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CNN Larry King Live
Heartbreak in Haiti
Aired January 14, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Good evening.
And welcome to another special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, our continuous round the clock coverage of the tragedy in Haiti.
Our first guest has had quite a day in Port-au-Prince.
We're joined by CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Water Missions International Gupta.
Before we speak with him, though, we want to show you how Water Missions International examined and treated a 15-day old baby after he was approached by the father of the injured child asking for help.
Watch this incredible moment.
KING: OK. I'm sorry. We don't have that video.
Let's check -- what -- what happened -- Water Missions International?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a situation that's playing out over and over again, as you might imagine, in Port-au-Prince. Families, and in this case, it was actually the uncle of a 15-day old baby, walking through the streets, literally with this baby looking for help -- any kind of help. In this case, specifically, they wanted a neurosurgeon to look at this baby, who they were concerned about having had a head injury. And the baby obviously was in a home that was devastated by the earthquake. The mother -- the baby's mother died in that -- in that accident and the father was simply too distraught to be able to leave the home.
So eventually the uncle came, grabbed the baby and started walking the streets -- someone aimlessly looking for help -- and ran into us, Larry, at that point. And they asked for help.
And I was able to look at the child, determine what the injuries were and recommend a -- a course of treatment. And this baby -- a 15- day old baby, I think, is going to be well. But again, as I mentioned, this is a situation that's playing out over and over again.
KING: Water Missions International, what -- what must this be like for you? I don't know -- they don't train you for this in medical school.
How do you handle this?
I know you're a doctor and a reporter, but emotionally?
GUPTA: Well, I'll tell you, this has been one of the -- the most difficult, I think, stories to cover, in part because we're here so quickly and saw just the -- you know, the bodies in the streets and people just completely desperate and feeling so hopeless.
Emotionally, it's tough, I think, in large part, because, you know, I have my own children -- three of my own children. And you see these kids who are hurt, who are injured and who don't seem to have any care that's readily available to them. It makes you think of your own kids. And that's tough.
I think what's especially frustrating, though, is that, as you and I talked about last night, Larry, I -- I'm a doctor first. And I've been able to -- to help a lot of people, I think, today. But the problem is that we don't -- there's not the most basic resources here, Larry, even gauze, bandages, orthopedic equipment, antibiotics, analgesics -- simple pain medication to try and ease someone's suffering, even without the ability to do anything else. Even that's not an option for a lot of these people.
So that part is very, very difficult; very frustrating. And, you know, it makes you -- it makes you a little angry that this is happening -- people are dying who simply shouldn't be dying and wouldn't be dying in most other countries around the world.
KING: One other thing, Water Missions International, how good are the doctors?
GUPTA: How good are the doctors?
Well, you know, if -- if -- they seem very good. They seem very limited. Haiti has one of the lowest doctor to patient ratios anywhere in the world. But I am at this -- this hospital -- one of the few standing still in the Port-au-Prince area. It's a hospital, for sure, except for those lack of resources that I was just mentioning.
Larry, it's dark outside, so I don't know if you can see this. But behind me, this is sort of a makeshift area out here -- sort of an overflow area. But it's also the patients whom the health care teams have said basically, there's nothing we can do for you -- either you're not sick enough or you're simply too sick.
And about every 20 minutes or so, you have a group of family members who start to wail. They start to really become quite agitated because they recognize that their family member has died.
Some of the videos that you're looking at and I'm about to show you is quite disturbing to watch. I'll warn you ahead of time. But this is what's happening to so many of the bodies that we've been talking about -- simply being carried out in tarps like this. Then, in a very undignified way, I think, Larry, being literally dumped into a dump truck. And then that -- that dump truck actually putting the body into another truck, where it is subsequently carted off.
That is the fate, Larry, of so many people -- they estimate tens of thousands of people. They're not being identified beforehand. The family members don't know how to find them. This is the reality of what's happening right now in Port-au-Prince -- Larry.
KING: Dr. Water Missions International Gupta, our chief medical correspondent and practicing neurosurgeon.
Now let's check in with Ivan Watson, a CNN correspondent who's done noble work over the past few days.
