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CNN NEWSROOM

Hurricane Relief Efforts Continue. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:48]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour here. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN's special live coverage of the historic and deadly flooding gripping the state of Texas and also into Louisiana.

We can now tell you the number of dead has risen again to 24 after six bodies, this family, was found in the van in floodwaters in Harris County, grandparents, teenagers, an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl dead.

Here was the Texas Governor talking about what his state still has to face.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Major flooding will continue for a few days in the Beaumont region, in the lower Brazos River region, where there could be extensive flooding for about a week, if not longer.

In the lower Colorado region, there should be flooding for the rest of the week. Over in Victoria and Cuero, there should be ongoing flooding for a few days. It's important for people in all of these regions as well as in every county that's affected by storms that you continue to listen to and heed local warnings about evacuation.

When you look at comparisons, the population size and square mile size of their area impacted both by the hurricane swathe and the flooding is far larger than Katrina, far larger than Sandy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: You heard that from the governor. Let me just reiterate that. We're talking about an area larger than Sandy and Katrina.

The head of FEMA won't estimate how many people have been displaced from their homes by the storm because the number is constantly changing. It's rising.

And even for those who managed to escape, the floodwaters followed them, these incredible pictures showing a shelter just inundated. These folks already displaced are forcing to flee again.

Outside the shelters, this baby here cradled in a trash bag. Look at this, exemplifying grace under pressure. And where catastrophe takes hold, so too does the best of human nature. Heroism like this captured on Houston's I-10, more than a dozen people jumping into floodwaters, linking up arms, forming this human chain just to rescue this elderly man being pulled under by the current.

And they pulled it off.

Kaylee Hartung is one of our correspondents out there. Kaylee is in Orange, Texas, as close as we could get to Port Arthur.

You have been watching people being rescued all day from your perch, Kaylee. Tell me some of the stories you have been hearing.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, right now, in Orange, Texas, very close to the Louisiana state line, a rescue operation is really moving into the next phase, and that's getting the evacuees safely to shelter.

But when I talked to you about an hour ago, we were two miles or so closer to Louisiana, and you saw very volunteer-driven rescue efforts there, guys pulling up with their own boats and heading out to see who they could find. Here, it's a very different scene, very interesting to see, a wonderfully coordinated effort between officials, law enforcement, other government agencies, coming from outside of Texas.

We have got guys here from Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Now, they have still got about 10 boats out there, but they feel that this area has for the most part been cleared.

Brooke, we have got school buses in here from Louisiana helping get people to shelters. We're definitely in that next phase, but they want to make sure that they have gotten everybody they can to safety.

BALDWIN: Kaylee, I'm hanging on your every word, but my eyes are glued to the pictures on the right side of the screen.

Just for viewers who are watching along, these are live pictures, thanks to our affiliate there, KTRK. These are elderly folks being evacuated, as you can see, by boat from a nursing home. That is what's happening in, you know, wheelchairs. Some of them who can walk out are walking out, but these are, you know, more frail folks being helped out of a nursing home and taken to higher ground. Incredible.

[15:05:07]

Kaylee, thank you.

Let's go now Ed Lavandera in Brazoria County. This is just outside of Houston, where a levee breached, prompting officials to issue a direct and dramatic message to folks there, get out.

What's the situation where you are, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke. The rains have stopped. The sky has cleared, but the sense of dread still hangs over many parts of Southeast Texas, especially here in Brazoria County, where, as you mentioned, there's the issues with the levees, but there's also the question with all of the floodwater leaving Houston here over the next couple of days.

All that has to go somewhere and there's a series of rivers that come south out of Houston here through Brazoria County and that is the floodwaters you're seeing here. Over the course of the next couple of days, the rivers, the Brazoria, the Brazos River, and a couple of other rivers here in this particular area are expected to crest, and that is pushing water into these neighborhoods.

So it's a slow, painful crawl here to watch this, but we have seen and traveled some of these rural roads here throughout the day in the county, and you see the water slowly creeping up, road crews here trying to keep up with where exactly the water is moving to, and setting up the road closure signs.

So this is something that is not happening terribly quickly, but it is something that residents here in Brazoria County will be monitoring, paying very close attention to over the course of the next couple days. As I mentioned, these rivers not expected to crest for a couple more days, so many people anticipating trying to figure out just how much water is going to come downstream from the Houston area as it makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico and wondering just how many more homes and neighborhoods will take on water.

So, many people preparing for all of that and even though, as I mentioned, the rains have stopped and the sun has come out, not everyone has escaped the worst of this storm yet -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: It is incredible to think just of how far you have been, even just since we saw you Monday, Ed, you and Jaimo (ph) rescuing that family, and just all these stories.

Ed, thank you.

And the looks of these people's faces here, coming out of this nursing home on the right side of the screen, just to think of how long they have been in there and how high that water has gone up. As soon as we can get it, I can pass along more information to you, just concern, obviously, for how these people are doing.

