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Trump in Louisiana After Meeting Houston Victims; Beaumont Still Without Some Power Returning; U.S. Searching Russian Annex in Washington; Trump Arrives at National Guard Armory in Lake Charles, Louisiana; A Look at the Good Samaritans Who Sprang into Action; EPA Warns of Toxic Flood Waters; Houston Furniture Store Owner Opened 2 Stores to Flood Victims. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 2, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this was something that John Bel Edwards, the governor of Louisiana told Greg Abbott the governor of Texas, that Louisiana was going to do all it could to help the people of Houston and East Texas just like the people of Texas helped the people of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. So what President Trump is going to do here in this visit to the National Guard armory behind me is thank those National Guard troops and the people of Louisiana for their hard work over the past couple of days.
Helping the people in Texas. And we can tell you firsthand that that help has been invaluable. Particularly here in Lake Charles. This is a city that understands how deadly hurricanes can be and it really opened up their doors and their hearts to the people of Texas. We spent a lot of time in Orange County, Texas, which is right over the border. And there was nowhere to take the evacuees that were displaced from their homes.
So many of them were put into vans, put into buses, brought back over the border and then sheltered in places in and around Lake Charles. More than 3,000 evacuees were told were housed in different parts of Lake Charles and you can run into evacuees all over the place right now who are still waiting to be told that it's safe enough to go back into their communities to begin the clean-up process.
So, this is an important part of Donald Trump's trip down to this part of the region to thank the people of Louisiana for their kind hearts and their hard work and of course that help is going to be needed for some time, Ana, because of the recovery process is just beginning. And it is going to take some time before everything is back to normal -- Ana.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You know, in Texas we were seeing the President crouching down, talking intimately with children, giving hugs and kisses. A lot of smiles, a lot of thank yous. A lot of shaking of the hands. How do you perceive the people there in Louisiana as they anticipate the President's visit? Are they excited that he's there?
NOBLES: Well, I mean there's no doubt, Ana, that this is Trump country. This is a part of the country that voted for the President in overwhelming numbers and we have already seen a big crowd of people form across the street from where the President is going to come to the National Guard armory. And they started arriving here hours before the President was expected.
Now, what we don't know is whether or not the President is going to come out and greet this group of people. This is a closed event. There's a very small security perimeter. He's expected just to be kind of motorcaded into this National Guard armory and then tour around the facility, see some of the equipment that the National Guard troops are using to aid the Hurricane Harvey recovery.
The area where this crowd is gathered is not really within the security umbrella. So if he were to come out and at least wave to the crowd like we saw him do in Corpus Christi that would require a bit of security maneuvering on behalf of the secret service. So this crowd has come with no guarantees that they'll leave a glimpse to the President. So, that shows you the depth of support that he has in area like Lake Charles.
And I think you know the folks that we have talked to have appreciated the kind of giving heart that the President has shown here over the past couple of days and his commitment to making sure that this region recovers. Of course Ana, we are still in the early days of this process. There is a long way to go. And the President is going to be one of the principal people responsible for shepherding through the billions in dollars of federal aid that will be required to get this part of the country back to normal. So, right now they're happy with him but we'll see what happens over the course of the next few months.
CABRERA: All right. Ryan Nobles in Lake Charles, Louisiana, thank you.
The President and Mrs. Trump just arrived from Houston where they met storm victims at a local shelter. They passed out food to some of the evacuees. Now this afternoon's visit a sharp contrast to the President's first Texas trip just four days ago. Critics from his own party even say, he could have been more empathetic or more compassionate during his stop at Corpus Christi. Today we are seeing a different President Trump as he take on the role of comforter-in- chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of water but it is moving out but I think most importantly the Governor, the relationship with the governor and the mayor and everybody it's been fantastic. And with the federal government it's been -- and we're signing a lot of documents now to get money in. $7.9 billion. We signed it and now it's going through very quick, hopefully quick process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: The President pledging to get the help needed to those residents, to those families who many have lost everything. Just a short time ago, the White House announced it will increase its funding of the debris removal and other protective measures across Houston and much of the southeast. The streets now overflow with trash, much of it the ruined personal belongings. The people whose homes were flooded.
Health concerns are shifting as flood waters recede. And the official death toll now stands at 50. Northeast of Houston. The city of Beaumont is now in its third day without running water and thousands there still don't have power. In a couple of hours, officials are expected to give an update on the water outage. We hope for good news.
Kaylee Hartung is in Beaumont, she is joining us live from outside the city's water treatment facility. Kaylee, what do you know of the situation with the water supply right now?
[17:05:16] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, I know you can't see a lot of activity from where I stand now but just behind these walls state and local, federal and private agencies are all working tirelessly to restore clean drinking water to the city of Beaumont. What we have been hearing all day is that the Neches River is still just too high for the pumps that have been brought here by the army corps of engineer at FEMA's discretion, that those pumps can't yet be installed because that water is too high.