Ivan remains at the scene of a young girl who had been trapped in the rubble since the earthquake. Rescuers were able to rescue her in the last hour.
Tell me about all of what happened -- Ivan.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was an 11 girl, Larry, that we stumbled across, much the way Water Missions International did, with just people coming up and asking for help. In this case, it was a mother who said, "I'm by myself, I have one girl and she's stuck and there's nobody to help. Brother, please help me."
And we -- and we went to take a look. And, in fact, this 11- year-old girl, Anaye Kaisan Louis (ph), she was caught underneath the rubble of a house, amid the bodies of an estimated 30 other people who did not survive the quake, in the immediate surroundings in that same building.
And this girl was talking to us. She was screaming in pain and in fear. Her right leg was trapped. And we learned that shortly after 6:00 p.m. local time, finally, after hours -- two days of efforts, they were able to find a small generator to run a small electric powered saw, which was needed to cut through a metal beam to release this young girl.
And now she's -- they're looking for medical care for this girl. And as Water Missions International mentioned, that is another huge hurdle in a place where the medical system is simply overwhelmed by the enormous number of casualties and victims here -- Larry.
KING: Ivan, it seems insurmountable.
The problems seem -- are they solvable?
Is this going -- is this going to iron out ever?
WATSON: Well, you know, I think the city is still reeling. But now we're starting to hear about the first aid workers arriving. And the first shipments of aid are starting to come in.
But the fact is, is that the state here, which was weak to begin with. The Haitian government was crippled by this earthquake. A number of ministries collapsed. We talked to a police officer -- a police commander who described to us how not only had the prison broken open, but -- allowing a lot of dangerous inmates to leave. And some of them, he said, had attacked some of his own police officers today.
But in addition to that, he had two wounded men that he wanted treatment for and he didn't know where to take them, because the hospitals are so overloaded.
Now, we are hearing that rescue workers are starting to come in. We saw teams from the U.S., from Chile, from France working at one location. We know more material is coming in. And it's probably going to get better in the days to come. But, boy, these first 48 hours have just been brutal and really heartbreaking to see the Haitians in this state.
KING: That's Ivan Watson on the scene, doing noble work.
As we continue our coverage -- thanks, Ivan.
As we continue our coverage, we'll be back with more -- an incredible story of the young lady we're going to meet. She's in Miami now. She lost her leg in the earthquake in Haiti.
Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now in Miami is Christina Brelsford, a graduate student at Arizona State University, teaching adult literacy in Haiti, trapped after the house she was staying in collapsed on -- on her. She was brought to Miami last night for treatment. Part of her leg was amputated.
She's at the famed University of Miami Jackson Memorial Medical Center.
How are you doing, Christa?
CHRISTA BRELSFORD, TEACHER IN HAITI: I'm doing really well, all things considered.
KING: What part of the leg was removed?
BRELSFORD: They -- my -- my leg was caught between a cement staircase and a -- and a concrete roof that fell on top of it. So the -- the shinbone was clean broken through. So I think they said there's about six inches of bone left below my knee. I'm having surgery again tomorrow...
KING: How were you...
BRELSFORD: ...and they hope that they'll be able to keep most of that.
KING: How are you dealing with it emotionally?
BRELSFORD: I'm so thankful that I'm alive -- that one foot is a pretty small price to pay. I've got two arms that work and another -- and one good leg. And that's -- that's a lot more than a lot of people.
KING: I understand your brother and some friends, it took them 90 minutes to dig you out. Tell me what happened.
BRELSFORD: Yes. My brother, Julian, he ran down the stairs before me and so he wasn't hurt. I slipped while I was going down the stairs. And they got my right leg, which was the one that was badly damaged, uncovered first. And I was able to turn around and see for the first time that it had been basically already amputated. It was still hanging on by a little bit of stuff.
And Julian put a tourniquet on, out of electrical cord. And then it took them probably another hour to -- to dig me out -- to dig out my other leg, because both the wall and the roof had collapsed on top of that. So they had to find a pick ax in order to break up the slab so that they could lift it and get me out.
KING: How bad was the pain?
