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CNN NEWSROOM

Conditions on the Triumph; Passengers Desperate for "Cruise From Hell" to End

Aired February 14, 2013 - 12:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, I wish you the best of luck. Good luck to you. That is just really, really difficult. I can't imagine what you are dealing with, what your passengers are dealing with. We have a bead on this ship as the tugboats continue to take it into land.

I do want to ask you this, Larry. The company, Carnival, has told us that a number of their executives and their staff will be coming out to meet you on board, as well as members from customs and border patrol agents. Have they -- have you seen a big presence in terms of how the ship has responded to this emergency? How they've informed you? Have you been mustered to prepare for an emergency? Or do you feel like you're sort of on your own out there?

LARRY PORET, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH (via telephone): Um, we haven't really seen much Carnival presence other than the normal, I mean, but the ship's captain who will make an announcement and then (INAUDIBLE) will make an announcement. And then after that, the passengers just stand around and say, OK, what did you get out of that? What are they really trying to tell us? Because we know they're not telling us everything.

BANFIELD: And they also -- they mentioned to us in the press conference, Larry, that there's only been one report of someone who was ill who was taken off the ship. But in the conditions that you were just describing to us live on board the ship you are on, raw sewage sloshing about, mattresses soaked in sewage, backed-up showers, the listing ship causing the sewage to shift. I can't imagine that there aren't other people who either are or may become ill. Have you witnessed any other illnesses?

L. PORET: There's a lot of coughing and stuff going on now.

BANFIELD: Larry, are those announcements? Are we overhearing announcements?

L. PORET: Yes, this is an announcement about -- we're going to arrive and things like that. Our information. Here we go. Somehow they're just now telling us we're going to be later than 6:00. They're saying arrival's going to be 8:00 to 11:00 tonight. That's what they're telling us.

BANFIELD: I want to reset for our viewers what we're hearing. I can tell you Larry Poret is a passenger on board the ship that you're seeing on your screen, the Carnival Triumph. And the live announcements are being broadcast throughout the ship right now and through Larry's cell phone we are hearing them. We can't make out what they say. But, Larry, can you just summarize for us what they're saying about your arrival time?

L. PORET: Just somewhere between 8:00 and 11:00.

BANFIELD: Somewhere between 8:00 and 11:00 they're being -- they're being told. And, of course, the Carnival -- Carnival VP announced to us anytime between 7:00 and 10:00. So that seems to jive with what they just announced to the press. The live pictures you're seeing, the tugboat on either side of that 900-foot ship, 14 stories traveling at about six to seven knots -- about the speed of a lawnmower -- towards land. And you can see people, passengers, on board who are hanging signs and covered in blankets because the temperature is dropping, waving to us, our helicopters, as we hover aboard. Some of those signs saying, "please help us."

Larry Poret, I know you said you saw some of these signs. You were able to read them more clearly than we can. And some of them were in jest. Others, not so much so. Give me a feel for the mood of those passengers as we watch the pilot boat heading out to meet your ship.

L. PORET: Well, they're mainly saying "help us." You know, we're in desperate need and we need food, we need water, you know, so just come and help us.

BANFIELD: I'm trying to hear some of the background sound from your cell phone, Larry, as you speak with us. And, again, our helicopter zooms in and zooms out. We are under -- we are respecting the restrictions on how close we can get to that ship. So our apologies that we can't zoom in closer to read some of those signs and see the passengers, you know, closer up. But safe to say, there are 3,143 people just like Larry Poret, who's live with us on the telephone, on board that ship. There are also 1,086 crew members. Some of those people you see sleeping. Now we're starting to see much more clear pictures of the passengers sleeping on the decks because the smell has been reported to be so putrid on board from the sewage and also the heat. The power's been out to the ship for five days and they've been traveling in tropic heat.

Larry, it must be getting cooler, and yet the people are still out on deck. Is that because of just the putrid and fetid conditions on board?

