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Cleanup From Hurricane Katrina; Charges Against St. Rita's Nursing Home; Aftermath For Children From Hurricane Katrina; Update On Ophelia

Aired September 17, 2005 - 07:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING, the 17th day of September. I'm Tony Harris.


We want you to take a look at the left side of your screen. For the next two days, you will see pictures of children who have been missing since Hurricane Katrina struck nearly three weeks ago.

HARRIS: We are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help bring Gulf Coast families back together. If you recognize any of the pictures, please call the number that you see there on your screen, 1-800-843-5678.

Let's get you started with a look at what's coming up this hour.

A Hurricane Katrina rescue that could have been but never was. The end result, the mysterious deaths of some of the New Orleans area's oldest, sickest and most vulnerable.

Also, it's Cleanup Saturday in the Big Easy, but it's no easy task. The mayor allows a few business owners back in the city. We'll take you live to New Orleans and...


KERMIT THE FROG, "SESAME STREET": Hi-ho, Kermit the Frog here with a fast blowing news story. A hurricane could be heading ...


HARRIS: "Sesame Street" is no stranger to tackling tough issues. This time, some old friends are helping Katrina -- kids of Katrina cope with crisis.

NGUYEN: First up though this morning, the latest from the hurricane disaster zone. In our "Mission Critical" update, the death toll in Louisiana stands now at 579 people. More than 800 people in five states have died from this storm.

The Red Cross has some big numbers in hand. The organization says it has helped serve more than nine million meals to survivors of Katrina. The Red Cross also says it's taken in nearly $700 million in donations for the relief effort.

Now, the shelter at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas is empty. The last of the evacuees left the facility yesterday. Many have relocated to more permanent housing, while others moved next door to Reliant Arena

The Army Corps of Engineers says the draining of New Orleans has passed the halfway point. Forty percent of the city remains under water, but officials still expect to have the draining completed by early October.

HARRIS: At the height of emergency, 80 percent of New Orleans was under water, but now that drainage is progressing. Some businesses are getting back to normal.

CNN's Mary Snow is in New Orleans for us this morning.

Mary, good morning.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Tony.

And we are in the Garden District in New Orleans. Empty here, because the curfew that's in place here is still in effect. But in less than two hours from now, business owners are going to be able to return here to take a look at their businesses to see what kind of shape they are and start to rebuild.

Now this is one of three designated areas where business owners will be allowed in. Another one is the French Quarter and also the central business district. Now people who are coming here today will not be allowed to stay. There is a curfew between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. And also business owners are going to be warned not to drink the water, not to wash with this water. This all part of the mayor's ambitious plan to get New Orleans back running again.

On Monday, residents in the neighborhood of Algiers will begin to return to their homes. This is the only neighborhood so far that has restored its full infrastructure. Over the next couple of weeks, the population will be phased in. There will be about three different neighborhoods over the next week and a half where residents will be allowed to return in. But it won't be business as usual, there will still be a curfew in place.

And in the next couple of weeks, the mayor anticipates about one- third of the New Orleans population will be able to return. One- third, of course, of the population before Hurricane Katrina hit -- Tony.

HARRIS: Hey, Mary, are these returnees coming back to homes and businesses with electricity? Is the juice being turned back on?

SNOW: Very spotty. And you know, Tony, as of yesterday about 82 percent of the city of New Orleans was still without electricity. As you can see, we're standing here in the dark. This is one of those areas. And the city is anticipating within the next week or two that most of the power is going to be restored. However, there are some sections the city does not anticipate to have electricity for many weeks, but essentially months.

HARRIS: OK, CNN's Mary Snow for us in New Orleans.

Mary, thank you.

NGUYEN: Former President Clinton says FEMA is a crucial part of how the government responds to disasters. And he tells CNN's Larry King the person who heads the agency needs to have top notch credentials.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think the president did the right thing in taking responsibility. Clearly, the FEMA response was slow. And there are lots of reasons that I think that happened. I believe that there should be some reorganization there.

LARRY KING, HOST: Should FEMA not be part of national security?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I'm biased, I liked it the way it was. I think the most important thing is we probably should have some sort of requirement that anybody who has the job has prior experience in emergency management. It is a very serious, important job.


