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THE SITUATION ROOM

Dramatic Rescues in New Jersey; Sand Covers Barrier Island Homes; Damaged Crane Dangles 90 Stories over NYC; Flooding and Fire in New York City; New Jersey Mayor Responds to Governor Christie

Aired October 30, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, urgent rescue operations for hundreds and hundreds of people at communities flooded by Hurricane Sandy. We're going hear from someone who barely escaped the storm's fury.

Thousands of people left Atlantic City before the storm made a direct hit. But others needed to be take to safety as floodwaters rose. I'll speak this hour with the mayor of Atlantic City who's been severely criticized by Governor Chris Christie.

And newborn babies on respirators carried down nine flights of stairs. Among dozens of patients evacuated when a New York City hospital became flooded and lost power. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us with new details.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The U.S. east coast is reeling from the savage blow delivered by Hurricane Sandy. In New Jersey, which took a direct hit, there has been an urgent effort to save hundreds and hundreds of people from flood waters which left several communities underwater. The storm continues to impact a much wider area. Brutal winds blowing into Canada and as far west as Lake Michigan. Three feet of snow. Three feet in West Virginia. Rain reaching into the Midwest.

Almost eight million customers are still without power in 15 states and the District of Columbia. A government estimate is that there could be $7 billion in economic losses from wind damage alone.

And there's been a terrible cost to human lives. Twenty-nine deaths are reported so far in the United States.

Our reporters are positioned throughout the disaster zone to bring you the full coverage only CNN can deliver. Let's begin with CNN's Sandra Endo. She's in Toms River, New Jersey, where rescue teams have evacuated 200 people stranded on nearby Barrier Island.

Sandy, what's the latest?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the rescue and recovery effort is still underway. This is what residents in a lot of bayside neighborhoods here in Toms River are coming back to. They're checking on their homes. And you could see still the flood water here it has receded in the last couple of hours but it's still surrounding a lot of the homes. You could see how high the level was. That car is half-way submerged in water.

And if you take a look at that pine tree in the distance, that's how high the water mark was when the water was at the highest. You can see also this home right here, the water came up to here. And slowly the water is receding which is a good thing, but take a look at this concrete slab that was washed ashore on this property here. And also this fencing. This doesn't even belong to this home. And this was clearly washed ashore from the floodwaters.

And this is a situation that a lot of residents have to deal with now. The clean-up effort. They're also checking in on friends and neighbors. There is no communication here. The cell phones are down. The power is out. And they're checking in on friends and loved ones because this area was only under a voluntary evacuation order. And we talked to residents who said they saw the water come up so fast that some of them decided to make a mad dash for it and evacuate their homes.

Let's talk to Jack Oliver (ph) right now. You've lived here 40 years.

JACK OLIVER, STORM VICTIM: Thirty.

ENDO: Thirty years. What was it like during the storm for you? This is your home actually and you have other people's debris on your property.

OLIVER: What can you do? It's Mother Nature. You know, you can't fight Mother Nature.

ENDO: Was it pretty scary during the storm?

OLIVER: Not really. Not really.

ENDO: Have you never seen anything like this? Have you, in your community?

OLIVER: Not here. Not here, no. But did you see the other stuff that washed up?

ENDO: Yes. We're going to take a look at -- yes, we're going to take a look at that now because you can see the debris line on his truck, Wolf, right here. The water came up to here. And now you can see residents coming out, neighbors trying to check on their belongings. They're trying to get back into their homes but obviously with the water level this high, a lot of these homes have suffered a lot of damage -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sandy Endo, I love -- I like his attitude, a positive attitude under awful, awful circumstances. Thank you.

As the dramatic rescues continue in New Jersey, with communities still, as you can see, still under water, let's get a first-hand account right now from Keith Paul. He was one of the last people to leave a barrier island as Hurricane Sandy hit. He's joining us on the phone.

What -- Keith, tell us what your situation was. Where were you and what happened?

KEITH PAUL, STORM SURVIVOR: Yes, at around 4:00 p.m. we're over in Seaside Heights on the second floor of the beach corner, which is right on the boardwalk across from the Funtown Pier. We're up there with the chief of police, Tommy Boyd, Berkeley Sweet Shop right there. The water was starting to come up and take away the pier as we were standing there. We had to leave there to go over (INAUDIBLE). I was with the owner of Karma Nightclub and Bamboo to go check on them.

