Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Is New Orleans Ready for Residents' Return?; Bush to Address Nation Tonight

Aired September 15, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, good evening everyone from New Orleans. The mayor here has a plan for people to return, but is the city really ready? And voices from the flood, the 911 calls you never heard before. It's 4:00 p.m. on the West Coast, 7:00 on the East and 6:00 p.m. here in New Orleans. 360 starts now.
And welcome again to 360. We are coming to you live from the French quarter of New Orleans from the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon Street, not far from where President Bush is going to be speaking two hours from now. Here's a look at what's happening right now at this moment. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is getting his city ready to reopen he says. He says some 182,000 New Orleans residents will be allowed back to their homes and businesses during the next few weeks. Water is flowing out of New Orleans faster than expected. The Army Corps of Engineers now says that large areas of the city could be dry within five days and perhaps all of New Orleans could be pumped out by the beginning of next month. That is a few weeks earlier than previous predictions.

Some people in Mississippi who are homeless tonight because of hurricane Katrina will soon have a new place to stay. Governor Haley Barbour says the state has secured the use of a small 490-passenger cruise ship for hurricane survivors to be docked off of Mobile, Alabama. The governor says about 2,000 travel trailers and mobile homes are also on the way. And the number of confirmed deaths from hurricane Katrina has risen to 791. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has now listed Katrina as the most destructive hurricane to ever strike the U.S.

Tonight we're going to be spending a lot of time on the rebuilding effort here in New Orleans. But as the city gears up to reopen some businesses and restart people's lives, a grim reminder tonight of just how bad it was a few weeks ago when the city was still trapped by flood waters. New chilling audio tapes of emergency 911 calls placed during the first hours of hurricane Katrina. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many inside the location with you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Inside, I've got a handicapped girl and we've got a baby that's on a pump machine. He's on a ventilator. He's in a bed and the water is coming up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How old is the baby, an infant?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, the baby is eight months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have a handicapped child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a handicapped sister.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's just you, the baby, your sister inside the house?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, and my son and my daughter and my son- in-law and my brother. It's 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 of us and a baby. And even we've got a neighbor across the street. We got people across the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, ma'am, what we need you to do, what we need you to do, we're trying our best to get out to everyone. We need you to get to higher ground, OK.



COOPER: Some of those calls, we're going to have a lot more of them later on 360. But now to today's danger, hurricane Ophelia. We turn live to CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano in the town of Salter Path, North Carolina near Atlantic Beach. Rob, what's going on?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, this was a hurricane Ophelia, a category one strength. We mentioned that the slow movement of this storm was going to create the most amount of damage and that the storm surge not so much on the ocean side, but potentially on the side where there are even bays, calm bays and the Bogue Sound, with that persistent east wind continuing to pour water into the sound and that surge coming in last tonight, we came here this afternoon and can't believe what we see here. This is all debris and damage from a storm surge on the side of the sound. Business owners here cleaning up and trying to basically see their entire structures hollowed out by the wall of water.

Look at these two buildings right here. The fire department has come through and they've gone in and they've deemed what's a safe building or at least safe to go in and clean up. This one with just the date of today on. The blue building there, bluish-gray building next to it, if you saw the backside of that, you'd know why they'd say it's not safe. That thing's about to come crumbling down and it's made out of nothing but cinder blocks. The power of the water unbelievable in a category one storm. This is a crab shack. We were going to come eat here a couple of nights ago because we heard it's just phenomenal food. This is an institution, family owned for the past 30 years now and literally a pile of outside (ph). Notice they boarded up. They got ready for the storm by boarding up, but they couldn't, you know, protect against the storm surge.

Wave runner rentals there, another seafood shop. The boats literally come in and park into this restaurant and they take the seafood right off and you it on your plate. It's amazing food here, but these businesses are pretty much long gone. What's amazing to see, Anderson, is that a category one hurricane can do this sort of damage. It looks to me like they had at least a 10-foot storm surge on the northern shore of a bay side island, something I've never seen. Once again, Ophelia continues to surprise us in most of the damage being done, not by the size and strength of it, but by the slow movement here in North Carolina. Back to you.

