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Bush Speaks at National Prayer Service; Congressional Leaders Visit Hurricane Zone; New Orleans Working to Reopen Sections; Mississippi Town Still Awaits Help; FEMA: What Is Its Job?

Aired September 16, 2005 - 13:00   ET


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The destruction of this hurricane was beyond any human power to control. But the restoration of broken communities and disrupted lives now rests in our hands.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, HOST: Prayers for the victims and plans for the future. The big question today: how will America pay for getting the Gulf Coast up and running?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Ophelia was not Katrina, but that storm had its own problems here in North Carolina. I'm Rob Marciano in Salter Path, North Carolina, where the damage left behind from Hurricane Ophelia will be slow to repair. Live report coming up.

WHITFIELD: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Kyra Phillips. CNN's LIVE FROM begins right now.

Faith, family and financial commitment. Three big steps on the road to recovery post-Katrina. Three big stories on this national day of prayer and remembrance.

Among the many church services planned or under way this hour is a mass celebrated by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Earlier President Bush was among those attending services at the National Cathedral.

Last night, Mr. Bush stood in New Orleans with the French Quarter as a backdrop promising, in his words, "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen." He promised Washington will cover, quote, "the great majority of the costs," which he didn't specify but some estimate at $200 billion. Much more on all of that in a moment.

And through it all, experts and advocates, care givers and volunteers struggle to rebuild families. More than 2,000 children are still either cut off from their parents or missing all together. And CNN hopes to help all weekend long. We'll be putting up photos of the missing or displaced children for 40 straight hours, from early Saturday morning until late Sunday night. And we'll have much more on that effort later in this hour of LIVE FROM, as well. Opportunity zone, recovery accounts, urban homesteading. Ideas aimed at restoring what Katrina destroyed, introduced by President Bush, who vows New Orleans and its Gulf Coast neighbors will rise again.

CNN's Dana Bash is sorting through all the details and following the fall-out at the White House -- Dana.


Well, before we get to that, the president, as you mentioned earlier, did spend the morning here in Washington at the National Cathedral, observing the day of prayer that he put into effect today for the victims of Katrina, those who passed away and those who have been displaced, the wide swath of land over the Gulf Coast.

The president talked about rebuilding there, but not so much in the tangible sense. But talked about rebuilding in terms of society.

As you well know, there have been a lot of accusations that the racial divide in this country, those who do not have the flex in New Orleans and in around the Gulf Coast, there were accusations that they were essentially left there because of racial injustice.

Well, the president has been asked several times about that. Here today at the National Cathedral, he tried to address that by saying that, as we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality.


BUSH: Let us deliver new hope to communities that were suffering before the storm. As we rebuild homes and businesses, we will renew our promise as a land of equality and decency. And one day, Americans will look back at the response to Hurricane Katrina and say that our country grew not only in prosperity, but in character and justice.


BASH: Now that, again, at the National Cathedral, coming the day after the president, as you mentioned, did give what aides hoped will be an important speech in the long run. And that is, it was from New Orleans talking about the more concrete ways he hopes the federal government will help to rebuild that particular area.

Talking about it being one of the largest reconstruction efforts in the world, naming some new initiatives like up to $5,000 for job training, creating, what do you call them, opportunity zone, which tax breaks for small businesses. Those are just some initiatives, part of the much bigger spending that the federal government has already done and estimated by some to be about $200 billion in total.

The White House has been asked whether or not they have a specific price tag for the total all together. They do not have one, but White House officials did here today say that the recovery will be paid for by the federal taxpayer. And it will add to the deficit, at least in the short term.

Now, they were careful to say that the president still thinks he will be able to make his goal of cutting the deficit in half in five years, but they are also saying that they are not at this point trying to offset this large spending. They're not trying to cut federal programs elsewhere in order to pay for what will be need to pay for. The president and his aides are simply saying right now they're going to do what it takes.

And Fredricka, we heard just a short while ago from Senate leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, in the region essentially echoing that. But there are conservative Republicans who say that that is just not acceptable. That there has to be some cuts in the federal spending right now -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Dana Bash from the White House.

