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Disaster Relief Continues Along the Gulf Coast; Nancy Pelosi Internview
Aired September 8, 2005 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Checking charities, now. How can you be sure that your donations to hurricane victims are really helping? Well, the head of Charitynavigator.org joins me live this hour.
Also this hour, President Bush speaks live about benefits for hurricane victims. From the CNN center in Atlanta, I'm Kyra Phillips. This hour of CNN's LIVE FROM... starts right now.
Give in, get out, get help. Persuading New Orleans' remaining hurricane survivors is mission critical for the 82nd Airborne, seen right here and for all the other heroes of Katrina who are roaming the streets in search of people to rescue. Plenty of willing evacuees are still around. But so, too, the diehards who just don't want to budge.
Forced evacuations are still on hold for now, and non-survivors are being found, too, of course, more readily as the floodwaters drop. There's still no reliable or official count of the dead in Louisiana. The makeshift morgues are built to handle 500 to 1,000 bodies a day. Louisiana's Health Department is in possession of 25,000 body bags delivered by FEMA.
And at Houston this hour, lockdown at the Astrodome, a security precaution in light of commotion and confusion surrounding the handout of debit cards to storm victims far from home.
And that aid represents a minuscule fraction of the billions soon to come from the U.S. Treasury. Congress is poised to vote on President Bush's second emergency funding request in a week, $51.8 billion. Most of it going to or through FEMA.
Another day in the ruins of the city of New Orleans, another day in the incredible task of searching for survivors and dead. Another day trying to get the remaining thousands of residents still there to leave before forcing them out as ordered by the mayor. CNN's Karl Penhaul is there with the very latest -- Karl?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, those forced evacuation orders we know haven't come into effect yet, but certainly law enforcement forces very busy continuing with voluntary evacuations, Helping those people out that still wish to leave. Taking in airboats in some cases, in pontoon boats.
Where we are now, in fact, at the center of the city in Canal Street, just off the French Quarter, is really the hub of where all these activities are being coordinated from. And it's quite amazing to see by the minute our law enforcement agents filtering in, filtering in all types of vehicles with all types of weaponry. Law enforcement agents not only from New Orleans and Louisiana, but from across the nation have come here to help.
It must be said that a lot of them here look like they're more in a war-footing stage rather than relief footing. But according to the police superintendent, the instances of crime and looting in the wake of this hurricane and flooding have now died down. Most of the emergency calls he says he's now getting are from victims who want to be evacuated.
PHILLIPS: Karl, tell me exactly where you are, because as I look behind you, I see ambulances, I see containers with fuel passing behind you. I see a lot of different types of emergency workers. Kind of set the scene for where you are and what's happening around you.
PENHAUL: Exactly. This is Canal Street, so it's just on the edge of the French Quarter. And it's where all the law enforcement activities and all the emergency services activities are being coordinated from. The police have set up a temporary station outside the casino. And this is where everything's been coordinated.
So emergency services will show up in the morning, and they will be tasked then to various operations around the city. But like I said, quite an amazing sight. In fact, out of camera, completely on the other side, a number of armored vehicles sitting around there. Those are justice marshals that have rolled into town.
There are armored vehicles from the Oregon National Guard and from other National Guard units that have come in. And they're here, both yes to keep the law and order in these difficult thymes, but also to help out with these evacuation orders.
PHILLIPS: Karl Penhaul there on Canal Street in downtown, New Orleans. Karl, thank you so much. We'll continue to check in with you.
And amid the vast wasteland that is much of New Orleans today are pockets of hope and renewal. Some residents, with the help of outsiders, are picking up the pieces of their former lives and starting over. CNN's Drew Griffin is there and spoke to some of them.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a new cavalry in town, one with fewer guns and more muscle.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need you guys to back up and turn around. We've got these streets closed off for clean-up.
GRIFFIN: OK, great.
(voice-over): After days of heavily armed troops patrolling with guns at the ready, new troops are arriving with a new mission: to actually clean the place up. This Texas National Guard unit specializes in water purification.
(on-camera): You're going to make the water in New Orleans clean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
GRIFFIN: All right.
(voice-over): With all the attention on floods and fires, you haven't heard much about the fact that there are lots of neighborhoods that need little more than a good cleaning. They were never flooded, some barely touched. Bob Rue lives on the edge of downtown where he sells rugs.
BOB RUE, STORE OWNER: On the Garden district in the French Quarter, it's not touched. The 19th century stuff, before there were levees, is unhurt except for wind damage.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): You're ready to get cleaned up, get these streets cleaned up, power on, and you're back in business?
RUE: I'm going to put my sign out for we're in a rug sale pretty. See how if I can sell some rugs to some soldiers.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Whether Rue can avoid the mayor's everybody-out order remains to be seen. So far, we've seen nothing to indicate the order is being enforced in unscathed neighborhoods. The Garden District, for the most part, is high and dry. Downtown businesses are scrambling to make repairs. Fallen trees are being cleared from the streets. And the French Quarter on this hot September day actually looks beautiful.
Take a look inside the world famous Cafe Du Monde. All they need to do is sweep and get all those tables back out here. Of course, they still need power and water, but basically the Quarter's ready to go.
