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CNN Saturday Morning News

Miners Trapped Underground As Fire Spreads; Good News For Whale In Thames River; Residents Help Plan Louisiana Recovery; Jonathan Prince Still Running For Charity

Aired January 21, 2006 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: They had the fire under control, then only to see the fire flare up again and that is a real problem. There is very little that can be done right now until that fire is brought under control. Fifty people involved in this rescue at this point.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: They are trying to pump air in, as well, especially for the trapped miners. And bring them out to safety. But there's caution there because as you try to pump air into this mine, you worry about fanning the fire. So the fire obviously is hampering the efforts right now to try to get those miners locate where they are. They have done some' drilling. Still haven't heard anything back. They have even sent cameras and microphones in.

HARRIS: OK. And we're going to get to CNN's Bob Franken in just a second. The other point to make about the fire is that it presents all kinds of challenges in terms of visibility. The miners have lights on the helmets. But there is only so much they can see.

When there's fire and smoke and everything that goes with it. You mention the tapping that there was a hole drilled and they were hoping that they had drilled that hole in the area where the miners -- where the miners were. They would get some kind of signal from the miners and they didn't.

Let's bring in CNN's Bob Franken. Bob we have been sort of talking about what we were able to learn from the press conference. What more were you able to learn?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all the deteriorating conditions are very unpleasant surprise for officials. They had hoped that made the kind of progress, which would allow them to actually spend most of their time on the search itself. Instead the search crews have to wait outside now with two crews involved trying to spread this fire, which is spreading more.

You also heard the officials point out that when they had drilled the hole, that you just mentioned, first they tried to send signals to the miners, all of this is training, that the miners all receive, there were no signals back. Then they lowered a camera and saw nothing. That is nothing but bad news and as we've been hearing time and again, the longer this goes, the less optimistic the officials can be.

Things are exacerbated somewhat today by the fact it's raining here so there is a slippery terrain and that causes even more problems. As for the families, this is become regrettably for all of us who have been following the sudden rash of mine problems, the families are up at a nearby church and all they can do is sort of huddle together and hope for the best and try and fend off the feelings of despair that really accompany this that become part of a culture here.

I'm standing in an area that is just down the road from the scene of one of the historic fights over union organizing here in Logan Mountain here in Logan County. Matron is just a county away, that's the famous fight that occurred. This is a nonunion mine. I can guarantee you that the united mine workers who had some officials on the scene here will probably try to make an issue of this. Right now the focus, the intense focus is trying to rescue two miners with no knowledge at all if they even can be rescued.

HARRIS: OK. Bob, I have to ask you, there was talk of -- well, more than that, let's sort of get a reset here. We're talking about a team of 12 miners and we understand that ten were able to get out and is it the belief that the two miners that remain trapped just went in a different direction were somehow separated from the other ten members of the team?

FRANKEN: Well, they can only talk of possibilities. But what occurred is when they came up and their tram, their manned transport, they got as far as they could get. Then they had to leave and in effect get down on their hands and knees and put on the respirators and then move the rest of the way out like that.

What we were told is by a couple of people is that maybe the two had a little bit of trouble with their respirators and so they got disconnected while they worked with that. It's fairly intricate putting those things on particularly under extreme circumstances.

In any case they discovered they were missing when they got pretty much to the surface and that was yesterday morning -- yesterday afternoon about 5:30 or so. And since then, this has been revved up into the search we're having now. A search that as you just pointed out has been hampered severely by a fire that has been much more troublesome than they thought it would be.

HARRIS: CNN's Bob Franken for us in Melville, West Virginia, a great historical perspective on that. We appreciate it, Bob, thank you.

NGUYEN: That mine story is one of many stories we've been following.

Another one we're going to put some live pictures up for you as well, that whale story in London. We've been telling you about efforts to aid a whale stranded in the Thames River. Well CNN's Jim Boulden has been following the story all morning long for us. He joins us now on the phone with an update. The latest we saw, Jim, was that this yellow raft-like mechanism has been inflated and that maybe this whale will be to towed somewhere.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That is right Betty. We have had two pieces of very good news given us to in just the last few moments. Let me bring you right up to date. Number one we've been told that the whale will be towed in the next few minutes, they assessed the whale's health and they told us that he is not near death -- not near death. So they have decided to tow the whale about a mile down the river. And then they will get to a crane.

That crane will then lift the whale, put the whale on to a barge, and they will take that some 40 miles to the end of the Thames into the English Channel and there a vet will make a final determination of whether or not this whale now dubbed the Westminster Whale can then be released into open waters. That's very good news. We just had that confirmed by the rescuers who spent the last two hours in the water assessing the health of the whale. They have decided to give it a shot.

