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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Bombings in Bali; Operation Iron Fist in Iraq; New Orleans Residents Still Returning; California Wildfires 40 Percent Contained; Bush Address Concerns about Iraqi Troops; Group Strives to Find Homes for Animals Stranded in Hurricane; Officials Worried about Avian Flu; Tracking the Storm Trackers; Typhoon Bound for Taiwan; Giant squid photographed

Aired October 1, 2005 - 11:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Explosions rock the Indonesian resort island of Bali this morning. At least two fatalities being reported so far.
Good morning again from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. A live report from Bali in just a minute.

First, here are some other stories right "Now in the News."

The latest U.S. military effort to root out insurgents and al Qaeda operatives is underway in Iraq. Operation Iron Fist began this morning. In the Anbar Province, Marines are heading up the 1,000 troops who are focusing on an area about 12 miles from the Syrian border.

President Bush used his weekly radio address to warn of heightened insurgent attacks in the run-up to Iraq's constitutional referendum. The balloting is set for October 15th. And Mr. Bush said the insurgents have a history of escalating attacks before major, political milestones. Despite those concern, the president said he's encouraged by the size and capability of Iraqi security forces. We will go live to Washington for more later in the program.

American Tourist Gregory Olsen has taken off on the trip of a lifetime. Olsen is aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket this hour, streaking toward the International Space Station. His trip isn't cheap. Olsen reportedly paid $20 million for the two-day trek.

NASA plans to delay the target date for launching the next space shuttle. It will likely be pushed back from March to May. This will give NASA time to fix a problem with insulating foam that falls off the shuttle's fuel tank.

WHITFIELD: And we're also following breaking news out of Bali, Indonesia, this hour. There have been a series of explosions in a popular tourist area along Jimbaran beach. And these are the first pictures coming in to us. And we have reports of injuries and at least two deaths. Just yesterday the U.S. embassy again warned that the terrorist threat remains high, especially in areas frequented by westerners. And this is one of them, an area frequented by westerners.

Joining us on the phone from Jakarta is the Guardian Correspondent, John Aglionby.

John, thanks so much for being with us.

We understand that there were a series of explosions taking place just minutes apart. All within a very close proximity of one another.

JOHN AGLIONBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's correct. The police are confirming two explosions but local media are quoting eyewitnesses saying there could be up to five or even six. So the picture is still slightly confusing. As to the number of casualties, local hospital I've spoken to are saying there are dozens and possibly up to more than 15 people dead. So certainly the casualty figures are climbing all the time.

But what we do know is that the first explosions went off at about ten to 8:00 local time. These were the ones in Jimbaran, which is just south of the international airport, very close to the Four Seasons -- one of the two Four Season hotels there. A beach site area where many people like to go watch the sun sets and have dinner.

Then about 10 minutes later, there was another explosion near the Rajas (ph) Restaurant in Kuta, which is more popular with the backpackers (ph) and it is, again, another popular hang out area on a Saturday night. We're hearing reports of explosions in the Nusadua (ph) area as well. So certainly it appears that it was a very carefully coordinated attack if, indeed, this is what it appears to be.

WHITFIELD: Well, John, when you describe the areas and talk about the areas of restaurants, the video that we're seeing looks like mostly shopping district areas, except for right now we're looking at medical treatment of one of the injured. This area where we're seeing broken glass in the shopping district area, is this an area where people like to, you know, kind of walk around, they converge there? There's a lot of foot traffic even in the evening, as well as, of course, by day shopping.

AGLIONBY: Exactly that. Yes. Very much so. And we're talking about an area where -- which doesn't really close until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. And so this will be sort of 8:00. The sun would have gone down an hour earlier and there would be sort of hundreds, if not thousands, of people around there.

I assume you're seeing pictures of the Kuta bomb site because I've heard that the police has roped off the Jimbaran one. It's much hard to get access to.

But certainly this would be -- I mean it's still the tail end of the high season. One of Bali's two high seasons. So there would be an awful lot of people there still visiting. We've heard that there are western tourists among the injured. We don't yet know where they might be from.

But it's a picture that's slowly coming together. No one has claimed responsibility. No one is being accused yet. Although, only a month ago, the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang, warned the country that he said basically we're still in the September/October is the bombing season. And he said, "we know that terrorist cells are still active. They are still hiding, recruiting, networking, trying to find new funding." So he says he was warning the country of this and sure enough it's happened.

WHITFIELD: John Aglionby, thank you so much, of The Guardian, reporting on an area in Bali that still had not quite recovered even three years after an explosion taking place there where 200 people who were killed. They haven't quite recovered psychologically from that. And now this.

