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Rising Flood Waters and Rising Death Toll in Texas; Thousands Rescued, Many Still Awaiting Help; Trump in Texas Vows Storm Recovery 'Better Than Ever Before'; Harvey Hits Record 51 Inches in Houston; U.S. Condemns North Korea for Firing Missile Over Japan. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 29, 2017 - 17:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Immeasurable devastation. Flooding as far as the eye can see. Residents and rescue workers in Houston struggling to cope with the disaster of extraordinary scale. Thousands have been taken to safety, but countless others are still waiting for help. We're on the water and in the air.

[17:00:24] Unrelenting pain. Parts of Houston have seen more than 49 inches of rain, a record for the continental U.S. Dams and levees cannot hold any more water, with more on the way, perhaps another foot of rain as Tropical Storm Harvey just won't quit.

In the storm zone. President Trump gets a briefing on the catastrophe from emergency managers and government officials. Inside the zone, he is vowing a disaster response better than ever before.

And all options. The president responds to North Korea's latest missile launch with a not so failed military threat, saying that all options are on the table. CNN is the only western network reporting from Pyongyang. We're going to take you there live.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Jim Sciutto, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SCIUTTO: Breaking news. The catastrophic flooding in Texas is worsening this hour. Water is rising in rivers, reservoirs and bayous; and the rain is still coming down.

South of Houston, police warn residents to get out now following the breach of a levee. More than four feet of rain has now fallen in parts of Houston. That is the most ever recorded inside the continental U.S.

Now Tropical Storm Harvey has been recharging over the Gulf and is expected to make landfall once again tomorrow. It could drop another 15 inches of rain.

Thousands of people have been rescued from flooded homes by small boats and helicopters. Many others are still stranded, waiting for help. Houston Convention Center is sheltering nearly 10,000 evacuees, doubling the number of cots available there.

The storm is now pounding neighboring Louisiana. Rescuers have picked up more than 500 people from flooding in the Lake Charles area. And on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, heavy rain forecast for New Orleans.

President Trump is about to return to the White House after meeting with emergency managers and state officials in Texas, facing his first natural disaster as commander in chief. Perhaps characteristically, he's promising a storm recovery, quote, "better than ever before."

I'll speak with Houston area Congressman Al Green. And our correspondents, specialists and guests are standing by with full coverage of the breaking news.

Let's go straight, though, to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He is in Richmond, Texas.

Polo, the waters -- the river rising. How many more homes are at risk tonight?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of them, Jim. There was a brief pause today. There was even a little bit of sunshine, even able to take off our rain gear for the first time in four days. But that was short-lived. There's still more rain in the forecast, and then there's the Brazos River. It is swollen right now and slowly rising.

Earlier today the water line was where I'm standing, and little by little, it is slowly invading this community just outside of Houston.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): Desperate rescue operations still ongoing throughout southeast Texas. Though thousands have been rescued, countless others are still stranded in their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still trying to get to folks, and again, like we said yesterday, don't give up on us, seek the higher ground. We will get to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out. It's a little slick now.

SANDOVAL: For Texans, Harvey's historic deluge is deadly and overwhelming.


SANDOVAL: The Coast Guard says they're getting nearly 1,000 calls an hour from those in need. They're working with multiple other agencies, racing to get to the flood victims as the rain continues to fall.

COL. STEVEN METZE, TEXAS MILITARY DEPARTMENT: The biggest issue right now is just time. Getting to everyone that needs to -- that we need to get to.

SANDOVAL: In Brazoria County, where the Columbia Lakes levy gave way, officials are directing residents to get out now.

JUDGE BOB HEBERT, FORT BEND COUNTY, TEXAS: It's a tremendously more powerful event than anything anybody alive in Texas has ever seen.

SANDOVAL: As the Brazos River in Fort Bend County rises to record levels, officials here also imploring residents to evacuate if they can.

HEBERT: That would be an 800-year flood event. And all of our flood protection assets are designed by law to protect against the 100-year flood. So we're on the verge of being overpowered. That's why we're evacuating.

SANDOVAL: Nearly 10,000 evacuees are now sheltered at the Houston Convention Center, nearly double capacity. But officials say they're not turning anyone away.

[17:05:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they're trying to say children and woman [SIC] first. So we had to be separated, and that's where, really -- that's really the stressful part. It's hard in my heart, because to see my kids and my wife going and not be sure what -- they were going to be safe.

