updated 9/2/2005 10:04:42 AM ET 2005-09-02T14:04:42

Guest: Frencesco Simeone, Mike Brown, Patricia Farrell, Ted Ellis, John

Timoney, Richard Pennington, Donald Basham

LISA DANIELS, HOST:  A desperate SOS from the mayor of New Orleans. 

The “Big Easy” sinking into chaos.  Thousands are waiting to be rescued.  Reports of shots fired at hospitals and helicopters.  Corpses floating in the floodwaters and lying out in the open.  And seemingly everywhere people who say they are not getting help, no food, no water for days, despite massive relief efforts that continue to grow.

And hello everybody, you are watching a special edition of the ABRAMS REPORT.  I'm Lisa Daniels, sitting in for Dan.  Again, there's just one story tonight, the bitter aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Here's the very latest.

President Bush is announcing he's putting his father and Bill Clinton in charge of a major fund raising effort for the victims as Congress rushing back to Washington to vote on fresh emergency funds.  Homeland Security director, Michael Chertoff, outlines the massive federal effort already underway across the battered gulf coast region.  But on the ground in New Orleans, a different story, flames amidst the floodwaters, many still try trapped inside their homes.  Eyewitness reports of shootings, looting, the dead and dying lying unattended in the streets and anger from people who say they've waited for days for food and water and they are still waiting.  The head of the emergency's operation is calling the response to the emergency “a national disgrace.” 

Along 90 miles of the Mississippi coast, the confirmed number of dead now up to 126.  With evacuees waiting in long lines for help and gas, fuel for cars and generators running extreme extremely low. 

But we begin in New Orleans where the situation seems to be getting worse.  Officials now trying to evacuate the city that seems to have spiraled out of control with armed a looters running rampant, shooting at rescue vehicles.  There's even a report that snipers are shooting at a hospital evacuating patients in critical condition.  As the mayor of New Orleans is sending out an SOS for help, federal officials are saying that they're doing, quote, “Everything humanly possible to help the desperate city.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  I'm satisfied that we have not only enough but more than enough forces there and on the way.  And frankly what we're doing is we are putting probably more than we need in order to send an unambiguous message that we will not tolerate lawlessness or violence or interference with the evacuation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  But that's not what some of our cameramen found when they went into the Convention Center themselves where many refugees have gathered.  They're expecting food, water, medical aid, and support and those people told MSNBC earlier that people are not getting what they need, and we talk to two of those cameramen in just a minute.  They said that the situation that they found was extremely disconcerting.  People running up to them, asking them for help, asking them for food and water, literally bodies just lying on the Convention Center.  Some of them on walls, covers with blankets, dead bodies simply everyone and people begging for help.  Where do they go?  Where should they go? 

Let's go to Joe Vasquez and Guy Morton who are two the cameramen who shot that footage you will see.  And they join me now.

Tell me what you saw and I know that some of this is graphic, so for those who don't want to hear it, they shouldn't listen because I think the word should get out—Joe.

JOE VASQUEZ, MSNBC PHOTOJOURNALIST:  Well, from what I saw and I experienced, it was pretty emotional.  We saw a lot of kids with their moms and the kids pleading for at least something to drink.  They were very thirsty and sleeping on the park bench and for me having two young kids, it was pretty emotional. 

DANIELS:  Guy, I know that people were coming up to you guys asking you for help.  Tell me about that.

GUY MORTON, MSNBC PHOTOJOURNALIST:  They were.  They were asking for help.  They were asking for food, they were asking for water, and more importantly they were asking for information.  No one in any kind of official capacity has come out there and talked to them and told them, OK, if you here, buses will pick you up.  Here's the time frame that we're looking at as far as getting everybody out.  They're not hearing anything.  And they'd like to have some information just as badly as they'd like something to eat.  And lot of them haven't eaten in four days.  Half of them can't get water. 

The only place that they have water set out is over by the Astrodome up an overpass that you have to walk up onto to get the water.  They have some at the Astro—oh wrong city, Superdome—that they can get water.  But no food, no MREs.  You know, do an airdrop.  Take that Chinook that they have, go to the one in the street where there's nobody at and shove 6 palettes out.  I mean, yeah, it's going to be a mad dash, but then have another one ready, go back to the other end of the street where they came from and shove six more pallets out.  They spread out, people at least get to eat.

DANIELS:  Yeah.