Tony.

HARRIS: Well, the mission is called Operation Iron Fist. It is in full swing this hour as the U.S. military takes aim at al Qaeda hideouts in Iraq. The pounding began early this morning in Sa'da along Iraq's boarder with Syria. The city is considered an entry point for foreign fighters and a support system for al Qaeda in Iraq. CNN's Jennifer Eccleston is embed with the U.S. Marines in Western Iraq and joins us by phone.

Jennifer, you have been walking with the troops for, what is it, 11 hours? What have you seen? Have you witnessed any combat?

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've been on the road now for -- literally walking through this town for about just under 12 hours. It started about 7:00 a.m. local time and it's part of what they call a sweep and clean mission.

Of course, it's called Operation Iron Fist but what the Marines are doing here is making house by house searches. Each Marine unit, there are four companies here, taking a segment, a quadrant, of this city. They're going house by house, street by street, looking for arms, caches. Looking for those who might be involved in acts of the insurgency, either through means of being facilitators or those directly involved.

And there has been a little bit of gunfire, sporadic gunfire this morning. In fact, when the Marines first entered the town at about 7:15, there was gunfire on their position as they walked through the town. The road they came in on, the very same road, Marine engineers discovered that there were IEDs there and remotely detonated them. That could have been absolutely disaster for the men who are conducting this job.

But it's been fairly quiet for the past couple of hours with the odd explosion in the remotely detonated IEDs along the main road that runs through the city. There was an attack by a cobra helicopter that was providing support for the Marines on a number of vehicles. Three vehicles, specifically. Two were designated as possible car bombs and the third one they eye witnessed several people getting in the car with weapons.

But all in all, this is an operation that, as you mentioned, is designed to create a secure environment for the city, secure environment in the short term with the upcoming referendum on October 15th. But also for the long term, so that there will be some sort of presence. But it initially American presence here, but in the long term, an Iraqi army presence so that this town and this region, Western Al Anbar Province, will quite possibly no longer be plagued by the insurgency.

Tony.

HARRIS: Hey, Jennifer, just a quick question. Is this a heavily populated area with local Iraqis?

ECCLESTON: Yes, it normally would be -- they estimate this -- the latest census or the last census was about 5,000 people. They estimate that there was about 250,000 people before operations that were conducted by a previous Marine unit.

It's hard to see evidence of that today, specifically in our quadrant. There were many empty homes. They had free reign in most of these buildings, going in and searching them. And there were a few families that stayed behind. But some of them told us that if they could have left, that means if they had transportation, they would have left.

But the reception has been very cooperative. No one has been really giving the Marines any trouble as they go through. There's a lot of fear still. There's a lot of trepidation. And you see it in the eyes not only of the parents, but also the very young children that are around here.

And then on the flip side of that, Tony, you'll also see several young people, mostly children, coming up and wanting to engage the Marines. So it's quite a surreal environment given the fact that this is one of the places where -- that has been targeted as a hot spot for the insurgency. There have been known (ph) insurgents operating in this area. In fact, they were engaging them today.

Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. Surreal. That sounds -- that paints the picture, that's for sure. Jennifer Eccleston embedded with the U.S. Marines in Western Iraq.

Jennifer, thank you.

WHITFIELD: Tony, more now on the series of explosions taking place in the resort island of Bali earlier this morning. Maria Bakkalapulo is in Kuta, Bali, which was one of the locations where these series of explosions took place. She's on the telephone with us now.

And, Maria, where were you at the time of the explosions? MARIA BAKKALAPULO, BALI BLAST EYE WITNESS: I actually wasn't in the Kuta area. I came about an hour afterwards and I'm standing actually right across the street from where the bomb exploded. It's a Raja Noodle Shop (ph). It's in the heart of Kuta. It's in an area called the Madahari (ph) Square. It's a heavy tourist area. There's Kentucky Fried Chicken, Polo shops, Adidas shops. It is the heart of where foreigners come to in Bali.

It looks like from what the police have said, the bomb did explode inside the restaurant. It's been pretty much gutted. And when it exploded, the shops across the street with the glass broke on the shops across and there are unconfirmed reports that there might be a second bomb upstairs from the -- where the first one went off in the same noodle shop. And so they did a sweep. Sweeping all the civilians and journalists out of the area at the . . .

WHITFIELD: And, Maria, are officials believing, at this point, that at least in the Kuta area, that this explosion took place solely in this restaurant and then, because of the kind of ricochet effect, the other nearby businesses were impacted? Or is it believed there were a series of explosions that began with that restaurant?

