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Special Edition: Haiti

Aired January 17, 2010 - 07:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting to you live from Port-au-Prince, Haiti for a very special edition of SG MD. It has been a remarkable week no question. We are going to show you some images of things that are happening right now, including the evidence of a recovery and a mass going on at a catholic hospital.

We are also talking to Anderson Cooper about what he's been seeing over the last week. He was the first reporter in this part of the world. We're also going to sit down and talk to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about what's next. You are watching SG MD.

I don't know even know where to begin. You and I have traveled all over the world together. We have seen so many different things, including natural disasters in Sri Lanka for example, certainly Katrina. Everyone that I have been talking to says this is somehow different. Is it and why?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have never seen something so concentrated. It is not like this is spread all throughout Haiti. As we know, the impact zone was basically very close to Port-au-Prince. And it is really affecting Port-au-Prince. Even if you go to outlying suburbs, 20 minutes or 20 miles away, you don't see so much devastation. So I've never been in a place where, in a few block radius you see so much death.

GUPTA: When we were driving in from the airport, we were driving in, at first I thought it doesn't look that bad initially, but then we got to some of the areas. And I remember at first I started to smell things and the decomposing bodies. For the first time, somebody pointed out that these were a bunch of bodies. I looked over it because I couldn't believe it was so obvious in plain sight.

COOPER: The first person I saw who died was a woman lying on the side of the road. She was laying there almost like she was sleeping. Like she had just decided to rest for a few minutes and everyone was just kind of walking by. It was like you would see maybe a homeless person in a major city of the United States and people just kind of pretend like they don't see this person.

It took me a few moments to realize and for my eyes to adjust and realize, wait a minute, this person is dead. And then, of course, the next block, there were three people like that. And the next block there were four and they were covered in sheets. It takes your eyes time to adjust to what you are seeing. GUPTA: I was listening to your reporting on the first day. I think you may have still been in New York on your way here and you made a comment about the death toll. The death tolls at that time were already being imagined or predicted and you said, let's take a breath and just recognize that they don't always end up that way. What did you mean?

COOPER: Well, I mean initial reports are always, as you all know, they are sketchy if not exaggerated or underestimated. So it is important I think early on to not focus so much on total numbers. Now we are hearing of death tolls that are all over the place. As we have seen, I mean, it doesn't look like they are counting the dead. They are not documenting the dead. When we were in Sri Lanka after the tsunami, they were at least photographing the dead so loved ones might be able to identify them.

Here they are picking them up in bulldozers, dumping them in trucks and taking them out to mass graves and literally just bulldozing them into pits and then moving on again to another truckload. So no one will ever know what happened to their loved ones. People are just going to disappear. When we hear these estimates, I'm not sure how they can guess this because we have only seen the dead that are outside on the street and we have seen far too much of that, but there's untold number of dead inside these structures and they are never going to be able to excavate them. They are basically going to have to bulldoze these entire structures and toss them into dump trucks and toss away the remains.

GUPTA: Lots of bodies and so forth.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: One of the toughest moments for me, we were at one of those dump trucks and saw a bunch of teenagers that were clambering up the side of the dump trucks with masks on and sort of like moving bodies around to try to find their mothers.

COOPER: That's how people are searching for the dead.

GUPTA: This is five days now, and last night they were still doing search and rescue missions as opposed to recovery missions. They are hoping to still find people living.

COOPER: They are. They acknowledge that this is, you know, the chances are dwindling rapidly minute by minute. I was with a search and rescue team from Los Angeles County Fire Department. They have 75 people here. They are experienced and have done this all over the world and they have been here since the first day, they came Wednesday morning.

The Oakland mother came crying up the street saying please come and look in this building my daughter is trapped inside, she is ten years old, her name is Laka (ph). We went there and our interpreter was saying to go to the rubble and yell out the children's name. Ask the child to tap three times if the person was alive. They were sure they heard taping. They thought they heard moaning. They have sent three teams of dogs in there looking for positive hits. Then about seven, eight hours after the initial getting to the scene, for about an hour, they heard no more tapping. They sent in another dog, but nothing.

GUPTA: The child died between those two --

COOPER: The person was no longer alive.