The water started coming down the street at that point. We drove up along the ocean. Tommy radioed. We got a radio call in Tommy's radio, the chief of police, that there were a short window to get across the bridge. We left but the owner of the Beach Corner, Michael Carbone (ph) stayed there, and from what I understand he is there right now still. And you can't even get near the bridge now. They're still exploding across the highway on Route 37.

BLITZER: You saw people being evacuated by the National Guard, is that right?

PAUL: Yes. That's true. Right here in Toms River. There's people being evacuated by the National Guard.

BLITZER: Tell us about that.

PAUL: Well, where I live -- I live four houses from the Barnegat Bay. And it's the seaside separates the Barnegat Bay from the ocean by about three or four blocks. And I'm right across in Toms River and everyone has gotten flooded. It's coming half way up their houses. They have just high wheel trucks driving in to get the people out. National Guard around. It's destruction, it's devastation around here for a lot of people.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers this National Guard video, showing the sand that has come up, destroying, really covering so many parts of this area. You're an eyewitness to that. Describe what it's like.

PAUL: Well, I'm telling you I have lived here for 39 years. I have been through several hurricanes going back to Gloria and I have never seen anything like this at all. When I was over in Seaside last night and we just started seeing the Berkeley Sweet Shop rip apart and the pier go down into the ocean we knew it was time to get out of there.

And we got out of there, within two minutes of leaving, the light polls came down across the bridge. So if we didn't leave when we did we would have been stuck there. And I had a wife and a 1-year-old child at home so I needed to make sure I got home.

BLITZER: Seaside Heights, are there still folks stranded as far as you know?

PAUL: As far as I know there's only a few. They did a really good job of getting everybody out of town. When I left yesterday you barely saw anybody there except for a couple of business owners checking on their businesses and that was pretty much it at the time.

BLITZER: So --

PAUL: So what I understood form the chief they were 95 percent evacuated at that point.

BLITZER: So what happens next? What do you -- what do you plan on doing over the next few days?

PAUL: I've got to be honest with you. There is really not much you can do. You really can't drive anywhere around this town. There's polls down. There's trees down across wires. With transformers blowing up on the street. There's really -- I mean you go out and walk around it's dangerous. Because if you hit a pothole, and it's got electricity, so there's really not much you can do right now until things start to get cleaned up a little bit.

BLITZER: I want to bring Chad Myers, our severe weather expert, our meteorologist, into this conversation.

Chad, go ahead.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Keith, it appears from the pictures we're looking at that really Seaside Heights, the entire island, was overwashed and that water went right back there into the bay and into Toms River. Is that how it happened?

PAUL: You're absolutely correct. See, what you're looking at right now, we actually took a ride down right to where Island Beach Day Park is. A friend of ours has a couple of houses on the ocean. And when we got up there, you could see the water was coming up. They have high dunes there. And it was just about to come over. So from what I understand not long -- we left there around 4:00, around 8:00 p.m. last night it was high tide. And from what I understand, high tide, the ocean and the bay met.

MYERS: Now you talked a little bit about Funtown Pier, and obviously a casino a little bit far to the north than that. Did you say that they got knocked down? Was that -- were those piers destroyed?

PAUL: From what I understand, pictures that I've gotten from a few friends that -- and when I was there it looked -- we could tell that they were going to be coming down. You could just tell by the way the water was coming up to and it was still four hours before high tide. But from what I understand right now, half the rides on Funtown Pier in the ocean. The pier is half way demolished and a piece of Casino Pier as well.

BLITZER: We now know, by the way, the death toll in the United States from Hurricane Sandy has gone up to 30 only in the last few minutes. That announcement coming forward.

This is all sand that's not supposed to be there, Chad. What do they got? How do they clean this up? It's going to take a mammoth amount of work.

MYERS: Yes. A lot of front loaders. And this is why when we talk about people being stranded on the island, you think, why don't they just drive off? Well, you can't because it's completely clogged, clogged with sand that it just turns in and just swamps your car or your truck. You can't move from place to another. Front-end loaders take all of this, pick it back up and dump it back where it belongs. The problem is you just can't go dump the sand on the beach because it's full of nails and pieces of shingle and deciding you don't want that as to be part of your beach, you know, in the coming restoration. Seaside will come back. I mean this is not the first time this town has been hit. Maybe this is the hardest it's been hit. But Seaside and the people there will definitely come back.

