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Congress Grills Former FEMA Director Michael Brown; Trent Lott Battles Insurance Company in Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Aired February 10, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
We were last in this city, New Orleans, three weeks ago. And, truth be told, nothing much has changed here.

Here, in our case, tonight is a part of town across from the Lakeview area and city park, in the Gentilly section, just a few steps away from Bayou Saint John, which runs north from here into Lake Pontchartrain.

To be precise, we are at five -- 5801 Bancroft (ph) Drive, where the home of Lea Freeman, a home that, like so many in New Orleans, may face the wrecking ball very soon.

And, for a moment, I just want you to take a look at what a home here looks like. This, more than five months since this storm, just to walk into this home, I have to put on a mask, because the smell of the mold is so great, you can see it. It lines the walls all around here.

The possessions are still all just laying all about. Lea will tell you later on in the program how -- the trouble she's having with insurance companies, who -- who aren't stepping up to help her clean up this mess.

And you go here, block after block, home after home, all the homes in this stretch, here in Lakeview, they're all like this. We're going to show you more of the home a little bit later.

But we came back to New Orleans, because, for a lot of people in this neighborhood and all across the area, their government is still failing them, failing to provide housing, even in trailers, failing to get money where it's needed, failing to stop the blame game over who knew what, as this house, 5801 Bancroft (ph), and all the others, were being destroyed.

So, that's what where we begin tonight, with Senate hearings in Washington, ex-FEMA director Michael Brown, and new evidence showing what FEMA knew, what the White House knew and when.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Meserve.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Brown uncensored. MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY DIRECTOR: It was balls to the wall. I was literally constrained by Secretary Chertoff. And I was certainly screaming and cussing at people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel like you have been sort of set up to be the scapegoat...

BROWN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to be the fall guy?

BROWN: Yes, sir. I -- I can't lie...


BROWN: ... lie to you. But, yes, I feel that way.

MESERVE: But, today, Brown got even, dishing who know what when about New Orleans. President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff have said they didn't know the enormity of the crisis until Tuesday, August 30, the day after Katrina made landfall.

But Brown said he had made the picture clear Monday in video conferences with top Homeland officials.

BROWN: So, for them to now claim that we didn't have awareness of it, I think, is just baloney.

MESERVE: He also testified, he had talked that Monday to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Did you tell Mr. Hagin in that phone call that New Orleans was flooding?

BROWN: I think I told him that we were realizing our worst nightmare.

MESERVE: But Brown said he didn't remember whether he had talked to the president or Chertoff the day of the storm.

Brown said that he was well aware of FEMA's shortcomings long before Katrina, but his efforts to improve preparedness had been futile, because FEMA was doomed to failure in a Department of Homeland Security focused on terrorism.

BROWN: This was a natural disaster that has become the stepchild within the Department of Homeland Security.

MESERVE: But not all the senators were buying Brown's pitch.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: You didn't provide the leadership. Even -- even with structural infirmities, strong leadership can overcome that. And, clearly, that wasn't the case here. BROWN: Well, Senator, that's very easy for you to say sitting behind that dais, and not being there, in the middle of that disaster, watching that human suffering and watching those people dying.

MESERVE: It is unclear how much of that Michael Brown saw, if any. He spent most of the crisis in Baton Rouge, at the order of Michael Chertoff.

MESERVE (on camera): The White House is not reacting to Brown's testimony, saying only that it has its own report on the Katrina response in the works. But a Department of Homeland Security spokesman says, if there was a failure in Washington to grasp the situation in New Orleans, it was the fault of the battlefield commander on the ground, Mike Brown.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, wherever and with whomever the blame lies, there is new evidence tonight backing Mr. Brown's take on that timeline and raising serious doubts about the White House version up to this point.

Once again, remember, the president and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff both have said that they didn't know the levees had broken until Tuesday. They said this was an unforeseeable, unpredictable event.

The new timeline comes from e-mails made public by Democrats, we should point out, on the committee you just saw, but gathered by Democratic and Republican staffers as part of the bipartisan investigation.

With that, let's check what the government authorities in New Orleans were saying on Monday as Katrina hit.


COOPER: 9:08 a.m. Monday morning: The National Weather Service reports that a levee has broken at the Industrial Canal, near the Saint Bernard-Orleans Parish line. That's just over there, a few hundred yards away, where that crane is, here in the lower Ninth Ward.

That information was received by the Homeland Security Operation Center at 11:41 a.m.

(voice-over): 10:00 a.m.: a National Weather Service local statement -- quote -- "Levees overtopped in or Orleans and Saint Bernard Parishes. Extensive and life-threatening storm surge. Flooding occurring along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast at this time. Significant and life-threatening storm surge, 18 to 22 feet above normal."

Also, at 10:00 a.m.: an e-mail from a Homeland Security official in New Orleans. "It's getting bad," it says. "Major flooding in some parts of the city. People are calling for rescue, saying they are trapped in attics, etcetera."

