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THE SITUATION ROOM
Risks to Relief Workers; Trapped Girl Believed to be Alive; Former Presidents Lead Haiti Fund; L.A. County Search And Rescue Feverishly Works At A Site Amidst Uncertainty, Danger, And Driven By The Hope Of Waiting Relatives Of The Missing
Aired January 16, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Don, thank you.
The United Nations confirms its top two civilian officials in Haiti were in fact killed in the earthquake. Some estimates now put the death toll at more than 100,000. Relief workers warning the numbers will quickly rise if water, food and medicine don't reach a desperate population. These are critical hours.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting Haiti right now to look at the damage and relief efforts. Fifty Americans will be evacuated with her once she leaves.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are tapped by President Obama to lead a Haiti fundraising effort. Their message to Americans, send cash and do it right now.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States, and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first, breaking news: A dramatic story unfolding in Haiti right now. A little girl has been found alive after four days under a collapsed day-care center. But she's trapped. She's trapped underneath tons of rubble. Our Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us.
Anderson, set the scene for us. Tell us what we know.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is somebody is trapped alive underneath this rubble, Wolf. We don't know exactly who it is. There is a number of families here who believe that their loved one might be trapped.
There is a little girl named Laika (ph), who is 10 years old. Her mother, Manushka (ph), is the one who originally stopped these fire personnel from L.A. County Fire Department, L.A. County Search & Rescue.
They were driving down the street, they're in control of this sector. They're responsible for searching rubble and debris in this sector, in downtown Port-au-Prince. Earlier today, around 12:30, they were stopped by a woman named Manushka (ph), who was despondent saying her daughter was trapped alive inside this rubble. We came over with the search and rescue team. Our interpreter Vlad, who works for CNN in New York, who came here with us, who speaks Creole, who speaks French, came with the firefighters, yelling out, asking anybody inside the rubble to tap three times. That was the signal to see if somebody was alive. They were listening with equipment, with listening devices, very sensitive equipment. They thought they heard some moaning. They tried to get everybody on the street to be quiet. But there is so much ambient noise it is very hard for search and rescue personnel to determine what sound, exactly, they're hearing.
They brought in, at three different times, over the last four hours, they had brought in dogs, specially trained dogs to search that are not cadaver dogs, but dogs that can search for living people inside of rubble. One dog showed interest early on. But the last time they brought a dog in, the dog didn't have a positive hit that there was somebody alive.
Nevertheless, these search and rescue personnel, who are very experienced, continued pushing forward, continued searching. They have been trying to -- they have been -- for four hours now pushing into the building, trying to enter it very carefully through this direction.
About an hour, hour and a half ago, they also went in through another direction and they burrowed in, at great risk to themselves, and for the first time when they called out they distinctly heard three taps. It was a remarkable moment.
I talked to the firefighter who actually heard the taps. He said, look, this is a go. Out of a scale of one to 10, he described it as being a 10 as a positive indication that somebody is alive. We don't know who it is. And there is a lot of hopeful moms and dads out here right now, hoping it is their loved one.
But what is so remarkable about this, Wolf, is this is basically four days to the hour that this earthquake first struck. It was Tuesday afternoon around 5:30, I believe if I'm not mistaken, it is now Saturday, I think it is the top of the 5:00 hour. Four days, somebody is still alive inside the structure.
Wolf, this is what used to be a day-care center. What you're probably seeing is actually the second story which now kind of seems like the first story. The first story is basically completely buried. But they believe there are voids, open spaces inside the rubble in which whoever is in there is basically entombed inside the rubble, but in some sort of an open air space, maybe underneath the staircase or maybe there is an interior wall that didn't collapse. That's what allowed this person to stay alive.
Remarkably, we talked to several people, one young man whose sister may be somebody -- may be inside there, alive or dead, we don't know, whose sister works in this day-care center. This man told us a little girl named Theresa actually was pulled out of here just yesterday. She was 13 years old. And she tells a story that another little girl, a girl by the name of Dorian Bruno, who is 12 years old, she says she saw Dorian Bruno alive yesterday, inside the rubble, and as she was crawling out, Dorian tried to call out but in the words of this little girl, she fell asleep. What that means, we don't know.