BRELSFORD: It was kind of so bad you don't count. I was just trying to not panic and stay positive.
KING: Did they treat you well in Haiti?
BRELSFORD: I -- I am incredibly lucky. I was so well treated. Our host, Gerald, had a motorcycle in the courtyard of the house we were in that -- he drove me three kilometers down the road to the Sri Lanka military base, where I did spend the night on the grass. But in the morning, they brought me into their gatehouse and I got fed tea and biscuits and coffee. And I was -- I was as well cared for as -- as could be. There's -- there weren't the medical resources that I need, but everything that they had, they -- they helped me with. Everything that they could do, they helped me with.
KING: How did they get you to Miami?
BRELSFORD: I -- from the Sri Lankan -- it's a U.N. Peace Corps -- it's not Peace Corps -- a U.N. peacekeeping mission. They -- a -- a U.S. Army helicopter -- a U.S. Army ambulance drove me the hour from Raogan (ph), where we were, to Port-au-Prince, where then I was put on a private jet with a number -- with, I think, seven other wounded American citizens. And we flew quickly to Miami, where we were brought here.
KING: In view of all of this, do you plan to go back to Haiti?
BRELSFORD: Several people have asked me and I -- I -- I don't quite yet have an answer. I do -- I do want to be sure that the people of Haiti get the help that they need, because the sanitation conditions there are really terrible and they need -- they need all the medical assistance they can get. And they need not only to be dependent on -- on immediate aid right now, but they also need to build into this a future economy where they're not as dependent on aid.
KING: Boy, I wish you the best.
What are you majoring in?
BRELSFORD: I'm studying sustainability.
KING: Perfect topic.
BRELSFORD: Yes. I -- I think there's a lot to be learned about it from my -- my recent experience.
KING: Good luck, Christa.
BRELSFORD: Thank you.
KING: And we want to thank the cooperation of the folks at the University of Miami Jackson Memorial Medical Center, a very famed institution I know quite well.
We'll check in with Anderson Cooper on the ground in Haiti, when we come back.
KING: The State Department is trying to confirm the number of Americans who were killed in the earthquake. They tell us tonight one of their own has died, Victoria J. DeLong was the State Department's cultural affairs officer in Port-au-Prince. And they credit her with advancing the partnership between the United States and Haiti and promoting peace. And we extend our condolences to her family.
Let's check in with the yeoman-like Anderson Cooper, on duty, of course, in Port-au-Prince -- you Tweeted today, Anderson, that the camera lens is too small to capture what's really going on.
Can you elaborate?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is, Larry. Let me just tell you what the noise is behind me. There's a group of about 100 men chanting and sort of running through the streets. It's the kind of thing you see a lot here in the last 24 hours -- people kind of trying to rally their own spirits, singing songs, singing psalms, praying out loud in large groups in the park. So that's the noise you hear behind me. It's almost sort of a parade-like atmosphere. It's -- it's in stark contrast to what we have seen all throughout the day.
And, yes, what I said -- you know, this isn't a story. This isn't just some story you go to and you kind of package. This is something happening around the clock. This is an event -- a historic event that is occurring in real time, 24 hours a day, just around the clock. It's -- it's -- it's a complete -- it's an extraordinary experience just to be here.
And I think the camera lens is too small to capture all that's going on. And that's why we have correspondents all throughout Port- au-Prince, trying to have as many cameras at as many different locations, as many eyes just trying to report this story, because what's happening here is extraordinary.
You just talked to that young woman whose leg was -- was virtually amputated in the earthquake. There are so many people who are struggling and who are still struggling, who right now are still trapped underneath the rubble and may still be alive. There is still hope here and there's so much sorrow and struggle. And people here just want the world to know what is happening.
KING: Now, how do you circumvent -- how do you know where you're going to go each day or where you're going to go in your two hour segment at the top of the hour?
Do you stay firm or do you move around?
COOPER: To be honest, you don't know where you're going to go every day. And all -- you wake up and you step out the door and -- and there are things happening all around you.
It's just a question of, you know, do you turn left or do you turn right?
Do you -- do you point the camera, you know, up or do you point it down?
