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Thousands Rescued in Houston Area; Pastor Joel Osteen Responds to Backlash; Trump Visits Texas after Storm; Flooding Far From Over. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:33:24] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so we've been watching an incredible number of boat rescues who have been pulling stranded folks from their homes and from the rising flood waters so you can actually see all around me right now standing next to the Buffalo Bayou.

CNN's Miguel Marquez, he is live on a boat. He is in the flood ravaged Spring, Texas.

So, Miguel, tell us everything that you're seeing around you.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're with a crew. That guy Kenny Delgado (ph). They've been out since the very beginning of this thing, pulling people out. They've pulled out dozens of people in this neighborhood. This is 2502 Creek Leaf Road in Spring, Texas.

The water, when it was at its worst, was over my head, was up to the top of the roof line here. It has started to recede significantly. You can see the light, amazingly enough, is still on in some of these houses along this way.

I'm going to show you -- so this is someone's front yard. I'm going to watch -- walk carefully in case there is something in the way. But you can see the mailboxes here. It drops down a little bit there. And then you can get back up to literally now we're on the road. And it's about a foot of water once you get up onto the road.

The thing that is difficult for boats at this point is getting into these neighborhoods and dealing with the currents. We're seeing very fast currents as the water starts to recede. It's also very difficult for larger boats to get in, so the air boats are very helpful. But thousands and thousands of homes still inundated in this area and many, many people in those homes, many of them did not want to leave. But at this point, with the sun finally shining through today, first day for people to really get out there and take a serious look at who's out there, who needs help and getting them the help that they need.

[08:35:11] Alisyn. Chris.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Miguel, I totally get it. I mean I get it now because I'm here next to the Buffalo Bayou. I wouldn't have known how strong these currents are and this rushing flood water unless I'd seen it with my own eyes. MARQUEZ: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And we're watching just how people get caught in this, as you've just illustrated for us.

So, thank you very much. Stay safe where you are.


CAMEROTA: Let's go back to Chris in the studio.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so, some of the good news that we're seeing is that places are opening up businesses and different types of buildings to become shelters. Hundreds of evacuees are now making their way inside the Osteen Houston Mega Church. This is yesterday afternoon. But there's been a lot of critics for Pastor Osteen, saying that that church should have welcomed victims much sooner. The pastor wants to respond to his critics. He joins us now.

Joel Osteen, it is good to have you on the show. What is the current situation at your church?

PASTOR JOEL OSTEEN, LAKEWOOD CHURCH: The current situation, Chris, is we're housing hundreds of people that have been displaced by the flooding. And then all day today and yesterday we've been receiving supplies, baby food, baby supplies, medical supplies as well to disperse to people in the different shelters. So that's what we're doing today.

CUOMO: What do you say to your critics who say you didn't want to open up the church. You said it was flooded and that's why, but it wasn't flooded, and you were just waiting when you didn't need to wait. What do you say to them?

OSTEEN: Well, Chris, the church has always been open. We -- our doors -- we received -- we received shelter victims just the first day or two. But there was a time, Chris, that the place was flooded. That's not a true statement people that say that. All right, we have floodgates right behind me over to the right and it was within a foot of that. So there was a safety issue the first day or two.

I mean you're seeing -- you know as well as I do, this was a hug storm. So -- but the idea that we wouldn't receive people, I mean we've been here in this community for 60 years. In Allison -- Tropical Storm Allison, we housed 3,000 people. So we've always been open.

There's a big shelter four miles away, the city shelter, that has all the dormitories. Once they filled up, people started coming here. But how this notion got started that we're not a shelter and we're not taking people in is a fault narrative.

CUOMO: Were people ever turned away?

OSTEEN: Nobody's -- no, we don't turn anybody away. People came at some point and we would take them to different shelters -- or they chose to go to other shelters, but nobody's turned away. But the first day or two, you know, I think it happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, that's what this -- you know, their -- this building was not accessibility. It can look like it's high and dry, but they can't see behind us that -- you know, we would never put people in here until we know that it's safe. And it was not safe at those days, I can tell you.