COOPER: Rob, we'll check in with you a little bit later on. Still on the subject of hurricane Ophelia, we ought to put things in perspective first. Ophelia is not Katrina. Katrina we must all hope was a great rarity, an overloaded out of control freight train of a storm that ran through the Gulf coast at full speed, splintering whole cities in the process. Ophelia is more like a foraging elephant, big, lumbering, erratic, capable of doing serious damage or just wandering off somewhere and we compare the two storms, even as we do that, even the National Guard response is different. CNN's Rick Sanchez reports.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a pattern we've come to know, a hurricane strikes, causes damage and strands families. Then the National Guard is called in for rescues and relief. But what you're seeing here in Parlow (ph), North Carolina, is very different. Here the guard is already in place, in effect, waiting to see if Ophelia really does act up. In the aftermath of Katrina, state and Federal officials are taking no chances to make sure there will be no complaints about how long it took for relief to arrive.

LT. CHRISTIAN SMITH, NORTH CAROLINA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: We're looking for anyplace where the flood waters risk blocking the roadway, any downed trees, specifically on power lines or that block the roadway. Those are our main concerns right now.

SANCHEZ: National Guardsmen have seemed surprised (ph) by the unprecedented call streamed into areas where some flooding has already started, low-lying areas where it could be most severe, places like Core Creek (ph), North Carolina, where in parts the waters are already ankle to knee deep, but still rising.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't talk you into leaving?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 10 years, I've been through all these hurricanes here.

SANCHEZ: (INAUDIBLE) residents in these parts who are used to coping with hurricanes seem taken aback, if not bewildered, by the spectacle of a National Guard convoy at their front door. Many deciding a category one hurricane is not enough of a threat to evacuate. So Katrina jitters, notwithstanding, they chose to stay put. RON PURSER, RESIDENT: Everybody has -- you know, earthquakes the west coast, ice storms in the Midwest, tornadoes in Oklahoma. They don't leave.

SANCHEZ: The state National Guard called out by Governor Mike Easley, who declared a state of emergency, was not the only contingent to actually show up during the storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it has more than 250 workers on the ground, a larger than usual number, given Ophelia's size. It includes six search and rescue teams, an assortment of medical officials and Coast Guard crews that handle navigation and pollution response. FEMA has also designated a flight person to oversee whatever Federal response the storm may require. Coast Guard rear admiral Brian Peterman will likely try and move early with Ophelia, what many have argued somebody should have been done during Katrina, a storm that by comparison, dwarfs this small, but stubborn hurricane off the coast of North Carolina.


SANCHEZ: That is the point. This is not a powerful storm compared to others that we've seen, but it's a stubborn storm and let me show you what we're talking about. If we could, you're going to be able to see the pier right here off of Nags Head as it's getting pounded again and again by these excessive waves, same as the many of the wind gusts that we're seeing and experiencing in this area right now. The storm or the eye of the storm, I should say, is about 40 miles from where we are right now.

The problem is it's pretty much staying there and what it's doing is it's driving the water into this region. What officials are concerned about is that that water, essentially the saltwater, is being pushed into some of the bays and some of the rivers in this area. That's why they're so concerned about the flooding and that's why many of the FEMA officials have chosen to send some rescue workers into these areas to make sure the flooding doesn't get any higher, especially in those regions. Last time we checked, it was somewhere between ankle and knee deep. They're going to be watching it tonight.

This is low tide right now, but sometime six hours from now, the tide will change once again and if Ophelia is still out there off the coast, we'll continue to get the pounding from the surf. Right now, 70,000 people or so without electricity don't know, we'll continue to monitor, see if those numbers change. Off of Nags Head, I'm Rick Sanchez. Anderson, back over to you.

COOPER: Rick, thanks very much. We'll check in with you a little bit later. It is so, I mean it's creepy just to hear the other storm hitting on the other side of the United States and knowing what happened here just a little bit more than two weeks ago. As we told you at the top of the hour, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is planning to allow some 182,000 city residents to return here to their homes and their businesses within the next few weeks. In about 11 days, he expects this area, the French quarter to be back in business. Granted, some things here have improved. But with bodies still being discovered and homes in shambles, this place is far from returning to normal. Makes you wonder if this rush to reopen is too much too soon. Take a look.


MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: It's a good day in New Orleans. The sun is shining. We're bringing New Orleans back.

COOPER: Mayor Ray Nagin announcing that his city is on the upswing.

NAGIN: We're re opening up the city and almost 200,000 residents will be able to come back and get this city going once again.

COOPER: A remarkable statement, considering what the mayor said just about two weeks ago when he lashed out at the Federal and state response to his city's crisis.