The mom, Manushka (ph), is still here on the scene. She has been praying silently for many hours. She's obviously beside herself with fear and concern. But so thankful that these search and rescue personnel from L.A. County have been here. Not only stopped, but dedicated themselves, for many hours now to try to rescue whoever is inside. Night has come. They brought out lights, as you can see. They're going to be continuing to do this, whatever it takes, as they push deep inside the rubble.
There are a number of concerns, Wolf. First of all, whoever is inside is pretty deep -- deep inside. So they have tunneled down, and now they're going to tunnel laterally, but there is a -- what used to be a seven story building, which is about, I don't know, I'm guessing 20 or so feet to the right to me, it is now probably now four and a half to five story building because it is basically collapsed. There is a lot of concern about the integrity of that structure if, God forbid, there is some sort of an aftershock, as we have seen over the last four days, a number of aftershocks. There is concern that that building could fall down even more.
All of this is something these search and rescue personnel are taking into account as they just continue their operations as long as it takes, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do we have reason to believe, Anderson that this scene that we're seeing here with the L.A. County search and rescue team is being replicated elsewhere in Port-au-Prince, and in Haiti, or is this more of an isolated incident?
COOPER: Let me just tell you, Wolf, right now they just sent in another dog, I think that's Maverick. They are sending in a dog by the name of Maverick, who they sent in a couple of times before. And basically when that happens, everybody kind of stops because they have to let the site air out because the rescue workers have been inside for so long, rescue workers pull out, they allow air to move through the site so that the scent of the living rescue workers doesn't throw the dog off.
And now Maverick is going into the hole where the rescue workers have been, moving pieces of concrete out, by hand, over the last five hours. It is incredibly painstaking process, Wolf. And, I mean, watching these workers up close you get such respect for what they're doing at great risk to themselves. It is like moving pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but a jigsaw puzzle that is all around you. And can fall down on top of you.
They have also been cutting, they have asked local people, and they themselves have been scavenging for large pieces of two-by-fours that they have been cutting to size. And they have essentially been using that, building kind of support structures for the structure that remains to try to keep thing that is over their heads now from toppling in on them. But everyone is just stopped right now. And is standing in place, not moving because they don't want to distract the search and rescue dog as it goes about its work, Wolf.
BLITZER: We see maverick, that dog, right now. Certainly we don't want to do anything that could upset what is going on. But I was wondering if this is just an isolated incident, or if these kinds of search and rescue operations are under way throughout Port-au- Prince?
COOPER: There are search and rescue teams from all around the world right now here in Port-au-Prince. They have been coming in over the last several days. I should point out L.A. County has, I think, about 75 rescue personnel here. This is just one of their teams. They have three different teams. There is about 25 men and women on this particular team. And they got here in the morning after the earthquake. They were here on the ground and have been working. A lot of these other teams have been coming in as best they can over the last several days.
What is incredibly frustrating, though, for a lot of people who live in this area is that for four days now, they have been trying to get Haitian personnel to come here and take a look at this site. One of the young men, Harold, who believes his sister may be alive or may be dead, but he's pretty sure she's in this site because she works this day-care center. He tells us that he actually climbed into this structure over the last several days in search of his sister. He's seen two bodies inside there so far. There is somebody right over there, a foot, I can see, of somebody who is already deceased.
But Harold says he went to the local Haitian authorities, the local fire department in Haiti, begged them to come to this site, nobody came for a long time. Finally when somebody did come, Harold says that he was told that they were only interested in collecting dead bodies. They weren't there to search for the living. So you can imagine the relief that a lot of people have in this neighborhood when they saw the L.A. County Fire search and rescue team, not only driving down the street, but stopped. And, you know, basically dedicated themselves today to try to rescue whoever is inside.
BLITZER: Here's what's so heart breaking, Anderson, you've seen this. You have heard about it. And our viewers are really anguished by it, sometimes after one day, two days, three days, someone is saved, they're brought out, especially a young kid, only to die 15 minutes later, or an hour or two later, because there isn't the proper medicine, or medical equipment, or medical personnel on the scene. This is still a huge problem, isn't it?
COOPER: It is absolutely a huge problem. Ivan Watson, our correspondent, of course, had a heartbreaking story just yesterday. This little girl who he had seen two days ago, who he had seen being rescued, whose hand he had held, only subsequently to learn yesterday that she had died because she couldn't get to the hospital that she needed to get to.