CUOMO: Part of the criticism came out of the sensitivity to the need because we're seeing so many people step up. Let's go from the negative to the positive. We had unprecedented flooding down there, unprecedented problems, but also an unprecedented response of compassion and the human spirit. What have you seen?

OSTEEN: You know, it is amazing. People ever generous. Sometimes the worst of times brings out the best in us. And, you know, when we put out a call, when we felt it was safe and the city wanted us to become a distribution center, thousands of Eustonians (ph) lined up for miles or blocks out here just bringing tons of baby supplies and these blankets and all these things.

People want to help. People call in, how with we donate. And so it's the -- it's the best of the human spirit. It breaks our heart what has happened. And this is what we love doing, taking care of people and helping them in some -- in some way.

CUOMO: Did the backlash on social media change any planning for you?

OSTEEN: It really didn't -- it didn't, Chris. I didn't -- I have never read one of those. Now, of course, my team told me, hey, we're getting blasted because of all of this. But we've -- we always wanted to take people in. Our doors were open. Did it change anything? I don't know. It probably helped us to step up some things, but to do it faster.

But, you know, you've got to get back, you know, to a safety issue first and to, you know, to stay on mission, and that is taking care of people. But it's not easy when, you know, we have our own staff members and pastors that are being rescued and, you know, well, how do you get people to the building to take care of people. You know, this is a big building. You can't just open it up. And so, you know, it -- it was a big storm but, you know, maybe next time we would be a shelter before, get people housed before the storm. But nobody dreamed -- even the mayor, he never dreamed that he'd fill up 10,000 evacuees in the big shelter just down the street from us. So it's caught a lot of us by surprise.

CUOMO: Let me get your take on something else. The beginning of the month of August we had Charlottesville and we saw one very ugly reality about the division and hate that is potentially in this country. But now we've seen this horrible situation, not of anybody's own making, but the way that people have stepped up, the interconnection, the interdependence, the idea that we are all in the same boat, literally. The worst of mother nature. The best of human nature. What do you make of these two so different realities in this country?

[08:40:21] OSTEEN: You know, I'm not sure, Chris, but I know what you're saying. I feel it here as well. I think sometimes -- and it's too bad, but a tragedy can bring us

together. And, you know, when you're rescuing people, you don't care if they're a Democrat, Republican, white or black. And I love that. And maybe this can be the start of some healing, of just, you know, just all the divisiveness that's going on. At least that's my prayer and that we could just -- to have this same spirit.

Even driving around the city, you see people, you know, in their boats and coming in from other places, and they just want to help. They're not getting paid. This is just what's in -- I think it's in all of us, but sometimes it gets pushed down by preconceived ideas and you don't think like me and you're not a -- you know, I'm a person of faith and you're not.

But, you know, life is about lifting each other up. That's what we're all called to do.

CUOMO: All right, Pastor Joel Osteen. The criticism was out there. I wanted to give you the chance to respond and talk to the audience directly. Thank you for taking the opportunity, sir.

OSTEEN: Thank you, Chris, my pleasure. Great to be with you.

CUOMO: All right, and good luck to everybody down there sheltering in that church.

When we come back, we'll take a quick break. We have to get back to Alisyn because she really is in the heart of concern in and around Houston. Will those dams hold? We'll check in with Alisyn, next.


[08:45:34] CAMEROTA: So, Chris I just want to walk you and all of our viewers around with what I'm seeing here because I think that you can get a bit of the misconception because it's not raining and we've heard officials say that people think that, oh, they're out of the woods. The worst is over. But, no, it's still really dangerous. So let me just show you what's happening.