L. PORET: It is downright cold. It mean it's not cool, it is cold. And we're doing our best to huddle together and, you know, keep each other warm. But as we get closer and closer to land, it's getting colder and colder. So, everybody's just doing the best they can to stay warm and counting the hours. And now they're telling us it's going to be longer than they first told (ph). You know, having to endure is probably the -- you know, the mental part of it's starting to be the hardest.

BANFIELD: Downright cold. That is a -- that is such a change from the conditions you've been enduring. The temperatures right now hovering in the 60s. Larry, stay with me for a moment, if you would, please, as you're live on board that ship. We have live coverage of the helicopters, the contractors, who have been going back and forth ferrying supplies to the deck of that ship, as well on the right-hand side of that screen, the pilot boat that is headed out to meet the Carnival Triumph ship.

Chad Myers, the temperatures, as Larry Poret just said, are downright cold. And you saw for yourself as well, Chad, those passengers have gone from being stiflingly hot to freezing cold and grabbing whatever blankets they can to huddle on the fresher air of the -- of the decks.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And it rained almost all night overnight last night on those passengers that were on the deck.

Larry, if you can hear me, we know the ship is late to arrive because the wind was so strong out of the north, almost pushing your boat backward. Did you feel that wind when you were on the boat?

L. PORET: We felt the wind, but we also know we're being pulled along by tugs. And, you know, I'm just -- out of frustration, we're -- the passengers are frustrated because we see other tugs that are -- tugboats, and they're just going along the (INAUDIBLE) and, you know, why can't we have more tugboats pulling us in? Why can't we have more help? We've been out here for four days extra just trying to get home.

MYERS: I wish I knew that answer.

L. PORET: We need help. We need somebody to get us in.

MYERS: You're also in a current now, a long shore current, that's trying to push you to the east. The more and more that we see that tug trying to pull you, it's not even pulling you straight. It's trying to pull you to the left to get you over to mobile as the current is actually pushing you away. This is so devastating for you and you're going to see land for 10 to 12 hours and not going to be able to get off. What's that going to feel like to you?

L. PORET: It's going to feel like those signs out there, help us, somebody help us. We're just trying to get, you know, get home. And, you know, my question is, these are not new currents. These are not new conditions in the sea. How come (INAUDIBLE) make their business, these cruise ships going back and forth, can't be prepared for this and arrange for us to, you know, be stronger than the currents against us? Why can't we get out of here?

MYERS: Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Chad Myers, I'm just looking at the temperature here. I've been reporting -- this is why I don't do weather, my friend, but I've been reporting that it's in the mid-60s. It's dipped down to 46 degrees --

MYERS: That's right.

BANFIELD: In Mobile, Alabama, that the high was going to be 63. And, again, I just want to let our viewers know, Chad, and, Larry, if you're still with us, I'm not sure that you can see obviously what's happening, because that is a huge ship, 14 stories, but there are -- there are pilot boats, there are tugboats, and there are other vessels that are making their way out to you on board this ship. The helicopters are also hovering aboard -- or above the ship. Ours is recording the images as others are dropping supplies.

The one that we just saw dropping supplies is a contractor. And I can't tell you, Larry, what they're dropping, but I can tell you that Terry Thornton, who is the Carnival Cruise senior VP of something called revenue planning did an ad hoc news conference on shore to say that they have gotten enough food at least to look after you, Larry, and the fellow passengers. And that generator that they flew out there hopefully was going to be able to heat food for you to manage to keep you guys at least comfortable until you get to shore in seven to 10 hours.

Is that -- is that something that you can see, Larry? Is there ample food now or is it just the same as it's been day offer day, three-hour lines for food, three-hour lines for water, three-hour lines for logistics?

L. PORET: I'm sure there's ample food where no one's going to starve of starvation. To be honest with you, we're just tired. We're not even hungry anymore. We just want off of here. We don't care about the food. We don't care about anything. Just get us out of here.

BANFIELD: Larry, what have you been doing with your daughter? Rebekah's 12 years old. You know, you and your friend and your two daughters have had to endure this. How are the kids?

L. PORET: What we're doing is we're sitting around playing card games. And then just walking the deck and, you know, let's go see if this is going on, let's go see if that's going on. You know, thank goodness there's been some people that have made a way for us to charge our cell phones. So, you know, everybody's been running out of power by using these flashlights and now they have charging stations that the individual passengers have set up. Not Carnival, individual passengers. And so we gather there in the hallways charging our cell phones.

