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14 Babies to be Airlifted from Evacuated Hospital; Army Sending Water Pumps to Beaumont; Crews to Release more Water from Houston Reservoirs; Irma: Now a Category 3 Storm, Path Uncertain; Trump: Congress to Consider Billions in Harvey Relief. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- floodwaters in Texas, 11 of them from the neonatal intensive care unit. This from the hospital in Beaumont forced to close for lack of drinking water. Those evacuations taking place all morning.

In Houston, the reservoir is the major cause of concern. They are so full. Officials will stage controlled releases today to relieve the pressure. But that means more water for certain parts of Houston. More than 130,000 homes have some kind of flood damage across Texas. A lot is very severe.

Across the region, Harvey is now blamed for 47 deaths. That number could rise. And now, everyone watching Irma, this is a Category 3 hurricane still far off in the Atlantic heading west. But where, no one knows exactly.

We have our reporters all over Texas right now. Let's begin with CNN's Miguel Marquez. He is at the hospital where those babies are about to be evacuated. Miguel, give us the latest.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this should start at any moment. This is a daylong operation to move 14 different babies, 11 of them are premature here at Baptist Beaumont Hospital. The way this will work, say - doctors - they're going to bring in helicopters and then one, perhaps two at a time. The babies will start being transferred to Galveston. The first one to go will be the most critically injured.

Just moments ago, we saw some of the babies in the neonatal intensive care unit here at Baptist Hospital. The nurses caring for them, the staff here certainly feels like these are their babies. You know how fragile a regular baby, a normal baby is. But these premature babies are just so fragile. It is incredible to see some of the parents says the doctor caring for all them, are still stuck in the storm and in the floods and can't get here to see their babies transferred.


DR. SNEHAL DOSHI, NEONATOLOGIST: We are doing the best we can under the current conditions. You know, the parents, some of them can be here and be able to come see their infants. Some parents are stranded. They haven't seen their infants for days.

And so, we are just calling them and letting them know, you know, every couple of hours how their babies are doing, giving them updates. Reassuring them that they need to take care of themselves right now and we'll take care of their babies.


MARQUEZ: And another incredible story here, there was a woman pregnant with twins. She was air lifted from her home to the hospital here where she delivered her babies. One is perfectly fine. The other one had to go to the neonatal intensive care unit. All three of them will be transferred to Galveston today. She is in great shape, they say though. But it is just unbelievable, the harrowing stories that you hear in these situations where this storm comes in and babies, as the doctor said, they don't keep a schedule. They come when they come. They are still coming here, two babies born here in the last 24 hours. John?

BERMAN: They don't keep a schedule, the understatement of the century. Miguel Marquez, we are going to keep our eye on that hospital. Those babies will be transported. Just amazing work by all those caregivers and the rescue crews will be taking care of that. Again, we'll go back when that begins to happen.

Joining me now by phone is Hailey Morrow of the Beaumont Police Department. Thank you so much for joining us. We were just speaking with Patrick Hamilton, the general in charge of the military response who told us that the greatest area of concern right now in all of Texas is Beaumont, is your city, where rescues are still taking place. Give us a status report.

HALEY MORROW, BEAUMONT POLICE DEPARTMENT (via telephone): Well, we are operating on all fronts. So we've got a lot of different tactical operations going on right now. Of course, life safety, number one priority. The number of water rescues has gone down a little bit, but still getting calls on those. So we're handling that. Of course, we all know, our city of over 118,000 is without running water.

We are -- our public works for our city has worked 24 hours since we lost water supply trying to get a secondary option up and running. Right now, we are working on getting points of distribution where we are able to get bottled water to our citizens. So, we are about to issue a press release on the location of that. We had to get our assets in place, of course, before we release that information so that it was a controlled as possible environment.

BERMAN: Understood, bottled water coming for the residents of Texas. Also coming, some pumps from the Army Corps of Engineers, eight pumps, I'm told, to help get that running water system back online. Are they at work yet? Do you have a sense of how long that will take?

MORROW: We can't give a timeline because we're honestly every situation that arises, we start with Plan A. When it isn't working out, with we move to Plan B and we just don't want to give out anything until we know for sure. We don't want to give false hope. [10:05:10] And we also want to let everyone know that we have back-up plans in place. We are continuously working on them. And we're doing everything we can in this situation to help our citizens and get it back to a little sense of normalcy so people aren't panicking.

BERMAN: I think, you know, seven days into this there aren't enough letters in the alphabet to cover all the plans you've had to probably enact to keep people safe and save lives. Any numbers right now of how many people have been rescued or how many people still need to be?

