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New Day

All of New Orleans Without Power amid Catastrophic Damage; Louisiana Hospital Scrambling to Relocate ICU Patients; Five Rockets Fired on Kabul Airport, Defense System Intercepts. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2021 - 07:00   ET



KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So what we're hearing from hospitals is that they want some of federal intervention. It is unclear what that would look like. But we did reach out HHS. We have yet to hear back from them. But that is what they are hoping for to try to get this fixed.

The thing that we're seeing is that some of these hospitals actually drawing oxygen from other states, which leads to a larger concern that if there's a spike in these other states, there's going to be more lack of oxygen, which, again, is a crucial treatment for this virus.

JOHN AVLON, CNN NEW DAY: It creates this cascading effect. But -- so, other states are bailing out these more southern states. What happens if the oxygen runs out? What's the pressure on these hospitals? What happens to the patients?

HOLMES: The patients will die. And that is what we heard over and over again from these medical groups, from these hospital officials who continue to say, this is a matter of life and death. We do not care what else is going on in the world. We understand that there is a shortage of oxygen but we need help because, again, this is a matter of life and death.

AVLON: Thank you, Kristen, very much.

And New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Avlon on this Monday, August 30th. And breaking overnight, Hurricane Ida downgraded to a tropical storm but not before leaving behind catastrophic damage in Louisiana. Right now, at least one person is confirmed dead. 1.1 million customers are without power. This includes the entire city of New Orleans. Exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Now, this storm has sent water topping levees. It has trapped people on their roofs. Rescue efforts are getting under way this morning here in the coming minutes, here in the next hour. And a live look now as Ida is moving toward Mississippi. There is still here a risk of dangerous flash floods, storm surge and possibly even tornadoes.

AVLON: Also breaking this morning, rocket fire targeting Afghanistan's international airport. Video obtained by CNN shows the burnt out car that 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 in the meantime 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 ahead.

KEILAR: Now, first, as day is breaking in Louisiana, we are starting now to get our first look at the destruction that has been left by Hurricane Ida. CNN's Derek Van Dam is live for us in hard-hit Houma, Louisiana. Last we checked in with you, it was pitch black there. I think you were just kind of starting to get a sense of things. What are you seeing?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. The residents here endured the relentless fury of a category 4 hurricane that pivoted over this specific location. It was equivalent to feeling the direct hit of a 50 mile-wide EF-3 tornado lasting for several hours. You can imagine the damage that will unfold. In fact, my team and I were just talking a moment ago. We fear what we may see once the sun actually rises within this area.

I'm going to have my cameraman pivot to my left or over my right shoulder I should say. This is just a drop of the larger bucket here. We have trees that have fallen on vehicles. We have damage to the hotel where we are located, windows were blown out. We had a natural gas leak yesterday. This is just some of the many problems that are going to be unfolding throughout the area across the Terrebonne Parish, where I'm located near Houma, Louisiana. What an incredible experience for our crew, high anxiety, highly stressful and you can imagine we had a reinforced concrete building to ride out those winds for several hours. You can imagine that some of the people not as fortunate. We only can think and pray for them this morning what they will find when they see first light. Back to you, John, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Derek, look, we'll be checking in with you. We know that sunrise here is in the next about 20 to 30 minutes. So, thank you, Derek.

AVLON: Ida has now weakened to a tropical storm, but it remains a real threat. CNN's Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the storm's path. Chad, what are you seeing?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, it's moved up into the southwestern part of Mississippi now. And although that big storm surge threat and the 140 mile-per-hour winds are all gone, our threat today will be the rainfall. And, you know, 60 miles per hour wind gusts can bring down some trees but it's the rain that we're watching now.

Every county that you see here or parish if it's in Louisiana, all under flash flood warnings.


I lost count, at about 14. Because over here between Hammond and Laplace, everywhere you see purple, that was ten inches of rain that's already fallen and more and some spots still seeing more rain. To the southeast, we have the potential for some tornadoes today. And, finally, it moves off to the northeast but not before this stripe of four to six inch rainfall still exists from Pennsylvania back down into Southeastern Ohio and then for, of course, parts of Mississippi, Alabama and even around Memphis.

