updated 9/5/2005 3:04:41 PM ET 2005-09-05T19:04:41

Guest: John Copenhaver, Mike Parker, Marc Morial

LISA DANIELS, HOST:  All right, thanks so much Chris, we‘ll see you in 50 minutes.  And we want to welcome our viewers to the special edition of the ABRAMS REPORT.  You just heard the president speaking in New Orleans.  Let‘s go back there to our correspondent NBC‘s Michelle Hofland. 
Michelle, give us a sense of the devastation that the president viewed while he was down there. 
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well first of all, as you flew over to the levee, he looked down and saw this enormous hole in the levee where the—it had ripped through and then flooded the New Orleans area and he witnessed the Coast Guard there trying to patch up the levee.  He also saw fires burning and homes filled with flooded water.  And then as he flew downtown, over here in New Orleans, probably about an hour and 10 minutes ago, he saw for the first time people at the convention center, hundreds of refugees eating their first meal in four to five days.  You see, about a couple hours ago, troops rolling into the city of New Orleans bringing with them truckloads of supplies and food and medicine for the hundreds of people who have been waiting at the convention center for days now, waiting for food, supplies, and some way out of the town.  But, the troops were able to set up everything up behind a fence and get the food into the hands of the people there in time for the president‘s flyover. 
Still, the people there said they need their medicine desperately for their elderly parents and then also for the children.  But, all of this aid, as you know, comes too late for so many people who have been waiting at that convention center patiently now for about three to four days. 
The police tell us that there are 10 bodies inside the freezer there at the convention center, including a stillborn baby that was delivered overnight, and also a 2-year-old that was trampled to death this morning. 
Over at the New Orleans Superdome, right now, today it looked like a major military staging area during a battlefield.  Helicopters are lining up and dropping troops of and supplies off at the Superdome.  Other helicopters are flying overhead still trying to pluck people off the tops of their homes who have been trapped around their floodwaters for hours.  So, Lisa, a lot of things going on, a lot of action here, and many people are just hoping that they will be on a bus and out of town very soon—
Lisa. 
DANIELS:  And Michelle, let me ask you, are you seeing the supplies getting to the people who need them? 
HOFLAND:  We—when went over to the Superdome today, and we saw water in everyone‘s hand, everyone had cases of water, bottles of water.  Then down on an interstate we saw there was a truck ripped open with, you know, those big containers of water.  They were just sitting there, so people obviously have enough water, but they‘re telling me that they have no more food, no more baby formula, no more diapers for the children and the adults waiting there on the interstate waiting inside the Superdome. 
Back over here at the convention center the people there tonight got their very first meal in four to five days, but as I said, they‘re still waiting for their medicine.  We‘re told the medicine is on the way, but these people are saying, you know what, it‘s been four or five days.  We‘ve watched people die, we need this stuff, absolutely, right now. 
DANIELS:  All right.  NBC‘s Michelle Hofland thank you. 

And again, those are live pictures of downtown New Orleans, and we were just seeing some live pictures of the breach at the 17th Street canal.  Again, Governor Blanco naming that “Project Hope.”  Thanks so much, Michelle Hofland.  And coming up we check in with Louisiana‘s National Guard on whether today‘s show of force is actually working and we‘re also going to speak to New Orleans former mayor. 
Plus, many worry that New Orleans would be in dire straits in it were hit by a hurricane like Katrina, so why wasn‘t more done to protect the city in recent years?  Well, we‘re going to talk to a former FEMA official who says he was forced out of his job when he tried to warn officials about the problem.  We‘ll be right back. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And I‘ve come down here wanting to take a look at the damage firsthand, and I‘m telling you, it‘s just worse than imaginable.  And secondly to tell the good people of this part of the world that the federal government is going to help. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS:  Before he arrived in New Orleans, the president went down to Biloxi to assess the damage in Mississippi.  NBC‘s David Shuster is there.  He joins me now.
And David, first talk to me about supplies.  Were they getting to the people who need them?  That‘s the top priority. 