BLITZER: Well, let's ask Keith Paul. Do you agree? Will Seaside come back, Keith?

PAUL: You know what? You're right. And he's absolutely correct about that. We were just talking about that yesterday when we were taking a ride down Ocean Avenue there. That that's the problem. This sand, you can't just bulldoze up and take it and dump back on the beach. It's just not allowed. There's nails, there's debris in it. So it's going to be a major, major clean-up effort here.

I mean the people who have businesses here -- I mean, I have a business, a restaurant, over in Toms River, which I'm sure going to be shut down or closed most of the week. But the people over here, you know, hopefully nobody lost their lives here in Seaside.

BLITZER: Chad, go ahead.

MYERS: Well, I'm trying to get a Google Earth map to show the people that don't understand what the Jersey shore looks like and the pristine nature of these islands and how they separate what is Toms River and the bay from the ocean. And all along this coastline, a little -- just home after home, but -- and it doesn't even matter if you live on the first house to the beach or the third or the fourth, it's such a community when you get there.

Sure there are rentals and things like that. But, you know, I just -- how long do you think, Keith, from what you can see of this damage, what are you thinking for restoration?

PAUL: God, for me to say -- it's something that I've never ever seen anything like this before in my life. It's absolutely -- it's unbelievable. It's going to be a lot of work. And you are exactly right because a lot of these towns, Ortley Beach, Lavallette, Chadwick Beach, Normandy Beach, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, they are beautiful, beautiful towns, beautiful homes on the water. A lot of them are just summer homes for people to come down to. And it is -- I've never seen anything like this. I cannot even begin to think how long this will take to clean up. BLITZER: When you look at it from the air, it really looks devastating. There's other pictures we got in. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, he flew over. There was video taken as he was flying, inspecting what was going on.

As of right now, as we show our viewers the pictures from Governor Christie's helicopter, Keith, are you satisfied with the level of assistance you've received from the emergency response personnel?

PAUL: You know, I got to be honest with you. I -- luckily, like I said, I live four houses away from Barnegat Bay but it comes up my streets a little bit higher. So we were -- we were lucky. I haven't needed of any assistance. But I have been out there assisting other people because I have a big truck and I really hope that they do get the assistance that they're going to need. Because this is catastrophic for people. It's that that serious here. I've never ever, ever seen anything like it. And, you know, I just hope the insurance companies and the government and everybody is ready to be here to help out.

BLITZER: Well, the president of the United States and the governor of New Jersey, they seem to think that it will happen. They're pretty confident about that.

Chad, show us on a map where this is unfolding. Where this Seaside Heights is in New Jersey because the pictures are awful.

MYERS: I think we're going to find pictures like this all the way from maybe as far north as Sea Bright, all the way down to Wildwoods, just because of the way the story came on shore. Maybe a little bit less south of Atlantic City, the north, because this is the north side of the eye.

Here's New York City this way. This would be Sandy Hook all the way down to where -- this is where Ali Velshi was yesterday on the south end, right there, Atlantic City. We can actually zoom in. And you can just see that this is a tiny barrier island. Right through here. And a few cuts -- I mean you go -- if you go up here to Toms River, and you have all these marinas, all these boats through here. They will come out and go through the cuts and actually go out to the ocean.

Here's the highway right through here. We still got one, two, three, four streets wide here and just one or two houses wide on the street block.

Let's fly you back up. We're going to go toward Funtown. It's the next one, Sean. Just go down to the next view on that whole thing. There we go. Funtown Pier. So what he's talking about things that a lot of this pier actually may be damaged. Fly you a little bit farther up the coast. The next one down and then you get to the Casino Pier.

And he thinks a little bit of this fell off but no, it's not so much the entertainment, it's the sense of community. The Seaside area and all the way up. You know your neighbors. You know who they are. They come back every summer. You talk to them every summer. They are your friends. They -- you know, you leave them for the winter but then you come back and there they are. And it's going be really, really hard to put this place back together.

BLITZER: Chad is going to stay with us. Let me thank Keith Paul for joining us.

Keith, good luck to you, your family, all your friends, everyone in New Jersey. Appreciate your joining us.