We're going to hear more now from those U.S. Senate leaders who are trying to follow in the president's footsteps today. Geographically, if not strictly politically. They're on the ground in New Orleans. And CNN's Ed Henry is watching them from Capitol Hill -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Fredricka.

In fact, the pictures we're getting in from the Gulf region, sharp contrast to what we've seen on Capitol Hill in recent days. Sharp divisions between the two parties over the reaction to Hurricane Katrina, whether or not it was too slow at the beginning. And now exactly how much money should be spent. The details of the so-called Marshall Plan for the Gulf region that we've heard each side coming up with competing visions.

We've heard a lot of in recent days, a lot of finger pointing, name calling. Democrats claiming that the president was oblivious in the early days. Republicans responding that the Democrats are just playing politics, engaging in the blame game.

This morning in the Gulf region, we're seeing the leaders come together from the Senate, actually talking about unity, bipartisanship and how they want to continue the spirit that they've seen around the country. They want to contribute to that and try to come together to make sure that moving forward, the region is rebuilt.

Here's Democratic leader Harry Reid.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: We need to spend the money wisely and make sure there's not any waste and certainly any corruption. And I think that that's all our goals.

I also extend my appreciation to Senator Frist and other leaders in the Senate and in the House for saying they're going to put off budget reconciliation for awhile. I think that's important. We need a pause to take a look at that.


HENRY: Now despite that happy talk, that does not disguise the fact that in reality, back here on the Hill when they come back from the region, there are sharp divisions, as I mentioned, about exactly the details of these plans, how moving forward they're going to put the region back together.

And also, frankly, how they're going to investigate what went wrong. Republicans insist that FEMA and the other agencies as well as state and local governments should be investigated by the Congress.

Democrats insist that that investigation would not be fair and bipartisan, that a Republican Congress investigating a Republican White House would amount to a whitewash. That's why Democrats here on the Hill still insist there should be an outside independent commission to investigate what went wrong -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Ed Henry on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Well, as parts of New Orleans prepare to welcome back residents and business owners, the Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the draining process is halfway complete. And it's been a draining process in every sense of the word.

CNN's Sean Callebs checks in from the banks of Lake Pontchartrain -- Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. Indeed. A lot of areas in the city have had extensive clean-up work. But some areas like this area, the northern part of the city, crews have just begun getting here today.

You can see the lake out there, the levee in the distance, about 25 feet high. At the height of the storm, water came blowing over here. And once these marine slots were completely filled. Now all the boats have been pushed up.

I just want to give you an idea of how jammed up this is, how devastating it is. These are just some of the 150-200 pleasure craft that have just been devastated by the storm, everything from -- blown on top of each other.

Over here, where you can see one boat was shoved down into a fire hydrant. And the crews out here say that it looks very bad and a lot of these boats are going to be completely scrapped. It's just one area. There's still important search and rescue work going on in other parts of the city.

There are boats out right now with emergency crews. They're literally going door to door in houses that are still swamped. It's coming up on three weeks now since the storm blew through this area.

We want to show you they're spray painting all these homes, and it's not just a random number of symbols. This all means something. They put the date on there and then you'll see three initials, oftentimes, like TFW, which would stand for Task Force Wildcat.

But the most important number is at the bottom of the X. If a zero is there, that means no one was in that house. If a number comes up, one, two, three, that's how many victims, that's how many bodies they would have found in that house. Very sobering news.

We heard the mayor say that search and rescue had really begun to slow down as this week moved on. There were 30 rescues we know as of Monday. Don't know how many people could have still been in their homes more than 2 1/2 weeks after the storm. But certainly crews aren't going to give up work.

The mayor's made it clear he wants to breathe life into the city. That's what he keeps saying over and over. He wants to bring 180,000 back into New Orleans in a period of just about 10 days, beginning this weekend with the Central Business District.

It could cause some confusion, some traffic jams and things of that nature in the downtown area. Power is still extremely spotty. Drinking water is probably weeks, perhaps months away from being there. But the mayor is confident that they can get through these hurdles and get people back into the city.