And at 11:51 a.m., this ominous warning: "New Orleans fire department is reporting a 20-foot wide breach on the Lake Pontchartrain-side levee. The area is Lake Shore (ph) Boulevard and 17th Street."

At today's Senate hearing, Michael Brown said the worsening situation was conveyed to officials at both the White House and Homeland Security headquarters if conference calls.

(on camera): By 6:00 p.m., the human tragedy is clear, at least to those here on the ground.

(voice-over): At 6:08 p.m., a Red Cross e-mail sent to Homeland Security and White House officials describes radio chatter that -- quote -- "There was thousands of people on the rooftops that needed to be saved."

Brown himself calls the president in Crawford, Texas, and speaks to Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin.

BROWN: I had a -- a personal relationship with Joe, and Joe understands emergency management, number one. Number two, he's at Crawford with the president.


BROWN: So...

COOPER: And you want -- and -- and you -- you, quite appropriately and admirably, wanted to get the word to the president...

BROWN: That's correct.

LIEBERMAN: ... as quickly as you could.

Did you tell Mr. Hagin in that phone call that New Orleans was flooding?

BROWN: I think I told him that we were realizing our worst nightmare.

COOPER (on camera): Here, in Lakeview, at 10:30 p.m. on Monday evening, another report from FEMA's Marty Bahamonde.

He said -- and I quote -- "There's a quarter-mile breach in the levee near the 17th Street Canal" -- that's just over there -- "about 200 yards from Lake Pontchartrain, allowing water to flow into the city. An estimated two-thirds to 75 percent of the city is under water. A few bodies were seen floating in the water."

(voice-over): That information was being conveyed by FEMA to the Department of Homeland Security via teleconference. But while Brown says he called the White House, he never called his boss, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, who the Department of Homeland Security says was trying to separate fact from fiction from the various and often conflicting reports.

Why didn't Brown call Chertoff? At today's hearing, he complained about FEMA being put under Chertoff's department, leaving one senator to conclude that personal animosity between Brown and Chertoff broke a vital line of communication.

SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: It's very clear, from his answer to my questions, that he deliberately chose not to involve Secretary Chertoff. And the -- the stunning thing to me was his statement that it wouldn't have done any good; DHS was in my hair, so I always dealt directly with the White House.

That is a prescription for organizational chaos.

COOPER: So, did the White House and the Department of Homeland Security simply fail to respond to clear signals that New Orleans was in dire trouble, or did Brown fail to communicate it the way he should have, choosing, instead, to make an end-run around his boss and try to go straight to the president?

In either case, the message didn't sink in. And while Washington was still unaware that the levees had broken:

LIEBERMAN: They went to sleep Monday night, as Secretary Chertoff said, thinking New Orleans had dodged the bullet. Meantime, in New Orleans, the poor people are drowning.


COOPER: Well, now the White House take -- or absence of it -- on both Michael Brown's testimony and the evidence of the e-mails.

With that, here's CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the president went about his public schedule like business as usual, behind the scenes, the White House went into full P.R. battle mode. Aides were furious, not over Mike Brown's testimony, which they chose not to respond to, but a "New York Times" article that slammed the administration for its handling of Katrina -- the press secretary and other aides calling it inaccurate, sad and demoralizing.

The paper reported, the White House knew of the levees' failure on the night of the storm, but that the alert did not seem to register for the president.

The White House says, in those first 24 to 48 hours: "The top priority at the time was on saving lives. It was on search-and-rescue operations. We knew full well the flooding that was going on, and that's why our efforts were focused on rescuing people."

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan also said, in an off- camera briefing saying, as for the levees, "There were conflicting reports coming in, in the initial aftermath of the storm in regards to the levee system. Some were saying it was overtopped. Some were saying it was breached. I think there was official confirmation that the levees had been breached the next morning, on Tuesday morning.'

The White House defended its initial response: "The night before the storm hit, the president did call the area governors and New Orleans's major, issued emergency declaration for federal relief, and issued this warning from his Crawford ranch."

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf Coast communities.

MALVEAUX: But his subsequent trips to Arizona and California and comments like this...

BUSH: And Brownie you are doing a heck of a job.

MALVEAUX: ... gave many Americans the impression he was out of touch.

(on camera): White House officials acknowledged again that the government failed on every level. They are eager to put out their own lessons-learned report by Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend, and they say that report is coming very soon.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.


COOPER: Well, we want to look more closely at the major disconnect that jumps out at you here. On the other hand, you have got neighborhoods destroyed, homes unlivable, as far as the eye can see. Meanwhile, almost six months later, trailer homes like these still haven't been delivered to tens of thousand of people in need. Why? We will try to find out ahead.

And many folks are forced to live out of their cars or trucks, after being evicted from hotels and more evictions to come. We're going to look at that -- when this special edition of 360 from New Orleans continues.



BROWN: I e-mailed a White House official that evening about how bad it was, making sure that they knew, again, how bad that it was. We were realizing our worst nightmare...


