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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Hurricane Sandy Fallout
Aired October 31, 2012 - 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, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.
We are in Hoboken, New Jersey, right now, just across the river from Lower Manhattan, the fallout from Sandy still coming. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expected to brief the media shortly. We are going to be monitoring what he says, bring you any late new details, should the governor makes news.
A lot of things happening though as we speak. The National Guard is out in force in Hoboken, across the river, a long line of ambulances, outside another big Manhattan hospital, Bellevue, right now, evacuating patients, 700 patients in all, and this will be going on all night long after a day of running the generator.
The rooftop generator with buckets of fuel from the basement, passed hand to hand up 13 flights of stairs, if you can imagine, there's that and now there is this. Traffic in Manhattan jammed solid, subways expected to start coming back online tomorrow, but in a very, very limited way. People now jamming buses or simply walking.
Things though are improving slightly in places. But this crisis is far from over, and it is evolving almost minute by minute. We have all of the angles tonight, starting with President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
COOPER (voice-over): With the election near, but the disaster now, two political rivals joined hands and got to work. They saw a shoreline battered beyond recognition, almost beyond belief, mile after mile of destruction, home after home, life after life.
On the ground, at a local shelter, no political complications, just simple need, and promises from each man to meet it.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Christie, throughout this process has been responsive, he has been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm, and I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before. So, I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I ask you back up, please?
COOPER: In Hoboken, that meant the National Guard, nowhere to be seen late last night, was out in force today, rescuing people who are stranded and getting hungry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We couldn't have survived one more night without food, water.
COOPER: In fifth borough, Staten Island, police choppers did rooftop rescues, and at sea, the Navy is moving three warships into the New York/New Jersey area capable of serving as offshore helicopter bases. This is still a fast-moving emergency.
Proof this afternoon, evacuations at another major New York hospital, Bellevue, 700 patients on the move. Elsewhere in the city, though, it seemed like no one moving.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I think anybody that tried to thrive around New York City today realized there are a lot of cars on the road. Traffic is very heavy.
COOPER: New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg announcing bridges into Manhattan are open, but limiting most incoming cars to three occupants or more. As for subways, limited service tomorrow, but a lot of work ahead.
Kennedy Airport up and running, La Guardia still closed. That crane, now they say it's tied down and secure. But elsewhere, no progress, only a clearer view of the loss. Here in New York City's Breezy Point, more homes destroyed than first thought. And on the Jersey Shore, a simple fact comes home to the mayor of Seaside Heights.
BILL AKERS, MAYOR OF SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY: We're at ground zero. We're taking baby steps right now, and we will sort it out at the end, but right now, it's just trying to -- you know, just trying to get some kind of semblance of what was.
COOPER: A short time ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted this picture we want to show you, a picture of National Guard troops moving patients out of Bellevue hospital and he thanked them for their help. They have been working though tirelessly to get those patients to safety and to work the bucket brigade that has literally been carrying fuel to the emergency generators, up multiple flights of stairs.
We're told the evacuation should be completed by noon tomorrow. Of course, one of the challenges is where to take the patients. Several other hospitals have had to evacuate patients as well. NYU Langone Medical Center along the East River had to move patients during the storm on Monday night after its generators failed. Bellevue is just a couple of blocks south of NYU. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been on all the story all day and he joins me now live.
Sanjay, this evacuation, it's been going on all day. You have been covering it now for hours. Is it going on all night long?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is supposed to go on all night long as well, Anderson.
In fact, you can see the ambulances sort of lined up here still behind me. They expect until about noon tomorrow. I talked to the chief of the hospital not that long ago. They said they are about halfway done with the evacuations. It's done in order of medical triage, I should point out as well, Anderson, so the sickest patients first and as time goes on, the patients are going to be less and less critical.
COOPER: And some of these patients are being carried down as many as 18 flights of stairs, and that's obviously posing a lot of danger.
GUPTA: There is no light, there is hardly any food. As you mentioned earlier, the National Guard is helping with some of that. It's unbelievable work.
I have to say, keep in mind, you know, I guess maybe it's obvious that these doctors and nurses, many of them also are affected by the storm. Their families, their homes, all of that, and many of them have just been here from the very beginning, have not left.
The National Guard, which you were describing, I heard for the first time is this bucket brigade as they called it. These generators take 40 gallons an hour to run, 40 gallons an hour. They had to get 40 gallons of fuel up 13 flights of stairs. And they used this bucket brigade literally to do that. And they just kept doing it. They were doing it hours on ends. They thought they would keep doing it.