They're going to use, firstly, the convention center and set it up as kind of like a large super store. They'll have a grocery store in there, as well as an area to purchase lumber for those who want to do some home repairs.

They're also going to have a security system, a perimeter set up to keep those who shouldn't be in the city from coming in. And only business owners and residents in the French Quarter are to be allowed in over the next 10 days or so -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Wow, all right, Sean. Thanks so much.

And looking at these live pictures, it's evident it's going to be a very difficult scene for many of those 180,000 people to return over the next couple of weeks. We just saw some of the properties dismantled altogether. Others inundated with flood waters.

And still, we're seeing some gas fires. Evidence of gas fires in some of those residences.

Another coast, another storm. A final farewell. Finally, Ophelia emerges from a two-day stall off the Outer Banks of North Carolina a little bit weaker, a little bit faster, with pockets of destruction in its wake, however.

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano is coming off a rough night in the roughed up community of Salter Path. What are you seeing?

MARCIANO: Well, a lot of damage from this Category 1, but very strong, or very slow-moving hurricane. That's what did this community in.

We're in the town of Salter Path. It is on the north side of one of the barrier islands here, an island known as Bogue Banks. Behind me, you see what's left of a fishing village. A number of structures on the water here, most of them fishing houses, fish processing houses. Fishing boats would come up right to what used to be docks and piers. Now all you see are pylons. And they want to unload fresh catch, be it shrimp, be it scallop, be it fish from the ocean.

But as we continue to pan, see -- look at how cinder blocks. I mean, cement walls completely pulverized and knocked down by a storm surge on the bay side of this island. We said it would happen, but I didn't really think it would be this bad.

We continue to pan off towards the left. The folks cleaning up there in that structure with the white and red brick and the partially exposed rooftop, that is an institution. That's the Crab Shack here. That, everyone has told me, is the best place to eat. As a matter of fact we tried to eat there the other night before the storm hit. Now it doesn't look like anybody's going to be eating there for quite some time.

The owner of that place actually brings his own fishing boat in with the fresh catch. You can have fish from the boat on your table in a matter of minutes.

Continue to pan down. There's not a dock left. There was a marina with 51 slips. All the slips are gone and the dock and pier completely destroyed.

You've got to think, "Hey, this wasn't a county -- or part of this county under a mandatory evacuation. So were there stories of rescue? Were there stories of survival?"

Well, we tracked down the captain of the Salter Path Fire Department, Joey Frost. And this is how he described the night the storm hit.


CAPT. JOEY FROST, SALTER PATH FIRE DEPARTMENT: We went in to about six or seven different individual's homes to do rescues. Three or four of them left. Two or three decided to stay in. They started calling us and we done all we could do. Tried to get to them. We took four of our men. We put chest waders on and started wading in the water with our flashlights and our survival gear to go to them.


MARCIANO: Scary stories to listen to for sure.

We are looking now at Bogue Sound. It is a narrow stretch of water between the Outer Banks and the mainland. Two inlets on either side of this caused some problems, along with that persistent east wind before the storm finally got here.

Piled up all the water right here in the sound. And then once the storm passed, the north wind kicked in. And that huge mound of water came in vigorously, violently here into this fishing village. And it's going to be some time to come before they start to pick up the pieces.

It is a tight-knit community. Those who had to get out when they saw the water rising would just high -- head to higher ground, knocked on their neighbor door -- neighbor's door and said, "Hey, it's rough out there. Let me camp down here for the night."

So, some unbelievable stories in an area that's got a lot of history. At one point, the Teddy Roosevelt family here owned this land and squatters took it over. And the people here are tight and looks like they're going to get through this at some point.

But a tremendous amount of damage, Fredricka, for you know, what we talk about as a Category 1 storm. But every storm has its story. And for this one, it's the storm surge here in Salter Path.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Right, Rob. And this is exactly the reason why people shouldn't underestimate the power of a Category 1 from Ophelia. And Katrina was a Category 1 when it swept through south Florida and it left quite a bit of damage there as well.

