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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Hurricane Katrina

Aired September 1, 2005 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to really get some help. We really need some help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two days without food.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): From disaster to outrage, three days after Hurricane Katrina hit people are dying on the streets of New Orleans, hungry and thirsty survivors screaming for help, guns on the street, people afraid for their lives as the mayor issues a desperate SOS. Louisiana's governor thinks the death toll could reach into the thousands.

And, in Mississippi, where the storm has killed 185 and counting, anger there too with some survivors still waiting for relief.

With us tonight is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, also a medical doctor. He'll also discuss the potential public health catastrophe.

Plus, reports from all over the devastated region next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Before we talk with our panel of guests, let's go first to Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi. He's on the phone with us as he has been the last two nights. Haley, what do you make of all the growing upset and outrage?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, MISSISSIPPI (by telephone): Well, Larry look, people are tired. They're dirty. They're hungry and they're scared. I understand that. I'm tired and scared too. I mean we're all where we never thought we'd be but in my state I can tell you every day we've made some progress. We've made progress on almost every issue.

The storm, this hurricane overwhelmed our infrastructure, destroyed communications, utilities, not to mention the devastation to people's lives, their property but I understand full well people being worried and scared but the fact of the matter is every day we turn a little corner. We make it further on fuel, on food, on water but it's not going as fast as people want to and it's not going to, Larry.

KING: So you're... BARBOUR: We're not talking about, you know, your kind of typical tornado here.

KING: So, you're asking then for a lot of patience, which is very difficult because people feel there was a lot of warning. All these agencies are involved, press conferences, and some have said today on CNN earlier that the officials are congratulating themselves while the people are suffering.

BARBOUR: Larry, I'll tell you this hurricane hit Florida as a category one hurricane. It came out into the gulf and starting on Friday my emergency management people started asking people to evacuate.

On Saturday we asked people to evacuate. On Sunday, I went on television and I begged people. That's the word I used. I beg you please evacuate. But still when I did that on Sunday, I had no idea that this was going to become a category five hurricane and the people who want to have convenient memories and hindsight expectations that for several days everybody knew this was going to be something terrible, look we begged people to evacuate and some people chose not to but it's not their fault.

I'm not blaming them. I'm just telling you we got hit by the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States and a lot of people, God bless them, a lot of people got hurt.

And I was on TV this morning and somebody said, "Hey, you really look tired." I said, "I am tired but at least I got to sleep in a bed last night and I took a shower this morning, which puts me ahead of thousands of people in Mississippi." So, I commiserate with them but I don't -- I don't sympathize with those who want to blame somebody.

KING: Governor, on Saturday night we're doing a three-hour special from 8:00 to 11:00 Eastern Time. It's called "How you can Help." I'm going to host it. It's a Larry King special how to locate the missing, donating time and money, rebuilding, people calling in with their stories. We'd love to be able to call upon you on Saturday night so you can help people tell other people how they can help sometime during those three hours.

BARBOUR: I'd like to do that, Larry, you know, one of the wonderful things about -- this is the worst disaster I've ever seen and the most utter destruction but times like this bring the best out in most people. It brings the worst out in some people and that's something that I find intolerable but most people rise to the challenge.

We're resilient and that's why I tell everybody every day we got little baby steps and it's going to take time. It's not going to take weeks or months. It's going to take years but when it's done we're going to have rebuilt the coast and south Mississippi bigger and better than ever but we got to patient and we got to work together and we got to realize we're going to stumble. We're going to get things wrong because nobody's ever done this before. KING: Governor, I thank you. We'll talk hopefully again tomorrow and Saturday night during that big three hours. I appreciate all you're doing.

BARBOUR: Thank you, sir, we're trying.

KING: Thank you, Governor Haley Barbour.

Senator Bill Frist in Washington, the Senator Majority Leader, the only practicing physician we're going to talk about health concerns but what's your reaction to all the complaints, the anger, the lack of satisfaction with federal, local, state response?

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE, MAJORITY LEADER: Larry, as Haley just said we're seeing things that we have never ever seen before and it's changing minute to minute and so I understand the frustrations from two days ago and even earlier today what we see on these rooftops, "I'm on dialysis" or "I need insulin" to the great heroic moments we've seen in the last couple of days in terms of rescue.

