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CNN NEWSROOM

Kansas Tornado Kills Nine; Kenya Airways Flight Missing

Aired May 5, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA LONG, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: You hear that? Oh, no! Those are structures! Oh, no!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LONG: An extremely close encounter with a twister in Oklahoma. You have to see more of this footage. We'll share it with you.

We're also going to talk about the storm chaser who captured it.

Plus ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most significant emergency the state of Kansas has faced in a long, long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LONG: A Kansas town all but wiped from the map by last night's tornado. We're going to take you there live in just a moment.

Hello. I'm Melissa Long, in today for Fredricka Whitfield, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A hellish night and a tragic day after. A small town in Kansas is all but gone, flattened by a deadly tornado.

At this hour, dangerous storms are breaking out again.

At least eight people are now reported dead in and around the town of Greensburg, Kansas. Hardly a home was left untouched - difficult to be believe.

The town's business district - it's gone, along with the high school, the junior high, city hall.

Officials are talking today of having to start over from scratch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE HEWITT, CITY ADMINISTRATOR, GREENSBURG, KANSAS: This is a huge catastrophe that's happened to our small town. You know, 1,400 people in this community. And I believe that 95 percent of the homes are gone. And all my downtown is gone. My home is gone, you know. My staff's homes are gone. And we've got to find a way to make it work - come to work every day and get this thing back on its feet.

It's going to be tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LONG: Witnesses say the twister was a half-mile wide, perhaps even bigger. It struck Greensburg about 9:30 local time last night, about 20 minutes after the first warnings went out.

One witness reported his power went out, followed 10 minutes later by massive hail, then the tornado.

Many were able to make it to storm shelters and into their basements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JEFFREY ALLRED, TORNADO WITNESS: We heard the thunderstorms and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) down in the basement. And we just kind of sat huddled in the hallway between the bathroom and the offices down there, and listened to the house be lifted away above us.

So, but the basement stayed intact, and the people were OK. And we came out about an hour later to see that everything across the street was gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my mom's house, and she didn't have insurance. And she's a bit hysterical about it.

But like I told her, I mean, we're all OK, and it's all fixable - eventually.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

LONG: Today, Greensburg is under an evacuation order. Many townspeople bussed to surrounding cities with several dozen victims hospitalized, including 16 in critical condition tonight.

The National Guard is patrolling the streets, as rescue workers search for people who may still be trapped under the rubble.

Joining us live from Greensburg, Kansas, reporter Michael Schwanke from CNN affiliate, KWCH in Wichita - Michael.

MICHAEL SCHWANKE, KWCH-TV WICHITA, GREENSBURG, KANSAS: Melissa, it is going to be a long road to recovery out here. You heard them say 95 percent of the small town of Greensburg, Kansas - a town of about 1,400 or 1,500 people - has been wiped out.

We're talking total destruction, not just minor damage, 95 percent. Nine confirmed fatalities now, eight in this county, one in another county. Officials touring this area can only describe this as "indescribable." I can say the same thing. I have been through many of these areas. We're talking about homes ripped off their foundations.

I talked to one woman. The family went to bed at night. They got a call from a friend who said a tornado is on the way, you need to take shelter.

They made it to their basement just in time. That tornado went over. All they had left was the foundation on their home.

Debris did fall and hit one of their kids in the head. He was taken to the hospital with some injuries.

But again, trees - their bark has been stripped off. Buildings - even brick buildings - wiped off the map, and that includes the downtown of Greensburg.

We are now getting reports of this tornado being up to a mile to a mile-and-a-half wide in some areas. And this carried on the ground for several miles, maybe even up to 30 miles long is how long this was on the ground.

The bad news right now, we still have the possibility of more victims.

I talked to a congressman here who said that is a very strong possibility. It is too dangerous for a lot of the rescue crews to get in there and search for more victims.

Also, making the situation even worse, we are lined up for more and more storms. And Greensburg seems to be right in their target - Melissa.

LONG: We're going to talk about the potential for additional storms in a moment with our meteorologist.

You talked about the potential for additional fatalities. I understand communication has been so compromised, that they really haven't been able to reach out to so many people that live there.

SCHWANKE: Yes, we don't have cell phone. They don't have electricity. They don't have gas. Their water tower has been just crumpled to the ground. So they have nothing, and that's making it very difficult for any emergency crews to talk to each other. That includes radio towers.

Everything in this area has been wiped out.

LONG: Michael Schwanke from our CNN affiliate, KWCH. We'll talk to you a little bit later in the hour?

SCHWANKE: OK.

