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CNN Live At Daybreak

State of Emergency

Aired September 05, 2005 - 05:29   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You heard Elaine mention in that report several options the president has. Of course you know the president chooses a nominee to the court. The White House looks into the nominee's background. A sitting judge could be elevated to the chief justice position.
And perhaps something you didn't know, the president could fill the slot with anyone, doesn't have to be a judge or even an attorney. But, of course, that is not likely to happen.

Our coverage on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continues.

But, as we go to break, from CNN's victims and relief desk some of the missing and their contact information.

You are watching DAYBREAK.


COSTELLO: Shipments of relief aid are finally getting to the people who need it most. Makeshift centers full of food and water have been set up in several communities along the Gulf Coast, but there are still plenty of people who cannot get to the aid.

Live now to Becky Diamond. She's in Biloxi, Mississippi this morning.

Hello -- Becky.


Well, it's Labor Day, as you know, a time when so many Americans can take the day off, enjoy that freedom. But for the residents of coastal communities that have been so hard hit by Katrina, it's just another day. Another day that they can search for their missing relatives, another day where they try to figure out how to rebuild their lives.

They are getting some additional help from U.S. military and law enforcement. Here in Biloxi, there are adding police checkpoints. Also, we ran into some U.S. Navy sailors last night who had just arrived. They are here distributing food and also here to help cleanup the debris. It's all part of an increased nationwide effort to really help the victims of Katrina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BECKY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush is scheduled to visit Baton Rouge today. The city is now the headquarters of relief efforts in Louisiana. He is also due to visit Mississippi. Mr. Bush toured the region on Friday.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in the region yesterday.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: As the president said, it is a natural disaster of historic proportions. No one can come up with anything that approximates it in the history of our country. And it is important to keep the magnitude of it in mind.

DIAMOND: The Coast Guard continues rescue efforts in New Orleans. But as Homeland Security Michael Chertoff put it, a -- quote -- "significant number of people don't want to leave."

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are not going to be able to have people sitting in houses in the city of New Orleans for weeks and months while we de-water and clean this city with the hope that we're going to continue to supply them with food and water.

DIAMOND: Meanwhile, a plane carrying evacuees from the devastated region of Louisiana arrived in Phoenix, Arizona last night. It's the first group to arrive in that state.

Also yesterday, a helicopter involved in rescue operations crashed northwest of New Orleans. No evacuees were on the chopper and the crew was not hurt.


Carol, one week after Katrina hit, life for these residents will simply never be the same. There's a sign when you enter Biloxi that reads thank God you are alive, everything else can be fixed.

COSTELLO: Becky Diamond live from Biloxi, Mississippi this morning.

Mission critical, here's the latest on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Security in New Orleans takes a big hit. Police there strained to the limit. Two officers have committed suicide. Reports say as many as 200 others have not shown up for duty.

More food, more water for hurricane survivors, 620,000 bottles of water, to be exact, 320,000 meals. By our count, that's what's been delivered so far to distribution centers around Louisiana.

U.S. officials are asking a neighbor for some medical help. They want Canada to dip into its national emergency stockpile and donate medical supplies. Just about everything is needed, including blankets, needles, bandages and bath towels.

The thousands of Katrina refugees evacuated to Houston will get some famous visitors. Former Presidents Bush and Clinton will head there today. The two are leading a national fund raising drive.

In the meantime, there's been a burst of deadly violence. New Orleans police shot and killed at least five gunmen who fired on a group of federal contractors. The contractors were on their way to help plug a breach in a levee.

Going "Beyond the Soundbite" now, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin expects thousands of bodies will be found in the city when morgue teams start going house to house.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien spoke with the mayor who is seething at the lack of an effective state and federal response to Katrina's aftermath.


MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: And what the state was doing, I don't freaking know. But I'll tell you, I am pissed. It wasn't adequate. And then the president and the governor sat down. We were in Air Force One. I said, Mr. President, Madam Governor, you two have to get in sync. If you don't get in sync, more people are going to die.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What day did you go? When did you say that? When did you say...