NAGIN: Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too dog gone late. Get off your asses and let's do something and let's fix the biggest God damn crisis in the history of this country.

COOPER: So is New Orleans ready to reopen? There are positive signs. Flood waters are fast receding. The Army Corps of Engineers says water is dropping by more than a foot a day. Some areas like Algiers and New Orleans west bank have power and running water, which the mayor says is suitable for drinking. Mayor Nagin also says he's speaking with Wal-Mart about opening a store in the convention center so newly returned residents will have somewhere to shop. He also says despite the violence and looting witnessed in Katrina's aftermath, the city is the safest it's been in years.

NAGIN: The bad guys, I think they've been rooted out and dealt with accordingly. As they come back -- as they think about coming back to the city, let me just remind them of a couple of things. Our police department has a serious, even more invested bond with this city and they're not taking any crap.

COOPER: But despite the tough talk, it's going to be tough going in the big easy. There are no schools that are open. Forty to 50 percent of the city is still under water and a new EPA report says that water contains dangerous amounts of bacteria and lead. But none of that is deterring the mayor's plan or altering his ambitious schedule. He says residents of Algiers will return on Monday. The central business district and uptown will be open later in the week and by September 26, the French quarter will be open for business. The mayor says the city is ready to regroup, ready to start again.

NAGIN: Because I envision us building an incredible city that's so livable, so unique with all the New Orleans wonderful things that everybody appreciates, that everybody's going to want to come.


COOPER: Joining me now from Baton Rouge is former FEMA Director James Lee Witt who has been hired by the state of Louisiana to keep his eye on relief and recovery efforts here. Thanks very much for being with us Mr. Witt. Again, we always appreciate talking to you. Let me ask you, you heard the mayor today. Is New Orleans really ready to get 180,000 people back here? I mean electricity is not around in a lot of places. You can't get gas. There's no hospital in the downtown, no running water in a lot of places.

JAMES LEE WITT, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: Well, you know, Anderson, I haven't been down there part of the re-entry plan, and I'm sure that he's been working with his local officials, the police department and fire department and others. I hope it's safe and hope that we can all do anything we can to help him and other parishes across the state in having a safe entry. I have not been part of the re-entry planning.

COOPER: OK. In today's "New York Times," former FEMA Director Michael Brown said that the governor and her staff are proving incapable of organizing a coherent state effort during the storm and that his field officers in the city were reporting what he called a quote, an out of control situation. Do you buy that? Is that true?

WITT: Well, Governor Blanco, I've talked to her extensively. I've talked to the adjutant general. I've talked to her staff about this. And, you know, everything that they did was right on target. You know, they asked for resources. They asked for it way before the hurricane got here. So I have not found that to be true.

COOPER: The governor's office issued a press release criticizing FEMA saying, in part, the simple fact is that we needed something as simple and basic as buses delivered in a timely fashion from FEMA in order to save lives. They didn't do that. The president addressed that issue when he removed Mr. Brown and I thank him for it.

Did FEMA drop the ball by not delivering the buses, because I mean there were buses here in the city. The mayor has said it was a question of not having a plan to have bus drivers. So who dropped the ball on the buses?

WITT: Well, I know that the governor did request buses to help evacuate people and I know that the buses didn't show. She requested a lot of help from the Federal government that, you know, that she thought that would be here. And I think there will be a lot of time to look into this, and I think there will be a lot of time for everybody to re-evaluate what not only happened and how it happened, and I think then is the time to look at this and make corrections. Right now, they're still in a full recovery and some rescue efforts even are still ongoing. The goal now is to focus on housing people, taking care of the victims and making sure that we help the parishes and the governor to rebuild these.

COOPER: The governor last night in her address to the legislature said, you know, if the state made mistakes, she takes full responsibility for it. What mistakes, at this point -- I mean, I know a full study hasn't been done, but just from your gut, what mistakes do you think the state made? I mean because you know, it's easy to point fingers at other people. What do you think the state did wrong?

WITT: Anderson, I have not had time to look into this. I can assure you I'll work with the governor to look at this and to see and to help improve it. I have really, really been busy. All of us have long hours trying to get electricity back on, water back on, the hotels open so workers could stay there and restaurants open so they could be fed there. And St. Bernard Parish, Jefferson Parish, we've been down there working with them. So I have not had an opportunity to look at this honestly, but I will look at it with her and her staff and be able to answer your questions later.