We're in this second phase. We had the catastrophe itself. Now we're in this response phase and then ultimately a rebuilding phase that Haley referred to. This response phase is tough and it's not getting better. It's getting worse as we've seen on television today. We've seen these images.

Right now we're in the lifesaving mode and we're in the life sustaining mode and both of those are much more difficult than they were even yesterday morning, so I understand the frustration.

Now, we are responding and we'll probably talk about it later. In about an hour from now I'll be opening the United States Senate and with that we'll be delivering another $10.5 billion to support FEMA and the efforts that are underway.

KING: You will do that tonight?

FRIST: I'll do it in about 45 minutes or 50 minutes. The Senate will act tonight. The House of Representatives will act tomorrow. The president of the United States we've had multiple conference calls today and we will be responding starting about in an hour in terms of delivery of more funds.

Right now we have funds for the next couple of days, the next few days, but tonight the Senate will act in response to what we're seeing, an ongoing tragedy which unfortunately is getting worse.

KING: That will be right after this program then. Don't you need a quorum and a certain amount of people in the Senate present to do that?

FRIST: No, you know, a lot of the things that are going on people don't see. People see the images on TV and the tragedy and we've all been suffering with the people in the states that have been involved. In Washington, we have had constant conversation. I've talked to the Democratic leader probably four to five times today for working in a bipartisan and non-partisan way with the president's cabinet, with the administration to answer the challenges that we've never seen before, the refugee challenge. This country's never seen a refugee challenge which we are seeing tonight and over the course of the night.

So, you don't -- it will be by unanimous consent. All of our colleagues have consulted and that's how -- that's how non-partisan 100 percent will be acting tonight, although on the floor there will just be several of us.

KING: We'll take a break and be back. Senator Frist will be with us throughout the entire program. Other regular panelists we'll introduce them. We'll be checking in with others as well.

We'll also be talking with Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't take this. We've been out here for three days and we've been asking for help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, Senator Frist will be leaving us at 45 minutes past the hour. He has to go to conduct that vote to allocate more funds.

In Jackson, Mississippi is Major Dalton Cunningham, the Salvation Army divisional commander. He'll be with us through the hour.

And, in Baton Rouge, is Ivor Van Heerden who has been with us the past two nights. Ivor is deputy director of the Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center.

But first, he's just arrived in New Orleans, let's check in on the phone with Reverend Jesse Jackson, the founder and president of Rainbow Push. When did you get there Jesse?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH (by telephone): We got here about two hours ago. (INAUDIBLE) organized seven busses to come to evacuate 40 to 50 students from Xavier University.

It is amazing to see the city completely dark at this time of night. I'm on the bridge just above the Superdome now and perhaps as the governor said as many as 300,000 people yet to be evacuated. This is an awesome task but this has been an evacuation disaster at least as great at Katrina.

KING: How did you get in?

JACKSON: Well, we were able to get -- I met with the governor this afternoon with (INAUDIBLE) and we were able to use a rather circuitous route to get in and students are up on the bridge. They're finding ways to boat them out of the school through boats up onto the bridge but much of the city of course is still under very high levels of water.

It is an impact of us not preparing for this (INAUDIBLE). And, Larry, when it's all said and done no doubt thousands will be found under the rubble of this city on the water.

KING: Thousands. What do you make of snipers and people interfering with people transporting to Houston?

JACKSON: Well, I think that has really been exaggerated. You have the combination here of misery and panic and desperation. Some people have not eaten in five days, are without water, without food and have no form of communications.

So, there may have been some sniper fire here and there but you know we didn't let that stop us on our mission in Iraq because there is some sniper fire. We just put on flack jackets and kept on the mission.

So, for FEMA to stop evacuating people because of the fear of sniper fire was not a good thing because people are left in hospitals without electricity and people are left on top of roofs and will not have any proper foodstuffs.

The issue here is not the looters in the streets because you can't really do much looting in the streets. I've seen that same picture 20 times. The issue (INAUDIBLE) today it's $6.00 a gallon for gas in Atlanta, Georgia. Look at that part of the looting as well.

KING: Jesse will be in New Orleans all day tomorrow and give us a much more thorough report tomorrow night.