MORROW: The last number I got on how many was over 1,000 since the operation began.

BERMAN: Over 1,000 people rescued in Beaumont. This is just one city. We have seen some of the pictures. And again, still some concern in your city.

Now, I do have to ask you. You are part of a family of police officers. Everyone, it seems, who has ever met you is a police officer, your father, your husband, brother, sister, sister-in-law. How are you all doing? How are your homes? Are you able to do the jobs you need to do while taking care of your family?

MORROW: Well, you know, honestly, I don't want to spotlight just my family because there are so many first responder families. Just in our city, we have fathers and sons, husbands and wives that are all first responders. Over 20 percent of our police officers have either water damage or completely lost their homes. But these officers are still coming out here and they are doing the work. Worried about their own families, but continuing to work extremely long hours under less than ideal circumstances to do their job.

And so, my family is good. We will recover. We have a great support system here. And we would just like to ask anyone who wants to send thoughts and prayers to all the first responders across the state that are dealing with these situations, please do that. We greatly appreciate it.

BERMAN: Look, I think we cannot state that number enough. In Beaumont alone, one out of five police officers and first responders, one out of five has either serious home damages or has lost their home completely.

We are looking at pictures right now, before and after of Beaumont. Before, it was covered with water on the left hand side of your screen. On the right, showing that the Beaumont is actually becoming more like an archipelago than a city, just a series of water ways covered there.

But again, how hard is it to do your job when one out of five officers having their homes damaged or destroyed. How hard is it to do what you need to do?

MORROW: Well, you know, it's difficult. It really is. We try to constantly stay on top of our officers and make sure mental health wise they are doing OK. We are trying to give everyone breaks and just time to decompress. I know, personally, for me, last night was the first night I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. this morning, back up at 4:30 a.m. with an interview with you guys.

And you know we get to that point where all of a sudden, it just hits you and you kind of got to go and handle your situation. You know, let the tears out, let the frustration out and you got to get back up and recover and get back to work because there are so many citizens in the city that need us. And we know that.

First responders, it's in their core. It's built in them. You know it's a calling really to be a first responder. The EMS, the Fire, even our Public Works, in so many different departments have stepped up to help the city, all while dealing with their own situations at home. And it's just a true testament of how they were called to do their job and they are going to do it no matter what situations they are going through, personally.

BERMAN: Officer Haley Morrow, you know, handling your own situation, handling everyone else is all at the same time. Thank you for the work that you are doing, the rest of the first responders, special kind of people no question about that. Haley Morrow thanks so much.

MORROW: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The word from Houston's mayor right now is recovery. The focus, very much on clean up, housing aid, neighborhood canvasing with one big exception. This is part of West Houston that will keep on flooding as engineers work to take pressure off the reservoir.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins me with the latest on that. Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, the Army Corps of Engineers says that it's going to take several months for those reservoir levels to balance out. And that's why we will continue to see the floodwaters here in these neighborhoods. These neighborhoods in West Houston near those reservoirs for some time.

This is one of two main areas of concern in Houston, the other being in Northeast Houston, the Kingwood Area. We have also seen floodwaters receding in a great number of neighborhoods. So that's giving search and rescue teams the opportunity to go in there and search for any possible victims. And that is a grim task that has to be done and we are clearly seeing the effects of that as well as the death toll has now jumped to 47 because of hurricane Harvey. And these teams being able to go in there, finding people who weren't able to get out of the rising floodwaters and escape in time. So that is part of that, you know, dreadful grim work that has to be done.

[10:10:09] The clean-up process is going to continue here. And county officials, John, say 136,000 homes across Harris County have been -- or structures have been damaged by the floodwaters. A staggering number when you consider just how much clean-up effort and work it's going to take to get everything fully back to normal here in Houston.

In many neighborhoods you have already seen people going inside their homes, beginning the process of taking everything out and putting it on the front lawn, all the furniture and parts of their home that have been destroyed in these floodwaters. That work is going to continue for months and months. John?

BERMAN: Indeed it will. Ed Lavandera thanks so much for being with us.

I do want to tell people what they are looking at on their screen right now. These are live pictures from our affiliate KTRK. This is some of the run off of that we are seeing right now from the floodwaters and then, some of the debris. And you become numb to this after a while, after a full week of seeing pictures like this. It's so unusual.

That's a boat. That's a boat right now that was swept away. It is just stuck right now on the edge right there. Images like this, not uncommon right now in the Houston area and just shows you how much work is still to be done there.