BANFIELD: And I was going to ask you, how is it possible that we are speaking with you, given the fact that there's been so little power. The cruise line has said that there are roughly two dozen public toilets that have been working on board that ship. Have you found them? Is that what you know to be the truth? Are none of the cabins' toilets working? How is it that you are all functioning every day?

L. PORET: It's like the toilet will flush one time and then the next time you need them to flush, they won't. And they may not flush for hours and hours. They may flush till (ph) half a day maybe. Or, you know, (INAUDIBLE) to use these bags. Even if you use them, one of the bags, then all of a sudden the toilet flushes while you're sitting there and it's frustrating because, wait a minute, I could have, you know, taken advantage of that ability of that thing to flush but it did me no good. Do you know what I'm saying? It's frustration is the main thing on this boat right now. BANFIELD: So, Larry, I'm just -- I was going to tell our viewers what the images they're seeing are. I'm sure that your bird's-eye view of all of this being on board that ship is much different than what we're seeing. But we've got a helicopter view of the ship and the tugboats as you're being pulled in towards us. And I know you're seven to 10 hours away. And the picture on the right-hand side of our viewers' screen is the image from shore. So, Larry, you are within our sights. We can finally see you on board that ship. You and the other 3,142 passengers who have been enduring this nightmare for far longer than anyone should. But you are within our sights now on shore.

The weather is a bit rough and the seas are a bit rough, but at least it's so for not necessarily completely impeding the progress of those very slow tow vessels. And again, this is about six to seven knots, which in land speed isn't a whole lot more. About the speed of a lawnmower. That's how fast this ship is making its way towards shore. So, yes, shore is within sight, but it is still going to be what the Carnival VP said, a very long day.

If I can ask you, Larry, I know you're traveling with Carmel Taylor (ph) and that your daughter, Rebekah, who's 12, and Carmel's daughter, Allie, who's 10, have you able to -- given the sights, I mean just given the sheer horror of the sights of raw sewage everywhere and the listing vessel, et cetera, have you been able to calm your girls and try to make this better of this and at least make this into an adventure for them, or do they know the score?

L. PORET: Oh, yes, I mean, you know, they'll grab a hold of our leg or our arm and just squeeze like they're not going to let go. But, you know, (INAUDIBLE), you know, it's out of our control. We're just doing the best we can. You know, Bekah's right here and she's gone through a lot. Would you like to speak to her?

BANFIELD: So they still -- I mean they know what's going on and it's hard to hide from them the real emergency that this is?

L. PORET: Yes, they know what's going on, but they also imagine things a lot worse than they really are. And that's what's really the hardest for them. They have no idea. You know, the fire -- the thing caught on fire and my daughter says, are we going to sink, you know? So, she's just scared to death.

BANFIELD: Have you felt the effects of the emergency stabilization? The power has gone out to the stabilization, and the ship, therefore, lists. Have you felt that?

L. PORET: Yes. We've been going -- you can barely walk because it's leaning so bad. And you'll just try to walk and then you'll fall up against the wall because it's leaning (ph).

BANFIELD: Larry, is your daughter Rebekah with you?

L. PORET: Yes. She's right here. She's standing right beside me.

BANFIELD: Can I talk to her?

L. PORET: Sure. She'd love to.

REBEKAH PORET, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: Hello.

BANFIELD: Hi. Rebekah, can you hear me?

R. PORET: Yes.

BANFIELD: Hi. This is Ashleigh Banfield at CNN. I talked to your mom yesterday. And she's on shore waiting for you.

R. PORET: Yes, ma'am. Ma'am.

BANFIELD: Can you hear me OK, Rebekah? Your mom is waiting for you on shore. I just talked to her yesterday.

R. PORET: Yes. She -- I just talked to her. And she, um, I'm so excited to see her and she's so excited to see me. I can't wait to get back.

BANFIELD: I'll bet. Rebekah, how has this been for you and your dad?

