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Floods Forcing Evaluation Of Hospital In Beaumont; Flooded Chemical Plant Catches Fire Spews Black Smoke; Floods Will Leave Host Of Health Issues Behind. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 31, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:03] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: You see the helping hands there. Again, when scenes like this play out, military personnel, law enforcement personnel, medical personnel from the hospital, seems every time they need an extra set of hands, somebody steps forward to help out.

Quietly and calmly getting about the business here, evacuating Southern Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, because the city has lost its running water and a hospital cannot function obviously in circumstances like that.

The calmness and the efficiency of this seems quite remarkable.

CNN producer Brian Rokus is on the ground right there outside Southern Baptist Hospital. Brian, from our prospective watching these pictures, it is simple remarkable, the methodical way, the calm way they're going about this. Tell us -- take us through what you've seen and you're seeing at the moment?

BRIAN ROKUS, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Sure, John. We arrived here a bit about half an hour ago and they were evacuating the patients of this entire hospital. If you're probably aware of Beaumont here, it's about water supply. The entire city water supply was cut off overnight after a pump flooded because obviously of the flood. And now there's no water here at the hospital, evacuees and patients.

Sorry. I've been running late from the helicopter here. They evacuate patients both by ambulance and by air. And they currently have two Black Hawk helicopters on the ground to evacuate dialysis patients. Within the last minutes, we have a medevac helicopter landed that door (ph) to take more patients.

KING: And Brian, do we know, are these army helicopters? National Guard helicopters aware of that or they just coming in and it's hard to figure it out?

ROKUS: Hard to figure it out. I believe they're National Guard. And the patients being evacuated now are dialysis patients, that obviously require a more critical care. They're sorting patients by critical level. (INAUDIBLE) the patients going by ground, by ambulances and the more critical patients by helicopter. This is, since we've been here, we've seen five ambulances with more coming in right now, actually. KING: You watch this play out on the ground. We are limited to what we can see in the camera shot here. But is it as calm and methodical and obviously incredibly professionally well done across the scene there evacuating an entire hospital?

ROKUS: That's obviously, very calm, very methodical. The staffs are doing a fabulous job these folks out. You know, it's not every day. You know, we have two Black Hawk helicopters land on the ground here in small city in Texas. This is actually quite major of medical complex. This is something they weren't expecting.

And to be clear, things were going quite well here until overnight. We've been in Beaumont the last two to three days. And obviously the flooding is occurred but we thought they return to work at fast. We all woke up this morning without water in hotels and found out the entire city was without water, which is obvious from (INAUDIBLE) hospital the firefighting operations and things like that. At this point, there's really no idea when this water will return. This fairly major, you know, at the city.

KING: And to that point, a reminder. Even though the rain has stopped, the complications continue. A place that as of yesterday was doing reasonably well. Relatively well considering its neighbors and the like, then losing its water and having to responding the aftermath of Harvey. The domino effect, if you will.

Brian, do we have any indication of where these patients are going or is it just -- they're making those decisions based on the urgency of the need and then the closest facility that meets those needs?

ROKUS: Exactly, the closest facility. I mean, outside of Beaumont, it could be all those heavy (ph) patients fairly eagerly because they will have water. And if you see the pictures we're seeing, that's beautiful sunshine. The blue skies, 85 degrees. The storm is totally passed. While there's still roads flooded around the city, right here you never know a storm even happened with the exception of course of having no running water.

KING: No running water. Again, one of the days after aftermath of Harvey, as it continues to play out here. You're watching this dramatic rescue. Military personnel, law enforcement, medical personnel combining in quite a methodical way. Brian Rokus, our producer on the ground there, outside the Southern Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas. Combine to evacuate the patients who need critical care being evacuated more quickly aboard these helicopters.

And Brian, you say you've seen ambulances as well. So, obviously, patients who can be transported over ground, that is the preferred path for most.

ROKUS: Exactly, obviously, safer. There's obviously more ambulances available than helicopters. Helicopters are also still being used for active search rescues around the area because obviously a key way to use resources. And then it's a fairly major (INAUDIBLE) here. But I can tell you, it's a large hospital complex. And our public affairs concierge waiting to find exactly how many people have already evacuated.

But there are, you know, arguably, many, many people in this building and the other fact that the local residents here, they're also shutting down their emergency department here. But not only evacuating patients but the emergency services have to go elsewhere as well within the outside of the city where there's also, you know, running water actually exist.

