updated 9/7/2005 7:19:04 PM ET 2005-09-07T23:19:04

Guest: Bryan Owens, Chris Willis, Charles Foti, Jr., Ron Rychlak, Richard Wagenaar, Pete Schneider, Keric Allen, Dr. Werner Spitz

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi everyone.  Finally some good news to report from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ground zero for hurricane relief.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ABRAMS (voice-over):  Significant progress, water flowing out of New Orleans, residents going back to inspect their homes.  I went along for a dangerous ride with one resident.  We‘ll show you his emotional return to his home.
Plus, a mandatory evacuation still in effect in parts of the city, but some saying they don‘t want to go.  Can police force them to leave?  Should they?
The program about justice starts now.
(END VIDEOTAPE)
ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  Live from Baton Rouge, Louisiana I am at the headquarters where FEMA, state and federal agencies are headquartered.  This is where the hurricane relief is centered.  They are all working together right here and as we speak, we have been seeing choppers coming and going.  Most often, of course, going to New Orleans, coming from New Orleans.
I was there earlier today and joined a man who was finally able to get back to New Orleans.  He borrowed a boat from a friend of his and he and I went back to his home for the fist time.  We‘ll show you that return as we went on a very small boat along the flooded streets on Veterans Boulevard.
But there is good news with regard to those waters.  The water now appears to be going out of New Orleans and that is certainly very good news.  The latest, the levees, 17th Street Canal, right near where I was, the mayor of New Orleans says they are making significant progress.  Sixty percent under water now.  It was 80 percent last week.
A major leak in a levee has been fixed.  There is now water flowing out of the city of New Orleans.  They are saying it will take three weeks to drain the city.  That is a far quicker estimate than we had heard yesterday and the day before where they were talking about the possibility of it taking months.
President Bush and Congress promising separate investigations.  Think about that.  The president saying, we‘re going to have an investigation.  Congress saying we‘re going to have an investigation into what happened and why.  The president saying he wants to make sure it doesn‘t happen again, whether we‘re talking about an attack or another natural disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What I intend to do is lead a investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong.  And I‘ll tell you why.  It‘s very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS:  All right and the story sill remains in the city where I was only a couple of hours ago and that is New Orleans.  That‘s where Lisa Daniels joins us now with the latest.  All right, so Lisa, what else is going on there in New Orleans?
LISA DANIELS, GUEST HOST:  Well Dan, I suspect it‘s a lot like when you saw it.  It‘s really a cross between a ghost town and an Army base.  That‘s the best way to describe it.  Every so often we see groups of service members coming down these roads and they‘re always on a mission, whether it‘s guarding a building, preventing looting or going home to home making sure that people who did stay have food or if they would evacuate.  Oftentimes, the answer there is no.
But we are seeing these bands of Army or Air Force service members traveling these roads.  Every so often but seldom now, we see a survivor who will come up to us and say we want to leave the city, where do we go.  The lack of communication is abundantly clear and it was sad, Dan, because we passed a family earlier today.  They had their baby in one of those shopping carts that you go grocery shopping with, and I asked them where they were headed and they said the Convention Center, which is just a couple of blocks from where I‘m standing. 
Well the Convention Center is abandoned.  There‘s no one there.  And when they make that long trip, they‘re going to find absolutely nothing.  So it was very disheartening to see.  But there is hope amongst the rubble.  A little bit earlier, we got some video of some of the members of the Custom and Protection Agency.  Some of the agents there were putting up two flags.
One was the American flag, the other was a Customs (INAUDIBLE) and you could see that the experience was clearly moving for them.  You could tell they were taking great care in what they were doing.  You could tell that they knew that the act was symbolic, even if it was a small act, and you knew that they were trying to get the city back to normal.  I had a brief opportunity to speak to them.  Let‘s listen to what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMUEL ALVAREZ, CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION OFFICER:  My partner and I here are two strong Americans.  We are very patriotic and we think that one of the main things we need to do is to we show everybody that our colors will never run, they‘ll always flying, and as long as there‘s people like us around here.
