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Dramatic Rescues Continue in Flood-Ravaged Texas; North Korea Demands U.S. Recognize It As Nuclear Power; FEMA Approves Assistance for 96,000 Applicants. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:38] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The helicopters searching for survivors will be back at it when the sun comes up here today. Our Anderson Cooper joined a coast guard crew yesterday as they conducted these challenging rescues in Beaumont. They say trying to spot people from above is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Watch this.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They just believe they have somebody who has been waving to them. It's a confusing situation now. They can't tell for sure if this is somebody who wants to be rescued or not.

The rescue diver is ready to go down if necessary. But they're trying to figure out exactly -- it's one of the difficulties that these coast guard crews are having, is just the lack of communication. They get information based on 911 calls, but a lot of the people that they've been rescuing, they just see, they get a visual on and they hover over the area, give them a thumbs up or a thumbs down to get an indication of whether they need to actually be rescued.


CAMEROTA: So, these two folks right here and their dogs were saved while Anderson was on that chopper. They're among the 72,000 who have been rescued so far.

So joining us now -- I should say joining us as well as joining the Coast Guard in the rescue effort is a group of military veterans and their first responders, they're called Team Rubicon.

And joining me now is Jon Connor who's the communications manager for Team Rubicon.

Jon, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: Explain what Team Rubicon is. What do you guys bring to the effort that's different than, say, the National Guard? CONNORS: Right. So, Team Rubicon is a disaster response organization

that unites that skills of military veterans and first responders. It's a rapidly and efficiently deployed to disasters. So, what we're able to do is get our volunteers together very quickly, get them on the ground very quickly and respond with more flexibility than a larger organization like the National Guard.

CAMEROTA: Who organizes you? Who deploys you? Where do you go for marching orders?

CONNORS: We work hand in hand with local authorities, as well as FEMA to find out where we're most needed. Since we've got here, we have our boats on the ground since Monday and we've been moving according to where we needed most. So, we started in Katy, we moved through Houston. And as of yesterday, we were in Beaumont.

CAMEROTA: And how can -- I'm struggling with what word to choose. How chaotic is the rescue effort, the orders you're given? I asked because I was with the Cajun Navy, an ad hoc group of volunteers from Louisiana who show up with their boats. And there were moments we were standing on a bridge trying to figure out where to go, calling different sheriff's offices, trying to figure out where to put the boat in the order. How organize is your effort?

CONNORS: Right. So, what makes us different than other organizations is that since we are military veterans, we are used to chaos, we thrive in chaos, and we're used to working in austere environments. So, when our people get on the ground, if we don't have a mission, we'll find a new mission and we'll just adjust what we're doing.

We started doing personnel rescue earlier in the week. Yesterday, we did canine rescues. So, search neighborhoods. You know, wherever we're needed most, we adjust and go there.

CAMEROTA: And what if people need you? I mean, can regular residents call you or do you come through a sheriff or --

CONNORS: We work with local authorities to ensure that we are needed and wanted. We're starting up today, we're kicking off down in Rockport, which is where the hurricane hit land and we're going to be there for weeks, if not months.

CAMEROTA: And what are you going to do there exactly?

CONNORS: We do long term disaster relief. So, we'll be doing muck outs and debris removal.

[06:35:02] We have chain saw operators. We have had the equipment operators. What we want to do is help those who are most in need and help people get back in their homes as quickly as possible.

CAMEROTA: Wow. So, you're going to be helping -- and people whose homes are devastated, you're going to help them rebuild?


CAMEROTA: How long is Team Rubicon is going to say in this area?

CONNORS: We will be here for at least two months. What aren't going to do is let people down. We're not going to let people go. This will be the largest operation we've ever done. We're anticipating deploying over a thousand members down here over the next eight weeks.

And when I say we will keep working, up in New Jersey and New York, we're still working on homes that were wrecked during Hurricane Sandy. So --

CAMEROTA: And who pays you guys?

CONNORS: We're all private donations. We're not funded by the government. So, any donations help. It helps us get more volunteers here to help more people.

CAMEROTA: OK. Well, fantastic. Jon, thanks so much for being here. Thanks to all the efforts of people here.

CONNORS: Thank you.

Chris, back to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, what a resource Team Rubicon can be in situations like this.

All right. So, we're going to continue to cover all of the major aspects of the recovery from Harvey. You have all of these rescues. You have the continuing threats.

And look at that thing on your screen. What is that? It is another hurricane named Irma. Like Harvey, it is gathering strength quickly. Where is it headed? Next.