You can see just how high this water is, about shin-high in the hallway of this one nursing home in Port Arthur, Texas.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

[15:10:25]

BALDWIN: Again, we're keeping a very close eye on these live pictures. This is a hallway of a nursing home in Port Arthur, Texas, feeling the brunt of sort of the second round of this storm Harvey hitting this part of Texas.

We're going to try to get more information for you as these elderly folks are being rescued here on this Wednesday afternoon out of Port Arthur, Texas. Look at this. Unreal. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Welcome back to our special coverage here of the aftermath

of Harvey. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

[15:15:01]

Flooding is so widespread in Port Arthur, Texas, the places people are going to escape the water are getting flooded themselves.

We have got some pictures of Bob Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur, evacuees there knee-deep in water. People had to sit in top rows of bleachers just to get away from the flooding. In fact, the day began with the mayor of Port Arthur declaring on Facebook -- quote -- "Our whole city is underwater."

Hours later, the mayor posted again, showing what happened when he checked in on his own home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DERRICK FREEMAN, MAYOR OF PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS: And a quick check of my home. Looks like we have got four feet of water, three-and-a-half feet of water. It's just a lake in here.

Yes. We got some water, you all. Harvey wasn't playing. I know one thing, though. It's not going to defeat us. I know that for sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: OK. I believe someone was telling me in my ear we're going to go to Cynthia.

Oh, here we go. This is the nursing home. Do we have a guest, guys? Are we just listening in? OK. Just ended. OK.

We have got Cynthia Harmon. Let's go back here in Port Arthur, Texas. Cynthia Harmon is on the phone with me.

Cynthia, I'm told, has been stuck in her attic for a couple of days with her two sons and two grandchildren.

Cynthia, can you hear me?

CYNTHIA HARMON, HURRICANE VICTIM: Yes.

BALDWIN: So, what's your situation? How are you holding up?

HARMON: We're holding up. We got each other. Just really at the moment, we just really hungry, and we don't have any more water. We can't go downstairs because it's a little over four feet of water, and the water came in so fast, we didn't have a chance to even unplug any of the appliances or anything.

So, we're not going to take any chance walking down there, and we have eaten everything we had up here, and we have been waiting for somebody to come get us since 12:00 a.m. this morning. And the next news we got was that, at daybreak, they was going to start, and that was about 7:00 this morning.

And we see helicopters, at least three of them in my area, but none of them have stopped for us yet, but I think they have acknowledged that we're here. We have a sheet outside and we keep, you know, waving our hands outside. But...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Sorry, Cynthia.

Have you been -- you have got the sheet, which is exactly what you're supposed to have. Have the boats passing by acknowledged that had they see you?

HARMON: We have only had, like, maybe two boats. One guy passed in canoe, but there's no way for us to get down, because we're on the second floor, and then we had another set of two guys, like, three or four hours later, not too long ago, and the same thing with them.

They don't have any way to get us down.

BALDWIN: Are you -- who are you calling? Are you calling 911?

HARMON: Yes.

We have -- last night, most of the time, early this morning, we really couldn't get through. We just kept calling and calling and calling. The phone kept ringing or it was busy, and then finally this morning, we got through, but I'm thinking it's more -- because I have a lot of loved ones and friends that's been on Facebook and calling for me, because all we have is cell phones, and everybody's cell phones keep dying.

I'm trying to keep mine on, but my grandson's is more charged so we have been using his phone. Other than that, we're just trying to hang in here. I'm trying to keep calm because I suffer real bad with anxiety. I have had two anxiety attacks.

The first one is when I fell down the stairs trying to get up out of the water. I was so scared, I fell back in all that water and banged my knee. Now it's all swollen, and I can hardly walk on it. That's another reason why I want to get out, because I want to see if I can get it checked and hope I didn't do anything to it because I really can't walk on it.

BALDWIN: Oh.

HARMON: But I will tell you, this is -- this is something else. I have never seen anything like this. It's just -- it's scary, and it's -- I can't understand, either, why the water won't go down.

If anything, it keeps looks like it's going up instead of going down.

BALDWIN: How are your boys?

HARMON: But I know, if I get out there, it's going to probably be high on me, because I'm shorter than my SUV that I have, and it's all the way up to the windows. That's how deep my SUV is under the water.

BALDWIN: Yes. We have seen pictures of cars just totally covered.

How are your boys and how are your grandsons?

HARMON: They're good.

My oldest son is woke. The other ones, they're exhausted. They finally just went to sleep, because we have all been up since yesterday morning. We haven't slept. I haven't slept yet.

[15:20:03]

Me and my son haven't slept, but the other three, they finally went to sleep. Me and him's just sitting at the window and making sure that they see us. And, hopefully, they will come and get us within an hour or so. At least, I hope so.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Sorry. Sorry, Cynthia. When's the last time you ate anything?

HARMON: About 4:00 yesterday evening.

BALDWIN: Wow. So you're out of food?

