updated 9/5/2005 3:56:18 PM ET 2005-09-05T19:56:18

Guests: Ricard Wagenaar, Peter Teahan, John Hennesy

RITA COSBY, MSNBC ANCHOR:  And hello, everybody.  I‘m Rita Cobsy, continuing our wall to wall coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The devastation is tremendous.  I actually just came back from the scene, jaw-dropping when you actually get a firsthand look at the devastation, particularly from the air.  You just see sort of little rooftops dotting just miles upon miles of floodwaters.  It is an incredible, incredible sight.
Meantime, lots of military come into the action.  We understand that more than 50,000 members of the military are here, much of them from the National Guard. 
And meantime, President Bush coming under fire.  Also the FEMA director, Mike Brown, coming under fire.  And President Bush defending the action, saying we did the best we could.  We, of course, do need to do better.  But basically, being on the defensive, and it looks like he is standing by his man, at least for now.  We are going to talk about that later on in the show. 
But, of course, all eyes right now are on New Orleans, the situation there with the heat now six days after the hurricane.  A lot of people are still without food.  A lot of people are still without water.  But the good news today, a lot of people were taken out of the city. 
And let‘s go to Don Teague, who is right in the heart of the city for the very latest from there—Don. 
You can hear just out of camera range—and I‘m sorry you can‘t see it from here—a helicopter performing one of the many, many rescues that‘s still ongoing here. 
I‘m also watching boats, several boats coming up this road bringing victims of this storm as this operation to rescue the city continues. 
TEAGUE (voice over):  In 48 hours, downtown New Orleans has gone from uncontrolled chaos to a state of lockdown.  Most streets deserted except for a few hold-out residents.  They‘re seemingly outnumbered by soldiers and police officers who have taken over. 
In flooded areas, the rescues continue. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is ground below zero. 
TEAGUE:  The daily tally of those pulled from submerged home still in the hundreds.  Rescuers saved these people this morning. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Water everywhere, up to the roof, up to the ceiling. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Up to the ceiling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Down into the roof. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We were fighting for our life.
TEAGUE:  The death toll, too, is rising and taking its toll on those trying to save lives.  At least two New Orleans police officers have committed suicide, 200 more have reportedly walked off the job.  But this city will survive on its faith and hard work.  They‘ve already started cleaning up the monumental mess left by the storm and its victims. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s not a lot we can do, but we‘re doing what we can.   
TEAGUE:  And hotels are bringing in their own power and preparing to reopen. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I feel like we‘re moving forward. 
TEAGUE:  If for no other reason than to prove a point. 
OK.  The reason for the shaky camera work there, we were moving a little bit so you can see coming up this road, look at that.  That is a flotilla of more boats.  We had seen these about an hour-and-a-half ago.  When we set up our shot, there weren‘t any boats coming up that road, but that‘s how this happens.  They just show up from nowhere.
Here‘s the deal.  I‘m standing on a road here.  It‘s dry from here on out.  OK?  All of that is dry.  This is where the water starts.  It‘s only 18 inches deep right there.  It gets to about 4 feet deep when you get down about four blocks, and then it goes to 10 feet deep.  And the people who have been on these boats tell me, it goes for miles that way, at 10 feet plus. 
And this is heartbreaking.  This is what we see all day.  Boat after boat.  Some of these people are rescuing themselves.  Who knows how they got a hold of a boat?  But a lot of these are Fish and Wildlife people.  I spoke with some people from Kentucky, Fish and Wildlife officers who got the call Friday to come down here.  Drove all night, and they are out there right now and have been pulling people out of their houses all day.
And interestingly, Rita, there are still people—one of the most frustrating things is, there are people who will not leave their homes.  They described a man who is sitting on his front porch in chest-deep water on a chair.  He will not leave his house.  And they‘re not allowed to forcibly remove him.  That‘s where he plans to stay. 
Another Huey coming right over.  I‘ll give you this shot one more time.  These are National Guard Hueys.  They‘re clearly working some rescue right over us or somewhere in this area.  This all started just about five minutes ago.  And this is the scene.  This is New Orleans, and it‘s ongoing. 
I see what he‘s looking at.  There‘s a fire that‘s broken out right there.  You can see the black smoke.  The Huey just flew through the black smoke, and there‘s nothing but houses there.  So, we‘re probably looking at a new house fire, one of the many we‘ve seen here.  And there it is.  It‘s heartbreaking to see what‘s happening to this city.  Having been here as a tourist many time, you never expect to see anything like this—Rita.
COSBY:  It is incredible, Don.  And we just came back from there.  It looks like a ghost town.  I mean, when we see us on the air, you see all of this activity behind us.  But there are literally pockets and pockets.  I saw miles of the city where no one‘s around.  I mean, it really is a surreal scene for you, don‘t you think?
TEAGUE:  It really is.  In fact, the busiest streets are the ones that are flooded with water, because there are people trying to escape still on those streets.  Not this one, obviously, because that‘s sort of a pond that has developed on its own.  Everyone is out of those houses. 
