim, do me a favor, have your photographer not move the camera, because it's distorting the picture. My guess is because the elements are really tough there. If you could just hold on that shot there where you are now. It looks like we've got a pretty good signal.
Let me ask you, as you're observing the looting that's taking place, can you tell me -- I mean, are these people that look desperate? Do they need water and diapers and food? Or are these individuals basically with selfish desires trying to come in and take things that they don't need?
SEGAL: Well, Kyra, if you consider trying to find a pair of shoes, brand new Nikes that fit you, being something you need, you know that's what we're looking at. They're taking clothes. It's not water, it's not medicine, it's not food. It's literally the clothing stores, the shoe stores are the hot item down here. It's things like that. TVs, they're being taken out of stores.
PHILLIPS: That is just crazy. What about store owners? Have you been able to see any store owners trying to protect their property, protect their homes?
SEGAL: No, not at all. There's not many homes where we are. We've been dealing more with the hotel guests and the looters out here in the streets. There are no store owners. They've all gotten out of here or they're in a hotel. We haven't seen any trying to protect their place of business. I think they've just, you know, decided to put their hands up. There's nothing they could do. It's too dangerous to try to protect it.
PHILLIPS: Kim Segal, one of our producers there, via videophone on Canal Street and Exchange Place. Unfortunately, a popular area for looting right now. These individuals that you're seeing, you know, obviously, not walking away with things that they desperately need to survive, but, rather, televisions and tennis shoes.
NOPD, military, obviously strapped right now. Looting not top of the priority list when you're dealing with so many injured people and trying to save lives and dealing with search and rescue. We're going to continue to check in with Kim Segal there in downtown New Orleans.
Meanwhile, I want to get back to former U.S. Surgeon General and former CDC Director Dr. David Satcher there in Atlanta, Georgia.
Doctor, I'm sorry, didn't mean to put our interview on hold. Just wanted to bring those live pictures.
Let me ask you a quick question as we continue to move on and talk about the health threats and the mental health threats, physical and mental health threats. You saw the field hospital there being established in New Orleans. Explain to me what is in a field hospital? What kind and how -- what are the type of people that they will be able to serve? I mean can you go as far as surgeries if necessary?
SATCHER: Yes. The field hospitals are well stocked. The people who serve them are well trained. In the public health service, for example, we have a unit of people who are very well trained to deal with this kind of emergency. And I was just referencing this morning, and there are several physicians standing by waiting to be called to go to the scene. So we have a lot of physicians.
There are also institutions, like my own, where people are volunteering to go. But, yes, we have the equipment, emergency equipment, and we have the equipment to do emergency surgery in a field hospital. So it's very good that we have that present at the airport there.
PHILLIPS: You know yesterday it took my breath away. We were talking with a reporter there in New Orleans, Dr. Satcher, talking about the conditions inside the Superdome. And a man actually committing suicide, jumping to death. I want to talk about the mental, you know, the mental threat here with regard to what people are dealing with. How -- by looking at this situation, in your experience, do you think we're going to see more of that?
SATCHER: I think the mental health problems accompanying a catastrophe like this are very real and often under estimated. In this country, of course, there's stigma surrounding mental illness, so we don't talk about it the way we talk about physical illnesses. But it's critical that we pay attention, especially to children.
Children suffer significant anxiety, depression, grief. Somebody needs to talk with them, needs to encourage them to talk, to cry, to pray, whatever people need to do to express themselves at a time like this. We often ignore the mental health problems. And of course they make the physical health problems more severe, too. So suicide is a very real possibility in this situation.
In 9/11/01, of course, the mental health problems were very serious. Many people of course will suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, just as they do in a war situation. People coming out of this situation will suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. So we've got to be alert to the immediate mental health problems, but also to the mental health problems that will follow.
And again, I'm especially concerned about children. Encourage parents to talk with children about how they're feeling, about losing their home, losing loved ones, being separated from an environment that they've known for a long time, and just make sure that it's an open discussion. If you need help, seek help. Don't be ashamed to seek help if you have a mental health problem. They're very common, and certainly deserve as much attention as any other health problem.
PHILLIPS: Points well made, Dr. David Satcher, joining us there live from Atlanta, Georgia.
Sir, thank you so much.
SATCHER: You're quite welcome -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: We're going to continue, of course, to follow the physical and the mental effects from Hurricane Katrina as our continuing coverage of the aftermath continues. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
PHILLIPS: We want to take you straight now to Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, listening in to how the U.S. government is responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: ... one of the largest response mobilizations in United States history, to aid those who have had their homes and their lives devastated by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, and who continue to suffer in the aftermath of the storm. We will work tirelessly to ensure that our fellow citizens have the sustained support and the necessary aid to recover and reclaim their homes, their lives, and their communities.
President Bush has declared a major disaster for affected areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama. Along with these declarations, the full range of federal resources and capabilities is being directed, as we speak, to assist and protect those citizens who have borne the brunt of this catastrophe.
The Department of Homeland Security has declared this an incident of national significance, the first-ever use of this designation under the new National Response Plan. The National Response Plan, which was stood up earlier this year, gives the Department of Homeland Security the lead responsibility to coordinate federal response and recovery efforts. The plan is designed to bring together all federal resources to increase our ability to quickly get relief to those who need it most.
We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy. We've had full participation from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, all of the units of the federal government. We will work tirelessly to ensure that state and local authorities benefit from the full mobilization of our capabilities and receive every needed assistance.
I have spoken several times with President Bush, as well as with the governors of the affected states, the mayor of New Orleans, and other officials, to assess the situation. Later today, my colleagues and I will be meeting with President Bush to discuss additional steps as we move forward.
The situation in all of the affected areas remains very dangerous. We want to emphasize that citizens should follow the instructions of state and local authorities who have asked that people remain in shelters and stay away from impacted areas until further notice. For additional information, as well as for guidance on how to assist the victims of this disaster, please go to the FEMA Web site, www.fema.gov, or the American Red Cross Web site, www.redcross.org.
At this time, we'd like to update you on some of the specific federal efforts currently under way to save lives and aid those in need.
Let me first touch on those efforts undertaken through the Department of Homeland Security and its principal representative on the ground, FEMA. FEMA has deployed 39 disaster medical assistance teams from all across the United States to staging areas in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana. We are now moving them into impacted areas to provide emergency medical assistance.
FEMA is also moving supplies and equipment into the hardest-hit areas as quickly as possible. Truckloads of water, ice, meals, medical supplies, generators, tents and tarplements (ph). There are currently over 1,700 trailer trucks, which have been mobilized to move these supplies into position.
The Coast Guard has worked heroically for the last 48 hours rescuing or assisting well more than 1,000 people who were in distress and held high and dry above the floodwaters. I want to commend their efforts and their willingness to put their lives in danger to help others.
In addition, Coast Guard ships, boats and aircraft continue to support FEMA, state and local authorities with rescue and recovery efforts which are continuing to go on. The Coast Guard has activated three national strike teams to help in the removal of hazardous material. Ships and boats continue to support the national relief effort.
