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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Missing Children of Hurricane Katrina

Aired September 18, 2005 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It's the 18th day of September. I'm Betty Nguyen.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. This weekend we are focusing on the missing children of Hurricane Katrina. As you can see on screen to your left we are putting faces and names of hundreds of children up there who are missing or can't find their parents.

NGUYEN: We're also working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children so if you recognize any of the pictures or the names up there, many times we only have a silhouette, no picture, just a name, do call that phone number that's on your screen. It's 1-800- 843-5678. We'll have a live update ahead. First we want to let you know what else is happening now in the news.

HARRIS: And now in the news, the U.S. military says six more suspected terrorists were killed today in an ongoing offensive to clean out insurgent hideouts in Tal Afar, Iraq. The coalition raids have been dubbed "Operation Restoring Rights." Since they began august 26th, 157 insurgents are reported to have died and 440 others detained.

Election Day in Afghanistan. The polls have closed in that nation's first attempt in decades to have a democratically chosen legislature and local assembly. Tensions were high, security tight. Turnout and results, not yet known.

Nor is it known when caused a commuter train to jump the tracks yesterday in Chicago. Two people were killed, dozens hurt. But rail officials say both the track and the signals were in good condition. The NTSB will investigate.

NGUYEN: A conflict is brewing in New Orleans where Mayor Ray Nagin is urging business owners to come back to the city. Now, he's laid out an ambitious plan to repopulate flooded area. But surprised federal officials tell CNN it's too much, too soon and too dangerous. CNN's Sean Callebs explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Orleans Mayor Nagin earlier in the week said he wants his city to breathe again.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: We're opening up the city and almost 200,000 residents will be able to come back and get this city going once again.

CALLEBS: But on the day when some residents in the business district started trickling back in, federal officials yanked the welcome mat out from underneath them.

In a statement, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is heading up the recovery effort said health concerns are a threat. And said, "I urge all residents returning to use extreme caution if they return and to consider delaying their return until safer, more livable conditions are established."

Utilities here are spotty, at best. Emergency services, a big question mark. And foul, polluted water lingers. Hassan Khaleghi and his wife Zore (ph) own the Moonlight Cafe in the Garden District and another restaurant uptown. Reopening right now is out of the question.

HASSAN KHALEGHI, OWNER, MOONLIGHT CAFE: It's going to be tough. Almost all of my employees gone. I'm trying to reach some of them.

CALLEBS: The Moonlight Cafe was also damaged by looters. But bigger issues remain. No electricity, no gas and biggest of the of all for the residents, no running water and no indication that safe drinking water will be available in New Orleans in the coming weeks, perhaps even months.

The mayor wants to open four areas of the city, including the historic French Quarter, within 10 days. So it's confusing for some to now hear federal authorities say that basic services are not adequate and can't meet the needs of businesses and homeowners. Betsy Mach (ph) run as toy store uptown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's has been very frustrating. But I think it's difficult for the people that are in charge, too, because it's such a huge, huge catastrophe.

CALLEBS: Business owners like Khaleghi say they've dealt with the storm and vandalism and they will also overcome this latest snafu.

KHALEGI: I'm not going to give up.

CALLEBS: Sean Callebs, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: And as Sean said, some business owners are returning to the city. CNN's Mary Snow is live in Saint Bernard Parish. And Mary, that's one of the most heavily damaged areas. I've got to ask you. You're there. Is it too soon and too dangerous for people to come back?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, people are just coming back here this weekend to see what they can salvage while other parts of New Orleans people are seeing what they can do to restart.

But this is one of the worst hit areas, as you mentioned. And this is the first time residents are getting to see for the first time since the storm the damage left behind. We'll show you what some of the homeowners are coming home to. A house completely torn from its foundation.

Why this area was so hard hit, it was hit by the storm surge and by the levee breaking. And if you go inside to most of the houses that we've been touring around here, you can see water marks covering the entire floor.

This also is the same parish where 34 people drowned to death. Now, residents were told earlier this week that they probably will not be able to come back here until this summer.

They are coming in here, it's very controlled, coming, see what they can salvage. For some they are lucky if they can salvage photographs from their home. We just spoke with one gentleman who came with his father who lived here for 51 years in the same house. It was totally destroyed.

And he said there was no point in rebuilding, that everything was ruined. There had been mold all over the house and that they were going to are have to knock it down. There are 30,000 homes here. Really, as you go through the streets, nothing was untouched by the storm. Betty?

