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American Morning

President Bush Heads to Gulf Coast; State of Emergency

Aired September 02, 2005 - 09:02   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're looking at some live pictures of President Bush as he makes his way -- of course he is with the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, next to him. He's making his way to his helicopter.
From there, he's going to get on Air Force One. He's heading today to the Gulf Coast to survey damage, some on land, and also aerially.

Let's listen to his remarks before he heads off.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... Secretary Rumsfeld, General Myers, other members of my cabinet, as well as General Honore, Admiral Keating, who's in charge of Northcom -- General Honore, who's our active duty general on the ground in Louisiana, as well -- and Mike Brown, who's the head of FEMA.

There's a lot of aid surging toward those who have been affected -- millions of gallons of water, millions of tons of food. Making progress by pulling people out of the Superdome.

There's an issue right now at the convention center in New Orleans that General Honore briefed us on. Trying to get food and medicine to the convention center. Working with the governor and the (INAUDIBLE) general and the mayor to deploy 600 of the newly-arrived MPs to a secure the site so that the food and medicine and water can get in there.

A lot of people working hard to help those who have been affected. And I want to thank the people for their efforts.

The results are not acceptable. I'm headed down there right now. I'm looking forward to talking to the people on the ground.

I want to assure the people of the affected areas and this country that we'll deploy the assets necessary and get the situation under control to get the help to the people who have been affected, and that we're beginning long-term planning to help those who have been displaced, as well as long-term planning to help rebuild the communities that have been affected.

I'm looking forward to my trip down there. And looking forward to thanking those on the ground, and looking forward to assure people that we'll get on top of this situation and we're going to help people who need help. Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush making some brief remarks as he leaves the White House. He is heading for the Gulf Coast region, obviously just devastated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which took place, of course, on Monday.

We heard the president say that he is looking forward to thanking some of the people on the ground, and also to making assurances to people that help is on its way. The White House clearly and other federal agencies also very severely criticized for what has been perceived to be an incredible slow pace of goods getting to those people. The president also said that there are efforts under way right now to help the people who are at the convention center.

And you're also looking at these pictures, the fire that appears, as far as I can tell, Chris Lawrence, who is in New Orleans, that there is no -- no firefighters on top of this fire. I haven't seen any trucks. I haven't seen any people trying to battle this fire.

What's the status of this? Do you know, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now I can tell you there is a plume of black smoke, almost like a black rainbow, you know, cutting through what's otherwise a clear day here in New Orleans, cutting almost like a black rainbow over parts of downtown from this fire. You can see an incredible amount of smoke.

The thing about the firefighters is, you know, there's no water pressure here. We're told they can pump water directly from the Mississippi. And as of about half-hour, 45 minutes ago, I know they were assembling a HazMat team and trying to move that team in with a group of people to assess the situation. Again, you've got some security concerns on the ground, which may make things a little more difficult than in a normal situation.

One officer was overcome by some of the sulfur fumes, but we're told she is OK now. And at least initially, police tell us that they have been in contact with the building's owner, who says there are no hazardous materials in there. Again, hard to verify things at this point with communication being what it is here. But I can tell you, you know, we've seen a lot of helicopters buzzing the area, and we are told that a team at least has been assembled and is planning to be at that site very soon -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: And as we've been talking to you, Chris, we've been looking at pictures of this fire, and we've also been seeing some of the shots of these homes, which it's easy to forget that they're still under water. I mean, there are still people who are being rescued out of the roofs of their homes, or are trapped, as the mayor described in a radio interview he did, in water up to their necks, being cut out of their homes. I mean, there is a lot happening on a lot of fronts.

Chris Lawrence, we're going to continue to check in with you. Of course he's live for us in New Orleans.

Deb Feyerick is live outside the emergency operation center in Baton Rouge.

Deb, good morning to you. I know you spoke to an officer about the situation in the city. What did he tell you?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, he described a horrible situation within the city. He had spent 60 straight hours there. He said, "It is a war zone, and the federal government is not treating it like one."

He described groups of gunmen riding around on trucks. And he compared it to Somalia, saying they were firing at police officers using rifles and AK-47s.

He said he saw bodies riddled with bullet holes. The top of one man's head completely shot off. And a sergeant said, "No one is coming to help."

