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President Bush Visits Gulf Coast; Early Warnings

Aired September 2, 2005 - 10:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thick, black smoke billowing from above. Below, thousands face another day of misery. The crisis is deepening and conditions are worsening in the city of New Orleans. It is four days after Hurricane Katrina, and a predawn explosion and fire are only adding to the mounting problems of a shattered city.
We're looking at aerial-taped pictures of New Orleans. More troops and aid are beginning to arrive, but the violence and lawlessness continue. Tens of thousands still are waiting for help.

Welcome back our continuing coverage. I'm Daryn Kagan.

At the top of every hour we're going to update you on specific information about the critical issues that are changing hour by hour. We're calling it "Mission Critical." It's going to focus on food, security, water, medical help, evacuation, relocation, and the levees in New Orleans. Right now, an update on relocation from New Orleans to Houston.

With more thon 12,000 people inside, officials at the Houston Astrodome say they're full and they're no longer taking evacuees from New Orleans. Another 4,000 people are being housed in local shelters throughout that Houston area. Other residents fleeing the devastation are being taken to shelters in Huntsville, Texas, in San Antonio, and in Dallas.

President Bush hopes his visit to the Gulf Coast will ease some of the tension and frustration over the federal government's response. Before leaving the White House this morning, Mr. Bush conceded there have been problems with the relief effort.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The results are not acceptable. I'm heading down there right now. I'm looking forward to talking to the people on the ground.


KAGAN: And President Bush, as we said, making his way to Mobile, Alabama. We expect by the schedule we're given to see him sometime in the next half-hour.

Meanwhile, as we await the president's visit to the Gulf Coast, let's check in with Elaine Quijano. She is at the White House this morning -- Elaine.


This will be the first chance President Bush will have to actually view the damage from the ground. Of course it was a couple of days ago that he asked Air Force One's pilot to detour over some of the affected areas as the president was making his way back from Texas to Washington, D.C. But President Bush, as you mentioned, set to take part in a briefing in Mobile, Alabama. We understand that he will then participate in some aerial tours of the coastline there, and then another stop on the ground, this time in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Now, at the moment, he is scheduled to also make a statement. This at the end of the day in New Orleans.

Now, this will be at the airport, from what we understand. But there is no mention of him actually taking a tour, taking a look at some of the devastated neighborhoods there. But we are expecting that statement at the New Orleans airport.

This morning, there you see the president stood side by side with his Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, the man in charge of the agency that oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And it was quite striking.

For the first time, we heard the president talk about his response that his administration has had, that the government has had to the disaster so far in a very critical tone. This was the first time we heard the president really not defend necessarily that efforts have been made, but the president also at the same time saying that he is anxious to get down to the affected region to thank the workers there, but also, as I said, striking a critical tone this morning -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Elaine, is there any explanation of why the president will not actually be on the ground? He's going to be in Kenner, Louisiana, which is the airport, and that's outside New Orleans. Is he not going into New Orleans on ground, only aerial, because it's considered just too dangerous?

QUIJANO: Well, our understanding is that certainly is a major factor. And what officials have said all along is that the president, in making a decision to go down to the region, is taking into account that he doesn't want to disrupt the operations that are already ongoing there. They want to make as small a footprint as possible is how officials here put it.

So that's certainly been a consideration. Obviously not wanting to exacerbate the already desperate circumstances on the ground in New Orleans -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Elaine, stay with us.

In the last hour we were listening live to the Congressional Black Caucus. They were holding a news conference, talking about how dissatisfied they are with the response of the federal government to those in need along the Gulf Coast.

Let's listen in to that.


REP. CAROLYN KILPATRICK (D), MICHIGAN: I'm ashamed of America. I'm ashamed of our government. And as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I want to make sure, yes, we should approve the $10.5 billion. But it's got to go right to the people. It's got to be able to get to FEMA so FEMA can get their -- their dollars out to the people.

We don't want another Iraq, where the money just goes off somewhere. This is real human need. And I'm outraged by the lack of response from our federal government.


KAGAN: The federal government and many officials saying that there has been a huge effort, but as you heard President Bush say today, he himself is not satisfied with the results.

We're looking at live pictures from Mobile, Alabama, Air Force One landing on schedule. We expect within the next few minutes to see President Bush.

Elaine, his first stop once he gets to mobile, what's the plan yet again?

QUIJANO: We understand that he's going to participate in a briefing with the emergency officials there, Daryn. And we could likely hear some comments from the president after that take place.

Of course, the president and the White House certainly has said that even before Hurricane Katrina hit, the government was already deploying assets, pre-positioning assets and resources to the region ahead of Hurricane Katrina. The president also making emergency declarations in order to free up some federal funds so that emergency officials could prepare.

But the president today, again, quite strikingly, saying that he is not satisfied, the results are not acceptable, in his words. And the president getting a chance to look and hear from the officials who have been dealing with the crisis there for himself -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Elaine Quijano, live at the White House. Thank you once again.

We're keeping our cameras live and aimed at Mobile, Alabama. When we hear from the president, see him, you'll see that live here on CNN.

Meanwhile, most of the country is in shock at this utter devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Our Ed Henry reports that there were early warnings that the city of New Orleans was earmarked for disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Stunned by the utter devastation in his home state of Louisiana, former Senator John Breaux says warning signs were everywhere.

