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Hurricane Relief Efforts Continue; Nearly 700 Marines On Way to Hurricane Disaster Zone; Inside North Korea as New Missile Launch is Announced. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 18:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN is in the disaster zone bringing you coverage of a Navy rescue operation live as it unfolds.

Grim reality. After Harvey unleashes record rainfall and hits land a second time, getting a better sense of the enormous loss, with the death toll more than doubling today.

And calling for cuts. Just hours after President Trump promised federal aid to storm victims, he's shifting gears talking about tax cuts. How well is he weathering the storm?

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the globe. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SCIUTTO: We are following the breaking news in the life-and-death battle against catastrophic flooding that is swallowing more communities tonight.

An urgent Navy rescue operation is under way right now in Beaumont, Texas. It's one of the cities near the Texas/Louisiana border that is in crisis right now, the region hit with more than two feet of rain in 24 hours, unleashed during a second land fall by the devastating storm named Harvey.

The mayor of nearby Port Arthur says his entire city is underwater, including a nursing home. Dozens of people were trapped there for hours as floodwaters poured into the building. The evacuation slow, dangerous and difficult, with sick and elderly patients at risk as they waited to be rescued.

Tonight, thousands more people in danger from this widening flood disaster. At least 28 people now confirmed dead. The death toll has more than doubled from the day before, and it is likely, sadly, to climb higher. In hard-hit Houston, officials say conditions remain dire and rescue operations are under way.

The floodwaters expected to remain high for days ahead, even as the torrential rains finally have eased, at least in Houston. Tonight, more than 32,000 people are packed into shelters across Texas

and about a third of them are in the Houston Convention Center now. With emergency forces overtaxed, the governor says more than 10,000 National Guard troops are on their way from other states.

This hour, we're going to talk live with storm survivors inside the flood zone. Our correspondents, specialists also standing by.

Right now, let's go to CNN's Martin Savidge. He is on board that Navy helicopter now on a rescue mission live over Beaumont, Texas.

Marty, what are you seeing up there?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we just lifted off again from the ground.

We set down in a grassy field to pickup seven more people, four adults and at least three young children, including an infant. You can tell that they were relieved to be picked up, without a doubt. The helicopter wanted to land because it's the easiest and safest way to try to bring people on board.

At this time, I'm looking at the paramedic who is doing kind of a triage here, especially concerned about the infant, making sure she's all right. He is actually from the U.S. Air Force. And then also on board here working in tandem is the U.S. Navy rescue swimmer.

They just picked these people up. And now what we will do is we will transport them to an area where they can be picked up and taken to a shelter. Many of the children seem dazed and confused. The adults just seem relieved.

This is now 21 people that this crew, this chopper has managed to rescue in about the last hour-and-a-half, working under extremely difficult conditions here in Beaumont. The wind is still blowing. The rain has at least stopped, but of course they're working with hazardous situations on the ground.

Any time they lower the paramedic and the Navy swimmer, they are going into an urban environment, not the usual open water environment or open ground environment. It is a real danger. Then, of course, the helicopter hovering close to ground in this kind of save situation. They're well-trained and they have rehearsed it.

Many of them have worked natural disasters before, but this one is unique. What we're doing is coming to the landing zone we used previously. We see the Coast Guard and helicopter here, the U.S. Army National Guard, 47 helicopters operating here.

The air above Beaumont is full of aircraft at this time. They're deployed the same way we are, working steadily to try to rescue people.

SCIUTTO: Our Martin Savidge on board one of those U.S. Navy helicopters. We know there are 10 Navy helicopters, six Seahawks, like the one he's

on, four Sea Dragons. But you saw in the air some of the other air assets up, 21 people rescued just in this one helicopter. But, again, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands still in need of rescue there.


Marty, when you speak to the crews, how long do they intend to keep at these rescue operations?

SAVIDGE: Well, they have been working with them round the clock.

Of course, once darkness sets in, it becomes a different issue, but that doesn't mean they stop. It just means that they have to limit the number of aircraft that are operating. And they are ever more selective of what missions they go on.