R. PORET: It's been really, really difficult. Getting the food and not knowing what you're going to be able to eat, whether it's going to be cold and not knowing if it's going to be hot. And it's been hard.

BANFIELD: And I'll bet you and your friend Allie kind of thought this was going to be a lot of fun, right?

R. PORET: Yes, we did. And then this happened. And then it's just kind of been -- it got bad. It got worse. And then it's just horrible.

BANFIELD: Well, I'll tell you what, Rebekah, we can see you from shore. The picture that our TV screen is showing all the viewers watching is your ship that you're on right now as it makes its way to shore. So you're very, very close. I hope that feels better for you to know that you're getting closer and closer to your mom.

R. PORET: Yes, it does feel a lot better because I know that we're almost there and we can almost -- we're one step closer being back home. But we're still so far away.

BANFIELD: Rebekah, do you have some warm clothes? Because it's real cold. I know you were in the tropics, but it's getting colder as you get close to shore.

R. PORET: Actually, as I was leaving, I forgot to bring a jacket. But Allie, she brought two, so she's letting me borrow one of hers. So I'm bundled up in her jacket.

BANFIELD: Hey, Rebekah, when you said that the trip got real bad, can you describe that for me and tell me exactly what you mean?

R. PORET: By the ship got real bad is the doors, like, it was two nights ago. The doors closed and the lights went out. The lights on the floor that were shining up just itty-bitty ones, and then the (INAUDIBLE) and you couldn't see a thing because it was late at night and people with balconies had their doors open and you couldn't see a thing out there either.

Most people's flashlights were shining them in the hallway so we could see, but most people didn't have flashlights so we really couldn't see a thing. And then the bathroom situation is horrible. Some toilets are working and some of them are not working and haven't worked since this condition has happened.

BANFIELD: Hey, Rebekah, have you been sticking close to your dad this whole time?

R. PORET: At his side since this happened (INAUDIBLE).

BANFIELD: I'll bet. What about other kids? Can you tell me about the other kids on board? What are they saying? What are they doing?

R. PORET: They're trying to make the best of it, but you can really see how much they really dislike the situation and how could you like the situation. You really can't. But they're all standing beside their parents and not leaving them and hoping that everything's OK.

BANFIELD: What are you seeing out the window? Our view is from above and from shore, but I know you're in the middle of the ship. What's your view? What can you see?

R. PORET: I see barely anything. I see little blocks, itty-bitty blocks. You can barely see them but -- and then I se some sights coming up from the ground. Since we're so far away we can barely really see anything. But when you look over, you see some bigger things, and then you can't see anything.

BANFIELD: Can you feel those tugboats pushing at the ship and pulling it? Can you see movement? Do you see that you're making progress?

R. PORET: No.

BANFIELD: Can't see that.

R. PORET: I know we are, but I don't see it, like, we're moving a little bit, but when they first got hooked up and everything and she told us we were moving, no one saw it. We didn't see a thing. Now we're moving a little bit, but I really -- I really don't feel anything.

BANFIELD: And, Rebekah, are you outside on a deck with some of the people that we can see from our helicopter or are you inside?

R. PORET: I'm inside looking out a window.

BANFIELD: And how is it inside? Is it warm enough? Does it smell terrible? Is it something you can manage to stay?

R. PORET: On some parts of the ship it smells horrible. But right here on deck five, it doesn't smell too bad. But you still know it's there. You still know that everything is there. You can still smell everything. But you're trying to turn it out, and it's still really cold because it's really cold outside. Everything's still really cold inside because you have no heat.

But it's still super cold in here. Everybody's wearing the bathrobes that are in the room. Everybody's wearing the bathrobes and trying to bundle up and be warmer.

BANFIELD: And what about life jackets? Do you guys have life jackets close by?

R. PORET: Yes, we have life jackets in our rooms. Most people they have been with them. Like, most people have their little spot where they're, like, sitting and sleeping and stuff like that, and most people have them with them. But ours are in the room.

BANFIELD: So, what have you been doing every day as you've been waiting and waiting for this ship to get to shore?