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Lisa, the supplies are going to the people who need them, but the people who need them say they‘re coming from private entities like the Red Cross and Salvation Army.  We went to the biggest shelter in Biloxi earlier today.  And one police officer who is providing security at the shelter said that she had not seen any representative of any government entity all week.  But, the good news is that they are getting some of the supplies they need that they‘re pooling their resources. 
The news from Biloxi today, though, while it has been focused on the survivors, as far as those killed by the storm, the news today is grim.  Police and medical staff helping with the recovery are now telling us that they expect a number of dead here to eventually total more than 1,000.  This is based on discussions with cadaver recovery teams, it‘s also based on eyewitness accounts as far as relatives who said they saw their loved ones going under, and it‘s also based on hundreds upon hundreds of missing person reports.  One of the reasons that the coroner‘s total is much lower than that, and totals about 150, is simply, according to officials, because the coroner‘s office is so backlogged, but also because, unfortunately, a lot of the bodies that are being found now, they‘re in such bad shape that many of them cannot be identified.  Again, very—very, very grim news from Biloxi and this is, unfortunately, what a lot of people had feared given that this storm had hit the very poorest neighborhood in Biloxi where a lot of people had apparently told friends and people they did business with they simply could not afford a tank of gas to evacuate—Lisa. 
DANIELS:  NBC‘s David Shuster.  David thanks so much. 
Well, in what finally seems to be a major turning point for Hurricane Katrina‘s victims, the supplies are finally arriving with much more promise.  People are getting much needed water and food.  All part of the recovery efforts spearheaded by FEMA.  And joining me now from Atlanta is former FEMA regional director, John Copenhaver. 
And John, let me ask you, a lot of people are criticizing FEMA.  That they should have acted much more quickly, that they really are behind the ball on this one.  Is it a fair criticism? 
JOHN COPENHAVER, FMR. FEMA REGIONAL DIRECTOR:  Lisa, at this point I would have to say that particularly with regard to the actions taken and the delay in the actions taken in New Orleans that it would appear to be a fair criticism. 
DANIELS:  So what‘s the problem? 
COPENHAVER:  But, I also would also say...
DANIELS:  What‘s the problem here? 
COPENHAVER:  Well, it‘s hard to pinpoint it based on the information that we have, but it would seem to be a problem with command and control, with people talking to each other, with people figuring out who‘s in charge and what the roles and responsibilities ought to be, and as best I can tell, that‘s the problem that I‘ve seen. 
DANIELS:  In terms of how big an error is this, would you call this a colossal error, a moderate error?  How would you categorize this? 
COPENHAVER:  Well, categorizing it would be dependent on where you sit.  I think if I had family in the downtown New Orleans area that had been waiting on assistance, I would probably call it a larger error than looking as an outsider into the situation, but it‘s clearly a significant error. 
DANIELS:  But John, you worked for FEMA.  Is this the work that FEMA does?  Because people are just disgusted with the slowness. 
COPENHAVER:  You‘re absolutely right.  And I can‘t explain the
slowness of this response effort again, particularly in the New Orleans
area.  I don‘t know what the case is, but I do know that many of the people
· many of the good people at FEMA know how to respond in hurricanes. 
We‘ve done it before, I mean, we‘ve done it a number of times, and in this instance I simply don‘t know why the response was so slow. 
DANIELS:  It is scary to talk to FEMA director, Mike Brown, yesterday and hear him say that he had no idea of the conditions in the convention center when our own news crews were there bringing the stuff to light.  You have to ask yourself, is FEMA this out of touch that a news organization can have the pictures before FEMA? 
COPENHAVER:  Well, it‘s—that‘s a legitimate question.  And I understand in the case of Director Brown that he‘s been pretty busy and may not have had a lot of time to watch television, but at the same time, he needs to be constantly advised as to what‘s going on, and the disconnect is something that would appear at least at this point in time to be considerable. 
DANIELS:  John Copenhaver, thank you so much.  I really appreciate your giving us a candid assessment of things.  It‘s hard to tell who‘s telling the truth and who‘s not.  Thanks so much. 
COPENHAVER:  Thank you. 
DANIELS:  Well, with the National Guard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Marc Morial is a former two-term mayor of New Orleans.  He understands this stuff.  He‘s now the president and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the nation‘s oldest civil rights groups. 
