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24 Hours in New Orleans; New Orleans E.R.; On the Beat; Rebuilding the Force; Evacuation Plan 2006; Forgotten Parish?; Hunt for the Missing; Racing Nature; Bleak Bourbon Street

Aired May 31, 2006 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN, ANCHOR: stretch local E.R.s to the breaking point.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 1:22 a.m., all is quiet in New Orleans. Five minutes later, an ambulance driver phones in. Two minutes later, that ambulance brings in a 24-year-old man. He is dying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! He took all of these?



GUPTA: And doctors say he took nearly 100 tablets of extra strength Tylenol in an apparent suicide attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy's going to die unless we move on him now. This guy is going to be in liver failure and be on a transplant list before we know it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit. No, right there. Don't touch it.

GUPTA: The goal? Give him the antidote. It's called activated charcoal, and put it in the stomach with this tube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I've got it.

GUPTA: Believe it or not, this guy is considered lucky. He has a bed, he has a room, and he was seen by a doctor quickly. Most patients here do not. In New Orleans, most of those who want to live are waiting.

(On camera): Let me try and make this as simple as possible. What you're looking at is the board that keeps track of all the patients at the only emergency room in downtown New Orleans. There's 15 beds here; 13 of those beds are currently occupied. And those patients have nowhere to go. And leaves only two beds. There will be about 50 patients that come into this emergency room today alone.

The question becomes -- the problem becomes, where do those patients go? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, three, four, five.

GUPTA (voice-over): At the end of the day, a tally is taken.

DR. JAMES MOISES, TULANE MEDICAL CENTER: 11, 12, which is a lot. I mean, that's 12 patients that have medical issues that are not being addressed. I mean, that's -- if you're one of those 12 people, that's a bad thing. Pre-Katrina, this would never have happened.

GUPTA: Dr. James Moises was in charge of the E.R. last night. He says the waiting is becoming worse.

10:30 a.m., William Deskin (ph) arrives with a broken collarbone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd venture to say it's pretty serious, but I haven't seen anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry you had to wait so long.

GUPTA: Six hours later, he got a sling and a prescription for some pain meds.

7:30 a.m., a boy with an infected foot waited more than 12 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it gives you a real-time analysis of what beds are available.

GUPTA: Eight beds for all of New Orleans?


GUPTA: It's all the more stunning, given that this was a city that had one of the most famed trauma centers in the country.

(On camera): I remember it was about nine months ago when you saw those banners hanging all over Charity Hospital, people saying please save me from the flooded waters beneath that had flooded so much of the hospital.

I want to give you a sense of what Charity Hospital has become. It's gone from being one of the biggest and busiest trauma centers in the country to a department store.

This is, in fact, a Lord & Taylor department store. You can tell by the mirrored pillars and you can tell by the escalators around. This was a building that used to sell clothes, but now responsible for taking care of some of the sickest patients in New Orleans.

DR. PETER DEBLIEUX, LSU HEALTH CARE SERVICES: New Orleans right now, without question, you know, is in its own little intensive care unit. It is woefully ill. It is woefully sick. This is tough. This is incredibly tough. I mean, last night was the first night that I actually slept in my bed at my house.

GUPTA: Since Katrina?

DEBLIEUX: Since Katrina.

GUPTA (voice-over): Doctors working around the clock to get back to normal. Without the necessary resources, more disasters will happen.

(On camera): So what if, you know, you get a huge car wreck and lots of patients come to this emergency room, the only emergency room in New Orleans right now, downtown? What would happen?

MOISES: That would be a true disaster. We have not been pushed or tested to that capacity yet. We can find a way to play musical beds when one or two critical patients come in. We move patients out into the hallway. And we stabilize the critical ones.

GUPTA (voice-over): 1:30 p.m., 12 hours after arrival, our 24- year-old is alive. And doctors say he's doing better, despite trying to kill himself.

MOISES: It's the largest overdose I've ever seen. I mean, 100 extra-strength Tylenol. It's amazing.

GUPTA: But the New Orleans hospital system that resuscitated him and saved his life is slowly dying. Waiting and waiting for someone to save it.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New Orleans.


COOPER: We're looking at 24 hours in the life of this city. Now morning comes and a cold reality dawns. You see it in the tearful eyes of a robbery victim or a mother grieving her young son's murder. The sun now rising on a city richer in victims and criminals than in cops.

The story from CNN's Susan Roesgen.



SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 7:00 a.m., on the beat in the "Big Uneasy." Hurricane Katrina chased away more than 200,000 people in New Orleans. But criminals are coming back. Police department figures show the number of murders has gone up every month since the storm. Zero last September, 14 in May. But the number of police officers is down about 10 percent.

LYLES: Staying cool?