KING: That's an important point. Emergency services that a significant size community in Beaumont, Texas, are now shut down as well. You see a stretcher there being carried on to the Black Hawk helicopter. Again, extraordinary work by the military in cooperation with hospital staff, local law enforcement.

[12:05:05] Our producer on the ground Brian Rokus is saying at least most of these patients, we believe, are dialysis patients, who need to be transported more quickly because of the urgency of their care needs, others patients being transported on the ground. To facilities, we don't know exactly where each is going. Probably, the different facilities. Brian, correct me if you've heard anything more based on the particular needs of these patients.

And again as you watch this play out, just a reminder. Days after the storm hit, the continuing challenges, search and rescue for people still in their neighborhoods, and then an adjustment they had to make here in the community of Beaumont, Texas. Again, this time yesterday doing relatively well. Losing water overnight in the town. Forcing this hospital to shut down and move its patients.

ROKUS: Yes, that's correct, John. And to be clear, the hospital here was never flooded. I mean, there is no water on the ground here. This hospital is high and dry. Not only because it's latest crisis occurred, very inaccessibly over night that they've had to check on operations here.

KING: All right. Again, you're watching the United States military personnel. We don't know if they're active duty or National Guard, either way, they're heroes. And you watch them here filling that helicopter. It looks like they're about to close the door on that particular Black Hawk helicopter.

We have seen from civilians, from the military, from first responders, and police and fire departments in the community and people now of course rushing in from neighboring cities and states and all around the country sending in supplies, also sending in personnel. Remarkable work here. One helicopter, one of the Black Hawks up in the sky. Brian Tokus, what are you seeing now?

TOKUS: John, actually I'm coming away from the helicopter so I couldn't actually hear you. Obviously were near them is the -- try to walk around the corner here so I can actually take a look then I think you're allowed.

So I believe one helicopter departed. Yes. Two on the ground before. One helicopter departed. The second one departing right now as you're probably seeing. Quite a little loud here. So now we have both Black Hawk helicopters in the air and departing with their patients onboard. And we also now have a third civilian, air ambulance helicopter on the ground as well waiting for the patients to evacuate.

KING: And again, the coordination of all this, done on the fly. Beaumont, Texas, as Brian said, that hospital high and dry. No one anticipating this yesterday. Water went out overnight. The hospital deciding it has to close its doors because it has no running water. And authorities and the coordination between the military and the police to make this pull this off in the professionalism of the medical staff there to be applauded As we walk through all these out there.

Again, this scene outside of Southern Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas. We watched two Black Hawks take off a short time ago. We're watching Anderson Cooper live on a coast guard helicopter during a dramatic rescue.

CNN's Barbara Starr is over at the Pentagon. Barbara, help us understand this. We've talked about the first responders in Houston and other communities. We've talked about the civilians in the past 24 to 48 hours. We have seen more and more examples whether it's the Coast Guard, whether it's the Army, whether it's the National Guard, the U.S. military personnel, joining in the search and rescue efforts in here, obviously, in getting patients who need critical care out of this hospital and take it into a facility where they can be taking care of.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. In fact, let me just go ahead and break a little news on your show right now. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is talking to reporters right now in the hallway. I just asked him about the pace of military assistance for hurricane relief. And what the defense secretary, less than five minutes ago, just told Pentagon reporters is military assistance not only will keep flowing, but he said we will send a little more than they may need. And when the state asks for it, it will already be they're ready to go.

So Secretary of Defense Mattis, very much in the mode, he says, leaning forward and the Pentagon, the U.S. military is going to send more than the Texas state authorities may think that they need. So it will be there.

You are beginning to see the medical portion of this, and these rescue helicopters, these crews, are very experienced in this. There are more than 100 helicopters in the immediate region. Many of them specially outfitted for this kind of rescue.

Let's be blunt. This is not a combat operation but it is the same set of very technical skills that they would use in a war zone to evacuate wounded troops off the front line, to get them into helicopters, to keep giving them medical treatment while they are flying, while they are under way, and get them to a safer point. They have to be able to provide them based on the condition of these patients, just like with wounded troops, continuing care as they are on these helicopters. What we know is Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio already designated to receive some victims, people who need medical help from the hurricane.

[12:40:10] Another military medical team arriving at Houston International Airport. A way station, if you will there, so they can move people on to other medical facilities that are able to take them.