R. PORET: I have been -- me and my dad and our friends and everybody have been wondering and waiting, OK, so when are we getting off? We've been waiting for the next announcement, and when we wake up, I'm just, like, I ask myself and my dad, can I go back to sleep again, because I want another day to pass so bad ...

BANFIELD: I know ...

R. PORET: ... because I want to be home.

BANFIELD: I talked to your mom yesterday, like, I mentioned, and she was very worried about you. I know you had a chance to speak with her since Sunday. She's been waiting for you ...

R. PORET: Yes.

BANFIELD: ... at that port. She drove up there from Texas as fast as she could and she's staying there until you make it.

If she's listening right now, Mary, I'd love you to call in to us so we can ask you how you feel about the fact that this ship is now within sight of the shore and that we are speaking with your daughter and her dad, Larry, and that they're doing OK, as uncomfortable as they are, they are doing OK.

Mary, can you hear me?

MARY PORET, MOTHER OF 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL ABOARD SHIP: I can hear you.

BANFIELD: Mary, I've got your daughter on the phone. What do you want to tell her?

M. PORET: Well, I talked to her a minute ago, and I just -- I love her. I can't wait to see her.

BANFIELD: Rebekah, do you want to say something to your mom? She's on the phone, she can hear you.

Rebekah -- I think, Mary, I need you to turn down your TV because we're hearing ourselves on delay, if it's OK if you turn down your TV. Rebekah, if you can still hear me, your mom can hear you, do you want to talk to her?

M. PORET: There's like two conversations going on.

BANFIELD: Rebekah, are you still there?

M. PORET: I can't hear!

BANFIELD: OK. As we try to clear up the audio channels, we'll get that all fixed, but, Rebekah, don't hang up. Mary, stay with us.

I want to just tell our viewers what's happening right now. One of the ship's lower doors has opened and one of the vessels that has been approaching this ship is about to off-load it looks like some of these officials who are going to board the ship.

We can tell you that earlier Carnival, the vice president of revenue planning, told us that not only will the pilot ships be heading out to bring those experts who steer these massive vessels into shore, but also members of Carnival, the company, will be heading out to the ship, as well.

I cannot tell you whether these are the people who are boarding this ship right now through one of those open doors, but also members of the customs and border patrol, the agents will be coming out to board the vessels as well.

I don't know if these are them, but only in the last hour did the vice president of carnival tell us that they were off-loading some of these officials on board to that ship within the next couple of hours to try to make it quicker for these people once this ship finally gets to shore. They won't at least have to go through all of the paperwork.

Rebekah, can you still hear me? Are you still there?

M. PORET: What, baby?

R. PORET: Yes, I'm still here. I'm here.

BANFIELD: Hi, Rebekah. Mary, can you still hear me?

M. PORET: Yes, ma'am, I can.

BANFIELD: OK, well, I've got Rebekah Poret who is 12-years-old and I've got Mary Poret, her mom, who's waiting on shore.

Rebekah, did you want to say something to your mom while she can hear you?

R. PORET: I just spoke -- to my mom?

M. PORET: Yeah, baby.

BANFIELD: Yes, she can hear you.

R. PORET: OK. I want to tell my mom that I love her so much and I can't wait to see her.

M. PORET: I love you, too, baby.

R. PORET: We're going up to the tenth floor to look out the deck.

M. PORET: you're going up to the tenth floor to look out?

R. PORET: Yeah, we're going out to the tenth floor to look out the deck.

M. PORET: OK. Good. Maybe they'll get you on camera so I can see you, too, because I can look at it from my cell phone.

R. PORET: Yeah.

M. PORET: I miss you.

BANFIELD: Rebekah, let us know when you get to the tenth floor, and then if you can with your dad, try to give us a location of where you are on the ship, and then we will try to get our helicopter to get a picture of you so your mom can see that you're OK.

At the same time, our helicopter's got the camera trained on some of the other boats that are on their way out to this ship. There have been many vessels that have been on their way to meet this ship. On the right-hand side of your screen is the ship the view from shore. Finally, the ship is within the view from shore but as the carnival vice president said, this is going to be a long day.