An assessments we're told is ongoing as they try to see how soon they are able to get those pumps in place. We are here now Ana waiting on the arrival of Colonel Paul Owen. He is the commander of the Southwest Division of the Army Corps engineer. He's coming here to get his feet on the ground, talk with his men and women who have been here among those working so hard to restore the water.
We will hear from city officials in just a couple of hours at the 6:00 local hour to get the latest update. The colonel arriving by helicopter I believe, he's above head now, Ana, but hopefully we'll have more information to you soon in the situation that is so dire. People here, if you think about it, lost water pressure at 1:30 in the morning on Tuesday morning.
CABRERA: Wow. Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.
President Trump has already requested that initial $7.9 billion from Congress for Harvey relief efforts. Now, this would be a down payment as he's called it a larger request will still be made. Here's how these requests have worked in the past. In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, it took Congress just 11 days to pass $120 billion in federal aid. Eight years later after super storm Sandy, it took Congress 91 days to pass $60 billion in federal aid. Let's talk more about what we can expect this time around.
With me, the deputy managing editor for the Weekly Standard Kelly Jane Torrance and CNN political commentator and assistant editor for "The Washington Post" David Swerdlick. Kelly Jane, a senior White House officials telling CNN they expect the Senate to attach the funding for Harvey relief to the debt ceiling increase. What's the strategy behind that?
KELLY JANE TORRANCE, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: They want to pass it to something that they are sure will pass and maybe get something else done at the same time. Now, this is something that you know nobody can go against. I mean, you have seen the devastation, I mean, the images we're seeing coming out of Texas are just -- you know, shocking.
And so, they're thinking if they do it to the debt ceiling and not attach anything else that might be controversial although, you know, to some very hard core Republicans the debt ceiling itself is controversial. They think it will have an easier time of passing.
CABRERA: David, would the funds have a better chance of passing more quickly if they were just presented as a clean bill?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think they would pass quicker, yes, as a clean bill, but I agree with Kelly Jane that just attaching it to the debt ceiling alone probably is not going to be fatal to this bill moving forward to this $7.85 billion. Even the $6.7 billion that the President also requested for the -- to replenish the FEMA disaster relief fund.
Again at some point I think the leadership in Congress knows they have to get the debt ceiling passed in September. And I think the White House and Congress knows that if they don't pass this relief funding, they will look terrible in the wake of everybody in Houston sort of coming together, volunteers, law enforcement, locals, state, federal government to work on this and then if Congress drops the ball, they know how that will look.
If they were to start though Ana, attaching things like funding for a border wall or if they were to start attaching things like a spending cut off sets what we call in Washington the pay fors, then I think you're going to see a bill stall out and that's when Congress would be in real peril of fumbling the ball here.
CABRERA: Kelly Jane, I want to talk about today and what we saw, the President has been making the rounds first in Texas, now he's in Louisiana. This is a side of the President that maybe we haven't even seen before. He was hugging children, squatting down on the floor. He was speaking with flood victims. Even helped serve food to some of those storm victims. Is this the side of the President that America needed to see after Harvey?
TORRANCE: I think they did, if he was going to go there at all. And I have to mention Ana, that you know, someone I talked to a Republican I talked to in Texas said that law enforcement there actually would have preferred that they actually be either dealing with the -- what's going on in Houston and Beaumont or taking care of their own homes. So, the -- they think that the President's visit has taken some resources away that should have been used elsewhere.
That said, it was certainly a very different scene from what we saw when he was here on Tuesday. And you know, after Mike Pence, you know, puts on a pair of work gloves and moves some broken trees from a couple's house, you know, Trump really did have to show that he was getting in touch with some of the victims and really understanding what they have been through personally. Even though he's probably no Bill Clinton in feeling their pain.
CABRERA: We remember that it was on Tuesday the President and the White House said, also given as their reasoning for not meeting with victims directly in the storm zone was they did not want to impact the emergency response efforts that were happening. As you'll recall, there were so many, many water rescues happening. People who were trapped in their homes and there was a full court press to try to save lives at that point.
It seems like now things are a little bit more settled, but I just wanted to remind people because that came with some of the criticism for him not going into that area. And David, do you think that this softer side that we're seeing is a reaction to the criticism or he would have done this all along?
[17:10:49] SWERDLICK: I think a little bit of this is a reaction. But actually I have hard time finding too much fault with the President's response at least publicly so far here, Ana. Look, yes on Tuesday some of his remarks were a little bit off. He didn't get in there and actually talk to survivors. Today he did. I mean, came back to Texas twice in a week. Today he did. He's not a natural at this as Kelly Jane points out like Bill Clinton. President Obama was -- he got better at this as he went along in his eight years.