Some places don't even need power and water. On Bourbon Street at Johnny White's Sports Bar, you could walk in and have a cool one. Johnny White's isn't reopened, it never closed.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): And you're open?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, never closed.
GRIFFIN: They've got the sign to prove it. And Katrina couldn't blow that away.
Drew Griffin, CNN, New Orleans.
PHILLIPS: Vice President Dick Cheney is in coastal Mississippi this hour, his first visit to the Katrina disaster zone sends the since the hurricane struck more than a week ago. Cheney is meeting with officials and seeing firsthand that devastation. With him are his wife Lynne, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. The vice president is scheduled to visit New Orleans later today.
Aid shipments are arriving daily to help the residents of coastal Mississippi, who in many cases, have lost everything. CNN's Beth Nissen reports that in some areas, the supplies, much like the storm debris, are piling up.
BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Pascagoula, Mississippi, home to 28,000 souls. All but a handful survived the hurricane winds, the 22-foot surge of sea water. But the city was half erased. The white shoe part of town, where Republican Senator Trent Lott had his home. The blue collar part of town, where the shipyard and refinery workers lived.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The south part of Pascagoula was totally devastated by this hurricane. I would guesstimate that probably 80 percent of the houses in Pascagoula have flood waters in them.
NISSEN: Now, the 58 police officers in Pascagoula, all of them still on the job and working 12 hour shifts, are dealing with a flood of a different kind. An overwhelming amount of relief supplies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's some generators, chainsaws, clothing, diapers, food. You name it, it's coming in here.
NISSEN: Pascagoula has no one staging area right now for donated supplies. A local Baptist church is serving as one distribution point. But police and city officials don't have the manpower to offload incoming trucks, the ability to sort and label supplies, the means to distribute contents, or any real idea of who needs what, except that thousands need just about everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hardest part is going down and seeing people's lives all over the street, seeing people's lives piled up in front of their house. And they're pulling everything out of they're houses onto the streets. Carpets, rugs, furniture, everything, because nothing is salvageable. Absolutely nothing.
WARREN LYNCH: It was a pretty place.
NISSEN: Still, on Bellure Street (ph), Warren Lynch (ph), age 84 and World War II veteran, was on a mission to salvage something, helped by his daughter who'd driven down from Pennsylvania. The water had marked its growth on his wall, giving everything he and his wife owned a putrid venire of mud and sewage. Turned family photos into inky blurs. Ruined his old bible. But he had his American flag up, was trying to keep his spirits up.
Over on 12th street, Douglas Francis had his flag showing, too, or what was left of his flag on what was left of his home.
DOUGLAS FRANCIS, PASCAGOULA RESIDENT: Everything we own is up under there.
NISSEN: He too was trying keep his spirits, his strength up. FRANCIS: There's a brighter day. There's a brighter day.
NISSEN: FEMA is here, did dispatch a fleet of 18-wheelers with emergency relief, food, water, which is being distributed at the county fairgrounds. But there's been virtually no communication or coordination between local authorities and the FEMA team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of them stopped by the station to download some information from the Internet or get his email or something. So I know they're here. Now, what their organizational plan is, I'm not sure yet. I've been told they're going to set up at a local high school.
NISSEN: And people in Pascagoula, he says, are desperate for more than just emergency aid. For housing, tents, trailers. So are people in the next town, and the next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The further west you go, the worse the devastation is. We got the edge of the hurricane here. And you can see what the edge has caused.
NISSEN: But that gives Pascagoula the edge, he says, in recovering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to rebuild. Eventually, we're going to rebuild. It's going to take time. This is a beautiful area, it was a beautiful area before the storm, it's going to be a beautiful area again. It's just going to take time.
NISSEN: So much time. So much time.
Beth Nissen, CNN, Pascagoula, Mississippi.
PHILLIPS: Speaking of Mississippi, we want to show you live pictures from South Haven, Mississippi, not far from Memphis. This is Greenbrook Elementary School. First Lady Laura Bush meeting with students and parents. Let's listen in for just a moment.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Those children in Des Moines, Iowa, were very concerned about the children here. And they sent a little box of one classroom's worth of supplies to give to the children here with their love.
Des Moines, actually, has about, I think they said, around a dozen students who have come up from the Gulf Coast who are in school there now. Not at the school that I happened to visit, but at other schools in the Des Moines School District.
So, really, around the country, in almost every state, children who've been displaced because of Hurricane Corina (sic) are starting to school this week. It's really important for parents to make sure their children go to school.
It's important for their children to have a normal life, to have the structure and the routine of going to school. And especially since many children have suffered, really, have seen and suffered a lot of really terrible things. So it's important to have the safe structure that a school gives you.
So I want to thank all these parents. I want to thank them for putting their children in school here and for letting their children have a normal life. Each day, more and more things happen to know that the Gulf Coast and New Orleans are going to return. That things will be rebuilt, that people will be able to go on with their lives as they were at some point.
But I want to thank all the people who've worked on that specifically, the school districts around the country that are taking in students all over the country. Some cities, as you know, are taking in a large number of students, incorporating them into their school districts. And I want to thank the people here in this school district, in Sunnyvale, for taking in students and then the others that are doing it around the country.