One other thing and I know you'll get a good lay of the land and we appreciate your being with us again tomorrow, do you question your faith when something like this happens?

JACKSON: Well, I do not. This is a physical disaster. What I do is I analyze more clearly are these series of storms based upon our affecting the climate with ozone layers because of carcinogens? I raise that question.

Could we, in fact, have prevented this disaster? We've got 12- foot high levees and there has never been a level three storm coming this way that has gone over that levee and this is a level five that hit New Orleans indirectly.

And the fact is this year the budget was cut for infrastructure and so the (INAUDIBLE) that they needed here were in Iraq. The helicopters they needed here was in Iraq and the money to invest and make the city more secure was likewise invested in Iraq. We're paying the big price for not reinvesting in America's infrastructure.

KING: I'm going to ask Senator Frist about that in a moment. Thanks, Reverend Jackson.

We understand we have, and Reverend Jackson will be back with us tomorrow, we understand with us is Reginald Green. He just got out of the New Orleans Convention Center. He was in there for three days. Do you hear me Reginald?

REGINALD GREEN, INSIDE THE CONVENTION CENTER (by telephone): Yes, I'm still in the convention center.

KING: Oh, you're still in the center. We're happy we're able to reach you. Describe the scene in there.

GREEN: Like I said earlier, like it's hot, I mean there's no lights, I mean we're walking around with flashlights and, of course, you know the kids are getting restless, so the parents have to run around to keep their kids in order. It's not good. It's not good at all.

KING: Anybody die in there Reginald?

GREEN: Excuse me?

KING: Anybody die?

GREEN: We had several people that died last night and I think we had two that died today I think if I'm not mistaken, ten all together.

KING: So what are your hopes? Do you expect to come out? What do you expect -- how long are you going to stay there?

GREEN: I hope we can get out of here by tonight because no one wants to stay here. I mean they said the convention center was the safe place, you know, for people to come here to load up, get on busses to get out of here but I mean like when the busses would come the busses would just pass on by and everyone is like, "Okay, what's up with this picture" you know?

And then once again a bus has done the same thing and people are like actually getting restless. And, of course, not even telling us they're trying -- well, I guess the marshal law kicked in and I don't think we can handle that. We need to get out of this place.

KING: Reginald, I sympathize. We'll be checking back with you again I hope tomorrow.

Before we get back with Senator Frist and the others, Major Cunningham, the Salvation Army divisional commander, what do you make of all these -- this? Are we late?

MAJ DALTON CUNNINGHAM, SALVATION ARMY: It is a total catastrophic disaster. I've never seen anything like it in my 32 years of officership. I don't think anyone could have predicted the geographical expanse and the massive destruction that was going to happen would be this huge.

You know, I would love to have seen all agencies get in there much quicker than they have because people are just in desperation. I was in Biloxi yesterday and it was like driving into a third world country going into the Biloxi area.

You know, I was driving down Howard Street where the Salvation Army used to be. It's gone. The whole community, a little fishing village years ago how the people made their living and their money, everything they've owned and worked for their whole life is gone.

And I couldn't find where the army used to be and so I just stopped and got out of the car and said, "Can you tell me where the Salvation Army is" and they said "You're standing on it." And so we moved our disaster canteen onto the slab where the army used to be and started serving meals two days ago, food and water and, you know, for a while I think we were the only agency responding at that moment and we're still there serving and we've moved in more canteens as we ourselves have seen the massive destruction and the need.

I just called immediately as soon as I could get a cell phone and said "Get more canteens in here as quick as you can." So, we have a total of 100 canteens now stretched from Mobile to New Orleans serving just masses and masses of people in two huge 54-foot mobile kitchens, so we're prepared to do up to 500,000 meals a day for these people.

And, as they're evacuating more shelters are just full everywhere, I mean between Florida and Texas and even now there's about 150,000 people in shelters that we're having to help provide and support now.

KING: We've never had this in this country.

Let me take a break. We'll check in with Ivor Van Heerden. We want Senator Frist to respond to the health needs these people are going to face. We'll check in with our correspondents as well, lots to do.