Here is where the storm is going. This is what we know, this is 8:00 P.M. Central Time. So, it's still moving to the north of Baton Rouge and farther to the north, puts rain down in Memphis and Nashville. You can see four to six inches. We know what's happened in Tennessee over the past couple weeks with all of that rain. That ground is still saturated and then rain goes from Southeastern Ohio all the way back into D.C. We'll see some of this rain. By the time it gets there, it's going to be 30-mile-per-hour wind, but it's still there.

The storm was a treacherous storm for a lot of people and Derek's equivalent of an EF-3 tornado going 30 miles-wide going all the way up, lasting for hours where EF-3 tornadoes can last you like 30 seconds by the time it's gone. This was a long duration, long and big destruction event.

AVLON: Tell us a little bit more about the flooding risk that still exists as well as the potential wind damage that comes from that tornado equivalent for such a long period of time.

MYERS: Oh, I think we're not going to believe what we see. What we see, and Derek went through and his crew went through a significant eye-wall, we didn't get to the eye, but he was on the easy side of this eye. The other side of the eye, which was about 25 miles across, was worse. The damage over there is going to be more significant because you have to add in the movement of the storm and that's about ten miles per hour and then 140 miles per hour, so that there could have been some wind gusts over there at 150, without a question.

Here is the rainfall coming down now. Some of these storms will rotate and, you know, the flash flooding is going to continue today for sure.

AVLON: And, Chad, I want to point out, we're looking at a live look right now from Gulfport, Mississippi. This is what people are seeing as they drive down the highway in Gulfport, Mississippi, where the storm is going to be moving even further into Mississippi later in the day as you've said.

MYERS: John, that highway was covered up with water yesterday. That should be Highway 90, if I take a look at it. That was over -- the water was completely out of the beach, over and into people's lawns.

AVLON: Well, a little clearer this morning but still as folks can tell a lot of water coming down and more to come. Chad Myers, thank you very much. MYERS: You're welcome.

KEILAR: Joining us now is FEMA Administrator Deanne Crisswell. Administrator, thank you so much. I know that you're still awaiting sunrise. We're really trying to get a grasp on what is happening so far, but we heard from the governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, that last night, there were calls for help in Jefferson Parish but obviously conditions were so bad, winds were so strong, you couldn't have emergency crews responding. And that St. John the Baptist Parish has been inundated with 911 calls for rescue, as well first responders have been able to respond. What is the status of things in Louisiana from your vantage point?

DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Good morning, Brianna. We're hearing the same types of destruction that Governor Edwards mentioned. I've been in communication with my regional administrator who was in Baton Rouge last night and again this morning. We're hearing about widespread structural damage, significant structural damage, several buildings that actually have potentially collapsed. A number of hospitals that are operating on generator power and we know some people are stranded that will need some assistance. This is going to have some significant impacts. These are just the initial reports. We're going to see a lot more once the assessment teams get out early this morning.

KEILAR: All right. So, this thing hit as a strong category 4. And I know that you're still trying to assess what that means. But what is your expectation of what that means?

CRISWELL: Yes. It not only hit a strong category 4. It remains a category 4 for several hours over the southern parts of Louisiana. So they just got the impacts from the winds, from the significant and intense rainfall, as well as that storm surge for several hours. I don't think that there could have been a worse path for this storm. It's going to have some significant impacts. We're already seeing the power outages across the area and the threat isn't over. As you just heard, as it goes into Mississippi, even Tennessee and West Virginia, there's still going to be significant rainfall. So those people that are in the storm's track still need to stay aware of what their risks might be.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, we've seen here recently what flash flooding can do.


I mean, we have seen how devastating it can be. You are, as you mentioned, obviously in touch with the leadership there in Louisiana. Do you think that state and local officials have a good handle on their response?

CRISWELL: Absolutely. We have never had a better relationship with the state and local emergency management officials. And the first responders, they are ready. They're going to be doing an amazing job, a lot of hard work over the next several days. And it's important to remember that they are probably impacted as well. They are some of the best that Louisiana has and it's just going to be a tough couple of days as we go through the initial response efforts and the recovery is just going to take a long time.

