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Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath

Aired September 3, 2005 - 10:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Just ahead, President Bush will discuss the hurricane relief and recovery effort in his weekly radio address. We plan to bring that to you live.
A city under water. A major fire is burning out of control, though, in a New Orleans wharf district. With hydrants dry and resources stretched to the limit, fighting fires a Herculean task.

It's Labor Day weekend, in case you had forgotten that one, and gas prices are sky-high. And you know you haven't forgotten that. But will it keep Americans off the road? Live report ahead on that.

We'll have that and more on a special weekend edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien. We're glad you're with us on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. Every hour, we're bringing you the most critical issues facing Katrina survivors in the wake of that hurricane.

At this hour, there are still about 2,000 people inside the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. The evacuations were stopped earlier this morning. According to the Associated Press, buses just stopped coming. We don't have any further explanation for you yet. We're working on it.

Another 25,000 people are in the convention center. And some set up camps along the streets. They simply have no place to go. So the evacuation is by no means complete.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to clear the floodwaters. They've started rebuilding those levees in New Orleans. And the utility workers throughout the Gulf are going home to restore power, home-to-home, to more than one million customers still without power this morning. You know, and a customer really amounts to at least four people. So you get a sense of how many people are without power here.

Stay tuned to CNN for the latest on the recovery effort from Hurricane Katrina.

And now we go to Soledad O'Brien, who is at the airport in Kenner, Louisiana.

Soledad, good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Miles. Good morning again. We've been watching really efforts here ramp up. Now, usually, you have seven or eight choppers at a time on the tarmac here. And of course, that means the noise has ramped up a lot, as well.

We're seeing more, also, of people being brought out on litters, and litters that are placed on those big baggage carts that normally your luggage would come out of when you're deplaning. But the people on the stretchers are being laid across those. And then they are also being evacuated. Those are clearly the people who are among the most severely injured.

And we can actually -- if you pan over for me -- take a look at that. You can see the first of the group that will be brought out onto this particular baggage cart.

And I've got the tell you, Miles, it's just a heartbreaking scene. These are the most severely injured. But you also have couples and families with these small children, all of them just barely walking in under their own steam. These are the ones who are basically in the better shape and the number that have little kids who are trying to make their way inside.

And what they'll find in here is some food and some water and much better conditions than what they left. But, at the same time, it's another waiting game -- Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Soledad, thank you very much.

The president of the United States has delivered live radio addresses only twice in his presidency, once on September 11th, once March the following year to talk about a jobs program in the wake of that. Here he is, live in the Rose Garden, a radio address that obviously we are going to carry live here on television.

Let's listen to the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... largest national disasters ever to strike America. A vast coastline of town and communities are flattened. One of our great cities is submerged. The human costs are incalculable.

Biloxi, I met Bronwynne Bassier and her sister, Kim. Bronwynne told me that the only earthly possessions she has left were the clothes on her back.

I also met relief and rescue workers who are performing heroically in difficult circumstances. They've been working around- the-clock, risking their own lives to save the lives of others.

Yet, despite their best efforts, the magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans, and that is unacceptable. During my visit, I discussed these problems at length with Governor Riley of Alabama, Governor Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Blanco of Louisiana, and Mayor Nagin of New Orleans.

Each state will have its own set of challenges and issues to solve. Yet all of us agree that more can be done to improve our ability to restore order and deliver relief in a timely and effective manner.

This morning, I received a briefing on the latest developments on the ground. Right now, there are more than 21,000 National Guard troops operating in Louisiana and Mississippi, and more are on the way. More than 13,000 of these troops are in Louisiana.

The main priority is to restore and maintain law and order and assist in recovery and evacuation efforts.

In addition to these National Guard forces, the Department of Defense has deployed more than 4,000 active-duty forces to assist in search and recovery and provide logistical and medical support.

Hour by hour, the situation on the ground is improving, yet the enormity of the task requires more resources and more troops. Today, I ordered the Department of Defense to deploy additional active-duty forces to the region.

Over the next 24 to 72 hours, more than 7,000 additional troops from the 82nd Airborne, from the 1st Cavalry, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force will arrive in the affected areas. These forces will be on the ground and operating under the direct command of General Russ Honore.