But the major thoroughfares that are in deep water it‘s boat after boat.  Still, we‘re talking a week since this storm first started affecting this area.  We were here, if you‘ll remember, last Sunday.  That‘s when the heavy winds and the rain started. 
Those people you see on those boats have been out there in the water and in their houses.  No air conditioning.  No fresh water.  Nothing for a week.  And they‘re still coming by the thousands.
COSBY:  And, Don, real quick, also.  Fires.  I understand that there‘s a fire burning not too far from you right now.  Tell us about that. 
TEAGUE:  Well, it‘s hard to see through the trees here.  The thing that‘s beautiful about New Orleans, these beautiful trees that hang over the roads here.  So, we‘re not a block away from thick, black smoke that‘s rising in the sky. 
I was wondering what brought that helicopter over here.  Clearly, he saw the smoke.  And having been a National Guard pilot, it‘s one of the things that we would do.  If you see smoke, you at least check it out and get an address and call it in to someone, because sometimes there‘s no one anywhere near it.
So, that‘s clearly what that pilot did.  Saw the smoke, came to check it out, and has called in that address to someone. 
Of course, we have rescuers on the ground not far from here either.  But I don‘t know how they‘re going to get a fire truck in there, because the water goes to 4 feet deep right over there.  So, the tragedy is a lot of these things just burn, because there‘s no other choice. 
COSBY:  All right.  Don Teague, thank you very much. 
And we understand that fire that Don was just showing us is right near our own John Seigenthaler, who is in the Garden District. 
What are you seeing from your vantage point—John?
JOHN SEIGENTHALER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Rita, I want to talk about the fire in just a second.  But first of all, I just want to show you what‘s happened right here. 
There‘s a boat full of people that just pulled up.  And this is one of the amazing things that‘s happened sort of throughout the day.  We‘ve watched as these people go down, the rescue workers go down, and they pull out several people in these boats with what few belongings they have left or their dog.  They get them out of the houses.
Surprisingly, there—I mean, it‘s hard to believe that there are still people down this street, six days later, who haven‘t come out for whatever reason.  Still have not come out.  And there‘s a flotilla of boats tonight that went down, and they have just begun to come back to bring people out with their belongings.
You talked about the fire, Rita.  It‘s just a couple blocks down the way.  Just before we began our broadcast for “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” smoke started to go up.  And this is the big fear in New Orleans right now, because they simply can‘t do everything.  And one of the things they can‘t do right now is fight fires.  There are so many fires across the city.  They have broken out in so many places.  They don‘t have the water to fight fires.  And there aren‘t the people to help.  They‘ve got so many emergencies going on at the same time, when a fire like this breaks out it just burns.  And it‘s tragic. 
A man came up to me just a little while ago and said this house was someone‘s house that was for sale.  It‘s up in flames right now, and it has been burning steadily for a couple of hours. 
The helicopters have calmed down now for the moment.  But, I mean, for about three hours here, we‘ve seen nothing but helicopters hover over this area in what they call the Garden District.  It‘s hardly a garden spot right now.  And it‘s tragic to see these people go in and come out. 
I‘ll give you one little bit of information.  You know, interesting things happen here.  We just saw a truck a little while ago.  Actor Sean Penn was in it, along with historian Douglas Brinkley, who is from New Orleans.  They went down to try to rescue some people and came back just a little while ago.  You see all kinds of things going on here.  This has been a very strange story to cover and a tragic one. 
COSBY:  It certainly is.  And, John, in fact, I was talking to Doug Brinkley and Sean Penn.  I saw them coming out of the FEMA building yesterday.  So, they seemed to be hitting both of the spots. 
John, also, in terms of security, what are you seeing in terms of devastation from looting?  That, of course, is a big concern.  It‘s a beautiful area where you‘re at.  And also in terms of security for yourself and others. 
SEIGENTHALER:  We saw a sign today, Rita, that said, “We shoot, you loot.”  People are scared.  They‘re concerned about their belongings.  Some people have guns.  You drive down the street, and you see people with guns on the street protecting their building. 
A guy walked up to me a little while ago.  And, Craig, I don‘t know if you can see it.  That green building back there is a restaurant.  And the owner of that building came up to me and he said, “That‘s been in my family for generations.”  He said, “The storm came through, and it wasn‘t touched.”  But he said, “Now,” he said, “They looted my restaurant, and I‘ve got nothing inside.”  And he was crying.  He had tears in his eyes.
There‘s looting going on.  It‘s dangerous.  There were a couple of shootings earlier today.  I believe you may talk to Carl Quintanilla about that. 
The incidents of violence seem to be isolated as far as the shootings are concerned.  This city is somewhat a ghost town, but there are lots of people walking around on the street, riding their bicycles, and some people have made it in, in their cars.  So it‘s not entirely empty—Rita. 
COSBY:  All right, John, thank you very much. 
And, everybody, if you‘re just tuning in to us, just a little update.  Unfortunately a violent situation that did take place on the Danziger Bridge, which is in New Orleans, not too far from where John and also Don Teague were reporting from.  We understand that gunmen opened fire on an Army Corps of Engineer sort of group.  These are guys who, of course, in town, men and women, doing the sandbags to build up the levee.  These are sort of the construction-type folks. 