MORTON:  But yeah, it's sad.  I saw a 9-month-old—or a nine-month pregnant woman out there today, she could have that baby at any time.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

DANIELS:  And those are a lot of the stories that we're hearing.  Joe and Guy just hold on a second because I want to show our viewers what you saw.  Let's play that tape. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANTING:  Help.  Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She's got to be permanent now on oxygen.  She's been out of oxygen from last night and she's fixing to die.  She's going to be the next (UNINTELLIGIBLE)one dead. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We need help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We need food. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Help. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We need food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The buses are passing us up.  Nobody's doing anything.  No one knows anything. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We stranded.  What we going to do.  They ain't letting us—we ain't got no ride, my car underwater. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We're stuck here with no water.  Here, I fought for my country for years, that's the predicament I'm in.  I can't even go back to my own house in New Orleans.  I don't know where to go. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Want some candy, get the candy.  Try to get ya'll some water, girl. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is not right.  It's just not right.  And they have a couple pregnant girls that's full term walking around.  One girl—one girl was having contractions and they're not doing nothing about it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They're not even bringing the water or food. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Nothing about it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She got to have no milk.  Do they have any milk? 

This is how he is (PH).  And this is ridiculous

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Worse than animals.  I mean, in Baghdad they drop—they airdrop water, food to people.  Why can't they do that to their own people in New Orleans? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No kind of help, social worker or nothing. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  People have been in here since Monday.  Today is Thursday.  They have been telling us buses coming, busses coming.  Don't go to the Superdome, come to the Convention Center.  We at the Convention Center, nobody not here. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We been in here since yesterday.  They dropped us off said they're coming back and get us help and we still be here and this is ridiculous. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We down here now for a couple a days, and we need help.  We really, truly do.  New Orleans is no more New Orleans.  There's a tragedy down here. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  All right.  Back to the photographers who took those pictures.  Joe, it just seems from the video, it is sheer chaos.  Is that the accurate picture out there? 

VASQUEZ:  Oh, it's pure chaos.  When you take a look on the—in your viewfinder, you got to take a look out from the viewfinder and say, “is this really happening?”  And yes, it's pretty emotional.  These people, all they're requesting for is help and assistance and they're willing to go anywhere and they just need help. 

DANIELS:  Guy, you...

VASQUEZ:  They say the city of took a lot of preparations for this hurricane, but after the hurricane (AUDIO GAP)

DANIELS:  All right.  I'm not sure if we still have you.  Guy, can you hear me?

MORTON:  Yes, I can. 

DANIELS:  OK.  You know, you hear the people saying “The officials told us to go here, that's why we came.”  Did you see visible food, water, medical aid? 

MORTON:  At the Convention Center? 

DANIELS:  Yes.

MORTON:  There really isn't any food.  There's no food.  Basically, the food that they have is what they go out and they gather on their own and the water they go out and they gather and they come back and then they spread it out.  That's at the Convention Center.  Over at the Superdome, at least they have water, but they don't have any over here.  And you know, there's another thing, the law enforcement officers around here, I've actually seen some of them crying because they cannot physically help these people.  They have a post, they're manning their post, they're doing what they're told, but, you know, it's just a bad situation all the way around. 

DANIELS:  Joe, you know, I know Tony.  I don't know you two, but I know you've seen so much in many, many countries.  Put this in perspective for me.  What is this like to see this picture? 

MORTON:  I would say this is worse than a third world country.  I mean it's getting to that point and if they do not get these buses out here, get these people picked up and get them out of here, it's going to be worse than a third world country.  It's going to turn that way.  It's just not good.  They need to get the busses and get more of them in here.  We did a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for some the first people going to Houston, to the Superdome, rode on the bus with them, coming the opposite way, there were hundreds, hundreds of buses that we saw coming this way and law enforcement coming in to help, but you know, these people haven't seen either one.  Well, they've see the law enforcement.  The law enforcement are out here and doing their job but they need to get the busses and get these people out. 

DANIELS:  Joe and Guy, thank you is so much.  And I know we're not even seeing the worst pictures, so a big thank you for bringing that to our attention and best of luck.  I hope the situation, of course, improves over there. 

VASQUEZ:  Thank you. 

MORTON:  Thank you.

