Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


Homeland Security Holds Press Conference on Katrina Relief

Aired September 1, 2005 - 13:30   ET


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some of these people have been waiting outside now for more than three days. We're not talking about just a few families, or even a few hundred families. There are thousands and thousands of people, waiting outside the New Orleans Convention Center.


We need to really get some help. We really need some help. We got babies out here. I got three kids that need water, milk, bottles. They don't have nothing, newborn babies, premature babies, everything.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Some of the most disturbing pictures and sound coming in right now. Our Chris Lawrence there, just outside the convention center in downtown New Orleans. It's the first time we've actually seen video of dead bodies there on streets of that city. It's just mind-boggling now what is happening to people that are stranded there, people that cannot get out of that city, can't afford to leave, don't have the physical capability to leave, and now we are -- we've been hearing about the deaths. We heard the mayor talk about thousands of people possibly dead in this aftermath. Well, now we're seeing the bodies. We're seeing the proof. And you can bet it's not going to be the last time that we see these disturbing picture, all coming to us from our Chris Lawrence there on the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana.

We also want to let you know, Department of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff will be holding a news conference any moment now, hopefully. He will receive some tough questions about what he is doing to respond to these -- to the situation -- or the very situations we're seeing in New Orleans, and Gulfport and Biloxi, just the impact zone, that we are getting new pictures in by the moment. So we will bring that to you live as soon as that happens, to try to find out what his plan is to respond now to a situation that is just getting worse by the minute.

Well, we've been talking about New Orleans, Gulfport and Biloxi, and across the entire area that's been devastated. It's all hands on deck to offer assistance and support, and that of course include the military. Retired general and CNN analyst Spider Marks join us to talk about the many roles the military is playing, could play in the week and months ahead. And, Spider, if you don't mind, I really think now is the appropriate time to discuss what Michael Chertoff needs to do, because he can make that call. He can say, look...


PHILLIPS: ... we're strapped, we're desperate. We need more help, and that may mean calling in active military, going to U.S. Northern Command and saying, we've got dead bodies on the street. We need more help. Bring in the helicopters, bring in the troops.

MARKS: Kyra, let me tell you what actually is happening. I've got the very latest from the Pentagon, and I'll kind of read through this, and let me just kind of run through many of the things that the military is doing right now and, at this point -- and everybody agrees -- it's a matter of leaning forward and really putting the all-out effort, as everybody has indicated, needs to take place, and the military is doing that.

Let me just take a second and run through this. The Iwo Jima amphibious readiness group out of Norfolk is en route. That's four ships. That's 6,000 troops on deck that can do a myriad of tasks. Let me stop for a second and say that those primary tasks are security and crowd control, as you know, the basics of food, water, ice, medicine, as you've indicated, and then getting into the more complex task of evacuation, and then where do you evacuate these great families to, so you can then provide further care? And certainly the horrible image of dead on the street in New Orleans that will be accommodated for as well.

In addition to the Marines, you've got soldiers out of Ft. Bragg. A brigade is on order to deploy. You've got helicopters, lift helicopters, Blackhawk helicopter, as well as Chinooks, which are the big helicopters; many troops can get on board. You've got the medevac, both from the Navy and the Army. And additionally, medevac helicopter out of the Air Force as well. You've got 20,000 national guard troops that have been activated at the state level. That includes Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and certainly the great state of Texas has reached out and said our state is your state. If you need to educate your kids here, bring 'em on. So there really is a massive effort locally, and then the military certainly as well.

Key tasks also include debris removal. So you have engineer units. You have transportation units. You have water-purification units. And you have additional medevac units that are on the ground that will be made available. It's a very dicey situation. And one thing to keep in mind is that there are limits -- there are legal, prohibited limits to what federally activated troops can do, vis-a- vis, what a state-activated National Guard soldier can do. That's very critical. But all of this comes directly under the command and control of FEMA, which works for Mr. Chertoff.

And, general, we know, though, that FEMA and Mr. Chertoff, head of Department of Homeland Security, can say, we need more help, and that's where U.S. Northern Command would come in. And they could, you know, obviously initiate more military help. I mean, the president has to jump in on that, and has to say that he approves, also, of that. But it can go to another level. So my question is, you see these pictures and now we're seeing dead bodies on the street, and we talk about all these resource, these ships and the helos, but where are they? We're not seeing those individuals moving in by the hundreds into these cities. So where are the resources? And when will we start to see these individuals in action, everybody that you just talked about?