PAUL: Thank you very much, Wolf. And thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Floods and fire in New York City. Buildings collapsed, subways submerged, residents face a new reality after Sandy.

President Obama also makes an unannounced visit to the American Red Cross headquarters and warns the storm is not yet over. We're going to tell you where he is headed next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. Welcome back to the SITUATION ROOM. It's been more than 24 hours since that damaged crane first started dangling 90 stories over West 57th Street in New York City.

These are live pictures you're looking at. We've obtained this spot shadowed video showing yesterday's collapse at the construction site of the luxury 15 -- 157th Skyscraper as it' s called.

Let's bring in CNN's Alina Cho. She's got more on what's going on.

Alina, what do we know about, first of all, the safety record of this crane that seems to be hanging there so precariously?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is hanging precariously, directly behind me, Wolf. And it's about a thousand feet off the ground. So you can imagine how terrified people on the ground were.

Now having said that to your question, CNN has learned that this very construction site has experienced some problems in the past. In fact the city's Buildings Department issued at least two stop work orders in the past couple of months. One for leaking hydraulic fluid and the other for defective wire rope and an improper runway platform.

Now having said that, those top work orders were eventually fully rescinded but it took about a week in each case for that to happen. I should mention as well, Wolf, that we did just get off the phone with the city's Buildings Department and they did confirm that those documents that we saw are correct.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: You heard what happened. What did you think when you heard that loud boom? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was a gunshot or a bomb. I didn't know what it was. So I immediately went to the window. And when I looked out I saw all the fire trucks there. So I knew immediately the responding time was about 90 seconds to two minutes so I knew it was something big.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they were very swift. And it was certainly was the right thing to do. That crane was moving back and forth like a pendulum all night. And even now with a little wind it's moving. And right now it's hanging directly over our building.

CHO: How scared are you that it's going to come down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm concerned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Now that was the Mazer (ph) family. They evacuated to a nearby New York private club and I just received a text message from him, Wolf, and he said that they're getting worried that they might not be able to get back into their apartment until at least Thursday. They're incredibly concerned because their 12-year-old daughter has a pet parrot. They're afraid that that parrot won't survive and there are other pets in that building. And you could imagine in surrounding buildings as well.

BLITZER: What do we know about plans to secure the crane, Alina?

CHO: Well, Wolf, the mayor gave a little bit of good news this morning in his briefing, and he'll give another one in about an hour's time. He said that at this point according to the Buildings Department it appears that the crane is stable. In order to secure the crane, they are waiting for the winds to die down. Now the winds have died down, we just don't know when those crews are going to go in to try to secure the crane.

But when that happens, the plan, according to the mayor, is that the crews will head up, they will actually try to grab the boom and strap it to the building. The problem is, according to one crane expert we spoke to today, is that he believes that the crane may be far more damaged than meets the eye. Meaning that the climbing mechanism may be damaged. There may be no way to get up the crane in which case he says they may have to build a twin tower crane along side the other one just so they can fix the broken one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They've got to do something because that's a dangerous, dangerous situation in New York City.

Alina, thank you.

CNN's Ashleigh Banfield is also standing by in New York City where the entire front of a building has collapsed.

Ashleigh, what's the latest on the building and the people inside where you are? ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, listen, while Alina is saying there's a crisis brewing over there with immediacy and that they are attending to it, they are not attending to this. Behind me. Take a look. It looks like a dollhouse, Wolf. The entire facade of that building here in Chelsea just literally fell off, exposing the rooms inside.

What the "New York Post" was reporting is that that was possibly an illegal hotel. There are no injuries, no fatalities. Everybody got out safely but it certainly does underscore the power of the wind to just rip off a New York City building. And people have been looking all day wandering along, taking pictures, and marveling at that image.

BLITZER: What other problems have you seen around the city, Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Well, there a myriad, I have to say, obviously, seven tunnels flooded, all of the subway tunnels flooded. It'll be four days before they can probably camp out all that water. And they're -- 5.3 million people who use that on a daily basis. That's one of the priorities for Mayor Bloomberg, as well as getting power.

But our Rob Marciano spoke with some Con Edison officials who said that that could take anywhere from four to 10 days depending on where in the city you live. There's no power in this particular neighborhood right now.