COOPER: When you do look at it closely, would you come back and talk to us about it? We're not looking to point blame, but I think everyone and I know you agree with this, never wants this to happen again. And God forbid this should -- another city should face this. We want to be ready the next time. We'd love to have you back on when you have a look at it.

WITT: Absolutely. I promise I will do that, Anderson.

COOPER: I appreciate that, Mr. Witt. Thank you very much.

As we said already, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, President Bush is going to address the nation from this uniquely stricken city, just a few blocks from where we're standing right now at the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon St. And I've got to tell you, I've never seen Bourbon Street quite so quiet on an evening like this. A city, a lot of people here and elsewhere think that Mr. Bush and his administration failed in those early days. And they think also that Louisiana and Mississippi and the rest of the Gulf coast were failed by the Federal government, by the state, by local government.

There's a lot of blame to go around. In a way the wreckage surrounding Mr. Bush tonight will be not only that of the decimated city of New Orleans, but also some of his own prestige and popularity, and he will be likely addressing that tonight. It's going to be a tough speech for him to make. With some idea of what the president may say, let's turn live now to CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. You're absolutely right. It is going to be a very tough speech for the president. We're not far from where you are, but from our vantage point we're able to see the president arrive on the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, his chopper arriving, obviously security sweeps here as they prepare for that defining moment for the president. We are told that he is, of course, going to give a broad vision for recovery of the Gulf region. But of course, it's also an opportunity for him to recover his credibility. Make no mistake, the administration, the president very much aware of that. We're told that, of course, he's going to put forth an unprecedented amount of Federal dollars towards education, towards housing, aids initiatives, things like that.

The president in an excerpt of his speech, is going to say Federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, from roads and bridges to schools and water systems. Our goal is to get the work done quickly and taxpayers expect this work to be done honestly and wisely so we will have a team of inspector generals reviewing all expenditures. And of course, that is important Anderson. There have been calls from local and state officials that, perhaps, not most, but all of the recovery funds should be handled by the Federal government, but there are also of course some fiscal conservatives who have been very concerned when they see the dollar figures. We're not going to get a figure tonight, but some of the estimates of what this is actually going to cost. The president saying, don't worry, we will hold this responsible and accountable to this process. Anderson.

COOPER: Suzanne, thanks for that. So many people here you talk to, they just want to hear politicians at the local level, at the state level, at the Federal level, just say what mistakes specifically that they made. It's easy to point fingers at one another. It's easy to point blame to governments far away, but some of the people here I've been talking to today just say they want to hear their politicians stand up and say, you know what? This is what I could have done better. We'll be listening to the president's speech tonight for that in the coming days from state and local officials. We'll see what we hear.

Coming up next on 360, missing children in the wake of Katrina. Thousands of kids live through a killer storm, only to be separated from those who could comfort them most, their parents. We're going to have their story ahead.

And later, just how prepared is your city for a disaster, whether you're talking terror, hurricanes or earthquakes? We're going to take a look at how prepared the rest of America is for what happened here.


COOPER: You're looking at workers from Beagle (ph) Enterprises out of Rockville, Maryland. They're cleaning up a hotel. They're taking out about $50,000 worth of wine that they're going to have to throw out because of the black water that has flooded that hotel, that wine. It's a liability issue, even if the wine itself hasn't been contaminated. They're just going to have to throw it all out, one of those small clean up jobs we're seeing just about every street here I the French quarter as they are trying to rebuild and get this place up and running.

As you know, Hurricane Katrina has torn a great number of families apart. We cannot count how many times people have come to us asking us to help them find a loved one. We've put as many of them as we can on television. There are many children missing, more than 2,000 in fact by some estimates from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia. They have been very busy trying to track these kids down. CNN's Brian Todd joins us from there with the latest. Brian, what's the situation?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is a very active call center and it's active just because of the number you just mentioned, more than 2,000 kids missing. Those numbers has -- those numbers have been climbing steadily every day since this call center was established on September 5th. You mentioned the number 2,000 and the number is a little bit more than 2,000, but it's important to put that into perspective. Getting a very accurate count of how many children are missing is very hard to do in this situation.

Officials here acknowledge that there are many people on the ground still moving around. People have not had a chance to report their children missing and until the last couple of days and many have not reported that they've been reunited with their kids. But we're going to show you some children's faces, important to pay attention to these faces because they're getting leads based on our live reports and calls coming in.