NGUYEN: And as people come back to look at their belongings, any indication, I know you mentioned it will be a while before they get to move back in, but any indication when the water and electricity will be up and running so that rebuilding and cleanup can begin?

SNOW: The projections are so starkly different wherever you go in New Orleans. For here, it really is too difficult to say because also there's a problem of contamination here. There was a gasoline spill, about 89,000 gallons of gasoline had spilled.

Most has been contained and recovered, but also evaporated. So that's a whole set of problems. But, for instance, in Algiers residents are going to start returning tomorrow. This is part of the mayor's plan to get people back into the city. And really, the infrastructure, this is the only area where all of the systems of the infrastructure are working and that includes the 911 system, that includes also picking up trash.

But for the most part the mayor said where electricity can be restored he expects it to happen within the next week or two. But there will be some areas that won't have power for months.

NGUYEN: CNN's Mary Snow in St. Bernard Parish, thank you for that update.

HARRIS: And Betty, beginning tomorrow, and throughout the week, we will join business owners and residents as they come back to their neighborhoods ZIP code by ZIP code. Tomorrow, we will focus on 70114 known as the Algiers District. You were just talking about that.

It is an historic neighborhood of Creole cottages and Victorian homes. Algiers is home to 2,300 people and sits directly across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. CNN will be there as residents begin to rebuild their lives.

NGUYEN: More members of Congress are heading down to the storm- shattered Gulf Coast to get a first hand look at devastation. Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia is leading a bipartisan group of 16 lawmakers. District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton is among those making this trip.

She says she wants to see damage so that she can make an informed judgment about how the government can avoid similar disasters in the future. The group plans to visit flood ravaged New Orleans and Waveland on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which is a town virtually wiped off the map by Katrina.

HARRIS: If you've been watching those pictures and reading those names on the left side of your screen, that's the idea. All weekend long we've been trying to reconnect missing or displaced children with their families. And we're happy to report more than a dozen success stories so far. CNN's Kimberly Osias as has an update from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia.

Kimberly, good morning to you.

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Tony. I was outside the center here. And I saw several families on their way to church with their own children. And they said to me, they are really connecting with this full push, this all-out effort that we are engaged in. They said that they are looking, seeing if they know any of the names or they - even in one instance they called some friends and said, do you any of the people?

Oftentimes they're just names we just show you a silhouette, or a picture. And that's precisely what we're hoping that sort of the memories get jogged. And it is making a difference. But also numbers are still rising. The numbers of first-time callers. Joining me to talk about the numbers other things is Ernie Allen, the president of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Ernie, I mean, as great as it is, because I can tell you, I mean, it's amazing when we get to witness those moments, those euphoric moments. But there are still calls that are trickling in, we're talking about some 2,060 children that are still missing and time is a big issue. How is this disconcerting?

ERNIE ALLEN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN: Well, it's disconcerting because the more we recover, the more you and other media are making people aware of this resource. And they're calling us. So we're still -- even though we've recovered almost 900 children, there are 2000 we're still looking for. And time is the enemy. We need to move quickly. We need to identify people and reunify these families.

OSIAS: Do you think -- I've spent a lot of time with the volunteers here. And some of them say success isn't necessarily even in making a connection. It's in providing hope for people. But as these days go on, you talked about time being the enemy, is there sort of a fine line between keeping somebody emboldened and ready and maybe even false hope?

ALLEN: I don't think there's any such thing as false hope. The reality is just do what you did yesterday. We generated 3,000 phone calls from people providing information and wanting to help. Eight children were identified and reunited with their families as a direct result of CNN callers who saw your features, called us, and we were able to get in touch with families and reunify them. What's the value of that?

OSIAS: Do you really think it's more of a child in one place, moving from shelter to shelter or a parent getting displaced as opposed to really a sort of a more dire situation, that it's a clearinghouse instead of having that, OK, I can connect here, in this instance?

ALLEN: We really don't know. My gut tells me that overwhelmingly most of these stories have innocent explanations and will have happy endings. We had one yesterday, a CNN caller notified us about a 14-year-old, Lloyd Smith and his one-year-old sister Unastia (ph), who had been evacuated from Baton Rouge, who had ended up in a hospital for two weeks and then a church shelter for two weeks.

Family members were desperately looking. A CNN viewer called us and said the family, the mom and the two kids are now in a shelter in Los Angeles. So they weren't at risk, but what you have done is help us bring the family together.

