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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

U.S. East Coast Begins Clean-up in Wake of Sandy; Interview with Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford; Interview with Elijah Cummings; Some NYC Subways, Buses Back Today; NYC's Bellevue Hospital Evacuated; Diesel Spill In New Jersey; Another Meningitis Related Recall; Autism Study; Giants On Parade; Superstorm Sandy: Victims' Stories; Dangling Crane Secured To Building; Thousands Trapped In Hoboken, New Jersey

Aired November 1, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning: recovery. It's been three days since Sandy walloped the East Coast, killing at least 56 people in the United States. Nearly 5 million people remain without power and the temperatures are dropping.

Parts of the transportation system are back on track now, just before rush hour in New York City. But a gridlock nightmare is still expected and people could walk for hours just to get to work.

And then there's this: another one of New York's major hospitals is rushing patients out as we speak. The backup generator has failed there.

And we're just five days away from the presidential election. The president and Mitt Romney both hitting the swing states with new polls out, showing it's a close call.

It's Thursday, November 1st, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

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O'BRIEN: Morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, the aftermath of the super-storm. New York City slowly getting back to normal this morning, but no heat, no power, gas running low, bumper to bumper traffic. Patience is being tested. Some subways are running again this morning, so many are buses. Fares free today as workers are trying to keep the financial heart of the country beating. Rob Marciano this morning at the Brooklyn Bridge for us. Hey, Rob, good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad. There'll be a lot of foot traffic once again over this bridge. And if you are in a car, you'll need at least three people in that vehicle. Carpooling is going to be the call today, because yesterday, there was absolute gridlock across the city. We didn't have much in the way of bus lines running. These subways were still shut down. All the people that would typically travel underground were trying to get to work aboveground. And boy, some places, there was chaos. I mean, people pushing and shoving, just to try to get on a bus. Many buses that were traveling past 10th and 14th street weren't even stopping, because they were already full. So hopefully they get more buses up and running today. Cabs will have to double up. The tunnels into the city are still shut down, except for one. They've got to pump the water out. Subways north of 34th street will be up and running today. Hopefully that will alleviate some of the problems.

Of course, the power downtown, where we are for the most part is still out. We're day three. Con Ed says it will probably be day four before we start to get power up and running here. Outside the cities, the outer boroughs, could be ten plus days. But in the inner city, when you're talking about people that live in mid to high-rise buildings, in some cases are not healthy or are mobile, there are issues when we get into this. I caught up with one gentleman who was having his own health problems, just trying to get down some stairs yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe even more sicker than I am, I'm trying to make it to the first floor, with all the stuff that I've, thanks to my fiancee. I'm out of breath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: In many of these buildings, the water is pumped by electricity. So there's no water. They're getting water, yesterday, at some of the fire hydrants locally and lugging them up in five- gallon tanks. It's going to be a matter of survival the next several days as some of those elderly people web especially, need to get down to some of those supplies.

And on top of that, with the power out, obviously not much in the way of heat. And temperatures will drop over the weekend into the 30s in the city and near freezing outside of the city, where there's still, what, over 4 million people without power. So, surviving the cold during overnight hours the next several days will be a matter at hand as well.

O'BRIEN: Oh, that's such brutal news. And it's so creepy, if you go up in the top of these apartment buildings, it's dark and cold and creepy and scary for people who are up there. I'll tell everybody, follow Rob Marciano on twitter. He's got one of the best twitter accounts @robmarcianoCNN. He's awesome.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie putting mandatory restrictions on water usage in the state, no washing cars, no watering lawns. Governor Christie says that power outages have strained the state's water treatment system.

In Hoboken, which is right across the river from New York city, the lower part of the city, workers have managed to drain those filthy floodwaters. They thought maybe they were filled with sewage and bacteria and gasoline. This had been keeping almost half of the city's residents trapped inside their homes. Let's get right to Bob Van Dillen. The National Guard is there, right, Bob? They're helping with rescues and helping with supplies too.

