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The Situation Room
Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; New Orleans Mayor Pleads for Help; Race and Class Affecting the Crisis?
Aired September 01, 2005 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a desperate SOS from New Orleans -- the mayor specifically.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information from the battered Gulf Coast are coming in all at once, and very dramatically.
It's just after 3:00 p.m. in New Orleans, where thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, want to get out right now. They want to get out of the city, but they can't. The flood waters are there, and there are deadly conditions, including snipers. And it keeps getting worse and worse. The governor now agrees, thousands are probably dead.
Armed and dangerous. Authorities in New Orleans are trying to crack down on looting and lawlessness. And people with guns are opening fire, including on ambulances leaving hospitals.
Just after 4:00 p.m. here in Washington. President Bush has enlisted two former commanders in chief to try to help with hurricane relief, as he prepares to go to the disaster zone himself tomorrow. Coming up, we'll hear from former Presidents Bush and Clinton. That's coming up this hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's immediately head out to the New Orleans Airport.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is out there. He's watching some dramatic scenes unfold. Update our viewers. Ed, what's happening at the airport, why where you are is so critical.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is one of the main -- let me back up a second. The New Orleans Airport is -- the area around here is in rather good condition compared to the rest of the city. The air strip is -- the landing ways here are fine. The airport is functional. And that is why this has been set up as a -- one of the main field hospitals for the emergency workers here.
What we've seen behind me is a scene that is -- continues to play itself out throughout the morning and the afternoon hours. Helicopters landing, dropping countless people off. I just spoke with one of the commanders a little while ago here at this field hospital. And he said -- he looked exhausted. I rolled in with him early Tuesday morning when we came here at about 3:00 in the morning. The man hasn't slept since then. He said they're overwhelmed. They had no idea they were going to be handling this many people. It is quite a scene, and a scene that will continue to play itself out.
BLITZER: Ed, the stretchers that we saw there, that were coming off, is there a hospital, an emergency medical facility that has been established at the airport?
LAVANDERA: Yes. What has happened here at the airport is that three disaster medical assistant teams have set up here in the airport, and basically they have turned in this terminal of the airport into a field hospital. So just behind that wall, that you see there, there are dozens of doctors and nurses and nurses' aides who have come here from around the country to help out in this situation. And that is where a lot of these people are being brought in, getting checked out. We've seen a lot of elderly, a lot of newborn babies, mothers from a maternity ward in a hospital, that were all being shuffled out.
In the process, after they come here, many of them are also being put on these military aircraft that you see behind me or on other aircraft that have landed here and essentially being evacuated. Many of these people, when we came up and started talking to them, it was a desperate scene. Many of the people I talked to wanted to desperately speak with me, because they said we were trying to get the message out to their families and loved once that they hadn't been able to speak with in three or four days to let them know they were OK.
Essentially, these folks are getting on aircraft, going to cities where they have no idea where they're going to be going, much less trying to be able to figure out when they're going to be coming back. A very desperate situation and the look on these people's eyes said everything.
BLITZER: Ed, I want to show our viewers some pictures of a videotape that we're getting in just now from outside the Superdome in New Orleans -- the Superdome where presumably about 20,000 people have been stranded now.
They're trying to move these individuals from the Superdome. They're trying to move them over to the Astrodome in Houston. It's a difficult process. It's a long bus ride. You can see the individuals outside the Superdome. They've gathered outside. They presumably want to get some fresh air as well, before they're able to get into those busses, if there are busses, enough buses to take them over to Houston to the Astrodome where many of them will be spending some time.
Because I guess people are not going to be able to come back to New Orleans until the situation is a clean, without flood water, without disease, and certainly until the situation is calm and controlled, and the violence is down.
Ed, if you're still there, give our viewers a sense of how many more people can be accommodated at that airport, at the emergency centers that have been established there.
Unfortunately, we have just lost Ed Lavandera. We'll try to reconnect with him, and we'll bring him back. Over at the White House, President Bush earlier today announced that he's bringing in two big guns to try to help him, to try to help the American government, the American people deal with the enormity of this tragedy that has developed in New Orleans, in Mississippi, in Alabama. He has asked his father, the first President Bush, to come in and help with private donations, as well as former President Bill Clinton. They made that announcement a little while ago.
And they just sat down with our Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- President Clinton and the first President Bush -- to offer these thoughts.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Presidents Bush and Clinton, thank you for joining us on CNN.
I, like many Americans, have relatives in New Orleans who have had to flee. I know there are tens of thousands of refugees. And the president said today 90,000 square miles of disaster area. I've seen colleagues who have been at the New Orleans Convention Center who say that they have, literally, witnessed people die before their eyes at that facility. What is the president asking you to do and what does he want Americans to do to help those in need?
GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, he's asking us to raise private sector money, whether it's corporate or individual.
We are not in the operational business. We're not trying to tell somebody from FEMA how to do his job or some governor how they ought to do their jobs. So we are raising money.