Our priorities are clear: We will complete the evacuation as quickly and safely as possible. We will not let criminals prey on the vulnerable. And we will not allow bureaucracy to get in the way of saving lives.

Yesterday, I also signed a $10.5 billion emergency aid package to fund our ongoing relief efforts. This is a down payment on what will be a sustained federal commitment to our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast.

I want to thank the Congress for their quick bipartisan action. I look forward to working with them in the days and weeks ahead.

I know that those of you who have been hit hard by Katrina are suffering. Many are angry and desperate for help.

The task before us are enormous, but so is the heart of America. In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need. And the federal government will do its part.

Where our response is not working, we'll make it right. Where our response is working, we will duplicate it. We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters all along the Gulf Coast, and we will not rest until we get this right and the job is done. This week, we've all been humbled by the awesome powers of Mother Nature. And when you stand on the porch steps where a home once stood or look at row upon row of buildings that are completely under water, it's hard to imagine a bright future.

But when you talk to the proud folks in the area, you see a spirit that cannot be broken.

The emergency along the Gulf Coast is ongoing. There's still a lot of difficult work ahead. All Americans can be certain our nation has the character, the resources, and the resolve to overcome this disaster.

We will comfort and care for the victims. We will restore the towns and neighborhoods that have been lost in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. We'll rebuild the great city of New Orleans.

And we'll once again show the world that the worst adversities bring out the best in America. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, why did you take so long...

M. O'BRIEN: The president of the United States with his radio address, really a televised address to the nation, saying our nation has the character, the resources, and the resolve to rebound from this. Also saying, unequivocally, we will rebuild the great city of New Orleans.

Let's shift our attention now a little bit eastward to Mississippi. A lot of focus, of course, on New Orleans because of the unique circumstances there. But in its own right, the damage to the coastline of Mississippi is truly astounding. Really the entire coast of Mississippi has the appearance of having had a bomb dropped on it.

CNN's Chris Huntington happens to be in Biloxi. It's a town that is right in the heart of Mississippi's coastline, with horrible, horrible damage there.

Chris, what's the latest there?

CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, the latest here is, folks are still clamoring for fuel. The fuel situation here in Mississippi, at least along the coast, is still unsatisfactory to the folks here.

They need gasoline for their vehicles so they can get in and out of the damaged areas and begin the clean-up process. And particularly, they need diesel fuel for generators, because, again, obviously, power is out throughout the region here. And without diesel fuel, in fact, you can't even fire up, so to speak, the gasoline stations to help people fuel up their automobiles.

The president did visit this area. In fact, he was right here, right near where I am in Biloxi, during a drive-by here yesterday. So he knows full well the damage along the Mississippi coast. The folks here feel to a certain extent that their situation is being overlooked because of the attention understandably paid to New Orleans and the surrounding area there.

But indeed, progress on the ground is evident here. The National Guard is in evidence. There are plenty of work crews coming in from all around the region. We've got a Georgia-based contracting crew that showed up here this morning just along the coast here to begin work on the houses.

So, Miles, the situation here in Mississippi is improving. A long way to go.

M. O'BRIEN: CNN's Chris Huntington.

You know, one thing that's worth pointing out here is Biloxi is such a huge economic engine for the state of Mississippi. A dozen casinos there. Interestingly, by a quirk of the law, the casinos are actually floating barges and the hotels are beside them.

And because of the fact that they're floating barges, some of them were just sent, you know, inland and have been totally wiped out. And this represents -- as you look at the imagery here, I think we've got a before-and-after, showing that this is obviously the after.

But what this means is -- are jobs for about 14,000 people. And that's a problem that really isn't going to go away quickly, is it, Chris?

HUNTINGTON: Miles, the situation with the casinos is mind- boggling on several fronts. The fact that these barges have been lifted up and tossed around defies description.

These are the size of ocean-liners. We saw one in Gulfport yesterday that had been brought a full half-mile inland with debris strewn all about it, including, apparently, a sea lion from one of the aquariums that had been part of one of the casino set-ups.