BOB VAN DILLEN, HLN METEOROLOGIST: Indeed, Soledad. Good morning to you. A different story this morning from yesterday. The National Guard is still here, but yesterday morning, everybody were in their trucks. The trucks are still here, but they're not idling and I haven't seen a single National Guard troop and all the roads dry. The evacuations, they have essentially ceased. That's the good news. But the bad news is the power is still out and people obviously are getting a little bit cold. Temperatures right now down into the 40s.

Yesterday morning, this was also a staging area where I was standing, Got some people get loaded out, saw some families. I talked to one particular guy, here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRASHANT GABODIA, EVACUEE: One night without food, water, without electricity. So we had to leave, no matter what. So we had no milk, so we just have to leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN DILLEN: A cute little guy too. That was really the story for about everybody. They were running out of supplies, essentially, and didn't want to wade into chest-deep to waist-deep water, because it's filled with sewage, even petroleum floating around there, even debris, it was plain old dangerous. Everybody's safe at this point, but the power's still out, that's the worst part, and obviously, gas lines are huge in jersey. That's the next concern.

O'BRIEN: A big, big problem. Bob Van Dillen is a meteorologist with Headline News, helping us out this morning. We appreciate it.

And the National Guard troops working tirelessly, not only carrying oil for generators up 13 flights of stairs in one example, but also carrying patients out of New York city's flagship public hospital, Bellevue hospital center, to transfer about 725 patients began yesterday. 260 who remain, and they should be moved by noon today, we're told. Sandy knocked out the hospital's power, flooding then wiped out the fuel pumps in the basement, which were supposed to be fueling the generators. Bottom of the hour, we'll talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's got a live report for us from Bellevue.

John's got a lack at some of the other stories making news this morning. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad. This morning, people in Breezy Point in Queens are literally picking up the pieces of their lives. At least 110 neighborhood homes the burned in that massive fire during sandy. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo toured the devastation yesterday. He spoke to victims and promised them the tight-knit community will rebuild.

We have some new developments is on stories we've been following this morning. The University of Southern California has lifted a lockdown it put in place following a late-night shooting at a campus Halloween party. The school department of public safety says shots were fired following an argument between two men last night at USC's main campus in Los Angeles. One of the men was critically wounded. Another three people were also shot. Their injuries, not life threatening. Two suspects are now in custody.

On the road again, President Obama and Mitt Romney return to the campaign trail today with just five days left until Election Day. The president hits three battleground states, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada. The White House says the president will be briefed on details of the federal response to sandy, a day after he witnessed the devastation and promised to cut through all the red tape. Mitt Romney makes several campaign stops today in the swing state of Virginia.

And there is more evidence at just how close this presidential race really is. A "Wall Street Journal"/NBC news/Marist poll of three battleground state shows President Obama with a six-point lead over mitt Romney in Iowa, a three-point lead in Wisconsin, and a two-point lead in New Hampshire. Just five days left.

O'BRIEN: It is so interesting to watch this as we get to that deadline. It's so fascinating. John, thank you very much.

Back to our STARTING POINT this morning, it's day three of that fallout from super-storm sandy -- millions of people without power in their homes. And as John mentioned, they're literally trying to pick up the pieces that remain from their homes, the pieces of their lives. Yesterday the president and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey toured the destruction on the Jersey shore right near Atlantic City.

Lorenzo Langford is the mayor of Atlantic City joins us this morning. Let's talk specifically, sir, and thanks for joining us this morning, about the damage that's happened to Atlantic City. You have the iconic boardwalk, you have the casinos, you have lots of hotels. Fill me in on how Atlantic City is faring.

MAYOR LORENZO LANGFORD, (D) ATLANTIC CITY: Well, let me tell you that the boardwalk did suffer some major damage, but property can be replaced. The good news is in Atlantic City and in Atlantic county, that there was only one fatality. And when I say "only," I don't mean to minimize that fatality, one is too many, but given the catastrophic nature of this storm, I think we were blessed and spared that on the human side in terms of loss, there was one fatality and no real serious bodily injury to report.

On the property side, a much different story. There is catastrophic damage all through the Atlantic City, particularly on the boardwalk.

O'BRIEN: As often is the case, I think some of the poorest neighborhoods got the worst damage. So where do those folks go? When you see those pictures, people can't inhabit those homes and probably can't for a long time. What's happening to those people?