We encourage people to give to the Red Cross or whatever else it may be. The governors are each setting up a fund, it hasn't been finalized yet, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana. And we will be -- once those funds are set up -- charitable funds -- we will be emphasizing, give to these funds, and then let the governors and their staffs make the determination where the moneys can best be used. So we're in the fund-raising business, as we were in the tsunami effort.
MALVEAUX: And Mr. Clinton, I understand that you were able to help raise $1 billion for tsunami relief. What do you see in the comparison here when you look at this disaster? How does it compare with the cost, and are you getting offers from the international community?
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, it's a little different here, because the work in the tsunami in those countries had to be paid for by both governments and international financial organizations, along with individual and corporate donors from America and around the world.
Here, our government will cover most of the cost, but there will be untold millions of dollars that are desperately needed to sustain people who would otherwise fall between the cracks. Thirty percent of the people in New Orleans alone live below the poverty line. And you know, we've got problems in Biloxi, problems in Gulfport, all along the Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana coast. So we need private funds as well, even though the Congress and the president will do their part and come up with a lot of money. So that's the first thing.
Will there be international help? I think there might be in surprising places. The Europeans have told the president, he told us that they would provide some refined petroleum products to help ease the gasoline process. It's a kind gesture.
But the ambassador from Sri Lanka has offered to coordinate the tsunami countries in trying to raise some money to help people, because even though they're very poor countries and they're still in the throes of their own difficulties, they know that a lot of these people that are really hurting now are quite poor. And they want to help. So it's been very touching.
I imagine we'll get help from around the world as well.
MALVEAUX: And let's talk about gas prices, because obviously they've gone through the roof. And the president, of course, today said he's issuing some waivers to help oil shipment to become easier. He's also tapping the petroleum oil reserve.
There's some people who are calling for a cap on gas prices. Is that appropriate?
G.H.W. BUSH: I think that's a matter for the government to decide. I don't happen to be -- what they think about it. I don't know enough about it.
MALVEAUX: Do you agree?
CLINTON: Well, let me say, first of all, I agree with what he's done to suspend the impact of the so-called Jones Act and let the foreign ships deliver the fuel now, because we don't have enough domestic ships. I agree with releasing the petroleum reserve.
I think we ought to make sure there's no price gouging. Whether there should be a cap or not, that's really a supply and demand question.
If you think there's no other way to keep excessive prices from being charged, and you believe there's enough fuel to go around, then a cap might be appropriate for a very limited time. It won't work for very long. It might work for a limited time.
But if there's not enough fuel and you put a cap on, then what you might do is just drop the supply even quicker, imposing greater hardship on people.
So I think that that's a decision, as President Bush said, that's a decision we don't have to make any more, and I'm glad we don't. But at least those are the factors I think that should be considered.
G.H.W. BUSH: Congress (ph) is probably opposed to price controls. Maybe there's some exceptions. But I know I am, and President Clinton indicated he is. MALVEAUX: Let me ask you this. There are some people at the New Orleans Convention Center who say that they have been living like animals -- no food, no water, no power. And they are the ones who are saying, where are the buses? Where are the planes?
Why did it take three days to see a real federal response here? Mr. Bush, you, whether it's fair or not, had gone through some administration criticism about your handling of Hurricane Andrew.
G.H.W. BUSH: I sure did.
MALVEAUX: Do you believe that this is legitimate?
G.H.W. BUSH: Yes, I do. What happened? We all sighed with -- not legitimate. I believe that they ought not to be as upset, but I can understand why they are. We thought -- a lot of people thought -- that when the hurricane went to the right a little bit, New Orleans was going to be spared. And it was only the next day that, you know, there were these horrible problems with the levee.
But, look. If I were sitting there with no shower, no ability to use bathroom facilities, worried about my family, not knowing where they were, I'd blame anybody. And so you have to expect that.
MALVEAUX: But do you think this administration responded quickly enough?
G.H.W. BUSH: Of course I do.
CLINTON: Let me answer this. The people in the Superdome are in a special position. And let me say, I've been going to New Orleans for over 50 years. There's no place on Earth I love more. They went into the Superdome, not because of the flooding, but because we thought the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans smack dab and they'd be safe in there if they didn't leave town.
What happened was, when the levee broke and the town flooded, what did it do? It knocked out the electricity and it knocked out the sewage. They're living in hellacious conditions. They would be better off under a tree than being stuck there. You can't even breathe in that place now.
So I understand why they're so anxiety-ridden. But they have to understand, by the time it became obvious that they were in the fix they were in, there were a lot of other problems, too. There were people -- they were worried about people drowning that had to be taken off roofs.
MALVEAUX: So you two believe that the federal response was fast enough?
CLINTON: All I'm saying is what I know the facts are today. There are hundreds of buses now engaged in the act of taking people from New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston. And you and I are not in a position to make any judgment because we weren't there. All I'm saying is the way they got stuck there, I see why they feel the way they do. But the people that put them there did it because they thought they were saving their lives. And then when the problems showed up, they had a lot of other people to save. Now they've got hundreds of buses. We just need to get them out.
I think they'll all be out by tomorrow. Didn't they say they would all be out by tomorrow morning?