Let me now recognize my cabinet colleague who will talk about what their departments are doing as part of this overall federal effort. And we're going to here from Steve Johnson, the Administrator of the EPA; Secretary Sammy Bodman from Energy; Secretary Mike Leavitt from HHS; Secretary Norm Mineta from Transportation; Assistant Secretary Paul McHale from the Department of Defense.
Before I turn it over to Steve Johnson, let me just introduce Admiral Whitehead of the Coast Guard who is here and ex-FEMA Director Patrick Rhode. Both of them have been very deeply involved in helping to operate our recovery effort here -- Steve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Michael.
STEVEN JOHNSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you very much.
Today I'm exercising my authority under the Clean Air Act to temporarily waive specific standards for gasoline and diesel fuels to ensure that the Hurricane Katrina natural disaster does not result in serious fuel supply interruptions around the country.
As we're all well aware, we're seeing increasing serious impacts from the hurricane in a number of fuel markets around the United States. Yesterday afternoon, I exercised this authority with respect to four states, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It has become clear that the consequences of the hurricane have become more widespread.
So today, I'm sending letters to the governors of the remaining 46 states and territories, providing temporary relief from volatility and sulfur standards. This action will result in a needed increase in fuel supply. These waivers are necessary to ensure that fuel is available throughout the country to address public health issues and emergency vehicle supply needs.
Under the Clean Air Act emergency authority, I am making the waivers effective through September the 15th, 2005. These waivers only apply to the volatility standards, the rate at which fuel evaporates and the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel.
EPA is committed to working with our state and federal partners to address this extraordinary national disaster.
Thank you very much.
And I'd now like to turn it over to Secretary Bodman -- Sam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
SAMUEL BODMAN, ENERGY SECRETARY: Thanks, Steve.
First, like my predecessors, I would start off by expressing our thoughts and prayers, as they are focused on those who are dealing with this horrific disaster in the Gulf Coast. As with any natural disaster, the first priority is human health and safety, restoring electricity and fuel, and doing so safely is a very important priority, but follows after looking after the people and their safety.
The department has sent teams down to the affected region to get a firsthand assessment of the damage and to work with, not only our colleagues and FEMA, but also with the state and local officials related to these issues.
We've also begun working with other agencies on planning, even before the storm came ashore, and have been in close contact with the state and local authorities assessing the overall impact of this storm on our nation's power infrastructure.
As many of you know already, last night I approved a company's request for a loan from our nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or the SPR (ph), as we call it. Currently, we are reviewing additional requests. Once we have an announcement on these requests, we will share that information with you.
I would like to thank particularly Administrator Johnson and his colleagues at EPA. The entire staff at the EPA has worked very hard to get this waiver through to increase the supply of gasoline throughout the nation. And as I just spoke to Secretary Chertoff, in my view, this is really a big deal. This is something that should materially change the supply of gasoline fuels in our country. Today's announcement by EPA will mean that Americans will have access to greater amounts of gasoline and a more efficient distribution of these materials throughout our country.
I would also like to thank Secretary Mineta for his leadership that led to the waiving of rules governing trucker hours. That has enabled emergency supplies and more gasoline to be delivered to the afflicted region.
Taken together, these three steps, the things that we've done, the things that EPA has done, as well as the Transportation Department, I believe will increase the supply and availability of gasoline for our nation's citizens. And hopefully will help the rest of the nation manage itself in a fashion that will enable us to be helpful to those in the Gulf Coast region who are suffering so mightily.
Thanks very much.
I think it's Secretary Leavitt is following.
MICHAEL LEAVITT, HEALTH & HUMAN SVCS. SECRETARY: Thank you.
In addition to our thoughts and prayers, at the Department of Health and Human Services, our actions are focussed intensely on this throughout our department.
This afternoon, I have declared a public health emergency for the entire gulf region. That will have the effect of dramatically simplifying and accelerating the procedures necessary to expedite emergency actions.
We are also erecting a network of up to 40 medical shelters. They will have the capacity, collectively, of 10,000 beds, and will be staffed by some 4,000 qualified medical personnel. The first of them is now in place and, as we speak, we are treating patients in the Baton Rouge area.
Within 72 hours, we anticipate another 10 of the shelters will be stood up and will be operational. We're focussing first on military facilities that we'll be able to detail later this afternoon. Within 100 hours of the first 10 being done, we will follow with a second 10, and so forth.
Patients that are requiring additional treatment beyond that which will be available at these medical shelters will be transported to hospitals throughout the country. We've identified 2,600 beds that -- in hospitals in the 12-state area. In addition to that, we've identified 40,000 beds nationwide, should they be needed.
We continue to ship pallets of basic first aid material and medical supplies to the area. The Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are assembling public health teams. We are gravely concerned about the potential for cholera, typhoid and dehydrating diseases that could come as a result of the stagnant water and the conditions. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration will be focussing on chemical and toxicology matters.
We'll be, also, working with local officials on sanitation and on food safety. We're concerned about mosquito abatement. And our teams will be focussed to assist local officials on those points.
May I say to those who were blessed to get through this incident with their own personal safety intact, stay safe. We urge them, those in the affected areas, to keep themselves safe and healthy. By that, listen to public, local and local health officials.
We're concerned about carbon monoxide poisoning, for example, on those who are using generators and stoves and other kinds of other means to keep themselves warm and lighted. We encourage them to boil water and to drink safe water. Water borne diseases can be a terrible aftermath of this kind of an incident, particularly for those who are feeding young children.
We also encourage them to be conscious of food safety. Food that's been sealed in a refrigerator continually for less than four hours will be fine. Food that has rested at some -- for some time at more than 40 degrees could be unsafe.
May I suggest that the Department of Health and Human Services will be working to do everything we can, as long as we need to, to help people in need. We know that there will be -- that the elderly will need particular care, that there will be mental health requirements and assistance required. And we're deploying teams into this region for the purpose of helping with mental health and childcare. We stand ready to unite with the rest of America to assure that this tragedy is overcome. NORMAN MINETA, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We at the Department of Transportation join with all of our colleagues in expressing our deep regrets and sorrows to the families who are suffering, but our thoughts and prayers are with them.
Although we are still in the process of assessment, it is clear that there has been significant damage to the transportation infrastructure in the affected regions, and the Department of Transportation's focus is threefold.
First, as an immediate and urgent matter, we are working with our colleagues at the federal cabinet level to move emergency supplies into the region and assist with the evacuation. This is under the ESF, the Emergency Support Function, responsibility that the Department of Transportation has.
To date, we have shipped 13.4 million liters of water, 10,000 tarps, 3.4 million pounds of ice and 144 generators, among other essential supplies.
Secondly, we are working to restore at least minimal transportation infrastructure in the region, and that includes highways, airports, seaports and oil pipelines.
We have deployed teams from the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to the region. And they are working closely with Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama state officials to clear roads and inspect bridges, establish communications and increase operations at major airports and to move generators to pipeline pumping stations to restore the flow of petroleum products to the southeast.
We also are looking at maritime assets that we can deploy to New Orleans to re-establish port operations there.
And finally, we are beginning the process of evaluating the total damage and needs for long-term rebuilding. In all of these efforts, we are working closely with state and local authorities and with our federal partners and with private sector transportation service providers.
And now I'll turn it over to Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul McHale.
