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Rescues Continue in Houston; Port Arthur Hit by Harvey; Houston Mayor Talks About City; Update on Houston Rescues and Flooding; Volunteer talks about Rescuing Victims. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


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[14:00:07] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN's special live coverage here of this historic and deadly flooding just still gripping the state of Texas. Former Hurricane Harvey dumping a record amount of rainfall all over again. And the number of people killed in this storm now rising now to 19. And that number, according to officials, will rise again.

Here is the Texas governor talking about what is to come.

(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 the area impacted, both by the hurricane swath and the flooding, is far larger than Katrina. Far larger than Sandy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: You heard him, an area larger than Sandy and Katrina. The head of FEMA will not estimate exactly how many people have been displaced by their homes -- by the storm because the number is constantly on the rise.

And even for those who manage to escape, the flood waters followed. These stunning images showing a shelter inundated. These folks, already displaced, are forced to flee again.

Outside of these shelters, let me show you this baby being cradled in a trash bag, exemplifying grace under pressure.

Elsewhere, tragedy as authorities find a shivering toddler floating in a canal, clinging to the body of his lifeless mother who died trying to carry her child to safety.

The life-threatening danger on the roads out there captured on live television right here on CNN. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look at this. Get out, dude. You got to -- you got a power cord?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: A harrowing moment as our Drew Griffin and his crew ran over, were able to pull that man -- look at this, out of the car using a rope, visibly shaken but alive.

And here is another just breath-taking visual. Just to put this all in perspective, this is what Interstate 10 normally looks like. Now, look at this. That exact section of I-10 looks like a sea scape.

In Harris County, about 30 percent of all land is under water. That's an area bigger than New York City and Chicago combined.

So, let's begin live from a boat in Houston, CNN's Brian Todd and crew.

You have been, Brian, with these rescue crews all day. Tell me what you've been seeing.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this is the Lakeside Forest neighborhood of Houston. We're in this labyrinth of apartment buildings called Lakeside Place.

And just check out these cars here. This is the result of the controlled release from the Addicks Reservoir flooding the Buffalo Bayou, which is nearby here. But look at this. And all of this, according to residents, was just today, it was like since 1:00 this morning that this came up. It wasn't even happening during the brunt of the storm.

Look at this, water up to the tops of cars, up to, you know, the doorknobs and locks of these apartment buildings here. The first floor windows. And look at this, just incredible flooding here, well after the brunt of the storm has passed. And residents -- this group of private rescuers on this airboat, we're just cruising around this neighborhood to see what residents are going to flag us and want to get out.

Here's one of them, Don (INAUDIBLE).

Don, tell me what happened. You tried to save a man who was trying to make his way across these flood waters from his flooded car to his apartment. What happened with him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the neighbors heard him -- or saw him go down, collapse. We don't know why. He went over and flipped him over so he'd be face up and yelled for help and three of us went over to help him. We pulled him into the laundromat and a couple inches of water on the floor, for at least 20 minutes we were doing chest compressions and mouth to mouth on him. We had 911 on the phone. They were walking us through it. And just the most helpless feeling I ever had in my life.

[14:05:10] But really it was the other three people who were the main people who were doing a lot of the work. But I -- we got (INAUDIBLE) a canoe down, loaded him up in the canoe. They brought him up to the front here and loaded him into a bass boat and they brought him to the fire truck up there. The entire time we were with him, we never got any sign of life, no pulse, no anything.

TODD: Couldn't save him, but you guys really did your best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did everything we could, but we just -- I hate to say it, I don't -- I just don't think, you know, you're qualified in that situation. But we tried.

TODD: Thanks for trying. You did a great job trying to help him.

This is one of many stories around here, Brooke. This apartment complex.

Here's the problem. It's a labyrinth of buildings and walkways and driveways. But if you try to get out of your apartment, you got nowhere to go unless an airboat or some other boat comes and gets you. You can't walk. Look, the water here is at least chest deep. And there really is just no other way to get out of here to a road that's not flooded. And those roads are a long way from here, Brooke. So these people, if they're in here now, are going to be trapped unless they get to one of these boats. They're going to be trapped and they're going to have to ride it out here.

BALDWIN: Yes, and you just never know, even as boats and some parts shallow, some parts deep, you just never know what you're going to come across as you all are going along in the labyrinth-like areas of Texas.

Brian Todd, thank you and your crew and the guys who are on that -- the guys and gals on that boat trying to help out. We'll check back in with you as we continue to hear just these incredible stories.