I'm next to the Buffalo Bayou here in downtown Houston. And I didn't really know how bad the rushing waters were until I got down here. I mean look at the clip that these waters, these flood waters are traveling. Don't worry, I'm going to hang on. I'm going to say safe here on this walkway. This is normally a walkway. But right now you can see it doesn't take too long, if I were to wade in here, before I would be waist deep and then in some real trouble because of the current here.

I want to show you what it looked like yesterday down here. There -- these two bridges, that are just off in the distance, they were under water yesterday. In fact, you can see a tree on top of one because the flood waters deposited that tree up there. So, in other words, just 24 hours ago, the flood waters here were, what, 40, 50 feet higher.

And then, Chris, one more thing that I want to show you back here, because there's so many symbols of people's lives and how they've been literally uprooted. You can see across in the distance -- I don't know if you can see -- but that white box there, that's somebody's refrigerator. And just yesterday that refrigerator, last night, floated by here. The doors were flung open. My camera man said he saw that it was fully stocked.

So, in other words, all of these floodwaters came into someone's home, plucked that refrigerator out of their home, and sent it down the river. I mean it's just -- you see the signs everywhere of how people's lives have been turned so topsy-turvy by Harvey.

CUOMO: And they're still saying that the water in a lot of different places may not crest until later this week. And then you have what happens once the water is gone and the recovery process and what is found in the homes and how the homes are rebuilt.

As Governor Christie told us, this is going to week -- last weeks, months, years. And we'll have to stay on this story, just the way you are right now, Alisyn. Thank you for being there for us and letting people understand just how severe it is and how the threat still exists.

All right. So, as Alisyn just told you, the flood threat very real in Texas. People still trapped in their homes. The man in charge in Texas is Governor Greg Abbott. What is he worried about? What does he see as the main need? Hear it from him, next.


[08:50:29] CAMEROTA: OK, so at the moment, the rain has stopped here in Houston. But we want to let people know they are not out of the woods. There are -- is so much flooding risk and danger here still.

There have been about 50 inches of rain that has fallen because of Harvey. If you can imagine that. It is soaked here. You can see the bayou next to me that is just -- it has swelled to five times its normal size.

So the -- this is a record-falling rain, as you've heard. It is in fact historic. It's the most for any of the continental U.S.

And, of course, now the city is trying to figure out what next. They're still trying to rescue people from their homes and they're trying to figure out how to rebuild.

So joining us now is the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.

Governor, thank you so much for taking time to be with us this morning.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R): TEXAS: Sure. Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Governor, tell us about the president's visit to the state. Tell us what he accomplished.

ABBOTT: Well, it was very important for the president to show up and to show how much he cared about the state of Texas, about our citizens, and about his commitment to helping Texas get through this emergency process and then rebuild. Importantly, in addition to the president, we had cabinet members such as the secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Tom Price of Health and Human Services, who is playing such a key role about what's going on in Houston right now. We had the FEMA administrator here, where we were able to begin to strategize how we are going to address this issue both in the short term and in the long term.

But as far as the president himself is concerned, I got to visit with him at length and see both his compassion and his commitment to helping Texas get through this process.

CAMEROTA: And, governor, do you think that the president should have talked more about the victims? I mean when you talk about his compassion, obviously there's some criticism today that he didn't talk enough about the victims. He didn't reach out to them enough.

ABBOTT: Well, I know that he talked to me at length about the victims and about the devastation that he saw and about his deep concern about what people were going through. He and I together were watching on TV the flooding that was occurring in Houston. He didn't want to go to that location because he didn't want to interfere with it. But he expressed his sorrow and deep concern about how these people's lives have been completely inundated. And his compassion and commitment to help them respond in this -- I think you've reported -- he will be going there soon to try to help the people in the Houston region.

But he also understands, this is bigger than just Houston. He is concerned all the way from Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, to the flooding that is now going on in the Beaumont region.

CAMEROTA: And, you know, we heard him say to you, we'll hold off on our congratulations at the moment because obviously we're not out of the woods yet. But he was saying that it's been a great effort. I think everyone would agree.