LONG: Great. Thank you, Michael. Now, the tornados erupted in at least three states. Two struck in Oklahoma, damaging several structures, but injuring no one.

This tornado tore across some Oklahoma farm land.

Let's check in now with meteorologist Jacqui Jeras, who is keeping us up to date on the severe weather system that is brewing. And I understand there are more states that fall under the watch right now.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST, CNN WEATHER CENTER: Absolutely. We just got a brand new PDS watch, as we call it, that's been issued for parts of Nebraska into southwestern Iowa, also into parts of Kansas. That's means it's a particularly dangerous situation. We're expecting large, violent tornados, just like the pictures that you saw.

We could see another Greensburg, possibly today. So, make sure you're alert. If those sirens go off, take cover immediately.

We've got three PDS watches in effect right now - central Kansas, central Nebraska, sitting (ph) down into Oklahoma and even into the panhandle of Texas.

Then we also have a watch that includes you here into the Sioux Valley area, from Sioux Falls down towards Sioux City, into Yankton, South Dakota, that whole area.

We do have that high tornado threat today, as we call it. And the storm prediction center only issues high threats maybe five times a year or so on average. It's a very small number, just to give you an idea of how significant and just how ripe conditions are today for those large, destructive tornados.

Now, we are looking at some severe thunderstorms just to the west of the Greensburg area right now. And this thunderstorm has a warning on it and is capable of producing quarter-sized hail. And that could be moving right over the tornado damage areas at this hour.

All of these thunderstorms have the potential of that large hail and some damaging winds, maybe up to 60 miles per hour.

We also have several tornado warnings still ongoing into parts of Nebraska, for Blaine, for Brown, for Custer Counties. Those storms are moving on up to the north. The recipe is just ripe. This is going to be an ongoing event, we think, Melissa, throughout the afternoon, throughout the evening hours.

We have a lot of moisture in place. We have opposing upper level winds and the dry line, which is kicking in. So, this will be a very significant tornado day.

And I just want to show you the temperature map to show you the huge difference here. Look at Denver, 53 degrees, and Kansas City at 81. When you see things like that, you know things are going to be popping right in that area. Back to you.

LONG: Jacqui, thanks so much. A potential for a dangerous evening. We'll talk to you a little bit later in the broadcast.

Now, the twister in Greensburg, Kansas, was one of the worst in recent memory.

Joshua Levs joins us now with more on some of the history of tornados in the U.S.

JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CENTER, ATLANTA: Yes. You know, there's a reason that Jacqui is used to reporting about these things, and there's a reason that you and I are used to talking about them.

And it has to do with the fact that more happen here in the United States than anywhere else. This is the tornado capital of the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

LEVS (voice-over): The devastation, the loss - images all too familiar, especially to residents of the so-called "tornado alley" in the Midwest and South.

The National Weather Service says the deadliest tornado disaster was in March 1925. It struck Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, killing nearly 700 people.

Almost 50 years later, in April 1974, came the worst single outbreak of tornados in the shortest period of time - the infamous "super outbreak" - 148 across 16 states in less than 24 hours. More than 300 people were killed.

One of the largest single twisters recorded was recent, in Hallam, Nebraska, in April 2004. The National Weather Service says it measured nearly 2.5 miles across, though it killed only one person.

The U.S. experiences about 1,000 a year, more than any other country. And the National Service says about 60 people are killed each year. More die in heat or floods. And in recent years, more have died in hurricanes.

But, of course, the impact of a tornado is not measured just in lives lost. Many in Greensburg, Kansas, who survived the latest twisters have lost their livelihoods, homes - everything of sentimental value.

Tornados generally last only a few minutes, but can destroy what people have spent years working for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most significant emergency the state of Kansas has faced in a long, long time.

(END VIDEO) LEVS (on camera): One thing we don't know at this point, coming out of all this is, how much will it ultimately cost the state of Kansas, you know, in general. These things can cost millions, even billions of dollars.

In fact, Melissa, today, I was looking back at this. And the most costly one ever, in 1973, costs in today's dollars more than $5 billion. And that was one that occurred here in the state of Georgia.

LONG: Josh Levs, thanks so much.

LEVS: Thanks.

Unbelievable pictures that we've been sharing with you today out of Oklahoma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) windshield wipers! Turn off the wipers! Don't get in an accident!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LONG: Straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, we're going to talk to the young man who had this very close encounter with a twister and managed to capture these images.

Plus, Nicole Lapin checks the Web buzz about the tornados in Kansas and Oklahoma - Nicole.