I had planned to -- to go to one part of -- of Port-au-Prince today. And on driving there, I came across a family who had a casket that they were -- that was on top of a wheelbarrow that they were pushing through the streets, trying to get to the cemetery. They'd spent all their money on this casket. They didn't have money to bury their daughter, Bridgette (ph), who was 28 years old, who was a journalist who died while teaching a class.
And -- and I decided, you know what, forget about where we're going, we're just going to follow this family. And so we followed them to the cemetery.
And the scene at the cemetery, Larry, is -- I mean the pictures will tell the story tonight at 10:00. But there were bodies piled up in a pile. People who couldn't afford caskets were just -- had brought bodies there. And they were just literally dumped in a pile. And -- and at first when you looked at it, you couldn't tell what you were looking at. But -- but they were bodies. They were little children. They were women. They were men.
And -- and they don't bury people in the ground here, they put them in crypts like in New Orleans. And they were opening up old crypts and just shoving as many corpses -- as many bodies into the crypts as possible and then just trying to reseal them. I saw at least four people being shoved into an old crypt. It looked like a 50 to 60-year-old crypt. And then they just resealed it. So the -- the cemeteries are overwhelmed. The hospitals are overwhelmed. The clinics are overwhelmed.
KING: You don't get immune to this, do you?
COOPER: Never. I mean, I hope never to. I mean, if you're -- if you get immune to it, you have no business being here.
KING: Anderson, we'll look for you at the top of the hour.
COOPER: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Anderson Cooper.
For the up to the minute information about the disaster in Haiti, go to CNN.com/larryking. And can follow CNN reporters on the ground around the clock and link to their Twitter accounts.
Back after this.
KING: Basketball fans know Samuel Dalembert of the Philadelphia 76ers. Samuel was born in Port-au-Prince, immigrated to Canada when he was 14. He made many trips with UNICEF to Haiti to lead relief efforts to children. He's personally given $100,000 to the effort. He's got family in Haiti -- a father, two siblings, lots of friends and relatives.
How are you handling this, Samuel?
SAMUEL DALEMBERT, BORN IN HAITI, HAS FAMILY THERE: It's been tough. You know, as you can see, on TV, you know, the tragedy the people are going through, the children. And, you know and still praying for hope and, you know, people are praying for their life.
KING: Have you been in touch with your relatives?
DALEMBERT: Oh, yes. I was able to get in touch three hours after the incident by -- through e-mail. You know, I was able to talk to, you know, my parents -- my dad over there and the other loved ones. So, you know, a lot of them are safe, a couple missing, a couple injuries. But, thank God, you know, a lot of them are still alive.
KING: Last year, Haiti was hammered by three hurricanes and a tropical storm. You went there last August.
You could never have expected an earthquake, did you?
DALEMBERT: Never. Never. You know, not -- not -- not something soon, you know, and that -- not this magnitude. It's -- it's -- it's very unexpected. You know, it's -- it's very tough on all of us, you know?
Last month I went over there and -- we was just started to get (INAUDIBLE) a little bit and people were kind of trying to get their life back to normal, you know. And I was looking forward to -- to start doing stuff with -- for the children over there and create an opportunity, you know, with UNICEF and, you know, Medi-Share. But, you know, I didn't ever expect something like this would happen like that.
KING: Are you going to get the chance to go down?
DALEMBERT: Yes. I'm looking -- I'm looking to -- to go down pretty soon, in the next few days or so. Hopefully, I'll get some times off, you know -- you know, from practice or -- and get there real quick and kind of distribute some -- some of the stuff I'll be giving. I just quickly had to make a donation to help out real quick in the need. And there's going to be more coming out and more donations coming from my part to different organizations and help out as soon as possible and -- and hopefully help stabilize the situation.
KING: The team would understand if you missed a game or two, wouldn't they?
DALEMBERT: Yes. You know, I -- it's -- it's been a tough year for us. And, you know, I want to be there for them. You know, I know the situation is a crucial situation. But I don't think they would -- they would mind. But, you know. I'm trying to do my best. You know, since it's not too far from...
DALEMBERT: ...from Philly and try to make it there.
KING: You said that Haitians are tough at heart and deal with things as best they can.
