Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Celebrity Studded Panel Discusses Hurricane Katrina Disaster
Aired September 7, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight with 10,000 to 15,000 still believed stranded in New Orleans and some refusing the mayor's mandatory evacuation order, we'll talk with the New Orleans police chief.
And, with more than 30 bodies found in a flooded out nursing home east of New Orleans, we'll hear from a coroner helping recover the city's dead from that filthy diseased water.
Plus, John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" just back from New Orleans where he worked with law enforcement on tracking the missing.
And, actor Sean Penn on his personal rescue mission to New Orleans.
And, more evacuees in Houston desperately seeking loved ones, all of our reporters too all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: By the way, Sean Penn will be with us at the bottom of the hour.
We'll start on the phone with Soledad O'Brien who has been on top of this story all day, our CNN anchor of "American Morning." She's in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana. What have we confirmed now about the amount of dead, Soledad?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (by telephone): Well, Larry, it looks like the number of dead tops 30. That's confirmed to us by the sheriff there, Sheriff Jack Stephens, really grisly scene at St. Rita's Nursing Home.
The nursing home apparently had about 80 to 100 patients. The sheriff said he thinks somewhere between 40 and 50 were actually evacuated safely and it's unclear why the remaining 30-plus, in his words, were not evacuated.
Many theories abound and we've heard all of them. It's unclear if staffers died along with some of the elderly patients in their care or maybe the staffers left or anybody who could get out left and left behind some of the patients who could not.
So, none of those things have been confirmed. The story of what happened is still really unclear but the way it looks is absolutely terrible, just devastated, decimated, still looks like a nursing home plunked in a river.
I mean it's just covered in water still probably about three feet high I would guess and you can tell by the debris that's on top of the cars in the parking lot the water came up at least eight feet.
The demort teams, which are helping in the recovery of the bodies, they were on the scene today with a big refrigerator truck bringing about half, in their estimation, of the bodies out and then they're going to bring them to the morgue and continue to process them, hopefully eventually get the remains back to the family members.
KING: Is St. Bernard Parish right in -- is it like a suburb?
O'BRIEN: It is. It's one of the parishes right outside the city, so very close. And there was one parish, Jefferson Parish, that wasn't as badly hurt and they've been ferrying, literally getting on a ferry and bringing supplies and men and help and clothes and food and everything to this parish because they have lost everything.
I mean I asked one of the deputies to estimate if he could how much damage do you think what percentage of the community was damaged and ruined? And he said, "I would put that number at 100 percent." It is the worst of the worst.
KING: Thanks, Soledad. We'll be watching you tomorrow morning.
O'BRIEN: All right, Larry thanks.
KING: Doing a great job, Soledad O'Brien.
O'BRIEN: Thank you.
KING: Anderson Cooper is in New Orleans. Where specifically are you? And what have you seen today?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, I'm on an off ramp of the I- 10 West highway just by a two-lane avenue. It's completely flooded behind me. There's debris. While we were doing our show about two hours ago there was a helicopter that went down not too far from here within eyesight of here.
It was a civilian chopper. We have some video of it just in, a civilian chopper. It looks like a two-seater on the roof of this building, sort of cracked in half. A doctor we were with, who were interviewing for our show, rushed over there to try to respond to see if anyone needed medical attention.
He saw two people, the crew, a pilot and a passenger, seemed to be OK. They had light injuries as this doctor described them. They were taken away by military chopper. The problem was as that military chopper went down it churned up all the floodwaters and some rescue personnel in airboats got actually -- their airboat was tossed over.
So in the water you can also see an airboat laying on its side and then those rescue personnel had to be taken out of that water and brought to be basically be decontaminated because, as we've all been saying these last couple nights, I mean that water is just extraordinarily dirty -- Larry.
KING: Thanks, Anderson, stay with us. We'll be checking back with you.
John Walsh is in West Palm Beach. He's just back from New Orleans where he worked with law enforcement officials. He's the co- founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Usually, John, when we talk to you we're talking about children who are missing or the victims of crime. This is a different kind of crime. What was your role here?
JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": Well, our role is to try to put the families together. Literally thousands of families have been separated all along the Gulf Coast and parents would put their children on helicopters on rooftops and haven't seen them since the hurricane.