NICOLE LAPIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Yes, Melissa, as people are healing, the blogosphere is really buzzing. It almost seems to be a cathartic experience right now, so I'll tell you what people are saying online, coming up.

LONG: Thank you so much.

Also ahead on a much lighter note, derby time in Kentucky, with Her Royal Highness, the Queen, looking on. Mary Jo Mitchell is there.

Hey, Mary Jo.

MARY JO MITCHELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR, LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY: Hey, that's right. It is the sport of kings. But this year, it is fit for a queen.

We'll have more coming up live from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, in just a bit.

LONG: What a pretty hat. Live from Louisville, Kentucky, about 30 minutes from now.

Plus, the latest on the situation in Greensburg, Kansas, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LONG: A couple of hours ago we heard from Senator Pat Roberts of the state of Kansas. We understand that the senator is joining us now on the line.

Senator, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS, R-KANSAS, HAVILAND, KANSAS (by telephone): It's my privilege. We are in Haviland, Kansas, talking to some of the people who have come through this terrible damage.

We had to leave Greensburg - or what's left of Greensburg - in city hall, and that they're all in a basement now. In an almost, a "believe it or not" situation, they are under a severe tornado warning.

So, we headed east as fast as we could. We are in Haviland. We are now going to talk to some of the people who are seeking refuge here, but then we're going to - we're going to be leaving pretty quickly, because the word is out another powerful storm is in the offing.

LONG: OK. So, to better understand, you left Greensburg. You're now in Haviland. In terms of geography, how far have you traveled?

ROBERTS: Oh, about 10 miles.

LONG: OK. All right. You feel you're in a safe location?

ROBERTS: Well, we're keeping a close watch on the sky as we talk.

LONG: All right. Well, while we talk here, do keep an eye on the sky. If you need to go, please just let us know. We totally understand.

Early we heard that you have been in contact with FEMA. Also, you've approached the White House. What have you heard back?

ROBERTS: Well, basically, we heard back from the White House an expression of great sorrow and their prayers, and their best wishes for the people of Greensburg.

As soon as the governor will submit a request for an emergency disaster declaration, they will act, and they will act very quickly.

And we have Senator Brownback and Congressman Moran and Congressman Tiahrt and myself all signing a letter, trying to expedite that. And in that, it is no understatement to say - or overstatement to say - that this town has been wiped off the face of the earth.

We took a ground tour and then went up in a helicopter before the storm warning came - total devastation. This is a 95 percent situation.

I'm a former Marine. I've seen some pretty bad things. But this is just as bad as it gets.

LONG: Senator Pat Roberts joining us on the line from Haviland, just a short distance there from Greensburg.

Thanks so much for your perspective. Do stay safe.

ROBERTS: OK. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

LONG: Thank you.

Now, we're showing you these pictures from an Oklahoma storm chaser. Joel Taylor got pretty darn close to one of those twisters, and he brought us some amazing video. We want to show it you now.

And if you want to know what a tornado sounds like, listen, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) windshield wipers! Turn off the wipers! Don't get in an accident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we're good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh! Don't go! Jesus Christ!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut your door. Shut your door!

Shut your door. OK. Go! Back up! Back up!

We're OK. We're OK.

RADIO BROADCASTER: There are spotters on the ground, emergency management directors. There are trained spotters on the ground.

We do not want you to be out looking at this storm - a dangerous storm, a particularly hazardous storm - in the south Ellis County area now. Highway 283, that would be Arnett and to the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're good. Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to the roar!

I got it.

You hear that? Oh, no! Those are structures! Oh, no!

No! Wow!

Can you hear that?

Don't move!

(END VIDEO) LONG: Pretty amazing video that just shows the power of Mother Nature.

Now, I mentioned that Reed Timmer, one of the gentlemen, one of the storm chasers who captured those images - we tried to establish a connection with him. We have been unable to do that. Perhaps he's out potentially chasing other storms, since severe weather is moving through that area once again.

I did speak with his buddy, Joel Taylor, earlier in the day. They both have backgrounds in meteorology and admit they may have come just a little too close to that tornado. But they are, of course, safe today.

Just imagine for a second that that tornado alarm siren goes off in your hometown. What do you need to know to be prepared for a natural disaster?

Potentially lifesaving tips from a pro straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

Plus, 240 rubber bullets fired, but zero arrests. So, what's wrong with this picture?

The latest twists and turns in the LAPD investigation. That story in about 20 minutes.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LONG: The town of Greensburg essentially wiped off the map after yesterday's tornados tore through that small community.