SANDOVAL: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) measured a staggering 49 inches of rain, the most ever recorded in the contiguous United States from a tropical storm that made landfall. Back over the Gulf that's still churning, Harvey is expected to creep back northward, dumping more rain on Texas and Louisiana throughout the week.


SANDOVAL: And back out live in Richmond, there is still more rain in the forecast, and that is fueling concerns that this river will continue to flood.

Meanwhile, there are those mandatory evacuations that are in place, Jim. The people here experienced very similar flooding a year ago. They are not about to stick around. Many of them have already packed up and left this part of town, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Polo Sandoval there in Richmond, Texas. The area being devastated by this storm is truly enormous. Let's give you a sense of that. The Houston metropolitan area alone, more than 8,000 square miles. As a matter of comparison, that's about the same size, in fact it's a bit larger than the entire state of New Jersey.

So let's look at the flood -- the flood zones in there. These are the floodways across the metropolitan area of Houston, and to give you a sense of the number of people in need inside those flood zones, look at all the emergency calls that have come in. So many points on the map you can't even count all those people in need of rescue.

CNN's Brian Todd today flew over part of that area today on rescue missions with agents of the Customs and Border Patrol. Brian, I know seeing this from this air -- from the air is really overwhelming. Tell us what you saw as those rescue crews were going to work there.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Overwhelming" is a very good word to use, Jim. We took off this morning. We returned just a short time ago, flying with Customs and Border Protection, their air and marine operations unit. From the air it's just a jarring sense of the scope of the devastation here. And they have a very strong sense of urgency, because from the air, as you mentioned, it's just a jarring sense of the scope of the devastation here.

We flew to a neighborhood called King's Wood, which was -- it's northeast of Houston. It is just completely devastated. The water levels there are astounding, and from the air you can really see it as far as just how far it goes. You can't see the end of it, essentially.

Water to window levels on second floors, water up to roofs on some occasions. And forget trying to use a road, because those are completely under water. We got a very good sense of that way up in the air. And then we touched down. We had to shuttle some of the people they were rescuing, rapid-fire, into these choppers and get them out of there. Agents were climbing out of our chopper, going into the neighborhoods, plucking people from boats, getting them onto our chopper.

Also, we were flying in tandem with another Blackhawk when it hovered over one area and lowered a hoist, lowered a basket from a hoist down into that neighborhood, picked up six people and a dog.

In our runs today, there were three runs that we made with these guys. I think we rescued 28 people, by my count, in the span of less than an hour. And this was in three runs. They're just doing it rapid fire into these neighborhoods.

Jim, also what they're up against, horrific conditions in the air. Visibility is maybe a quarter mile at most, and we could hear -- I could hear the pilot and the co-pilot constantly talking to each other about what was coming up on their left or their right.

They had very low cloud cover. That's a problem. Then they have to get down lower because of that, and when you do that, you're running the risk of hitting towers. Texas is known for having a lot of radio and TV towers, especially in this area. A lot of them have wires and cables coming from them, escalating from them at 45-degree angles. So it really is difficult to kind of get around those towers and to see them until you're right up on them. So the conditions for these pilots also very, very treacherous today, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question, risk in the air, risk in the water. Brian Todd out with rescue crews over Texas.

President Trump heads back to Washington shortly after flying out to Texas today to meet with emergency managers and state officials. He is vowing a storm recovery, quote, "better than ever before."

Let's go live to CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. He is in Austin, Texas.

Jeff, the president had to walk a fine line today between showing leadership but also staying out of the way of those very busy rescue crews.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, indeed, Jim, and he largely stayed out of the hardest-hit areas. Did not go near Houston, of course, where the flood recovery efforts, as we've seen in Brian and Polo's reports, obviously are still under way.

But the president did get a sense, through several briefings throughout the day. In fact, one just wrapped up here a few moments ago here at the state command center in Austin. He was with the governor of Texas, as well as the two Republican senators. He said this is going to be one of the most expensive efforts ever in the country to repair and recover Texas.


[17:10:07] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to be looked at in five years and ten years from now as this is the way to do it.

This was of epic proportion. Nobody has 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'll congratulate each other when it's all finished.


ZELENY: And Jim, those words there show that the president is still very much learning on the job in terms of empathy, learning on job -- on the job in terms of how to react and relate to the individuals here who are, you know, responding to this.