JOHN BREAUX, FMR. LOUISIANA SENATOR: We've always known that New Orleans had a bullseye.

HENRY: But people in power have been running from the problem, literally, as far back as 1927, when a flood killed 200 people. Decade after decade, the alarm bells rang.

In 1965, Hurricane Betsy flooded the city. Death toll, 61, and 60,000 left homeless.

Shortly before 9/11, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared that among the most likely disasters in America, a risk nearly on par with the terror attack in New York, was a catastrophic storm in New Orleans, like Katrina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a perfect storm because everything went wrong. You have a city in a vulnerable area. The levees were sinking, the city was sinking, coastal erosion brought the Gulf closer. And really not as much has been done to stop that as could have been done.

HENRY: After six died in a flood 10 years ago, Congress created a massive project for the Army Corps of Engineers to renovate the 13 levee systems which protect New Orleans. Over the last five years, the Bush administration and Congress cut funding for the flood control project known as SELA by over $30 million at a time when the Army Corps is also stretched thin from rebuilding Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, if more funds were available, we could finish the project more quickly. In this case, I'm not sure that had the SELA been completely intact that it really would have helped this, because this was about a levee breach.

HENRY: That levee ruptured because it was designed to withstand a Category 3 hurricane, despite all the dire warnings that it was only a matter of time before New Orleans got slammed by a Category 4 or 5, like Katrina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given what we thought was a probability, an event like this, we and the other decision-makers felt like we were making the prudent decision

HENRY: Federal officials have also ignored pleas to protect Louisiana's coast, which acts as a barrier for storm surges. But because of ongoing erosion, experts say this year alone Louisiana will lose another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh, an area as big as Manhattan.

That means that if you didn't do anything to try to stop that, that rate of disappearance, by the end of this century New Orleans would be exposed right to the open ocean, at which point there is no New Orleans anymore. HENRY: For years, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana has been pushing a plan to restore the coast. The estimated coast is high, $14 billion. But a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of billions of dollars it will cost to recover, repair and rebuild New Orleans.

Ed Henry, CNN, Washington.


KAGAN: Now, we've been watching two pictures there. Now we bring it full screen. That is Air Force One, President Bush arriving in Mobile, Alabama.

Within the next half-hour, we expect him to participate in a briefing on the hurricane damage in Mobile and the surrounding area. He then will head westward, eventually making his way to New Orleans.

We're also getting new information that earlier we had heard the president would only take an aerial tour of New Orleans. Now we're hearing he will go in there on the ground and get a firsthand look of the devastation and perhaps the chaos that is taking place at this time.

Speaking of New Orleans, it has been yet another terrible and difficult and challenging out-of-control day in that city. Nothing easy about the Big Easy today, including yet another fire that we saw starting in downtown, or in the French Quarter area.

Our Chris Lawrence has been on foot making his way around the city, especially downtown, and joins us now on the phone -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Daryn, we're actually in the car now. We just left the French Quarter convention center area.

Oh, man, I can tell you, it looks like still thousands of people still down there in the convention center area. If there has been a change, I think just with the sheer number of people, it's been so small, that, you know, just really impossible, I think, to, at this point, tell any difference.

We're looking now -- we're here on the highway, and just an incredible scene here on the Interstate 10. It looks almost like a -- people are actually living on the highway. Some of them may be waiting for pick-up, but I'm not exaggerating when I say thousands, thousands of people on the interstate, sitting on the side of the road. You know, shielding their faces from the sun -- it's an intensely hot day -- with cardboard.

People living, living on the side of the road. It's just an amazing scene to see even Portajohns, a few Portajohns have been set up on Interstate 10, just -- you can just tell, the job of trying to get all these people out of New Orleans, it's just enormous.

KAGAN: So I-10 right now is part highway, part home. LAWRENCE: Yes, to a certain point. We just got up to Tulane Avenue on Interstate 10. It is completely, completely submerged with water. I'm looking at a Chinook helicopter landing on the opposite lane. We're turning around now to try to make our way back another way. That way on Interstate 10 west, trying to head directly out of the city, is impassable.

KAGAN: Where exactly are you trying to get to, Chris?

LAWRENCE: We're trying to make our way out of the city to get back to the airport area. And I think we're going to have to cut across a different way. You know, cut south of the city, take that way around.

If you get on the other side of the Mississippi River, you're on higher ground. And that area is pretty much dry at this point.

KAGAN: Let's talk -- I'm sorry. Let's talk about how your day started with the sound of an explosion.

LAWRENCE: Yes. We had been hearing, you know, random gunshots all night. You know, people shooting in the air, a few shots fired at the police, them firing back. All the police are fine.

But I think it was around 4:30 or so, 4:30 in the morning. About 4:30 -- yes, 4:30.


LAWRENCE: Well, about 4:30 in the morning our time here, just a massive boom like nothing we had heard up to that point. And as soon as you stepped outside, you just saw this orange glow out on the horizon.

The entire city of New Orleans is black. There's no lights whatsoever in the city. So you just saw this orange glow.

And from there, you saw the flame. And within about an hour, there was just almost like a black rainbow that just rose up and covered part of downtown.

We're told that a HazMat team had been assembled and was heading out that way. Again, with the security situation the way it is now, it is -- it is very, very difficult to make your way around the city in certain areas.