And I also want to encourage anybody who was effected by Hurricane Corina (sic) to make sure their children are in school, that they are safe in school, and that they have all the support that they need to weather this time that's going to be difficult for them. Any questions?
BUSH: Well, I wanted to come here because this is a school district that has kids in it from Mississippi and from the New Orleans area that couldn't go to school in their home school districts. I'm going to later visit, as you know, a shelter that's here. I wanted to visit another shelter. I've visited several so far. All of them have been organized and run very, very well for the benefit of the people who are having to be sheltered, who are choosing that. So that's why I really picked the Soda County to come to.
QUESTION: How can the government help these victims in the long term?
BUSH: That's a very good question for Secretary Spellings, but the government will. I happened to sit in on a meeting with the president and Secretary Spellings, talking about the ways to get money right away to school districts that have a larger population because of the hurricane.
MARGARET SPELLINGS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Another reason we came here is because this is a great school district with a great superintendent. And they made all their AYP targets down here. So I just want to put a little commercial in for the school district before I answer that question.
PHILLIPS: Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings there, side by side with the first lady at Greenbrook Elementary School in South Haven, Mississippi. Not far from Memphis. The first lady and the secretary of education have been traveling to various states and various school districts just thanking these school districts for allowing the displaced children from the hardest-hit areas of the hurricane to be able to come into these schools and start school today, and try to just be able to somewhat start their lives over and get some sense of normalcy by getting back into the school system and not missing out on their education.
We'll continue to follow what schools the first lady goes to along with the secretary of education and let you know what states are helping out. This, of course, in Mississippi, South Haven, Mississippi. And then also earlier, the first lady and the secretary were this Des Moines, Iowa, visiting some schools there and just thanking various superintendents for allowing them, or for bringing in so many of these children that desperately need to get back into schools.
Well, straight ahead, President Bush is expected to talk about benefits for hurricane victims. We're going to bring that to you live when it happens just a few minutes from now.
And also ahead, yearning to learn while longing for home. How many of these displaced students are dealing with a new reality.
You know, as we look at those pictures, and we go to so many of the various live pictures also throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama right now, we've been talking so much about the efforts that are being put forth by the military and civil authorities, and even people of New Orleans and those in Mississippi and Alabama.
And so today, we've sort of dedicated our day and taking large chunks of our time every hour just to talk about the heroes and the American spirit and what everybody has been doing to try and respond to all the people that so much just need the help in many ways. From food, supplies, even to spiritual needs. We're going to talk about that in a few minutes and all the chaplains that have out in been dispatched throughout these states.
But, of course, you know, there's that one individual that we can't stop thinking about. And he is the one that basically came in to New Orleans, we'll never forget the pictures, and didn't take any B.S. from anyone, as you well know and that's Lieutenant General Russell Honore. And we've been talking so much about him and what he's been doing in the area. And, luckily, we've been able to track him down once again.
General, you hear me OK?
LT. GEN. RUSSELL HONORE, COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA: Yes, I hear you loud and clear, over.
PHILLIPS: So tell me where you are right now, sir.
HONORE: I'm at the base at the Baton. I'm about to have a meeting with some of my commanders. Just came back from a meeting with the principals in the city of New Orleans, met earlier this morning with the mayors of the six largest cities along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi along with the vice president and his team that I'm visiting -- that visited Mississippi this morning.
And we are coordinating our operations. Our command and control is in place. Our priority mains search and rescue. We rescued several hundred people yesterday. We continue to do the same today. Next to search and rescue is providing medical assistance where required, provide food and water to those who need it in the disaster area. And then focus on increasing communications among the first responders because when they can communicate, they can coordinate. And finally ensure that there's adequate fuel.
Focus first on the first responders, and key (ph) enabling industries to get the capabilities in the communities. So we're quite busy. Our troops are doing well, working great between the active component and the National Guard, doing a fantastic job. We're getting great help from citizens. I was just told by a non- commissioned officer who was doing some search and rescue that one of the citizens offered them to use some vehicles, let them use three boats so they could continue their good work and work inside the community.
It's an enormous effort. And as Martin Luther King said one time, if you want to make yourself a hero, commit yourself to the service of others. I think these great Americans first responders and our soldiers are doing that. They are working hard, trying to take care of the people who were effected by this disaster, over.
PHILLIPS: Sir, you quote Martin Luther King, and I know you are bragging about your men and women that are participating in this effort. But sir, you know, I know how humble you are, but do you realize what you have done for the morale of all these people in all three of these states?
And do you realize what you've done even for all of us here back that are not a part of this disaster? We're having to cover it and we're having to interview and ask you the questions, but do you realize what you're doing for America and what you stand for right now?
HONORE: Well, right now I'm focused on my mission and to make sure that mission gets done. And to take plans that we've done that we have on the shelf and make them work. That's my objective. And I really haven't seen much of or heard much of.
We go from 4:00 in the morning until about midnight. And a couple meetings (ph) maybe after that sometimes. But we ought to get this done. We got a great team out here. The state, the federal, and then the parishes in Louisiana, and the counties that are affected in Mississippi, from the Gulf Coast north of (inaudible) to I-20.