I talked to one of the rescuers here and you can imagine what that is like for them after working, risking their own lives to try to save somebody, and giving them medical attention on site, you know, to learn that later on they haven't survived.
What they do here, they have a trauma surgeon, they have EMTs, they try to treat whoever the rescue on site as best they can, try to give them an IV. Try to assess whatever has happened to them. Just last night I'm told they rescued three people. They were able to save two of them, one person died, though, just apparently as they were being brought out.
What is interesting, Wolf, is that some of the people who are being -- whoever may be inside here, we're not sure what condition they may be in. They apparently at least were able to tap, but some of these people that are being discovered. At least yesterday, were in these void spaces and actually some not injured really at all. They just happened to be entombed inside the rubble and unable to get out. But there is huge concern about what happens to these people after they are rescued. Sometimes their families take them away and -
No hits. That is --just got the word that Maverick, the dog who was inside, didn't get any hits. So that's certainly not a good sign, but the search continues as you can see. Rescue personnel moving back in right now as we speak.
It is the concern, though, Wolf, about what happens to somebody after they are rescued. As you know, the hospital facilities here are completely overwhelmed. And that, you know, that's still a huge problem. Sometimes their family members take them, as happened with the case of the little girl that Ivan Watson saw being rescued. And those family members are told, take her to the hospital, but either they fail to do that or they take them to the hospital and they still can't get any medical attention.
We'll see what happens, whatever condition this person is in, but as of an hour and a half ago, they were sure somebody was alive. We'll try to see what is happening now that the dog didn't get a positive hit. That's certainly not a good sign. But the dog didn't get a hit earlier as well, and yet they heard tapping. So they're going to continue working, they're going to assess the situation and will likely be here for quite some time, until they figure out exactly what has happened to that person.
BLITZER: We'll be in close touch with you, Anderson. You'll let us know what's going on. Please thank all of those search and rescue workers from the L.A. County Fire Department.
The ambassador of Haiti to the United States Raymond Joseph is here with us. He's going to be with us throughout the hour.
This is a heart breaking story that is unfolding over and over and over again. And, Mr. Ambassador, what's so disconcerting is even if somebody is saved, there isn't the medical equipment there to deal with it. There aren't the doctors, the hospitals, and people who could survive die.
RAYMOND JOSEPH, HAITIAN AMB. TO UNITED STATES: It is heartbreaking (ph). I start getting the bad news because finally I have reconnected with most people in Haiti, the telephones are working. And last night, for example, Antonio Rodriguez, associate ambassador to the OAS, Organization of American States, here in Washington, he gave me a note. He says my brother is in the central bank. That's where he used to work. And they got a message from his e-mail saying he was still down there. So he asked me, could you see whether some teams could get there, because they have been there and they didn't see anything. They didn't see life. Well, this morning, one of the first calls I got was from Ambassador Rodriguez, saying just forget it. They did go back and they said they found him, but he's dead.
BLITZER: We keep hearing these stories over and over again. Mr. Ambassador, stand by. I know you're getting information from your government in Port-au-Prince all the time. I want to pick your brain on the latest casualty count. What we know about that, relief efforts under way. Stand by, we'll speak with the ambassador. He'll be with us throughout this hour.
Also we'll go live back to Port-au-Prince. Karl Penhaul, he is on the scene for us, he was in the midst of some serious problems when they were trying to distribute food in Haiti.
BLITZER: Many families were in the process of adopting Haitian orphans when the earthquake struck. Now many don't even know if the children they had hoped to adopt have survived. We're joined now by Paul and Marisa Brinks. They are in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They'll be getting their first chance to see that the two children they have been trying to adopt are in fact alive and well.
We're talking about young Emanuel and Samare (ph), they're with us from Haiti along with the orphanage director, Dixie Bickel. There they are.
Let's talk a little bit to Paul and Marisa. I think you're watching CNN. You can see those two young kids. What goes through your mind as you see this scene right now?
MARISA BRINKS, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: It is amazing.
PAUL BRINKS, ADOPTIVE FATHER: We're just so relieved to see that they're doing all right. It is so good. It is so good to see them.
M. BRINKS: Just want to send our hugs.
P. BRINKS: Yeah. Hugs and kisses, guys.
BLITZER: Have you met them before?