So, we know that there's about 800 children that are missing and haven't been reunited with their families in Louisiana, about 40 in Mississippi and about ten in Alabama.
So, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has teamed up with "America's Most Wanted." Our Web site amw.com and the national center's Web site missingkids.com are posting pictures of families that are searching, pictures of missing kids and the national center will help with the unidentified dead. They will digitally enhance the faces of those bodies if they're decomposed and try to get them back to their parents.
But, I urge anybody that's in different shelters to call this 800 number, 800-CRIME-TV, our 800, or the national center 800 number, 888- 544-5475. Larry, the not knowing is the worst. It's just not knowing whether your loved ones are alive or dead is just torture, it's unbearable.
KING: John, we know you've usually handled crimes. That's what you deal with, your son a victim of crime. What was this like for you?
WALSH: Well, I've never seen anything like it. I was at the Oklahoma bombing. I was one of the few guys that was allowed at Ground Zero at 9/11 and I've never seen such widespread devastation.
The Louisiana state troopers took me through some of the rough areas where the thugs and hoodlums were and the U.S. marshals took me out in boats very, very deep into the suburbs where bodies are still floating. They haven't even recovered those bodies yet.
I've never seen anything like it and, you know, we're going to try to put these families back together but I'm sure in a week or so we'll be working with the New Orleans police and those law enforcement agencies to try to get those low life cowards, those scum bags who have committed crimes in the dome, in the convention center, the people that exploited people. There are prisoners who escaped. There are sex offenders who are missing so, you know, you see the best of the best during these crises but you also see some people the worst of the worst. So, you know, it's just sad that there were people who exploited these people, these (INAUDIBLE) helpless survivors.
KING: John Walsh will be with us throughout the hour as well.
Gary Tuchman, our CNN National Correspondent, is in New Orleans. What did you do and what did you see today Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We were in a parish right next to St. Bernard and (AUDIO GAP).
KING: We've had two different voices talking at once. We'll check back with Gary when we clear that. We heard another voice in there at the same time.
Anderson, as a daily event to be covering this, I mean how do you deal with it? Do you need some time off?
COOPER: You know I think that's a question probably we'll be thinking in a week or so down the road. I don't think anyone here really wants to leave and I think everyone who is here covering the story just feels committed to it.
I mean it feels like this is -- I can't imagine leaving here. I can't imagine, you know, like covering some other story right now. I mean this is -- this is our country and there are so many people in need and so many stories that need to be told, not just of incompetence or disorganization but of heroism and there are so many heroes to this story.
You know it's a tough story to cover, Larry, but really, you know, we have it lucky. We can leave if we need to. It's the people here who really deserve all the focus.
KING: Well said.
We'll take a break and be back with lots more, Sean Penn at the bottom of the hour.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a lot of really bad smells up here from this rotten water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now in New Orleans is Chief Eddie Compass, the New Orleans Police Superintendent. This has been a horrendous time for him. Did you bury an officer today chief? CHIEF EDDIE COMPASS, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPT.: Yes, sir. We had two officers that committed suicide. Fortunately, we lost no officers during the encounters that we were involved with the individuals who were trying to wreak havoc on our city.
KING: Any thoughts, chief, as to why these officers took their own lives?
COMPASS: Well, Larry, you know when you look at the amount of stress that these people are under, you know, one of the individual officers he didn't know the whereabouts of his wife. We were working 20, 21 hour days. We were sleeping in the streets, had no food, running low on ammunition.
You know, unfortunately these officers succumbed to the pressure which I really feel sorry for them and their family have my deepest sympathy. But, you know, that's one of the things that this hurricane has caused.
KING: What about reports that a lot of police didn't show up or weren't working? Give us the straight story there. What happened?
COMPASS: Well, we had about 1,200 officers that we can account for. We have a 1,700 person police department. There are about 500 officers that's unaccounted for. Some of them may be in their homes and can't get out because we're still in the process of rescuing people. Some of them may have quit.
But right now my primary focus is protecting human life and working to keep this city intact and the administrative aspect of finding the whereabouts of these officers will take place in time.
We have no central phone number where we can call. We don't really have a computer database system that we can tie into where they can contact us on the Internet, so it's going to take time, Larry.