MARK ZULAWSKI, CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION OFFICER:  Besides having the tears run down my eyes, seeing what a storm can do to this country and to the people of Louisiana, the flag itself symbolizes the reason why we‘re here, why everyone else is here and why America is here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS:  And Dan, they were not doing that for show.  In fact, we happened to spot them putting up the flags and there was a group of them and again, you could tell that this was clearly moving for them. 
On a personal perspective, Dan, I was here in Baton Rouge and New Orleans six months ago, and I was here on Canal Street for Mardi Gras of all things and it was such a beautiful street, Canal Street, and now all around me, even if I get out of the way, you can see it looks like a bomb has gone off.  I mean this is just flooding damage and hurricane damage, but literally everywhere you step, as you know, Dan, because you were here, there is damage.
Here are some broken palm trees and it‘s not like we‘re stationed here just to show you this site.  It‘s literally every corner.  There‘s just nobody here, glass everywhere and rubble everywhere.  It‘s just very sad and you could tell that the people who did stay feel very strongly that they are not leaving their homes.  That this is where they were born, this is where they were raised and they do not want to give up on the idea of New Orleans.
Dan, back to you.
ABRAMS:  All right.  Lisa Daniels, thanks very much.  Appreciate it.  Yes, we were literally driving down a major boulevard in New Orleans as we‘ll show you later in the program and literally, the road just ended and effectively, a river began there with rescue workers and residents standing at the edge.  We‘ll talk about that more in a minute. 
But, let‘s talk more about the door-to-door searches that are continuing now. The 82nd Airborne primarily responsible for these efforts.  Colonel Bryan Owens joins us now, commander of the 505th Paratroop Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd, and Specialist Chris Willis joins us as well.  Gentleman, thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.
All right, Colonel Owens, how are you doing this?  I mean do you effectively have a grid and do you say all right, we‘ve now gone to this flooded area and you are able to mark it of on a grid of the city. 
COL. BRYAN OWENS, U.S. ARMY, 82ND AIRBORNE:  That‘s exactly right, Dan.  What happens for us is we‘ve got—we track where we are.  I‘ve got about 40 boats; the Coast Guard‘s helping me out.  Emergency relief teams are helping me out and we‘re going out and doing search and rescue.  And as we clear houses, we look, we mark them, and we track how far we‘ve gone out into the water to see—help people. 
Right now, we‘ve rescued today 55 and at the Convention Center, which Lisa had mentioned, we have an evac system going on right now where we have evacuated 1,500 a day and today alone we‘ve evacuated 2,000.
ABRAMS:  Wow.  When you say, for example, apart from the Convention Center for a moment, that you‘ve rescued 55, does that mean that these are people who have for the last eight days been trying to get help?
OWENS:  That‘s correct, Dan.  What has happened is most of these people have—because they knew the hurricane was coming and they were going to stay, they‘ve stocked up with—most of them have two, three weeks—some of them have two to three months‘ worth of food and water.  But because they are in a little island, the house—their house is a little island, they were trapped in their houses and we get them to with boats, pull them out.  We do a medical assessment.  We get them back here to the Convention Center and then evac them—evacuate them out to Dallas or other places.
ABRAMS:  All right, so Specialist Willis, look, we‘re hearing now about people who are saying, I‘ve got enough food.  I‘ve got enough water.  I don‘t want to leave.  Have you been encountering that?
SPC. CHRIS WILLIS, U.S. ARMY, 82ND AIRBORNE:  What was that, Dan?  Say it one more time, please.
ABRAMS:  Specialist look, I was asking you whether you‘ve been encountering resistance from people who say, I know you want me to leave, but I‘ve got enough water.  I‘ve got enough food and I‘m not going anywhere.
WILLIS:  No, we haven‘t been encountering a lot of that.  Actually, the people here have been very grateful to see us and it‘s pretty amazing because they‘ve been waving to us and just thanking us for all that we‘re doing and we‘re just trying to make them feel safer here.
(CROSSTALK)
ABRAMS:  Colonel Owens—sorry, Colonel Owens...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go ahead.
ABRAMS:  ... real quick.  We‘ve been hearing accounts of a good number of people who have been saying that they don‘t want to leave.  Have you encountered that?