BROWN: ... that everything that we had planned about, worried about, that FEMA, frankly, had worried about for 10 years, was coming true.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: A combative Michael Brown, former director of FEMA, testifying before a Senate panel today -- Brown refusing to be scapegoated for the Bush administration's response to Katrina.

As I told you earlier, we are at the home of -- of Lea Freeman.

Lea, thanks very much for letting us into your home.


COOPER: Your home is probably going to be demolished, right?

FREEMAN: It will be, yes.

COOPER: I just want to kind of -- if you could just kind of walk us through to...


COOPER: ... to show viewers...


COOPER: ... what so many people here in New Orleans, what kind of situation they're dealing in their homes. This -- how long have you lived here?

FREEMAN: Fifteen years. And, as you can see, it's utterly devastated.

COOPER: This is -- this is -- was the living room. So, all -- these are all your...

FREEMAN: Actually, this was the den.

COOPER: This was the den. Are these were all your possessions?


COOPER: Was -- was -- I mean, none of this is salvageable, right?

FREEMAN: Nothing. Nothing is salvageable.

COOPER: So, family photographs, all -- you just have to kind of...

FREEMAN: All gone. Artwork, all gone.

COOPER: And everything is -- I mean, it's -- it's covered in this mold. I mean, it's -- it -- the -- the air, it's -- it's very difficult to breathe in here. For health reasons, it's recommended that -- that we have masks.

FREEMAN: That we wear masks. This is the funny part about the house. The -- the -- waterline, they say, came to here. And, of course, the roof, wind damage -- but the part here, where all the mold is, is not covered by either wind or flood.

COOPER: So, wait a minute. Insurance covers...

FREEMAN: Up to the flood line.

COOPER: Up to the flood line, but not up to here?

FREEMAN: Correct.

COOPER: Not anything beyond that.

FREEMAN: So, there is this little space that is not covered.

COOPER: And you're having real trouble with insurance companies, as are many people here in New Orleans, because they're saying this is a result of flood...

FREEMAN: And not...

COOPER: ... not of wind.

FREEMAN: Correct.

COOPER: And if it was the -- the results of wind, then, they would reimburse you.

FREEMAN: Correct.

COOPER: But...


FREEMAN: And, also, for loss of use, the first adjuster -- adjuster said, sure, we will cover loss of use. But, then, they said, no, you have to prove that it's from wind and not flood.


COOPER: I mean, this is just incredible, that -- that five months, that...

FREEMAN: See the kitchen? Like, this is...

COOPER: This is all still, like, exactly -- I mean, this could have been the -- the week after the storm.


COOPER: And this was -- what room was this?

FREEMAN: This is the living room, actually.

COOPER: Look at this wall. This is just...


COOPER: ... incredible.



FREEMAN: Yes, it's pretty incredible.

But you see how the furniture is? The -- the water actually moved -- picked everything up and moved it around. I mean...

COOPER: Oh, so, this was all where the water left it?

FREEMAN: This is where the water left it.

COOPER: Incredible.

FREEMAN: And, as you can see, I mean, I wanted to get some -- some pieces out. There were antique pieces, like that little table over there. It's all buckled and ruined and...

COOPER: So, when are you going to -- when -- when will the house be demolished?

FREEMAN: I don't know. We're waiting to see. We're going to demolish four of them in a row, and probably any day now.

COOPER: Well, I'm -- I'm so sorry for what you're going through.

And -- and, I mean, you know you're not alone, because everyone...

FREEMAN: Oh, no.

COOPER: ... in this neighborhood, all -- all the homes on this side are -- are going through it as well. And it's -- you know, people around the country talk about Katrina fatigue.

And -- and it always kind of makes me annoyed they say that, because the only people who should be fatigued are -- are -- are you and the people who live here.


And the sad thing is, we're sandwiched between two sets of grandparents. And they're not -- they can't come back and rebuild. They have lived here for over 50 years. So, the neighborhood is going to have to -- the whole logistics of the neighborhood, the whole feeling is changing.

COOPER: Well, I wish you the best.

FREEMAN: Thank you. COOPER: Lea Freeman.

COOPER: A powerful senator takes on an insurance company over Katrina. That is coming up.

But, first, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we are following tonight -- Erica.


A Kuwaiti TV station airing a new tape of Jill Carroll -- and her kidnappers have reportedly threatened to kill the American journalist if their demands are not met by February 26. Carroll's captors want all female Iraqi prisoners released. The TV station owner told CNN he believes the kidnappers are the same ones who seized two Italians in 2004 and released them after a $1 million ransom was paid.

In London today, Neil Entwistle, the Englishman charge with killing his wife and daughter in Massachusetts, waived his right to fight extradition to the United States -- an about-face from what he had told the judge on Thursday. Entwistle turned to his father in court and said, "I'm OK, dad."

In Alabama tonight, a possible clue in the investigation into the fires that have charred nine Baptist churches. A handprint was lifted from front door of one church. Five of the congregations are predominantly African-American. Four are predominantly white. No one has been injured in the fires.