You know, hopefully most of those officers were in other locations and if these individuals did quit well the ones that were here did a great job and that's the ones I really want to focus on.
KING: Are you surprised that anyone quit?
COMPASS: Well, sir, you know, in any occupation you have, lawyer, doctor, professional person, you're going to have people that react in different ways to different situations. No police department in the history of the United States or really history of the world have ever been tested like this police department.
You have to understand the situation down here. For six days we worked 20 to 24 hours a day, no food, no water, no transportation in waist deep water, no radio communication because our towers were knocked down, no electricity, so I put my commanders on the street because that was our way of communicating with each other.
I mean it was some horrific situation, environment that we were in. And then you're in running gun battles with individuals who were shooting at you when you're trying to rescue them.
Individuals were in the Superdome with 30,000 people. You had 30,000 people at the convention center and with the help of the local sheriff offices, local, state and federal and state agencies we were able to hold these individuals off for about six days.
KING: Chief, how goes the order to evacuate everybody?
COMPASS: Well, right now people cannot believe this but we're still in the process of evacuating individuals who are voluntarily wanting to leave. We still have thousands of people that are in the city under water, so I'm not going to use my efforts for forced evacuation until we take care of all the people who want to voluntarily leave.
KING: Gary, stay right with us chief, Gary Tuchman you're there on the scene and you've heard what the chief had to say. How are they enduring?
TUCHMAN: It's very tough for the people and the police and everybody here to endure. You know I spent the night two nights ago with about 20 police officers here in downtown New Orleans and they said "This is what we signed up to do, to help the people. If they want us here 24 hours," that's what a lot of people who were with me were saying, "we're going to be here 24 hours," and they didn't have a lot of sympathy to the police officers who walked off the job.
As a matter of fact, one of them told this, this was -- and they said this, obviously this wouldn't happen but they were serious when they said it. They said, "If this was the military they'd be shot." They were very upset that their comrades walked off the job and left all the tough work to them.
KING: John Walsh, I know you know the chief and I know you've worked with police all around the country, what were the police like you worked with in New Orleans?
WALSH: Well they were wonderful. They were exhausted and stressed out and they were working together. I mean I've never seen this before, 400 police officers walk off the job and that's when the chaos started in the first couple of days.
I mean if you drive around New Orleans you see busses that were stolen by thugs and driven around the city. You see police cars that were abandoned and looted, et cetera. I've never seen that. We had hurricanes here last year in Florida and we evacuated thousands of people and I never saw that here.
KING: So, what do you make of it?
WALSH: I just don't understand it. I mean the cops who stayed there, the chief who stayed there, there was chaos. There was no communication but I saw cops on the street firing back at thugs who were on rooftops, et cetera.
I've never seen the breakdown of American society like this but there's certainly a lot of heroic New Orleans cops who stayed there, a lot of state troopers who came in. The state trooper SWAT teams worked alongside of them.
I just don't have an answer. I know you've got to go and make sure your family is OK and try to get them out if the water is coming up and stuff like that but I don't know 400 cops could leave in the middle of that.
KING: Chief, what do you make of people shooting at cops, why?
COMPASS: Well, it was crazy, Larry. I was in a helicopter. I want to thank Sheriff Harry Lee (ph) for giving us a helicopter to use for lifesaving missions. We were spotting for the boats to find out the safest routes that they could take in order to pick up people who were trapped on their roofs.
And, all of a sudden they started shooting at the fire engines who were trying to put out a fire, so we had to leave the rescue mission and go into a tactical role. I had to dispatch my SWAT team and my captain and I were spotting for the sniping. We went from rescue to tactical almost instantaneously.
They were shooting at us in the helicopter. They were shooting at my SWAT team. I mean it was crazy. How do you shoot at people that's trying to save your lives? It was incredible. I've never seen anything like that in my life.
But I want to tell America that, you know, you're focusing on a few cowards that walked away. We had 1,200 men and women with the help of local -- of other local agencies that held this city intact and we were so tactically sound. We were outnumbered. We were outgunned but we were so tactically sound not one of my commanders left their post.
My 40 commanders stood intact and we did not lose one police officer's life in all these running gun battles that we had because of the training of this New Orleans Police Department. One officer was shot in the head and he's going to be OK. One National Guardsman's weapon was taken and he was shot in the leg, with those two exceptions.