ROESGEN: Sergeant Troy Lyles had been on the force eight years when Katrina blew her world apart. (On camera): In the flood after the hurricane Sergeant Lyles spent two days trapped in this house until a guy floating past on a door rescued her. She made it to a relative's house, took a hot bath, got a change of clothes, and went right back to work.

LYLES: I had to help somebody else. I didn't want somebody else to be stuck in the same situation that I was in.

ROESGEN (voice-over): Sergeant Lyles, and most other officers, lost their homes in Katrina. For this single mother of two daughters, the job is about the only thing that seems normal these days. But it's getting more dangerous.

Police say street corner drug dealers are back. And detectives are now tracking the MS-13, a violent central American gang that police say rode into town with thousands of immigrant construction workers.

In the French Quarter where the big problem used to be mainly tourists who had had too much to drink, this Bourbon Street bar is now the scene of an unsolved murder.

And everyone here knows what happened to Officer Andreas Gonzales last week. A suspect shot him in the face. The bullet hit his spinal cord, and he may be paralyzed.

LYLES: You don't expect that somebody would do something like that to an officer, have that much disrespect basically to society itself. But you still have to get out there, and you have to help people. You can't let that consume you or control you.

ROESGEN: The police can't protect the city from a hurricane, only from what comes later. The question is, after Katrina, can New Orleans' police come back as quickly as crime?


COOPER: Susan joins me now, of course live from Bourbon Street.

It looks a lot less crowded than we're used to seeing. Have things slowed down there a lot?

ROESGEN: Yes, they have slowed down, Anderson. The bouncers tell me that business is way off since Katrina. But I have to tell you that the local U.S. attorney says the drug business is heading back up. Just last week, the biggest drug bust in the New Orleans area since Katrina, nine suspects and 110 pounds of cocaine.

COOPER: All right, Susan, appreciate that.

I'm joined now by Chief Anthony Cannatella, an officer who I met in the first couple days after Hurricane Katrina struck.

We met -- last time, when we first met, you were in a T-shirt in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart.


COOPER: Yes, but you guys have taken over. You're now a chief working with Superintendent Riley. How is the city doing? I mean, where is the murder right now compared to what it was?

CANNATELLA: Well, actually -- well, compared to last year, we're down 60 percent in homicide. Last year this time, we had about 111 murders. Presently we have 43.

COOPER: And the morale of the force is how?

CANNATELLA: I think the morale is fine. We've dropped a little bit from 16 -- about 80 police officers, we're down to 1,448.

COOPER: Do you still have a lot of officers without homes?

CANNATELLA: Oh yes. We -- you know, 80 percent of the officers lost everything they own.

COOPER: 80 percent?

CANNATELLA: 80 percent.

COOPER: Incredible.

CANNATELLA: The hard thing is, you know, these officers were victims themselves. And of course, we still expect them to go out and patrol and take care of other victims. It's kind of hard when you're a victim yourself.

COOPER: Right.

CANNATELLA: But, you know, to me, I think that proves their medal. They lost everything. They didn't give up. They're still here, they're still patrolling, they're still protecting. They're doing an admirable job.

COOPER: And in terms of what's coming this summer, I mean, are you -- you've got to be concerned about what's coming down the pike.

CANNATELLA: We're concerned.

COOPER: Is the force ready?

CANNATELLA: Oh absolutely. We have our plan. You know, we spent thousands of hours. The superintendent, his staff, research and planning, the National Guard, the Louisiana State Police, the mayor's office, emergency operations. We have a plan that we think is going to carry us through.

You know, we didn't fail. Our plan didn't fail last time. I mean, we did fine until the levees broke. We had things under control. And then when of course the levees broke, there was pandemonium. But we're ready.

COOPER: What about communication equipment? Do you have different radios? Do you have a way to communicate? Because that was a big problem.

CANNATELLA: I think so. We still have the same radios. But what's happened is, FEMA, National Guard and Homeland Security, Mr. Chertoff's come in. We've put some things in place that will allow us to communicate. They call it radio interoperability. We'll be able to transmit to the other agencies which we weren't able to do last time. So I think we're prepared communications wise.

There's a lot of work that needs to be done. We're not totally out of the woods yet. It's a work in progress. But we certainly have the experience behind us now. We've learned our lessons from what happened.

COOPER: Do you missing a captain over at the --

CANNATELLA: Oh, yes. I was kind of interesting. You know, I got a lot of mail over that. Some people admired the fact that we went and took our sign back. I still carry that sign around.

COOPER: Yes, another -- just for those who don't know, another district headquarters had put up a sign saying, "Fort Apache." You guys -- some people, I don't know how they were. A nameless face of people rescued the sign.

CANNATELLA: It is a nameless sixth district officer rescued the sign. It was kind of a friendly thing.

What I thought was interesting was at a time, you know, when we were really in dire straits, we were just getting back up on our knees, we were flat on our backs originally. We were getting back up. And there was a time to have a little light-hearted humor and take a breath.