But President Trump did today what Americans expect their president to do. With a disaster of this magnitude. Give out meals, give out hugs. Let people know that their president is there. The real test for him is going to be in the weeks and months and years ahead to see if he can actually shepherd through some of this disaster relief. But for this one day I think the president did what he was -- you know, what he needed to do.
CABRERA: All right. David Swerdlick and Kelly Jane Torrance, thank you both. Just ahead this hour, breaking news, the Justice Department has announced they have found no evidence to back up the President's claims that Trump Tower was wiretapped. Details on that just ahead.
Plus, a new threat as Texas still reels from the monstrous storm. Oh, boy, another one, Irma. Powerful, new hurricane is churning out in the Atlantic. Where this storm could be heading, next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:15:14] CABRERA: Welcome back. We have some major news out of Washington to share with you. The Justice Department has revealed it found zero evidence that former President Barack Obama ever wiretapped Trump Tower as President Trump once claimed. In a filing released last night, the DOJ writes both FBI and NSD confirmed that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4th, 2017 tweet.
Those tweets back in March included these accusations. Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found, this is McCarthyism. And how low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate, bad or sick guy. Now, the White House has never said what President Trump would basing this unfounded claims on, only that the President was confident and investigation would vindicate him.
Now to some other breaking news involving Russia and the diplomatic feud between the U.S. and Russia that at this hour appears to be intensifying. The Russian annex in Washington, DC is one of three Russian facilities the U.S. announced it is closing. Now, Russian officials tells CNN, all of the Russians have left this D.C. annex. He says all documents have been moved to the Russian Embassy also in D.C. American officials have been seen going in and out of the annex.
Today we are told they are conducting some search there. Today, I want to bring in CNN contributor Jill Dougherty from Moscow. This all has the appearance Jill of an escalation. What are you hearing from the Kremlin?
JILL DOUGHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, it definitely does in fact just within the last hour or so, the Russian foreign ministry has posted on its Facebook page video and that video shows how the Americans came in and carried out this inspection. You see video of a car coming in and then the American apparently walking into rooms saying hello. Looking around. And then there's another piece of video that shows one of the Americans on a ladder climbing up and looking into a crawl space.
Now, all of this was done apparently with the Russian officials in place and going around witnessing what they had done. But it seems obvious, Ana, that the Russians are probably beginning to build -- you could almost call it a legal case to make their argument which they're very vehement about, that this is a violation of international law. And they even say a violation of American law. We'll have to see exactly what they're pointing to there.
But they are -- you can definitely say furious. And they also mention out in San Francisco at that consulate one of the biggest consulates that Russia has in the United States, that also had to be vacated. And they say there was some type of inspection at that as well. They say that it was being rummaged by the FBI. So, we don't know what steps they might take in response but Russia is saying it reserves that right to take reaction or retaliatory gesture against the United States for what is happening.
CABRERA: I mean, the United States says what they're doing is a retaliatory gesture for what the Russians did, which kicked off half the personnel that was in Russia. So, back and forth here we go. The President -- President Trump has in the past said a lot of glowing things about Russia's Vladimir Putin. He has seemingly been unwilling to criticize him, yet this administration now closing the Russian facilities here in the U.S. How is this playing in Russia with ordinary Russians?
DOUGHERTY: Well, let's start with the government first. I think the government is trying to figure out how do you manage this and they have been quite overt in saying these actions completely negate what the President has been saying. Which is we want better relations. I don't think at this point, you know, all of this immediate stuff happened on a Friday and now it's Saturday. You know, midnight.
So there hasn't been a lot of reaction from average Russians. I think you will probably getting that next week, but right now the government certainly is furious and as I said appears to me to be making that case to whom it's not clear at this point but certainly to the world that they believe this is completely illegal and will lead to a worsening if you can imagine that already of U.S./Russian relations.
[17:20:38] CABRERA: Right. So do you see this as moves designed to intentionally hurt how the Russia and U.S. operates in each other's countries or are they more symbolic?
DOUGHERTY: You know, the Russians are saying that these actions were taken deliberately to damage relations with Russia. They argue that the sanctions, the actions by President Obama right at the end of his presidency in which this kind of all started when he kicked out 35 diplomats and they had two compounds that were taken over, they say that that was done by the Obama administration to damage relations and also to damage the chances that Trump -- incoming president would have to improve relations.
So, in the same breath, the United States as they took this action on Thursday and Friday said, we're doing this to stop this cycle of tit for tat. I don't think the Russians believe that but it's certainly not stopping the cycle. In fact, the cycle looks like it is going to go on. We have to wait to see what President Putin wants to do about this. He hasn't weighed in particularly. It's really been the foreign ministry, but that will be a very important step to decide -- to see what he decides to do.
