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Challenges In Harvey's Wake; Harvey Disaster Aid Desperately Needed; J.J. Watt Raises Millions For Harvey Victims; U.S. Retaliates Against Russia. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:35] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A variety of new challenges are emerging in the wake of Harvey. Hospitals being evacuated, complaints of price gouging, fears of more explosions at a chemical plant.

We have all the latest right now. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Beaumont, Texas really the center of all of this.


BRIGGS: They call it an island, said that city's mayor.

Devastation across the Houston area.

MARSH: Well, good morning. I'm Rene Marsh. We are just 31 minutes after the hour.

And one week after Harvey blasted its way ashore there are new and growing concerns emerging from the storm.

Overnight, the death toll climbing again. It now stands at 47.

At the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, more blasts are expected following that first explosion of an organic peroxide container just about 24 hours ago. A one and a half mile evacuation perimeter remains in effect at this hour around that plant.

BRIGGS: Another new worry this morning, price gouging. One Houston convenience store reportedly charging $20 a gallon for gas. Also, $8.50 for a bottle of water.

We spoke with Marc Rylander, who's a spokesman for the Texas attorney general.


MARC RYLANDER, SPOKESMAN FOR TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL (via telephone): Well, thankfully, the Texas legislature, in preparations of these kind of storms several years back, came up with very stiff penalties for people who are guilty of price gouging. And what they came up with was a $20,000 fine per occurrence or if someone 65 years or older is affected, it jumps to an up to $250,000 fine per occurrence.


BRIGGS: Texas officials say they've had close to 600 complaints about storm-related scams and gouging. Those concerns touching off some social media hysteria and bizarrely long gas lines, as you can see.

Prices shooting up from $2.20 to $4.50 a gallon ahead of Labor Day when some 30 million Americans hit the road. Some gas stations even sold out.

MARSH: And as for Houston's Addicks and Barker reservoirs, well, the good news is they are operating normally. There have been no breaches, no failures. Officials now say it will take three months to empty them through controlled releases.

Buffalo Bayou, where that water drains, will likely stay flood for some time, several weeks at the deepest spots.

State and federal environmental officials are warning people this morning take precautions because contaminated sewer water tends to be released during major flooding events. They say people in the flood zone must ensure that they have access to safe drinking water.

BRIGGS: The city of Beaumont, Texas still without running water and it's going to take some time to get the taps running again. Residents stood in long lines trying to buy bottled water.

The failure of the water treatment system causing other problems on the ground. More on that in just a moment.

Overall, though, first responders have rescued more than 72,000 people since the storm hit and that does not include all the rescues by civilian volunteers.

MARSH: And the U.S. military has deployed more than 6,000 active-duty troops to help response effort, with an additional 1,100 ready to deploy.

Harvey dumped some estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain on Texas and Louisiana over a -- just a six-day period.

Now for some context, if the storm hit Florida, this is how much it would have swallowed up that state. You're looking at that image there. Pretty much all of Florida covered.

In the city of Beaumont, Texas, city officials now saying they have no timeline for restoring tap water supply. They say once the Neches River finally crests and recedes they'll be able to assess the damage to the pumps at the water treatment plant.

BRIGGS: Meantime, the city's working to get bottled water to affected residents as soon as possible. Officials plan to set up a water distribution point today.

The flooding and water problems in Beaumont have forced yet another hospital evacuation, as well, which was suspended overnight. It should start up again here in just a few hours.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has more from Beaumont.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Rene, the city of Beaumont is experiencing a double crisis. They have too much water that has fallen from the sky and none at all coming out of their faucets here.

[05:35:08] We are at Baptist Hospital here in Beaumont where they are evacuating the entire hospital because the city -- all 135,000 people in the city and parts of the surrounding county are completely without water.

They started with about 193 patients. They were able to get several of them out. They're down to about 85 at this point.

And these are not the critically injured. All the critically injured have been moved to either Dallas or Galveston or Jasper, Texas. Even one patient was moved to Missouri.

There are also nine prematurely-born infants that were moved to Galveston as well, out of this facility.

The rest of the patients, they say they have to move by chopper because Beaumont, itself, is literally almost cut off from the rest of the world. It sits up on a bit of a plain and the freeways around it are cut off so they have to move people out by air.

It is with military precision that they are doing this, bringing in bank after bank of helicopters and then moving the most critically ill out first and then moving down the line to those who are less critically injured -- Dave, Rene.