And let me ask you, just your gut reaction to these pictures coming into the newsroom, what do you think? 
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE:  I‘ve been in pain all week on the edge of tears to watch a city that so many of us love and treasure and worked to build, and to see the level of human suffering in 2005, in our very own nation.  Much of it could have been abated.  Some of it could have been avoided.  This is a catastrophic event of, what I believe, of biblical proportions, and unprecedented in American history. 
DANIELS:  Sir, these were your people, they are your people, and you‘re saying that some somebody is to blame.  Who is it? 
MORIAL:  Let me say this.  Anyone who understands the geography, the topography, the draining system, and levee systems of New Orleans would immediately know that once there was a levee break on the 17th Street canal that the crisis was going to escalate by geometric proportions.  Because the aftermath of the storm, the surge puts a certain amount of water in the city, but once the levee broke, it was as though someone turned on a faucet in a half empty bathtub when the drain didn‘t work.  And it was bound to continue to rise and overflow and spread throughout the city.  That should have been a panic button pressed.  And that break, I think, occurred sometime on Monday or Tuesday which would have propelled people into some immediate action to recognize that the people who were in the city were at even greater risk than they were after the hurricane had passed. 
DANIELS:  OK, but with all due respect, there are going to be a lot of people looking back at past administrations and saying you, sir, have some blame here.  You have some responsibility because you didn‘t raise it to the federal officials and to Washington.  Do you take part of this blame? 
MORIAL:  Not at all.  I take no part of the blame, and I think that the effort to point fingers, for the crack of a levee, the breach of a levee, which is constructed by, financed by, and designed under the auspices, not of local officials, but of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, requires that there be a national commission to evaluate, one, why the levee broke, and, two, why the response in the immediate days after Hurricane Katrina was so inadequate. 
I would say based on what I saw of the rescue efforts by the Coast Guard and the military, plucking people from the roofs of houses, was very important, very significant, and very successful.  But, the effort with respect to the people who where trapped in the city, who couldn‘t evacuate, who were at the dome, who ended up at the convention center,  leaves much to be desired. 
DANIELS:  OK, let...
MORIAL:  Finally today—finally today there seems to be an adequate supply of marshalling of materials and supplies in order to heal and help the people. 
DANIELS:  I want to circle back, though, because—and I‘m not blaming you.  I‘m not blaming anybody, I‘m just trying to figure out who is to blame because you know the Army Corps of Engineers is going to point their fingers at the federal government saying “We wanted to fix it.  There was no money.”  And you know, the federal government is going to say “we weren‘t aware of the problem.  We have priorities.”  So, yes, we need to fix it, and right now on TV you and I can‘t.  So what we can discuss is blame and, again, I ask you, who is to blame? 
MORIAL:  Well, I‘m going to say this.  Lisa, you‘ve got to understand that it surprised me that the levee broke.  It always, always, was the case that a Category 5 hurricane—the storm surge occasioned by such a hurricane might top the levee, but the idea—let‘s remember, the 17th Street canal levee breach is not the only levee break in New Orleans.  There are a number of levee breaks, and one must ask how did those levies break, were they properly constructed, and were they properly maintained?  And I think it‘s a legitimate question to ask, but the Army Corps of Engineers IS the federal government.  It‘s the United States Army Corps of Engineers.  It‘s an arm of the Department of Defense, and they fund and they finance. 
I can tell you that every mayor of New Orleans since Betsy, (INAUDIBLE), my father, Sidney Barthelemy, myself, and my successor all pleaded constantly and lobbied constantly with the Congress and the Army Corps for funds to improve and raise levees, and there has been significant levee improvements.  But for a levee to break, for there to be multiple breaks in a levee does require that there be some examination as to why it occurred, but also there has to be some examination as to why the response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was so slow in coming.  The massive response needed when you face this type of situation. 
DANIELS:  Well let me just...
MORIAL:  There‘s a plan... 
DANIELS:  Let me just submit the answer is that it was built for a Category 3, and, yes, we‘re going to have to talk to many more people and find out who is, indeed, to blame for this because a lot of fingers are going to be pointed. 
Marc Morial, thanks so much, though...