CABRERA: Right. And always seems like each side wants to say, we have the last word. We want to have the last word in all of this. Jill Dougherty, thank you very much for your reporting.
Still to come here in the newsroom over the last week, we have seen some of the best in humanity.
Next, meet the heroes of Harvey.
Plus, moments ago, the President and the First Lady landed in Lake Charles, Louisiana. We will take you back there live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.
[17:25:04] CABRERA: Here are just moments ago, the President arriving at the National Guard armory in Louisiana, in Lake Charles. There's his motorcade and now live pictures as people there in Louisiana are greeting the President and the First Lady. You hear their chants of USA! A lot of signs welcoming the President and waving of the American flag. So much patriotism on display there as they bring in the President and the First Lady.
Again, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where the President is expected once he gets out of the motorcade there to get a briefing, to meet with members of the National Guard, to survey some of the equipment that were used in rescues. Again at the National Guard armory. We'll continue to monitor these.
I want to bring in Ryan Nobles. He is there in Louisiana and Ryan, you have described quite a group there who was really excited. You said they came as early as sort of first thing this morning to be in a position to see the President?
NOBLES: Yes, that's right, Ana. The crowd now I would guess is somewhere in the range of 500 to 600 people that are directly across from the armory right now. And they are very enthusiastic. A lot of Make America Great Again hats. American flags. Signs of encouragement from President Trump, they're very happy that he's made good on his promise to come here to Louisiana to talk about their role in the recovery for Hurricane Harvey.
I can tell you the President when he arrived at the airport nearby where we are here at the Lake Charles National Guard armory, he was greeted by the Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards who's worked very closely with the administration during Hurricane Harvey and the state's two Republican senators, I should say. John Cassidy and John -- Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy. They greeted him at the airport and then made their way over in the motorcade with the President.
This is going to be another of a very -- a number of a very important stops that the President is making here today to show that he's directly involved with how both Louisiana and Texas are coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. And specifically to thank Louisians for their important role in this process. And you know it's interesting, Ana. It was at, you know, after the President's first trip to Texas, there was some criticism about the way he handled it.
Perhaps did he come in too soon and it was at that time that he promised that he would come back later in the week and that he would specifically come to Louisiana and we actually started our coverage of the storm out in New Orleans because we weren't 100 percent sure how it was going to impact the entire Gulf Coast and I sat in on a press conference with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who was a Democrat and been a critic of President Trump and I asked him specifically, do you think it's too soon for the President to visit the region and he said quite the opposite.
He said, you know, the presidents are going to be criticized if they come too early, if they come too late. But he thinks that it's important for leaders to be on the ground and exactly see firsthand exactly what's happening in the region and that's what President Trump has done. And especially today making a number of spots to some key locations that are specifically connected to this tragedy. He is getting that up close and personal view of exactly what is going to take for this region to fully recover -- Ana.
CABRERA: As you know, Ryan, a lot of the imagines we have seen from the storm and the impact of the storm on the victims who are affected in Texas and Louisiana have come out of largely the Houston area or from Beaumont, Texas. Not a lot -- we haven't heard or seen a lot out of Louisiana. What can you tell us about the devastation on the ground there and the people who were impacted? NOBLES: Yes. That is a great question, Ana. Because, you know, for,
at least for the early part of this week and as I said I started the week in Louisiana. They were very nervous that that second run of Hurricane Harvey was going to blow through the western part of the state and inflict a lot of damage. But the path of Hurricane Harvey stayed largely over the Louisiana border. But you don't have to go very far from where we are in Lake Charles to see a lot of serious damage.
In fact, right over the border in Orange, Texas, which is only about 30 miles from where we are in Lake Charles, that area was hit very hard. Flooding, that they have not seen in more than 50 years in that community. So largely what's happened here in Louisiana is that they have become -- and they have played a support role for their fellow citizens in Texas. And they have embraced that.
And both Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans and John Bel Edwards, the governor of Louisiana have said, you know, back 12 years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit, it was Texans that reached out and helped the people of Louisiana. More Louisianans and New Orleanians in particular were relocated to Houston than any other place in the country and both Landrieu and Edwards say, we want to return that favor when it comes to the devastation that has been inflicted in Texas after Hurricane Harvey.
[17:30:00] And there's no better example of that than here in Lake Charles. We know that at least more than 3,000 evacuees were pulled out of the Eastern edge of Texas and were relocated to areas here in Lake Charles. They had a number of different evacuation sites. In fact, the first one that we came upon early in the week filled up immediately. And they had to then find new spots to take these evacuees and they have done that successfully.
You know, when you go into restaurants, you go into hotels, you can tell and see the people that have fled from Texas, hoping for a little bit of respite before they head back over the border and assess how badly their property has been damaged.