The police officers have been working five to six days straight without sleep. When darkness comes, the police hide and simply try to ride out the night.

The police are not getting supplies. They're not getting re- enforcements. He said they are having to steal trucks and siphon off gas just to get around.

The sergeant telling me, "If this were a terrorist attack, we would all be dead." And then he broke down in tears, saying he had to pass by other police officers who had drowned doing their jobs.

So the situation inside the city of New Orleans very, very desperate indeed. The fatigue on the police department clearly showing through. They are waiting for help and, again, in his words, "Nobody is coming" -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Almost nothing more disturbing than hearing the mayor of New Orleans say, "I need re-enforcements, I need troops." A mayor of a major American city begging for help on the air, as he says he doesn't see any military presence, which has now been promised, if you heard the president's remarks on the White House lawn, and are on their way.

Deb Feyerick for us. Deb, thanks.

Well, the Houston Astrodome is a temporary escape for evacuees. Let's talk to Miles O'Brien about what's happening there.

Miles, good morning again.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning again, Soledad.

We're here at the international airport here in New Orleans. And it's -- just take a look at the scene behind me. This is just a small piece of -- this airport is just filled with people who need medical attention in one fashion or another.

Either they've been injured in the storm, or they're elderly and infirm and were sick and in nursing homes or in hospitals. Couldn't get out of New Orleans prior to Katrina's arrival. And now they're coming here.

They're being evaluated by medical personnel who are just overwhelmed by what they have here and moved on other medical centers. It's a logistical operation. It's an operation that -- where they're doing their best to try to create some sort of organization out of what is clearly a scene of chaos.

Now, this whole evacuation scenario that we've been talking about, taking aside those in need of medical care, has been a story of domes, Superdome to Astrodome. And we've been telling you a lot about the effort to get those buses rolling and how long it will take to get those tens of thousands who are at the Superdome to the Astrodome.

People of Houston have opened their doors there, but it turns out there's a little bit of an asterisk to that promise. Sean Callebs is in Houston now at the Astrodome with word on changing rules, if you will, on how many people they will allow inside -- Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, that's a pretty fair assessment of exactly what happened. We were here about midnight Eastern Time last night when it actually happened.

The Astrodome, we have some pictures that were taken late last night. You can just see, it is filled. The entire ground level is completely filled with cots.

Now, some people had actually moved the cots to get perhaps a little bit more space, but without question, we have heard people say they are packed in like sardines there. The temperature was rising, both the air temperature, as well as temperature last night.

Now, around midnight Eastern Time, some buses rolled in. They were stopped by police. They were told that the fire marshal here in Houston said that no more evacuees could be brought to the Astrodome. It was simply overburdened. It would not be safe.

At that point, those bus drivers were told they had to go to other cities, either Dallas, San Antonio, or the city of Huntsville, Texas. Well, the bus drivers said, "We are commercial drivers. We have a limit on how many hours we can drive. We can't go any further tonight."

Very tense situation.

Well, they have been allowed -- and we have some pictures here to show you exactly what it looks like. There's a group of buses down in front of the Reliant Arena, and there are more than 2,000 people in there right now.

It is going to be an extremely short-term holding area. The folks at the Red Cross, FEMA here, tell us in only about 36 hours, perhaps a chance to get a warm meal, perhaps a shower, maybe not, some rest, and then they're going to be loaded up and taken to one of those three cities. And really, the stories that we are hearing both from people who had to live through the hurricane in the Superdome and just what they've had to endure over the past few days, are simply mind- boggling. We have talked to two couples. Both have newborns. The infant's in the hospital and the couple -- the mother had been released from the hospital and is -- they got separated from their newborns.

We know one has been reunited, but one still has no idea where their newborn child is. Imagine that -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Unbelievable story. This -- we've heard this time and again, Sean. It's just hard to imagine giving birth and being split apart from your newborn child. But just a story that is unfortunately being repeated. We just heard a nurse here talk about a very similar story.

Sean Callebs in Houston. Thank you very much.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in the midst of this -- the medical component of this story, of course. He's at Charity Hospital in the heart of New Orleans, where the situation is pretty dire.