And we‘re told that gunmen opened fire on them.  We‘re told that police returned fire on at least eight individuals, killing five or six people.  Again on the Danziger Bridge. 
These are folks just doing construction work, just trying to help out, and these thugs are unfortunately taking advantage of a very bad situation. 
Well, with this violence, with all the damage that you‘re seeing, that you‘ve been seeing for the last two minutes, no doubt President Bush is under fire; also Mike Brown, who is the head of FEMA.  And President Bush is going to be coming back to the region again today.  He was in the region on Friday.  Obviously, he‘s feeling a lot of heat.  He feels it‘s important to be back here. 
Let‘s go to Rosiland Jordan, who is at the White House, if we could, for the very latest.
Rosiland, first of all, tell us what the president said today.  He seems to be a bit on the defensive. 
ROSILAND JORDAN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the president and pretty much everyone in the administration are on the defensive at this point.  There has been widespread stinging, very bitter criticism of how the Bush administration has responded to Hurricane Katrina and the devastation left across 90,000 miles.  The president‘s message is that the administration has been doing everything possible to make the situation better. 
The president, as you can see, visited the Red Cross headquarters here in Washington this morning to thank the volunteers who have been taking in calls from people who want to give money or perhaps volunteer their time. 
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A lot of people‘s lives have been affected.  I know much of the country is focused on New Orleans, Louisiana.  But parishes outside of New Orleans have been ruined.  Up and down the coast of Mississippi, communities have been destroyed.  And so, we need more manpower. 
JORDAN:  Now, the president, as you pointed out, Rita, is heading back to the region tomorrow.  He will be visiting in Louisiana, as well as in Mississippi, the two hardest-hit states out of the four states that were hit by Katrina.  The president will be in the region all day long. 
They just released a very barebones schedule that he will be making at least two stops.  We don‘t know yet whether he will be, in fact, making taped or remarks of some kind, and whether or not he will actually be visiting with people who have lost basically everything because of Katrina. 
Administration aides are saying that they had equipment and people in place before the storm, but that there was no way to anticipate the levees breaking in New Orleans.
They are also saying that they have done everything, including moving in thousands of active-duty troops, moving in tons of equipment, getting quick congressional action to bring in an infusion of cash into FEMA.  They say that they are not oblivious to the suffering that is happening in the region.  But that is not stopping the criticism tonight—Rita. 
COSBY:  And indeed, it is not stopping the criticism.  Rosiland, what is the sense from the president?  Is he standing by his man in terms of Mike Brown, who is the director of FEMA?  A lot of people are calling for his head to fall. 
JORDAN:  Well, that question has been coming up, especially since Friday when the president used one of his trademark nicknames for people that he happens to like; in this case calling Mike Brown “Brownie.”  He did endorse Mike Brown‘s performance so far during this crisis. 
The secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, was asked that question repeatedly today, including by Washington bureau chief and NBC‘s “MEET THE PRESS” moderator Tim Russert, whether or not Mike Brown‘s job was in danger and, in fact, whether Michael Chertoff‘s job is in danger.  And they have said, it‘s just too early to start pointing fingers.  They need to try to save lives. 
COSBY:  All right, Rosiland, thank you very much. 
And everybody stick with us.  As we go to the break, we‘ve got some incredible live pictures, we‘re told, of people.  There they are carrying belongings, all they have left.  Many people just leaving with their shirt on their back, just a few bags of clothes.  Not a lot and certainly nothing to go back to, unfortunately, at this time. 
When we come back, more dramatic pictures from the scene and the devastation today.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  At the end of the day, this is the truth.  The only way to avoid a catastrophic problem in that super bowl is to have people leave before the hurricane hits.  Those who got out are fine.  Those who stayed in faced one of the most horrible experiences in their life. 
COSBY:  And that was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has been on the scene here on and off for the last few days, visiting the devastation, seeing it firsthand, along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is also in the area today.
And, again, President Bush, who was in the region on Friday, is going to be coming back again on Monday in the midst of all of this heat on the administration.  All of those tens of thousands, now more than 100,000 refugees saying, “Why?  Why didn‘t help come sooner?”
Well, let‘s go, if we could, to Carl Quintanilla, who is in the thick of it all.  He is in New Orleans.
Carl, bring us up to speed, first of all, about the shootout that took place on the Danziger Bridge. 
CARL QUINTANILLA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Rita, as you‘ve mentioned already, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said some of its contractors were fired upon as they did cross this New Orleans bridge earlier today.
Meanwhile, the AP also quotes a deputy police chief for the New Orleans police, saying the police killed five or six alleged gunmen on that same bridge.  This is all part of a very violent day, a day that we were able to witness firsthand. 
QUINTANILLA (voice over):  Chasing these alleged suspects, police today were forced to stop escorting a convoy of rescue boats.  The suspects and an officer are injured. 
(on camera):  It‘s this kind of urban warfare that makes life even more difficult for those trying to rescue and deliver relief.  How are they supposed to get to people when they‘ve got to go through gunfire on their way there?
