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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hurricane Katrina: Mission Critical

Aired September 6, 2005 - 18:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening, everyone. We are live in New Orleans.
The Superdome is left in ruins. Wait until you hear what is going to happen to it now.

It is 4:00 p.m. in the West, 7:00 p.m. on the East Coast, and 6:00 p.m. here in the beleaguered under water city of New Orleans. 360 starts now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Stunning good news. Eight days after the hurricane, still holding on, a couple found at their flooded home, the power off, the water gone. Tonight, the remarkable story of how they made it out alive.

Gushing out of New Orleans. Water is finally flowing out of the city, but that's just the beginning. Tonight, the immense job of drying out New Orleans and discovering what's left.

And what about that water? Where's it going -- that mix of chemical, disease, waste and bodies? Now it's flowing back into Lake Pontchartrain. Could we be setting ourselves up for a major health and environmental crisis?

The second evacuation, dogs, cats, those other members of the family, left behind when their owners had to run, now homeless fending for themselves. Tonight, Anderson with the good Samaritans out to save them.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Hurricane Katrina: Mission Critical."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And good evening, again. We are coming to you live from Tulane Avenue in the city of New Orleans. Here is what's happening right now at this moment.

First of all, CNN has just learned that the New Orleans Superdome, the shelter that held up to 30,000 people last week, will likely be torn down. Home of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, it holds 70,000 people. The Superdome was built in 1975 at a cost of $134 million.

Louisiana's governor's office has told us just a few moments ago that an initial assessment of the building has shown the damage is worse than previously thought and the building will likely have to be demolished. This is an initial assessment. A story we'll continue to follow this evening and through the next couple of days.

Two pumping stations are working right now in New Orleans. Water is gushing into Lake Pontchartrain at a rate of about 27,000 gallons per minute. Now the water still here is presenting another problem -- the pumps into Lake Pontchartrain, that is its own ecological problem, we're going to talk about that a little bit ahead.

But the mayor's office says that that water is also now contaminated with the potentially deadly E. coli bacteria. And that for the first responders, for the media who are spending a lot of time out in that water, getting in their mouths, in their eyes, that is a real health concern.

Also, right now the confirmed death toll from Hurricane Katrina is 246, most of those from Mississippi. Now, that is surely going to rise once the waters here have gone down and once the grim task of body recovery and identification has begun here in city of New Orleans.

That is what is happening now. But a lot has been going on here all day -- rescues of both people and animals, there have been fires in the city, calls for an investigation into why relief came so late. All of this we're going to address in the next hour.

Some shocking discussions we are going to have with some first responders about what they're seeing about the reality of what is happening here on the ground, the disorganization, and the disgust that a lot of them have for what they're seeing. You are going to hear that in the next hour.

But first CNN's Adaora Udoji has more about what's happening right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight days after the hurricane, and in some parts of New Orleans, the flooded streets stretch for miles. Water is everywhere, but not in the pipes to fight the fires that have raged out of control, four at one time today.

While helicopters dropped buckets of water, scooped from the river onto the flames, National Guardsmen went door to door, often wading waist deep in rancid flood waters. They're trying to coax some of the thousands of people still in their homes to leave the now dangerous and devastated city. One New Orleans official said the stagnant waters are infected with potentially deadly E. coli.

Help is also coming for abandoned animals. Rescue groups are out in force searching for strays. These dogs, you can see by their collars, were once someone's pets. They roam the streets in packs now looking for food.

Over in Biloxi, Mississippi, the business of rebuilding is slowly getting started. Nearly 5,000 Naval personnel and 500 Marines set up camp on Biloxi Beach. Their mission, fixing broken sewage systems and distributing food and much-needed medicine.

Their commander said it's a mission they were happy to undertake.

CMDR. FRANK HUGHLETT, U.S. NAVY: I have no problem motivating the sailors. It's unbelievable. They took one look at the devastation and they've been jumping the whole time.

UDOJI: Those left homeless by Katrina seek shelter where they can, often sleeping in tents near their demolished homes. They spend their days searching for whatever might be left of their lives.

PAUL GLOYER, HURRICANE KATRINA VICTIM: Just happen to get what we can and we're going to try to come down in a week or so and see if there's anything else we can grab.

UDOJI: And there are other small signs of progress. The waters that flooded much of New Orleans are now being pumped into Lake Pontchartrain.

(on camera): And thousands of evacuees of water-logged neighborhoods like this one are finding temporary homes across the country, while in Washington, the blame game continues with Congress announcing an investigation into the crisis.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: We're asking the same question that everybody asked after 9/11: How could this have happened in America? And what must we do urgently to make sure nothing like this ever happens again?

UDOJI: And the president responding with plans for an investigation of his own.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong. And I'll tell you why. It's a very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government, and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe.