Sanjay, first of all, bring us up to date right now on where things stand as far as evacuations there.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No evacuations from last night so far this morning. They were told that they would start up this morning. They have not started as of yet.

So the doctors and the nurses and the health care team have all been trying to prepare these patients to get them ready to be evacuated. But that has not started yet -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Sanjay, after we spoke, I talked to one of the doctors here. And he said they are capable here of receiving ventilator patients. And when we spoke it was the impression that Charity Hospital, that they were not. There's obviously a lot of communication breakdown here.

GUPTA: Yes. You know, it's interesting. And the way that I actually ended up getting here sort of confirms some of this.

I was in Baton Rouge, Miles, and a helicopter landed. And I want over to just talk to the folks on the helicopter, the medical staff. And I said, "What happened?" You know, "Where are you guys coming from?"

They said, "Well, we picked patients up at Charity Hospital and we went to the New Orleans airport and were flat waved off." This was yesterday, and told that they could not take my patients who were on ventilators at that time, at least as of yesterday.

As you know, Miles, being out there, it is a very fluid situation. It may have changed over the last day. And that would be a very good thing for the patients that are here still today. But as I mentioned earlier, Miles, it was just a complete disaster in so many ways yesterday. They had -- Miles, they took these patients, they had to take them out of the hospitals, completely flooded on the roads. They took them by these modified canoes over to the parking deck, carried them, physically carried these patients up eight flights of stairs onto the landing zone and then finally into the helicopters when they landed, and then waved off at the New Orleans airport.

It was extremely, extremely frustrating day for a lot of these folks.

M. O'BRIEN: And Sanjay, one final point. One of the big complaints here is that these patients are arriving without their medical files. And they spend a tremendous amount of time just forensically trying to figure out what's wrong with them.

Are the files destroyed in many cases, or are they making an effort to send these patients with their files?

GUPTA: Well, it's very hard to say. And, you know, admittedly, it's probably low down on the priority list.

A couple things to keep in mind. A lot of files are stored in the basements of hospitals. And the basements were flooded. So it may be just difficult to actually get the files to go with the patients.

They're trying to do a lot of medical history, send the patients with at least a three-day supply of medication as well, sometimes taped to their bed. Something like that as well.

But it's -- admittedly, just being here now, sort of looking at what they're calling the need to practice third-world medicine, admittedly, the files and medical files are falling lower down on the priority list -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Understandable. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much.

He's at Charity Hospital, and not sure when he's going to get back. He's trying to find a lift. Maybe we can arrange something here.

As a matter of fact, maybe our next guest could help out Sanjay Gupta if he needs to get out of there. He's in charge of the airlift operation here, an incredible choreographed operation that is really taxing the limits of his capabilities.

We'll talk to him about it, talk to him about what else can be done to make the process go smoothly. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

And as we leave you, we'll show you pictures of the city of New Orleans. This is a freight train that is on fire. No one there to put it out. That's New Orleans today.


M. O'BRIEN: Live pictures now New Orleans International Airport, Louis Armstrong Airport. You're seeing the back side of a C-141 Starlifter. It is filled to the gills with patients who need medical care. They can't get medical care, of course, in the city of New Orleans right now.

We're joined by the man who is helping coordinate this airlift, Colonel John Gomez. He's at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Colonel Gomez, it's got to be a daunting challenge. Give us a sense of how many assets, how many airplanes are being put forth on this effort.

COL. JOHN GOMEZ, U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, I've got to tell you, Miles, that there's more than just aircraft involved in this effort. As the hurricane came through, it basically turned all of the airfields in the area into nothing more than parking lots.

All of the support equipment, all of the infrastructure, the radios, the radar that we would normally have at an established airport were wiped out. So the first thing that we had to do, Air Mobility Command's 18th Air Force put in elements of the contingency response group.

Now, this is an organization that's specifically designed to take a bare base and build it up so that we're able to conduct air operations. Over the last 24 hours -- over the last 24 hours, the efforts contingency response group have increased our capability over 100 percent right there at Louie Armstrong.

M. O'BRIEN: When you say 100 percent, though, how many airplanes are you using right now to transport these patients? Do you have enough?

GOMEZ: We have plenty of airplanes. Again, our problem right now is the capacity of the airfield. Yesterday, we airlifted out almost 600 patients on 19 aircraft. Today, we expect to be able to do double that.

