Return to Transcripts main page


Hospital Threatened with Flooding Evacuated in Texas; Rescue Operations Continue in Wake of Hurricane Harvey; Interview with Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas; Interview with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see this stuff on TV, but this is total devastation in every way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't fight Mother Nature. She's giving us one right now, but our citizens are resilient. We're ready for it.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Friday, September 1st. It is 7:00 a.m. here in Houston. And one week ago today hurricane Harvey made landfall here in Texas. The rain has stopped, but there are helicopters now filling the skies searching for survivors.

We've seen so many of these dramatic images of rescues. These are happening around the clock. More than 72,000 people have been rescued. So far, Harvey has led to 47 deaths, and that number is expected to rise. Neighborhoods like the one I'm standing in, this is called Wilchester West, it of will of course have to rebuild and dry out.

The White House estimates that more than 100,000 homes are either damaged or destroyed. The scope of Harvey's catastrophic flooding is captured in these stunning satellite images. Entire neighborhoods that were once green are now submerged in brown water, so of course there are concerns about contamination and disease in these flood waters. And I can tell you just from standing here over the past two hours, Chris, the mosquitos are out in force. There are all sorts of insects. Of course they thrive in this standing water and the humidity, and that all leads to a very complicated and dangerous stew.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And 70,000 rescues, but millions in the area. And all that water is going to be there for weeks, and time is going to be the enemy for people's patients and for the ability to put them up and to find food and schooling. FEMA announcing that they have approved assistance for nearly 100,000 people. But remember, you have millions exposed to Harvey.

Congress now awaits the Trump administrations' request for the first wave of emergency funding to help the survivors and the victims. Courses tell CNN the House could take up the vote as early as next week. Will they keep politics out of it and get it done? Vice President Mike Pence in Texas consoling victims, seeing the devastation first hand. President Trump will follow in his footsteps going to Houston tomorrow to meet with victims in the flood ravaged city.

The most dire situation, though, however is not in Houston. It's in Beaumont, Texas, 118,000 people live there now. They have no drinking water. The pump and the backup pump flooded. There are these long lines for a ration of bottled water, the water outage even forcing the city's hospital to evacuate many of its patients.

We have it all covered. Let's begin with Miguel Marquez live in Beaumont. Miguel, we had heard that they've been asking for water trucks, tankers filled with water. How did that go?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the next couple of hours the city is going to announce where they will have a water distribution point. And they think they will be able to service everybody for the time being and get them the water they need. They plan to be handing it out in either large bottles or gallon jugs.

Really, two different crises hitting the city of Beaumont at the same time, the water is out and the flood waters are still rising. The Naches River hasn't crested yet. And until it does hit that crest they won't be able to get into the pumps to be to fix them back up to get the water back up and running. That has affected places like the hospital here, a Baptist hospital in Beaumont, where they have decided to evacuate. They started off about 193 patients. They are down to about 83 patients now. The most critical of them have been choppered out. They have done this with military-like precision, and they're lucky in the sense they can actually plan for this rather than the rising waters. If that were the case it would be a much more chaotic situation.

But you literally have sort of wave after wave of helicopters coming in to ferry these patients off to different places, Dallas, Jasper, Texas, Galveston, even some as far away as Missouri to go on and get them help and care where they can.

Officials say it may take four, five, six, perhaps seven days or more to get that water up and running here. So for right now, people are watching that water level of the river and hoping that they can get that water back up and running very soon. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Absolutely, Miguel. So let's take a look at just a few more of the pictures and the video of all those folks being evacuated. It's just so dramatic. As you said, 193 people were in this hospital. Some of them in very bad shape, and so the idea of having to evacuate and get these folks out in a time sensitive way is just really trying. And you can see doctors doing it. You can emergency responders, all of the choppers. It's just quite a herculean effort.

[08:05:05] So joining us now is Mary Poole. She's the spokesperson for Baptists Hospital in Beaumont. Mary, wow, we've been watching what you had to do. What have these past couple days been like for you?