And don't forget the three-hour special Saturday.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, if anybody knows anything about any of my family members please help us. Help me to (INAUDIBLE). It doesn't matter. Please help us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're going to spend a couple more quick moments with Senator Frist and then let him get out of here to conduct that emergency session of the Senate because we got Secretary Chertoff coming at the bottom of the hour. Two things Senator Frist, what's your number one health concern?

FRIST: Well, Larry, most of the show's been spent on the refugee problem, which is appropriate. The other big increasing problem that is going to get worse is this public health crisis.

The number one is the water-borne illnesses, the lack of clean water or potable water, the contaminated water, the water that's been contaminated by sewer, by overflow, by chemicals.

What is caused by that is diarrhea from E Coli or Salmonella or any of the bacteria and that water-borne illness causing diarrhea causes dehydration and since you can't get access to clean water to drink you have cardiovascular collapse and ultimately death. So, it's the water-borne illnesses, the lack of access to clean, potable water.

And there's a whole second category of infectious disease, the cholera, the dysentery, the typhoid and then one more third category is a potential for the mosquito-borne illnesses, maybe not quite as big a risk now but, again, things like West Nile fever if it gets started carried by mosquitoes could be a third problem.

KING: In other words, a lot of people are going to pass away?

FRIST: Well, they are. You know, things are getting worse. Things are getting better, as Haley said earlier, and relief is picking up. I know people are frustrated but the things that are getting worse now are this new refugee problem, which we've never had to deal with in this country.

And the public health catastrophe which is ongoing but we've just seen the beginning of and there are some preventative things that can be done and over the next several days hopefully people can begin doing those things, boiling water, access to clean water, getting it, washing hands, cleaning cuts accordingly.

KING: We'll be calling on you a lot, Senator Frist. We appreciate it. One other thing, any comment on what Jesse Jackson said about equipment and men that are in Iraq that could have helped here?

FRIST: Now, listen, there's going to be a lot of finger pointing and people are going to try to politicize this I know and they shouldn't. Our government right now, the United States Senate is coming together, working together with the American people and accusations and finger pointing and could have been prevented all that I guess we need to look at.

Right now our focus of our government should be and is lifesaving and life sustaining, focusing on those people on the rooftops, who are in treetops, the people under the bridge. That's where our focus is tonight. That's where it's going to be.

And that's why I'll be going over to the floor of the United States Senate right now and at ten o'clock we will be continuing that commitment with another $10.5 billion investment in FEMA, in the relief that people are seeing on television tonight.

KING: Thanks, Senator, we'll see you again soon, maybe tomorrow.

FRIST: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Senator Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader.

Joining us is Lee Scott in Bentonville, Arkansas. Lee is president and CEO of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has committed an additional $15 million to the Katrina relief effort. What was it first $2 million and then you added it on Lee?

LEE SCOTT, WAL-MART PRESIDENT/CEO: Yes, Larry. We gave $1 million to the Red Cross and $1 million to the Salvation Army, as well as you might expect we have a lot of merchandise that we're delivering down there also.

KING: How many Wal-Marts have been affected by this?

SCOTT: I think at our highest we were in the 120 to 140 stores that were closed. There's 40-some stores that are still not open, counting Sam's Clubs distribution centers, lots of associates certainly impacted and a tremendous number of customers.

KING: How do you react to the fact that many of the stores were looted and guns were taken?

SCOTT: You know those things happen. Our focus right now is on what we can do something about and that is we can reach out and we can help people who desperately need our help and that's both associates and customers. The other stuff, you know, it just takes care of itself.

KING: Are you calling on other corporate leaders and retailers to kick in too?

SCOTT: You know, Larry, I think with the group of CEOs that exist today that there really isn't a need to lay out a challenge. I think it is a fine group who understand the responsibility that we businesses have to society and to our customers.

I think they will be proud to do what they need to do to help the people in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, so I don't think there will be any problem at all in people wanting to do the right thing.

KING: Thank you, Lee, Lee Scott, the president and CEO of Wal- Mart, $17 million from America's number one retailer.

SCOTT: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Anderson Cooper in Biloxi, Mississippi and you were an angry man today, Anderson at what?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wouldn't say I'm angry, you know. I think I'm tired of hearing the politicians say that, you know, they understand the frustration of people down here. To me, you know, it's not frustration. It's not that people are frustrated.