KING: It's tough to be a Haitian, isn't it?
DALEMBERT: It is. All their life, you know, you can -- you can read the history of our life. And, you know, we fought, you know, our heart out. You know, we have our independence for over 200 years. You know, ever since then, you know, things have been going tough for us. And, you know, we keep -- we keep smiling and through misery, we keep making fun of a situation that nobody, you know, other places will -- would dare making fun of.
But that's who we are, you know?
And we're tough people. We're appreciative people. We're lovable people, hardworking people. And for whatever reason, you know, we're going through all these disasters. And, you know, we keep on praying and going. We're a spiritual people, too, so.
KING: Do you expect, Samuel, the NBA to help?
DALEMBERT: Yes. They're doing everything in -- everything in their power to help out, through the media and to all the organizations and facilitating, you know, accessibility for me. You know, they're doing everything on their hands.
My teammates, you know, the teams and my loved ones around me are helping out and -- and doing everything they can. So everybody is pulling together here. And we're not -- we're not -- we're not going to -- we're not going to give up and we're going to keep trying...
DALEMBERT: ...and we're going to do everything in our -- in our power.
KING: Thank you, Samuel.
Samuel Dalembert of the Philadelphia 76ers.
DALEMBERT: Thank you.
KING: A native of Haiti.
Back with more after this.
KING: Welcome back to another special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." CNN has just received a public service announcement recorded by Michelle Obama, encouraging Americans to support Haitian relief efforts. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: The images from Haiti are heartbreaking. Homes, hospitals, and schools destroyed; families searching for loved ones; parents trying to feed their children. But we can all do something. We can help the American Red Cross as it delivers the food, water and medicine that can save lives.
Donate 10 dollars by texting Haiti to 90999. Visit RedCross.org or call 1-800-Red-Cross. Thanks for your help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's meet Dave Toycen. He's in Port-Au-Prince. Dave is a relief expert with World Vision, a 35-year veteran of experience in disaster response. He worked with the tsunami in Asia, the earthquake in China. He just arrived today.
You've been doing this for a long time. How does this compare to things you've seen in the past?
DAVE TOYCEN, WORLD VISION: Larry, once again, every one of these disasters has its own personality. I have to say seeing the destruction here today -- we're especially concerned about children. And I think the common view or the view that certainly I share is that we just need more help. We don't have enough water. We don't have enough medical supplies. We don't have enough blankets. There are people that just aren't getting the help they need. And it's just not acceptable.
KING: Why is it so hard getting supplies in?
TOYCEN: First of all, because of the -- just the situation in the country to begin with. There isn't a lot of residual supplies here anyway. Then it's just the inability really to get them here fast enough. There's capacity issues at the airport. Of course, there continues to be challenges with the broken infrastructure that affects even our distribution here.
I have to say, right now, it's more an issue of getting it here so that it's available now, not two weeks from now or three weeks from now.
KING: You, I understand, have sponsored a child in Haiti. So you have a bond with this personally. How is it affecting you?
TOYCEN: Well, I -- fortunately my sponsored child, she's now 17 years old -- she's a teenager -- is not here. But you don't need much of an imagination when I see some of the children that I've seen today. The worst situation is coming by and seeing a child that's dead, lying along the roadside. It's really difficult in our world to see that happening today.
Yet I have to say, because I do sponsor a child in Haiti, I have a sense for their hope for the future, and even in the tough times here right now, there's no question that children as well as adults haven't given up. And they're determined to look after their families and somehow come through this.
KING: You're a relief expert with World Vision. What do you physically do, yourself?
TOYCEN: Well, I'm really here more in a communications role. That's my background. That's my task. I'm responsible to report back to our constituency as to how the relief is taking place. Is it being done well? Are we satisfied as an organization that we're exercising good stewardship? And I'm here also representing particularly the offices that provide the funding on the private side, as well as the government connections, too.
KING: How are the survivors doing?
TOYCEN: Well, it's interesting. I was talking to one of our senior staff -- and this, to me, was a really poignant moment. He said to me, I have been a helper, and this is the first time I've been a victim as well. And he was talks about the trauma and just the anxiety that brought to his experience, that even though he's a Haitian and has lived her all his life, this has been a new experience to him.