KAGAN: We're going to focus a little bit more on that security situation as we move forward. Chris, we're going to cut you and your crew loose and let you concentrate on getting to exactly the next place that you're trying to get to.

Chris Lawrence on the phone from New Orleans on I-10, talking about how it's part highway and part home for people who have just camped out, waiting for somebody to come help them.

We have split our screen -- or now we've gone full screen, looking at a picture of Mobile, Alabama. President Bush has arrived. He'll be participating in a briefing on what's taking place on rescue and relief efforts.

He'll eventually be making his way to Biloxi, Mississippi, and into New Orleans. We'll be following him live all along his day.

Meanwhile, on the phone with me right now, I have General Steven Blum. He is chief of the U.S. National Guard, and the general is in Baton Rouge.

Sir, good morning. Thank you for being here with us.

GEN. STEVEN BLUM, CHIEF, U.S. NATIONAL GUARD: Hi. How are you this morning?

KAGAN: I'm doing well. I'm hoping you are doing even better. What kind...

Well, we're doing better with each hour as the forces flow in here. The capabilities for the governor to provide for all the emergency support functions that are required for this hurricane relief are getting better every hour.

KAGAN: What kind of numbers are we talking about right now on the ground in, let's say, Louisiana?

BLUM: Well, we flew 2,000. And between driving and flying, we brought 2,000 National Guardsmen in from around the country into Louisiana by midnight of last night. We expect 3,600 to arrive today by Air National Guard C-130 aircraft and by organic. That means their own transportation on the ground.

Coming in with heavy trucks that can ride through this deep water that's here as a result of the flooding aftermath, so that we can help with security, support the civilian law enforcement, and acting as the military support for the lead (INAUDIBLE) FEMA and the distribution of water, food, fuel, medical supplies, evacuation of stranded people, and moving people, transporting people to shelters. The Guard's capabilities to support the governor of Louisiana, it gets greater with each increasing hour. And by the end of today, we'll have a substantially improved situation prior -- previous to what we've experienced.

KAGAN: General, let me just jump in here a second, because we're showing live pictures to our viewers at home and around the world. President Bush has landed. We're seeing him walk across the tarmac in Mobile, Alabama, as he came off of Air Force Once, greeted by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, giving him a hug of encouragement.

He'll now be getting on board the helicopter, or perhaps getting into a car. And we'll be following him as he goes.

Sir, let's get back to our conversation.

BLUM: Well, that hug of encouragement is just his demonstration, the president's commitment to the governors of this region, to give them anything and everything that is necessary, for as long as is necessary, to restore this great region of the world back to a safe, secure and prosperous environment. The secretary of Defense is vitally committed to doing the same. And that's one of the reasons I'm down here, is they've asked me to come down and make an assessment and ensure that what the governors need is provided in a timely fashion, and it does arrive and starts showing the positive effects that the president wants to show, the federal assistance to the governors.

It's a joint state and federal effort down here. And the National Guard is doing -- playing its part.

KAGAN: Well, sir, with all due respect, I think the window of a timely fashion has closed. And there are many people who are wondering why has it taken so long for the National Guard, let's just say, because we have you on the phone, to get in place. Is it because the resources are stretched so thin because the National Guard fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan?

BLUM: Daryn, the window is not closed. We've got people that are still stranded and suffering. We are -- we are literally evacuating people by the hundreds an hour.

We evacuate as many as several thousand a day. As we -- first of all, they have to be identified and found, and they have to be rescued. And then they have to be cared for, water, food, medical supplies, shelter.

And we have to do this simultaneously while we're supporting the civil agencies and maintaining law and order. And I must say, I've got to tell you, I've only been on the ground down here for about a little less than 24 hours, but 99 percent of the citizens of Mississippi and Louisiana are responding in an outstanding fashion.

This hurricane has brought out the best in humanity. And there are some people who it brings out the worst. And the governors of Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana have made it very clear that law enforcement will not tolerate lawlessness and the effects of this hurricane that have already damaged the citizens of this great region to be taken advantage of by lawless individuals.

And that's why the Guard is coming in such significant numbers to assist civilian law enforcement. Not to take over, but to assist them and support them.

KAGAN: Well, it is a role the National Guard is uniquely able to play. A lot of work ahead for you and your people. And we wish you well with what still you face.

BLUM: Thanks. Thank you.

KAGAN: General Steven Blum, chief of the U.S. National Guard.

Once again, we are looking at live pictures from Mobile, Alabama. President Bush just landing just a few minutes ago. He goes to a briefing, and then his look, his firsthand look at the damage in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Coming up on CNN tomorrow night at 8:00, you can find out how you can help. Don't miss an all-star line-up on a three-hour special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." Again, that's tomorrow at 8:00 p.m., "How You Can Help."

We'll have a break, and we're back after this.


KAGAN: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the state of emergency taking place in New Orleans and all along the Gulf Coast. Our lead story today, one of them, President Bush has landed in Mobile, Alabama. It was just minutes ago that Air Force One landed. You saw those pictures live here on CNN.

As the president makes his way across Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana, we are going to have live coverage of his visit. Some updated information for you now on that visit.

We now understand that the president will go into New Orleans. Originally, we had heard he was just going take an aerial tour, the thought being perhaps that it was just too dangerous with the deteriorating situation in that city. But now we understand he does plan to take a ground tour of New Orleans. Which part of the city is not clear right now.