We've got a lot of work to do. And it's not a football game. You may not have been happy with the first quarter, but we've got a lot of opportunities to get better in the next three quarters. We might be losing 25-0, but there's three more quarters. We've got to focus on what we got to do to make it happen.
PHILLIPS: Sir, you are well ahead of this game, sir. And we've got about a minute to the president. So I've got to ask you a question. I just found out today, about 120 chaplain units have now been dispatched. Colonel James Agnew, U.S. Army, a great American, a chaplain, I don't know if he's already been with you or he's going to hook up with you.
But just for a moment, sir, could you just talk about how this mission is not only about responding to these Americans with food and water, but also the spiritual needs of these people, because I know you are a praying man? And I know that this is a big part of what these people need also.
HONORE: Absolutely. I mean, that has a lot to do with our ability to face and deal with things that we can't control. And people need to understand this storm was a perfect storm. And it tricked us and came in with overwhelming power. It surprised us. It cut our communications. It cut our transportation. It dropped the water and prevented us from moving.
PHILLIPS: Hold that thought.
HONORE: This storm is devastating.
PHILLIPS: General, stay with me. The president of the United States right now.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many of you have been evacuated from the flood in the destroyed area, and now find yourselves far from home without proper identification or even a change of clothes. So today, I'm announcing two important steps that we are taking to provide you the help you need. Steps that will cut through the red tape so that we get that help into your hands as quickly and easily as possible.
The first step is providing every household with $2,000 in emergency disaster relief that can be used for immediate needs such as food or clothing or personal essentials. For those of you who are living in the large shelters, such as the Houston Astrodome, I know that you don't have cars or transportation and cannot get yourself to the centers to collect these funds.
I also know that some of you do not have access to savings or checking account or ways to cash a check. FEMA and Red Cross teams, either are working, or soon will be working, with your shelters to meet your challenges and to get assistance into your hands as soon as possible.
By registering for the first $2,000, you will begin the process of arranging for the delivery of other longer-term assistance that will be made available in the coming weeks for eligible households. For those of you who are staying with family members or in a rented room or a hotel or apartment, FEMA's also working to get these funds in your hands. Now, here are two ways that you can register for this assistance.
You can call 1-800-621-FEMA. It's 1-800-621-FEMA. Or, if you have the capability to use the Internet, you can log on to www.fema.gov. A FEMA representative will arrange for your assistance to be delivered by mail or deposited into your bank account. If you have special needs, the FEMA representative can help arrange to get the money to you in another way.
Now, we have 3,000 people who are working around the clock to take the calls. We're in the process of training more, and that number will increase dramatically. More than 400,000 families have already been registered. We still have tens of thousands more people who need to be processed. So I ask for your patience if you experience problems in trying to contact FEMA.
To those of you in our faith-based and community groups who have opened up your hearts and homes, I want to thank you for your service to our fellow Americans. If you've not been in contact with a FEMA representative, please do so to help the people in your shelters. And again, you can call 1-800-621-FEMA.
By calling a FEMA representative, you can assure that the people who've taken in are registered and able to receive the emergency assistance funds. As we work to deliver this emergency relief, we're also working to ensure that those of you who receive federal benefits administered by the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana will continue to get those benefits in the states where you're now staying.
So the second step we're taking today is designed to make it easier for you to register and collect these benefits in any state in the country. We will start by granting evacuee status for all of you who's lived in counties that have been declared disaster areas.
We know that many of you no longer have the legal documents or the records to prove your eligibility for the benefits you have been getting. We understand that. And so with this evacuee status, you will be able to register for your benefits without many of the traditional administrative requirements for verification and enrollment.
The special evacuee status supplies to the full range of federal benefits administered by the states. These programs include Medicaid, temporary assistance for needy families, child care, mental health services and substance abuse treatment, food stamps, housing, foster care, women, infants, and children nutrition, school lunch, unemployment compensation, and job training.
The states that have opened up their doors should not be penalized for coming to the aid of Americans in distress. And so I'm going to work with the Congress to reimburse the states that are taking in evacuees from the affected areas along the Gulf Coast.
I want to thank the governors and the leaders of the states that have taken in so many of our fellow citizens. I want to thank you for your compassion. And we understand that this is going to strain your budgets, and so the federal government, as I just said, will operate under this principle. You should not be penalized for showing compassion. State enrollment teams are already set up in many shelters. And many have 1-800 numbers that people can call. Any evacuee can contact the nearest state or local benefits office to get the information about enrolling.
And those of you who are staying in a home or church that has access to the Internet can find out how to receive these benefits by going to www.govbenefits.gov.
Here's just some of the many steps we'll be taking in what will be a long relief effort. We have much more work to do. But the people who have been hurt by this storm know that, need to know that the government is going to be with you for the long haul. In all the steps we take, our goal is not to simply provide benefits, but to make them easy and simple as possible to collect.