It may be within view, but it is travels at a snail's pace despite the fact that four tugboats are pulling it and it's making the pace of seven knots which is like the speed of a lawnmower. I keep making that comparison just so you know how slow this really is.

Chad Myers, as we watch the images of some of the smaller vessels meeting up with this 900-foot-long ship, they're off-loading people on board this ship and I'm not sure which officials these are. We do know that customs and border protection agencies -- or agents are heading out to the ship as well as Carnival represents. But this is -- the waters, they look rough from the small boats' point of view, but they're not bad for the ship.

Chad Myers, can you hear me OK?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I can, Ashleigh. Let me take a look. We have another image I want to show you. It's a graphic I made earlier, why even though you can see this boat from shore that it's not going to that shore. It has to travel not only when it gets to the shore another 30 miles up into Mobile Bay harbor. That's where we're seeing it from, right there, Ft. Morgan, and also over Dauphin Island. That's where our camera is.

But that's not where it's stopping. There's no -- there's no port there. This has to continue to cruise up this very skinny, 400-meter- wide channel all the way up into Mobile Bay and into the harbor right there, that at a snail's pace when they can see land. And they just said, please, find someplace to let us off. That's why it's going to be another painful eight to 10 hours to get the boat from where it is to where the actual dock is. The dock is not on that land that we're taking that picture from. It's still 30 miles inland up that river, up that bay.

BANFIELD: Oh, frustrating.

Chad, explain what you were telling Larry and, Rebekah, I hope you're still on the phone, when your dad was on the phone with us, Chad Myers was describing why it looks like one of those tugboats on the bottom right-hand part of your screen looks like it's driving directly into the bow of the ship. There's a reason for this. What is it, Chad?

MYERS: They have to line the ship up with the buoy markers. And on that last graphic you just saw, there's going to be on the left of the boat, there's going to be green markers, green buoys. On the right, there's going to be red nuns. And that's the "red right returning," the three "Rs" of boating. When you're coming back from the ocean into a harbor, keep the red on your right. And that's why those red dots are where they are.

The boat will travel through that very skinny, dredged channel through and across that sandbar that's dredged and then on up into the Mobile Bay. This is what they still have to do. They have to line that boat up to get it into that channel, and they have to keep it lined up. They are going to have tugs on both sides, and tugs in the front, trying to keep that boat straight.

The current right now is not allowing that boat to be straight, and they have to try to steer this thing through the current, around the first buoy, into the channel, and then straight into the channel. And they certainly don't want to get this thing to run aground and get stuck, because they can't either see the buoys, the wind blows them of course or the boat is just -- kind of almost has a mind of its own. You have to think if there's wind blowing across the side of this boat, Ashleigh, that boat is 900-feet long, 100-feet high.

BANFIELD: Wow.

MYERS: Ninety-thousand-foot sail, could you imagine a sailboat ...

BANFIELD: Yeah.

MYERS: ... with a size -- it's called windage. It's how boats blow sideways when you're trying to dock them. And if you have a 100-foot, 116-foot-wide boat trying to get up a 400 meter or let's say 1,000- foot-wide channel, there's not a lot of margin for error.

BANFIELD: Well, not a lot of margin for error. And guess what, as they get into a 400-meter-wide channel, this will be a picture that will be absolutely riveting to see those tugboats steering by pushing this massive ship through a 400-meter channel.

Victor Blackwell is standing by live. He has been on shore off from the port, and I'm guessing, Victor, that you're getting your first beat -- you're on the boat now.

OK, so, now you're fully offshore. Are you getting your first beat on the ship now?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. We're getting our first look at the Triumph now, and we can see it on the horizon.

We're in Mobile Bay, and we'll be able to pull up within, we're told, within about 500 yards of this ship as it pulls up, and we'll see the people from water level standing on the decks, waiting to get up to the port.

Now, as Chad said, this would be catastrophic if this thing were to run aground. We spoke with the director of the port, Jimmy Lyons, and he said that because there isn't a lot of wiggle room with a ship this large, that it's very important that those pilots who know this area get out and onto that boat.