OSIAS: Well, it's an effort of everybody, a testament to the power of the public and the power of television. Hopefully we'll have more stories like that. It is important, if you have any information, to, of course, make that call. Tony, Betty?

HARRIS: More stories like that. More success stories. Boy, that would be great. Kimberly, thank you.

NGUYEN: Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed the central Gulf Coast, emotional reunions are still taking place. And we love to hear about them.

Near San Francisco, some New Orleans victims are reunited, thanks to a community's generosity. Alfred Jones and his family fled New Orleans two weeks ago. Now his sister and her five children arrived just yesterday. The community of Santa Rosa pitched in to provide them all with free housing, furniture, food and, of course, much- needed baby supplies.

HARRIS: Very good. Very good. A lot more is still ahead. This hour on CNN SUNDAY MORNING you'll meet a doctor treating hurricane victims in Texas. He says they need more than medicine because the pain, well, it goes a lot deeper.

NGUYEN: And a story you will only see here on CNN. A day in the life of Vice Admiral Thad Allen. Get to know the new man in charge of federal relief efforts in New Orleans.

HARRIS: Also, there's trouble brewing in the tropics. A new tropical depression pops up after one yesterday turned into a tropical storm. We'll tell you where they're headed when CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And checking some top stories this hour, with the threat of more violence in the backdrop, Afghans stream to the polls today to vote in parliamentary and provincial elections. The polls closed several hours ago now.

American troops and Afghan forces provided security at polling place as cross the country. In the run-ups to the elections, insurgents have launched deadly attacks in a bid to derail the votes.

In Iraq, it's another day of deadly violence. Among today's incidents, a grenade attack that killed two people in central Baquba. The attackers threw grenades at a sidewalk business district.

And here in the United States, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin meets tomorrow with the federal disaster chief over the mayor's plans to bring people home quickly. Vice Admiral Thad Allen calls the idea extremely problematic. And he's urging all returning residents to use extreme caution and to consider delaying their return until safer and more livable conditions are established.

NGUYEN: Over the past couple of weeks medical personnel have rushed to the Gulf Coast to help treat hurricane victims from hospitals and nursing homes as well as the newly sick and injured.

What they found were patients that needed more than physical care. In today's "New York Times Magazine" Dr. Abraham Verghese described his experience, treating evacuees who arrived in San Antonio, Texas. And he is a regular contributor to the magazine. And also the director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

He joins us live now from San Antonio. You know, doctor, I read your article in the "New York Times." And these evacuees they really, they touched you, didn't they?

DR. ABRAHAM VERGHESE, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Well, they really moved me, Betty. One of most moving thing I've ever seen particularly because it has harked back to my experience taking care of patients in Africa or India where you don't have a medical record you don't have much in the way of medication behind you. All you really have is a story they give you and your ability to examine them thoroughly which in a way becomes a form of therapy. It was quite haunting.

NGUYEN: You talk about traveling to these other countries and dealing with people who need medical assistance. In the middle of all of this you found those parallels which you just spoke of. Did that surprise you? Did you stop at any moment and go, this is happening in America? VERGHESE: I think every visitor surprised me. I think that most of us working there, I must stress, there were so many medical students and physician from all walks of life volunteering, most of us had the eerie sense that the hurricane was not the traumatic injury and insult that we expected to find. It was really the aftermath, the sense that somehow the world had let them down, our own country let them down.

That was the trauma for which they were suffering. So there I was taking care of cuts and bruises and infections of the extremities, particularly the legs from wading through all of the water. With a sense that the problem I was taking care of was larger than the medical problem. It was a problem of homelessness and disenfranchisement and also hopelessness.

NGUYEN: Yeah, despair.

VERGHESE: Tremendous psychological issues to deal with.

NGUYEN: And you really got to the heart of this. Not only did you take care of physical ailments but you got to the heart of the psychological and emotional problems when you said what have you been doing for the last five days? Where have you been? And what did you hear when you asked that?

VERGHESE: Well, I was hesitant to ask that question but very curious. Because we'd seen images, and we knew about the Superdome and all these different locales. And I found that it was necessary to ask that question, that they wanted us to ask that question. It was a way of honoring what they had been through.