The White House is focusing on the convention center. We've had plenty of reports of the chaos taking place in and around that facility.

The president also aware of scathing criticism from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He gave an interview, the mayor did, to a New Orleans radio station earlier today, where he came out and he basically has had it with the lack of response he believes from the federal government. The president will meet with the mayor when he gets to the airport just outside of New Orleans.

As we continue to follow the president's visit, let's bring in one of our senior political analysts. Bill Schneider joining me now from Washington, D.C.

Bill, good morning.


KAGAN: As we watch the president as he steps into this leadership position, some people critical of the lack of visibility of the president in the wake of this crisis.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. It's five days into the crisis. Where has the president been? He took an aerial tour, which a lot of people found objectionable.

The situation on the ground has been very frightening for many Americans, because what we have seen, all of us, on our television screens is a situation that is out of control. That is a failure of government, period.

There has been a visible vacuum of leadership. Even though it's clear that state and local authorities have done their best, when Americans see this kind of lawlessness, this kind of desperation, they wonder, where is the government? And in that kind of situation, they expect the president of the United States to step in.

Now, he can still -- he still can try to turn this situation around and try to resolve the situation. But I think the vision that we've seen on television has been very angering to people, and it raises a very simple question.

Is this country prepared for a terrorist attack? I mean, when we see this kind of chaos and disorder, something Americans never...

KAGAN: Bill, let me just jump in here, because the president has stepped into the hangar. Let's listen to what he is hearing.

GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR (R-MS): All right, Mr. President.

As of right now, we have about 277 shelters, 75,000 people in shelters. We have 2.2 million people without power. There are about 5,000 people that have been rescued by the Coast Guard -- all these men and women who were actually rescued, 5,000 people.

There are about 350,000 people in New Orleans that -- houses alone have been damaged in one form or another -- 350,000 homes.

We're estimating anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million people are going to have housing needs by the time we get to that stage of doing that kind of work.

There are about 500-plus cell phone towers down in every state. New Orleans -- Louisiana has more than any of the others. But that shows you the extent of the problem we have with communications. There is limited cell phone towers, limited radio contact. It's very difficult, particularly in New Orleans, to have any sort of communications.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any of them been put back up yet?

BARBOUR: Yes, I mean, all the providers are out there doing that.

And in addition to that, FEMA and Coast Guard, the military have all brought in the kind of relief, the kind of communication packages we need so that there is some command and control that exists between the governors' offices and what we're trying to do. So that does exist.

What happened here is a worst-case situation. You, in essence, have Katrina come up through here, Lake Pontchartrain -- this is the (INAUDIBLE) model they do at the hurricane center, we looked at, unfortunately last year.

That red represents well over 15 to 18 feet that came across those levees in addition to the levees that broke down here in St. Bernard Parish and other parishes of New Orleans. That caused flooding from both ends.

Right now, probably 90 percent of New Orleans is out of commission.

BUSH: Yes.

BARBOUR: The rest of the states, what we're going to do today is we're going to fly from Mobile along the coast.

I mean, if you recall what we saw last year in Florida, you're going to see the same thing but worse further inland and all the way down.

BUSH: Yes.


So, Governor?


Mr. President, first let me thank you for all the help. You've called me I don't know how many times in the last few days. I've told the people of Alabama you're concerned.

I also want to thank Mike Brown and his staff.

FEMA has absolutely been great. There has not been a request we've asked for -- we appreciate that last emergency declaration, getting it back to us.

Basically, we got hit 70-, 80-, 100 mile-an-hour winds over on Dauphin Island. Probably 60 percent of the houses there were destroyed. (INAUDIBLE) we've probably got 2,000 to 3,000 people out. We've got most of the power back now, some pockets down here.

RILEY: So what we're beginning to concentrate on -- we've got a new initiative right now called Operational Golden Roof (ph). We're asking every county in the state of Alabama to come up with some kind of plan to see if they can help shelter some of these people in Mississippi and in Louisiana.

We're looking at former military bases. We're looking at former mental institutions we had which were closed down last year.

We're trying to develop a plan where you get temporary housing, some semi-permanent housing and then permanent housing -- at least you get some options.

BUSH: Good, thank you. BARBOUR: Mr. President, the immensity of this storm, both in power and size, just destroyed Mississippi. You saw it from everywhere. Its utter destruction.

Having said that, since Monday we've made progress. We've made a little progress every day. And I want to join with Bob. The federal government is great. FEMA and all of your people who are on the ground -- were on the ground before the storm hit -- but particularly the Coast Guard, because they've rescued 1,700 people in this city and they were there Monday night when it was still awful.

Alabama's been great. I mean, he sent me 2,000 of his National Guard, you know, while we're here for his disaster.

It's all over the country -- people all over the country. Florida had search and rescue people there the day of the storm and other states.

I mean, it's just -- but we've suffered a grievous blow that we won't recover from for a long while. This is the worst natural disaster in American history, I believe, and we're at ground zero.

And so right now we're trying to finish search and rescue. There are people that didn't leave that died -- and we hadn't found some of them.

BARBOUR: Secondly, we're getting water and food, and your people have been great: the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the private sector. Every day, all I can say, we make a little progress.