But more and more assets continue to arrive, especially from the military aspect here. We were just down at College Station. It takes 45 minutes to go on down here. But that airport up there is just a beehive of activity of all branches.

We understand more assets are being brought in. You can see there are a number of Navy ships and relief now coming in.

What the crew will do is reset and then prepare to launch again. They will do this as long as they say they are needed. The crew gratified they can take part. It is a difficult operation for them, but it is one that they truly, truly feel glad to be a part of.

SCIUTTO: Martin, as you are with them, how do they know where to go? Are they just looking for people in need and going to their aid? Are they getting calls? Is there coordination as they are in the air there looking for people who need to be rescued?

SAVIDGE: Yes, the basic operation for the military, as far as I understand, for this particular national disaster, is behind handled by Norfolk Northern Command.

So, I would imagine the Navy dispatchers or communications is handling the air crews and assets coming out of Norfolk. But they have to be communicating of course with other air crews, both civilian and military, Coast Guard and other branches.

There is an aspect of air traffic control. But then on top of that, managing your air assets, you also have to understand where is the need on the ground. So, there are multiple ways that communications is fed into these crews to know where they have to go next.

And it is constantly being fed to them. We don't get to hear the headset. They're far too important for the crew. They didn't have enough. So I don't get to listen in. Much of this, we were briefed before we took off here, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Martin Savidge, stand by. We're going to come back to you. And just to remind our viewers, these are live rescues under way. And

the need, the need is immense and we have seen some of it there in the faces of those children, in some of those elderly patients rescued from that nursing home. These are some of the most vulnerable, and we have some of the most capable coming to their aid in the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, and in many citizen soldiers, you might call them, the volunteers.

Our Brian Todd is in Houston with some of them. He's been in the midst of this disaster for days.

Brian, I know you and those folks you're with, you're essentially going door to door looking for people in need.


We were just here knocking door to door in these apartment buildings right here. This is the Lakeside Forest residence west of Houston. You can see how submerged those cars are right there. This is a labyrinth of apartments here. The only way you can get out really is with an airboat like this one coming to get you.

You can't walk out. It's just too deep over here, and the nearest dry land, even reasonably high ground, is miles away from here. This is the only chance these people have to be rescued. This is a situation where these waters were rising late.

This only started happening at about 1:00 this morning. They thought they had dodged a bullet from the hurricane, but then the controlled release from the Addicks Reservoir near here brought all this on. This is an added and much -- just an incredibly devastating hit in this neighborhood.

At the same time, Eastern Texas and Louisiana are just getting pounded.

SCIUTTO: That's a point we can't emphasize enough, that even after the rain stopped, that water can keep rising. It's flowing down to the eastern part of that state and we're seeing that happen, particularly in these communities along the coast.

Brian, tell us what you're seeing now as well in terms of rescues going forward with this team.

TODD: Well, these guys say they're going to be out here as long as they can. They're just -- they're looking for places to go, trying to coordinate as best they can, but they have to coordinate just with some of the other teams.

There's no central coordination here. Again, this is just part of an entire region that is dealing with this. Eastern Texas and Louisiana are still getting bombarded. And they could be in for this in the days ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): A flooded nursing home in Port Arthur, Texas, because of the flooding, it is inaccessible by vehicle or by air. Patients had water in the hallways and the rooms for 24 hours before a volunteer flotilla started rescuing them.


Also in Port Arthur, two men clinging to branches in fast moving water were rescued by a volunteer rescue team after their car was swept away. They were in the water five hours. The Port Arthur mayor says the entire city is underwater, the latest part of Texas to be hit with floods with rescuers rushing to get to residents as the waters rise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We woke up with water in the yard and rising by inches every hour.

TODD: Even this shelter in the city flooded overnight. All of its evacuees had to be evacuated again. Across Texas, more than 32,000 are now in shelters. Even this bowling alley has become a refuge for the state's growing number of displaced people. Officials warn the flooding is still worsening toward the east of the state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is more to come. The worst is not yet over for Southeast Texas as far as the rain is concerned.

TODD: In some parts of Houston, waters are still rising, even after the sun came out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Around 2:00 in the morning, the water started coming in, in the back, and it just slowly started rising.