It's that people are dying. I mean there are people dying. They're drowning to death and they drown in their living rooms and their bodies are rotting where they drowned and there are corpses in the street being eaten by rats and this is the United States of America.

It's not a question of me being angry. People down here are frustrated and angry and it goes beyond just frustration. It's, you know, there are a lot of people who listen to you on satellite radio who are down here who are able to, you know, get some radio and they're -- you know they come up to me and they tell me if I hear them one more time, you know, congratulating each other and thanking each other for all their efforts, the politicians, you know.

They would like them to come down here and roll up their sleeves and get in the tent and help out with some people because there's a lot of need here and there's not much help. I mean there are a lot of hardworking people here from FEMA and the national government and God bless them but I got to tell you there is a great need here, Larry, and it is shocking to see firsthand.

KING: Well said.

We'll take a break, come back and Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, will join us.

Lots more to go, we're getting more panel members in, a lot of people hanging on. We'll get to all of them.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us in Washington is Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security.

I know this has been a tough job, but nothing you could have expected, nothing like this. What do you make, Mr. Secretary, of all these angry people? Not just frustrated but angry?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, first of all, I'm frustrated too. And I can understand for people who are suffering, afraid, who have lost everything in their lives and who are afraid for their own health. I can understand that every hour that passes seems like an eternity.

I can tell you the challenge that is being faced by our rescue effort here is unparalleled in American history. We really had a double disaster, Larry. We had the hurricane, which in itself was a Category 4, very powerful storm, and then we had immediately thereafter a flood. And so, we have had to conduct rescue operations even while we are in the middle of another major catastrophe, which is a flooded city. And I don't think we've ever faced that before.

So the problem has been for us not that we don't have enough people or we don't have enough material or enough supplies. It is the problem of getting it to the people who are suffering, distributing it in an environment which is filled with water.

KING: Is a lot more being done now than was done 24 hours ago?

CHERTOFF: Every day that goes by, we do more. First of all, because we can do more. We can get into the city. We have a little bit better mobility. We are clearing the railroad tracks so we can bring railroad trains in, which will give us a better ability to move people out of the city. The airport is now functional. We can talk about bringing aircraft in to get people out. As time passes and as we restore at least some control over the environment, we have better capabilities.

KING: How do you respond? The New Orleans emergency operations chief, Terry Ebbert, called FEMA's relief effort "a national disgrace."

CHERTOFF: As I say, I understand people are frustrated, and sometimes they give vent to that frustration. I will tell you, I've spoken to the governor of Louisiana, the governor of Mississippi, governor of Alabama virtually every day. And I've asked them right out, is there anything more we could be doing, and they've told me, you know, we understand you're doing all that you can.

We're going to do not only everything humanly possible, but even things superhumanly possible. But I also recognize the physical reality, that you've got tens of thousands of people stranded in little areas of dry land, and that's a very big challenge.

KING: And how much of it, Michael, is -- Mr. Secretary, how much of it is the unusual topography of the area?

CHERTOFF: Well, Larry, you put your finger on it. I think New Orleans is unique in that it's like a bowl. Once you break the rim of the bowl and the water pours in, it's not like an ordinary flood, where the water comes and it goes. The water sits. And so eventually, we're going to have to drain that water. But while it's there, it is making it very difficult to move around. We can't do the things we would normally do in a hurricane, when we can set up staging stations and move people about on -- you know, pretty easily on dry land. And that's really been the double whammy here.

KING: And finally, how long does this -- how long is this going to take?

CHERTOFF: Well, we are looking to accelerate the tempo of evacuation. We want to get people evacuated by the end of the weekend. We're still looking to rescue people. But this is going to be a long process, Larry. We've got to get them to temporary shelter, and then we've got to build some fairly long-term housing and other services for people, because it's going to be months that go by before we are ready to look at reopening New Orleans.

KING: Are you hopeful? CHERTOFF: I'm hopeful, you know, because I think the spirit of the people in New Orleans and all across the country and the world, the generosity, the determination is really marvelous to behold, and it's one bright spot in this tragedy.

KING: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We appreciate the time.