MARY POOLE, BAPTISTS HOSPITALS OF SOUTHEAST TEXAS: Well, good morning from southeast Texas. All can I say is I've never been more proud to be a member of this organization. This has been amazing. We have staff here. We have food here, we have supplies here. We're ready to rock and roll. Unfortunately the city is not cooperating with the water. But things are going very, very well here.

Earlier we started out with 193 patients yesterday and we're down to 83 today. All of critical patients have been moved. Their families are notified. It went very, very smoothly. We used helicopters and ambulances here in town, and we just worked as an effort to get this done.

All of the ICU patients have already been moved. Our ER has been cleaned out, and any critical patient has already been moved. Dialysis patients are gone. And for those of you that didn't know, we're the only psych hospital within a 300-mile radius and we have all of our psych patients have been relocated as well. We're only down to three on that. So for those of you that know much about mental health, that is very difficult to get those people placed. But they're on their way out.

But our big exciting news is our pediatrics and our babies will be leaving today, so our NICU and nursery will be moving out. We have 11 babies, and they will be leaving this morning together with Dr. Doshi who is our neonatologist. He said I'm not letting those babies go without me.

CAMEROTA: Wow, Mary, listen, I can tell your patients are in good hands with you there, because you have just the right energy for this task. I mean you are obviously approaching it with open arms and open hart. But I did -- I have to tell you moo I heart did go out when I heard about your NICU unit. I had two preemie twin babies and I just remember how scary those days are for parents. And so what's going to happen to those babies in the NICU? Where are they going?

POOLE: They're going to University of Texas medical branch in Galveston. And the interesting thing about that is Dr. Doshi, who is our neonatologist, that's where he trained. So he said I'm bringing my babies home. It was really sweet. He stayed up all night waiting for the helicopters, and they just weren't able to fly. This is southeast Texas and we're on the coast, so we have a tendency to get a little bit fog. So he was not willing to take that chance. So the sun is coming up today. It's beautiful here today, and he's ready to go.

CAMEROTA: Well, Mary Poole, thank you. We wish you and your entire crew there the best as you try to help all of these patients. Thank you so much. You have such a wonderful attitude. It's really inspiring to talk to you this morning.

POOLE: Thank you. You let southeast Texas know as soon as that water's back, we are back.

CAMEROTA: We are on it and we are helping you get the message out. So thanks so much for being here.

So back here where I am in Houston, rescue crews are about to resume door to door searches in some of the heavily flooded areas here in Houston. You see just one example of this behind me. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live on the west side of this city. What's the situation there, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. There's still two pockets of the city that are still under some flood waters and they're still very much of concern and dangerous situations. This area near those reservoirs that we've talked about throughout the week on the wet side of Houston, there's another area on the northeast side of town in the Kingwood area of the city that also still has water in it. Obviously that is still very much a dangerous situation.

But what we have now seen that as the flood waters have started receding, that allows the rescue crews and search and rescue operations to comb out, fan out through the neighborhood and look for victims. And that's why we've seen the death toll here in the last few hours go up, the death toll now standing at 47. And more of that work is expected to continue today.

What is staggering, the numbers in the sheer scope of just how much damage has been inflicted by these flood waters. According to county officials, 136,000 structures across Harris County have been damaged by flood waters. So that is just a staggering number and really kind of gives you a sense of how much work and how long it will take for the city to repair itself, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Ed, absolutely. Thank you very much for that reporting.

Here's another story we need to tell you about. Two men are missing after their boat capsized while trying to rescue Harvey victims in Montgomery County, Texas. A third person on board was rescued after clinging to a tree for dear life.

Joining us now is a friend of the two men who are missing, Manny Muniz. Manny, thanks so much for being here. What does you know about what happened on Monday?

[08:10:01] MANNY MUNIZ, FRIENDS MISSING AFTER RESCUE BOAT CAPSIZES: It was Monday around -- excuse me. It was Tuesday around midnight when the guys went to Houston to rescue lives here. They were all pumped up, ready to save lives. When they got to Montgomery County, they had went to -- if I'm not mistaken, an apartment complex. That's where they launched boat at.