My SWAT team made over 30 entries into the convention center. Now you got to understand the situation at the convention center. You have 30,000 people who haven't been searched. There are weapons everywhere. They're shooting at us and we can't return the fire because there are so many civilians and children in there.
So, what my SWAT team commander Jeff Wynn (ph) came up with we devised a strategy that when we would see the flash we would all converge to the flash and start patting people down and when you grab an individual you felt with a gun, you would yell "gun." We would converge to that and then we would extract it out.
Now think about doing that one time, Larry, in a place where human feces and urine was all over, a bunch of civilians everywhere and heavily armed thugs, just think about doing it one time. My SWAT commander went in there over 30 times. This is the kind of police department I want to talk about the kind of people I want to talk about.
I don't want to dwell upon some cowards. I was out here from the first day and I'm still out here with my troops. People say "Well, superintendent, if something happens to you what's going to happen to the police department?" The deputy chiefs under my command if something would have happened to me they could have picked up the ball and kept running.
Every one of my deputy chiefs were out here. Every one of my district commanders was out here and my tactical commands were out here. That's why the communication was kept because we were doing it by word of mouth.
As we were driving to the different locations we were being shot upon but not one of my commanders backed down and that's really what the real story is. (INAUDIBLE) a captain who saved tens of thousands of people, his boats were the first ones in the water. He's an individual who was a narcotics agent and he's doing boat lifts.
Harry Lee, the sheriff of Jefferson Parish, when we ran out of ammunition he gave us ammunition and guns. Colonel Whitehorn (ph), the head of the state police, he brought us clothes and boots. These are the people that are heroes, you know.
Every time I do one of these interviews people want to dwell on a few cowards that walked away but the majority of my police department stayed intact and we got the job done.
KING: Superintendent, hold it right there.
We're going to take a break and we'll be back with more as we continue the coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I've never seen anything like it.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand the devastation. I understand the destruction. I understand how long it's going to take and we're with you. That's what I want you to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we get back to the chief, who by the way will be with us again, along with the mayor, we'll be letting you know the night, let's go to the Astrodome.
Patricia Smith, she's missing her son Oscar Smith III and her husband Oscar Smith, Jr. Patricia is in Houston. We'll let you know the number where she can be reached. When did you last see them, Patricia?
PATRICIA SMITH, EVACUEE IN HOUSTON: It was the Saturday the day before the hurricane and I haven't heard or seen anything from them since.
KING: Why did you get out and they didn't?
SMITH: Well, they wasn't home at the time so they never did return home, so the helicopter came to fly me away from the apartment so that was the last. I had to get out because I had to evacuate right away so that was the last, you know, I heard from them or seen them.
KING: And you've heard nothing since right?
SMITH: Nothing since.
KING: All right. This number is the number where you can be reached right, 713 --
SMITH: Yes, it is.
SMITH: Yes, Larry, that's the number.
KING: All right, Oscar Smith, Jr., if you know them, if you know their whereabouts they can reach Patricia at 713-610-5944.
Let's check in with Russell Price. He's missing his brother George Moore (ph), his sister Adela Tate (ph) and nephew Ernest Tate (ph). Where did you last see them, Russell?
RUSSELL PRICE, EVACUEE IN HOUSTON: Sir, I haven't last seen them. I haven't last seen since my sister since the storm has begin I haven't seen them at all and I wonder about them if they're alive or if they're gone, you know what I'm saying? And I'm really confused now, you know what I'm saying? I'm praying, you know what I'm saying with God's grace that they're alive, not gone.
KING: And where are you? Are you in New Orleans?
PRICE: No, sir. I'm in Texas here. I'm in Texas.
KING: OK but the number to reach you is 504 right?
PRICE: Yes, sir, that's the lady's phone I'm using in Texas here but she's from New Orleans.
KING: If you know about George Moore, Adela Tate, Ernest Tate, 504-512-4711. We found a lot of people Russell. We hope this works for you.
PRICE: Yes, sir, I sure appreciate that sir. My prayers go out to all the people that have been in the storm.
KING: Thank you.
Chief, how are you dealing when you deal with -- when you find people how is that emotionally affecting you as a chief?