[06:40:42] CAMEROTA: So, here is the news that no one wants to hear: there is a new storm churning in the Atlantic. It's called Hurricane Irma. It is now a category three storm.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest forecast.

Chad, where is this one heading?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's in the middle of the Atlantic, as you said, in the middle of nowhere, that's good. But it is heading to the west, maybe towards Puerto Rico, St. Croix, that area up there.

Now, the cone comes very wide by the time we get out there. But it's 115 miles per hour. As I stood here yesterday talking about Harvey, this was barely a tropical storm. But it exploded overnight. And now, it is a category three, forecast to become a category four.

One-hundred-and forty-mile-per-hour storm by Wednesday of next week. Let me take you to the forecast track for Irma. It's way out here,

way away from land. But we're going to go where the European model right now, very close to the islands sometimes Wednesday or Thursday.

Now, I need you to think about this, this is ten days away, the storm could be here, or it could be here. That's how far and how big the errors are in these computer models by the time we get ten days out.

Let's compare the European to the American model, because we always do. The American model much closer to land, the European model much further into the Atlantic. Let's hope this is what we call a big gutter ball, missing absolutely everything, missing Bermuda, missing North Carolina.

We'll know that by the end of the weekend when the models get clearer. But right now, it's a long way away. I just need you to know, there's a cat-four hurricane possible in the Atlantic.

CUOMO: Chad, got to watch it, especially with the vulnerabilities we have down there in the coast area right now, the Gulf Coast. Have to watch it. We know you'll be on the job 24/7.

CHAD: I will.

CUOMO: Thank you very much.

All right. Another big story, North Korea demanding to be recognized as a nuclear power by the United States. The commentary in this state-run newspaper coming after a joint show of force by the U.S. and South Korean military.

We have CNN's Will Ripley in North Korea. He is the only Western TV journalist there live from Pyongyang and the perspective from being on the ground there is invaluable.

What is the state of play?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a really interesting development, Chris, because what North Korea is essentially saying is after the U.S. had that show of force with bombers on the Korean peninsula within a few weeks ago, (AUDIO GAP).

The response that we're seeing now on the ground here is North Korea saying, yes, it was a rash act by the United States, but they're doing it because they were taken aback by North Korea's intermediate range missile launch. And then this new commentary, essentially calling on the United States to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, to change their fundamental position, that they refuse to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear weapons state in order to keep the U.S. mainland safe from North Korean weapons. But also, it would give North Korea what they want, which is respect, a seat at the table and greater economic opportunity in the global market.

Let me read you a piece of this commentary. It says, quote, as the U.S. escalates the confrontation with the DPRK, that's North Korea, and wastes time to find a solution, the striking capabilities of the DPRK's strategic forces which put the whole U.S. mainland in their strike range will rapidly increase.

So, essentially, they're saying, either you engage with us, you recognize us or we're going to continue to accelerate our weapons program, no matter what sanctions you throw at us, and we're going to become increasingly dangerous. Vladimir Putin saying that that kind of pressure is only a dead-end road, saying the United States needs to change its policy.

And just to show you how North Korea really feels, that their missiles are the key to their national survival, they just put out a new postage stamp that's just out within the last couple of days commemorating their intercontinental ballistic missile launch. They consider it an historic, even as the rest of the world views it as a dangerous provocation -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Will, thank you very much. So good to have you on the ground there in North Korea for us.

So, back here in the Houston area, in Texas, the vast majority of Harvey victims are in this area that you see around me. You can see the homes behind me. They are flooded. And believe it or not, the majority of victims do not have flood insurance.

So, how will they rebuild?

A FEMA official is going to join us to tell us their options, next.


[06:48:58] CAMEROTA: You see water everywhere around Houston. Harvey has dumped trillions of gallons of water over Texas and Louisiana. The volume of this rainfall is very hard to wrap your head around.

So, CNN's Tom Foreman is going to try to put it all in perspective for us.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Forty-five million gallons every minute. That's how much water flowing over all the falls at Niagara. And yet, they would have to run for 381 days to equal the amount of water Harvey has dumped on Texas and Louisiana. Some experts now putting the total dump there at 25 trillion gallons, some say less, but is it possible it could be that much? Well, look at the vastness of the area and you'll see how it might.

If you put this over in California, it would stretch from Los Angeles up to San Francisco. Show it to the East Coast over here and you would have it going from Washington, D.C. up to above New York.

By comparison, the worst tropical storm rainfall in California was 1976 Kathleen.

[06:50:01] What was that? Just over 15 inches over a much smaller area.

What about the East Coast? That was New York in 2011, Irene, a little over 13 inches.