MARSH: Miguel Marquez, thank you for that.

Rescuers are beginning a block-by-block search of homes in Houston for anyone left behind in Harvey's historic floods. One hundred thousand homes damaged or destroyed statewide.

CNN's Brian Todd looks at what search crews are up against in West Houston.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Rene, we're here in West Houston where the waters are still dangerously high several days after Hurricane Harvey came ashore.

Look at this. This is a neighborhood called Lakeside Forest. The water is still just up to the windows on the first floor of these houses. It's really eerie being out here in the dark. This neighborhood was flooded pretty much from the start but the water kept actually rising even when the brunt of the storm passed because of the controlled release of that Addicks reservoir near here.

And we just -- one person we just rescued from a canoe who was stuck is a meteorologist. He thinks that this water level really is not going to decrease anytime soon. He says the water -- this neighborhood probably will not be rid of the water for maybe weeks.

So look -- if you look at this, these people are going to be really up against it and may not get into their homes anytime soon -- Dave and Rene.


BRIGGS: Hard to imagine. Thanks, Brian Todd.

"CNN Money" now.

As flooding slams the Texas Gulf Coast most homes don't have the insurance needed to rebuild. Most private insurance doesn't cover flood damage so homeowners rely on the National Flood Insurance Program. However, only 20 percent of the homes hit by Harvey are covered.

So what about the other 80 percent? Those victims will have to apply for federal aid, which is a low-interest loan, or they'll have to pay out-of-pocket.

Both options can lead to debt but even homeowners with flood insurance could face problems. That's because the federally-funded program is $25 billion in debt thanks to a series of storms with major flood damage, like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

Right now, the program has less than $8 billion for the victims of Harvey. And estimates forecast property damage up to $65 billion, making it one of the costliest storms ever to hit the U.S.

MARSH: And so, now the question is how long will it take for Congress to get Texas the help it needs? A proposal from the White House is said to be just days away. That's next.

BRIGGS: J.J. Watt with a fundraiser that will not stop, just like him on the field. How much he's now raised for the victims of Harvey in the "Bleacher Report."


[05:42:47] BRIGGS: A growing sense of urgency in Washington to keep federal dollars flowing for disaster response. CNN has learned the Republican-led House could vote on a short-term funding bill as soon as next week.

Leaders on Capitol Hill still awaiting specifics from the White House, which says a proposal should be coming soon, Rene.

MARSH: That's right.

And the president and the first lady will return to Texas and also visit Louisiana. Mr. Trump has pledged $1 million of his own money to help victims of Harvey.

Joining us now is CNN contributor Salena Zito. She joins us now. She's a reporter for the "Washington Examiner."

Good morning, Salena.

I guess, right off the bat, you know, we saw Vice President Pence there visiting the storm victims. A stark contrast between Pence's visit and the president's visit --


MARSH: -- days ago.


When you -- when you saw the president go in -- was it two days ago, on Tuesday. So he went in very much as a business leader. He -- and not even as a business leader but as a commander in chief.

He brought the necessary cabinet members with him that will handle what happens after the cameras go away, right? Who would handle disaster relief, who would handle infrastructure issues -- you know, energy -- all of that.

And he talked about with the emergency relief professionals and talked about coordination and the after effect. That was an important thing he needed to do.

It wasn't the time, at that moment -- remember, it was at peak awful on Tuesday and it wasn't the time to go schlepping through mud and, you know, reaching out to people. He could have done it. It's not something he's very comfortable doing.

His wife is much more a natural at that. She came from very humble beginnings.

But he's going back this weekend. I think you will see more of that.

The flood waters, you know -- there are still grave issues going on. Things have started to calm down. This gives him the moment to go around and talk to people, whether they're in shelters or whether they're at their homes, whether they're helping people rebuild.

[05:45:10] And I think you will see more of an empathetic picture coming out of this weekend.

BRIGGS: Of course, if you voted for Donald Trump, empathy is probably not one of the qualities you were searching for --

ZITO: Right. BRIGGS: -- in a president.

MARSH: Right, right.

BRIGGS: You probably, in fact, love the fact that he doesn't speak like Barack Obama or George W. Bush when it comes to these crises, whether that's fair or not.

But what's difficult here is when you have Congress coming back on Tuesday -- when you've been going to war with Republicans, in particular in the Senate.

You have John McCain writing an op-ed today in "The Washington Post," basically saying this is a president without good judgment.