COMPASS: Well, let me tell you I had an experience like that today. Captain Charles, a local deejay, this guy I've been knowing my whole life, I had heard rumors that he was dead and Councilman Oliver Thomas (ph) brought him up to the headquarters there to see me.
When I saw him there was such jubilation, I mean I picked him up. I jumped up and down. The guy from "Time" magazine -- I'm sorry "The New York Times" and the "Los Angeles Times," said wow, we never saw the chief that excited you know.
I've always kept -- I've kept my professionalism throughout this but I kind of like lost it and got all excited when I saw him, so I understand how people feel when they see somebody that they thought was dead. It's like they're resurrected.
KING: John Walsh isn't it -- in a tragedy like this isn't it a mess to try to put people together? You got people missing from a roof somewhere and another person in Houston miles away?
WALSH: Absolutely, it's a nightmare, Larry, and I don't know if you could imagine if you got separated from your beautiful wife and your two boys and you didn't know for a week whether they were dead or alive, the not knowing is the worst.
I remember the two weeks when I was looking for my son Adam before we found his remains. It's the worst time of your life and, again, I say we're trying to use our hotline to help Chief Compass.
I mean Chief Compass and those cops in New Orleans that stayed on the job are real heroes and we're trying to help them with 1-800- CRIME-TV. Anybody can call from anywhere all over the country and we'll try to reunite those people.
And I say this to Chief Compass, those people that shot at the cops that robbed those houses that preyed upon those unfortunates they need to be held accountable. They need to be brought to justice for exploiting those people and we're going to work with the chief to try to put them on "America's Most Wanted" and hunt them down.
KING: We'll take a break and come back.
We'll talk with Sean Penn. The chief will remain will us.
Lots more to go on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, don't go away.
KING: At the close of this hour, the great Macy Gray, the Grammy award winning singer, will join us. And have a special song, too.
Right now, we're going to go to San Francisco and checking in with Sean Penn, the Oscar winning actor and activist. He was in New Orleans. Just landed back to San Francisco. What was your role there, Sean? What were you trying to do?
SEAN PENN, ACTOR: Well, Larry, let me -- let me just begin by sharing the MoveOn Web site for housing and those interested in opening up housing for people. It is www.HurricaneHousing.org. And they have already -- they've got 160,000 beds available. They've already placed 17,000 people.
PENN: My role, basically, I was, you know, one more person watching television, and just feeling that there weren't enough people there. And so, it became easy to get out to for me to get a boat, and get out on the water with some other people, and try to get people out of water.
KING: No, you spent a lot of time there filming a remake of "All the King's Men" right?
PENN: That's right.
KING: You were in New Orleans, Baton Rouge. Did you get close to a lot of people?
PENN: Yes. I am sure that had a lot to do with my -- to the draw for it.
KING: It's a very special area.
KING: And so you obviously had a personal feeling. But there's been some -- you always run into this, attacks on you. So, let's clear some things up. The "Melbourne Sun Herald," apparently the first to report that you traveled with an entourage, with a personal photographer and claim the rescue boat filled with water and sank. What is the story?
PENN: They find -- the Sun (INAUDIBLE) that photographer. They give me a million to contribute to the people here. And I'll do the same back to them to do whatever they want with it. That is absolutely not the case.
We went in, a couple of friends of mine on our own. Certainly, we had the attention of some photographers. We tried to do as much as we could. We were able to bring, between our boat and two other civilian boats, about 40 people out of water. And that was all we were there to do.
So, if we can -- if they'd like to stand up to the plate and help some of the people, I would be right with them on it.
KING: So, you are asking the paper to put up some money?
PENN: Absolutely. I think the paper should put up some money. And I think a lot of -- this is going to be a situation that we know is going to go on for a long time. I think we should be considering some kind of potentially permanent reparations, along those lines of veteran's benefits and so on, because these people will be desperate for a long time.
They've already made one life that's been taken away from them. Clearly, there's a lot of political issues that are surrounding this that will come out in the wash. But for the moment, they are absolutely desperate and need a lot of help.
KING: The boat never sank, then, right?
PENN: No. The boat never sank.
KING: Do you think celebrity can be a double-edged sword here? On the one hand, it draws attention to he problems. On the other hand, people are always saying, well, he's getting publicity?