The state officials now confirming about nine fatalities. We're finding out the latest, of course, from our affiliates, from our reporters, and also from the Web about yesterday's tornados.

CNN's Nicole Lapin is telling us what the buzz is on the Web - Nicole.

NICOLE LAPIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, Melissa, people are sharing stories like crazy online. They are really finding the blogosphere to be cathartic right now.

Let me show you one person I found. Her name is Joanie (ph), and she says that she grew up in this small town of Greensburg, Kansas. And this is what it looked like while she was growing up. She actually has a picture of the small town.

And here, it's so stark what it looks like right now. And it's under this heading, "Dear God! It's all gone."

That really says it all.

And here's somebody else's blog we were looking, Patsy Terrell (ph). This is under Patsy's ponderings. And she was 80 miles away, Melissa, but she still felt the impact of the storm.

You can see this is what it looked like from inside her house, that the curtains were blowing during the tornado last night.

And she says under here, unfortunately, the conditions are right for more severe weather tomorrow, including a possible tornado.

So, a lot of people, Melissa, are bracing for something else to happen.

But you know what? People are also helping each other online. Here's something we found under Disaster Prep 101. And now they have a blog about tornado preparedness. And this is under an acronym, STORMS. So, S is for shelter, T is for time, O is for others, R is for resources, M for medical and S for sweeping up.

So, as we've heard stories about people helping each other on the ground, albeit with generators or water or food, people are also helping each other on the blogosphere.

LONG: Nicole, thanks so much. We're going to talk a little bit more right now about what people can do, what people need to do, because the sirens did go off in Greensburg about 20 minutes before the twister hit, allowing most of the residents to take shelter.

But still, there are deaths today and those that are critically injured.

We're going to find out more now from Bev Moreland of the American Red Cross. She joins us.

Thanks so much, Bev. We appreciate your time.

BEV MORLAN, AMERICAN RED CROSS, WICHITA, KANSAS (by telephone): You're very welcome.

LONG: So, tell us a little bit more about the situation there and this awesome challenge you now have.

MORLAN: Yes, it is a devastating and significant storm. We have about five shelters open. We've had over 400 people in the shelters. We have damage assessment teams on the ground, as well as shelter teams.

And it's really a coordinated effort by the Red Cross to get some help and meet these immediate emergency assistance needs.

LONG: Emergency assistance is difficult today, because the communication lines are down. So, how do you deal with that?

MORLAN: Well, the Red Cross - you know, this is what we do. And so, we prepare and get ready, you know, and know how to handle these situations.

But we know that people's emergency needs are to have a place to stay, to have a roof over their heads, be able to provide them some food and some water and some mental health support and health services.

So, these are the things that we plan and get ready for, and are now putting into action.

LONG: You mentioned making sure that people have a roof over their heads.

Well, when you have 95 percent of that community gone, some 1,400 residents call it home, what do you do? Where do you find the temporary shelters?

MORLAN: Well, these are in communities close by the Greensburg area. So, in a community called Haviland and Mullinville and Bucklin. These are neighboring communities.

And so, we open shelters with trained volunteers and in partnership with those communities, and you know, their schools, their gyms or their churches at different times. It depends on the local communities.

LONG: Bev, let's also talk about preparedness.

MORLAN: Absolutely.

LONG: Of course, it's always important to be proactive.

What do you personally keep just in case of an emergency, and what do you encourage everybody else to keep?

MORLAN: Well, you know, we encourage people to have basic items like bottled water and some non-perishable foods.

But, you know, you need a flashlight, you need batteries, personal hygiene items - really, things that can be as easy as going through your house and gathering up those supplies that you know that would be a lifeline for you following a storm.

And there is a complete list. People can log on to RedCross.org, www.RedCross.org, and find a list of those supplies.

LONG: You know, something else that's very important - personal information.

What do you keep in a safe place, just in case of devastation like this?

I mean, people here, they don't have driver's licenses. They don't have passports. Everything seems to be gone.

MORLAN: Absolutely. And so, you know, those critical, essential documents that we all know are important to have in terms of identification.

And then, what's really important is to have a list of phone numbers of your loved ones, people you need to contact, so that you would have them, you know, in case of a disaster. LONG: Bev Morlan, thanks so much for joining us from the American Red Cross in Wichita, Kansas. We appreciate your time and your perspective today.

MORLAN: Well, thank you. We appreciate you helping us get the word out.

LONG: Of course.

MORLAN: Thank you very much.

LONG: Thank you.

And straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, we're going to go live to Greensburg, Kansas, where rescue teams, search teams still combing the rubble for survivors, victims.

Jacqui Jeras is keeping a close eye on possible new tornados and developing storms - Jacqui.

JERAS: Yes. We have tornado warnings right now for Brown and also for Blaine Counties in Nebraska. You need to be seeking shelter now.

Find out where that tornado threat is heading next. That's coming up in your forecast.

LONG: Jacqui, thank you.

Stay with CNN, your severe weather headquarters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: On this Saturday afternoon, let's get you up-to-date on the big story today. Tornadoes tearing through America's heartland. Here's what we know right now. Nine people reported dead after a powerful twister obliterates the town of Greensburg, Kansas. At least 55 more people are injured. Sixteen of those said to be in critical condition today.

The Kansas National Guard is on the scene. Rescue crews are combing through the rubble, searching for survivors. Little more than the courthouse remains standing after last night's deadly twister. The storm blew into the small southern Kansas hamlet just after 9:30 last night. Residents had approximately 20 minutes to heed the warning sirens that preceded the tornado's arrival.

Michael Schwanke is a reporter with our CNN affiliate in Wichita, KWCH television. Michael, we were listening earlier to the emergency officials. There seemed to be apprehension about the search for survivors.

MICHAEL SCHWANKE, KWCH REPORTER: Yes, right now, they can't tell us one way or another whether they have found everyone. The big concern out here right now is they're trying to get to every home out here and they've laid it out in grids. They're trying to get in there and search every home, but all of the debris is making that very difficult.

You know we should mention out here in this area we are very used to severe weather. We are very used to tornadoes and we know how to prepare for them. But just because you are prepared for this one did not guarantee your safety. The strength of this tornado ripped homes from their foundations, and just because you were in a basement did not guarantee your safety.

Ninety-five percent of this town, small town of Greensburg, we're talking about a town of 14 or 1,500 people has been wiped out. It's not just minor damage. Most of the town is totally gone. Right now we do have nine confirmed fatalities, dozens and dozens more injured, and again, that count could rise as we go into tonight and tomorrow, as rescuers are able to clear away some of that debris.

They're just now getting to the point where they can get to some of those areas because they had to clear the roads, there was so much debris in those areas. Also we have the concern of more storms. There is a curfew in place here in the town of Greensburg. That goes into effect at 8:00. We're told anyone found in the town after 8:00 will be arrested.

LONG: Michael Schwanke from our CNN affiliate KWCH television out of Wichita -- Michael, thank you.

This devastation pretty overwhelming. What kind of storm would have caused this? How strong was that tornado? Jacqui, how long will it be before we figure that out?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I don't know. We haven't heard yet from the National Weather Service. In fact, I tried calling them just about a half an hour ago and the line has been busy, as I can imagine. They're extremely busy not just because of the tornado that happened yesterday but because they're still under that threat at this hour and there are multiple storms just off to the West of there that are severe, producing large hail and damaging winds as we speak.

And there's one near Coldwater right now that we'll be watching and as this thing develops, we'll be worried that there's a chance of rotation, so we'll watch that very closely and if that happens of course we'll bring that along to you. Our biggest threat this afternoon and into the evening hours is right here in the nation's heartland, from South Dakota stretching all the way down into the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma.

The watches with the arrows that we put on here for you, these are PDS watches, what we call particularly dangerous situations, which means that conditions are so very ripe for tornadoes to occur, and not just weak little tornadoes but very large, destructive tornadoes that can stay on the ground for a very long period of time. In fact, this watch right here which includes much of central Nebraska and northern parts of Kansas, a 95 percent chance that there will be at least two tornadoes that touch the ground and a 95 percent chance that the tornadoes that do touch down will likely be an F2 or larger.

F3 is what we would consider a severe tornado that can knock down the walls in your house. This is a high-threat tornado day. We only get maybe a handful of high threat days like this per year, to put it in perspective of just how significant and how severe this storm system is, throughout the day. We'll take you now into Kansas. And here's the Greensburg area and there you can see the storm to the south, that's producing some very large hail right now, is tracking north-northeasterly, so we might get lucky over the tornado damaged areas and hopefully the storm will stay on off to your east so that's certainly something we'll be watching very closely.

Up to the north, this is where we have the actual rotation, three different warnings in effect here. Blaine County, Brown County, also Keya Paha counties and the new one, Knox County all under tornado warnings. You need to be seeking shelter immediately. This will be ongoing throughout the night tonight, by the way, Melissa. And I just want to tell people, make sure you've got your NOAA weather radio with you and keep this on when you go to bed, because when the sun goes down, you don't see it, if you're sleeping, you may not hear a warning unless your radio is on and it wakes you up.