So Louisianans are, no doubt, breathing a sigh of relief that they're not having to deal with the recovery first hand. But they're also stepping up to the challenge of helping the Texans across the border because they understand how difficult that recovery process can be -- Ana?
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: And we, in fact, had heard from the governor that all 50 states reached out to Texas to offer assistance. And 43 states in the U.S. actually sent air assistance for many of the rescues that happened there. And there were tens of thousands of people who called for help or to be rescued from the rising waters in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Thank you so much, Ryan Nobles. We'll come back to you as the president's trip continues there in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
We will keep up these live images as long as we're able to stay with them. But I want to share this story with you, because answering all of
those calls of people in need of being rescued would have been impossible without everyday people who jumped in to help neighbors and even strangers from the deadly flood.
Our Randi Kaye looked at some of the dramatic rescues carried out by good Samaritans who sprang into action when those needs came up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to try to save some lives.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ordinary people answering the call, now heroes of Hurricane Harvey. This man and his wife called a fast-food chain for help after their home flooded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I called Chick-Fil-A. And now that sounds kind of funny, but I ordered two grilled chicken burritos with extra egg and a boat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was such a blessing in the exact moment I was there to answer the phone and get him help.
KAYE: The quick-thinking manager arranged for a boat to go get them. The boat also had a jet ski in tow. Problem solved.
Strangers came together to rescue an elderly man trapped in his car as he was being swept away by the floodwaters. The group quickly formed a human chain, stretching from dry land to the man's car.
KAYE: The car was sinking fast but rescuers were able to get the driver's door open and pull the man to safety. He was taken to a local hospital and reunited with his son.
Monster truck owners also answered the call. The self-proclaimed Red Neck Army used their trucks to rescue people from the floodwaters, from an elderly woman in a wheelchair, to this submerged military vehicle.
KAYE: Truck driver, Nick Sheridan, drove more than 200 miles in his big rig to help rescue those stranded in floodwaters. The military veteran told ABC his team of three big-rig drivers rescued more than 1,000 people.
Members of the Cajun Navy, a volunteer rescue group that formed after Hurricane Katrina, saved a 73-year-old woman who had been laying face down in the floodwaters.
UNIDENTIFIED CAJUN NAVY VOLUNTEER: Seriously thought it was a trash bag. As we got closer and the current pulled it closer to our boat, we realized it was a body. And instantly, Donnie jumped from the vessel, brought her up out of the water.
KAYE: Joshua Lincoln and two others got her breathing again and reunited her with her family.
ROWDY (ph) SHAW, HUMANE SOCIETY OF TH UNITED STATES: Good boy. Good boy. You get to go home. Ready to go home?
KAYE: Rowdy (ph) Shaw, from the Humane Society of the United States, was a hero to this dog and many others abandoned in the storm.
SHAW: Is that good? Good. Are you hungry?
KAYE: Countless citizens opened their businesses and homes to evacuees seeking shelter, including furniture store owner, Jim McIngvale. His store's fleet of trucks picked up over 200 people and offered his mattresses to evacuees and rescue workers in desperate need of rest.
JIM "MATTRESS MACK" MCINGVALE, FURNITURE STORE OWNER: We are trying to help as many people as I can.
KAYE: Since every hero works best on a full belly, one generous resident did his part to keep them from going hungry. He delivered cooked chicken drumsticks to soldiers from the Army National Guard, like this woman, and to others helping evacuate neighborhoods.
Already too many heroes to name. And the acts of kindness continue.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
[17:35:02] CABRERA: Such beautiful stories.
And look at all the people with smiling faces. S great to see the smiles after a week of misery in a lot of parts, a lot of areas.
Lake Charles, Louisiana, was one of the areas hit last by Hurricane Harvey, which went back out to sea and then came back and made another landfall, this time, striking in this region. We heard from our Ryan Nobles that there were several hundred people who had to be evacuated as well, and who have needed assistance from both federal, local and state authorities. We know there are more than 400,000 meals that have been served. More than 414,000 liters of water doled out to those affected in Louisiana.
The president is expected to meet-and-greet with people there at the Lake Charles National Guard Armory, where he'll get a briefing from officials to hear the latest information as far as the needs on the ground in Louisiana.
I want to remind you, if you are looking for a way to help, so many of us who are so far away feel kind of helpless, and you want to reach out, there are plenty of ways you can get involved, make a donation to give back to those who are dealing with the flooding in Texas. Just go to CNN.com/impact. And we'll take a quick break and be back in a moment.
CABRERA: Live pictures back in Lake Charles, Louisiana. A lot of people ready for the president to arrive. He has touched down. We brought that to you live as he stepped off Air Force One. This is at the National Guard Armory, where he has since driven to, and is going to be getting a briefing, meeting with the members of the National Guard. We'll keep an eye on the images and, of course, bring you there live again as soon as the president starts speaking.