First one we want to tell you about, Tatiana Jackson. She just turned five years old, last seen with her mother in Bywater, Louisiana. She is now believed to be with her mother Tamisha (ph) Jackson and her grandmother Tammy Jackson. All three of them are missing. The father has told this center that he's not even sure if they even evacuated their home. That is in Georgia awaiting word.

Here's another child, Gregory Morton. He just turned 11 years old. He was last known to be at home in New Orleans with his sister, his sister Antoinette Morton. She's 25 years old. She is also missing. They were separated from their father after evacuating from their home in New Orleans. Officials are chasing down a lead that the two of them may be in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but the father is in Atlanta awaiting word.

Here are two older children. These are 18-year-old twins, Dellare Gillam and her sister Desiree Gillam, 18 years old, twins. These are driver's license pictures. Important to know here that Dellare has a two-year-old son named Devon Young who is with the two of them. All three of them are missing. The grandmother and father of the twins are in Lake Charles, Louisiana, awaiting word. We want to give you a number to call, in case you have information about any of these missing children. The number is 1-888-544-5475. You can also go to to get any information about these cases. Anderson?

COOPER: It is unbelievable to think this long after the storm, there are still some 2,000 children missing, separated from the loved ones and their families and that that number is growing from what it was last night. It's shocking. We're going to keep bringing you these stories and showing you these pictures because we want to try and get these kids found and brought back with their families.

Coming up next on 360, we've talked a lot about the failed response to Katrina. Would the same thing happen if a massive earthquake hit, say, California or New York? Is the state and Federal government prepared? We'll talk about that. Plus, take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any way you can get to the roof if need be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh, that's the problem. We're looking out the window and we need to get to the top but I don't know if we can make it or not because it's a small little hole.


COOPER: They didn't evacuate and they made desperate pleas for help. Frantic 911 calls from the victims of hurricane Katrina. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. We're live in New Orleans at the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon Street. You see some units from National Guard and police just on patrol. You can you cannot walk down a street in this city or drive around a block and not run into military, or law enforcement personnel from all around the country. The response now has been enormous.

Talk about an eerie discussion, though, back in 2001, the three most likely catastrophes to strike the United States were discussed at a FEMA emergency training session. First on the list was a terrorist attack in New York. That happened. Second, a massive hurricane hitting New Orleans. And the third, the only one that has not happened yet, the big one, as they called it, a major earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. As CNN Jeanne Meserve explains in the "Security Watch," many questions remain over how well prepared California really is. Take a look.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looks like a typical apartment building today, but Pastor David Richardson remembers what it looked like immediately after the 1994 North Ridge Earthquake.

PASTOR DAVID RICHARDSON, EARTH QUAKE SURVIVOR: Each apartment was marked a deceased person. And these fireman were in there about 18 inches crawling through the space to be get to be able to get to the people.

MESERVE 16 people died in this one building.

Would Los Angeles fare better if another bit quake hit today?

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: Every city around the nation should be looking at what happened with Hurricane Katrina and reassessing their own capabilities. I can tell you though, that before we do, we're about as prepared as any big city in the national.

MESERVE: Seismologist Lucy Jones says the region has come a long way, but not far enough.

LUCY JONES, SEISMOLOGIST: Not sure it's complacency as much as a lack of imagination. It is going to be a different class of experience, and a different scope than anything we've seen in this century.

MESERVE: A quick frame of reference, the North Ridge Quake, which killed 72 and wrought havoc in Los Angeles had a magnitude of 6.7. But scientists say Southern California could see an event equivalent to the 7.8 San Francisco Earthquake that killed 3,000 in 1906.

In densely populated Southern California, the loss of life and property could be massive because thousands of older buildings have been slow to comply with new earthquake resistant building codes, including some hospitals, schools and even the L.A. Police Department headquarters.

CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON LOS ANGELES POLICE: Believe me, since my office is on the sixth floor of that building, I'm very concerned about that potential also.

MESERVE: 99 percent of the state owned bridges and overpasses in California have been reinforced at a cost of $2.4 billion. Nonetheless, Jones predicts major damage and destruction.

JONES: We know that everything that crosses the San Andreas, such as water lines, pipe lines, freeways, railways, are going to be offset 20 feet or more during that event and most of them will not be functional.

MESERVE: The mayor of Los Angeles admits his city will not be able to cope on its own.

VILLARAIGOSA: Clearly without the federal government, cities, counties and states are very limited, even a state as big and as prepared as the state of California.