LONG: This high threat tornado day that you've been talking about, what type of weather systems have been in place to make this happen?

JERAS: Well we have to have all kinds of different elements into play and this will explain that for you here very closely. We've got low pressure and upper level low coming in from the west. We've got cooler, drier air pushing in from there. Ahead of it we have what we call a low level jet and that basically transports a ton of moisture in from the Gulf of Mexico, upper level winds are coming in from an opposite direction than the surface wind, so that gives the potential for rotation.

LONG: Jacqui, thanks so much for explaining that -- appreciate it.

Now even the FBI is involved in the probe of the LAPD's action at last Tuesday's immigration rally. We'll have the latest twists and turns in that story about five minutes from now.

And another data security blunder, this time at the Transportation Security Administration, that full story ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LONG: Saturday afternoon, May 5. Let's bring you up-to-date on some of the other stories happening today. Not so secure at the Transportation Security Administration. The search is under way for a missing computer hard drive containing payroll information for about 100,000 TSA employees. The FBI and Secret Service are involved in this probe.

Federal officials have stopped 20 million chickens from entering the food supply over concerns the birds may have consumed feed containing the chemical melamine. Scientists are still investigating if there are any health concerns for people who may have consumed the contaminated chicken.

President Bush is pushing national health policy today by pushing you to exercise more. The president suggested everybody could be much healthier if they spend maybe 30 minutes five times a week cycling, swimming, walking, jogging, your choice. Mr. Bush says exercise is a great way to lessen stress, prevent disease as well. His comments come just a few days into the national physical fitness and sports month.

And celebritante (ph) Paris Hilton is going to have some time on her hands to exercise if she wants. The 26-year-old heiress/actress has been sentenced to a 45-day jail term for violating probation. She was caught driving twice on a suspended license after an alcohol- related arrest. Hilton must report to a women's jail in metro Los Angeles by the 5th of June.

The FBI is investigating accusations of excessive force by the Los Angeles police. Officers fired hundreds of non-lethal rounds at immigration protesters earlier in the week. Others allegedly used batons to beat back the crowd including journalists covering the demonstrations.

Dan Simon reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FBI will be asked to decide what exactly happened here on these chaotic streets near downtown Los Angeles. It is now investigating how a peaceful immigration rally came to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go.

SIMON: If the police department's goal was to bring calm, these images show the officers failed and in fact, only made matters worse.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get back!

SIMON: Bystanders seemingly innocent are seen getting shoved and shot by rubber bullets -- images captured by CNN show the trouble begins when a small group of protesters takes over a street corner, and seems intent on provoking police. Some of the agitators have upside down American flags, and bandanas covering their faces. They taunt the officers by yelling obscenities. Some of them take it even further by throwing objects, including sticks, and plastic bottles.

(SOUNDS)

SIMON: The cops have had enough and begin using what appears to be indiscriminant force. Several journalists here to cover the event unwillingly become part of it.

PATTI BALLAZ, PHOTOJOURNALIST: They wanted people to leave but they weren't letting anybody leave and there was no way to get out. SIMON: Patti Ballaz, a camerawoman for the local FOX station is seen on the ground after she says she was beaten by an officer's nightstick. Ballaz was on the other side of the camera, announcing she's filed a claim against the city. She says she suffered a fractured wrist and bruises on her breast.

BALLAZ: I don't think they wanted us to show what they were doing.

SIMON: Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton says he's troubled by the officer's tactics.

CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE: Two hundred forty rounds with no arrests, as part of that action, is a great concern to me. Great, great concern.

SIMON: Bratton requested the FBI's involvement and the bureau confirms it will look into whether officers violated civil rights.

(on camera): And there's more fallout. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cut short a trade mission to Mexico to deal with the escalating situation. The question he and everyone else wants answered is who gave the authorization to use such force and why.

Dan Simon, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LONG: Much lighter note now, a special guest is adding to the glamour at the 133rd Kentucky Derby. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Mary Jo Mitchell is covering the race in Louisville and our intrepid royal watcher Richard Quest joins us from Washington.

Thank you so much. Love the hat, Mary Jo. Let's start with you. What does it look like there today?

MARY JO MITCHELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.

Oh, it's unbelievable. You can just feel how the excitement building as we are now just under an hour and a half away from post time in the 133rd Kentucky Derby. There's so much excitement every year that surrounds the Derby but even more so this year because as you mentioned, the queen is expected to be in attendance. We haven't seen her yet.