OWENS:  Well, actually, when we talk to the citizens here, we ask them why they‘re here and you‘re right.  There are some—quite a few that don‘t want to leave.  They don‘t want to leave their homes.  They don‘t want to leave their pets.  But what we‘ve been doing is providing the medical support.  We provide them water and food and if you go down on Bourbon Street, they‘re having a good time at Johnny White‘s and just trying to ride this storm out.
ABRAMS:  All right, Colonel Owens, Specialist Willis, keep up the great work.  The country is counting on guys like you.  We appreciate it and we appreciate you coming on the program.
So...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you Dan.
ABRAMS:  ... the question I think a lot of people ask is what is the law.  I mean people say I don‘t want to leave.  It‘s my house.  Do they have to leave?  Who better to ask than the Attorney General of the state of Louisiana, Charles Foti.  Thank you very much Mr. Attorney General for coming back on the program.
CHARLES FOTI, JR., LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL:  It‘s a pleasure to be with you today.
ABRAMS:  And I‘m also joined by University of Mississippi law professor Ron Rychlak as well.  All right, let me start with you.
Bottom line, someone says it‘s my home.  I‘ve got enough water.  Thank you very much, but I‘m going to stay here.  Legally, can they do it?
FOTI:  If the mayor as the chief executive officer, the parish of Orleans, or if the governor, as the governor of the state implements the emergency powers under the Homeland Security Act they can force them to evacuate for their safety and the protection of their life.
ABRAMS:  Literally force them?  Meaning...
FOTI:  Yes.
ABRAMS:  ... say we‘re taking you out.
FOTI:  If the proper declaration is issued, they can do that.
ABRAMS:  Has that been done?
FOTI:  It‘s my understanding that the mayor may have made some press conference early this morning to say that he was ordering everybody to leave.  I have not seen that press conference and...
ABRAMS:  Apparently he said in some parts of the city...
(CROSSTALK)
FOTI:  Algiers is a part of New Orleans.  It is across the Mississippi River.  It was not flooded and has its own water, but you‘re talking about no food in most instances, no electricity, no water, and then you‘re also talking about natural gas that‘s escaping from broken pipes, so it becomes a fire hazard.  And then you sort of have a toxic soup that‘s in that water that‘s existing there.  We don‘t know what‘s happening. 
And then you also you have the problem of the West Nile virus coming in where you have all of this standing water.  Now as—if  -- it says in about three weeks, they get it pumped out, then we can get everybody back in.  But I‘m the legal officer and we will confer with the mayor and the governor on those things that they need—that they want to do to effectuate the protection of life and also the rebuilding and stopping the problems that exit in the city so people can come back and enjoy their city and enjoy their state.
ABRAMS:  ... the last thing you want to deal with, right, is the idea of the state having to say you must leave.
FOTI:  Or the city...
ABRAMS:  Or the city, either one, right?
FOTI:  That is absolutely the last thing do you want to do, but diverting all these resources now to rescuing people and going back and if we‘ve missed somebody, how about if it was your mother and they say well, she really wanted to go.  She just didn‘t know.  There‘s no—a lot of them don‘t have TVs.  They don‘t have radios, don‘t know the extent of the damage, thinks it‘s a little bitty flood, doesn‘t know—so it‘s a process of trying to reason with people, showing them it‘s for their best safety and for the safety of everybody and help us get the teams in there to rebuild the city.
ABRAMS:  Professor, this is the sort of issue that drives people—not both sides but some people say you‘re going to force me out of my house?  You can do that constitutionally?
RON RYCHLAK, UNIV. OF MS LAW PROFESSOR:  Well, that‘s right, Dan.  I think the attorney general said it correctly though.  You have a right to have due process before something‘s taken away from you under our constitution.  However, when a state is in a state of emergency or a city is in a state of emergency, that‘s one of noted exceptions where property can be taken away without due process.  So if people are getting in the way with rescue efforts, the authorities do have the right to forcibly evict them.
ABRAMS:  Because as the attorney general just pointed out, I mean part of the issue is continuing the process of not just rescuing people but it‘s rebuilding, it‘s getting rid of the water, et cetera, and if there are people there, there will be times when they can‘t do it, right?
RYCHLAK:  That‘s right.  You know we tend to think we‘re evacuating the people for their own safety and that‘s a big part of it. But also people being there, even though they don‘t mean to be, people can get in the way and cause problems and difficulties, divert resources and that‘s a big problem.