PAUL MCHALE, ASST. SECY. FOR HOMELAND DEFENSE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
In responding to this crisis, the president has captured the message quite succinctly, and that is, it's all hands on deck. We in DOD understand that commander's intent. Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary -- acting Deputy Secretary England have communicated to our department at all levels a requirement that we proactively lean into the mission and that we be fully prepared to assist DHS, FEMA and our interagency partners in supporting their lead efforts in responding to this natural disaster. Let me just give you a thumbnail sketch of what we in the Department of Defense have been doing, not only over the past several days, but in fact over the past several weeks as we anticipated the impact of this hurricane.
The commanding officer of our operational response is Admiral Tim Keating. He is the Combatant Commander at United States Northern Command. He has, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, formed a joint task force, JTF Katrina. It is commanded by Lieutenant General Honore, United States Army, ordinarily the Commander of the 1st Army, now commanding, for the time being, the JTF that has been formed specifically for the tactical response regarding this relief effort. Lt. Gen. Honore has for the past several days been at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where he is coordinating with FEMA counterparts.
Let me just give you, again, a very succinct summary of some of the kinds of capabilities that we have been providing and that we anticipate we will provide on behalf of the Department of Defense.
We ultimately expect that we will make available a fleet of approximately 50 helicopters to support FEMA's operations. That would include aerial assessment of damage, movement of FEMA personnel, and other interagency partners who, for reasons that are obvious, have difficulty achieving ground transportation.
We have transported from California eight civilian swift water rescue teams to assist those civilians who are still trapped by the collected water. We anticipate providing from the Department of Defense a 500-bed mobile hospital. That will be deployed in the New Orleans area. We may provide -- it's under active consideration -- as many as 800 personnel to assist the American Red Cross with shelter support.
Some of you may have seen media broadcasts that relate to the movement of United States naval forces. That reflected, again, the proactive, very aggressive message given to us by the secretary of Defense that we are not to merely be passive in our response to FEMA requests for assistance, but as a fully cooperating partner, to anticipate the kinds of needs that FEMA may bring to our attention and to put in place in a forward-deployed status those kinds of DOD capabilities that will likely be called upon.
For that reason, we are moving to the area approximately eight ships that have various competencies in terms of medical support, humanitarian relief, transportation in a maritime environment. We are forward-deploying everything we think might be required by FEMA, and we'll be fully prepared to respond to FEMA's request for assistance when they are inevitably forthcoming.
We anticipate the movement of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, from Baltimore, Maryland, to the Gulf region. It will depart on September 2 and likely arrive in the Gulf region on the 8th of September.
As of today, there are more than 11,000 National Guard in state status deployed in and around the affected area, providing humanitarian relief, assistance in maintaining civil order. Those guard personnel are currently under the command and control of the governors of the affected state.
We're looking toward the possibility of medical surge capabilities. We've had to provide that kind of support in the past. For instance, during the hurricanes last year in Florida. We are identifying medical specialties that FEMA may call upon us to present. We've also been working very closely with HHS on those issues.
And lastly, we have in excess of 1.5 million cases of prepackaged MREs in the event that food is required to augment the food supply.
Our commitment is unequivocal. We stand in a supporting role. And we are not only willing, we are eager in a time of national crisis to provide whatever relief we can in support of DHS, as Secretary Chertoff takes the lead on behalf of our federal government, in providing assistance to people who are so desperately in need.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Thank you, Paul.
The magnitude of this challenge is enormous. But the combined capabilities of all parts of the United States government represented here and at other agencies has been brought to bear. And the president has been unambiguous in his mandate that we exhaust no -- we leave no stone unturned and exhaust no -- leave no effort unexhausted in proceeding to do whatever we can to rescue people, alleviate suffering and address this terrible strategy.
We're going to take some questions. If you'd simply tell us who you'd like to address the question to, we'll ask that person to answer.
Go ahead, Pete.
QUESTION: Mr. Chertoff, are you -- can you give us some sense of what you and your colleagues think you have accomplished so far, given the great need down there? Is there -- is this just the teeny beginning? Are you halfway there? Is this a tenth, a lot more to come? What is your sense of it?
CHERTOFF: Pete, you have to look at this problem in stages. The first stage is, of course, life saving. We have to make sure we have found people who are at risk, either because of wind -- high winds, or because of the flooding. We've got to locate them, we've got to rescue them.
I think we've made a lot of progress there. Well over a thousand people have been rescued using Coast Guard helicopters. Boats manned by federal, state and local authorities have been out, pulling people down from roofs. And there were people on a container, for example, that had to be rescued. So we've made a lot of progress in that respect.
A second piece of that initial rescue element involves what we have to do with evacuation. Again, we have made substantial progress there.
There was a voluntary -- actually, a mandatory evacuation before the storm hit. We are now positioning the assets necessary to evacuate the Superdome. We're going to do the other steps that are necessary to complete the evacuation.
So that's the first stage. And we're well into it.
A second stage is obviously going to be to then create the conditions that will allow people to shelter with food, water, safety, for some period of time. We've got groups that are identifying locations for that, assembling the necessary materials.
We've already indicated, for example that those who are being evacuated from the Superdome will be going to Houston, to the Astrodome. That process is well along.
A third process which is probably going to take a longer period of time is assessing the damage, de-watering, for example, those areas that have been flooded, evaluating what the condition of the infrastructure is, and then seeing what steps need to be undertaken to repair and rebuild that infrastructure.
That is a longer time frame. We've begun that process. But I think that the time scale there is going to be measured in a longer -- longer period.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) with CNN. One thing we haven't heard yet are the steps you'll be taken for security against the looting that seems to be expanding in the region.
CHERTOFF: Well, I think I'll bring back Paul McHale to talk a little bit about National Guard's role and DOD's role in doing that.
MCHALE: Obviously, the first point we'd want to emphasize is that law enforcement and local security is, first and foremost, a matter of civilian law enforcement capabilities. We in the military provide certain backup capabilities, but the first line of defense against criminal conduct is provided by our law enforcement agencies at all levels of government: state, local and federal.
If for some reason, and it does appear the level of the criminal threat exceeds the immediate capability of civilian law enforcement, the National Guard, in state status, under command and control of the governor, not under command and control of the secretary of Defense, can work side by side, lawfully, with civilian law enforcement agencies, police officers, to maintain public order. We anticipate at this point that the nature of the criminal activity is such that civilian law enforcement and the National Guard and state status will be able to establish and preserve civil order.
In an extraordinary circumstance that we do not at the present time anticipate, the capabilities of law enforcement and the Guard were to be exceeded, the president does have certain statutory authority to make certain declarations, and then to use the active duty military in order to restore civil order.
And although we don't expect that to happen in this case, we do have units that are on alert, as we always have such units on alert, prepared to deploy in order to use active duty military forces for the lawful restoration of civil order. But those are the three tiers: civilian law enforcement, the National Guard and state status, and then, ultimately, under extraordinary circumstances, active duty military forces, as we have used those military forces rarely, but have used them in the past.
QUESTION: What's your assessment of the status of the National Guard in that region, though? We've been hearing so much about the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you have a deep enough bench to also do this domestically?