The responsibility of caring for hundreds of thousands of citizens who no longer have homes is going to place many demands on our nation. We have many difficult days ahead, especially as we recover those who did not survive the storm. I've instructed all agencies to honor their memory by treating the dead with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Throughout our history, in times of testing, Americans have come together in prayer, to heal and ask for strength for the tasks ahead. So I've declared Friday, September the 16th, as a national day of prayer and remembrance. I ask that we pray as Americans have always prayed in times of trial, with confidence in his purpose, with hope for a brighter future, and with the humility to ask God to keep us strong so that we can better serve our brothers and sisters in need.
PHILLIPS: President of the United States there, alongside with members of his cabinet, basically coming forward and declaring a national day of prayer and remembrance in addition to just reiterating some of the other things that he's doing to put forth to respond to Hurricane Katrina.
And along with those remarks, we continue to get in these live pictures from the city of New Orleans. It's incredible to see how creative these rescue crews are getting. Right now, you're are seeing a number of people that have been pulled out of a neighborhood in these Army vehicles that continue to patrol the streets.
You know, we just talked to General Honore just a few minutes ago. And he says the resources aren't stopping. From the day he came in here with all these massive vehicles, they continue to come in. And like he said, he's up at 4:00 in the morning and he's working till midnight. Well, so are all these individuals within the Army and the other rescue crews that are out there, from the New Orleans Police Department to all other assets that are coming in from across the United States.
But right here, you're seeing more individuals, of course, hot and tired, getting pulled out of these neighborhoods in the back seat of these Army vehicles.
Also, I'm being told that these Army personnel are bringing these folks back through their neighborhoods as well to kind of assess the damage and see if there's anybody else in there, family members, friends, if they're able to get out. Of course, these people know the neighborhoods better than anybody else. They're able to sort of lead the members of the military to certain areas and certain homes where they know or they believe folks are still trapped.
So that search and rescue mission continues, as we see from these live pictures.
Now, as we hear from the president, and, of course, he comes forward and talks about all the positive things that are taking place from his perspective, you know, there's been a lot of criticism, of course, toward the Bush administration and how various levels of the government, including the federal government, have responded to this disaster.
And one critic, of course, has been Representative Nancy Pelosi, minority leader, Democrat from California. She joins us once again. She's been listening to the president's remarks.
And let me just ask you, first of all, you listened to the president's remarks. Are you changing your mind at all about how you feel the Bush administration is handling this crisis up to this very minute?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It's not a question of how I feel. It's what I know. The fact is, it was a very interesting presentation by the president to list the services that we all support that are out there.
But it's about time. If FEMA had reacted appropriately a week ago, there would be less cost in lives and livelihood, in homes, to the people in the region, and at lot less cost to the American taxpayer.
I think what we have to do, and I called once again upon the president, to replace the head of FEMA. FEMA was a failure last week. Many, many hard-working FEMA workers were out there in the field. But they didn't get the leadership and the accountability that they needed. And therefore, the people of the region were not well served.
I'm glad the president is going to have a national day of prayer. It's about time, as well, that we mourn our losses and pray for our future. I think not a -- a strange coincidence, but on Sunday, the 23rd Sunday after Easter, the Gospel of Matthew was about the commandments. And Matthew said most important of all, is love, love thy neighbor as thyself.
This is a challenge to our country now, because our neighbors are in very, very deep pain and uncertainty about their future. So I think that we have to say very clearly that how we started on this past week was not up to standard. Our problems are larger because of that.
But as we go forward, we can do better if we have professional, capable leadership in position at FEMA to do the job. PHILLIPS: Congresswoman Pelosi, let me ask you to stay with me for one second here. I'm being told we need to go to Karl Penhaul in New Orleans right now. We're getting in some immediate information.
Karl, I'm not sure what it is, but go ahead.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The information's still unfolding, Kyra, but one of my CNN colleagues, Alfredo Lalarra (ph), is out with a group of shrimp fishermen in eastern New Orleans who have been drafted in to help law enforcers in the recovery of bodies.
And these shrimp fishermen that my colleague was out with have now discovered 14 dead bodies at the Memorial Hospital in eastern New Orleans. They are extracting those bodies as we speak. But the hospital is still flooded up until about the first story level. So that work could continue for some time.
It's not known right now as to whether those that have died were patients who were in the hospital, or whether they may also include medical staff who couldn't get out when floodwaters ripped through that hospital.
But right now, as I say, the first of the 14 bodies are being shipped to dry land by shrimp fishermen. And there they'll be handed over to the coroner's department and to the sheriff, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: So, Karl, you're telling me these are bodies that have been found inside the hospital? They've been inside the hospital since this disaster hit? Is that what you were telling me? These are individuals that were stranded in there?
PENHAUL: That's correct. Everything so far seems to indicate that. Obviously early stages. And with all these bodies being found, there will be investigations into how they died. There will be autopsies. But everything so far indicates that these 14 people died inside Memorial Hospital. Some of them could be patients. Others may be medical staff.
And also, what the shrimp fishermen who are evacuating that place say is that there are still areas of the hospital they have to go through. So it could be that there are more bodies, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Oh, boy. All right, do you have any idea how big Memorial Hospital is, Karl?
PENHAUL: Not offhand. As I say, we are a ways from where we are now. But the -- our cameraman, Alfredo Lalarra, is there on the scene right now. As soon as we get further contact with him, we'll bring you up to date on those details, and also how this search is going and whether any more bodies have been found, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right, Karl Penhaul. Thank you so much. Please keep us updated. Just another reality check.