But we also saw President Trump after, in Corpus Christi, Texas, when he was addressing supporters. He said this outside a fire station in Corpus Christi, Texas.


TRUMP: We love you! You are special! We're here to take care! It's going well, and I want to thank you for coming out.

We're going to get you back and operating immediately.

Thank you, everybody. What a crowd, what a turnout.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: So that was the president there in Corpus Christi, Texas. He visited Austin here for a briefing. There were a lot of demonstrators here in Austin, not surprising, a liberal city, of course. Now there are some Trump supporters, as you can see, gathering here, Jim, as well.

So -- but the president will face this test here of leadership, of government support here as he's working with Republican senators, as well as Republican congressmen and Democratic congressmen, as well, here.

So despite all the antics going on here, Jim, as you can see, this is a very big test of his demonstration of his administration, of his ability to govern -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. Jeff Zeleny there in Austin, Texas, traveling with the president.

We're joined now by Democratic Congressman Al Green. His district includes some of the hardest hit parts of Houston.

Congressman Green, it's nice to speak to you again tonight. When we spoke yesterday, you estimated that some 10,000 people just in one district in your area that you visited yesterday were still in need of rescuing. Do you have a sense today of how many more people are still in need of help?

REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS (via phone): Thank you. Let me start by expressing my sympathies and my concerns for the officer's family. We lost one of our finest first responders, and we are still in mourning and want the family to know that we're concerned.

Yes, I'm out in the Missouri City area. And when I spoke to you yesterday, I was talking about the circumstance with the Brazos River. And we have had that breach, and that breach is going to cause a lot of people to suffer if we don't get people out as quickly as possible. And you might recall yesterday I indicated that we needed more helicopters. Well, we've got more helicopters in, and people are being rescued by way of helicopter.

In reference to the number of people still in harm's way, it's hard to know. I do know that in Missouri City, they opened up one school as a shelter, and before I left last night -- I was there for two hours, because I had to go to another place -- it was full. They've opened up another school for a shelter. These shelters are being built as fast as we can open them up, and I'm grateful that they're being opened up. I'm grateful that the Red Cross is helping out. I'm grateful for the first responders and the helicopters that have been brought in and additional watercraft. But we're still in crisis management mode. Let's not kid ourselves. This is crisis management mode. And we've got to do all that we can as fast as we can.

SCIUTTO: It's good to hear, Congressman, that you're getting more resources, helicopters, rescue boats. I'm curious: Does anybody know or have an estimate of how many people are still standing on the roofs of their homes, still awaiting rescue from rescue services? GREEN: Well, it's hard to know, because Houston is 600 square miles.

And this had devastated an entire area the size of some small countries. This is a huge place. And because Houston is so large, we're trying to keep tabs on what's going on.

But we're still finding that the rain is still coming down, and that rain is coming down at such a pace that we're still having additional flooding. We've had over 50 inches of rain here in this area. That's unheard of.

And the president's right. He said that this is a crisis of epic proportions, and a crisis that is epic in its size requires a response that's epic in its size. And I hope that's what we are to do.

[17:15:13] SCIUTTO: Now, when we look at these aerial pictures now of just the extent of the flooding, as you describe it there, we know that some 12,000 Texas National Guardsmen have already been activated. The military standing by with as many as 30,000 troops. And of course, the military brings resources that other first responders may not have, including aircraft.

Do you believe that the U.S. military should be activated to begin to join in these rescues, as well?

GREEN: Well, you might recall yesterday I told you that we need as much as we can get. Too much was not enough. We need to get everything that we can in here. This is still crisis management. And I'm pleased to hear that we have more coming.

I know that there are thin lines of communication -- pardon me, thin lines of demarcation as it relates to the military versus the National Guard versus the Coast Guard. But this is crisis management at its zenith. And we have to do all that we can as fast as we can. Let's help people get out of harm's way.

There are people who are going to be out there tonight, expecting somebody to show up and say, "I'm here to help you." We've got to be there.

SCIUTTO: As night falls, we talked about this yesterday, as well. Waiting in those conditions during daylight, harrowing enough. Nighttime, even more dangerous. A Texas official said today that he's concerned after the floodwaters recede, about -- about people who may have been lost. He said about finding bodies.