MCHALE: I'll simply answer that question as, yes, we do have a deep enough bench. I looked at the figures this morning. I'll invite General Shirling (ph), who is a member of the Air Guard herself, and is currently on duty with the J3 of the joint staff, to address the same issue.
But I looked at the figures this morning. And as of late this morning, 60 percent of the Louisiana and Mississippi members of the Guard, between 60 and 65 percent, would be available for state active duty under command and control of the governor.
So, despite the fact that significant portions of these Guard units are currently deployed overseas, a very robust capability remains within the affected states. And, in fact, as I said, we're now using more than 11,000 of those forces for missions, to include security and law enforcement in those areas. But again, I emphasize, that's under command and control of the governor, not secretary of Defense.
Let me invite General Shirling (ph) up here, who can comment on the availability, the training, and the authorities of the National Guard in these areas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, the National Guard would be able to assist the states at the governor's request. I would also add that the active duty military and the National Guard provide a deep bench for any of the missions that are requested by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. And so we are prepared to anticipate those requests.
QUESTION: Secretary Chertoff, can you walk us through some specifics in terms of the types of housing that might be made available? You're talking about a whole city, essentially, that's been evacuated. Where are those people going to go? And how will they go about getting to these places?
CHERTOFF: Well, and that's -- that's obviously a huge challenge. It's going to be addressed in a number of ways.
First of all, there were people who obeyed the instruction to evacuate which was issued on Sunday, or who perhaps anticipated the need. They got out, they found themselves hotel rooms, maybe they moved in with family. We have teams that are assembling that will give them what they need in terms of assistance for a temporary rental, housing, things of that sort.
Then there are people who we had to evacuate after the storm. Those people will be -- their needs will be addressed in a number of ways.
Those in the Superdome are going to be going to the Astrodome. And we're going to be standing up facilities there to take care of their -- their needs.
Others may, in fact, go to trailers that are assembled. I've spoken with the governor of Alabama. He offered -- they have state park cabins that can be made available for people who need places to stay. We have a housing task force which is in the process of identifying all the locations and different kinds of housing assets we can bring to bear.
We recognize that this is a two-step process. There's the immediate process of moving people and sheltering them for a relatively brief period of time. And then given the nature of the damage, we will anticipate there will be somewhat more intermediate or semi-permanent housing that will have to be available. And I think that is a process we're deeply engaged in with the other departments of government and taking a look at.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, if I may?
QUESTION: As far as the chain of command in this first use of the law, are you in charge of local and state officials? And if there's any conflict between you and the locals of the state, how does that get worked out? Also, what's your relationship to the Defense Department in this, sir?
CHERTOFF: Let me try to explain this. And this is -- this shouldn't be news, because it's in a plan that's been public for many months.
First of all, we come in to assist state and local authorities. Under the Constitution, state and local authorities have the principal first line of response obligation with respect to a disaster of this kind. Obviously, the law recognizes they can't do it themselves. So we have a very detailed system of plans that allow us to work with them.
We coordinate our response at DHS through FEMA. Under the national response plan, all the departments of government play a role in the federal response to a disaster.
DHS has the coordinating role, or the managing role, the individual efforts that have to be undertaken. Public health efforts, transportation efforts, energy efforts are led by the individual departments of the federal government that have expertise in that area. So it's a team effort. And like any team, everybody has a position to play. The head of the team is the president. And the president has, of course, the ultimate responsibility for all the federal effort here.
I can tell you, the president is very deeply and personally involved in the details of what we're doing. We're going to be meeting with him later today.
And, of course, again, I want to emphasize the federal government does not supersede the state and local government. We fit with the state and local government in a comprehensive response plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two more questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...
QUESTION: ... how much time have you spent so much, or has the federal government spent so far on some of the recovery and relief? And how much do you anticipate the entire effort will cost?
CHERTOFF: I can't -- we don't -- we're not keeping a running tally. I anticipate this is going to be a very, very substantial effort. I don't even think we have fully assessed all of the collateral consequences that are going to have to be dealt with.
We have a substantial challenge, but we do have some substantial resources. And we're going to do what it takes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question.
QUESTION: Do you have an estimate of the -- I know it's kind of related to this -- a damage assessment, in terms of how much it costs, how much the financial damage assessment and the number of people that are dead?
CHERTOFF: In terms of the number of fatalities, there are unofficial estimates -- there are official estimates. But I have to tell you that, my sense is they are so -- they will probably turn out not to be accurate by a considerable measure. So I don't want to hazard a guess.
In terms of the property damage, we're not going to know the full effect of this until we actually get in and look at what the consequences are on the ground. You can look yourself at the pictures of large parts of New Orleans under water -- and let me remind you that some of these areas include very expensive infrastructure, office buildings with cables, wire, a whole lot of underground piping which could be adversely affected.
We've got environmental cleanup issues here. There are issues of animal health. There are issues of public health. So the process of getting our arms around the total cost is probably going to take a while. This has been a devastating tragedy. And I think the impact of the hurricane on an urban area gives it a character that is a little different than the kinds of impacts we've seen in other areas.
They're all terrible. But the challenge when you deal with a particular -- particularly with the configuration of New Orleans and the surrounding parishes, creates a special challenge because of the water and flooding.
So we're going to be obviously trying to as quickly as possible assess the total damage and develop a plan for doing what we need to do to repair and rebuild. But we're not going to have a definitive answer I think for a while.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you address the problem -- or anyone there -- of the levees and the possibilities of their being fixed in some ways, in any near future, and why they've been unable to heal the breach at this point?
CHERTOFF: Well, I'll address it, unless someone else wants to. I can tell you, my understanding is this, we've had a number of breaches of levees. At this point, it's partly a function of physics.
If the water table in Lake Pontchartrain is above the particular area of land, the water is going to flow into the dry land and you're going to get flooding. My understanding now is the lake level has begun to decrease to some extent. That may cause, in fact, some of the water to flow out.
I know that in particular, though, there's a drainage canal that runs near the center of the city where there was a breach yesterday. My understanding is water may still be coming in, although it may be slowing up.
The Army Corps of Engineers and other experts are working very hard to find a way to fill that breach. The quicker they do that, the quicker the water will stop coming in. Eventually, the challenge will be to reverse that process and drain the water out of the city, back into the lake, or some other place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everyone.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's fair to say that that news conference was unprecedented. The head of DHS, Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, along with almost every secretary that leads this country.
The head of the EPA, the Energy secretary, the secretary of Transportation, the secretary of Health and Human Services, the undersecretary for the Department of Defense, everybody coming forward and talking about what his or her department is doing to respond to this national disaster. Hurricane Katrina proven to be one of the most dangerous storms in U.S. history. And now hearing from practically every leader in this country with regard to what they're doing. The head of the EPA, working on the fuel supply. The Energy secretary, dealing with the overall effect of power. The secretary of Transportation, talking about getting more trucks, moving in and out with supplies and repairing the highways, the roads, the airports, the ports.
Then, of course, the head of Health and Human Services, talking about creating a network of medical shelter and hospitals in areas. They're concerned about typhoid, sanitation, West Nile Virus, carbon monoxide poisoning from generators, and of course the water supply.