P. BRINKS: We were able to meet Emanuel a couple of times, a year and a half ago in October. And then I was able to meet with him again in June of this year. So, yeah. There is definitely a bond there. Remember last time we were building and stacking blocks, buddy? BLITZER: I don't know if he can hear you. But I know that Dixie, Dixie can hear.
Dixie, how are those two kids doing?
DIXIE BICKEL, DIRECTOR, GOD'S LITTLEST ANGELS ORPHANAGE: The kids are doing pretty good. The earthquake was -- shook everyone up. And we have had continuous aftershocks. Today we had a large aftershock, about 11:00 in the morning. The kids are, you know they just take it in stride. I think it affects the adults more than it does the children.
BLITZER: Paul and Marisa, go ahead and talk to Dixie, and ask her some questions about these two kids you would like to adopt.
P. BRINKS: Dixie, we just kind of -- it was such a relief once we heard that the kids were OK. I guess the first thing that kind of goes through our mind is how is the staff doing, how are all of the kids doing? I mean, do you have food and water? And if so, how long is it supposed to last? Kind of what are the conditions down there like right now, Dixie?
BICKEL: At the orphanage we're rationing water and food and (AUDIO GAP) we have enough water maybe until Monday. We're going to be needing more water. We're unable to find any place open for water right now. We don't have enough cooking fuel to last much more than Monday. The food, we have got food, but if we can't cook it, it doesn't do very much for us. And the water, I think, is crucial. We have got to get water somehow.
BLITZER: Marisa, do you have a question you want to ask Dixie?
M. BRINKS: Just, you know, we're so looking forward to seeing them, to -- we're thinking we would come down in February and, you know, we were looking forward to even spending Emanuel's birthday with him, February 14. So, I just, you know, just so grateful that we get a chance to be able to see you guys right now. I'm just so thankful to hear that they're doing good right now and that you guys are taking great care of them.
BLITZER: Under the best of circumstances, and we know these are difficult circumstances, given the fact that there is only -- there was a earthquake a few days ago, when do you actually expect, Paul and Marisa, to be able to adopt these two kids. When will all the paperwork and everything go through?
BICKEL: Most of the paperwork on Emanuel is done. We just need a visa for him. Now Samare's is just getting started. With the government buildings having collapsed, many of the children had paperwork in those government buildings. If we have to start over, it will take a year or more, because it is going to take a long time for adoptions to get up and running again here in Haiti.
We are trying, making an effort to get the children out on humanitarian parole where they can go to the States and be with their adoptive families. This is not taking abandoned children from the disaster off the streets. It is taking children who have been relinquished legally in front of a judge, by their parents, or abandoned and by the state they have allowed them to go for adoption. The parents have all home studies. They have been chosen by Haitian social services to adopt these children. We are just trying to get the children with the families.
Because we're running out of water, we're running out of fuel. We're running out of food. And why keep them here to suffer when they can go with their families? And we sent five children home to Holland today. We hope to send more home on Tuesday of next week. The Dutch government is allowing the children that are being adopted to leave Haiti to join their families. And we hope the U.S. will follow suit to that.
BLITZER: Dixie, do Emanuel and Samare (ph) speak English?
BICKEL: Very little. Some of the children do. The children that have been with us for a while do. And a couple of children are going to -we have some older children here, right now, that are going to a family in Pennsylvania who speak excellent English.
BLITZER: You want to ask Emmanuel if he wants to say anything to Paul and Marisa, while we have you.
BICKEL (speaking French): He is kind of timid. But Samare (ph), Samare (ph) say, hi, Mamma. Hi, Pappa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Mamma. Hi, Pappa.
BICKEL: I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you.
P. BRINKS: We love you.
BLITZER: All right. Well, it is a beautiful scene. And we hope that this family can be united very, very soon. It looks like things will fall into place. We hope they will. At least they seem to be in really good shape.
Paul and Marisa Brinks, joining us from Grand Rapids. You want to make any final thought, before I let the two of you go, Paul, Marisa?
P. BRINKS: Yes, we just want to let you know, Dixie, we're doing everything we can. We're working with the governor of Michigan. We're working with our U.S. senator to just kind of see if we can do anything to expedite this process.