But did you want him to call upon -- put out the word for more help, to have more Americans be involved in sort of this moment of coming together for Houston and Texas?

ABBOTT: Well, it -- sure. What we talked about was that we have had a very collaborative and seamless connection between the federal government, the state of Texas and the local governments, for a remarkable response to, as you pointed out, a record flooding.

But also we talked about where we go from here and what needs to be done from here to take care of the challenges that Texans are going to be facing for months and for years to come. And we begin to talk in detail about how we will continue to work seamlessly to make sure that we address these ongoing challenges.

CAMEROTA: And -- OK, so speaking about what's next. The Pentagon says that the U.S. military has 30,000 troops and equipment at the ready, ready to serve Texas, and they're just waiting for the green light from you to send them. Are you giving them the green light today?

ABBOTT: Well, yes, sure. It's hard for you all to know what goes on behind the scenes. Let me bring you up to date.

And that is, I personally, as well as my staff, have been in constant contact with the Department of Defense. Three and four days ago, I personally, and my staff, spoke with the deputy secretary of defense, Secretary Shanahan, and we talked about what our needs were. The first was needs for more high water vehicles, which we were able to get hundreds of them into the Houston area.

[08:55:14] And then I personally spoke with the deputy secretary about our need for personnel. At that time, multiple days ago, we spoke about the need to get these personnel triggered and implemented and deployed into the state of Texas. And so we've already begun the strategy about how and when that will be done.

Before that occurred, you may have reported that I unleashed the full complement of the Texas National Guard, 12,000, and they were working to get into Houston. They could not even get into some parts of Houston because of the flooding itself. So it's a matter of getting into the right locations.

But as we were talking earlier, we will be deploying the U.S. National Guard at the right time to multiple locations, not just in the Houston area, but as you can see, in the Beaumont area, all the way over to the Corpus Christi area and Port Aransas and places like that as we rebuild.

We know this is going to be a huge operation. The president and I spoke about the necessity of us working together to ensure that we get those National Guard members deployed at the right time, at the right location.

CAMEROTA: And so, governor, just help us understand this, is today not the -- not the right time? Are you waiting a few days or waiting to see what happens on the ground before actually deploying those folks? And what about the assistance that's being offered from other states and from Mexico? They say that they too have troops ready to send to you and they're just waiting for you to pick up the phone and give them the yes sign.

ABBOTT: Right. We are in the process of mustering all the appropriate National Guard that will be deployed by the federal government. We already have on the ground National Guard from countless states across the United States.

And let me use this opportunity to thank all the states. And I can't even list them all because so many have been involved in this process. And I express my gratitude to my fellow governors who have help deploy their National Guard to the state of Texas. And so we have an abundance of resource that have been made available to us. But we will continue to add more at all the right locations.

But, again, as we speak, we have those conversations from the president, to his cabinet, to the Department of Defense, and we are -- we have the right strategies in place to make sure that we have the right personnel in place. CAMEROTA: All right, well, Governor Greg Abbott, thank you very much

for taking the time to join us today. And just let us know when you need those resources, more resources, and we'll help you get the word out.

Thank you very much.

ABBOTT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, that's going to do it from here, Chris, for the moment. Obviously we will be going out to try to monitor more of the boat rescues that are happening because there are still so many people stranded in their homes. So we'll be able to bring that to you tomorrow when we join you again from Houston.

Back to you in the studio.

CUOMO: Yes, I was looking at the same prompter. I was going to say the show may be over, but your day is just beginning, my friend. I look forward to seeing what stories you're able to tell. Our thanks to Alisyn.

I'm going to be back at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Kellyanne Conway is going to join us. She's going to discuss the storm and the president's visit and efforts and his latest tweet about North Korea. Did the president just suggest it's time to act on that rogue nation?

CNN's breaking news coverage continues on CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman right after this quick break.

Please, stay with CNN.