Another interesting bit of information -- because we haven't really been able to ascertain what is going to happen, but that is the Department of Defense. And the undersecretary coming forward and saying a lot of people are concerned about law and order.
We're seeing the looting. We're hearing reports of gunfire and gang activity in certain areas.
This is what we can tell you right now with regard to law and order. The National Guard of the four most heavily impacted states are providing support to civil authorities. Guard units providing generators, also medical assistance, shelters. Currently, 31,500 members from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are engaged in this type of assistance.
Now, the National Guard, we are being told, is augmenting civil law enforcement activity. And what that means is that when the local police and sheriff deputies -- those individuals are in charge of dealing with law and order. If those individuals cannot handle that, then the National Guard comes in and supports them.
We're already seeing that. They're helping with that. But pointing out, when some of the reporters were asking about active military getting involved, you heard the undersecretary there of DOD saying that is the absolute last resort.
He doesn't think it is even going to get to that point. But if, indeed, the president comes forward and says, look, civil authorities cannot handle the crime, cannot handle the looting, cannot handle what's taking place from a law and order perspective, and the National Guard can't help support that also, then the president could make the call to bring in active military.
It is a possibility. And that's where the U.S. Northern Command would come in.
If, indeed, it got to that point, Admiral Tim Keating there, head of U.S. Northern Command, would work with the president in dispatching troops, if necessary. Right now, though, Department of Defense saying it has not reached that point.
Michael Chertoff also commending so many people involved in this effort, from FEMA to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard right now continuing to make heroic rescues. The U.S. Coast Guard worked all through the day and night within the past couple days, rescuing and assisting more than 1,300 people now. And in addition to FEMA deploying 39 disaster medical assistance teams all across the U.S. to stage areas in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana. Just an absolutely incredible effort going on right now on behalf of the United States civil authorities and federal authorities.
Now, the main New Orleans airport, the Louis Armstrong International Airport, is open and operational this hour for humanitarian needs only. We were talking to our Ed Lavandera. We actually saw the shots from the videophone as the U.S. Coast Guard was bringing in supplies and helping to set up a field hospital.
Ed is still there and brings us now more information on what's taking place. There we go via the videophone.
Tell us more about this field hospital and what you know, Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra.
Well, I just spoke with one of the officials here who is in charge with organizing this entire logistical situation at the Louis Armstrong International Airport here in New Orleans, where over the last 12 hours a team of FEMA workers have been setting up a field hospital, one of about 40 or so that have been set up across the region.
And to give you a sense of just how massive this operation is, consider that in the four major hurricanes that hit Florida last year, there were never more than five of these field hospitals set up at any -- for any one of those storms. They have 40 for this storm fanned out across the area. And this one here at the New Orleans airport is turning out to be -- will turn out probably to be one of the more effective ones.
In the last hour or so, we've seen about four Coast Guard helicopter dropping off people who need medical attention. Basically, the inside of the airport terminal here has been turned into a makeshift hospital.
There are FedEx trucks that have been turned into pharmacies on wheels. The head of -- that logistical person I was telling you about, that I spoke with just a short while ago, says that he's hearing rumors that as many as 20 helicopter missions will be returning here to the tarmac, bringing more patients.
And off of -- off of one helicopter, we saw four or five people get off. So just because there are 20 helicopter doesn't mean that's just 20 people. There could be dozens of people who are brought in.
Now, exactly what kind of conditions these people are in and where exactly they're coming from is really hard to tell from the standpoint on the ground right now. Basically, if they land, they're just taking care of them. And they'll assess all of that other -- all of those other details as soon as they can. But we understand that these could be people who are literally just being plucked from their homes just a short while ago, or people who are trapped in hospitals or other shelters that need immediate medical attention.
So there's a lot of that going on.
And as you mentioned, Kyra, the airport here in New Orleans is operating. We've seen helicopters landing. We've seen a couple of planes land as well. But by no means does this mean that just anybody can come flying into the New Orleans airport.
I think it's kind of obvious. But the aviation director here at the airport was telling me that it will be just several -- for the next several weeks, the only people probably allowed to land at this airport will be those that are involved in the humanitarian mission here, the rescue mission, and the relief missions, that you will have to have a written reason for why you are here. And then it could be as long as two months before this airport returns to normal for just regular civilian air traffic -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Our Ed Lavandera there reporting to us from Kenner, Louisiana. That is where the Louis Armstrong International Airport is. Telling us about this field hospital that has been set up there to try to deal with everything that flood victims are going through right now.
And in addition, we're just getting word that the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, has come forward now and said that he believes that hundreds, possibly thousands of people, are dead. Now, we have received a number of tips from various sources within law enforcement within the past 24 hours talking about the fact that bodies are being recovered, and a number of people that have not been able to be found have been declared dead. And we haven't been able to really put a number on, you know, those that have lost their lives in New Orleans proper.
Now the mayor officially coming forward and saying hundreds, maybe thousands, of people may have died in this disaster.
Now, other people within law enforcement have been sending us various e-mails, even confidential e-mails, saying that that number could possibly be even higher. Actually, a pretty staggering number with regard to the dead.
So, right now, the official word is -- the mayor coming forward saying hundreds, maybe thousands of people, killed in this disaster in New Orleans alone. We are trying to work that. And quite honestly, I don't think this even touched the surface -- touches the surface. I think that we are going to start to get more and more reports of people that have lost their lives in this storm as we continue to watch the video of those that have survived and are desperately seeking food, water and shelter.
Our continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continues right after a break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: You know one of the biggest questions that we have had is the question of how many people have died in Hurricane Katrina. As we look at these devastating pictures, and we talk about so many homes lost, so many structures destroyed, how many people are still missing, unaccounted for, we have not been able to confirm a number of how many people have lost their lives in this devastation.
Now for the first time, the mayor of New Orleans coming forward, saying that he believes hundreds, maybe thousands, of people may be dead, due to this massive hurricane. And of course we've been receiving a number of tips and various e-mails from various people inside law enforcement and military units that are in these areas, believing that that number is even higher, that it could be a staggering amount of people that lost their lives. But right now, we can at least say, officially, the mayor coming forward and saying hundreds, maybe thousands, of people have died during Hurricane Katrina.
We continue to watch these pictures inside New Orleans, Louisiana, one of the most devastated areas. A city now completely under water. But we did hear from emergency response officials that the water has stabilized, those levels have stabilized. And that is good news, so at least crews can get in there and try to fix those levees and keep that water from rising and coming in.
Once again, the mayor of New Orleans saying hundreds, possibly thousands, of people, he believes, have died during Hurricane Katrina.
Now, the president of the United States, as you know, has been responding to various -- or responding to Hurricane Katrina and coming forward and making comments from where he's been. Well, now we're getting pictures inside Air Force One. He spent 35 minutes, we are told, looking out the left side of his aircraft, at the damage below, starting in New Orleans. Clearly, he saw the Superdome roof. He saw the flooded neighborhoods.
We even got a quote from the president. Evidently, as he was looking at the devastation, he said, "It's devastating. it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground." And then as the president's plane passed over Mississippi, he said, looking at one town, "It's just totally wiped out." Totally wiped out and devastating.