ABRAMS:  All right.  Professor, thanks very much.  Mr. Attorney General...
(CROSSTALK)
ABRAMS:  ... he agrees with you and so thank you very much for coming on the program...
FOTI:  It‘s a pleasure to be with you and I hope to see you again.
ABRAMS:  We absolutely will.  Thank you, sir.
FOTI:  Thank you.
ABRAMS:  We are going to take a break.  When we come back, my little trip in New Orleans.  It was really (INAUDIBLE) it was really heart wrenching to see there you are on the edge of a boulevard that has turned into what looks like a river and we bumped into a man, one of the first people to go back in this area, to his home, borrowed a boat from a friend of his.  He invited us to join him as we went home for the first time.  We‘ll show you that.  And we‘ll also have more on the issue of these levees that appear to be repaired.  They are pumping water back out of the city of New Orleans.  Our continuing coverage from Baton Rouge in a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ABRAMS:  There is good news to report out of New Orleans.  Water is now being drained out of the city.  We‘re told that a city that was once 80 percent underwater is now 60 percent underwater.  That one of the main levees to have broken at the 17th Street Canal appears to have been repaired, but there are still health concerns.  There is the stagnant water.  There are a number of other issues as well.
I‘m joined now by Colonel Richard Wagenaar from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to talk about this.  Thanks a lot for joining us.  We appreciate it.
(CROSSTALK)
ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about how this works Colonel.  In terms of when you‘re trying to move water out of one place to another, how do you get that to work?
COL. RICHARD WAGENAAR, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS (via phone):  Well, most of the major pump stations in the city are built so that drainage or water flows towards those pumping stations through gravity.  And then they just pick that water up and pump it over or through a pump house and into the drainage canals.
ABRAMS:  And where—I mean is there any concern about the water itself, meaning we‘re talking about water that could have diseases, et cetera.  That there, you know, there may have been bodies and yet, it‘s being taken from one place and put back into another?
WAGENAAR:  Well, that‘s some concern.  I think though there‘s a bigger concern and that‘s—we‘re still in the middle of a rescue operation and we need to continue with that and then we‘ll deal with the—those other concerns after we‘re done supporting those types of operations.
ABRAMS:  Is it fair to say is that the levees have now been repaired or is it just that one of the—because from what I understand, there were three levees that actually were broken.  Have all of them been repaired at this time? 
WAGENAAR:  No, there‘s still one drainage canal that has two breaches in its floodwall.  That‘s about a mile east of the one that we were working on so hard the first week, but the 17th Street Canal was the most important because of the pump station, is the largest in the city and that‘s why this one was so important, the one we finished. 
ABRAMS:  Do you accept the prediction that in three weeks the city could be dry? 
WAGENAAR:  That‘s an optimistic prediction and I hope that that is true. 
ABRAMS:  All right.  Colonel, thanks for taking the time.  We appreciate it. 
WAGENAAR:  You bet. 
ABRAMS:  Let me bring in Colonel Pete Schneider who is here with me.  How are things going in terms of safety and security in the city of New Orleans? 
LT. COL. PETE SCHNEIDER, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD:  We‘re making great progress.  The soldiers and the airmen that are down there providing security are doing a great job.  They‘re spreading out throughout the greater New Orleans area, not just the New Orleans area, but they‘re in 13 parishes, over 21,000 National Guardsmen from over 29 states. 
ABRAMS:  So is New Orleans safe?  I mean is it—are you comfortable saying New Orleans is now a safe place? 
SCHNEIDER:  Well it depends on what safe is.  We‘re confident we‘re getting safer and safer every day.  We‘re able to move supplies in.  We‘re able to support law enforcement.  We‘re able to ensure that our contractors are becoming safer and safer each day.  The missions that they‘re doing when they‘re moving in, moving supplies and beginning the recovery process. 
ABRAMS:  When you say—when you talk about law enforcement, you know it‘s the National Guard that is now effectively in charge of law enforcement in the area, is it not?
SCHNEIDER:  No, the National Guard is never in charge.  We are there in support of law enforcement...