CAMEROTA: They were just doing this on their own. They just decided, hey, we have a boat, people need help. We've seen hundreds, thousands of people who have come here with that same good intention, and then they have to figure out where they're going to go and don't know what the conditions are that they're going to be going into.

MUNIZ: Yes ma'am. They decided we need to do the right thing and go out there and save some people, and people that need help. They just came on out here.

CAMEROTA: And so what did you hear about what happened to them, what they encountered?

MUNIZ: Well, what I heard was that a current had got the boat, and they slammed up against the bridge, and the boat just flipped over and both -- three men were like completely under water and stuff. And one -- one of the guys had seen a gas can floating. He grabbed onto that, and he swam up. He'd seen a tree and he was clinging on to that.

CAMEROTA: That was Luis.

MUNIZ: Yes, that was Luis.

CAMEROTA: And your two friends, tell me about them.

MUNIZ: They kept -- the current kept taking them down, I guess by the bridge. Some people say they went under the bridge. Other people keep saying no, they just kept going with the flow. Up to right now, they're still missing. We haven't had any update on that.

CAMEROTA: So we have Thomas, who's 25, and Alonzo, who goes by D.J. Ocho who is 30. So how do you know them? Tell me about your friends.

MUNIZ: Thomas, I know him. We used to play soccer together. Every Sunday we go out there and play soccer. Ocho, man, he's been my friend since as long as I can remember. He's more than a friend. He's like my brother. He's my mentor, teacher, my life coach. He's my everything.

CAMEROTA: What do you think has happened to them?

MUNIZ: I don't want to think the worse. I know they're tough guys. They're intelligent and I know they can just -- they got it. They can survive. I know they're out there. They're OK.

CAMEROTA: So you think that they are just among the missing, the people who haven't reconnected somehow with their families or their friends. And by the way, this does happen. I mean, people don't have their cell phones. They lose their cell phones, and we have seen examples. We had one just earlier in the program of people who take days to be able to find them with missing photos. Is that what you're hoping?

MUNIZ: Yes, ma'am, I'm hoping they're out there alive. They don't have a way of communicating with us. Hopefully they can -- somebody can see them and like just point them to the right direction, hey, I've seen this guy.

CAMEROTA: But the guy who survived, has he explained what he saw happen to them?

MUNIZ: I haven't talked to him. He has talked to his mom and his dad. He explained a little bit of what he remembers. But, other than that, that's just -- they were just concerned about him being OK.

CAMEROTA: Have you talked to Ocho or Tom's families?

MUNIZ: Yes, ma'am. I talked to Thomas's mom.

CAMEROTA: How's she doing?

MUNIZ: She's holding up OK. It's her child so she's devastated of course. But she's holding on strong.

CAMEROTA: Manny, we're praying for you, we're praying for your friends and their families. And obviously we will bring any information that we get, any developments right to you.

MUNIZ: Yes, ma'am.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for being here.

Back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: The anguish, the unknown about your loved one in the midst of battling for your own survival, hopefully it is not too much for the people down there, and hopefully the people coming to the rescue and helping them. That will give them strength, Alisyn.

We're going to take a little quick break here. When we come back, we're going to talk about what Congress needs to do. I know it sounds like a no-brainer -- help the survivors of Harvey. But what happened the last timed with Sandy says nothing is a forgone conclusion when it comes to government. So we're going to talk to a Texas congressman about what needs to happen, next.


[08:18:31] CUOMO: President Trump and the first lady returning to Texas tomorrow. It will be their second visit to the disaster zone.

Meantime, the House to vote as early as next week for the first round of aid to Harvey victims.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold. He represents communities hit hard by Harvey.

Congressman, thank you for making the time.

What is the state of play on the ground? How are the rescues going? What is the approximation of need right now?

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: Well, things are getting better down here in the Corpus Christi region, as debris cleared. I'm visiting some of the hardest hit areas every day or so, like Rockport and every day, you see more and more brush piled up. And people are getting a sense of hope as the city is getting cleaned up and electricity is getting restored. And most importantly, grocery stores are opening.