NGUYEN: That is definitely good news. This has been quite a spectacle over which you named for us. That has been one of the e- mail questions what do you want to name this whale? But apparently you guys have named it the "Westminster Whale.: Do you know why it has changed from possibly being a critically injured whale to a whale that may not be as seriously injured as first thought? What have they been able to learn in the last few hours to determine that?

BOULDEN: They had two vets, four biologist and the person we have been told is the foremost whale expert in the U.K. in the water with the two dozen people touching the whale, looking over the whale very closely. When they captured the whale and put it into the yellow pontoon they were able to look close-up and clearly then they were able to assess a whale that's obviously very distressed. Obviously very tired because it was fighting this strong tide.

You have to understand the Thames in this part of the Thames is tidal. A lot of people don't know that. It's a very strong tide. It's a very dangerous tide. This whale simply could not fight against it. When they were able to get it at low tide. They could walk into the water, literally into the water and assess the whale, took about two hours, and with that they decided that they can move this whale hopefully all the way out into open sea.

NGUYEN: That is very good. We can hear noises behind you. Of course crowds have gathered and have been watching this. For many hours now, hoping to see this whale be as you mentioned lifted out of the water on to a barge and out to safety. We'll be checking in with you, Jim. Thanks so much for that update.

HARRIS: And back here in the U.S. its time to move ahead says Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Governor Blanco will be here in Atlanta later today. To take part in a Louisiana recovery-planning day, displaced Gulf Coast residents will have a chance to give input on rebuilding their communities. Dozens of events are taking place throughout Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and Tennessee.

Yesterday CNN's Anderson Cooper talked with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. The exclusive interview followed Nagin's controversial comments that in the future New Orleans should be "a chocolate city" for which Nagin apologized. Well, sort of. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: I'm African-American. OK. Just to kind of put that out there. It's part of our culture to talk about chocolate cities. You know, D.C. was the first chocolate city that ever came on the map -- Newark, Detroit, New Orleans, so for me the vernacular of saying chocolate city was not a big deal.

I have used that in speeches for three and a half years now. I've used it on Capitol Hill. I didn't really think it was a big deal. Where I crossed the line was bringing god into the whole discussion. And that's where I kind of zoned out.


HARRIS: Now some evacuees are getting zoned out as they are getting some unpleasant notices. Hundreds of New Orleans homeowners most of whom are living out of the state have seven working days to collect personal items from their hurricane destroyed homes before they are bulldozed.

NGUYEN: All right. Stories across American now. Former President Gerald ford is said to be doing well and responding to treatment in a California hospital. The 92-year-old was admitted a week ago for pneumonia; Ford spokeswoman says doctors are assessing his recovery to see if he can be released.

One of three homeless men senselessly beaten in South Florida has been released from the hospital and is talking about the ordeal. Three teens are facing murder charges after one of the victims died. Amazingly Raymond Perez says he wishes his attackers well and hopes they mend their ways. He describes what it was like the night he was attacked.


RAYMOND PEREZ, BEATING VICTIM: Blank for a little while after they left. Then I was thinking how am I going to get to the hospital. And until I hear a fire alarm, and I try to crawl out to the street. I'm happy they were arrested not because -- we have to clear this up. Somebody, if they got away with that. We want this gentleman to be somebody later in life. I am willing to work with them.


NGUYEN: And in New York City, fear that another possible transit strike looms this is morning. Union workers narrowly rejected a tentative agreement that ended last month's strike. Seven votes against the proposed contract sends negotiators back to the drawing board. Contract opponents bristled at a provision-requiring employee paid contributions for healthcare.

HARRIS: Traveling across the country is no small trip. But imagine making the journey on foot.

NGUYEN: That's right. Coming up one man's race for relief. We've been following his journey. Starting in California and now he made it to the crescent city. Jonathan Friends joins us live next.



HARRIS: Are you ready? The whale is OK. Disoriented, yes. Confused, of course. Hungry, probably. But the whale is not critically injured. The Westminster Whale as I think what we've named it or at least media types in London have named it. The whale is OK. What is happening now is the whale is getting a nice little ride gentle ride out to the mouth of the Thames River where the whale will be encouraged to swim, swim, whale, swim out to the open sea.

Bonnie Schneider now in the CNN Weather Center with the weather for the entire country this morning. Good morning, Bonnie.


HARRIS: Good point.