I think we see elements of that, most people that you talk to. They feel -- they feel this, even if they weren't particularly affected directly themselves. They still feel like they've been victimized by this earthquake. KING: I asked Anderson about immunity to this. He said if you have immunity, you don't belong there. You've dealt with this 35 years. Does it ever get to be, you know -- I don't want to say old hat -- is it another day or is every experience more emotional than the next?
TOYCEN: I have to say, if I get to that point, then I really think it's time for me to quit. Every one of these touches you. Today, I was at a local hospital where our volunteers were distributing medical supplies and nursing wounds of people that had been injured. I was watching them. And then to the side, a man brought up a skeletal 10-year-old child that was hardly alive. Obviously, this had happened even before the earthquake. Then on the street was a man carrying a casket, a family grieving.
Then there were two men walking down the street, one leaning on the other and just weeping profusely. Then I looked off to the left and there was a dying young woman. She had died and was laying along the street. That's both the -- a hospital should be a place of healing, but it's also a place of despair. That's the combination that we have in Haiti right now.
KING: Thanks, Dave, Dave Toycen, relief expert with World Vision. Haitians have nothing left and nowhere to turn, but for us. Join us for a powerhouse LARRY KING LIVE as we reach across the globe to aid the people of Haiti. In just an hour, we can reach billions and help heal the heartbreak. We want you to take part Monday night at 9:00 Eastern. We'll be here all weekend with regular LARRY KING LIVE. But this Monday night, we need you to take part, because you can help. Tell your neighbors and friends, this Monday night especially, 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.
Back after this.
KING: The top State Department official dealing with us will be with us shortly. We'll meet him in a couple minutes. Susan Candiotti is standing by in Port-Au-Prince. She was at the scene of a collapsed building with a man trapped inside as rescuers struggled to free him. What happened, Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: well, what happened was this. This is a 21-year-old man in a school building. He had been there for 46 hours. And people were using anything they could find -- for example, in this case, a chisel and a blow torch -- to try to free him. One of his legs was stuck and one of his hands was stuck also.
And finally what happened was this. You know, in this profession, we learn a new term, if we're lucky, every day. This time, I learned the word homvete (ph). Homvete in Haiti, in Creole, means people working together for a common goal. In this case, they got an assembly line together, and they were doing different tasks to try to free the man. Among them, taking buckets of water, because they were taking a blow torch to free his hand and they were having to burn his skin to free him from the rebar. You could hear him screaming in agony. So they were dumping water on him every once in a while to try to ease his pain.
In fact, in the end, they got him out. And just before they did and before he was suffering from pain, we were able to get a microphone up to him and he took it through the small crawl space. They fed the line to him and I asked, what's going through your mind before they used the blow torch? He said, I just pray to god that he will save my life.
And in the end they were able to free him and got him out of there. Larry?
KING: What was that like for you?
CANDIOTTI: I couldn't imagine how they were going to get him out of there. This building was about to crush him, and rocks were starting to fall. We had to run back a few times, yet the people stayed underneath there. I was frightened. I didn't think he was going to make it. I couldn't see how they could possibly do it. After so many hours, they pulled it off, with just a few simple tools. It was amazing.
KING: We keep hearing about these Haitians. What can you tell us about them as a people?
CANDIOTTI: As a people, they're a very proud people. Some of the friendliest, nicest people that I've ever met anywhere. Because they have so little to begin with, a majority of them -- the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and yet you see --
Here's an example of what you see. People who have no food these days, unless they've saved something behind before this disaster struck. Yet, with a bottle of water, I saw a mother today take that bottle of water -- she stripped her children from their clothes and gingerly used the bottle of water to cleanse them gently with her hands, as they stood there naked. Then they put their dirty clothes back on again.
But this is the care they take of each other, of their families. What they're doing to try to help each other out of this disaster until more professional help allows them that. They will recover from this eventually. They've been down before. I'm sure they'll come back. It won't be easy.
KING: You're a veteran of the tropics, Havana, Miami. You certainly could never have expected an earthquake.