MARKS: Yes, those forces, Kyra, are, in many cases, on the ground right now. You're not getting those images. And I think, frankly, there needs to be an all-out effort to put a spotlight on what the military is doing, just so there is primarily a sense of not of trying to finger blame. And we all agree that's not productive. It's a matter of trying to calm the very kind of exposed nerves that exist. And these are life-and-death situations that everybody is involved in. And it is very helpful if we could put a big spotlight on that, and say this is what is happening. There is a joint task force. That's critical to understand that Northern Command is already up and running and has been running this for the last couple of days in the name of Mr. Chertoff and the Department of Homeland Security. That's their role. That's their linkage.

There is also a subordinate three-star commander, Lieutenant General Russ Onari (ph), U.S. Army, out of Fort Gillem, Georgia. He's now transplanted himself into, I think, Camp Shelby, in Mississippi. He owns the control of all of these forces that are en route, both on the ground, and he is the overall commander, is the joint task force commander, for what's going to be in the air and what is in the air and at sea.

PHILLIPS: As a military general, as you look at these picture, and you are seeing what's taking place from the devastation to the dead, your gut, what is it telling you? I mean, I know you well as a military general and you're all about quick response. And, I mean, you've got to tell me right now, do you think this has been quick enough? And do you think that Michael Chertoff needs to ask for more?

MARKS: I think -- let me answer your first question -- it clearly has not been quick enough in those areas that are most devastated. But, again, it's a matter of physics, Kyra. In many cases, some of the images that you see, those are isolated pockets. And they may be very large pockets, but these are citizens that have been cutoff. You literally in many cases can't bring transportation in.

But in terms of Mr. Chertoff and his responsibilities to the nation, he's exercising those, and he has the absolute commitment of the military. As I indicated, I mean, this is what's happening right now. This is a -- these are physical orders that have been cut, activating...

PHILLIPS: General, hold your thought. Hold your thought. We'll come back to you, General, I promise.

But I'm told that the mayor of San Antonio, now holding a news conference. We want to listen in. They're offering up space in the Alamo dome to bring in some storm refugees. Let's listen in. (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAYOR PHIL HARDBERGER, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: ... as they come into San Antonio. I know everybody is very curious, and we are, too, about how many evacuees there's going to be. There's a lot of different numbers floating around. Governor Perry felt this morning that we would get a portion of 25,000 -- 25,000, evacuees would be coming into the state of Texas, and would we be willing to accept what is allotted to us and, of course, the answer we gave was yes, that we would.

So I have heard reports in the media of higher numbers, including all the way up to -- they're all coming here. That is not what Governor Perry said, so I really cannot tell you the answer to that. And the truth is nobody may absolutely know, because things are in a very dynamic situation there, truly. But I will tell you this, that whatever we are called upon to do, as San Antonio citizens and as the governor of San Antonio, both the city and county and all of our officials, we intend to welcome these people with open arms, and to try to give them some dignity, which these circumstances have taken away from them.

Give a thought for a moment. If they had jobs, they don't have jobs anymore. They have lost their jobs perforce. Losing your jobs means what losing your job always means in any circumstances. You have no money coming in. That, in itself, is a disaster in most families. But theirs is compounded. Because in many cases, they've lost their homes. They've lost their personal possessions. In many cases, they only have the clothes on their back. And I'm sure their monetary resources are either totally exhausted or near about exhausted.

So it is a -- it's certainly a cry for compassion and understanding of one human spirit to the other. And we will not fail to respond the way we would want to be responded to. What we have done is we've got certain agencies and operations here that are skilled in these matters. We've got the Red Cross to help receive these people. We've got the Salvation Army. We've got the Food Bank...

PHILLIPS: That's the mayor there in San Antonio, announces that they will be bringing in storm refugees. We want to take you straight to Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, its chief now addressing reporters.


MICHAEL CHERTOFF, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: ...specifically about what is being done to assist those people who are in distress.

Let me begin by saying, of course, all of our prayers and our hearts are with those people who are suffering and those who have been evacuated and are now facing the prospect of some time in the Astrodome or other shelters, those who are waiting to be evacuated.