PENN: You know -- it doesn't really matter. The point was that I -- out of the benefit of celebrity, I could afford to get on an airplane and get down there. And we got a lot of people out of the water. The rest is for people to talk about.
KING; What do you think of the governmental criticism? Do you think it's too early to do that? Or correct in doing it now?
PENN: I am torn on that. I think that it was a positive -- you know, that some of the statements that Mayor Nagin made were very positive in the sense that you've got to let some of the rage be understood by people. Fear tends to be a negative response, rage sometimes can be helpful. People are feeling alone as it is. And I think that some of that rage has to be expressed.
On the other hand, I think that the leadership there. And I would also mention in particular, of the lieutenant governor who I heard on television asking for the rest of us not to get into the finger pointing at the moment. I would follow his lead on that for the moment.
He has been a hands-on hero in this situation. And so, while I am torn about it, I will save those comments for later.
KING: And the place for housing is WWW.HurricaneHousing.org.
PENN: That's right. Let me give also, the 800 number for that.
PENN: Which is 1-800-638-4559.
And one other thing, Sean, what was it like to be there?
PENN: Well, it is clearly devastating. I mean, once we were there, it was busy. You are moving all the time, hurrying very much. I have to thank CNN, whose boat, Nic Robertson allowed me to commandeer. But at the moment we were there, I was on the water, on and in the water for nine hours. And we only saw three noncivilian boats. Most of the National Guard presence was in the air. They were doing a great job, those that were there. But there weren't enough there. There were an awful lot of civilians getting in there. And I think they will need more help and medical attention.
Sometimes, one of the issues is that the helicopter, because it's a difficult type of rescue process and it takes a long time for the lines to come down, there's power lines everywhere. We could sometimes go there and save them time, by seeing where the helicopters were, we'd go to what they were looking at. But sometimes those rotor blades would put people under water, which would mean that people had to jump in the water, which I also had to do to get people out.
So, I think that the more boats they can get in the water, the more immediately, the better.
There are still a lot of people very much alive. This isn't a circumstance where, because of the heat and the time -- you know, they've foraged for food, they have been exposed to it for a long time. They're very much alive. And while there are many who do refuse coming out, there are still many that want help.
KING: Thank you so much, Sean. Sean Penn.
Would you agree with that, Chief Eddie Compass of the New Orleans (INAUDIBLE)? There are a lot of people there still alive, with all the thoughts that everybody is dead. There are a lot alive?
COMPASS: Yes, sir. And I want to thank Mr. Sean Penn for coming out. You know, a lot of people talk the talk, but he walked the walk. You know, a lot of people had a lot of comments about what was going here. If you aren't here to see it, you can't imagine it.
80 percent of our police officers lost their homes. Officers have lost their families, but they're still out here fighting. So, you have to understand the human side of this.
You know, people look at police officers like we are inhuman. Just imagine losing your mother, your father, your children, losing your home, and then you're working 21 a days in the streets, defecating in the streets, urinating in the streets, no food, no water, and you're going to help on rescue missions, and you're being shot at. Just imagine what it does to the human mind. You know, we have a real, strong police department to put up for all those days and still standing, and still doing it.
KING: John Walsh, I guess -- he said about Sean Penn and about you, too, you can walk the walk or talk the talk. You have to go there, right?
WALSH: I don't think anybody can imagine -- and I don't think the television coverage can really convey what went on there. I mean, the total devastation. As the chief said, it is just, when you see the houses with the water up to the roofs. And we were going along in boats yesterday, and see where people clawed holes in the roof so that they wouldn't drown, so they could get on the roofs.
I mean, it's going to be years before this area, all along the Gulf Coast, not just New Orleans, is going to be able to get back to normal. And it is just -- it's heartbreaking. You have to go there to really see the devastation of it.
But you know what, I saw some wonderful things there. Yesterday, there was hours of traffic back up from Baton Rouge all the way down to New Orleans, of people who have come from all over the United States, tons of cops, off duty cops, firemen, I saw 20 or 30 ambulances, oil trucks, with gasoline. I mean, it is the best of America. Americans are rallying for this area.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now, in Houston, is Webster Feliciana. Webster is missing his wife Darlene, his sister Deborah, and mother-in-law Joyce Smith. He took his wife to his mother-in-law's house, lost her when he took the dogs to higher ground. What happened, when you got back they weren't there, Webster?