ABRAMS:  Because as you know, the law enforcement there—the police department has said we‘re going to give a bunch of our people some vacation time.  In fact, the vast majority of them vacation time because we‘re comfortable that the National Guard is there. 
SCHNEIDER:  Right.  You may see National Guard guardsmen without a law enforcement in a very clear vicinity, but there‘s a law enforcement person somewhere that‘s around because we‘re never there by ourselves.  We‘re there always in support of law enforcement, whether it‘s state, local or federal.  The National Guard is a support role.
ABRAMS:  Can National Guard make arrests? 
SCHNEIDER:  Yes, under the declaration of the emergency that Governor Blanco signed when we first started, our guardsmen have arrest powers as peace officers. 
ABRAMS:  All right, Colonel, keep up the hard work.  We really appreciate it. 
SCHNEIDER:  Thank you. 
ABRAMS:  Thanks a lot.
Earlier today, I was in New Orleans and we were driving on a major boulevard and literally came to an end and noticed that it wasn‘t a boulevard anymore and we came upon a man who had not been able to go back to his house yet.  He had been sleeping on the interstate overnight in an effort to get back.  Let me show you what happened. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ABRAMS (voice-over):  This is a major thorough fair in New Orleans, Veterans Boulevard.  It literally leads from outside the city right into the city.  Right there is the 17th Street Canal, which was breached.  But as you can see, what was a boulevard now looks like a river, literally.  As far as you can see, traffic lights, all underwater and this has now become something of a staging ground for relief efforts.  Meaning, as you can see, there are rescue teams, EMTs, et cetera, here waiting to get on boats to head out. 
It was here we met Stewart Schmidt.  He hasn‘t been back to his house yet.  Finally got back into New Orleans and he is going to take us with him as he goes back to his house for the first time.  We‘re going to help him row; help him carry some of his items back with him. 
You haven‘t been back to your house...
(CROSSTALK)
ABRAMS:  This is the first opportunity that you‘ve had...
STEWART SCHMIDT, RETURNING HOME FOR THE FIRST TIME:  First opportunity to be back to the house, yes.
ABRAMS:  Are you nervous? 
SCHMIDT:  Well, yes.  Emotionally, I don‘t think I‘m ready for this, but I thought I was. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There we go.
SCHMIDT:  Set sail now to my waterfront property.  So right here, I‘m trying to get a reading.  It‘s (INAUDIBLE) six feet.  Everything happened so quick that I‘m not really sure - I really haven‘t caught up with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)
SCHMIDT:  My house. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What about it?
SCHMIDT:  I want to try and see if I can get any valuables that I can out of my house. 
I‘m a general contractor, so I‘ve been working on it for the last 12 years.  That‘s a lot of sweat equity in it and it‘s kind of a Mediterranean old-style house.  It was built in the ‘30‘s and—oh, my God.  There it is. 
(END VIDEOTAPE)
ABRAMS:  When we come back, Stewart and I went inside his house and he was able to retrieve some of his belongings, see his house for the first time.  Take a break.  We‘ll have that when we come back. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) Leroy Singleton, Jr. (ph).  I want to send a message out to my father Leroy Singleton, Sr. (ph), let him know that we‘re in Memphis, Tennessee and we‘re OK.  And Danielle wants to say hello to her mother.  Say hello to your mother.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(NEWS BREAK)
ABRAMS:  Back live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is serving is right now as the headquarters for FEMA and many of the state and local agencies as they try and coordinate the relief efforts.  Communication still remains a big problem, but this center is serving to try to alleviate some of those problems. 
Now, earlier today, I was in New Orleans and literally was driving down a boulevard, came to an end where it looked like it effectively turned into a river.  Met a man there by the name of Stewart Schmidt.  He‘s a general contractor and he was just pulling out a really small (INAUDIBLE) say small, I mean tiny boat that he was—borrowed from a friend and he was determined to make it to his house. 
Hadn‘t seen his home.  Really almost no one had been in this area until today and he was determined to go to his home and collect some of the items that he felt were most important to him.  He invited us to come along with him.  We showed you the beginning of that and now it‘s at the point where we arrived finally at his home. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
(SOUNDS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Break any (INAUDIBLE) that‘s a good sign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That is a good sign. 
