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North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan; Hurricane Relief Efforts Continue. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 29, 2017 - 3:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: And we continue on. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

You are watching CNN's special live coverage of this catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and this new threat facing the flood- ravaged state of Texas. Here's a quote. "Get out now."

That is the stark warning to folks just south of Houston as the river levees breached a short time ago. And as Harvey is now circling back over land, officials say river water is just pounding down tributaries and creeks and that they are -- quote -- "at the end of the line."

Dire predictions of up to 50 inches of rain quickly becoming a reality. Last rainfall estimates, a staggering 49 inches of water in some areas. That is more rain than Houston sees in an entire year.

Just extraordinary rescue scenes have been playing out for days now. Here, you have two women caught in a wild floodwaters, swimming frantically before being dragged to safety by a member of the Customs and Border Protection Unit. Another instance, an elderly woman evacuated out on a stretcher.


BILL SPENCER, KPRC REPORTER: A woman who's in her 80s has just been rescued from the house. They are carrying her. The Houston Fire Department, paramedics and volunteers are carrying her through the floodwaters on to another stretcher and then they're going to transport her via that ambulance right there.

Took a lot of people to make this happen.


BALDWIN: Let's go to Richmond, to CNN's Polo Sandoval, seeing a lot of just incredible scenes. Tell me some stories.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, what's incredible, Brooke, is the people in this city, Richmond, Texas, you do not have to tell them twice to pack up and head to higher ground because they have experienced the historic flooding that's expected here today.

The Brazos River, you shouldn't be able to see it from here, but I'm kind of standing on the banks of it right now. What happened here, the last few days, all of Harvey's rain has poured into streams and tributaries and into the Brazos River, which has overflowed and it's expected to reach record levels. It will exceed what the people here and up and down the Brazos River had to deal with last Memorial Day, when the water level, I'm told, was just shy of the base of those of the windows in that home.

This time, it's supposed to go about four to five feet higher than that. It's expected to happen in the next 48 hours or so. The result, people here have closed up, packed up, and moved out. This is one of several riverside communities that feel like a virtual ghost town, Brooke.

People here, as soon as they were issued that mandatory evacuation, they packed up and they left their homes. Yes, some people have come back to try to see what the latest is, maybe even snap a picture or two, but, overall, they are definitely heeding the warning.

Yes, some of those rescues are dramatic and have had led to a happy ending, but authorities here are hoping to avoid having to rescue anybody altogether.

Last thing I should mention, the water that led to some issues in Brazoria County, which would be downriver from where we are, you're looking at it here. So, there is a concern here where the Fort Bend County judge told me yesterday, Brooke, this is an 800-year flood. They are worried that the levees they have here closer to Houston may potentially be, in his own word, overpowered -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Levees and bayous and all of these stories coming out of, you know, Texas area, Polo, thank you so much.

The quiet that I hear around your live shot feels like a good thing for folks who would have been there.

But he mentioned rescues, you know, one of those still waiting to be rescued, Joyce Abbey, a NASA employee who lives across the street from the Johnson Space Center. She is on the phone with me now.

Joyce, we have got some pictures up of, you know, that you took. This is flooding outside of your home. I understand you say you were used to hurricanes, not on a scale like this. Tell me what your past 24, 48 hours have been like.

JOYCE ABBEY, HURRICANE VICTIM: Oh, it's been a little harrowing, but not as harrowing as some of the scenes that we have seen played out all over the entire greater Houston and Harris County area.

We've been -- the water comes up, the water goes down. The rain pours and it comes back up again. So I'm very, very fortunate. We have got neighbors who've got anywhere from knee-deep to waist-deep water to chest-deep water in their homes. So I have fared pretty darn good.

BALDWIN: Good. I appreciate, given the pictures, your optimistic attitude and not just that, but you're a NASA employee. I mean, when I think of Houston, you think NASA. [15:05:00]

ABBEY: Yes. You bet.

BALDWIN: You know, you are across the street from Johnson Space Center.

ABBEY: Literally across the street.

BALDWIN: How's it looking?

ABBEY: Yes, literally across the street.

I know the Johnson Space Center's been in constant contact with employees. And I am a contractor to NASA, not a NASA employee, but we're impacted where there's a large number of us who support the civil servants at Johnson Space Center, and their biggest concern is about all of us. We have had groups who have -- as you have heard reported, in mission control, making sure the space station is operating safely.