And let me tell you, we totally understand what it's like to be sitting on top of a roof or to be sitting in a shelter where it's hot, where you're worried about what when you're going to be picked up, where you're thirsty, where you're hungry, where you're afraid for yourself and afraid for members of your family.

There is no way a catastrophe can be minimized. I mean, this is a person tragedy where everybody is involved: those on the scene and the family members who are elsewhere as well.

We also understand it's not easy to look at the pictures of what's going on. You see, I think, 90,000 square miles of devastation and destruction, flooding, wind damage, whole communities that have been eradicated.

We have to, nevertheless, proceed with our priorities in terms of how we deal with this unprecedented disaster. And as President Bush made clear yesterday, our priorities are these: first, save lives; second, sustain lives by ensuring the necessary supplies of food, water, shelter and medical supplies; and, third, execute a comprehensive recovery effort to bring this are and these people back to the prosperity and the enjoyment of life that they're entitled to.

Now let me emphasize, from the very beginning and as we speak, rescue operations have continued and are continuing in full force. The Coast Guard estimates that it has rescued approximately 3,000 people stranded in various flood areas and particularly New Orleans and surrounding parishes.

At the same time, we are continuing with our evacuation program that is ongoing. Now, we're going to continue to increase the tempo of that program until we've cleared people out of the Superdome and we've cleared people out of New Orleans.

CHERTOFF: And then we can begin the process, again, of cleaning the city and building up again.

What I'm going to do is talk a little bit about what we have under way by way of the total federal relief effort. I'm going to spend a little bit of time talking about security issues as they appear to be in the city of New Orleans; and also talking about the situation at the Superdome, where we have a massive evacuation effort under way.

First of all, we remain in very close contact with state and local authorities to make sure they're getting every assistance they require. I've spoken on a regular basis with Governor Blanco and Governor Barbour and Governor Riley.

Just today, President Bush responded to the requests of these governors to waive the cost-share requirement for emergency response activities. That means that the federal share of the costs will increase from the current 75 percent to a full 100 percent.

Before Hurricane Katrina had even made landfall, the president declared emergencies in these areas. And that allowed us to preposition and start to distribute resources in the affected areas. We prepositioned 18 disaster medical teams, medical supplies and equipment, urban search and rescue teams. All of these were prestaged, along with millions of meals-ready-to-eat, liters of water, tarpaulins and truckloads of ice. By prepositioning these resources, we were able to speed our ability to deliver these necessary supplies.

In addition, we continue to pour in additional supplies every hour in this area: massive quantities of water, ice and food; 5.6 million MREs; over 13 million liters of water; thousands of generators, blankets and cots.

We've deployed more than 50 disaster medical teams and 28 urban search and rescue teams with nearly 1,800 personnel, who've rescued, as I said, hundreds of victims and continue to provide medical care to survivors.

I want to take a moment to explain one of the unusual challenges of this disaster.

Unlike other hurricanes we've seen, where the destruction occurs, the hurricane leaves and then we can come back in to a stable area, this was really two disasters: There was the initial hurricane and then there followed the flood.

The active flooding and the continued challenge of dealing with water levels that can be anywhere from three to four to eight feet have dramatically impeded our ability to actually get these supplies into New Orleans.

This has really created a double challenge: We're not only confronting the original disaster of the hurricane, we're confronting the ongoing disaster of the flooding.

And for those who wonder why it is that it is difficult to get these supplies and these medical teams into place, the answer is they are battling an ongoing, dynamic problem with the water.

CHERTOFF: We're hoping as we turn that around that is going to ease the problem. And, of course, the key to resolving the problem is to finally move the people out of New Orleans.

Other federal agencies, of course, beside DHS have been very actively involved in providing aid.

The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency for the affected areas and is establishing a network of 40 medical shelters that will have a 10,000 capacity and a staff of 4,000 to care for victims.

And as you know, yesterday EPA and the Department of Energy took steps to alleviate the pressure that this disaster has placed on our nation's fuel supply.

Now, of course, a critical element of what we're doing is the process of evacuation and securing New Orleans and other areas that are afflicted. And here the Department of Defense has performed magnificently, as has the National Guard, in bringing enormous resources and capabilities to bear in the areas that are suffering.

With that in mind, let me talk in particular about two things that I think are going to be of interest to everybody.

First of all, what is the situation in the Superdome?