So I just want to make a plea that anything we can do to speed this up, whoever is watching, we would just really, really appreciate that. That's just what we need right now. It creates a win-win for both. We get our kids home. And then the orphanage has some space to accept some new kids in that are really struggling off the street, and just provide a safe environment for them. So if we can do anything to speed this up, let's do it.
BLITZER: All right, guys --
M. BRINKS: And we send them our love.
BLITZER: We only wish all of you the absolute best. I want you to hold on for one moment because the Haitian ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph, is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's been listening to this conversation. He has something to say to all of you.
Mr. Ambassador, go ahead.
JOSEPH: Since I got to Washington in 2004, the problem of the adoptees, and the adopted has come to my office many times. And I have done a lot of things with the minister of the interior to hasten the process. And one thing that we have done recently, after the earthquake, those who have finished the process, and who have visas, but did not have Haitian passports, and that's the only thing that is holding them back. I have ordered the unit passport in Washington to issue passports for them so they can travel.
If you can get all the papers to us in Washington, we will issue the passports. Because after you finish the whole process of having an American visa and approve it, and they approve it, very often the last hurdle is the Haitian passport. And for people who do not know that, passports for Haitians are issued in two places. They're issued in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for all Haitians inside the country. Once a Haitian leaves Haiti, even going next door to the Dominican Republic, their passports are issued from Washington, D.C.
So in the case of those Haitians, Haitian kids, who have been adopted and who are still in Haiti, and who should get the passports in Haiti, I'm saying in this emergency we will issue the passports from here.
BLITZER: That's good news. And I just want to thank the ambassador for making that clear. Paul and Marisa, I'm sure you're grateful for that. Dixie, I'm sure you're happy to hear that as well.
BICKEL: Ambassador --
BLITZER: You have a good friend here in Washington, the ambassador of Haiti, to the United States.
BLITZER: Is there one other thought you want to make?
JOSEPH: Somebody just said --
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Dixie.
BICKEL: I have a question for the ambassador. There were papers, some of the children were at the end of the process, but the papers were lost in the Palace of Justice while being legalized. And some of the papers were in Minister of Interior for waiting for a passport to be issued. It is hard for us to find those papers because some of those buildings sustained a lot of damage. What can he do for those children?
JOSEPH: Well, for those children, the thing we can do is if you have duplicate copies of these papers. If you have a duplicate, we can issue passports with a duplicate.
BLITZER: All right, good. This is all very encouraging and I think the situation is going to work out. Let's hope it does. Let me thank all of you for joining us. This is just one story. There are a lot of these stories going on, Mr. Ambassador. I know you're familiar with a lot of Americans who would like to help adopt some of these orphans in Haiti right now. And we're going to see what we can do to help as well. Let me thank all of you for joining us and good luck to all of you as well.
The ambassador is going to stay with us. We'll take a quick break. Karl Penhaul is stand by live in Port-au-Prince. What he saw earlier in the day, he'll report on, when we come back.
BLITZER: These are live pictures. You see Anderson Cooper standing there. There - there's a search and rescue operation under way at a building that collapsed. They think there is someone alive inside.
We're going to check back with Anderson shortly for an update, Anderson Cooper on the scene of this collapsed building as a result of this earthquake, now four days ago.
As the population continues to deal with - without food or water, it's growing increasingly desperate in Haiti right now. There's an increasing risk to those who are trying to help.
Let's go to CNN's Karl Penhaul. He's been out with relief workers. He's joining us now live from Port-au-Prince. Karl, what did you see today?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we were out on the ground with the United Nations. We were out there with the World Food Program, and they were being assisted by Argentinean UN peacekeeping troops.
Now, they were taking out these high energy cookies. So far, I haven't seen a sign of the oil, the rice and the flour that the Haitians really want. They're a little bit lukewarm about the high energy cookies, though, of course, they don't want to look their gift horse in the mouse - mouth at this particular time when they are so hungry.
But it must be said that the food lines that I saw today were relatively organized. You look at them first off and there's a lot of people, there's a lot of tension there because they don't know if they're going to be there at the front of the line when the last cookies are being handed out. But at least it was relatively organized, certainly compared to previous disasters I've seen in Haiti, particularly the flooding in Gonaives in 2008, for example. So much more orderly, so that is a good sign.
That said, there needs to be a balance here, it seems quite clear, between the speed of getting some of this food aid out and the safety aspect. Right now, it strikes me the United Nations is being cautious, necessarily so, in giving out that aid, but maybe the people need that aid much quicker.