COOPER: Right.

CANNATELLA: You know, we've been through some difficult things.

COOPER: You've been on the force for so long before this. You've got a distinguished career. What did you learn that you hadn't previously? I mean, did you learn something from that storm?

CANNATELLA: Oh, yes. Yes. I have 40 years on the department.

COOPER: 40 years? Wow.

CANNATELLA: Yes. I worked in Hurricane Camille. I got a little taste of it in some other storms. But, I mean, we were totally taken by surprise with the enormity of this. And I think the main thing I took out of it is, you know, I sent my family out of town because I learned from Camille. And a lot of officers didn't have that knowledge, and they didn't get their families out. And they had fears, and they were concerned about their family while they were trying to work.

This time, we have a plan in place that's going to mandate that when a hurricane is out 59 hours, our officers have put in place their plan to evacuate their families so they don't have to concern themselves with who's watching their family when they're watching someone else's.

COOPER: Well let's hope everyone here has learned that lesson. Chief, it's good to talk to you.

CANNATELLA: Anytime. Anytime. Great, thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it.


COOPER: Coming up, the threat of crime or another Katrina isn't keeping New Orleans from rebuilding for the future. Here's the data.

So far an estimated 70,000 construction permits have been issued by City Hall since the storm.

And Washington is promising $154 million to rebuild the city's public housing, much of it heavily damaged by the hurricane.

Also, city residents will get to use part of the $4.6 billion grant the government is giving state residents to help finance repairs and reconstruction on their homes.

As this special coverage continues, "24 Hours in New Orleans," we follow Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as he gets a firsthand look at the evacuation plan in New Orleans and sees whether he thinks it's truly ready for another major storm.

Plus, one of the parishes hit hard by Katrina, still asking where is the relief? Have they been forgotten? We'll take you there.

And the search goes on for victims, as some people refuse to give up hope that they will find their loved ones alive. All that and more when this special edition of 360 continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to "24 Hours in New Orleans." It's now late morning in the city where one question looms over all the others. What's the evacuation plan this time? And will it work when the next hurricane bears down? The man whose reputation will be on the line again this hurricane season, the head of Homeland Security is here to find out.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Meserve.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ID please. Okay, your last name?


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary Chertoff plays an evacuee, to get a firsthand look at what will happen if another big storm beelines for New Orleans.

CNN was given exclusive access to Chertoff's visit to the city. He is looking for potholes, roadblocks, unexpected obstacles in hurricane planning, and he finds them.

There is the city's emergency communication system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can communicate to the surrounding parishes and out to the state, but we have to do it through a series of patches.

MESERVE: The system is jerry-rigged, far from perfect, but workable, says Chertoff.

A local hospital shows off three new emergency generators, but acknowledges it may have staffing problems in a big storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the big issues that we have to worry about this year is people who are afraid.

MESERVE: Riding a city bus, just as an evacuee would, Chertoff says there is one glaring problem.

CHERTOFF: I think the biggest outstanding challenge for us is shelter for people being evacuated.

MESERVE: Chertoff is working with the governor to find more shelter space in Louisiana, but it is a thorny issue. Some communities experienced problems with Katrina evacuees and are reluctant to open doors next time around.

CHERTOFF: At the end of the day, we're all in this together. And we can't have a situation where people throw people out of a lifeboat because they say, well, not in my lifeboat.

MESERVE: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin brings the secretary another problem, the Regional Transit Authority will run out of money the very month hurricane season starts.

RAY NAGIN, MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS: That will mean that our drivers will be laid off and we won't have enough people to implement our evacuation plan.

MESERVE: Chertoff says the federal government will pay if it has to, to keep the drivers on the job.

The goal, of course, is to prevent a replay of Katrina. But the city is still on its knees. And no one quite knows if its storm-weary citizens will do what officials ask them to.

CHERTOFF: What I'm told they do in Florida is when they have a mandatory evacuation, they say to people, look, if you choose not to leave, write your social security number on your arm so when we find the body, we can identify them. And that may be a very blunt and unpleasant way to express the thought, but I think ultimately what they're trying to say is, look, we can't help you if you won't help yourself.

MESERVE (on camera): Chertoff says more hurricane planning has been done in New Orleans in the last nine months than in the past 20 years, but has it been done correctly? Will it be enough? Only the next big storm will give those answers.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, New Orleans.


COOPER: As our special coverage continues, we move just south of here to Plaquemines Parish, one of the areas hardest hit by the storm.

It is midday, and the parish is still struggling. Folks there have heard a lot of promises, but few have actually been fulfilled. And they are still waiting for some much needed money from the federal government.

CNN's Randi Kaye reports from southern Louisiana.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nine months after Katrina struck, Plaquemines Parish President Benny Rousselle is wondering if his parish has been forgotten.

How frustrated are you?

BENNY ROUSSELLE, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH: It's been a hell of a ride. You know, For the last eight months, trying to get through the process.