We began evacuating yesterday evening from the Superdome. At this point in time, 1,500 special needs people and approximately 2,000 general population have, in fact, been evacuated from the Superdome. The special needs people go to medical facilities. The general population people are going to Houston.

We have had 200 buses that have already left, carrying people, either special needs or general population, to their destination. We have an additional 200 buses that have arrived that we are in the process of loading. And the governor has ordered 500 school buses from around the state that are on the way.

Each regular bus has a capacity of approximately 35 to 40 people. The school buses, I think, carry 75 people.

This give us a capacity to move large numbers of people. And as we get more buses, the tempo of that movement will continue to increase. The fact of the matter is the Superdome is secure. Understandably, there are crowd control issues. People are anxious, they're impatient, they're hot, they're tired, they want to get someplace else. That is more than understandable.

The National Guard has several hundred people present. The city police are present. They are managing the crowds.

There was a shooting incident yesterday.

CHERTOFF: The incident was resolved with a leg wound to a National Guardsman and the subsequent arrest of the person who was involved in the shooting.

In the city at large, we're obviously very concerned to make sure that good order is maintained. There have been isolated incidents of criminality; we've all seen pictures of looting. But let me tell you that we have a tremendous array of forces that are currently deployed in New Orleans.

In addition to local law enforcement, we have 2,800 National Guard in New Orleans as we speak today. 1,400 additional National Guard military police trained soldiers will be arriving every day: 1,400 today, 1,400 tomorrow and 1,400 the next day.

In effect, what that does is it adds the entire membership number of the New Orleans police force every day to the pool of security personnel who are in New Orleans. We will, using National Guard, have more than quadrupled the number of security personnel who are available to maintain order in the city.

I have spoken to the governor, have spoken to General Honore, who is the general in command of the joint task force. Everybody is confident of the ability to maintain order and is committed to continuing to do so as we finish up the evacuation operations.

We are also, by the way, mindful of the situation in Mississippi. There, of course, we don't have the extensive flooding, but we have destruction of a number of coastal communities.

We've been talking to Governor Barbour. There are substantial National Guard personnel on the ground in Mississippi assisting in maintaining order there. As of last night, there were 2,700 National Guard in Mississippi. By the end of today there'll be 6,000. And, ultimately, we envision 9,500 National Guard deployed in various places in Mississippi.

So with these National Guard forces, hundreds of law enforcement people who are coming into New Orleans from other parts of Louisiana and other parts of the country, we are going to have a security force present in New Orleans and in Mississippi that is many, many times the usual police force that you see on a normal day.

With the National Guard and police in place, we will expeditiously finish the task of evacuating the remainder of the population of New Orleans that has to be removed, we will get them to shelter, and then we will begin the somewhat longer-term process of getting them into a permanent place of residence or a semi-permanent place of residence, and draining the water, starting to clean New Orleans, and then moving on with reconstruction.

CHERTOFF: We're going to have reports from a number of other people here. I'm going to first call on Attorney General Gonzales and then Assistant Secretary McHale from the Defense Department, General Blum, who's the head of the National Guard Bureau, Admiral Whitehead from the Coast Guard and Patrick Rhode, who is the deputy director of FEMA, will all be speaking to you.

Let me remind everybody that this is without a doubt still a very, very dangerous situation on the ground in these areas. We encourage people not to engage in self-help, not to try to go back and see what the circumstances are with respect to their houses or possessions.

We also know that many, many people want to contribute. For guidance as to how to contribute to this effort to clean up and rebuild in New Orleans and to address the urgent needs of the people who have been suffering, please go to the FEMA Web site,, or the American Red Cross Web site,

The recovery from this hurricane will take many months, and it will take the spirit and the willpower not only of the cities and of the communities that were afflicted, but of every single American.

We have met this challenge when there have been disasters overseas. We will meet this challenge in a disaster of this magnitude in our own country.

All of us wish, I know, Godspeed and good luck to those who are suffering. We will work as quickly as possible to remove you from the city and finish the process of recovery and restoration. Thank you.

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: As Secretary Chertoff said, security is a concern. It is a priority. And I think one message that I would like to leave today for the American people is that the Department of Justice, working with state and local officials, will do everything that we can do to ensure law and order in the affected areas.

GONZALES: We have to be successful in this endeavor. Because if we're not successful, it makes our job, in terms of evacuation and providing relief, even more dangerous and more difficult. And for that reason, it is a priority for the Department of Justice.