Meantime, let me just paint the picture of the reality on the ground for a lot of people right now in both Louisiana, but especially in Houston. Many of the flood victims in that area are being told to wait before they can go back to their homes because those houses aren't yet high and dry.
The homeowners could be exposed to a growing health risk that's lurking in the waters. The EPA is warning that potentially toxic water is the biggest threat to public health at this time.
Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, has more from Houston.
DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPPODNENT (voice-over): Countless people have waded through the floodwaters, some for hours. Now the question is, what's in it? Alligators. Hordes of fire ants. And many things you can't see.
LANE BORSEY (ph), SENIOR SCIENTIST, HOUSTON WATER TESTING LAB: Let's start sampling.
COHEN: We asked Lane Borsey (ph), the senior scientist at a Houston water testing lab, to investigate.
(on camera): What do you think is in this water?
BORSEY (ph): Based on sampling that we have done during previous flooding events, storm events, we are pretty sure there are various bacteria, sewage related. Things like fecal strep.
COHEN (voice-over): That's not all.
(voice-over): So now, we're testing for chemicals?
[17:40:00] BORSEY (ph): Yes. This is for the various regulated metals that are immediate health hazards.
COHEN: So like arsenic, lead?
BORSEY (ph): Yes. Arsenic, lead, cadmium.
COHEN: This water is everywhere.
BORSEY (ph): Yes.
COHEN: So that means the contamination is --
BORSEY (ph): The potential for contamination is everywhere.
COHEN (voice-over): But what does this mean for the people in the water? We asked Dr. Brent Kaziny, an emergency medical specialist.
(on camera) If you're walking through this water, you cannot see what you're stepping on. It will be very easy to get cut. What do you worry about next?
DR. BRENT KAZINY, EMERGENCY MEDICAL SPECIALIST: There's obviously a lot of fecal material and sewage and things like that in this water.
COHEN: What worries you the most about what's in this water. A lot of people spend a lot of time in it.
KAZINY: A lot of things that you can't see is the bacteria that can cause necrotizing fasciitis --
COHEN: Flesh-eating bacteria?
KAZINY: Yes. Exactly
COHEN (voice-over): The first wave of the disaster is flooding and rescues, and then the second wave is the health concerns that come in the aftermath.
CABRERA: Again, that was Elizabeth Cohen reporting.
These are more live pictures from Louisiana.
I want to give you the results from the test that Elizabeth was taking from the water. The E. Coli is a presence of various kinds of bacteria, including fecal bacteria. All of our samples showed several hundred CFUs, or colony forming units. But the EPA standard is zero. So that's one danger. Total coliform is another area of fecal bacteria. And our sample shows the CFUs in the tens of thousands. The EPA standard for recreational waters, less than a hundred. So the manager of Houston's A&D Labs, who did the testing, says he's never seen numbers this large in publicly accessible waters. It's the reason that authorities are saying stay out of the waters, stay out of the homes until they're completely dry.
But as the floodwaters from Harvey recede, there are new health dangers that are going to emerge there in Texas and in Louisiana, mold, fears of cholera and Typhoid, other infectious diseases triggered by the flooded sewers there. There's potential for chemical contamination from the runoff of Houston's many industrial plants, so skin infections, respiratory infections are all on top of mind.
I want to talk about the scope of health risks facing the hardest-hit areas, like Harris County, Port Arthur, Beaumont.
Joining us is the, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
So, Doctor, just a heads-up. If we have to take a break from our interview to listen in to the president, forgive me, if I interrupt you during this conversation.
But I think your information is so important to get out there. What do you see as the top health risks right now, potentially, lurking in the floodwaters?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Well, as was shown on the piece, there are a few. One is the things that are toxic in the waters, things that could give you irritants or even infection. There are certain bacteria that are in the water that can do two things. If you inadvertently ingest it, like some of the E. Coli, you can end up with shigella or viruses like, norva virus. You can get diarrheal attacks. For someone who is otherwise healthy, it can make you feel bad for a few days. But if you're someone with an underlying disease or debilitation that can be serious. Then there's the contamination of wounds. Wounds that you got because you walked in the water or even the inadvertent cuts and scrapes that we have on our legs that can wind up getting infected with some very serious organisms. So there's a dual threat there. And then the kind of chemicals that we were talking about, that if you ingest them, obviously, you can have a degree of difficulty there. So there's a multiple spectrum of things that are in the water that either directly on your skin or if you ingest them, can give you a problem.
CABRERA: In fact, we're hearing or seeing from one of the congressmen in that area, he is getting word that some of the hospitals or the medical treatment centers are running out of tetanus shots. How concerning is that?
FAUCI: Well, if people are up on their booster -- you need a tetanus shot about every 10 years. It isn't that everybody is going to need a tetanus shot. But make sure you're up on your immunizations and all of your vaccinations. If you haven't had one within a reasonable period of time, that's something to be concerned about.