MORIAL:  Thanks for having me.
DANIELS: ...for all your insight and for explaining things to us. 
Appreciate it. 
Coming up, last summer New Orleans was severely damaged in another hurricane.  A lot of people forget that, a simulated one.  Do, if the authorities knew from that simulation that New Orleans was at such high risk, why wasn‘t done more to protect it? 
And we talk with a former chief of the Army Core of Engineers who says he was force to resign because he warned officials of this serious problem and he lost his job because of it.  We‘ll be right back. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  Coming up, the former Army Corps of Engineers chief that warned the government that New Orleans was in danger in the event of a major hurricane, and he says he lost his job because he spoke out.  But first, a quick look at the rest of the day‘s news.
(NEWSBREAK)
DANIELS:  We‘re back with this special edition of the ABRAMS REPORT. 
I‘m Lisa Daniels sitting in tonight for Dan.  Here‘s the very latest.  National Guard trucks rumbling into New Orleans hoping to bring order out of anarchy and relief to thousands of evacuees. 
President Bush visiting Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and he admits he is not satisfied with all the results from his administration‘s efforts.  And federal relief officials saying they were thrown off their stride by the levee breaks that flooded New Orleans and turned a bad situation into chaos.  So, here is the big question:  Should they have been surprised?  As NBC News, Andrea Mitchell, reports, government officials might have anticipated the disasters Katrina brought to New Orleans if they had paid more attention to Hurricane Pam. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  No one can prevent a hurricane, but could the cities and residents have been better protected from is wrath?  In fact, in a dry run last year, government scientists predicted a catastrophe exactly like this one.  A hurricane they called “Pam” flooding New Orleans.  Since Katrina‘s path was tracked for days, why didn‘t local and federal officials get more people out before she hit?  Disaster expert John Harold. 
JOHN HAROLD, DISASTER EXPERT:  I know the people in New Orleans have been working on ways to get people out that don‘t have cars, that don‘t have means to get out.  Those plans have not been completed. 
MITCHELL:  Second, critics say, money to reinforce the levees that failed stop the floodwaters has been cut from the Army Corps of Engineers budget year after year. 
MIKE PARKER, FMR. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS CHIEF:  We should have funded this in the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80 because the corps was begging for that all along, please give us the money so we can finish it. 
MITCHELL:  And finally, why has it taken so long to get more National Guard troops, helicopters, and boats to New Orleans. 
PAUL LIGHT, DISASTER EXPERT:  The helicopter carrier group has just left Norfolk.  The Comfort hospital ship is only going leave Baltimore on Sunday.  And I think we could have moved a little bit faster. 
MITCHELL:  Leaving thousands without food, water, medicine, or hope. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This not right.  It‘s just not right.  And they have a couple pregnant girls that‘s full-term walking around.  One girl was having contractions and they‘re not doing nothing about it. 
(END VIDEOTAPE)
DANIELS:  And that was Andrea Mitchell reporting.  And joining me now, the former congressman and head of the Army Corps of Engineers Mike Parker, who you just saw in Andrea Mitchell‘s story.  He says he was fired by the Bush administration for protesting against budget cuts for the flood relief. 
Let me ask you, after a catastrophe, everybody always says “we knew about this, this was certain to happen,” but you actually said it.  Why did you think that New Orleans was a sitting duck? 
PARKER:  Well, first of all, let me correct a couple of things.  Number one, I wasn‘t fired, I resigned.  If I had waited 30 minutes, I would have been fired. 
DANIELS:  OK. 
PARKER:  But, the fact of the matter is, is that there is nothing that the president of the United States, this president of the United States, could have done to have prevented what happened in New Orleans, and I think it‘s very important that people understand this.  Infrastructure is a gift that we get from our parents and our grandparents.  Infrastructure that we build and maintain is a gift that we give our children and grandchildren.  These projects are long-term in nature.  And I think it‘s very important because this thing has been going on for a long time.  If you look specifically at New Orleans, in 1965 when Hurricane Betsy came through, Congress passed a piece of legislation and what they said in that legislation is “we want to design a system that will protect New Orleans from a Category 3 hurricane.”  It was supposed to be completed, totally completed, by 1975.  It is now 2005, 40 years after the initial legislation, 30 years after the legislation was supposed to be completed, the projects were supposed to be completed, and it is still only 80 to 85 percent complete. 