(voice over):  These construction workers will poke a hole in a levee, allowing million of gallons of water to drain.  But their police escort had to leave to provide back-up at the firefight. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re more or less stuck right here in the middle right now. 
QUINTANILLA:  Not every holdout is violent. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kill him!  Kill him!
QUINTANILLA:  Rescuers listen for the stranded. 
QUINTANILLA:  But often meet the stubborn. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What am I going to do?  I‘m going to go down to the Superdome and stand up and burn up down there?  I‘m nice and cool now. 
QUINTANILLA:  As rescuers mark evacuated streets, avoiding obstacles above and below.  Even firefighters carry guns. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But there are gangs roving around in different parts of the city. 
QUINTANILLA:  In a catch-22, the sporadic violence actually discourages some from leaving.  This man, being rescued, may be gone for months.  So, his wife hounds him to lock the house.
QUINTANILLA:  Concerns about security among the rescued and the rescuers, as New Orleans struggles to keep order. 
The one police official we were able to talk to after that firefight said he had seen about five firefights since Hurricane Katrina made landfall.  But he said today was the worst.
Meanwhile, I know you‘ve been watching this fire down on Napoleon Avenue here in the Garden District of New Orleans.  We‘ve been seeing those Huey helicopters make water drops on that house.  A local police official tells our producer, Mark Hudspeth (ph), that the fire started at a house and jumped to an apartment building.  And that‘s when it became the blaze that has been obviously of concern to anyone who is in this immediate area. 
Meanwhile, the boat you‘re looking at, some of them belonging to the Department of Fish and Wildlife from states as far away as Kentucky, just to give you a sense of how far people are traveling to help out the people of this embattled city—Rita.
COSBY:  And, Carl, you know, as we were looking at the pictures, particularly of the fire, how many fires have you seen raging?  I just was up in a chopper.  We saw maybe about six or seven of them at the time basically all over the city.  It doesn‘t seem to be isolated.  Is that the sense you‘re getting?
QUINTANILLA:  It‘s always hard, Rita, because you can only see as far as the human eye can see.  Certainly when we go on the interstate, which circles around the Superdome and gives you a view of about, I‘d say, four or five miles in any direction, yes, you‘re probably looking at half-a-dozen to 10 fires and, of course, scores of helicopters making their way between the city and the airport where they refuel. 
So, I don‘t want to give you the sense that this city is falling apart necessarily.  These are pockets of fires, pockets of violence.  But it‘s a lot more than there was before the hurricane, and it‘s causing a lot of concern. 
COSBY:  And, Carl, I‘ve got to ask you about sort of these hoodlum types, these people that are lighting these fires.  Is the sense you‘re getting that these are individuals who came in from outside?  Are they individuals who just never left?  Are they gangster types?  Are they former fugitives?  Who are these people?
QUINTANILLA:  Well, as you might imagine, they‘re not exactly running up to our cameras.  So, we aren‘t able to actually speak to them.  It would be difficult to imagine a scenario in which a person made their way into the city since Katrina made landfall.  It‘s been impossible to do that, because the city has been difficult to get out of.
They are generally African-American, but not always.  They are often older, sometimes younger.  I‘m not going to put any stereotype on what kinds of people these are, except they have one thing in common, and that is that they‘re interested in making a lot of trouble for the people in this city. 
COSBY:  Yes, boy, are they.  And as you point out, luckily it is a small pocket. Carl Quintanilla, thank you very much.  Come back to us if there are anymore developments in the show. 
And, if we could now, let‘s go to Colonel Ricard Wagenaar, who is with the Army Corps of Engineers. 
You just heard from Carl about that firefight that took place on the Danziger Bridge, where apparently these hoodlum types were firing upon members of the Army Corps of Engineers.  Ricard, let me bring you in.  Have you heard about this incident that took place with firing upon some of your guys?
COL. RICARD WAGENAAR, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS:  Right.  Rita, this was reported to us later this morning, earlier this afternoon by our major contractor, Boh Brothers, where they were involved in that incident. 
COSBY:  And what did they tell about the incident?
WAGENAAR:  That they were taking fire, and the state police and other police were helping them get to a project site, and they were requesting additional security. 
COSBY:  And tell me about, what were they doing at the time when that took place?
WAGENAAR:  They were trying to get their equipment out of their yard and moved to levees to begin breaching the levees for an unwatering operation of eastern New Orleans. 
COSBY:  And what happened?  They were in the middle of building the levee.  And then what happened next from what you heard, colonel?
WAGENAAR:  As they were approaching, they were moving their equipment.  Shots rang out from a project area high rises, and the police began to return fire. 
COSBY:  And you said the shooting was coming from high rises in the area right nearby where they were building the levee?
WAGENAAR:  No.  It‘s a high rise project area between their maintenance yard and the navigation canal, in that area of the city. 
COSBY:  Are your guys armed?
WAGENAAR:  I have a contractor security, and I have one or two park rangers from the Corps of Engineers that are armed. 
COSBY:  And forgive me.  I couldn‘t hear you.  Are they armed, or did the security guards around them are armed?  Is that what you‘re saying?