And they have already reached out to me to get ahold of what we're calling second responders, a term my friend Danny (ph) coined, the folks who can't be on the front lines, but we're ready to go out, we're ready to help. We have already been reaching out to our colleagues across all of the aerospace companies and civil servants at the Johnson Space Center to assess what needs our employees have and how we can meet them, and what needs our community has and what the shelters all around us might need and how we can meet those needs.

So, we're ready to be the second line, the second responders, if you will.

BALDWIN: I have just been thinking about NASA contractors, NASA employees. You guys need to go to work. What's happening here, it is affecting outer space, just to put it in perspective, and the ISS and all of that.

Let me ask you, Joyce, just so you're not going stir crazy, I understand you have put yourself to work.

ABBEY: I'm doing great.

BALDWIN: You're going a little crazy, but you're putting yourself to work. You're organizing the community relief efforts over social media. What's the message you want to get out there?

ABBEY: That, you know, Texans take care of each other. We did it during Ike and we're ready to go, but we certainly need help. You know, a lot of our grocery stores are running out of food and gasoline.

Our first-responders truly need those supplies to help out. We hopefully have, I understand, convoys are on the way. But American Red Cross, if you're driven to give, do so. Do so. Absolutely. This is going to be a long, long recovery, and we know we're going to have employees with post-traumatic stress as a result of this, so we're also putting in place some mental health services for them.

Folks are going need to decompress and get back and focus on our job, which is to fly humans in space safely.

BALDWIN: Wow. Joyce Abbey, from humans in space to humans on the ground there in Houston, just dealing with all of this, thank you so much for calling in. We're glad you're OK. Hang in there.

ABBEY: You bet. My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Help is on the way. Thank you.

President Trump and the first lady, they are now en route to Austin, Texas. The president was briefed on relief efforts in Corpus Christi, close to the area where Harvey made landfall.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you that my folks just telling me how great the -- your representatives have been in working together. It's a real team.

And we want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years and 10 years from now as this is the way to do it. This was of epic proportion. Nobody's ever seen anything like this.

And I just want to say that working with the governor and his entire team has been an honor for us. So, Governor, again, thank you very much, and we won't say congratulations. We don't want to do that. We don't want to congratulate. We will congratulate each other when it's all finished.


BALDWIN: So let's go to Jeff Zeleny. He's our CNN senior White House correspondent there.

Jeff Zeleny, you know, the fact that you guys are in Austin, obviously, that's far from the flood-ravaged regions. It's important to keep the resources on Ground Zero and not for the president to detract from that.


The president is making his way here to Austin. He's going to be visiting the state emergency command center with Governor Abbott and the two Republican senators from here in Texas as well. He is intentionally steering clear of Houston and the other disaster zones, no question about that.

We are in Austin, so there are a few protesters here, a liberal city, of course, but after the president made those remarks, he addressed a small crowd outside a fire station. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. What a crowd. What a turnout. I want to thank our governor. Your governor has done a fantastic job. Governor Abbott, thank you very much.

He's right here someplace. He's right here. So we just want to thank your governor. Senator Cruz, Senator Cornyn, everybody, Dan, we want to thank the whole group. This has been a total cooperative effort. Again, we will see you soon.

I will tell you, this is historic. It's epic, what happened, but you know what? It happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything. Thank you all, folks. Thank you. Thank you.



ZELENY: So, Brooke, those comments coming just a short time ago before the president flew from Corpus Christi to make his way here in Austin. You can hear he is being applauded there by supporters on a very windy day here, even here in Central Texas, Brooke.

But, look, the test for this president, as he knows, is to get Congress and others behind the relief effort and the bill, and, of course, to make sure the government is indeed on top of this still unfolding calamity here.

So, despite the president's talk of a turnout, a big crowd, sounding like he normally does, this is a different moment and a different test for this new president, Brooke.

BALDWIN: It is. It is indeed.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you in Austin for us.


BALDWIN: Coming up next, more than 9,000 people have already streamed into the Houston Convention Center, many with little more than just soaking wet clothes on their backs. We are live inside to hear how these families are coping.

And mega-church pastor Joel Osteen responds to critics that he did not open the doors of his sanctuary fast enough to those in need.

And a little later, North Korea fires a missile over Japan, sending people running for cover. President Trump says, hey, all options are on the table when it comes to North Korea. We will discuss what that could mean.

