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Crews Going Door-to-Door; Hospital Evacuation in Beaumont; Military Ramps up Rescue Efforts. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 31, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:13] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. And you're watching CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Harvey's catastrophic aftermath.

Get out or die. That is the warning from one southeast Texas county telling residents that the loss of life and property is a certainty.

Right now dozens of communities in Texas and Louisiana are under water. Neighborhoods turned into seascapes.

We did just see the vice president, Mike Pence, down there. He is touring a storm ravaged area of Rockport and promising federal help standing just outside of a gutted church with his wife.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people are with you. We are here today. We will be here tomorrow. And we will be here every day until this city and this state and this region rebuild bigger and better than ever before.


BALDWIN: How about this from the Coast Guard. They say they have helped save more than 6,000 people, plucking person after person from rooftops. The sound of helicopters overhead means salvation for folks like this. This woman, look at this, clutching her little baby, six days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Rescue after rescue captured live here on CNN.

In Houston, crews are going door to door to find flood victims in areas that had been inaccessible. Houston's police chief says he is praying the number of dead, now at 39, doesn't climb even more.

When you go just outside of Houston now, there are new mandatory evacuation orders that have been put into place, some because of the rising flood levels, others just to keep people from trying to get back to their devastated neighborhoods before it's really safe.

Those who can return home, taking count of the devastation, but also of their blessings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RIC SALDIVAR, LOST SIX FAMILY MEMBERS IN HARVEY FLOODING: My neighbors came over and gave me a hug and said they were so sorry. Whatever you need, you know? Everybody, just, whatever you need, you know? I guess they can imagine going through something like this, you know? And like I told them sheriffs, I said, I'm just so glad you saved my brother. I just -- I didn't want to lose my brother.


BALDWIN: Six members of that man's family died after their van was swept away.

Meantime, a flooded chemical plant near Houston is creating a volatile situation in and of itself. A fire broke out. Fifteen deputies were sent to the hospital for inhaling what they're calling a non-toxic irritant. Now authorities expect more fires could spark any moment.

Right now, FEMA officials and Houston firefighters, they are going door to door looking for anyone still trapped by Harvey.

CNN's Brian Todd is with one of those crews.

Brian, tell me what you guys have been seeing.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, a fire crew just swept through this neighborhood, knocking on doors, pounding on windows to see if they can find anybody. This is one of the houses that they came to. Check out the water level here. Probably a good three and a half feet and it was higher before. The couple here, 87 years old. We met up with them a short time ago. They said the water was up to their chest and they almost didn't make it. Neighbors had to carry them, they said, like babies across the street.

Look at some of the debris being cleared out here.

We're going take a walk inside this house to show you the damage. What the firefighters have just told us was that the -- they're trying to get an accurate assessment of who's missing and who might be still injured. Maybe some people might still be trapped in their homes.

A lot of the time, Brooke, when we were knocking on doors with them, we're not getting any response. Now, a lot of the time that means that, you know, people have just gone to stay in other places or they may have stayed in hotels or whatever. But it's going to be hard to get kind of an accurate assessment of just how many people perished in this storm and how many people may be injured, still missing.

In this case, they had to gut it -- gut this house. Check out the damage in here. When they came in, contractors are already here doing some of the work. They had to rip out the bottom here, throw all the furniture in the back. A lot of that stuff is damaged. And then they had to, you know, deal with the plumbing and rip out some of this stuff. So this gives you kind of an idea, Brooke, of what the neighborhoods here are going through.

One of the fire captains just told me a short time ago, as we head back outside here, you know, a lot of the people in this neighborhood have been through this before, and they kind of know what they're doing in a storm like this. But he said that's also a problem because they are experienced and they think they can actually ride this thing out. So they're worried that some people who have tried to ride this out may still be missing. It gives you an idea of just, you know, you see all the debris in this neighborhood, of just the painstaking nature of what it's going to take to account for everybody who may still be missing in this, Brooke. So this is still very much an emergency response situation.

BALDWIN: People's homes, people's lives, just dumped out on the sidewalk outside.

[14:05:01] Brian Todd, thank you, and thank those first responders for us, just incredible to finally actually see the inside of some of these homes, see what's salvageable and what's not.

Thank you, Brian.

Meantime, a hospital in Beaumont, Texas, has shut down because the city just has no clean running water, period, after both water pumps failed. CNN producer Brian Rokus, he's on the phone with me in Beaumont.

So, Brian, what exactly is the situation -- we've got this video. Evacuations at Baptist Hospital because of the lack of water. What are they doing?

BRIAN ROKUS, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Well, Brooke, basically the water here at the hospital has been turned off, along with the entire water for the entire city of Galveston -- I mean, sorry, of -- in Texas here.

BALDWIN: Beaumont.

ROKUS: Sorry. So it's really been quite a couple days here.

Early this morning, the water was shut off because the pumps here were flooded, obviously by Harvey. And the hospital itself is totally dry. The issue, though, is that without water, they obviously can't service their patients. So they decided to evacuate the most critical patients by helicopter, as you're seeing there on videotape, with two Black Hawk helicopters land right on the grass here of the hospital. They've since departed.