CHERTOFF: My pleasure.

KING: Secretary Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security.

Joining us on the phone is our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's senior medical correspondent. He is at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. What's the situation there?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Really remarkable, Larry. They lost their power on Monday, they lost their plumbing on Tuesday. When you lose your power in a big hospital like this, one of the biggest in Louisiana, all the patients in intensive care units on ventilators suddenly have nothing to keep them alive anymore, except for volunteers, nurses and doctors who will literally go to their bedside with these bags and pump air by hand into their lungs over and over again. And this is what's been going on for several patients for a few days now.

What they've been able to do starting today really was actually transport some of these patients that are on these ventilator machines by boat, by canoe or rowboat, across the way to a parking deck, carry them literally up eight flights of stairs to the top of the parking deck, where a helicopter could land and pick them up.

As you might imagine, Larry, that didn't work for everybody. A couple of patients died while waiting for the parking -- on the parking deck, waiting for these helicopters to come pick them up.

It's a gruesome situation here, Larry. I didn't quite know what to make of it when I was hearing all these reports myself, which is why I decided to come here and see it with my own eyes. I mean, the basement's flooded here. That's where they have the morgue, for example. So when patients are dying now, they don't have anywhere to put these bodies. I know this is gruesome to talk about, but it's the reality here in Charity Hospital. They're putting the dead bodies in the stairwells here at Charity Hospital as well.

Lots of concerns about infectious diseases. Lots of concerns about patients who would have otherwise lived normal and prosperous lives dying here waiting to get out, Larry.

KING: As a fellow doctor, does what Senator Bill Frist said, physician himself, frighten you?

GUPTA: Which part, Larry? About the infectious diseases?

KING: Yeah. The whole ball of wax, of diseases and... GUPTA: Well, you know, it's really -- I was thinking about that a lot. During the tsunami, I was in Sri Lanka, and there was this whole -- I was on your show, in fact. I remember people talking about the second wave of death that would come from all of the infectious diseases.

I think it's a very valid concern. Certainly looking around the town, seeing all this dirty water is of concern. But remember, in Sri Lanka and other areas devastated by the tsunami, we didn't -- thankfully, didn't see the incredibly large outbreaks of infectious diseases. So I think it's a valid concern, and I think that one thing we do have here in the States, is we have appropriate antibiotics, appropriate ways to treat some of these infectious diseases. So I'm a bit more optimistic about that aspect of things. But I think the initial hit here and the inability to get people out of these hospitals is frightening for sure.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll come back, we'll talk with Ivor Van Heerden, the deputy director of Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center. And also Jason Peterson, the coordinator of critical care transport of Children's Hospital of Alabama. We'll also check in with our own David Mattingly and see if we can reach Nic Robertson as well. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is shut down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) at the Astrodome here, and we can't get in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We normally find Nic Robertson in Afghanistan or Bosnia or Iraq. Now we find him on a highway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Another type of battle zone. What do you see from your vantage point, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, a few minutes ago when we were just leaving Lafayette, we saw police surrounding three mid-size sedan cars. They were searching the vehicles. They said they were alerted to these vehicles, brand new vehicles driving down the highway coming from New Orleans. They searched the vehicles. They had 14 people in them. And discovered a lot of clothes, new clothes with security tags on from stores with the prices still on, CDs in the cars, a lot of clothes. The policeman I talked to who was leading the investigation said there was no doubt in his mind that all the goods in the vehicles were looted. He said the people denied that the cars were looted, but they'd already been in touch, the police had, with a car dealership in New Orleans who said they owned the vehicles and that they wanted them back.

We were in a store today in Lafayette, a gun store. People there buying weapons, because they think that the violence in New Orleans could spill over to here. Lafayette, that area, the policeman I talked to said he was also concerned about that. He said the people of Lafayette know that any looters or other people leaving New Orleans could easily come this route, perhaps head towards Texas and therefore they were concerned that there could be violence in this area, too, Larry.

KING: Joining us from Houston is Gisele Boute Sparkman (ph). She's a New Orleans evacuee searching for information about family members. Gisele, how did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, my family -- my immediate family and I left on Sunday morning, and we drove a seven-passenger van. We had like 10 or 11 people in the van. And we just got out with everything that we own.