Much more to come on CNN SATURDAY MORNING. We'll check out the stories you're logging on to at Here is a bit of a hint you can't seem to get enough of Brangelina.

NGUYEN: It's a heavy rescue effort. Stress on heavy. We're keeping an eye on the Thames River as some good Samaritans try to take this whale to warmer water. The whale is fine we hear. So rest assured the whale will hopefully be as Tony says swimming, swim, whale, out to sea.


HARRIS: Flashback to the '70s, I was doing the robot. Talking about pop culture.


HARRIS: I just flashed back. I can't explain why. Veronica De La Cruz here with desk, star of CNN pipeline.

DE LA CRUZ: Oh please it has been way to long.

HARRIS: You're focusing on pop culture.

DE LA CRUZ: We are. All the news from Tinsel town this morning, yes Brangelina like you were just talking about two seconds ago. Lots of official news for this couple, for a relationship that's been really unofficial. Wouldn't you say?

HARRIS: We have babies, we have adopted babies.

DE LA CRUZ: Let me tell you about it. It seems like Pitt has filed for Jolie's adopted children, to go by his last name. Now the two will go by Maddox and the Zahara Jolie-Pitt. Something worth mentioning here, Tony, Brad has also filed to adopt the two children himself while waiting for the arrival of another baby and Angelina is pregnant with his child and expecting this summer. Congratulations to them. That's going to be a knockout child.

HARRIS: Talk about the gene pool.

DE LA CRUZ: More news from Tinseltown. But this time it's from the tube. It seems "American Idol" again is mired in controversy. The two twins who took down the house with our try out during the season premiere are in trouble with the law. Yes one of them was in jail when the show aired last week and couldn't even watch from his jail cell, which didn't have a television.

HARRIS: Didn't have cable.

DE LA CRUZ: But it never seems to affect the highly rated show, 35 million people tuned in to watch last Tuesday. Those ratings, they only seemed to climb higher Tony.

This man, he is not dying to be the next "American Idol" but he's dying to be in the movies. He has been dying all over New York; he has been dying a morning TV. He's been dying ...

HARRIS: What is that?

DE LA CRUZ: The makeup chair. He's been dying at the anchor desk. Finally he's getting his big break. While appearing on Rita Cosby's show a producer called in and offered him a job playing a dead guy in the up coming movie "Stiff," just in case other producers are watching. He does have a Web site; it is called And of course you can watch all those stories on line at

All right, Tony, you're in for it. Let's see it. The dead guy impersonation.

HARRIS: He flopped. Just flop like the Westminster whale.

DE LA CRUZ: He was very convincing. Seemed to have ...

HARRIS: My chops aren't good.

Well here's my problem. Every year it seems we have some crazy controversy with "American Idol" someone is in jail. Someone had pictures on the Web.

DE LA CRUZ: Paula Abdul is having an affair.

HARRIS: It is part of the plan. Thirty five million people can't be wrong.

DE LA CRUZ: We got to whip up some controversy around here.

HARRIS: Stay with me here. We're talking about -- have you been following the story?

DE LA CRUZ: The whale?

I wanted to actually ask you about that, because folks down stairs at were put in their names. They were saying they like blubber. They like big Ben. Lots of votes for big Ben. I picked Nemo. I though Nemo was a good name, but I personally like your choice which was fat head.

HARRIS: I kind of blurted that out. It was inadvertent. I apologize.

DE LA CRUZ: I really liked it. Betty picked Thamy.

HARRIS: We can have a little fun with it now. Because the good news is they had this team of veterinarians, of oceanographers, and the best people around they can find in London who have taken a look at the aforementioned whale by various names and the whale is fine. Disoriented, confused, lost.

DE LA CRUZ: Do we know this whale is fine?

HARRIS: Yes, we do. Jim Boulden who is on the scene there tells us that the whale is fine. Now what they are doing, they had a couple of options, they were thinking of taking a crane and lifting the whale out of the River Thames. Putting it on a truck and then ferrying the whale to the mouth of the Thames and then putting the whale back in the water and encouraging the whale to swim.

DE LA CRUZ: So Timmy the fat head is going to be OK.

HARRIS: Going to be OK. But what they decided to ultimately to here Veronica because you are going to be getting lots of hits on this at

DE LA CRUZ: Right we have been.

HARRIS: What they are going to do is just put the whale on this little floating device and move it gently up the river.

DE LA CRUZ: That's good news.

HARRIS: That's the update. Now, I think I have wasted enough time. I think have our guess now, over to Betty.

DE LA CRUZ: Betty what do you think of Timmy the fat head? Does that work?