CANDIOTTI: That's for sure. Certainly in Central America I have covered them before, but this time I -- you just -- so many landmarks have been lost here, and so many homes, that it is just an incredible sight to behold, and how people are teeming out in the streets. And yet, so far, they are remaining calm throughout. As you said, this party will be going on all night. People are afraid to go back home, certainly, so they're trying to make the very best of it. KING: Thank you, Susan Candiotti. Terrific work on the scene in Port-Au-Prince. We're going to talk to the new director of USAid. He's in charge of coordinating American relief response to this disaster. He's the man in charge. What are they up against? You're going to find out right after the break.
KING: We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, this special edition, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. That's USAid. He's at the State Department. He's met frequently, in fact, today with the president of the United States. Dr. Shah, what's the status, the current status of our efforts in Haiti?
DR. RAJIV SHAH, DIRECTOR, USAID: Well, Larry, thanks for having me. I think, first, it's worth just saying that, you know, our hearts and our prayers are with the people of Haiti. This has been a tremendous tragedy. And, of course, you and the network have been covering it very closely. But this is really a tragedy of tremendous proportions. Clearly the worst earthquake to hit there in 200 years. And it has created a vast amount of devastation and loss of human life in Port-Au-Prince and throughout Haiti.
So we are working aggressively to try and address the needs and try to save lives while we still can in this early response period. I'm happy to describe a number of things we're doing. But this is really a tremendous catastrophe.
KING: Our role, would you put it on a scale of 10 at 10?
SHAH: Well, you know, the president has been very clear that we should focus in this early period on saving lives, and that we should take a swift and coordinated and aggressive action, using really all of the resources across the federal government. The cabinet and the rest of the federal government has responded as such.
We've set up an operations center at the US Agency For International Development. We have an Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance that has been doing this work for decades. This really has been an unprecedented amount of cooperation and response from a number of our partners.
So, you know, we're working toward a 10. But no, there's always a lot to do. The needs on the ground are going to far outstrip any capacity to provide support to the people who have lost life. But the president asked us to be swift and aggressive, and we are trying to do that the best we can.
KING: Yesterday, former General Russel Honore, who was in charge of Katrina, says he thinks the US military should be in charge. What do you think?
SHAH: Well, we're working very closely with the military and FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and a number of other agencies in the federal government. It's a close partnership. For example, we wanted to stand up and get urban search and rescue teams on the ground as quickly as possible. We had two teams at USAid ready to go. These are 72-person teams from Fairfax County, Virginia and from Los Angeles, California, and we got them in. We've been working with FEMA to stand up six additional teams. Much of the transport and logistics has been provided by the United States Southern Command and the other military and Coast Guard assets that are being deployed to do that.
So we're working together as a team, in order to achieve the outcome which, in this early period, is to save lives and is quickly becoming a large-scale relief operation, where we'll be setting up a commodity transport system, with the military, in order to make sure that the Haitian public has access to water, to food, to basic medical services, and to some of the other things they need, like blankets and tarps, to meet their basic needs right now.
So this has been a tremendous catastrophe, but we're responding and We're working very closely with the military.
KING: Dr, doesn't somebody or some thing or some entity have to be in charge?
SHAH: Oh, of course. And in this situation the US Agency for International Development is leading the response. We're doing that with a lot of participation from every agency across the federal government, and we're doing that actively. So that's exactly what we're doing. It's exactly what you'll see unfold over the coming days and weeks and, frankly, over a pretty long time horizon.
We have a long-term commitment to Haiti. Haiti is close to us. It is a country where we've had a long relationship. We've invested significant resources in the Haitian people. Our commitment to the Haitian people extends over a significant period of time.
KING: We shall stay in constant touch with you. Thank you, Dr. Shah.
SHAH: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of USAid. Back with more after this.
KING: Back to Port-Au-Prince and the Doctor Liviu Vedrasco of the International Medical Corps. What is that, doctor? What is the International Medical Corps?
DR. LIVIU VEDRASCO, INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS: They said the interview is finished.
KING: Doctor, do you hear me?