In addition to those aircraft...

M. O'BRIEN: That's...

GOMEZ: Go ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: That's a good number, but there's a lot more need. There are many -- this airport is just filled with patients. Is there any way to get them out of here quicker?

GOMEZ: Absolutely. And we're pulling in additional assets.

We're using commercial airliners, we're using charter aircraft. We are lining up rail and bus service. We're going out and finding every asset that's available to help these folks because we realize just how much they need the support. M. O'BRIEN: Well, you're telling me the military needs to use commercial charters, is that what it is, because there's not enough capability on its own aircraft?

GOMEZ: No. Our airplanes are designed for moving cargo. And so as they come in, they're bringing in equipment, trucks, medical supplies, things like that.

It would be like putting people in the back of a semi-trailer in order to put them on a military airplane and take them out. The commercial airlines, the charter aircraft that we're bringing in, are better designed for people who are able to walk on and off the airplane. Those patients that are restricted to being on litters we're putting on our military aircraft because we can serve them better there.

M. O'BRIEN: Give us a sense -- I haven't seen a lot of these charters yet. When will they start arriving here and helping these people?

GOMEZ: Later today. As I understand, the flow that we have set up, the first about six or eight aircraft this morning are going to be military aircraft. And then starting a little bit later this morning, you should start seeing the commercial tails.

M. O'BRIEN: We will look forward to that. Colonel John Gomez, Air Mobility Command. Thank you.

GOMEZ: You're welcome.

M. O'BRIEN: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll take you to the Astrodome. Thousands of people hoping to seek refuge there. The doors closed. We'll tell you why.

AMERICAN MORNING continues after a break.


S. O'BRIEN: Let's take you right to Houston now. The Astrodome is packed in tight. About 12,000 evacuees are there right now, and apparently that's all they can take. Authorities are now sending evacuees to the Reliant Arena, at least temporarily, which is right next door.

Our next guest was inside the Astrodome on Thursday, saw first hand what it was like. Blayne Bondy escaped New Orleans before the hurricane. He was at the Astrodome trying to track down his mother.

Blayne, good morning. Thanks for being with us.

You got inside. What was it like inside?

BLAYNE BONDY, HURRICANE EVACUEE: When I first arrived, Soledad, which was yesterday around noon, a little after noon, conditions were very comfortable. Maybe around 2,000 people. Everyone seemed to have enough adequate space. You know, the attitudes of everyone seemed to just be relieved. You know, I guess very comfortable considering that most of these folks had just arrived, you know, coming from New Orleans.

S. O'BRIEN: We heard, Blayne, promises of hot food and hot showers. Was that the case when you first arrived? And is that the case now?

BONDY: I can't speak of what's going on now, Soledad, but when I arrived there was definitely hot food. It seemed that everyone was able to have as much food and water as they needed. You know, I don't know what the circumstances are now.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Did it seem to you to be calm, or as you say, just everybody relieved? Or was it more tense than that? And did you see a change at all, did you see the mood and the tone change inside the Astrodome?

BONDY: You know, when I -- when I first arrived, as I said, everyone, you know, just the pure look of exhaustion on most people's faces was very evident. But as the day progressed, and more buses started to arrive, you could tell that the underlying tone was that this was going to deteriorate fairly quickly.

You have a tremendous amount of people coming in with soiled clothes, who hadn't had sleep, food or adequate shelter for the last couple of days. Space was very -- was starting to become very limited on the floor.

There's only space, as I understood, for 5,000 cots. And everyone else was going to have to go into the stands. And, you know, it's not rocket science. You just knew that that was going to deteriorate. I'm not surprised that they shut it down.

S. O'BRIEN: Blayne, I know you went look for your mom and your stepfather. Was there any kind of registry? Was there anyone to help you? When you got there, was there any sort of system in place?

What was it like for you in your search? And were other people in your same circumstance getting in?

BONDY: It was very easy to access the arena, to my surprise. When I arrived, I immediately -- you know, my uncle and I had an agenda. We knew we wanted to find out who was in charge.

We looked for the Red Cross desk. And to my surprise, no, there wasn't a registry that was published yet.

