Guest: Harry Lee, Edwin Worthington, Aaron Neville, Jason Peterson
RITA COSBY, HOST: Well, it is now a desperate race against time to
rescue victims of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands—that‘s right, thousands
· are now feared dead in New Orleans alone. President Bush calls it one of the worst natural disasters in our country‘s history.
Good evening, everybody. I‘m Rita Cosby coming to you LIVE AND
But once again, we‘re focusing on the catastrophe on the Gulf Coast.
Authorities are conducting dangerous search and rescue missions right now. They are looking for survivors. It is a risky job. In this rescue that you‘re seeing here, pieces of the roof were blown off while a victim was pulled to safety. Many more are still stranded tonight and quickly running out of water and food and many other things. We‘re also seeing our first pictures of remote areas totally destroyed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see all of these homes, and any one of them is a disaster. And then to put it all together, after a while, you just kind of get a sick feeling, and you just—you almost can‘t take it in anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: Well, we have gotten all the angles covered of this devastating national tragedy for you tonight, with reports across the region. We begin with NBC‘s Michelle Hofland in shell-shocked New Orleans, where there‘s some breaking news we just got in a few moments ago. The mayor has just changed some tactics when it comes to looters. Michelle, what is the latest from there?
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT: That‘s right, 1,500 of the police officers who were supposed to be out taking care of the search and rescue—they are now back on the streets here to make sure that people cannot loot, to make sure that there‘s no more violence, because nighttime is a very scary night. There‘s no lights. It‘s very dark. There‘s no air-conditioning. People don‘t have any water. It‘s a very scary place at night.
In fact, last night, just down the street from me here on Canal Street, somebody opened fire on a police substation with an AK-47. The police fired back. No one in that case was hurt. Also yesterday, an officer was shot at by a looter. It grazed his face. The officer is expected to survive, but that looter was shot and killed.
Also, what‘s going right now is the U.S. military is working with the local officials to try to plug that enormous hole in the levee, try to stop the water from flowing into this area. We understand, though, there‘s some good news, is that the water on both sides of the levee, from the lake coming into New Orleans, has stopped flowing into the area. As we‘ve been standing here on Canal Street, we have noticed that the water actually has receded about a foot or two during the day.
Now, let‘s go on to the flooding. Still, about 80 per percent of this town is under water, in some places about 15 to 20 feet high. Some of you have traveled here and have been to beautiful areas like the garden section, to this area. That‘s under about four feet of water, and many other homes are just completely submerged with water.
On the rooftops of those homes, there are people still trying to get out, trapped inside attics, trapped inside rooftops, on highrises. People are leaning out of broken-out windows, showing anything they can, writing notes saying, pleading with people, Please come rescue me. Please get to me.
But getting to those people is proving to be very difficult. Tonight, you‘ll know that the police are not taking in that search and rescue effort. However, there are still many hundreds of volunteers who are out there working with FEMA, working with other officials, U.S. Wildlife, trying to get to those people by boat, which is also a very dangerous thing to do at night, with the downed power lines and the murky, dangerous water.
Another thing to mention is that what you just saw in the beginning, a bus passing—those are some of the people who are leaving town. Those are buses leaving filled with people at the convention center. They‘re trying to bus the 20,000 people out of there over to Houston, where they can either catch a plane or stay at the Astrodome and be there while they wait and try to find something they can do because it‘s going to be a long time before they can come back to this town—Rita.
COSBY: All right, Michelle. Some incredible pictures. Thank you very much.
And meantime, President Bush is urging all Americans to help hurricane victims, saying that it could take—get this—years for those affected to fully recover from this horrific disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vast majority of New Orleans, Louisiana, is under water. This recovery will take years. The challenges that we face on the ground are unprecedented. The folks on the Gulf Coast are going to need the help of this country for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And some survivors have now been stranded for more than 48 hours. The Coast Guard has been doing their very best to rescue as many people as they can, but in some cases, they may be running out of time.
We‘re joined now by Coast Guard Captain Kevin Marshall. Captain Marshall, you were in New Orleans. Give us a sense of sort of what it looked like from your vantage point firsthand.
CAPT. KEVIN MARSHALL, U.S. COAST GUARD: Well, Rita, it‘s an amazing sight. It‘s absolutely unprecedented. I‘ve been in the Coast Guard 29 years., I‘ve never seen anything like it. But right now, we‘re doing everything we can. We have over 4,000 Coast Guard people in the area, both Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana, area to effect these rescues as fast as we can.
COSBY: Yes, and personally, sir, I know you‘ve probably been involved, obviously, with the Coast Guard for some time, but to see this in your own country and to see it visually, it‘s pretty incredible. This is a major city.