And, in Pennsylvania, former Connecticut Governor John Rowland walking out of federal prison Friday, after serving 10 months for corruption. He will now be fitted with an electronic bracelet and spend four months under house arrest -- Anderson.

COOPER: Erica, thanks very much. We will talk to you shortly.

It has been almost six months now since the water rose and fell here. Senator Trent Lott's house, for instance, rose and fell with it. Coming up -- why he is now engaged in a tug of war with his insurance company, just like everybody else.

And those are all trailers -- take a look -- as far as the eye can see in that lot, just what the thousands of people displaced by Katrina need, and have been waiting for. Too bad they're in the wrong place.

We're "Keeping Them Honest" next -- when this special edition of 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, just this week, in New Orleans, "The Times- Picayune" reported that total losses from Katrina will top $60 billion. By comparison, it reported that's almost twice the amount insurance companies paid out after the 9/11 attacks. But many people's claims are being rejected, as you just heard from Lea, among them, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott.

That's right, Trent Lott. And he now finds himself in the role of the little guy leading the charge against his insurance company.

CNN's Sean Callebs has more.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of all the Katrina victims, he has the highest profile. This was early September, the first time Senator Trent Lott saw his property after the devastating storm.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: You can't help but shed a few tears. This is -- this is where our home was.

CALLEBS: His $750,000 beachfront home in Pascagoula, Mississippi, simply wiped out.

LOTT: The first floor was probably about 12 or 14 feet above sea level. But, when you get hit with a 20-foot wall of water, not many places can withstand that kind of an erosion.

CALLEBS: Like so many in this region, Lott lost everything here. Like so many, he is frustrated with his insurance company, in this case, State Farm. Unlike so many, Lott is a power broker and is suing.

Lott hired his brother-in-law, Dickie Scruggs. Scruggs made his name and a fortune winning legal battles against big tobacco and the asbestos industry. Pascagoula City Manager Kay Kell has known Lott 15 years, and says, go get 'em.

KAY KELL, PASCAGOULA, MISSISSIPPI, CITY MANAGER: That's Trent. That's how he got where he is. He's very strong. If he thinks it's the right thing to do, he will fight it all the way. So, we're -- we are proud of him. And we're glad to have him.

CALLEBS: Lott is fed up, because State Farm said the storm surge floodwaters destroyed the 150-year-old home that stood here, not Katrina's punishing winds. Homeowners insurance doesn't cover damage from floods, only from wind.

Lott had federal flood insurance. It pays a maximum of $250,000, not enough to rebuild.

(on camera): Lott has said, this is home, and says he plans on rebuilding. He's powerful, and he's influential. And State Farm says it can empathize with the Mississippi senator.

(voice-over): But State Farm wants the lawsuit dismissed, saying: "We handle each claim on its own merits. And we pay what we owe, based on our contract with the policyholder."

It's been the same story all over the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast -- homeowners unable to rebuild because their insurance doesn't cover flooding and the argument over whether wind caused any of the damage.

Pete Floyd has lived a block from Lott for about 20 years. Floyd says he had flood insurance and got about $130,000, but got only $5,500 from his homeowners policy, so, he understands insurance rage.

PETE FLOYD, NEIGHBOR OF MISSISSIPPI SENATOR TRENT LOTT: I mean, Trent got on the news and said, I think there's going to be hell to pay if you all don't do something.

CALLEBS: That's exactly what he said.

LOTT: The people of the area that have been damaged by Hurricane Katrina cannot wait any longer. And I expect this to be done momentarily. And, if it's not, there's going to be hell to pay this day.

CALLEBS: Lott says the insurance company is trying to dodge its responsibilities. And while it's unclear whether there will be hell to pay, State Farm says, it doesn't have to pay Lott.

Sean Callebs, CNN, Pascagoula, Mississippi.


COOPER: Much more ahead from New Orleans, all part of "Keeping Them Honest."

Take a look at this. Eleven thousand empty mobile homes paid for with $431 million of your tax dollars, sitting unused, at a cost of $25,000 a month -- we have got just one question. Why?

Also, he is back in New Orleans, at work again -- a bus driver whose truck is now his home. That's right. He is sleeping, even eating, in his truck, after losing his hotel room that FEMA was paying for. Why is this happening five months after Katrina? -- that and more when this special edition of 360 from New Orleans continues.


COOPER: And welcome back.

You're looking at the debris in one person's house, Lea Freeman -- all her personal possessions, all still laying out more than five months since the storm hit. The home will just be demolished -- all the possessions just soon thrown away.

We have been whacking away at this story ever since it became apparent that a problem existed. And we will keep whacking away at it, until the problem is solved. What is the problem, you ask? Well, the one involving all the people left homeless after Hurricane Katrina, and all the trailers that have been promised to provide them, and why bureaucratic red tape, if not excuses -- a lot of excuses -- seem to prevent the people from getting the trailers and mobile homes they're supposed to get.