MARCIANO: A hurricane is still a hurricane no matter what the category. That's for sure.

WHITFIELD: It is indeed. All right. Thanks so much, Rob Marciano.

Ophelia could graze New England. It just may be done -- may not be done, rather, on its path to oblivion. And meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is staying one step ahead in our weather center upstairs.

What it's potentially going to do, Bonnie?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Fredricka, it would be nice if we could get Ophelia to oblivion. That sounds good. But unfortunately, this storm is not done just yet.

Right now the center of circulation is about 450 miles to the south-southwest of Nantucket up here on the map. It's away from the east-northeast to Cape Hatteras by 70 miles, which is good. So it's pulled offshore a bit. And as you can see from Rob's picture, they're getting some sunshine there.

But we are concerned because the track for Ophelia does in come computer models take it on or near Nantucket. That means we're going to see some rough surf for this region. So there is a tropical storm warning in effect for areas from Plymouth out further to the south all the way down to Watch Hill, Rhode Island, and that does include the cape of the island.

There's a tropical storm watch in effect further north up towards Nova Scotia. Usually, when we talk about the water here, it's too cool for anything tropical to happen. But Ophelia, unfortunately, is a determined storm.

Now, the movement right now is to the north-northeast at 8 and a turn towards the northeast is expected. We're also expecting it to pick up speed just a bit.

But as you can see from our track, we still have that cone of uncertainty, which will really be an important factor to judge for the weekend to see how close Ophelia makes it to the Cape Cod area and how close it gets to the coastline.

Right now I think coastal erosion is a good possibility for the cape and the island and for eastern Long Island, as we're likely to see the surf pick up. We're going to see rough seas even down through the Jersey shore and into coastal sections in the mid-Atlantic, including Virginia.

So Ophelia not through just yet. We have to get through this weekend before Ophelia pushes out and away from us, which will be good news.

Just want to point out, we're watching other activity in the tropics. We are by no means through with hurricane season. That doesn't end until November 30. And even though we're done with the peek of the season, we still have a lot to go, as you can see by this map.

We're watching two tropical waves, one near Puerto Rico and one near the lower latitudes, for development over the weekend. So hopefully these won't develop into any tropical. But right now we've got to keep our eye on them because it's such an active time of the year -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: It is that. All right. Bonnie Schneider. Thanks so much.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): Next on LIVE FROM.

BEN MORRIS, MAYOR OF SLIDELL, LOUISIANA: I am so (expletive deleted) off about it, that I can't see straight.

WHITFIELD: A city destroyed. And residents feeling ignored. When will help come for Slidell, Louisiana?

Ahead on LIVE FROM, families reunited. And families still divided. Thousands of children either on their own or missing altogether. What's being done to find them?

Later on LIVE FROM, building a new life hundreds of miles from home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss my community. I miss my friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They miss you, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss my family.

WHITFIELD: Starting over after Hurricane Katrina.



WHITFIELD: You're looking at live pictures now of downtown New Orleans, or at least parts of New Orleans, where 40 percent of the city is still under water. That's down from 80 percent. This is an idea of what some of the residents and business people will be seeing as they get a chance to reenter this city this weekend.

Well, for many people the talk of major reconstruction efforts along the Gulf Coast as a whole is, at least for now, just talk. East of New Orleans and west of the devastation in Mississippi, a lot of people in Slidell, Louisiana, say they are being overlooked by federal officials.

CNN's Jason Carroll has more on the city and its frustrations.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what much of Slidell, Louisiana, looks like: 80 percent of homes in the city east of New Orleans are damaged or destroyed: half of the city's 30,000 residents now homeless, hundreds lined up Thursday for food stamps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Slidell is one of the hardest-hit areas over here.

CARROLL: So much devastation, and yet many here say they are being ignored by the agency that's supposed to help, FEMA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They turned our case over three times. I had to keep registering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The help line is not up. All I want to know is what do I do? What can I do?

CARROLL: The city's mayor, Ben Morris, just as angry.