NGUYEN: Now Clinton did not mention former FEMA Director Michael Brown by name. Brown resigned earlier this week, as you recall, after coming under intense criticism for his agency's response to Hurricane Katrina. His personal background was also questioned. For the last decade, Brown was Commissioner of an Arabian Horse Association.

HARRIS: A Louisiana ambulance driver may bolster the criminal case against the owners of a New Orleans area nursing home. Thirty- four people were found dead there in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As CNN's Rusty Dornin reports, the driver claims her offer to evacuate patients was rebuffed.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the owners of St. Rita's face charges of negligent homicide in the 34 deaths, more allegations that opportunities were missed to evacuate all the patients. This time, by an ambulance driver who says she was assigned to evacuate the St. Bernard Parish nursing home on the Friday before the hurricane.

KAREN PERRY, AMBULANCE DRIVER: We had three ambulance ready to go in front of St. Rita's Nursing Home.


PERRY: But we were refused. They told us they didn't need us. DORNIN: Karen Perry says she and two other paramedics were turned away by the owner, Sal Mangano.

K. PERRY: When he told me, and he runs the place, that he had it under control, we left.

DORNIN: David Waters of Central Florida News 13 interviewed Perry in Florida. Perry says she argued with Mangano. He told her they had their own evacuation plan with a private non-emergency medical pickup service called On Call. Repeated attempts to contact that pickup service have been unsuccessful. Even at the time, Perry says the incident was very upsetting.

K. PERRY: I was as close to the front door as I am standing to you right now. And I could have gotten all of them out of there. Every single one could have been removed from that home.

DORNIN: While Karen Perry says she tried to rescue patients before the storm, her husband, Joe, is now in a Florida hospital for a snakebite while he was rescuing stranded people that Monday night after the storm, including 24 St. Rita's patients.

Joe Perry says patients from St. Rita's were brought to him, transferred to his boat. He then ferried them to safety. One of the elderly women, he says, died in his arms.

JOE PERRY, RESCUE WORKER: As I said, I had her hand in mine. And that was about the last thing she said, sir, it's hurting. Sir, it's hurting. I said, ma'am, I'm trying. I am really trying to get there soon. And I looked down, she was deceased.

DORNIN: The Manganos' attorney, Jim Cobb, has told CNN his clients are good people who risked their lives to save others, and says there is another side to the story.

Still, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti says the state has a strong case against St. Rita's, but declined to elaborate. And calls are coming in daily with tips about other nursing homes all being investigated by the attorney general's office.

Dr. Frank Minyon, coroner of Orleans Parish, says 27 bodies have been autopsied from nursing homes and hospitals. He says he doesn't know how many are from St. Rita's. None so far show signs of drowning.

DR. FRANK MINYON, ORLEANS PARISH CORONER: You have got to remember, these bodies are badly, badly decomposed. It's very difficult for us to find exactly what the cause of death is. We're probably going to call them all the same thing, Hurricane Katrina- related death.

DORNIN: Answering part of the question of how they died, but not why.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


NGUYEN: We have gotten some new video in overnight of animals looking for new homes after Katrina flooded the Bayou National Refuge. We'll show you that story next.

HARRIS: Plus, tracking Tropical Storm Ophelia. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras has the latest.


NINA ZAGAT, ZAGATSURVEY: The three most popular restaurants in St. Louis are Tony's, Sidney Street Cafe and Trattoria Marcella.

Tony's is a downtown icon. It is a restaurant that's known all over the country. And it's a special occasion restaurant with classic Italian food.

Sidney Street Cafe is in a historic building dating from 1885. It's got New American cuisine and is known for its very romantic setting.

Trattoria Marcella is an Italian bistro feeling place, very comfortable and very, very popular.



HARRIS: It's heartbreak on top of heartbreak, some hurricane victims find out their insurance companies won't chip in to help rebuild their homes. Now, the lawsuits. That's one of the topics on the docket for our legal team live next hour, 8:00 a.m. Eastern, on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.



NGUYEN: If you're just waking up this morning, our top stories this hour, the death toll from Hurricane Katrina now stands at 812. Officials have confirmed 579 deaths in Louisiana, 218 in Mississippi and 11 in Florida.

Vice President Dick Cheney will undergo surgery next weekend. A Cheney staff member says the 64-year-old vice president will have an arterial aneurysm behind his right knee removed.