NAGIN: Whenever Air Force One was here.


NAGIN: And that this was after I called him on the telephone two days earlier. And I said, Mr. President and Madam Governor, you two need to get together on the same page, because the lack of coordination, people are dying in my city.

O'BRIEN: That's two days ago you said?

NAGIN: They both shook. I don't know the exact day. They both shook their head and said, yes. I said great. I said everybody in this room is getting ready to leave. There was senators and his cabinet people. You name it. There were generals. I said everybody right now, we're leaving. These two people need to sit in a room together and make a doggone decision right now.

O'BRIEN: And was that done?

NAGIN: The president looked at me. I think he was a little surprised. He said, no, you guys stay here, we're going to another section of the plane and we're going to make a decision. He called me in that office after that. He said, Mr. Mayor, I offered two options to the governor. I said -- and I don't remember exactly what they were, two options. I was ready to move today. The governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision.

O'BRIEN: You're telling me the president told you the governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision? NAGIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Regarding what, bringing troops in?

NAGIN: Whatever they had discussed. As far as what the chain -- I was advocating a clear chain of command so that we could get resources flowing in the right places.

O'BRIEN: And the governor said, no, according to the...

NAGIN: She said that she needed 24 hours to make a decision. It would have been great if we could have left Air Force One, walked outside and told the world that we had this all worked out. It didn't happen and more people died.


COSTELLO: Mayor Ray Nagin.

Well, actually, that's a nice segue into our DAYBREAK "Question of the Morning," should Katrina victims get the same compensation as 9/11 victims? That's what the president of the NAACP wants to do.

And of course Jacqui Jeras has been monitoring our e-mail box. And what I was going to say is that more than a million dollars went to the families, the victims of 9/11, on average. And they came up with a very complicated formula, you know how much income you lost, you know and if you lost more than one loved one. It was very complicated to come up with that number, but it averaged out to a little over a million dollars per person.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's going to be a lot, a lot of money if that's what they decide to do, Carol.

And we got a lot of feedback, both sides of the spectrum here, but we're hearing a lot of similarities in those comments.

This one coming in from Gerald McMillan (ph) from Atlanta, Georgia. A relief fund for the hurricane victims? While I feel for these people, they chose to live in that city, a city whose own government had to plan for dealing with a major hurricane. Doesn't the city have any responsibility? I don't feel my federal government owes them compensation. If they do, then all past hurricane victims are also owed, also tornado and earthquake victims, while we are at it.

This one coming in from Dan Kite (ph). Yes, the victims of Hurricane Katrina should be compensated the same as those of 9/11. As soon as I hear that is the case and where to send the money, I will quadruple my donation to date. That's Dan and Gina (ph) Kite from Illinois.

This one coming in from Lois Fondran (ph). She said that natural phenomenons, such as Hurricane Katrina, should not be compared with a terrorist attack. Take a look at Hurricane Andrew. The helicopters didn't arrive for four days and there was no massive flood to deal with.

I think, considering the incredible size of the hurricane across the Gulf Coast, the government in all areas has done a wonderful job in getting everyone out. The flood didn't even occur until Tuesday. On Monday night, late, everyone was partying in New Orleans because the levee had not even broken yet. And all the news media said that they were safe. Every victim should be helped in every way possible in this horrible disaster.

COSTELLO: Thank you for your comments this morning, and of course we'll get to more later.

Still to come, we'll update you on what's happening in small towns hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, like Pass Christian, Mississippi.

But first, here's a look at what else is making news this morning.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York's transit system, a necessity for natives, but also a mind-boggling maze for many, including this Harvard grad -- Chinedu Echeruo.