(SOUNDS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just want to get some pictures. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right.  Got it.  Your mom and dad?
(SOUNDS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, no.  Oh, no.
ABRAMS:  Everything is so much intact and you just see the water. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) water.  I brought all my plants—my wife had all the plants on the front porch.  We moved them all in. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right, I‘m going to put these in the front and you lower the last one down. 
ABRAMS:  It‘s going to be interesting to see if this little boat holds up. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)
(SOUNDS)
ABRAMS:  How did you decide what to take? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know I‘m thinking what am I doing, you know?  I‘m taking I don‘t know.  I had to get back.  There was a part of me that needed to get back to the house just to connect with my house and this area before I moved on.  And I don‘t know what I‘m going to do.  You know, I have a lot of good plans. 
ABRAMS:  And you want to go back and live in that house again? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  After seeing this, I don‘t know.  I‘m not sure. 
When the water goes down, at this point, I would say no. 
(CROSSTALK)
ABRAMS:  I guess we‘re now on the corner of what was...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Germain.
ABRAMS:  ... Milne and Germain, (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)
ABRAMS:  Milne and Germain...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)
ABRAMS:  Which way do we go on Germain, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re going to go—we‘re—I think...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We came in...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, we came in...
ABRAMS:  ... yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That is...
(CROSSTALK)
ABRAMS:  You get lost we‘re in big trouble. 
(LAUGHTER)
ABRAMS:  (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, actually, you were.  You were helpful.  I probably—it would have been a lot harder to get there.  Been more difficult to get there, so I appreciate you coming. 
ABRAMS:  All right. 
(END VIDEOTAPE)
ABRAMS:  It was really striking to join Stewart Schmidt as he—you know as he saw that.  And I‘ll tell you there were times we turned off the camera because he was getting so emotional inside his home and you know we just—we were there to try and help him out. 
All right.  We‘re going to take a break.  When we come back, more of the amazing rescues that are going on.  We‘re going to check in with the Coast Guard.  Even as we speak, the rescue efforts in New Orleans continue.  We‘re back from Baton Rouge live in a moment. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ABRAMS:  These chopper shots just coming in to MSNBC, taken along the Mississippi coast that just show you the scope of the devastation that Katrina left in its wake.  I was in Biloxi, Mississippi yesterday and you see these pictures on television and yet, when you get there and you see the rubble of what used to be grand buildings, what used to be people‘s homes, it is striking, the extent of the devastation there in Mississippi.  So it is not just a story about New Orleans. 
This is about the entire region, which has suffered a major calamity.  But back to New Orleans and the rescue efforts that continue.  The Coast Guard among others conducting around-the-clock missions, dropping supplies from the air.  We saw their choppers overhead today when we were in New Orleans.  But they are also helping to continue in these rescue efforts.
And I‘m joined now by someone who has been involved in some of those efforts from the Coast Guard.  Thank you very much for joining us.  We appreciate it.  Keric Allen, what exactly is the Coast Guard doing?  Meaning, are there still the sort of rescues that we saw early on where people are on the top of buildings, sort of screaming for help or is this more of a sort of building-to-building effort? 
KERIC ALLEN, COAST GUARD RESCUE (via phone):  It‘s turned more now into a building-to-building effort.  There‘s not people screaming from the roofs to get off.  So we‘re just assigned a section to go and we‘ll fly over it.  Like our section was 10 by 10 square miles and we‘ll just search and make sure that no one is there at all. 
ABRAMS:  Because I saw—I mean I saw a number of Coast Guard boats out today near where I was—what was Veterans Boulevard and saw the Coast Guard sort of circling and looking around to make sure there were no people still in any of these areas.  Is that what you would—I mean we heard the 82nd Airborne talking about doing this sort of door-to-door.  Is the Coast Guard going through the primarily flooded areas and just trying to see if there is anyone there? 
ALLEN:  You know what, I really couldn‘t tell you.  I‘ve just been involved with the helicopter side of it.  I don‘t really know much about what the boats are doing right now. 
ABRAMS:  OK.  All right.  From the helicopter‘s side, give us a little bit—more of a sense, for example, what happened today. 