MARSHALL: Yes, ma‘am, it is. I‘ve been through many hurricanes. I‘ve flown in hurricanes. I‘ve seen it many times before, but I‘ve never seen anything like this. This is unbelievable destruction on a wide swath. I‘ve never seen a storm this big. And frankly, I‘ve just never seen anything like it. And I just don‘t know where go with this, but we‘ve got many hard-working people out there trying to help get us past this and get us onto the next step.
COSBY: You talked about 4,000 members of the Coast Guard, fine folks working out there tonight. Is that going to be enough? What kind of a dent can they even do?
MARSHALL: Well, we‘re just one big part of the team. We have plenty of other Fish and Wildlife people, the state people, the FEMA people. This is many, many government agencies, federal, state and local level. They‘re all working together as one big team to make this work. No, we couldn‘t do it by ourselves. But working as a member of the team, I think we can. And we are making a dent. We are making a difference out there. And there are a lot of people that are very grateful that we are there. So yes, we‘re making a dent.
COSBY: Oh, you bet. And we‘re looking—and we‘re looking, Captain, at a dramatic airlift that you guys were a major part of earlier on today. This is—it‘s stunning, what you‘re doing, in terms of going into some of these remote areas. How difficult is it for access?
MARSHALL: It‘s very difficult. We train all the time for search and rescue operations, but we primarily train for offshore, with those hazards. These are different types of hazards. We have the wires and the structures and the poles and things like this that we have to keep alert for. But each helicopter crew has to work very hard to maintain their distance from all these hazards to effect the rescue. And they have to thread that hoist, that basket, down through the trees, down through the wires to get down to the rooftop or whatever surface they‘re hoisting to. So it‘s a coordinated effort, and it takes a lot of skill. These people are working very, very hard in some very tough conditions.
COSBY: Yes, you bet. It is incredible to see. You‘re also get some help—I understand, you‘re going to be asking some of the cruise lines, also, which have big ships, of course.
MARSHALL: Yes, we‘re asking for a lot of agencies—government agencies and the civilian partners are helping us in many, many ways. They‘re helping with us the cruise ships coming in. Civilian companies are helping us to survey the waterways, so we can get the waterways open and get commerce flowing again. It is a united effort by many, many team members, and together we‘re going to make it happen.
COSBY: You bet. Well, Captain, thank you very much. And keep up the great work that all of you are doing out there. We very much appreciate it.
Well, communication systems are in shambles, and also thousands of people are anxiously waiting to find put to their loved ones are OK. Grammy-Award-winning singer Aaron Neville is one of them. He‘s waiting for word tonight on not just one but three nieces who live in his home town of New Orleans. And Aaron Neville joins me now from Memphis.
You know, Aaron, you and I talked a few nights ago, and at that point, your family was moving out in a caravan. But what happened? Three of your nieces decided to stay?
AARON NEVILLE, SINGER, THREE NIECES MISSING IN NEW ORLEANS: You know, I don‘t even know. It‘s my brother‘s daughters, and he hasn‘t heard anything from them (INAUDIBLE) if they could hear, if (INAUDIBLE) I don‘t even think they have TVs down there or anything. So I wanted to see if they could call him and let him know that they‘re all right, if they are somewhere where they can see a TV.
COSBY: And Aaron, have you heard anything from them? Has there been any contact with any of the members of the family?
NEVILLE: No, because—all of the 504 numbers, none of them are working, you know, in the New Orleans area. No phones are working down there.
COSBY: And Aaron, just a little bit ago—I don‘t know if you can see the screen. We‘re going to try to put them back up again. But—in fact, I‘m told that you cannot see the screen, so I‘ll just walk you through it. I‘m looking at some pictures now. These are pictures that your manager sent in to us right before the show. This is apparently your childhood home. And Aaron, I can see a lot of water surrounding it, and apparently, this is not even the worst of it yet. This is before the real flooding took place. And it just looks like there‘s just massive amounts of water.
How worried are you, Aaron, to what you may come back to, my friend?
NEVILLE: Well, you know, it‘s nothing to worry about now because, you know, I‘ve been expecting it, and I just was hoping it wasn‘t in my lifetime. But I—you know, every time there‘s a hurricane, I make my family—if I was on the road, I‘d tell them to get out, you know. And if it didn‘t come, well, they just had a little vacation, you know? But it was always that possibility of one of them coming through New Orleans, and I know we‘re sitting in a bowl, in a saucer or whatever, surrounded by water. And all it took was one like that to come and hit that river or that lake, and we would be a soup bowl, you know, so -- I‘m sorry about all the people that stayed because a lot of people, you know, they probably heard the “cry wolf” thing, and they say, Oh, it ain‘t going to come, you know? And a lot of them stayed. And a lot of them couldn‘t get out, you know? So—and a lot of my friends I haven‘t heard from.
COSBY: So hard, in fact, I want to put a picture up, if I could, Aaron. This is—I understand this is your niece, Charmaine, who a lot of folks know in the singing business, a big superstar in and of herself...