There is a slight bit of good news to come out of the casino business, and that is Harrah's is saying it will pay its staff for up to 90 days. So that's good news for employees of Harrah's. But it's a huge, huge part of the economy here and a huge loss, and will take a long time to rebuild -- Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Chris Huntington in Biloxi, thank you very much.

Still to come on our program, the challenges for Hurricane Katrina survivors go beyond food, shelter and clothing. We'll take a closer look at the psychological effects a disaster has on people in just a bit, including children.

And a conversation with the John Wayne-like general sent in to coordinate military efforts in New Orleans. An exclusive look at General Honore, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) S. O'BRIEN: People being rescued, plucked literally from the tops of their homes or off their balconies, and brought to safety. But then what?

In many cases, they come right here to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. You can see the helicopters now in a choreographed ballet as they land quickly, deplane some of the people, who are going to go into triage, get checked out, and then continue their path.

We've got a couple of folks whose basically did this yesterday. Derrick Porea and his mom, Diane Porea (ph), join us. And they have had a really tough, long and exhausting week.

Derrick, thank you for talking with us. I know this is a really tough time.

First, let's begin with what happened. You were on your balcony in the seventh ward?

DERRICK POREA, RESCUED BY HELICOPTER: Yes, I was on my balcony in the seventh ward, New Orleans, Louisiana. And all of a sudden, a helicopter passed over. And I, like, flagged the guys down.

And they send a guy down to us. And he, like, hoisted me up. And then he went back down for Mom. And he hoisted Mom up. And then all of a sudden, we took off, and headed for, like, Lakefront Airport. And then we landed. And we ended up spending the night out there.

S. O'BRIEN: But you left behind -- the two of you got out, but you left behind your family. How many people?

D. POREA: Well, they were unable to fit on the helicopter at that time, because the helicopter had too many people. So I don't know if they made a second trip back for my other remaining family, my grandmother, my uncle, and his daughter, and his two grandchildren.

We're hoping that they're all right, but we're not sure. We lost contact with my other family members. And I've got pictures here to show the local people, local America, hopefully, that, if they see them, that they get in contact. I have no way to be reached at this time, because we lost basically everything in our area.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, you're sort of describing the circumstances that I think a lot of people are in...

D. POREA: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... which is, you're reaching out to your family members, you're hoping that they're alive and they're OK, but there's really no way to connect with them.

Show the pictures. I know you -- your sister, she's missing with her -- this is her young son here.

D. POREA: This is my sister, Selke (ph), and this is her son, Joseph, Joseph Washington, Delana Fored (ph).

S. O'BRIEN: I'm going to ask you to go just a smidge slower, so we can get a good shot of it, OK?

D. POREA: Anthony Porea...

S. O'BRIEN: That's your brother, right?

D. POREA: Yes, and my brother and sister.


D. POREA: This is my other sister.

S. O'BRIEN: Another sister. Slow down. Slow down. I know you want to get everybody in, but we've got to a good shot of them, OK?

D. POREA: OK. And here's my other brother. We tried to reach him in Richmond, Virginia, so he can come on in and help us out. And this is my other sister. It's been over five or six days, and we haven't seen them or heard from them since.

S. O'BRIEN: How many family member in total are we talking about, Derrick?

D. POREA: Possible -- how many are there about? About maybe five, six, seven or eight, something like that.

S. O'BRIEN: You were one of the folks who came in, just like these people below us who have been coming in with all of their belongings in a bag. What it's like when you finally land here? What's the situation like?

D. POREA: Well, it was a little ride. And when we got here, they had a lot of people all over the place. It was all over the ground, spread out.

It looked horrible, like something bad happened, in which a hurricane happened. But I never experienced nothing like this before there in my life. So when I got here, you know, I was like, you know, tired, exhausted from the night before.

And there's a struggle out here. You know, a lot of people need help. They need recovery. We need new homes, new cars...

S. O'BRIEN: What are you going to do?

D. POREA: I have no idea.

S. O'BRIEN: You've been here for two days. What do you do tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after?

D. POREA: I'm going to have to wait until the water recede in our neighborhood, and hopefully head back, and try to recover some of our belongings, and probably clean up whatever the hurricane destroyed. S. O'BRIEN: Derrick Porea and mom, Diane Porea (ph). They got out. Family members, though, did not. They're searching for any word of them at this time. I hope that some people at least will be able to give you good news that they've seen them and that they're OK.