ALLEN:  Today, we flew out and like I said before we went to our assigned area and we just went up and down and made sure there was no one there.  We saw a couple of people, went down and talked to them, and they were fine.  They were just there in a boat getting some things from their apartment and that‘s about all.  Flew over and we‘re just out there just looking for any more signs of anyone. 
ABRAMS:  Are you finding that some people are reluctant to leave? 
ALLEN:  Yes, I have run into that not today, but the other day I was out.  Some people refused to leave.  They just want water and some food and they won‘t leave. 
ABRAMS:  Are you able to provide that for them? 
ALLEN:  Most of the time, yes, we are and sometimes we‘ve already dropped it off at a drop point, so it just depends on what we‘ve been doing before we get to this person that doesn‘t want to leave. 
ABRAMS:  All right.  Petty Officer, Keric Allen, thank you for coming on the show and thank you for the work you‘re doing. 
ALLEN:  All right.  Thank you, Dan. 
ABRAMS:  When we come back, the gruesome task of evaluating exactly who died, how many died.  We‘re going to check in at the morgue as to how they are preparing for what could be a gruesome task in the thousands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, I‘m Janet Mars (ph).  I‘m looking for my daughter.  Rachel, Shelby and Martin (ph), if y‘all can you know see us, y‘all got a number you can get in contact me at where y‘all can get in touch with us.  They‘ve got people who‘s willing to come and get you and bring you up here with us.  You know it‘s (INAUDIBLE) mom and all of them.  They got a place for all of y‘all.  Please contact us.  This is the number at the church.  I just hope y‘all hear this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hello, my name is Justin Johnson (ph) and I‘m looking for Cynthia White and Keith White (ph).  They‘re in (INAUDIBLE).  I was stuck in the water.  I couldn‘t get to y‘all, but wherever y‘all at, you can just call my cellular phone. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My name is Michael Batiste (ph).  I‘m from New Orleans, Louisiana.  I‘m trying to locate a young lady by the name of Mary Connie White (ph) from New Orleans and a Michael Wayne Batiste (ph), the same name as myself and her mother and her father, Mrs. Dorothy White and Mr. Aaron White (ph).  I don‘t know where they went.  You know I tried to find them.  They were having some difficulties when they left New Orleans, but I haven‘t heard from them myself.  I‘m in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. CORINNE STERN, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST:  They are somebody‘s loved ones, they are somebody‘s family member, OK, and we have the privilege of being the last ones to examine them. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS:  Talking about examining the bodies and that is the gruesome task that begins.  It‘s already begun.  It will continue in particular now that much of the water in New Orleans is being drained out of the city.  That almost certainly means that many bodies will be discovered. 
At the morgue for us is NBC‘s Kerry Sanders in St. Gabriel, Louisiana. 
Kerry, this is sort of a makeshift morgue, is it not? 
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It is indeed.  We‘re about an hour and a half north of New Orleans, if you were to drive, in the town of St. Gabriel and they have a warehouse not too far from here, just on the other side of this area over here.  First you can see the flag that‘s flying at half-staff there.
Well just on the other side of where that flag is flying at half-staff, you can see this cavernous warehouse and inside the cavernous warehouse is where they have set up the mortuary services.  And you can see in this picture here, we have some of the teams that are underway, already doing the work.  The medical examiners, coroners, pathologists, forensic anthropologists, folks who know how to deal with fingerprint records and orthodontists, just about everything that they can use to identify who it is that is being brought in.
Many of these people are being brought in without any identification at all.  Now they are anticipating upwards of 5,000 dead here and that‘s a tremendous number.  So as you can see, they have these refrigerated semi tractor-trailers and that‘s where they‘re going to be keeping the bodies as they process them.
One important thing, and this really is something that is so difficult, but loved ones who are looking for those who have passed away are being encouraged not to come here.  This is not a place to come identify someone who has died.  This is not a place to come where they can talk to you.  What they have set up here is strictly for the technical side of this, but as you heard, they are going to do this with as much respect for the dead and treat this with all the respect that is needed—Dan. 
ABRAMS:  All right.  Kerry, before I talk to Dr. Werner Spitz about some of the issues surrounding this, you have covered many a hurricane in your career.  You‘ve been based out of Florida for a considerable amount of time.  Strictly in terms of the hurricane‘s damage, put aside for a moment, the flooding in New Orleans, how does Katrina compare to some of the other hurricanes you‘ve covered? 
