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U.S. Navy Rescues Flood Victims in Texas; Vice President Pence Heads to Texas Today; U.S. & South Korea Stage Joint Show of Force. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 31, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That's all I know. The baby is healthy. The family is OK and they will be stronger and more together than ever after surviving this.

Alisyn, we're going to take a break. There's no question that the need is great, but so is the response. The U.S. Navy is now involved conducting wild chopper rescues in a flooded-out neighborhood. You will see first happened what it takes to beat these floods, next.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to Houston, Texas, where these aerial rescues continue across the flood zone. People are in dire need of help here, mostly in the Beaumont and Port Arthur areas today because the floodwaters are still rising at this hour.

CNN's Martin Savidge teamed up with the U.S. Navy to capture these dramatic images of people being lifted to safety.


[06:35:04] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Air operations are still continuing through the night, as you can probably tell by the sound behind me.

Primarily, most of the aviation assets are being used down in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area where the floodwaters have really still continued to rise. I took a flight along with the U.S. Navy on one of their search and rescue operations onboard, what they call a Seahawk. It's essentially a Black Hawk helicopter.

They are hovering over this city, rising and falling and here we see people being pulled out now and being brought in, and they're safe. As the hoist rises again, two more people are brought in. It's a remarkable scene. You can understand the fear they're in.

Amazing to watch that process. They saved 25 people in the roughly 3- 1/2 hours we were airborne. I can't express how dangerous that kind flying is. They're down at treetop level in an urban environment. And then, on top of that, those rescuers down on the ground are in waters that they really can't tell what's down there and they don't want to get snagged on a fence or caught on a car or anything like that when you're attached to a helicopter. And the air was full of helicopters down there, of all different

branches and all different sections, all of them continuing to work, to lift people to safety, and the flight crews say they'll work all night. They will work all day until they feel that everyone they can rescue has been rescued. It's a remarkable thing to see.

Martin Savidge, CNN, College Station, Texas.


CUOMO: Boy, our thanks to Martin. You have to remember what you're dealing with in a helicopter. You've got pitch, roll and yaw. They have to control all three of those, get the basket down, get the people in and bring it up gently, gently.

All right. So, the greatest blessing and curse of Harvey came together in our next story. The most vulnerable to the floods are the elderly. Many of them are unable to get themselves to safety as the waters rise, especially in convalescent centers.

But what we call the concerned citizen corps, they've been angels. And you're going to meet one right now. Trey Tounzen, he saw the need from his home in Arkansas. He grabbed a buddy and a boat and he came. And he's been doing god's work.

He joins us on the phone right now. Trey, can you hear us?

TREY TOUNZEN, VOLUNTEER (via telephone): Yes, sir.

CUOMO: I do not want to keep you too long because I know you're getting the job done. You saw what was going on. What did you see when you hit the water in Texas and made your way into your first nursing home?

TOUNZEN: We just unloaded the boat on the interstate. It was crazy, we were driving down the interstate and hit water. All we knew to do was put the boat in the water and start heading towards deeper water.

The first thing we came to was a nursing home. We pulled up there and walk in and there's just people everywhere inside. Inside the nursing home, it was from ankle-deep water to knee-deep water. The poor residents were just sitting there. They had nothing to do.

I mean, it was one of the worst things I've seen, and it turned into one of the best things you see, all the different people helping out, loading people in boats. I mean, it's just a bunch of good old boys getting together and pulling the boats up there. We don't have a clue who any of these people were that were helping us help people. You know, it was just organized chaos almost with people just loading people in boats and moving them out.

We had one gentleman jump in the boat with us to help hold wheelchairs that we had in my boat. We don't have a clue who he is or how to get ahold of him or anything. He rode with us back to the rally point where they were loading them in the helicopters. He jumps out, gets in another boat and heads back. It was just -- it was crazy. CUOMO: You guys are all in it together. It's the best kind of crazy that there is. It's crazy love that you're showing in action.

How many people do you think you've gotten to and how long have you been doing it?

TOUNZEN: We got down here yesterday. We started in spring, Texas, yesterday and went through an apartment. We pulled out about 16 people out of it. And then yesterday, I'm not sure -- excuse me. It was day before yesterday we were in spring. Yesterday we were in Port Arthur.

Honestly, I don't even remember yesterday.