But what prompted the evacuation today was when they started to clear some of the water from the basement where the fuel pumps are, they realized the damage was worse than they even thought it was and at that point, they realized they needed to evacuate. It was going to take too long to fix the pumps, and they needed to do something.
COOPER: We have seen a lot of heroic work, Sanjay at NYU before, this situation now at Bellevue. And our thoughts are with all those doctors and National Guard folk and also the nurses and orderlies.
Also, in our hour at 8:00, I think I misspoke. I said there were no more hospitals in Lower Manhattan open. I had forgotten about Beth Israel, which is down on the Lower East Side, so there is one.
We showed you La Guardia Airport a moment ago. Late word tonight it will reopen tomorrow, and that is the good news. As for the limited subway service that resumes tomorrow there in New York, no rains will be running south of 34th Street, an area that includes of course the Financial District. Sandy has crippled the nation's biggest transit system. Some stations remain underwater right now. There's catastrophic damage to underground tracks and equipment. The MTA says it's just too early to tell when full service will return or even if every subway line can actually be fixed. Some of them may be beyond repair.
Millions of riders depend on the subway each day, all of us in the city. A few commuter train lines went back into service this afternoon. But for the most part, commuters relied on buses, on cars, on cabs if they could get them and weren't being gouged for prices on those cabs. There was gridlock as bad as we have been seen in Manhattan.
Take a look at this. That is Columbus Circle, which is just south of Central Park on the West Side earlier today. One massive traffic jam, largely caused by that train, which is still dangling over 57th Street and has closed off the entire region about a seven- block area around there.
Jason Carroll joins me now from the Queensboro Bridge, which connects Manhattan and Queens.
What's the latest in terms of people trying to get in and out of Manhattan? Because it's been a nightmare for them all day, Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, you are absolutely right. It's been a frustrating day for commuters. We have been watching them throughout the day, not just here at the Queensboro Bridge, but also downtown at the Brooklyn Bridge.
Right now, just a few stragglers making the late-night trek across the Queensboro Bridge, trying to get out of Manhattan. We have seen this all day long, Anderson, throughout the day, thousands of people moving in and out of the city, unable to take a train, unable to take a subway simply because they were not up and right now .
The buses were running are running, at least in this section of the city, you can see the line here, even at this hour, at 10:00, a line here going down the block to try to get on that one bus that is still waiting to take on some passengers, people telling us they waited three to four hours at a certain point to get on a bus.
People have been patient basically throughout the day. But take a look at some of the video we shot just about two hours ago right here where we were. People were rushing, crushing, trying to get on this bus that had pulled up. Again, people been patient all day. But their tempers got the best of them at least for a little while as everyone tried to get on this one particular bus that had pulled up.
At one point we saw an elderly man and an elderly woman trying to get on, and people allowed them, sort of backed off at least a little while to allow them to get on and then the crush started again. It ended with people basically doing what they needed to do. The bus driver turning to me and saying we're going to make this happen and he said have a nice day as they pulled off.
And despite what you are seeing there, eventually things turned out all right, at least for now. One UPS worker who decided not to take the bus, he decided he was going to make the walk like so many people did today across the bridge, he basically summed up the feeling of a lot of commuters today. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: Tell me about the commute for you today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I walked from Queens Boulevard over here.
CARROLL: And put that in perspective for me. What kind of walk was that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A marathon. A marathon. A marathon. Now I got to walk back. A marathon, that's what you can call it today.
CARROLL: What are we talking about in terms of hours?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About two hours of walk, and no buses, nothing.
We need the train service very bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: And, Anderson, one woman I think basically summed it up. I will paraphrase what she said. When I asked her about her commute, she said, look, I have got to walk a few hours one way, a few hours another way, but at least when I get back, I have a home to go to.
And obviously, sadly, given what we know about the aftereffects of this storm, so many people do not have a home to go home to, so that's probably one thing that we should all keep in perspective as we watch these commuters complain or in some cases complain about the long commute they have today, and will likely have again tomorrow.
COOPER: Yes, we're all in this together. I mean, everybody is pretty much in the same boat. And let's hope people's patience continues in the days ahead. This will be a long recovery.
The images we have been seeing of flooded subway tunnels are sobering, they're even surreal. We have really never seen anything like this.
Andrea Bernstein, a reporter for WNYC Radio and director of their Transportation Nation project, got a firsthand look today at some of the damage. She joins me now.