But look at Harvey. This massive amount, well over 50 inches in some areas, really high in other areas, even it wasn't that high. That's why all the records are being shattered here.

And if you were to compare this to Katrina, for example, very different types of storms. Katrina had broken levees, all sorts of things like that. Here is the comparison: a lot of New Orleans ended up flooded with somewhere between 10 to 20 feet of water.

This is what 20 feet would look like next to me. If you took all that water from Harvey and compressed it into a smaller area, it would completely engulf buildings that were 12 stories tall.

And bear in mind even when the water starts going away, the danger will still be there, because this water isn't pristine. It's now being infused with petrol chemicals, and now with agricultural runoff and toxins from homes, and businesses, and raw sewage. Many, many threats even as the water drains off.


CUOMO: Wow, look at Tom next to that water of wall. That is the reality.

So, what about recovery? It's going to take years, no question. It's going to cost billions, maybe more than we've ever seen spent.

So, FEMA is going to be a big focus of this. They've already approved assistance for 96,000 people. That's just the first wave. They've received 51,000 flood insurance claims from Texas.

So, what happens to residents without flood insurance?

Our next guest has the answers. Roy Wright is director of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.

Thank you for being with us. We know you're very busy.

Let's do a check of the numbers. How many policyholders do you have in this area? How many people do you believe you have without policies?

ROY WRIGHT, DIRECTOR, FEMA'S NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM: So across the whole Texas southeast coast, 425,000 policies. We want to focus just in Harris County, Houston, 250,000 policies that are in those affected areas. And, obviously, as we've watched overnight, we're now looking at Louisiana and the impacts that are happening up in Tennessee.

CUOMO: Well, that is an impressive number until you look at it as a percentage of population.

WRIGHT: Absolutely.

CUOMO: You have millions of people there. So simple math. It's about one in six-ish don't have it. And we've seen a reduction in the last five years of about 10 percent.

Why have people been getting fewer policies and what do you do with those that don't have one?

WRIGHT: Right. So, there was an escalation in a certain part of our policy base. So, 80 percent of our policies are actuarially priced, the price reflects the risk.

Based on congressional law, I have about 20 percent of them that are discounted. 2012, Congress began to escalate those prices at a pretty quick clip. 2014, they rolled that back, said don't do that. So, we had an erosion across the country of about 10 percent of the policy base.

I think it's important to take this down to a pocketbook understanding. This is an individual decision made by a homeowner.

So, look at Harris County. We have a high hazard zone. That's that 100-year event. What we've watched with Harvey well exceeds it.

Inside that 100-year event, we call it the high zone. Yet half of my policies are outside. So, the actuarial rate, they made that choice. Those are personal pocketbook issues.

And so, while we're appropriately focused on the Texas coastline, I think there's many people watching this morning who need to have an understanding that that map is not the end of the water. That's the 100-year event. We will have more events this season that exceed that point.

CUOMO: So, is there any federal assistance for people who don't have the insurance?

WRIGHT: So, this is the numbers that you started with right there at the top of the piece. They need to go to and begin that process, the kind of temporary assistance we can do. What we do under the Stafford Act, that individual assistance, it's really a life vest. It helps them in the near term with a house, with a way to eat, begin to muck out.

But for many of those that are not insured, they're going to be reliant on loans, they're going to be reliant on non-profits to come in and help them rebuild their lives.

CUOMO: That's an ugly reality. So, if you have the plan, get on, see what your options are. If you don't, you've got bigger concerns.

All right. Roy Wright, thank you for that sobering reality. Appreciate it. We'll check back with you as we learn more about the need. Thank you.

WRIGHT: Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: Alisyn? Boy, that is terrible, as if it's not enough --


CAMEROTA: No, I hear you, Chris. I mean, obviously, it is stunning to hear how long it's going to take people to get their lives back. As you've heard, all of the officials here are saying this is their new normal because of those things in terms of insurance that they haven't been able to have and all the flooding you see around me.

[06:55:05] But as we've been reporting, entire city of Beaumont, that's more than 118,000 people, are desperate this morning for drinking water. So, we have the latest for you on the water crisis there.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surreal is probably the understatement of the century here. It's crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen many tornadoes and hurricanes and flood events. Never have I seen one like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The misery factor is just continuing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's team setting the stage for his return to the flood zone on Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He'll pledge proudly a million dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one could have anticipated how widespread this flooding was going to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no idea how terrifying it is until you're actually there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston and Texas is struggling right now. We're all coming together the one purpose, to make all our citizens well and whole again.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are with you and we will stay with you until all of southeast Texas comes back.

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