KAYE: The process has been slow, too slow. FEMA trailers just arrived a couple OF months ago. Homes and levees still need rebuilding, and the shrimping industry, which supplied more than one- third of the nation's shrimp, is nearly ruined.

ROUSSELLE: Well, where we're walking right now we had at least eight to 10 feet of water.

KAYE: It's noon, it's hot and the water, now gone, has been replaced by hundreds of FEMA trailers. For Rousselle, this trailer park is one small sign of hope. The biggest challenge, rebuilding 169 miles of levees and flood walls, many overwhelmed by Katrina.

(On camera): So how high was the water when it came over here, you think?

ROUSSELLE: Well, when it came over here, it had to be at least six or seven feet above this 17-foot levee.

KAYE (voice-over): The Army Corps of Engineers promises to restore the levees to the required 17 feet by June 1st. But even if it does, Rousselle knows even that won't solve everything.

(On camera): Rebuilding the levees is only half the problem. For Rousselle, what's most important is what's out there. He wants to call the federal government's attention to the shoreline and the marshes out there and the barrier reefs. That, after all, he says, is the first line of defense against the storm surge.

(Voice-over): Still, the federal government isn't sure it's safe enough for anyone to live on this peninsula south of New Orleans, or if there are enough people here to make expensive new levees worthwhile.

President Bush has gone back on his promise to seek the $1.6 billion needed to upgrade the levees in the southern half of the parish. That means even when they are fixed, they might not hold up against another Katrina. Rousselle and others here call that un- American.

Do you think that this has been forgotten, this area?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it has. You can just go down the street. Just ride up and down the street and look at it. And you're going to tell me it's forgotten.

KAYE: With so little to come back to, only about one-fifth of southern Plaquemines Parish residents have returned.

Just this month, Shrimp Fisherman A.C. Cooper reopened his restaurant in Plaquemines' southernmost town. The only restaurant now open within 25 miles. At 5:00 p.m., the tables are full.

A.C. COOPER, SHRIMP FISHERMAN: We don't see many businesses coming back. And that's what we need. We need our businesses to come back in order to sustain our people.

KAYE: A.C. is one of the lucky ones. His boat survived Katrina. And because so many other fishermen are stuck on dry land, A.C. has found no shortage of shrimp.

There's been some insurance money, but fishermen haven't received any federal money to rebuild their once $3 billion industry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You either fix your home for your children and your wife or you come work on the boat.

KAYE: It is a choice too many in Plaquemines Parish are being forced to make.

And Benny Rousselle knows unless the federal government takes action, there's not a thing he can do about it.


COOPER: You're looking at a live shot right now actually of them loading in one of these 11-ton gates that J.W. and Kuzer, one of the foremen here who has been working literally around the clock since the storm began.

They lower in -- there are 11 of those gates. They're just putting in one of those now. As you can tell, this operation is going on literally around the clock. Those gates then, when a storm is approaching, another crane will come and will be lowered into the water. It's an amazing operation, Randi, when you're actually standing here.

KAYE (on camera): Sure is to watch.

COOPER: So in Plaquemines Parish, I mean the people there say they have been abandoned by the federal government. What does the federal government say?

KAYE: Well, we talked to the Department of DHS today, Department of Homeland Security, and they tell us that safety is the top priority for them, the safety of the people in the parish. They say the parish certainly hasn't been forgotten, that they are repairing the levees back to pre-Katrina levels, and they are also looking at other ways to try and protect the people in the parish.

So from the government's standpoint, the parish certainly isn't being forgotten. But from the people on the ground there, it certainly feels that way.

COOPER: Certainly does. All right, Randi, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

The search goes on for hurricane victims. In a moment, we'll hear from a family still holding out hope that they may be able to find their loved one.

First, Erica Hill, from "HEADLINE NEWS," joins us with some of the other stories we're following -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a happy ending to a very tense day in Birmingham, Alabama, tonight. A day-long abduction drama now over, and a suspect is in custody. The abduction this morning was caught on tape by a surveillance camera. A gunman is seen forcing Attorney Sandra Eubank Gregory back into her SUV and driving off late this afternoon. Police found Gregory and the suspect at a local hotel.

In South Carolina, certain repeat sex offenders may soon face the death penalty. Today the state's House of Representatives passed two bills that would allow prosecutors to seek the ultimate sentence for offenders convicted twice of raping a child younger than 11. One bill just needs the governor's signature to become law. The other must go back to the state Senate.

New York and Washington are getting less money this year to prepare for terror attacks. Funding was cut for the cities hit on 9/11, as the Homeland Security Department tries to spread out the $1.7 billion it grants to states and cities to help them prepare for disasters. DHS says this year's distribution better reflects a nationwide threat.

And in other Washington news...