LANGFORD: Well, we did have 30,000 of our residents heed the warning to evacuate the island voluntarily. Another 2,600 had to be relocated and evacuated through city services. Our priority right now is trying to relocate those 2,600 people back into their humble abodes. But most of those people were housed in shelters off the island.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the financial impact. You know, casinos bring in a lot of money. The fact that they're not up and running, not even to mention the damage to repair them, but not up and running, at last got to cost you, must be losing a lot of money for your city.

LANGFORD: Yes, I'm sure. And obviously it's too premature to determine what the financial impact of all of this will be, both with respect to commerce and to the damage that's been sustained.

O'BRIEN: Governor Chris Christie, I know you guys had a back and forth, a little bit of fighting while this storm was unfolding, but here's what he said when he was doing the tour yesterday with President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: For all of you that are here, I met a bunch of you today at Brigantine, with disregarded my admonition, to get the hell out of here, you know? You are forgiven this time, but not for much longer. We've got to make sure. When you all look around and see all this destruction, that's fine. But all of that stuff can be replaced. When you look to your right or your left, your husband or wife, your son or your daughter, those are the things that can't be replaced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I know there's been a rift between the two of you, you and the governor. You've got a lot of work to do in your state, massive damage there. Are you moving past this or are you still fighting?

LANGFORD: First of all, I think it's reprehensible for the governor to spew the rhetoric that he did based on falsehoods. The governor made a statement that just simply was not true when he said that I countermanded his order.

But an interesting thing developed yesterday when they toured Brigantine. Brigantine is a community north of us that's part of the same island that Atlantic City sits on. And he said, the governor said that they had just left a shelter, so the city of Brigantine had a shelter on the island. So not only did some of the residents not decide to heed the warning, but, more importantly, the officials in brigantine set up a shelter. So what the governor falsely accused me of doing actually happened in Brigantine, and yet they're being jovial about it. That's a double standard, and I think the people can see for themselves what's really going on here.

O'BRIEN: So spell that out for me. What's really going on here, then?

LANGFORD: As I said, you've got one community that's rather affluent, and who the officials denied the governor's order and set up their own shelter. You have another city that's an urban area, where we heeded the call, parodied the message that the governor sent, which was for everybody to evacuate. The governor then falsely accused us of not heeding his warning, yet everything in brigantine is hunky-dory.

O'BRIEN: So double standard between affluent and not particularly affluent, is that what you're saying?

LANGFORD: You be the judge.

O'BRIEN: Lorenzo Langford joining us this morning. Thank you for your time, sir, we appreciate it.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, John was just talking about those poll numbers. It's anybody's game about what's going to happen come Tuesday. We'll take a closer look at the crucial battleground states, just five days until the election. We'll also talk about what the numbers mean for President Obama with Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings. He's our guest, up next. Plus, images of Sandy's wrath continue to pour in. These boats wound up far where they're supposed to be, in someone's front yard. We'll have details on that.

Christine, what's business looking like today?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Sandy will cost billions to clean up across a number of states, but New York City alone has an astronomical Bill. We'll break down the numbers and what you can expect to pay and be reimbursed from insurance. STARTING POINT is back after this.

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ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, I'm Christine Romans Minding your Business. The jobs report for October will not be delayed because of sandy. It will be released at 8:30 a.m. eastern time tomorrow. That jobless rate is forecast to rise slightly to 7.9 percent.

U.S. stock markets reopened yesterday after being closed two days. And they closed mixed on the day. Home Depot and Lowe's both rose, no surprise there. This morning U.S. stock futures are trading mixed. There are several key economic reports today. Jobless claims, construction spending, auto sales, and we're getting a lot of earnings. So a lot going on in markets, even as investors in people's 401(k)s are trying to dig out. And it's costing New York City $200 million a day in permanently lost economic activity.

O'BRIEN: What are you adding up there?

ROMANS: That's all the lost business, and that's not even counting, I think, the damage that's going to have to be fixed. This is lost economic activity. This is according to the New York City comptroller's office. Businesses, of course, scrambling for fuels, for cars, for generators. Logistics are a mess, employees are displaced, customers are displaced, lost productivity, business not getting done, contracts being lost. You get it.