DANIELS:  And coming up, we're going to talk with one of the men in charge on the ground.  We're going to speak to the man himself, FEMA Director Mike Brown.  Plus we talked to a doctor at a New Orleans hospital where hospital vehicles are reportedly under sniper fire while trying to evacuate patients.  We'll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Look how hot he is.  He's not waking up very easy.  I am not—this is not about low income, it's not about rich people, poor people.  It's about people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  More of the desperation coming out of New Orleans, but federal officials say help is on the way in the form of the National Guard. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Over the next three days, the National Guard, through the cooperation of the governors and ultimately under the command and control of the governor of Louisiana, we'll be deploying into the New Orleans area, a force the size of the New Orleans police department each day, every day for the next three days. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  And joining me now to talk about how these new troops coming in will restore law and order in this desperate town is a police chief who has dealt with his share of hurricane.  Miami police chief, John Timoney. 

A big thank you for coming here.  You know, you just saw some of the pictures of the mother carrying this lifeless baby, even though the baby's alive.  What is it going to take there to get this situation under control? 

JOHN TIMONEY, MIAMI POLICE CHIEF:  Well, it really is a difficult situation.  I've never seen anything like it in my 36 years and I don't think anybody else has.  You know, they literally survived the initial hurricane.  Monday afternoon, people were patting themselves on the back.  It looks like they survived it, and then of course all hell broke loose.  The damns broke, the levees broke, the city got flood and things got progressively worse over the next two, three, or four days.  And, as your cameraman pointed out, you know, people were wait around for direction and some assistance and it was slow coming. 

DANIELS:  But, it just seems incredible that this is a United States of America, a super power and the situation is getting worse every day.  Everyday we report, it's worse than the day before. 

TIMONEY:  It is.  And it's—you know, there will have to be some serious postmortem when this is all over to find out what went wrong, what could have been done better.  Clearly, the New Orleans police department was overwhelmed.  You know, they were out there, but this is not a situation where you normally have, you know, a civil disturbance or a riot in a certain neighborhood.  This flood literally enveloped the whole city and so that department, that only has 14 or 1,500 police officers.  Not near enough to handle it was faced with. 

DANIELS:  But chief, what would you do?  If you were in charge of some of these men on the ground, what would you tell them?  What's the order that needs to go out to start to make a difference here? 

TIMONEY:  To make a difference, I think the first issue is really communications.  Somebody, you know, should be out there with bullhorns.  It's unfortunate, looks like there's a lot of miscommunication and people are just looking for proper direction, where to go, how to be picked up, and that looks like it's broken down somewhat.  But again, I'm down here in Miami and I'm in no position to criticize or judge, but clearly, this does not look good.  It doesn't look like America.  It does look like some third world nation and that's ashamed. 

DANIELS:  Chief, stay with us.  I'm going to bring in Atlanta police chief, Richard Pennington, who was for formerly the police chief of New Orleans. 

Sir, you know this city more than anybody.  Can you believe who what we're seeing here? 

RICHARD PENNINGTON, FMR.  NEW ORLEANS POLICE CHIEF:  Actually, no, I can't.  I think it's out of control right now.  I think they waited too late to go in and take command and control of the situation.  Actually, I've been involved in hurricanes before and normally—what we normally do is once the hurricane winds go through and the water subsides and recedes, we go out immediately take control of those parts of the city where they are not flooded.  In this case, I think that the department probably waited too late and that's just my opinion, Monday morning quarterback, but I think the federal assistance, the state assistance came in too late as well.  Eighty percent of the city was underwater, 20 percent of the city wasn't.  And so that part of the city, where the citizens had access to, where they could walk the streets freely, clearly, there should have been a police presence in those areas. 

DANIELS:  Chief Pennington, was there a plan in place for this?  I know the levees were designed for just a Category 3, but surely surely, it had to be planned that something like this could happen and now look at the mess that we're in. 

PENNINGTON:  Well, I agree.  I think one of the problems that happened is that people underestimated the damage of a Category 5 hurricane.  In addition to that, all the communication systems failed, and now you have a segment of officers in hotels, waiting for the water to recede and then they could go out and take their assignments.  But clearly, there's no communication so how do you get your directions?  How do you know what to do when people out on the street starting to loot?  People are hungry, people were frustrated.  And so I'm just amazed at what transpired. 

DANIELS:  You know what blows my mind is seeing the video from the Convention Center.  Really disturbing, bodies, dead people with blankets covered over them, lying on the side.  Children dehydrated, starving, literally to death.  Officials told these people to go there, we'll take care of you and now look at them. 