G.H.W. BUSH: Yes.
MALVEAUX: OK. Well, thank you very much. I'm sorry. We've run out of time. Thank you.
G.H.W. BUSH: Let me -- I just to want finish. I believe the administration is doing the right thing, and I believe they have acted in a timely fashion.
And I understand people being critical. That happens all the time. And I understand some people wanted to make, you know, a little difficulty by criticizing the president and the team. But I don't want to sit here and not defend the administration which, in my view, has taken all the right steps. And they're facing problems that nobody could foresee -- breaking of the levees and the whole dome thing over in New Orleans coming apart. People couldn't foresee that.
CLINTON: Yes. I think that's important to point out. Because when you say that they should have done this, that or the other thing first, you can look at that problem in isolation, and you can say that.
But look at all the other things they had to deal with. I'm telling you, nobody thought this was going to happen like this. But what happened here is they escaped -- New Orleans escaped Katrina. But it brought all the water up the Mississippi River and all into Pontchartrain, and then when it started running and that levee broke, they had problems they never could have foreseen.
And so I just think that we need to recognize right now there's a confident effort under way. People are doing the best they can. And I just don't think it's the time to worry about that. We need to keep people alive and get them back to life -- normal life.
MALVEAUX: Good luck to both of you on this mission. Thank you very much. Presidents Bush and Clinton, thanks again.
BLITZER: Our Suzanne Malveaux, speaking with the two former presidents over at the White House just a few moments ago. They have responded to a request from the current President Bush to go ahead and try to raise funds from private sources. Millions and millions of dollars are going to be needed -- billions of dollars, actually, to go ahead and deal with this enormous crisis that has unfolded, not only in New Orleans, but Mississippi and Alabama as well.
CNN's Chris Lawrence is in New Orleans. He's on the scene for us. Where are you, Chris, right now? Chris Lawrence, it's Wolf in Washington. Can you hear me?
We're going to try to reconnect with Chris Lawrence. I believe he's on Canal Street in the French Quarter. We'll get back to Chris Lawrence as soon as we can connect with him.
Debra Feyerick is covering this story for us. She's in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over where FEMA and others have established their headquarters. Deb, what are you hearing? What are authorities saying to you now?
Because we are getting eyewitness accounts saying FEMA officials, the National Guard, local police, they're missing in action. They may be on the way in big numbers, but they're not very visible in critical parts of New Orleans right now. What are they telling you?
DEBRA FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know, it's interesting Wolf, because there really seems to be a disconnect between the kind of information that's coming out from reporters who were actually there witnessing things happening and the officials here at the FEMA command center.
The question that no one can answer is why are there no armed convoys or helicopters bringing food and water into the people who need it most, the people at the Superdome, the people at the Convention Center, the people at the hospitals where there are actually helipads on the rooftops.
A National Guardsman says that they are trying to get trucks of food out as fast as they can, but no one can answer why no one on the ground, the people who need it most, seem to be getting it.
There's a lot of activity here. You can hear that there have been helicopters landing all day. Those are some of the helicopters that are bringing in high-level officials. One of them, Lieutenant General Honore.
The government right now really restored on -- focused on restoring order to the city of New Orleans. The governor has asked for as much help as she can get in terms of uniformed personnel. They are bringing in 200 military police officers. The governor says they are in New Orleans now. She says there are going to be hundreds more on the way, 250 police officers from across the country. They're going to have authority within New Orleans.
Also 12,000 National Guardsmen. They're not here, yet. They're being mobilized.
Why the delay? Nobody can answer that. They're saying this storm happened so quickly, the devastation so great, that the -- they're trying to get all of their sort of ducks in a row so they can bring in everybody, and then mobilize them to the areas that need them the most. The governor has said...
BLITZER: Deb, I have to interrupt for a second. But I want our viewers to look at this picture. This is another rescue operation that's underway. We can see this rescue worker in this harness going up into this U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. I just want our viewers to know this is new videotape coming in.
They're clearly going around, going around the area. They're looking at the rooftops. There are still many, many people who are stranded, they can't get out of their homes, they can't walk anyplace, A, because it's too flooded; B, because it's disease-ridden, many of those waters; and, C, because it's getting very ugly and violent in many parts of New Orleans.
I'm going to get back to Deb Feyerick in a moment, but Chris Lawrence is there on the scene. I believe you can hear me now, Chris, can you? Chris, can you hear me? It's Wolf.
We're having a little trouble getting connected with Chris Lawrence. He's in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This is all understandable. This is very, very difficult to connect with anyone in the New Orleans area. The communications capabilities clearly crippled by the enormity of the aftermath of this storm.
I interrupted you, Deb Feyerick, but give us a final thought before I let you go.
FEYERICK: Well, the final thought is the governor has no idea how many people are trapped within New Orleans, the governor has no idea how many people will ultimately be dead from this tragedy. They're simply trying to get buses in, but first priority, simply restore order so the people can who can go in and rescue can do their jobs. One state senator said, you can't very well rescue people when they're shooting at you.