UDOJI: Adaora Udoji, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, we should point out the statements we are hearing out of Washington right now far different than what we were hearing several days ago. Back then, if you asked people some of these questions, they would say, you know, this is not the time to point fingers. This is not the time to talk about blame.

Obviously, now, we are hearing as well, from the president himself, who said he is going to have an investigation. Clearly things somehow are changing, at least the words from Washington are changing right now. Today, mayor of New Orleans said that when the waters here finally subside and I quote, "it is going to wake the nation up again." He'd earlier predicted that the city's death toll from Hurricane Katrina could reach 10,000. And many of those bodies are still lying underneath the sludge.

I mean, you can see this water behind me. This is near Tulane. It is extraordinary. And what it is hiding, it is just a nightmare to think about. Once those bodies are uncovered, they are going to have to be moved.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour went to one community that has been chosen to be a makeshift morgue. She joins us live with details. Christiane, what was that like?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as we saw, like you did yesterday in New Orleans, there are still bodies floating in that fetid water there. But they are being collected now slowly, and brought to a very small town much closer to here than Baton Rouge where I am. It's called Saint Gabriel, and it's about 70 miles away from New Orleans. And this town has been chosen by FEMA, the federal agency, as the site of its first morgue for the bodies, the victims of the flood waters in New Orleans.

Today, when we were there, they were bringing truckloads, refrigerated trucks full of bodies from New Orleans. And they're going to put them at this place and they're going to fingerprint them, take DNA samples, take X-rays and photographs, and conduct the initial identification.

But this is not a place where families can come to identify their loved ones or, indeed, to claim them. That will happen after this investigation has been completed. Then the bodies are turned back to the state of Louisiana, and then, the state in turn turns these bodies over to the families.

Now, this little town, 6,000 strong, a poor town, average annual income $9,000. Most of the people we talked to said they don't -- they are not opposed to having this mortuary. In fact, they said it's the least they can do for the victims of New Orleans, that these people have to have somewhere to go to be collected and identified.

Some people, on the other hand, were not happy about it. But the mayor said this is the task they were chosen to do, this is what they're going to do, and these families need some dignity, and most importantly, the people who have lost their relatives need to know where they are and have some finality and this case needs to be closed in this manner.

So that's why this town has been chosen, because it has a huge, massive warehouse and that's going to be the morgue.

Anderson.

COOPER: Christiane, and there's certainly no dignity right now for these bodies which are just laying, floating in the water. Christiane, thank you very much for that report.

There were 70,000 people in St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans, before the levees and all hell broke loose here. Now nearly all of the buildings they lived in and worked in and worshipped in and went to school in, all of them gone. Even so, rescuers continue to search, hoping against hope they may find more survivors clinging to life. Miraculously, sometimes they do.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has that story.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It sits in ruins, St. Bernard Parish, to the east and southeast of the city of New Orleans, got outside assistance even later than New Orleans. For the most part, it was too late. People either got out or are dead.

But there are a few exceptions. Eight days after Hurricane Katrina ripped through a rescue takes place. A woman, her neighbor and her dog go through the flooded streets in an airboat. They were spotted frantically waving from the second floor of her flooded-out house by the men in a Georgia National Guard chopper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been flying over these houses, tree top level and stuff and a few people have just been sticking their hands out and waving to us.

TUCHMAN: Veronica Badeux (ph) is in good condition despite her serious arthritis and not having water for the last two days.

(on camera): We have got some water for you.

VERONICA BADEUX, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: Thank you.

TUCHMAN: OK. I hope that tastes good.

BADEUX: Delicious. This is better than ice cream.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN: I bet you it is.

(voice-over): Many people in this parish are presumed dead. It is feared that many of the missing never evacuated from a nursing home that is now under water.

Veronica Badeux didn't realize it until a couple of days ago how serious the situation is.

BADEUX: I didn't think the water was going to go up that high. We have an upstairs but the water went up about 14 feet above the ceiling that's on the first floor.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The rescue and recovery efforts here are hampered by the fact that much of St. Bernard Parish is still under water. Emergency vehicles just can't go down most of these streets. You look under the water and you see schools of small fish in the streets, which is quite interesting considering the fact this isn't just water, this is also oil.

(voice-over): Oil covers virtually everything in St. Bernard, apparently leaking from a refinery. The odor is overwhelming. So is the burden for local law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're the only sheriff's department in the state of Louisiana right now that's totally homeless. Our deputies lost everything they had.

TUCHMAN: The cleanup is now under way, even as the rescues and rescue attempts continue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: Veronica, her friend Nick (ph) and her doggy Suzie (ph), were flown here to the New Orleans International Airport. This is where the people who are rescued and the people who are hurt are treated. They will later be flown to one of the many American cities that are housing the displaced people of Mississippi and Louisiana.