Congresswoman Pelosi, as we continue to follow, of course, this developing information coming in, you know, the hardest part, and I think it's far from over, we're going to continue to hear about people that have been trapped.
I mean, you are talking about such a swath of a region here. It's just hard to listen to that and to have to talk about that. And no doubt, it'll be never-ending.
But I want to ask you, as you stand here and continue to criticize the administration, and criticize the director of FEMA, I do want to tell you, the White House coming forward today, Scott McClellan coming forward today, and basically disputing your accounts of your meeting with the president.
And I'm looking at it here, saying that, you said you urged the president to replace the embattled FEMA director because of the poor emergency response to Hurricane Katrina. However, McClellan saying that this is -- that that's not what you discussed with the president, that you were discussing other things with the president, and that things are being twisted here in a bit.
PELOSI: Oh, that's absolutely not true. Mr. McClellan wasn't there, so he couldn't possibly know.
What happened was, I said to the president, Mr. President, we can begin to help these victims of Katrina become whole again. First thing you can do is to replace Michael Brown as the head of FEMA. To which the president said, Why would I do that? And I said, Because of what happened last week and the failure of FEMA to be the real link between the federal government and the people in need in our country, the social compact. To which the president said, What didn't go right last week?
That's what happened in the meeting. I stand by that. If the president thinks everything went right last week, and he wants to keep Michael Brown there, then I think that's going to be a cost to the American people and lives and livelihood.
PHILLIPS: Well, I'm not (INAUDIBLE)...
PELOSI: But if he does -- but if he wants to then say that it didn't go right last week, then he should replace Michael Brown.
PHILLIPS: But if you, if we go back, I mean, we can go back year after year after year, and we can talk about FEMA and what went wrong within FEMA and should FEMA be under the Department of Homeland Security.
But if we want to be historical here, and we want to go back in time, I mean, we can go back to "The Times Picayune" and the investigation that it -- when it -- when reporters revealed that time after time, monies were asked for from all types of various politicians, of the politicians you worked side by side with, laws that you yourself vote on, and monies that should have gone to Louisiana to take care of the problems with regard to the flood control systems.
And I think it's unfair that FEMA is just singled out. There are so many people responsible for what has happened in the state of Louisiana.
PELOSI: Well, that's true. That is true. And I'm sorry that you think it's unfair. But I don't. I think it's unfair to the people who lost their family members, their lives, their livelihoods, their homes, their opportunity.
And FEMA has done a poor job. It had no chance. It was (INAUDIBLE)...
PHILLIPS: But what about all those warnings...
PELOSI: ... may I please respond?
PHILLIPS: What about all the warnings from the Army Corps of Engineers...
PELOSI: But the Army Corps of Engineers...
PHILLIPS: ... years ago, saying there's a problem with these levees, there's a problem with this city.
PELOSI: Kyra, Kyra, Kyra...
PHILLIPS: It's Kyra. It's Kyra.
PELOSI: ... if you want to make a case for the White House, you should go on their payroll. But the (INAUDIBLE)...
PHILLIPS: I'm not making a case for the White House, by all means, believe me.
PELOSI: ... that the White House has cut this year 72 percent of the request from Louisiana for flooding money. The White House has cut the Army Corps of Engineers by a large percentage in this last fiscal year.
But the point is not to argue about that. The point is, where do we go from here to help these people? The last thing the American people need is bickering right now over this, except to make their rescue safer, to a return to normalcy for them. And (INAUDIBLE)...
PHILLIPS: So you think taking Mike Brown out of FEMA right now and replacing Mike Brown...
PHILLIPS: ... with somebody else...
PELOSI: That's absolutely essential.
PHILLIPS: ... will change this entire dynamic and solve the problem.
PELOSI: I do, indeed. I think it's a question of the judgment of President Bush that he would have somebody in this crucial position who has no qualifications for the job. And if you need any further evidence of that, you need only look to the performance of FEMA.
PHILLIPS: Who would you recommend? Who would...
PELOSI: ... in the past week.
PHILLIPS: ... who would you recommend take the place of Mike Brown?
PELOSI: Well, I think it should be someone like James Lee Witt, who was there before Michael Brown -- well, in the Clinton administration, who was a professional, who was trained to do this kind of job.
PHILLIPS: But James Lee Witt came forward too, and said, Hey, we've got a problem here. New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen.
PELOSI: Exactly. But you ask me what I would do, and I say a person like that. But almost anyone who has training, maybe someone who's served in the military who has training and knows leadership and can organize could do that.
But this isn't a discussion of Michael Brown. This is a discussion of the judgment of the president. People are depending on our federal role. That's what we're responsible for. And we should be working together. It's, I think, a sign of weakness on the part of the White House's argument that they are so much wanting to cover up what happened, and to say, What went wrong last week? as the president said to me. I said, he's either in denial or oblivious to what has happened.