MORRIS: I am so (expletive deleted) off about it that I can't see straight.

CARROLL: Morris says his anger comes from FEMA's broken promises, like when the agency assured him trailers would be sent to house Slidell's homeless.

(on camera) What's happened with that request?


CARROLL: What do you mean gone?

MORRIS: Nothing's happened.

CARROLL: What do you mean nothing's happened?

MORRIS: Nothing has happened.

CARROLL (voice-over): FEMA has released a statement saying, "We have contact with the mayor and know he's frustrated. We wish we could have met all their needs already but these things take considerable time and effort."

Perhaps, the mayor says, there would be more effort if they saw for themselves just how bad things are here.

(on camera) From the air, you really get a better sense of the devastation that the mayor was talking about. When you look down there, it's literally destruction just as far as the eye can see.

MORRIS: This is the greatest catastrophe that's occurred, natural disaster that's ever occurred in the United States. And we're right in the middle of it. And what we're saying, "All right, guys, get out of your hotel rooms. Come down here, sleep in your car. Sleep in a tent. Sleep on the floor with us and give us some help."

CARROLL (voice-over): He says Slidell has waited long enough.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Slidell, Louisiana.


WHITFIELD: Well people in Slidell are just the latest to criticize the government and especially FEMA for the sluggish response to Katrina. But what exactly is FEMA's role when disaster strikes?

Our Kathleen Koch takes a look.


KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): FEMA, with roughly 2,000 employees, it's a small agency with a big job: mitigating and repairing for the impact of disasters, as well as coordinating response and recovery in the aftermath.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now we're looking at a Category 5.

KOCH: Before a predictable disaster like a hurricane, the agency works with states to preposition food, water, ice, cots, vehicles and manpower.

Once a presidential disaster declaration is made, FEMA pulls together the assets of 32 federal agencies to respond.

JANE BULLOCK, FORMER FEMA CHIEF OF STAFF: Such as the military that can go in and do security, do medical help. Such as the Department of Transportation that can go in and help clear roads, help rebuild bridges. We have used the Corps of Engineers. We have used military reserve groups. BUSH: You have food and water?


KOCH: The federal effort supports but does not trump state and local authority.

JOHN COPENHAVER, FORMER FEMA REGIONAL OFFICIAL: FEMA is not going to come in and literally seize control of the situation and start giving orders that are directly opposite the orders of the direction given by the governor or by the mayor.

KOCH: A FEMA local hire program draws on disaster victims in the area to help rebuild their stricken region. And FEMA coordinates expenditure of the massive federal aid dollars that pour in after a devastating emergency.

BULLOCK: Well, we have standing contracts for travel trailers and things of that sort. We also have standing contracts for engineering firms that will go in and help rebuild work with schools to be rebuilt. Also, housing inspectors.

KOCH: Responding to the aftermath of a terrorist attack is FEMA's job, too, especially since it was folded into the Homeland Security Department. Many jobs and growing concern that FEMA could be overwhelmed.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Katrina. Do they plan to go home? Find out what some evacuees are saying about going back. Ahead on LIVE FROM.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brian Todd at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They have new numbers on the number of children missing from Katrina and its aftermath. I'll have that for you in just a moment.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching LIVE FROM on CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: A quick check of some other headlines. A North Korean official at six nation talks in Beijing said today that his country will not give up its civilian nuclear power programs without first gaining concessions from the U.S. The U.S. insists that North Korea should abandon all of its nuclear programs.

British police are searching several homes and businesses in Leeds, the city in northern England that was home to three of the four London subway bombers. A computer shop and an apartment are among the sites being searched. No arrests have been made. It's not the original definition of trickle down economics, but it's a good way to describe what's happening to gas prices. AAA reporting today that the average price of self-serve unleaded gasoline has dropped 2.8 cents. It's now at $2.88 a gallon.

And is Arnold Schwarzenegger getting ready for a rerun? Not of any of his movies, mind you. He's due to announce shortly whether he'll seek a second term as governor of California. He's all but confirmed that he will run for reelection. But, a definitive word is expected today.