One more thing, Anderson, to show you how there is a time warp, how life just abruptly stopped in this parish, we see newspaper stands with newspapers talking about the possibility of Hurricane Katrina coming and gas stations with prices posted that say $2.40 a gallon.

Anderson.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman, it is amazing to me that, you know, eight days into this thing, CNN crews are still handing out water to people who haven't had water in quite some time. It's shocking to hear. Gary, appreciate it. Glad that woman got some help.

360 next, the toxic flood waters. You see them behind me. It is a mix of debris, of chemicals, human waste and human remains. It is a danger. We are going to find out how much and what about the cleanup effort? What impact is it going to have on the environment for all of us for years to come?

Plus, my interview with a psychiatrist here in New Orleans, a young man. He is handing out supplies, carrying a gun on his hip. Get his perspective and what he has to say about the reality of the recovery efforts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If anybody has seen my daughter, please, I (INAUDIBLE) contact me. I don't have a number. But I'll be here until I get her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So frustrating. Still, so much lack of communication. I know they have said they are going to build -- they have two cell towers up and that is certainly good news, but people just can't get in touch with people.

We talked earlier with Dr. Jeffrey Wiese (ph), a psychiatrist at Tulane University. It wasn't for my own personal mental health, although that I certainly could use it, but what we talked to him about is he has been working for the last several days with the first responders, with the New Orleans Police Department officers, who he says really haven't had anyone, any medical personnel working on their behalf. He's quite upset about what he has seen over the last several days, about some of the things that happened here, and that failed to happen here in his opinion.

I talked to him a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: What has frustrated you most? What has angered you most that you have seen here?

DR. JEFFREY WIESE, PSYCHIATRIST, TULANE UNIVERSITY: Everything. The fact that people have died when they didn't need to. The fact that the cops didn't get the credit they deserve for holding down the fort in the beginning. And the fact that there wasn't food, water, and medical care made immediately available, forward deployed.

We knew this was coming. We could see it. You can predict these things to an extent, see where they're coming. There are models that show what parts of the city would have flooded under these circumstances. That's what climatologists do.

COOPER: Right, in 1995, a study was done showing what a Category 4 or a Category 5 hurricane would do on this city.

WIESE: Absolutely. This was not a failure of preplanning from the scientific standpoint. This is a failure of planning from the response standpoint. This is the only chance we get for a test run if something even more horrible happens or something as horrible happens with a nuclear device in this country.

And we botched this one. We won't get a chance to botch it again.

COOPER: You see this as -- if this is a model for how we respond to a nuclear disaster, it is not a good sign at all?

WIESE: Not really. There's medical care needed, still, by every one of these rescue workers, by every one of these law enforcement officers.

COOPER: These first responders. They're not wearing masks, they're not wearing, in many cases, protective gloves. Do you worry about their health?

WIESE: Absolutely. Who knows what's in the water? And who knows what happens when all that stuff gets mixed together? Who knows what happens when you breathe it? There are lots of unknowns.

COOPER: Basically all the New Orleans Police officers who need attention are coming to you, and the few people you have been working with.

WIESE: Yes. I have been working with an excellent federal agent. I've been working with the good people of the New Orleans Police Department and doing what we can. But we needed more help.

COOPER: And...

WIESE: And it finally got here today. Why did it get here today? Is it -- you know, I know they've been medically evacuating people from over there. I know there has been some civilian stuff, but where was the help for the helpers?

And if a psychiatrist has to come in on his own with a gun and a backpack to do it, that's not a failure of an individual, that's a failure of the entire system.

COOPER: And that's what you did? You came in with a gun and a backpack of medicine?

WIESE: And a backpack of supplies for myself, including medicine, bandages, you know, scalpels, I mean, just anything I could get my hands on.

COOPER: Do you carry the gun with you?

WIESE: It's right here. I was not coming back to this town without this. I was not coming back in this town checking my house without this. I have a sworn oath to help. And the last thing I want to do is hurt somebody. But I had to get here to help.

COOPER: And so, the heroes of this disaster and this continuing disaster are -- I mean, you're modest, you wouldn't say it. But I mean, I would say it's you and you would say it's the other people who just ignored the bureaucracy and just decided to come down and do what you could, even though no one -- there was no organization?

WIESE: Yes. The heroes of this disaster are the local officials, some of the state officials, who were here working under deplorable conditions and continuing to do their job, even as their families were unaccounted for, their homes destroyed and they kept going -- the New Orleans Police Department, the New Orleans Fire Department, the local officials, whatever state offices of emergency preparedness, go to go, excellent, doing what they could.

They're the heroes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that doctor has been working around the clock saving people's lives and treating the responders -- the first responders. And that's who he is most concerned about right now.