BAKKALAPULO: I'm not quite sure about that in particular. But it definitely was, you know, targeted at this restaurant. I was told that the -- maybe, though it's unconfirmed that the restaurant in Jimbaran may have been the same owner. But I don't know that for sure.

It definitely was inside this restaurant and then what may have flown out from the explosion affected the buildings around it. There was a tremendous amount of glass all over the road. And the whole building is completely mangled on the outside, even though the building is still standing.

WHITFIELD: OK. Maria Bakkalapulo joining us there from Kuta. And right now CNN confirming two deaths out of those series of explosions there on the island of Bali.

Tony.

HARRIS: And we'll take a quick break.

When we come back, we'll head back to New Orleans where some evacuees are returning to their homes for the first time.

A quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And turning now to New Orleans. Some residents are getting their first look at the damage left behind by Hurricane Katrina and the overwhelming challenge of reclaiming the city is beginning to sink in. CNN's Dan Lothian is there and he joins us live.

Dan, good morning.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony.

Well, yes, yesterday some 200,000 residence, approximately, could move back in or at least return to their home. Some of them can move back in, others can simply return and maybe collect their belongings and begin the process of cleaning up.

We picked up the newspaper this morning. Here are the headlines, "Bittersweet Homecoming." And then inside, "Returning New Orleans Residents Say They're Determined to Rebuild." Certainly, there is that determination, but it will be a long road ahead for many of them.

In many areas, you still don't have electricity. You can't drink the water. And some of the structures are, if they haven't been knocked down completely, they're still not sound. In fact, some of them have been tagged, saying that essentially you have to repair the roof or you have to repair the foundation. You have to shore it up before you can move in because it's still too dangerous. There is that potential of the building collapsing.

Yesterday, Mayor Ray Nagin said, in order for this city to rebuild they really will have to get the federal government's help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: So in essence I'm saying help us. Doesn't give us a hand out, but help us to create the right environment and we'll take it from there. We don't want to be an undue burden on the federal government, but we do think that we contribute to this nation. We contribute mightily to this nation. And we deserve to be treated accordingly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Now, the help in the rebuilding efforts, yesterday the mayor announced a formation of a commission made up of some 17 members. These will be people who will be giving advice, ideas, not only to the mayor but to the city, on how they can go through this rebuilding effort. He hopes to have a final plan from them by the end of the year. But no doubt the rebuilding effort will take a very, very, very long time.

Back to you.

HARRIS: A long time. CNN's Dan Lothian in New Orleans for us.

Dan, thank you.

WHITFIELD: It was 10 years ago Monday that the O.J. Simpson not guilty verdict unleashed an emotional outburst nationwide. It almost seems like it was just yesterday, sort of.

HARRIS: Yes, that's right.

WHITFIELD: You know, not that long ago. Well, next on CNN SATURDAY, where is Simpson today? You just might be surprised.

HARRIS: Plus, so far, 24,000 acres burned in California. The latest on the raging wildfires next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Police in south central Georgia is investigating a killing spree through two counties and four trailer parks that left five men dead and seven people wounded. Authorities believe all the victim were Hispanic and robbery was a possible motive in the Friday morning attacks. No arrests have been made.

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of his acquittal on murder charges, O.J. Simpson is signing autographs at a horror movie convention. Monday marks a decade since Simpson was acquitted of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. This weekend Simpson is in Los Angeles autographing sports memorabilia alongside actors from "Halloween" and "Salem's Lot."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O.J. SIMPSON, FMR. PRO FOOTBALL PLAYER: This is kind of an unusual video, you know. But as I said, I come here and focus on one thing, you know, memorabilia, signing what people want and them I'm gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you profiting from this at all, O.J., can I ask you? Are you profiting from this at all? For signing these autographs?

SIMPSON: I'm not doing it for my health.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Well, Simpson was later found liable for the deaths in a civil trial filed by the family of Ron Goldman.

Boston and New York are all tied up in the American League East. With just two games to go in the regular Major League Baseball season, the Red Sox beat the Yanks 5 to 3 last night at Fenway Park to draw into a first place tie, Fred, with the Bombers. And the same two teams play again today, tomorrow in Boston and it could end up at a one-game do or die playoff Monday in New York City.

Philadelphia kept its hopes alive for the post season by beating Washington 4 to 3 last night. That combined with Houston's 4 to 3 loss to Chicago puts the Phillies a game behind the Astros in the race for the national league wild card. The Phils play the Nationals and the Astros, the Cubs again today and tomorrow. Now if the Phillies and Astros finish their regular season in a tie, Fred, they would meet in a one-game playoff Monday.

WHITFIELD: Oh, Monday is potentially a big day.

HARRIS: In Philadelphia.