Also today, interestingly, we saw in action some of those US helicopters that have been flying in. They swooped down to about 10 feet off the ground and then they're simply dumping the aid off the side. Now that does, of course, run the risk that people will stampede and get into a fight as they try and get the contents of the boxes that those US helicopters are - are dumping out.
So it is a pretty fine balance, I can see right now, between getting out aid fast, but getting it out safely, Wolf.
BLITZER: It looks like the key problem, Karl - the ambassador of Haiti is with me, the key problem now is distribution. There's tons and tons of supplies that are being placed at the airport, for example, but getting them out to the people who need those supplies is becoming increasingly more difficult and even dangerous.
PENHAUL: There are those problems. Now, why is - is this aid difficult to get out? Well, look at previous disasters we've seen in Haiti, and - and there's no reason why people should be surprised now that a lot of these aid organizations, even the UN itself, can't coordinate to get that out as fast as the people need it, as fast as the people would like it, because that has been a historic problem here in Haiti. And, this time around, it is nothing new.
Of course, these people have great intentions. They are doing their best. And as well, for example, the WFP warehouse that we saw today, there's an additional problem. They too have been hit by the effects of this earthquake. The warehouse where they were getting these tons of food out today had big cracks up the side. The walls were threatening to cave in. They couldn't physically get the doors fully opened to get a forklift in there and load those supplies on board, so they had to hand carry everything out through a very small space, about that big, through the doors.
So those kind of physical problems are also making it difficult. Plus, as well, a lot of the aid workers, the UN itself, has lost a number of its members. And so, initially, the focus was on finding their own, so to speak, and now, of course, the focus is turning to getting that aid out.
Like I say, a lot of good intentions there, but always it seems with so many different agencies at work here, coordination always is a problem, Wolf. BLITZER: Let me ask the ambassador, Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the United States - how worried are you, Mr. Ambassador, that this is going to get violent?
RAYMOND JOSEPH, HAITIAN AMBASSADOR TO US: Well, I think it wouldn't get any more violent than it is now, because the Haitian national police is weighing in, not only the UN troops. And somehow the Haitians, a little more fearful of the Haitian police than they are of foreigners.
BLITZER: Even the US military, the 82nd Airborne, for example?
JOSEPH: Well, the US Military, when you - when they hear America - American - that's how they call the - the US troops, they - they know what to do.
BLITZER: So you think that as violent as it may be, this is the right peak now. It's going to get better in the coming days?
JOSEPH: That's my view.
BLITZER: Let's hope you're right.
JOSEPH: If - if - if they continues with the distribution. If, for example, they - they're saying they're running out of food...
BLITZER: A lot of stuff is coming in. They just have to get it out.
JOSEPH: Yes. They have to clear the roads.
BLITZER: They have to clear the roads and they got to distribute it in a peaceful, orderly way, which is apparently easier said than done.
Mr. Ambassador, don't leave. Karl Penhaul, thanks very much. We'll check back with you.
This is a day, also, here in Washington, we saw the current president and his two immediate predecessors getting together and - and working to try to help the people of Haiti. We'll update you on that and more after this.
BLITZER: Right back to Anderson Cooper. He's on the scene of a - a building that collapsed. There is a dog, at least one dog with the LA County Search and Rescue Team from the LA County Fire Department looking for a survivor.
Anderson, what's the latest? Update our viewers.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good news. In the last 15 minutes since last we spoke, you were - we were live with you when they brought the dog in, Maverick. That dog did not get a hit. That would - that seemed bad news. But, since that time, they'd gotten two distinct tapping responses. They have somebody deep down in the hole, yelling out, you know, if you can hear me, tap three times and the person tapped three times. Then they tapped - the search and rescue team taps and then they - they've had another tap in response.
So they're working on the - the belief and the firm conviction that somebody is alive down there, and they are determined to find this person. It's a very unsteady structure. It's a very unstable structure. It is very dangerous, the conditions they are working in, but they are determined to find this person on a day. If they are able to pull a - a person out alive, it would just be remarkable, Wolf, when you consider this is exactly four - four days, almost to the hour, that this earthquake struck.
BLITZER: Do they have the equipment they need there to - to do this kind of sophisticated search and rescue operation, Anderson?