BLITZER: All right. Deb, we'll check back with you. Thanks very much.
We're going to take a quick break. But we're going to continue our extensive coverage: The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It's getting ugly -- very, very ugly. And it's getting worse by the moment in New Orleans.
We're going to continue our coverage there. Chris Lawrence -- hopefully, we'll connect with him when we come back. We'll also check in with Jack Cafferty.
We'll take a quick break.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Aircraft Carrier Harry S. Truman, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, getting ready to leave Norfolk, Virginia, to make the journey to New Orleans -- could take five, six days. An aircraft carrier will be in the port of New Orleans to try to deal, to try to help out with this situation -- five, six days.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, I assume it could take five, six days for the Harry S. Truman to make its way from Virginia to Louisiana. Is that about right?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And when it gets there, it's going to serve as a floating command post and also a staging area for helicopters. They still have a great need for helicopters.
One of the things we keep asking the Pentagon officials all day today -- they kept telling us about all of these troops that are going, and we've been reporting about the increase in the number of security forces. There'll be -- by next week there will be 7,000 military police in New Orleans -- or in Louisiana, many of those in New Orleans.
But where are they? I've just been told there is a flight of 100 military police reserve -- Guard troops who are going to arrive on a C-130 -- two C-130s at the airport at 10:00 tonight. I'm told that when they get off the plane they're going to be combat-ready. In other words, they're going to be ready to go to work right as soon as they get on the plane.
But we keep asking, you know, where are the 1,400 troops that are supposed to be going in today? Where are they? They keep telling us they're on the way.
It's kind of a startling admission today from General Honore, who was the military commander in charge of all this, when we asked him, you know, why has the response taken so long? He simply admitted that they failed to take into account the worst-case scenario. He said in all the brainstorming before this, all the collaboration, nobody, he said, was clairvoyant enough -- those were his words -- to forecast this amount of danger. So now they've been catching up. And you can see that it's been -- it's been extremely difficult on the people there, because they're just not seeing the troops on the ground. Even though, when this is all said and done, by next week there will probably be 50,000 U.S. troops involved in this operation. But right now it's hard to see evidence of that.
BLITZER: And we're getting those eyewitness accounts from our own reporters and producers on the scene who say that they're looking for the National Guard, they're looking for military personnel at critical locations, including the Convention Center, where there's about 20,000 people that are trapped. And the mayor has just issued a desperate SOS saying, get out, walk out, do the best you can because they're so strapped right now.
MCINTYRE: You know, Wolf, the question that we can't get a good answer to is, why are these troops that are supposed to be pouring in today and tomorrow, why weren't they pouring in yesterday and the day before? What has been the delay? Has it been because officials didn't ask for them? Did they not anticipate the request enough? Did they simply didn't move fast enough?
We just have not been able to get a straight answer to that question.
BLITZER: Jamie, if you can see a camera, I want to show our viewers these pictures -- these are pictures just coming in to CNN. Maybe we could go wide and show this on the full screen. There they are, right now. Look at this. These are people who are wading through water above their waists, almost up to their shoulders sometimes. They're trying to get through an area with whatever meager possessions they might have, and try to get to some sort of safe situation. We see this picture unfolding over and over and over again.
So the bottom line, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, the National Guard is on the way, thousands of troops are coming, but it's still going to take some time before they're in place.
MCINTYRE: And Wolf, if there was a perfect response to this storm, there would still be a lot of people who had suffered a terrible tragedy. But it's really hard to make the case that this is anything close to a perfect response.
In fact, I think there's going to be a lot of second-guessing and going back, trying to figure out how things could have been done better, because clearly, what this response -- as good as it is and the effort being made by all the military on the ground and all the other people -- it is not up to the task of relieving the suffering of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who are really in dire straits.
BLITZER: All Right. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our Jack Cafferty. He's in New York. Jack, you know, it's pretty startling -- because I remember when Hurricane Katrina, last Thursday, exactly a week ago, when it hit south Florida, the Ft. Lauderdale area and Miami, we saw some of the flooding -- it was then a Category 1. And there was some serious flooding in south Florida -- we don't want to belittle that, by any means -- about 75 miles-an-hour.
But within minutes after leaving south Florida, on this program we heard Max Mayfield and Ed Rappaport of the National Hurricane Center. This hurricane was going to pick up speed as it goes over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And they immediately began pointing towards New Orleans -- this is on Friday and Saturday -- saying, you know, it could make a direct hit on New Orleans.
And it picked up, became a Category 5 with winds about 150 miles- an-hour, slowed down a little bit by the time it hit Monday morning, a Category 4 with winds of about 140 miles-an-hour.
But as you and I know, there have been articles in scientific publications and in newspapers for many years suggesting that the levees, the systems, the flood walls in New Orleans were simply not capable of surviving anything more than a Category 3 hurricane.
So, to say that this should have been a huge surprise to a lot of individuals is to ignore a lot of scientific literature that said exactly this -- this is the worst case, that it could happen.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It could happen. And with a couple of days' notice, as you suggested, it was taking shape and drawing a bead on the city, and we knew it was coming. And yet, the poorest and the neediest and the most helpless of those in New Orleans, well, they're still there, aren't they?