HILL: And that can only mean one thing. The first day of the national spelling bee, coming to a close today after more than three rounds, 46 elementary and middle school students remain. The winner will be crowned on Thursday. Some of the tough words in the bee, ekat (ph), ziphius and boswellize. I can say them, but can you spell them?

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Sadly, I cannot spell them, no. I'll have to look them up quickly.

Here in New Orleans, the search continues for those missing. Across this city, it is grim, sad work for the families who still hold out hope for answers. It is something to hang on to. Coming up, we'll take you on the job with the search crews.

We'll also talk to the Louisiana state medical examiner about why the search has taken so long and why the search is taking so long and why some bodies that have been found are still unidentified. It is such a difficult process.

They've been working practically nonstop to rebuild the levees. The job that's become a mission -- the human face of an engineering emergency, coming up on this special edition of 360, "24 Hours in New Orleans," as we show you a live picture of them loading in one of the floodgates -- one of the 11 floodgates here around the 17th Street canal.


COOPER: And welcome back to this special edition of 360, "24 Hours in New Orleans." The day continues at mid-afternoon. Search crews are still moving through the city, looking for bodies. While it's highly unlikely they'll find survivors, some people are still clinging to hope, even after all this time.

CNN's Rick Sanchez now from New Orleans.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As the afternoon sun beats down on the Seventh Ward, locals here know it means another hurricane season is on the way.

But at the front door of her tiny home, Tashika Dixon is still waiting for news from the last hurricane season.

TASHIKA DIXON, MISSING BROTHER: We're just still wondering, is he out there, or did he make it?

SANCHEZ: Try as she may, Tashika is unable to wipe away the pain of not knowing what happened to her 27-year-old brother, Darrell.

DIXON: He was actually across the street from where the levee broke. SANCHEZ: Across town, shortly after 2:00 o'clock, a special unit of New Orleans firefighters, made up of five men, one woman, and one cadaver dog, are looking for Tashika's brother. He is one of more than 230 people that according to the State Department of Health, Katrina made disappear without a trace.

CAPT. KENNETH KIRSCH, NEW ORLEANS FIRE DEPARTMENT: You really feel sorry that it's nine months after the storm and you're just getting around to finding, you know, finding this person after nine months.

Fire department.

SANCHEZ: They knock on doors in places with names that by now we've all come to know -- Jefferson parish, Algiers, St. Bernard. They arrive only with a list of names and a last known address, given them by the Louisiana Family Assistance Center. They talk to neighbors.

KIRSCH: If I give you my card, you think you can call his parents and find out, in fact, if he's still alive or if he's passed away?

SANCHEZ: Since reassembling last March, the search team has found 12 bodies, providing a sad but important finality for families. Most are found in areas abandoned, but some amid the living.

KIRSCH: The landlord had no idea his tenant was still in the house. And we found a guy in the attic.

SANCHEZ (on camera): The search team is now four hours into their operation. This latest call brings them to the Lower Ninth Ward, a place where many bodies have already been recovered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, get to work. Let's go.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Ranger, the yellow lab, trained to decode the smell of death, has picked up a scent, causing him to bark incessantly.

His trainer, Captain Kerry Foster, leads a search inside homes, amid debris, until determining what Ranger may smell is the scent of one of the many bodies already recovered.

CAPTAIN KERRY FOSTER, SEARCH TEAM: There are fluids left, and the scent is still there.

SANCHEZ: It's what makes this search so difficult, so imperfect. There may be a body here somewhere. There may not be. This search team, which has already been scaled down from 15 members to six, may soon be dissolved. But even then, even years from now, experts say there will be still bodies found?

FOSTER: I believe so, yes.

SANCHEZ: Less than a mile away across a bridge, Tashika Dixon waits for a call, while trying to remain optimistic about her brother's fate. But the facts belie her optimism.

On the night of the storm, her brother, Darrell, was stuck in an attic, directly across from a levee break in a home that collapsed.

DIXON: Maybe he found a way to get out of the attic. Maybe he did try to swim the waters. But, I mean, we have no answers, no clue.

SANCHEZ: God knows what happened to Darrell Milton. Searchers tell us he may have washed out to sea or into a deep and muddy marsh, leaving his sister with few options but this one.

What do you do? How do you cope?

DIXON: Pray.

SANCHEZ: You pray?

Nothing she can do, but pray, and wait.


COOPER: It is just so sad to think -- I mean, after all this time. I guess people try to hold on to any kind of hope they can. Is it possible that, you know, someone like Darrell maybe doesn't want to be found? That there are people out there who wanted to disappear?

SANCHEZ (on camera): I talked to a lot of the investigators today, and they say there's no question that a lot of people don't want to be found.

In Darrell's case, not likely. His sister says he was a good brother, talked to her all the time, would have definitely called her. And take into consideration also his circumstances when he most likely perished. He was as close to that levee break, the one where the barge came in over in the parish as we are to this right now.