And, if the following makes your angry, well, it should. CNN's Susan Roesgen reports.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're looking at emergency housing for victims of Katrina, row after row of mobile homes, nearly 11,000.

FEMA purchased so many, you can barely squeeze between them. But the problem is, this is Arkansas, not Louisiana, and this empty city of mobile homes is 450 miles away from where it should be.

The mayor of Hope, Arkansas, Dennis Ramsey, says FEMA leased this area near the airport in October.

DENNIS RAMSEY, MAYOR OF HOPE, ARKANSAS: They asked what we wanted. We said $25,000 a month. And they came back a couple days later and said that's within FEMA guidelines. And the contract was signed.

ROESGEN: That's right. FEMA is paying $25,000 a month to let these mobile homes sit here -- a good deal for Hope, but no glory for FEMA.

Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross.

REP. MIKE ROSS (D), ARKANSAS: We want them to come up here and pick these manufactured homes up, all 11,000 of them, and take them to the people who lost their homes and everything they owned on the Gulf Coast well over five months ago. This is five months past due and it's time for FEMA to get moving.

ROESGEN: Ross came down from D.C. with fellow congressman Dennis Cardoza of California and a posse of staff to show CNN $431 million tax worth of mobile homes sitting unused in an Arkansas cow pasture. What's the hold-up? How does FEMA explain the delays?

Well, first, FEMA said some people who could live in a mobile home don't want one because they're much larger than the travel trailers that can fit in a driveway.

Second, FEMA says some communities lack the infrastructure to support a mobile home, like hookups for water and power.

And third, FEMA rules say mobile homes can't be placed in a flood plain. Their sheer size and weight make them a unique problem, never mind that much of the Gulf region is, in fact, a flood plain.

DAVID PASSEY, FEMA: I think we have been surprised with this extraordinary housing mission and the number of obstacles in placing manufactured housing.

ROESGEN: FEMA's rep in the area, David Passey, gave the congressmen a private tour to defend FEMA's operation.

PASSEY: If people want to blame us, then they can blame us. But we need cooperation from -- from local property owners, we need cooperation from local official, and then we have to realize there will be some physical limitations to where we can place emergency housing.

ROESGEN: But after getting a good look at the unoccupied mobile homes in Hope, the congressmen say no excuses, FEMA must get them down to the people who need them.

REP. DENNIS CARDOZA (D), CALIFORNIA: It's outrageous that we're not breaking through those regulations to get the job done five months after the disaster. It's just unacceptable.

ROESGEN (on camera): Congressman, can you do that? Can you break that bureaucratic red tape?

CARDOZA: Well, we're going to try.

ROSS: We're going to try.


COOPER: You know, Susan, you see all those trailers, and it is so -- I mean, it's beyond frustrating. It's infuriating.

In terms of the numbers, how many people here are homeless? How many people need homes?

ROESGEN: Well, you know, 217,000 homes were destroyed in Orleans Parish. I think the last figure I saw on people who have requested travel trailers, the smaller ones, was like 65,000. But Anderson, fewer than 3,000 people are actually living in travel trailers in New Orleans Parish.

COOPER: And just the size of the problem in St. Bernard Parish alone -- I was just talking to Junior Rodriguez, city council president. He was saying in all of St. Bernard Parish there are only about 15 or 20 homes which are actually inhabitable. I mean, that is just a stunning figure.

ROESGEN: And you admire those guys down there because they're gutting their homes, they want to get back in there. All they want is a little bit of help, someplace to stay while they're cleaning out homes like this one.

COOPER: And that's why we're broadcasting from a home like this one tonight, just to give viewers of a sense of what these people are dealing with. And this home is going to have to just be torn down.

Susan, thanks very much.

Susan Roesgen.

So, if not in trailers, you might wonder, where exactly are the refugees of Hurricane Katrina living? Tens of thousands have been staying in hotel rooms in more than 40 states. FEMA's been covering the bills but that is about to end. The payments were scheduled to stop this past Tuesday. FEMA extended the deadline another week for most of the evacuees. Most, I should say, but not all.

About 5,000 evacuees failed to get an extension. Now they are living, well, really wherever they can, as you're about to see from CNN's Sean Callebs.


MELVIN ROBINSON, KATRINA EVACUEE: It's kind of scary. It makes me feel like, you know, something's going to happen.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He doesn't like it, but Melvin Robinson has been forced to become a creature of the night.

ROBINSON: Yes, this is home.

CALLEBS: And this is where he lives, sleeps and eats most of his meals.

ROBINSON: Some juice, milk. This is actually my little mini apartment. I have my cereal and stuff.

CALLEBS: Robinson was staying at this New Orleans hotel, but that ended a few days ago when FEMA denied his extension request and the federal government stopped paying for his room here. The reason? He had been living in Dallas since evacuating, and FEMA is still pay for a hotel room there for his daughter, niece and aunt. The agency says it won't pay for two rooms for a single family.