We've got a short break ahead. The number of flights coming in increasing, which is really good news. Where these folks go, though, that's the next phase in a big problem.

We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.


M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's clear we need a little more counseling. After we spoke with James Halpern last hour, or two hours ago, whenever it was, there was a lot left to be discussed, and so we're bringing him back.

He specializes in long-term mental health issues suffered by victim of large-scale disasters, just like this one. James Halpern, director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health, State University of New York at New Paltz.

Good to have you back. Let's talk about kids, because that's the thing we've kind of omitted, and that's an important one. One of things I heard on the radio while I was there, I think it was from WWL, somebody was offering some advice to people there.

They said one of the key things for kids is to get them in school, give them a sense of normalcy. That can be a real, big challenge for somebody who's evacuated to Houston, let's say, with very little means. But that's important, isn't it?

JAMES HALPERN, STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK: Absolutely. For kids, I think they need that routine. They also need to be reassured. We know that the world isn't safe and there's some way we can deal with that in a way that kids can't deal with that.

So grown-ups, and parents, and clergy need to find a way to reassure kids that they are safe, that they're going to be OK, that they're going to get past this, which is also not an easy thing to do when you think about parents, who are stretched beyond their limits as it is, to then be focusing on reassuring their kids.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, and kids pick up on this from their parents. The parent is probably feeling they're not so safe right now. And even though they may pay lip service to that to their children, kids really get it, I think.

HALPERN: Yes. And there is research that suggests that, to the extent that parents are able to provide that kind of secure, safe environment for the kid, that the kid is going to be OK. That's also why the parents of young children need the support, and need the reassurance, and need the help, so that they can then support their kids. M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about, you know, scenario here. You've got this family and it's in Houston and the Astrodome. They have limited means. They've got to try to get their kid in school.

They also need -- really could use some counseling here, when you consider all the trauma that they have endured right now. Is that kind of thing provided? Will the Red Cross be there? What kind of structures are there for them?

HALPERN: The Red Cross is there. Red Cross is in shelters now. Mental health worker whose are all licensed mental health professionals are in shelters now. They're also in these emergency response vehicles going around doing outreach.

And most of the mental health assistance at this point is really very practical in nature. Nobody needs analysis or long-term therapy at this point.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, give me a sense of some of the words that professionals would give people in this time. What would you say?

HALPERN: Well, partly you're there as a presence. I mean, partly you're there to listen.

M. O'BRIEN: Listen, right.

HALPERN: Absolutely. You're also there to provide as much accurate information as you have, so if you've got that accurate information, you want to dispense that. You also want to help people contact their natural support systems if you can. Here's a cell phone, if you want to call a relative or a friend.

M. O'BRIEN: So real basic stuff in the outset.

HALPERN: Real basic stuff, what we refer to as psychological first aid. At this point, that's what's needed.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate the added insight. James Halpern, director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health, State University of New York, New Paltz. That is one long title you've got there. All right, thank you for coming back in.

HALPERN: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

After five long days, federal aid is starting to pour into Louisiana. Why did it take so long? We'll talk to former Louisiana Senator John Breaux and ask him about that. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. You can see behind me and hear behind me frankly that the evacuation is really bumped up a lot. We now have two lines of choppers lined up at the New Orleans international airport. They are quickly dropping off the victims, the evacuees and in some cases reloading, then taking off again to go get more people. We've seen it really ramp up in the last hour or so. Quite a scene here, especially when you see some of these evacuees coming off the choppers, in some cases the planes looking utterly wiped out, carrying the very few remaining possessions. You know, when you think that this is New Orleans international airport and it looks like some kind of a war zone. It's pretty shocking.