So that means he was in his attic, wall of water comes through. He most likely, as some of those investigators said, Anderson, ended up probably being washed out to sea.

COOPER: And the search continues. They've got a couple cadaver dogs out there. Who's paying for all of it?

SANCHEZ: It's being paid for by the municipalities here in New Orleans, and some of the contributing ones like Shreveport, Louisiana. However, FEMA is reimbursing them for all that.

COOPER: All right, Rick Sanchez, appreciate that report.

It's important not to forget the people who may still be out there, and there are many people still out there.

Joining me now is Louisiana State Medical Examiner Dr. Louis Cataldi, who knows more about this than just anybody.

Thanks for being with us. DR. LOUIS CATALDI, LOUISIANA MEDICAL EXAMINER: Good to be here, Anderson.

COOPER: Just days ago, another body was found amidst the wreckage. When you hear that, is it sadness? Is it joy that someone else has been brought home?

CATALDI: It's bittersweet that it's taken so long to find that person, but there is some closure so that if there's a good side, that's the good size.

COOPER: What has been the most difficult part of this process? Just of identifying the dead? I mean, how many people are still unidentified at this point?

CATALDI: There are 39 people unidentified right now.

COOPER: I'm sorry, how many?

CATALDI: 39, an eighth of the initial system. The folks that we're finding right now, of course, don't have a positive I.D. yet either.

COOPER: And at this point, it's got to be even more difficult to identify the people who you are still finding.

CATALDI: It's difficult, but again, we have leads of people who are still missing, so we're working family pedigrees. But I've got 150 family pedigrees. That means I'm looking for 150 people. I don't have that many human remains.

COOPER: And what do you say - I mean how much in contact are you with the families who are still wondering where their loved ones -- I mean, they must call all the time.

CATALDI: well, my contact, of course, comes if the counselors, or such, feels I should be in contact with the people, I'm always ready to talk to folks. But the bottom line is, the process is taking a long, long time, certainly longer than anybody anticipated.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, after the storm, did you ever dream it would take this long?

CATALDI: I never dreamed it would take this long, but I've had the DNA delay, and that pushed us back at least four months. There's no doubt about that.

COOPER: And that must have been incredibly frustrating. Because that was sort of a bureaucratic thing above, you know, somewhere else that you had nothing to do with.

CATALDI: It's not just frustrating. You know, by definition, the people suffer. So that's also infuriating.

COOPER: How many people are still missing?

CATALDI: 217, as I left the facility a while ago.

COOPER: And it's very possible a good number of those people may never be found?

CATALDI: It's very possible.

COOPER: Because -- I mean, why?

CATALDI: There are several variables. Number one, I believe there are probably still people in some of these ruins that you've seen.

COOPER: So in the debris out there somewhere there may still be people?

CATALDI: I believe that there are. It would be foolish to think that they're not. I believe that people may have been washed out into the waterways. And, of course, there are those individuals who may not want to be found, but ultimately will be found.

And there's a fourth category, we have such scant information. I may just have a name. And it's difficult just working off a name to find somebody.

COOPER: How has this changed? I mean, you've been in this line of work a long time, so you've seen a lot of death, but obviously, this is different.

CATALDI: This has been a prolonged course of not being able to get closure for these families. And they're pretty much -- it wears you down because you feel like, you know, you're failing them right now. You need to get closure.

COOPER: Well, it's a thankless task, but I'm glad you're doing it. Dr. Cataldi, thank you.

CATALDI: Thank you, sir.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

For those who survived, the recovery continues with a new respect for hurricane season.

Coming up, we're going to give you a close-up view of levee reconstruction with workers who take the job very, very personally.

And Bourbon Street, is it bouncing back or staggering into a long, hot summer? We'll hear from business owners when "24 Hours in New Orleans," a special edition of 360 continues.



New Orleans Levees

Miles Repaired: 150

Cost: $800 million


COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360, "24 Hours in New Orleans." It's now late in the evening. And to the world beyond New Orleans, the race to fix the levee system may seem like just an engineering project. But to be here, to actually meet the people who are actually running the equipment and pounding the steel literally as we speak, well, it takes on multiple dimensions. For them, it is very personal.

Here's CNN's Sean Callebs.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 9:00 o'clock at night. John Dassau is three hours into a 12-hour graveyard shift. The foreman reading his team in a race against time to finish the massive floodgates at the 17th Street canal that could mean life or death for an American city.

JOHN DASSAU, WELDING FOREMAN: This is very important to me. Without something like this, if another Katrina would happen to hit, I could kiss New Orleans goodbye. I've been out here all my life.

CALLEBS: Dassau likes to boast his Louisiana roots stretch back nearly 300 years. This student of history knows if water races down the canals again from Lake Pontchartrain ripping through levees, it could mean the end of the city he loves.