O'BRIEN: Not even cleanup numbers yet.

ROMANS: Not even cleanup yet.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, thanks for that update.

Politics, in some ways, have taken a backseat to the disaster over the last few days, but there are only five days to go until the election, and the campaign trail is heating up once again. The president hasn't campaigned since Saturday, but today he's got three stops planned in Wisconsin, in Colorado, and in Nevada. Governor Romney has events that are planned today in Virginia. I want to get right to Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings. Nice to see you, sir.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Talk to me about Maryland. How are you faring and how is your district faring in Baltimore and outside of Baltimore post-Sandy.

CUMMINGS: We're doing pretty good. We were not hit as hard as a lot of other areas. And certainly our prayers go out to those residents in those states. And you know, we're doing everything in our power to help our residents. But things are going fairly well in Baltimore and the surrounding area.

O'BRIEN: So we just talked about the campaign heating up again. And if you look at a poll from ABC News/"Washington Post," the question was, likely voters' views to the response to hurricane sandy, president Obama was excellent or good, 78 percent, not so good or poor, eight percent, 15 percent no opinion. Governor Romney, excellent/good 44 percent, poor/not so good at 21 percent, no opinion was relatively high, about 35 percent for the governor. Mark Preston, who is CNN's political analyst, says he thinks that the president's handling of this disaster will lead directly to more votes for him. Do you agree?

CUMMINGS: I think it's quite possible. The president is doing what the president does best. I mean, you've heard Governor Christie say that he had talked to the president six times, and when he got together with him, he could feel the compassion that he felt over the phone. And that says a lot. Here we have two men, who truly care about their country, coming together. And I think that's basically what America wants. They're tired, Soledad, of all the bickering and nothing getting done. And the fact is that they came together, and I think that the president has taken the appropriate action. I'm very impressed.

O'BRIEN: Let's take a look at the battleground states and the polls that comes from "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC/Marist. President Obama in Iowa 50 percent, Governor Romney 44 percent, in Wisconsin, President Obama at 49 percent, Governor Romney at 46 percent, in New Hampshire, President Obama at 49 percent, Governor Romney at 47 percent. So the good news is that's a lead for President Obama from the Democratic are perspective. The bad news is he's been dropping. In Iowa, that lead was eight points, now it's six. In Wisconsin, that lead is now three points, it was six. New Hampshire, it was a seven- point lead, it's now two. So if you actually map it, it's shrinking very dramatically five days left until the election. Are you worried about that trend? You must be.

CUMMINGS: Not at all, not at all. We had always anticipated that there would be a very, very close race. But I think, basically, what it's going to boil down to is who do we trust. And I think the polling will show that the American people trust this president. I think when you've got a situation where the president is either basically tired or leading in all of these battleground states, you've got -- just the eyes will tell you that some of them are going to come out in his favor, if not all.

But I think the president clearly, you've got to keep in mind, one of the things that Governor Romney has done is basically, he's decided to stop answering questions two to three weeks outside of the election. I mean, I've never heard of anything like that, while the president has made himself available to answer questions, to address any kind of issues that the public might be interested in. And so, basically, I see Romney basically rope-a-doping while the president is out there leading and facing issues head-on.

O'BRIEN: I'm not sure that's true. I think that both got a lot of criticism, and President Obama, certainly, for doing certain kinds of shows and not necessarily taking a lot of questions from reporters. There was a time when reporters here were frustrated that he would go on "The View" and not do interviews with reporters. So I'm going to disagree with you on that.

I want to ask you a question before we go, though. That campaigning, is it too soon for that? I know we're getting notes that the FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate, will be updating the president throughout the day. But the visuals, you've seen, are devastating. Every day, we learn more information about a new area, especially New Jersey, that's been absolutely devastated. Is it just too soon to be out there campaigning, for both men?

CUMMINGS: I think it all depends on how they do it. The president said yesterday that he is addressing this minute by minute, and I like the fact that he said that his folk had to get back to the mayors and the governors within 15 minutes. Clearly, I think he can do more than one thing at a time. Again, we're coming down toward the end of the election. I think they both have to make their cases and I don't see anything wrong with that.