TODD: Some of the people now being rescued had thought they dodged a bullet.

DENNIS KITTLER, HOUSTON FLOOD VICTIM: Yesterday afternoon, the sun came out. It receded a little bit. And we put everything back that we had put upstairs. And then we had a little hurricane party last night until about midnight. And at 1:00, we had a foot of water.

TODD: Volunteers like airboat pilot Mark Malfa and his partner Joe Fairchild (ph) are out looking for victims to help, especially anyplace with a towel or other distress sign, in spite of the dangers and reports that two rescuers may be missing.

(on camera): You think about the danger out here?


TODD: Why not?

MALFA: Just come and do it. I ride a boat all the time. I deal with horrible crap on a consistent basis. I'm just -- I'm used to it. I don't think twice about it. People need help, come help them.

TODD (voice-over): Air rescues continue as well, including this family in Houston by New York's Air National Guard. And with no helicopter and no boat, this group formed a human chain to save an elderly man in a vehicle that was being swept away near Houston. So far, 8,500 people have been rescued in Houston alone.

LINDSEY SUMMERLIN, FLOOD VICTIM: I never thought in my life this would happen to us ever. I knew it flooded bad in Houston, but I never thought it would get like this. This just is horrible.

TODD: And the damage in Texas and Louisiana is only growing.

WILLIAM BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: The cost of this disaster, the economic cost to measure the disaster vs. our physical cost as the federal government family, we're not going to know a true cost for that for many, many years to come.


TODD: By our estimate, the team that we are with has pulled out about 20 people from these homes today. I talked to a lot of them after they were in the boat, asking them if they planned to return to this neighborhood. Some of them say they will. They say their ties here are simply too deep to leave it now.

Others, though, Jim, they say they're going to have to make an excruciating decision whether to come back home or not.

SCIUTTO: They're facing real risks as they do it, and they're brave as they carry out those rescues. Brian Todd there in Houston.

Let's go to Beaumont, Texas, where we've been following a Navy helicopter in the midst of rescue missions, those rescues the difference life and death for the youngest, the oldest, the most vulnerable.

CNN senior correspondent Drew Griffin, he has been there all day.

Drew, urgent rescues still under way in the air and you have been witnessing them on the ground.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and there are still emergencies going on here. There is a levee breach that is taking place that they have to worry about just this way from me. So, a lot of problems.

And the reason they need the helicopters here, Jim, is, really, Jefferson County is a series of islands. They even can't get the boats to all these places. That's why many of these parts they need to get those helicopters.

And it is dangerous and this is the most dangerous part because the storm is ending or over and people are going out to check out things. We witnessed and got involved in one rescue this morning when a man simply going out for a morning drive to take a look around wound up driving his truck right into a ditch. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this. Get out, dude. You got a power cord? You got a rope?

Hold on, I'm trying to get you a rope.

Brian, call 911. I got him. I got him come out of the water. I'm hanging up with you. All right, buddy, come on, get up out of that water. Don't go backwards. You all right?

No, ma'am. No, ma'am. we have a car in a ditch. We just pulled a fellow out. Lord, have mercy.


Are you all right now, buddy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, take your breath. And we're going to pick you up and want to get you off of this bank. OK? We're going to get you off of this bank.


GRIFFIN: So many of these events occur in just seconds, Jim. There is no time to call for help. That's why the urgent need to stay in place and don't be driving around in areas that you don't know whether or not it's water or it's a road.

These emergency situations still exist out here and they're going to exist for quite a bit as Southeast Texas tries to recover from this storm -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: You're right to note. We always hear that flooded streets, roads often the most dangerous parts in storms like this. Drew Griffin, thanks very much.

We're looking again at live picture there, aerials. And again it is these aerials that really give you a sense of the scope of the devastation, the flooding, literally as far as the eye can see. You see some people down there perhaps waiting to see who is going to be next to rescue them.

I want to talk now to a storm survivor in Port Arthur, Texas. To be clear, Port Arthur, a community that the mayor said today is entirely underwater.