Secretary Chertoff has already indicated that we have devoted -- working with state and local officials, there will be a great number of additional security forces brought into the area.

But in addition to that, the Department of Justice is working closely with state and local officials, providing whatever technical assistance that we can, providing the resources that we legally can.

We're working to ensuring that all DOJ federal facilities are fully protected. We're working with the court officials to help them in relocating. They will have to find new quarters to work out of in New Orleans. We are going to make additional grant monies available for law enforcement purposes.

And so we're looking at a variety of ways. And I've tasked the component heads within the Department of Justice to look to see what additional resources can be brought to bear to provide additional assistance in New Orleans and the affected area.

We're also, of course, looking very closely at the issue of fraudulent charities. We're looking at price gouging. I've asked the lawyers in the department to be as aggressive and to be as creative within the bounds of the law to ensure that people do not take advantage of the situation in this tragic circumstance.

And so the Department of Justice is doing what we can to ensure that law and order remains in the affected area. And because of this tragedy, as Mike indicated, it presents some unique challenges. And there's difficult work ahead, but I'm confident that we'll have the situation under control within a reasonable period of time.

PAUL MCHALE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR HOMELAND DEFENSE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My words will echo those of the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the attorney general.

It is a fundamental responsibility of government at every level -- local, state and federal -- to ensure the physical safety of our fellow citizens.

For the past 125 years, approximately, it has been the public policy of our nation, reflected in numerous statutes, but most particularly the Posse Comitatus statute, that our active duty military forces ordinarily do not engage in law enforcement activity.

MCHALE: We have decided as a matter of public policy that our police officers will normally protect us, our law enforcement officials will provide the security that we reasonably expect.

And so in this circumstance and all circumstances, we turn first and foremost to civilian law enforcement to protect the American people.

The Department of Defense does have statutory authority to provide assistance, military support, to civilian law enforcement authorities, and that often involves training and equipment and other forms of assistance that enable police officers to better do their jobs.

And under truly extraordinary circumstances, occurring once in a generation typically, when there is a civil disturbance, the president does have the legal authority to make certain declarations and use the active duty military to restore civil order.

And so there are things that we and the Department of Defense can do to contribute to that climate of safety and security. But more often than not, when military support is needed to ensure the effective execution of a law enforcement function, it is the National Guard, rather than the active duty military, that is more useful.

Frankly, our National Guard, in many cases, is better trained. The National Guard is forward-deployed throughout the nation. Our guardsmen, men and women, are of the communities that they serve. Often they have ties to local law enforcement, certainly, they have ties to local families and businesses in the community to be protected.

Moreover, the National Guard is exempt from Posse Comitatus. The National Guard can work side by side, therefore, with law enforcement officials in ways in which active duty military forces cannot.

For this reason, we have been planning very closely with the adjutants general, the governors, the Guard Bureau and others for the possibility of a coordinated effort that would involve the use of National Guard forces to augment and reinforce civilian law enforcement.

I want to highlight at this moment a statistic that was given to you -- I think a rather remarkable and historically unprecedented statistic that was voiced by Secretary Chertoff just a moment ago. And that is over the next three days, the National Guard, through the cooperation of the governors, and ultimately under the command and control of the governor of Louisiana, will be deploying into the New Orleans area a force the size of the New Orleans Police Department each day, every day, for the next three days.

MCHALE: That is a remarkable movement of law enforcement capabilities into an area that clearly needs augmentation and reinforcement of the ordinary civilian law enforcement capability. What I'd like to do is call to the microphone now General Blum, Steve Blum, who is the chief of the Guard Bureau, who will talk about the military policemen who will be deployed into the New Orleans area to ensure that, in a close partnership with civilian law enforcement, we successfully protect our fellow citizens.

General Blum?


The first thing I'd like to say is that these citizen-soldiers and airmen that will be arriving -- 1,400 in the next 24 hours, 1,400 thereafter, and 1,400 there again -- are trained professionals.

These are not some people with the wrong skill sets that are forced into augmenting, amplifying and reinforcing and assisting and supporting the established civilian law enforcement apparatus that remains in effect in Louisiana and in New Orleans in particular.

These are trained professionals. They are military police- trained, badge-carrying law enforcement officers that discharge their duties when called to active duty, both here at home or overseas.