CABRERA: You have advised five presidents on domestic health challenges. If you have President Trump's ear right now, what would you tell him he might be able to do to lower the risk for the big public health problems we are discussing in Texas?
FAUCI: I think what's going on and what the president is doing and the Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the local and state authorities in Texas and in Louisiana is to do the kinds of things that would be prepared to respond to this. For example, when Secretary Price declared a state of public health emergency in Texas and in Louisiana, that triggered six units of 250- bed hospital units and medical units by public health service people who can actually go down there and take care of what will be a rather overwhelming amount of need for health care delivery which is going to overwhelm the system. That's the reason why, in the emergency declaration, you could rapidly mobilize those individuals and get them on the ground. That's exactly what Secretary Price did when he mobilized through the CDC which is an --
[17:45:34] CABRERA: OK, Dr. Fauci, I'm afraid I have to interrupt.
The president is now meeting with National Guard members at the armory. Let's listen.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE)
You've saved a lot of lives, a lot of lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 5,000 -- (INAUDIBLE).
CABRERA: OK, it's obviously hard to hear what the president is saying in his exchanges, but we heard him say thank you. We see him shaking hands. The first lady, Melania Trump, also there greeting these guys. These are some of the members of the National Guard that were out making rescues. We know, in Texas, at least, the governor is saying they made 72,000 rescues. That includes some of the military and the National Guard members, Coast Guard, but also, all of those volunteer rescuers who are able to coordinate efforts with other officials on the ground to help get to all of those that are in need.
Now, here in Louisiana, we heard Ryan Nobles talk about the impact that Hurricane -- it was Tropical Storm Harvey had on this part of the area. The president was actually expected to make a visit to Louisiana earlier this week. That obviously changed, and so here he is now today as that tape freezes moments ago. That's the president there in Louisiana shaking hands. He will also get a briefing with officials we are told and also look at some of the equipment they used in those rescues.
We heard him earlier when he was shaking hands in Texas with some of the folks who were involved in those Coast Guard rescues there. He was really giving them high marks for the bravery and flying some of the helicopters in really windy and rainy conditions that obviously were not ideal, but they were so successful at saving so many lives.
Let me go back to Ryan Nobles, who is there on site where the president has arrived and is meeting with these different members who are involved in the rescues as well as some of the officials in terms of the emergency response.
Ryan, what are you hearing from the folks there who came out to greet the president?
NOBLES: Yes, Ana, this was a very brief trip for the president. His motorcade is actually off and running and headed back to the airport. As you mentioned, surveyed the equipment that the National Guard is using. He met with some officials, got an idea of exactly how Louisiana is helping with the response.
But you mentioned the crowd of people that are out here to support the president. A significant crowd, probably close to 1,000 people by the time it was all said and done. They're very happy and excited that the president chose to come here to Lake Charles to thank them for the assistance that they gave the folks in Texas in the Hurricane Harvey recovery. No doubt about it, this is Trump country. This is an area that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump.
Most folks probably did not get a chance to catch a glimpse of the president because of the way that this all worked out. His motorcade went right in to the National Guard Armory where he met with the National Guard troops. They did catch a glimpse of the motorcade as it went by, but he never exited the building to wave. And that was due to security concerns. A lot of the crowd was set up outside the security perimeter so the Secret Service decided that wasn't worst the risk.
But still a lot of happy faces here. People very excited. This isn't a town that sees too many presidential visits, so any time the commander-in-chief makes a visit to a city like this, it's always going to be a big deal. And people were very happy that President Trump chose Lake Charles as one of his destinations on this tour through the areas that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey -- Ana?
[17:49:43] CABRERA: All right, Ryan Nobles for us in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Again, this was moments ago, and the president on the ground. He had a chance to meet with some of those folks. And now he's wheels up, headed back to Washington, D.C., after spending quite the day touring the storm areas both in Texas, where he spent a few hours on the ground. And stopped at several different sites, including a shelter, and met directly with the victims who are out of their houses. He talked with children, gave hugs, gave kisses, he shook hands, said a lot of "thank yous," and reassured residents and the people affected in the states that the federal government will be there until the end.
And he talked about the funding that he's requested from Congress. He's hoping to get that quickly, he said. It was allocate a billion dollars in initial request for emergency response funding to be able to help the people on the ground there. That money would be distributed through FEMA, as well as the Small Business Administration. We'll keep you posted as the president finishes up the trip in Louisiana and prepares to call it a night.