O'BRIEN: Elijah Cummings, nice to see you. Appreciate your time this morning. You want to tune in Tuesday night for CNN's live coverage of election night in America. Our coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. eastern.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, take a look at this, a little girl very upset.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm tired of both Obama and Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Honey, us too, we really are tired of covering this story. We'll tell you about that really adorable video of that sad little girl, that's straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Our team this morning, Margaret Hoover, a former White House appointee in the Bush administration, nice to have you with us, Richard Socarides is former senior adviser to President Clinton. Ben Smith we're going to go ahead and introduce. He is stuck in traffic and, as you know, the traffic is so awful in New York City. I mean, it takes such a long time to even get across town or downtown, because, of course, with the subways only now getting back into service in a limited way, a huge problem. Ben, normally I would mock you for not getting to my show, but today I will not. We'll start with John Berman. He has a look at some of the stories making news.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, flights have resumed at New York's LaGuardia after a lot of disruption from Sandy. Look at these pictures. It's impressive they got it open today. New York City's other two major airports JFK and Newark/Liberty reopened yesterday morning. This doesn't mean everything is back to normal. All three airports are running at reduced schedules.

CNN iReporter George DuPont shot these stunning images in Connecticut. Both were just piled on top of each other at a boatyard on Bluff Avenue right near homes, practically on top of homes nearby. He's lived in the area for 30 years and says he's never seen anything like this. George actually traveled a couple towns over to send these pictures to us because he has no power.

The presidential election in the battle for the four-year-old vote, both candidates are actually losing right now. This little girl just can't wait for the election to be over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because I'm tired -- I'm tired of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why you're crying? Oh. It will be over soon, Abby. OK? The election will be over soon, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It will be over soon, Abby, in just five days. You don't have to listen to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney anymore.

O'BRIEN: I'm so feeling her pain, aren't you? Like, let it end.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: A child with no filter captures the sentiment of the American people.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I wonder if she's been watching STARTING POINT.

HOOVER: Clearly not. She would want it to keep going, on and on and on. (LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, another New York City hospital has been forced to evacuate after losing power. New developments this morning. We've got a live report with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That's coming up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT, in the city that never sleeps, trying to get moving again after the aftermath of Sandy. Some New York subways, most buses are up and running again this morning. They're free. That's good news.

The bad news is, it's limited service. There's a carpool requirement, three people per car, if you want to come into Manhattan. The Jersey shore, which has been battered beyond recognition, new heartbreaking pictures of the damage there this morning. Governor Chris Christie says, "The Jersey shore of my youth is gone."

And the storm's death toll now reaching 124 people, 56 in the United States, at least 28 in New York. Nearly 5 million customers are still waiting for power to come back on.

National Guard troops have been transferring more than 700 patients out of New York City's flagship public hospital, Bellevue Hospital Center. They're dealing with power outages after flooding wiped out the basement fuel pumps, which of course, power the generators.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been following the transfer since it began. He's at Bellevue this morning. Sanjay, good morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Good morning, Soledad. Let me just give you a little bit of background here. I think that the evacuations over here are complete, if not nearly complete.

You see a few ambulances coming in here. Just a short time ago, we saw the National Guard about 50 troops come out and walk out to talk to them a bit. They said their job inside the hospital was done.

So I think the evacuations are probably near complete, ahead of schedule. It's been a very busy couple of days, Soledad. We talked a little bit about this yesterday. But simply trying to keep those generators running, that required a lot of work.

Because those fuel pumps were not working, there were essentially these bucket brigades, up 12 flights of stairs. People taking up fuel to these generators, it requires about 40 gallons an hour. That's what was going on, to keep Bellevue sort of up and running to the extent that it was.

Once they realized that these fuel pumps were really beyond repair, that's when they announced, officially, that the evacuation, which as you mentioned, began yesterday, 700 some patients, to all these various hospitals around the city.

I should point out one thing, Soledad. I was talking to some of these ambulance drivers here this morning. These ambulances come from all over the country. There's sort of this national resource network that comes together.

So from Nevada, from California, Texas, Ohio, they come here to do exactly what they're doing, transport patients in situations like this -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I was told by a friend who was in the hospital that the ambulance she was transported out of, she was taken out of NYU Langone, she said, from Ohio, and they were prepositioned before the storm by FEMA and she felt it went very well I should mention.