WAGENAAR:  Correct.  The security guards and contractor security are armed providing security. 
COSBY:  And then what happened when all of a sudden they heard gunshots ring out?  What did they do?
WAGENAAR:  They just immediately called us on radios to report that they were taking fire, and they were requesting additional security. 
COSBY:  How frustrated are they?  And I‘m sure you, too, as well.  Here, you guys were all coming in to do this tremendous job, to build up the city, probably the most important thing.  I just got a vantage point looking from the air of the city.  Critical to build up those levees so then you can start pumping the water out, and then begin that month-long process of rebuilding for these poor people.  How frustrated and how angry are you that your guys are taking fire?
WAGENAAR:  Very frustrated, because this probably cost these contractors, oh, four to eight hours of delay.  And now they have to get to the project site and work during darkness, trying to empty the water out of the city. 
COSBY:  Absolutely.  And it must be very disheartening, I‘m sure, sir, right?
WAGENAAR:  Very disheartening.  All these guys are trying to do is what‘s best for this city, and there‘s a small group of individuals that—
I guess they just don‘t get it. 
COSBY:  All right.  Well, Colonel Wagenaar, I‘m glad to hear that all of your guys are safe and sound.  That‘s good news.  Keep up the great work that you‘re doing.
And, again, the headline, everybody, if you‘re just listening in, a number of members of the Army Corps of Engineer were fired upon as they were building a levee.  Luckily, the authorities were called in quickly.  Authorities returned fire to these hoodlum types.  And we‘re told that about five to six people were killed, not Army Corps of Engineers, but actually some of these deviants who were opening fire on these good people who have been trying to rebuild the city on the Danziger Bridge, which you can see there in the diagram there below. 
And, of course, everybody, we‘re going to continue with our coverage, violence in the city of New Orleans, but also a lot of good news, a lot of rescues, a lot of hope also coming out of that city tonight.
When we come back, we‘re going to talk about some of the progress that‘s been made, but also some of the heat on some of the federal officials when we come back.
COSBY:  And we continue now our coverage of Hurricane Katrina, wall-to-wall coverage.  A lot of developments today.  And you can see that there has been a lot of progress in terms of individuals actually being rescued.  You can see someone being carried there in a basket.  And also right here, we‘re also seeing, they‘re also dropping some sand at some of the levee points as well.  So there has been a lot of different progress taking part on both fronts. 
But also some grim news to report.  And joining me now is NBC‘s Tom Costello.
Some sad and also some very staggering numbers that don‘t bode well. 
You know, I just came back from New Orleans, Tom.
COSBY:  The city completely flooded, and I think the worst is yet to come when we get inside those homes. 
COSTELLO:  Yes.  The administration has been trying to—and so have the local officials—trying to prepare the public for what the death toll could be.  And the numbers are absolutely staggering. 
Tonight, we can tell that you that LSU, Louisiana State University hurricane researchers have done a computer model by which they try to figure out how many people may have died in New Orleans alone.  This is a computer model, and the number is more than 10,000 in New Orleans alone.  Again, this is from Louisiana State University. 
This information coming as the administration hits the ground today to convince people that their response has been appropriate, and also to get a firsthand look at the rescue operations. 
COSTELLO (voice over):  Nearly a week after the levee broke in New Orleans, rescuers continue to pull victims off rooftops.  In the pitch black of night and under a searing Louisiana sun.  With the death toll expected to climb into the thousands in New Orleans alone, a local politician said on “MEET THE PRESS,” the federal government‘s slow response is partly to blame. 
AARON BROUSSARD, PRES., JEFFERSON PARISH, LOUISIANA:  Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial. 
COSTELLO:  But while the administration admits mistakes were made, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the focus must be on the ongoing emergency. 
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”:  So, no heads will roll. 
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  Tim, in due course, if people want to go and chop heads off, there will be an opportunity to do it.  The question I would put to people is, what do you want to have us spend our time on now?
COSTELLO:  Chertoff and other administration officials fanned out across the region today.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Alabama. 
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  You all are doing a great job. 
COSTELLO:  And Defense Secretary Rumsfeld reviewing the operations involving 54,000 troops on the ground. 
RUMSFELD:  It is a natural disaster of historic proportions.  No one can come up with anything that approximates it in the history of our country. 
COSTELLO:  Today, the National Guard‘s commanding general said he could not have prepositioned equipment any closer. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We don‘t preposition at the eye of the hurricane.  And as you‘ll recall a week ago at this time, we were looking at that hurricane coming right at New Orleans. 
COSTELLO:  The scope of the disaster so great, today NAACP President Bruce Gordon called on the government to establish a victims‘ relief fund, akin to the one established for the 9/11 victims. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And this disaster here in the southeast United States is no less significant, no less dramatic, and the people who are the victims of the lowest socioeconomic group in this country. 
COSTELLO:  We also have this for you.  NATO and the European Union say that the United States has now requested aid from those organizations.  They are asking for first-aid kits.  The U.S. is asking for first-aid kits, blankets, water trucks and 500,000 prepared meals, according to the European Union.  Of course, the EU and NATO are very close partners, and there is this mutual relationship in which one helps the other if one is under attack.  Clearly, the United States believes it‘s been attacked by Mother Nature. 