CUOMO: You're going to have water issues in some places. Time is going to be an enemy here, the duration of the flooding, the duration of people being displaced.

What are your big concerns right now?

FARENTHOLD: Obviously, it's going to be getting people back into their homes once essential services are restored and making those homes habitable again. It's hot and humid in Texas and mold is going to be a problem. A wide variety of issues.

We're counting on FEMA for temporary housing for folks whose homes have become uninhabitable.

[08:20:02] We're counting on our neighbors to take in their friends and we're all working together. That was what I'm most impressed by -- neighbor helping neighbor.

CUOMO: Now, I hope it's not going to be too big a challenge, but with what we saw with Sandy, it might be. You're heading back to Washington, D.C. The president is going to ask for the first wave of funds. Do you think that Congress will come together and do a clean relief bill this time?

FARENTHOLD: That's my hope. The big objection that a lot of folks including Texas members had to the Sandy bill was there as a whole lot of other stuff attached to it that wasn't Sandy-related. So, hopefully, this will be something that Congress will be able to do.

The issue becomes, with the additional spending associated with this disaster, we get closer and closer to the debt limit.

CUOMO: Congressman, you know, you've heard Peter King say, I'm not going to do to you in Texas what you did to me in New York, right? He's obviously a member of your party. Governor Christie, member of your party, went after Republicans for he says playing politics during Sandy.

Do you have a different perspective now on the need to be more open- minded about funding after what you've seen happen in your own home state?

FARENTHOLD: I haven't changed my mind at all. Again, objection to Sandy was there was a lot of not Sandy stuff in that bill. And that's what led Texas members, including myself to vote against it.

Listen, I grew up in south Texas. I was a young teen in Hurricane Celia, which just wreaked horrible havoc here. And I understand the need for assistance in recovering from a disaster wherever it is, but I do have a problem using a disaster to fund whatever else might --

CUOMO: Look, I hear -- I hear you about that. And I'm not going to come at you in the time of distress down there. But, you know, reading through the CRS report on what the money was there, even Ted Cruz had to back off the idea that it was two thirds pork or not related to Sandy. It's just not true. It was almost all disaster- related to either things that happened earlier or within a few years of Sandy that still needed to be done or different states that were affected by Sandy. And it does seem some of you guys took a really hard line and if that

happens this time, your people are going to suffer.

FARENTHOLD: I don't think it's going to happen. Congress is going to come together.

And again, this is the problem we have in Washington. You put these mega bills together, and you are voting on all sorts of things that you may not want to vote on, because it's all lumped together in one.

Let's get these bills, every bill in Washington where it can be understood not just by the members of Congress but by the American public.

CUOMO: What happens if it's connected to an overall budget bill or to a debt ceiling bill? Would you fight against that and there any chance you would vote against the relief package for your own state?

FARENTHOLD: Well, it may have to be attached to a debt ceiling bill because of the amount of devastation here probably will push us much closer to the debt ceiling. I'm not going to like it, but I think they can probably throw a debt ceiling in it and I'd vote for it and --

CUOMO: I mean, look, it would be hard for you not to see it differently than you did with Sandy, it's just different when it's our own state. I mean, what would make you not vote for a relief package for Texas?

FARENTHOLD: Again, it would be very difficult not to, but you've got to understand we have a huge debt crisis in this country, and we've got to -- we can't ignore it. But I don't see how I could vote against it.

I was elected to represent the constituents down here. My district took the brunt of the wind storm type damage. Obviously, Houston has got massive damage from flooding. It's a bad situation down here.

CUOMO: There is no question, it is a bad situation and it demands relief. I remember Peter King making a very similar argument to other Republicans who were holding up the bill.

I hope you don't have to make the same arguments this time around, Congressman. I hope people do the right thing. There are plenty of ways to save money on the budget. It doesn't have to come on the backs of the Harvey survivors.

FARENTHOLD: I agree with that.