After making landfall for a second time, Harvey has now basically swallowed another Texas town, Port Arthur in east Texas along the Louisiana border. Harvey dumped more than two feet of water there in just 24 hours' time. The city's mayor says the entire town is under water. Even some shelters have been flooded. And the nation's largest oil refinery there, shut down.

Life-threatening flash flooding, of course a major concern, and it's still raining. People are being asked to use boats, dump trucks, whatever they have to rescue those left stranded.

Kaylee Hartung is in Orange, Texas, for us, the closest we could actually get to Port Arthur, where those rescue boats are dropping off people under the interstate. Kaylee, what have you been seeing?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, it really feels like we're in the second chapter of the rescue operation here. When we first got here, about two and a half hours ago, you couldn't see the lines down the middle of this street. Now these waters receding just a bit so that it's passable if your pickup truck is big enough.

So, the rescue operation has really been happening in the waters on the other side of the interstate. They really feel like they've got that in hand. There's an apartment complex where some people were hesitant to want to leave. But all efforts now focused on the right side of this -- what used to be a roadway now waterway.

But people then looking for dry land. This was the only place to find it, underneath this interstate overpass. When we first got here, people had been here for three, four, five hours. The problem was they were looking for somewhere to go. They had found dry land. But the question was, what next?

Well, now, with this load ahead of me passable, they've opened up a school as a shelter. Some of these boats, now that the rescue operation on the water is in a good place, they're loading those boats back up on their trailers, hitching up them up to their pickup trucks. People are piling in the back of the pickup trucks in those boats on the trailers and that's one way for them to now get to these shelters.

BALDWIN: Kaylee, thank you. Kaylee is as close as we could get to Port Arthur there in Orange, Texas.

You know, we've been talking about the punishing amounts of rain that have completely flooded the city of Port Arthur. I have on the phone with me right now Alexis Mitchell, who is apparently trapped in her home with her family.

OK, getting word we lost Alexis. Hopefully we're going to work on getting Alexis back up because it's my understanding -- she keeps calling.

OK, now I'm being told we have the mayor of Houston on the phone with me.

Mr. Mayor, are you with me?

Mr. Mayor, it's Brooke Baldwin, you're --

OK. Nope, don't have -- OK. Listen, it's all right. It's live television and we're going to work on that.

Coming up, we're going to work on getting the mayor and Alexis and talk about this destruction, remarkable moments of survival, strangers helping strangers. At one point this group forms a human chain to rescue one man from his car.

Also, the challenges and struggles facing some of those volunteer rescuers in Houston. We'll talk to one man who used his boat to save lives during Katrina, drove hours from Louisiana. Why he's now leaving Houston and going home.

You're watching CNN. We'll be right back.

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[14:14:16] BALDWIN: Back to our breaking story here and the aftermath of Harvey and the just absolute devastation in Houston and beyond.

We have the city's mayor, Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is live from the convention center, you know, full of thousands and thousands of people all needing just, you know, shelter over their heads.

Mayor Turner, thank you so much for taking the time. I cannot even begin to imagine what your world is like.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON, TEXAS: Yes.

BALDWIN: Let's just first begin with, we heard from the chief of police in Houston, the big message from you guys is telling folks who have evacuated, don't go home because of, what is it, fears of electrocution, live wires. Is that the case?

TURNER: Well, I think we are assessing the situation. There are a number of people that are in the shelters or away from their homes. And so we want to work as quickly as we can to transition people out of the shelters, to get them back in their normal lives.

[14:15:12] People are going to go home. They're going to assess the damage that was done. We -- look, we already have trucks that are moving today to pick up debris. There are people who have been back to their homes. They're pulling out the carpet or the wet wood, putting it out in front of their houses. We've got a number of crews that are out today picking up debris. We're going to ramp that up aggressively.

But the key is to get us back as quickly as possible, back to our normal routine.

BALDWIN: Just so I'm clear, Mayor Turner, again, because Chief Acevedos said don't go home. Is it OK for people to return home if they can?

TURNER: For those who can go home, they ought to go home, OK? We do have some water that is still in some of the neighborhoods. It has not gone totally down, OK? But as that water clears, and people are able to go back to their homes and assess their situation, people are already starting to pull out carpet and other things and putting those things on the side of the road.

And that's why the trucks are rolling today, picking up that heavy trash, that heavy debris. And so we're taking it neighborhood by neighborhood. But the city is slowly getting itself moving -- coming together and moving forward.

I've said to the Astros, for example, they were scheduled to play ball on Friday night. I want them to play ball. And so we can do multiple things at the same time. But it is important for us to move forward, to start getting back into our normal routine. All city employees, for example, are due back at work on Tuesday. The schools, most of our schools, will resume on Tuesday.