So the president, making his way from Crawford, Texas, to the White House now, has had a chance to spend at least 35 minutes looking at the damage in Mississippi and Louisiana. And now we're being told he will address the United States -- address on live television, Americans. And possibly this will, of course, go international. So he could be addressing the entire country, in addition to overseas, from the Rose Garden, at 5:00 p.m. today, responding to Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath.
Now, Kim Segal, one of our CNN producers, is still in downtown New Orleans. She joins us by phone. She's been bringing some pretty amazing pictures to us. Just talking about the looting that's taking place in New Orleans, and the devastation from where she is, down at Canal -- down off Canal Street. I'm wondering, Kim, are you still there? And is the situation getting any better, any worse?
KIM SEGAL, CNN PRODUCER: Actually, Kyra, we are still on Canal Street. We're on Canal and Campford (ph), those people who would know where it is. And, no, about every two hours, we're being pushed a block further back, a block closer to the Mississippi. The water on that end, it's perfectly dry, the levee must have withstand the hurricane on that side, where we're going to be pushed back to.
There's really two stories here. But you just don't have the looting, you also have the people in the hotels being evacuated -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Yes, Kim, stay with me a minute. As you're coming to us from downtown New Orleans, we're actually get a shot of Air Force One right now, Kim. We just mentioned to our viewers that the president of the United States has decided to make a formal, live announcement at 5:00 p.m., Eastern time tonight from the Rose Garden, addressing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Air Force One, coming in right now. He left Crawford, Texas, and for about 35 minutes, Kim, he had a chance to look and observe the damage over New Orleans and parts of Mississippi. Obviously, the word he kept repeating over and over again was devastating.
So as we watch Air Force One come in for a landing here, as the president is going to prepare to address all of us about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath and the response that's taking place, Kim, continue to tell me and describe to me the situation there in downtown New Orleans, an area, by the way, Kim -- or a city, rather -- that the mayor has now come forward -- the mayor of New Orleans has come forward and said he believes hundreds, maybe thousands of people have died in this hurricane -- Kim.
SEGAL: That number doesn't surprise me, and I'm really hoping a lot of the people here who are out on the street -- I mean, you got to remember, it's sunny now, it's warm out. There's water in the road, and that's about it.
So you have two stories here. You have the looters. You have the people just going in and taking anything they can. It looks like mainly clothes, unfortunately, not food and water. But you also have the hotels. Remember, a lot of guests got trapped here. A lot of people evacuated to hotels. Just a few minutes ago, we saw the National Guard at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, they were evacuating people. Our hotel that we were in...
PHILLIPS: Hey, Mike...
SEGAL: .. they had local people come in with pickup trucks. And the people staying in the hotels, they're saying just bring anything you can put on your lap and that's it. So everyone's personal belongings, everything's got to stay at the hotel. This seems like a last-minute evacuation, but it's happening, and they're trying to really get these people out of these hotel rooms. There's hundreds of people still downtown. Most of them, thankfully, aren't on the street. It's only the looters who are out on the street. PHILLIPS: We're going to -- stay with me here, as we watch the video here of the president of the United States landing in Air Force One. You know, has you are witnessing the looting there in New Orleans -- we've been talking a lot about law and order.
And I know we're working to get Admiral Timothy Keating on the phone with us right now. He is the head of the U.S. Northern Command, and he will be able to actually address the issue of law and order and how this would work. And if the reality may come through that the president of the United States might ask Admiral Keating and members of the active military to get involved in helping to keep the peace, with regard to looting and the crime that's taking place.
Kim, we've been talking, or listening, to a news conference with practically every secretary of every department, including the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. And they addressed that issue of law and order, and saying right now, it is up to the civil authorities and the National Guard assisting the civil authorities. But that active military, that call has not been made yet, and that that is the absolute last resort.
PHILLIPS: So I'm curious, as you're there in New Orleans and you're witnessing a lot of the looting and then hearing about the crime that's taking place, do you see it stabilizing? Do you see it getting any better? Or does it look like it's increasing?
SEGAL: Actually, Kyra, I just had somebody pass me by to ask me where a store was. He had a whole bag of stuff he took from one store and he was looking for a specific store to go loot. You know, I just think the bottom line is, there is some police presence, but they're trying to get people, the people would want to leave, the people who are really taking this seriously, out of this city.
The priority, you know, is not to stop the looters. Unfortunately, some of them are carrying guns. We heard some gunshots yesterday. Thankfully, we haven't heard any today. Usually it's at night when it's eeriest and scariest part down here. Though today, there are people out, they're milling on the streets.
Most of them seem to be people, as I told you before -- you know, they just -- they want new clothes. And unfortunately, they're going to go back to these homes in the nearby area, because they're all walking, and they're not going to be able to get out of the city. And their homes are going to be flooded. So forget the new, you know, clothes. But there's nothing you can do about it. You can't talk sense into, you know, these people here. This is what they want to do.
So I think the police down here, as long as there's peaceful looting going on -- I mean, they have to get people out. People whose lives they're going to save, they need to get out of this city first.
PHILLIPS: Well, it's pretty unbelievable, Kim, when you just think of how individuals would take advantage of those that are already suffering. Kim Segal, our CNN producer, right there on the streets in New Orleans, Louisiana, as we also watch live picture of the president of the United States coming from Crawford, Texas.
On his way back to the White House, via Air Force One, he had an opportunity to observe some of the damage in New Orleans and Mississippi. You know, it's devastating, he says. It's got to be doubly devastating on the ground. And as we've heard from our correspondents and from those on the ground, I think devastating -- there's got to be a stronger word, because when we start talking about the lives lost and what these individuals are dealing with, it is extremely hard to describe.
And right now, one of the biggest and most important operations underway involves finding and rescuing the survivors. You've been seeing the video. You're seeing it right now.
And one person doing just that is Richard Zuschlag. He's the CEO of an ambulance service, the largest private ambulance and EMS company, actually, in Louisiana. He joins us now on the phone from Lafayette, Louisiana.
And Richard, first of all, tell me how to pronounce your last name, sir.
RICHARD ZUSCHLAG, ACADIAN AMBULANCE SERVICE: That's Richard Zuschlag.
PHILLIPS: Zuschlag. Thank you. I apologize. I didn't even want to attempt to say it incorrectly. Richard, and tell me the name of your ambulance service.
ZUSCHLAG: That's Acadian Ambulance Service. And as I see the president pull up, I certainly hope he will rush federal aid to New Orleans. The military's presence is excellent. The Coast Guard and the military are doing search and rescue. We're involved in evacuating patient from hospitals.
We just received a urgent call from Toole (ph) Infirmary. They're asking us to get 100 babies out of their unit by dark this evening. Part of the reason they're asking for that is the unrest in New Orleans. We definitely need the president to send the military troops in to regain control of the city. The site of this disaster and this flood is very unsafe for anybody that's left behind.
PHILLIPS: So, Richard, tell me right now, what you are doing. What type of resources do you have and how are you responding with your service?
ZUSCHLAG: We have about 120 ambulances that can get in on the interstate so far. And we're using wildlife and refuge boats and the National Guard, as can be, to get patients from the hospital over to the interstate and bring them back up to Baton Rouge. The military has sent us in an extra 25 helicopters. The problem is some hospitals can't handle the heavy military helicopters and they can't land down on the ground because there's too much water.