WEBSTER FELICIANA, EVACUEE: No. What it was, when I brought my wife to my mother-in-law's house, I brought my dogs to higher ground, and (INAUDIBLE) projects. And on the way of me getting back the storm got stronger. And what happened was I couldn't get back across the river, because they cut all the roads off and they had a canal I couldn't pass by. So I was stuck in the projects.
KING: And you haven't heard from them at all?
FELICIANA: No, I haven't.
KING: Now we have a couple of numbers for you, Webster. They can reach you at 832, this is Marriott Houston, right?
FELICIANA: Yes. It is.
KING: 832-366-1600 And it's room 822. It's 832-366-1600, room 822. That's the Marriott Houston. If you know of the whereabouts of Darlene Feliciana, Deborah Feliciana and your mother in law Joyce Smith. We hope it comes through for you. We've helped a lot of people the last few days. Webster, good luck with this.
FELICIANA: Thank you.
KING: Webster Feliciana. Let's check in with Gary Tuchman who's still there in New Orleans. How do you plot your day? Give me an idea of what you cover how you cover? What do you do?
TUCHMAN: There are so many stories to tell, Larry. Just an unlimited number. We can go on for months, even years telling stories. But today, we were in Plaquemine's Parish. That's about 20 miles south, that's right next to St. Bernard Parish, which Soledad O'Brien was talking about with the nursing home. And by the way, our viewers should know that parishes are the equivalent of counties in the other 49 states.
But in this particular parish we were in today, this is where the hurricane crossed. This is where it directly hit. It is 67 miles long. It's just to south of New Orleans. The lower 40 miles are completely underwater. The hurricane's eye actually crossed through the town of Buras. Buras is completely underwater. The top part of the parish is still there, but the lower part's gone. They found three bodies, Larry, but they are afraid they are going to find a lot more.
And today we were with members of the New Mexico National Guard, searching for those who may have died.
KING: Chief Compass, how are you dealing with the morgues? Where are you taking people you find who have passed away?
COMPASS: I think FEMA is handling that, sir. Right now my primary responsibility is saving lives and protecting the city. We already started a jail. We have 172 arrests. We have patrols in place. We start a quarter master system. We have our radio patrols on sectors, already zoned, mapped out. We're working in conjunction with the state and federal agencies. We got organized very quickly.
KING: We thank you, sir.
COMPASS: I'm sorry. I just wanted to compliment the command staff of this police department. I mean, not only did we deal with this encounter but we are back functioning as a police department. Which is amazing considering we have no electricity, no running water and no permanent buildings.
KING: Unbelievable. Chief, we will have you back again. We'll check with you tomorrow, the next night. But we want you back as soon as we can with the mayor. We look forward to it. You're doing a great job.
COMPASS: Well I have to check because I'm running a shift just like my troops. So if I'm off, I'll be here. But if I've got to run a shift, Larry, I won't be able to make it.
KING: OK. We'll work it with you. Your time is our time. Chief Eddy Compass.
We'll back with more of this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Let's check in now in New Orleans with Christiane Amanpour CNN's chief international correspondent. From a reporting standpoint you've been in lots of wars, you've been in disaster, how does this compare?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I mean, it really is very, very, very bad. As you know and as we have been able to see. And as somebody said even the television images sometimes don't show as bad as it is on the ground.
I think what really stuns me, is when I see people who are, you know, going through the same kind of hell and horror that we have seen in other parts of the world. And this is America, the most powerful, richest country in the world. Today, we saw people being evacuated, put on truck just like I'd see in Somalia or wherever, Bosnia, and basically refugees in their own country, going who knows where, many of them. And who knows when they will come back. So a lot of, you know, what we are seeing is what we have seen elsewhere. But it is doubly shocking when you see it here, really, it is.
KING: So from a reporting standpoint it's similar. Do you think there's a breakdown here, or is this just the kind of catastrophe the topography of the area that made this -- made it what it is?
AMANPOUR: Well, certainly the experts, and everybody has said, that this is a particularly vulnerable area. And in war gaming and disaster planning the three big potential issues in the United States was terrorism in New York, an earthquake in San Francisco and the hurricane flood in New Orleans. And the worst of the worst happened.
