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Hurricane Ida Strikes New Orleans; U.S. Acknowledges Reported Civilian Casualties after Drone Strike. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2021 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:33]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Very good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Brianna Keilar, alongside John Avlon.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST/ANCHOR: Good morning.

KEILAR: Good morning to you.

It's Monday, August 30th. We're following a lot of breaking news this morning on two fronts.

Hurricane Ida, a monstrous Category 4 storm with 150 mile-per-hour winds ripping a catastrophic gash across southern Louisiana. At least one person is confirmed dead at this point in time.

Ida is now a tropical storm, but there is still extreme danger, with up to 8 inches of rain yet to fall in some cities. The mayor of one Louisiana town calling this total devastation. The storm overtopping levies and trapping people on roofs, with no way to rescue them.

More than 1 million people are currently without power. This includes the entire city of New Orleans, exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina hit.

And while Ida has weakened some, there is still this big threat that we are tracking of flash flooding and dangerous storm surge and tornadoes.

AVLON: Also breaking this morning, rocket fire overnight, targeting Afghanistan's international airport. Video obtained by CNN shows the burnt-out car this was apparently used as an improvised launch pad to fire five rockets.

Five hours earlier, the U.S. carried out a preemptive drone strike on a potential suicide car bomb in Kabul, calling it an imminent threat from ISIS-K.

Airport evacuations continue, with hundreds more citizens and allies trying to get out just 24 hours before the U.S. troop withdrawal deadline.

CNN's Clarissa Ward will join us in a moment.

KEILAR: First, let's get to Tropical Storm Ida and Nadia Romero, who's beginning our coverage live on the ground in New Orleans. Nadia, tell us what you're seeing.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Brianna.

It is a dark and spooky morning here. I'm standing on Bourbon Street. So if you've been to New Orleans or you've seen the pictures of it or video, you know that this street should be filled with neon lights and people dancing and singing. We should be hearing jazz music right now.

But we're going to turn off our lights so you can see just how dark it is on Bourbon Street this morning, the day after Hurricane Ida made her way. We'll turn the lights back on now, but that's what we're dealing with. That's why so many people who are outside walking around, have flashlights or head lamps like I do.

I usually only put this on when I'm camping back in Utah, but I needed it today just to see as I made my way around this area.

So we're waiting for sunrise so we can get a better look at the damage done after Hurricane Ida. But we do know that here, the city of New Orleans, everyone is without power. Eight transmission lines were damaged.

And it sounds so simple, right, just eight transmission lines. It's obviously much more complex than that. The entire city without power. This parish without power, as well, and still no time line on when the power might be turned back on.

And we know that one person died, as you mentioned, Brianna, because of a tree falling on the house. And that's the concern. That's why so many people were told to evacuate, either voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders.

We were also concerned about the flooding. So where I am here in the French Quarter, no real significant flooding, but we have seen buildings with the roofs and awnings torn off, different debris all around the area, trees being down in this part of Louisiana.

Other parts, though, the flooding waters did make their way over the levy systems. And this has been the biggest test of those new levy systems since Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. Ida, a Category 4; Katrina, a Category 3. And Ida coming in with those really strong winds just battering Louisiana.

So we are still waiting to learn more about the damage that was done as soon as Mother Nature decides to turn on the lights for us, we'll be able to go around and assess the damage a little bit better.

But we're dealing with power outages. People are in shelters right now with the middle of a pandemic. Right? They're still dealing with COVID-19 protocols on top of a Category 4 that made its way through -- Brianna, John.

KEILAR: I'm afraid of what daybreak may bring in New Orleans. Thank you so much for that report.

AVLON: CNN's Derek van Dam is live in Houma, Louisiana, this morning.

Derek, you were there when the storm slammed into land yesterday. I know we're on an hour and a half before sunrise. What can you tell us about the damage there and the danger of storm surge that still might exist?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's too dangerous for us to drive from the shelter of our hotel at the moment, because there is damage covering many of the roadways across Houma, Louisiana.

But just to give you an indication of what we expect to see this morning, this is a tree that fell on the vehicles in the parking lot behind us. This is just a drop in the bucket, per se, of what we expect to see because of the fury that was unleashed on this particular region, the Terrebonne Parish.

It was a relentless day of what I like to, as comparison to a direct hit from a 50-mile-wide EF-3 tornado lasting for hours. It was an incredible moment -- moments of anxiety for people and our crews who rode out this storm, as well.