Fuel is a huge problem. Fuel is an enormous problem, because we have no electricity in most of the areas, not going to have it in a lot of places, because we didn't just lose the distribution lines (INAUDIBLE) lost all the transmission. We lost (INAUDIBLE) the generation.

And so fuel is the number one crisis because you can't do search and rescue, you can't get the water running, the hospitals have got to have generators. That's our biggest problem, and you all are helping. Coast Guard's delivering diesel fuel to all our hospitals today to run their generator.

Still, I want you to know, that is the crisis. And we'll talk some more. The main thing, we're making progress, we're going to be fine at the end of the day. But the end of the day is a long way away, and we're going to need a lot of help in between (INAUDIBLE).

RILEY: We got a couple of areas down here that are having some difficulties with gasoline right now. But Colonial and I think Plantation are going to be back up 40 to 50 percent.

BUSH: More than that right now. We've got positive news on the Colonial Pipeline: Should be over 80 percent this weekend...

RILEY: If we can get that up, we'll be in pretty good shape.


(UNKNOWN): Just give you a quick update on the air operations side: We've been flowing forces into the Mississippi-New Orleans area since the beginning of the storm.

(UNKNOWN): It's been an around-the-clock, 24/7 operation. Every asset we have available that's not being maintained or turned around is in the theater working, and that's been continuous. It's unprecedented for us.

We're estimating between Air Stations Houston, New Orleans and the Aviation Training Center in Mobile and all the forces around the Coast Guard have been converged on this site, we're estimating over 5,000 aerial rescues so far.

But the numbers are almost impossible to count now. But we're turning things around as quick as we can out there.

We've had several initial rescues the first two days along the coastline in Mississippi. And most of our efforts now are pushing toward New Orleans. And we're still helping Mississippi out where they need us. But there are still people who need our help in New Orleans.

Coast Guard forces are being flowed into APC Mobile from everywhere in the country. You see that aircraft over there is from Cape Cod. We have aircraft from Clearwater, Florida, Miami -- you name it. They're coming in here and being (INAUDIBLE) my command here and then flying them into New Orleans.

I would like to point out the air station in New Orleans took a tremendous hit. But they're still operating, and they're doing a wonderful job. I mean, these guys are absolutely operating in the most challenging conditions you can think of.

Our crews are doing the same thing with them but there are some historic stories being written over there with this rescue.

We're going to keep pushing as hard as we can with the air side until we leave. And (INAUDIBLE) maintain and sustain.

My fellow incident commander here, Captain Jim (INAUDIBLE) can tell you a little bit about the waterway situation.

(UNKNOWN): Yes, sir.

Mr. President, as soon as the storm passed, we started to search Coast Guard resources back in here. Our primary concern, of course, is always search and rescue but we also knew that we had to get gasoline moving, which is normally moved by barge in this part of the Gulf. We've been working about 18 hours a day to get the waterways open. And I'm proud to tell you that we've almost got the waterways open. We've already started moving gas. We've already started moving coal for the power plants. And we should be back to fairly normal operations everywhere except Pascagoula fairly quickly. We're working with Pascagoula to get them open again as well. (UNKNOWN): The Mississippi coast, sir, was devastated. It was devastated. I flew over it. I saw it. And I've never seen anything like it in my life.

I know that the rescuers have become victims. The police officers, the firemen, all of the people that served the people are themselves victims.

We are surging a tremendous number of Coast Guard, law enforcement personnel and boats and cutters to cover the entire Mississippi coast to assist them and to work in partnership with them and to help them maintain and serve the people there -- try to provide them temporary infrastructure until all the rest of the people that are flooding into the area -- the National Guard and FEMA and the state folks -- they're all coming in there. And we're going to work in partnership with them from the water to maintain control, to maintain public safety and to help them recover from this.

And we know we're going to be doing this for some time. But that's what we do, sir.

BUSH: Thank you.

(UNKNOWN): Yes, sir.


(UNKNOWN): If I could just introduce (INAUDIBLE). He's one of our rescue swimmers that's been out there...

BUSH: Good job.

(UNKNOWN): I know he's focused...

(UNKNOWN): Nice to meet you.

(UNKNOWN): And I think he can tell you a little bit about what he's seeing out there on some of these rescues (INAUDIBLE).

(UNKNOWN): Primarily I've been flying at nighttime. I wasn't expecting to see what I did see. Flying over the rooftops, it kind of looks like we're looking at the stars at night (INAUDIBLE) flashlights, you know, which started the (INAUDIBLE).

So we'd go down to an area and locate, go down, primarily roof to roof rescue, picking up families of four to five, sometimes pets with them, too, so we're sort of taking their animals out.

And it's primarily word of mouth. They're telling us so-and-so Johnson's down the street, we've got to take them. They don't have flashlights. We can hear them.

So we mark that location. Drop them off and come back. It's never-ending.

But the families themselves have really been helping each other out. They're sticking together and they're really thankful that we're coming in and getting them out.

You know, I hope we're making a dent. And now I think we're working more of the bigger hotels and condominium complexes. We've been working a lot at Days Inn, you know, hundreds of people coming up. But we're trying to get them off as best that we can.

There's been a lot of civilians out there, hotel manager at the Days in, who was staying there. He said, "I'm not going to leave until everybody else is out."