Cynthia Harmon, lucky to be alive now and joining us on the phone right now, rescued after several days in her attic.

Cynthia, please, first, just tell us how it feels to be out and to be on safer ground.


This feels so good, I tell you. I'm still trying to calm down. The kids are good. They're taken real good care of us. And it's just good. We finally got some water. I drank like two bottles. And we're waiting on them to bring us some food. But, you know, it

feels so good just to get out of there.

SCIUTTO: Well, good. We're so glad that you're out. You had a harrowing several days in there. Who was it who rescued you?

HARMON: The Coast Guard. They came and got us.

I want to say again to thank Greg and Charles and Charlie and the other three guys that were with them, because they were so kind and patient and just gentle, especially with me because I have an injured leg. But they took good care of me. I was scared, so they guided me to get in the thing with my eyes closed, because I was just scared.

I cried the whole way. I was just -- oh, my God. It just felt like a roller coaster I never wanted to get on. But, you know, it was awesome, you know?

SCIUTTO: I'm sure.

HARMON: I just never been through something so devastating. I even had -- I opened my eyes at one time and I have never in my life seen my hometown look so -- whew -- scary with all that water.

Some of those houses, the water was up to the roof. It was just -- I just kept praying and hoping a lot of people got out, and nobody was -- fatalities or nobody got hurt or anything like that. It just brought tears to my eyes. It really did.

SCIUTTO: How close -- you had to flee to the attic as the waters rose. How close was the water to you by the time you were rescued?

HARMON: It had came up like to the third step of the second level of my house. It's an attic that was made out of a bedroom.

And before we actually was able to come upstairs, it was to my knees. And I'm only 5'2'' so, I mean, when I say it rose, it rose quick. It just kept rising and rising. And I just told the kids to just grab what they can and grab some food out the kitchen and let's go upstairs.

And, you know, the little food that we had and the water we had, we finished that like 4:00 yesterday. But we just grabbed what we could. We were kind of scared because we didn't even have time to unplug any electricity or anything. I didn't want anybody get electrocuted.

So, I just told them, take what they can and just go upstairs. I think we were just -- oh, we were just more frustrated because we were just hungry. Especially me. I kept having panic attacks, but those kids worked with me.

They kept me calm. And we made it. It just was getting hot. And like I said, we were just hungry and we just wanted something to drink. I needed water to take my medication. So, it was just -- I tell you what, I don't want to go through that no more.

SCIUTTO: I have to tell you...

HARMON: I really, really don't.

SCIUTTO: We are so happy you made it as well. I'm curious, how did the Coast Guard come to find you? How did you let them know where you were?

HARMON: Well, we called.

I mean, I can't think of how many numbers we called. And some just rang. And I have had a lot of loved ones, a lot of friends that, you know, put me out on social media, on Facebook or whatever. And it was somebody that my grandson called.


And, I don't know, just from out of the blue, CNN called me. And I think it was actually from one of the rescues that he had called. And they wanted to do an interview. So, you know, honestly, I don't know where it came from, but it maybe could have come from -- I mean, the kids were just calling everybody.

I mean, they just kept calling all the numbers that we had. They just kept calling back to back to back to back. I think they were more concerned about me because of the fact that I was having those panic attacks. And I fell and injured my leg. I don't know what I did to it.

It's so swollen, I can hardly walk on it. So, they just -- they refused to give up. They just kept calling everybody. And CNN was very concerned.

I think it was CNN that actually got hold to the Coast Guard to get us out of there quickly, because we kept seeing a lot of helicopters by the house, but as much as we kept waving and waving, which I'm sure they probably had other people, because we couldn't actually see them bring people up to the helicopter, but we just saw -- like we wanted to get out of there quick, because we had been up there a couple days, and it was just getting hectic, especially not being able to eat and have water.

I haven't even slept yet. I have been up since 7:00 yesterday.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's like being lost at sea, isn't it? And you were rescued.

HARMON: Yes. Oh, my God, yes. Like I was on my own island with just the kids. It was scary. It really was scary.

SCIUTTO: Cynthia Harmon, let me just say how glad we are you and your family are out safe. But we really do wish you the best.