WHITFIELD: In baseball.

HARRIS: And good news for officials at Washington's national zoo. A baby panda . . .

WHITFIELD: I want to see that again.

HARRIS: Do we have pictures?

WHITFIELD: Yes. Oh, my gosh. It looks like a stuffed animal.

HARRIS: Look at that. It does, doesn't it? Yes.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. Like a little -- what do they call those little -- no, now I'm forgetting the name of the little toys. The little tiny stuffed animals.

HARRIS: Squishy stuff?

WHITFIELD: The Beanie babies. There we go.

HARRIS: OK.

WHITFIELD: Sorry about that.

HARRIS: OK. The veterinarians say the giant panda cub has doubled its length since its first examination two months ago. The panda was born July 9th with no fur and its eyes closed. It's 12 weeks old today.

WHITFIELD: All right. Want to update you on this breaking story we've been following for you all morning. Now, the numbers just in. Nineteen confirmed dead out of the series of explosions taking place on the island of Bali, the explosions taking place in the areas of Kuta and Jimbaran, frequented by tourists. And this is happening just one day after the U.S. embassy in Jakarta had been warning Americans there to be careful, to be vigilant because the threat of terrorism was still very high.

So, again, this explosion taking place at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. It is now past 10:00 p.m. there in Indonesia, in Bali, particularly, where the investigation is still underway. Trying to figure out who just might be responsible for these series of blasts.

Now in this country, out west, firefighters in Southern California are making headway in their battle against a huge wildfire. The blaze in the Simi Valley northwest area of Los Angeles has scorched about 24,000 acres. At last word it was about 40 percent contained. Lower temperatures and lighter winds are helping firefighters get a better handle on the flames.

The fire broke out three days ago and is one of several burning in Southern California. It has damaged or destroyed half a dozen structures, including three homes. But 2,000 other structures have been saved.

Inspector Ron Haralson with the Los Angeles County Fire Department is on the telephone with us with more information on this huge wildfire.

And Inspector Haralson, you've contained about 40 percent of it so far. Do you think today might be a day that perhaps you can contain more?

RON HARALSON, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPT.: That's correct. We're optimistic. We're looking to increase those numbers. You're correct, we're at about 40 percent. As far as the acreage burn, we're looking at about 23,970. Roughly 24,000 acres. With the help from the weather, we are looking to increase those numbers as far as our containment percentage.

WHITFIELD: Besides the weather, what do you need in order to make this a rewarding day of fighting this huge blaze?

HARALSON: Continued efforts from all of our crews. As we know, these crews are from the Southern California area, as well as the entire state. We had approximately 3,000 personnel at the height of this fire and we're looking at day three of this incident right now as we start to continue our fire fighting efforts.

And what we're doing is we're basically, with our bulldozers and with our camp crews and crews along the ground there, we're able to establish a line or perimeter, if you will.

WHITFIELD: Are there new areas being evacuated? And if so, what about the cooperation from the residents?

HARALSON: At this time, fortunately, there are no new evacuations. As a matter of fact, we are allowing those residents with I.D. back into some of those areas that had been evacuated early on in this incident. And also the evacuation centers have been closed, which is a good sign for residents.

WHITFIELD: Now there's another blaze taking place in Burbank. Is this, in any way, related?

HARALSON: This is several miles from the fire in which we're currently fighting, the Topanga fire, which started in Chatsworth. So this is going to be a totally separate incident right now. And L.A. City and Burbank fire are handling that.

WHITFIELD: What do we believe the cause of this Chatsworth/Topanga fire may be?

HARALSON: That's still under investigation. And, unfortunately, we don't have that information right now. We got -- our investigators will spend some time and determine the exact cause and exact origin of this fire.

WHITFIELD: And is the same being said for the Burbank area fire?

HARALSON: Absolutely. It's early on in that and they're still actively fighting this fire from the air and the ground. So that is to be determined shortly.

WHITFIELD: Inspector Ron Haralson of L.A. County, thank you so much. And best of luck on your efforts out there.

HARALSON: Thank you.

HARRIS: President Bush says expect more violence in Iraq, but should he expect support for the war to dwindle? Up next, what the Bush administration is saying about recent criticism over the war in Iraq.

WHITFIELD: And a month after Katrina, many pets still don't have homes. In a moment, we'll talk to the head of a special organization stepping in to help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Good morning, everyone. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Tony Harris on this, the first day of October.

WHITFIELD: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for joining us. Let's get started with some of the stories in the news right now.

A dramatic rise in the death toll after a string of explosions rocks a tourist beach on the island of Bali this morning. Hospital officials now report at least 19 people were killed. Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman says the blasts appear to be the work of terrorists. Just yesterday, the U.S. embassy warned that the terrorist threat to Americans and other westerners in Indonesia was high.