KEILAR: What is the flooding like, as you understand it? And how is this impacting people in residential areas who stayed in their homes?

CRISWELL: Again, some of the initial reports that I have is we knew that there was going to be some overtopping of some of the levees in the southern parts of Louisiana. My initial reports are the levees around New Orleans did what they were supposed to do but that intense rainfall, that's going to create a lot of urban flooding across many of the jurisdictions, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and all of the different localities in between. And it's going to strain the system. It's going to strain the drainage system, that with the debris. So it's going to take a while for some of that to clear up.

We have the Army Corps of Engineers ready to support some of the emergency debris removal and then we also have the U.S. Coast Guard that is prepared and ready to go out and start some of the search and rescue efforts that might be needed.

KEILAR: We saw this so strong winds of 150 miles per hour storm surge that it actually stopped and then reversed the course of the Mississippi River. What is the effect of that?

CRISWELL: You know, I heard that as well. I'm not sure what the impacts are going to be from that. But, again, I think the one piece that was lucky on this is the Mississippi River was lower than it normally is. I mean, so we didn't see the rise in the Mississippi that it could have caused more significant damage. But as we go out and do assessments this morning, we're going to start to see what those impacts are.

KEILAR: Yes. I think we're going to see that here shortly, I think, in the next 20 minutes, we'll be seeing the sun come up here. Administrator, thank you for being with us today on New Day.

CRISWELL: Brianna, thank you so much.

KEILAR: Louisiana is really dealing with a double punch here, overwhelmed hospitals from COVID, even before the hurricane struck, we'll talk about how doctors there are racing to save lives.

AVLON: And breaking news, rockets fired at Kabul's airport overnight as the dangerous mission to evacuate Americans and allies from Afghanistan reaches its final hours.



AVLON: One Louisiana hospital having a real scare during the height of Hurricane Ida, with one of its generators failed, leaving hospital staff scrambling to move patients out of the affected area. Patients on ventilators had to be bagged by hand, which means hospital staff had to manually push air in and out of the patient's lungs. The patients then had to be transported throughout the hospital's stairwell to another part of the hospital that still had power.

The CEO of Thibodaux Regional Health System, Greg Stock joins us now. Greg, thank you for joining us. Where do things stand this morning? Do you have everything up and running?

GREG STOCK, CEO, THIBODAUX REGIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM: Yes, we do. We do. And you gave a great description of that. And they serve the area of critical access, critical care area is one of them. What happened is, as far as we can tell, is they actually were working to supply in that 100-plus mile-an-hour window blowing in just the right direction where the exhaust of the hot air out of that area where the generators were not located did not occur. And, you know, when a generator is on full load, they create a lot of heat. What happened, it just heated that room up so much that the generator shut off on their own.

So, we had to cool them down. We had to figure out how -- and, of course, we don't control the wind -- how to get the (INAUDIBLE) right, things like that. In the meantime, we have these patients, a good number of them are COVID patients, intensive care unit-type patients, some of them fairly young but very sick that we had to do something with so we acted very quickly. And you described it. It was amazing thing to see.

I would say, I was here in this hospital during Katrina and it reminded me of that. You know, you plan for things, backup generators, beyond what you need, executed our plan really well over time. But here is a curveball that comes in. And then it's how good your people are and how well they work together. So we had lots of really great staff who work in the intensive care unit-type of staff who are joined by other nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians, so on and the decision-making process unfolded right there. I watched it, part of it. And moving patients down the stairwells is kind of one of the last things you want to do.

But, it was another section of the hospital in our operating room areas and recovery room areas result terms (ph) that was functional, we got them there, we got all the equipment. It's incredible, incredible act of teamwork, all of those patients are good. It's amazing, it's just amazing to go in there and see that. But we cool the generator sets off, we worked on the levers (ph), so forth, started them back up, tested them. We let them run for an hour or so and they ran all night.


They're operating just as they are designed to.

AVLON: And, I mean, that teamwork you described, that dedication is so extraordinary. The preparation worked. But how long is the power out?