She hasn't stopped by the old CNN tents just yet, but we are expecting her to be in town for the race because it's always been a dream of hers to be at the Kentucky Derby. She's kind of had a love affair with horses since she was younger and has even been to Kentucky several times to visit horse farms and has been a part of breeding horses but she's never been to the Derby, so it's going to be just as exciting for her and I know people in Louisville want to give her a pretty good race.

LONG: Mr. Quest, let's talk to you right now. Mary Jo just mentioned the queen's avid love affair with horses. What can you share with us about that?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well first of all I feel quite naked compared to...

LONG: Well so do I.

QUEST: ... compared to Mary Jo with that splendid hat! In fact, that sort of hat wouldn't disgrace royal (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the queen has been one of the world's leading experts on, I call it horse flesh, that is actually a technical term. But basically she has a large stable in her own right. Her mother, the late queen mother, Elizabeth (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was also very much involved in horse racing, between them, and the royal studs, they've won just about every major race in the United Kingdom.

So she absolute adores horse racing. Now, as to the way this visit is going, look at the smile on the queen. I was talking to people at the palace a short while ago and they absolutely took a hoot over the way the visit is going. They are very pleased with the warmth of the welcome, the crowds that are turning out and what they are saying to me, the palace, unofficially is they knew that the queen was popular in this country but they never realized the strength of the affection.

LONG: She's doing quite a bit of travel and will be off to Washington D.C. for a state dinner next week?

QUEST: Oh, yes, yes. I mean what we've got happening from now on, we've got Saturday, the Kentucky Derby. On Sunday, it's a private day but I understand that the queen will be talking horsey matters with horsey people, and very much in Kentucky. She might be looking for some sires for her mares to -- you know for future breeding and that sort of thing.

She does a lot of that sort of thing. She likes horses. Now on Monday, it's back to the business of government and state organizations. She comes up to Washington. Monday night is going to be a gala night here in Washington, the nation's capital, because it's the first white tie dinner of the Bush presidency. Now, they've had many state dinners, I think five or six state dinners but none of them have been white tie. White tie is pretty much the highest ranking you can get, entirely appropriate, I think, for Queen Elizabeth.

LONG: Richard, this event, this visit has been so well- orchestrated. Earlier when she just touched down on the tarmac we have video of the elaborate intricacies of her arrival, here with even the hat boxes. Have there been any hiccups with her visit?

QUEST: No, I mean none that the palace are telling me at the moment. The visit is -- I mean besides the difficulty of getting the stairs to the plane which started out and unusually for the queen, she has run a couple of moments late in various different places, but just look at those hat boxes. As they say, here's your hat. Where's your hurry? A hat for every occasion, entirely appropriate.

LONG: And we are not appropriately dressed. We are both missing our hats today.

QUEST: Naked, naked.

LONG: Richard Quest, thanks so much though. It's a pleasure to talk to you. Enjoy your visit on this side of the pond as well.

Now Veronica de la Cruz is here with a preview of next hour of THE NEWSROOM. Veronica, what do you have on tap?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I counted four hat boxes.

LONG: Oh, there were...

DE LA CRUZ: Four.

LONG: I think there were a few more than that actually.

DE LA CRUZ: Really? And I'm wondering what she's going to be wearing today.

LONG: Even the hat boxes were elaborate though.

DE LA CRUZ: Exactly. I wonder if she's going to be putting a bet on the horse. You know...

LONG: It will be interesting to see who she bets on.

DE LA CRUZ: And I'm sure we're going to be covering that. We're also going to be covering this devastating tornado that has touched down in Kansas. I know that you guys have been talking about it all day today. A pretty unique situation, Melissa. Jacqui Jeras and Rob Marciano both will be sharing their perspective. We're going to continue to track the storm's path and bring you updates throughout the night.

That is at 5:00 and 11:00 and also, Melissa, another very interesting story we're going to be talking about, the judge's pants. The judge's pants -- Judge Roy Pearson is suing a dry cleaner's for $65 million over one pair of lost pants. Criminal defense lawyer B.J. Bernstein will be joining us in THE NEWSROOM with her thoughts and expertise. You'll want to join me and Rob Marciano at the top of the 5:00 right back here in THE NEWSROOM. Melissa, I know that you will be watching.

LONG: It is an interesting story and we'll look forward to hearing more about your honor or his honor's plans for the pants.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes. Exactly.

LONG: Thanks, Veronica.