And President Bush will meet with Senate leaders Wednesday to discuss nominees to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The president's original selection, Judge John Roberts, is now waiting confirmation to replace the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

We also want to remind you that the pictures you see on the left side of your screen are the missing children of Katrina. We are hoping that by showing these pictures most of the children can be reunited with their families. So if you recognize anyone, please call the number that you see right there on your screen. It's 1-800-843- 5678. Again, 1-800-THE-LOST.

HARRIS: Well, time now to get an update on Tropical Storm Ophelia. I hope the update includes the words big right turn out into the ocean.


HARRIS: Again, Jacqui Jeras.

NGUYEN: Spin over. Is she done yet?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I know. It's a storm that just won't quit.

HARRIS: Won't quit.

NGUYEN: Madness.

JERAS: I know.

Well the good news is, yes, it never actually made landfall. And it doesn't look like it's going to in the United States, though. Nova Scotia may be taking a pretty good hit here with some strong, gusty winds. It's also showing some signs here that it's becoming extra tropical. So we will, though, still feel the effects, I think, of the winds, despite if it's a warm core or cold core storm.

Sixty-mile-per-hour winds, that's the maximum sustained at this hour. It's about 130 miles south-southwest of Nantucket. It's just rip-roaring up to the north and east very quickly, 21 miles per hour. So the impact is going to be very short lived, I think, in New England. You're really just going to feel it out on the cape and out on the islands with the gusty winds and a little bit of rain as well.

Now you can see the location of the storm. It is pushing up to the north and to the east. It's expected to be moving over the Canadian Maritimes, we think, overnight tonight and into tomorrow.

There are also two other areas of potential developments, a tropical wave up to the north of Puerto Rico and then we also have another one north of South America. This one, we think, has the potential to become a tropical depression, possibly even later on today. This one has the potential for some slow development over the next couple of days.


NGUYEN: All right, Jacqui, thanks for the update. We'll be checking with you.

HARRIS: Well, you have come to the right place if you're looking for ways to explain the devastation of Katrina to your kids. Just take a stroll down the storm-ravaged "Sesame Street." One of the show's educational specialists joins us live. NGUYEN: Plus, some of the biggest names in sports prove the size of their hearts are just as large.

We'll also take a look at Katrina's economic impact on the world of sports, as we take you "Beyond the Game" with Rick Horrow. That's next.


HARRIS: Billions of dollars of both public and private money have been spent so far to house victims of Hurricane Katrina. Sports facilities, like the Houston Astrodome, the Alamodome in San Antonio and of course the New Orleans Superdome, were transferred into temporary shelters for the thousands who lost their homes. And the athletes who normally fill those architectural wonders have opened their wallets to aid the new tenants.

Katrina's impact on the sporting world, a topic this morning, as we take you "Beyond the Game."

Sporting events all along the Gulf Coast were either canceled or postponed after Katrina rolled ashore. It could be months before we know the true economic impact of that move.

Joining us now for an update on how the hurricane has affected the world of sports is CNN's sports business analyst Rick Horrow, as usual, joining us from West Palm Beach, Florida.

Good morning, my friend.

RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: Good morning, my friend. How are you?

HARRIS: Well, thank you.

HORROW: You're my friend. I'm not your friend.

HARRIS: Well, you know the most obvious impact is, I guess, the amazing outpouring of support from athletes all around the world. How is tomorrow night's basketball benefit shaping up?

HORROW: Well, it's more important than anything, because lest we think we're not a generous country and cynics talk about it, think again. And the sports business is critical to this. We raised, athletes raised, nearly $10 million within two days of Katrina. They knew what was at stake.

And when you take a look at it, the basketball game is no different. Organized by TNT analysts and former Houston Rocket Kenny Smith in Houston. It's going to raise nearly a million dollars, by the way, and it's supplemented. Chris Duhon, a Chicago Bulls guard who lives in Slidell,...


HORROW: ... has created a foundation that has another half million dollars available. And Chicago Bulls owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, is going to match that.

You have got champions who are also donating. U.S. Open tennis champ Kim Clijsters gave some money to the relief effort before the tournament even started. You have Lance Armstrong's half million dollars for the cancer relationships and the moving of patients during Katrina. Kyle Busch, NASCAR driver, wins the California race during Labor Day, donates his prize winnings to the effort. Even, by the way, Tony, the Westminster Kennel Club has given $20,000 for canine relief during this effort. It is a massive, generous effort...