But let me tell you something else about no power in New York City. Here's what happened. The streetlights don't work and New York City is a city of traffic. So it's really quite remarkable to see people actually behaving and taking turns at intersections in New York City.

One of the things I want to tell you about a pictures that we got, a series of pictures down near Wall Street. A bunch of cars just literally piled up like Tonka toys because the flooding was so severe. That's exactly where we were last night. And actually for a while we were trapped because the waters were so deep in one particular area. They encircled us. And now I can see the power of those of those waters.

What we couldn't see last night in the pitch dark was what they did to those cars. So that was quite surprising to us.

And then another thing, New York City is so well known for its New York City marathon. Wolf, it's set for this Sunday and marathon officials saying they're trying to assess whether all these power outages and then the damage will have any bearing on this weekend's race. So far no answer there.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens in New York and we'll stay with you, Ashleigh. Thank you.

We're just getting information now about what's happening right now over at ground zero in New York, the Governor Andrew Cuomo toured some of the flooded areas. We're going to see what he saw, we're going to hear what he says. Stand by, this is just coming in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Sandy managed to morph much of Atlantic City into the Atlantic Ocean, covering streets in water, ripping parts of its boardwalk to pieces and burying cars in the sand.

These are aerial pictures -- take a look at this -- of the devastation which spans for miles and miles.

Joining us now on the phone with the very latest, the mayor of Atlantic City, Lorenzo Langford.

Mayor, thanks very much. We spoke yesterday. I want to get an update, first of all. What's the latest as far as the devastation in Atlantic City is concerned?

MAYOR LORENZO LANGFORD, ATLANTIC CITY: Wolf, good evening. Actually the property damage here in Atlantic City is pretty extensive, but I'm happy to report that the human damage, if you will, has been minimal. And so I think our glass is half full here in Atlantic City.

As much as we would like to be able to report that we fared better, I actually can't say that. I'm actually at what could be referred to as ground zero as we speak. I'm up in the inlet section of Atlantic City, where a large portion of the boardwalk has been washed away.

But you know, other than the boardwalk and some power lines being down and trees being uprooted, and, of course, a major loss of dunes, I think we did pretty good, all things considered.

BLITZER: Is everyone safe? Are search and rescue operations still underway?

LANGFORD: Yes, for the most part, everybody has been -- everyone who has attempted to get to a safer place or shelter or wherever, they have been reached. We've gotten to them and we've gotten them out. And so, again, I'm happy to report that, on the human side, all is well.

BLITZER: Because, you know, you got into a public dispute with the governor, Chris Christie, yesterday. He was irritated with what he said was the bad information you were giving residents of Atlantic City and ordered a mandatory evacuation.

Listen to what he told our Soledad O'Brien earlier today on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I had signed an order ordering the evacuation of Atlantic City. The mayor was sending a mixed message. He told folks that they could shelter as a last resort in the city of Atlantic City and a number of people chose to do so. That was the wrong thing to do. I had ordered the evacuation and now we're in the midst of doing urban search and rescue on a number of folks in Atlantic City who were left behind there. We started that at sunrise this morning and we're going to be continuing that all day to evacuate the final people out of Atlantic City.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'd like you to respond, Mayor, to the governor.

LANGFORD: The governor is just wrong. He is dead wrong. I don't know where he is getting his information or the source is, but we sent a press release on Friday. We had two press conferences on Saturday. We posted information on the city's website. And we were clear and concise and unambiguous and on message. And we parroted what has been -- being said from the state level and the county level, which was everybody needed to take this storm seriously and do all that they could to -- posthaste to get out of Atlantic City and get to higher ground and in a safer environment.

Now let me say this. You know, in life, it's better to have options and not need them than to need options and not have them. And so despite our best efforts to have 100 percent of our people heed that message, Wolf, you know, sometimes you're always going to have those who, for whatever reason, decide not to heed the message.

And so what we thought, it would be prudent to have a shelter of last resort for those people who did not listen. And as a matter of fact, the governor, during one of his press conferences, said the exact same thing. He said if you're still, in some of these shore towns, on these barrier islands, you should have left by now. But if you haven't, get to the nearest shelter that you can get to. You won't be able to get out of town because the storm is only about an hour away and the roads will not be passable and you'll be putting yourself in harm's way.