Is there -- is there a sense of how many people are not getting the help they need?

GREEN: Hard to know. Hard to know. Because some people are within structures such that we don't know what their circumstance is. We have encouraged neighbors to check on neighbors, especially people who may be disabled, but it's hard to know.

I just can only say this, my dear friend, and I'm grateful for this question. This may require us going house to house as quickly as we can, especially in areas that have been flooded for some number of time, some amount of time such that people have not been able to walk out. We're going to have to just go house to house, take a bullhorn, take all of the sound equipment we can, and just call out to people. Hopefully, they'll answer.

But this is going to still be a crisis that has to be managed by people on the ground, in this case in the water, until we know that every person has been accounted for.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Twelve years almost to the day after Katrina, it reminds you of those searches after Katrina, house to house in New Orleans.

Congressman Green, we know you've got a tough job ahead of you. We're giving you all the support we can, and we look forward to talking again.

GREEN: This station, this network has been outstanding. I greatly appreciate what you're doing. People need to know that their government cares and that we're going to be there for them. You're helping us to get that message out there.

SCIUTTO: Take care of yourself. We'll talk soon.

Coming up next, much more breaking news. A desperate struggle to rescue stranded residents in much of Houston. And even more is expected on the way now. We'll get you the latest forecast from the flood disaster zone.


[17:23:08] SCIUTTO: Back with our breaking news. Urgent rescue efforts continue as floodwaters rise in south Texas. Thousands have been taken to safety, but many others are still waiting for help. And night is coming soon. Plus, there's more rain on the way.

Let's get an update now from meteorologist Tom Sater. He is at the CNN severe weather center.

Tom, tell us what's coming to these hardest hit areas. It doesn't look good.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, but the rain is going to start to lighten up in Houston and Harris County area; and that's great news. The problem is going to be -- and we've mentioned the last 24, 48 hours -- east of Houston and in towards southwest Louisiana.

Everything in purple, one, two, to three feet. This is now the size of Kentucky. But most of the heavy rainfall now is just east in the Houston area. But we are looking at significant rain now, Beaumont, Port Arthur into Lake Charles, Louisiana. The storm's center is still offshore, so it still has a water source, but we're not very far from the back edge moving out of Houston.

Once the system moves north of Houston, their rainfall will be cut off. Landfall, second landfall in the predawn hours tomorrow morning, and then notice the spacing. It picks up speed and lifts away. But the resources needed for rescues and aid are going to have to be

extended now to the north end, east of Houston, Jim, and in toward Louisiana, where they've already picked up 10, 20 plus inches and are looking at an additional 10 or so.

So that is a big concern, of course: spreading the resources that are already strapped in most of Texas.

SCIUTTO: I understand that after the rainfall, often the rivers keep rising, and there are many of them, of course, going through the metropolitan area of Houston.


How serious is the threat to levees there in the city?

SATER: It's a big concern. Let me break this down for you. In fact, right now this is where the Houston area is, and you can barely see two areas right here.

Let's get in closer. That's the Addicks and the Barker reservoirs. This is where they have a concern.

[17:25:02] When we talk about the apex of the reservoirs, these are earthen levees. These are not concrete. A hundred and 14 feet at the apex, but only 108 feet on the northern edge.

The water level is now overlapping that at about 6 to 8 inches. So some erosion could occur there.

But the problem is, Jim, we've got neighborhoods. You see the colors. This is the floodwaters that have now flooded over 3,000 homes. We have 50 subdivisions right now that are looking at inundation. So those have been evacuated.

Another way to look at it is you take a look at the Houston area. When we go in closer, you're going to be able to see the authorities made an incredible call the other day to release water into the Buffalo Bayou even though it was extremely high. It started to recede, but they had to do it to try to relieve the pressure. This is where they dropped off the rain, and the watershed started to move through. Yes, the waters were rising.

But let's talk about these levees are mainly parks. They are dry. They're mainly catch basins. When we get in closer, you're going to see dog parks, baseball fields. They're dry most of the year. This is a street view image on Google, and it gives you an idea of the park. It's now inundated with 25 to 30 feet of water.

The pressure, Jim, on this earthen levee could be so extreme, day after day this pressure, if it finds one crack, it could be compromised, could open a wall of water that would flow down and then fan out, because we don't have a general channel for the water to flow anymore.