Many of these people are civilian law enforcement officers; when they are not in military uniforms, they're in civilian law enforcement uniforms. So they come with great expertise and great sensitivity to the fact that they are there in support of the existing law enforcement agency.

This is not, as it has been erroneously reported, martial law. It is not that at all. This is helping a police force that is overstretched with this extraordinary challenge that it's facing.

So we are bringing law enforcement officers from around the country that are in the military of the National Guard in state active-duty roles, where their governors have sent them to Governor Blanco, on her request, through the Emergency Mutual Assistance Compact.

BLUM: And then those of you that are really astute will say, "Well, there's no law enforcement provision in the EMAC." So there is a separate agreement between the donor governors -- the governors sending these forces -- and Governor Blanco receiving these forces, where the governors have signed that they have an agreement between the states to allow the law enforcement officers of one state National Guard to work for the Louisiana National Guard, in this case, for a period of time.

We are never in charge. The military is not in charge and not foreseen to be in charge in any respect or manner during the rest of the duration of this particular hurricane recovery operation.

The National Guard will be there with what Secretary Chertoff requests from the Department of Defense, the support that is vetted through a vetted process with the Joint Staff. And if the secretary's requests are deemed to be something that we can fulfill and are appropriate, we will be there with what they ask for for as long as they need it.

And I think the greatest thing I can say about this is that before it is over you will see National Guard soldiers and airmen from the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard from every state and territory in our nation responding to this national catastrophe.

I think that sends a very strong message that when you call out the National Guard, you call out America.

Thank you.


Like to give you an update today on the Coast Guard operations in the Gulf area.

Of course, our primary focus remains search and rescue. And to date, we've rescued from rooftops and from streets over 2,900 people and that number is probably up just since I left my office. And these are by Coast Guard air crews.

WHITEHEAD: And then in addition, we're working very closely with our partners with the Marine Corps, the Air National Guard and the Navy as well.

Our secondary focus in the whole Gulf area is the safety of ports and waterways, and in particular reconstituting offshore oil infrastructure.

Our forces out there now are constantly growing. Right now, we have over 57 Coast Guard aircraft that are in the Gulf area that are performing search and rescue predominantly, but also delivering food and water. And in addition, we have 27 Coast Guard cutters -- these are ships that are in excess of 55 feet, some going to 210 feet -- in the Gulf area.

We also have three 210-foot medium endurance cutters that are en route to the area.

We have seven buoy tenders, which are specialized vessels designed to deploy buoys, so we can reconstitute the waterway systems. We have seven in the area now, and there are five more that are en route to the New Orleans area.

And in addition, we have three aids to navigation teams that are going to the Mobile area.

Right now, most of the ports in the Gulf remain closed. However, in a good note, I think, both Pensacola, Mobile and, as of this morning, the port of New Orleans, is open to shallow draft traffic only. That is not where we want to be, but it's a step in the right direction, because most of the traffic in those areas that are carrying fuel, those sorts of products, are in shallow draft barges. I should also mention that since the topic is law enforcement, that the Coast Guard is unique among the armed services, in that we are both a member of the armed services, but by statute the Coast Guard members are also law enforcement officers. And that is for every Coast Guard member who is a petty officer or a noncommissioned officer, you might now it as, or officers. So we do have that.

And we have very broad authority, essentially, as well. And we can assist in any way requested, federal, state and local law enforcement officials. And we would look to do that in any way we possibly can.


FEMA was in-theater long before this storm arrived, and FEMA will be in-theater well after this early phase of the response has completely gotten under way to its fullest extent.

It's important to note, and the secretary made mention of the fact, that there are massive amount of commodities in the region. Urban search and rescue teams are in the region. Disaster medical assistance teams are in the region.

There is no question that, in any sort of a comprehensive response phase, that there are always some little bumps along the road.

We recognize that.

It's very important that the citizens in these impacted areas exercise -- as difficult as it is -- exercise as much patience as they possibly can.

We understand that you're there. We understand that you're suffering. We're trying to get to you as best as we possibly can. There are massive amounts of FEMA boots -- and the entire federal family -- that are right now on the ground looking for you, looking to assist you as best as we possibly can.

This is the first of many, many long days. And it's important that we all recognize that so we can do everything we possibly can on behalf of the citizens in this impacted region.

Thank you.