DANIELS:  OK.  So what‘s the bottom line?  Who do you blame? 
PARKER:  The bottom—this catastrophe is too awful to sit around and blame people.
DANIELS:  But isn‘t that...
PARKER:  The fact...
DANIELS:  But people say that, but isn‘t it valuable to figure out what went wrong in here? 
PARKER:  I can tell you a lot of things that went wrong.  And let me explain how the system works, and this, I hope, will explain what goes on. 
You‘ve got a part of the government which is called the Office of Management and Budget.  The Office of Management and Budget is part of the administration.  It surpasses presidents, it surpasses parties, it has its own agenda, and what the OMB Always does is that they have created for themselves a thiefdom where every agency has to go through them in order to get the numbers that they need.  Now, in—when the Corps of Engineers puts together its budget, it has to go to OMB, to put that budget together.  They ask for certain things.  And they ask to complete projects.  OMB In turn makes a determination on what money is actually going to be spent, even testimony before Congress.  The Corps of Engineers cannot go to Congress and tell them the flat truth.  What happens is that they are put in a position where they have to have their testimony scrubbed by OMB. 
Where I had my problem, I had my problem with OMB, because what happened was is that my testimony was sent to OMB, they approved it.  The problem I had is whenever the senators and the House members started asking me questions, I told them what I really thought.  That infuriated OMB and so they came and made sure that I wouldn‘t be there anymore, and I had to resign.  I believe you cannot make a decision unless you have real truthful information and because everything is filtered through OMB, that is not being done. 
DANIELS:  Sir, I am interrupting you constantly just because I want to get to a couple things. 
PARKER:  Sure. 
DANIELS:  For example, our former guest just blamed the Army Corps of Engineers.  You‘re saying it‘s the office of OMB.  Now, here is my question to you.  There is a fixed pie.  There‘s not money coming out of the United States of America.  We have to pick priorities.  Are you saying that this project, the levees in New Orleans, deserved much higher priority? 
PARKER:  I believe that they did deserve that, and we have other places in the United States which deserved it also.  But also understand that it is up to the Congress to make decisions based on truthful information.  Being—having information filtered through OMB is not the way to have that done. 
DANIELS:  So are you at all surprised that this happened in New Orleans? 
PARKER:  I am surprised at the extent.  And, my home is in Mississippi and we‘re without power and without water right now, but at the same time we went through Camille, we thought that was the worst that it would ever be.  We found out that it can get much worse than that. 
DANIELS:  Mike, thanks so much.  I‘m just sitting here frustrated because I know that every gust I‘m going to speak to is going to blame somebody else, but I know that what you‘re saying is heart felt and I appreciate what you‘re saying. 
PARKER:  Well, I want to make sure that the people understand that this gift that we‘re given, the president of the United States today is going to be judged five, 10, 15 years from now as far as what he does with infrastructure, and infrastructure—there is a direct correlation between a standard of living and infrastructure.  And it‘s very important for people to understand that. 
DANIELS:  Got to go.  Mike, thanks so much. 
PARKER:  You‘re very welcome. 
DANIELS:  Coming up, supplies starting to arrive at Houston‘s Astrodome.  We‘re going to check in with MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby who is there.  Don‘t forget about your emails.  Send them to ABRAMS REPORT at MSNBC.com. 
Include your name and where you‘re writing from. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  Coming up, supplies arrived out of Houston‘s Astrodome. 
MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby joins us life.  That‘s next. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And there‘s people that are in their underclothes and have no clothes and just no bras, no underwear.  They need socks and shoes in plus sizes, children‘s clothes, children‘s toys. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS:  And that is one of the wonderful people, one of the volunteers at Houston‘s Astrodome where the supplies are finally getting in.  Food, water, clothing, we‘re talking basic human necessities that thousands of people have been deprived of for days. 
Joining me now from outside the Astrodome, Rita Cosby, host of MSNBC‘s “Rita Cosby Live and Direct.” 