There are so many people that have been moved by pictures like these and others as well and they want to give money. We want to get right to Art Taylor. He is an expert in this field. Art, thank you for talking with us, $200 million private donations to U.S. charities. We'll get to Art in just a second to talk about how much more is really needed. First, though, let's go back to Miles. Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Soledad. See you in a second. Every hour we are bringing you the most critical issues facing Katrina survivors. We begin with the announcement that thousands of additional troops are being sent to the Gulf region. President Bush speaking just a short time ago, rare live radio address. He said 7,000 more troops will be deployed to areas hit by Katrina over the next 72 hours and the extra support arriving none too soon, of course. Flood water filled with toxins and bacteria cover New Orleans. It's even in the city's charity hospital. The medical facility still has a lot of patients left. Others are starting to get sick just from walking around the area in that dirty, awful, nasty water. Stay tuned to CNN for the latest on the recovery effort.

In spite of all of what we just said, the perception this morning is that they have turned a corner in New Orleans. I think it's the first morning we've really reported on bona fide improvements in that city since Katrina struck. To talk more about this and the Federal response or perhaps the lack of it, is John Breaux who served as U.S. senator from Louisiana to 1987 to January of this year joining us from Washington. Senator, good to have you with us.


M. O'BRIEN: The whole thing just breaks your heart, doesn't it?

BREAUX: Yes, it's really sickening. I mean I think it's not getting worse. It's now getting better and that's the good news. There's still so much to be done. I noted that just yesterday the USS Comfort you know, the hospital ship just left Baltimore yesterday.

M. O'BRIEN: Why? Why just yesterday?

BREAUX: They're supposed to get to New Orleans on Thursday. There's not going to be anybody left in New Orleans on Thursday. Everybody who will be sick hopefully will be evacuated to Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Houston or other parts of the country.

M. O'BRIEN: I don't understand why it takes so long.

BREAUX: Well, I mean, that's the $64 question. I think it's going to have to be a lot of soul searching. There's going to have to be a lot of calm review about what went right and what went wrong. I mean, this is five days after the hurricane before food and supplies were being brought to the city. That's not good. That's not good for the United States of America.

M. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this, senator, just walk with me down this road here. In theory, Federal troops can only be brought in if the governor asks for them because Federal troops have a very specific role in the way our democracy is formed. But Federal troops also have a responsibility for national security. And this is a storm that has all kinds of national security implications. Shouldn't it be almost automatic that in a case like this northern command should just take charge?

BREAUX: The short answer is yes. The hurricane hit. New Orleans was not hit as hard by the hurricane winds as perhaps the Mississippi coast, but as soon as those levees broke, anyone could have predicted that this was going to be a national catastrophe. This is not a surprise. We have studied this for years. Academics have written papers and volumes about what would happen when a hurricane of this magnitude hits New Orleans. It was going to be under 25 feet of water. I mean that was obvious on Tuesday.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, here's the thing, though. This is what bothers people. It's the bureaucracy of it all. You have a governor in Louisiana who didn't even ask for the Federal troops until Wednesday and you have the military saying we would have dropped food right away but FEMA didn't ask us. There's got to be a way to cut through that red tape.

BREAUX: Somebody has to say look, we're sending food. We're sending troops. We're sending boats. We're sending helicopters because we can see that it's a big disaster. I had an example of an ambulance, American Ambulance Association said, look, we have 300 balances three days ago they wanted to send down there from a Florida area. They said, well, we were told we had to have GSA's permission. GSA said they had to have FEMA ask for it. As a result they weren't sent.

M. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this, though. Let's flip this around for a moment. This is kind of turning in, I'm seeing shreds of this on the web and on the blogs of this being the allegation is that Democrats are using this as a political issue. What to you say to that?

BREAUX: I've heard the racial implications. I would categorically reject that. Our good Mayor Ray Nagin is African- American and almost all the city council is African-American. The sheriff is African-American. The areas south of New Orleans, Plaquemine and St. Bernard Parishes are predominantly white and the rescue efforts down there were certainly no faster. If anything, they were slower down there.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm talking also, though, about Democrats using this to make political hay with elections upcoming. In that own way, that's reprehensible too, isn't it? BREAUX: That is totally reprehensible. There will be time to find out what went right and what went wrong. But I think it's not the time to start talking about political implications. I'm a Democrat. I would heartedly reject that. People are trying as hard as they can to get what is done, being done accomplished right away. Should it have been done sooner? Absolutely, no question about it. But there will be a lot of time for soul searching later on.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's get real here for a moment because the people I've talked to who are evacuees, I haven't met a single one who says they're going back to New Orleans. They're moving on. Can New Orleans truly come back?