Andrea, you got into a PATH train station downtown, and that's the train that links Manhattan to where I am in New Jersey, Hoboken. You saw the flooding firsthand. There's a lot of people here in Hoboken who have been asking me about this. What did it look like, how was it?
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, WNYC RADIO: It was -- well, it was completely dark, and the water was all the way up to the subway platform. This is the World Trade Center PATH station. Of course, remember, the station was destroyed and then rebuilt after the World Trade Center attack.
And now the governor says that there is saltwater going back five miles in that tunnel to New Jersey.
COOPER: Wow. Five miles in the tunnel.
Do they have any kind of a timetable for when they may be able to get it repaired or are they just going to have to wait to get all the water out before they can assess it?
BERNSTEIN: They haven't given us a timetable.
We did get to speak to Colonel Paul Owen of the Army Corps of Engineers who was in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and he said that New York City is a much more complex problem, because these tunnels are so deep and they are so long, and the PATH tunnel may be even a little bit luckier, if you will, than the subway tunnels, because the subway tunnels, a system that just had its 108th birthday on Saturday, so one day before Hurricane Sandy hit.
And some of the electrical equipment in these tunnels are so old, they just don't know what is the effect of saltwater eroding the tunnels. One of the things that really struck me is that Governor Cuomo was talking quite strongly yesterday and today about climate change and how climate change has made Lower Manhattan much more vulnerable to these storm surges and have made the subway system vulnerable, which is, unfortunately, something that was predicted and predictable.
COOPER: Well, it's also something -- I was talking to a climate change expert earlier today. It is only going to get worse, because he was saying we have seen the water rise about a foot over the last 100 years, but over the next 100 years, it should be rising in the area of two to three feet.
For an island like Manhattan, obviously that's something we have to contend with.
Andrea, appreciate you telling us what you saw today. Thank you very much.
Our coverage continues. There's a lot more, late word that Governor Christie has taken action tonight to boost fuel supplies in the state, waving certain licensing rules, making easier for local sellers to bring in diesel and gasoline from out of state. There's a lot of folks who, even if they can drive around, just don't have the gas to do it anymore.
When we come back, what the governor and President Obama saw today as they toured some of the hardest-hit areas in New Jersey.
COOPER: A shot of the Manhattan skyline, a picture of power outages on one end of the island and the apparently normal farther uptown. I say apparently because life anywhere in Manhattan or New York City and the entire region won't be entirely back to normal for quite a while.
Because of that, just moments ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a transportation emergency, announcing from now through the end of the week, all travel on public transit, buses, subways, any subways that are running, and commuter trains will be free, the idea being to get people who need to come into Manhattan to work out of private cars and off the streets.
We know a number of people have obviously lost their lives; 28 people have lost their lives in New York City, 56 total across Sandy's deadly path in the U.S. And as we're seeing both at ground level and especially from the air, perhaps, the very worst physical destruction is along the Jersey Shore. Some of the images have just been extraordinary.
Today, as you saw a bit at the top, President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie toured the devastation area.
More on that from Jessica Yellin right now.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crisis makes unexpected political bedfellows.
CHRISTIE: I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state.
YELLIN: President Obama returned the favor.
OBAMA: He has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before.
YELLIN: Obama and Christie on board the presidential helicopter to view the storm-ravaged coast, touring a shelter for residents who lost everything.
OBAMA: The FEMA director is going to be -- he's here right now.
YELLIN: And walking a neighborhood among the hardest-hit. Among the surprises? A president not known for displaying affection certainly showed it this day.
OBAMA: We are going to help you get it all together, all right? I promise, promise. You're going to be OK.
YELLIN: And Governor Chris Christie, one of Mitt Romney's top campaign attack dogs...
CHRISTIE: Let's give you the plane ticket back to Chicago you have earned. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
YELLIN: ... went out of his way to burnish President Obama's leadership credentials.
CHRISTIE: He has sprung into action immediately to help get us those things while we were in the car riding together. I think this is our sixth conversation since the weekend, and it's -- it's been a great working relationship.
YELLIN: The storm's political math on the plus side for the president, acting as emergency responder in chief.
OBAMA: I instituted a 15-minute essentially rule on my team. You return everybody's phone calls in 15 minutes, whether it's the mayor's, governor's, county officials. If they need something, we figure out a way to say yes.
YELLIN: Demonstrating a well-funded federal government can help.
OBAMA: Part of the reason we are going to be able to respond quickly to all this is because they helped to make sure that FEMA financing was in place.
YELLIN: And leaving aside campaign jabs for post-crisis unity.