And Rita, last time we checked in, there were these busloads of people who had nowhere to go.  What‘s the situation now? 
RITA COSBY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, now—well, now they finally do have a place to call home, at least just a temporary home, Lisa.  People keep coming here by the busloads, as you point out, with some incredible stories of devastation and also incredible stories of survival. 
But first some bad news.  We just learned a few minutes ago that a bus carrying evacuees about 50 people on this bus from New Orleans, they were en route here, to the Astrodome, their new temporary home.  Well, that bus apparently got in an accident and overturned on a highway, crossed a median, got into the southbound lanes, then it overturned.  We‘re told that one man died, 10 people were hurt, and we‘re told that those people who were in injured at this time are being treated at a hospital in Louisiana. 
Now let‘s go to the good news.  And there is a lot of good news to tell you about from here at the Astrodome.  At this hour we‘re told that 15,000 people are being taken care of inside.  Also nearby we have the Reliance Center, which is literally just next door, we‘ve got 3,000 people there, are being held.  And at the convention center in downtown, not too far from here in Houston, another 8,000 people are getting food and shelter. 
Texas Governor Rick Perry says this is the first step in getting the lives of these hard hit people back together. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  We‘re getting these individuals into safe, appropriate housing.  They‘re getting fed.  They‘re—their needs are being taken care of medically and otherwise. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY:  And it‘s pretty incredible, Lisa, the operation that‘s taking place here.  A few hours ago they actually designated a new zip code, so people—the evacuees, how are staying here at the Astrodome, and some of the surrounding buildings, can actually receive mail from loved ones.  That‘s pretty incredible. 
Also a sign that they may be here for some time.  Additionally, also, children and also college students are soon going to be assimilated into local schools here as well, and also just a few hours ago, Lisa, some medical units pulled in.  They‘re going to do some makeshift hospitals.  So, it‘s an incredible operation in the midst of all the horrible devastation, all the things we‘ve seen, here some good news, finally, and things seem to be going fairly well.  Back to you. 
DANIELS:  It is nice to hear some good news from there, Rita.  Let me ask you, when you talk to these evacuees, what are some of the stories that they‘re telling you? 
COSBY:  You know, Lisa, it is incredible.  Almost everyone that I have talked to—and I have talked to so many, have been just drenched with tears, just so emotional, so happy when they finally arrived here.  It was almost like a dream to them.  This place, I mean, it looks like it‘s an empty, basically, you know, large stadium.  To them this looks like heaven. 
Some of the stories are just incredible.  A couple of people I talked to slept for two or three days on the highway overpass in New Orleans. 
Raining, pouring, high winds, didn‘t eat for two or three days.  When they
came here, they got a bag of clothes and a bag of food.  You would think
they had not eaten in months.  And when they looked at it—I saw one man
· this was an amazing story, Lisa—picked up a shirt and had holes in it, it was torn.  Something that you or I, the average person wouldn‘t even wear.  They said, “oh, my gosh, I‘ve got a new shirt.”  Just some amazing stories. 

And also, some amazing stories of families being reunited.  Family members who didn‘t think their loved ones were alive, waiting for them as they pulled into the Astrodome, running up to each other, hugging, kissing.  Just great moments of thank goodness, my son, my daughter finally made it through.  It‘s amazing. 
DANIELS:  It is amazing.  And Rita, from—from—in terms of perspectives of supplies, do they have pretty much what they need?  Or are they still lacking? 
COSBY:  Yes, yet you know what, this is incredible.  So many people in the Houston area, and not just organizations, I mean, there are so many different companies in the area.  This is the fourth largest city, you know, in the country.  There‘s so many different folks coming in and offering a variety of things, but in addition to that, forget about that.  In addition to that, all the local citizens can be coming in bringing in food, bringing in clothing.  So much so that organizers here have a they have way too much.  They‘re telling them it‘s was just too crowded that they actually have enough food, and we haven‘t heard people griping about that.  So, they seem to be in pretty good stead.  The question is how long will it last?  The key is, these folks don‘t want to stay here in the Astrodome for a long, long time.  The key is to move on to the next step.  Whether it‘s to another center or to homes, someplace they can at least call a temporary home until they can get back into New Orleans, which could be, in many cases, a few months, could be even longer. 