VEDRASCO: Communication. KING: Doctor doesn't hear me. We made a bad connection. Robert Foster is in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His 13-year-old son, Andrew Foster, has been missing in Haiti. We're happy to report he's been found. He's with his uncle. They were on a business trip, planned to go scuba diving. Robert, wasn't he supposed to be in school?
ROBERT FOSTER, SON IN HAITI: Yeah. We decided to give him a break, you know, traveling with his uncle, trip of a lifetime and everything. We thought he could afford a few days off. And it obviously was just that, trip of a lifetime, trip of a lifetime.
KING: What was his uncle doing there?
FOSTER: Actually it's my wife's aunt and uncle. They've owned a property therefor many years and been going to Haiti for about 38 years. He's a retired dentist, had a private practice in new York. She's a retired registered nurse. They have been doing humanitarian work there for many years, and just fell in love with the culture and the people, and decided to buy property and stay and been going ever since.
But, you know, over the years, the home has just gotten a bit much to deal with. So they decided they would sell it and that was their business down there this trip, to close on the property and for Mike to share a few things with Andrew, you know, on what was supposed to be Mike's last trip.
KING: Now, as I understand it, you were on CNN talking about Andrew and was trying to get in touch with him, and Andrew saw you and found a way to reach you. How did that happen?
FOSTER: My wife actually took the call. As it turns out, they found their way to a place called Visa Lodge, which apparently is north of the airport there, and were sitting there with some folks, and got the TV working somehow, and there it was, the story on CNN. I guess the guys who were there with Andrew and Michael just obviously saw the kid sitting right there next to him was on TV, and somebody found a satellite phone and it happened to work. And they --
KING: Congratulation, Robert. What a relief.
FOSTER: I can't tell you.
KING: Oh, boy. We can check in with Port-Au-Prince, with the Doctor Liviu Vedrasco, who I think can hear us now. He arrived in Haiti yesterday. He's with the international medical corps.
VEDRASCO: I can hear you well.
KING: What is the International Medical Corps?
VEDRASCO: International Medical Corps is a relief organization working for over 25 years around the world, providing emergency medical relief, as well as training during the emergency phases, as well as post-disaster.
KING: Where are you personally based?
VEDRASCO: We are personally based right now at the Vila Creole (ph), around Vila Creole. We might change our base. We arrived about 24, 26 hours ago. We have been treating patients right in front of the Vila Creole Hotel, which we made into a makeshift hospital. Majority of patients are with fractures, open fractures, fractures of skull, as well as already starting some infections.
We've been treating them with the supplies we brought in with us. We have other doctors coming from Dominican Republic. We hope to be in full force tomorrow. We have talked to one of the main hospitals here. The hospital director is very welcoming us to establish a base at the central hospital, central university hospital, right in front of the presidential palace, which used to be a 700-bed hospital, but right now it's almost not functioning. It's only some beds established on the premises, but none of the buildings are functional.
So we're trying to establish a base there, bring more doctors, bring more supplies and start treating patients.
KING: How many doctors are with you?
VEDRASCO: I have a team of three right now, and 12 more are coming on their way. We also are partnering with other local groups here, so we have more people helping us. We're trying to coordinate, obviously. We have a large number of players on the ground. And that's difficult, but that's paramount important.
KING: Are the Haitian medical people being of a lot of help?
VEDRASCO: Yes. They're trying to be of help, but, as I said, in this 700-bed hospital, there are only four doctors today, four doctors. One, the medical director, and a couple of other doctors. They also suffered from this disaster. They're looking for their families. They're not able to come to work. Some of them probably are dead. So we'll have to -- when we establish base here, we'll have to also train doctors, train nurses as we go along.
KING: I salute you, Doctor Vedrasco, you and yours and all the work they're doing with the International Medical Corps. We'll be keeping in touch.
CNN, as you know, has been covering this thoroughly around the clock. I don't think you'll get better coverage anywhere. We want to remind you that we'll be with you throughout the weekend. And on Monday night, a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We're calling on you and people around the world to kick in and help. It's going to be a major presentation Monday night.
Right now, Anderson Cooper, yeoman like as ever, and "AC 360." Anderson?