OBAMA: You see neighbors helping neighbors, then you're reminded about what America's all about.
YELLIN: On the downside? If power isn't restored for hundreds of thousands of Americans, they could vent their frustration at the ballot box, and no one knows how the storm will impact turnout on Election Day in a state hit by Sandy or in the rest of the country watching this tragedy unfold.
(on camera): Political observers initially said the storm could hurt President Obama by depressing the early vote in battleground states. But the battleground states hit by the storm, New Hampshire and Virginia, don't worry in-person early voting, not really a concern for the Obama campaign.
As for depressing turnout on Election Day, well, the storm could affect that. But the states hardest-hit by the storm are blue states, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. And even with a depressed turnout, they are likely to go for President Obama anyway.
Jessica Yellin, CNN, the White House.
COOPER: Well, here with the Hoboken mayor, Dawn Zimmer.
What a difference a day makes. Last night, the National Guard had yet to arrive. And the mayor wasn't shy about letting our Gary Tuchman know about it. Here is what she said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAWN ZIMMER, MAYOR OF HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY: I'm asking for the National Guard to come in. We're desperate for the National Guard to come in.
We need their specialized equipment to be able to get through our city streets to be able to safely get to people and to be able to evacuate those that absolutely need to be evacuated.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ... for the National Guard.
ZIMMER: I have been asking them. There is a chain of command with the state and we have been going through...
ZIMMER: They are coming, they are coming, they are coming, but they are not here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was last night. We heard that around 8:00.
It was shortly after you got word that the Guard was coming. In fact, they arrived about 1:00 a.m. or so. How are things now? How are things today?
ZIMMER: Well, we really appreciate that -- Governor Christie working to make sure that the National Guard came in, and actually I got a call from the White House, and really appreciate.
There were some miscommunications that happened. But President Obama has really focused on making sure that if there is miscommunication, he wants to know about. So really appreciate that we have that option now to really reach out and if we do need additional resources, which we absolutely do, and we're going to be making sure that we get the resources that the city of Hoboken needs.
COOPER: What is the greatest need right now? Because there's still -- last time we talked on the phone, a lot over the last couple of days, at the time, there was about 50 percent of Hoboken was underwater. How much now, do you think?
ZIMMER: It's hard to say. It is receding. So maybe it's still a third of Hoboken is underwater and there are still people that can't get out of their homes. And we have been going around today. The first priority was medical emergencies.
But as we go around and focus on the seniors and people with young children, you know, there is food. We need more food, we need more water, we need more resources coming in. And, you know, so anyone who wants to make a donation can drop it off at Hoboken High School here in Hoboken Eighth and Clinton street. Like, we really appreciate those donations.
COOPER: We have also been seeing -- our correspondent who was here earlier today -- I saw a lot of volunteers. We saw three guys out with ski polls trying to just kind of clear out some of the drainage to let the water drain out. That has got to be very heartening to see.
ZIMMER: It's amazing.
The volunteers have been absolutely amazing. And actually I was out with a team of volunteers tonight, and were just going through, knocking on doors, checking on seniors, especially the seniors that are up on the 10th floor of a building, the hallway is dark, they just can't get downstairs and they can't climb all of the stairs.
And so we were going around, checking in on them, making sure they had food, and bringing them water. And so that's what we need. We need even more teams of volunteers making sure that we are going to every single building. Even in the areas that aren't flooded, we need to make sure to check in on our residents that really need us right now as we get through this power outage. That's what we're focused on.
COOPER: And of course the question you're probably getting all day long, which is -- and we have been getting it here too -- is how quickly you think power could be restored? Any idea?
ZIMMER: That's the question the day. Yes, I mean, the estimates are a little scary. Seven to 10 days is what PSEG is telling us.
But we're working to make sure -- part of the issue for us is that we need to get the water -- two of our pump stations are flooded, so actually really appreciate the support we're getting from the county. They are coming in right now as we speak. United Water has come in with an additional pump and we're working to put together a plan to actually pump out the water from around the substation.
Hoping that can alleviate it, and so we can get PSEG in to repair our substations, because that's of course a lot of the city of Hoboken.
COOPER: Well, I know you have been working around the clock. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Thank you very much.
ZIMMER: All right. Thank you.
COOPER: Thanks very much. I would shake your hand, but it's been in water. It's all dirty.
ZIMMER: That's OK.
COOPER: You should use some Purell or something on that hand now that you have touched me. Thank you so much, Mayor.