Despite the many angles of this tragedy -- and lord knows there've been a lot of them in New Orleans -- there is a great big elephant in the living room that the media seems content to ignore.
That would be until now. Slate.com's Jack Schafer wrote today in his column that television coverage has shied away from talking about race and class. Schafer says that we in the media are ignoring the fact that almost all of the victims in New Orleans are black and poor. And he's right. Almost every person we've seen, from the families stranded on their rooftops waiting to be rescued, to the looters, to the people holed up in the Superdome, are black and poor.
Many of them didn't follow the evacuation orders because they didn't have the means to get out of town. They just couldn't do it. A lot of them are sick. A lot of them don't have cars. A lot of them just didn't have the means to leave the Big Easy. And they're still there.
So here's the question: What role have race and class played in the Gulf Coast crisis? You tell us. CaffertyFile -- one word -- @CNN.com.
Wolf, we got something like 7,500 letters in the first hour of the program today. I thought we got a lot yesterday. We got about 6,000 letters over the course of the three hours yesterday. Seventy- five hundred e-mails poured in, in the first hour.
One of them suggested I could be tied up in IRS audits for years after the things I said about the federal government in the first hour.
BLITZER: That's all right. You have nothing to hide, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Okay, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jack Cafferty.
I want to show our viewers some pictures that are just coming in. We're getting multiple feeds. These are live pictures you're seeing over here from the airport, New Orleans Airport, individuals being brought in by helicopters or planes. They have got an emergency medical facility unde rway right now. And New Orleans Airport has become a major source of attention.
These pictures over here, look at this. Individuals continuing to do what we've been seeing for days now, simply walking through the water -- we have to assume it's disgusting water, and rapidly becoming disease-filled water -- just trying to get to some location with what meager possessions they have. We see that picture over and over and over again.
As much as you see that picture, though, you simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals. As Jack Cafferty just pointed out, so tragically, so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold.
We'll take a quick break. More of our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Along Mississippi's Gulf Coast, conditions may not be as desperate as they are right now in New Orleans, but make no mistake about it. People are in dire straits there as well.
Let's check in with CNN's Randi Kaye. She's in Biloxi, Mississippi. Randi, what's going on?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, so far here we haven't seen the dangerous situation that they're experiencing over there in New Orleans. In fact, the National Guard is in place here, and they are actually now in charge of security in the Biloxi area, where we are.
We're right where Highway 90 used to be in the BIloxi area. They've taken over security from the local authorities who have actually lost homes and some family members on their own, so it's giving them time to take care of their own personal things.
I just want to show you here, still many things just out and about that just don't belong right where they are. This is actually a piece of the I-10 bridge that I'm standing on. If you look all the way out in the distance there, if you can make it out, that's how far this piece of the bridge came.
And right here, you can see, this is a trailer that obviously isn't meant to be right here. A giant piece of equipment. This is one very strong hurricane. Here is a door. This door, I'm told, belonged to a pawn shop which used to be over there in the distance.
Now, we had a lot of time to find the people who are familiar with these items, and we found them. This is Bridgette Segovia and her son Aaron Johnston. And they actually know where these items come from, because you knew the pawn shop owner. Now, tell me what you've lost in the storm?
BRIDGETTE SEGOVIA, SURVIVED HURRICANE KATRINA: The Lighthouse Snowball stand that used to sit here in the back, and it's no longer there.
KAYE: So you had a sno-cone stand that was way out there on the beach and it's completely gone.
SEGOVIA: Gone. We grilled burgers, we made sno-cones for the beach. It's been here for 15 years and it's no longer here.
KAYE: And, Bridgette, you just moved here, didn't you?
SEGOVIA: Yes. From Amarillo, Texas. This is my first hurricane.
KAYE: And you moved her about six months ago, so you were never expecting something like this.
KAYE: No. And what was your reaction when you came out here after the storm and you saw that your whole business was gone?
SEGOVIA: At first I was in shock, and then I just broke down crying. I have no job. I have -- everything's just a mess.
KAYE: And you had moved here to help save some money, hadn't you?
SEGOVIA: Yes. This is -- we stopped here temporarily, and then we were moving on.
KAYE: And I want to talk to your son Aaron here. Aaron, I know you had a little business out there on the beach as well which is now destroyed. Tell me about that.
AARON JOHNSTON, SURVIVED HURRICANE KATRINA: Yes, ma'am. It was the Skies and Skis Rental over here on the beach. I worked there for six months during school. After school started, I worked there. And now, since the hurricane came, now I ain't got a job. And that's about it.
KAYE: It's pretty tough to see, you know, just these businesses just completely, completely wiped out that used to be there one day, gone the next. I know you even found the key to the tractor here, somewhere, just sitting around. You never know what you're going to find here along the beach. Unfortunately, your businesses are both gone.
Wolf, lots of stories like that out here.