COSBY:  You know, it‘s incredible, just the staggering amount of donations.  I‘ve talked to individuals from Qatar. 
COSBY:  The emir of Qatar.  They‘re donating $100 million.  He‘s making $100 million pledge to this effort despite this massive amount of money.  It just seems overwhelming.  Is that your sense?  You and I have been talking to...
COSBY:  ... a lot of the officials.  It doesn‘t seem like no matter what dollar amount you get, it‘s just overwhelming at this point. 
COSTELLO:  This will go down as the biggest loss of life domestically in American history, they believe right now.  We all hope they‘re wrong.  But at the moment, that‘s what they believe. 
COSBY:  Real quickly, too.  In terms of the search and rescue efforts, today just coming back from the scene not a lot of people on the rooftops.  There are a few that are still sort of holding out, staying out.  Is the sense that now unfortunately, as you pointed out at the top of your report, sort of moving from, you know, a search effort to a recovery? 
COSTELLO:  Well, they still have a lot of people who are alive and well, it appears, when they are pulled off of those roofs.  But you‘ve got to wonder a week later whether they‘re running out of water and food, and how long they can keep doing that. 
COSBY:  And they‘re waiting for those drop-offs to keep coming.
COSBY:  Unfortunately, they can‘t keep coming for eight or nine weeks, which is what a lot of people are thinking that the relief is going to take. 
COSTELLO:  Yes, that‘s right.
COSBY:  Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  Good to see you, Tom.
COSTELLO:  You bet.
COSBY:  And, of course, we‘ve got reporters all over the place.  Louisiana is not the only place that‘s been hard hit.  As you heard, some really grim numbers from Tom.  Estimates from L.S.U. saying—I mean, that is just a staggering, staggering number when you think about 10,000 people.  We were hearing in Louisiana yesterday some estimates 10,000 to 15,000. 
Enormous numbers. 
But Louisiana isn‘t the only place hit.  Also tons and tons of damage in Mississippi, including particularly Biloxi, where, of course, there‘s a big gambling area.  But those casinos seemed to have been flattened. 
Our Mike Taibbi is joining us now from there with an assessment on the ground.
Mike, what is it looking like?  I‘m seeing a lot of damage behind you. 
MIKE TAIBBI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  There has been a lot of that.  I mean, the loss in dollars and lives here, Rita, has also been enormous, and they‘re still trying to tote it up.
But today, with the military helping hand, this city of 55,000 is ever so slowly beginning to pull itself up off the mat.  But it may never reach its full height again. 
TAIBBI (voice over):  Laden with supplies and gear, hovercraft from the assault ship Iwo Jima hit the beach at Biloxi, even as the stricken city saw some power restored.  And this Army Air National Guard helicopter scoured the most isolated corners of the coastline, finally getting food, water, ice and baby supplies to those in need. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is the most supplies we‘ve had distributed. 
Hey, this is fantastic now. 
TAIBBI:  But more teams are also getting ready to begin the process of identifying the dead, likely hundreds of victims by one official estimate. 
And then there‘s the loss of whole chunks of a city‘s history and its immediate future.  Because of the growth of casino gambling, Biloxi‘s 6,000 hotel rooms and 1,000 condominium units were going to triple in the next few years.  Not now. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were on the verge.  We were on the cusp of just a whole new level of growth.  And those things, you know, they‘re just all on hold right now. 
TAIBBI:  And maybe on hold for a while. 
Right now, only two of the nine floating casinos, these ruined casinos, are even hinting they might reopen, and then not for six months at the very least.  And the casinos have been the lifeblood of the new Biloxi.  It‘s like 15,000 people responsible for almost one-fourth of a local operating revenue.  So, it‘s a huge loss that will change the way this city operates for the future—Rita. 
COSBY:  Incredible.  Mike, thank you very much. 
And stick with us, everybody, as a lot of choppers and a lot of other individuals are coming in.  Lots of federal management officials coming into this area.  We‘re in Baton Rouge, the heart and soul.  But some also very heartwarming news coming from a scene not too far from here.  We visited a day care, and you can see some pictures of it.  Good news.  Some of these kids have been reunited with their parents.  But the bad news is, some of them don‘t know where their parents are.  And we‘re going to talk about that.  An amazing emotional story right after the break.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a mess down here.  Don‘t plan to come back soon.  If I get any way I can get in touch with y‘all, I‘ll get in touch with you.  But I‘m still living.  I lost all my I.D., the money I had on me, my ATM card.  All that.  It‘s lost.  I have nothing but this bottle of water. 
COSBY:  Signs of the American spirit, people who have lost everything but continue on. 
And also another sign of the young American spirit.  Today, we got word of the day care being set up and an evacuation shelter in downtown Baton Rouge not too far from where I‘m standing right now.  Fifteen kids from 6 months old to 6 years old were there.  The good news, seven of the kids were flown from San Antonio late this afternoon to be reunited with their families.  But the bad news, the remaining eight of them are still separated from their family.  Some may be orphans.  We just don‘t know at this time. 