Operation Iron Fist is in full swing this hour as the U.S. military takes aim at the al Qaeda hideouts in Western Iraq. The pounding began early this morning in Sa'da, along Iraq's border with Syria. The city is considered an entry point for foreign fighters and a support system for al Qaeda in Iraq.

American tourist Gregory Olsen is out of this world, on the trip of a lifetime. Olsen is on board a Russian Soyuz rocket this morning. And at this hour, he's streaking toward the International Space Station. He reportedly paid $20 million for the two-day trek.

And NASA says the space shuttle's next mission likely will be delayed. Continuing problems with the insulating foam around the fuel tanks have stalled the program. NASA says a lift-off planned for March probably won't happen now until May.

And former NFL running back Timmy Smith has been arrested on drug charges in Denver. Smith, who wore the number 36 jersey for Washington Redskins, was arrested after he allegedly sold a half a kilogram of cocaine to an undercover federal drug agent.

HARRIS: President Bush hopes to dispel concerns about the readiness of Iraqi security forces. In today's radio dress, he said he is encouraged, despite reports the numbers and capability of Iraqi security troops are dwindling.

Elaine Quijano is live with more now from the White House. Elaine, good morning.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Tony.

And those Iraqi forces are a critical component of the U.S.' exit strategy. President Bush has said time and time that again as those Iraqi forces stand up, U.S. troops can stand down.

Well, today, as you mentioned, the president did focus his radio address on what he says is progress in the training, in the capability and the numbers of the Iraqi forces who are able to take on those security responsibilities.

Now, the president, at the same time, though, warned about more violence, particularly ahead of two big elections, the first being on October 15, when Iraqis will head to the polls to vote on their constitution.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Defeating the terrorists in Iraq will require more time and more sacrifice. Yet all Americans can have confidence in the military commanders who are leading the effort in Iraq and in the troops under their command. They have made important gains in recent weeks and months. They're adapting our strategy to meet the needs on the ground, and they're helping us to bring victory in the war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: And earlier this week, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq said that the next two and a half months are going to be critical in determining whether officials will be able to draw down the number of U.S. forces there. General George Casey saying that he will have a better sense of exactly how the U.S. military will be able to proceed after those elections.

But in the meantime, Bush administration is trying to rally public support for the Iraq war and the larger war on terror. On Monday, the vice president heads to North Carolina to deliver remarks on that. And then on Thursday, Tony, here in Washington, President Bush will make remarks as well on that topic -- Tony.

HARRIS: So, Elaine, John Roberts sworn in, on the job as chief justice of the United States. The president has another seat to fill on the high court. When might we get a name?

QUIJANO: Well, we're hearing as early as Monday, Tony. In fact, White House spokesman Scott McClellan saying on the day that John Roberts was, in fact, confirmed that we would now be in a window of possibility. Of course, we didn't have anything yesterday.

And it was interesting to note is that when asked whether or not the president would be taking some briefing materials with him to Camp David this weekend, the presidential retreat in Maryland, they didn't really say anything, just kind of looked at us and nodded. But certainly, some very strong signals that Monday could be the day -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Elaine Quijano at the White House. Elaine, thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, it has been more than a month now since hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and there's still a whole lot of pets without homes. Some of them left behind by their owners who evacuated. Guess what? A lot of them may never return.

An organization called Noah's Wish is trying to find a home for animals lost in Louisiana. The group's founder, Terri Crisp, joins us now from Baton Rouge.

Good to see you, Terri. How many pets are we talking about?

TERRI CRISP, FOUNDER, NOAH'S WISH: Well, right now, this morning, we still have 820 animals that are in our care. We're happy to report that about 60 percent of them, we actually know who the owners are. They're just not in a position yet to be able to take them back home with them.

WHITFIELD: How in the world would you go about finding these owners, or are the owners finding you?

CRISP: Well, you all have been a big help. All the news media have really helped to get the word out that we do have these animals and that they are anxious to be reunited with their families.

And we've done a lot of posting of information in the community of Slidell where we've been working. And a lot of word of mouth, because these disaster victims are often times in the same locations together. And one of the biggest topics of discussion is what happened to the animals.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Do you kind of categorize these animals, like we found this pet in the Lower Ninth Ward area or we found this pet in the Slidell area? And that's how, perhaps, you can help assist owners find their pets? Are you cataloging, I guess I'm asking?

CRISP: Definitely so. This is nothing new to us. Noah's Wish, all we do is disaster relief work for animals. So we have a system in place to keep track of where all the animals have come from.