So NYU Langone which is the one we talked about earlier where there is evacuation is actually right next to Bellevue. They're right, very close to the water, a block from the water.

I want to bring in, Sanjay, Dr. Irwin Redlener. He's the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness and a professor at Columbia University, the school of public health there.

You and I have talked a lot about hospitals in the wake of Katrina. Why do people put the power in the basement? It seems to me the first thing that's going to go in a flood or any kind of, not even a major a storm, but a minor storm, is your basement's going to flood.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, M.D., DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Well, this has been a little bit of a technological whack-a-mole here, because we realized years ago after Katrina, and also even after the blackout of 2003, we had to do something about functioning generators, backup generators in hospitals.

But it ended up that we moved the generators upstairs, but left the fuel pumps downstairs in the basement. So it's like we fixed the initial problem and now we have a secondary that no one seems to have thought about.

O'BRIEN: OK, so is that just complete stupidity, or is that, listen, it's financially expensive and people make the gamble that we're not going to invest the money and hope for the best.

REDLENER: Well, in this case, I do think it was not paying attention to all of the details. You know, I think people were well meaning. I don't think there was any sort of gross negligence here, except that somebody forgot an essential detail, in a situation that requires extraordinarily excruciating attention to every detail.

So it seems to me somebody along the lines should have thought about those fuel pumps because they have to work also and be resilient with respect to flooding, those hospitals that are right on the river.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask Sanjay a question because he's still with us. Sanjay, I'm going to assume that transfer of patients and I believe the NYU Langone as well went smoothly. There have been no major problems. But the risk to patients is huge. Isn't that -- I mean, the way you bring a patient out of a hospital on a top floor is to kind of slide them down at times, right. Walk us through how that works.

GUPTA: Yes, even transfers within a hospital can be challenging at times, and here you have no power and very little light and these stairwells, as well. It's tough, Soledad. As you mentioned, I mean, if you consider a patient who has IV lines, for example, may be on a breathing tube, you usually have people manning those things so they don't get pulled out during a transport.

If they require bagging, that needs to be continuously, throughout the entire transfer. And in this case, that transfer could involve carrying a patient down several flights of stairs. So there was a lot that could go wrong.

And in hospitals, a transfer is highly coordinated thing, again, even within the hospital, to go get a CAT scan, for example. Here you're taking someone out into the elements.

One thing I want to add about the generators, I've been asking a lot of people about this, for example, here at Bellevue, they do have these large tanks close to the generators, 250-gallon tanks, for example, to try to hold excess fuel close to the generators, up high.

But that's about six hours' worth because they take about 40 gallons an hour to fuel these things. So they had the pumps again downstairs, but some of the tanks upstairs.

O'BRIEN: All right, thanks, Sanjay. Sanjay, appreciate it. Dr. Redlener, so what did we learn from Katrina? You and I spent many, many hours talking about the aftermath of Katrina. So what's the big takeaway and when do we implement that across the country?

REDLENER: Well, first of all, there's one big takeaway and it has to do with the general condition of infrastructure of the United States, and a small part of that, though a critical part, is the condition of hospitals and vital health care facilities.

Have we paid enough attention to the lessons from the past about how to make sure that the equipment has enough power, how the generators work, have we tested them properly? In this case, we tested generators, but we didn't test the fuel pumps.

We didn't know whether they would function under conditions of flooding and apparently they don't. It's not -- you know, obviously, we're learning these lessons now under extreme duress, as Sanjay said.

We have to now expose patients to extraordinary risk, take them out of their relatively safe environments in intensive care units and sliding downstairs in the dark. It's an unfortunate, bad scene, and we should have learned more.

But, you know, a lot of these things are called wake-up calls, but they turn out to be snooze alarms. We get a lot of coverage right now, but the question is, what are we going to do when the acute storm issues die down? Are we going to go back and fix all of the problems that we need to fix in order to keep our --

O'BRIEN: I hope so. I had all my kids at NYU Medical Center.

REDLENER: It's a good place with good people too.

