Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Ray Nagin

Aired September 14, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on what went wrong before, during and after Hurricane Katrina and what lies ahead for his devastated city. He's here for the hour. We'll take your calls. It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Mayor Nagin, we are told, is on his way to our studios in Baton Rouge where he'll be with us supposedly for the full hour and taking your phone calls.

Let's check in first in New Orleans with Jeff Koinange and the latest there. What's happening today Jeff?

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, the big news there is the EPA report that everyone had been waiting for, the fact that a lot of officials have been saying that the water might be really contaminated.

Well, it turns out despite the fact that it is a preliminary report and there are obviously toxins, bacteria, E. Coli, lead samples in these water samples, it's not as bad as experts had predicted but, again, it's preliminary and these were samples that were gotten in areas which were accessible. Remember, New Orleans is still 40 percent under water -- Larry.

KING: What do we know now about a death count?

KOINANGE: Death count has risen overall to 708, Larry, in Louisiana alone up to 474. Remember, search and rescue has dwindled dramatically so now it's mostly search and recovery.

As Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the FEMA man on the ground said he wants to give the dead the dignity and respect, so right now crews literally combing door-to-door looking for more bodies, Larry, and expect that body count to rise.

KING: Jeff, we'll ask the mayor this as soon as he arrives but he forecast a lot more deaths than now appears is going to happen. How do you account for that?

KOINANGE: Well, Larry, you know basically the positive thing is a lot of people did evacuate when the evacuation order was given. The mayor probably didn't anticipate that more people had left the city by the time Hurricane Katrina was rolling around. That's the positive news, Larry.

The death toll will not be up in the numbers that the mayor predicted but they will be substantially higher than they are right now because, you know, 40 percent of the city still has -- is still under water and crews are going door-to-door.

That death count will rise when they continue finding bodies in nursing homes, schools and attics, you know, old folks, people in wheelchairs, disabled people. That death toll will rise but I don't think it will be anywhere near what the mayor had predicted -- Larry.

KING: What about the drying out how's that going?

KOINANGE: Drying out going on very well, Larry. The Army Corps of Engineers doing an amazing job pumping out about nine million gallons of water a day which is great news because earlier on experts had said it will take anywhere from 36 to 80 days. Well, now the Army Corps of Engineers says at the present rate New Orleans should be dry by the end of October, Larry, so that's pretty good news.

KING: What problems are forecast with opening parts of the city? That's what they're going to do, right, they're going to open parts?

KOINANGE: That's right. It was the mayor who had said that he wants certain parts of the city open meaning Canal Street, the CBD, the French Quarter but he was waiting for this EPA report, Larry, again a little optimistic of the mayor because the city's -- most parts of the city don't have electricity, don't have water, don't have sanitation and those are three key instruments in order to get the businesses going.

A little optimistic, Larry, but this is New Orleans for you. New Orleanians keep telling us don't be surprised if you hear jazz music playing in the French Quarter in the not too distant future.

KING: President Bush will address the nation tomorrow night from New Orleans. It is his fourth trip there. It will be on at nine o'clock Eastern just when we begin and we'll follow the president with a special broadcast edition of LARRY KING LIVE. And, the interview with Bill Clinton will air on Friday night.

The president is in New York tonight for the opening of the U.N. Jeff, any word on what -- any expected -- what's he going to say tomorrow?

KOINANGE: Well, look Larry, already he has said that the federal government will take full responsibility, which is a good move, Larry, because no one was taking the blame. The buck had to have stopped somewhere and it stopped right there.

So, again, you see him coming to Louisiana for the fourth time in what two and a half weeks. It shows at least he's on the ground. He's concerned. He took a trip through the city, which is amazing to see him in the back of this military truck, going from neighborhood to neighborhood, seeing the extent of damage for himself. Larry, at least this is a good thing. New Orleans can see that at the highest level this disaster is being scrutinized and at least things are being done. So, expect the president to continue to say what he's saying that he will do all he can, his government will do all it can to help the people and the city of New Orleans to recover from this massive, massive tragedy -- Larry.

KING: You stay with us, Jeff. We know he's in New York tonight. Do you know when he gets to New Orleans tomorrow?

KOINANGE: It should be sometime in the afternoon, Larry, and then he'll -- in order to get ready for that speech later in the evening.

KING: And do you know where he'll broadcast from?

KOINANGE: No, Larry, but he stayed in the Iwo Jima the other day. It seems to be the safest place. It's communication central, USS Iwo Jima, which is being used as both a floating hospital and also a drop off and take off point for survival victims and it's also the key logistical point for FEMA and all the organizations. It looks like that's the safest place to be right now where all communications, everything is in operation in New Orleans -- Larry.

KING: By the way, we will be including your phone calls as we await the mayor's arrival. If you have questions for Jeff Koinange on the spot, we'll take those and, if you have questions for Jacqui Jeras, we'll go to her now, our CNN Meteorologist, for the latest on Ophelia. What is the latest on Ophelia?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's about 35 miles away from land now, Larry, and it's just kind of scraping along the coastline. It has not made landfall yet but the eye wall, the worst part of the storm has been kind of just nudging along the coast all day long and this is almost worst case scenario because it keeps them for a much longer period of time in some of the worst parts of the storm.

We've been getting some incredible reports of rainfall amounts especially right into the southeastern portion of North Carolina with rainfall amounts of up to 15 inches. And, here you can see those outer bands that continue to push on.

This spot right here this is called Cape Lookout and that is the most likely place for this storm to kind of brush over, the eye could potentially move over Cape Lookout but it's also very possible that the eye all together may stay off the shoreline.

This is right around Atlantic Beach where our reporter Rob Marciano is. It's about 35 miles away from him at this time and you can see those heavy bands have just been pounding over and over and over again. We are getting some of those stronger wind reports.

There's Cape Lookout just recently reporting winds of 67 miles per hour and gusting up to 86 miles per hour. Some other reports across the area, Beaufort with a wind gust at 63 miles per hour, 40 in the Hatteras area and we expecting this storm to continue its turn on up to the north and to the east.

This is our Doppler radar rainfall estimates. The radar can actually estimate how much rain has fallen with this storm and these pinks that you see here that's where we were seeing the ten to 15 inches and that's just to the south of Wilmington, North Carolina and there are plenty of reports of some damage around Wilmington and also some significant power outages as well.

We are expecting over the next 12 to 24 hours for it to finally make its way off the coast. That's probably going to happen sometime tomorrow afternoon. There's a little bit of a chance yet that this storm could strengthen a little further.

Eighty-five mile per hour winds right now. It has to be 96 for it to become a category two hurricane. It could get close to that as long as that center stays over water but if it does nudge in a little bit closer to the coastline that will help to keep the intensity down a little bit too.

And, one of the other things, Larry that we've been very concerned about is the storm surge. Generally, it's expected to be between six and eight feet with the storms but you get up to the heads of the bays, the little points of the bays and that water just funnels right on in there and we could see a wall of water as high as nine to eleven feet move in some of those areas. Also, a couple of the river inlets could see storm surge that high -- Larry.

KING: Yes, we'll have some more questions about Ophelia. Stay with us Jacqui. We'll also check back with Jeff Koinange. We'll check with also Rob Marciano, who is on the scene at Ophelia.

And, again, we're expecting the arrival of Mayor Nagin. This had been confirmed throughout the day and yesterday, so we expect him to be with us momentarily. We'll be right back.


KING: Jeff Koinange is in New Orleans. Jacqui Jeras, our CNN Meteorologist is in Atlanta. Mayor Nagin is somewhere in Baton Rouge, hopefully on his way to be with us.

And, joining us now from Ophelia is Rob Marciano. Where are you Rob specifically?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Larry, we're in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, which is just south of Morehead City, basically the beach community of Morehead City which is between Wilmington and Cape Hatteras. Cape Lookout about 20 miles to our south and west by the crow flies. Cape Lookout is just about to get into the eye of this storm.

We were taking the brunt of the northern part of the eye of this storm about an hour ago with winds brutally pounding us from the east and wind and surf coming sideways. We've got a bit of a break, thought we'd catch a bit of the eye for some calm weather but now winds have turned more north and northeasterly. And that's not a good direction because instead of coming off the ocean where there's not a whole lot of debris to deal with, now we've got stuff coming from the land where there's pieces of fences, pieces of roofs that we have to contend with.

So, we've rearranged our shot now to give us all a little bit of protection but Ophelia (AUDIO GAP), Larry, but you know what a hurricane is a hurricane and we've seen all sorts of things today from the pier floating away, the fences flying by. It's something not to be taken lightly.

KING: Rob, was there any evacuation there?

MARCIANO: Yes, there were mandatory evacuations for parts of six counties, most of the coastal communities. There were voluntary evacuations for eight counties. The state of North Carolina set up 60 shelters and last we checked a few hours ago they were filling up quite rapidly.

So, there were folks spilling into those shelters, especially the special needs folks that had such a problem in New Orleans. They made sure to take care of those, even had options for pets as well.

So, only a category one, Larry, but and folks here in North Carolina certainly no stranger to hurricanes but on the heels of Katrina what everybody saw down there in New Orleans and Mississippi, folks taking this storm seriously and most folks have evacuated. But, you know, there's always going to be a few that stick around and don't evacuate and hopefully we won't have fatalities to talk about tomorrow.

KING: Rob, how close are you to shelter for yourself?

MARCIANO: Well, you know, we're a stone's throw from the hotel, no power there but a strong enough structure to do all right. You got to remember that, you know, in order for an established structure, you know, a home or a building to get any sort of damage the winds really have to be over 90 or 100 miles an hour.

We certainly saw that in Katrina but with winds maximum at about 85 miles an hour here with Ophelia most structures should be all right. You'll see, you know, roofs, parts of roofs fly off but as long as you're inside a building away from windows in this storm, you should be all right and that's what most folks are doing here in North Carolina.

KING: We'll be checking back with you, Rob.

Jacqui, I know storms have a way of spreading out to wide areas. When I flew in today, when I was perfect all across the country until we hit the New York area where it was raining, I asked the pilot if this rain was in any way connected with Ophelia and he said absolutely not. It's just rain.

JERAS: Right. That's right. Well there's actually -- there's a storm system that's in the middle of the nation right now and that's been heading off to the east and we've been waiting for it. We call it a trough meteorologically.

We've been waiting for it to kick up and pull this storm off shore and there was really no steering mechanism with this storm over the last couple of days and that's why it's been such a long, long event, a long, painful event and that storm system and the rain that you're getting up in New York actually is going to help to pull Ophelia away from the coastline.

KING: So, those two storms might meet?

JERAS: Yes, they're going to meet up eventually, yes.

KING: Thanks, Jacqui.

We'll take a break. Mayor Nagin has arrived at our studios in Baton Rouge. He'll be with us the rest of the program and we'll include your phone calls for him. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE; Bill Clinton on Friday, President Bush from New Orleans tomorrow night.

Joining us now from Baton Rouge is Mayor Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans. He is a little late. Usually we have people who are late report on why they're late, so we'll ask him, why are you late?

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: Well, you know, I came here for the governor. She was doing a state of the state address and we had a little meeting after and we kind of got carried away a little bit with the time, so I arrived a little late.

KING: Are the two of you been on the save wavelength through this?

NAGIN: Well, you know, not always but, you know, my wavelength was at a totally different level for most of this, you know, so we kind of got a little crossed with the president. I got a little cross.

But now everything seems to be falling in place. I have the resources that we need to do the cleanup and start the rebuild, so I'm pretty happy with everyone right now.

KING: Mayor, yesterday the president said on the federal level he takes responsibility. What do you take responsibility for?

NAGIN: Well, you know, I'm the mayor of the city of New Orleans, so you know, I have a responsibility to all the citizens to make sure that they live in a safe environment and if there are any threats that I have a plan I'm implementing in a manner that saves as many lives as possible.

If I have anything that I feel responsible for it's the fact that, you know, we could have maybe screamed a little bit earlier. Hopefully, we could have gotten some more people to safety. There are several things that I've been thinking about that we could definitely do better.

KING: What went wrong?

NAGIN: The storm hit New Orleans. That's the first thing that went wrong. The second thing that went wrong is that we had another storm right before that where there was an evacuation called by another president in another parish that really kind of bombed, if you will, and there was a lack of trust or confidence in what public officials were saying as it relates to a storm. So, we had to work really hard to get people's attention to get them to move as a result of this awesome storm that was bearing down on us.

KING: Your forecast of 10,000 dead apparently that was high. How do you -- that's good news. How do you account that it's a lot less than you thought?

NAGIN: Well, my statements have always been I thought it would be in the thousands. There was somebody, a reporter asked me about an LSU, University of New Orleans computer model that said it could be 10,000 and at that time I said I wouldn't be surprised.

But, it looks as though the count is a little lower than we expected, a lot lower than we expected but they still have not gotten into the areas where the water was at its highest level, so it's a little too early to tell but it looks good right now.

KING: What's your biggest problem right now?

NAGIN: My biggest problem right now is I have several problems right now that are big, trying to get the FEMA dollars flowing down through the state to the city of New Orleans so that we can pay firefighters and policemen who are absolute heroes and she-roes (ph).

The second thing is continuing to manage expectations of citizens who want to come back to the city. They're missing New Orleans and want to check out their belongings and their homes. And then finally to make sure that we try and repopulate the city in a manner that's phased and controlled so that we don't overrun our resources.

KING: That's not going to be easy is it?

NAGIN: Well, I think we worked out a plan and we're going to shock some people. Tomorrow I'm going to announce a phased repopulation plan that is going to deal with some of the areas that were least hit by the hurricane and had less water. And then within the next week or two we should have about 180,000 people back in the city of New Orleans.

KING: In a week or two?

NAGIN: In a week or two, man. I worked quiet and we've been clearing out the city so that when people come back the electricity is back on, they have sewer. We have water. Water quality on the east bank is not where we need it to be but it's good enough for people to come back. I'm going to have some temporary retail establishments up. We've established two hospitals in the city that are going to be up. So, once they come back, we'll have the critical services for them to at least live a semi-normal life.

KING: Have the policemen and firemen been paid?

NAGIN: They received a paycheck the last payroll. I've got another one coming up and, you know Larry, for the most part the city is out of cash, so we have made a request to FEMA to fund our next payroll and the money has arrived to the state and we just need to kind of push it down to the city.

KING: What did you think of Mike Brown's resigning?

NAGIN: You know, I didn't really think about it too much. You know it's, you know, everyone thinks that there's one or two people to blame for this, for the struggles that we've had. This is a much bigger process than any one or two people, a much bigger problem.

It's about a process challenge. It's about legal, regulatory and a system problem and what's set up today is not modern enough to deal with crisis of this magnitude.

KING: What problems do you face in reopening parts of the city? It's OK, let's say you get that and 180,000 come in then what?

NAGIN: Well, then we have to do a major assessment of the buildings and the structures that were in the flood areas and that stayed flooded for basically about two weeks.

When I talked to the construction experts they basically tell me that most, if not all of those structures will have to be torn down, so how do we get people to go in, get their belongings, whatever is left and then the tear down process and then the process of figuring out what valuation we assign to those properties.

KING: If you had to do it all over again with the aspect of having the knowledge of what already happened, what's the one thing you'd have done differently?

NAGIN: Look, everything that we planned basically made the assumption that if we get people to high ground and get as many people out of the city as possible then within three days if we're totally flooded then the cavalry would come. I am not going to plan in the future for the cavalry to come in three days.

I'm going to buy high water vehicles, helicopters, whatever I can do to make sure that I am in total control if I can of the total evacuation process from the people coming out of their homes to the shelters of last resort to getting them out of town eventually.

KING: So that is, you think, the responsibility of the mayor. You expected the federal help sooner. In the future you won't bank on that. NAGIN: Well, unless they can give me some incredible comfort that this problem has been fixed, I am not going to be caught in this position again. I think at the end of the day history will judge us that we got a historic number of people out, probably 80 percent of the population evacuated when normally we get about 60 percent out and call that a huge success.

And then, I think the people that we got to the shelters of last resort, the 35,000 that were in the Superdome there's no doubt if we wouldn't have got them to the Superdome they'd probably be in the number of the dead.

KING: What do you make of these problems at the nursing homes?

NAGIN: You know, I'm just blown away with that, Larry. I mean I don't understand how you can be responsible for the safety and the care of elderly people who are elders and the wise people and you just basically almost abandon them. You don't follow the regulations according to people who have special needs. You know it's somewhat criminal in my opinion and, you know, I think they need to be prosecuted.

KING: And the attorney general, what, 34 counts I think he's filed against them.

NAGIN: Well, it sounds like the attorney general is really taking this very seriously, which I applaud him for doing that. But, Larry, I don't think we found everything that we -- that we need to find yet. There's still a lot of areas where the National Guard and the Army have not done their full searches yet.

They've done what they call quick searches, which basically take bodies out of the water but they haven't really gone into buildings, both residential and commercial, in the areas where the water was the highest, so we may be in for a few more surprises.

KING: So, while you have optimism there's still pessimism.

NAGIN: Well, absolutely. I mean this storm, you know, General Honore basically called it the perfect enemy. It basically came at us with a spirit of deception. It entered the gulf relatively mild. Then it grew strength. Then we didn't really know where it was coming.

And when it hit us, it hit us with such force it knocked out all the communication systems. It knocked out all of our transportation systems. And, it basically shocked us to where we didn't really know how to respond, so it was a pretty awesome thing.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back with Mayor Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans.

We'll also include your phone calls.

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


KING: President Bush addresses the nation tomorrow night from New Orleans. You will see it here at 9:00 Eastern. We will follow the address, of course, live with LARRY KING LIVE:

The Mayor, Ray Nagin is our special guest. Mayor Nagin, tonight in a speech, Governor Blanco, I guess you were there with Governor Blanco also conceded in the response to disaster, this is her quote, "There were failures at every level of government, state, federal and local and at the state level we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again." She said, "The buck stops here and as your governor, I take full responsibility." Want to comment on that?

NAGIN: Well, you know, I think that's a great comment. I think now we are out of nuclear crisis mode, it seems as though myself, the governor and president has done some retrospection as far as what we could have done better and ultimately we're all accountable at the level of local state and federal government. And that's what leadership is all about. We should take responsibility and we should try and do better.

Because, Larry, this should never happen again. Ever. In the history -- in this country. No time should anybody go through what we went through.

KING: Do you think at times, mayor, you were overly emotional?

NAGIN: Oh, I can recall at least one instance when I was overly emotional and that was when I did that WWL radio interview when I was at my total point of frustration and I kind of, you know, elevated my voice and said a few choice words, but whether I was overly emotional, I don't know, man. I'm a pretty even keel guy. I always try to never get too high and never get too low.

But that was just one point where I just couldn't take it anymore and figured I had to do something about it and I guess the national audience kind of heard it.

KING: Did you ever come close during this to throwing your hands in the air and saying it is a federal problem?

NAGIN: No, I never did that, I was constantly thinking of ways to maximize the local resources that I had and to try and stimulate the state and federal resources to respond quicker. Larry, the big issue I had down there and I think this is part of the president's problem and part of the governor's problem is that there were people on the ground that were trying to do things, they overwhelmed but they weren't being honest about being overwhelmed so they were over- promising and under-delivering on a fairly consistent basis. And that's how my frustration started to rise.

And once we started to get real good information, then things started to happen and we could manage the situation a whole lot better.

KING: Will you see the president tomorrow before he speaks?

NAGIN: Will I see him?

KING: Yeah.

NAGIN: Is that your question?

KING: Yeah.

NAGIN: I'm not sure. You know, you know, Secret Service is always, you know, pretty guarded about exactly what's going to happen when the president comes down. I think they want me to be somewhere near just in case I can get a chance to speak with him. But I'm sure I'm going to hear his speech.

KING: Will New Orleans -- how confident are you that New Orleans will be New Orleans again?

NAGIN: You know what? I'm so confident because as I go around the country visiting the shelters where the New Orleaneans are, some are frustrated. Some are saying we're not coming back. But for the most part, most are coming back and want to come back and help. When I look at the city and I look at the devastation and fly over the city in the helicopter which I do just about every day, to assess the damage, I see where there was a kind of a protective hedge around the French Quarter, Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, Uptown, Tremay (ph), the unique assets of New Orleans, it is people and it's buildings that are historic are still in place, so there's a fundamental, a foundation for us to build upon to bring New Orleans back even better.

KING: How much time did you spend at the Superdome which some say turned into a horror?

NAGIN: I spent way more time than I care to remember, or care to think about. The Superdome started out as a pretty calm environment. It was a little crowded. We had resources. We had food. We had water. We had advised everyone to bring at least two or three days of perishable food and some water and then as time goes on and more people came, it started to deteriorate.

The great thing that we did on the front end is we de-armed everyone who came into the Superdome. So there were basically no weapons and that kind of helped -- helped to keep the chaos at a certain level and after three or four days of when the rations started to get tight, started to kind of spiral downwardly into kind of hell.

KING: Take a call for the mayor, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans. Lubbock, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: I would like to know if they have come up with a total number of people rescued by the helicopters. I heard at one time that that was over 10,000. And, perhaps, they didn't equate this in figuring out the possible death count.

KING: Mayor?

NAGIN: Well, you know, there is -- there was at least those types of numbers of rescues that were happening. Basically, it was a combination of helicopter rescues, boat rescues and some police and firemen were actually in the water swimming trying to save people.

Those numbers have been factored in relating to the number of people who were evacuated. As far as the number of people that have died, that's a totally different process with the state and FEMA managing that, and I think it's -- the count now about 400 plus that we've recovered as being dead.

KING: Mariana, Arkansas for Ray Nagin. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mayor Nagin. My name is Jolanda (ph).

NAGIN: Hello.

CALLER: I have a home in New Orleans East, I'm relocated here to Arkansas but I plan on going back to the East. They're not saying much as far as water level on the East and I wanted to know the level.

KING: East New Orleans, mayor.

NAGIN: Eastern New Orleans area, unfortunately, ma'am, there was a significant amount of water in New Orleans East. It ranged anywhere from six to eight feet to probably ten feet at its highest. Certain sections of New Orleans East had water as high as the roofs. Other sections of New Orleans East, most sections, the water was at least halfway up to the roofs. As it relates to today, there's still water in New Orleans East but it's gotten substantially lower and if the pumping continues at its current rate, hopefully sometime next week we should have most if not all of the water out of New Orleans east.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more with Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Mayor Ray Nagin. Mayor, let's clarify your position on race and class in all of this. A poll shows black Americans think bush is more to blame. The white Americans think you are more to blame. The city is mostly black,. Would it have been different if the city were mostly white? What is your general thoughts on this race-class issue?

NAGIN: Well, you know, Katrina in its -- was an awesome storm from the standpoint it made the country look at some things that we probably don't like looking at. The face of the people that were suffering for the most part were African American. They were poor.

As we were going through the crisis, my initial take on this was that it was more class issue because, you know, poor people really don't have a lot of power. So, if this had happened in another part of California or New York or Miami or something, somewhere like this, most likely it would have been a different response. And that's the hard cold facts around this.

Now, whether it was a hard core racial issue about people that -- the president or the governor or Ray Nagin didn't like black people. I don't know. You are going to have to talk to them about that. I just had some awful experiences that really suggested to me that race was a part of what -- the dynamics going on.

KING: Give me an example of one.

NAGIN: Well, you know, we had some people that were trying to go into another section of the metropolitan area, another parish, an adjourning parish, and basically, they were met with attack dogs and guards and, you know, and then another example, people were so frustrated in the convention center that they wanted to walk across the Crescent City connection to go meet the buses, they didn't want to stay in filth and the stuff happening there and they were turned around again. And, that just did not sit very well with me.

KING: Burke, Virginia, for Mayor Nagin.

CALLER: Yes. I'm calling about the New Orleans police department that you referred to as heroes. Finally after several weeks on duty, they're being given days five days of R&R but if they want to go anywhere but Las Vegas or Atlanta, it comes out of their pockets to fly and see their families. I think someone needs to step up and provide them expenses. They're victims just like all the evacuees.

NAGIN: Look. I totally agree with you. And we tried to get that in place. While we were evacuating. When the police and firemen came out, the first thing we did is give them physicals and psychological evaluations. Then we had Atlanta and Las Vegas set up with charter planes but we did not have vouchers to send them to any other city that they wanted to. So when they got there, we gave them $200 in cash in case they didn't have anything so that they can go and link up with their families.

We tried to do the best we could. In my opinion, it wasn't good enough and I take responsibility for it.

KING: Now, the ultimate fear. What happens? We're still in the hurricane season. It runs through October. What happens if another one hits

NAGIN: Well, if another one hits, you know, we won't have to evacuate as many people which is fortunate. And, the other fortunate thing is we still have a lot of federal and state resources on the ground. So, I don't think we're going to have the evacuation struggles that we had for Katrina.

KING: You want to continue being mayor?

NAGIN: You know what? My wife asked me that the other day. I think I do because this is an once in a 200-year span of history that we have an opportunity to rebuild one of the greatest cities in the country.

And I just can't wait for the rhythm of New Orleans and the sounds of New Orleans to come back. Right now, the sounds of helicopters and, you know, soldiers marching, where New Orleans has this sweet sound about it where it's jazz and it's, you know, people cooking red beans and rice and gumbo and there's benyays (ph) -- you know, it is just walking and St. Louis Cathedral and the park and that's what I want to see come back in earnest.

KING: As small as it may seem, that Saints victory was important, wasn't it?

NAGIN: It was huge. God bless the Saints. Came back and won the game with no time out. Jim Hastert, the coach and players were awesome. And it was a first time that I have seen a team beat the home team and the home crowd end up cheering for that team. So, the Saints are on to something special. I think they'll have a wonderful Cinderella season and I wish them the best.