HARMON: Thank you all so much. And thank you all for your efforts again. I really appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Well, Cynthia Harmon there rescued as the waters were lapping up, rising in the attic where she and her family had taken refuge.

And, as we speak, these are live pictures here of more rescues under way. The Navy in the air. This is another aerial view around Beaumont, Texas, water as far as the eye can see.

More of our live breaking coverage of the multiple rescue missions unfolding in Beaumont, Texas, right now. We are also going to get an update on the rescue and recovery in Houston.

Plus, I will talk with CNN's Anderson Cooper, who just arrived in the disaster zone.



SCIUTTO: We're following breaking news.

Multiple ongoing rescues in Houston, as well as the Southeast Texas cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur, all caused by Harvey, which made a second landfall today over the Texas-Louisiana border.

Officials now say at least 28 people are dead. The sad fact is, that toll may rise as those waters recede.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is in Houston now.

Anderson, I know you were there for Katrina. We heard the Texas governor today say that this is bigger than Katrina. As you have arrived there, just describe the scale of this that you have seen.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it really is kind of hard to wrap your mind around the scale of this.

I mean, Harris County is enormous compared to New Orleans, for instance. And it's very hard to get a sense of just how much of it is flooded. And we have heard that the figures of numbers of people in shelters.

But, still, I was talking to the sheriff of Harris County, Ed Gonzalez, earlier today, and we were riding around in an airboat together in this neighborhood, which is called Jamestown Colony, where most of the rescues have already been completed. But right now, you still have a lot of water on the ground.

On some streets, it's only a couple of feet. And then you kind of turn a corner and suddenly you're in six or seven feet of water and cars are still submerged. And Sheriff Gonzalez was saying, until the water all goes away, it's going to be very hard to really get an accurate sense of the recovery efforts, of the recovery needs, and, frankly, of the actual number of fatalities in the wake of all this flooding.

As you know, six members of one family, the Saldivar family, were found earlier this morning in the white van that they were in when they were trying to escape the storm Sunday morning. One member of that family was able to get away, but an elderly couple

who had dementia were sitting in the front seat. Four of their great grandchildren were in the back. All six of them were found early this morning drowned in -- it is believed drowned in that van. The van was in a ditch.

And it's only now that they were able to find it because some of the floodwaters in some areas of Houston have started to recede. And so as that water starts to recede, Ed Gonzalez was saying that's when police and sheriffs are really going to be able to get a sense of what the recovery needs are here.

SCIUTTO: No question. We had Sheila Jackson Lee on and she said the same thing about communities in her district. You're just not going to know for sure.

Anderson, as you have been with law enforcement, it struck us just how much control, how much organization is there as they are searching these communities.

Brian Todd, for instance, out with some of these civilian rescuers, and they're just going house to house looking, without any real coordination.


SCIUTTO: Do you get a sense that there is a central authority sending people to certain places to make sure everywhere is covered?

COOPER: You know, certainly, there's a lot of police out, there is a lot of law enforcement.

But there are so many just volunteers. Even in this neighborhood right now, there's a number of people I have talked to who, some of them bought boats, and aren't from this area, but they went out and bought boats on their own because they just wanted to take part and do what they could.

It's neighbors helping neighbors. It's neighbors helping neighbors. You see people kind of carting people back and forth with their animals. Not people who want to try to get out and escape this neighborhood. Because the water started to go down, they wanted to stay with their homes. But just getting around can be very tricky.

[18:30:16] As I said, one street the water is 2 feet. Suddenly, you take the wrong step, and you're in 7 feet of water. And, you know, it can be very risky.

So, it is -- I mean, I think that's what -- to me one of the most surprising and just moving things about being here, is just the spirit of neighbors helping neighborhoods, and strangers helping -- helping other people. You know, a lot of the folks who were helping people in this neighborhood, they're not from this neighborhood; but they have come here, and they just want to do what they can. And they sort of have this ad hoc organization. Most of the houses in this neighborhood have been checked. You can

see where law enforcement and others have marked the trees outside the houses. You remember in Katrina, people would mark how many bodies were found in the house. Here, they mark what houses actually have people living inside and how many people are living inside.