ZIMMER: All right. Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, we are going to speak to a former New York City firefighter who lost his home in that devastating fire that claimed even more homes than we first believed, the flames fanned by the powerful winds of Sandy. We will be right back.
COOPER: We learned today that the giant fire that devastated the New York City community of Breezy Point, which we have been covering now for days, was even more destructive than first believed.
Fire officials upped the number of homes destroyed to 110. Those flames were fanned by the gale-force winds of Sandy as it pounded the region.
Today, search and rescue teams scoured the debris, checking for victims. I'm joined on the phone by Matt Long, a former New York firefighter who lost his home in that fire. It's a miracle he's alive after -- after this disaster. And in 2005, he amazingly survived another brush with death. He was nearly killed when his bike was hit by a 20-ton bus and sucked underneath it. This is a man who is literally one of New York's ultimate survivors.
Appreciate you being with us. I'm so sorry for your loss. How are you holding up?
MATT LONG, LOST HOME TO FIRE: Thanks, Anderson. You know, we're doing as well as can be expected.
COOPER: I know you went back home after the fire. Is there anything that was salvageable?
LONG: No, not at all. My -- my street, Dartmore (ph), was right in the middle of the burn zone, pretty much, and everything was pretty much disintegrated.
COOPER: I was told that when you went back, you were looking for something special. What was it?
LONG: Well, my wife and I went back the next day, and we were digging around, hoping to find something. And -- and just before we were ready to leave, we looked down where the flowerbed used to be, and the girls -- our two young girls, Grace and Emily, had stones with their handprints and names on them in the flower bed. And I saw one of the purple stones through the soot. I scraped it off and dug it out. And then we looked and we found the other one, for Emily and brought them home to the girls.
COOPER: Wow. That's good. Something you can never replace that. We spoke with your father last night. He said it looked like warplanes had come through and just destroyed the neighborhood. Have you thought about what you're going to do now? I mean, how do you -- what is the first step? How do you begin to rebuild?
LONG: Well, I think something of this magnitude is going to take some time before people can really decide what they're going to do as far as rebuilding.
No doubt, Breezy Point and Rockaway has proven time after time, unfortunately, after 9/11 and then after the plane crash two months after September 11, that it's a community of faithful people and people that believe in where they come from. So they're going to rebuild, find a way, and I'll be right there with them.
COOPER: Yes. Well, again, our thoughts are with you and your family and everyone from Breezy Point who's suffering tonight. And Breezy Point will not be forgotten. Nor will Seaside Heights, New Jersey, or Atlantic City.
Matt, I appreciate you being with us.
Also Toms River where Michael Holmes witnessed the destruction up close. Michael is there now. Michael, you got a firsthand look at the New Jersey's barrier islands today. What was that like? What did you see?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we were one of the first ones in there among the media anyway, Anderson. And what we saw was pretty shocking, actually.
We expected it to be bad, and we'd heard from some of the first responders who'd been in there that it was bad, but it was extraordinary. One of the first things that we saw driving through was an entire intact house in the middle of a street. And it literally had been just blown off and forced off by the water off its foundation and put about 30 yards away from those foundations.
The other extraordinary thing, we were standing there looking down a road at something else, and I noticed what I thought was a puddle of water. In fact, it was a sinkhole that had a full-sized pickup in it that you could barely see above the waterline.
These are the sorts of things that greeted the first responders, as well. Houses that are just collapsed onto themselves, obviously, that have been blown off their foundations, others that did not look at first blush to be badly damaged, but then you saw they were twisted. The frame was twisted. So a lot of the houses that don't look too bad are going to have to be pulled down anyway. It's tens and tens of millions of dollars.
The other thing we noted as soon as we got up here was the smell of natural gas. I mean, you could hear it hissing from the wreckage of the houses. And there were numerous fires all over the island.
Then we went to one place called Brick, where there was an area the size of probably three or four football fields just leveled and blackened and the fire still burning. That was an area that used to have dozens of houses on it. It's just quite an extraordinary almost surreal thing. As you know, I've been to a lot of war zones, and you looked down a couple of streets and it looked like, you know, Iraq after a battle had taken place with all the detritus around it and the damage and cars and various states of disrepair.
It was quite an emotional thing for the first responders, too. The Toms Rivers police have done such an incredible job getting out there early and quickly to help people. They were the ones showing us around.
And the police chief, a 40-year vet, said he'd never seen anything like this.