BREAUX: Absolutely. The spirit of New Orleans is more than buildings and you know and highways. The spirit of New Orleans is the people, the culture, the history. People will come back for that. I can understand them saying there's nothing to come back to now but New Orleans will rise again because as a culture and a spirit which will demand it and it will happen.

M. O'BRIEN: John Breaux, former senator from the great state of Louisiana. Thanks for being with us.

BREAUX: Thank you, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's get back to Soledad who's at the airport. Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Miles, thanks. We want to introduce Art Taylor. He is the CEO of the Better Business Bureau's (INAUDIBLE) of giving. Art, thanks for being with us, some $200 million private donations U.S. charities where told that's where the number is right now. You know you look at these pictures of these evacuees coming in with literally nothing, nothing but what they're carrying or just with their clothes, no shoes, carrying children, wearing just a diaper. And you're very moved, I'm sure, by the pictures. But you're advice is don't give solely on emotion. Why are you telling people that?

ART TAYLOR, BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU: Well, because we know that whenever there is a disaster of any magnitude, people come out of the woodworks who are trying to prey on that generosity. We want people to give, but we want people to give to well reputed organizations that are in a position to help. And in this particular disaster, we want all American families who are of a mind to give to think long term. The needs of the victims of this disaster will go on for months if not years. And those needs and the types of gifts that they -- things that these people will be needing will unfold over time. So it's important to make a plan for giving and then to decide what types of organizations are best suited to provide the relief that you have in mind.

S. O'BRIEN: You've said, Art, be wary of telemarketers. Are there no telemarketers that are basically on the up and up?

TAYLOR: It wouldn't be true to say that. But telemarketing is a very expensive form of fund raising and so if you get a call from a telemarketer, what you should probably do is give directly to the organization, rather than through the telemarketer, because more of the money will end up with that organization.

Also, we want people to be careful of giving over the Internet. This is another place that is a breeding ground for fraud artists. You should go to the Web site of the organization that you have in mind to give to and give over their Internet site. Don't respond to unsolicited e-mails.

S. O'BRIEN: Can you stipulate if you're giving money to some of those big charities like you mentioned with big Web sites, can you stipulate, listen, I want every dime of my money to go for this specific thing? Is that possible to do?

TAYLOR: You can, but we don't advise that. Organizations do need to put into place some administration in order to deliver the relief. And it's unrealistic to think that all of the money should go to the particular disaster effort without any of it going to administration. So some should go to administration and we'll be watching along with others to make sure that that amount is not unreasonable.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, Art, we've been seeing as evacuees come in here to New Orleans international airport, so many little kids. I mean, 18 months old, newborns, 2, 3, 4, 5. Do you want money or don't these folks really need food and clothes and some kind of tangible thing that they can put on as opposed to the cash? I mean, because someone may only be able to give $50 but they might be able to give thousands of dollars in their kids' used clothes.

TAYLOR: Absolutely. And there will be organizations that come around who can take those goods and opportunities and give to the people on the ground. But we have to allow these organizations to emerge. We have to allow for the needs of the victims to become more clear so that we can figure out how best to help.

We certainly want Americans to now be thinking about just what they can give. And then to be researching either through our Web site at GIVE.ORG or through other charity portals, how they can best help people. And certainly now's the time to give, but we want to be able to give over the long haul as well.

S. O'BRIEN: Art Taylor is the CEO of the Better Business Bureau's wise giving alliance. Art, thanks. We're out of time but I know you've got a lot more information about all of this on your Web site as well. Thanks a lot. Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Soledad. While we've been talking, the FEMA Director Mike Brown has been giving a briefing about 80 miles from where you are Soledad in Baton Rouge. We're just going to encapsulate what he's saying. First of all, 13,000 National Guard troops now boots on the ground in New Orleans.