COOPER: Yes. These guys - the men and women, are incredibly professional. They have all - all the equipment they need on - on hand. They have a generator. They have lights. They have power drills, power equipments. But they're also improvising. They've been rummaging around for two by fours, cutting them down to size. They're sticking those up as support structures to stabilize the - the concrete structures that are still in place that are still over them, lest those structures, you know, weaken and collapse on top of them.
So they're - they're improvising, but they have the equipment they need. It's just - it is laborious and it is painstaking. They have to move very carefully through this - through this rubble, taking it out piece by piece, concrete block by concrete block, cutting through floors. It's difficult, but they - they know what they're doing. But it's - it's just a matter of time.
BLITZER: We're going to check back with you, Anderson. I - I know you're going to stay on the scene. Hopefully someone is alive, maybe even more than one person. We'll keep looking out for those taps, the little noise that indicates someone is underneath all of that rubble. And thank - thanks to the LA County Fire Department for these search and rescue teams who are on the scene. Thanks to Maverick, that dog, as well.
The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got a firsthand look at the devastation in Haiti today. She flew into Port-au-Prince on a US Coast Guard plane that brought in food and water for US embassy staffers. She met with the US and the United Nations officials and with Haiti's president, Rene Preval.
When the secretary leaves Haiti, 50 American citizens will be evacuated on her flight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to assure the people of Haiti that the United States is a friend, a partner, and a supporter, and we will work with your government under the direction of President Preval to assist in every way we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama brought his predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, back to the White House today. He asked them to lead a fundraising drive for Haiti, praising their efforts during past disasters and saying they can tap what he calls the incredible generosity and can-do spirit of the American people.
The effort will be called the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund. Listen to the former presidents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The most effective way for Americans to help the people of Haiti is to contribute money. That money will go to organizations on the ground and will be - who will be able to effectively spend it.
I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just send your cash. One of the things that the President and I will do is to make sure your money is spent wisely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no words to say what I feel. We need - I was in those hotels that collapsed. I had meals with people who are dead. The cathedral church that Hillary and I sat in 34 years ago is a total rubble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: To learn how you can help, you can go to clintonbushhaitifund.org or you can visit our website, cnn.com/impact. You can impact your world. We have a lot of organizations who are helping. You can go to links there. All of them have been vetted. Impact your world at cnn.com/impact.
We'll check in with the Haitian ambassador to the United States in a moment. Also, Susan Candiotti is on the scene in Port-au-Prince. She has a story that you will want to see and hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN BATISTE-JEAN, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR: I'm Jean Batiste-Jean. I want to say to people at Boston (ph), especially my sister, that we OK in Haiti.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to let you know that all my family is OK. So - about my daddy, my brother, my brothers, my sisters, everything is OK. We have no problem. We're all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: People are desperate and anxious to let their loved ones know they are OK in Haiti. We're trying to help facilitate some of that as best as we can.
CNN's Susan Candiotti is about to tell us the story of one man desperate to save his son and other family members before it's too late.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joel Rathon has every right in the world to be angry and frustrated, but he's not.
JOEL RATHON, SURVIVOR (through translator): "Frustration isn't going to help me," he says, "Anger isn't going to take me anywhere."
CANDIOTTI: We met Rathon at the Port-au-Prince morgue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's over here.
CANDIOTTI: His wife's body is among hundreds lying outside, waiting for burial. Rathon can't get to his money to buy a coffin. It's buried under his house.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): Where were you? When you came in, where did you start looking for your wife? Where did you go in the house?
RATHON: I'm go in - in the...
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Outside what's left of his home, Rathon says he tried desperately to free his wife, passing her water and food through a hole and finally pulled her free after 25 hours. But then...
RATHON: Fifteen minutes after, she dies.
CANDIOTTI: It gets worse. Rathon's 3-year-old son and three in- laws remain trapped inside the basement.
RATHON (through translator): "They're not crushed. Maybe they may not have the strength to cry," he says, "but they're alive. If I can get to them, they will survive."
CANDIOTTI (on camera): Are you afraid they'll - they will die?
RATHON: Oui. Oui.
CANDIOTTI: Friday morning, when Mr. Rathon came here, he said he could hear voices. He doesn't hear them now. RATHON: I need some help to take them. I can't. I don't have enough tools to get them myself.