CHINEDU ECHERUO, FOUNDER, HOPSTOP.COM: I was sitting on a subway heading from Brooklyn to Manhattan. And I was thinking that there has to be a way to leverage the technologies to solve this problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he created a new company called It's a free Web site offering step-by-step instructions on how to get from point A to point B in the Big Apple via subway, bus or even your own two feet.

ECHERUO: The service is available in nine languages, you know German, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Russian and all the way down to Swahili.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For those on the go, HopStop offers the option of sending directions straight to your cell phone, no paper printouts needed. In addition to New York, HopStop has added Boston and Washington, D.C. to its site. And by next year, the company hopes to conquer a total of 10 major U.S. cities.


COSTELLO: It has been a week since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast states. There has been an avalanche of criticism that the government was slow to respond. Big cities, like New Orleans, are getting a lot of attention now.

But people living in small towns devastated by the storm say they're feeling forgotten and neglected. Towns like Prichard, Alabama; Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Port Gibson, Mississippi. In most cases, African-Americans make up the majority of the population. The National Conference of Black Mayors is pulling together to help those communities.

And here to talk about that is Vanessa Williams, the Executive Director of the organization.



COSTELLO: Tell us about the problem. These are very tiny towns. For example, Prichard, Alabama, 28,000 people. It's only 25 square miles. Tell me about the problems. Are people still waiting to be rescued there?

WILLIAMS: Yes, ma'am, they are. The problems that we're finding in a lot of our small cities is the fact that there was just no help. Many of our mayors reached out to a lot of the larger organizations, as well as FEMA. And, unfortunately, have not yet received any assistance. Therefore that is why we are now on the ground assisting them.

COSTELLO: So these mayors, I know there's no way for them to communicate by phone. And I know they sent you letters or gotten you letters some way, because I know they don't have working computers, either. What did some of these letters say?

WILLIAMS: Well some of the letters were just simply our mayors articulating to us their dire needs of generators, water, food supplies. Sharing with us the fact that their water systems were shut down and that they had no power, no phone lines and that they were in just desperate need of help.

COSTELLO: What does FEMA say about this?

WILLIAMS: Well, unfortunately, when I had a conversation with the group, one of the assistant directors of FEMA, I was told that instead of our mayors calling us, maybe they should be reaching out to individuals that were closer to them so they could fill out the proper paperwork to get assistance.

COSTELLO: Paperwork?

WILLIAMS: Paperwork.

COSTELLO: Well I don't know, if you think about it, that would be virtually impossible for those mayors to travel, in the first place, and where would they get the paperwork from?

WILLIAMS: Well we've asked that we be able to expedite that process for them. And I actually was able to participate on a call with President Clinton in which he's been able to assist us with getting attention to this matter. But with that being said, we were told, because we are not an authorized signature or a town or city employee, we would not be able to actually assist the mayors on that level.

COSTELLO: So what is your organization doing to help?

WILLIAMS: Well, what we had done is day one we were just being inundated with calls from our mayors telling us the needs that they had in their communities. After, we personally, as well as mayors, our president, Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, made several calls to heads of state in Washington, D.C., and we were getting no response whatsoever.

We understood then that we needed to take matters into our own hands. So we actually formed the National Conference of Black Mayors Disaster Relief Fund in which we now have mayors on the ground that are members of our organization that have taken truckloads of supplies to these communities, that are helping mayors evacuate these communities and just have been just a blessing and a resource.

We've had mayors, such as John Street, Mayor O'Malley out of Baltimore, Maryland, just that has been a blessing to our membership. Mayor O'Malley, if I may just mention to you, has a caravan of 200 people getting to these cities because he's heard our voice and is trying to help us by bringing fireman and so forth to bring assistance.

COSTELLO: Mayor O'Malley, Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland.

WILLIAMS: That's correct.

COSTELLO: I want to talk about race relations and how they're becoming strained. And I know you've heard what Kanye West said. Friday night there was a fund raiser given by NBC. And on the air, Kanye West, who was a rapper, said this. And I'll allow our viewers to listen.