We asked if there was going to be one that was published, and honestly most people just didn't know. They directed me to a gentleman who was in control. They gave me his cell phone number, to my surprise. But I didn't call him.

I just kind of -- we just kind of tried to feel ourselves -- feel our way around. And we -- there was a board posted in the rear of the arena where you could post notes to family members. We immediately did that.

And I just kind of walked around and asked probing questions as to what was the process to getting on the buses in New Orleans and things of that nature, because I wanted to know, what were the chances of my mother and my stepfather getting on a bus early? Was it women and children first, or was it just every man for himself? So, you know, I asked a family that had just arrived what was the process, and you know, basically...

S. O'BRIEN: Can I stop you there, Blayne?


S. O'BRIEN: Because it sounds to me like you're saying, to get information, you were interviewing some of the other people who were kind of in a similar circumstance. I mean, there's nobody there who is sort of laying out any kind of organized process for how people who are -- who are separated from their family members can find each other? Is that what year saying?

BONDY: I'm saying that to a certain degree, Soledad. There's information there. You just have to look for it.

There's no LED signs. There's no jumbo monitors displaying where you can make phone calls, where to sign up for a list.

You have to go around and kind of ask and feel your way around. And if you do that, you'll surely find, you know, the tools available. But there's no -- I mean, there's handwritten signs that say "Phones this way," "Restrooms this way, "Showers this way." But it's kind of -- the way they have it set up, it's not readily accessible.

BONDY: It's not readily accessible. You have to kind of walk around and figure it out, and I don't know that everybody -- I don't know that everybody is doing that. I ran across a gentleman that I went to high school with, and he was, you know, just stepped off the bus, and he was asking -- trying to figure out the cell phone situation. And I said, well, there's a phone bank up stairs, And he didn't know that, and he was in the arena. And I saw him later, and he was just, like, very thankful that I pointed him in the direction of the phone bank. And you know, so I think people arriving who obviously had -- didn't have any rest for the last several days. You know, I would expect some LED signs, big flashing lights, free phones this way, restrooms yes, exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Blayne Bondy. We should mention Blayne is the brother of our executive producer. So, Blayne, we are really happy and relieved to hear that your mom and your stepfather are OK. We've been waiting for word on them. Thanks, Blayne.

BONDY: Yes, I appreciate it, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Straight ahead, the latest on the chaos in New Orleans. President Bush is now calling the results of the relief effort unacceptable. We're going to talk to a FEMA official on the ground, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

You're looking at some aerial pictures now of a fire apparently burning without any kind of effort to stop it, from what we can see, as far as we can tell from the pictures we've seen. No firefighters on the scene at this time. We are monitoring the situation there. There have been reports that it is not -- there are no hazardous materials inside this railway car, very cross the French Quarter, right across from the Mississippi, but it's very unclear. It's obviously a chaotic situation, and we were told by Chris Lawrence that, in fact, HAZMAT teams were heading to the scene, were trying to assemble to get to the scene.

But you can see just now how the smoke is now covering the city of New Orleans, making an already chaotic situation in many ways much more chaotic this morning. Let's get right back to Miles. He's at the Louis Armstrong Airport which is just outside of New Orleans.

Miles, good morning.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Chaos is the word. Being overwhelmed are words that come to mind here. This airport has become really a very well-taxed medical facility, and really a point -- a hub, if you will, on the journey which in some respects is a journey with really no known destination for many people who need medical care. They weren't able to evacuate themselves as Katrina bore down on New Orleans because they're too sick, too aged or whatever the case may be. And now as the hospitals are being evacuated on a really highly choreographed airlift, they're coming here, they're being evaluated, and then sent on other planes to other facilities, really scattered to the four winds. And where that leads after that, no one knows at this point.

The man who's trying to bring order to this chaos is H. James Young. He is with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he's the one who is trying to manage this scene. You really have your hands full here, and I know this is what you trained for, but this has got to be a tough one.

H. JAMES YOUNG, FEMA: Absolutely, but we have a lot of people here. The National Disaster Medical System, NDMS, these guys are multiple teams with multiple expertises, and these guys are doing very good. As President Bush, and the Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff and Undersecretary Mike Brown, they're doing everything they can for this lifesaving mission. M. O'BRIEN: Give us a sense what the problems are. Where are the bottlenecks? What assistance do you need that you're not getting now?