MESERVE: Citizens are urged to prepare themselves, but David Richardson, having seen the North Ridge Quake, is at a loss to figure out how.

RICHARDSON: I can't imagine that thing magnified 100 or 1,000 fold. You couldn't prepare for that.

MESERVE: Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: It's understandable why so many would be concerned whether their community is ready on the West Coast or wherever it may be, give the response and the lack of response we have seen from the federal, from state and the local level here. We're going to continue to follow this story in the months to come because we want every community to be prepared.

Still ahead tonight, though, Hurricane Ophelia raking the coastline in North Carolina. There's a live picture of Nags Head right there. We're going to take you to a live report in just a few minutes.

Also tonight, saving the dolphins. We're going to take you back to Gulfport, Mississippi. Eight of these dolphins were stranded. We're going to tell you how the rescue effort went today. Gary Tuchman's there. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome again to 360. We're coming to you live from the French Quarter of New Orleans, the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon street, about an hour-and-a-half away from the president's speech, this is just a couple of blocks away from where he's going to make that speech.

Here's a look at what's happening right now at this moment. Hurricane Ophelia is getting weaker as it moves slowly of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Right now it is just above tropical storm status. The storm has dumped as much as 18 inches of rain on the East Coast.

Louisiana officials are looking for the parents or guardians of 25 adolescents who were evacuated from youth detention centers because of Hurricane Katrina. The search is hindered by the fact that the state cannot post the juvenile's names and pictures on Web sites, because of privacy concerns.

Mississippi's attorney general is suing five insurers in his state. His office is concerned that the insurers are taking advantage of Hurricane Katrina victims by not paying for a lot of the property loss and damage by the hurricanes.

But Americans across the country are chipping in in big ways. So far the Red Cross has received more than $668 million in gifts and pledges for the hurricane relief effort. An amazing response from Americans.

Here in New Orleans, the pictures we have seen have been horrifying enough: mothers on roof tops gripping their crying and hungry babies, elderly people, unable to help themselves, dying in wheelchairs waiting for help.

Now we have another level of sensory horror, if you will, some 911 tapes. Calls made by victims of Hurricane Katrina. And we wanted to play them for you, because tonight as we focus on rebuilding and rebirth of this city, it's important to remember what happened here, and important to remember the people who were victims. Here's CNN's Sean Callebs.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Katrina punished the heart of New Orleans, 911 calls began to stream in, like this call from a young woman named Shawntal (ph), who was trapped in the highest point of her home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're stuck in the attic, me and my little sister here and my mommy. And we have got water in the whole house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any way you can get to the roof ma'am? Because they are trying to get everybody to higher ground until we can get out there? We're trying our best. CALLEBS: It wasn't just flooding. With electricity cut off and powerful winds decimating the city, some gas lines began to rupture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother just checked the valve that we just opened, because we're up on the second floor, so we just opened the bottom just to let some -- I just want to know if there's is a little gas leak, as long as we kind of let fresh air in will, you know everybody be alright.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I think if you let fresh air in, everybody's going to be all right.

CALLEBS (on camera): Throughout the night, 911 calls poured in, many coming from this heavily damaged section of New Orleans called Ward Nine. For many frantic residents, their only outside contact with emergency officials was a woman on the other end of the phone who identified herself as operator 16. At the height of the storm, the operator could do little, but serve as a calming voice and encourage people trapped in these homes to somehow try and make it to the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any way you can get to the roof, as need be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if we can make it or not.

CALLEBS (voice-over): The number of people trapped by rising water in some homes was staggering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many in there inside the location with you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 people.

CALLEBS: In one case, among those caught by flood water and fearing for survival, a disabled woman and a baby on a medical device.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got a handicapped girl, and I got a baby that's on a heart machine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you have a handicapped son?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a handicapped sister.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have an attic ma'am inside your home?



CALLEBS: And those phone calls continued to come in throughout the evening until phone service was disrupted.

Now, frustrated police officers were basically helpless. They were pinned down by Katrina and couldn't reach all of those who were in a desperate situation. And sadly, authorities say, they know that for some, that 911 call was a desperate final act -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sean, thanks very much for that. You know, we've gotten some e-mails over the half hour since we first played those tapes from people saying, look, those people chose not to evacuate. You know, let's just point out, let's remember even if they had evacuated, where they would have been evacuated to was the Superdome and the Convention Center. And we know what it was like for the people who ended up there.