All of our rescues have been done in the city of Slidell, working in cooperation with Slidell Animal Control. I'd like to encourage anyone who is in Slidell as a resident, looking for their animals, that they come by and visit our shelter, which is on Bayou Lane next to Heritage Park. Or they can go to our web site at NoahsWish.org to get information on how to come and identify, reclaim their animals.

WHITFIELD: What kind of condition are most of these animals in now, one month after so many of these pets went through so much, being abandoned in homes or, you know, trudging through filthy, watery messes?

CRISP: The animals, for the most part, are in good shape. And that's because we're putting so much time and energy into meeting all of their needs. We've got a team of veterinarians that have been on site, dealing with any of the medical needs that have come up. LSU, that hospital has been great in treating some of the more critical ones.

What they really need right now, though, is just some TLC. And with the number of volunteers we have on site, we've been able to do that. And if anything, you certainly can accuse us of spoiling all the dogs and cats in our care.

WHITFIELD: I'm sure the dogs and cats very much appreciate that. So now how long will you hold on to these animals before allowing them to be released to any home that may want them? You know, before I guess, giving their rightful owners an opportunity, too, to claim them.

CRISP: Yes, and that's important. When the animals come in to us, they're held for a period of 30 days from that date that they arrive. And then after that period is up, for another 30 days, they are available to foster. And if after 60 days no one has come forward to claim them, then they are available for adoption.

So, some of our animals will be coming up on the 30 days starting next week, and we'll be moving them into foster homes as local to Slidell as we can to make it as convenient as possible for people to come and look for them.

WHITFIELD: And so Terri, you're stuck of course, being an animal lover, only an animal lover could take up this huge undertaking. So have you found yourself a personal attachment to any one dog or cat out there that you're almost...?

CRISP: I have to walk through the shelter with blinders on, because there are so many of them. And we have such exception animals right now. But there is a black kitten, and he's moved into our command center. And I fully suspect that Slidell will be going home with me to California.

WHITFIELD: That's so sweet. All right. Once again, we want to put up the web site information: www.NoahsWish.org. And give me the location again where people can locate you physically if they are in that area?

CRISP: We are in Slidell, Bayou Lane. It's 1325, right next to Heritage Park. It's the public works yard. Anyone in town pretty much now knows where we are. So if you need help, find a law enforcement personnel and they can direct you to where we are.

WHITFIELD: All right. Terri Crisp. From one animal lover to another, you're doing a great job.

CRISP: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much.

HARRIS: You may not have worried too much about avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu since it first appeared in Southeast Asia in 1997, but U.S. government is plenty concerned. As CNN's Brian Todd explains, some health experts fear bird flu will eventually ignite a human pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What began as a simple outbreak among farm birds in Hong Kong eight years ago now has top health officials speaking ominously about what they say could be the next global pandemic.

DICK THOMPSON, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The best case scenario, the most mild pandemic, would cause in excess 2 million to 7.4 million deaths, but the numbers certainly go much higher.

TODD: We spoke to officials at the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to gauge their concerns about a strain called H5-N1, also known as avian flu or, simply, bird flu.

Human cases are reported in four countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. More than half who get it die. The World Health Organization says the death toll now stands at 60.

Most human cases have stemmed from direct contact with sick animals, but experts say humans pass the flu to each other from contact with nose or throat secretions. So far, people with avian flu cannot easily infect other humans, but if this strain mutates, that could change.

THOMPSON: What we worry about is that this virus will infect a human or another animal that has a circulating strain of the normal human influenza virus and that these two viruses will mix and out of that will come a virus that has this human characteristic of jumping from human to human, but also the avian characteristic of being very lethal.

TODD: There is no confirmed cure for avian flu and no vaccine as of yet, although the U.S. government has purchased a vaccine in development. For now, anti-viral medications on the market can combat avian flu, but those have not proven very effective so far. Once a vaccine is made, health and human services officials hope to stockpile enough of that for 20 million people and enough anti-virals for another 20 million.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Well, predicting when or where a hurricane will hit, well, that's tricky business. And coming up, CNN cameras take you behind the scenes at the National Hurricane Center to capture the difficulty and drama of tracking a monster storm. You're watching CNN SATURDAY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: And checking the hour's top stories, several explosions rock the tourist area on the Indonesian island of Bali. Right now at least 19 deaths are reporting. Three years ago, you may remember, bombings blamed on an al Qaeda linked terror group killed more than 200 people in a nightclub district on the island.

A big new counterinsurgency operation under way in Western Iraq. Operation Iron Fist is taking place in the town of Sa'da about 12 miles from the Syrian border. The U.S. Marine-led operation involves about 1,000 American troops. U.S. military officials say its objective is to root out al Qaeda forces operating in the area.