GUPTA: So between those two --


GUPTA: How are you doing? I was talking to some of the reporters; I think it is impossible not to be affected by what's happening here. How are you holding up?

COOPER: You know what, I think the thing that's the most frustrating thing to witness, but even more so for the people living through this, is just the stupid death. Deaths that don't need to occur. A child breaks a leg and there's an open wound and infection occurs and there's no one here to treat it. So that child may die because the infection spreads throughout their body. Another stupid death is somebody dying because they can't get antibiotics. You know it doesn't have to happen.

GUPTA: It costs a nickel for some of these antibiotics. We'll be here for some time to come. I appreciate it, Anderson. Great work, as always. We'll be back in just a moment. We'll sit down and talk to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about what's happening next.

And hopefully bring you some of the stories of what Anderson was talking about and what I have seen on the ground as well. Stay with us.


GUPTA: You are looking at a very positive development there. The U.S. military choppers are dropping some aid off in Port-au-Prince. Now, I will tell you, I talked to people on the ground here, this is obviously effective, but also a very risky way to get aid to starving Haitians. The concern is you obviously want to give food, but you don't want to create violence and site mob violence, those types of things. Again, this is what is starting to happen right now. This is live on the ground here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

What is going to happen moving forward? How is this all going to look a few days from now, a few weeks and even a few months? A lot has to do with the infrastructure that Haiti had before all this, not very good. And what it might potentially turn into. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from whom I used to work many years ago visited the area yesterday and took a tour of the city and started to come up with some plans as to how things might transpire and how the U.S. could help be a part of that. Take a look.


GUPTA: How long do you think this is going to take and how do you measure success?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think today we measure it day by day. How many pellets of food, how many bottles of water, and how many people rescued. We are measuring it in that kind of very personal terms, but we are going to start looking at, are we getting the electricity up and going, are we getting the roads unclogged? Are we getting some shelter for people? Then what are we doing to help Haiti reconstruct and how can we reconstruct it so that it is stronger and more functional going forward.

GUPTA: All the people that have been displaced, essentially now. They have lost their homes or too fearful to go to their homes because of concerns about aftershocks. During this rebuilding process, what happens to them?

CLINTON: Well, there has to be accommodations provided. Usually, it is tents or some kind of temporary housing. I've seen that in many other settlings where people have been displaced. But that's one of the highest priorities, how do we get people off the streets into some place that whatever belongings they still have, they can begin to call it home.

GUPTA: Is that the goal, to make it even better than before the earthquake?

CLINTON: Well, you know, in talking with President Preval, we do have an opportunity now with the unfortunate destruction that existed to take the lead of the Haitian government to try to bring in the international community so that we are not just taking a building that is half demolished and trying to patch it together, but thinking about what should this whole street look like, what should this neighborhood look like. That of course is what the Haitians are asking the international community to help them do.

GUPTA: Haiti could become better as the result of this?

CLINTON: I think so, I really believe that.

GUPTA: When you sort of think about the future here, issues like orphanages, for example...

CLINTON: Like what?

GUPTA: Orphanages, American citizens trying to adopt. It has been difficult in the past. Could that be something that can be more streamlined?

CLINTON: Well in fact, there are several hundred children who have gone through the process who are waiting final clearance to actually be adopted and transported to the United States. You know, that's something that I have worked on for many years, and I'm personally directing that we do everything we can to try to find and identify those children who are already adoptable. They have parents waiting for them, a new family in our country, and to try to expedite all the paperwork that has to be done to get them to their new homes. GUPTA: You mentioned (inaudible) about a 15-day-old baby. When you see a piece like that, being a mom and also being in the position that you are in, what goes through your mind?

CLINTON: There but for the grace of God go any of us. And in a moment of such grave need, I think everybody feels that common humanity. I mean, you are a dad, I'm a mom. You know how you would feel if your child was injured, if your wife had been killed, the mother of your children, and how desperate you would be and how you would go anywhere, to anybody, to try to get help.

So I think that we can talk about the plans we have to make and how much it is going to cost and who is going to do what, but the most elemental response that I have is these are people in need. One of the great things about our country is how we respond to that need. We do it through our government, but more significantly, we do it through our personal efforts as well.


GUPTA: Another thing she told me is that her and former President Clinton had a great affinity for Haiti. They actually honeymooned down here after they got married some time ago. So that's a glimpse into what could be happening here over the next several months.