SCIUTTO: When you were out with -- with the sheriff, did they give you a sense of how long they believe this rescue operation will take? I mean, we're already four or five days in.


SCIUTTO: We just spoke a short time ago to someone rescued from their attic. And you get the sense that there are many more who need that kind of rescue.

COOPER: Yes, I mean I know you've been talking to folks in Port Arthur, Beaumont. That's certainly an area where, you know, rescues are underway. I think you're seeing fewer and fewer rescues in Houston itself, but they're certainly still going on.

But in a neighborhood like this, Sheriff Gonzalez (ph) says, you know, most of the rescues have already taken place. Now it's just a question of waiting for the water to recede, starting to -- that long kind of grinding, grim work of recovery.

SCIUTTO: Anderson Cooper there on the ground for us. He will have much more, of course, tonight from Houston on his program, "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That's tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

Also, for ways that you can help those affected by Harvey, please go to You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at @CNNImpact. There are lots of ways that you can do your part.

And just ahead, more breaking news. Multiple rescues are taking place as we speak across southeast Texas. A desperate effort to find and evacuate flood victims by boat and by air -- you're seeing one right there -- before it's too late. We're going to bring you dramatic live images from a Navy helicopter over the devastated city of Beaumont.


[18:37:06] SCIUTTO: Breaking tonight, urgent new rescue missions playing out in Southeast Texas. The Navy working with other branches of the military to rescue residents still trapped in Beaumont, where the flooding and the danger very serious right now.

Also tonight, elderly patients evacuated from a nursing home in nearby Port Arthur, where the mayor says that the entire city is under water. After hours of waiting, we saw some patients board a helicopter, many in wheelchairs like this, just a short while ago.

Want to go now live to Houston. CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez is there. He has been out with some of the many citizen volunteers who are going out in boats of their own to rescue those in need. Miguel, what are you seeing in Houston there now, and how many more

people do you believe there are still in need of rescue?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, still in the area that we are in. This is Cypress or Addicks Reservoir, northwest Houston.

What rescuers are finding is that they are going back a third and a fourth time to ask people who did not want to leave before if they want to leave now. The realization that this is going to take weeks before it goes down is forcing people into these boats, essentially, and getting out of here. So there have been dozens and dozens of rescues today, bringing people out, putting them on buses and getting them to shelters.

The coordination effort has been, actually, pretty impressive here. We're with a guy named Kenny Delgado. He and others have been going out for days now, rescuing people.

I mean, check this out. This is like as normal a neighborhood as it gets, except for four or five feet of water. Just a strip mall here in -- in Houston.

There are thousands and thousands of homes in this area alone that are still inundated by water, and it will be weeks before they are able to get in there and figure out if there are either people staying there or perhaps some people have deceased in those homes.

Part of the problem here is that this reservoir is getting runoff from other reservoirs, and consequently, the water here, other places in Houston, it's gone down today. Here, it's actually gone up -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And that's happening in a lot of communities in Houston, even after the -- and elsewhere in Texas, even after the rain stops. Miguel Marquez, I know you're going to have more just after us on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."

Coming up, the U.S. military is mobilizing more manpower and machinery to help victims of one of the worst disasters in the nation's history. There's more live coverage ahead.

And we're going to have an exclusive live report from inside North Korea. What is Kim Jong-un telling his people about his provocative missile launch right over Japan and his new threat directly against the U.S.?


[18:44:29] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. We have been following a U.S. military rescue operation in Southeast Texas, breaking tonight with just a few hours to go before night fall. We saw some of those trapped residents in Beaumont air-lifted to safety, live on the air just a short while ago.

I want to bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, along with CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Barbara -- Barbara, I know we like to say, "Send in the Marines." But you have some news that they're sending in the Marines.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Marines are on the way. We are now learning that the Marine Corps will be sending, tomorrow, 700 Marines. They are embarked right now on two U.S. Navy amphibious ships in Norfolk, and they will be setting sail under their current schedule tomorrow for Texas. Seven hundred Marines onboard, as well as a number of search and rescue aircraft, eight to order aircraft.