I mean, what kind of storm reverses the flow of the Mississippi River? Only a Category 4 monster can do that. Hurricane Ida did that.

And what we're seeing here is scared evacuees. In the shelter here, we talked to some of them. They know how to ride out Category 1, 2, 3 hurricanes, but when you start talking about a Category 4, that really changes the game here.

[06:05:00]

They expected storm surge to be a concern, but when that storm, when the hurricane pivoted over this region, kept us in the outer eye-wall of Hurricane Ida, the relentless winds never stopped. We never got the break that we anticipated, and that is why this will be a wind maker or a wind event and catastrophic wind event within the Houma, Louisiana location.

We have sounds of generators in the background, people trying to take advantage of the little power they can muddle up. And then also, the sounds of helicopters flying overhead as they do nightly missions, which is unusual. They usually wait for the sun to come up to see the extent of the damage, but it is going to be a grueling next few days here as the search and recovery operations begin.

Back to you, John.

AVLON: Derek, thank you very much. Reminder this storm reversed the direction of the Mississippi River. Just a monster. Thank you.

KEILAR: Ida has weakened and still remains a real danger, though.

Let's check in now with our meteorologist Chad Myers. OK, Chad, give us a sense of where things are and also, look, I know

it's a tropical storm, but the fact is, this thing is hovering over places that don't need this rain.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right. There will be much, much more rain. This is switched from a damage surge maker, a wind damage maker, now to a rainmaker and a flood event.

We have so many counties here that are under flash flood warnings and flash flood emergencies. All these red squares or octagons. Those are all flash flood warnings and flash flood emergencies right now.

Here's how we got here. Yesterday morning offshore, making landfall very close to Port Fourchon.

But the eye wall, the worst of the eye wall was over Grand Isle. I'm really afraid what I'm going to see when we get some pictures out of there in Grand Isle. It may look a lot like Mexico Beach did with Michael. That's significant damage.

And then we saw it here just south of Houma doing so much damage where Derek is. Finally, to the west of New Orleans and now moving up into parts of Mississippi.

Tornado watches still in effect. Tornadoes are still possible today. There goes the storm off the East Coast by Thursday into Friday. A lot of rainfall. Maybe 4 to 6 inches of rain still coming down.

But this is a graphic that is on my Twitter feed. And I hope you go there and read it if you really want to learn something about the wind damage.

A Category 1, we're going to call it one times multiplier. A Category 1 75-mile-per-hour storm. You get to a Category 3, it's 30 times more powerful and potential for damage than a Category 1.

You get down to Ida. Ida was 256 times more potential damage than a Category 1, 75-mile-per-hour storm. That's what people are going to be waking up to today. When we get some pictures, we're not going to like them.

KEILAR: Yes. So look, it's not just a 4. It's a strong 4 that it made landfall at. And I do just wonder, do we think -- I know you're waiting for the pictures. We really don't have a grasp on what this storm has wrought at this point?

MYERS: We really don't. I mean, a lot of it was what we call marsh and ditch land, especially when it got over Grand Isle. That's why it didn't slow down when it got to Derek's position there in Houma, didn't slow down much even until it got to the west of New Orleans where winds there were somewhere between 100 and 110.

Gusts along Lakefront Airport and New Orleans proper, 90.

So this storm was still a big storm as it was moving on shore, because it was running over water. It was running over the swamps and the ditches, as our General Honore would like to say. There's no lands down there. That's swamps and ditches. And that water in those swamps and those dishes, it's warm.

It's not any cooler than the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. So that's why the storm did not slow down like a typical landfalling hurricane that does hit land.

KEILAR: All right, Chad. We should be getting an idea here soon, so we'll be checking back in with you. Thank you so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

KEILAR: Coming up, we will speak with the former mayor of New Orleans, who helped lead the state through Hurricane Katrina; and we'll find out why he decided to ride this storm out.

AVLON: And breaking overnight, rockets fired at Kabul's airport as American troops enter the final stages of their withdrawal from Afghanistan. A live report from CNN's Clarissa Ward, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:13:23]

KEILAR: We have more now on our breaking news. Hurricane Ida pummeling Louisiana. This is a monstrous hurricane that has hit southern Louisiana, and it hit as a Category 4 storm with winds of 150 miles per hour. So that is a very strong Category 4.