SCIUTTO: Dangerous days long after the storm. SATER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Tom Sater, thanks very much.

Coming up, much more breaking news. Thousands have been rescued in the disaster zone, but sadly, many more are waiting for help. Dams and levees, as we just heard there, can not hold any more water. Even more rain on the way.

Plus, President Trump answers Kim Jong-un's latest missile launch, saying, quote, that "all options are on the table." We'll take you live to North Korea. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


SCIUTTO: Among the multiple breaking stories we are following this hour, rainfall totals from Hurricane Harvey now have topped 51 inches in the Houston area. That is a record for the continental United States.

[17:31:47] The Red Cross says that at least 17,000 evacuees are in Texas shelters tonight as rescuers continue going through flooded neighborhoods in and around Houston, house to house in some cases.

President Trump just now wrapping up his own visit to Texas.

Let's bring in our political specialists. I want to begin with you, Bianna Golodryga, because you're from the Houston area. You know it well, and I know your parents -- I understand your parents are still down there. Help put the size, the scope of this into context for our viewers.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Yes, Jim, there really is nothing to compare the current situation in Houston to. There are few cities in the country better prepared than Houston. I've lived through a few. Houston has survived through major catastrophic hurricanes but nothing like we've seen right now.

My parents are among the lucky ones. They have power. They don't have flooding on their streets. But I have to tell you, seeing the images, a deluge of water, four feet. I mean, there's no need for hyperbole when you talk about the magnitude of this storm, and it's still going on.

You know, compared to past storms, the rain would pass, the storms would move on. This storm continues, downfall after downfall of rain, torrential rain.

And I have to say I've never been more heartbroken for my city. I've never been more proud, though, to be a Houstonian, as well. People are expressing condolences from afar, but people there in Houston are working. My friends are out there rescuing people. My friend's father was rescued from his rooftop. My friend's children are putting together care packages to send to the George R. Brown Convention Center. I tweeted a photo my mom sent me from one of the major grocery stores,

which managed to open today. The line was down the road; and people were coming in. Customers were hugging the employees and thanking them for opening today, for going to work. Everyone is a hero in their own way in Houston.

It's a huge melting pot, I believe only second to New York. The most spoken languages in the country. And at a time when the country is so divided, to see people coming together -- brown, white, whatever religion -- all helping together as Houstonians first, as human beings first, really is something to see, and of course, it's going to continue.

SCIUTTO: It's been evident in the response of so many, not just first responders but average Houstonians. Neighbors helping neighbors.

Ryan Lizza, from a national perspective, this is a test, you might say, for the Trump administration. Granted, most of the response really is local.


SCIUTTO: But there were federal resources that come to this and the president trying to make his leadership very clear here. How is the president's visit being received there today?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think there are two things when a president has to deal with a crisis like this. It's the public performance and the leadership role, and then there's just the hands- on, are the resources getting to the people in the right way? Are his agencies and cabinet members doing the right thing? Do they understand the programs that will help in the wake of this?

And, you know, you just -- you haven't heard much partisan criticism of the president. You haven't heard anyone saying that the federal government's response is not adequate yet. And I think the people on the ground, the people in Texas, whether they're Republican or Democrat, will be quick to point out -- that out if that's the case.

I don't think this role comes naturally to President Trump in terms of, you know, visiting a place like this, doing the kind of "I feel your pain" kind of thing that we're used to from -- from more professional politicians. There's going to be, you know, stray remarks that people will kind of find -- find a little bit off, and we saw some of that today.

[17:35:12] But all in all, I think, you know, people are very, very quick to criticize this president, let's be honest, and so far his response has not elicited a whole lot of criticism. So I think he's getting -- I think he's getting good marks so far. You know, there will be some -- we'll have a discussion about the follow-up, and that will -- that will go on for quite a while, but so far you're not hearing anything.

SCIUTTO: No question, he's sure showing a lot of attention to it.

LIZZA: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Rebecca Berg, a substantive test coming up when Congress returns from the recess will be -- will be the money. Of course, the financial response. There are going to be tens of billions of dollars needed to build here, and there will certainly be a request for a relief package. That, of course, wound up in all the other requests.

You've got a shutdown threat from the president over the wall, spending measures, et cetera. How is that all going to interplay? Because even without Harvey, it was already going to be a challenge.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president's plate is going to be full in terms of the legislative tasks ahead. And this is just going to be one of many things that Congress is going to need to address when they return at the beginning of next month.