BLITZER: I assume there are many, many more, unfortunately. Randi, thank you very much. Randi Kaye watching for us in Mississippi -- Biloxi, Mississippi, specifically.
Here in Washington, members of Congress have decided to follow President Bush's lead, cut short their vacations to address the crisis along the Gulf Coast.
Let's turn to our Congressional Correspondent, Joe Johns. Joe, what are they doing?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A bit of a controversy developing here on Capitol Hill. Even though the Congress is out of session, quite frankly, as you know, Wolf, number one, the Senate of the United States coming in this evening. The House of Representatives coming in tomorrow to try to pass some type of bill to keep the FEMA operating.
Meanwhile, the speaker of the House has come under attack for some statements he made in a suburban Chicago newspaper relating to the long-term development of New Orleans. He was asked at an editorial board meeting of "The Daily Herald" newspaper whether billions of federal dollars should be sunk into New Orleans in rebuilding it. He said -- quote -- "it doesn't make sense to me". Hastert also said it's a question that certainly we should ask. He also said in that interview that a lot of the place looks like it ought to be bulldozed.
Now, we did ask his spokesman about those statements. His spokesman said the speaker is talking about rebuilding New Orleans in a way that protects the citizens. Also, he says the speaker is not advocating that the city, in fact, be relocated. He believes New Orleans should be rebuilt in a way that protects its citizens from dangers like Hurricane Katrina, and therefore, it should not be done in the same way it's built now.
So a lot of stuff going on here on Capitol Hill, Wolf, even though the Congress is still out of session. They are expected to come back into session tonight and tomorrow to deal with FEMA.
Back to you.
BLITZER: But they're going to come back in the next few days and pass, what, an emergency supplemental of what, $10 billion?
JOHNS: That's what people are talking about. However, we're not real firm on that number. There was a conference call around 3:30 Eastern Time involving officials from the administration, also top leaders in the House and Senate, to try to come to some agreement on the final number. We were told, originally, that $10 billion would be needed to keep FEMA operating just for awhile. Some suggestion that FEMA is spending money at a rate of a half a billion dollars a day, and some concern that they have to do something before the Congress is scheduled to formally come back into session, of course on Tuesday.
Tonight and tomorrow, assuming all of this goes forward as expected, we are hearing it will probably involve very few members of Congress and the House and Senate, only those people necessary to try to deem it through in the Senate, get it passed in the House of Representatives, and try to do it in the quickest way possible with so many members of Congress all over the country and even the world.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Joe Johns. I suspect the speaker Dennis Hastert's going to have some explaining to do if, in fact, he was quoted accurately in that suburban newspaper.
Look at this pictures that we're getting. These are live pictures, courtesy of from our affiliate WAVY Norfolk, Virginia. The U.S. Aircraft Carrier Harry S. Truman leaving Norfolk, making the five, six-day journey to New Orleans to be on station as a command post to deal with this emerging situation underway -- that is underway right now.
Let's go to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Michael Brown, the FEMA director, the Federal Emergency Management Agency director, speaking out. MICHAEL BROWN, DIRECTOR OF FEMA: We had to temporarily this morning withdraw some of the national disaster medical teams after the shot was fired that you all have heard about. But I want to assure the American public that that did not stop operations in terms of rescue or life-saving efforts.
The choppers continue to do their work. They simply shifted from moving patients to doing rescue. Not once did those choppers stop doing what they were supposed to be doing. That's their mission, and they will continue to do that.
We got about -- I forget how many pallets -- but we had well over three dozen pallets of food and water delivered last night. The state has request five -- I'm sorry, five trailer-loads of MREs and water to be delivered today. Those are en route. There was plenty of food to feed last night in the Superdome. There is plenty of food to feed this morning, and there will be plenty of food to feed this evening. So, any reports to the contrary are just incorrect.
We're aware of the situation in the Convention Center. There are approximately 5,000 people in the Convention Center, and food and water is being delivered to them also.
We're continuing the same type of efforts in Mississippi and Alabama.
As I said in the first briefing, the president has said that every idea is on the table, so we're looking at such things as we're going to have cruise ships to house both victims and the workers. We don't want disaster workers necessarily taking away hotel rooms or any other facilities that people have decided to move in to and stay in those places because they have no other place to go. So we're doing that.
General Honore has been working incredibly closely with FEMA and doing all of the civil support stuff that we've asked him to do.
I just want to say publicly that the Army has done an incredible job of fulfilling every mission that we have given to them. The general will talk more about this, but the number of Guard troops are continuing to increase exponentially. He has specific figures he can give you. But I can tell you that number continues to grow. And there is not an area that does not at this point have guard support or security forces in place.
My own staff, who was at the Convention Center, described last night two large helicopters landing and some of the biggest, burliest men and women that they have to protect those folks in the Superdome, did land and had had a very calming effect.
I think it's incumbent upon us to report accurately what is going on in terms of the Superdome and in terms of the Convention Center. Those people are listening very carefully. They want our help. We're providing that help to them. And I think it just behooves to us be as honest and forthright as we can with them, as I'm trying to be with you. So with that, General, do you want to make a few comments about some of the operational status?