How do you get things like funding for Harvey, raising the debt ceiling, funding the government, let alone tax reform?

ZITO: Well, there's been a fairly dramatic change in Congress at the end of the summer to the beginning of fall, right? I mean, everyone was sort of piss and vinegar and yelling and screaming, and we're going to get this and we want that, and nothing happened.

I think there's a real call to functionality at this moment. It's an important moment for Congress.

You know, the members of the House are the -- are the members in government that are most connected to the average person, right, and the empathy and the sympathy that America has been glued to for the past week is going -- these members in the House are -- they're -- this is not, you know, something they're ignoring.

They see this, they understand. They know that people want them to fund and be able to help the victims of Harvey, not right just now but in the three to five years where it's critically important where things tend to fall apart.

MARSH: OK. Really quickly, Salena, the Dreamers -- DACA. The question remains what will the president do? Will he end the program?

Of course, you know, we were saying that might anger people in the corporate world. We saw that with climate change pulling out of the Paris Agreement that angered the corporate world.

If he does do that, what does that do for him? Does he isolate himself on the island with only a small base and no one else?

ZITO: I -- you know, I don't anticipate him doing that. Now, I could be completely wrong. This is pure speculation.

But for the past seven months he has shown a softening on this and I suspect he understands not only just without Harvey -- that this was important.

But you tack on Harvey and the clean-up work and the -- and the -- and the knowledge, the science that is needed to make this go smoothly and swiftly for the people that know the area the best. I think those workers and those people and those young people are an important fabric of making Texas functional again.

BRIGGS: Yes. As Texas turns to rebuilding, more than a quarter of its construction industry undocumented. They have more than 100,000 Dreamers in that state.

But it is Friday, so if the president's going to do it we expect it today.



Salena Zito from "The Washington Examiner," thanks so much. We appreciate it. Have a good weekend.

ZITO: You, too.

BRIGGS: All right.

Turning to sports, Texans star J.J. Watt, a man on a mission, raising some serious cash --


BRIGGS: -- for those hit by Harvey.

MARSH: That's right, he did.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning, Andy.


You know, Watt started his fundraiser on Sunday with a goal of raising just $200,000 for his adopted hometown. In less than a week he's crossed the $13 million mark, and Watt told CNN's Anderson Cooper last night he's in it together with the people of Houston.


J.J. WATT, DEFENSIVE END, HOUSTON TEXANS: I want Houston to know that I'm with them in the long haul. I'm not just here for the initial fundraiser, I'm here to make sure that we take care of you down the road.

My first phase is what I'm doing this weekend. My teammates and I, we have semi-trucks rolling in from out of town that we filled up. We have about nine semi-trucks that are going to come into town and we have those all filled with stock supplies -- water, food, clothing, everything.

So we're going to give that out this weekend. That's our first step.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: Now, more than 130,000 people have donated to Watt's relief fund and according to "Forbes" the YouCaring fund is the fastest- growing, largest crowdfunding fundraiser in the 10-year history of crowdfunding.

All right. With their game -- with the Texans canceled last night the Cowboys, instead, held a practice/telethon with all proceeds going to the Salvation Army for Hurricane Harvey relief. Former Cowboy greats, like Emmitt Smith, were there helping to man the phones and star wide receiver Dez Bryant got the biggest donation of the night.


JERRY JONES, OWNER, DALLAS COWBOYS: How many million-dollar contributions have you had tonight?

DEZ BRYANT, WIDE RECEIVER, DALLAS COWBOYS: I haven't had not one of those.

JONES: You've got one now, buddy.

BRYANT: Oh, yes, sir.


SCHOLES: That's Cowboy's owner Jerry Jones donating $1 million there.

When it was all said and done, the Cowboys raised $2.3 million for Harvey relief.

[05:50:00] All right. The Astros finally returned to Houston last night after being away for an entire week. The team beating the Rangers 5-1 in the series that was moved to Florida.

The Stros now going to host the Mets this weekend in the first pro sporting event in the city since Hurricane Harvey hit. They're going to have today off. The Stros are going to play the Mets in a doubleheader at Minute Maid Park tomorrow, guys.

And if you're an Astros fan and in the city of Houston, you're waking up with a little bit of a smile on your face this morning --

BRIGGS: A huge smile.

SCHOLES: -- because the Astros made a huge trade last night --

MARSH: Yes, you are.

SCHOLES: -- adding ace pitcher Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers.