But what the president has working in his favor, first of all, is that Republicans control Congress, and this is a feel-good kind of measure that they could all pass and tout as a big success of this Congress and this administration.

And it also helps -- this is, you know, a little bit cynical and in- the-weeds politics talk -- but John Cornyn is one of the senator from Texas, one of two senators from Texas, and he is in the Republican leadership in the Senate. So he has a role in bringing measures to the floor, figuring out what they're going to look like, how they're going to pass. And so it really does help grease the skids for this that he is going to have a role.

SCIUTTO: When you need money, it helps to have a local senator in the leadership.

BERG: It does.

SCIUTTO: Rebecca, Ryan Lizza. And Bianna, we're certainly thinking of your family and friends there. This is -- every story is personal there, so we're thinking of you and the other -- and the other Houston residents facing this right now.

And still ahead, the latest from the flooded neighborhoods in and around Houston. Darkness will be falling soon there, increasing the danger both for flood victims and to the people trying to rescue them.

But next, a show of force meant to send a message to Kim Jong-un and his cronies after North Korea's brazen launch of a ballistic missile right over Japan. We are live in North Korea's capital city of Pyongyang.


[17:42:06] SCIUTTO: We have much more ahead on the Texas flooding, and look here. This kind of scene playing out across Texas now, a car inundated by the floodwaters there, trying to get to safety. We're seeing this happen across the city as rescuers struggle to get people to shelters, to get them and to keep them alive, frankly. We're going to continue to follow this story. Meanwhile, we're also following developments in another major story.

The angry worldwide reaction to North Korea's brazen launch of a ballistic missile. Yesterday it flew right over U.S.-allied Japan. In a scathing statement, President Trump again warned Kim Jong-un's regime that all options are on the table.

CNN's Will Ripley standing by in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. But first, let's go to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, we always go down this path here. How realistic are the military options, and is a military response any more likely today in response to this missile launch than it was a week ago, a month ago?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Not that we're seeing so far, Jim. Look, the preferred option by the Pentagon and the State Department is the diplomatic options. But that said, that does not seem to be moving the ball here, and with the flyover of this missile over Northern Japan, over Hokkaido Island, the president saying all options are on the table, but still what we are seeing is show of force.

It is the South Koreans that responded quickly this time, flying their own fighter jets, dropping bombs on a range in South Korea, making a show of force that they say demonstrates they can take out the North Korean regime. So they are messaging very heavily, the Japanese messaging very heavily against the North Korean regime.

For the United States, the key question, the key military question remains unchanged. How much risk would President Trump be willing to take in a military campaign against North Korea? If he launches a preemptive strike, if he strikes inside North Korea, it is a given that North Korea will quickly launch counterattacks; and tens of thousands of people in Seoul could very quickly be killed, a humanitarian, global-level disaster. It's why this so far has not happened -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Beyond the scale of anything we've seen for some time. Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

Now let's go to Pyongyang. CNN's Will Ripley, the only western correspondent reporting live from the North Korean capital.

Will, what are the North Koreans saying about this test? And are they even letting the North Korean people know about this test at this point?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it's been more than 24 hours since we broke the news of the missile launch right here, and North Korea has yet to even say a single word about it. They haven't made an official announcement. They haven't told their own people. Officials that we've spoken to were aware because we told them. We still don't even know the kind of missile that North Korea launched. So many questions about their highly provocative act.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RIPLEY (voice-over): More than eight hours after the missile launch, we're told we cannot tell North Koreans about the launch itself, because it hasn't been announced yet on state media.

North Koreans pretty much always get the government-approved version of news far later than everyone else. Until then, in a country cut off from the outside world, people go about their day unaware.

Unaware millions of Japanese woke up to air raid sirens. Unaware South Korea was conducting its own bombing drills. Some may have heard the early morning missile. The launch site remarkably close to the Pyongyang Airport.

It's rare for North Korea to launch a missile near a highly populated area, perhaps sending a message to the U.S. Any preemptive strike could have devastating humanitarian consequences.

What North Koreans do know is what their government has been telling them all their lives. America is the enemy, a bully, a nation they must hate.

Here in Pyongyang, people are surrounded by anti-American propaganda. You see a lot of images like this, a mobile missile launcher, missiles pointed towards the U.S., which is up in flames, and the words: all of the mainland United States is within our striking range.