And I'd be happy to take a few questions.
LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD: Yes. From a military perspective, we continue to deploy National Guard troops to the state of Louisiana and Mississippi to work the security and evacuation, as well as the search and rescue.
As of last evening in Louisiana, we had approximately 4,700 National Guardsmen. Those were troops from Louisiana. By the end of the day, we will have a total of approximately 7,400 National Guardsmen working in Louisiana.
And in Mississippi, last evening we had approximately 2,700 National Guardsmen, and by this evening we'll have approximately 6,000.
That number will grow over the next three days to approximately 12,000 troops in Louisiana and Mississippi, through the evening of the 4th. That is a tremendous logistics effort to move those troops because until you get to the disaster area, you have a problem. You have to get into the area. And the roads in many places and the locations we have to go is restricted because of damage from the storm.
The storm had a (INAUDIBLE) in that the water created a specific issue in New Orleans that is specific to New Orleans, and it's a disaster that created a concentration of people and a large number seeking high ground, and another dispersion of people in New Orleans who sought the highest part of the building they were in. That has created significant effort in an urban environment for search and rescue.
Conversely, in Mississippi, we have the same challenge, but it's over a more dispersed area, from the coast of Mississippi all the way up to Interstate 20. That's a significant drive if those of you that have gone through that, as well as from east to west, almost from the western border of Mississippi to the eastern border is basically destroyed a mile to two in. Buildings are destroyed, infrastructure is destroyed. From the southern part of Mississippi all the way up to Jackson and Meridian, there is no telephone service and no electricity, per se.
So the area in Mississippi, the population is more dispersed, which creates a challenge for distribution. And we can have the primary roads open in Mississippi. The secondary roads and farm roads where people live create a challenge for the same -- opposite of the challenge in New Orleans, which is an urban environment, is multiplied in the rural environment to find the people and get food and water to them.
And we're building capacity to the tune of about 200 helicopters we have that are available or will be in service in the next 12 to 24 hours from the Navy. We have an aircraft carrier en route. From the Marines we have a Muarg (Ph), with significant helicopters and command and control capability, and we have the Baton off the coast of Mississippi.
At this time she's refueling, filing her stores, and it will operate south of Biloxi in support of Mississippi in the open water areas to push supplies, as well as to help in command and control of the significant number of helicopters.
The United States Air Force are part of our JTF, and will set the air coordination and control and run the strategic lift aspect.
The United States Coast Guard has done a magnificent job, starting small from that first person you saw evacuated by helicopter, to operating 50 to 60 helicopters continuously in New Orleans and off the coast of Mississippi doing search and rescue. And that's what they continue to do. As well as the support we've gotten from the United States Army in the way of helicopters and communications capability that will enable us to adequately control these forces and to sustain them over time.
So all of the services are actively engaged. And we are working in support of the National Guard under the priorities that are set by Director Brown and the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana.
That's basically what we're doing now. Every day, while the situation for the people who are stranded becomes more intolerable, we are building a capacity to address that by evacuation and to get them to a more safe and secure environment.
And it's a challenge. And we're trying to meet that as best we can. But, again, the weather has a vote. And the dispersion of the people, and the concentration of the people in the urban environment create a challenge, and we're trying to work through that using military assets in support of the first responders in the city and counties and parishes to address those issues.
And it's a challenge, but our ability continues to get better every day.
QUESTION: The soldiers in New Orleans -- what order are they under when they encounter some kind of law breaking or violence, things like that?
HONORE: Those sergeants are operating under state law under the control of the governor of the respective state. And they are empowered to conduct law enforcement and apprehensions as they do their job. Those soldiers are National Guard soldiers under direct control of the governor.
QUESTION: Can you talk to us about air operations, about air- lifting food into those areas, water, things that become critical as time goes on?
HONORE: Yes. The initial challenge for air-lift -- strategic air- lift, I assume you're talking about, fixed wing air-lift -- was to get the airports open, free of debris. You know, last night it was 72 hours. I stopped counting after that. To get those airports open was a significant challenge with trash.
At the Biloxi-Gulfport Airport there was debris from the coast that was pushed in there with that 28 to 30 feet of water that created a problem. And then we had to put power in it. The good news is, last night power was on at Biloxi-Gulfport. Power was on and it's coming up in the New Orleans Airport. Power is on at Keesler as of yesterday. It is critical to bring in resupply by air if we elect to use that mode. The rail system is starting to come back. And the airport will give other options for resupply, as well as for evacuation.
QUESTION: -- military personnel coming into Baton Rouge --
HONORE: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: What kind of military personnel are you expecting to come into Baton Rouge to protect that (INAUDIBLE)?
HONORE: Protect them from what?
QUESTION: All the extra population. There's a lot of concern about refugees (ph).
HONORE: I see. Well I don't have total visibility on that, but places where we are concentrating the population, our fellow Americans, in conjunction with the local law enforcement and the National Guard, we are establishing security there for those people.