So, you know, no matter what everyone's going through there, at least the Astros trying to brighten people's spirits, you know, making donations and then helping the team who, hopefully, will make a nice post-season run.

MARSH: They need that.

BRIGGS: Hey look, you know well, sports is a welcomed distraction --


BRIGGS: -- amid times like this.

The U.S. military will tell you when they're overseas at war they watch NFL games because it's a great distraction.


BRIGGS: This helps the spirit of the city of Houston, no doubt.

SCHOLES: Yes. I can only --

BRIGGS: Justin Verlander, a great trade, too.

SCHOLES: I can only imagine the atmosphere at Saturday's game there at Minute Maid Park. It's going to be pretty awesome.

BRIGGS: No question.


BRIGGS: Doubleheader against the Mets.

All right, Andy Scholes. Thank you, sir.

MARSH: Thanks, Andy.

BRIGGS: The August jobs report is out later today. We'll preview those numbers on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:55:38] MARSH: Well, in a move of diplomatic retaliation, the U.S. ordering the Kremlin to close the Russian consulate in San Francisco, along with two diplomatic annexes in New York and Washington. That's in response to staff cuts at the U.S. mission in Moscow ordered by the Russian government.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which is reopening consular services today, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly is, Rene, and the reason why they had to shut them down for nine days is because the U.S. was forced to cut its staff by the Russians.

Now, the Russians said that was in retaliation for those sanctions that the U.S. levied against Russia for the election meddling, and said the U.S. has to have the exact same number of people working in Russia as Russia is allowed to have in the United States.

Well, the U.S. has now come back and said look, if you guys want parity as far as the staff is concerned, there also has to be parity as far as the diplomatic institutions are concerned. And therefore, they've asked the Russians to shut down the consulate in San Francisco, saying the Russians can have three consulates in America and America is going to have three consulates here in Russia.

The Russians have said they regret that decision. They say they're studying it and will retaliate if they feel the need to. So certainly, at this point in time, it does not look as though relations between the U.S. and Russia are getting any easier anytime soon, Rene.

MARSH: Fred Pleitgen reporting live for us. Thanks, Fred.

BRIGGS: It's now 1:00 p.m. there in Moscow, 5:57 Eastern time with a check on "CNN Money Stream."

Global stocks slightly higher after Wall Street ended August on a high note. The Dow and S&P notching their fifth straight month of gains while the Nasdaq hit a record high.

Movement on tax reform helping push stocks higher. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised a very detailed tax plan by the end of September.

Gas futures also hit a two-year high over fears of a Harvey-driven fuel shortage. The price per gallon now 17 cents higher than just last week.

The August jobs report comes out today and economists expect hiring to cool off just a bit. Expect between 180,000 and 190,000 jobs added last month. A solid number but down from July.

Meanwhile, the jobless rate should stay at a 16-year low, close to what experts call full employment.

And don't worry about Harvey just yet. The storm causing huge temporary job losses along the Gulf Coast but that won't show up in today's job report.

As we wrap up the rough week we end on a hopeful note.

Aric Harding went back to his flood-ravaged home south of Houston. Most of his stuff pretty much destroyed but one item was not.




MARSH: Harding had gone home to pick up some stuffed animals and toys to comfort his seven children who were taken -- who were in a shelter nearby. But then they thought that this piano may have been destroyed and apparently not.

BRIGGS: That's good stuff.

MARSH: Yes, good stuff.

BRIGGS: All right. Have a great weekend, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

Thanks so much for joining us here on EARLY START. "NEW DAY" has you covered one week since Harvey hit. All of the destruction, the rescue and recovery efforts right now.

We'll see you next week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you look at comparisons it's far larger than Katrina, far larger than Sandy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This hurricane is of a magnitude that I have never seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The food is running out, the water is running out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is unbelievable. A nightmare that we can't wake up from.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a long way to go. It's not months, but it's years.

BRIGGS: The death toll continues to rise as the president prepares for his trip to the flood zone Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen a lot of things but that terrified me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not even real. You see this stuff on T.V. but this is total devastation in every way.

DERRICK FREEMAN, MAYOR, PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS: You can't fight Mother Nature. She's given us one right now but our citizens are resilient. We're ready for it.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, September first, 5:00 here in Houston.

One week ago today Hurricane Harvey made landfall here in Southeast Texas. Today, there's no rain. Instead, the skies are filled with helicopters searching for survivors.

We have seen dramatic images of these rescues around the clock.