That's a significant increase. Still not at the number that have been requested on the order of 30,000 or so, but that's ramping up, 4,000 evacuations yesterday. Ninety five percent of the evacuees are now out of the Superdome. That's great news because that had been just a mess. Don't have any numbers for you on the convention center just yet. We're still listening to him. As soon as we get that stuff, maybe he'll address those fires as well. We will bring that to you.

Katrina was the first test of the nation's ability to handle a major a catastrophe since 9/11. A closer look at what went wrong, what went right and the lessons that could be learned. And that's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. We're coming to you live from New Orleans international airport which has now become a field hospital of sorts. You can see troops have arrived. These are troops you're looking at, have just gotten off of one of the numerous military transport planes. The military force is now strong and can be seen and felt.

At the same time, some people here will tell you it brings a sense of relief to see that the military seems to have things firmly in hand. It's all under the control, at least here in Louisiana. Lieutenant General Russell Honore. He's a native son and he's literally called the man. Barbara Starr has had exclusive access to him. Barbara, good morning to you. We're seeing some of those troops that have been promised finally arriving.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENTS: Soledad, we're here at Camp Shelby, the headquarters for the joint task force that General Honore heads. That word coming from the president just a few minutes ago that a brigade of the 82nd Airborne as well as the 1st Cav will be moving into this rescue and relief effort.

What we are told here is that will be about 7,000 troops, Soledad. And what are they going to be doing? Those active duty military forces will do some of the re-supply, logistics, sustainment (ph), making the food and water and supplies move in, help with the evacuation of the people out in New Orleans and the active duty is going to do that so it can free up the national guard under state governor control to do the law enforcement activity to keep the streets safe while there are still people there. The estimate at this point is these active duty forces could be on the ground here in the southeastern United States for many weeks. Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: Barbara, tell me a little bit about Lieutenant General Russell Honore. Literally he is the one guy that the mayor of the city of New Orleans has praised as having his act together, calling him almost a John Wayne dude. You've had exclusive access to him. Tell us a little more about him.

STARR: Soledad, we traveled into New Orleans yesterday with General Honore on what is turning out to be just a typical day for him in this very untypical situation. He spends every day in New Orleans now. He's there today. Yesterday about a 20-hour day moving up and down the streets of New Orleans.

He -- his major job yesterday was to get that food convoy into the convention center. We saw him do that. We saw him on the streets of New Orleans, working to get those trucks and those supplies in. We talked to one of the women in the food line trying to get food for her two children after being on the streets near the convention center for days. If you listen to this woman, you see the heartbreak of New Orleans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to go home. I want to get from out here. That's sad. Be home. I never lived like this. And I'm hurrying. I want to go home. I don't want to eat this. I want to eat my food, my real food.


STARR: And Soledad that really encapsulates what's going on. There is some improvement, of course. People are being evacuated out. People are getting some food and some water. For the people still trapped in the city, for the people living on these streets still, it is a desperate situation. Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: We've certainly seen an improvement here at the airport where they're having MREs Barbara and lots and lots of water. It's the first thing they're handed when they on one of these military transport planes, a nice big old bottle of water and ushered in to start the process of hopefully the next step in what's going to be a very long and tedious process. Barbara, thanks very much. Let's get back to Miles in New York. Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Soledad, thanks. A long and tedious process and it's no telling where it will end. CNN is helping to link family and friends to missing or stranded hurricane victims. Some of those people right on the tarmac behind Soledad right now could be helped by all this. We've created a victims and relief desk to do just that. Veronica de la Cruz is at the desk today. Veronica, what do you have?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, here at the victim center, we are still getting lots of calls and e-mails on people who are still stranded. This latest on a family stranded at the Astor Crowne Plaza in New Orleans.

We're looking at an animation pinpointing that location. At least 20 members of the Williams and Perkins families have been holed up there since before the storm started. They are running low on food and water. Local officials are aware of their situation, but have not been able to help them. Now, our crews on the ground are making every effort to help get word out that they are OK and here are some of the people that we've spoken to most recently.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Walter Gray from Waveland, Mississippi. And I want to tell my sister Vicky and my sister Terri that we're OK. Mom and Mary. Kids are all fine. And we're hoping that when FEMA gets down here, we can take care of all the things we have to take care of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mom, this is Gail. I'm with DH. We both survived the storm. We lost everything, but we're home. We'll manage and we will rebuild. We love you. Please take care. We'll get in touch as soon as we can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Pauline Wilson, this is your son and this is Hancock County, Mississippi. It's a hell of a place. It's been a hell of a place but it's all right now. And I'm all right.


