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American Morning

Resilient New Orleans Residents Return to Algiers, Set Up Own Distribution Center; North Korea Agrees To End Nuclear Weapons Program

Aired September 19, 2005 - 08:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Tropical Storm Rita is getting stronger, heading toward Florida. Hurricane warnings are now posted, a state of emergency already in effect for parts of south Florida and the Keys. Tourists being told to check out get out of town.
New Orleans residents swarming back to their homes as the mayor and FEMA seem to disagree about when they should return.

And standing down after years of defiance, North Korea agrees to scrap its nuclear program. We're live with this story just ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: It is Monday, September 19th. That is Soledad's birthday. Happy birthday.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Thank you. I don't feel much like celebrating -- you know, the news has been so sad. It's tough.


S. O'BRIEN: I think this year, you know I love my birthday. This year we will scoot right past it.

M. O'BRIEN: We'll do a double next year.

S. O'BRIEN: OK. It's a deal.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about what is going on, on the screen this morning, shall we?

S. O'BRIEN: You know, if we could show those pictures. Here we go. You're looking at -- this one doesn't have a face on it, but these are little cards we will put up on the left side of your screen. We are teaming up with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Incredibly successful over the weekend. We want to show you some of the faces and the names of the kids who are missing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. M. O'BRIEN: Since we began this effort on Saturday, in the morning, calls to the center have tripled; 23 cases have been resolved; 15 of them as a result of that picture. So that's a good thing. We'll keep doing it.

S. O'BRIEN: Really good thing. That is some good news there.

If you can give some information about the kids, you want to call the phone number at the bottom of the screen and contact somebody right away.

We will be changing zip codes all week, watching (INAUDIBLE) of zip code by zip code, because of course that's how people are coming back into the neighborhoods. The hope is, at least, if you talk to the mayor, Mayor Ray Nagin, to bring the city back to life one zip code at a time.

Today we in Algiers. Zip code there 20114, it is across the river from the French Quarter. Carol Costello is reporting from there this morning.

Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Good morning to all of you.

I am in Algiers. People are really ready to come back to this neighborhood. It wasn't as affected as the rest of New Orleans. It's just across the system, it has its own water system that managed to survive the storm. The electrical system is above ground so the electric company could come out and put the lines back up. The electricity is 98 percent restored here.

Still that doesn't mean it's going to be easy for residents.


COSTELLO (voice over): Algiers is already coming back. Neighborhoods are cleaning up. Unlike a lot of other places, damage here came with the wind, not with the water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, this was a house.

COSTELLO: This was one of the few homes completely destroyed by Katrina. The town survived mostly intact, but supplies are hard to come by.


COSTELLO: That prompted Lily Duke to take matters into her own hands. She, along with the Church of Christ, opened up a distribution center, offering everything from canned goods to medicine.

COSTELLO (on camera): How many times have you heard where is FEMA? LILEY DUKE, RUNS DISTRIBUTION CENTER: Every day. Every day.


COSTELLO: Hundreds of people have come by already.


COSTELLO: Answering the mayor's call to return, despite warns from FEMA that it's too soon.

DUKE: Food. We need food!

COSTELLO: No doubt. The a few grocery stores open, supplies are limited. Nancy Bertin came back from Houston on Saturday.

NANCY BERTIN, ALGIERS RESIDENT: I went into Walgreen's yesterday. We needed milk badly. That is like one of the things that goes fast. They were taking five customers at a time, because there was no staff.

COSTELLO: It's also hard to get gas and building supplies. Banks are closed. But Algiers is determined to come back, even if it has to do so on its own.

JACKIE CLARKSON, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: We didn't say we needed FEMA, where are you? I actually assumed FEMA was helping in the more desperate areas and I hope they were.


COSTELLO: And Soledad, talk about resiliency. People are eager to come back. The big concern, as I said, would be the availability of food because, you know, not very many people have come back -- came back over the weekend.

Hundreds more will be coming back today, and the next day, and the next day, and that is where the big concern is with getting a hold of enough food. Because you come back, your electricity has been out, you're going to have a lot of spoiled stuff in the refrigerator.