We talked to some of the locals who'd stayed through the hurricane and regretted doing so. One poignant one, it was a man who had a wife that had Alzheimer's. And he said he only stayed because she felt more comfortable in familiar surroundings, and he looked back and said he wished he'd left, as well.
So obviously, a lot of clearing up to be done. It has started. We've seen about 30 or 40 frontend loaders going there, and while we were there, they were starting to scoop the sand off the streets. Because those dunes that were probably 12 feet high, they're gone. The ocean just blew through them, and the sand is three or four blocks inside the townships. And they're going to have to get rid of that as -- the destruction is just almost complete -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. So much -- so much work to be done. Michael, appreciate it.
Generations of Americans, not just people from New Jersey, have memories of summers along the Jersey shore, especially at the amusement parks. Want to show you what is left of the roller coaster in Seaside Heights. It's nice sitting in the Atlantic Ocean, and the boardwalk is gone.
Joining me now, Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers.
Mayor, I know your community is devastated, and that's a word we've heard a lot. But it certainly applies for your community. What's the latest information you have about the response effort and the safety of your residents?
BILL AKERS, MAYOR OF SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY (via phone): We had a -- a big meeting today with the state police and the chiefs of police from the other towns that are affected by this, also emergency response people, OEM.
And we're going to be doing a final door-to-door tomorrow at 8 a.m. We'll be knocking on the doors. Anybody that is left, we need to get them out of the town as we get closer to getting any kind of services -- utilities, whether it be electric, or the water/sewer, turned back on, we need, for their safety, with all the issues, we don't know what's going to happen as we start going back online. It probably within the next three -- three to ten days, so that's going to be the first thing we do.
COOPER: Do you have -- do you have... AKENS: Go ahead, sir.
COOPER: Do you have any sense of the scope of the destruction at this point? I mean, the number of houses or lives affected? Any sense really?
AKENS: You know, I -- I've tried to -- I was watching it as I was wading through what's to do and other sheriffs that the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was going on. And I don't see a lot of people..
Police kind enough to provide videos, the overhead videos you see. I walked that through, and you can see the pilings are gone, the foundation of the houses, the aerial views don't do justice to what we're seeing on the ground, and what people are going to have to come back to and deal with.
It's more than I ever thought I would see. You can prepare for it. You think you know. And when you go through it, you just don't. You absolutely don't.
COOPER: Yes, and those aerial pictures, I mean, I've seen them now so many times. I still -- it's hard to kind of wrap your mind around it. It's just the scale of it is kind of mind boggling.
And so many -- so many people have mentioned the special spirit of your community and the memories that they have of it, and for not only people of New Jersey, but visitors from all around the country and the world. What do you want people to know about your residents, around Seaside Heights?
AKERS: I think that the best thing is the best part of Seaside Heights is left intact, with are the great individuals that we have out there, working hard to first secure the community, get the community back online. The police department, the fire department, the responders, the first aid department, all of the volunteers. You know, by the grace of God, they weren't touched. They're here.
We're going to rebuild. We're going to be back. We are going to be different. There's no question about it, we will be different, but we'll be Seaside Heights. And we'll open our arms again to anyone that comes, the well-wishers from around the world.
And you're right: it's amazing, as I said, the chief of police and the texts that come over the lines from people that have been here and have been touched by the Heights in one way or another that are sending us so many wonderful thoughts and prayers. And I guess that's what keeps you going. You get tired at the end of the day, which you know, you get a little bit of sleep and you know what you're doing. You know it's going to be a good thing. But it's just a long way off. I just don't know when.
COOPER: Yes. I know I and a lot of people look forward to visiting that boardwalk when it's up again and the businesses are back and -- and the community is back, as it will be.
Mayor Akers, we wish you the best. And we'll talk to you in the days ahead. Thank you.
AKERS: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: Up next, a giant crane still hangs 1,000 feet above a midtown Manhattan street, around 57th Street. Another casualty of the storm. We're going to hear from an expert on how to make the dangerous situation much safer.
COOPER: Hey, good evening. We're coming to you live -- live from the city of Hoboken, New Jersey. At an intersection that's still flooded with water very close to city hall.
There have been a lot of obviously terrifying moments in the storm for people. One of the most terrifying for New Yorkers was the arm of a construction crane on top of a high rise, swung backward, broke in the high winds of the storm. The massive metal boom was left dangling 1,000 feet over midtown. Police have cordoned off several blocks. A lot of people were evacuated from surrounding buildings.
Well, tonight that arm is still dangling, that boom with the crane. You're looking at a live shot of the crane just a couple of blocks from CNN.
Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that engineers have determined the crane is securely fastened to the building. He also said that they're going to have to construct another crane on top of the building in order to take down the broken one.
I spoke earlier with Richard Graham, a crane and construction expert and owner of Diamondback Hoist and Rigging.
COOPER: Mr. Graham, I appreciate you being with us.
So the city now says the boom of that crane is secured. Clearly not to the point that authorities are going to let people back in the area. It's still cordoned off. But perhaps more secure than it was. There are still a number of variables in all of this. What do you make of the situation? I mean, how safe is this?
RICHARD GRAHAM, DIAMONDBACK HOIST AND RIGGING (via phone): Well, hopefully, the city engineers have inspected the upper pile (ph) assembly, which in effect is holding the entire crane in the air. If that point -- if that's secure, the next No. 2 item would be securing the boom itself to prevent that from detaching or falling to the ground.
COOPER: And the only way to get this thing down is basically to build another crane, a second crane on top of the tower to dismantle the first one? Is that correct?
GRAHAM: That's correct, Anderson. Typically what would happen, a derrick would be assembled and attached to the building itself. And that derrick would, in turn, dismantle the power crane and remove the damaged components or possibly replace them or remove the entire tower crane.
COOPER: What do you think happened here? I mean, was this just an error of somebody -- because usually cranes kind of weather vane, and that's how they are able to last through these high winds. What was the mistake here?
GRAHAM: It's hard to say looking at the video. All electric tower cranes have a weather vane function. Some of these weather crane functions are electrically controlled, which means we're relying on electricity to complete that function.
Possibly the weather vane function was not releasing the brakes of the crane as it should have been. Looking at the video, the boom itself was pointed up wind toward the wind. Had the crane been rotated 180 degrees in the opposite direction, we probably wouldn't have this conversation now. I don't think there would be any damage at all.
COOPER: Right. Well, it's still creating havoc in midtown around 57th Street, because that whole area is cordoned off. There's a lot of traffic all around there, traffic jams all day long, and also, people are still evacuated from the surrounding buildings.
Richard Graham, appreciate your expertise and you talking to us.
COOPER: That part of midtown thankfully sits on fairly high ground. Not so obviously, as we've seen, up and down the Jersey shore. Belmar, New Jersey, underwater. Yet all that water has not been able to dampen the spirits of the people who live there, as Randi Kaye found out firsthand.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If ever this Belmar, New Jersey, neighborhood needed an angel, they found one. They call him St. Michael here. His real name is Michael Irwin. For the last two days, he's been boating people to and from their homes, working 12-hour shifts.
MICHAEL IRWIN, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: There's a couple people that had to get out of our neighborhood. A couple of our neighbors, Ron and pat, we got out and their dog. Chuck, we got out and his dog, Lucky. And there's a couple of other people we have portaged out and, you know, other families, make sure they get to dry land.
KAYE: Lucky for his neighbors, Michael is a surfer and a kayaker, so he had a wet suit. He was also a Boy Scout, so he says he's always prepared.
(on camera) This area is known as the Eighth Avenue neighborhood, and the water that we're in right now, this is normally a street, an avenue -- is about 4 feet deep. So luckily, most of the residents, not all of them, but most of them did evacuate before Hurricane Sandy even hit.
(voice-over) Irene McCann evacuated to her son's house. But now that she's returned, she needs Michael's help to reach her home.
(on camera) How much damage is in your house?
IRENE MCCANN, RESIDENT: We're pretty high up. It's almost to our porch. We have a very tall, high porch. We're right down on the corner here. The house with the red trim down there. And it's right up the cellar's gone. Hot water heater, furnace, everything gone. My husband's tools, everything.
KAYE (voice-over): This is a tight-knit community, where neighbors help neighbors. Even the councilman, Brian McGovern, came by in his kayak to see how everyone is doing.
BRIAN MCGOVERN, COUNCILMAN: Situation is the worst I've ever seen it. I've lived in Belmar for 60 years. Nothing's ever come close. At 8, I called to my wife and said, "What's that white stuff in the lake?" And it was a wave. And then pretty soon, in the next couple of minutes, our house was inundated by the water.
KAYE: And Michael has his own troubles, too.
IRWIN: When it came, like 7 or something like that. Within a half an hour, we were flooded.
KAYE: He took us by kayak to his house.
(on camera) This is your house here behind us?
IRWIN: Right there.
KAYE: Are we in your front lawn?
IRWIN: In my front lawn. We're in my driveway.