Life-threatening storm surge that it has brought with it. Right now, hundreds of residents, if not more, are trapped in their homes with flood waters rising.

And overnight, the Louisiana Cajun Navy began water rescues for those who are trapped in the flood waters.

And joining us now is a member of that group, Jordy Bloodsworth, with us.

OK, Jordy, can you give us a sense of what -- what you all have been dealing with, what the scene is like there as we're waiting here for daybreak, really.

JORDY BLOODSWORTH, FLEET CAPTAIN, LOUISIANA CAJUN NAVY: I'm in Baton Rouge right now, and I mean, it's still black. My house has power. I'm not really sure how. But it's starting to subside a little bit, kind of enough for me to get my group on the road and get to St. John Parish and meet with the police there and start doing our rescues.

KEILAR: OK. So you're expecting this, obviously, to -- you know, you're really getting under way here with rescues. What are you hearing about the needs of people there on the ground?

BLOODSWORTH: Seems like there's hundreds, possibly more people, you know, trapped in their houses with some extent of water, from a foot deep to people in attics. So it's going to be a pretty -- pretty bad scene with a lot of work to do to move quickly and safely so we can take care of everybody in the best way possible.

[06:15:09]

KEILAR: Can they even contact you at this point in time?

BLOODSWORTH: Some people have been able to. I'm not sure how they're getting through, but it's a lot of family members calling, saying they're in contact with families stuck in the house or apartment building, whatever the case may be.

But they are getting out some way. I think AT&T was experiencing some problems with coverage. But some of the other phones are still working.

KEILAR: So we know there have been difficulties, right, for folks being able to get to 911. That's been a problem for some folks. So tell us about the process here of getting under way and trying to survey the damage and seeing who is going to need help.

BLOODSWORTH: Yes. 911 was having some issues, as well, with just deteriorating conditions. Phone lines and such. So they reached out to us via Facebook and things like that. Posts seemed to go somewhat viral pretty fast on getting people help.

So we monitor that. We can compare our list and notes that we have, and addresses that we compile with that of the police and the paramedics, firefighters and everything going through the EOC that we'll be working with.

And we're going to divide those up and make sure everything is still active and send our teams out and usually pairs of both or more to different areas and say subdivisions and such to get out and get to everyone timely.

KEILAR: So where are you concentrating right now is the hardest hit area? You mentioned St. Johns.

BLOODSWORTH: It may not be the hardest hit area, but that's the most flooding relatively close to me in Baton Rouge. So it will be LaPlace, which is, you know, just south of Interstate 10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, a little closer to New Orleans right there, by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Lake Pontchartrain.

KEILAR: Any sense in how this -- I think when people think of, obviously, New Orleans, they think of what they saw during Katrina. And as we're awaiting daybreak, they're -- they want to know if that's what you're dealing with. Do you have any sense of what you're dealing with?

BLOODSWORTH: It's going to be very close to the same amount of damage. A little bit different type of damage. A lot more wind and things of that nature, I think.

The flooding is there, just not quite on the same large-scale area flooding. But the same effect of flooding as far as devastating waters in the areas that did get the flooding. But it's hard to say right now, not seeing anything and not being

daybreak, and no one really getting to assess damage yet. But, it definitely does not look good for, you know, a Katrina comparison.

KEILAR: All right, Jordy. Look, as you all head out and start to survey the scene, we're going to be in touch. We want to know what you're seeing and understand the damage and what is facing New Orleans and Louisiana. We appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you so much.

BLOODSWORTH: No problem.

AVLON: That's right.

Now, breaking news, rocket fire at Kabul's airport as American troops enter the final 24 hours of their withdrawal from Afghanistan. We've got the latest from CNN's Clarissa Ward. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:22:56]

KEILAR: Breaking overnight on the danger at the airport in Kabul, U.S. defenses actually shot down a series of rockets that were fired at the airport. Video shows the car that was believed to be behind the attack, which as you can see here is incinerated.

And the White House says that President Biden has been briefed on the situation, briefed overnight as these evacuations continue ahead of tomorrow's deadline to withdraw U.S. troops.

This is all coming just hours after the president attended the dignified transfer of 13 service members who were killed in that terrorist bombing while they were there at the airport, screening people coming in.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is live for us in neighboring Pakistan with more on this.

Clarissa, just give us a sense here overnight what we know has happened, this attack on the airport in Kabul that actually activated a defense system there called a C-RAM at the airport.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. Thankfully, it appears that nobody was hurt in that attack. That C-RAM defense system was able to essentially mitigate the force of those five rockets.