KING: Where are you staying in Houston?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now we're staying at the Crown Plaza Hotel. Tonight is our last night because we're running out of money.

KING: And who are those pictures you're holding?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These pictures, this one is my brother, Ramel (ph). He refused to evacuate. He didn't take it serious. This is my cousin Deshawn (ph) and her baby, Simone (ph). We haven't heard from them as well. They were housed, along with their mother, at a local school in New Orleans, McDonald 42. This is my uncle Ulis (ph), which is the father of Deshawn (ph), and my cousin Fred, who's also -- these are his kids. He stayed home behind with his father, who has cancer, who refused to evacuate as well. And the house, the last time we talked to them, the water was rising on the fifth stair of the home, which covered the sofa in the den. And we have lost contact with them.

KING: Can you contact anybody who lives near them who might know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, no. Today we actually saw a neighbor in the block, and when we said that they were left behind he just -- he couldn't respond.

KING: Why didn't they evacuate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, my brother, I don't know why he didn't evacuate. I mean, I just don't know. I have another brother that we don't know where he is, Alvin Williams. We don't know where he is. My uncle, I don't know if it's because he was sick he didn't want to leave. My auntie, I guess she didn't want to leave her husband. And I don't know why.

KING: We hope they contact you, Gisele (ph). Hang tough. Sometimes there is a silver lining.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so.

KING: We wish you the best. Gisele Boutte Sparkman (ph). In Birmingham, Alabama is Jason Peterson, coordinator of critical care transport for Children's Hospital of Alabama, a registered nurse, pediatric critical care. He oversaw evacuation of babies from Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans. What was that like, Jason?

JASON PETERSON, ALA. NURSE: A complete altering experience. It's like nothing I've ever been a part of.

KING: Tell me what happened.

PETERSON: After initial coordination physician-wise to our doctors here in Birmingham, our docs called us, and basically told us we've got some babies in New Orleans, we've got to go get them. So we put our resources together in coordination with University Hospital Critical Care Transport here in Birmingham, had fixed wing capability to fly down to New Orleans.

But seeing all the flooding, seeing all the destruction, we had no mode of transport into the hospital there at Ochsner. Called on our friends over at Alabama Lifesaver, over here in Birmingham, and through a collaboration of three different agencies worked as one, flew fixed wing in to New Orleans airport, Lifesaver met us with their helicopter, flew some of our crew over to Ochsner, got four of the babies Tuesday night, and successfully got them back to the jet at the airport and got them back here to Birmingham.

KING: How are they doing?

PETERSON: It's been a really, crazy last three days, but I was told that one of the babies was discharged to their parents. They were able to locate one of their -- one group of parents. There are still other parents that we're not able to locate. The other three are still there in the hospital from the original four that we brought back. And honestly, I'm not sure if they've been able to contact their families. We did two more last night -- or two more yesterday, rather.

KING: I salute you, Jason. Wow. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center and director of the Center for the Study of Public Health Impact of Hurricanes, has been standing by in Baton Rouge. There's medical reports we've been hearing, Ivor. Are they exaggerated?

IVOR VAN HEERDEN, LSU: No. Not at all. This -- this is the absolute worst that one could expect. The water is highly contaminated. The mosquitoes are rife. It's taking way too long to rescue these people. They're suffering very badly from dehydration, lack of food. And obviously the morale is slipping very, very quickly.

KING: Do you understand why it's taking long?

VAN HEERDEN: I do, Larry. But as a disaster science special I see this response vehicle moving, running down the road. The wheels haven't come off, but it looks to me like the wheel nuts are coming off. And you know, we in Louisiana can only trust that our governor, and especially the president, are putting all the resources of the federal government and our mighty military to bear on this problem.

KING: Don't leave us, Ivor. We're going to come right back to you.

David Mattingly, our CNN correspondent, in Keener. What do you see from your vantage point, David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, we're here at a FEMA field hospital, and some of the life saving and life sustaining that Senator Frist was talking about is going on here. Inside the New Orleans Airport, literally hundreds of people in varying degree of medical need. They are being brought here by bus. They're being brought here by helicopter. You might be able to hear the noise of some of the helicopters here as they take off and land.