We are working very close with the military, the mass (INAUDIBLE) out of Fort Polk, the naval reserve over at Belle Chasse. These people have all been helping a lot, and we're hoping that we can get most of the 2,000 patients left in the hospitals out of New Orleans this evening before dark. But it's going to be a close call.
ZUSCHLAG: If we do not the federal presence in New Orleans tonight at dark, it will no longer be safe to be there, hospital or no hospital.
PHILLIPS: What about infants, what about women giving birth? Is this an issue with regard to babies and...
ZUSCHLAG: This is all happening in an environment without electricity, without water. It is very primitive. It's very difficult. I think people do not realize how bad things have gotten in New Orleans.
PHILLIPS: Richard, stay with me. The president of the United States now, landing. He just got off Air Force One, there. He was coming back from Crawford, Texas, to the White House. He going to be addressing the American public probably -- this will -- he will not only be addressing the American public, but everybody in this entire world, asking for support and help right now, as he gets ready now, there aboard his Marine helicopter, heading back to the White House.
Richard, the president's going to address, obviously all of us -- 5:00 Eastern Time tonight, from the Rose Garden. You are saying that you are desperately hoping that he sends more help and more assistance. Let me ask you about the law and order. As you are treating those individuals medically, what about the criminal aspects of things and the looting? Is that hampering efforts for you to do what you need to do?
ZUSCHLAG: It certainly is. My people are in harm's way. They are scared. Our command station about an hour ago had the generator stolen off the back of it. We've had an ambulance turned over. Things are not good in New Orleans. It's very serious right now. I did not think it could come to this. These people are frustrated, they are hungry, they're trying to get to higher ground. They're taking over some hospitals. We're getting calls from nurse, on cell phones, begging us to send help.
The problem is the military's so busy rescuing all these other people that they think we're taking care of all the patients from the hospitals, and we have a congressman in our control room right now, trying to get more help, to get the Coast Guard to help us start getting patients out of these hospitals because of the dangerous situation.
PHILLIPS: Richard Zuschlag, the CEO of Acadian Ambulance Service, the largest private ambulance and EMS company in Louisiana. We sure appreciate your time. And, boy, we extend our heartfelt wishes to you as you continue to work one of the biggest and most important operations underway right now in the city of New Orleans, and that's finding and rescuing survivors and treating those that desperately need your help. Richard, thanks you. ZUSCHLAG: Please keep us in your prayers.
PHILLIPS: Oh, you probably would be amazed at how many people are down on their knees, praying for you and others right now in New Orleans and other parts of this country. Richard, thank you. We're going to take a quick break. More LIVE FROM right after this.
PHILLIPS: Our rolling coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continues. I'm Kyra Phillips, here in our New York Newsroom.
We want to bring in these new pictures right now that we're just getting from New Orleans, Louisiana. You're seeing, of course, the home to thousands of storm refugees inside that Superdome, there, a Superdome that has failing operations right now, from problems with the roof to overflowing toilets to lack of water. It's hot in there. And as you know, those refugees that have been -- have found shelter inside that dome are now being transferred to Houston, as we have told you, where they will seek a new shelter inside the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. We've been talking a lot about that and the efforts going on.
Now as we watch this new videotape coming in, and we just continue to see neighborhood after neighborhood under water in New Orleans, Louisiana, we've also been talking so much about the looting and just the civil issues, with regard to keeping the peace in New Orleans and other areas. We've been talking about the looting. We've been talking about those that have just been looking for any opportunity to break windows and take things out of stores and out of homes. It's amazing to even think that people would do that, in light of what is going on, and just make things worse for those who have already suffered. But it's happening.
And I'm told we have Adaora Udoji on the phone with us right now. Tell me where Adaora is. She is in New Orleans.
Adaora, we've been watching, of course, your coverage for the past two days, of a lot of the rescue efforts going on -- also the looting. Where are you now, and what are you seeing?
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've just hit Baton Rouge, travelling about 90 miles outside of New Orleans. And along the way on the highway, I think we just heard from FEMA's director, Michael Brown, talking about the supplies and the trucks that are going to be heading into New Orleans. And we just saw them, probably about 45 miles outside of New Orleans. There were dozens of trucks. It looked like they were loaded up with bottled water. We saw trailer trucks full of boxes, of course assuming there that would be food and other basic necessities that the folks in the city are going to need.
And we also saw, had to be at least a dozen trucks carrying forklifts and tree trimmers. As we were coming out of the city -- I mean, Kyra, the devastation goes on for blocks. There are entire streets just blocked by trees that were uprooted. I mean, you have the power lines that are tangled in every which direction. And again, you still have, as we've been hearing over and over again, you've got hundreds, thousands, from what officials in New Orleans are saying, of people who are just on the overpasses on the highway. They have nowhere to go, and not having had anything to eat for at least two days, perhaps three -- and no place to go and not knowing what's going to happen. That was the common question we heard over and over from people is, Can you tell us anything?
I mean, with no power, no electricity, there's no radio, there's no television. They just have no idea what's going on. You see a lot of families out there. You see babies and you see infants -- tiny, tiny babies, some as young as a week old. I was talking to one woman yesterday. They're outside, and they're waiting. And so they're going to be really, I'm sure, happy to see those trucks coming.
PHILLIPS: Now Adaora, we thought you were in New Orleans, but you're not. You're almost to Baton Rouge. Tell me why you had to evacuate.
UDOJI: Well, there was some great concern about rising waters, and so we decided to head out a bit so we could regroup and reassess which direction we're going to go in next.
PHILLIPS: Were you concerned about your security at all?
UDOJI: Well, I mean, we were downtown and that's -- staying near Canal Street, which has been the scene of some serious looting. The people are going through stores on that street with grocery carts, just piling them up, going into athletic stores, and all other kinds of stores, and a little bit outside the city. There is a lot of looting. Particularly, we were at a Walgreens, and there were people piling furniture -- I mean, just piling furnitures into the back of their trucks, walking away with just cartons of clothes.
And you know, there's definitely a lot of looting going on, and we were talking to some of the police officers who were down on Canal Street, and they say there's not a whole lot they can do. The big problem for them is the lack of communication in the city. In fact, one of the officers was saying that they had just -- there was a handful of them who were staying in the downtown area that were from a particular precinct and they just sort of spread out and decided amongst themselves which corners to go stand on.
I mean, they're not getting, according to this officer, much direction because they cannot communicate with their upper command. And there's not a lot they can do with the looters if there's one, two police officers standing there. Most of that downtown area is just under water. So, even if they could arrest them, they wouldn't have anywhere necessarily to take them.
PHILLIPS: All right. Let's talk some more about that. Adora, hold on for just a second here. I want to bring in Admiral Timothy Keating, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD. And admiral, I appreciate you calling in and giving us a few minutes of your time. I know you're very busy right not.
But Michael Chertoff, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, mentioned your name specifically and mentioned North Com and how you are playing a part in this relief effort and how you may play a bigger part.
And I want to ask you specifically about law and order, because as you know, it's a very tricky situation. And I know that when it comes to looting and it comes to criminal activity, number one, civilian law enforcement has to handle it and then the National Guard comes in and supports that. At what point, sir, will you make the call to send in active military if it gets that bad?