(UNKNOWN): So there are some people over there that are, you know, helping out their fellow mankind. So there's some good stuff going on; people helping people. And we're just trying to do that. (INAUDIBLE)

(UNKNOWN): In answer to your question, sir, we're ready to...

BUSH: Of course I want to say a few things. I am incredibly proud of our Coast Guard. And we have got courageous people risking their lives to save life.

And I want to thank the commanders and I want to thank the troops over there for representing the best of America.

I want to congratulate the governors for being leaders. They didn't ask for this (INAUDIBLE), but you're doing a heck of a job.

And the federal government's job is big and is massive and we're going to do it. Where it's not working right, we're going to make it right. Where it is working right, we're going to duplicate it elsewhere.

We have a responsibility at the federal level to help save life. And that's the primary focus right now. Every life is precious. And so we're going to spend a lot of time saving lives, whether it be in New Orleans, on the coast of Mississippi.

We have a responsibility to help clean up this mess. And I want to thank the Congress for acting as quickly as you did.

Step 1 is to appropriate $10.5 billion, but I've got to warn everybody, that's just the beginning. That's a small down payment for the cost of this effort to help the good folks here rebuild.

We are going to restore order in the city of New Orleans. And we're going to help supplement the efforts of the Mississippi Guard and others to restore order in parts of Mississippi.

BUSH: And I want to thank you for your strong statement of zero tolerance.

People of this country expect there to be law and order. And we're going to work hard to get it. In order to make sure there's less violence, we've got to get food to people. And that's the primary mission is to get food to people. And there's a lot of food moving. It's one thing to get it moving to a station, it's the next thing to get it in the hands of the people. And that's where we're going to spend a lot of time focusing.

We got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is, and it's hard for some to see it now, but out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast like it was before.

Out of the rubble of Trent Lott's house -- he lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch.

Out of New Orleans is going to come that great city again. That's what's going to happen.

But now we're in the darkest days and so we got a lot of work to do. And I'm down here to thank people. I'm down here to comfort people. I'm down here to let people know that we're going to work with the states and the local folks with a strategy to get this thing solved.

Now, I also want to say something about the compassion of the people of Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and surrounding states. I want to thank you for your compassion. Now is the time to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself.

Governor Riley announced the fact that they're going to open up homes and military bases for stranded folks. And that's going to be very important and helpful.

And my dad and Bill Clinton are going to raise money for governor's funds. The governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama will have monies available to them to help deal with the long-term consequences of this storm.

The faith-based groups and the community-based groups throughout this part of the world and the country, for that matter, are responding. If you want to help, give cash money to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

BUSH: That's where the first help will come. There's going to be plenty of opportunities to help later on, but right now the immediate concern is to save lives and get food and medicine to people, so we can stabilize the situation.

Again, I want to thank you all.

And, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.

The FEMA director is working 24...


They're working 24 hours a day.

Again, my attitude is, if it's not going exactly right, we're going to make it go exactly right. If there's problems, we're going to address the problems. And that's what I've come down to assure people of.

And, again, I want to thank everybody. And I'm not looking forward to this trip. I got a feel for it when I flew over before. For those who have not -- trying to conceive what we're talking about, it's as if the entire Gulf Coast were obligated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine. And now we're going to go try to comfort people in that part of the world.

Thank you.


KAGAN: Well, we've been listening in to President Bush. He had a few comments, also received a briefing in this hangar in Mobile, Alabama. He arrived there within the last half hour. President Bush being very honest earlier today, saying he's not satisfied with the results he's seen so far, but today, now saying, "Where it's not going right, we're going to make it right," a quote from the president.

Also making reference to the $10.5 billion that Congress has appropriated to help get things started in the rebuilding and repair of the Gulf Coast. He said, I got news for you, that's just a small downpayment on the work that needs to be done. And he believes out of the chaos is going to come a rebuilt Gulf Coast.

We were talking with senior political analyst Bill Schneider before we went to this. Bill, before we heard the president's comments, I got to say, that was rather an odd thing to be watching. The president finally making it to the Gulf Coast after five days and then spending a big chunk of time, when he could be out seeing the devastation -- getting a briefing that frankly he could have gotten back at the White House. If not then, then on board Air Force One. A lot of that seemed like a political opportunity for the cameras and for the Republican governors of Mississippi and Alabama.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it did. I'm not sure that's what most Americans and certainly most people in the area wanted to hear, as if the president were being filled in, told what was going on. There was a lot of thanking, a lot of congratulations. Look, these are frantic, desperate people who have lost everything, who are in a desperate situation. What they want is someone to come there and say the government is in control, we have control of the situation, there's a leader in charge here, and we're going to make it work.

Eventually, he did get to his point. And his point was that his priorities were the right priorities. Number one, saving lives; number two, restoring order. But what people want there is leadership. They don't want someone being briefed. They want leadership.

KAGAN: And this is a president that's well aware of his father's legacy, President Bush 41, who will be paired with former President Clinton, helping to raise private funds to help rebuild this area. But the first President Bush, criticized resoundly in 1992 for how he handled Hurricane Andrew and that situation in Florida. SCHNEIDER: That's right. He was criticized for that. This situation is far -- I mean, that was bad. It was tragic. This is dire, because of the scenes of people dying, because of the out-of- control chaos that we're seeing in New Orleans. I mean, this just dramatizes for all the world to see, a situation that no one could imagine happening in the United States. A total collapse of authority and government. That is very frightening.