PENNINGTON:  Yeah.  Actually, I remember one other time when people were taken to the Louisiana Superdome and it somewhat got out of control then, where we had people even looting furniture from the Superdome.  But clearly, this time because I saw the presence of the National Guard, I thought everything would have been more organized or better organized and then with the supplement of the National Guard, I thought maybe there was a plan in place.  But when communications broke down, I can just imagine what happened to the officers out on the street, not being able to take clear directions from the leadership and then the whole situation got out of control. 

DANIELS:  It really did, I mean, look at these pictures.  Chiefs Pennington and Timoney, thanks so much. 

TIMONEY:  Thank you, Lisa. 

PENNINGTON:  Thank you.  Hey John, nice seeing you, buddy. 

DANIELS:  Well we're going to be talking to some more officials coming up.  Who do we have next, we—I know we're going to be speaking to the FEMA direct, Mike Brown, a little later in this hour.  Of course rescue workers had yet another thing to contend with today, in New Orleans.  Downpours, heavy winds, and that's bad news for state and federal officials trying to seal the huge breaches and levees and flood walls that opened the city to Lake Pontchartrain.  The Army Corp of Engineers' senior official in New Orleans saying, it can take three to six months to drain those floodwaters once the breaches are closed.  Well, that work is underway with sandbags being dumped into one of the two to 300-foot holes, and one of those holes could be closed tonight.

Joining me now, Donald Basham, is chief of engineering and construction for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.  He's been advising crews in that area. 

What is to be done with these levees? 

DONALD BASHAM, CHIEF OF ARMY CORP OF ENGINEERS:  Well, the immediate concern is just as you said, we have crews out there this evening trying to close the two levee breaches that we have.  We hopefully will have one of them closed by this evening if everything goes well, and the second one closed within the next couple days and that's critical to stop the water so we can start getting the water out of the community area. 

DANIELS:  At this point though, has the water basically, is it equalizing the water from Lake Pontchartrain?

BASHAM:  Yes, for all practical purposes, equalized.  There may be still a little bit of differential, but not that significant amount.  And with having that not unequal now, helps us facilitate getting in there and be able to close that gap. 

DANIELS:  It's disconcerts to hear the Army Corps of Engineers saying, being very candid and saying, “We haven't done this before.  We are trying our best to do something, but we're not sure that the plan going to work.”  Do you think that their plan that they have in place, putting the cement, putting the sandbags in place, will work? 

BASHAM:  Yes I do, I mean, we have done this before.  Maybe the—some of the folks that's involved in the fight right now, at that location, but the Corps of Engineers, over it's 200 plus year history has fought these types of events before and—levee failures and breaches before and so I'm confident we have the expertise working on this to solve this problem. 

DANIELS:  And then there's the water actually in New Orleans.  How do you get it out? 

BASHAM:  Well, once again, when we close the breaches, we have—there are pumps that were designed for the New Orleans area to pump out for these types of events, obviously not the breach.  But even if you not had the breach, there still would have been a huge amount of water that would have been in the New Orleans area because of the bathtub effect, just for the torrential rains that was associated with it.  So, we're working jointly with trying to get the breach closed, to get in and check the pump plants, get them up and running, making sure they work, get electricity to them.  Were we can't get electricity to them, we're looking to bring in special generators and power facilities to help power those up.  And we're also looking for other supplemental sources of ways to evacuate the water out of the town area. 

DANIELS:  To the credit of some officials in New Orleans, they have been lobbying the federal government.  We have a problem here.  These levees are only built for a Category 3 storm.  These levees are not up to the job if anything bigger should happen.  Is this going to be looked back upon, as a monumental failure of New Orleans officials and the federal government for not protecting their city from a disaster like this? 

BASHAM:  Well, I don't—you know, it's too early to make those types of judgments.  You know, people have to make economic evaluations, decisions.  I would say in one respect, this was a huge success and we need to think of it in that respect, even though we're talking about design for a Category 3 hurricane.  We had better than a high Category 4 come through and at the end of the day, the levees performed admirably to what they're intended, in fact, exceeded their design in their capacity to do that and even though it's a tragic event that we're seeing, here, unfolding before us, the—have one little section of this entire levee fail, I think it speaks to the building—the system to work as it is intended to do. 

DANIELS:  And just within 10 seconds, tell me, do you think that these levees will be fixed and sealed at the end of the week? 

BASHAM:  I think they will, yes. 

DANIELS:  All right.  Well, that's good to hear.  Donald Basham thanks so much for your expertise and explaining to us.  Appreciate it. 

BASHAM:  Thank you. 