The question for us, is enough being done for them? That's a question we'll be trying to put to any officials we can get on this program over the next several days, because that's a question that needs to be answered right now. I mean, you see these guys out there. You know, occasionally they have latex gloves on, but they're not wearing respirators, and who knows what's in this water?

We're going to talk about this water coming up next. Chemicals, waste, human remains, disease, it is all mixed in, it is swirling around. It is getting all over these first responders. We're going to take a look at the dangers that survivors here and responders are facing right now.

Also ahead tonight, getting the water out of the city. Some pumps are working now, but how long is it going to take until New Orleans is dry? And what environmental impact is it going to have on the rest of us?

First, a hunt for those lost in the storm. If you have seen any of these kids, please call the number on your screen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We are actually in a pontoon boat now floating in a street in New Orleans. This is how we get around in these flood areas. Want to talk a little bit about what is in this water, because this is what the first responders, the search and rescue men and women are working in every day trying to save lives, and ultimately they're going to be trying to recover bodies out of this.

Our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, takes a look at what is in this water.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we have learned -- CNN has learned that the Centers for Disease Control is considering recommending to people who have been exposed to this water, getting a vaccination for hepatitis A. Now that's because hepatitis A is transmitted through human feces. And you don't have to be a scientist to know that there are human feces in this water.

But we decided to commission a test. We had engineers at Louisiana State University do some testing on this water. And what they found is that for every 100 milliliters, there is more than 200,000 (ph) colonies of fecal coliform -- fecal as in feces. Normally, there should be no more than 200.

Now, they're also testing to see what toxic chemicals might be in the water. Anderson, I'm sure you have seen there is sort of this oily film on there. You can see it with your eyes. Those tests should be out in the next couple of days.

Anderson.

COOPER: Elizabeth, thanks very much for that.

I'm pleased to be joined right now by Dr. -- I want to make sure I get your title right, Dr. Dan Diamond. It has been a long week for, I think, all of us. You're with Northwest Medical Teams. You have been brought in here basically to help save lives. How many people are you seeing? What kind of diseases are you seeing?

DR. DAN DIAMOND, NORTHWEST MEDICAL TEAMS: Well, we saw about 150, 175 patients yesterday. About the same today. We've been based out of the convention center. We've seen a lot of patients with dehydration, elderly patients that are diabetics that haven't had access to medication.

COOPER: There are people who are still living in homes which are surrounded by this water. I mean, we are in this pontoon boat and, you know, if you dip your hand -- what is in this water? How bad is it?

DIAMOND: It's quite bad. We are starting to see several patients that came in, in the last 24 hours, 48 hours with big abscesses and boils. So it is definitely not water that I'd like to get exposed to.

COOPER: You can get abscesses and boils from the water? Why?

DIAMOND: Yes, you sure can, because there's such a high bacteria count, especially if somebody has got an open wound, it's real easy for them if they get exposed to this water to get a secondary infection.

COOPER: So if somebody -- I mean, yesterday we were in a boat -- my whole crew was in a boat. We were all exposed to this water, we had it in our eyes, we had it in our mouths. What do you do?

DIAMOND: Well, I certainly hope you took a good shower and found somewhere to get some running water and a hot shower.

COOPER: That's not easy to find in New Orleans.

DIAMOND: That's absolutely true. The -- and that, and you hope you're up-to-date on your immunizations.

COOPER: But I mean for the people who are not, they need to get shots, based on -- is that something you can provide them with?

DIAMOND: Yes. We've immunized quite a few people today. We're going through it by the box. We've gone through boxes and boxes of immunizations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and we're also giving out tetanus shots to a lot of the law enforcement.

COOPER: There are a lot of animals which are drinking this water because they're still living in the homes where they were abandoned. Will that kill them?

DIAMOND: It sure could. It's possible. There's a possibility for diarrheal diseases and dehydration amongst the animals just like there is with people.

COOPER: But they can't live much longer drinking this water.

DIAMOND: No, no, definitely not.

COOPER: What happens when the water gets drained? Does the disease go away? Or does it make it worse in a way with all these bodies that are around?

DIAMOND: Well, as this water starts going down, it has a potential to get more concentrated. It is going to leave some of that bacteria and viruses on the surface, but once it finally gets all the way dry, a lot of those bacteria will die.

COOPER: So for first responders who are -- I mean, should everyone be wearing respirators when they're in this water? I mean, we're in a very calm area right now, but I mean, when these helicopters come by, it blows up all over you. Should you be wearing a mouth protector, what should you wear?

DIAMOND: I think that's a great idea, to wear mouth protection as well as eye protection.

COOPER: And, I mean, to people who are listening, first responders who are out here, what do you tell them? I mean, they have got to do the job in the water. There's no way around it.