[06:40:01] We started at the nursing homes and we got people out of those. And then we moved to the neighborhood and was getting people out of the houses there. You can see a family there that -- it was kind of surreal. I mean, we were pulling one family out of a house, and it's a sad deal, all these people, all their homes are flooded.

And this little girl, she gets in the boat with us and starts singing "row, row, row your boat." I mean, it's really neat to see people come together to do this, but it's also really sad at the same time.

CUOMO: Well, you're one of them, brother. You are down there. You're all in it together. That's how you're going to get through it.

Thank you for what you're doing. Keep your strength up and please stay in touch. Let us know if there's information that we can get out to help the work you're doing on the ground. Be well and thank you.

TOUNZEN: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, you'll see lots of different rescue stories that we bring you throughout the morning. But meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is heading to the disaster zone today. So, we will have a live report for you on what he'll see when he gets here, next.


CAMEROTA: Vice President Pence is heading to Texas today to meet with the governor here and, of course, the tour the damage in Rockport. That's where Harvey first slammed ashore. So, he'll meet with survivors and, of course, first responders.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is live at the White House with what to expect.

Hi, Joe.


This is a full-court press from the White House, at least so far. The vice president's trip to the region is the second visit by a top administration official in this last week. He'll be accompanied by five cabinet secretaries. He's expected to meet with state and local officials, including the governor of Texas going, of course, to Corpus Christi as well as Rockport.

[06:45:00] And he is expected to meet with some of the survivors of the storm as well as survey some of the damage.

The president himself, of course, was also in the region just the day before yesterday. And the president, of course, was hit with criticism that he failed to express enough empathy for the victims.

So, in a speech yesterday in Springfield, Missouri, the president at that time appearing to embrace his role as consoler in chief. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To those affected by this storm, we are praying for you and we are here with you every single step of the way. To those Americans who have lost loved ones, all of America is grieving with you and our hearts are joined with yours forever.


JOHNS: Nothing on the president's public schedule today, at least so far. He is expected to return to the region over the weekend.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right. Joe, thank you very much.

Another big story to cover this morning. The U.S. and South Korea are staging a joint show of force against North Korea, flying military aircraft over the Korean peninsula. This comes days after North Korea launched another missile over Japan.

CNN's Will Ripley is the only western broadcast journalist inside North Korea. He's live in Pyongyang with the latest.

What was the reaction?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still no official reaction to that bomber flyover, though certainly a dramatic show of force by the United States to have B2B bombers and fighter jets from both the United States and South Korea, flying over the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile, President Trump tweeting that talking is not the answer when it comes to North Korea. That message very clear.

And it's interesting because that's the same thing the North Korean officials have told us repeatedly on the ground over this last week. North Korea says they don't want to talk with the United States. They don't trust with United States.

When we were speaking with people who learned about the missile launch for the first time yesterday watching it on state media, they also said they don't think North Korea should be talking. They think they should be firing more missiles. Listen.


RIPLEY: President Trump says launches like this show that North Korea has contempt for its neighbors. What's your response?

(voice-over): We're simply acting in self-defense, he says. We shot one yesterday, we shot one today. Maybe tomorrow we'll shoot 10 more missiles. We have to do it to defend our country.


RIPLEY: North Korea promising to fire more missiles towards the Pacific and perhaps even targeting the U.S. territory of Guam. But if a military option is not on the table because the consequences will be catastrophic, what is the U.S. going to do? President Trump and the Japanese prime minister says they've come to an agreement about the plan for North Korea, not giving specifics.

But it seems like what they're going to try to do is accelerate the pace of sanctions, trying to make the regime economically crippled, forcing them to come to the bargaining table. The problem is without China's cooperation, sanctions won't have much of a bite and North Korea says they've survived a famine and sanctions won't stop them from launching missiles and testing nuclear weapons -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Will. So helpful to have you on the ground in Pyongyang for us.

Meanwhile, back here in Houston, the head of FEMA says they expect to be in Texas for years to come grappling with the aftermath of Harvey. So, we'll find out why and what the plan is, next.


[06:52:14] CAMEROTA: FEMA is busy this morning, approving assistance to thousands -- tens of thousands of victims of Harvey. FEMA's administrator says this will be a years' long effort. Not months, but years.

Joining us is Kevin Hannes. He's the federal coordinator for Harvey in Texas.

Mr. Hannes, thank you very much. I know it's a busy day for you. Thank you for being here.