And I remember one old man, a tremendous dignified gentleman with his belongings in a garbage sack, no medications. And he told me he spent his time on a 2 x 4 ledge with his feet in the water for three days. And he saw Air Force One fly overhead and thought, help coming. And it was another couple of daze before he got away. And the words he said to me were quite haunting. He says they treat refugees better in other countries than they treat us -- than they treated us. And all I could think to say was I'm so sorry. When I said I'm sorry, and obviously it was a helpless thing for me to say, not very meaningful, he turned to me and he said, all they got to say is sorry. All they got to say is sorry.

NGUYEN: It just doesn't sound like enough.

Let's talk about the physical ailments. You mentioned it briefly. But besides the cuts on feet and the swollen feet from walking in this diseased water, what are some of the other ailments you had to treat? And was it really kind of like a stab in the dark because you don't have any medical records? Some people may not even remember the types of medications that they're taking.

VERGHESE: That's exactly right, Betty. Because people had left their houses or gone from the first floor to the second floor and then to the roof. And the last thing on their minds was there medication. So we were seeing blood pressure out of control, blood sugars out of control. I had one man who was behaving in a manner that made me take a stab and ask him if he was hearing voices again and he immediately said yes. And we went through the Physician's Desk Reference to find the pill he was taking.

No medical records no past history, so to speak, starting with a blank slate. And just hoping that we're getting the names right and the doses right. It was really something else.

NGUYEN: There's also talk now, doctor, of secondary infection and there's warning from the federal government not to return to some of these parts of New Orleans after there's been a call for people to come back home. Is there any truth to this? Are there secondary infections? And what kind of dangers do people face when they go home?

VERGHESE: Well, I'm an infectious disease specialist so I'm very aware and wary of those things. Anytime there's waterlogged and contamination of water supply, diseases like hepatitis a and the Norwalk virus that causes diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, all these things are quite possible.

But I must say, Betty, that I'm much more concerned about what I think is the bigger illness to follow which is post traumatic stress disorder. A lot of these people are going to be terrified about hurricanes and hyper-vigilant, watching the Weather Channel, waiting for it to happen again. I think that is going to be the bigger problem that we in American medicine are going to have to face.

NGUYEN: And that kind of treatment takes many, many years. Thank you, doctor, we appreciate your insight and what you've been doing for the evacuees, the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Thank you.

VERGHESE: Thank you for having me, Betty.

HARRIS: What a story.

Still ahead, exclusive access to the man in charge. We'll have a look at Vice Admiral Thad Allen's daily operations in New Orleans.

NGUYEN: Plus, an emerging storm. Yes, yet again, another hurricane is going to hit the Gulf Coast. Or will it? We'll have that answer live just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A federal investigation is under way into yesterday's derailment of a double-decker commuter train in Chicago's South Side. At least two people were killed and more than 80 others injured. Ben Bradley with station WLS describes the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was just flying everywhere. You just see people flying from car to car. And by the time -- everything just happened real fast.

BEN BRADLEY, WLS-TV CORRESPONDENT: Julie Erodonondo (ph) was in the most seriously damaged train car. She shook off the daze and realized she was trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had a seat on top of my leg so I had to wait for somebody to pull it up and then we were -- everybody was trying to rush and get out of the windows right away.

BRADLEY: Who helped you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody. Everybody was helping everybody.

BRADLEY: First responders set up three triage tent alongside the tracks. It's where paramedics gave people a once-over and prioritized, then stabilized the seriously injured.

Due to the volume of victims the Chicago Fire Department took the unusual step of asking for help from several suburbs. It came in the form of ambulances, a long line formed as paramedics waited to transport nearly 60 of the injured. Provident Hospital received 14 patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of severe contusions, injuries, ranging from sprains and strains to severe blunt chest trauma.

BRADLEY: Some worried relatives received cell phones calls from loved ones on the train. They rushed to the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I come down here trying to find out something. I don't know nothing yet.

BRADLEY: Midlothian residents Janice (ph) and Mallory Hill (ph) were looking forward to a day downtown. Janice lost her shoes but mother and daughter are thankful to have made it through with only a few bumps and bruises.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In all of the commotion I flew up in the car, a got a little gash, got a headache, a big headache. You know, neck injuries. But other than that, just thankful to be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Boy. Rail officials say track signals were working and the track had been inspected just last week.

ANNOUNCER: CNN, your hurricane center.