This is now, if you will, in a way, we are simultaneously seeing the second phase of this effort already move into play. Even as they continue to rescue people out of the water, these people can no longer be where they are, and they're having to move them on very rapidly. The military component of this, as Secretary Mattis just told reporters is growing.

Within the next couple hours, you are going to see two warships deploy from Norfolk, Virginia, with 690 marines onboard. They will go down to Texas. There is not a state request for them yet but they're going to be there and Secretary Mattis making it very clear. He expects that everything will be -- that goes there is going to wind up getting used.

The marines will be able to stay on their ships, fly back and forth on to land. Help with rescues. Provide food, water, medical assistance, water purification equipment. Water is becoming a big problem down there, as some of these water systems are impacted. So you have 690 additional marines on their way. This is in addition to 6,300 U.S. military active duty troops in the immediate region.

Many of them engaging in these dramatic rescues that you are seeing. This is what the U.S. military can do to help the local responders there. People are getting exhausted. They can't stay out there for five days on mission after mission. So the military comes in. They can generate a high volume of continuous rescue, because these are people.

And as you see them being moved on stretchers, on wheelchairs, the elderly, the ill, these are people that can't wait. They have to be gotten out of there, and they have to get some proper medical care, which simply can't be provided for them anymore when the hospitals don't even have a water supply. John?

KING: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. As Barbara speaking, you see on the right-hand side of your screen, that is outside of Southern Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas. The left side of your screen, the Vice President, maybe we just lost that picture, the Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, his wife, Karen, and handful of Trump administration, cabinet member arriving on the scene in Corpus Christi.

So the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott, himself in a wheelchair coming after to greet the Vice President there. The Vice President on the ground. As part of the Trump administration show of force, plain and simple, to meet with victims today. He is in the Rockport area where Harvey first made landfall as a hurricane Friday night. Again, the picture on your screen, medevac operation at the

Southern Baptist Hospital in Beaumont. As that played out, we're showing you pictures of the Vice President arriving. The President was there the other day. You heard Barbara talking about Secretary Mattis at the Pentagon. There's the Vice President on the left side of your screen there.

Trump administration determined to show that it is on top of this, of the Defense Secretary talking about sending more troops. At the White House, the Vice President in the region to say with a handful of cabinet members to meet victims, also to assess the recovery needs. How big of a recovery request the President needs to make next week in the United States Congress.

We're going to take a quick break. You're in Inside Politics. Again, split screen there tells you a lot of breaking news. The rain has stopped. The aftermath for Harvey continues across Texas.


[12:48:01] KING: Welcome back to Inside Politics. Pictures here, that's outside Southern Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas where major medevac operations underway. You see the Black Hawk helicopter in the foreground there. It is there to help assist all the patients being evacuated from this hospital, because Beaumont has lost its running water.

It's been a quite a scene. We've been watching it play out. As it has been playing out, the sad news, the death toll from Hurricane Harvey has risen to 39. And sadly search and rescue operations, crews going into neighborhoods now as the water recedes, that number likely, likely to grow in the days ahead.

With us from Southern Baptist Hospital right there in Beaumont, Texas, again as you watch, this is moments ago, medevac operation, is spokeswoman Mary Poole. Mary, thank you for taking the time to join us in the middle of all this. How many patients having to be evacuated and how many of them have such critical care needs that they need a helicopter?

MARY POOLE, BEAUMONT HOSPITAL SPOKESWOMAN: Well, good morning from southeast Texas. At midnight we had 193 patients in-house. We have started discharging some patients this morning. As the sun came up, the physicians started coming in. And if we had an opportunity to discharge a patient home, that is always our first choice, but we began with 193.

At this particular point, I can't tell you exactly how many made it out, but we've had Black Hawk helicopters, Memorial Herman helicopters, we have several helicopters behind me and we've also used street buses.

KING: And Mary, this was a surprise, obviously. If we were visiting with you this time yesterday, your hospital was high and dry, you had running water. With all the stress, all the logistical stress, all the stress on the equipment, all the stress on people in surrounding communities, I have to say just watching this play out, how impressed one is to look at calmness of your medical personnel and the local law enforcement and the military personnel coming in to help. How was logistics of all of this worked out?

POOLE: Well, this isn't our first hurricane, I'm sad to say. We've had a lot of practice. We've had a hurricane in 2005, 2008 and now 2017. So we practice this drill on a very regular basis. When we went to bed last night at midnight, we were expecting to have business as usual.