DANIELS:  And coming up, we go to the Mississippi coast where the confirmed death toll now stands out 126.  We talk live with FEMA Director Mike Brown, that is coming up. 

Plus we're going to talk to a doctor at New Orleans Charity Hospital with no fresh water, no electric electricity.  He is helping evacuate the entire hospital under sniper fire.  We'll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  Coming up, we talk with one of the men in charge of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, FEMA Director Mike Brown, but first and update on the other stories making news today. 

(NEWSBREAK)

DANIELS:  And we're back with this special edition of the ABRAMS REPORT on the spiraling chaos in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Despite some water and food arriving in New Orleans, 15,000 people are trapped at the Convention Center.  Reports of beatings, rapes, and police force back.  The city's mayor has put out a desperate SOS for help. 

On the Mississippi gulf coast, the confirmed death toll now up to 126 as search teams look for victims. 

And in Washington, three presidents ask the nation to give cash as officials outline a massive federal aid effort and promise to restore order. 

Now, joining me now with the very latest from Biloxi, Mississippi, Jeff Ranieri is with MSNBC Weather Plus. 

And Jeff, are you seeing visible sign of where the aid is coming in? 

JEFF RANIERI, MSNBC WEATHER PLUS:  Certainly, from about 24 hours ago this time, we have seen a substantial growth in the number of vehicles coming in, the convoys getting here, delivering food, water.  We've seen numerous power companies, also brigading in are starting to work on things.  So certainly, some positive signs here in Biloxi, Mississippi. 

And we're on the Biloxi Point one of the hardest hit areas of Biloxi where the eye of the storm just sat over the region for hours at a time and really did a lot of destruction.  We'll go a head and take the phone down.  We've had some obvious communication problems out here.  So we'll get to phones so we can chat with you Lisa, in a second. 

But certainly, a lot of relief coming our way, but we talk about the destruction of this storm.  Just a few more reminders of what a Category 4 or five storm can do.  This was a telephone pole, completely snapped in half.  Look at this van over here, crushed by the 30 to 35-foot storm surge that came ashore.  We're just one block way from the gulf shore area.  We are right on top of Highway 90 and the waves had nowhere to come but over here.  Then you can see this gas station over here, completely blown, in fact, we were set up over here, just about two hours ago and we were rushed away because it is a dangerous situation there.  There could be should toxic chemicals in that region so they evacuated us within minutes. 

Also, over here, a brand-new Hard Rock hotel that was about a month away from opening.  That's not going to see an opening date for a long time.  And look at that car down there on left.  If my photographer can pan down, shows you the force.  These cars weren't thrown there, they were floating when the storm surge came in and when the tide came back out, a lot of stuff ended up back out to sea and, of course, where it shouldn't have been. 

We are right now in what used to be a hospital, a medical center and you can see right here, all of the debris as that water rushed in a moment's notice.  That's what happens with a storm surge, it comes in before you can do anything.  And it's debris like this that is causing concerns now.  Katrina is finished as a storm, but now that people are coming back, they're picking up the pieces, they're finding what they can in terms of memories.  We're also hearing reports of people getting hurt with the debris and they're certainly concerned about that as many people are, you know, stepping through that debris with the concerns of tetanus, also snake bites, a lot of snakes got washed in, in the storm surge and also alligators.  We're hearing reports of that too, so we still have plenty of dangers after the storm is over.  So, quite horrific, quite, just devastation across here.  There's no words to even describe, it's just—it's an awful scene—Lisa. 

DANIELS:  Jeff, it's very hard if you're not there to figure out if the relief effort is actually getting to the people who need it.  Can you tell us if you saw people getting the food, getting the water that they need?  Is the relief effort making progress here? 

RANIERI:  It is.  And you know, yesterday it was very sluggish; it was slow to get there, but understandably.  There were so many roads that were blocked that our crews even setting up for live shots had—we really had to take it slow to make sure we were OK and that we were safe.  But now that they've got bulldozers heading through all these residential areas, in Biloxi Point and other parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and we're wherever else.  We are seeing, at least right here in Biloxi, the aid getting there.  Another Salvation Army truck showering up at Biloxi Point where they could find some of the most concentrated deaths and people coming there getting cereal, bananas, and more beef stew for lunch.  It seems pretty generic, but to many people here who don't have anything right now, it means the world to them. 

DANIELS:  Oh yeah, well I'm glad some progress is being made there. 

Jeff, thanks so much, take care of yourself. 