S. O'BRIEN: Coming back to what? Carol, as you showed the woman's house totally destroyed. Granted, everybody's house is not like that, but where are people going to stay and live if their homes need a fair amount of work?

COSTELLO: That's true. Because a lot of trees came down and damaged the roofs of these homes. The Army Corps of Engineers actually set up a table down the way here, called the Blue Tarp Program. The only problem is, if you fill out the application, it says in the application that it takes 120 days -- maybe -- for people just to come out and inspect the roof. And then maybe three weeks later, they'll put a blue tarp on your roof to protect you from the rain.

So people here are sort of hoping they can do patchwork repairs themselves or actually they are hoping it doesn't rain anymore. S. O'BRIEN: Oh, gosh. Well, we are, too. All right, Carol, thanks.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the man who is leading the federal recovery effort is scheduled to meet today. The mayor has cleared the way for residents, as we saw Carol reporting, to return to the city now. He says he hopes to have a third of all the residents back in, over the next week and a half.

Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, though, has some serious concerns about that plan. He says he will tell the mayor about those concerns today.


VICE ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD.: My goal is to come in, fully inform him, give him a frank, unvarnished assessment on whether the federal government sees the conditions and how they are set for the re-entry of the population of New Orleans.

And it is going to be the mayor's decision but I think all of us would look at the city of New Orleans and how we would feel if we were bringing our own family into that type of situation with a lack of potable water and so forth.


S. O'BRIEN: Again, we are seeing the federal government and the mayor not quite seeing eye-to-eye on this one.

Other stories, makes news. Let's go to Kelly Wallace, she has a look at some of the other headlines.

Hey, Kelly. Good morning, again.


"Now in the News": Tropical Storm Rita could become a Category 1 hurricane later today. A state of emergency is now in effect. Tourists have been ordered to leave the Florida Keys. Chad Myers is tracking Rita's path and we'll check in with him in a moment.

Overseas now, a life sentence for a family member of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Iraq's criminal court has convicted and sentenced Saddam Hussein's nephew for funding Iraq's violent insurgency and for bomb making. It is apparently the first verdict against a family member of the ousted leader.

There is apparently some more relief at the gas pump. AAA says the average price of gas has taken a dip since Friday. It fell eight cents this weekend. The average price of self-serve unleaded is down to $2.81 a gallon.

Heaven beat the devil at the box office this weekend. The romantic comedy, "Just Like Heaven" debuted at No. 1, with an estimated $16.5 million in ticket sales. The film staring Reese Witherspoon bumps the horror film "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" into second place.

That gets you caught up, now to Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Kelly.

North Korea has agreed to get rid of its nuclear weapons and programs. It's a big breakthrough. An 11th-hour draft agreement was reached during talks in Beijing last night. Stan Grant live via video phone in Beijing.

Stan, we've heard of so many ups and downs in these negotiations, does this agreement appear to be one that will hold?

STAN GRANT, CNN CHINA CORRESPONDENT: Who would of thought just a year ago, Miles, the United States and North Korea trading insults. North Korea, of course, branded part of axis of evil, an outpost of tyranny, refusing to come back to negotiations, then admitting that it does indeed have nuclear weapons.

Now they have agreed that North Korea will give up all its nuclear programs, its weapons. And also what it says it's right to a peaceful civilian nuclear program to the energy it says that it need.

In return it will get energy guarantees from the other parties, including the United States and also, importantly, security guarantees. The United States reiterating it has no plans to attack or invade North Korea. That it respects North Korea sovereignty and will move to normalized relations with North Korea as well.

North Korea being brought back in from the cold, being re- embraced by the international community, signing on once again to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It says it will open up to international inspections.

But the devil is in the detail. We've down this road before, 1992 there was an agreement, 1994 there was an agreement. Those agreements fell through that lead to this situation now, at the six- party talks. They are back in November to work over the final points -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Stan Grant in Beijing, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ten minutes past the hour, time to take a look at the weather. Also get more on Tropical Storm Rita.