A story that has had a profound impact on me over the past couple of days is a story of doctors who left their patients in a field hospital and the concerns about security. What exactly happened there? We are getting to the bottom of that for sure.

Plus, a lot of people coming up to me asking how they can help, I'm getting lots of e-mails, let me just tell you this. Go straight to our website, I think you are getting a sense of what is needed. Stay with us.



(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): The first thing I did is to check on my parents because I didn't want them to lose me, I'm the only child. And the second thing that I never stopped never stopped once and prayed. I have to tell you something. I'm someone who prays a lot, and now I'm very grateful that I never lost faith.


GUPTA: Back to the show. This is the first Sunday after this earthquake in Haiti. You are looking at some images from mass, people going to church, and a good sign. Could be a sign of some of the recovery efforts, but I will tell you being in a country that is 80 percent catholic, a lot of people are relying very heavily on their faith today and in the days, weeks and months and years to come.

Some remarkable images. It is tough to watch some of these things, but this is what is happening right now as we are talking to you.

One of the stories that really affected me this week and I think a lot of people was the story of doctors who were taking care of these patients, Belgian doctors in this case, who were taking care of these patients in a field hospital. What happened was for some time we have been hearing that a multi-national field hospital was going to be set up in an area particularly hit hard by the earthquake. These field hospitals are able to do all kinds of things, including operations, amputations and take care of some of the most critical needs in the field where patients need it the most.

It was seemingly too hard to get the patients back to any kind of organized facility, so they had to take care of these patients in the field. When we saw these field hospitals go up, it was a very good sign for us. Throughout the day, we were reporting from there and some point during the evening we started to hear that these doctors would be possibly leaving later on that night because of concerns about security. It was unclear. Was the U.N. asking them to leave or the doctors asking themselves to leave because they were concerned about their own safety, I didn't know.

But I did know that they did leave and a lot of patients were left behind. And myself and my team basically stayed the night to take care of these patients. We did not feel that we could leave these patients. So many who would not have survived that night. It was a tough decision to make, certainly, I think in many ways because if there were concerns about safety, would that affect us as well? But we decided to stay there. I have a nagging question still there over and over again, how could this happen? How could doctors essentially abandon their patients? What would allow that to happen? I wanted someone to take a fresh look at this, a fresh set of eyes. I asked my colleague Gary Tuchman to go back to those camps and talk to the doctors and ask them questions.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Who made the decision to pull your people out Friday night?


TUCHMAN: So it wasn't the U.N. who asked you to?

GIJS: No, I'm responsible for my team. I'm from Belgium. I made the decision.

TUCHMAN: Did you ask the United Nations to provide security?

GIJS: At the time, we asked at the compound, I thought we went there and asked for security protection that night.

TUCHMAN: What did the United Nations say to you?

GIJS: At that time they were not able to offer it to us for the night, the protection. TUCHMAN: Did they tell you why?

GIJS: No. They didn't tell me, but they offered us transportation to get out and to come to a secure zone.

TUCHMAN: Did you say to them, please, you know we have patients, we can't leave them?

GIJS: Yes, we discussed that with one of my staff members. He went there and insisted, yes, I'm sure he assisted.

TUCHMAN: What did they say to him?

GIJS: They could not offer him; they could not offer armed protection in the night.

TUCHMAN: Does that make you angry that they couldn't do that?

GIJS: No, it's sad, but you have to respect it.


GUPTA: There has to be a lot of discussion about this back and fourth. And frankly I am not sure how much that really matters any more. The good news is this, the patients all did well that night. My medical team rose to the occasion to take care of these patients. But also it is important to know that safety and security will be provided for the patients and the doctors that are taking care of them in the days and weeks to come. So the patients are going to be safe and secure and the doctors who are trying to take care of them safe and secure as well. In the end it's a positive story for survival for a lot of these patients, and a remarkable story for us to see it unfold.

There is a lot more to discuss. Elizabeth Cohen, is one of my colleagues, is down here in Haiti, too. She came a few days ago and has been reporting about how they are planning to take care of some of the youngest patients in all this. And some of the patients were orphans as well, if they are critically injured what can possibly happen to them and how do they get to safety. Stay with us.