Now, I appreciate that the president read a list of the initiatives that will be taken to help these people. I -- we had hoped today on the floor of Congress to make some of these the law of the land, to cut the red tape, to stop the price gouging, especially at the pump, to help create jobs so people can get back to work, and to put competent people in place to run FEMA and the other agencies that address the people.
This is about each individual person whose family has been affected. This isn't about politics or anything else. And we have a responsibility to make sure that our federal role is the best possible one that we can give to the American people.
PHILLIPS: So you don't think it was politics that even got us all to where we are today...
PHILLIPS: ... as we look at New Orleans, and we look at these other devastated areas.
PHILLIPS: You think politics had nothing to do with this disaster right now. PELOSI: What I'm saying is, let's form an independent commission to look into that, to make an assessment of what the decisions were made...
PHILLIPS: Let me ask, let me ask you...
PELOSI: ... about that.
PHILLIPS: All right, let me about you about an independent commission, because I addressed this to Senator Collins, and I addressed this to Senator Lieberman the other day. I mean, we had warnings before 9/11. We knew that there were intelligence failures. We knew where Osama bin Laden was. We knew there were issues among our intelligence agencies, and 9/11 happened, and then there were all these reports and all these investigations and all these commissions that were formed, and all this focus on terrorism.
Now, you had all these reports that were put forward talking about how this was going to happen to New Orleans, that Hurricane Pam, this project that was put forward, was showing and revealing all these problems with the levees and the hurricane -- or the flooding systems there. And we heard from the Army Corps of Engineer.
Now we see, despite all those warnings, what happened in New Orleans and what happened to other states. And now all of a sudden, everybody wants more investigations and more commissions. I mean, this is pathetic. How many things...
PELOSI: It is pathetic. It is pathetic.
PHILLIPS: ... have to go wrong in our country, and how many...
PELOSI: Why -- why...
PHILLIPS: ... (INAUDIBLE) investigations and commissions do we need?
PELOSI: We need as many until we make the country safer for the American people. We all have to settle down and take a deep breath, and say, How do we make the American people safer? And in order to do that, we have to have an assessment of how this happened.
Because I saw two disasters last week, a natural disaster from Hurricane Katrina, and a manmade disaster from the mistakes made by FEMA.
There are some larger issues that go back farther, that you indicate. What about the funding for the Army Corps of Engineer for the levee in Louisiana? What about the funding for the flooding that the officials of Louisiana have asked the federal government for? Both of which were cut back, the flooding money and the Army Corps of Engineers money.
But let's take a very objective, nonpartisan look at this. We have a great example in the 9/11 commission, where people, in a bipartisan way, nonpartisan way, made an assessment of what happened leading up to 9/11 and what we can do to go forward to make America safer.
PHILLIPS: Well, (INAUDIBLE)...
PELOSI: I think that's a perfect model. In fact, that very commission, if it's available, might well serve as a continuation of its homeland security function, as the 9/11 commission, to move into being the Katrina commission.
PHILLIPS: Well, I think everybody, I think everybody, not one person in the United States of America, wants to see something like this happen again.
PELOSI: Of course not.
PHILLIPS: And by all due respect, nobody in this organization or any network is on the payroll of the Bush administration right now. Everybody has been challenging every leader in every agency in this disaster, because it's pathetic to see something like this happen in the United States and to see dead bodies still on the ground in -- on American soil. It is absolutely pathetic. So...
PELOSI: Thirty bodies retrieved from the nursing home last night, 14 from Memorial Hospital today...
PHILLIPS: Should have never happened.
PELOSI: ... it's a tragedy for our country. And it's a look in the mirror for us as a country to see what our priorities are. Are we a country that wants to measure our strength in terms of the health and well-being of our people, as well as our military strength? Or is it a country that is measured by the a tax cuts that we give to the wealthiest people in our country, at the expense of the protection of the American people?
PHILLIPS: Well, and you bring up a very good point. What happened in New Orleans brings a huge point across, the underbelly of our nation and the poverty that's not dealt with. We're seeing what's happening to those poor people now. That's a very good point.
And you know what? That's another huge issue that we need to tackle, because all of us of Americans need to pay closer attention to the poor in the United States. No one should have to live the way they're living now.
PELOSI: (INAUDIBLE) -- Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Nancy Pelosi, thank you for your time.
PELOSI: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: We're going to take a quick break. More right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: We're just getting word in now that a judge today has ordered Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, to pay a $50,000 fine for illegally taking classified documents from the National Archives. You'll remember, a number of months ago, it was sort of a bizarre story. But President Clinton had asked Sandy Berger to review thousands of pages of documents that were related to the millennium terror plot, as you remember, and its aftermath, for submission to the September 11 commission, you'll remember that.
And then while reviewing these documents, his lawyer said, Sandy Berger's lawyer said, that Berger had inadvertently taken some of those classified documents, as you remember, and stuffed them, or, had -- actually, didn't mean to take these documents.
And then there were these reports that came out that he stuffed these documents into his pants. They were handwritten notes that he had put together while reviewing the documents. And so there was this controversy.
Well, did he take the classified documents? Did he stuff them in his pants? And then last July, that removal became public, and Berger came forward and said, Look, it was an honest mistake.
Well, today, a judge has ruled that Sandy Berger will not only pay a $50,000 fine, but have to do 100 hours community service, and two hours -- or two years, rather, of probation.