Inside the day care, there are lots of toys, lots of diapers, clothing, beds, cribs, and an amazing group of volunteers.  My producer, Nina Bradley (ph), caught up with them late today to discuss this really emotional experience. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, it has just been excellent.  I mean, just to know that they were going through so much and that they were so strong, we were very proud of them.  And we‘re very happy that we could go down and help them and just be with them in their time of need. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What have the kids been saying to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘ve been saying “thank you.”  They‘ve been saying “hold me.”  They‘ve been saying just, wow, you guys, thank you so much.  So, I think they‘re just really grateful and happy that someone is, you know, helping them. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are they calling for their parents and asking for them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, yes.  We have a lot of them saying, “I want my mama.”  And when they go to sleep, “Where‘s my daddy?”  Calling their mother‘s names and their father‘s names.  And at some points calling us mama and daddy, because they‘re so young, you know?  And yes, it‘s one heck of an experience. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you guys working long hours, you know, not sleeping much? 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, yes.  I just four hours of sleep like in the last four days, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What was it exactly that drove to you come in and be a volunteer for this day care center?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just the love for the kids.  That‘s it.  Yes, I love the kids. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We picked up five yesterday.  Getting them to safety is all that matters. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And is it nice to hear that some of them have actually been reunited?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  On our way back, we found out they found their parents.  And it was like sad and joy at the same time.  So we had to say bye.  but we‘re happy that they found their mom. 
COSBY:  And again, at this hour, any kids still separated from their families, please if you can help in any shape or form, do these beautiful kids a favor and their beautiful volunteers.  Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  The number is 1-800-the-lost, 1-800-the-lost.  You can also go on to their Web site, www.missingkids.com.
And, of course, we‘re hoping that their families, particularly their parents, will be found safe soon. 
A lot of folks who have been participating in this effort, not just the folks at Missing and Exploited Children, but particularly the American Red Cross have been at the heart of a lot of the rescue efforts and also the relief efforts particularly now that the heat has really been getting up and now that it‘s been six days.
Joining us now is Peter Teahan with the American Red Cross.
You know, as time goes on, Peter, you and I have been talking for the last week.  It‘s nice to meet you face to face. 
COSBY:  By the way, I‘ve been talking to you on satellite from all of the different cities both of you and I have been in.  But as the temperatures build, it‘s been six days.  I mean, what we just saw on the chopper, you know, a few hours ago, people just seem so dehydrated.  You‘ve got to be concerned as time drags on that there are folks still in those buildings. 
TEAHAN:  Absolutely, that‘s critical, and that‘s why we want to get them out and get them into our shelters.  We have almost 500 shelters open right now, and the number of residents occupying those shelters grows dramatically -- 135,000 people in them today.  That‘s 40,000 more since just yesterday alone. 
COSBY:  Where are the various shelters located?
TEAHAN:  Well, they‘re all over in 11 states meeting the needs of people who are leaving one area and going to another, people in directly-affected areas.  We have shelters with, you know, 100 in them to the one here in Baton Rouge that‘s over 5,500 and growing. 
COSBY:  Logistically, the coordination efforts.  Do you feel that you were given enough notice, that FEMA gave you enough notice, that others gave you enough notice to get in and get out?
TEAHAN:  In this type of catastrophic disaster, I don‘t know if anyone could have enough notice to muster the people and muster the equipment to respond.  We do a lot of planning for these types of events, and, you know, we think it‘s going to work.  But then we don‘t plan.  You know, we can‘t plan on the destruction that we‘ve seen. 
COSBY:  It‘s incredible, you know, and overwhelming, especially from a mental standpoint, because I don‘t know how—what they‘re going to do.  I asked some folks who got on a chopper with us, rescued, ‘Where are you going?‘  They said, “We don‘t know. 
COSBY:  “We have no idea.”  How do you deal with it mentally?
TEAHAN:  Well, this is what we‘re trying to do in the shelters.  We have mental health folks there who are trying to help them and just Red Cross workers talking to them and trying to put their families together. 
We have the family linking registry.  And we‘ve had over—since in the last two days, over 75,000 hits of people seeking out through our registry.  And at the shelters...
COSBY:  Saying my loved one is here, I‘m trying to reach out to so and so?
TEAHAN:  Exactly.  Or I‘m looking for.  And then we go through and let the families go through those registries and try to... 
COSBY:  Real quickly, what is that if folks want to log on if they‘re listening right now?
TEAHAN:  The number is 877-loved1s—L-O-V-E-D, the number 1, and then S.  And it‘s a tremendous resource for families, and the people we‘re seeing in the shelters today.  We saw a lot of people making the first contact and getting together. 
COSBY:  Oh, that‘s great.  What a great feeling, too, after this time, too. 
TEAHAN:  It is. 
COSBY:  Thank you very much, Peter Teahan. 
The American Red Cross, of course, doing this massive work, as you can see.  Thousands upon thousands of people are being taken by the Red Cross.  A lot of different spheres.  We‘re going to talk about that and continue our coverage right after the break.