And so, you know, we're not going to stay where we are. People have pulled together. People are working very aggressively with one another. And I couldn't be more proud of the people and the businesses in this city.

BALDWIN: All right. So you want to have a ball game Friday night. But, mayor, there's still a number of people, it sounds like, according to our crews, you know, who still need rescuing. Do you have any idea how many people are still out there? Because I know a lot of people don't want to leave their homes.

TURNER: Well, there are a number of people who are -- look, we have gone pretty much in many of these neighborhoods. For areas, for example, on the west side of town that are being -- homes are being flooded because of the release of water from the dams, those individuals are having to be rescued.

In another part of the town, in northeast Houston, Kingwood, for example, that area, some of the people had to be rescued as of yesterday. But the situation in that area is starting to stabilize. So that's a plus.

We want to make sure that if they are -- especially if there are seniors, people who are disabled, who are in their homes, they need to come out of their homes, we're going to attend to them. But we can do multiple things at the same time. For people who need to be rescued, we're going to rescue them. For people who are able to get back into their homes, we're going to help them to get back in their homes and start the rebuilding process. For people who are in the shelters, we are registering them, we are assessing their needs, we're asking FEMA to come in a major, major way so we can quickly process them and transition from the shelters back into their normal routine.

This is one city that can do multiple things at the same time. But we are not a city that says, woe is me, and then we're just going to stay where -- and allow this storm to conquer our spirit. It's not going to conquer our spirits. Fully recognize the impact that it has had. And it's my hope, for example, that FEMA will bring in a lot of dollars so we can really ramp up our debris removal.

When we faced Hurricane Ike, the cost of that debris removal was $70 million. I anticipate it's going to be a lot more because of Hurricane Harvey.

BALDWIN: That is a whole other chapter of what you all will be dealing with as the waters do recede and sort of what lies beneath and that clean-up process. But don't mess with Texas.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, I hear you loud and clear, thank you so much, sir.

TURNER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: I'm going let you go. You have much bigger jobs right now.

Listen, we're all seeing all kinds of rescues coming out of Texas. When boats were not around, these people used their own bodies to save this elderly man trapped in his SUV. This is Interstate 10 in Houston. At least a dozen of them here, you can see, holding hands, forming this human chain as the waters rose to as high as the rescuers' necks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold my hand.

(INAUDIBLE)

[14:20:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right, sir?

Anybody got a blanket or something for him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do me a favor --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody got a blanket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to pick you up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: How about that. The person who took this video, Marisa Castios (ph) says this elderly man went to the hospital, was reunited with his son.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joins me from Houston. Miguel, we talked to the mayor. It sounds like he wants to have a ball game Friday night. I mean despite all these pictures, he wants folks to start picking up the pieces. Tell me where you are. Tell me what it looks like.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well -- well, look, I mean, the -- you can see sunlight today, and that is a huge improvement and that is lifting everyone's spirits and no rain is coming down. There's a little bit of rain possibly for this afternoon, but nothing like we've seen in recent days.

This is State Highway 6. This is one of the areas that has stubbornly stayed high. The Addicks Reservoir area. The reservoir of Addicks Reservoir is about a mile down this road on a normal day. So it is way, way up.

I want to show you sort of what they've set up here in terms of a command post. They have boats that are able to get in and out of here. There are still people in the neighborhoods here. Most of them have refused to leave. So they did evacuate a hotel a short time ago just up -- down the road here, down the river here, because the people there had been there for three days, not wanting to leave.

The boats typically pull up here. A lot of them have been pulling out and going to other areas. The problem right now is in these sort of areas is that the water is high in other reservoirs around the area, and they are letting that water runoff, and it's going into places like this. In most places in town, the water is receding very, very rapidly. In places where they're not getting that runoff from other reservoirs.

Boats have a difficult time operating in some of these conditions, in part because they're very -- it's very shallow water. So bigger boats can't get in there. Those airboats that are very effective in shallow water, sometimes the current is very strong and it's hard for them to get around.

Three members of a civilian boat crew, their boat capsized overnight. Two of them are now missing. One of them hung on to -- for dear life to a tree and was rescued. But this is dangerous work that these people are doing and they are doing it willingly and they are coming in from all over the state.

Brooke.

BALDWIN: It's incredible, though, that some people just still -- they don't want to leave their homes. That's a whole other piece of this story.

Miguel, thank you.

Let's talk about that. You know, once again, this need for help is so great, but there's another call for boaters to rescue the stranded. The city of Port Arthur, Texas, as we mentioned a moment ago, right there on the Louisiana border, made that call, plus it's directing flood victims to put out a white towel or a sheet, you know, on a roof to signal help, you know, for rescuers to come get you.