DIAMOND: Absolutely. There's a lot of us that have put things on the line to come down here and help. And it's just part of the risk of doing the job. So showering, trying to stay clean, and getting prompt care, if you start to get an infection rather than waiting for it to become an advanced infection, and staying up on the immunizations is the best we can do.

COOPER: We have talked to one doctor, he said, things are getting better now. He's frustrated that it took so long. How are things working just organizationally? I mean, are people working together or is there still friction, is there still, you know, bureaucracy?

DIAMOND: It's -- where we are, down at the convention center, we're at -- evacuating out, I would say, about 1,500 patients a day. And the coordination between our group of Northwest Medical Teams, and the National Guard from Nevada, and now the 82nd Airborne with the Army, has been phenomenal.

COOPER: OK. So you are working with military units?

DIAMOND: Yes.

COOPER: All right. The other the doctor we talked to was working with New Orleans Police Department. Dr. Diamond, appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much.

DIAMOND: Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: Gushing out of New Orleans. Water is finally flowing out of the city but that's just the beginning. Tonight, the immense job of drying out New Orleans and discovering what's left.

And, what about that water? Where's it going -- that mix of chemicals, disease, waste and bodies? Now it's flowing back into Lake Pontchartrain. Could we be setting ourselves up for a major health and environmental crisis?

This special edition of 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360. We are coming to you live from New Orleans, a city which is still largely under water.

Here's a look at what's happening right now at this moment. Rescuers and rescues still going on. They are still working by air and by sea. The Department of Homeland Security says that so far there has been at least 32,000 people rescued. Some 182,000 hurricane survivors are staying in 559 shelters right now.

In Mississippi, more than 350,000 people still without power. And all but one of the state's major highways have reopened. U.S. 90 closed because its bridges are largely destroyed. That is remarkable.

And in Washington, the House is preparing an investigation into what went wrong in the aftermath of Katrina. Hearings are going to begin next week. And believe me, we will be following those very closely, indeed. Part of the questioning will likely be on the levee system that failed, leading to the massive flooding.

Some of the nasty water that we've just been talking about is finally being pumped out of New Orleans. Tonight, about 60 percent of the city is flooded. That is down from 80 percent, but still 60 percent is a huge percentage. The process of drying out is going to be anything but fast. It is going to be dangerous and deadly.

CNN's Rick Sanchez takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's still a water world, but it's hardly clean water -- instead, polluted with debris, chemicals, fuel, bacteria and human waste. How much? So much it's impossible to know. And now the Army Corps of Engineers is pumping it out of New Orleans and surrounding communities with a waiver of environmental safeguards granted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

MICHAEL ZUMSTEIN, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: The EPA has granted us that under the fact that it is an emergency. And they realize that this is a catastrophic event.

SANCHEZ: This is how they're doing it. East of downtown New Orleans, around the Ninth Ward and St. Bernard, levees will be purposely breached to allow the water to allow the water to drain south into the bayou just below it.

The man directing this massive flush is Michael Zumstein with the Army Corps of Engineers.

ZUMSTEIN: There were a couple of breaches made along here, I believe. And another one over here. The idea is we're going do get the water to flow here. SANCHEZ: The Army Corps of Engineers officials say they won't depend on gravity alone, but they'll also use pumps to push the water from the St. Bernard Parish and the Ninth Ward out to the north.

(on camera): The magic number seems to be 36 days, at least, to get the water out of a place like St. Bernard Parish. Is that a fair estimate, 36 days?

ZUMSTEIN: I can't even really speculate on that, because, there again, like I said, I don't have the actual hard data. I'm optimistic, all right? I hope that it's sooner than that.

SANCHEZ (voice over): Here's the second part of the operation. West of downtown New Orleans, where tens of thousands of homes in Orleans and Jefferson Parish are also under water, the strategy is to push the water back up over the levees. Two pumps are already doing just that, pumping it back up to Lake Pontchartrain near the 17th Street Canal breach.

ZUMSTEIN: Just on this canal, I believe there are two. I believe that there's a 30 and 42 inch in addition to the regular pumping stations that were brought back online.

SANCHEZ: The pumps will work around the clock. And engineers will rake out the debris and possibly bodies that could clog them.

ZUMSTEIN: We're working through the issue as far as with oil, oil devices and skimmers and debris, debris devices in order to go ahead and extract some of this stuff.

SANCHEZ: Still, many worry about what else this massive release of untreated water could do to Lake Pontchartrain, the surrounding bayous, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Getting the water out now, as soon as possible, it's what residents, city leaders and the White House want to see happen sooner rather than later. And by issuing that waiver to go ahead and start the pumps, one thing is certain, whatever happens to the water now is certain to have an enormous environmental and perhaps even public health and economic consequence later.

(on camera): Essentially what you have is a waiver that's been issued allowing you to do something that you normally would never do. And that is just go in and flush the water out of there.

ZUMSTEIN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Just --

SANCHEZ: You just have to see what happens.

ZUMSTEIN: Right, exactly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: In the end what they're attempting to do is let the water drain to the south while on the north they're trying to pump it back into Lake Pontchartrain. It doesn't matter, because all of that water will end up, environmentalists and experts say, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anderson, back over to you.

COOPER: Rick, thanks very much.

Just to give you again a sense of what is in the water. I want to take a look at this shot directly in front of me taken from the boat photographer. There were two bodies removed from that area earlier today. It's said there may be two or three more bodies still there. But we personally CNN saw two bodies being taken out.

Joining me from Washington to talk more about the water, Hugh Kaufman, a senior analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency's office. He's speaking as an expert who's worked on countless disasters in the last 35 years, and makes it clear that he is not speaking for the EPA and that he is not involved with Katrina cleanup. Hugh, thank you very much for joining us.

HUGH KAUFMAN, ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT: Thank you, sir.

COOPER: What is wrong with pumping the water into Lake Pontchartrain? Is it drained too quickly?

KAUFMAN: Well here's what you've got. And you put it out there. You've got a toxic soup. And, that toxic soup, we don't know how toxic it is. The testing hasn't been done. We should have told the rescue workers a week ago how toxic it was. We should have told them to take precautions. We're still not telling them. Just before your show, EPA and the federal government finally told the public that the water is contaminated, and that they should limit contact and not even smoke around it. Notwithstanding us not knowing the full magnitude of the toxins, we are going ahead and pumping it to the Gulf of Mexico which will have enormous adverse environmental affects. On top of that --

COOPER: Do you think the EPA -- did the EPA know that all along and they're just announcing it now? Or -- when I heard that statement, I thought, OK, maybe they just did some study and just got the results, no?

KAUFMAN: No. Everybody -- the old pros at EPA and FEMA, what few are left that haven't been decimated, know that this material got into the water. Anything that went into the sewers -- hazardous material from industry, feces, etcetera, etcetera, is all in the sewers. And now it's all in the toxic soup. So --

COOPER: OK, Hugh. Hugh, let me just tell you what the EPA says about what you're saying. We got a statement from them. And I say - quote -- "the EPA believes it's the right decision in an effort to limit public contact with flood water due to potentially elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage and other hazardous substances".

That's and why they say it's the right thing to pump this out. No? And what are the long-term effects?

KAUFMAN: And now you've got very few people in contact with the water except the rescue workers and the few people are there. Now they're going to take the toxic water and spread it to a larger area where more people will have contact with it. In other words, the bungling continues by these incompetents who are running the federal government right now on this area.

COOPER: Hugh, we're going to continue to follow the story. And we would love to talk to you another night this week, because we're going to be doing more on this water tomorrow. We're going to be out there on the water and love to get your perspective. So we'll be in touch. Thanks, Hugh.

KAUFMAN: Thank you, sir.

COOPER: Coming up next on 360, the pets that have been abandoned, not by choice. These aren't people who just didn't care about their animals. They couldn't leave when they were being evacuated. They weren't allowed to bring their animals with them. We want to show you what is being done to try to save those animals.

Plus, my reporters know both what it's like for all of us here behind the scenes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360.

Earlier in the program, we told you about something that we had been told by a woman by the name of Karen (sic) Fuller, spokesperson for James Lee Witt, who's former FEMA director, who is now an adviser to the state emergency coordinator. What she told us was that the initial structural inspection of the Superdome indicates that the damage is far greater than previously thought, and it is likely, according to this initial investigation, it is likely the Superdome will have to be torn down.

Now, earlier, we had said this was a statement from the governor's office. It is not. It is a statement from Kim Fuller, spokesperson for James Lee Witt, who is the former FEMA director, who we have had on this program for two nights in a row now. We wanted to have him on this program tonight, couldn't get him on. This is what the spokesperson told us. And James Lee Witt is an adviser to the state emergency coordinator. He has been brought in. I saw him interviewed on AMERICAN MORNING today standing next to the governor. So that's what we've been told, and we are continuing to follow that story.

Unless they're too old or ill or very young, people can usually help themselves, but certainly animals cannot. And it could be that's why the plight of the pets of the Gulf Coast is so moving to so many of us. To one woman in particular, named Terri Crisp. She's with the organization Noah's Wish. Here's what she's doing in Louisiana.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TERRI CRISP, NOAH's WISH: Noah's Wish, all we do is disaster relief work for animals, nothing else, period. These animals are real scared right now, the majority of them, though, they're extremely hungry. And they are very grateful to see somebody. The house she came out of had a good six to seven feet of water in it, and we found her in the laundry room. Back behind the washing machine, which was turned over on its side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're out there rescuing animals out of collapsed houses, backyards. We have gone into houses and got birds out, hamsters out, iguanas out, dogs and cats. Any kind of animal you can imagine.

CRISP: He's doing great. He just had a bath (INAUDIBLE) floodwater on him is off, and he's much more comfortable now. He was extremely stressed when he came in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is (INAUDIBLE) with six others, and my impression is that they have been under the water, and affected by that, so he's got a lot of infectious -- dermatitis and stuff going on in his ears, and I think he probably just has overwhelming infection at this point. We'll see how he does.

CRISP: We received a phone call that he had been stuck in -- in between the tailgate of a truck, between the tailgate and the bumper. And we went out, and we had to remove the bumper to get him out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kitten was stuck in there for an entire week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get him out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to actually take the tools and all, and take the bumper completely off of the truck, to rescue him out of there. There he is.

CRISP: We have about 275 animals. We are called Noah's Wish. And that's because we feel that Noah would have liked or wished that someone would have continued where he left off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without the assistance of Noah's Wish, we would not be able to do a fraction of this. I have employees that are actually working right now that have lost everything.

CRISP: Every time I walk through the shelter, I know that they're alive, because of what we're doing. That's why there needs to be someone like us, a Red Cross, for a lack of a better explanation, for animals.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And there are a lot of groups here doing good work. Noah's Wish, the Humane Society of America, Louisiana Humane Society. Their office here is under water. They've been moving animals to Gonzales, which is north of here. We'll talk about their efforts later on this week.

Coming up next on 360, more hurricanes on the move in the Atlantic Ocean. I hate to even say it. We are going to find out exactly where they are and if they pose a threat to the U.S. No hype, just facts.

And what it's like for us here on the ground, behind the scenes. My "Reporter's Notebook".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We have been hearing reports all day that this area could get hit by another hurricane. This is not a time for hype. We want just facts, especially the people here, they deserve that.

CNN's Jacqui Jeras takes a look at what may happen coming down the road. Already, the National Hurricane Center says there is a tropical depression on track to reach the central Florida coast by Friday afternoon -- tropical depression. And we still have more than two months left in this active hurricane season.

Here's Jacqui Jeras.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): It's been a record year in so many ways. Five hurricanes already, 16 tropical systems in total, and three of those currently churning in the Atlantic. And despite everything that we have already been through, the worst may be yet to come. We're just now reaching the peak of hurricane season.

What's going on? Some say it's just a coincidence. Others blame global warming. Many climatologists say it's a complicated, long-term weather cycle.

There are plenty of questions that even with today's technology cannot be answered.

But there is a lot that we do know. The warmer the water, the calmer the upper-level winds, the more hurricanes that are likely to develop. Meteorologists have also discovered lengthy cycles of increased or decreased hurricane activity. In the '30s to the '60s, it was up with hurricanes like Donna, Carla and Camille. It was very quiet from the 1970s to the '90s despite Hurricane Andrew. In fact, Andrew was the first-named storm of the year in August of '92. Now, in the 21st century, the big storms are back again. With Katrina, we have surpassed the 11th and like Andrew, it was only August.

CHRIS LANDSEA, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, we've been in a busy period for 10 years. And usually these last 25 to 40 years each. So, you know, we would perhaps expect another 15 to 30 years of busy hurricane seasons. Not every one would be busy and years where there's the El Nino phenomenon, we tend to have fewer hurricanes and weaker storms when that happens.

JERAS (on camera): So, what powers the ebb and flow of intense hurricanes? The big driver here is something scientists call the great ocean conveyor belt. (voice-over): It's circulates warm and cold water across the globe. At this point in the cycle, it is bringing warmer-than-normal waters from the tropics to a higher latitudes, making conditions ripe for hurricane development. Ocean temperatures along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts feel like bath water.

And while that may be good news for beachgoers, it's the simmering pot waiting to boil back over. All that hot water means a storm like Katrina could happen again. And it means this hurricane season could be revisited over and over again for the next several decades.

The Colorado State Hurricane Forecast Team updated their projections just last week. For this month alone, they expect five named storms -- four of them becoming hurricanes and two of those major hurricanes. Where will they strike? The odds are not good for the U.S. Flip a coin. The fact is, there's a 43 percent likelihood that another big one is on the way.

Jacqui Jeras, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I think all of us here feel pretty cut off and want to find out what's happening around in the rest of the world. The "World in 360". Here's Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS. Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNNHN ANCHOR: Hey, Anderson.

We actually start off tonight with some stunning news from Iraq, where in a television interview, the Iraqi president announced Saddam Hussein has confessed to the ordering of executions of thousands of Kurds in the so-called Anfal Campaign in the late 1980s. The president, Jalal Talabani, says the confessions are signed and that there is both video and audio documentation of them. Saddam's first trial is scheduled to begin October 19.

In Aruba, Joran Van Der Sloot, the 18-year-old at the center of the investigation into the disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway, left that island and arrived in Holland where he plans to attend university. Van Der Sloot was released with two others on the condition that they remain available to the police.

And finally, a powerful typhoon called Nabi ripped into the Japanese island of Kyushu today, killing at least six people, injuring more than 40 and, Anderson, leaving 14 missing. Not the most uplifting bit to end on there for you, unfortunately.

COOPER: Yes. Certainly not. Erica, thanks very much, though. Appreciate it. For the world in 360.

Coming up next, though, tonight, my "Reporter's Notebook:" A behind-the-scenes look at what it is like for all of us working on the ground and on the water here in New Orleans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back from New Orleans. You know, sometimes on TV, pictures make things look kind of glossy and slick. We've been trying to all that away and show you what it's really like on the ground. I've been shooting some pictures with my little D.V. camera and tonight, I filed this reporter's notebook.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With recovery of bodies --

COOPER: So many words have already been spoken about what's happening here. So many words; what more can be said?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The death toll will be, we believe in the thousands.

COOPER: You drive down streets and don't recognize a thing. The water, the waste, New Orleans is buried. You clear trees and debris and feel on your own. It's a flooded frontier; the edge of the world.

(SINGING)

A cowboy crew of New Orleans cops takes us on patrol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Search and rescue on Spec 2.

COOPER: They have country music and plenty of guns, but they're low on ammo and their equipment is old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody take this rifle. This rifle has malfunctioned. Put it somewhere where nobody will take it. It won't fire.

COOPER (on camera): Police at the station in the French Quarter put up a sign that says Fort Apache. That's pretty appropriate. It feels like it's the Wild West here. One officer just told me it's a war zone and every night they take fire; police shooting into the police station. They've now posted snipers on the buildings to shoot back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The criminal elements try to get us down, but they can't get us because we're still together. They thought they could break us, but they can't. That's how it's going down.

COOPER (voice-over): Nicholas Wood (ph) is a rookie. He graduated from the police academy just four weeks ago.

NICHOLAS WOOD, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Nothing that we did in the academy could have prepared us for this. But you know what? It's a good life experience. You know what I'm saying?

You have to grow up real fast. You've got to do what you have to do. But we are surviving and we are going to survive and we are going to make it through this and the next time people see New Orleans, it's going to be the number-one city in America. COOPER: Every day we put on waders and motor through back streets in shallow bottom boats. Every street you go down, every corner you turn, another story, another shock of surprise. Desperate dogs, abandoned by owners dead or alive, scared, hungry. In a place of priorities, they're low on the list.

(on camera): There are so many dogs which are just starving. And you try to feed them as much as you can, but there's too many of them roaming around. It's a health hazard.

Anybody else there?

(voice-over): We've all found ourselves in positions we're not used to -- searching for survivors, taking chances every day. We were videotaping a helicopter rescue, two people plucked from their home by this massive machine. The helicopter's rotor churned up filthy water, spraying it on our cameras, getting it into our mouths.

Charlie, my producer, had to hang on to a stop sign to keep our boat from getting swamped. Chris, our photojournalist, cut off his shirt to keep Kevin's camera lens dry.

You do what you can. You try to stay clean and you try to stay safe. But it's not always possible in conditions like these.

(on camera): When you're out in these flooded neighborhoods, the water is so contaminated. I mean, it's got human remains in it. It's got human waste. There are bodies floating in it. There are dogs defecating. You know, there's gas leaks. There is oil in the water. There are all sorts of just toxic chemicals. And you know, when these helicopters come down, they spray the water in your face you really have to try to keep your mouth shut, keep your eyes shut. But you know, we do what we can to try to clean up immediately afterwards.

(voice-over): There's no telling how long the cleanup of New Orleans will take. No telling how many days, how many bodies, how much money it's going to cost. For some, I suppose, the story has already gotten routine -- same pictures, same rescues day after day.

If you ask me, that only adds to the horror of it all. I realized today that all week I'm referring the dead I have seen, as bodies and corpses. I should be ashamed of myself. These are human beings, Americans, our neighbors. They had families. They had friends. And now they have nothing -- no life, no future, not even dignity in death.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And some good news to report here to end the show on. These three animals, which had been found in the waters and rescued by these gentlemen, are just going to be picked up by Paul Berry with the Best Friends Animal Society from southern Utah. He came all the way down here, just rescuing three little animals.

PAUL BERRY, BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY: We've got a whole truckload.

COOPER: You've got a whole truckload? God bless you. Thank you very much.

Let's -- our primetime coverage continues right now with Paula Zahn. Paula?

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