CANDIOTTI: And if he cannot find his in-laws and his son -
RATHON (through translator): "If they die there," Rathon says, "I know I did everything I could to get them out."
Susan Candiotti, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
BLITZER: And Susan Candiotti is joining us now live on the phone.
Susan, you've got another incredible story you're working on right now. Tell our viewers what you're seeing and hearing.
CANDIOTTI: One of the - the search and rescues, Wolf, one is more amazing than the other.
At this hour, as we speak, I'm standing in front of a bank building in Port-au-Prince where a number of prior rescue teams from around the country, they're part of the urban search and rescue organization, are working on trying to find survivors inside a bank. And the reason why they think they have some survivors here, Wolf, is because they received some text messages from a woman who says she's an employee at the bank. A woman who sent out these text messages earlier today, and said, "Help. I can't take it anymore. Please come find us."
In addition to that, they got new text message as recently (INAUDIBLE) that same woman. They also heard from someone else who was in the same building.
Now, what's interesting also about this is that earlier they - they sent a dog, and they didn't get any kind of hit from this building at all. This is before the text messages came through. Dogs that was looking, that were trained to find living human (INAUDIBLE).
It was after that that the text came in that the search and rescue team came back, drilled a hole in the building, sent some cameras down there, started looking around, but they also brought those same dogs back again and this time with a hole punched into the building, the dogs picked up some scents (INAUDIBLE) light set up. They said they'll be here all night, trying to see whether they can find this person. They sent additional text messages to that person saying, "Please, tap on anything so that we can try to hear you."
It's a very dramatic search and rescue going on right now, and we're going to stay here and follow it, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll check back with you, Susan Candiotti. This is a story that is apparently happening over and over and over again in Port-au-Prince, in the area right now, four days after this earthquake. There are still people alive in the rubble. They're making sounds. You just heard about a young girl sending out a text message.
Anderson Cooper is on the scene. They're hearing tapping from inside. LA County search and rescue teams are on the scene. We'll check in with all of them when we come back.
BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the United States. You and I have spoken now every single day since this - since this earthquake struck.
The latest casualties, the latest death toll, is there a number that's realistic right now?
JOSEPH: Well, no number is realistic because I don't think we'll ever know. However, they're counting those - those that they can count, that they have found, and the prime minister says we are about 25,000...
BLITZER: Bodies that have already been counted?
JOSEPH: Yes. Then I hear that the Red Cross has a higher figure.
BLITZER: The Red Cross is estimating already 50,000.
JOSEPH: Fifty thousand.
So, you know, as I said before, out of a city of almost 2.5 million people, perhaps the figure of 100,000 that the prime minister mentioned the first time may not be an exaggeration.
BLITZER: So that may be a realistic number, 100,000? And - and what worries so many people is that maybe 100,000 people were killed in the earthquake, but thousands of others may die in the aftermath because of infection. They don't have antibiotics or surgery that they need which could save their lives not available.
BLITZER: Disease, for example, there's a lot of disease. The - the water is not clean. There are mosquitoes. This could cause a lot of death as well.
BLITZER: So this problem is not going away by any means.
JOSEPH: Not very soon.
BLITZER: You're relieved that President Obama and the former presidents are now deeply involved in trying to raise money for your - for your country.
JOSEPH: Definitely. And I think they have the star power and also the connections to do it. If President Bush Sr. and President Clinton were able to raise so much for the tsunami victims, I'm quite sure George W. Bush, teamed up with President Clinton, can do as much.
BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much. Good luck to all the people of Haiti. I appreciate all your help. This is a - a continuing crisis that we will watch.
Our coverage will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Remember, you certainly could have an impact on what's going on. You can go to cnn.com/impact. You can impact your world. That's where you can make a contribution. Now, there are a lot of links to vetted organizations that are doing incredibly important work right now in Haiti to save lives.
Go to cnn.com/impact and make a contribution. It's something you will deeply appreciate. The people of Haiti will appreciate it as well.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Later tonight, 9:00 PM Eastern, I'll be hosting a special live edition of Larry King Live, "Haiti in Crisis," the latest developments. It airs at 9:00 PM Eastern tonight here on CNN. I'll see you then.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's go back to "CNN NEWSROOM" for more special coverage.