KANYE WEST, RAPPER: George Bush doesn't care about black people.


COSTELLO: Seems to be a sweeping statement. Do you agree with his statement? Did he go too far?

WILLIAMS: Well, if I may, Dr. King once said that in times where we have great love, you can have great disappointment. And what you're seeing here is that a group of people, a nation of people that have great love for their people. And when they're watching them not receive help and they're watching images that will remind you of third world countries. And you know I've heard many say this is Rwanda here in America. You know that's hurtful.

But I do believe that we, as a people, as a nation, have the ability to bounce back from this. But we have to bring all parties to the table. I mean our organization has been inundated with calls. We've spoken with Mayor Nagin. There's a great deal of frustration that's going on within the African-American community, because their voices are not being heard. So we really just need to make sure that not only the mayors but the key leadership are able to come to the table, to be at the table to address these situations.

COSTELLO: But by making statements like that, doesn't that hurt rather than help?

WILLIAMS: Well you know you really can't -- I would say in some instances it may be looked upon as though it hurts, but that's his truth. You know unfortunately that's the way he feels at this moment. And unfortunately that's the way many of African-Americans feel at this moment. Many of us that are in key leadership feel that way at this moment. And that concern needs to be addressed.

When we're watching us rebuild Iraq and yet we're hearing on television very insensitive statements by key leadership within our government saying that maybe we should not rebuild New Orleans. Well you have a great deal of people who are saying well if we can rebuild third world countries, why can we not rebuild New Orleans?

And so there's a great deal of concern that this is not, and I've communicated this to our membership, as well as to those who we have been able to speak to, that this is not just a black issue, this has become a class issue. This is an issue about poor people and black people and people of color that are getting no representation whatsoever. And therefore we are trying to be that voice. And I just really want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to do that today.

COSTELLO: Any time. Vanessa Williams, Executive Director of the National Conference of Black Mayors, thank you for joining us this morning.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, again. Thank you.

COSTELLO: Donations for hurricane victims are pouring into the American Red Cross. As of Friday, Red Cross officials say they've received nearly $353 million in gifts and pledges. A reminder about how you can help, the American Red Cross can be reached at its Web site, or 1-800-HELP-NOW. A full listing of charities is on our Web site,


COSTELLO: As you might imagine, a lot of college students in New Orleans have had their lives turned upside down. Penn State University's Neal (ph) College of Business wants to help. It's offering free fall tuition to Tulane University students studying for a Master of Business Administration or an MBA. Let's just shorten it.

Tulane students wanting to take advantage of the offer should contact Dennis P. Sheehan, Associate Dean of MBA Programs at Penn State. His phone number is on the screen and you see his e-mail address there as well. So if you're interested, call him, Dean Sheehan.

It's time now to read some e-mail, because we're getting a lot this morning. And we're asking this question, should Katrina victims get the same compensation package as 9/11 victims did -- Jacqui?

JERAS: Well, Carol, this one coming in from Bob Bonki (ph) from Hot Springs, Arkansas. He says not only should victims of Hurricane Katrina get the same compensation as the 9/11 Relief Fund, they should get more because of our government's slow reaction to this terrible disaster.

This from Courtney Davis (ph), it's insane to equate people who were the victims of terrorist to those who chose to live and stay after they were under a mandatory evacuation order.

Christina Wright (ph) from Noble, Oklahoma says, absolutely not. The victims of the 9/11 attacks had no warning and were completely innocent in taking any part of their demise. The residents and mayor of New Orleans were not only aware of the risk just living where they chose, they were warned in advance to leave.

Roger (ph) from Canada says I see no reason why they shouldn't receive that same help that 9/11 victims received, but the fact that most of them are low income people, we can guess that there will be a problem compensating everyone. Let's just hope this disaster doesn't excel racism. They have suffered more than their share. God bless them all.

COSTELLO: Jacqui, thank you.

The next hour of DAYBREAK starts in just a few minutes.