The next space shuttle flight won't be getting off the ground as early as planned. NASA is expected to push back the next scheduled launch from March to May. Engineers are trying to fix a problem with insulating foam that falls off the spacecraft's fuel tank.

WHITFIELD: Two big hurricanes have slammed into the United States this season. And while a lot of progress has been made in predicting where big storms just might make land fall, pinpointing the location remains a guessing game.

CNN's Jim Clancy takes a closer look at all the hard work confronting forecasters as they tracked Hurricane Rita.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR (voice-over): The forecasters first thought Rita would grow to a Category 4 storm around 2 p.m. Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Rita did intensify. But it became stronger quicker than what we had predicted.

CLANCY: Predicting a storm's intensity is one of the major challenges scientists face. They have satellites in space to see it, buoys in the water to take the temperature, and airplanes in harm's way to measure wind speed and moisture.

All this data, and forecasters have cut the margin of error for where a storm will hit by 50 percent over the last 14 years. But as for forecasting the intensity of a storm...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't gotten much better at all in predicting wind speeds in hurricanes. We don't do a very good job of that.

CLANCY: Late Wednesday afternoon, more data from an Air Force plane in the center of the storm. Rita has become a monster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rita has reached a Category 5 hurricane with a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of 45 knots.

CLANCY: For those in Rita's path, the only hopeful sign is the possibility the storm could pass over an eddy of slightly cooler water and weaken. (on camera) So is that great news for Texas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no good news for Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by.

WHITFIELD: That's going to be interesting. You can find out a lot more about these big storms and what forecasters go through coming up at 8 p.m. Eastern on "Monster: Tracking the Storm." "CNN PRESENTS" will follow forecasters, emergency officials and other people who worked frantically as Hurricane Rita roared toward Texas and Louisiana.

The island of Taiwan is preparing for the possible arrival of a typhoon.

HARRIS: Wow.

WHITFIELD: The powerful storm is expected to slam full force into Taiwan tomorrow. Right now, it's right off the country's east coast. Authorities say the storm could cause severe damage, including mud and rock slides.

HARRIS: Here's the big thing. It could become a super typhoon.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

HARRIS: I don't even know what that means, exactly.

WHITFIELD: Which means bigger.

HARRIS: Bigger.

WHITFIELD: And stronger, but is the scale similar to what we know the scale to be for the Atlantic hurricane Category 1 through 5?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. But, you know, in the Pacific, they're used to really strong storms. In order for it to be a super typhoon, it has to be what we would consider a Category 5 hurricane.

HARRIS: Oh.

SCHNEIDER: Right now, Longwang, which is a pretty powerful typhoon, is a Category 4.

WHITFIELD: Still frightening.

SCHNEIDER: Still very frightening, especially for Taiwan. Let's go ahead and show you that satellite picture now. We can take a look at this typhoon as it barrels towards Taiwan and China.

It is expected to make land fall later tonight or early tomorrow in Taiwan. And not that that's a very mountainous part of the country there where it's supposed to make landfall. And because it's so mountainous, it should disrupt the storm a little bit.

And as we take a look at the track, which is on our other computer, you'll see that actually the storm, as it works its way towards China, should weaken a bit and become a Category 2, at least with lessening winds. So that's some good news. But right now, for China it is not a good situation for Taiwan, because we have a Category 4 storm headed their way as we work our way into tonight and into tomorrow.

Now taking a look at the U.S. and our concerns, we're watching a brand new tropical depression. This is No. 20. This is a storm that we've been watching, actually, for days, an area of disturbed weather over the Caribbean. It's causing some thunderstorms towards Jamaica, towards the Cayman Islands. And right now it's a weak tropical depression, but it is something that's worth watching because of the track, and we'll show you that right now.

Right now maximum winds are at 30. This is likely to become a tropical storm, but it looks like that won't happen until it after it hits the Yucatan Peninsula. And that's going to occur as early as tomorrow and even into late tonight. We'll start to see some storms advance towards places like Talume (ph) and Cozumel and Cancun in Mexico, already hard hit this tropical season.

The big question is for tropical depression No. 20, will it affect the U.S. mainland? And as you look at our cone of uncertainty, we'll start talking more about this, I'd say, Tuesday into Wednesday. South -- extreme south Texas is in that cone of uncertainty.

However, once you start projecting further along, three to five days, most of our computer models are taking this more into Mexico rather than into Texas. But because there is any kind of threat even near the U.S./Mexico border, we'll be watching this very, very closely for you in the days to come.