KAYE: So your front lawn, your driveway is right -- you're standing in it.
KAYE: You're also in about three feet water.
IRWIN: I'm in about four feet of water, yes.
KAYE (voice-over): Michael says he has about six feet of water in his house, no power or heat. Which is no surprise, considering the amount of water here.
Ocean Avenue is just a few blocks away, and the ocean dumped water into nearby Silver Lake, which overflowed into Michael's neighborhood. One look at this submerged car, and you can see the water won't be receding any time soon.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Randi Kaye joins us now.
Randi, I just want you to know. Behind us, you can see one of the National Guard vehicles. There are several dozen vehicles here that they've been using to patrol through the community here in Hoboken and rescue people. They've rescued more than 350 people in the last 24 hours since they've been here.
In terms of where you are, Randi, Belmar, any idea when that neighborhood might get some relief?
KAYE: Well, actually, Anderson, just before our live hit here, we saw a member of the National Guard come by, asked us if we needed anything. He was checking on the neighborhood. They certainly are looking for relief very soon. It's cold here. They don't have any power. They don't have any heat, and that is because of all this water that's still sitting here behind me. Even tonight, it's still about four feet deep.
And it's not going anywhere, because as I mentioned, Ocean Avenue just about two stop signs down, and the water isn't going away with the low tide. It's just sitting here.
So tomorrow, the good news is, they're going to bring in these massive pumps that can pump out like 40,000 to 60,000 gallons of water per minute. They're going to get started on that. Hopefully, that will bring the water out, get it to recede a bit. And then they can come in and start to work on the power, which they hope will be up and running again in about a week, Anderson.
COOPER: Randi, appreciate that.
The water here in this intersection in Hoboken where I've been has actually been going down just in the couple of hours that we've been here. You still find very strange things and a lot of photographs actually floating around. There's a photograph of three friends, it looks like, having fun at a party.
There's also fish, if you can believe it or not, swimming around my feet, about three- or four-inch fish, very strange what you find in this water.
When we come back, we want to honor the victims and the survivors of Sandy, the names of the people that we know so far and some of their stories. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Every storm is to some extent a random act of brutality. One house is spared, another is crushed. One block seems to have electricity, another block has none.
This is a story that is still unfolding. It's a story of people who escaped death narrowly, and some were not so lucky. It's a story that's unfolding of life, and death, and chance.
COOPER (voice-over): Jessie Streich-Kest and her close friend Jacob Vogelman, were out for what her family says was a quick walk in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn Monday night. They were walking her dog Max.
Neighbors say an enormous tree suddenly was uprooted by the force of the storm and pinned them both beneath its weight. Their bodies weren't discovered until early yesterday morning.
Jessie was the daughter of John Kest, the executive director of a New York City advocacy group, New York Communities for Change. On its Web site today, Jessie was eulogized as an amazing young woman. She was just 24 years old. Her dog, Max, was hurt but survived.
Lauren Abraham was a makeup artist, also 24. In her Queens neighborhood, Richmond Hill, the storm brought down a power line, and it began to spark. The streets were drenched with rain, and somehow Lauren touched the line, according to police. Rescuers were unable to reach her for half an hour.
On the flood-ravaged streets of Staten Island, an off-duty police officer began taking his family to safety from inside his home. Twenty-eight-year-old Arthur Kasprzak faced floodwaters racing into his house. According to an official police account, he'd taken seven people, including a 15-month-old from the attic to safety and was going back in to check the basement. He never came out. His body was recovered 12 hours later.
And as those same floodwaters surged through Staten Island streets, an absolutely horrific event unfolded. According to "The New York Daily News," a mother had managed to unstrap her two children, Brandon, age 2, and Connor, age 4, from their car seats as the water hit their SUV. Police would only confirm to CNN that the two children are missing.
The mother's sister told us that the mom knocked on doors for help but was turned away.
But there were hundreds of rescues throughout the storm that led to happier endings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, your pier is going to be right there.
COOPER: In northern Virginia, this little girl was inside an apartment building when the roof blew off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did it sound like when that roof blew off?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounded like it was cracking. Like...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, very scary. Did you have any idea what was happening?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like the fire department came and knocked and told to us evacuate because the roof was going to fall, and then I -- then I started getting scared and started hurrying up and packing.
COOPER: Well, we're really just starting to learn the names of some of the people whose lives have -- have been lost over the last several days. In the days ahead, we hope to learn more, and we hope to be able to bring you their stories, to honor the lives they lived and the lives that we've lost. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Thank you for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.