O'BRIEN: I would agree with that. All right, Dr. Irwin Redlener joining us. It's nice to have with you us. We appreciate it.

REDLENER: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: All right, John's got an update of other stories making news.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. The Coast Guard says some 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel has spilled at a New Jersey facility during Superstorm Sandy. Officials say most of the spill has now been contained. It happened after floodwaters rushed through a refining facility in Seaware, New Jersey and damaged two diesel storage tanks.

In today's "A.M. House Call," another recall related to the fungal meningitis outbreak. Ameridose which is sister company to NECC, the pharmacy at the center of the outbreak, is now voluntarily recalling all of its products.

Ameridose says it has not received any reports of negative reactions to its products, but simply complying with the FDA's call to improve its sterility testing procedures. The fungal meningitis outbreak has killed 29 people.

New research into autism suggests that beginning specialized therapy as early as possible can significantly improve outcomes. A particular type of therapy called the Early Start Denver Model is credited with improving autism symptoms, normalizing brain activity, and controlling social behavior. The Centers for Disease Control says one in 88 children is currently diagnosed with autism, including one in 54 boys.

Some one million people packed the streets of San Francisco to celebrate the Giants and their World Series title. Letting it sink in right now. The crowd was some 50 deep in some places along the parade route, which was downtown. San Francisco swept the Detroit Tigers Sunday for their second World Series title in just three years.

O'BRIEN: Yay for them.

All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the emotional toll of Superstorm Sandy keeps growing. Fifty six people were killed as a result of the storm here in the United States. Coming up next, we're going to take a closer look at some of the victims. We're back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back. At least 56 people in the United States have died as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Here in the Tri-State area, 36 of them. Anderson Cooper has a look at some of the victims' stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" (voice-over): Jessie Streich-Kest and her close friend Jacob Vogelman were out for what her family says was a quick walk in 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.

Jessie was the daughter of Jon Kest, the executive director of a New York City advocacy group, New York Communities for Change. On its website today, Jessie was eulogized as an amazing young woman. She was just 24 years old. Her dog, Max, was hurt but survives.

Lauren Abraham was a makeup artist, also 24. In her Queens neighborhood of 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. 28- year-old Artur Kasprzak faced floodwaters racing into his house. According to an official police account, he had 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: Ma'am, your feet are going to be right there. Go ahead.

COOPER: In Northern Virginia, this little girl was inside an apartment building when the roof blew off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What did it sound like when that roof blew off?

PEGGY FOX, RESCUED GIRL: It sound like it was cracking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Wow, very scary. Did you have any idea what was happening?

FOX: The fire department came and knocked and told us to evacuate because the roof was going to fall and then I - then I started getting scared. And I started hurrying up and packing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Good to see that she doesn't seem like she's traumatized by the storm, but for so many other people, it's been absolutely awful.

We've got to take a short break, but still ahead this morning, the National Guard is on duty in Hoboken. We're going to talk about the rescues there and that some of the supplies they've been delivering as well. We'll talk to a person who was saved from the floods.

And Hurricane Sandy unfolding in just a matter of moments. Dramatic time lapse video shows the impact, next.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. Some top stories we're watching this morning. Looting is a major concern. Police say they have arrested more than a dozen of people for looting businesses in Brooklyn and Queens in the aftermath of Sandy. The charges range from breaking into a bank to robbing a radio shack and a liquor store.

You are looking at live pictures now of that crane that's become a huge New York City tourist attraction, 90 stories above Midtown. That boom is no longer dangling this morning after crews secured it.

The luxury high rise building it is attached to, but the streets surrounding the crane remain closed and will not be reopened until this weekend at the earliest.

Take a look at some amazing video here, Sandy in seconds, incredible time lapse video from across the east river showing Hurricane Sandy slamming into Manhattan. It shows the very second the lights go out in Lower Manhattan. The full video compressing two days into just two minutes, it's very, very cool.

O'BRIEN: When it goes black, amazing. That crane -- people who were standing outside could see that thing -- you can't really see it in the wide shot. I guess near it in person, it was creaking back and forth.

BERMAN: They say it's secure now.

O'BRIEN: I wouldn't go near it.