DANIELS:  Yeah, This will be their home for a while, at least.  Rita, in terms of access with the cameras, are you allowed pretty much full reign getting in there? 
COSBY:  You know, actually we are not.  What they are allowing some pool camera operations.  They are letting us talk to anyone who‘s getting outside the buses, and they‘re usually hopping off the buses right in front of the Reliant Center, and everybody we‘ve talked to—you know, we didn‘t know how they would react to the media or the TV cameras.  Everyone is so appreciative that they‘re alive they want to share their story.  So, most of the evacuees have been appreciative of the news business and also putting out pleas to us, saying, “look, please put my face on camera because my mom or my brother or so-and-so, I don‘t know where they are.  I want to let them know I‘m alive.” 
So, just these amazing stories.  Now, we‘re seeing, as for as the individuals, I think when things calm down and they get things totally organized, they‘ll probably give us greater access inside.  But, the pictures have been incredible.  Just wall to wall supplies, so at least a good news story for a change. 
DANIELS:  Yes, absolutely.  Rita Cosby, thank you so much, and we‘re going to hear more about those stories tonight on Rita Cosby‘s show “Live and Direct,” that is at 9:00 Eastern.  A lot more video coming out of there on her show. 
And coming up, when New Orleans‘ sick are evacuated from the city‘s hospitals, they had to go somewhere.  Up next, a look at the unusual place that a lot of them ended up. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  With the hospitals throughout New Orleans flooded, without power and without running water, the patient need to go somewhere and for some, it‘s a nearby hospital, but for many others, it‘s the most unlikely of places.  NBC‘s Kerry Sanders has the story. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It is the largest medical evacuation ever staged.  More than 1,000 patients flowed from a half dozen flooded hospitals in New Orleans.  The sick and ailing stacked on baggage conveyors, the easiest way to get them to the terminal here at the New Orleans airport.  It is so busy here, this woman was just left alone on the taxiway.  At baggage claim inside, it is a sea of misery and desperation.  The patient Loraine McDoul (ph)... 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is a nightmare.  Pinch me.  I‘m dreaming. 
SANDERS:  The medical staff is overwhelmed. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It boggles the mind of how many patients that we have here and are processing, probably 800 to 1,000 in 12, 16 hours. 
SANDERS (on camera):  Are they all going to make it? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I hope so. 
SANDERS (voice-over):  Fifty-five-year-old Betty Aganna (ph) had just begun treatments for bone cancer. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m doing fine.  I just (INAUDIBLE), better. 
But, I‘m not taking my medicine like I should. 
SANDERS:  These two, survivors of a riot at the Superdome. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was the place we went to get out of the storm. 
SANDERS:  Their friend was beaten to death. 
And they just keep coming. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Couldn‘t get in touch with nobody.  And I know my wife‘s a diabetic and she‘s going to be worse. 
SANDER:  There are more patients than there is help.  Some of the patients, so confused, they aren‘t even sure where they are or where they‘re going.  Ninety-one-year-old Mark Geno (ph) called out to me.  All he wanted was something to eat and drink. 
(on camera):  We‘re just going to do very little sips here for you.  OK?  There.  Mark, what you‘re eating, believe it or not, is the food they give to the soldiers.  Did you know that? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is?
SANDERS:  How‘s that, good? 
GENO:  Yeah.
SANDERS (voice-over):  They are the weakest, the most vulnerable, and they‘re finally getting out.  The medical authorities are triaging all the patients here.  Those in the most critical condition are flown out first.  Patients are being flown to hospitals across the country. 
Kerry Sanders, NBC News, at the New Orleans International Airport. 
(END VIDEOTAPE)
DANIELS:  And we‘ll be right back. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DANIELS:  And you‘re looking at live pictures from New Orleans, people still trapped in the floodwaters.  We just saw a chopper lift some of the people out of these very, very deep floodwaters, but as you can see, two people wading these waters.  And remember, there is disease in these waters.  These people finally getting to some grassy areas.  We‘re going to update you throughout the night.  That‘s going to do it for us.  Coming up next, “Hardball” with Chris Matthews.  Have a good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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