The president just mentioned that the Gulf Coast looks like it was obliterated by a weapon. That's got to bring to mind the image -- suppose there were weapons, suppose a terrorist attacked. Would we be more in control of the situation then than we are now?

KAGAN: Bill Schneider, joining us live from Washington, D.C. Thank you for your analysis, as we watch President Bush's visit in Mobile, Alabama, into New Orleans later today. Bill, thank you.

On the phone with us right now, a woman named Tishia Walters. She is stuck, with thousands others, inside the convention center inside New Orleans and she joins me on the phone right now. Ms. Walters, thank you for being with us.


KAGAN: We are doing fine, but we hear report after report of just how difficult and impossible the conditions are where you are right now, ma'am.

WALTERS: This is my second time calling. And as the -- there was eight bodies in the freezer last night, and now it's 12. People are dying as we speak. And, I mean, it's getting worse and worse and worse. They've been promising us, and every time they say they're coming, it seems like something happens.

Now there's a big fire at one of the major hotels. So that's going back us up because they're all trying to put the fire out. We have no water, we're running out of food, and there's nothing we can do. A woman had a baby last night with no medical assistance, but the baby didn't make it. We're suffering.

KAGAN: Well, if it's any consolation, your story and the story of what is happening to others at and around the convention center is making it out across the U.S. and around the world. I would imagine you are there because you were forced from your home and have no idea what the status of your home is.

WALTERS: Right. And every place -- right. I had nine feet of water in my home. We had survived for three days in nine feet of water with no running water, no utilities, no -- anything. We ran out of food. Then we finally waded through nine feet of water, on mattresses, to get to higher ground. We slept on the bridge. Once we got off the bridge, we had -- they (INAUDIBLE). They said they would take us to where food and water was. They took us to another highway, where we spent the night in the middle of the street. And they said, well, OK, we got to get you to the convention center, there will be food and water.

We got here. There is no water. There is no water. There's shooting. They're killing people. They're robbing men in the dress room. They're raping women trying to go to the rest room. Some people have resorted to defecating on the carpets and the floors. You can't walk. There's babies without Pampers, there's mamas without milk. There's -- it's chaos, total chaos.

KAGAN: Ms. Walters, President Bush is on his way to New Orleans today. If you had a chance to meet with him, to have his ear, what would be the message to him?

WALTERS: Help us, please. If we could have got out, we would have. We need help, everybody in here. These people want to be helped. They're not -- and this is a bunch of friendly people. We need help. If you can't get us all out, bring some medication. There are people dying of heat stroke. There are people dying of diabetic comas and shock. They need insulin, they need nitroglycerin for heart attack patients. They're leaving people on the bridge, trying to get to the convention center. There was one man who died along the way. They covered him up with a sheet and left him on the highway. We need help.

KAGAN: And that message is, indeed, getting out. And we feel helpless at this end, being able to offer you only the chance to express your voice. We'll be checking back in with you. Tishia Walters, one of the thousands of people stuck with no place to go outside the convention center. Thank you, Ms. Walters.

Another person who has been very frank in expressing his frustration has been the mayor of New Orleans, Mayor Nagin. He gave a very frank interview to a radio station earlier today. Now the mayor's office is releasing this statement. And I've just been handed it, so I will just go ahead and share it with you, as it's been handed to me. It is from the mayor, Mayor Nagin.

He's calling it "an SOS, a night of hell." And that is a quote from the mayor of New Orleans. He is saying that last night, "our last functioning clean water facility that provides potable water for the West Bank and East Bank of New Orleans was nearly overtaken. If our water supply is further reduced, thousands more will die."

I'll just continue reading. It's a statement of about five paragraphs. "100 police officers were forced to leave the convention center, an area that is already a critical safety issue for 30,000 people. In the convention center, individuals have fired at police officers, but officers cannot return fire because of the fear of hitting civilians in the darkness."

He goes on: "Further escalating this crisis, a chemical explosion occurred last night." And I believe we have pictures of that. That started very early this morning. That rocked the downtown area. "We are now unsure how many people are at risk from the explosion because police and fire can't access the site with proper equipment and gear." The mayor adds to say that "I continue to hear that troops are on the way, but we still are protecting the city with only 1,500 New Orleans police officers, an additional 300 law enforcement personnel, 250 National Guard troops and other military personnel who are primarily focused on evacuation."

He ends by saying: "The people of our city are holding on by a thread. Over 10,000 people were evacuated yesterday." But he estimates there are still 50,000 survivors on rooftops and shelters needing to be evacuated from New Orleans. "Time has run out," the mayor says. "Can we survive another night? We who can depend -- and who can we depend on?" He says "only God knows." And those frustrating words and that statement coming from Mayor Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans.

Now, President Bush, we were seeing him live in Mobile, Alabama. He is making his way later today to Kenner, Louisiana. That's where the airport is. Originally, we had heard that the president was only going to take an aerial tour of New Orleans. Now we understand there will be a ground tour and that he will be meeting with this frustrated mayor. We believe that meeting will take place at the airport in Kenner, Louisiana.

Do we still have our Barbara Starr available to go? OK, Barbara Starr is also in the area. Last we talked to her, she was at the Superdome. She's now made her way to City Hall of New Orleans. She is traveling with Lieutenant Russell Honore, who is the commander of the military response to Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath.