YOUNG: Well, it may seem like a minor thing, it's just little barriers (ph), in the sense of having enough little barriers to move them to the massive location. And of course, we do have several D- mats here, five of them, and a strike team, and then a small contingent that's taking care of this, medication and all of those things.

However, if we get the increase and influx of patients, then we'll probably need more personnel.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, and that's what you're getting. Of course, even as we speak, more people are coming. You're already taxed. I know it's even been difficult to get meals out. I haven't seen any meals being served. Is that a problem as well?

YOUNG: We are getting meals. They're making arrangements to put all that together. They have MREs and water, and they're making arrangements through the U.S. Forest Service to provide that in this particular situation.

M. O'BRIEN: How long can you go like this, and at what point, where is the tipping point for an operation like this? How many more patients would you have to get before you would say, look, we really need more assistance?

YOUNG: Well, we could say that now, more assistance, because you're going to continue to get more patients, but we continue to rotate people in and try and get fresh bodies. So American public that have people, I guess, do their donated time and how they may want to do that through other agencies. But right now, this is going to be a continuous operation. It's a long-term type thing.

M. O'BRIEN: If have you had a chance to just stop -- I know you're busy with the task at hand here, which is your job. If you had a chance, though, to stop and reflect at this gut-wrenching scene that we see here in what was a typical U.S. airport?

YOUNG: Well, it's very different for the simple reason that it's been converted into a hospital. We have several different hospitals throughout the area going up in Baton Rouge, of course, at the dome in the ice arena there, and here, similar operation. Maybe not...

M. O'BRIEN: No, but my question is, personally, have you reflected on what you're experiencing right now?

YOUNG: Well, my experience is kind of difficult to say. I enjoy doing what I do. Do I have emotions? I have compassion for the people that are here. But it's just different, you know, because I do a lot of them. I go places. Take care of the mission. Support the people that we come here to do.

M. O'BRIEN: H. James Young with FEMA, thanks very much. Let's check some other headlines right now, Carol Costello in New York for that.

Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Miles. Good morning to all of you.

Now in the news, President Bush is vowing to take control of the situation in the battered Gulf Coast. The president spoke at the White House just moments ago before heading off to tour the devastation firsthand.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The results are not acceptable. I'm headed down there right now. I'm looking forward to talking to the people on the ground. I want to assure the people of the affected areas and this country that we'll deploy the assets necessary and get the situation under control, to get the help to the people who have been affected.


COSTELLO: The president will survey the damage by helicopter with a stop planned in Mississippi. He's also expected to deliver marks from the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. That's where Miles is now. CNN, of course, will be following those events live for you.

Congress is expected to send $10.5 billion in aid to Katrina survivors. Senators approved an emergency measure last night. The House plans to take up the legislation later today. A live report from Capitol Hill just ahead.

Delta Airlines is sending a jet to pick up some Katrina evacuees from New Orleans. A flight that brought relief supplies to the city Thursday morning came back with 140 people on board. Passengers that did not have a place to stay in Atlanta were being flown to other cities at Delta's expense.

And food, clean water and medical supplies are in demand for those displaced by the hurricane. Workers at Newark's Liberty International Airport in New Jersey filled up a FedEx plane with supplies. The DC-10 carrying about 90,000 pounds of Red Cross supplies, which include comfort kits. And those kits include toothbrushes and soap. The plane is heading for Houston.


S. O'BRIEN: Well, just a short while ago, President Bush vowed to get aid to those effected by Katrina. The Senate approved $10.5 billion in emergency disaster relief late Thursday. The House will convene today to discuss emergency funding.

Joe Johns, live for us on Capitol Hill. Joe, good morning to you. The president says that $10.5 billion is just the beginning of aid from the federal government. Is it enough?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, that's what we're hearing, too, just a down payment. In fact, we've been told that this agency FEMA is going through money at a rate of $500 million a day and that FEMA would run out of money if the Congress did not do something. So the House of Representatives coming in today around 1:00 Eastern time. The Senate, as you said, acted on that measure, $10.5 billion last night. $500 million of that, in fact, going, as well, to the Department of Defense.