The regime's long-standing narrative? The U.S. could attack at any time, and their Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has no choice but to continue his unprecedented barrage of missile testing.

RI HYON IL, RESEARCHER (through translator): I think we've done enough talking. What we want now is real action.

RIPLEY (on camera): What does that mean, what kind of action?

IL (through translator): You can imagine what kind of action. All we need is the order from our Supreme Commander.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Kim Jong-un commands absolute power over the North Korean people.

Some 25 million lives, 25 million futures, rest in his hands. But they don't blame him for the hardships they endure. They blame America and the hatred is palpable.

You can clearly see how strongly this man feels.

Does North Korea really want war with the U.S.?

JONG HAK, GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE (through translator): We value peace. We love peace. We have our future, our children. If another war happens, Koreans and Americans will suffer, but we will never beg for peace.

RIPLEY (voice-over): He says something that stands out. He tells me, America is a big country, a bold country. Act big, act bold, don't be a bully, he says, because North Korea will fight back.


RIPLEY: So North Koreans went the entire day on Tuesday without hearing anything about the missile launch. We shot that story about eight hours after the launch.

Now 24 hours on, Jim, it's almost like the North Korean people are living in an alternate reality where what happens in the outside world doesn't matter. It's only what their government tells them.

So we watch and wait to see, because North Korea will eventually announce this. We'll have to see what video they release, what they have to say about this missile launch over Japan, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Will Ripley there in Pyongyang, North Korea. Thanks very much.

And coming up, an update on the catastrophe in and around Houston as rescuers try to reach still stranded flood victims before night falls again.

There is also breaking news in the Russia investigation. The President's son, Donald Trump, Jr., has now agreed to tell senate investigators about his efforts during the campaign to set up a meeting with Russians to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton.


[17:53:10] ACOSTA: We are monitoring the dire situation in Texas. And what you're watching there, just moments ago, one of many rescues still underway. Those are National Guard trucks delivering supplies. People there waiting for rescue as well.

We're seeing this played out in multiple communities and neighborhoods across the metropolitan area there. People still very much in need of help. We're going to be checking in with our correspondents for live reports as the hour continues.

Meanwhile, there is also breaking news involving one of Donald Trump's sons and the ongoing Russia investigation. CNN's Senior Congressional Reporter Manu Raju is here.

What are we learning tonight, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Actually, Donald Trump, Jr., the President's eldest son, has agreed to a transcribed interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. All a part of that Trump Tower meeting that he had in June of 2016 with Paul Manafort, with Jared Kushner, in which they met with the Russians, in which Donald Trump, Jr. was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign. And was also told, of course, that the Russians were trying to help his father get elected president.

Now, Trump, Jr. had told Fox News last month that he would be willing to testify under oath. And then when the Senate Judiciary Committee asked him to testify publicly, he instead cut a deal to actually meet behind closed doors, providing some 250 pages of documents to the committee.

It's now -- we know now that there is a date that has been set for this transcribed interview. The committee is not disclosing exactly when, but we do expect it as soon as September.

ACOSTA: And this testimony is not under oath, but he's still legally required to tell the truth in this testimony. Is that right?

RAJU: No question about it. Even if it's not under oath, even if it's with staff, even if some senators will attend, if he tells a lie, he's going to be in trouble.

ACOSTA: And we're learning that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is ratcheting up, as well, his investigation.

[17:54:55] RAJU: Yes, that's right. Sources are telling our colleague, Evan Perez, that he has actually issued subpoenas. Bob Mueller has issued subpoenas to Paul Manafort's former attorney and also his spokesman, Jason Maloni, to issue -- to look into this inquiry that he has launched into possible crimes that may have been committed.

We're thinking financial, tax crimes. But rather unusual move to actually go after a former attorney for records and testimony from that former attorney because, as we know, attorney/client privilege really does protect a lot of those communications. But it really just shows that he is ratcheting up pressure on Bob Mueller. This after, of course, his home was raided by FBI.

ACOSTA: Multiple investigations still under way, Robert Mueller and on the Hill.

Coming up, more breaking news from the disaster zones. Thousands are rescued from floodwaters, but many more still waiting for help.

Rivers, reservoirs rising. Dams and levees, they can't hold any more water and yet more rain is on the way.