We don't want you getting in a situation where first responders will have to put their lives in jeopardy to come and get you. So get to the closest shelter than you can get to. That's exactly what the governor said. And we wanted to be prepared for any eventuality, and so we did have a local shelter for all of those people who lagged behind and didn't heed the message at the time they were supposed to.

BLITZER: Have you and the governor spoken about this today?

LANGFORD: No, we haven't. The governor doesn't speak to me, and that's fine, too.

BLITZER: Have you reached out to him? Have you tried to call him and explain that you were basically -- would you say you were basically on the same page as he was?

(CROSSTALK)

LANGFORD: No, I think -- I take it as the governor's responsibility to call me. He's the one that put out the misinformation, he made a mistake, and he ought to be man enough to own up to it.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on. I know Chad Myers, our severe weather expert, our meteorologist, has some unrelated questions to the little spat you're having with the governor, which may not be so little.

Go ahead, Chad.

MYERS: Yes, Mr. Mayor, I am a frequent visitor of your city and I understand that you said that there is an awful lot of damage there. But give people who actually want to go to your city a feel for when it's going to be ready. We know you lost a lot of the boardwalk. And you said a little bit of the pier. But tell me, when does the city rebound enough to bring visitors back in?

LANGFORD: Well, that's not a question that can be answered at this time. As you know --

MYERS: Is that right?

LANGFORD: -- all the major roadways into Atlantic City have been ordered closed by order of the state police. And so the first thing that has to happen is that the state police have to give the go ahead to open up the roadways. The second thing, we still have almost 13,000 residents without power. So we have to get the power restored.

After we get those two basic fundamental things under control and then our public works crews continue on the path that they are on with respect to removing all of this debris, then we can talk about when it is safe and wise to come back into Atlantic City.

MYERS: Mr. Mayor, is that months?

LANGFORD: I don't think it'll take months.

MYERS: Very good.

BLITZER: Not necessarily months, though.

And the boardwalk, the iconic boardwalk that all of us are familiar with -- Mike Galanos was there, he was showing us, we've got pictures. What's the damage to the boardwalk?

LANGFORD: Well, again, I don't have any dollar estimates but I can tell you that certain sections of the boardwalk and the inlet section have been washed out. And at this point we don't have a grasp on what the extent of the damage is in terms of (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Mayor, good luck to everyone in Atlantic City. We'll stay in close touch with you.

Mayor Lorenzo Langford, joining us from Atlantic City.

LANGFORD: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. LANGFORD: All right.

BLITZER: Babies fighting for their lives in the hospital, forced to evacuate in the arms of doctors and nurses. We have the latest on their heroic efforts. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Heart-wrenching video of newborns on respirators being carried out of a flooded New York City hospital. Each one carried down nine flights of stairs by a nurse who manually squeezed air into their little lungs. The babies were just some of the dozens of patients who had to be evacuated when the hospital lost power and began to fill up with 10 to 12 feet of water.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us on the phone right now with more. This is a pretty dangerous operation, Sanjay, isn't it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And any time you transport patient at all, let alone a tiny baby here, some of these babies even premature. We've been finding out for the last several hours talking to people here. It can be -- it can be -- there are several things that can go wrong and you look at that video, Wolf, and some of it is obvious. But those breathing tubes, sometimes they can -- they're very tenuous, they can come out easily.

Someone obviously manually ventilating and providing air and ventilation for the baby. If there's -- I mean either someone gets tired, that can be a huge problem, the babies breathe faster than adults, so you have to be doing this quite quickly as well. But just getting outside in the middle of a storm obviously, Wolf, body temperature can change heart rate, blood pressure. So there are a lot of things to monitor. Just -- eve within the hospital during a transport, all of that becomes much more difficult.

BLITZER: Are doctors and nurses normally trained for these kinds of emergency situations?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting. Transport alone is one of these things that we train for quite a bit. Because patients do have to be transferred from one hospital to the other. Sometimes even within the hospital. But that is a highly coordinated thing. And you have several people who all have a specific job to do as part of that transport to make sure tubes and lines stay in place.

Again, I don't know if you're looking at the video now, Wolf, but it's -- in this situation they didn't -- they didn't have that luxury. But there's some training for these types of situations overall but a lot of it has more to do with how best to take care of the patient within the hospital. Not as much of a transfer situation. You like to keep the patients where they are if you can. And so a lot of the training revolves around that.