New Orleans hospitals are in dire straight with no running water, no electricity, and dwindling supplies.  Yesterday seven newborn babies were airlift from Tulane University Hospital to Medical City Hospital in Dallas and like Tulane University Hospital, many others are evacuating their patients, starting with those in the most critical condition and like those seven newborns.  Many of the children are being evacuated without their parents at their sides. 

Joining me now, on the phone from New Orleans, Charity Hospital's Dr.  Francesco Simeone.  He is the co-director of the hospital's intensive care unit. 

And Doctor, I know that earlier there were reports of snipers shooting at the vehicles transporting the hospital's patients.  Can you confirm that or is that a rumor? 

DR. FRANCESCO SIMEONE, CHARITY HOSPITAL, NEW ORLEANS:  Well, this is what I heard, I was not there.  I cannot confirm because I was not there, but what I can tell you is that this episode has really done a tremendous harm to the rescue efforts.  Because, due to this rumor, ambulances, buses, other people that were coming in to rescue patients have not come in for safety issues. 

DANIELS:  Have you been hearing that firsthand, that the first responders are saying “we're not going in there because of the sniper reports?” 

SIMEONE:  Well, at least time of the rescue efforts have been not coming in because of the safety issues.  This is what I hear around. 

DANIELS:  Can you...

SIMEONE:  It is a very difficult situation because communication is very bad.  There is sort of chaos in the communication system, and therefore, I cannot confirm things.  This is what I hear, but if this is the case, I think this should not happen and I suggest to do anything we can to get as many buses, as many vehicles in town and get people out.  Even during the night and I think a priority should be given to these poor patients who are still in the hospital.

DANIELS:  How many critical patients are still there? 

SIMEONE:  Well, I'll tell you what the situation is for Charity.  We have—I was sort of happy this morning because I thought we had evacuated all of our intensive care unit patients.  We had 25 ICU patients and they were taken away with big trucks.  The—our expectation was they were taken away to the I-10 where there were supposed to be ambulances to transport them away.  But instead, for safety issues or because ambulances were not there anymore, they were taken to Tulane and they are still being evacuated by helicopter.

DANIELS:  How are these parents going to find their children when they're not being told, understandably, but how are they going to find their children once they start to look for them?  Is there any records being kept? 

SIMEONE:  Well, the records are being kept and the patients we send out, particularly the critically ill patients have their generalities taped on legs and somebody's keeping track of that.  So, I don't think this is going to be an issue.  But again, the main issue is, we still have—we had initially 500 patients here and then we had another 600 between (UNINTELLIGIBLE) their families, so 1,100 people.  And so far, probably only hundred or less, patients have been evacuated. 

DANIELS:  We wish you the very best.  It sounds like conditions are so dire there.  Dr. Simone, thank you so much. 

SIMEONE:  Yes.  I think more buses, some more means, more trucks, more anything needs to come in and we really need to evacuate these patients.  And other thing that—with the night, with darkness, rescuing efforts shouldn't stop.  I encourage whoever's in charge for this to send buses, trucks, any transportation mean that can take patients away. 

DANIELS:  We hear your...

SIMEONE:  And I think we should not be scared of snipers or rumors or whatever it is that is not—that is keeping rescue from coming. 

DANIELS:  We hear calls for help.  We hope that officials hear them, too.  Thanks a lot, Doctor. 

DANIELS:  Coming up, some tough questions for FEMA Director Mike Brown.  And Katrina's victims include hundreds of thousands of children who you just saw, many of whom will live through something like this again. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W.  BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W.  BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  And that is President Bush talking earlier today about the lawlessness in New Orleans and other areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. 

Joining me now to talk about what is being done to regain control in those areas, FEMA Director Mike Brown and I really appreciate your speaking to us, sir. 

MIKE BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR:  You bet, Lisa. 

DANIELS:  You know, yesterday when we spoke, it seemed that things were on the upswing, that things were getting better.  And now, starting with this morning, it seems like things are out of control.  They're just spiraling.  Is that accurate? 

BROWN:  Well, I think the American public needs to know that it really

is under control.  And what we're witnessing is the frustration of people

who have been totally displaced.  Their homes have been destroyed; they

have no place to go.  They've been caught in a horrible tragedy, a horrible

catastrophic storm, that, for whatever reason, either they were unable or

unwilling to leave their homes when the evacuation orders came and they now

find themselves in these horrible circumstances.  And I think there report

·         the reports of, you know, some of the people who are venting their frustrations and some of the lawlessness that has gone on.  But overall, it's under control, the commodities, the food and the water are moving in.  The Convention Center is being fed, they're being evacuate in a methodical and safe manner, so there's not more harm to them.