You're watching CNN's special live coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching special coverage here on CNN.

Mega-church pastor Joel Osteen says the doors of his Houston church are now open, accepting those in need, but, moments ago, a KPRC reporter tweeted out this photo of the lines outside of the church.

You know, the back story of this is that Osteen faced heavy, heavy criticism on social media because the church wasn't initially available to shelter those in need. Lakewood Church responded to the criticism by saying the church was inaccessible due to severe flooding.

Today, Joel Osteen himself tweeted: "Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians. Lakewood's doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter."

Now, the main shelter, kind of ground zero in Houston, that's housing these flood victims has swelled beyond capacity, but the Red Cross is telling CNN that they will not turn anyone away over at the Houston Convention Center.

CNN was allowed inside the building where more than 9,000 people spent the night and more people are showing up by the hour. We're going take you to Rosa Flores here in just a second, but just hearing that we're going to listen in to the Houston mayor right now.


SYLVESTER TURNER, MAYOR OF HOUSTON, TEXAS: -- of the people in the city of Houston cannot say it enough themselves.

And, at the same time, they have been putting themselves in harm's way, in danger on behalf of other people.

Today, I'm sad and deeply saddened to announce the death of Sergeant Steve Perez. This is an individual who was with HPD, Houston's finest, men and women in blue, for 30 -- 34 years. In fact, he was two days shy of his 61st birthday. And he lost his life on Sunday morning on his way to work on behalf of the people of the city of Houston and our great city.

I want to take the time to extend my condolences, my prayers, to his family, specifically to his specifically to his wife, Cheryl (ph), to his son, as well as to his daughter.

Every single day, we ask our men in blue and women to show up, to come to work, when conditions are good and even when conditions are very challenging. And every day, we ask them to get on our roads and to come to work and to strive to make this city a much better place in which to live.

Today, I will simply say that our hearts are saddened. We grieve for this family. We extend to them our prayers from the entire Houston community and, quite frankly, even beyond, because he was seeking to serve this city and all those who would come into our city.

Having said that, let me go to Chief Acevedo. ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF: Thank you, Mayor.

First, let me just thank you, Mayor, for always being with us. You're always with us in good times and in bad times. And on behalf of the family, I just want to thank you for your support of this police department and obviously the Perez family.

What I want to do is, I want to go over this event, provide an outline of what occurred. I just want to just thank my team that's up here, all of our executive assistant chiefs that have been working and assistant chiefs and Ray Hunt from the HPOU who this has been a real family and a real partnership.

So, today, Steve wasn't just taken from the Houston Police Department. He wasn't just taken from the city of Houston. He was taken from the people of Houston.

What occurred was this, as follows. On Sunday, August 27, Steve Perez, Sergeant Steve Perez, who had been on, again, like the mayor said, for 34 years, assigned to the Traffic Enforcement Division, left his home at 4:00 a.m., left his home in heavy rain.

As a matter of fact, I just got back from making notification a little while ago, and that community is not accessible. But for our aircraft, we wouldn't have been able to get out there.


But he left at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 27, to get to his workstation.

Sergeant Perez, while driving around, our investigation has determined that he spent about two-and-a-half-hours driving around, trying to get to his duty station, which is Traffic Enforcement Division, and central here downtown Houston.

He could not find a path, and you can imagine heavy rain, dark roadways, who knows what else he saw out there with the lighting in that more rural community. He kept driving around, couldn't find it, so he called his chain of command and said, listen, I cannot get to my primary duty station.

Being the dedicated professional this man is, like the rest of the men and women in blue in our first response family, he followed our protocol, which is to go to a secondary location, the nearest location you can get to, which is the Kingwood office.

He had learned that we were actually going to and we have evacuated his primary station. We have now evacuated the secondary station as they were experiencing floods as well.

So that was Sunday the 27th. On Monday the 28th, his chain of command was holding their regular roll call when they noticed that Sergeant Perez was not present. At that time, they started making attempts to reach him and could not get ahold of him. When they couldn't get ahold of him, understanding that this man is a

dedicated individual that would not just not show up to work -- and one of the things that we know over the years in these events, when something this historical, sometimes first-responders don't show up.

Well, I like to say -- and say that our people have been showing up, have stayed at work and the vast majority have not left since Saturday night.