And that's not the only tropical depression out there. Early this morning, well, well out, 600 miles from the Cape Verde Islands is tropical depression No. 19. That's going to be 20, so it's No. 19.

And we're expecting the storm to strengthen. Right now it's now drifting and eventually on its way further to the north and it's going to push out to sea and stay out into the Atlantic. So it looks like 19 won't cause threats.

And one of these two storms will strengthen enough so we'll be seeing a named storm, and that -- next name on the list is Stan, already up to the letter S.

Checking things out in California, still a very favorable weather plan for today for firefighters. We're seeing that light, onshore flow, meaning lighter winds, some moist air coming in the jet stream well to the north. So a favorable pattern for those fighting fires out in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. So that is some good news that we'll be seeing some better conditions.

Also pretty warm through the nation's mid section, still feeling like summer, even though it's October 1 in many locations. High temperatures will be soaring well into the 80s in a lot of locations like St. Louis. Look for a high of 82 -- Fredricka, Tony.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much. Let's just stop at 20. It's a good number. This is crazy, isn't it?

SCHNEIDER: It's been a very, very busy season and it's not over until November 30.

WHITFIELD: I know. We've got a long way to go.

HARRIS: You made it to the main land with that forecast. I thought you were going to stay in the tropics all morning. Thank you, Bonnie.

He is not an astronaut or a cosmonaut, but he is getting a bird's eye view of the planet Earth and all this activity.

WHITFIELD: He's having fun, too, isn't he?

HARRIS: Yes. The world's third space tourist is on his way to the International Space Station. A Russian Soyuz rocket with American millionaire scientist Gregory Olsen and a U.S.-Russian space crew on board blasted off this morning from Kazakhstan. Olsen reportedly paid $20 million for a seat on the flight. More on that story coming up in our next hour.

WHITFIELD: What are the most interesting stories on the Internet this morning?

HARRIS: Is the discovery of this giant squid one of them? You'll have to stick around to find out. CNN.com's Veronica De La Cruz is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: I bet you're wondering this morning, what stories are making waves with web surfers at CNN.com this morning?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN.COM: I bet you are.

WHITFIELD: Where's that Veronica De La Cruz? Fill us in.

DE LA CRUZ: Fredricka, actually, let's take a look at some stories making waves. There is one. It's from under the sea, and I'm going to get to it. But first, do you know how to find these stories on line? We're going to tell you. We're going to tell you.

WHITFIELD: I'm terrible. That's embarrassing.

DE LA CRUZ: To find them, you want to log on to CNN.com, obviously. Look for the green watch box. Click on "browse and search," then select the tab that says "most popular."

Here's a story that lots of viewers are clicking on. As residents return home to New Orleans, what are they finding? Well, Dan Lothian talks to two residents of the Big Easy about their homecoming.

And another piece of video receiving a lot of clicks. As 24,000 acres burn in California, Bill Nye, The Science Guy, gives a scientific explanation as to why these fires burn there year after year.

Finally, just like I promised, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

DE LA CRUZ: This one, coming at us from under the sea. Japanese scientists have photographed for the first time in the wild a 20-foot long squid. It -- looking at those pictures, you guys, wouldn't you say -- all you see are the tentacles.

HARRIS: Yes.

DE LA CRUZ: It kind of looks like an octopus, doesn't it?

HARRIS: Yes.

WHITFIELD: You heard my comment on that earlier, so OK.

DE LA CRUZ: Take a look at this. Did you see the size of its head? It's just -- it's ginormous (ph).

WHITFIELD: Ginormous?

DE LA CRUZ: If you will.

WHITFIELD: Wait a minute. But that is not the actual one in the photograph? This is just an example of?

DE LA CRUZ: That is the squid, the giant squid.

HARRIS: That is it?

WHITFIELD: They captured it? I thought they left it.

DE LA CRUZ: You know, honestly, I can't answer that for you. You're going to have to log on to CNN.com and get that answer.

HARRIS: I see. I see.

DE LA CRUZ: It's all in that report.

WHITFIELD: Interesting.

DE LA CRUZ: But we were talking about that. And what were you saying? Eyes the size of Frisbees?

HARRIS: Frisbees.

WHITFIELD: That's big.

HARRIS: Yes. WHITFIELD: That tells me big.

DE LA CRUZ: Huge.

WHITFIELD: I know. It is fascinating.

DE LA CRUZ: Anyways, it's all online at CNN.com, guys.

HARRIS: Great.

WHITFIELD: We'll be looking.

HARRIS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. That's going to do it for us at this hour.

HARRIS: We're done.

WHITFIELD: But of course, CNN continues throughout the next hour. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Have a great day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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