NGUYEN: You know that sound well. We've heard it a lot lately. Weather forecasters are keeping a close watch on another new tropical depression. And it is depressing. They are concerned it could strengthen and threaten Florida, even. The latest, now, from meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. Say it isn't so, Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, it is so, Betty. And I wish I had better news for you. We could get off a little bit easy on this one as it heads through the Florida Straits and maybe not make a direct hit. It's still a little bit too early to tell.

We'll watch as it gets a little bit closer. But unfortunately, it's looking a little bit more likely that we could see another land- falling hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. It could be Mexico. It could be Texas. It could be Louisiana. Still way too early to tell. But it does look like that's going to be a possibility now as the storm system is heading westward.

It's packing winds around 30 miles per hour right now. It is a tropical depression. Forecast to become Tropical Storm Rita. It is near the Grand Turks Islands now. Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas under tropical storm warnings with hurricane watches in effect for the northwestern Bahamas.

There is the forecast track for you. You can see it's skirting through the Florida Straits. But keep in mind we have a decent margin of error with the storm. So South Florida and the Keys need to pay close attention Monday night and throughout much of Tuesday.

We also have Tropical Storm Philippe. That one is east of the Lesser Antilles. The good news, it is expected to head on up to the north and west and likely stay away from the United States. If that changes, we'll let you know.

And we also have some severe weather in the nation's midsection. Missouri has been getting pounded throughout much of the day for today. We're expecting things to fire up again later on this afternoon. Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota will be under the gun. Back to you guys.

NGUYEN: All right, Jacqui, thank you.

HARRIS: A lot of weather.

NGUYEN: I know.

HARRIS: Up next, a live report from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. How you can help reunite families.

NGUYEN: Plus, CNN's Kyra Phillips has been given exclusive access to Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen as he hits the ground running in New Orleans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone. This weekend, we are focusing on the missing and displaced children of hurricane Katrina, as you can see. On the screen to your left, we are going to be putting up the faces and names of hundreds of children who are missing or can't find their parents.

NGUYEN: We're working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and we will bring you live shots and updates from that center all weekend long. But if you recognize any of the pictures or the silhouettes with the names, because many parents didn't have picture of their children as part of the evacuation, they just didn't think to grab a picture. If you recognize a name or a face, please call the number on the screen. It's 1-800-843-5678.

There is no letup in the violence in Iraq. Earlier today a grenade attack killed two people in central Baquba. The attackers threw grenades at a sidewalk business district and in northern Iraq, the U.S. military says coalition forces have killed six suspected terrorists in an anti-insurgency operation in Tal Afar.

In Afghanistan now, it's taking another step forward on its road to democracy. Voters went to the polls today to choose members of parliament and provincial councils. The polls closed several hours ago. But with possible violence a serious threat, American troops and Afghan forces provided security at polling place all across the country.

Three weeks now after hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the central Gulf coast, weather forecasters are keeping a close watch on tropical depression number 18. It popped up less than 300 miles from the Bahamas. And there is concern that it could get a lot stronger and even threaten Florida or even Cuba.

More now about the missing and displaced children, more than 2000 of them from cities and towns consumed by Katrina. We have been showing you some of their pictures and giving their names all weekend long. And you know what, it's working. CNN's Kimberly Osias is at the National Center for Missing and Exploited children in Alexandria, Virginia with the latest on how many children have been reunited with their families. This is certainly good news.

OSIAS: It is indeed, Betty, 836 resolved cases to be exact and we will have a new, updated number to report to you at noon. But there are still new calls that are coming in of first-time calls of missing children. But the interesting thing is, oftentimes you can see on the left-hand side of your screen, you just have a name because folks left in such a hurry or they had a really blurry or dated photo, if they were lucky enough to even have that.

The name can jar somebody to call and precipitate an action and that's exactly what happened just a little while ago. A teacher recognized the name of her student and she called in her to the center. She will be sending a picture and putting that picture up. We will have that shortly which is truly a testament to the power of the public working and television working in concert together to make a difference and that's what we are really hoping to do to get all these kids reunited.

We just spoke with Ernie Allen, the president a little while ago and he says sort of in his gut, his visceral feel is most of these children will get reunited with their families. It's just a matter of time. Take a look at Dion Ridley (ph). Oftentimes -- I mean folks are just scattered really all over the country. I mean this is a child who may be in a shelter, may be in a foster home, that is seeking her parents. She is African-American, missing from New Orleans, Louisiana. And she was last known to be with her godmother, six years old, adorable little girl.