And I think the other thing that's interesting is that we're beginning to see, as the evacuation continuous, that more and more people are showing themselves to still be alive and still be around.  They're beginning to appear on bridges and places aren't inundated with water.  So as some of the floodwaters have recede, we can only assume that some of these people have moved out of the top tier, the top floors of their homes and moved to those bridge over overpasses or whatever. 

DANIELS:  But...

BROWN:  So, as we continue the evacuation, they continue to appear. 

DANIELS:  So, let me ask you quite candidly, there does seem to be disconnect between what you're saying and the video that we're seeing.  Do you think that the media is not showing accurate pictures? 

BROWN:  I think the pictures are accurate because there are always people in a disaster who are very frustrated who want to say, “I did not get a meal today or I did not get water.”  What I can tell you is the water's being distributed, there are—as we speak right now, for the evening meal and the food for the rest of the evening, the Convention Center—at the Superdome, there are five trailer loads of meals and water going there for distribution.  There—that's going on all over the city. 

DANIELS:  OK, but what about the...

BROWN:  That is occurring. 

DANIELS:  What about the Convention Center?  We saw some very graphic images coming out of there and these are not people that just missed one meal or two.  These are people saying, “Officials told us to go here.  There is no food.  No water.”  Is that true?

BROWN:  I don't know if officials told them to go there or not, but I will tell you very candidly, we learned about the Convention Center today, being the federal government, we learned today there were about 3,000 people there and so we immediately started diverting and adding to the caravan that was going into the Superdome and peeling some of those off and sending them over to Convention Center.  So, we were very surprised to learn that there were those 3,000 people there. 

DANIELS:  And are those people being helped now? 

BROWN:  They are.  We made certain that as that convoy made its way to the Superdome, that some of that relief effort was put over so that they could get it too. 

DANIELS:  Are you frustrated with the way things are going?  Are you getting the supplies you need to help? 

BROWN:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, for example, we have a General Honore here from the 1st Army and we have the Battan (ph), we're having the hospital shifts moving in.  We're getting additional helicopter support, additional aircraft support.  There will be, by the next three or four days, over 30,000 National Guard troops to provide not only the security, but distribution to help us with taking care of those relief efforts.  The president made clear, whatever I need, I'm going to get, and I'm getting that. 

DANIELS:  Mike Brown, we wish you the best.  I hope that tomorrow things look better than they do today.  And I know that you're working hard.  Thank you so much, sir. 

BROWN:  Thank you, Lisa. 

DANIELS:  Beyond the physical destruction of Hurricane Katrina are the severe emotional and psychological repercussions that the victims are facing.  And joining me now to help us better understand what these people, especially the children, are going through for months and even years to come, clinical psychologist, Patricia Farrell. 

And Doctor, it's almost with children, when you see those images of those children, it's just heart breaking. 

They are.

DANIELS:  Their worlds just completely ripped from underneath them. 

Right. 

DANIELS:  How are they coping? 

PATRICIA FARRELL, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  I mean, can you imagine?  Some of them are kind of walking around and seem to be playing, but I have to say the images that they are now taking in and the things that they are being subjected to are going to play out maybe two days to four weeks or even longer.  So we have to begin to give them some hope.  We have to give them some support.  We have to ask the adults to really seem like they have hope.  That they know we're going to go on, we're going to be fine.  They have to reassure them. 

DANIELS:  So to give them security and security is really what they're lacking at this point.  Does that security, for the meantime, have to come from officials? 

FARRELL:  I don't think so.  I think it needs to come from people around them with whom they're familiar.  Because don't forget, you've ripped them out of everything, their neighborhoods, their families, everything.  This is—these are strangers in a strange land, so you have to—and communication, if that's one word that I heard today, if you don't communicate, you increase stress.

DANIELS:  We see such different responses from people.  There are people acting heroically, there are people acting like they're in the middle of chaos, and they just are screaming.  What accounts for the differences in human nature? 

FARRELL:  Well, you know, there are some people, you or I, if we were put in a situation like that, we really don't know how we would react.  Sometimes these kinds of situations bring out incredible kinds of abilities in people and other people just find they can't cope, and that's normal.  You're going to have a whole range of things like that.  Just as you're going to see wonderful, wonderful, good people.  You're going to see some other people that are going to be opportunists that are going to do terrible things.  So, don't blame all of the good people for these couple of bad apples.