QUESTION: General, the governor has asked for 40,000 federal troops. Are you all in a position to turn that many loose in Louisiana for security, search and rescue --
HONORE: I just spoke with the governor. And I think we -- the point we were making is that it could be up to 40,000 National Guard troops that are doing direct security and assistance mission, and we will commit whatever is requested to do the DOD portion of that. Most of that is enabling capabilities -- strategic air, helicopters, ships -- that will help enable the National Guard and the first responders and the county and city governments to establish distribution as well as to establish ways to disperse the people and to take care of them.
BROWN: And if you do the calculations the general just gave you, we get up to in excess of 30,000 troops that are going to be available. And the governor said that's going to satisfy the need that she has. And that's our job, is to satisfy the demands that the state gives us. So if the number was 40,000 and the governor's happy with 30,000, that's what she will get.
QUESTION: Mr. Brown, there's been a lot of criticism of the way FEMA has been handling this crisis initially, especially from some of the -- some of your own people within New Orleans.
In Jefferson Parish, your emergency management director, Walter Maestri, said supplies are disappearing within hours and we are beginning -- we are begging and pleading for help. In New Orleans, FEMA's -- excuse me, the Homeland Security director there, Terry Ebert, said FEMA's response is a national disgrace that is falling far short of what's needed. He said we can send supplies to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans. Your response to that?
BROWN: The men and women of FEMA, the Army, the Coast Guard, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Transportation, Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, all 22 departments and agencies within DHS, all 28 that make up the emergency support functions, are doing every single thing that they can, and meeting every single request. We have to recognize that this is an ongoing disaster, that we continue to meet the needs as they are communicated to us through the state. We continue to make available pallets, truckloads, helicopter loads -- whatever they need that they convey to us, we get to them.
I think everyone in the country needs to take a big collective deep breath, and recognize that there are a lot of people in this state, in Mississippi and Alabama, who are living under conditions that, quite frankly, I doubt any reporter in this room is living under. No food, no water. It's hot, it's sticky. Their homes have been destroyed. They don't know where they're going to go next. And so the job of FEMA and the Army, the Department of Homeland Security is to get them as much aid to them as quickly as possible and to every single person that we can.
QUESTION: Would you say --
BROWN: This is an ongoing disaster. This disaster did not end the day that Katrina made landfall. We had pre-positioned men, equipment, supplies, truckloads, caravans, the search and rescue teams, all of those, to move in as soon as it was safe to do so.
And if you think about New Orleans, we were ready to move in as soon as Katrina moved out. What happened is we suddenly had breaches, and you cannot put rescue people in there because of the ongoing disaster.
We'll continue to meet every need that the state puts upon us.
I understand when an emergency manager or a Homeland Security adviser out in a parish or a county somewhere gets frustrated because someone tells him that that truckload of food is going to be there at noon, and because they head down some road that they suddenly find flooded, or they head down some road that suddenly there's downed power lines, that it gets there at 4:00 instead. And so I understand exactly that that gets reported in the media as a frustration.
But what the American people need to understand is that the full force of the federal government is bringing all of those supplies in, in an unprecedented effort that has not been seen even in the tsunami region. And I will tell you, I speak from firsthand experience because I was in the tsunami region. And this response is incredibly more efficient, more effective, and under the most difficult circumstances. Because if you think about the tsunami, it came and went. This disaster continued and continued growing, particularly in New Orleans.
QUESTION: If you didn't have so many soldiers in Iraq, would there be a quicker response? Are you missing these people who are gone?
BROWN: We have every single resource that we need from the Army. And the Army has not expressed to me any reservation about providing what I need. So Iraq has no bearing whatsoever on what we're doing in New Orleans, Mississippi, or Alabama.
QUESTION: Why did it take two-and-a-half days to start airlifting people out of Big Charity Hospital, two-and-a-half days after they first requested evacuation?
BROWN: Well, there's several reasons. First and foremost, you have to get the patients ready. You cannot just go in and start taking critically ill patients out and put them in a sling and put them in a helicopter and just start delivering them from one place to another.
The hospital has to begin preparing those patients. Once you do that, you have to locate hospitals where they're able to take the patients for the particular need they have. If you have cardiac patients, they have to go where a cardiac bed is available. And so once that need comes in, and is identified to us, we begin to immediately identify how can we meet that resource request, and what's the capability that we need to get that done? And so that is something that just takes time.
You know, I can -- I could call from -- I could call from my house and say, I need a case of MREs and six cases of water. That has to be transmitted to somebody and has to be transported to somebody. And that does not occur instantaneously. That takes time. And I think the American people recognize that, and that the response that's occurring is actually a very efficient and quick response under this circumstances.
QUESTION: Director Brown?
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) what FEMA's doing at this point?
BROWN: I was just getting briefed by -- thanks, General. I was just getting briefed by our Dmore (ph) team as this press briefing started. They have established a staging area, don't quote me, San Gabriel or Saint Gabriel -- Saint Gabriel. Thank you. And so they have started that process. Those teams are now in place and working.
QUESTION: How many teams do you have?
BROWN: There are six teams now. But I'll confirm that number.
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