On the floor last night, on the United States Senate floor, just about four members of the Senate, including Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who is the chairman of the appropriations committee, also from one of the states severely affected -- he toured some of the disaster sites and told people what he found last night.


SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R), MISSISSIPPI: It was quiet. It was eerie. It was a horrible sight to behold. I don't know of anything that has depressed me more than seeing what I saw yesterday in my state of Mississippi.


JOHNS: The House of Representatives, once again around 1:00 Eastern time, will also act on that measure. We do expect that to be a bare bones session, as well. As you know, this is the end of a long August recess. And the Congress was not scheduled to come back to Washington until Tuesday.

Soledad, back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Joe, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said something very blunt and pretty controversial. Tell me about the fall-out from those remarks.

JOHNS: He certainly did. A lot of Democrats are jumping on that. Some other Democrats, of course, holding their fire. All of this arises from some comments he made in a suburban Chicago newspaper, "The Daily Herald." We do have a graphic of some of the things he said.

He was asked whether it makes sense to spend billions and billions of dollars rebuilding the city. Hastert says, "That's seven feet under the sea level. I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me." The newspaper asked him, is that question anyone will ask or even care to ask? Hastert said, "I think it's a question that certainly we should ask. And, you know, it looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."

Later, of course, he issued a clarification through his press secretary. We may have that, as well. He said, "My comments about rebuilding the city were intended to reflect my sincere concern about how the city is rebuilt to ensure future protection of its citizens, and not to suggest that this great historic city should not be rebuilt."

As I said, some Democrats jumping on it. Some others holding their fire. Notably, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said, in her view, this is the kind of debate that we can have, but this is not the time.

Soledad, back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Joe Johns for us. Joe, thanks.

Still to come, the latest on the devastation in Mississippi. We're going to take you to a town that was virtually knocked off the map by Katrina.

Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: We want to take you to some devastated parts of Mississippi, where President Bush is headed at this hour. The confirmed death toll there is now 126, but it is expected to rise.

Let's first take a satellite view of Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, before and then after Katrina struck. The community essentially wiped away, as you can see by those pictures there.

Kathleen Koch is in Biloxi, Mississippi. Kathleen, this is your hometown, what we're looking at. You know, essentially wiped off the map. Good morning.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I moved there, yes, Soledad, in 1973, my family did. And since I've been here covering the hurricane, I've been just desperate to get over there. And yesterday I finally had a chance to make that trip to find out for myself, for my parents, for my siblings, who was left and what was left.


KOCH: Mom, why don't you get Dad? I'm getting ready to go over to the bay, OK? The high school's there.

Is this the main shelter here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one of the main shelters.

KOCH: I never thought I'd see the day when my high school was a shelter, but this is a perfect place. I mean, it's the perfect thing to turn into a shelter. The building is standing. My high school. This is incredible.

Are they bringing you food and water?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just brought us water. Somebody had some gas, they were going to go all the way down to (INAUDIBLE) center and get us some.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was climbing from rooftop to rooftop. It was around 30 feet high.

KOCH: Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just horrifying. I mean, I've never gone through anything like this in my entire life.

KOCH: So when I go to South Beach Boulevard, I'm not going to find my house there, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't think so.

KOCH: Y'all stay safe.

It's hard. It's hard to even recognize this place. There was a road here. You can see that goes into the sand and then just disappears. That's the beach road. If you follow it on around, you'll get to downtown Bay Saint Louis, to where we had our ice cream parlor that my family ran when I was in school.

Y'all seen any Kergusons (ph), Trutells (ph), or Van Sholtz (ph)? No? OK?

Trutell, Van Sholtz?



KOCH: Have you seen him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't seen him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said, I think that's Kathleen Koch.

KOCH: Our homes are destroyed, but we're OK. We're alive. All our family's alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still have any family here?

KOCH: Well, my brother's in Ocean Springs, but he and his wife and their four kids -- she works at Keesler Air Force Base, and she's the head of the ICU Unit, so they took them all there, but I haven't been able to see them, because the phones don't work. And I think they're all locked in there. They won't let anyone in or out.