DANIELS:  Well, these emotional problems, we're just discussing them now, but it's a fight for survival at this point, so I know we're going to revisit these issues for the months and the years to come.  Dr. Patricia Farrell, thanks so much. 

FARRELL:  Thank you.

DANIELS:  Appreciate it.

And coming up, before the Astrodome started filled up with hurricane survivors, many were already heading to Houston.  One New Orleans native who lives there has taken in eight families into his home and we're going to talk to him next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  While we are closely watching the mass evacuation of the people who took up shelter in New Orleans' Superdome to Houston's Astrodome, there are those who managed to evacuate the city before Hurricane Katrina hit.  They went to hotels, motels, and friends and families homes in surrounding cities and states.  Joining me now on the phone, Ted Ellis who opened his Houston home to 20 family members who left New Orleans before the storm. 

And Ted, tell me how you made contact with these families. 

TED ELLIS, HOUSING EIGHT NEW ORLEANS FAMILIES:  Well, I was actually in Sunnyvale, California doing an art show and found out that they was going to have a—almost a direct hit and impact with Hurricane Katrina.  And so I immediately started calling my family to let them know that, hey, you know, this is a major storm.  You know, it's 20 to probably 50-foot storm surge.  You know, with winds over 145-mile-an-hour.  This is a killer storm.  This is a storm that killed 11 people in Miami and that they need to evacuate as soon as possible.  You know, bring they friends, encourage their friends to get out there.  And so you know, they made the journey.  They got out there.  The majority of my family, especially my immediate family, my mom, my brother, my sister, her husband, her kids, my in-laws, they all got together and for the folks who couldn't make it out, some of the elderly, they took them along as well. 

DANIELS:  What a wonderful thing you did.  It's simply wonderful.  How are the families doing? 

ELLIS:  We're fine.  We have two of the families, you know, that have temporary employment.  We found housing, we found church, small churches like my church, to open up they doors.  It's a 20,000 square foot edifist (SIC) and you know, we said we don't have any money, but hey, they have a place to stay. 

We've started a food drive for nonperishable foods, for you know, hygiene materials, toiletries, other accessories, clothes.  I extended my resources to my friends outside the United—I mean, within the United States and Maryland, D.C., Connecticut, Montgomery, Alabama, galleries, I called my good friend Lauren, I said, “Lauren, help me some kind of way.”  I called Mr.  Joe Sylvan and his family, expressed my needs.  You know, swallowed my pride, humbled myself, and asked honestly, that, you know, you know, extend yourself, you know, step outside your comfort zone and let's help as many people as we can. 

DANIELS:  I know people at home are thinking that you are a hero for doing that.  Are any of your ideas catching on with your neighbors?  Are they helping out, too? 

ELLIS:  Yes.  My neighbor, you know, and it's an emotional roller coaster, because sometimes I just burst out and cry and stuff.  But, my next door neighbor (UNINTELLIGIBLE) went out in the neighborhood and put out fliers and asked all the neighbors to support, you know, support my family.  They even went over to the cleaners and asked if they had any additional clothes to give to my family.  And so you know, that's where I'm at right now, going to get the clothes from the cleaners and stuff. 

But, if you see my house, we've been receiving close, we've been receiving food from the social organizations, Jack and Jill League.  I mean, everybody has been helpful, my communicate has been kind. 

DANIELS:  And sir, you are really acting like a hero.  This is what heroes are made of.  And you are acting so heroically and I know everyone appreciates it.  Ted Ellis thanks so much.  Continue it.  We'll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Had to travel to get help this time.  We got a lot of help, you know, because it was so bad, you know. 

DANIELS:  How does it make you feel to have all this kind of help? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It makes me feel good.  It makes you proud that you live in America.  You know, and that you got so many people out there that cares. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  And if you care and would like to do a donation to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, here are the numbers that you should have.  The Salvation Army, 800-725-2729; American Red Cross 1-800-HELP-NOW; Church World Service 1-800-297-1516; and America's Second Harvest 1-800-771-2303.

And remember that you can always just log on to our Web site, MSNBC.com for a list of all those organizations.  And remember, that coming up next will be “Hardball” with Chris Matthews and this weekend at 8:00 Eastern, all the networks of NBC will be holding a concert for hurricane relief.  Have a good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

The Abrams Report each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,