These are large aircraft that can fly long distances, carry larger numbers of people from the flood waters that are rescued. Water purification equipment, vehicles. This is going to be the type of generation of rescue capability that we have been talking about.

The ships will stay offshore obviously at some distance because so many of the ports are flooded. But their choppers will allow them to fly in and out of the impact zone and conduct missions without having to look for housing and shelter and their own food and water. The Marines, very self-sufficient. They will stay onboard their ships and conduct their missions.

Technically, they still have to get a request from the state, but they are setting sail in the morning. They anticipate the state will make use of them. This is going to supplement everything we are seeing on our air. Military operations underway by military aircraft, National Guard reserve forces.

There are Marines with amphibious vehicles, hundreds of trucks on their way from Fort Hood, Texas, all supplementing, trying to help this massive local community first responder effort because, look, Jim, as this goes on, days into this, people get exhausted. They need -- the Coast Guard has been out there. They need relief. They need help. They can't stay out there on their own forever.

And as the flood waters continue, more and more people need more rescue more imminently. Time can be running short for some of these people. It will be the military, the National Guard and the reserve forces that will be able to help out and generate that power to get them out of there.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: That does make a difference. You can see it live on our air right now. You see people being carried up in a Navy -- those are Navy helicopters performing rescues as we speak. There's one of the lucky few coming to safety right now.

John Kirby, it was a challenge, though, to get those ships from Norfolk, Virginia, all the way down to the Texas coast. That takes a number of days. It makes me wonder, should they have been mobilized sooner?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think, look, they had -- the Navy said they were getting them ready to prepare to sail I think within a day or two of the hurricane hitting. So, this is not something, even though they are just now getting the

order, it is not something the Navy wasn't already kind of thinking about and preparing. And as Barbara says, 700 Marines, that's a Marine Expeditionary Unit. That takes a lot of time to get them on board. So, I mean, there is a process here.

And the Navy couldn't get ahead because of the way the system works. They couldn't get ahead of local and civil authorities. I mean, they had to be -- this request had to be made by the state of Texas and then approved, of course, by the Defense Department.

So, I think they moved as quickly as they could. It will take some time to get there, five days. But as Barbara said, we also have a lot of military assets in Texas already across the services. In fact, even in Special Operations Command has some special operations forces, small units that are there working to help.

SCIUTTO: And, we, of course, are a nation at war, two longest wars. I think you can be pretty certain those marines go on a lot of those pilots, that they have been deployed. They've seen wartime and now they are seeing the need here at home.

That picture there, this is a live picture. This is in Houston, Texas with our Miguel Marquez. He's been out with some of those citizens soldiers who are doing their part to rescue residents in need. And there are a lot of them still in need.

If you think those boat rescues are important, you might know it, but let's get a sense of just how important.

Joining me now from Houston is Ramit Plushnick-masti. Her home was flooded. She was forced to leave. And she was one of those who was picked up, rescued by some of those civilian volunteers.

Ramit, thanks for joining us here tonight. Tell us -- tell us about your experience, how you were rescued and who rescued you.

RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI, HOUSTON RESIDENT, FORMER AP REPORTER (via telephone): Well, thank you for having me. We were rescued on -- it would have been Sunday afternoon. And what happened to us was we live in the Meyer land area of Houston. That's been pretty hard hit several times in floods the past three years.

And we woke up at 4:30 in the morning and we were slowly taking on water. We thought it was slow. It ended up being much, much faster. Within -- by 7:30, it was clear that we needed to get out of the house, and we initially called 911.

I was pretty calm at that point. The water was sort of above my ankle. And I told them, you know, we need to get out. I have three sons and my husband here, but please, you know, the elderly, the disabled they come first.

[18:50:02] And then, but by 11:30, we were sitting on the kitchen counters, on dining room tables and the water was rising rapidly. There was just maybe five inches between the water line and the counter that I was sitting on. And I saw that the -- I mean, the rescue operations, I mean, they were just overwhelmed. It was unreal.