Robinson came back to New Orleans because he needed to work.

ROBINSON: This is a magazine?

CALLEBS: He's a bus driver. He believes he's someone who fell through the cracks.

(on camera): Robinson lived in this east New Orleans apartment complex five years until Katrina did all of this. He's the kind of guy who never thought he would be sleeping in his truck. He says he's worked hard his entire life, but with much of the city still in ruins he says he simply can't find a decent, affordable place for he and his family to live.

ROBINSON: I don't like sleeping in that cold weather. I'm going to try to look at a few places today.

CALLEBS (voice over): But this is the sign of the times. And all apartment managers can do is add his name to a long waiting list.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It starts here and it goes all of the way...

ROBINSON: Getting hectic now. CALLEBS: So it's back to the night and the truck and the pent-up frustration.

ROBINSON: Now I'm living in my car. You know, there's no place for us to live.

Well, the mayor says that at the end of the day it's going to be a chocolate city. The way -- the rate they're going, at the end of the day it's going to be the empty city.

CALLEBS: He wonders, why would the middle class workforce return?

ROBINSON: A lot of people are paying more money, you know, for rent than they were paying for a mortgage before they left.

CALLEBS: And Monday marks another deadline when FEMA will stop paying for more Katrina evacuees.

ROBINSON: When you put everyone out of the hotel, where are these people going to go? Think about it. Where are they going to go? They have no place to go.

Say good night to the kids.

CALLEBS: Home remains the 2000 Dodge truck Robinson bought in part with a $1,200 settlement when his old vehicle away. But he says tomorrow is another day.

ROBINSON: Hopefully it will be a good night.

CALLEBS: Perhaps a day he finds a permanent place to live.


CALLEBS: And we're going to hear a lot more about this in the coming days and weeks ahead. Robinson, of course, sleeping in his truck one more night. But FEMA has three more deadlines coming up in the next few weeks. Three more federal deadlines where are they are going to stop paying for rooms for evacuees in both hotels, Anderson, as well as the cruise ships that we've see here.

COOPER: And you know, it's this catch-22. They want people to come back to the city to work. This is a gentleman who is working but can't find a place to live.

CALLEBS: You're exactly right. And he points that out. But he says that the mayor, everybody here is saying bring the skilled workers back, let's get the city breathing again. He simply can't find a place.

He goes out every day to find any place that he would live in. He says it's simply -- he can't afford it or they're asking an exorbitant amount to live in what he considers a trap.

COOPER: And he goes to try and find an apartment and that list -- I mean, 500 people on the list just waiting for an apartment. That's incredible.

CALLEBS: And then to hear the apartment managers, I mean, they hear this time and time again.

COOPER: Right.

CALLEBS: All day long. Very painful.

COOPER: Sean, fascinating piece. Thank you very much.

St. Bernard Parish was devastated by Katrina and the flooding that followed. Virtually every structure within its boundaries was damaged. Most homes declared unlivable after the storm.

Of all the places in need of those FEMA trailers, St. Bernard Parish is one of the most desperate.

I spoke with parish president Henry "Junior" Rodriguez a short time ago.


COOPER: We talked to you probably three weeks ago. How are things now? Is anything better?

HENRY "JUNIOR" RODRIGUEZ, ST. BERNARD PARISH RESIDENT: You know, they're not much better. The day after I talked to you the -- as a matter of fact, the morning after, I got a call from FEMA saying that they were going to approve the purchase of those trailers. And they did. However, they haven't finished the...

COOPER: We talked to FEMA after that and they said that the people who owned the trailers have jacked up the price another $3,000.

RODRIGUEZ: No, that's not correct. The price that's in the trailers is included moving the trailers.

COOPER: What -- you know, there are people now leaving out of hotels, they're going to be evicted on Monday. There's 800 residents from St. Bernard Parish on a boat. They're going to be kicked off pretty soon.

What's going to happen?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I don't know what's going to happen to people. There doesn't seem to be any compassion for what's happening to people.

And not only that, you've got people coming out of hotels, motels, they're coming out of homes that they -- you know, that are no longer being paid for so they've got to get out. Every day I have people at my home. I have people wanting trailers, needing trailers, have to have trailers. And they're going to take the boat away from us at the end of the month.

I just don't understand what it's all about. You know, FEMA is the reason that we're not prepared. This is five months and they haven't got our trailers in place.

Now, we identified the 6,500 trailers. They haven't -- they haven't paid the gentleman as of this afternoon.

COOPER: And those trailers are mostly still just sitting there unoccupied, empty.

RODRIGUEZ: About 500 of them are still sitting there. He hasn't hauled any of the other ones in because he don't know whether he's going to get paid or not.

COOPER: Do you know how many homes in St. Bernard Parish are actually habitable?

RODRIGUEZ: Right now at the present time we have a few people coming back. There may be about 15 or 20 right now that's habitable.

COOPER: Wait, 15 or 20 homes in the entire parish, that's all that's habitable.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Well, people can't get back home to work on their homes because they're scattered throughout the state. We've got people in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania.