HARRIS: That's an option.

NGUYEN: It's an option out there. I like Nemo. I don't think the people in London would like it so much. Not as proper as the Westminster whale. They like it proper over there.

DE LA CRUZ: Big Ben.

NGUYEN: Or someone also said little Ben. Not so little taking a look at these pictures. But he is A-OK. That's the good news here.

I've been away from you guys I have been sitting here waiting on my prince, Jonathan Prince. But he's yet to arrive. He's the guy running for relief to trying to raise money for hurricane victims. He is in New Orleans and we are going to try and chat with him very shorting.

But first, there's a new trend in travel for those of you who feel you have been there, done that. See if this fits the bill.


ANNOUNCER: Here is a quiz, when traveling to a city; do you intentionally miss the standard attractions? When visiting a museum, is the building's architectural design as important to you as what hangs on its wall? Would you book a hotel based on its reputation for chic furniture? If your answers are yes according to "Travel and Leisure" Magazine you may be inclined to visit a design city, such as Montreal, London ...

NILOU MITAMED, SR. EDITOR, "TRAVEL & LEISURE:" A design city is a new phenomenon. These are cities that are thought forward, style forward, and design forward. Focusing on all elements that would attract somebody who is design savvy. What people are really expecting when they are traveling is that they are going to have something that's not only functional but also beautiful. And these cities are responding to that, whether it's in the form of a museum.

Whether it's in the form of an airport or even in the form after hotel room that really works. When cities are looking at design in that way, they are able to reinvent themselves for both their inhabitants and people visiting there.



NGUYEN: Well the good news is my prince has arrived. He's been running over 2,000 miles. Jonathan Prince, that is. He's making a difference one step at a time. There he is, on a mission to raise money for hurricane victims and he wants to inspire hope along the way.

So we've been following his progress as he runs for relief across the country. And he joins us from New Orleans. You're finally in the city. New Orleans. What was it like to get there? Did you get the kind of reception that you hoped for?

JONATHAN PRINCE, RUN 4 RELIEF: You know what, initially I didn't really get the reception that I was hoping for. However, after I reached the city and the newspaper ran, and the media ran the whole city has been completely warming and welcoming for me.

NGUYEN: That's good. Tell us about the little snafu that you ran into.

PRINCE: So was on a highway running on the shoulder and there was an officer like excuse me, what are you doing on the highway. My name is Jonathan Prince I'm running for relief. Here's one of my cards. I don't care who you are. It wasn't approved to us.

NGUYEN: You know how that goes. All is well. Let me ask you, you're finally there. This is not the end of your journey but this is a big part of your journey to get to New Orleans the city that took so much damage. Is it what you imagined? Are you seeing what you expected to see? Or is it better or even worse?

PRINCE: You know what first this is completely like a self- fulfilling prophecy. I've been dreaming about this moment since October 6 and five pair of shoes later. The devastation is so real. You know, but at the same time the people, the culture and the spirit of this city, everything is going to be just fine.

NGUYEN: What interesting people or situations besides the one we already heard about on the highway have you come across there that's really kind of stuck with you in something you're going to take with you on the rest of the journey?

PRINCE: You know what, a doctor reached out to me, Dr. Tina Thomas. She has been totally all about Running For Relief. You know and I just want to say thank you to her because she opened up the city and had resources available to me and just the whole line.

NGUYEN: Well, let me ask you quickly. You're running for Habitat for Humanity. That's where the funds are going. Do you know how much you have raised so far?

PRINCE: You know what, so far I've raised roughly around $7,000. But I'm looking at with the viewer ship of CNN I'm hoping that we can push it over the limit. I have a $10,000 minimum limit and I would like to pursue my journey into Atlanta knowing that minimum limit has been met. So ...

NGUYEN: Well we hope our viewers will step up. You are doing the hard part Jonathan. One last thing quickly, do you still believe in the power of one?

PRINCE: Totally.

NGUYEN: Absolutely.

PRINCE: It's all about the power of one. Anybody can make a difference. You know, I'm just asking for a united front because if everyone watching right now donates $5 at my Web site, my minimum goal will be met.

NGUYEN: That is right you will be there. We're looking forward to you coming here to Atlanta, which is the last leg of your journey, and it will have come to an end, hopefully to a very good one with all the donations you're hoping to raise for Habitat for Humanity. It is a great thing that you're doing. Stay safe, take care and we look forward to seeing you in Atlanta.

PRINCE: Thank you so much.

HARRIS: See you again at the top of the hour. "OPEN HOUSE" begins right now. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)