DE LA CRUZ: Miles, we are still receiving e-mail photos of missing loved ones. This one is Brandee Gilmer. She is a police officer in New Orleans. She stayed behind in the hurricane because of her job. Her friend said the last massage she received from her was a text message on Thursday at around 4:00 a.m. She said the water level was rising and she feared for her life.

Friends and family are still looking for 30-year-old Leo Williams. He has a business on Bourbon Street. He stayed behind when the storm hit and no one has heard from him. And we want to go and tell you about a happy ending for one daughter. We first posted a picture of Dan Lukers on Wednesday. His daughter was desperate for news. She now reports that several people let her know his photo was aired on CNN and one of his co-workers contacted her to say that he was seen safe in a shelter in Shalmet (ph), Louisiana. So good news there. Now if you're looking for a loved one or you yourself are OK, you can e-mail us at HURRICANEVICTIMS@CNN.COM. You can also log on to CNN.COM/HELPCENTER -- Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much Veronica. We appreciate that. I'm glad that is working out for some people. We're going to take a break. When we return we'll check in with Soledad who is at the airport in New Orleans. She's watching -- well, it's a very dramatic thing to see baggage carriers like these carrying the aged and the infirmed, getting them some help but at least beginning a long journey. Who knows where it will end, but at least it's progress.


S. O'BRIEN: This is the scene at the New Orleans international airport which is now a field hospital. You can see the choppers lined up. And Miles, you said before the break, it is quite a remarkable thing to see dozens, now hundreds of people being brought in and they are traveling like baggage, put on one of these big baggage carts.

These are the evacuees making their way out of New Orleans. Many things lie ahead for these folks. First of all, lots of medical conditions. They will be triaged here. Huge psychological problems lie ahead obviously and then there's just the basics, trying to get in touch, trying to get in touch with their family members. We've got some folks who want to talk to you.

I've got -- are you getting some good news or are you waving? They've been looking for their family members. I'm going to introduce you to Lucille Martin and Samona Smith and this is Tamia (ph). You're getting a call down there. Is that some good news for us? What have you got?

SAMONA SMITH, TODDLER'S MOTHER: It's wild and crazy. So many people coming in. It's not a safe place to be here either because they not moving us out fast enough. I mean, our families, everybody is split up. There's no organization up in there. They lack of workers. We sleeping on the floors, boxes, whatever we can get our hands on.

S. O'BRIEN: How old is your daughter? I know you've been sleeping here for two days.

SMITH: She's three years old.

S. O'BRIEN: How is she holding up?

SMITH: She's holding up pretty good. But it's kind of difficult because the family is split up. She want her father and her brother and the rest, my mother-in-law, my nieces and nephews.

S. O'BRIEN: You were rescued off of your roof. You had fled the storm, went to higher ground, then came back, stayed in your house, went to sleep. What happened?

SMITH: No, we stayed at the (INAUDIBLE) the whole time we was there. The water started flowing in. After the storm, the lights, we had no lights after the storm. So we had to go up to the top. When the water was flooding in and from there we was there for three days, four days. Later on that night we went up to the (INAUDIBLE) elementary school on Pine and Olive. And later on about 2:30 that morning the helicopter rescued us. Our family think that they was going to drop her down when I got in, drop her back down. They brought me here and brought them to the causeway bridge.

S. O'BRIEN: So now you're totally separated?

SMITH: Yeah, we totally separated. So I'm staying here until I find my family and I'm not going to leave until I do.

S. O'BRIEN: What makes you think they're going to come here?

SMITH: I just have faith. Hopefully just praying that we get a chance because I'm not going to leave here until I know where they're at.

S. O'BRIEN: Good luck, Samona Smith and Tamia and their neighbor Lucille Martin as well. We appreciate you talking to us. A short break, we're back in just a moment. Stay with us.


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