CHERTOFF: I think with that we'll take a few questions.

QUESTION: My first question: Can you give the public a sense of how many people may yet be out there, still that need to be rescued?

CHERTOFF: Well, let me distinguish between those who have to be rescued and those that have to be evacuated.

I can't give you a figure on the rescues. As I told you, Coast Guard's rescued 3,000 approximately to now. Local law enforcement has rescued several thousand. We're not going to know until the water recedes a little bit whether we have identified all the people who may be in attics and may need a little bit of space to come out and get on the roof or whether people are waiting until the water goes down lower and they can step outside and get to waist- or chest-level water.

So we are continuing to search 24/7. We search at day, we search at night, and we're going to continue to do it until we're satisfied that we've identified everybody that needs to be rescued.

Now, the second issue is evacuation. What we do is, when we rescue people or when we encounter people, we direct them to various evacuation sites around the city. Those sites have water and food and other necessities. And the idea is to have people staged there until we can get vehicles to take them out.

A large number of people, frankly, have -- on their own -- decided they want to make their way to the Superdome. One of the challenges we face is that, as we pull people out of the Dome and evacuate them, additional people come.

We certainly would encourage people, if the have a choice, to find another evacuation site to head themselves toward, because I think that will spread out the operation a little bit more.

CHERTOFF: But whatever it takes, whether they're at the Superdome or whether they're at other staging areas or whether they're on roofs waving flags, we are going to find them, we're going to rescue them, and we're going to get them to safety.

QUESTION: But I guess my question is: Is it your sense that there are hundreds that still need to be rescued or thousands?

CHERTOFF: I'd be guessing. I mean, a thousand seems like a very large number. But we have already rescued several thousand.

Hopefully, most people have gotten themselves onto roofs and have been picked up, but as I said, rather than give I was guesstimate, I can tell you that as long as there's someone on a roof waving a flag, we're going to be sending a helicopter out there to get them.

QUESTION: There have been reports of shootings on helicopters or --


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, BREAKING NEWS: Department of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff now taking questions from reporters. Throughout the day, we've been seeing the pictures out of New Orleans and areas in Mississippi and in Alabama and they get more and more disturbing as we see these new pictures come in. And, for the first time, we are now actually seeing dead bodies on the street and people getting extremely angry and wondering where the help is.

So, as we've been watching all these pictures and asking these questions about where is the help and what is going on, the DHS chief has stepped to the podium, along with all his various counterparts that are helping to lead this mission to respond to these people that are asking, where is the help, and why are people dying? And they're saying, we can't begin to understand how bad it is, but, please exercise patience. We're trying to get to you as fast as we can.

And we heard from the head of the National Guard. We heard from Paul McHale, assistant secretary for Defense. We heard from Admiral Joel Whitehead with the Coast Guard. We heard from FEMA, along with Michael Chertoff, they are saying, we are doing everything possible.

We are not pulling out. We are going to continue the search-and- rescue operations. We are now going to not only have National guardsmen and women on the ground, we are bringing in the Air National Guard. The general even saying, when you call out the national guard, you call out America and he says they are doing that now. Military police are now being deployed to head into New Orleans and other areas.

And in addition to the admiral of the Coast Guard saying that, no matter what people are saying about the security, and the fact that these operations can't continue, that's just not the truth. That they are going to continue no matter what.

Also, we heard from the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, saying, look, we're working with state and local officials, providing all the resources that we can to deal with the looting, to deal with the fraud, the fraudulent charities, which is a very good point. A lot of people starting up these fraudulent charities, you should really check out what you're giving money to and donations to if you're online and investigating that.

Also, price gouging, Alberto Gonzales said they are getting very aggressive and believe they are going to be able to have everything under control when it comes to law and order.

Now, we're expecting the president of the United States. We're told in less than ten minutes to, once again, hold a live news conference. We are told that his father, the former president, will be with him in addition to former President Bill Clinton. As you remember, when the tsunami happened, it was all three of those individuals that put together a massive response to help the victims in the tsunami.

Now, they're coming together to, hopefully, announce some type of master plan on what their going to do to respond to all these individuals that have been devastated because of Hurricane Katrina here in the United States.

We're going to bring that to you live as soon as the president comes before the cameras with Bill Clinton and also his father George Bush. We're going to take a quick break. More coverage after this.



CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines