Skip to main content
U.S. Edition
Search
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Interview With New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin; Two West Virginia Coal Miners Trapped Underground; Suicides After the Storm; New Orleans' Vanishing Marshland

Aired January 20, 2006 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
We're here on Bourbon Street, in the heart of a city that, four- and-a-half months after Katrina, is trying to come back to life. Tonight, an exclusive interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. This week, he said this was going to be a chocolate city once again. He said God was punishing America. Hear what he has to say about the chocolate city tonight.

And the latest on the race against death deep underground in a West Virginia coal mine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Another mine accident, again West Virginia. Again, a town wait and prays. Rescue teams desperately search for two miners trapped thousands of feet inside -- tonight, the latest from Melville, West Virginia.

New Orleans' shoot-from-the-lip mayor, Ray Nagin, one on one with Anderson.

COOPER: "Chocolate city." What were you thinking?

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the mayor calls it a crazy moment and admits to mistakes he made before and after Katrina.

And what happens when the struggle to live in today's New Orleans becomes too much to bear?

CECILE TEBO, CRISIS UNIT COORDINATOR, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT: People kill themselves. That's how they get out. They just kill themselves.

ANNOUNCER: 360 investigates what happens when hope gives way to fear -- the new grief toll in New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Live from New Orleans, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening again from New Orleans. We begin tonight with the simple fact. Had it not been for the drama and tragedy at the Sago Mine and the death of a dozen miners, the story now unfolds in Melville, West Virginia, would be getting far less attention than it has. Sago put the question of mine safety literally on the map, where it should be. And now, barely three weeks later, there's another spot on that map and two more miners trapped beneath it.

Reporting for us tonight from the scene, CNN's Chris Huntington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The church is different. And so are the names, but the vigil for the two men lost in the Aracoma Mine is painfully familiar.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: All of you have been through this scenario with us before. Time is not our friend. The time -- and the longer the time goes, the -- the more difficult it becomes.

HUNTINGTON: This time, a fire, not an explosion. It started at about 5:30 yesterday afternoon on a conveyer belt used to move coal to the surface. The fire is still burning, filling passageways with smoke and carbon monoxide, hampering the work of 30 specially-trained rescuers who have been fighting the fire since late last night, fighting and searching, but not yet finding.

DOUG CONAWAY, WEST VIRGINIA MINE SAFETY CHIEF: We have some clear entries, and then we have some entries that are full of smoke. And it's just very difficult to examine and -- and determine what are in those entries, with -- with very poor visibility.

HUNTINGTON: Perhaps the biggest challenge is the sheer size of the Aracoma Mine and the distances involved. The fire burning is 10,000 feet inside the mine and 900 feet underground.

CONAWAY: This will just give you a -- a scale. That's two miles.

HUNTINGTON (on camera): It is vital to understand what a massive area, a huge labyrinth, the rescue teams are trying to search, again, two miles from their entry point to where the fire is located, a trip that we're told takes them an hour to make on a motorized vehicle. Then they have to get around the fire area and begin their search in the areas where they believe the miners were last seen.

(voice-over): They and 10 other miners apparently managed to take refuge in a relatively safe spot, where they were able to put on emergency breathing gear.

CONAWAY: And while they were doing that, they said the smoke became very heavy at that point in time. And, for some reason, the other two individuals got separated from -- from the other 10. The other 10, then, as -- as we mentioned, came down. HUNTINGTON: The 10 who made it out, including this man, somehow worked their way around the fire, then rode a motorized vehicle nearly two miles to the nearest escapeway.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTINGTON: Now, what we have learned in just the last hour is that the rescue effort underground is somewhat on hold while they deal with the fire.

In fact, what the officials are telling us now, Anderson, is that some of the coal is now burning, in addition to the belt. That is not a positive development. One thing to keep in mind is that all of the air, the fresh air, that they're trying to get into the mine, for the benefit of the rescuers and those trapped, is also feeding that fire -- Anderson.

COOPER: Chris Huntington, thanks very much.

We are anticipating a press conference here on this mine in about half-an-hour. We're going to bring that to you live. We're also anticipating statements from the governor a little bit later on. We will also bring that to you live.

With us now is Roger Bryant, director of emergency service for Logan County, West Virginia.

Roger, how are rescue teams clearing away the heavy smoke that's hampering the rescue mission?

ROGER BRYANT, DIRECTOR, LOGAN COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA, EMERGENCY SERVICES: Well, we're -- we are rotating the rescue teams through the mine. They're in for short period of times. Then we put in a fresh team.

I'm not really underground, so I may not be the best person to ask that question. But it is my understanding that they're venting the smoke away from the area in which they're searching.

COOPER: In the Sago mines, the carbon monoxide levels proved lethal. They were very high. Do you know what the levels are in this mine?

BRYANT: No, I don't, because, like I said, I have -- I have not been underground. Our role is to primarily support the rescue teams and make sure that they have the resources and the things that they need to go inside and do the search.

COOPER: How many rescue teams do you have on site?

BRYANT: We have about 20 teams, is my understanding. Twenty is my understanding.

COOPER: And -- and where do those teams come from?

BRYANT: From about a four-state area, some of them from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Is there any sense, are you hearing from any of the rescue teams, about what the conditions are like that they're facing?

BRYANT: No. No, but I -- it's my understanding that -- that there is a -- a pretty good size fire in the mine. So, you can bet that there's going to be heat and smoke and other things associated with that.

The -- the teams are very, very optimistic, though. You have to bear in mind that this is a very large mine, which is a good thing for the two miners, because, having a large mine, even though you have a section on fire, there's lots of areas for them to move away from the fire and the smoke.

COOPER: Roger, appreciate you joining us. It's a developing situation. Twenty-two people died in the mines last year. That's down from the year before and way down from a decade ago.

We're talking across -- across the entire nation. That said, you find this information on a government Web site that keeps a running tally of fatalities right on the front page. So, clearly, there's an expectation that mining may never be perfectly safe. The question is, could it be safer?

CNN's Tom Foreman investigates that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The dangerous job of coal mining is coming into the computer age. This is a virtual reality mining simulator. It lets miners experience working conditions, problems, and even potential disasters, like a sudden plume of explosive coal dust, all without risk.

A handful of international companies are now marketing such systems. And, in the wake of the latest mine tragedies, the American mining industry is very interested.

Bruce Watzman is with the Mining Association.

BRUCE WATZMAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES, NATIONAL MINING ASSOCIATION: Since 1970, fatality rates have come down 92 percent. And we have seen a commensurate reduction in -- in injuries as well. So, we have made dramatic improvement. We have more work to do. And we will do that.

FOREMAN: As Congress takes up mine safety next week, the association will conduct its own examination. Larry Grayson, a former miner, now an engineering professor at the University of Missouri- Rolla, will lead the effort.

LARRY GRAYSON, ENGINEERING PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI- ROLLA: Prevention is always the number-one way of doing it. The way you prevent is to do every aspect of the jobs that need to be done, all the tasks for every job, in a very thorough way.

FOREMAN: Some areas to scrutinize, heavy equipment use, it has sped up production and taken over the most dangerous work in the past 30 years, but equipment accidents remain the biggest cause of injury and death below ground.

Cave-ins, always a problem, especially in coal mines, and the next biggest cause of casualties. And explosions -- monitoring of explosive gases has greatly reduced this threat to miners. But, of course, when a mine does blow up, the fatalities can be numerous.

(on camera): The committee will consider many ideas to aid safety, new technology, perhaps more stringent inspections. But the training of young miners will be a key component.

(voice-over): Booming worldwide demand for coal is bringing inexperienced hands to the mines, as the old generation retires.

GRAYSON: And when new miners are coming in, it's especially important to get them trained and up to speed with these kinds of situations.

FOREMAN: Mining is dangerous work, but the entire mining community is now asking if it can't be at least a little bit safer.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, just the headline. This is where we're at right now.

There are two miners still missing in this mine, the Aracoma Mine. They're believed to be about 900 feet under the ground and about 10,000 feet inside the actual mine. It's in Logan County, as you're seeing there. We're anticipating a press conference in about 20 minutes. We're going to bring that to you live, also anticipating comments made by the governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, a figure who has become quite familiar to all of us through the Sago Mine incident. We will be bringing those comments to you live as well.

There's a number of other stories that we're following at the moment. Let's get you up to speed.

The lone Sago Mine survivor, he has eaten his first piece of solid food since his rescue. Randy McCloy's doctors say he chewed and swallowed a cracker. However, he is still dependent on a feeding tube.

We are awaiting word on the fate of abducted American journalist Jill Carroll. Today, a call for her release came from a Sunni politician Carroll went to interview the day she disappeared. He says Carroll "strived for Iraq." That's a quote. Carroll's father also pleaded with hostage-takers to spare his daughter's life through an appearance on the Arab-language network Al-Jazeera. Yesterday, Osama bin Laden, today, Ayman Al-Zawahri -- a recording from al Qaeda's number-two man has appeared on an Islamic Web site. Al-Zawahri's message does not mention last week's CIA attack in Pakistan in which he was a target, nor does it reference any specific dates. U.S. officials believe the tape may be old.

And, on Wall Street, a downer of the day for the Dow, as stocks slid today, amid concerns about this year's corporate profits, after disappointed earnings reports from General Electric and Citigroup. The Dow Jones industrials fell 213 points, wiping out all earnings made so far this year.

So, what did Mayor Ray Nagin mean when he called New Orleans a "chocolate city"? Tonight, you will hear his explanation. I talked to the mayor about the present and the future of this great city.

Also tonight, the new victims of Katrina -- a look at the alarming suicide rate in New Orleans. Why are some of the most respected men and women here taking their own lives? What, if anything, does it have to do with Katrina?

From New Orleans and around the world tonight, you're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to 360.

As you can see, we are kind of surrounded by police cars right here. There seems to be some sort of an incident on Bourbon Street and -- and Contay (ph). There's probably half-a-dozen police vehicles. We saw a number of officers running. And they have cordoned off an area outside the Saint Anne Hotel -- police officials going in and out of the hotel.

We're not sure exactly what's going on. As you can tell here on Bourbon Street, probably about the only part of New Orleans of which this can be said, life returning to normal. Elsewhere, of course, it's not. The bars are open. The music is playing. And, well, the police are out in force, as you can see.

We have said it before, but it remains true. Even almost five months after Katrina, you can't really imagine just how daunting the task of rebuilding New Orleans is. You know, it feels like a lot of the country has just moved on. And when you go out just -- you know, you -- you go a few miles from where Bourbon Street is, and -- I mean, it's all the same.

Everyone's possessions are still just laying all out in the street. The homes haven't been rebuilt. The debris is everywhere. It is -- it is just -- it's an eye-opening experience. The disaster is still continuing here in New Orleans, even if much of the country doesn't seem to be paying much of attention to it.

Right now, the challenge of rebuilding New Orleans falls to Mayor Ray Nagin. That, of course, could soon change. He's up for reelection coming up in a few months. And it's fair to say he has taken a pretty good beating from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Before coming mayor, Ray Nagin never held an elected office. His tendency to speak bluntly, some might even say recklessly, has made him a target at times, most recently this past Monday, when he talked about New Orleans as a "chocolate city" and about God seeking, well, to punish America.

We talked about that -- about that and much more with Mayor Ray Nagin today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Wherever New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin goes, he's the center of attention and often the center of controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing, Ray?

COOPER: We met with the mayor in Lakeview, just one of several neighborhoods in New Orleans still in ruins.

(on camera): Do you get used to seeing your city like this?

RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: I -- you know, I don't ever get used to it. I really -- it's depressing. I mean, when you come out here and you see it, you know, it's pretty depressing, because you think, after -- after four months, you know, you wouldn't see as much.

COOPER (voice-over): It's been a difficult week for Ray Nagin. On Monday, comments he made at a Martin Luther King rally stunned many in the city and around the country.

NAGIN: This city will be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be.

COOPER: Four days later, the mayor is still doing damage control.

(on camera): So, I got to ask you about it.

NAGIN: Yes, go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

NAGIN: I would be surprised if you wouldn't.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: All right.

"Chocolate city." What were you thinking?

NAGIN: You know what, man?

You know, I have thought about this and thought about this a long time. You know, I'm African-American, OK? Just to kind of put that out there. It's part of our culture to talk about chocolate cities.

You know, D.C. was the first chocolate city that ever came on the map, Newark, Detroit, New Orleans. So, for me, the vernacular of saying chocolate city was not a big deal. I have used that in speeches for three-and-a-half years now. And I have even used it on Capitol Hill. So, I didn't really think it was a big deal.

Where I crossed the line was bringing God into the whole, you know, discussion.

COOPER: Do you think it hurt or will hurt relief efforts, perception of you, perception of the leadership here in Louisiana, especially in Washington?

NAGIN: Let me tell you what -- what is happening. As far as Washington is concerned, I don't think so.

And I -- and I will tell you why. The day after the event, I talked to Secretary of HUD Alphonso Jackson. We talked about it. He kind of kidded about it, because he made a comment in Houston...

COOPER: Right.

NAGIN: ... about the city not being black again.

COOPER: I remember.

NAGIN: So, he got admonished by the president and all that. So, he was fine.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: There's a lot people in Washington who have said things they would like to take back.

(LAUGHTER)

NAGIN: I said -- I said, does the president care about this or does he have any issues? He said no.

The secretary of commerce was in yesterday. Talked to him about it. He said, man, you're fine. We are going to continue to help us. The president has everybody focused on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. So, I'm not seeing any evidence of anything.

As a matter of fact, this is kind of -- you know, there's lot of people upset about the comments. Don't get me wrong. And I'm not trying to minimize that. But it's grown into this whole kind of whimsical, you know, chocolate city with bars and T-shirts.

COOPER: Yes. They're making T-shirts on Bourbon Street, Willy Wonka bars, T-shirts.

NAGIN: Yes. I mean, so it has kind of turned. You know, if I had to do it over again, I would do it differently.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: ... want to get into that.

Well, that's not all Mayor Nagin and I talked about. Coming up, the biggest mistakes he says he made during the Katrina crisis in his own words, the first elected politician to actually come out and admit specific mistakes he made. Hear what he has to say coming up.

Also, disaster still unfolding in New Orleans along the Mississippi. Nature's speed bumps are disappearing. We will explain coming up on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Don't you wish politicians would just admit the mistakes they made? Well, tonight, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans does just that -- next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're live from Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

What you see behind me and all around me is just a -- a snapshot of this city, not a very accurate one. To get a true picture, an accurate picture of what the city and the people who live here are facing, you have to travel beyond the corner.

Today, I went with Mayor Ray Nagin to a neighborhood northwest of here. It borders Lake Pontchartrain. That's about the only thing that hasn't changed there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NAGIN: And, sure, they didn't like it.

COOPER (voice-over): We met with Mayor Ray Nagin in the devastated neighborhood of Lakeview, where the streets are still lined with personal possessions and homes still stand as they were after the storm.

(on camera): I mean, when you see a house like this, what -- what do you think?

NAGIN: Well, I think, you know, like that song, this house was a home. And now look at it. It's devastated. It's turned upside-down by the force of nature. And somebody used to live here. And -- and now they can't live here. And that's -- that's just something that's pretty amazing.

COOPER: I mean, these are like shrines, almost. You know, people put up their certain memories of better days, a little boy with his suit. These -- I guess these are his clothes.

NAGIN: Yes.

I mean, it's -- you know, people want to remember. And they want to think back to what it used to be. And it's going to be a long time before we ever get back to what it used to be.

COOPER (voice-over): Mayor Nagin has received a lot of criticism for the way he handled Hurricane Katrina. One of his critics, former FEMA Director Michael Brown, on Wednesday, talked for the first time about mistakes he himself made, saying he should have demanded the military intervene in New Orleans sooner.

I asked Mayor Nagin what he thought of Brown's admission.

NAGIN: You know, I -- I was a little surprised, but kind of expected it. You know, at some point in time, the truth needs to rule.

COOPER (on camera): The first couple weeks after Katrina, you were saying the mistake that you made was sort of being naive, in thinking that the cavalry was going to come after two days.

NAGIN: Yes.

COOPER: It's been now a couple of months. Have you -- as you have looked back and reassessed, were there other mistakes, specific things that you did you feel that...

(CROSSTALK)

NAGIN: Absolutely.

There's three things that I would do totally differently now. I wish I had talked to Max Mayfield earlier, number one.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: When was it he called it? Was it Saturday or Sunday?

NAGIN: It was a Saturday evening.

COOPER: OK.

NAGIN: And I wish I had talked to him earlier, so the possibility of a mandatory evacuation would have been done 24 hours later -- earlier.

COOPER: Max Mayfield from the National Hurricane Center.

NAGIN: National Hurricane Center.

COOPER: And he called you Saturday. And he said that that was the -- only the second time in history he has ever called a politician directly to -- to personally warn them.

NAGIN: Absolutely.

And he -- you know, I knew we had done a great job as getting people out -- as far getting people out. Eighty, 85 percent had gotten out. But, when I got that call, and he was so emphatic and so passionate, we had never -- this city had never done a mandatory evacuation in its history. I immediately called my city attorney and said, look, in the morning, I don't care what you have to do. Figure out a way for us to do this. I wish I had done that earlier.

COOPER (voice-over): It wasn't until Sunday that Mayor Nagin made the evacuation mandatory. Crucial hours had been lost. The mayor now admits his second mistake was the buses. Hundreds of school and city buses that could have been used to evacuate stranded residents were left in low-lying areas.

NAGIN: If I had to do it again, I would probably go to the school board, cut a cooperative endeavor agreement with them, move all the city-controlled buses to another section of the state, probably up north, so that they're readily available, and we will just deal with the driver issue later.

COOPER (on camera): You knew, based on the census, there were about 100,000 people who didn't have access to a vehicle.

NAGIN: We got everybody out, except for 50, which I think is kind of incredible. Fifty thousand people, at the end of the day, were in the Superdome and in the Convention Center. So, there was 50,000 people that we needed to deal with. You're right.

COOPER: OK. So, it was really -- for you, it's -- now looking back, it's the buses and it's the mandatory evacuation?

NAGIN: Right.

And the third thing is what you mentioned earlier. We always said, if the big one happened, we would get as many people to, you know, shelters of last resort and out of the city as possible. And then we would hunker down for three days, and the cavalry will arrive. I'm not going to depend upon the cavalry anymore. We're going to be as self-sufficient as possible from start to finish going forward.

COOPER: You're the only elected official up to now who has actually said that they made mistakes, that -- and actually named a -- two specific things that they have done.

Are you aware of that?

NAGIN: No.

COOPER: That -- that I asked the governor last night specific mistakes. She said she couldn't think of any. The president, of course, has said, you know, general -- general mistakes.

Why don't more politicians just -- just do what you did?

NAGIN: You know, I don't know, man.

And, you know, people ask me all the time why I do what I do.

(LAUGHTER)

NAGIN: And, sometimes, I can answer them, and, sometimes, I can't.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER (voice-over): More than four months after Katrina, there's not much in New Orleans to laugh about. Half the businesses are still closed. And unemployment is around 17 percent.

(on camera): What do you want people to know about what's happening here, about what's -- what has happened here and what -- what continues to happen here?

NAGIN: Well, it's kind of an issue of, you know, contrasting views, from the standpoint, I want America to understand, the city of New Orleans took on so much water, that 80 percent of it's flooded.

And we still have a tremendous amount of work to do. And we need tremendous amount of more help from the federal government. And it's coming slow. And we're frustrated. And I can't get people back here quick enough.

The second thing I want people to understand is that the storm spared our culturally unique sections of the city, downtown, French Quarter, uptown, Convention Center, all of that good stuff. We're in a position now to handle tourists and people visiting. And they need to come support us, so that we can stand up our economy and get back on our feet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Mayor Ray Nagin.

To rebuild New Orleans, the mayor and the city must also recover the marshlands that surround this city. It's the first line of defense against a hurricane. It may soon disappeared.

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano has more -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, you're right.

The wetlands are disappearing. And, ironically, the main reason is the levees that are built to protect New Orleans from the Mississippi flooding. Since about 1927 -- they had a major flood then -- they have built up those levees.

Now all of the water and silt from the Mississippi has dumped deep into the Gulf of Mexico, away from those marshes. And the landscape has changed. The wetlands in Louisiana are actually disappearing. So, that's a big problem, not only for wildlife, but for humans as well. Humans in southeast Louisiana are protected by those wetlands when killer hurricanes roll in. The storm surge, the battering waves, are absorbed by those wetlands.

Coming up, we are going to talk about what can be done to stem the tide of those vanishing wetlands. It's a big-time problem, Anderson. We will see you in about 20 minutes.

COOPER: Rob, thanks for that.

Coming up, we want to remind you, we are expecting a news conference on the mine fire in West Virginia -- two missing miners. Here -- we are going to bring you that press conference live, as well as also from the governor of West Virginia.

Here in New Orleans, a deadly problem that may only be getting worse. Why are so many professionals committing suicide? And why many believe Hurricane Katrina may be to blame.

Also tonight, the long road back -- months after the hurricane, the people who have lost everything finally returning home in some places.

From Bourbon Street in New Orleans and around the world, you're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So many of the stories of this city after Katrina are heartbreaking, perhaps none more so than those of the people who made it through the storm and then simply could not go on. A report on that in a little bit.

But first, here are some of the other stories we're following at this moment.

Rescue teams are making progress fighting a mine fire in Melville, West Virginia. It's trapped two miners underground since last night. Now, getting the better of the blaze is crucial because the heavy smoke and high levels of carbon monoxide it has produced have made searching for the men difficult. We're expecting a press conference any moment. We will bring that to you as soon as we can.

Michael Fortier, who knew about but failed to alert authorities to the plot to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, well, he was released from federal prison today after serving 10 years of his 12-year sentence. Fortier, who came to know the bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the Army, testified against them at their trial in exchange for a lesser sentence for himself.

After nearly 20 years in an Italian jail and one week of freedom in his native Turkey, the man convicted of attempting to assassinate Pope John Paul II 25 years ago is back in prison, rearrested after the Turkish Supreme Court ruled that the prison time he'd served in Italy could not be counted toward the sentence he was serving in his own country for the murder of a left-wing newspaper editor in 1979.

In New York City, a surprise contract rejection by the transit union. By just seven votes, workers turned down the agreement that was hammered out by union leaders and transit officials after last month's crippling strike. Proponents of a deal say they are hopeful another strike will not occur.

Well, Katrina claimed more than 1,000 lives. And with new reports that more than 3,200 people are still missing, the final death toll could be much higher. But tonight, I want to tell you about the other victims of the storm. They survived the hurricane but they could not survive the misery that followed. CNN's Drew Griffin has more on the disturbing suicides out of New Orleans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This story of Dr. James Kent Treadway is closely woven to the state of his city. These pictures of debris, disaster and despair are New Orleans closing in on five months after Katrina. In many areas, it looks like the storm hit yesterday.

TYRA TREADWAY, WIDOW: Depression is...

GRIFFIN: Tyra Treadway is a Katrina survivor.

TREADWAY: ... you think you're having a good day when you see a street that's cleaned, and you drive three blocks down and you see people out there trying to clean and sweep the sidewalk next to two stories of debris on the street, because they just want one little section to say, "It's mine. It's clean. And it doesn't have sheetrock dust on it."

GRIFFIN: It was in this environment of dust and debris that Tyra Treadway came home last November 16th and found her husband dead. For most of their 33-year marriage, he was one of the city's most prominent pediatricians, a man whose roots went back five generations and whose father started the practice he took over.

Now, he had hanged himself.

His wife, says the doctor, had been suffering debilitating back pain for three years, but it was the pain that came from Katrina that Dr. Kent, as he was called, could no longer take.

TREADWAY: And actually, the only time that he was -- would really not focus on the pain and stuff is when he was with these patients.

GRIFFIN: His house was damaged but survived, his office flooded but also survived. What did not survive was his practice. Parents fled New Orleans, taking their children, his patients, with them.

Dr. Treadway was advised to retire, to start accepting disability payments, and to begin taking stronger pain medication. Instead, he took his life.

TREADWAY: But when you don't give anybody hope of leading somewhat of a life with dignity, you can't expect people to just exist.

DR. FRANK MINYARD, ORLEANS PARISH CORONER: In the past, we have not had this many professional people at one time commit suicide.

GRIFFIN: Since November 10th, the day New Orleans Parish coroner Frank Minyard began counting the dead as non-Katrina related, two lawyers and three doctors have killed themselves.

MINYARD: I don't know the mental status of these people prior to them doing the act, but I know a little bit about what happened to them. And it's obviously Katrina-related. People have lost their jobs. People have lost their homes. People have lost their loved ones.

GRIFFIN: Minyard says he helped talked a friend, a business owner, out of suicide. Many people, he says, are finding post-Katrina New Orleans just too much to handle.

MINYARD: I'm acutely aware of that, that the storm really precipitated these feelings. I mean, I've had them myself, just the fact that my office has been destroyed and, you know, my daughter's home has been destroyed. So I've had feelings of like that myself.

GRIFFIN: The coroner says that, for professionals who thrive on controlling situations, the storm was devastating. He fears the suicides are not over, but no one wants to deal with the problem. Politicians keep saying things are getting better.

(on-screen): But despite the billions of dollars pledged to bring this city back and the millions of dollars being sent to clean it up, people in New Orleans say, "Look around. The garbage is still everywhere," a visual sign that things are not improving. And that, they say, is the biggest problem. New Orleans is a city without hope.

CECILLE TEBO, GRIEF COUNSELOR: The psychological implications, the grief, and the loss, and the emotional rollercoaster for some is simply beyond their ability to cope. Kids that aren't doing well, their parents aren't doing well.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Cecille Tebo is a grief counselor for the New Orleans Police. The department lost two officers to suicide since the storm. She says she has been deeply depressed herself and every day is conscious of living in a destroyed city.

TEBO: Oh, god, our Steinway. My husband is a beautiful, beautiful pianist. This is our -- this is the tragedy here.

GRIFFIN: Her home was flooded. She's just learned her neighborhood could be bulldozed into a city park. The garbage isn't picked up. When she tries to get help repairing her house, FEMA and insurance companies, she says, put her on hold for hours, and insurance adjusters and contractors repeatedly don't show up for appointments. This is her new New Orleans.

TEBO: To me, it's abusive. It's like being in a really bad abusive relationship. Whereas as a counselor, I encourage people to get out of those relationships. So it's like, you know, the thought would be, "Get out. Don't do it."

GRIFFIN (on-screen): But you can't get out of your insurance. You can't get out of your building permits. You can't get out of -- for most people -- New Orleans.

TEBO: Right, so people kill themselves. That's how they get out. They just kill themselves.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Tyra Treadway says she saw that frustration and depression building in her husband, and they did seek help. Two psychiatrists, she says, told them he would be all right. Now she wonders whether anyone in New Orleans will ever be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too depressing.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It really is hard to imagine what it is like here unless you have been here. And people who are here want people to come, they want people to visit, they want people to volunteer, because God knows they need the help down here.

Tonight, the latest mining disaster to hit West Virginia. Two miners are missing tonight. We're expecting a news conference any moment now. We will bring that to you live for the latest on their condition.

Also, fading barriers. How the wetlands to protect New Orleans from storms may soon be a thing of the past.

And a special program note. We want to remind you Dr. Sanjay Gupta wants to hear from you. If you have a medical question, if you want to know what's fact or fiction, you've heard some rumors about some treatment, we'll report on some of your questions next week with Dr. Gupta. E-mail us, logging on to CNN.com/360. Please put "Ask Dr. Gupta" on the subject line. Hey, it's free medical advice. 360 continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We are waiting news of a press conference. We're waiting some news to come out of this press conference, that the scene of where the press conference will be in Melville, West Virginia. We're going to bring that to you live.

Company officials talking about what the latest on the rescue efforts for two miners trapped about 900 feet below ground, about 10,000 feet into this mine. Two workers trapped.

There is a fire. The last report was that the fire was still going on. We're waiting to hear any update. A number of rescue teams are on the scene and are trying to get to those trapped miners. We, of course, are going to bring that to you live.

First, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we're following tonight. Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Hey, Anderson.

Tonight, a million-dollar jewelry heist in suburban Milwaukee has investigators looking to the East Coast. Now, here's a look for you at how the crime unfolded. These guys were pretty quick. Authorities say they wonder whether their suspects are the same gang that's been hitting jewelry shops from Connecticut all the way down to Florida. Whomever it was, they made their million-dollar haul in just 94 seconds.

Los Angeles now, you may remember this. An attorney shot by a courthouse gunman. Well, the assailant, William Strier, was convicted today of attempted murder. His attorney says Strier had, quote, "lost his mind" over a financial matter. Strier could face life in prison. The attorney, by the way, survived and is still practicing.

In Rome, a TV report on Thursday night showed archaeologist under the Roman forum where they've discovered now a 3,000-year-old tomb. The find predates the birth of the ancient city by several hundred years. Legend has it that Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by Romulus and Remus, the twin suns of Mars, the god of war.

And not really what you expect when you go to London. You expect a double-decker bus, Big Ben, not a whale. A bottle-nosed whale is swimming up the River Thames, the first sighting there since such record-keeping began in 1913. Reports of a second whale in another part of the river have experts wondering what is causing the bottle- nosed whales to become disoriented.

And, Anderson, it's like someone said in one of our meetings earlier today here at Headline News, "Oh, look, Shamu, Big Ben, Tower of London." It was funny when he said it.

COOPER: There you go, Erica. Yes, no, I'm sure it was a laugh riot. I mean, later tonight, maybe it will really hit me.

HILL: The delivery, whew.

COOPER: Yes, maybe it's the satellite transmission.

I want to follow-up on a story with you from earlier in the week. You know, you showed particular interest in the 27 new species of creepy, crawly things they found in caves in California?

HILL: Ugh.

COOPER: Well, we already introduced you to the pseudo-scorpion.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Let's see. There was also the eyeless silver fish.

HILL: Lovely.

COOPER: And, of course, your favorite, the harvest man. Here are some of the other cave-dwelling friends.

HILL: Oh, more, good.

COOPER: Look at some of these pictures. Yes.

HILL: And ew. What is that?

COOPER: That's not particular -- yes, not pleasant. Don't even know the name of that one.

HILL: There just -- I really -- I really hate bugs. I got to tell you. I am not a fan of the insect at all. I'm sorry for anybody who loves them. All you entomologists out there, I apologize. I can't do it. Don't like the bugs.

COOPER: I can certainly understand that. I don't like the bugs, either, especially when they're in my apartment.

HILL: But I don't kill the spiders...

COOPER: Really?

HILL: ... because they eat the bugs. You've got to put the spider outside. My grandmother taught me that.

COOPER: No, really, keep going. Keep going. We got time.

HILL: Yes...

COOPER: Yes, all right.

HILL: More news again next hour?

COOPER: All right, Erica, thanks very much. I will see you again in 30 minutes, hopefully.

Coming up, saving the marshes that can save New Orleans. We're going to come up, the race against time for (INAUDIBLE) the wetlands that continue to sink under the water.

And finding success in the Big Easy. Meet two employers who are helping give New Orleans a bright future.

We're also awaiting that press conference out of West Virginia. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome to a rainy night in New Orleans here on Bourbon Street. For New Orleans to withstand the next Katrina, it's got to rely on the marshlands that surround the city. Also, of course, the levees, but the marshlands are really the speed bumps, nature's speed bumps, they call them.

The wetlands are slowly disappearing, however. According to the federal government, more than one million acres of wetlands here have become open water. Now, if the marshes are not restored, imagine what the next hurricane might do.

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano has been looking into it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): ... New Orleans are disappearing, slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. The marshes are shallow waters that block a hurricane's surging waters as it comes ashore.

CHUCK VILLARRUBIA, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES: The marsh is really the first speed bump that the storms come through that slows down their energy, and so they're not as strong by the time they get up to New Orleans.

MARCIANO: Chuck Villarrubia has been monitoring the health of the marshes for Louisiana. Over the years, he's seen fewer and fewer of the big trees, whose roots anchor other plants.

VILLARRUBIA: We used to have cypress down here, which are no longer here in a lot of areas because of saltwater intrusion.

MARCIANO: This is a diversion, a gated lock that helps move water from the Mississippi River into the marshes.

VILLARRUBIA: They deposit sediment and nutrients out into these wetland areas.

MARCIANO: There are only two diversions in place along the lower Mississippi, but several more are planned. Villarrubia says a bad situation got critical when Katrina bulldozed through the Louisiana marshes.

(on-screen): I'm standing in the marsh about 15 miles south of New Orleans. Before Katrina, we'd be waist high in healthy marsh grasses. But the storm ripped up those grasses, leaving little more than mud flats and open water behind.

(voice-over): In other words, first the trees disappear, and then, when the grasses are gone, there is little to keep the soil from washing out to sea. Imagine what the loss of the marshes means to the fishing industry here.

PETE GERICA, FISHERMAN: That little white house...

MARCIANO: Pete Gerica is a Louisiana fisherman. He's worried about the fish and the crabs that make their homes in the marshes.

GERICA: And without that marsh being their protection, to protect them from larger critters, you're not going to keep them.

MARCIANO: The marshes are a nursery; shrimp, crabs and fish all rely on the wetlands to grow. Gerica knows that no marshes means no fishing.

GERICA: You can look at this pass here, and you can see where the birds are. They're standing. They're on land. This pass here, the shoreline probably came out another 100 feet this way.

MARCIANO: Villarrubia is also worried. He knows the next hurricane season is little more than four months away and worries, if another big one comes, there is little to stop its full force.

VILLARRUBIA: Certainly, this next season or two, until the levees get put back together a little bit and some of the marsh comes back, this area will certainly be more vulnerable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: Bottom line: Stronger levees and a series of these diversions will help New Orleans become a safer city. In order to rebuild these marshes, the plan costs $40 to $50 billion. That's not approved yet. But you better believe they want that to happen in order to protect them from these deadly hurricanes that can roll through.

The last hurricane that rolled through, or at least Hurricane Katrina, it ripped apart marshlands in excess of what would normally take a year to do. As it stands now, a football field of marshlands or wetlands disappears every 38 minutes.

And with another bad hurricane season forecast, Anderson, it is literally a race against time. Back to you.

COOPER: Wait, did you say a football field-size patch of marshlands disappears every 38 minutes?

MARCIANO: Every 38 minutes. And Katrina took away a year's worth of erosion in that one day.

COOPER: That's amazing.

MARCIANO: It is truly amazing. And there are 8,000 miles of canals that whittle through the Mississippi Delta that are manmade. And that's a bigger problem, as well. So we've got to get that freshwater from the Mississippi, that silt back into the marshes to replenish that. And, unfortunately, it's a big price tag -- Anderson?

COOPER: Certainly is. Rob Marciano, thanks for looking into it. We want to thank our international viewers for watching.

Ahead on 360, though, the search for two West Virginia miners -- stay tuned for that -- trapped underground after a fire. How close are rescuers to finding them? We know they're 900 feet underground. We know they're about 10,000 feet into this mine. We're expecting a news conference. We'll bring it to you live.

Plus, how much is 21 years worth? A man spent that much time in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Now he's entitled to a hefty amount of cash, but is it enough? We'll talk with him.

And my interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Does he really think God is punishing America with hurricanes? That's what he said this week, from here in the "chocolate city." That and more, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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