[12:50:04] We are pretty self-contained. We have our own generators, we had plenty of food and bottled water. We had no idea when we went to bed at midnight, that at 1:00 we would get a call that says the hospital would need to be thinking about the city's water being lost. We did not expect day and that's a game changer for us.

KING: And so you're talking about priority one, find anybody who can be safe and those who could be discharged have been sent home. Take me to the other side of that. When you're looking at, you know, people who either are on live support or as we know here many of these patients we've watched in the helicopters need dialysis or our critical care treatment. How do you do that ranching and how does that sequence itself out?

POOLE: Well, we start with the highest level of acuity first, of course. So ICU patients, our NICU babies and our dialysis patients are going first, because they are the highest level of acuity. So we start with those calls. We move those patients and get them established as being transferred. Even if they're not out of here at least we know they have a place and then start from the bottom -- we go from the bottom up from there.

So we have many, many patients that still need transferred and we're on the phone right now making those arrangements. It is very, very organized. We have, like I told you, we've practiced this many, many times before.

KING: When you say you practiced this many, many times before, I assume part of those contingency plans when you desktop this as the term goes, are you -- because of the stress on the surrounding communities, or some of these patients going a farther distance than one might anticipate, because option A is not available? Option A can't handle it?

POOLE: Well, we're trying to keep it as local as possible. We are already transferring to Jasper and Galveston. We cannot go to Houston because, of course, Houston received the same damage that we did. But we're trying to keep them as close as possible, because part of the healing process is to be with your family. And we want to make sure they're with their family.

We're trying to make this decision what's best for the patient. Not financial. We need to take care of these patients first.

KING: All right. And as you watch this play out, Mary, you're a witness for me as well as a spokeswoman for the hospital here. It is just remarkable to watch these people who don't know each other. Your medical personnel, local law enforcement and the military just integrate so quickly to make this happen. Just be the eyes on the ground more than a hospital spokeswoman for me and just tell me what you've seen.

POOLE: Well, I lived here all my life. I've been with this organization 24 years and this is what you see every day. We work together as a team. It's a small community. There's only 125,000 people here. So I know all these people around me. If I need a police person or I need an ambulance person, they're all standing right here behind me. They're all in my phone, I'm in their phone. So we're a team. Southeast Texas, that's what we do.

KING: Mary Poole outside of Southern Baptist Hospital. Thank you for your time today. I mean, I know it's a busy time for you there as this evacuation unfolds. And just congratulations --

POOLE: Thank you.

KING: -- at least what we've seen so far and we hope it continues to go as smooth as we have been watching it play out here so far. Appreciate your time.

Again, as we continue to cover this story, you've seen evacuees in there. A flooded chemical plant catches fire sending black smoke shooting into the sky back in the Houston area triggering some new fare. CNN's Nick Valencia is near the Arkema plant, that's in Crosby, Texas. Nick, reports of explosions with authorities there are now clarifying, what's the latest?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, they're characterizing this as an over pressurization which was followed by a fire. It may sound a lot like semantics, but plant officials are saying that certainly and definitely was not explosion. What they say essentially happened at the Arkema plant here in Crosby, Texas is they lost the ability to cool the vessels that contain this organic peroxide. It is highly combustible. And because it was not being cooled, you saw what happened early this morning at about 3:00 a.m. local, those large plumes of smoke.

I just spoke to a resident who's in nearby in that area who says the clouds, the sky is just very hazy. The plant officials here say that they've created a 1.5-mile radius evacuation zone and are saying that the public is not in danger. Whether or not the public believes them, that's the outstanding question.

The problem also, John is that there's a potential for this to happen even more later. Nine vessels are still at risk. Eight of them aren't being cooled. So there would be no surprise if there's another incident at this plant later today. John?

KING: Nick Valencia. Nick, any -- before I let you go, any injuries here?

VALENCIA: Fifteen deputies were hospitalized. We understand they have been released with non-life threatening injuries, John? KING: Nick Valencia on the ground. And Nick keep on top of that when we will be in touch with you. The rain may have stopped but it will take weeks for the floodwaters to recede. In Texas, we'll face a host to potential health problems that the water and other issues leave behind.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has already declared a public health emergency. Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us now. He's the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci, thank you for your time.