And you showed that video that CNN has been able to obtain. It appears that the militants were able to use a civilian car as a kind of makeshift rocket launcher. You can see that car has been completely incinerated and burnt out.

But all of this giving you a sense of just how tense things are and how the very real threat still exists as we enter into what are essentially the final hours of the U.S.'s 20-year war in Afghanistan. We have now heard from CentCom, as well, about the U.S. drone strike

on an ISIS-K vehicle. This was believed to be a vehicle carrying either suicide bombers or explosives intended for bombings.

That vehicle, when it was blown up, set off a sort of chain reaction of explosions. And CentCom is now confirming, Brianna, that there were civilian casualties. It appears there were civilian casualties.

[06:25:05]

Now CNN has been doing a lot of digging around and has found that nine members of one family died as a result of those secondary and tertiary blasts after that drone strike.

From what we understand, at least six children among the dead, the youngest just 2 years old.

So, absolutely there is a sense on the ground in Afghanistan, frankly, that this next few hours can't go soon enough, because the tensions are so high, the dangers are so great.

We are definitely seeing, as well, a slowing down in the number of evacuations. That of course is really to be expected as the U.S. kind of winds this whole operation down and begins to collapse the perimeter that it had started up.

So we hear there were 2,900, I believe, evacuations from Saturday to Sunday. That's about a 50 percent decrease on the sort of levels that we saw from Friday to Saturday.

That means a lot of people understandably are very concerned that they won't be among the lucky ones to get out. The Taliban has said again and again that anyone with the appropriate documentation or any foreign national will be allowed to leave. But for obvious reasons, that is not doing a huge amount to alleviate the concerns of many people, especially those who worked closely with the U.S. or with Afghan forces -- Brianna, John.

AVLON: Indeed. And, you know, he White House saying over the weekend over 350 Americans left, but as you point out, the White House and allies saying that they've reached some ambiguous deal with the Taliban where they'd be able to get everyone out, even after this deadline passes, citing unspecified leverage.

What do you understand that leverage to be, Clarissa? And why is there any reason to take the Taliban's word about this?

WARD: Well, first of all, John, you know, you raise such an important point. Because I have Americans reaching out to me all the time at the moment who are in Afghanistan.

In fact, I've just been on the phone this morning with a family of four from Houston, Texas. I have seen pictures and videos of all of their American passports. I have spoken with the mother who said that they have gone to the gates every day for two weeks, and they have a problem, in that the Taliban will not let them pass. They have tried to reach out to the U.S. military, and the U.S.

Military has said they are doing everything that they can to, you know, find a way for them. But so far they haven't been able to find that way.

And they're in a complete panic right now. And this mother told me, No one's helping us. What are we supposed to do? We just want to go home.

These people live in the U.S. They had gone to Afghanistan to visit her parents and just happened to get caught up in this whole situation. We're hearing stories like that all the time.

Now, in terms of the leverage that the U.S. might have, one of the main areas would probably be funding because, of course, the Taliban desperately needs international aid. They need the purse strings to be open in order for them to really try to set about governing the country.

Already, we're seeing long lines outside of banks in Kabul. People are panicked. Prices are raising. You know, there's a concern about lack of hard currency. All the things that happen when you have these kind of seismic changes in a country and a vacuum when a major power like the U.S. is suddenly pulling out.

So that might be an area where the U.S. can say to the Taliban, Listen, if you want our help, if you want the international funding, if you want the aid, then you have to make sure that the doors stay open.

But obviously, if you're a mother on the ground with your young children and your American passports, it is completely natural and normal right now that you don't know who to trust and that you're absolutely terrified.

KEILAR: And you know, there was a promise initially here not just to get Americans out, Clarissa, but also to get green card holders out. These are legal, permanent residents of the United States.

I was on the phone with one overnight, who despite guidance from the U.S., was outside the airport, desperately trying to leave. And this is someone with -- with a green card. I don't think we really have a sense, do you, of how many of these folks -- this gentleman is a resident of Philadelphia. How many of these folks at this point are stranded? And from everything that I could tell talking to people trying to get them out, they're not really a priority.

WARD: No, they're not. And we don't have any real sense of the numbers. I mean, you hear things like tens of thousands bandied around. But no one seems to have a concrete grasp on that, or at least not at this stage.