And, so, I did some Facebook crowd sourcing, and in the end, it was a local rabbi in our community who had a power boat that he was sending, a motor boat that he was sending around. And he sent it to us. And by 2:00 in the afternoon, that boat came to get us. The water outside was so high that I had to swim to the boat. Like, I couldn't stand. It was over my head.

And that boat took us to a church just about a block and a half away. But they were dry. They had no power, but they were dry. There were about 100 people there with their -- just inside that church getting shelter. Some of them had been there since 3:00 in the afternoon.

They had already had so much water in their house, but they were this for hours and hours. And, you know, we just spent the night there on the floor until the next day, on Monday morning when some friends of ours were able to make it over to get us.

SCIUTTO: These are -- talk about neighbors helping neighbors, these are neighbors saving neighbors.

Ramit Plushnick-masti, we were very glad you and your family are safe. Thanks for helping us understand the story.


SCIUTTO: Please stay with us for more live breaking coverage of the flood disaster in Texas. Those rescue operations in a critical stage right now just before the sun sets and darkness falls. Those rescues get a lot more dangerous.

Plus, an exclusive report from inside North Korea. How are Kim Jong- un's people responding to his provocative missile launch over U.S. ally Japan?


[18:56:29] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

At this hour, we are following new rescue missions underway in southeast Texas. Standby for more on this breaking story.

Right now, new saber-rattling and defiance by Kim Jong-un, as he boasts about his newest missile launch and his threats to Japan and to the United States.

CNN Will Ripley is the only Western journalist inside North Korea now. He joins us with an exclusive report from a very foggy Pyongyang.

What are we hearing from the Kim regime about that missile launch? I know it took them some time before they announced it domestically.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It did, Jim. The message that Kim Jong-un is sending to President Trump is much more clear than the thick fog behind me, essentially saying that the intermediate range ballistic missile launch over Japan is just a preview of what's to come potentially for the U.S. territory of Guam. North Korea promising to fire more missiles towards the Pacific as a target, and the news was announced to North Koreans more than 24 hours after the launch itself.

We went down to the central train station and it was typical breaking news, Pyongyang-style. Lots of fiery rhetoric and fanfare, one day late.


RIPLEY: We're approaching the top of the hour here in Pyongyang, and right now, crowds are gathering outside the central train station. All eyes are on this big screen for what we're told will be a major announcement about the missile launch.

You may recognize the news reader making the announcement. Her name is Ri Chun-hee. And she's essentially the face of North Korean state TV. Every major event in this country, she's the one on television.

(voice-over): She reads the official government announcement. North Korea launched an intermediate range ballistic missile, the Hwasong- 12.

(on camera): This is the first time that many of these people are hearing about this because the government waited more than 24 hours after the missile launch to make their official announcement.

(voice-over): Their supreme leader Kim Jong-un says more missile launches toward the Pacific will happen. This he says is just a prelude to future military options aimed at Guam.

(on camera): Many people around the world are frightened when they see things like this. How does it make you feel?

(voice-over): I feel proud of his brilliant achievement, he says. I'm seeing the launch and feel that our military is improving. I feel very proud to be Korean.

(on camera): President Trump says that launches like this show that North Korea has contempt for its neighbors. What's your response?

(voice-over): We're simply acting in self-defense, he says. We shot one yesterday. We could shoot one today. Maybe tomorrow we'll shoot 10 more missiles. We have to do it to defend our country.

(on camera): A lot of people on the outside world worry that your future will be much harder because your country does things like this. What would you like to tell them?

(voice-over): She pauses as if she's searching for the right answer.

With our army and the leadership of Marshall Kim Jong-un, she says, we can conquer any enemy.

(on camera): Unsurprisingly, everyone we spoke to here said they are 100 percent behind their supreme leader Kim Jong-un. They say launches like this won't leave their country isolated or impoverished, but in fact will make their country stronger. What else would they say?


RIPLEY: It's morning here in North Korea, and we're watching very closely to see how Kim Jong-un will respond to President Trump's latest tweet -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: A rare view inside North Korea. That's Will Ripley. Thanks very much.

I'm Jim Sciutto. Thanks for watching us.

CNN's special coverage of the Texas flooding continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".