ADM. TIMOTHY KEATING, CMDR. OF U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND: It's an important distinction, Kyra. I don't make the call, at all. For us to move our forces, active duty force, comes from the president and only the president under the Insurrection Act. So, it is not a decision I would make.
PHILLIPS: Well, if, indeed, the president says, "Admiral Keating, we need help." Tell me what you do from there.
KEATING: We've got a number of options available, Kyra. And I've talked -- we've discussed these with the secretary of defense in a conference we had this morning. And so, it would depend on the magnitude of the effort the president would direct and we would respond quickly and in -- with appropriate forces that the president and secretary told us to utilize. So, we've got a couple options available.
PHILLIPS: Can you talk to me at all about the options, sir, when you met with the secretary of defense this morning? Can you -- obviously, there's probably a number of classified issues, but what can you tell us?
Because people are desperate. People are scared. You've got police officers that can't even communicate to each other and you've got a lot of looting. You've got reports of gangs running on the streets, stealing guns out of gun shops. And our reporters have even called in and said, "we hear gunshots. We don't even want to go into certain neighborhoods, because we're afraid for our safety."
KEATING: Kyra, as you know and as you just said, this is initially and principally, a local law enforcement effort and when -- if and when the president decides to, you know, kind of step it up and use active duty forces, we will be -- and it would be at the -- almost certainly at the request of the governor of Louisiana or Mississippi.
But in this case, we're talking about Louisiana. We would be able to respond with any number of options. You're right. I'd rather not discuss those operational -- future operations right now, but just suffice to say that it would be with sufficient volume of forces all trained and equipped when the president told us to go.
PHILLIPS: And of course, admiral, North Com has established a joint task force -- Katrina, I'm being told, JTF Katrina, to ask as the military's sort of on-scene command in support of FEMA. Tell me what your lieutenant general, Russell Honore, is doing as commander of the First Army in Fort Gillem, Georgia and the conversations you've had with him. Because he's been getting boots on the ground and responding from a military perspective.
KEATING: Russ Honore is working very closely with the lead federal agency, as you described, Kyra. He is, right now, down at the Superdome, working with those civil authorities to orchestrate the orderly evacuation of the Superdome.
Russ is a very highly trained -- he's a Louisiana native, is a three-star Army officer and he has with him his joint task force, members of all the armed services.
We're flowing more folks in there now. They're headquartered at Camp Shelby, so as to provide as robust and aggressive support as we can to the lead federal agency for this disaster. Russell is the perfect guy for us in his job at this time.
PHILLIPS: And admiral, we're looking at new video just in right now, inside Air Force One with the president of the United States surveying the damage. I'm sure you can see it from your screen there. We know the president has already landed. He's getting ready for a speech at 5:00 Eastern time, to the American people and it will probably go overseas also.
As we look at this videotape, have you had a chance to talk to the president yet or have you just been dealing with the secretary of defense at this point? And is it possible that you will be looped in and have to talk with the president about this situation?
KEATING: We've spoken to the secretary a couple of times today, Kyra, and I am confident that the secretary, who's going to meet with the president, I think, later on this afternoon, has all the information he needs for us at Northern Command. But of course, we're ready to respond to the president or the secretary, either one, whenever they would call.
PHILLIPS: Now, I know you have a chance to put your eyes and ears on and into everything. Are you concerned -- are you concerned right now with regard to law and order in some of these areas?
KEATING: The reports I'm getting from Russ Honore and others on the ground, Kyra, give us reason to make plans and to forward those plans up to the secretary. But beyond that, we have no particular reason to think that our troops will be called on in any unusual way, this afternoon.
PHILLIPS: Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD. I know you're busy. Thank you so much for your time and we sure appreciate it.
KEATING: You're welcome, Kyra. Thank you.
PHILLIPS: My pleasure. Now, as we continue to watch the video -- actually, new video -- I'm being told -- OK, you saw the video inside Air Force One with the president of the United States surveying the damage. Now we're getting this new videotape -- as the United States Coast Guard, as you know, for days, all through the day, all through the night, is continuing to carry out search and rescue operations.
And this is -- this is becoming almost a minute by minute piece of video that we're seeing and actually a whole family carrying their bags even, getting pulled into this helicopter; taken away from their home, which of course is submerged in water.
Carol Lin, now in Atlanta, Georgia, has been working on a pretty amazing angle to all this devastation. Actually, an angle that gives us a lot of hope and I guess inspiration, Carol, wouldn't you say? And that's the reuniting of family members that thought that they lost their loved ones.
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You bet, Kyra. We're getting the word out, both at CNN.COM and here on our air, for people to e-mail us their stories and also let us know who are they looking for. We're also going to be posting a list of people who are going to be saying, "Hey, I'm OK."
And you'll be able to search for your loved one's name alphabetically on the Web site. CNN.COM is working on that right now. And we're hearing from people who are desperate for any information at all about their loved ones.
On the telephone with me right now is Claudia Rogers. Claudia, you live in Florida right now. You're desperate for any word about your daughter, who happens to be the mayor of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. You heard from her over the weekend by e-mail and haven't heard anything since?
CALLER: That's correct.
LIN: And this is one of the more devastated areas we've seen on our air the bridge that was knocked out between Biloxi and Ocean Springs, so you don't have any idea what's happened to your daughter yet?
CALLER: No, I don't. Since she's mayor, she was going to have to remain in the area, but I don't know whether she was -- is still there or was able to evacuate and with no communication, I just have no idea where she is or whether she's safe.
So, I utilized your e-mail address to try to find out any information I could. There doesn't seem to be very much media coverage in that area, so many of us are kind of in the dark about what's going on there.
LIN: Right. It's very tough to see the pictures that we're putting up there, as these areas are terribly flooded. This is a picture of Claudia's daughter, Mayor Connie Moran. She was just elected to mayor a short time ago in Ocean Springs, Mississippi; has lived there for quite sometime.
If anybody out there knows what has happened to the mayor here, Connie Moran, please e-mail us at CNN.COM/STORIES. Send us an e-mail also at HURRICANEVICTIMS@CNN.COM. We want to hear from you and also give any hope to the mothers and fathers out there and loved ones out there who are looking for their loved ones. Claudia, if you hear from her, will you let us know?
CALLER: Yes, I will. And thank you so very much.
LIN: All right. We've got her picture up and your story is out there. Thank you very much, Claudia. We'll keep our fingers crossed for you. Kyra, I'm going to toss it back to you.
PHILLIPS: Carol, you've also had a chance to talk with those that have found loved ones, right? You actually did something earlier today. Are we going to see that later on?
LIN: We have a list of 40 names on the Web site that are going to be posted sometime in the next hour to two hours where people can do the search. Mostly, Kyra, right now -- yes, we actually did -- I spoke with a son who was reunited by telephone, with his father. We're going to be bringing that interview to you shortly. We just did that.
PHILLIPS: I can't wait to see it.
PHILLIPS: Carol Lin, thank you so much. We'll that wraps it up for all of here on LIVE FROM out of New York today. Thank you so much for joining us. Our coverage, of course, continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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