SANDERS:  It is the biggest.  I mean I‘ve covered hurricanes like Hurricane Mitch that came ashore in Central America and destroyed portions of Honduras and Nicaragua.  Hurricane Andrew, of course, we always thought of the granddaddy, but when you hear about the possibility here of them being ready to process 5,000 dead, it‘s just astronomical. 
They think that they‘ll be able to identify up to 140 bodies a day, but those are going to be the easy to identify bodies here, Dan.  You‘ve got to remember, some of these people were literally swept away.  Their homes are underwater.  If they‘re going to use DNA evidence, often they get that sort of DNA evidence from a hairbrush where they take some of the hair, or a toothbrush where they get some of the saliva. 
They don‘t have that.  It‘s underwater.  It washed away in the storm.  So, the process of trying to do the identifications here is going to be complicated.  If they were going to use dental records, well if your dentist office was downtown New Orleans...
(CROSSTALK)
SANDERS:  ... those dental records are not available. 
ABRAMS:  And that‘s exactly what I was going to ask Dr. Werner Spitz about.  Kerry Sanders, thank you very much.  You‘ve being doing great work on this story as always, but particularly great work on this one.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.
SANDERS:  Thank you.
ABRAMS:  Dr. Werner Spitz, the famed pathologist, how do you deal with the fact that, as Kerry points out, if your dentist‘s office isn‘t there anymore, you don‘t have dental records or you may not have them.  You may not be able to find DNA from the home, et cetera.  Are they going to have problems identifying bodies? 
DR. WERNER SPITZ, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST:  Well they sure will, because if they don‘t have anything to match the evidence with then there‘s no evidence.  The idea is to have something from the body comparable to something from the home or from somewhere else that—to match it up with.  But if you don‘t have that, you end up when you have 5,000 bodies with a fair number of these bodies having to be buried in a community grave. 
ABRAMS:  Oh, I assume though that there are—and this is a—gets a bit gruesome, but there are other ways to identify bodies, for example, birthmarks, other identifiable characteristics...
SPITZ:  Sure.  Of course there are birthmarks.  There are surgical scars.  There are a number of things that one can look for but again, you need somebody to be available to look at this and say, yes, this is dad or this is mom. 
ABRAMS:  This has got to be, for the coroners in charge here, just the daunting task, the idea that at any day now, there could be literally, thousands of bodies brought to them. 
SPITZ:  Well, this is not only—when you talk about the people in—who will perform the identification, you have to understand that these are not only people who work with very little evidence.  These are also people who work with bodies who are not exactly in a fresh state and the environmental situation is also to be considered.  These are very brave people. 
ABRAMS:  Yes.  Health concerns at a make makeshift morgue like this, Dr. Spitz?
SPITZ:  I‘m sorry? 
ABRAMS:  Are there health concerns at a makeshift morgue like this one?
SPITZ:  No.  Well you don‘t have to go overboard with—working without gloves and things, but you have to be—yes, you have to be somewhat careful, but there‘s not an overly great risk of infection. 
ABRAMS:  Dr. Werner Spitz, as always, thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 
SPITZ:  Thank you. 
ABRAMS:  Take a break.  Be back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, this is Alicia Golott (ph).  I‘m 27 today. 
I‘m in Memphis, Tennessee.  I‘m looking for my father, Daryl Golott (ph).  I haven‘t heard from him since the storm came.  He‘s from New Orleans, Louisiana and also my husband, Mario Breedlove (ph).  He‘s also from New Orleans.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ABRAMS:  More pictures just coming in to us of the Mississippi coast right around where we were yesterday.  You can see from these pictures exactly how devastating Katrina was.  We‘re not talking here about levees breaking.  We‘re talking here about hurricane damage.  And we saw it firsthand yesterday. 
Now you‘re seeing these aerial photos as well.  Let me just conclude by saying that we were in New Orleans today and you hear this again and again, but there is something really special and heartening about seeing all of the people who are reaching out trying to help their neighbors.  We will be back here tomorrow.  See you then...
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