DASSAU: I got to do what I got to do to make it safer for me and to help my family rebuild, you know?

CALLEBS: His crew is working seven days a week, 12 hour a day, part of the 'round the clock operation. They will admittedly miss the June 1st deadline to wrap up. Now it's a battle to finish the job before a hurricane hits.

RANDY KEEN, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Since day one, we've worked as fast as we could work. Done it as fast as we could.

CALLEBS: 90 percent of the people working here are locals. Most either lost homes or suffered heavy damage. For the time being, personal loss is pushed aside to focus on the task at hand.

TODD MCALLISTER, SITE SUPERVISOR, NIGHT SHIFT: This is where we live. OK? What we're doing is going to protect and hopefully save the places us and our families live the next time.

FRED FUCHS, PROJECT MANAGER: We actually feel that this is where we're trying to correct what happened to us.

CALLEBS: Engineers say close to 80 percent of the flooding that devastated New Orleans came from two canals, areas where some 10,000 tons of steel are now going into place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, I'm going to hook you up with some air.

CALLEBS: The night is a constant barrage of noise, sparks and seemingly endless work. Somewhere over the months, Dassau found what he needed to do move on.

DASSAU: I feel at peace with it. I mean, I don't know. I can't say I'm religious, but things happen for a reason.

CALLEBS: A sense of peace, maybe, but only the harsh reality of another punishing hurricane will decide if the months of work and billions of dollars have been worth it.


COOPER: You know, it's interesting, Sean, it wasn't really until I got here and saw your piece that I realized how personal it is for a lot of these guys.

CALLEBS (on camera): It is intensely personal for these guys. That's one thing we hear time and time again. We're getting a good snapshot, one night of what these guys do. They work seven day a week, 12 hours a day. And remember, 50 percent of these people lost everything. So after they work here, they go home and deal with their flooded out homes, the insurance nightmares that everybody else in this area is trying to cope with. So, it is a nightmare. And these guys want to make sure it doesn't happen again. No matter how motivated everyone is to rebuild, get back together, if this system doesn't hold up, it's all for naught.

COOPER: And they feel that, I think, every day. I was talking to the foreman, who was working in another state, but came back to work here on this project because this is his home, and he wanted to be part of it.

CALLEBS: You hear that day in and day out. We talked to one of the welders last night. He grew up poor, in a trailer, built a nice home, lost it. He's living in a trailer again. Says he never thought he'd be in that kind of shape. But he is adamant that he wants this city to come back. And that's the kind of spirit you see out here.

COOPER: And it all depends, as you said, right here, on what's happening here.

Sean, appreciate it. Thanks.

Coming up, more of the 'round the clock effort to fortify the city against whatever hurricane season can throw at it. We'll show you the efforts here along the 17th Street canal to shore up the water if another storm strikes.

And does the beat go on, on Bourbon Street? We'll visit one of the world's most famous strips and take its pulse when "24 Hours in New Orleans," a special edition of 360 continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, back before Katrina, New Orleans' Bourbon Street was its own escape. The jazz, the countless joints, bars and cafes. It was a scene populated by savvy locals, some of whom made extra bucks by hustling tourists. In post-Katrina Bourbon Street, well, let's say the road back has a long way to go.

Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 11:00 p.m. on Bourbon Street, the busiest time on a weekday for the fun New Orleans has made famous.

But this club doesn't have the crowds it had a year ago. And neither do most other clubs, bars and restaurants here in New Orleans in the days since Hurricane Katrina.

At the Voodoo Barbecue, business has been cut in half.

STACY COLEMAN, MANAGER, VOODOO BBQ: We've cut payroll. We have -- you know, we run a tight shift with everybody working. And the managers and myself both -- we all work the counters and the kitchen also.

TUCHMAN: But at least they're still open.

At the Deep South Lounge, the owner has given up. He closed his doors permanently this past weekend.

LOUIS WILLIAMS, OWNER DEEP SOUTH LOUNGE: I feel defeated by something other than normal business factors, which doesn't seem fair.

TUCHMAN: So many locals have left, so many tourists are not visiting, that this city's famous nightlife is wilting. Less than half the restaurants have reopened since last year, and most have huge decreases in business.

(On camera): On a Saturday night before Katrina, what would typical gross revenue have been in this bar?

WILLIAMS: Typical Saturday night, between $3,000 and $4,000.

TUCHMAN: And Saturday night recently?

WILLIAMS: Between $600, $700.

TUCHMAN: So one-fifth, 80 percent off your business?

WILLIAMS: Roughly. And that's been basically since Mardi Gras, that's the way the numbers have been looking.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Mardi Gras was wild and festive, but business was down by at least 30 percent. Coyote Ugly is a wildly successful brand name. Fifteen bars around the country, including this one in New Orleans that was booming before Katrina.

(On camera): So compared to a year ago, how is business?