We now have another smaller medivac chopper taking off as we watch here. And they're doing quite an excellent job here, trying to get their patients out. Some going by ground. The most critical ones by air.

BALDWIN: So let me bring in Mary Pool. Mary's a spokeswoman for Baptist Hospital there in Beaumont.

And, Mary, I mean, so you all went to bed last night thinking, listen, the worst of it has hit, thinking everything was OK. You know, I know you've had a generator and supplemental food and bottled water. Tell me about the point that you all woke up and you were in crisis mode.

MARY POOLE, SPOKESWOMAN BAPTIST HOSPITAL OF SOUTHEAST TEXAS: Well, thank you for being here today. I'm sorry, I'm having a little bit of difficulty hearing you because there's a helicopter right behind me.

BALDWIN: Can you hear me? I understand -- I see that helicopter over your shoulder.

I can hear you, Mary, if you can hear me, just go on and tell me.

POOLE: OK. Well, you can see behind me that our transfer process is going on. We are presently moving our ICU patients and our NICU babies now. We've already moved dialysis patients and we have many more to go. But it is running as a fine-oiled machine. I'm very proud of the staff.

BALDWIN: Mary, I'm going to wait maybe for that helicopter to take off so you can hear me. Just hang tight with me.

Brian, if I've still got you on the phone, can you tell me, I mean, I understand so they're evacuating -- clearly, they're evacuating these patients. How many remain?

ROKUS: Well, that's a good question. We're actually waiting for Mary to find that out. Here in Beaumont, they had 193 patients to begin with. And they've been taking them out at a pretty steady clip. We've witnessed at least five or six ambulances go out on the ground, the two Black Hawks took about probably ten or so dialysis patients out. And we witnessed in the last hour another probably five, six, seven private air ambulances come and more evacuations. We're waiting for that from the hospital to find out how many patients remain. It's a fairly large facility here.

BALDWIN: And so I presume priority, you know, babies from the NICU, maybe more elderly are getting out first and so that is the question we'd love to ask of Mary is who remains. Do you know how long their food and their bottled water supply would last?

ROKUS: Actually supplies (INAUDIBLE) fairly well on. They actually just had a chopper land and deliver critical medical supplies to the hospital. And as for the chopper taking off here, as you're probably seeing on the air. So they've gotten resupplied by air and by ground.

The really issue is the water supply. I mean it's bright sunshine here. They have power. Everything else is going quite well until suddenly early this morning they lost water. And that's really the only reason they have to evacuate these patients is just the lack of running water.

BALDWIN: Guys, can we try Mary again or is that rotor still flying behind her? Let's give it a shot.

Mary, if you can hear me, how many patients do you all have left at the hospital?

POOLE: I have not been inside yet to check on that, Brooke. BALDWIN: OK. I think she said --

POOLE: There's been a steady flow of transfers out since we've been here. Sorry, I'm coming back to the camera now. Sorry.

BALDWIN: No, forgive us. This is just live TV and I just wanted to make sure I could get the information out of you.


BALDWIN: Go ahead. Go ahead, Mary.

POOLE: Well, we started with 193 patients. I'm not really sure exactly how many have got out. I would make a guess of about probably 30 at this time that have gone out via helicopter and road ambulance.

BALDWIN: And then can you just take me back. At what point -- was this in the middle of the night that you all realized you would have no water? How did that realization come to be?

POOLE: Yes. Yes, ma'am, that's correct. We've been here in house since Sunday. We've been staying here. So when we went to bed last night at midnight, we assumed it to be business as usual with 193 patients. And then we got the call at 1:00 a.m. this morning stating that the city had lost their water supply. And for us, that's catastrophic. We had to regroup pretty quickly.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: So I know you, as an acute care facility, I know you all prepare for hurricanes, just given where you all are in this country. So do you feel like you fared better, or was this something that you just never, ever anticipated?

POOLE: Well, we didn't anticipate losing the water system for the city. We practice this drill all the time. We're on the coast, so we've had hurricanes here before. We had Hurricane Rita in 2005. Hurricane Ike in 2008. And now Harvey in '17. So this is not new to us.

But every time we get better, and we thought we were completely self- contained. We had supplies, non-potable water, food, employees, and we were prepared to keep our patients until we got the call this morning.

BALDWIN: It's incredible to think because of all of the water being the problem, it is the lack thereof that is the issue for you in Beaumont and at your hospital.

Mary Poole, we'll stay in touch with you.

POOLE: Kind of interesting, right.

BALDWIN: How about that. How about that.

Mary, thank you so much for taking the time. Sorry I couldn't hear you a little earlier, but, you know, we've got to let those helicopters come and go and do their jobs.

POOLE: That's OK.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here on CNN --

POOLE: Thanks a lot. That's what we've got to --

BALDWIN: You got it.

Coming up next, the muscle of the U.S. military on display right now in Texas. You have troops from air, land, and sea fully engaged in this rescue and recovery effort. What Secretary of Defense James Mattis just had said at the Pentagon, what Barbara Starr heard about what he is prepared to do for the state of Texas.