COOPER: That's incredible, though, that only, you know, 15 or 20 homes out of an entire parish of hundreds and hundreds of homes, that they're all gone.

RODRIGUEZ: That's -- that's true, but that's the fact. You asked me how many, that's it. People have to get home in order to work on their homes.

COOPER: And it seems like kind of a vicious cycle. I mean, unless people can get home they can't work on their homes, but they can't get home because there's no place for them to live.

RODRIGUEZ: That's correct. And they're taking -- the only place that we had for temporary housing was the ship.

COOPER: When you heard today that the federal government knew earlier on, the White House, the administration knew earlier than they had previously said they kind of knew that the levees had breached, that at least they were getting these reports early on Monday that levees had been breached.

What did you think?

RODRIGUEZ: It's just exactly what I expected. I mean, I was ticked off. There ain't no doubt about that. The problem is FEMA. Period.

COOPER: Do you think people elsewhere in the country know what is going on here? I mean, do you think they get it? I mean, when you look at -- you know, you come into a home like this, and five months on, it's all still like this.

RODRIGUEZ: And right. But I don't think they quite get it because, you know -- and maybe they do. I don't know.

But you have to see this first hand. Pictures really don't tell the whole story. You know? But you would expect by now five months into the ball game that you would at least have been able to -- our government would have at least have been able to house people.

You know -- you know what these folks have to think about that don't live in St. Bernard, New Orleans, that was affected by Katrina? It could happen to them. And if it happens to them and they get the same treatment that we're getting, I feel sad for them.

COOPER: I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

Junior Rodriguez.

RODRIGUEZ: All right.

COOPER: Thanks.


COOPER: It could happen to us all.

Much more ahead from New Orleans, including how many of the essentials to bringing this great city back to life like electricity, doctors and schools are still missing. That is coming up.

Also ahead, medical mysteries. Imagine a life without pain. It may sound good, but it is far from it. We'll tell you the story of a young child effected with a rare disorder.

And on a much lighter note, ever wonder why super models kind of walk that way? Well, we're going to give you the answer in our 360 guide to Fashion Week.


COOPER: Well, just a day after the world's first face transplant patient made her first public appearance surgical teams right here in the U.S. were cleared to perform the same operation. The procedure is revolutionary, controversial, and an example of just how far modern medicine has become. There is still so much, however, we don't know.

All this week we've been taking a closer look at these medical mysteries.

Tonight, a world without pain, and the suffering it is taking on a child and his family.

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta reports, but first, we must war you that some of the photographs you'll see are graphic.



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For most 4-year-olds a bump on the head is followed by an "ouch" and a painful cry. Not so for Roberto Salazar, who is almost always smiling. Even as a newborn, Roberto never did cry, even when he was being given a shot or when he should have been hungry.

STINGLEY-SALAZAR: Eating is supposed to be this inborn thing that everyone wants to do that -- you know, that everyone knows how to do.

GUPTA: At 3 months, Roberto just wouldn't eat. His mother had to feed him with an eye dropper. At 8 months, he weighed only 12 pounds. A stomach tube was inserted to force calories into him and to keep him alive.

His family knew something was terribly wrong but were shocked when he began teething.

STINGLEY-SALAZAR: Roberto didn't like any teething kind of toys. It was always his hands. Hands in the mouth constantly. And then he would get his hands bleeding, he had big open sores on his hands.

GUPTA: And it wasn't only his hands. His horrified parents watched as Roberto began to mutilate his own tongue and his lips.

STINGLEY-SALAZAR: You've got to get in the car.

GUPTA: In desperation, Roberto's mother took him to see dozens of doctors. None had helpful answers.

Susan found Dr. Felicia Axelrod, a specialist in a very rare set of disorders.

DR. FELICIA AXELROD, NYU DYSAUTONOMIA CENTER: All of the children with HSAN live in a world without pain. The body wants to have input. The body needs sensation to come into it so that it can process, so it can develop, so the brain can be stimulated.

GUPTA: HSAN, or Hereditary and Sensory Autonomic Neuropathies is a group of seven rare disorders that affects the autonomic nervous system, a system regulating blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, and tearing in the eyes. At varying degrees, children with these disease feel very little to no pain at all.

AXELROD: When one hears that a child lives in a world without pain, you would think that that is an idyllic world. But actually, pain is a very important function. It helps us protect ourselves from injury, to know when we should stop doing something.

STINGLEY-SALAZAR: More? You want more tickles?

GUPTA: Roberto can feel touch, even tickles on the tummy. But he does not feel pain.

He cannot sweat or regulate his own body temperature, making air- conditioning in the summer a matter of life or death.


GUPTA: Roberto's type is the most severe and rare type of HSAN. More than half its victims die by age 3. Ironically, the severe condition often is combined with hyperactivity. Roberto now takes Ritalin.