Take a look at Joshua and Justin Ratcliff, often times there are two sisters or two brothers or whole entire families that have gotten displaced. These children are of course searching for their parents. These two brothers were with their mother at the Superdome when they evacuated. Now the mother went to Baton Rouge, the sons to Houston. Supposedly they are supposed to get back together. But as of now, that has yet to happen. Really kind of key in on those faces or key in the names because it is making a difference. The call volume is certainly picking up. Actually, the call volume's tripled since we have been working in concert together and making a difference. Tony, Betty.

NGUYEN: And that's what we want to hear, those phones ringing. Thank you Kimberly.

HARRIS: Right now in New Orleans, Vice Admiral Thad Allen is the man in charge of the Federal relief effort. And as we told you earlier this hour, his problems with Mayor Ray Nagin's repopulation plan. Allen is warning people to wait a while before returning home. CNN's Kyra Phillips has been shadowing the admiral as he goes about the business of getting New Orleans back on its feet again. She has this profile you will see only on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He wakes up as early as 3:30 a.m., Vice Admiral Thad Allen wastes no time. He's leading the largest rebuilding effort in American history and his day is jam packed, from press conference to video conference. It's now 11:50. Inside his mobile command center, the admiral leads an executive conference call with DHS and FEMA. At issue, how to bring New Orleanians back home.

VICE ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA: There's been some discussion in Washington about whether or not we should use vouchers to move (ph) temporary housing.

PHILLIPS: He's only a week into the job, but it's clear he's hit the ground running. And your mission is?

ALLEN: Community of effort, increased philosophy of what's happening, cut red tape. We need to treat the victims of this catastrophe as if they were our own family. What would you do if it was your child, your husband or your mother? How would you treat them? You need to have sensitivity when you're (INAUDIBLE) these people.

PHILLIPS: 1:00 p.m. Allen gets an urgent call to board the Iwo Jima. The bells mean the admiral's coming.

ALLEN: Folks, how are you doing?

PHILLIPS: Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff is about to land. So right now Admiral Allen is going to meet with the secretary of Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. They'll have a private meeting for about 30 minutes and then it's off to the next.

Good news, water levels are going down fast.

ALLEN: One of the reasons that this has happened much quicker than we thought is we've had evaporation that you wouldn't consider for this time of year.

PHILLIPS: 1:30, huddled inside the command post, a who's who of joint task force Katrina. Zip code by zip code, block by block, the national response plan unfolds right before our eyes. This is a hands on leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral, thank you, sir for coming onboard.

ALLEN: Thank you, skipper. I don't know what the Navy term is, but fall out and gather around. So what I've been trying to do is build a sense of camaraderie, unity and team work among the Federal community that are bringing all the assets to this fight and the other thing I've tried to do is stay out of politics. I really appreciate it. Thank you, folks.

PHILLIPS: His predecessor, General Russel Honore is still part of the team. What do you think of Admiral Allen?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, CMDR, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA: He's a go-getter, very competent, mature, strategic leader. He's the right guy for the right job at the right time.

PHILLIPS: Just ask his aide, Lieutenant Katrina Harper, yes, her name is Katrina.

LT. KATRINA HARPER, COAST GUARD: It's like the Energizer bunny. He doesn't stop. He's just -- he does it all and he gets out there and touches the people he needs to touch especially with this recovery.

PHILLIPS: When Allen can't be at two places at one time, his chief of staff Captain Tom Atkin is there.

CAPT. TOM ATKIN, COAST GUARD: He's given us a vision from the very beginning, focus on helping the people. Treat them all like they're family and we'll make it happen.

PHILLIPS: I think he's calling you.

ATKIN: I'm sure he is. He likes me.

PHILLIPS: It's 4:30, Allen has raced ahead of us. The next stop a food tent where volunteers are feeding the hot, tired and weary troops under his command.

ALLEN: Thank you for everything you're doing for the country. Appreciate it. PHILLIPS: Allen takes time to pose for pictures and thank the cooks. He barely has time to grab a shrimp skewer to go.

ALLEN: Thank you. You guys are going to spoil me here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Courtesy of south Alabama.

ALLEN: Thank you. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: It's 6:00 in the evening now and the president of the United States just landed aboard the Iwo Jima via Marine One. Vice Admiral Allen is inside the carrier actually right now getting ready to greet the president, one more meeting in a head spinning day. Vice Admiral Thad Allen says, he's just getting started. Kyra Phillips, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: What a look.