BERMAN: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Not for a million dollars.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The streets are blocked off for a two-block radius all around it. Tried to get there yesterday, couldn't do it, didn't want to.

O'BRIEN: Exactly, didn't want to. Hoboken, New Jersey is where our focus is now. It's right across the river from Manhattan, a major city for lots of commuters who work right here in New York City, very ease toy get to New York City. And in Hoboken is where we've been seeing images like this. This is the National Guard rescuing people from their apartments, homes entirely under water.

One of those folks is Jonathan Pecarsky. He was rescued by the National Guard along with his family. He is on the phone with us this morning.

Let me ask you a question, Jonathan. Your wife is eight months pregnant. You have a couple of little kids. Why did you decide to stay in your apartment rather than go somewhere else out of town?

JONATHAN PECARSKY, CHERRY HILL, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT (via telephone): Well, you know, we were -- we really had heard that across the state that conditions were going to bad everywhere. So, we have family in South Jersey, where we are now. But at the time when we could have gotten out, we felt like we were home and in our own house and that was the best place to be.

O'BRIEN: So what floor were you on in your apartment building?

PECARSKY: The third floor.

O'BRIEN: OK, and when did you realize that this flooding -- we're showing some pictures of it while I'm talking to you by phone, that this flooding in Hoboken was going to be absolutely disastrous?

PECARSKY: Well, really, not until Monday night after 9:00. We were -- we had power up until then and were watching the news, like everyone else. And you couldn't really hear the storm or feel the storm from our apartment.

But then the power went out and we began to investigate and you looked outside and you saw the water was pouring in all the way from the other side of town. The water had poured into our building and our basement. Obviously, at that point we knew that the situation was pretty bad.

O'BRIEN: My goodness, all right, as I said your wife is eight months pregnant. You've got little kids. What did you do? I mean, what was going through your mind? How did you get out?

PECARSKY: Well, you know, we kept them busy. The first night was pretty normal. They had already gone to sleep. But when we woke up on Tuesday, it was just trying to keep things going as normal and have fun and play games. And just keep a watch on what was outside and make sure we had power and communicate with those people that we could, family members and friends.

O'BRIEN: You finally were pulled out of your apartment?

PECARSKY: Yes. So on Tuesday, we were in all day. And, you know, you could see like three feet of water or so on the streets, floating debris, garbage and gasoline. And by around 4:00 or 5:00, you sort of saw some movement. It looked like pumps were pushing the water out of the street. But by Wednesday morning, we woke up and it stunk of gasoline and you could see the debris. Even though the water was levelling out, we kind of knew it was time to get out.

And we had heard that there were National Guard coming to Hoboken. And early in the morning my wife saw a truck. I went downstairs and flagged it. And they had to do a more urgent run, but then they came back and got us.

O'BRIEN: You must be feeling very lucky today.

PECARSKY: Of course.

O'BRIEN: -- Cherry Hill, New Jersey, staying with some folks. How bad is Hoboken still? I've heard something like 25 percent of the residents had to be rescued out of the city.

PECARSKY: It looked -- it was really bad when we took the truck. You could so how bad areas still were. And, of course, we feel really, really lucky. We know there are still people there in Hoboken.

And everyone who has lost their homes throughout the state, obviously, we feel really lucky to have been able to get out. We know people are in situations that are a lot worse.

O'BRIEN: My goodness, you're absolutely right. Jonathan Pecarsky, you're very lucky this morning. Thank you for talking with us. His family was rescued by the National Guard.

PECARSKY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet. Good luck to you.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, back to work for the candidates because there's only five days to go until Election Day. New polls show it really is anybody's race especially in the critical swing states that will be deciding this election. We'll take a closer look at those straight ahead.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Focus on recovery this morning. Three days since Sandy shocked the east coast killing at least 56 Americans, more than 5 million people remain without power and the temperature is dropping.

Also, gridlock, mayhem as massive chunks of the areas' transportation systems remain shut down. Who can forget we're just five days away from the presidential election, the president and Governor Romney both touring swing states today.

New polls out showing it is too close to call. Vice President Joe Biden, is he looking for another run for higher office? Can we get through this election, really? It's Thursday, November 1st and STARTING POINT begins right now.