STINGLEY-SALAZAR: If you can imagine lacking the ability to feel pain and hyperactivity, it's the deadliest combination that you could put together, especially for a child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't hit her unless she's in a car.

GUPTA: A broken foot, a fractured skull, leaping down entire flights of stairs, even choking. Roberto cannot feel his body telling him to stop.

STINGLEY-SALAZAR: Mom will hold the tube.

GUPTA: It is estimated that in order for him to feel pain the action has to be 100 times greater than the normal person's threshold. That is if he feels it at all.

STINGLEY-SALAZAR: When he does things, he does it with the intensity 100 times like we do it, because you don't get the input back.

GUPTA: Doctors say Roberto will be wheelchair-bound by the age of 10, a result of the wear and tear he does to his own body every day.

There are only 17 surviving children in the United States with this condition. No matter how severe, HSAN is a genetic disorder. Both parents carry the gene mutation. There's up to a 25 percent chance of developing it with each pregnancy.

There is no cure or treatment. Therapy deals with the symptoms, not stopping the disorder.

AXELROD: The most challenging and frustrating thing about this disorder is that you can't treat everybody the same way, and the other frustration is that we don't have a definitive therapy.

GUPTA: For kids like Roberto it's going to be a lifelong struggle, but it is possible to live a happy, albeit pain-free life.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: So hard.

Well, here in New Orleans, you have to look at what isn't here anymore to really see the city. From the people who haven't been found, to those who cannot return, to the help that they need, so much is missing. Coming up on this special edition of 360, an unvarnished look at a city still in ruins.


COOPER: We're going to leave New Orleans for a moment and return to New York, where a select slice of the population got a glimpse of the future this week, the future of fashion.

In a way, Fashion Week is to New York's Bryant Park what Mardi Gras is to the French Quarter, except the parades take place on runways, not cobblestone streets. And instead of floats there are frocks, very expensive designer frocks.

If you're not a fashion insider, it's easy to wonder, what's all the fuss about?

CNN's Heidi Collins takes a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About 100,000 people come through in a week.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the past week, the fashionistas flocked to New York's Bryant Park. Temporarily covered with a series of tents and a few other venues, most with one goal in mind, to catch a glimpse of the clothes that will fill the stores not next month but next fall.

Dedicated followers of fashion would kill or die for one seat, any seat, to any show. No sale, admission is by invitation only.

The rest of you may have a few, well, less than fashion savvy questions. Kelly Cutrone knows the answers to just about any Fashion Week query.

So here goes.

Question one: Why do the models have to be so skinny? As with most things in the fashion world, there's an easy answer.

KELLY CUTRONE, PEOPLE'S REVOLUTION: Clothes fit better on thin people. I'm sorry to offend anybody, but they just do.

COLLINS: And a more creative one.

CUTRONE: When we put Matte Jersey on that girl's body, the way that it hits, and when her hip is extended and she goes to walk, the flow of the clothes and the silhouette and the line that's provided is much better.

COLLINS: What's up with that wacky walk? That is what they call catwalking. And even designer Kenneth Cole, whose show traditionally opens Fashion Week each season, has some fun with it.

KENNETH COLE, DESIGNER: As an adolescent I was inspired by the masters, you know, Kate (ph), Christi (ph), Amber, Naomi. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Tyra?

COLE: Not so much.

COLLINS: But there is method to that catwalking madness.

CUTRONE: They walk this way that they do because, one, that's what the industry has asked. And two, it helps the silhouette of the clothes that they're wearing lay better.

COLLINS: In fact, just about everything means something during Fashion Week, from the hair and the makeup to your scheduled time in the tents.

FERN MALLIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 7TH on 6TH: People have numerologists, astrologers. If they got a good review because a collection was at a certain day or time, they believe they have to have that timeslot every year.

COLLINS: But just ask any designer. For them, Fashion Week is about, well, showing off.

RICHIE RICH, "EATHERETTE: Like, the girls and the guys resonate something when they -- our clothing can hang on a hanger and it's blah. But then you put it on and it just becomes a different world.

COLLINS: But still, fashion is first and foremost a business. And fashion shows cost real money.

How much money?

CUTRONE: Like "I did it for nothing" is $125,000. And they "spent a lot of money" is about $2.5 million.

COLLINS: And that buys the designers somewhere between six and 15 minutes on the runway.

So, why do they do it?

LUCA ORLANDI, LUCA LUCA: Obviously, I'm talking to you, we get a lot of attention, a lot of the media comes and are interested in what you're doing. And that helps the brand.

COLLINS: Heidi Collins, CNN, New York.


COOPER: It's all about the brand.

I want a thank our international viewers for watching.

Ahead, a special edition of 360, New Orleans: The Missing. More than five months after the storm, so much is still missing from this city, schools, doctors even electricity in some parts. And that's just for starters. There are also those who are missing loved ones. We'll revisit one woman who is searching for her mother and go on her difficult journey back to New Orleans.

Plus, the animals of the storm, pets that are still without a home. What's being done to save them?

All that and more when 360 continues.



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