Joining us now from Atlanta is the man who was mayor of New Orleans in much better times, much better times. Sidney Barthelemy. Mr. Barthelemy, we appreciate you joining us again. We talked to you earlier in the week. First of all, when we talked last, I believe your mother-in-law was missing. Were you able to find her?

SIDNEY BARTHELEMY, FRM. NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: Yes. Thanks to CNN, believe it or not. By showing her picture, the place she was located in the hospital in Lafayette, they saw the picture and they were able to contact us. And so she's fine in the hospital.

COOPER: That's great. I'm very happy for you and for your family.

Mayor Nagin has said that the French Quarter where we are right now is going to be back in business by September 26. How realistic do you think that is?

BARTHELEMY: I assume since he has all of the information and data, it's probably realistic. My only concern would be that we do not forget about the people who have lost everything, particularly in the Lower Ninth Ward and the Gentilly area, that we don't concentrate just on the French Quarter, but remember those people who are dislocated, who are suffering and concerned about what their lives are going to be like.

COOPER: Does it frustr -- I mean, do you understand why not everyone has been recovered or more people have not been recovered at this point? Because, I mean, we are two plus weeks now, and there are still people in their homes who haven't been checked on who have been trapped, you know, and rotting in their homes. Is that a disgrace?

BARTHELEMY: Well, I assume from what I see in the national media, that they are still doing the search -- not the rescue, but the pickup of the dead bodies that are located in the homes. I assume that they're doing that now.

COOPER: They absolutely are. But do you think it has taken too long? Early on, you know, you drive down a street and they would pass by bodies. They would tie the bodies to stop signs so that they didn't float away. Do you wish they had been able to pick up people faster?

BARTHELEMY: Well, I guess the critical thing, Anderson, is that we have to get people out of harm's way much, much quicker and much earlier than we did this time, because if you don't, what's happening will happen again. COOPER: Let me ask you, we've heard a lot of finger pointing -- we've seen a lot of finger pointing, heard a lot of blaming: federal blaming state, state blaming federal, local blaming just about everyone too. Do you wish that poli -- I mean, you used to be the mayor here, do you wish that politicians would just kind of stand up and say, you know what, here's what I did wrong. Because we haven't heard anyone do that yet.

BARTHELEMY: Well, I know the president stood up and the governor did, and I thought the mayor did somewhat yesterday. But, you know, I think, as you said, there's a lot of blame to go around.

We can't let this happen again. And so we need to evaluate what went wrong and make sure it doesn't happen again. And I think we have the ability do that. We're the most powerful nation in the world. And I can't see how this could happen again.

COOPER: Will that be done unless everyone says what they did wrong? Because, I mean, without that, people can stand up and say, look, I'll take blame for what went wrong, but unless they name what went wrong, what's going to stop it from happening again?

BARTHELEMY: Well, I believe that it's going to take everybody working together, everyone making this a priority to improve the situation so that this doesn't happen again. I mean, I can't speak for everyone, but I think it's critical that we as a nation need to come together and work together. I think that's the most important thing.

COOPER: Mayor Barthelemy, It's always good to talk to you. And I'm glad your mother-in-law is safe. Thank you very much.

BARTHELEMY: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next on 360, Hurricane Ophelia battering and soaking North Carolina right now. Here's a live shot from Nags Head. Rick Sanchez reports for us coming up next.

Also tonight, a dolphin rescue. We're taking you back to Gulfport, Mississippi to see how the dolphins are doing.


COOPER: I want to take you back right now to North Carolina. Hurricane Ophelia battering off the coast. A slow moving -- I mean, a very slow-moving storm, stubborn, very powerful nonetheless. CNN's Rick Sanchez joins us from Nags Head. Rick, what's the latest?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I'll tell you, it's amazing, Anderson, to be able to watch this surf. It's relentless. And the reason it's relentless is Ophelia is literally sitting and spinning about 40 miles from where I'm standing right now. And that's why these waves continue to come up the way they are. We see -- and it's also washing a bunch of stuff into the area.

We've seen many of the fish in this area that really just couldn't handle the pounding themselves, have ended up in this area.

Here's the fear here, and it has a bit of a historical perspective to it. Where I am right now, Isabel came through about almost two years ago to the day. She came through this area, and there are stakes behind me now where the water came to. That's what they don't want to see happen. We're at low tide right now. It likely won't happen.