Our ice cream parlor was over here. Let's see if I can get to it. This was the Sunshine Ice Cream Parlor, and there is just nothing left here. This -- I was going to say this is the house on South Beach Boulevard where I lived. It's not a house anymore. This was the living room over here. My brother's room. My brother's room was back here, a place we grew up in, where we had so many wonderful years is gone.

I'm going to bring a brick back for each member of the family, Seven. OK, one for each. Bricks and memories. Good memories.


And a gentleman I talked to while walking through the rubble on Main Street Bay St. Louis, an older gentleman, he told me, he said, you know, I've walked down this street three days, he said, this is the first time I've seen this. What he was trying to tell me, Soledad, is that he, like everyone in Bay St. Louis, like people up and down the Gulf coast, like me, were shellshocked, were just shellshocked.

S. O'BRIEN: I got to tell you from here, we're shellshocked, too, with the whole situation.

Kathleen, thanks.

Let's get right Daryn Kagan. She's coming up next on CNN.

Daryn, good morning.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I'm just so moved by Kathleen's piece, and I'm glad that she and her family are OK.

We're going to go three hours once again on CNN LIVE TODAY. Growing anger and frustration at the response, or lack of it, to Hurricane Katrina. We're expecting to hear the latest from FEMA at the top of the hour. We'll bring that to you live.

And President Bush will be surveying Katrina's aftermath. He'll arrive in Alabama in just 45 minutes. We are live with him as he tours the Gulf Coast. It is a busy morning ahead indeed. Well get to it in nine minutes.

Soledad, back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, thanks, Daryn.

Still to come this morning, much more help might be on the way to offset Katrina's affect on the U.S. oil supply. We'll take a look at that up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: There's a plan in the work to ease the oil supply shock in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. So what does it mean for all of us who are paying for oil? Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business."

Good morning.


It means the price of oil is falling right now. Some good news this morning, Soledad, down to $68.05, down $1.42. Let's look at the Stock Exchange, New York index up five points. You can see that. Price of gasoline on the wholesale level is falling as well. That could be very good news as we head into the holiday weekend.

We've been talking about corporate contributions over the past couple days. We're going to keep reading some of these off, and we're calling for more, substantial and innovative ones. We'll put them up here on CNN. Wal-Mart, the world's biggest company, $15 million, and opening up some mini-stores in region. Culligan is a water company. Cendant, rental cars and hotels. Let's move on here to Unilever and Western Union. Western Union here, 50 percent cut in the transfers. How about 100 percent cut? You know, I mean, could be a little bit better, I think, there if you don't mind me saying so.

And then finally, a couple of food companies here. I love this one on the bottom, Coca-Cola and Campbell Soup. That's some good stuff. Papa John's 10,000 pizzas to the Astrodome. And look at this, 150 jobs down there that they are creating essentially for the evacuees. And that's good stuff.

And also, ordinary citizens homing out. I'm hearing stories across the country. My 11-year-old daughter and her friend, Laura (ph), last night were planning a lemonade stand, Soledad, to open up today to give those monies to the Red Cross. Isn't that good stuff?

S. O'BRIEN: Good for them. Yes, that's really good stuff. And hopefully lots of other people will heed that, do the same thing.

Andy, thanks.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Short break. We're back with more AMERICAN MORNING in just a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: Before we wrap up for the day let's check back in with Miles. Miles, first of all, excellent coverage from where you've been this whole entire week. And now you make your way back to New York. How do you get out?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's -- I guess it's easier to get out than get in, put it that way. There's a perimeter around the city of New Orleans, and there's only really one access point. You need to have the right credentials to get in. I guess the only thing that you can say about it is I know there won't be a lot of traffic as we head on out.

And look forward to seeing you from here in the coming days, Soledad. I wish you good luck on this story. In many ways, it's so overwhelming. It's hard to believe it was Monday morning when this all began. It seems like an eternity ago when we rode out this storm together on the air.

S. O'BRIEN: It's hard to believe that on Tuesday morning, the former mayor was begging for help, and that help is only now just beginning to arrive to the folks in New Orleans who need it the most. Miles, we'll see you back here. We'll switch positions. We'll continue following this story. We're going to be live on the air, starting at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning all through the weekend, and of course all next week as well.

We're back in just a moment. Daryn Kagan is going to pick up the story from the CNN Center.