Well, some call him a man of action and action is just what is needed along the Gulf coast. This Sunday morning at 11:00 Eastern on "Late Edition," Wolf Blitzer goes one-on-one with Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the man now leading hurricane Katrina relief operations.

NGUYEN: As the Gulf region begins to turn the corner towards recovery, CNN will remain close to the story. Beginning tomorrow and throughout the week, we will join businesses and residents as they come home to their neighborhood zip code by zip code. Tomorrow we're going to focus on this zip code, 70114, known as the Algiers district. It's a familiar - it's an historic neighborhood of Creole cot cottages and Victorian homes. Algiers is home to 2300 people and sits directly across the Mississippi River from the French quarter. CNN will be there as residents begin to rebuild their lives.

HARRIS: From living in trailers to limited food, our Anderson Cooper takes us behind the scenes of a story unlike any other.

NGUYEN: And rolling out the red carpet, the show does go on. But stars take time out to remember the victims of hurricane Katrina. CNN LIVE SUNDAY continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Here's a bit of what's going on at this hour. Fresh raids on suspected al Qaeda safe houses in northern Iraq. Six insurgents killed. Hours earlier, a car bomb killed nearly 30 near Baghdad and a member of the Iraqi parliament was shot dead.

Several more members of the U.S. Congress are touring hurricane damage in Louisiana and Mississippi. Heading the delegation is the chairman of the select committee that is investigating the government's response.

And the head of the Federal relief operations wants New Orleanians to think twice before they accept the mayor's offer to come back home. Ray Nagin insists his repopulation plan and we quote, properly balances safety concerns and the needs of citizens to begin rebuilding their lives.

HARRIS: Whatever you've seen or heard from the people and places that lost so much to Katrina is barely a glimpse of the real picture known only to those who were and are there. CNN's Anderson Cooper has been there virtually since Lake Pontchartrain swallowed his beloved New Orleans and though there is precious little time to reflect, between anchoring, reporting and interviewing, Anderson sent us this look at his reporter's notebook.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I've been coming to New Orleans since I was a kid. My dad used to live here and his heart always did. This gritty, gumbo city, its hot, humid streets, seeing it like this, well, it's hard to explain. Blink and you're in Baghdad. Black water, guys with guns, rubble strewn streets, Blackhawks in the sky. That sound, that sound, crushing, comforting. The cavalry's come. Help has arrived, urgent seconds ticking by.

Street signs are down. New signs are up. Hand drawn, heartfelt, be thankful God loves you. Looters will be shot. This one's my favorite. Don't try, I'm sleeping inside with a big dog, an ugly woman, two shotguns and a claw hammer. Working here, it's unlike any story I've ever been on. I've never been prouder of the people I stand by. We shoot and you edit, we do live shots and shows and they're always in motion, slamming sodas and candy, it just doesn't stop.

Last week we were living in trailers packed tight, poorly stocked. No one complained. There was no need to explain. Compared to everyone else we had it good. The phones didn't work. We still cling to our black berries, our heads always down. Now we've got an office set up with food and supplies, at night a hotel where we disinfect our feet. We're all taking something, Cipro, a whole bunch of shots. Some have conjunctivitis and cuts. You have to be careful.

What's happened here has been a story about failure, of government and officials and systems in place but it's also a story about kindness, of strangers helping strangers and neighbors in need. There have been moments I think for a lot of us working here where we all feel very much alone, surrounded by ruin and rubble. You feel like you're on the edge of the world.

I guess in a way you get used to seeing all this destruction, but you never get used to seeing the people it's affected. In the shelters it really hits you. The babies are oblivious thank God, their parents' arms the only home they have. The young and the old have little but doubts and questions. What will I do? How can I rebuild? What will happen tomorrow? Governments can help, but they can do this -- holding, hugging. Human connections were strengthened by the storm. I know sometimes soon viewers are going to move on from the story. The water level is falling. The tide is ebbing and so will the interest. I know it's going to happen. I just don't know when. I don't think we should forget what we've seen. I know those of us who were here never will.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Talk about a welcome sight. When things go bad, throw a party. Hurricane Katrina may have devastated parts of south Louisiana, but it didn't kill the region's zest for life. Lafayette, said to be the world's largest Cajun festival is under way. And it's giving storm evacuees in the area a chance to forget their troubles, well at least for a while. The festival's co-founder says even in good times, the event has always been about cultural survival and he says the people of Louisiana are surviving again.