Well, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the displacement of tens of thousands of people, we at CNN here, of course, are working to help reunite families separated by the storm and its aftermath.
CNN anchor Carol Lin is overseeing this challenging and often heartwarming operation. She actually comes to the newsroom and tells us on a regular basis so many amazing stories that she gets. Frustrating ones, too, I know, Carol, but it's pretty awesome when we hear the positive side to this.
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, then, let me start with this one, OK? A story about Ernest Harrell. We aired the story, Kyra, in the noon hour. And a volunteer at a shelter in Tennessee said, I've got him. He's here. So, the volunteer was able to hook up with Doris Collins, the daughter, and Doris Collins e-mailed us to say thank you so much. Now I can get my dad off to California safely.
Also, our crews are still doing their part to get word out to storm victims. So here's some of the people who have shown up at our cameras.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DIANNE LAMARQUE, CHALMETTE, LOUISIANA: Mom, my dad, my son, hi, I'm alive, and I'm OK, (INAUDIBLE). And I love y'all.
SHANE MCCLOSKEY, CHALMETTE, LOUISIANA: I'd like to tell (INAUDIBLE) that I'm all right, and my mama, (INAUDIBLE). We are all right (INAUDIBLE). We are going to be all right. PAT ADAMS, CHALMETTE, LOUISIANA: ... say hello to all my family, if we can locate them. I've got a grandson who was supposed to have been born the last two days. And I haven't seen him yet or know if he's born. Linda, I hope you are hearing, we're getting out of Chalmette, we're coming to Dallas, Texas. I'm going to chase you down until I can find you.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
LIN: And we are still getting hundreds of e-mails from those looking for loved ones.
Lytton Collins decided to ride out the storm in New Orleans, even though his entire family evacuated. If you know where he is, please contact his sister, Mary Anne (ph).
And Kenneth Martin Dobard's family writes that he was in New Orleans's Seventh Ward when Katrina hit. His brother says he hasn't heard from him since then.
And Tim Skinner is looking for his mother, Adeline Skinner. An aid worker says that he saw her the day the levees broke on Gayosa (ph) Street in New Orleans. So please, get in touch with Tim Skinner if you know anything about his mom.
Also, if you recognize any of these people, or if you have a loved one who's missing, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you're looking for information, we have a list of resources at cnn.com/helpcenter.
Kyra, we're getting some good news, and we'll keep you posted, OK?
PHILLIPS: Thanks, Carol, look forward to it.
PHILLIPS: Well, far from home with few possessions, but life must go on. That's the attitude of many students who face a long absence from their friends and their classmates.
Our Jason Carroll spent some time with students now living in the Memphis area forced to make a new start in new schools.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Memphis Catholic schools, the third week of class, but the first day for Lauren Sherman. She just arrived here. Hard as life can be for any high school junior, imagine if you left your entire life, all your belongings, and so many of your hopes behind in New Orleans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very nice to meet you. And your name is?
LAUREN SHERMAN, DISPLACED STUDENT: Lauren.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lauren.
CARROLL: This is St. Benedict's, 400 miles away from Lauren's high school.
SHERMAN: I'm, like, fine with it, you know, just not being with everyone. But, I mean, it's the same. Junior year's like your prom year, you know?
CARROLL: Like Lauren, Greg Johnson is also 16. When Katrina hit, Greg and his mom just got in the car and drove away from their home in New Orleans, still submerged, Ninth Ward. They now live in a shelter here in Memphis. This is Greg's fifth day at Bishop Burn (ph) High School.
GREG JOHNSON, DISPLACED STUDENT: It's been real hard. But I'm trying to be strong and get over it, and just start my life all over again.
CARROLL: In fact, the U.S. Department of Education estimates 300,000 displaced students will need help starting over again, most, if not all, emotionally scarred in some way.
JOHNSON: I really don't have nothing left back in New Orleans at my house. And I just can't seem to get over that, every time I think about it.
CARROLL: As for the new schools, how will they manage the new demands? On average, it costs a district $8,000 a year to educate a single student. So how will schools offset these added costs?
The message is clear and simple -- SOS, send help now.
DONALD EDWARDS, PRINCIPAL: We need donations of uniforms. We need donations of textbooks, instructional materials, writing utensils, paper, pens, all of that.
CARROLL: President Bush met with the secretary of education to discuss how the government will help, but neither offered a plan for how to pay for all this.
MARGARET SPELLING, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Let's get these kids stabilized. Obviously it's good for them educationally, emotionally, and then we'll worry about the fine print and how to pay for it later.
CARROLL: Students like Greg and Lauren are just trying to fit in.
(on camera): How do you do that?
JOHNSON: By being open and being myself.
SHERMAN: I'm using this time to, like, excel in everything, like, you know, try hard (INAUDIBLE), like, extra hard, and study extra hard. Just give me a time to, you know, do better. CARROLL: There will be more tears. For now, the next class is about to begin.
Jason Carroll, CNN, Memphis, Tennessee.
PHILLIPS: I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Thanks for joining us. We'll be back here, of course, tomorrow.
Wolf Blitzer is live now in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
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