Barbara joining us on the phone right now from City Hall in New Orleans --Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Daryn. We have now made our way to City Hall and we have made our way to City Hall from the Superdome through the floodwaters coming on a military five- ton truck, a huge, high truck that drives slowly through the floodwaters and is the way that General Honore is getting around town.

For the military, for the National Guard that are here, Daryn, there is no question, this is a war zone, in terms of the types of challenges that they are facing, trying to move around the city, trying to get aid, medicine, food, water, supplies, to people stranded all over the place.

The two main centers, of course, the Superdome that we just came from. Heartbreaking to see hundreds and hundreds of people just laying outside with whatever shelter they can find from the sun. The trash piling up. There are a large number of National Guard troops there, trying to help them. But General Honore tells us his major challenge is still days later, trying to find busses and drivers to come in and take those people out. And now, of course, they are trying to deal with the situation at the convention center, where there are thousands of people also without food and water.

We're essentially embedded, if you will, with General Honore. Just as CNN reporters and other journalists embed when the military is at war. He is taking us under his wing. We are traveling with him throughout the city today, reporting on what we see, facing the same challenges that the military is facing. It's really rough very going here. General Honore is very aware that there's a lot of concern out there about, are things moving fast enough? But when you're on the ground here and you see the very, very stark conditions, you see just how difficult it is for everyone to try and make the relief effort happen -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Barbara, what about these reports we're getting that a food convoy might actually be within 30 minutes of making its way to the difficult situation at the convention center?

STARR: Right. My understanding at this point is that the White House is putting out some advanced word on that. That is probably topping the list today of what they are trying to do here today, taking one thing at a time. They are trying to assemble a massive relief effort to go into the convention center. They're methodically trying to plan it. They know they have a lot of people they have to medevac out of there. And just consider this one challenge that we have heard about in the last few minutes, getting medevac helicopters to the convention center. As far as they can determine right now, the only piece of dry land where they could land a medevac helicopter near there is a parking lot that is full of light posts. They have to find a piece of equipment that can go through the floodwaters, get to that parking lot, knock down those light posts so those helicopters can come in.

Every single thing they are trying to do here really is proving to be more and more complicated as the hours go by, as the situation continues to deteriorate -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Barbara Starr, she is traveling with Lieutenant General Russell Honore, the commander of the military task force that is looking into the aftermath, and the recovery and the rescue of Hurricane Katrina.

President Bush just getting onboard the helicopter there. It will take off and give him an aerial tour of Alabama and Mississippi. He expects to see the entire Mississippi coast completely obliterated, and that damage moving well inland as well. He eventually will make his way into New Orleans and to the airport just outside of that city.

Our coverage continues on CNN. Right now, a quick break.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Lin at the victims relief desk. Last night, we were able to give a mother and father the news they were waiting for. Carol and Michael Charles had to make a Sophie's Choice to save their family and flee to Houston, but leave their sick, newborn behind in Slidell, Louisiana, in a hospital there. Well, it was nearly four days without any news, until we at the relief desk connected them via satellite phone with their baby's doctor.


LIN: Mr. and Mrs. Charles, I know you've been desperate to hear any news about your newborn daughter. When was the last time you talked to her?


LIN: On Tuesday.

We have some good news for you, I hope. Right now, we have on the line with us, Dr. Claudia Shoop (ph). She is your daughter's, Malia's (ph), pediatrician.

Dr. Shoop, what you can tell these parents about the condition of their daughter.

DR. CLAUDIA SHOOP: The baby is doing wonderfully. We are spoiling her terribly. She will be good and spoiled by the time she gets home to them.


SHOOP: The hospital has been wonderful as far as providing for the needs of these tiny babies, these youngest of the patients that we have in the hospital, and so we have really been lucky by the support that we've gotten from the hospital, from both Northshore Hospital and the parent corporation who is kind of shipping stuff into us today and everything.

LIN: Mrs. Charles, you must have a million questions. Why don't you go ahead and ask Dr. Shoop some more about what's going on with Malia.

C. CHARLES: I'm lost for words now. I'm just glad to know that she's OK, you know, just knowing that we had heard -- you know, you never know what's true, because there are so many things going on in the city. But knowing she's still there, that gives us relief, because we're so far away, you know, and she's a week old, and I've seen her for approximately maybe an hour and 45 minutes.

LIN: Dr. Shoop, are the kids, the babies, is Malia getting food, water?

SHOOP: Absolutely. She is getting absolutely everything she would be getting were we still functioning in our usual capacity.

LIN: Well, Dr. Shoop, these parents have missed the first seven days of their baby's life. Tell them about what Malia's like.

SHOOP: She's an adorable baby. The nurses are spoiling her. She eats like a champ, and so I think she will breast-feed for mom just fine when they get back together.

LIN: Well, we wanted you to know here at CNN that we felt your pain, and we did everything possible to get that pediatrician on the telephone.

Dr. Shoop, thank you so much.

C. CHARLES: Tell her don't take my babe bay anywhere. Please hold my baby.

LIN: They'll hold her tight, Mrs. Charles. Thank you both. We'll get you the information you need to stay in touch.

M. CHARLES: Thank you very much.

C. CHARLES: Thank you.




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