Forget the crushing financial and environmental tolls of Katrina just for a moment. Forget about the homes, and communities destroyed. Just think about this. Nearly three weeks after Katrina devastated the Gulf coast, there are more than 2,000, 2,000 children who have either been reported missing, or have turned up in shelters separated from their families.

CNN's Brian Todd joins us now from Alexandria, Virginia at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children where a great arrangement is being made to try to make the identities or at least the faces of a lot of these kids a lot more prominent -- Brian.

TODD: Fredricka, you mentioned the number just a moment ago, more than 2,000. They just gave us an updated number which is consistent with that. But the numbers -- the news is that the numbers each day now that this hotline has been set up have gone up each day. This is now the 12th day that the Katrina missing person's hotline has been set up at this center and for the 12th day the numbers have gone up.

The new number of total children still listed as missing from Katrina and its aftermath, 2,052. That's up about eight -- excuse me -- about 40 from yesterday, but it does also not include 760 cases that have been resolved. So that's obviously on the positive side. And those numbers have also gone up each day.

Earlier today, First Lady Laura Bush came to this center to praise these dozens of volunteers who are in this room with me. They have been here 16 hours a day since this hotline was set up on September 5th. She met with them. She praised their work and she also had some very complimentary things to say about the impressive law enforcement credentials these volunteers are lending to this work.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: All of these people, and many who are in the shelters on the Gulf coast now working, are retired law enforcement. They are retired FBI. They are retired police. They are retired Secret Service.

And they volunteer their time all the time, not just during these times, but at other times here at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to make sure children are found and reunited with their families.


TODD: Now there is a category of children that are missing that we need to mention here. And these are children that have actually been located by authorities and are being held in shelters or with social services, but they can't find their parents. We are going to show you two of those right now.

Lynzell King, he turns 5 in about two weeks. He is from New Orleans. He was separated from his caretaker by the hurricane. They cannot find his caretakers. Also, a little girl named Tyler and last name is unknown. As you can see there, she's listed as Tyler unknown. They don't even have a date of birth for this child.

They believe that she's about two years old. She was found in the New Orleans Convention Center on August 31st. Her caretaker's whereabouts are unknown. If you have any information that can hook up Lynzell King or this little girl named Tyler with their caretakers, you are asked to call the Katrina missing person's hotline at 1-888- 544-5475. To get more information, you can also go to -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Brian Todd, thank you so much. And a little bit more on this arrangement that CNN has made with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. All weekend starting Saturday at 7:00 a.m. Eastern, and continuing nonstop through 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, CNN will display the names and photos of missing or displaced children.

We will have hotline and Web site information so you can help us identify and reunite these children with their families, or at least find out whose families they belong to and their whereabouts and reunite them with some loved ones.

Home may be where the heart is, but many of those displaced by Katrina say they just don't have the heart to go back to where those homes once stood. A poll of nearly 700 hurricane evacuees was taken earlier this week in shelters in Houston, and fewer than half of them, only 43 percent, say they want to go back home. A shade more, 44 percent say they won't return and about 12 percent are undecided. The evacuees polled all came from Louisiana, many from New Orleans where more than half the homes have been destroyed there.

And just in case you can't imagine walking away from your house or community and the life you've spent years building, here are some pictures to help you understand because there really aren't any words to describe what's already happened to the St. Bernard Parish area and what is still to come. City officials believe all 26,000 homes will ultimately have to be torn down.

CNN's Miles O'Brien walks through a town that is not long for this world.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The next steps for St. Bernard Parish are clear as mud. Now that the deep water is receding, the cold harsh reality of an unprecedented disaster is staring Sheriff Jack Stephens in the face.

SHERIFF JACK STEPHENS, ST. BERNARD PARISH, LOUISIANA: We just never wanted to believe that it could happen to us. And it has happened to us. We are living our worst nightmare with regards to a weather event.

O'BRIEN: Katrina covered more than 95 percent of the parish in deep water for days. Parish leaders say nearly every home and building here will have to be demolished.

STEPHENS: I don't think there's ever been a community that's had as hard a hit as we've had.

O'BRIEN: It is hard to comprehend an entire community of about 70,000 people obliterated during the course of a 12-hour lashing from mother nature. Now the sheriff is bracing for the grim returns.

(on-camera): What's the reaction going to be like when they have the opportunity starting Saturday to come in here and take a look? What do you think is going to happen?

STEPHENS: Well, a lot of these people are veterans of hurricanes. You know, in this area it's something that we've put up with our whole lives. So I think that they -- that they anticipate some damage, but I really don't think that they're prepared for what they're going to find here. This is a total wipeout. This is devastation.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Serra Thibodeaux says the damage is ten times worse than she expected.

(on camera): So what are you going to do now. Have you thought about that?

SERRA THIBODEAUX, KATRINA VICTIM: At this point what do you do, day by day. You can't make any plans.

O'BRIEN: You think you'll ever come back here and live here again.

THIBODEAUX: Probably not. There's nothing to come back to.

THARON BOASSO, KATRINA VICTIM: Everything is just totally destroyed and just thrown everywhere.

O'BRIEN: Nothing to salvage.

BOASSO: Maybe little whatnots that you can clean up, you know. My mom gave me this.

O'BRIEN: What is it?

BOASSO: It's a little box, like a little memory box, and it has some words on it, you know, you know for when you're feeling lonely and all of that. O'BRIEN (voice-over): The parish is teetering on the banks of oblivion. The school system is shut down and so is the hospital. Sheriff Stephens is not sure how he is going to meet the payroll. And yet, amid this bleak landscape, there is talk of a new St. Bernard, rising from the mud.

(on camera): Should St. Bernard be rebuilt?

STEPHENS: St. Bernard will be rebuilt. It may be a far different place than those of us that grew up here are used to, but I think it can be a better community. I know I might not live long enough to see it completed. But I know I'll live long enough to see it started.

O'BRIEN: You've maintained some optimism through all of this.

STEPHENS: Well, you have to. If you didn't, you'd lose your mind.


WHITFIELD: And that was Miles O'Brien reporting.

A life's work lost. Katrina destroyed his family business, but he refuses to leave the place he called home. Find out why next.




WHITFIELD: We've going to take you back now to St. Bernard Parish, for a snapshot of just one resident whose life and livelihood are in a big tangle right now. But this man says he can't cut and run.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim with more on one survivor who's staying put, come hell and high water.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bobby Berthelot had a lot to lose.

BOBBY BERTHELOT, MARINA OWNER: Everything was rolling. Everything was up, you know, and all of a sudden it's gone in one night.

OPPENHEIM: In St. Bernard Parish outside New Orleans, Bobby lived at a marina he owns with his brother.

BERTHELOT: This was like a little patio room. We had counters and refrigerators down here. That was a deck.

OPPENHEIM: The Berthelots also had a gas station, a bait shop, an Econo Lodge motel.

BERTHELOT: We had just renovated all this lobby.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): This is a lobby that was just renovated?

BERTHELOT: Right. It don't look like it, but it was.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): There were enough slips here for 200 boats. ESPN would come here to cover fishing tournaments.

UNIDENTIFIED ESPN ANNOUNCER: The third day of competition at our tournament here in Chalmette.

OPPENHEIM: Hurricane Katrina stopped all that, with winds that sliced buildings and a storm surge that scattered large boats.

(on camera): It's really a terrible one-two punch, wind and then water.

BERTHELOT: Right, which was hard for anything to stand.


(voice-over): The marina employed more than 60 workers.

BERTHELOT: It was about a $8 million or $10 million development from the front all the way to the back.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): How much of that do you think is gone?

BERTHELOT: It's hard to say right now. You know, we're going to try to salvage as much as we can, because we owe the bank. So we've got to salvage enough to take care of them.

OPPENHEIM: You really don't have a choice here, do you?

BERTHELOT: We don't have a choice, no.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): A military unit arrives to shore up a shrimping boat. Other than that, no help yet from insurance companies or government.