COSBY:  And we continue now live from Baton Rouge, the command center for all of the efforts of Hurricane Katrina. And again, some grim news coming in today that in New Orleans alone there are some predictions that as many as 10,000 people may, in fact, have lost their lives when the death count is ultimately counted.  Of course, it‘s going to be some time before they can get into those homes, get into those devastated areas.  But, of course, the death count is a very, very grim toll at this point. 
Some good news.  Neighbors helping neighbors, people helping people, people who don‘t know each other from different states, all willing to help.  And one of them is a gentleman by the name of John Hennesy, who is a resident of Houston. 
John, you and I talked the other night.  And I understand that you‘ve made some progress, but you still haven‘t adopted a family yet.  Where does all of that stand?
JOHN HENNESY, WANTS TO ADOPT FAMILY:  That‘s right, Rita.  We‘ve gone to five different shelters in the last couple days with our family, seeking to adopt a family.  And at every shelter, we‘ve been met with I won‘t say resistance, but it seems like a lack of preparation or a lack of a plan to assimilate families and get them out of these shelter.  I mean, who wants to live in the Astrodome or a fire station for the next four months?
COSBY:  Now, you talk about—does it seem like a lack of coordination or preparation, just that they don‘t know what to do?  Do you think it‘s going to settle down in a few days?  Or do you think this is just...
HENNESY:  I‘d like to make a suggestion to FEMA or Red Cross or whoever is in charge of this deal that they need to start putting together a database of families, communities, churches that are willing to adopt families, and at the same time getting a database from the people that are in the dome, that are in the shelters, find out what their needs are, and be able to put them together quickly.
I mean, you know, these people are doing great, stabilizing folks and giving them a bed and food and a telephone.  But after three or four days, they‘re going to want to get out of a crowd of 15,000 people and be in their own place.  And there are people who are out there like our family that have the desire and the ability to put them in an apartment and help take care of them.  And I know there are other churches, synagogues and mosques in this country that can do the same thing. 
COSBY:  Now, you talk about adopting a family.  You‘ve talked about getting them into the home, assimilating them into the community there.  You‘re in Houston, where I was not too long ago.  As you know, you and I talked face to face.  There are tens of thousands of people of in the Astrodome, the Reliant Center, some of the other locations nearby.  How long are you looking to adopt a family for?  Are you talking weeks?  Are you talking months?  Are you talking permanently if they‘re really displaced? 
HENNESY:  Our family is willing to make the commitment for 30 days, and hopefully within that timeframe, FEMA or somebody will jump in and be able to maybe do something more long term. But I guarantee you that every church in this country could band together, bring one family in, and they could take care of them as long as it takes.  And that‘s—I know there are people out there in churches and synagogues that want to do this.  But I don‘t want them getting the door slammed in their face when they call up Red Cross or they call up a shelter.  It seems like there is no plan on that end.  They‘re scrambling around trying to meet the immediate needs of the folks, and somebody needs to put together this database where they can bring together the people that want to adopt and the people that have the need.  And they can bring them together and do it quickly. 
COSBY:  Absolutely.  And, John, you know, you and I talked. You didn‘t have any relatives in New Orleans.  I don‘t think you have relatives in Louisiana or Mississippi, at least that were affected by this.  Why are you doing this? 
HENNESY:  As a Christian I‘m called to do it.  I can‘t sit by and watch the images on TV and do nothing.  And we feel like our family is called to adopt another family, a mom and a dad and some small kids.  We‘re a mom and a dad, and we have small kids at home. 
And I know that there are other families out there in this country that will do it.  I know there are churches, civic organizations.
I met a guy that came to my office yesterday from North Dakota, and he said that his community, his city of Fargo would consider the idea of adopting a family and bringing them up there.  And if we could just get a Continental Airlines, a Southwest Airlines, somebody to step up and say, hey, look, if we‘ve got an airplane with space available and people are willing to go to North Dakota while their situation is getting sorted out in New Orleans, it‘s got to be better than living in the George R. Brown Convention Center or the Astrodome for the next four months. 
COSBY:  Absolutely.  Well, John, good work, and keep us posted, please.  I hope all of this red tape gets cut through.  John Hennesy, thank you very much.
HENNESY:  Thanks, Rita.
COSBY:  Planning to adopt a family.  And I hope everybody else out there gets encouraged by his words. 
As we close tonight—and we‘re going to continue our coverage after the break, but as we close right now, I want to show you some pictures that actually we took right before I came here for this show.  Just amazing pictures from the scene.  The ultimate devastation that we saw from the air, literally seeing just rooftops.  I will tell you it was gut-wrenching for me to get a bird‘s-eye view after covering it all week.  Just an emotional, emotional scene, and understandable how a lot of people did not get out of there alive.  We‘ll continue with that. 
And again, we‘re going to continue here.  We‘re going to be covering this storm.  I‘m going to be here all week, wall-to-wall coverage all week.  I hope you will join us.  And right now, don‘t touch that dial, because coming up after the break, my pal, Joe Scarborough, will take it from there.
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