BLITZER: And it's not just moving them around the hospital or removing them down the street. If the weather is extreme, if there is a hurricane going on, if there's floods, if there is traffic issues, it obviously complicates this kinds of situation a lot more.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, because you are up against the clock a little bit, too, in these types of situations. You may have certain battery powered devices that are helping assist with the transportation. Again, a lot of it is just human manpower and human diligence. And what I mean by that is that someone has to sit there and be pumping, you know, and squeezing that bag several times a minute in order to provide enough air and remove enough carbon dioxide from those babies' lungs. So if -- you know, if they become distracted or they become tired or whatever, because it's taking a long time, have a direct, immediate impact on the patients here. So it's quite a position to be in for everybody, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you're going to be joining us once again in the next hour. But very quickly, do we know if all the babies are OK?

GUPTA: We believe so. We've been in touch with a couple of hospitals where the babies have been transferred. I'm -- actually I'm in front of them right now. We're going to go see some of these babies. I'll tell you about that when I see you next but the -- the news appears good in terms of how the babies are doing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank god for that. Thank god for all the good work of the doctors, nurses and the emergency personnel that made this possible.

Sanjay, we'll talk in a little while.

The New York City Michael Bloomberg is expected to speak any minute now. He's going to bring us the latest on the flooded out subways in New York, the power outages, the rest of Sandy's wrath affecting millions of people in New York City. We're going to bring it to you live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have just gotten in some pictures of the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie touring damage along the state's coastline after taking a helicopter tour of some of the -- worst hit areas. The governor spoke with reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did you see up there?

CHRISTIE: You know, it's devastating. It's absolutely devastating. And we're just at the beginning of the tour down the rest of the coast. I'm glad the mayor is here. He's providing that leadership that he is, and - you know, we saw scenes of this a little bit earlier today by video, but seeing it in person on the ground is a whole different thing.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: No. Never. Never. You know, I told the folks before, I was watching video of that (INAUDIBLE) and there are homes in the middle of Route 35, so, you know, off with their foundations, you know, the amusement pier at Seaside Park, (INAUDIBLE) in the ocean.

No, I've never seen anything like this in my life. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The governor things it will take seven to 10 days to get power restored to all the folks in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, earlier this afternoon, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo got a close look at the flooding inside some of the subway tunnels around New York City. One transit official says the New York subway system has never faced a disaster as devastating as this one.

The governor also toured some of the flood damage around ground zero. "Newsday" quotes the governor as saying the water from the Hudson River literally poured into the ground zero site with such a force he was worried about the structure of the pit itself.

President Obama pays unexpected visit to the Red Cross headquarters, plans to visit one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. We have new details just coming in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Both presidential candidates have taken time off from their campaigns to focus in on the disaster affecting so much of the country and so many millions and millions of people. Mitt Romney converted a planned campaign rally into a relief event in Ohio. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We have heavy hearts, as you know, with all the suffering going on in a major part of our country. A lot of people hurting this morning. They were hurting last night and the storm goes on. I've had the chance to speak with some of the governors in the affected areas, and they've talked about a lot of people having hard times. And I appreciate the fact that people right here in Dayton got up this morning, some went to the grocery store, I see, and purchased some things that these families will need and I appreciate your generosity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Obama, who canceled campaign events at the start of the week to return to Washington, made an unannounced visit to the American Red Cross headquarters today, and will visit a disaster area tomorrow.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

Dan, tell us what's going on.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that disaster area that you're talking about, Wolf, the president will be going to New Jersey tomorrow to tour the damage up close and personal, along with that state's governor, Governor Christie, who, by the way, had some very kind words for the president and the administration earlier today, saying that they acted very quickly in their response to help out the states. But the president will also be meeting with family members, families who have been impacted there in New Jersey, also with first responders. But you know, the president has been sort of focusing on this disaster while pulling off the campaign trail, off the trail today, off the trail tomorrow, so he can go to New Jersey.

Instead, what we saw today is the president going just down the street to the Red Cross, where he thanked that organization for all the work it has been doing. Thanked the governors and the mayors in states like New Jersey and New York for the coordination that has been taking place between them and also the federal government.