We are watching, as you know, tornado alley in the U.S. Do stay here for the very latest and also a tragedy in Africa today. One hundred and fourteen people, including one American, feared dead after a Kenya Airlines flight dropped off the radar. That report about five minutes from now.

Plus al Qaeda's number two releases a new video message. Any news right here or just more of the same terrorist propaganda. Find out. Straight ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LONG: Saturday afternoon, let's give you the latest on the tornadoes that blew through southern Kansas last night. For all intents and purposes the town of Greensburg, Kansas, no longer exists. Nearly everything in the town of just under 2,000 is gone, destroyed. Kansas, emergency officials say they have nine reported fatalities, eight of those from Greensburg proper. The state National Guard is on site, as are various relief groups trying to help storm victims.

And let's now go global with headlines happening all around the world today. New video of Ayman al-Zawahiri has been posted online and on the video al Qaeda's number two man comments on a number of recent issues, including the debate over congressional funding for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Thousands of demonstrators hit the streets of Pakistan in support of the country's top judge. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is trying to fire the chief justice, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), amid charges of misconduct. Choudary (ph) refuses to resign.

Thousands of demonstrators, they took to the streets in two Turkish cities today, protesting against the government. Demonstrators want the country's secular political system preserved. The protests come days before parliament votes on whether to name a former Islamist as the country's new president.

And rescue crews has suspended the search for a missing plane in southern Cameroon. The Kenya Airways jet is believed to have crashed during a rainstorm shortly after takeoff. Relatives of the 115 passengers and crew have flocked to the airport near Nairobi, Kenya waiting for word. An American is among the passengers.

Here's Cal Perry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anxious families wait at Nairobi's International Airport. Hope diminishing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can only hope for the best and pray that all is well but actually, it's a very anxious moment and we are really anxious and desperate.

PERRY: Kenyan authorities say they are working with the government in Cameroon to try to locate the Boeing 737, Kenya Airways flight 507. The plane, like the one seen here, was only six months old. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) forest. We've been told there has been heavy rainfall from yesterday and that heavy rainfall is still continuing and is affecting the site exercise.

PERRY: The flight took off from a rainy Douala (ph) in Cameroon shortly after midnight Saturday, bound for Nairobi with 115 people onboard. The Kenyan airline official says that some 15 minutes after takeoff, contact was lost. An automatic distress signal followed.

TITUS NAIKUNI, CEO, KQ AIRLINES: The latest information that we have is that a distress signal was picked up on the west coast of Africa, and a search and rescue mission initiated by the Cameroon authorities was initiated at 11:05 this morning. That's Nairobi time.

PERRY: The flight was carrying people from at least eight countries. According to a statement from The Associated Press, one of its reporters, Anthony Mitchell, is believed to be among the passengers. The agency said quote, "Anthony had been on assignment for the past week, and had contacted his family before boarding the flight to let them know he was headed home. We hope for the best."

In Nairobi, too, they're hoping for the best, but as more time passes, preparing for the worst.

Cal Perry, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LONG: And still to come, everything you should know about tornadoes in the U.S. and coming up, you decide every day what the popular stories here are at CNN. Those results when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LONG: And finally, the most popular videos on CNN.com this hour, Oklahoma tornado up close. A storm chaser, Reed Timmer (ph), shot this footage of a tornado rolling through Ellis County, Oklahoma.

Number two, Greensburg damage, a half mile wide tornado just smashing through that small Kansas town.

And number three, Paris Hilton going to jail. The celebrity heiress gets a 45-day prison sentence for driving with a suspended license.

Those are some of the more popular stories this is hour on CNN.com. From the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Melissa Long in for Fredricka Whitfield. The next hour of NEWSROOM with Veronica de la Cruz and Rob Marciano starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear that? Oh, no, those are structures. Oh, no!

(END VIDEO CLIP) DE LA CRUZ: Here's what's coming up next in THE NEWSROOM. Dramatic pictures showing the brute force of a tornado that ripped through the heartland last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know 1,400 people in this community, and I believe that 95 percent of the homes are gone and all of my downtown is gone. My home's gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: Another twister all but wiped out this small Kansas town and at least nine people were killed.

I'm Rob Marciano and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

DE LA CRUZ: And I'm Veronica de la Cruz. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Rick Sanchez has the night off.

Here is the latest information on the deadly twister that has leveled a town in Kansas. At last word, the storm system is blamed for at least nine deaths including eight in devastated Greensburg. Dozens of people were injured, 16 critically. According to a town official, 95 percent of Greensburg's homes are gone.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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