All of this is going on and you get the sense that people in Texas and across the coast of the United States have one eye on the weather map. Why? There is a hurricane right now in the Atlantic, a powerful hurricane that is moving. It's too early to tell where it's going to go. But that doesn't mean there isn't great concern this morning. So let's get to meteorologist Chad Myers in the Weather Center. We are talking about Irma. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That is correct, John. I don't see any computer models or any indication that this storm gets into the Gulf of Mexico. Now that's still seven days away before even approaches. But the good news, if there's anything for Houston, as that this storm likely is an Atlantic storm. Now, that's bad news if you live anywhere from Florida on up to New Finland.

But here it is. Hurricane Irma, at this time yesterday, it was tropical storm. And then all of sudden, it went to a Category 2 hurricane. The eye was well developed, and then now, Category 3. It did lose an eye overnight. It's probably down to Category 2 but we are right on the edge back and forth. Who's really splitting hairs here because this storm is closer to Africa than it is to the United States, it's going to take five days just to get to the Leeward Islands and that's Wednesday of next week.

So we are still talking many, many days away, five days just to get there. Where does it go after that? That's the big story because it is forecast to be 140-mile-per-hour storm when it gets right there. This is the American model. And we have taken a couple of different versions of the American model and plastered them on the map and show you what we really think.

This is kind of the version of the latest -- I would say - or the latest run that we have. Many of those runs take it to the north and to the northeast. That would be perfect. It would miss Bermuda and it would miss the U.S. If that happens, we call that a gutter ball. If the storm does not do that and there are still a few models that keep it farther south than that, then we possibly have a U.S. landfall in the middle or late week of next week. So you still see though, this is way out here. This is the DR. Here is Puerto rice. Where it's still from any -- even at that point, we are still six days from now. So the air and the models could be huge six days out. So you can't hold me to any of this like you held me to Harvey, which unfortunately, the models got it right. Unfortunately, the models got it right.

BERMAN: You were exactly right about Harvey. Let's be clear about that. You told us what was going to happen and it did sadly. Chad Myers for us in the Weather Center. Thank you so much.

Again, we are watching Irma very closely. Live pictures, again, over Houston. You know, some of the debris that we are seeing right now, as some of the floodwaters recede. But, so much has been swept away. We'll be back.


[10:18:28] BERMAN: All right. Live pictures, again, over Houston. What we are looking at here is Lake Houston draining into the San Jacinto River right there. And you can see that boat just stuck, stuck on the edge of the spillway there. So much has been jarred loose and just floated off or floated away over the last week. And only now are people getting a sense of where everything is. Someone may be watching TV right now saying, hey, that's where my boat went, very interesting sights, painful sights, for so many people all over the Houston area.

The mayor there does say his city is open for business and there are some signs of getting back on track. Some of the shelters have seen many people leave. CNN's Stephanie Elam in one of the Houston shelters right now. Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We are in the NRG Center here. And that is exactly - said, they had 3,500 people who had evacuated here to the center. But now, they are at about 3,100. Some people were able to go home, some people now finding - they are able to move in with some family until they are able to get back into their homes and back on their feet.

But just to show you how nimble they have been about getting these centers open here in Houston. They were planning on opening the center on Wednesday. But then they realized, Tuesday evening that they needed to open up. So within less than six hours, they opened up Tuesday night. And just to show you how much heart there is here in the city, 7:00 a.m., Wednesday morning, there were 3,000 people here volunteering, willing to help out how they can. And that was actually more people than they had in the shelter at that time.

[10:20:04] Take a look behind me. And you can see this line here. These are all people checking in for their time spots. They have got three different shifts here at this particular location where people can come in. And they said they have on average about 400 people who were working in these shifts.

They are saying that they are planning to be open here for as long as they are needed. They say that they have plenty of the physical items that you would need if you just evacuated from your home. If you think about it, John, you are leaving, you don't have, you know, body wash, you don't have toothpaste, you don't have all of those things, clothes. They say they have plenty of that. But what they are asking people to do is find a place where a reputable charity to donate money.

They are saying, overall, the road ahead is going to be very long for a lot of these people. There are still some over 30,000 people in shelters throughout the Houston area. They are asking people to donate money to help these people out because it's a really long road ahead for these people to get back into their homes.

BERMAN: All right. Stephanie Elam for us inside that shelter, a long road ahead, indeed.

So far, FEMA tells us, nearly 100,000 Texans have been approved for aid. Members of Congress now expected to take up a new bill that could mean more than $5 billion in funds, very quickly, as in the next few days next week.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman Al Green of Texas, so many of your constituents, Congressman, have been hit by this. We have been talking to you all week. Just give me the latest update on your sense of how Houston is and what is, right now, most needed.

REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS: Well, thank you very much. And if I may say so, this is CNN, the critical news network. You have really been a blessing to many of the people in the city and across the country. You have been a part of the effort to save lives. And I think sometimes we don't give you the necessary credit that you deserve. So, thank you so much for what you do.

In the city and around Harris County, things are starting to turn. But, we have not made it there yet. We are still in crisis management. There's still a lot to be done. I heard the mayor this morning talk about the debris and how it would take $75 million to 1$100 million to take up debris removal.

One of the things that I think we have to emphasize is that it's now Congress that's on the line. We are at bat. The bases are loaded and we need to hit a grand slam. This is an opportunity for us to produce. It has been said that we will be taking up critical legislation sometime next week. I'd like to see us take it up sooner than that.

We should do it immediately, if not sooner. This is not a time for us to delay. This is a time for us to get to work. And we need to do it without bringing in the so-called pork that people talk about. There needs to be a clean bill. And all of my colleagues in Texas, I have heard a good many of them say that they want a clean bill. I support that, which means that we should not bring any of these extraneous things. We need to build walls against floods at this time. So these other walls, we might want to consider at a later time.

BERMAN: You say you are up at bat. If this is a game, this is going to be going on for a long time. This is more than nine innings. This is going to go on for years in Houston. Give me a sense of how much money you think you will need and when. The $5 billion could come in the week and then after that, are we looking at - I've seen estimates of $150 billion or even higher?

GREEN: I think it will easily exceed $100 billion. I was in Louisiana after Katrina. So I have something to compare this to. This is so vast. We have had 75 percent of our city to have more than one foot of water. We have got to make sure that we cover everybody.

And this is also about the country. People who live in areas where you have fires or where you have tornadic activities, where you have earthquakes, they have to be helped at some point. And they are looking to see how we respond to Houston. So we've got to step up and we've got to deliver and we cannot -- we cannot make this about other issues.

Let's make this about recovery. And by the way, let's not hurt Peter to help Paul. We ought not to cut some other needs so that we can satisfy the needs of people in Houston.

BERMAN: Congressman, you have been one of the fiercest critics of President Trump over the last several months. How would you assess his response so far to Harvey?

GREEN: He came to Texas. I credit him for doing that. I think it was important that he come. I'm told that he's coming to Houston. I think it's important that he do this as well. But I want him to come to Houston with a commitment of dollars to say that we are going to produce "x" amount of dollars for you. It's important for people to know that help is on the way. And we are really talking about money.

Now we want FEMA employees in. We have to have many, many FEMA employees in Houston, Texas because the need is so great and there are so many people in Houston.

[10:25:03] We have got 6 million people in this area that we are dealing with. So we want more FEMA workers here. We want the dollar support in and we want to make sure that there is a long-term commitment. As you said, this game is going into many extra innings. And we've got to be prepared to play the whole game.

BERMAN: Let me just ask you one final, partially political question here. You have pushed for an impeachment process for President Trump. Will you pause that to help get the Harvey recovery efforts? Is it worth pausing that to make sure that the Harvey recovery efforts are taken care of first?

GREEN: I think it's a fair question. The president and I have a common constituency. And we've got to help our constituents. I have never given a time line for what we have called a breach of the Constitution. I have never done that.

And I assure you, that this is my number one priority. We are going to make sure that we'd take care of people who are in harm's way. We'll do that. But I have never given a timeline and I don't intend to give a timeline at this time. BERMAN: It does make it sound though as for at least the time being, you are going to be talking about Harvey a whole lot more than anything else, correct?

GREEN: Well, if I get with the president, I don't know that I'll have an opportunity to meet him. But I do intend to talk about Harvey and I do intend to talk about how FEMA has to work with the local elected officials, the local Congress people. We have to exchange phone numbers. We can't have someone at the top who doesn't give out a cell phone number so that members of Congress can reach him.

All members of Congress ought to be able to talk to the director, Mr. Long. He should be available to us. We have things that we have to share with him. We will use his number sparingly. But this is a time for people to give up their secret cells and to talk to each other. I plan to talk to the president and I plan to talk to Mr. Long.

BERMAN: Congressman Al Green, thank you so much for being with us. Good luck in the days ahead and helping all of your constituents get back to their home, sir.

GREEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, desperate drivers, filling the streets in hopes of filling up their gas tanks, high prices and long lines. We'll take you there next.