But during Isabel, there's a building that's behind me right now that had to be reconstructed because it was literally torn apart by the same wave action, and much of what we're seeing right now.

So, we're going to be monitoring it. A lot of the people in this area say they're staying gym possibly because they know it's a category one storm, and because in this area, folks are pretty hearty. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: And Rick, we'll have a lot more of this coverage tonight after the president's speech on a special edition of "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown and myself.

Coming up next, though, on 360, dolphins delivered from danger to safety. Katrina swept the dolphins into the Gulf of Mexico. Two dolphins have been rescued. What's happened to the other six? We're going to have that story. We'll be right back.


COOPER: So what is 350 pounds, survived Hurricane Katrina, and is now swimming happily at a hotel pool in Gulfport, Mississippi? Well, it is Jackie, an aquarium dolphin, who's been washed into the Gulf of Mexico, where she's been fighting to survive. She's one of two lucky dolphins already rescued. Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From this destroyed aquarium in Gulfport, Mississippi, eight dolphins were swept to sea in the middle of Hurricane Katrina. They've all been spotted alive and together. Five minutes after motoring out into the Gulf of Mexico...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dolphins are right there!

TUCHMAN: ... we see the six female and two male bottle-nose dolphins, that only know how to survive in captivity, not being used to the wild. Now, after a few days of getting food and medicine, the hard part -- rescuing them.

A man attached to a buoy is in shallow enough water to pull the dolphins on top, and it works. Twenty-five-year-old Jackie is rescued, the sickest of the dolphins, skinny, with lacerations and abrasions from the hurricane. But now in the care of people she knows.

She's put on the stretcher and loaded on the boat. Next, another dolphin brought to safety. This is Jackie's offspring, Tony. She's 15, and like her mother, might have only lived for a few more days in the sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speechless. It's unbelievable. Let's keep our fingers crossed for the rest of them.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The waters started getting choppy, so the rescue effort had to be suspended. They'll try again Friday to capture the other six dolphins. They'll go in with high hopes, but knowing there are no guarantees.

(voice-over): The 350-pound dolphins are put in a specially equipped dolphin mobile. And then, a police escort through the streets of Gulfport, to bring them to their temporary home -- a swimming pool at the Holiday Inn, where they'll stay for now as plans are put into place to send them to other aquariums around the country.

The dolphins' trainers are also their rescuers.

(on camera): Are these like your children?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, yes. Yeah, they're our babies.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): These two dolphins have been diagnosed as anemic.

(on camera): So what's their prognosis?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we get food in them and keep them stable for next seven to 10 days, I think we'll do pretty good. So it's kind of critical for these next few days.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The experts and the trainers are amazed all eight dolphins, who were not even together in the aquarium, have stayed together in the Gulf. They hope they'll all be together again very soon.


TUCHMAN: So the dolphin trainers and the biologists from NOAA will go out again tomorrow hoping that all six of the dolphins that are out there have not gotten sicker, have not gotten lost, and have not gotten victimized by the predators of the sea, who they know little, if nothing, about -- Anderson.

COOPER: Amazing story, Gary. Thanks very much.

Let's find out what is coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Hey, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Anderson, thanks. As you know, we're a little over an hour away from the president making his address not too far from where Anderson was standing there. The question tonight is, could this actually be a turning point for President Bush when you look at his declining poll numbers? After all the obvious and painful failures in the first days after Hurricane Katrina, can the president actually calm people's anger and regain his political stature? We're going to debate that with a bunch of really, really smart people, and give you a preview of what he is about to say in that speech at the top of the hour.

COOPER: All right, Paula, thanks very much. We'll see you then. A lot more ahead, though. Stay with us. We'll be right back live from Bourbon Street.


COOPER: And welcome back. We are live on Bourbon Street, on the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon. The president is just going to be a few blocks from here making a speech tonight in about an hour.

I want to show you, though, just a famous landmark, Big Daddy's. It's a bar. There is a famous -- if you've ever been to Bourbon Street, you've walked by there, you've seen the leg that's sticking out of the window. When my dad brought me here as a kid, that's one of the things I'll always remember, and I was kind of shocked by it.

The leg survived the hurricane. They took it down for Katrina. The leg is back in there. And a sign, perhaps, of -- one small sign of this city trying to get back to life. Bourbon Street, hoping to be reopened in a few weeks.

That's it for me now. Join me tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, along with Aaron Brown, for special coverage. Paula Zahn is next -- Paula.