We contacted his wife and she advised us that she had not seen her husband since 4:00 a.m. on the 27th. We immediately began an extensive search of potential path of travel. We utilized other investigative techniques to try to locate him.

And Monday evening, at about 10:00 p.m., we narrowed the search to Hardy tollway and Beltway 8. We responded to Hardy tollway and Beltway 8, where we were had a high sense of probability that it was the last place that he would have been. We called for our dive team.

We even used one of our -- what are we calling these people from Louisiana? God bless them, our Cajun navy, you know, our American Cajun navy, to help us look for him. So, we couldn't find him, and once our dive team got there, it was too treacherous to go under and look for him.

So, we made a decision to leave officers there waiting until the morning, because as much as we wanted to recover him last night, we could not put more officers at risk for what we knew in our hearts was going to be a recovery mission.

We kept his wife apprised. Even though we had a high probability that he was gone, we always hold on to hope. So I called her last night. She was desperately wanting more information. I told her, we still haven't found him. We're still looking. We're checking hospitals, you know, we can't communicate with the hospitals because some of them have been evacuated and that we would keep her apprised of the situation.

This morning at 8:00 a.m., the dive team was out there again, which was their number one priority, and within 20 minutes, they found him. Unfortunately, in the darkness, Sergeant Perez drove into an underpass that's about 16-and-a-half feet, drove into the water, and he died in a flood in a drowning-type event.

Let me just say this, that we had the privilege of notifying his wife and his son and his extended family at their home that he died, that he laid down his life. And, of course, the wife had the reaction that we always expect when we see these.

But I'm heartened by two things. Number one, I got to learn that it's a family of faith, that has faith in God. And when you have faith, there's hope. There's hope in eternal life and it gives us all collective strength in the Houston Police Department, knowing that this family knows that as much as they're hurting, like our mayor, who is -- I always say he's always preaching, even when it's not Sunday. He preaches every day. [15:25:01]

The wife told me she had asked him not to go in. And Steve was one of the sweetest people I have met in this department. I have only been here nine months, OK? And I have got -- we have got, you know, 6,500 employees, and I knew who Steve Perez was, because he was a sweet, gentle public servant.

And she tells me: "I told him not to go to work. I really didn't want him to go. His father-in-law, who is a Korean war veteran from the Army, combat veteran, we told him not to go, because the conditions were so bad."

And his response was, "We have got work to do." And here's a man that didn't spend, you know, 20 minutes and then come back and say, hey, I tried. He spent close to two-and-a-half-hours, because he has that in his DNA.

And so I told his wife: "Let me ask you something, ma'am. You're a person of faith. If the lord was going to take him today, how do you think he would want to go, laying in bed, watching all the disaster, or doing what he's done for 34 years?"

And the smile that overcame that woman's face, his beautiful wife, said it all. "If it was his turn to go," she said, "this is the way he would have wanted to go."

And so with that, I just want to tell the men and women of the Houston Police Department that what you have displayed for the past four days, sleeping on cots -- our dive team yesterday, their only meal was a -- a pack of water.

And they were out there at 11:30 at night. And had we let for, believe me, they would have gone in that water.

So, those that have been tweeting about, hey, why are the cops being fed, well, they got -- they can't save people. And despite the people the fact that we have not been able to do the best of jobs feeding them, they are out there on a power bar having worked 37 hours.

So, I'm sorry that we're feeding them, but that's why we're doing it, so they can save lives. And so, with that, I just want to say that we will continue. This police department is resilient, as is this community, and I look forward to taking this man and giving him the honors and his family that he so richly deserves.

So, on the day that we have his funeral, and I know that this is Houston and it's going to be -- they know it's going to be a while because we have got some work to do that he would want us to do. We will apologize now when we mess up traffic, but the least we can do is the day that we say goodbye, that this family and this community get an opportunity to pay their respects.

And with that, we can open up to questions.


Anything else? OK, guys, thank you very much.

TURNER: Sorry. What you got?

QUESTION: On the (OFF-MIKE) shelters and whatnot, where does the city's responsibility start and stop? (OFF-MIKE)

TURNER: Quite frankly, the shelters are staffed and supplied by the Red Cross and FEMA. That's their primary responsibility.

For example, we had a number of churches that were making their facilities available, subject to staffing and supplies. And that's -- those -- the staffing and supplies would come from FEMA and come from the Red Cross.