HARMON: Yes. Up here.

BALDWIN: What about water?

HARMON: No, we don't have any water either. We haven't had water since probably about, I guess, 3:00 or 4:00 this morning, because we grabbed like three pitchers that we had in the icebox, and some lunch meat and bread we had.

But we ate all that because we were so hungry. That's been hours ago. And I could sure use a meal. I'm tired as hell.

BALDWIN: Oh, I can't imagine.

Do you mind if we share your address, Cynthia? I mean, I know you're calling 911. Can we share your address live on TV, so hopefully somebody's listening and can come find you?

HARMON: Sure.

BALDWIN: Where do you live?

HARMON: I live at 500 Neches Avenue in Port Arthur, Texas.

BALDWIN: That's 500 N-E-C-H-E-S, Neches Avenue, Port Arthur, Texas.

Have you been able to see -- if you hang your head outside, are your neighbors also stranded in their second floors or their attics? Can you see? HARMON: No. I honestly didn't think the rain was going to get like

this, but all my neighbors left.

BALDWIN: They did.

HARMON: All my neighbors that live around me, they all left.

But I mean, like I said, I didn't think the water was going to rise like that, because we had went and got sandbags and because, the day before, it came up to my garage a little bit, so we put a bunch of sandbags in the front and in the back of it.

But, like I said, it just came up from out of nowhere. I was standing up in the kitchen getting ready to cook, and I looked down because my feet got wet. And, I mean, water was just pouring in through the walls like crazy. So I just told the kids to hurry up and get upstairs, especially when I started noticing all the lights was on, and it didn't take long for it to get up past the sockets.

BALDWIN: Let's get you some help.

HARMON: I didn't want anybody to get electrocuted.

BALDWIN: No, no, that's another -- that's a whole other issue that we have been hearing about from the Houston police chief.

HARMON: Yes.

BALDWIN: Let's get you rescued. Cynthia's at 500 Neches Avenue in Port Arthur, Texas.

HARMON: Sure.

BALDWIN: We're going to stay in close contact with you, Cynthia, and make sure someone gets you and your sons and your grandsons out of there.

In the meantime, just hang tight.

HARMON: I sure appreciate it.

BALDWIN: Hang tight. Thank you, Cynthia, on the phone with me from Port Arthur.

HARMON: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: My goodness.

From a stranded grandmother to these pictures here, let's get back to that nursing home. We have been showing you these pictures of this nursing home in the same town that's being evacuated. We actually heard from an employee moments ago, and here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, at night. QUESTION: At nighttime. What has it been like? This water just rise

all the way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what? I was at home watching television and I saw this on TV. I could not believe they was still here, so I waded through the water and somebody gave me a ride on the boat down here. It just breaks my heart.

QUESTION: I'm so sorry. Are these your patients?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

QUESTION: It looks like they're critical patients.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they're really nice.

I sneak all kind of stuff in, like pizza, I'm not supposed to, fried chicken.

I say, if you don't put the light on, I will bring you some chicken. But I shouldn't do it. I just love them. And they don't deserve this.

QUESTION: I'm sure it's very difficult for them.

This much water, water up to the baseboards here inside of the halls where you work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's awful. It's my first time seeing this before. I'm 65 years old and I never seen this much water. I came through Carla and Audrey, but I never saw this before.

QUESTION: A lot of these patients -- they can't get out of bed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can't walk.

QUESTION: They are bedridden. They can't walk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: How do you get them out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, we usually get them up with a lift or whatever. That's how we get them up.

QUESTION: You're very emotional right now, and I know as soon as you saw us, you gave us a hug.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I'm ready to keel. OK. Thank you so much.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you. OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: All right, we're going to keep an eye on how those folks are faring getting out of that nursing home in Port Arthur.

Meantime, the military man who took charge of the response to Hurricane Katrina, Lieutenant General Russel Honore will join me live. He's been on a boat out and about surveying the damage today. His insight into what lies ahead for the city of Houston, Texas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:29:03]

BALDWIN: Back to CNN and our special live coverage of Harvey and the historic flooding in Texas and in Louisiana, the storm making a new landfall, the number of fatalities now at 24.

And at this hour, the U.S. is getting some new help from south of the border, Mexico -- 33 volunteers from Mexico's Red Cross are set to arrive in Houston to help manage shelters and connect with Spanish- speaking flood survivors.

So far, President Trump has not publicly responded to Mexico's offer to send a bigger aid package. After Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago, Mexico did send troops and medical personnel and aid to the U.S. then as well.

One of the big questions for the next chapter of Harvey is, you know, what will Houston and beyond see when the floodwaters finally recede?

In New Orleans, for example, after Hurricane Katrina, when floodwaters finally receded, the full scope of damage and death was finally revealed.

Let's bring in retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore. He helped organize all the relief effort in the wake of Katrina. General Honore, great to see you again. I hear you have been out and about on a boat today, sir.