The president says without all of this planning there could have been more people that had -- that would have died. There could have been even more damage. But the main focus from the president today was to tell these states, these governors, these mayors, that the federal government would not stand in the way of getting things done quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My instructions to the federal agency has been do not figure out why we can't do something. I want you to figure out how we do something. I want you to cut through red tape. I want you to cut through bureaucracy. There's no excuse for inaction at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Now the president told the mayors and governors that if they have any issues at all, if they're being told no when they're trying to get a yes, that they should pick up the phone and call the president directly here at the White House.

Wolf, what you're seeing from this White House is going to great lengths to show that the president is on top of this situation, even releasing another picture of the president in the situation room, getting briefed by his emergency management team, even getting some updated information from Secretary Geithner about the financial markets.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this part of the story as well. Thanks very much. We'll of course cover his visit to New Jersey tomorrow when he tours the devastated area with the governor, Chris Christie.

Parts of New Jersey remain submerged in water. Up next, we're going to hear from a man who rode out the storm in an area devastated by flooding, and he doesn't have a way out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One person who experienced Sandy's wrath up close, Ben Von Klemperer, he rode out the storm from his family home on Long Beach Island, where conditions, he says, are still in very, very tough shape. He's joining us on the phone right now.

You're in New Jersey. You sent us some video as well. Ben, tell us what happened, where you were, and what you saw.

BEN VON KLEMPERER, STORM SURVIVOR: I was in Barnegat Lake, New Jersey, which is the northernmost municipality on Long Beach Island. And last night I think that I saw the full brunt of the storm. High tide here last night happened at about 8:20 p.m. At that point, the bay water from Barnegat Bay to the west of me rose up on to the adjacent street and sort of into the neighborhood. It was tough to guess the exact depth because it was dark, but I'm thinking it was about one or two feet in the street.

We took about six inches of water in the garage, in the family home here. And obviously, we had, you know, ferocious rain and winds throughout the day yesterday.

BLITZER: So where are you now, then?

KLEMPERER: I'm in Barnegat Light. And from my -- my understanding is that the only way off the island at this point is to present yourself to the police and ask to be escorted off. You know, thankfully, I did a lot of preparing for this, so I have a lot of food and water here, and, you know, time is not an issue for me right now. But that's where I am at at this time.

BLITZER: So you believe you're safe?

KLEMPERER: I know that I'm safe.

BLITZER: Have you spoken to other people in the area where you are right now?

KLEMPERER: Yes. And, in fact, I wasn't even the only person on my street that decided to ride it out. There were a handful of folks around here who I've talked to today. I've also talked to municipal workers, even a U.S. Coast Guard staffer, that was going through the neighborhoods, just trying to sort things out. So there were people who stayed here.

Unfortunately, the reports I'm getting, and I'll let CNN independently confirm this, but what I'm hearing is that southern Long Beach Island did much worse than northern Long Beach Island. And obviously my sympathies go out to anyone on the whole eastern seaboard who was severely affected by this storm.

BLITZER: What was it like at the height of the storm? What did you have to do to deal with this?

KLEMPERER: Well, it wasn't, you know, the calmest night in my life. But you just -- you just try to keep a cool head and you get as much information as possible. I had studied what the tidal patterns were, so I knew when to expect that the water started receding, and I was very grateful to see that the water, you know, promptly exited the first floor of the property here after high tide happened.

I also, you know, calculated when sunrise would be. We lost power at about 10:30 p.m. so you just, you just try to stay calm and you know that there'll be an end to it.

BLITZER: I know you rode out Hurricane Irene from Long Beach Island. Compare the two.

KLEMPERER: Apples and oranges, really. This was several orders of magnitude bigger than Irene. And I watched CNN's coverage, you know, minute by minute, in the lead up to the storm, so that's what I expected it will be. Those predictions were correct. You know, one comparison, during Hurricane Irene, there was a little bit of flooding in my neighborhood, but it just, you know, came up to the street at the end of my block, whereas Sandy came all the way down in front of my property, into my driveway, and started seeping into the garage.

Obviously, the extreme property damage for the southern end of the island is much, much greater than it was in Irene, as I understand it.

BLITZER: Ben Von Klemperer, good luck, Ben. Appreciate your joining us.

KLEMPERER: Thanks so much.

BLITZER: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the horrific aftermath of a killer storm.