S. O'BRIEN: Still to come, the latest on the efforts to track down those children who are still missing in Katrina's aftermath. We will take you live to the National Center for Missing & Exploited children ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: One of the biggest health concerns along the Gulf Coast right now. Find out why officials are worried about toxic mold.

S. O'BRIEN: And more on the debate over New Orleans' repopulation plan. We'll find out why at least one business owner says he thinks it's too early to return. Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're looking at a sunrise over Algiers, which, in the pictures, looks quite lovely. Much devastation there, though. Some people will begin repopulating that neighborhood today. Carol Costello is there reporting live from us this morning. We'll check in with her in a few moments.

More than 2,000 children reported missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Today and all weekend long, CNN is showing pictures of the kids on the left-hand side of our screen. In some cases when we don't have an actual photo, you see a blackened picture. We have a name and all the information we have about this child.

Ernie Allen is the director for the National Center for Missing & Exploited children. We have been working with them, of course, to reunited children and their families. He's in Alexandria, Virginia.

Ernie, you and I have spoken now a lot over the last couple of days. I'm just so happy that you've been able to track down some kids with our help. I know we decided that on Saturday morning, we would start showing these pictures of kids. It worked.

ERNIE ALLEN, DIR., NAT'L. CTR FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN: It's unbelievable, Soledad. We've handled nearly 4000 phone calls over the weekend, 23 children were found, 15 as a direct result of calls from CNN viewers. And we have hundreds of leads and tips for our volunteers and our staff to follow-up on so we think we're going to find many more.

S. O'BRIEN: Give me a sense about the leads and these tips. Are they good leads? Are they helpful. And why are these kids missing? Are they just in another state or another shelter? Is that what the general story?

ALLEN: Soledad, they are running the gamut. We had one yesterday in which a mother and child were separated during the storm. The seven-year-old ended up with her grandmother, but the mother in a Texas shelter didn't know that. The grandmother saw the picture and called us.

There is a family of three, in which one was a boy, two were girls. The boy was in a hotel in Ft. Worth, Texas. The hotel manager saw the picture and called us. We then found the sister, who was in a church shelter in Houston. So these kids and families have been broken and separated by this catastrophe.

What you're doing, demonstrating the power of the media, is bringing families back together. O'BRIEN: Well, I have to tell you, we are happy to do our part, because if it's going to work and this is the way to do it, by showing the pictures. Does it work when we don't have a photo? You can see as we're talking there is a picture of a child but sometimes we only have sort of the blackened -- like this one -- blackened in picture, when you don't really see a face. Is it helpful at all?

ALLEN: Of course it's helpful. It would be better with the photograph but the reality is that many of the families lost their photograph from the floodwaters or the storm. They didn't take everything with them. We've sent people on the ground into these shelters, with digital cameras to take as many pictures as we can. We want people to look at the pictures. We want them to go to and search that list of names. Our premise is somebody knows where these children are.

S. O'BRIEN: Tell me the story of these kids, Lloyd and Unnas -- Unnastzia, that's kind of hard to say -- Smith. He's 14, she's one. Now they are resolved so it has a happy ending. We are kind of giving away the happy ending. What is their story?

ALLEN: It has a wonderful ending. They basically ended up in a hospital approximate in Baton Rouge. Then in a shelter in Baton Rouge. Family members were searching all over for them. We discovered yesterday when a family friend saw these pictures on CNN. Called us and said they're in a shelter in Los Angeles. So the children are in Los Angeles. Family members in Louisiana were desperate.

But because of the power of the media, everybody at least knows where they are and that they are safe and they will be reunited.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, that's such good news. Los Angeles? Wow. Who would of thought they went to L.A.

Listen, a final question for you. I know when we speak about other cases of missing children, you always say time is the enemy. Every day that goes by, it really makes it worse.

In this case, though, is time as much the enemy? I would imagine a lot of people are just trying to get settled, aren't anywhere near a TV or are working their way into or out of a shelter. Are you as concerned that time is an enemy here?