STOCK: It was out for several hours. That occurred right during kind of the height of the storm. I might add in this region, there were three other hospitals seriously disabled, one of the roof blew off, big section of the roof. Another one, a good section, both the others had huge roof damage, one had their elevator shafts, as I understand it, hold water and the water just from there traveled throughout the hospital, disabled them. But the fourth hospital in the region also, as we understand it, had a pretty big hole blown in it and lost one of their generators.

So, you know, in those situations, they're very challenging. They have these patients and you're responsible for them. And we make that commitment, if we stay here. We feel prepared and have our teams together and so forth. And then you have to go with what actually happened. So, you know, the fact that we're able to really provide quality care in that situation and continue on is -- some of it, we're just blessed. Frankly, the rest of it is to stay very focused. We teach this a lot, work on it a lot and use your head and act and be a leader and work as a team. Those things sound simple, but they're very powerful things when it comes to addressing a disaster like this.

AVLON: Well, they sure are. And 16 years to the date after Hurricane Katrina, all that training paid off for you and your team at the Thibodaux Hospital. Greg Stock, thank you very much for joining us on New Day.

STOCK: Thank you. Thank you.

AVLON: Up next, rockets fired at Kabul airport as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan enters the final 24 hours.

KEILAR: And how a Purple Heart recipient became a casualty of COVID without ever getting the virus.



KEILAR: Breaking this morning, U.S. defenses shooting down as many as five rockets fired at Kabul's airport as the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan is entering the final 24 hours. This is video that shows the car believed to be behind this attack, which as you can see is now incinerated, and the White House says President Biden has been briefed on this. The rocket attack that we are told came from this car.

The administration is also now addressing concerns about what will happen to those people who are still in Afghanistan after U.S. troops pull out, including some Americans and many green card holders and a number that we actually don't have a grasp on at this point in time.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live for us at the White House with new numbers on the evacuations overnight. What are they telling us, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, good morning. White House officials are saying 1,200 people have been evacuated over the last 24 hours in Kabul. Of course, that is a significantly smaller number than in the previous days before. And one of the reasons for that, we are told, is that force protection is now the highest priority on the ground at the airport. That is protecting U.S. forces there. So, they certainly are letting a smaller number of people in as the critical hours wind down in Afghanistan. There is no sense, of course, as we know by now, that this deadline is going to be extended. This is the last 24 hours of America's longest war. But the president was briefed overnight, as you said, on that rocket attack that we saw images of right there, the incinerated vehicle that fired the rocket. The president briefed overnight by his national security adviser and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. And the president, we're told in that briefing, reaffirmed his commitment to protecting U.S. forces on the ground. So they simply do not want another attack there. But everyone is certainly on edge here as well as at the State Department and at the Pentagon.

But as you said, there is a commitment to still trying to help those on the ground there. We do not have an exact number of people, of course, but the U.S., as well as more than half of governments from around the world, signed a document on Sunday, affirming the Taliban's commitment to getting people out who have the documents. Of course, that is very much an open question if that will happen. We know the president will be briefed here by his advisers this morning. As of now, he's not scheduled to make any remarks that could change, but this is a significant day here on the eve of the final day of the war. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes. This is the difficult part of the administration. We know there are widespread reports of the Taliban not allowing people in who have the proper documents, whether that is visas or whether that is American residents who have green cards or even Americans who have passports.

Jeff, thank you so much for the latest on the numbers from the White House.

AVLON: Now, let's get more on the rockets intercepted by U.S. defenses near Kabul's airport. Joining us now from Afghanistan on the phone is Nabih Bulos, he's the Middle East Bureau Chief with The Los Angeles Times.

Nabih what can you tell us about the rockets fired at Kabul's airport?

NABIH BULOS, MIDDLE EAST BUREAU CHIEF, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES (voice over): Well, that's been some time in the morning and they activated the C-RAM Defense System near the airport as well. But right now, I see the main thing that we're actually tracking right now is the issue of the air strike yesterday, and the fact that it might have hit the wrong target. It's unclear at the moment but it seems that -- I mean, there was a semi-airstrike, it seems, to have killed ten civilians including seven children.


So, that's been the main concern this morning for most of us here in Kabul as journalists.