But as we've been talking about, some volunteer rescuers are finding flood victims are not entirely cooperating and are actually turning the rescue boats away.

With me now, Bradley Johns. He's on the phone. He's on the road in northeast Texas.

I understand he drove, you know, more than 300 miles from home in Louisiana to Texas with his dad and a friend to respond to the call for these rescue boaters.

Bradley, you're live on CNN here. I understand you turned around and you all went home because people didn't want your help? Tell me what happened.

BRADLEY JOHNS (via telephone): Well, yes. Well, that's not exactly correct that we went home because people didn't want our help. We actually --

BALDWIN: You tell me what's right.

JOHNS: OK. Well, we did -- we did come down early morning yesterday, and, I mean, really was impressed with how the Texans and people from Louisiana, I mean, everybody's just out. There was tons of help. There was a lot of boats. And the biggest problem was logistics. And, I guess, local law enforcement, guard, whoever coordinating where we were need.

We did finally find a place around 1:00 after about three or four hours of searching. Once we got our boat in the water, there were several boats already in there going into three different neighborhoods. And we were told by a policeman that we weren't to go in there because the residents were not coming out and boats were coming out empty.

We kind of hung around because, quite frankly, we didn't have anywhere else to go. You know, wanted to make the most of our time. We saw two rescuers, two boats (INAUDIBLE) come out and they had a families with them. We said, hey, they said people aren't coming out. He said, no, that's not true. You guys need to go down in there.

So John and I went and we went into the neighborhood and we went through I think the entire neighborhood and there was other boats there, we were knocking on doors, you know, yelling for people.

[14:25:03] We did meet an elderly woman and she refused to leave. We tried to tell her, you know, what the authorities were saying, the water's going to come up four more feet. And for whatever reason, she wouldn't go. We met another young couple, and they said they were ready to, you know, tough it out.

And so, anyway, that -- and, you know, and that went on for three or four hours. We searched around. You know, we still want to -- we just didn't want to leave any stone unturned.

BALDWIN: Sure. Of course. Now, I've got you. I've got you. It sounds like a combination of, you know, the problem -- and I say that lightly. It sounds like so many people have opened up their hearts and their boats and are helping folks out that a lot of people have been rescued. But it does sound like you all came across some people that didn't want to leave. Did you try coaxing them out of their homes and why was that not successful, do you think?

JOHNS: Oh, yes. Absolutely. We -- well, for example, the elderly lady, you know, John and I talked, you know, and I said, well, maybe she's scared. We had smaller boats and of course we were soaking wet. We look pretty rough. Maybe she's scared. So I offered, I said, look, there's some bigger boats. I could probably go find somebody with a bigger boat or, you know, I mean, they had dump trucks. (INAUDIBLE) it's not very glamorous, but maybe it's better than a boat for her, and she just flat out refused.

BALDWIN: And so how does this -- I mean I know, Bradley, you and your dad helped folks out -- I can't believe it was 12 years yesterday, you know, Hurricane Katrina. How does this, you know, the death toll nowhere near, but in terms of the vast space of floods, how does it compare?

JOHNS: Yes, I mean, you know, in Katrina, we didn't actually go down in the floods. We did drive the day after to go and rescue some family members who (NAUDIBLE). And, you know, of course the wind damage, we noticed like driving down to Katrina, it looked like an atomic bomb went off. Down in Houston, we didn't see maybe one or two trees blown over. So, I mean, it's just flooding.

BALDWIN: Yes.

JOHNS: And, of course, the city of Houston, you know, or the greater area is laid out that you have a lot more hills, even though it's a flat area, it's a lot more hills. But you've got a lot of places that are higher. Whereas, you know, New Orleans's is just -- it's almost a bowl.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes, the geography, the topography.

Bradley Johns, safe travels home. Thank you and, you know, your dad and friend for hopping in your car and heading to try to help the good people of Texas. We appreciate that and I'm sure they do as well. Thank you so much. Safe travels.

JOHNS: All right.

BALDWIN: And, I know, listen, a lot of you are listening to these stories -- look at that precious face -- and you want to help. You can. We have compiled a list of ways you can help those dealing with the flooding in Texas. We've got a list of vetted organizations. Just go to cnn.com/impact.

Next, in the wake of Harvey, celebrities are chipping in, including Houston rapper Trae Tha Truth, who is doing his part to rescue those in need. We'll talk to Tre live coming up next.

You're watching CNN's special coverage here. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

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