GUPTA: We are in Haiti today, and they have been trying for some time to save lives on the fly. Many of them I can tell you are very short on equipment and they are forced to provide care that would best be equated to what people may have seen after the Civil War battle a hundred and fifty years ago. Over night those doctors and nurses have been getting some critical supplies and that is good news. My colleague Elizabeth Cohen, has some more on the supplies coming in and also on the evacuation, I think a story of one baby off to Miami. Elizabeth, are you there?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am here. I am right here, Sanjay. The evacuation was amazing. The baby had been in the rubble from Tuesday until yesterday afternoon. They found her but then they realized that she had some broken ribs and they were so afraid that she would get pneumonia. They really had very little hope for this child. She was unconscious, and her eyes were rolling back in her head, but they said you know what we are getting this kid to Miami, and that they did. They put her in the ambulance, and they said to the ambulance driver if you get to the plane right now because it's about to take off, we'll name this baby after you. Well the baby did indeed get to the hospital, she is now in the pediatric ICU, and the ambulance drivers name is Patricia so the baby's name is Patricia.


GUPTA: It's amazing, it is hard to say this, but it sounds like she is one of the lucky ones compared to how many of the other babies I have seen who had no chance of survival at all, which makes me ask about the supplies. You are at the U.N. Compound, what is the difficulty here in getting the supplies into some of these devastated areas where you are reporting?

COHEN: I am not sure I heard your question but I think you asked about the difficulties. The difficulties, the biggest difficulty I think till now here has been a lack of an operating room. You have patients with gaping wounds, bones sticking out of their skin and they can't do any surgery. That changed at 3 in the morning, I watched them as they built an operating room.

So I am hoping we have the video of a woman who was rescued just an hour ago, she was rescued by New York City Rescue, and she was brought in, and she said that she felt OK, and they are going to have to do surgery on her knees. The fact that they can do surgeries, where they have general anesthesia, they have anesthesiologist. That is going to make a big difference. But we are still talking about 160 people in dire need of surgery and more advanced care that they can get right here.

GUPTA: All right Elizabeth. We weren't able to see that video but it is good to hear some positive stories, of patients being able to get some care that haven't for some time. Elizabeth thank you. We are going to be right back as well. With a look at some of what our reporters have been seeing here on the ground. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Welcome back to the program. It's hard to describe I think for anybody who hasn't been in Port-au-Prince over the last several days what is happening here. Some of the images are just too striking, and too indelible. These buildings were crumbling in the streets making it impossible to navigate and impossible to get around. The bodies, it's one of the things that you see first of all and that you cannot believe that you are looking at human bodies. The first time somebody told me there were bodies there; I actually looked over them not believing that those were in fact human bodies. There is a certain lack of dignity to the whole thing.

And as we were reporting I remember somebody came up to me and we were showing these dumpsters, actually picking up these bodies and putting them in the dump trucks, and I felt bad about that, I felt bad showing those images, and they said, no, no, show those images, show the indignities, show the loss of human dignity that is occurring in what we are going through here. The smells, something you can not give you on television to smells, but they are there. They are the smells of decomposing bodies, and it's something the city will have to endure for sometime to come.

You cannot help but see the eyes of your own family's and in your own children when you look at the eyes of the people here; it is tough, tough to see. I see my wife in a lot of the people that I have seen here. If you are sitting next to somebody that you love, give them a hug today. And when I get home, I don't know when that will be, it's the first thing I will do as well.

T.J., and Betty, I promise to give you more of a view of what is happening here in Port-au-Prince. As I said slices of what is happening, I know it is not the complete picture but I hope it helps to understand a little bit better.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Without a doubt it does, Sanjay. A really great work there. Thank you so much for that.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And he's certainly concerned -- and really, Sanjay, we want you to know, buddy, we are getting that picture. And you asked that a little earlier, and certainly wondering about that reporting and how people here are receiving that.

Well, please know the work is appreciated and it's being received well, and it's much appreciated, being able to take so many people there and see those emotional stories. So, please, buddy, we appreciate it and just want you to know -- it seemed like you were kind of concerned about that, but we want you to know we are seeing it and appreciate it.

NGUYEN: Yes. Thank you, Sanjay.