Just today, I mean, just this morning, we know there are untold people still trapped in their homes. There are reservoirs that appear to be on the verge of spilling over. There was a chemical fire at two chemical plants, people having to be evacuated from there.

Where do you start with all of these competing things?

KEVIN HANNES, FEDERAL COORDINATING OFFICER FOR HURRICANE HARVEY IN TEXAS: I think what we do is start with the highest priority. One, that's to ensure we're supporting the state of Texas and the local officials in the impacted area to provide them the resources that they are requesting, not only from the state, but also through the federal government and prioritize those to ensure we're saving as many lives and protecting as much as we can during this event.

CAMEROTA: And do you have good numbers on how many people are still in danger zones this morning?

HANNES: Well, I don't think -- I personally don't have those numbers, but I know the state is coordinating closely with the local officials through their disaster district coordinators, through the local emergency managers, where each county, each city understands what their population is, what was able to evacuate so they can conduct search and rescue in the areas the most -- where they're going to find the most potential survivors of the storm, and they'll prioritize that at the local level to ensure we account for everybody over the next period of time.

CAMEROTA: Gosh, it's just so hard to get your mind around how vast this catastrophe was. You know, we went out yesterday with the Cajun Navy just to one neighborhood and found people still in their homes, their whole first floor flooded, their cars ruined. And so, when your administrator, Brock Long, says you'll be here for years, what does that mean? What will that effort look like for years?

HANNES: I think what that means is FEMA, as well as the entire federal family will be here for Texas and Texans until the job is complete. In this type of an event, that's going to be years. We will have personnel that are here working in Austin, but more importantly working in the impacted areas with individuals to help them start to rebuild through this process.

CAMEROTA: So, I'm here at the Houston Convention Center. Yesterday, there were something like 8,300 people who were basically homeless and relocated here today.

[06:55:02] Today, it's much more sparse. Today, there's something -- the last number I got was 2,550, meaning something like 6,000 people tried to go home or have been relocated.

What's happened -- I mean, the houses I saw yesterday were uninhabitable. What's happening with these folks who have been displaced?

HANNES: Right. So, part of our plan in working in coordination with the state and local officials is first, as you see, we evacuate people to congregate sheltering and then we work closely with locals and the state to then move them to interim sheltering so that they don't -- they're not in congregate sheltering. We'll then work them into some type of intermediate housing solution and work with them for a long- term housing solution.

And when Administrator Long talks about years, it's going to take years to get through that process with the magnitude of this event. CAMEROTA: Yes, understood. Kevin Hannes, you're federal coordinator

for all of this, thank you very much for explaining what you all are doing here today. Thank you for that.

Chris, look, it is going to take years. I mean, the houses we've seen here of people, they want to return to their homes. They are -- their first floors are destroyed. Their cars are ruined, their furniture is gone, their documents are gone. This is going to be a long, long haul in Houston.

CUOMO: You're 100 percent right. They need to know that on the ground and in Washington as well.

We'll check back -- you're going to love this one. Are you ready this? We know that Harvey's survivors are going to need everything, right? That includes hope. That's where Gloria Gaynor comes in.

The singer took to Twitter releasing a new rendition of her '70s hit, the ultimate empowerment song, "I Will Survive."

Listen to this.


GLORIA GAYNOR, SINGER (singing): At first we were afraid, we were petrified, kept thinking Texas couldn't live with floodwaters this high, we know you spent plenty of time preparing for this hurricane, who could have known it would come with such much devastating rain, but we will strive, and you'll survive, with all the love and help and prayers, we will stay strongly by your side. We are your neighbors, tried and true, and we'll do all we can for you and you'll survive, you will survive, you will survive --


CUOMO: Beautiful, beautiful.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, listen to her voice, Chris --

CUOMO: I know.

CAMEROTA: -- how good her voice. That is fantastic. I know that that song is an anthem -- a personal anthem of yours as you've sung it many times on the set to me.

CUOMO: Well, I do. I've always thought I could give her a run for her money until I heard that rendition right then. And now I realize she is the true talent. I have to concede that.

With all the love and help and friends by your side, you will survive. That is a powerful message right now.

Alisyn, to you.

CAMEROTA: That's great, Chris. All right. Meanwhile, we are following breaking news for you right

now. We have to update you. There are new mandatory evacuations because there are also explosions at a flooded chemical plant and a Texas city has lost its water supply. So, all of that breaking news is next for you.