So of course it was a natural disaster, but there's many people, many experts who are wanting the answers to why, for instance, many of the plans that had been drawn up for this place hadn't been properly implemented. Why many of the emergency disaster plans for New Orleans had been cut back over the last several years.
So, it is not just a natural disaster, but there is also a lot of work for the government to be able to deal with this kind of thing.
KING: Well said.
John Walsh, we only have about a minute. You are asking for volunteers, too? To do what?
WALSH: Well, they need volunteers to go there and help them clean up. I mean, you know, now that the water has receded, they still need all kinds of help there in New Orleans. And it is still a bit disorganized as you say.
But I want to give this 800 number again, one more time, Larry, because there are thousands of people who right now as we speak are worried to know whether or not their loved ones are alive or dead. It's 888-544-5475. Anybody can call. And we'll try to get information.
The not knowing is the worst. And in America, I hope the media doesn't get sick of this story in a couple of days, because there is a lot, lot more to be done down there.
KING: Thanks John. Thanks for your help. We'll be checking with you again.
Have about 35 seconds. Anderson Cooper, I understand there is a couple of tropical storms out in the ocean. Is that another big fear?
COOPER: I don't think anyone here has even thought about that I heard the stories. I've heard those stories too. But frankly, we're so enmeshed in this thing and dealing just minute by minute, you know, with bodies and people being rescued. That to even try to -- that seems like a world away, you know.
I think people here, you know, you have got to plan for it. And I hope people are. But I think most folks on the ground here, you know, that is a luxury to worry about what is going to happen two, three, or four, or a week from now. You've got to worry about day to day, hour by hour.
KING: I'm not going to speak for management, but I think everyone there on the scene needs some relief, maybe some personnel switching around a little. It has got to get to you?
COOPER: You know, I think all of us here feel committed to this story. I don't think anyone I know wants to leave this story. I mean, what is happening here is a life-changing experience for an awful lot of us, Larry.
For a doctor I just talked to who was on the program last night. He said, you know -- his name is Greg Henderson -- he said there was a Greg Henderson before Katrina, and there is a Greg Henderson now. And they are two completely different person. I think a lot of us feel that way.
COOPER: Thanks so much. We'll be right back with Macy Gray, the Grammy award winning singer who is going to give us a very appropriate selection. Don't go away.
KING: The latest picture we have of that tragedy where more than 30 bodies were found in a flooded nursing home east of New Orleans. That is where it happened.
We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Macy Gray, the Grammy award winning singer who spent her Labor Day weekend volunteering in the Houston Astrodome. Where do you live?
MACY GRAY, SINGER: I live in Los Angeles in the Valley.
KING: What took you to work -- made you go there?
GRAY: Just same as everybody, just saw it on TV, and just really wanted to help out. And just my heart goes out to those people. And I wanted to go around and see what I could do.
KING: What was it like?
GRAY: It's crazy down there. You know, it is like 30,000 people all under one roof. They have lost so much. And they don't have a plan. They don't know what is next, you know. It's like 30,000 people with nothing to lose under one roof. And I think the Red Cross is doing a good job, but they lost so much.
KING: You are going back tomorrow?
GRAY: Yes, I am going back. Actually, Friday morning, I am going back.
Myself, friends with mine, Afede Shakor (ph) and her foundation TSFS, the Barlow (ph) family, Rick and Evette (ph), Lisa Etheridge (ph). We're going to go down there. And we're going to adopt 10 families. We found an apartment building in Georgia. And we're going to take 10 families, set them up, take care of them until they get on their feet, help them get jobs, put their kids in school. We are going to, the more money we raise. And we're going -- you know, the more money we raise, we're going to adopt more and more families.
KING: You're a great lady, Macy.
GRAY: Thanks, babe.
KING: Macy Gray.
Earlier in this studio, Macy taped her rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." And so here it is now. Macy Gray to sing us out of this edition of LARRY KING LIVE with Marley's "Redemption Song." Enjoy.
KING: Macy will be back with us Saturday night from the Astrodome.
Right now we turn it over to Aaron Brown in New York for another two hour edition for "NEWSNIGHT."
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com