I want to bring you a heartwarming story of a rescue amid this historic flood. This is in Spring, Texas. An 84-year-old woman named Ruby Hays, started to worry when flood waters in her home reached her waist. She called her granddaughter, Elisha, who lives in the area, and had an unusual idea: Let's call Mattress Mack and ask for help. You've probably heard of Mattress Mack this week. She had seen a Facebook post from a colorful Houston personality, known as Mattress Mack, who turned his two furniture stores into shelters for hundreds of flood evacuees. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCINGVALE: If you need a place to stay, we've opening up the gallery in three locations, on I-45, 27th and Parker, and Grand Parkway location, Highway 99. We're opening them up, with a lot of beds, food, water. And you can even bring your animals. We welcome you if you need a place to stay. We're opening up both buildings as shelters during this horrible time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Not only did he opened up the shelters, but he sent a driver in a furniture delivery truck to rescue 84-year-old Ruby from her flooded home. And the surprises did not end there.
Let's bring in Ruby Hays and her granddaughter, Elisha Smith.
First, how are you holding up, Ruby? That had to be a traumatic ordeal.
RUBY HAYES, STORM VICTIM: I'm doing just fine. I'm, you know, shocked, but adjusting to it. And, you know, everybody has been so helpful, and so wonderful that it's made it so much easier to get through. And Mack -- Elisha called him, and he sent out his truck. And when I arrived there, it was such a warm welcome. And the facilities had bedding, food, showers. And, you know, we just had a comfort in a -- you know, I feel so lucky and so blessed that he was there to help me. I don't know what I would have done, really, without his help.
CABRERA: Right. The water was up to your waist when you started to panic, right?
CABRERA: And you called your granddaughter, who is there alongside you.
You couldn't get to her, right?
ALESHIA SMITH, GRANDAUGHTER OF RUBY HAYS: No. I live about 20 minutes from my grandmother, and the water had gotten so deep, nobody could get in and out of the neighborhood. And she called me in a panic, and she has a one-story home. And we didn't know how high the water was going to rise. So I had just happened to be on Facebook a few minutes before she had called, and he had put his personal cell phone number out on Facebook. Mattress Mac did, he answered on the first ring.
SMITH: I told him the situation. He said, I'm going to send someone right now to get your grandmother. And I mean, we just cannot express our gratitude to him. He's just a local hero for the whole city of Houston. CABRERA: Did you know Mattress Mack before this personally?
SMITH: No. No. We did not.
HAYS: Not personally.
SMITH: We know of him.
HAYS: We purchased items from his store before, but we knew of him --
Ruby, I understand you actually celebrated your 84th birthday this week. I can't imagine.
CABRERA: What a birthday.
HAYS: It was on the 28th of August, and I was back in my little mattress, my little bed, and Mack and other gentlemen came back to check on whatever was going on. And I was talking to him, and one thing just led to another. And I told him, I said, I guess you know I spent my 84th birthday with you, and he and the other gentleman, you know, they said happy birthday. And they said, I would have gotten you a cake, had I known.
HAYS: And I was, like, you know, I don't have a home, whatever, everything is gone, you know, my whole clothes, furniture, everything. And Mack said, well, you know, not to worry. He was going to give me a mattress for my birthday. I thought, oh, great. And he said that he was going to send out a cleaning crew, and completely gut my house, which they did the very next day. Took out all of the sheet rock and carpet.
HAYS: And he had this wonderful bunch of little volunteers -- little adults. Some of them were volunteers, young teenagers, and they were just all wonderful. They, you know, just worked so hard. They did such a good job.
[17:55:41] CABRERA: Incredible. That is such a wonderful story. And to hear about all of the different people who were able to help you and to do something to make the situation better for somebody in that area. I love hearing those stories.
Ruby, so you're back in your house now, I assume, given they cleaned it out?
HAYS: No. No.
SMITH: No. We're just in the first stages. She's lost everything. And the house is just completely gutted, along with most of the other homes in Houston where people are able to actually get in their homes. There's quite a few people's homes still flooded.
SMITH: They can't get in to gut their homes from the water.
But I just want to give out, you know, a personal thank you to Mattress Mack. I love my grandmother to death, and I don't know what I would have done if he had not come in to help us. He's helped so many people in the community, and he's continuing to do so, even today.
CABRERA: Yes, yes.
SMITH: This is his own personal store. He didn't have to do that.
You know, everything -- everyone is just coming out to help, and it's a great community.
SMITH: And we have a flooring store that reached out to us today, Nathan Taylor.
CABRERA: That's so lovely.
SMITH: He works for floors for living here in Cyprus, reached out to us, and they are donating floors for my grandmother.
CABRERA: That's great to hear.
I'm so sorry to have to stop you there. We're up against the end of our show --
CABRERA: -- the end of the hour.
But, Elisha and Ruby Hayes, thank you so much for sharing your stories. So glad you're all OK.
HAYS: Thank you.
SMITH: Thank you.
CABRERA: We wish you the best in the long road to recovery.
We're back right after this.