KING: Going to build them a new stadium?

NAGIN: Well, I mean, that's something the governor and Mr. Benson have to get together and decide. But I don't think they're going playing in the Superdome any time soon. That's for sure.

KING: We'll be back with the remaining moments with Mayor Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans right after these words.


KING: A couple other things, mayor. Why weren't buses utilized?

NAGIN: Well, you know, we had the buses, you know, high and dry as we thought they would be. There was our normal procedure. It had ever flooded in those areas but Katrina was an awesome storm, so when the storm hit, it started to flood and when 17th Street Canal burst, there was no way to get to the buses and that's why they were flooded but even if we had gotten to the buses, Larry, drivers were an issue. We didn't have enough drivers.

We barely had enough drivers to get people to evacuate to from the homes to the superdome as a shelter of last resort. For the people that probably would have need buses, we would have needed about 1200 buses and drivers. And we don't have those kind of resources.

KING: And people forget the first day of the storm, you thought you beat it, right? Before the levees broke. New Orleans was safe was the headline in the paper.

NAGIN: That was probably the biggest mistake that we set that signal out to the world that we were okay.

KING: Yeah.

NAGIN: And then the levee broke and then, you know, the rest is history. And so I think that was one of the biggest mistakes that were made.

KING: Did Amtrak offer to send trains? There was a report somewhere.

NAGIN: You know what? I heard the other day and that was the first time that it ever had come to my attention. We were looking around for ways to evacuate people as we were bringing them to the Superdome. And I had one of my staff members that call Amtrak and they basically told us every train booked and the earliest to get somebody out was late September so that was not an option for us.

KING: What was it like communicating with people? Cell phones down. What was that -- that must have been crazy.

KING: It was frustrating beyond belief. I can't tell you -- I have a box of cell phones and satellite phones and all sorts of communication - walkie-talkies and really none of it because what Katrina did, she knocked down of the towers throughout the city. So, communications was very difficult. The only thing that worked for me is pen communications to my blackberry which only worked late at night and very early in the morning. That was it.

KING: Pensacola, Florida, hello.

CALLER: My question is most of the information that's been posted concerning the flood levels have pertained to the Ninth Ward, CBD, French Quarter, and Eastern New Orleans. Is there a way to post something for the other evacuees to let them know how their neighborhoods are doing as well as what the flood levels are like in their neighborhoods?

NAGIN: Absolutely. We are putting the final touches on the Website as we speak. To give precisely that information and to also let people know when they can come back or when they can expect to come back or when then can expect to come back and what are the procedures for them to follow when they come back. So we are going to do what you're talking about very shortly.

KING: Mayor, what do you want to hear from the president tomorrow night?

NAGIN: Well, I want to hear he's continuing to focus on this particular tragedy. I want to hear that he's going to provide the resources that we need to rebuild New Orleans into what he said, a shining example for the nation. And I want to him basically assure the nation that whatever it takes, it will be a full analysis of this situation and this will never happen ever again in this country's history.

KING: And I know with 30 seconds left, your appreciation for the citizens of Houston and other cities that have taken so many people in.

NAGIN: I cannot thank people around the country and other parts of Louisiana for taking New Orleaneans in. They have treated everyone so well. When I went to visit some of the shelters, there was a gleam in peoples' eyes again and that's because of the love that you have shown. Thank you.

KING: Thank you, mayor. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

NAGIN: Thank you, Larry. Really appreciate you having me on.

KING: Mayor Ray Nagin. The mayor of New Orleans. As the story continues, CNN continues to be atop it. President Bush addresses it tomorrow night at 9:00. We'll follow that speech. Bill Clinton on Friday. We'll be right back.


KING: Following this broadcast, at 10:00 Eastern, Aaron Brown Anderson Cooper will host a two-hour edition of "State of Emergency" that extraordinary program continues again this evening.

And don't forget President Bush tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern. We'll follow it.

We leave you tonight with the music of a local artist in a Lousiana bayou. Marc Broussard and his band hail from Louisiana. Luckily, they and their families survived the storm and now they're involved in recovery efforts. Marc's already created a fund to raise money for local charities. Accompanied by his dad, Ted, Marc Broussard, sings "Home." Marc and his dad performed this for us yesterday. We taped it in Baton Rouge. Enjoy.




© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines