Guests: Ernie Allen, J. Ben Renfroe, David Vitter, Tony Perkins, Marc Siegel
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Again, we have got it covered from New Orleans, all across the Gulf Coast.
And tonight‘s top headline, mandatory evacuation for New Orleans, as the death toll rises. What about those citizens who refuse to leave? I have got an AP story right here. It says, using the unmistakable threat of force, police and soldiers are going house to house, coaxing the last 10,000 stubborn holdouts to get out of town because of health reasons.
And speaking of health hazards, there are health hazards, corpses, gas, chemicals, all in the water flowing through New Orleans. Could this new threat lead to a major health crisis?
Plus, as broken gas lines trigger explosive fires all across New Orleans, and the New York City Fire Department is coming down to their aid, they are returning to help the men who helped them on September 11.
This is a special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Katrina, crisis and recovery.
Hey, thanks so much for being with us tonight. We have got a big show ahead, amazing new video just coming in, as Katrina blows across Biloxi, Mississippi, last week, destroying, as we know now, everything in her path. But many are still asking questions tonight. Why was not our government better prepared?
Then, the children, you know, some reunited with their parents, but 700 are still missing. And, unfortunately, friends, there could be a lot more out there lost and alone. The questions are coming fast and furious, like this: Why did Mike Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, wait five hours until after Katrina made landfall to get the Homeland Security Department moving?
We are also going to get to that question and other tough questions tonight.
But, first, here‘s the very latest on Katrina. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says that evacuation tonight in that city, that troubled, troubled city, is mandatory, and that troops can now use force to clear out his town.
Secondly, a new report tells of an ugly story of how poisons are contaminating the waters flowing through the streets of New Orleans. And it is an ugly scene. One report says that, if there‘s contact made with the water and skin, a person could get violently ill and possibly die.
And, in Biloxi, at a shelter I visited all last week, a virus now breaking out, forcing sick evacuees to pack up and move once again.
We have got all the latest up and down the Gulf Coast. Our NBC News teams are in position, and we are going to be going to them live all through the night.
Let‘s go first, though, to New Orleans, a city in a state that is almost in total lockdown tonight, as thousands of troops and police patrol the streets, as the body count continues to climb and the water gets more toxic by the minute.
For more now, let‘s go live to NBC‘s Michelle Hofland.
Michelle, what is the very latest tonight?
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, just a few minutes ago, I returned from my nightly tour of the French Quarter.
And I have to tell you, it looks like so much different tonight than it has this entire time that I have been here. There‘s virtually nobody in that section of the area. Two people that I spoke with said they vowed to stay there, that they were not going to leave. But, tonight, they say, tomorrow morning, they are going to pack up and head out.
One woman told me that the National Guard pounded on the door of her house four times today, telling her, it‘s not safe. Get out. The water is dangerous. Even though it‘s not here, you could get sick from it. So, she and her friends are packing up and heading out of town tomorrow.
But one man that I spoke with said, he is not going to leave. He is planning on going to the second story of his condominium, lock the door, keep himself in there with plenty of food and supplies, and he will not leave.
Earlier tonight, I spoke with the National Guard. And they say they are also very concerned about this water. Down in the Garden District, they said that they are not at this time forcing anyone out. But what they are doing is that they are keeping track of where everyone lives, getting their names and addresses, so, when they are told to go and get those people and force them out, they will be ready to do that.
But the biggest concern, as we have been saying, is this water, the scary, scary stuff in this water, the chemicals, the bacteria, the animal waste, the human waste, and the dead bodies. It smells of sulfur. It‘s thick. It just looks bad, and it is bad. We saw a couple bodies tonight beneath the bridge. What they have done is cover the bodies and identify the bodies.
But the soldiers that I saw there said that they will not touch, will not move the bodies, because they are not equipped, first of all, and, secondly, they say because the bodies are in such deep water and they are so heavy, that they couldn‘t move them anyway.
We are also, all of us, worried about this toxic water and what the sludge and everything that will leave behind. The soldiers tell us that, if they get some water on them, when they go into the water, they quickly go to land, get into a decontamination area, and are hosed down.
But, Joe, all the talk that we have heard about the mandatory evacuations, about going in there and forcing people out of the houses, we have not seen that yet. But, tomorrow morning, I am planning on going out with the National Guard, and we will see what happens then—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, NBC‘s Michelle Hofland.
Greatly appreciate it.
Again, I want to read from this AP Story just out tonight: “‘A large group of young armed men armed with M-16s just arrived at my door and told me to get out. I had to leave;,” said Patrick McCarty, who owns several buildings and lives in one of them in the city‘s Lower Garden District.”
The National Guard getting very serious about shoving the last 10,000 people out of New Orleans, and for good reason. We have got a health crisis. Again, when you have floating corpses in the streets, it is a terrible, terrible situation. This is a toxic city. People have to leave now.
Now, as you have heard, New Orleans tonight can best be described as a wasteland. That is water that‘s pumping off the streets into Lake Pontchartrain that is a mix of bodies, human waste, oil and gas.
Let‘s get the very latest on this dreadful situation from NBC‘s Tom Costello.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, good evening from the emergency operations center here in Baton Rouge.
Late word this afternoon and early evening from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals that FEMA has 25,000 body bags on hand. As you know, all along, the talk has been there may be as many as 10,000 people dead in New Orleans alone. Clearly, FEMA has prepositioned itself for a very high death toll.
And the question all along has been, what exactly is in that water that has managed to flood out New Orleans so completely? We got some answers today. Imagine everything in your town, in your home, and in your car. It‘s in that water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your all time. Don‘t push it.
COSTELLO (voice-over): For days, the people of New Orleans have been swimming through an environmental and health catastrophe. Today, the first official test results of what‘s in the water, fecal and other biological matter 10 times above acceptable levels. Open skin exposure could lead to infections. Ingesting it could have potentially fatal complications for the very young and old.
DR. JULIE GERBERDING, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: So, that would be things like E coli, diarrhea, norovirus. There may be some parasitic infections.
COSTELLO: The EPA found very high levels of lead. The sheen of oil and gasoline on the water is coming from hundreds of thousands of submerged cars and 2,200 underground fuel tanks, also mixed in, household pesticides, solvents and heavy metals from industry and freon from drowned refrigerators, all of it now being pumped out of New Orleans and into Lake Pontchartrain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, what we are going to do with this...
COSTELLO: Where state environmental agents were today collecting water samples.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Primarily sewage is what we are concerned with. The entire collection system of New Orleans is probably under water. And any sewage that would be in it would have probably gotten out.
COSTELLO (on camera): Because Lake Pontchartrain is influenced by the tide, all of that contaminated water from New Orleans is likely to spread across the entire lake. The question is, what will that do to the environment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not the best of circumstances. On the other hand, there are no alternatives. You can‘t treat that amount of water.
COSTELLO: Louisiana Environment Chief Mike McDaniel says Pontchartrain should recover with time, but the lake water will eventually flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening Louisiana‘s famous oysters, an environmental and health disaster that could be with Louisiana for years to come.
(on camera): That‘s about it from the EOC here in Baton Rouge—Joe, back to you.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much. Greatly appreciate it, Tom.
And Tom in his report talked about how it could impact Louisiana for years to come. Friends, we are all connected. It ain‘t only going to affect Louisiana. It‘s going to affect everybody on the Gulf Coast and probably in some other areas thousands of miles away.
Now, up to 78 cases of West Nile virus have already been reported in the New Orleans area. And a shelter in Biloxi that I went to all last week had to be evacuated due to Norwalk virus. Again, friends, don‘t want to upset anybody out here, but the reason why the virus was there is because health officials, the feds, the state government, the Red Cross, all these other agencies didn‘t get in there quickly enough and stop these people in these shelters from drinking and bathing in contaminated water.
Four more deaths in Mississippi and one in Texas have now been linked to other viruses, and officials fear this just may be the beginning.
Here to tell us more about the health risks and what we can do to stop the situation from getting even worse is Dr. Marc Siegel. He‘s the author of “False Alarm.”
Doctor, this is not a false alarm, is it? I mean, what is going on in New Orleans right now could be a full-blown health crisis.
DR. MARC SIEGEL, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: This is not a false alarm, Joe. This is a big disaster from a health point of view.
And the first problem is that, of course, people who lose their homes in this kind of a situation are shell-shocked. They are suffering post-traumatic stress. They are anxious. They are very depressed. Understandable. And so they are not going to think always rationally.
And the first thing they have to do, of course, is to avoid a prolonged exposure to this water, because the biggest problem with the water isn‘t if you touch it. It‘s if you touch it and you put it in your mouth. Or, if you are in there for a long period of time, then you have to worry about getting infections or getting diarrhea, dysentery, some of the things that we have mentioned.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Doctor, that, of course, again, is going back to last week, when I was in Mississippi for five days over there, and we had people that were bathing in water and giving their kids bottles, using water there. A lot of those people went away with dysentery.
Again, that could be a fatal disease for these young children or for older patients, couldn‘t it?
SIEGEL: Absolutely, Joe, and especially in this kind of a situation, where it‘s so hot and when there isn‘t a lot of good drinkable water to compensate for it. You either have to boil your water or you have to make sure that you have potable water.
So, the problem is, once you start getting diarrhea—and, again, in the right circumstances, these diseases are treatable. Salmonella, shigella, E coli, these are very common. But in a situation like this, you can‘t get rehydrated, so you are at risk of dying of dehydration. Also, these things are infectious, so they can spread.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Doctor, last night, we spoke with historian Doug Brinkley, who said he went through his town on a boat, and said, unfortunately, he saw corpses all over the place, some of the corpses splitting open. We heard about E coli in the water, obviously, chemicals, gas, again, this toxic soup.
Is there any way to protect the people of New Orleans, short of forcing them, even if at gunpoint that‘s required, forcing them to get out of town and get away from this toxic brew?
SIEGEL: Well, you know, Joe, they have to get out of town.
And I think, when you understand that they are suffering from people shell-shocked, later, they are going to thank you for getting them out of town. And for those that are there, they obviously have to be covered and they can‘t have prolonged exposure to this water. Otherwise, they risk one of these infections.
And, as you mentioned before, the water is going to become more and more of a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The thing about West Nile virus and some of these infections which are going to occur more and more over the next few weeks, is that they are going to occur in isolated cases. But something like dysentery can actually spread from person to person.
Other possibilities, things like cholera and Typhoid, they are much more remote. We are not much likely to see much cholera here, because we are not really in the United States seeing this disease. It does grow naturally offshore, but we don‘t tend to see it from human-to-human contact, so that at least isn‘t going to happen. And we are not going to see malaria here either.
SCARBOROUGH: Dr. Siegel, you obviously were over in the tsunami last year in December. If you could, make comparisons about the health threats here with the threats over there.
SIEGEL: Well, over there, there was obviously a very, very debilitated population, and there was people that were suffering from injuries from the storm.
And here, the biggest problem, which is different, is that I am worried about people getting injured from not thinking rationally right now, with all the debris floating around. So, again, if you are not calm and then you get an injury here, and then you get a wound or some type of a cut, how are you going to be able to clean it out? Normally, we would clean cuts out and put antibiotic cream on it. This is not possible here.
So, I am actually worried about wounds getting infected and getting festering here. This is a big problem and another reason we have to get people out.
SCARBOROUGH: You are exactly right.
Thanks so much, Dr. Marc Siegel. We really appreciate it.
And I want to follow up very quickly on what the doctor just said. The 2-year-old girl, the young 2-year-old girl that we saw over at Biloxi in this middle school, she had open sores on her legs, and it was because she was actually up on a roof while the hurricane was coming through. And then she bathed in this water, got dysentery. She is in a hospital right now. And it‘s a serious, serious situation.
Now, when we come back with this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, much more hard questions about our government, whether they failed us or not in this crisis.
Then we are going to be talking to the heroes of 9/11. They are coming to New Orleans tonight to help this city that helped them four years ago—that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: Fires rage across the city of New Orleans. And there‘s very little that firemen can do to stop it. But that‘s not stopping the brave heroes of September 11 from coming down to New Orleans and helping the city that opened their hearts to them four years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AARON BROUSSARD, JEFFERSON PARISH PRESIDENT: Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area. Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency. Give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don‘t give me the same idiot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back.
Tony Perkins is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he is the president, as most of you know, of the Family Research Council. He has been a staunch supporter of President Bush, but, like a lot of us, we are very concerned with what the president and state officials have done.
I want to welcome you to the show tonight, Tony.
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Thanks, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: And I want to start by asking you to just tell the truth. How has the federal government, how has the state government, how has the local government handled this crisis in your hometown, your home state?
PERKINS: Well, not well, Joe.
I was in New Orleans on Sunday. As you know, I spent eight years in state government there in Louisiana. And we had a long talk about something like this. Of course, this disaster is far beyond the proportions we had ever anticipated.
But the city was slow to get people out to begin with. They had a mandatory evacuation. But there‘s—this is a city, a big city, a large poor population that did not have vehicles. They didn‘t provide transportation out. They were stuck in there. They didn‘t provide the necessary food and water in the shelters.
And then it took the state a couple of days to decide how they were going to start getting people out of there. And then FEMA and their response I think has been a disaster on top of a disaster. I think they are just now getting a grip on this, and we are over a week after this has occurred.
If it were not for the churches and the faith-based organizations and the citizens there on the scene, and some in state government—I don‘t want to—there were some heroic efforts put forth by citizens and by some government officials that have done all that they can do. But the stories that are going to come from this of the—I think the inept response of government should cause us all to question what we have in place.
SCARBOROUGH: Tony, it has just been absolutely dismal.
As you know, I am on the Gulf Coast. I have followed these storms for 30 years. I have seen relief efforts behind the scenes. I have been over to Mississippi over the past week. I have been in contact in New Orleans, and it is dismal on all levels. And yet, Tony, I am getting lectured from Republicans in Oregon, California, upstate New York, Arizona, telling me, I need to back off the president. I need to back off...
SCARBOROUGH: ... of FEMA. I need to back off these state leaders.
You and I are on the Gulf Coast. We know how these things are supposed to be run. This has nothing to do with politics, does it, Tony? It has everything to do with protecting these people‘s lives.
PERKINS: Absolutely, Joe.
It‘s not only government‘s responsibility. It is all of the community
to work together in disasters like this. But what we have actually found -
and I am working with a network of about 400 churches; 100 of them have shelters in their churches. We are feeding daily about 11,000 people. And guess what? FEMA, Red Cross will not give us anything, because we are not approved. We are not a part of their network.
And, in fact, I just found out today Red Cross is going to be giving out cash payments to those in the official shelters, but the thousands of people who are living in churches or in homes of people—almost everybody I know in Baton Rouge has someone from New Orleans living in their home, in addition into their churches. So, this is...
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Tony, I want you to follow up on that. And, again, I am going to talk about what I have seen. I was on the ground for four days before we saw anybody from the Red Cross.
They have got—FEMA set up their evacuation center out in the sticks, at Biloxi High School, about 15 minutes away by car from the hardest-hit, poorest neighborhoods in Biloxi. Again, it makes no sense.
And Tony, tell me if you have found this. Other than the churches, other than the faith-based organizations, don‘t you find that FEMA and these local authorities and these big national charities are almost like rival gangs? If you don‘t filter everything through them, they don‘t want to help the people.
PERKINS: It‘s bureaucratic, Joe.
And I think there was a big mistake now, I think, in combining all of this under Homeland Security. You have just added layer upon layer. It took me until today to actually talk to people in FEMA to try and get some help on the ground there for these 100-plus churches. We have had people being—tomorrow, it will be one week that people have been staying in our church, in particular my home church.
We have 100 evacuees out of New Orleans that are living there. And if it were not for the people in the church bringing in mattresses and blankets and pillows, they would be sleeping—all of them would be sleeping on the floor. The government, as if they say, well, we are going to deal with this. We don‘t recognize what you are doing out there. And we are not going to help you.
There‘s got to be a unified effort, realizing that government cannot deal with all of these issues. They must have the faith-based component. But they must work with them, and they must help them. I mean, we have actually—we have moved in over 100 -- over 150 18-wheeler loads of food and water from across the country. People around the country have sent it into our organization, which is prccompassion.org.
We have actually had—some of those have been seized by FEMA and federalized, as they have come into the state, and they have taken them.
SCARBOROUGH: And that is—the people—Tony, I know that you—and we are going to—you and I are going to be talking about this for some time, I‘m sure. People would not believe, would not believe how the bureaucracy of the government and some of these big relief organizations actually stand in the way and stop you from helping the truly disadvantaged.
SCARBOROUGH: The people who need the water the most, the people that need the medicine the most, the people who need the clothes the most, again, they are like rival gangs. And it‘s disgusting.
I want to move to the president for a minute, because I think this is very important. You know the president well. I know the president. I know his team. They are very efficient people. They ran four very efficient hurricanes last year in the state of Florida. And I am not even talking about the mayor of New Orleans or the governor of Louisiana. I think they are inept and in over their head.
What I don‘t understand is, what‘s happened at the White House? How did they take their eye off the ball? Why didn‘t they run this emergency relief operation as efficiently as the Florida operations last year?
PERKINS: Well, Joe, first, I think that the—the size of this disaster, I think, really eclipses those others.
And I think it‘s—there‘s a combination of factors. And I have been constantly discussing this with the White House, trying to get help navigating through the mass of bureaucracy.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, what have you told them? I mean, have you told them how frustrated you are?
PERKINS: I have told them I have got 11,000 people that are sleeping on floors in churches that are outside the network of the Red Cross and FEMA, and they are refusing to be recognized that we need help.
These churches, they are churches. They are not hotels. You just talked about a little bit about disease earlier. We have had this—have had this—now, this is what‘s happening, Joe. You have got local officials that have the approved shelters, which are in public facilities. They are trying to get them out, because they want to continue business. So, they are pushing them onto the churches, and we are gladly receiving them.
But last—earlier this week, a bus of special-needs elderly patients were brought to a church, patients that need 24-hour medical care. We are not set up to deal with that. And they just—they leave them there at the doorstep. And that‘s all being done without any assistance from FEMA or from Red Cross or others.
We are just saying, hey, we want to be a part of the solution. We will help, but you have got to work with us, let us know what‘s going on, give some of the resources to do this.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Tony, thanks so much for being with us. I greatly appreciate your insight. I know millions of Americans tonight also greatly appreciate it, too.
And I want to echo what Tony said. And we heard it from Trent Lott also. A lot of these bureaucracies, whether it‘s FEMA or some of the bigger private organizations, it seems, as Trent Lott said, that their first answer is always no. And, as Trent said, they need to learn to start saying yes more. They need to learn that there are people out there who are suffering. And you know what? If it ain‘t in the rule book, and the rule book is not working, throw out the rule book and do whatever you can to help the truly disadvantaged.
I will tell you, we are having to do it tomorrow. We are getting in -
we are packing up a caravan. We are going over to a string of small cities along Mississippi‘s Gulf Coast that have been forgotten, small towns, and we are going to make an impact. But I will guarantee you, we are going to have to do it by going around all of the bureaucracies, because, if you are not in their gang, they want nothing to do with you. And, a lot of times, they will stand in the way.
And I will talk about that in the next segment with a doctor that wants to get 10,000 tetanus shots over there, but, again, the bureaucracy is standing in the way.
Let me bring in right now Louisiana Senator David Vitter to talk about, well, some of the situations we are talking about.
Senator, thank you so much for being with us.
What can we do to help the people that are most affected? And forget about whether FEMA gets the credit or MEMA gets the credit or the Red Cross gets the credit or Homeland Security gets the credit. How do we break through these bureaucracies to help the people who tonight, David, as you know, are still suffering, still sick...
SEN. DAVID VITTER ®, LOUISIANA: Absolutely.
SCARBOROUGH: ... still in danger of getting diseases...
SCARBOROUGH: ... and dying? How do we do that?
VITTER: Well, short term, what I have been doing is focusing on what works.
The military works, and so I have been pushing to get them more and more assignments, because they have a can-do attitude. They are the only part of big federal government or big state government that really works, because of their mind-set and positive culture. So, I have been trying to push things to them.
And private citizens, private folks, churches, community groups, they work. And so we need to empower them and let them work. And, Joe, you are exactly right. FEMA has been getting in the way of that. The first thing we need to do is take these bureaucracies, state and federal, out of the way and let these private groups and citizens get it done.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, David, I want you to stay with us. I have got a lot to talk to you about regarding New Orleans. Obviously, there are corpses that are decaying in the streets of your town, and a lot of people talking about how the city may be shut down for a long time. We are still seeing the death count rise.
We are going to be talking about that, the toxins that are streaming through the city streets and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: Early morning, last Monday, Katrina crashes onshore and destroys Biloxi and surrounding areas. We have amazing new video to show you. It‘s just coming in to us. We will show that to you and much more when we return.
But, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know.
SCARBOROUGH: The heroes from September 11 come to New Orleans to help. We are going to be talking live to some of New York City‘s bravest about their latest mission.
And, tonight, hundreds of children missing, tragically separated from their moms and dads, what is being done to reunite them? We are going to be talking about that and much more.
Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Those stories in just minutes.
But, again, I want to go back to what we have been talking about the first half-hour. And I am not here really—I‘m not here to assign blame. This is not about the blame game. This is trying to figure out what went wrong and how we can make things better in the future. Like I said before, I have had a lot of my Republican friends calling me up, saying, I thought you liked the president. Why are you attacking him?
I am not attacking the president of the United States because I don‘t like him. And I always say this. If my mom were in charge of FEMA, responsible for FEMA, and she were slow to react, I would have to tell you about it, because, friends, whether you are in Iowa or Kansas or California or New York, you know what? When a natural disaster strikes your hometown and the federal government gets paid taxes to take care of you in your greatest time of need, it‘s my responsibility at that point to shine the light on the truth of the situation on the ground, just like Tony Perkins, one of the most loyal George Bush supporters that I know, that I have ever had on this show.
He is on the ground. He has seen that there are serious problems. I have been on the ground in Mississippi. I have seen, there have been serious problems. It‘s not just about George Bush. It‘s about FEMA. It‘s about MEMA. It‘s about—it‘s about all of these other organizations that aren‘t doing their jobs.
Friends, we have got to make sure this mess gets cleaned up. Let‘s not point fingers. Let‘s just fix the problem.
Now, one of the people that‘s going to be responsible for helping fix this problem and somebody who I know is going to be taking a lead is U.S. Senator David Vitter, Republican from Louisiana.
And, Senator, I have been very frustrated, obviously, with what‘s been going on, on the ground. I know you have, too.
Can you just explain to our friends across America what we need to do to overcome this bureaucracy on all levels that, let‘s face it, has probably cost lives in New Orleans and Mississippi.
VITTER: ... probably. Absolutely, Joe.
And let me say amen to everything you have been saying. You know, I think we turned the corner last Friday, but the reason we did it—and we need to be clear about this—is because we made it a massive military operation. It was basically the biggest work-around in human history. And so, you still have this bureaucracy that I don‘t see changing nearly quickly enough.
I was in outlying areas today that have been hit by this devastation, Washington Parish, St. Tammany Parish on the north shore. Yesterday, I was in similar areas, Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parish on the north shore. And the bureaucracy still isn‘t changing. And it needs to change immediately, state and federal. Again, we turned the corner because we threw military assets at this, and they have a completely different attitude and culture.
They don‘t say no. They say, yes, sir. But we also need to fix these bureaucracies, because, medium long term, they are still going to be in charge of temporary housing and all these big issues that are the next phase of this challenge.
SCARBOROUGH: And, as you have said, you talk about that can-do attitude. The military seems to have it, and, as I quoted Republican Senator Trent Lott from Mississippi saying, with these federal bureaucracies, it seems their first answer is always no. And he said, they need to learn how to start saying yes, because there are so many people still out there suffering.
I want to ask you, Senator, about your hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, obviously hit tragically by this storm. Right now, the military is going through. They are trying to force the evacuation of the remaining 10,000 people in town. Do you believe that is the only way to make sure that these people are safe from all the diseases that are sure to rise up because of the toxic soup that they are all living in?
When we are talking about the highly flooded areas of the city of New Orleans, absolutely yes. And I know it‘s difficult for some folks to accept, but it‘s absolutely necessary. Now, in contrast to that, there are other areas that were hit, like Jefferson Parish, where that‘s not the case. They are not quite ready to be inhabited yet, but they are going to come back a lot more quickly.
So, it‘s a very mixed bag, and it‘s different area to area. But, yes, the areas you are talking about in the city of New Orleans, where you have high levels of flooding, yes, they need to be fully evacuated.
SCARBOROUGH: David, final question. We are seeing a lot of images of corpses that are still being brought out of New Orleans, some trapped in hospitals. Doug Brinkley talked about corpses in the street, littering the streets, last night. Do we have any new death count? I know a lot of people are talking about the possibility of 10,000 people dying. But have there been any updates on the casualty count out of your town?
VITTER: They are updating that as those bodies are absolutely verified.
And I honestly don‘t know what the exact figure is now. But it‘s clearly going to go a lot higher. Do we have any very good sense of where it‘s going to end up? No, we really don‘t. I know I said independently taking a wild guess, when things were looking really bad, it could reach 10,000. The mayor independently said the same thing. I certainly hope and pray that, on this, I am very wrong.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Senator, we hope you are wrong, too. Unfortunately, usually, you are not. Thanks for being with us again, Senator David Vitter. Greatly appreciate it.
VITTER: Thank you, Joe. Thanks.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, now, coming up next, as you know, help is coming from all across the country, and the New York City Fire Department is in place also, helping the New Orleans Fire Department, who came to their aid on September 11.
We will have that story and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: While New Orleans has been hit the hardest because of the floodwaters from the broken dikes, the entire Gulf Coast is suffering, especially in Biloxi.
As you know, I have spent a lot of time there since Katrina hit, and I know what they are going through.
Ron Mott also knows because he is there now.
Ron, I understand you have some incredible home video. Tell us about us—and get us up to date with the latest in Biloxi.
RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi there, Joe. Good evening to you.
Well, you can see down on our clock there it‘s nine days Hurricane Katrina. I have seen the damage you see behind me for nine days. And by this time of the evening, you sort of get used to it. It blends into the background. But with fresh eyes in the morning, it is still very shocking at how much destruction this storm caused.
Now, this new video that we got in just tonight is really amazing. It will raise the hair on the back of your head. Let‘s go ahead and roll it. And I want you to listen to what 140 mile-and-hour winds sound like.
Now, imagine trying to hunker down in your house or building, wherever structure you could find, whatever safety you could find, to get out of the way of this kind of storm, just incredible, incredible damage. The folks here were told to expect 18-to-20-foot storm surges. A lot of them perhaps made a decision to stay based on that information, if they were no so far from the beachfront. The storm surge turned out to be anywhere between 25 and 30 feet, because Katrina arrived just behind high tide.
And that‘s where a lot of this damage long the beachfront occurred, was right at high tide, which is a bad combination, a hurricane and high tide. Now, it left a lot of debris here on the ground in Biloxi. They are now just beginning to go through a lot of that debris. As you have seen throughout the week, they believe, they have estimated 20 percent of the buildings here in Biloxi destroyed, 20 percent. So, next time you drive through your neighborhood, just count every five houses and pick one, and that house is gone.
That is what they are facing here in Biloxi, no idea at this point how much damage in terms of money that damage has cost. But 2,000 folks or so from this area evacuated, about 17,000 at one point here statewide, in shelters around the state of Mississippi.
Now, with all this damage, with all these houses down, there‘s no place to deliver mail, for example, a lot of folks waiting on Social Security checks, other types of important mail coming through. They are not able to find that mail, because there‘s no place to deliver it. About 60,000 people have gone to the post office, gone online, called an 800 number, and ordered changes of addresses to post office—or post office boxes, I should say, or to relatives‘ homes, anywhere that they can get mail delivered.
So, Joe, things are picking up here, power expected to be on for almost 100 percent of the customers affected here in south Mississippi by the end of the weekend—back to you.
SCARBOROUGH: Boy, that‘s a remarkable recovery on Mississippi Power‘s side.
Thanks so much, Ron. Really appreciate the report. And that‘s amazing video. Thanks a lot for bringing it to all of us tonight.
Right now, I want to bring in Dr. Ben Renfroe. He‘s from the Child Neurology Center in Pensacola, Florida.
Ben, you heard from a friend in Mississippi about people who were stepping on nails and needed—and debris and needed tetanus shots. You found 10,000 of those shots, and you have been trying to get them over there. But what has happened?
DR. J. BEN RENFROE, CHILD NEUROLOGY CENTER: Joe, I worked with local businessman Rick Olson (ph) and our Senator Clary to organize transportation of these immunizations and purchasing of these immunizations over the Labor Day weekend.
There was a delay apparently in getting FedEx or whoever to fly this medicine down. So, we had it set. We had the team in the field, Joe. We had an airplane ready to go. The company that makes this immunization was willing to send people in on Sunday night and on Labor Day to pack it up, get it ready. It has to be refrigerated. The team was on the field, but the coach was on vacation, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Who is that coach?
RENFROE: You know, Joe, I don‘t know. I mean, the president, the buck stops there.
But let me tell you, we have got people now—it has shifted. Do we need these immunizations now? I don‘t know, which is a problem. We have no idea to know. But what I do know is, I have patients in Pensacola that have made it over to the east. They have made it from New Orleans. They have made it from Biloxi. And they need organization. We have got people that need housing. We have got people sleeping 16 to small apartments, and they don‘t know where to turn, Joe.
We have private businessmen donating their housing, donating money, but we don‘t have the government in here. You and I both went through Ivan.
RENFROE: Yes, sir.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, Dr. Renfroe, I was going to ask you about Ivan, because, obviously, you and I both lived through that, and it was organized so efficiently.
But, again, it‘s got to be frustrating, because, just last night, we heard from an NBC reporter talking about how they needed tetanus shots over in Louisiana and Mississippi. You have got 10,000 tetanus shots. You were actually going to go over yourself and administer those shots, take time off from your practice, your pediatric practice, to administer those shots. But you can‘t do it.
How frustrating is it to know that you have got the chance to help people, know that they have that need, but you can‘t do it, despite the fact, a year ago, like you said, in Ivan, that you went through, things were done so efficiently? How frustrating is that for you?
RENFROE: Well, Joe, tell me what happened.
In Ivan, you and I woke up the next morning and we had National Guard protecting our civic center. We had National Guard protecting the grocery stores. The federal government was in here virtually immediately with MREs, with water. It was a very—I am a ‘70s child. I am against our bureaucracy. But I was impressed. I knew where my tax dollars went.
And then you and I watched the New Orleans debacle occur. We kept thinking, there‘s got to be somebody going in there. You know, you finally had enough courage to go into Biloxi and see for yourself. And, in fact, nobody was going in.
RENFROE: Joe, we are here to help our neighbors next door. We will do anything we can to help them. We need a coach. The coach is on vacation.
SCARBOROUGH: I will tell you what. The feds have to get out of the way. The state government agencies have to get out of the way. We are here to help. And, like you said, we are their neighbors. They helped us. We want to help them, but, unfortunately, bureaucrats on all levels aren‘t allowing us to do it.
Dr. Renfroe, thanks so much for being with us tonight. And thanks so much for your service to your fellow man.
SCARBOROUGH: And I guarantee you, maybe because of tonight, maybe they will be able to get those shots that you have.
RENFROE: It‘s a pleasure, Joe. We‘re here.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks.
Now, tonight, more than 700 children are separated from their parents. What is being done to bring these families together? We are going to have that story when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: His name is Diamonte (ph), he and his cousins orphans of the storm. And officials estimate that there could be well over 700 children who have lost their parents.
With me now is Ernie Allen. He‘s the head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington.
Ernie, thanks so much for being with us tonight.
A tragic storm, we have talked about all the dimensions of it. But talk about some of the horror stories you have heard about these poor children trying to survive Katrina.
ERNIE ALLEN, CEO, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN:
Joe, and under circumstances like this, many times, there are limited seats on the helicopters, limited seats in the boats.
These parents are saying, save my children first. And, oftentimes, the results are, the children are in one shelter. The parents are in another shelter. The Justice Department has asked us to create a special national Web site to launch an effort to reunite these children with their families.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, what an incredible job that is that you guys are doing. God bless for doing it.
You hear these stories about these six—I read one about five or six children that were found wandering around the city with a 6-year-old in charge of them. Have you ever seen anything like this in recent American history?
ALLEN: Joe, it‘s just stunning.
Ultimately, those children were reunited with their parents, because one of our guys went into the shelter. And one little girl, who saw the digital picture taken of her said, Gabby (ph). And we thought that might be her name. Working with social workers in Louisiana and Texas, that child was reunited. These other children were reunited.
There have been 125 children reunited with their parents so far, and we think there are going to be hundreds more.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
Ernie, I want to put up your Web site right now, because it is just so important, what you are doing. We are showing it right now. It is missingkids.com. And, of course, you can search for missing children, and, again trying to link up parents with their children.
Ernie, thanks so much for being with us. We are going to ask you to come back in the next few days and get an update on this and keep this going, because the service you are providing to the orphans of Katrina, just absolutely necessary.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much.
ALLEN: Thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: We will be right back talking about the heroes of September 11 and what they are doing to help New Orleans.
SCARBOROUGH: Fires raging through the Crescent City, but here comes the cavalry, the brave men and women of 9/11. we will have that story in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Of all the images streaming out of New Orleans, these shocking images of a city on fire, but reports that the New York City Fire Department is sending down some of its finest, the men that fought—there they are right there—so familiar. I have got a picture of them up in my study, the heroes of September 11.
Of course, New Orleans gave them a fire truck, the Spirit of New Orleans. They are driving it down right now.
That‘s all the time we have for tonight.
Let‘s go now to Tucker Carlson to get “THE SITUATION.”
What is the situation tonight, Tucker?
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.