BERTHELOT: We don't know what they're going to help us with. We don't know what FEMA is going to do to help us.

OPPENHEIM: But with all the uncertainty, Bobby Berthelot says somehow, he will rebuild.

(on camera): Is that because you have to or because you want to or both?

BERTHELOT: Well, I guess a little bit of both. I'm not going to just give it up. I'm not going to throw in the towel, that's for sure. We worked too hard for 30 years to just throw it in.

OPPENHEIM: You feel like you owe it to yourself? BERTHELOT: Right. And to my kids and grandkids.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chalmette, Louisiana.


WHITFIELD: Well, filing taxes is a daunting task for most Americans. But imagine trying to do it after losing all of your paperwork, your job, and your home. That's what many Katrina evacuees will be facing. What kind of break can they expect from the tax man? I'll speak with the head of the IRS in the next hour of CNN LIVE FROM.


WHITFIELD: Checking the latest developments in Iraq.

A suicide bomber killed ten people and wounded 21 others today outside a Shiite mosque in Tuz, just outside Kirkuk. The bombers struck as worshippers were leaving the mosque on the Muslim day of prayer. An Iraqi general says his forces were able to prevent a second suicide attack at the same mosque.

Meantime, new attacks in and around Baghdad have killed at least 14 people and wounded 27 others. In separate attacks, gunmen shot and killed a district mayor and a Shiite cleric. Gunmen also opened fire on day laborers as they were waiting to be picked up for work in eastern Baghdad. Two workers were killed, 12 others are being treated for gunshot wounds.

Near Iraq's border with Syria, U.S. military jets struck insurgent targets, including an abandoned school building. Nine suspected insurgents were killed. The attacks destroyed weapons supplies and a suspected car bomb factory. A statement from the Marines Second Division says the buildings were being used by al Qaeda in Iraq.

On to Afghanistan now, where two U.S. troops were wounded and their interpreter killed today when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote has been embedded with U.S. troops, where conditions have been very difficult. Chilcote reports this weekend parliamentary elections, the country's first in decades, have increased the dangers for U.S. forces. His report begins with pictures of a nighttime raid shot without lights.


RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Afghan and American troops step outside the wire surrounding their safe house in Afghanistan's Deh Chopan Valley after sunset. They move on a compound, acting on intelligence a Taliban leader just released from a detention facility is plotting attacks. Troops don't find their target, but discover four bags of nitrogen, which could be used for a bomb. (on camera): The goal of these operations is to make Zabul province safe for Afghanistan's first parliamentary elections in more than 30 years.

(voice-over): Deh Chopan has few roads, and they are frequently mined. So everything for the elections, from ballots to chairs, must be flown in on helicopters. There's no electricity, no phones, and no TVs. Word of mouth is the only way people hear and learn about the elections.

Some told me they're enthusiastic about voting. But getting the know the candidates here isn't easy. "I don't know who to vote for," this doctor tells me, "because none of the candidates have been here."

Afghan police are sent in from elsewhere, and the U.S. Army's second of the 503rd is aggressively trying to root out Taliban ahead of the vote. Since moving into the Taliban's last stronghold six months ago, the unit lost seven men. Another 34 Americans wounded. They estimate killing or capturing around 400 Taliban.

Still, the Americans expect the Taliban to strike and strike hard during the elections. Sunday's parliamentary elections will be another test for both sides of the ongoing war for Afghanistan.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN, Deh Chopan Valley, Afghanistan.


WHITFIELD: In this country, it's a national day of prayer. And that's why Governor Bob Riley of Alabama is speaking now at a prayer service in Montgomery, Alabama.

And momentarily, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff will be heading up a day of prayer ceremony in Gulfport, Mississippi. And when that happens, we'll be taking that live, as well.

Well, he is the man in charge when it comes to the federal government's response to Katrina's devastation. What does Vice Admiral Thad Allen think about his daunting new task? Our Kyra Phillips spent the day with him. Hear what she found out at the top of the hour.

Plus, the head of the IRS will join me to talk about what Katrina evacuees can expect when tax time rolls around.



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