As you watch of this play, let's just start with the chemical plant. The authorities and the executives of the company saying 1.5 mile evacuation zone. They believe it's sufficient. We're talking about organic peroxides here. Some sent into the air in a fire. Some, I assume, will get into some of the waters there. Is there a big risk or is this not a big deal?

[12:55:06] DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIR. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, I wouldn't say it's not a big deal. I think what authorities are trying to do is to try and safeguard the public to the best of their ability. When you have things like that, there's obviously, for those who get directly exposed -- I mean, toxic chemicals, smokes that come out like that can certainly have an irritant, if not very damaging issue with regard to the lungs. And that's what's the authorities are trying to avoid by trying to clearing out the areas that could be vulnerable. And that's what they're exactly trying to do right now.

KING: Anything particular about these chemicals people should be worried about? Or one of sheriff this morning was saying, that they could be got caught, you know, around the heavy smoke of a barbecue. Is it that simple?

FAUCI: Well, you know, when you have toxic chemicals like that and you breathe them in, obviously, it's an irritant to the lung. It could be anything from just a mild irritant that's just annoying to some people who have pulmonary disease, chronic lung disease, or other conditions that can be really very serious and trigger other medical conditions. And that's the reason why they're trying as best as they can to protect the public by what they're doing.

KING: What's the broader public health urgency in your mind? When you look at these pictures, when you hear 50 inches of rainfall, when you hear some of this water may be here for weeks. You hear about bacteria. You worry about mosquitoes I would assume with all the standing water. List for me as you look at this given your experience sort of your checklist of what to worry about and what the local medical expert in the community should be doing?

FAUCI: John, I think it's best to look at it for the immediate threats, the kind of the intermediate and then the long range. The immediate ones we've seen right there on CNN, the tragedies of drowning, the tragedies of trauma, the tragedies of what we're just talking about right now with regard to having to evacuate people from the hospital. Then you get the pictures that we've seen so dramatically on CNN of people schlogging through water sometimes waist high or more that have sewage spillage in it. And that's when you get into situations where you could have contamination where people can get diarrheal diseases, E. coli, a variety of other bacteria and viruses.

Also, people who have open wounds, even some, though, that you might not notice. Things that might appear to be trivial can get infected. Then you have a more intermediate longer range things where you have molds in the house after the water resides can actually have people trigger allergic reactions, hypersensitivity reactions.

But the thing I also worry about that's a little below the radar screen but it's important is people who get disconnected from their medical care. We saw a dramatic example of that with the having to evacuate the hospital, which they did in an amazing way right before us. But there are people who might be stranded, run out of medication. People who have tenuous medical conditions that can be exacerbated by the stress. Those are the kind of things that we have to watch out for over the next couple days.

KING: And anything, as you lay out that list, immediate, intermediary long-term list, when you look at this here, anything particular to this part of the country that makes it harder or easier? Or is this wherever this would happen that would be your concerns?

FAUCI: Well, wherever it happens it would be a concern. I know obviously when people always get concerned, are you going to have a big mosquito flux? Well, right now, when you get a hurricane, and the water washes them away. But later on as you have standing water, you're going to have to pay attention about mosquito control. It's going to an important issue.

KING: Dr. Anthony Fauci joining us today to understand these pictures we're watching play out. Dr., I appreciate your time and I appreciate your patience as we dealt with some breaking news earlier in the program.

Thanks for joining us today on Inside Politics. As you watch these pictures play out here, we'll continue our coverage here. Jim Acosta will continue that coverage after a quick break.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jim Acosta in for Wolf Blitzer. It is almost 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us.

We start with dire warnings and daring rescues in communities in Texas, in Louisiana that are underwater. And one county in southeastern Texas, residents are being told that the loss of life and property is a certainty. We are still seeing dozens of rescues being carried out. You've seen that all morning long here on CNN. Some of the pictures there right now. Flooded neighborhoods throughout the area. The coast guard says they've helped out more than 6,000 people and even their pets, as you're seeing in that video right there.

Our Anderson Cooper was along on some of those coast guard helicopter rescues. We'll be bringing you some of those pictures throughout the hour. The U.S. military has more than 6,000 troops taking part in these efforts, and Texas and Louisiana with more on the way.

This is the scene on the ground in Beaumont, Texas. We're going to show you that in just a few moments. Take a listen.

All right, we'll bring you that in just a moment. Flooding there has knocked out the city's water supply, which is worst this evacuation as you see here. These are going to be playing out all morning long. These are --