ALLEN: Well, it's perhaps not as serious an enemy in the typical child abduction case, but we still think there is an urgency. We need to find these children, quickly. Particularly the young children. The other factor there is a range of circumstances. We believe that a number of these children are at risk, and that we need to move very quickly. Bring together the information and reunite these families.

S. O'BRIEN: I say it every time we talk, Ernie. You're the parent of a child and you cannot find your child, I cannot imagine how you keep going. How you make it through the day until you find your son or daughter. Thank you for your part.

We'll take a couple of kudos today for helping out as well. We will continue to show those pictures. I'm proud we're doing that. That's good news.

ALLEN: You're doing great things. Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Ernie. Ernie Allen from the Center for Missing & Exploited Children -- Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come, the floodwaters may be gone in some areas, but a huge health risk remain. We'll look at the worries over toxic mold ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Gulf Coast residents returning to their homes have a challenging task ahead of them. Flood damage isn't the only headache they face. They are also dealing with rampant mold spawned by high temperatures and the moisture, of course. Al Draper is director of restoration for LVI Services, an environmental services firm that specializes in mold cleanup. He joins us from New Orleans.

Mr. Draper, good to have you with us. First of all, the mold you're seeing there, is it different? Unusual? New strains?

AL DRAPER, DIR., RESTORATION, LVI SERVICES: Well, Miles, I wouldn't say it was different or a new strain. However, I would say it's some of the most prolific and dynamic growing mold that LVI has ever observed in our 10 years of working with mold remediation.

M. O'BRIEN: What is a homeowner to do? Now, here you see, of course, mold loves sheetrock and eat it away. This is flood damage there. But in stripping a home down to its studs, does that -- can that solve the problem or does the mold eat away at the wood?

DRAPER: The problem can be solved, Miles. Sometimes, it requires component removal, as you say stripping it down to the studs. Other times, it can be cleaned. It all depends on porouscity (ph) of the material that the mold is growing on.

Now, you bring up another very good point, though, is that most people tend to focus a lot on the health effects of mold. But mold is also a parasite. It's digesting whatever material it's growing on. So, basically, if it's in a homeowner's home, then it's digesting the home. Whether it be the studs or the structural members or the drywall that it's growing on.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the health effects, though. Obviously, not good for the house itself. But let's assume somebody moves in and is unaware of a mold problem there. What can happen?

DRAPER: Well, generally, in a healthy adult, most healthy adults will experience an allergic reaction. These reactions are things like headaches, sore throat, sinus problems, red eyes, maybe a feeling of lethargic feeling.

The problems we have are people that don't fit that normal healthy adult model such as immuno-compromised individuals, individuals that have respiratory compromising diseases such as emphysema, elderly people, and infant less than six months of age. Those take extra special precautions.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm sure an important client for you would be healthcare facilities. There, the standard is pretty high, isn't it?

DRAPER: You're exactly right. Not only from the mold and the mold that's here in New Orleans and in the Gulf Coast, but also healthcare facilities have infection control procedures. And these procedures are required to keep patients and other people in the healthcare community from being inadvertently exposed to things like mold. So when you combine both the mold and the infection control procedures, you have quite a dynamic approach when it comes to healthcare communities.

M. O'BRIEN: Is it really true, 29,000 mold spores could sit on the head of a pin?

DRAPER: That is correct. I was told that just this past week in Denver for a speaking engagement from a mycologist at Colorado State University.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, let me ask you this, how would a person know, going into a house, if the mold was so bad that the house has to be razed?

DRAPER: Well, I would suggest that the homeowner seek some professional assistance in order to make that determination. I, obviously, wouldn't suggest that they just start in to demolishing their home. Most homes can be remediated, as well as most businesses. In fact, I say "most." I've never seen a mold job that couldn't be properly remediated. Sometimes, that takes quite a bit of component removal. Other times, it can be more than of an advanced cleaning.

M. O'BRIEN: Al Draper, director of LIV Services, thanks for being with us.

DRAPER: Thank you very much.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, the French Quarter scheduled to be reopened a week from today. Just one week. Is it ready, though, for all of the people who might return? We're going to take a closer look ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Shot of Central Park, there, this morning. Good morning, welcome everybody. Just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.