CUOMO: Well, we'll see what happens when you get there. Please let us know what the needs are, what specific information is that needs to get out. Use us as a resource. We want to help.

FARENTHOLD: Thank you very much. I'm available and I will let you know.

CUOMO: Be well, Congressman. Thank you.

Alisyn, to you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris. Thanks so much.

Joining us now on the phone is the Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner.

Mr. Mayor, good morning.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON, TEXAS (via telephone): Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Mayor, I understand that you have a big headline that you want to share with us and our viewers.

[08:25:03] Is there something transitioning today about all of the rescue efforts?

TURNER: Well, number one -- I mean, we took some aerial view of the Houston on yesterday. Most of Houston is now dry, with the exception of the two areas in the Kingwood area in northeast Houston. They're still facing water flooding issues. But things are slightly improving. So that's a plus.

The other side is in west Houston and they are flooding because of the release of water from the reservoir. And so, that will continue, probably until the next two to three weeks if not beyond. So, that's a concern. And we're very sensitive to that.

With respect to people in our shelters --


TURNER: -- in Houston, in Houston, at its peak, that was probably at about 15,000. In a number starting to go down as people transition either to home or with their relatives or friends. And we're consolidating a few of those shelters.

Schools in most of our areas, in some cases may start next week but most probably September 11th. But the biggest problem will be housing. People are in their homes or their away from their homes and their hopes need to be rehabbed or rebuilt.

And the other thing is debris removal. Of the most of the city is dry. People are now putting that debris out in front of their homes. And it is building up.

And what I said to the FEMA and to others, we need -- everyone needs to operate with a sense of urgency. We need money advanced to us now. We started with heavy debris removal a few days ago. We'll be out there every day. But we need to ramp up. And we need immediately right now just for debris removal alone, anywhere between $75 million to $100 million just for debris removal.

We need the housing assistance.


TURNER: We need an army of FEMA agents on the ground to be assisting people not just in shelters, but people who are in their homes so we can get them financial assistance they need, so they can start transitioning. So, the important thing, as what Chris just had to say -- urgency, urgency, urgency.


And Mr. Mayor, what about all of the rescue effort? We've been watching, I mean, for days now all of these dramatic water, boat rescues. We've been watching aerial rescues. We've been watching K9 units.

What's happening with the rescue efforts? Do you believe there are still people trapped in their homes that need to be rescued? Or are you transitioning today to more of a recovery effort?

TURNER: The number of rescues in the city of Houston, that number has gone down dramatically. We are -- our firefighters and responders have to give them an extreme amount of credit. They've been simply exceptional. They're going -- they started yesterday going door to door in the city of Houston. Many of the rescues that you have seen have taken place outside of the city of Houston.

There's still a tremendous need for rescues in the outside the city of Houston, Beaumont, Jefferson County area. But in terms of the city of Houston, they're now going door to door to make sure we have not missed anyone, that there's not someone, especially seniors or disabled people were stranded. So, we're going door to door.

That will continue in every neighborhood from the inner city to outside of the inner city. So, that's door to door. The electricity grid for example, we now have less than 35,000 households without electricity. Most of the stores are starting to open. Transit system has started its regular service. Regular (INAUDIBLE)

Even the zoo is opening up today in the city of Houston, and we are providing some immediate assistance to Beaumont, which is our sister city right down the street. So, in the region, there is a dire need. There are still many rescues in the region.

But for -- with regards to the city of Houston, we are starting to move into the recovery phase. With the number of rescues dramatically down.

CAMEROTA: Understood. So, you're feeling is that the people who were in danger in Houston, the city proper, and the area surrounding, you're feeling is that those who needed to be rescued have been rescued and it's now safe to move into the recovery phase.

I just want to ask you now, Mayor, a week out, now that you have seen everything that's happened over the course of this week, is there anything that you wish that you had done differently during the course of this? TURNER: For the city of Houston and Harris County, this is was a

major, major rainfall event, just like in Beaumont. Beaumont happened a week after Hurricane Harvey struck.