Also, how does this storm impact the nation's seventh largest school district? Think about this. These kids are supposed to go back to school next Tuesday, not to mention what about the teachers, the staff. We'll talk to the superintendent of the Houston school system about what they have planned.

And, the White House is holding a briefing today. Lots to discuss. Again, we do know, according to the vice president, the president, the first lady will be back in Texas this weekend. We'll listen in on that.

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


[14:16:21] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The word from the defense secretary to the people hardest hit by Harvey is that the military is sending in more resources. So far more than 6,000 active duty troops have been deployed and an additional 1,000 troops are ready to do the same.

Add to that two U.S. Navy warships on their way from Virginia, the USS Oak Hill and the USS Kearsarge heading to the Gulf Coast of Texas to assist in rescue operations there. And they're carrying another 690 Marines.

Let's go to the Pentagon, to Barbara Starr, who can talk to us a little bit more about what we heard from the secretary of defense.

And also just talking to my Navy buddy out of Norfolk, he said they're ready to roll in those big hospital ships if need be.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the posture here at the Pentagon, Brook, is, they will send whatever is needed, whatever's required, whatever the governor asks for. But they are sending these two warships. They are expected to set sail from Norfolk this afternoon, take a couple days sailing time to get around Florida all the way into Texas.

What is the advantage of sending these warships with their helicopters only board and the supplies and the water purification that they carry is this. They can stay -- the ships, of course, stay out at sea, anchored offshore. The helicopters can go back and forth. But they come back to the ship. They don't take up space on land. The Marines can go back and forth. They don't take up any of the resources that are in such short supply on land.

What we know, and we're seeing the pictures all day now, dozens of helicopters, most of them military helicopters, working to evacuate patients out of Beaumont, Texas, to other medical facilities. Still working the around the clock rescue missions. We are told that some of the land-based airfields, the small airfields where these helicopters are trying to operate out of, there's now so many helicopters that it's getting congested for them to fly. That is becoming a problem.

So what we're seeing here is the military able to come in with the ability to generate a high volume of rescue and medivac missions, but try not to take up the valuable space and resources that the people on the ground need.

So what we have is about 6,000 or more U.S. troops, another 1,000, including the Marines on the way, 800 Army active duty troops, about 300 Air Force, hundreds of high water vehicles, rubber boats, moving around military Marines and Army forces using them, trying to help out, trying to see how fast they can get to all these neighborhoods and rescue people and then transition, of course, to the recovery portion of this.

Water purification is going to be a big issue, they feel. These ships will come with some of the equipment to do just that.


BALDWIN: The military prepared, swooping in to help. Also, so is the vice president. As we've been talking, Barbara, we're looking at these live pictures. This is one of the towns first hit when the hurricane made landfall. Here's the vice president, blue gloves and all, hands on effort here, recovery efforts there in Rockport, Texas. He's there along with, you can see the governor, Governor Abbott, pulling away trees and limbs around from the hardest-hit areas from this hurricane and storm in Texas.

I know you're looking at these pictures. You want to help. You can. We've compiled a list of ways you can help with all kinds of vetted organizations. Just go to our Impact Your World web site. You see it on the screen,

Coming up next, let's talk about the kids. The school year in Houston is supposed to start next week, but Harvey has clearly put that on hold, or has it? The Houston schools superintendent will join me live to talk about alternative plans for students in his city and also what about the teachers, the staff. That's a huge conversation that needs to be had.

Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:24:40] BALDWIN: We have seen the president and first lady down in Texas. And now we are seeing the vice president, hands-on effort in this recovery mission there along the East Coast. He is in Rockport, Texas, along with his wife, Karen. And the governor is there, as well as other officials. Obviously quite a bit of media here following the vice president along as he's touring some of the hardest-hit areas from Harvey. And, as he mentioned, while he was on the plane heading down to Texas, that the president and the first lady will be back in Texas on Saturday.

[14:25:11] So, there you have that.

Also just a short time ago, Anderson Cooper went on board a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter as they conducted more rescues. Watch this stunning scene.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're going to be lowering this basket. Sometimes they can just bring an individual up without the basket, but because they have some possessions with them, they're going to lower the basket as well.

The basket is now clear of the roof. They're bringing it up slowly. It is -- they're slowly bringing it up. Again, Eric, the flight mechanic, who's in the doorway, he has the visual on this, and he's giving information to Dan Miller (ph) and Matt Mayer (ph), the pilots.

They are hovering directly above this and obviously can't see what's going on.


COOPER: That's Eric Verivescos (ph), the flight mechanic.

COOPER: I'm sorry?

COOPER: So as you can see now they're sending the basket back down. I assume to bring one more person up.


BALDWIN: Oh, those Boston terriers and their owners, all safe.

To bring awareness to the thousands of the families affected by Harvey, the Texas A&M football team will wear special sticker on their helmets for this weekend's season's opener. Here it is. The Aggies take on UCLA Saturday at the Rose Bowl. And it features the outline of the state of Texas over the universal symbol for a hurricane. Over the affected Gulf Coast region is a red heart. The university says more than half of the players on the roster were directly affected by the storm.

And we are mere minutes away from the White House press briefing. We'll take it live as soon as it begins.

Stay with us. This is CNN.