Inside they are going through triage. Their needs are being assessed. And then they are getting treatment. Some of them very critical. There are people here who are ranging from in need of insulin for their diabetes. There are other people here who are in need of cardiac care and are in need of acute medical attention.

So they're seeing the gamut of people coming through here. And unfortunately, because of this long, drawn-out process the multiple areas in which people have had to be transported -- some of these people have been rescued from their homes, they've been on expressways, they've been languishing in certain shelters for a time and they're coming here in very bad shape. If they were in need of medical attention before, they are certainly in need of it now. And unfortunately, some of these people are in such dire condition that this may be their final stop on their journey of trying to get out of New Orleans.

But again, a lot of life saving and life sustaining going on here at this FEMA field hospital -- Larry.

KING: Thanks, David. Excellent reporting, as always.

When we come back, Major Dalton Cunningham and Ivor van Heerden will remain. And we'll talk to them. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Major Dalton Cunningham with the Salvation Army, is it going to get worse?

DALTON CUNNINGHAM, SALVATION ARMY: It appears that there's -- with the tremendous amount of water still in New Orleans and the number of people that are still trying to get out of buildings, it may get worse.

Larry, we have 200 people right now in the Salvation army building trapped in there for the last four days without food or water. Two of our officers are in the building as well. Two of the people in the building need kidney dialysis. They're dying. And we can't get them out. We can't get to them. And it just tears us up to know that.

And in the midst of all that, we're serving, you know, 40,000 people around the buses where they're evacuating people from New Orleans. So we have crisis on our hands right now.

KING: So you have your people stuck while your other people are helping other people?

CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. That's correct. And our officers, we can't get cell phone service, but we got like a 30-second call from him two days ago saying I've got enough for one more meal, we have no lights, we have no water, we have no -- there's nothing here. And I've got people dying, I've got to have help. And there's over 200 people in that building, and we can't get to them. We tried, even in our own effort to get to them, and we were stopped and said we can't go in. So we're just grieved for those people.

KING: Our CNN correspondent Chris Lawrence is in New Orleans. What can you tell us, Chris? Do you hear me, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, we're standing on a rooftop of a police station where we have had to hole up. The police say it is simply way too dangerous on the street.

KING: Boy, oh boy.

LAWRENCE: It is literally -- the police are telling us, way too dangerous to be anywhere on the street. They told us to come off the street. We are right here. Police are surrounding this rooftop, looking at the neighborhood below us, snipers waiting to defend this station.

And that's what it is. The police here tonight are trying to defend their station. Some of these police stations have lost 20 percent of their officers. One officer told me other stations may have lost as many as 60 percent of their officers, who simply did not show up.

But the ones who are left are trying and are promising to defend their station and do whatever they can to try to keep the city as safe as possible. But they are clearly fighting an uphill battle -- Larry.

KING: Amazing. Thank you very much, Chris.

And Ivor van Heerden, are you -- do you see any optimism yet?

VAN HEERDEN: No, I don't, Larry. I'm afraid it's looking like it's just going downhill. The key is they have to get the security system sorted out. But in addition, you know, we're talking about the evacuees out in New Orleans. There's another refugee problem.

Here in Baton Rouge, our population has doubled in the last two days. There are people wandering around aimlessly. There's been some incidents of violence. Things are going way, way off the line. The goodwill that the people of Baton Rouge have for these poor suffering refugees is slowly eroding as the crime system goes down the hill.

KING: Ivor, we hope you'll be back with us tomorrow and our big show on Saturday night.

VAN HEERDEN: Yes, sir. I will.

KING: Thank you. Ivor van Heerden.

And speaking of that, we're going to have a Saturday night three- hour Larry King special. It's called "How You Can Help." There will be lots of people telling you, or asking you for help and telling you how you can help.

Tomorrow night more on this and a special appearance with Jerry Lewis, who is donating $1 million from the muscular dystrophy telethon to this effort.

"NEWSNIGHT" is next with Aaron Brown. He is there in New York as this story unfolds. And everything Aaron has told us the past few nights have come true. It got worse. And it gets worse still before it gets any better, Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Would of been nice -- it's the one time I wish I would have been wrong, you know?

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