NGUYEN: Can't take their spirits away. The show will go on in Los Angeles tonight, the 57th annual Emmy awards and by utter coincidence, the host is a native New Orleanian with experience balancing glamour with grim reality. CNN's Sibila Vargas has a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite the devastation left by hurricane Katrina, television's biggest celebration is going forward, pretty much as planned.

KEN EHRLICH, EXEC. PRODUCER, EMMY TELECAST: I don't think there was ever a moment where we basically said we're going to go away.

VARGAS: Inside the Shrine auditorium, the preparations are much like last year. The red carpet has been rolled out, the dress code remains unchanged.

TOM O'NEILL, GOLDDERBY.COM: It's important that it doesn't look like Hollywood's fiddling while New Orleans burns.

VARGAS: But there are some subtle changes designed to show support for the victims of hurricane Katrina.

MELISSA GREGO, TELEVISION WEEK: You have to walk that line of what's appropriate. Do we have a frivolous glamorous night when there are so many people who have lost their lives, their livelihoods? It is going to be business as usual, but I do expect there to be at least some acknowledgement of what's going on.

VARGAS: Part of that acknowledgement will come in floral form.

EHRLICH: The magnolia is the state flower of both Louisiana and Mississippi so we've got one and we've got 144 of them which we're going to give to presenters and performers on the show.

VARGAS: During the telecast, viewers will be invited to donate money for hurricane relief. Host Ellen Degeneres, a New Orleans native, is expected to refer to the disaster in her opening monologue. Degeneres won praise for the way she hosted the Emmys four years ago, a show that was twice delayed following the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan.

GREGO: She proved that she could do it back in 2001. It's a very lucky thing for both the industry and the audience that she is going to be hosting this year.

VARGAS: And some people think the country could use some good cheer right now including Degeneres herself.

EHRLICH: She says you know, Emmy night we need to make people laugh, not forgot about what's happening, but laugh. So I think viewers are in for a terrific evening.

VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: A new tropical depression is gaining strength. We'll find out where it is headed. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Before we close out this hour, let's check in with Jacqui and Phillipe and potentially Rita in the weather center upstairs.

JERAS: All my friend, right? Unfortunately, they're not all that friendly. I wish they were going to be. We've got the latest now on tropical depression number 18. It is gradually gaining some strength now. Winds are up to 35 miles per hour. It's probably going to become tropical storm Rita I think maybe as early as the 5:00 advisory. If not, certainly we think it will happen later on for tonight. Moving off to the west right now.

It's moving through the Turks and the Caicos and we have new information just in. If you missed it in my tease, we've got hurricane watches now that have been posted for all of the Florida keys. It includes Florida Bay. Also hurricane watches for the northwestern Bahamas and then tropical storm warnings for the south eastern Bahamas and down to the Turks and Caicos. So the storm starting to gain a little bit of strength. It's expected to continue on mostly a westwardly track. If it does that, it's going to keep it through the Florida straits and hopefully miss the keys. But I think it will probably be a hurricane by then and certainly at least brush through this area bringing some high surf, some heavy rain, so that is certainly a concern within itself. That's going to be arriving we think late in the day on Monday and continuing throughout Tuesday.

What happens after that, it's going into the Gulf of Mexico. The ocean temperatures here plenty warm, so there's the potential that this could become a major hurricane making landfall in the Gulf of Mexico. Right now the western Gulf is looking most vulnerable -- Texas, Louisiana, maybe northern Mexico. It's too soon to tell exactly where it's going to go, but the outlook at this time isn't looking all that good.

Phillipe, this is the other one we've been talking about. It's a tropical storm. Good news on Phillipe, even though it's going to be strengthening, it's going to be heading on up to the north and to the west. Hopefully doesn't look like it's going to be affecting the United States.

Nation's midsection also a concern for today. Later on this afternoon and this evening, some severe thunderstorms are expected to develop from South Dakota down through Nebraska, southern Minnesota, Iowa, into Missouri and eastern Kansas. A moderate risk for large hail and damaging winds, can't rule out an isolated tornado. The rest of the nation looking pretty quiet so hopefully you'll enjoy your Sunday. Keep you up to date on the tropics, Rob Marciano in this afternoon and tonight.

NGUYEN: Thanks Jacqui.

HARRIS: Thanks Jacqui. And thank you for joining us this morning. Our coverage continues here on CNN with Wolf Blitzer's "Late Edition."

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