HARRIS: Yes, it really is.

HORROW: ... comprehension.

HARRIS: And when you talk about the economic impacts, you have to sort of start with the Superdome. The Saints are playing home games everywhere now. And even the location of next year's college Sugar Bowl is in doubt?

HORROW: Well, of course. Now when we talked about $135 million building the dome 30 years ago.

HARRIS: Right.

HORROW: And now the focus is on do you spend $400 million to repair it? Do you spend $600 million to replace it? That's for another day.

The impact is what's important. Four hundred million bucks or so a year, the Saints in New Orleans, that's not going to happen this year, clearly. But you've got Final Four NCAA championship events. Four of them since the Superdome opened at $100 million per. You've also got that championship series, the BCS National Championship. One of the games every year is the Sugar Bowl, $300 million economic impact, may be going to places like the Alamodome.

HARRIS: I see.

HORROW: Nobody really is sure yet, but it's a major impact.

HARRIS: Hey, what about the other fall sports for colleges in the affected areas, like Dillards, Xavier, Loyola in New Orleans, Southern University and LSU in Baton Rouge, what will these people do?

HORROW: Well, you know, yes, but see, that's the unwritten story yet, but it's high schools, 500 games nearly wiped out.

HARRIS: That's right.

HORROW: It's golf courses, it's minor league facilities, it's racetracks and, obviously, colleges. You talked about all of those. They need to be relocated.

Take Tulane, for example, they've become a vagabond athletic program. Their volleyball team is being hosted by Texas A&M. They have a whole bunch of tournaments. Their football team being hosted by Louisiana Tech in Ruston, Louisiana. Their opener today, by the way, used to be scheduled in the Superdome, played against Mississippi State, Shreveport Independent Stadium.

College Sports TV, a network, is hosting a telethon, which is the silver lining here not just for Tulane, but for college sports in general.

HARRIS: You know what, this kind of dovetails into your foul ball, doesn't it?

HORROW: Yes, it does. As positive as the NCAA tries to be sometimes, they step on it many times. They have very rigid rules. And one of those is you've got to sit out a year if you transfer from one school to another in Division I. Now, the programs that are affected, the college kids want to go and the NCAA said you've got to sit out a year. They're talking about athletic looting. Coaches from other schools saying come to our program.

HARRIS: I see.

HORROW: And I understand that argument, but the kids are caught in the middle.

HARRIS: Right. How about your fair ball this week?

HORROW: Well that's the other NCAA piece of this. They did relax a couple of restrictions. If you travel and if you're reimbursed for travel to and from the Gulf Coast, technically you're in violation of NCAA rules. Thankfully, they said, under these circumstances, you are not penalized, you can take the money if you travel and it's not going to affect your status. You would think that's obvious and that's normal.

HARRIS: Right.

HORROW: But the NCAA did make it official, thankfully.

HARRIS: There he is, CNN's sports business analyst Rick Horrow.

Rick, good to see you. See you next week.

HORROW: Thank you, my friend. Talk to you soon. Have a good weekend.


NGUYEN: Well, as you know, humans aren't the only ones uprooted by Katrina. We want you to take a look at this. It's new video of animals from the flooded Bayou Wildlife Refuge. That story is next.

Plus this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean it's just so hateful and just mean spirited to know what's going on and, you know, everyone's life from New Orleans right now. And then just to tell them that you have to move.


HARRIS: Not everyone has a welcome mat out for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We'll explain when we come back. Stay with us.


NGUYEN: Well, good morning, everyone. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

All morning long you've been looking at pictures of missing children on the left side of your screen. The children disappeared when Hurricane Katrina struck nearly three weeks ago.

NGUYEN: And we are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to bring families, Gulf Coast families, back together. So if you recognize any of the pictures, please call the phone number that you see on the screen. It's 1-800-843-5678 or 1- 800-THE-LOST.

HARRIS: And let's get you caught up now with headlines "Now in the News."

The death toll from Hurricane Katrina now stands at 812. That covers five states along the Gulf Coast. The vast majority of the dead, 579, are in Louisiana. And that number is expected to rise.

Vice President Dick Cheney will undergo surgery next week. Cheney's office says doctors will remove an aneurysm in an artery behind his right knee.


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