LILIANA LOVELL, OWNER, UGLY COYOTE: We're down about 40 percent. It's a rocky road.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Liliana Lovell started Coyote Ugly in New York, and personally moved to New Orleans because she loves the city. And that is why she is not closing the doors.

LOVELL: I feel that it's my obligation to stay here and try to bring life back to the city.

TUCHMAN: That attitude, says the city, will help fuel a return to better times.

ERNEST COLLINS, NEW ORLEANS ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT DIRECTOR: I think it's going to start a cycle that will be completed maybe three or four years down the road. And along the way, people will be encouraged by the pace of our recovery.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Most nightlife-related businesses are not giving up. But here in the French Quarter, where they rely on fun, frivolity and alcohol, business prospects for the most part are no longer intoxicating.

This was a concept you developed. It was a bar. You had the bull. And it just all went kaput after the storm.

WILLIAMS: Right, pretty much.

TUCHMAN: I mean, you probably never envisioned that.

WILLIAMS: Not at all.

TUCHMAN: Was it part of your business plan before you started, a possible hurricane?

WILLIAMS: Was not even on the map.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Business owners here have now redrawn those maps.


COOPER: So Gary, is there a specific reason for optimism among restaurant and bar owners?

TUCHMAN (on camera): Well, Anderson, normally the summer is not an optimistic time here. Not only is it the beginning of hurricane season, but it's the slow season in New Orleans. But in a few weeks, New Orleans is getting its first big convention since Hurricane Katrina -- 25,000 people from the American Library Association are coming to New Orleans. It is hoped those 25,000 people and other people from other conventions start going to these restaurants, bars and clubs, here on Bourbon Street, the French Quarter and throughout the city of New Orleans.

COOPER: I'm actually -- I just realized -- I'm actually speaking at that convention about my book. So, maybe I'll drag a bunch of them or maybe a couple thousand of them out for a drink or something. Maybe that will boom business a little bit.

Gary, thanks very much.

Constructing floodgates is what "The Times-Picayune" calls a centerpiece of the Army Corps of Engineers' plan to protect New Orleans this hurricane season.

Experts say that 85 percent of the water that flooded downtown New Orleans came in from on breaches on London Avenue and 17th Street canals. We're going to take a closer look at the construction efforts happening right now as we speak and going around the clock, as this special edition of 360, "24 Hours in New Orleans" continues.


COOPER: And welcome back. We are right at the 17th Street canal where they are building floodgates, really racing against time before hurricane season starts, which is tomorrow, to build these enormous gates. You can see the work going on as we speak. That is an enormous 11-ton gate that they are going to be slowly sliding in. And these crews have literally been working around the clock. One of the night supervisors, Todd McAllister, joins me.

You guys have been working just nonstop. What is it like?

MCALLISTER: Hard. But it's something that's got to be done. It's something we all believe in out here. So, you get through it. About 2:00 or 3:00 o'clock, you feel like you really need to go to sleep. But you do what you got to do.

COOPER: So, what are you doing right now?

MCALLISTER: Right now we're hanging -- that's the seventh of the 11 total gates. Each one weighing 11 tons, 26 foot tall. And they'll hang here in an open position until a hurricane comes.

COOPER: So when the hurricane comes and water -- maybe there's surge coming from the lake right over there, a crane will come and lower each of these into the water?

MCALLISTER: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. It will lower down. It'll actually stand at a 16-foot elevation when it's done, seal into a bottom plate, and that's category three strength.

COOPER: Because before, the levees in this area were about 12 feet. So these are going to be 16 feet?

MCALLISTER: Right. That's right. COOPER: And then so what are these guys doing right here?

MCALLISTER: Right now the gates got to come down. We've got to move some of our equipment out of the way to get the gates to slide on down into its open position. So, we're hanging that gate. We'll hang two more tonight and we'll have the last two to hang in the next day or so.

COOPER: Well, I hope you know how much people in New Orleans appreciate what you're doing. I mean, I hope you feel that because, you know, their safety really depends on what you guys are up to.

MCALLISTER: We hear it all the time. Anybody finds out we work for this company, we hear it. All the guys are from this area, so we're working for ourselves as well as for them.

COOPER: I heard some guys who were working on other jobs in other states volunteered or wanted to come back here because they knew how important their job was.

MCALLISTER: Right. We have guys that came in from Texas. We got crews volunteering from Florida. We had people ride back the day after the storm, actually, trying to get in here to get stuff fixed.

COOPER: It's nice to meet you. I thought I was one of the hardest working guys around, and you guys are working much harder. I appreciate what you're doing.

MCALLISTER: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

We're going to take a quick break and we'll have more of "24 Hours in the Life of New Orleans" in a moment. Stay with us.


COOPER: And they're putting the floodgate in as we speak.

Thanks for watching this special edition of 360.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. His special guest, the Dixie Chicks.

We'll be back in New Orleans tomorrow.


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