COSBY: ... also a great singer in her own right. If she‘s watching tonight, or your other two beautiful nieces, what do you want to say to them, if, by chance, maybe they‘re near a TV set or getting some word?
NEVILLE: I‘d like for them to get in touch with their father, Charles, up in Massachusetts and let him know that they‘re all right because my phone is not receiving any calls, my 504 number. But they can call their dad up in Massachusetts.
COSBY: And you know, Aaron, you‘re also recording some PSAs, I know, some public service announcements for the Red Cross.
COSBY: You got a big heart. I know you‘re also going to be a part of the special on NBC on Friday night, which we‘re very proud to be a part of. If someone‘s watching tonight, what do you want to say to those other folks who maybe are trying to figure out what they can do to help?
NEVILLE: (INAUDIBLE) we‘re going to do a thing with Winton Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. Leonardo DiCaprio will be there and I can‘t even remember all of the names, but whoever can make it, I mean, it‘ll be great. You know, it‘s a great cause. And I always say there go I but for the grace of God. We‘re trying to help some people, you know, trying to help the Red Cross...
NEVILLE: ... because they got a real hard job.
COSBY: Absolutely, Aaron. And again, we‘re looking at all these incredible pictures. And we also understand that Tim McGraw‘s going to be a part of that special.
NEVILLE: Right. Right. And Faith Hill.
COSBY: We‘ll be watching you closely on Friday.
NEVILLE: Oh, good.
COSBY: Yes, Faith Hill, too.
COSBY: And also, we pray, Aaron, that you get some good news with your three nieces. We hope that someone‘s watching or a neighbor‘s watching or getting word. And please let us know. I hope that you get some good news soon.
NEVILLE: Well, thanks a lot. I hope so.
COSBY: Thank you very much.
And again, everybody, this Friday night at 8:00 PM Eastern time, MSNBC, NBC and CNBC will host a very special concert for hurricane relief. The benefit will be hosted by Matt Lauer. It‘s going to feature such artists as that great man you saw there, Aaron Neville, Tim McGraw, Harry Connick, Jr., and also Faith Hill, a lot of other big stars. So everybody, make sure that you stay tuned for that.
And also, we want to also let you know how you can help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Everybody can help. It doesn‘t matter if you‘re Aaron Neville, whoever you are. If you want to make a donation to the Red Cross, please call the number that you see there on your screen, 1-800-HELP-NOW—
1-800-HELP-NOW. If you want to volunteer, you can also call 1-225-268-0323. And if you‘re worried about a missing loved one—Aaron Neville is not the only one out there, a lot of are you trying to get ahold of your loved ones in the Gulf state region—there is a number you can call tonight. It is 1-800-GET-INFO, 1-800-GET-INFO. They will try get you a line and try to get some help for you as soon as possible.
And still ahead tonight: Are hurricane victims safe from their own neighbors? Food, water and gas are scarce. And with water rising, so is lawlessness. We‘re going to tell you about some very scary situations taking place in downtown New Orleans right now.
Plus, some babies were saved from disaster, but did their parents survive? The search is on tonight.
And also: You can see the desperation in their eyes, but they survived the storm. Will help arrive soon enough to all of them? Will they be able to get out alive? That‘s next on LIVE AND DIRECT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was scared because I stayed by myself. I live by myself. And water started getting, high, so I got up on top (INAUDIBLE) had to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK? Well, you‘re alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) many of them just gone, just—you can see foundations and complete devastation through this area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: Conditions across the devastated Gulf Coast tonight are beyond horrific, as you just saw there. People have no running water, no electricity, and rescuers fear that they‘ll find bodies instead of survivors.
MSNBC‘s David Shuster is LIVE AND DIRECT from hard-hit Biloxi. What are you seeing there tonight, David?
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rita, we‘re seeing that, at least in Biloxi, even though there is no water, no power, no electricity, no gasoline in many cases, at least some of those supplies are starting to come in. So there are points around town where people can get at some of that stuff. It‘s not an evolving story, like you have in New Orleans.
Having said that, as people go to some of their old neighborhoods—like, for example, this neighborhood, the Point (ph) in Biloxi—this was shut off until today because of all the debris over the roads. It‘s one of the most impoverished areas in town and was also the hardest hit. And the debris, Rita—today we drove around, and it was literally two feet above my head on many streets.
Behind me, for example, is one of the only buildings in this neighborhood that we found that was still standing. And this is what is left of the Salvation Army center that was here that helped some of the more impoverished people that live in this part of town. But aside from this particular building—and by the way, I don‘t know if you can make out the orange on the side. That indicates that there may be some sort of gas problem. You see that kind of writing over debris all over the city. Sometimes you also smell the gas. And that‘s one of the safety issues that they‘re trying to resolve.
But one of the problems that they have had is that it‘s so difficult for them to try to figure out who was here and who left. And as a result, the search teams are going through, trying to look for bodies. But even that has been so difficult, just because the enormity of the catastrophe, the amount of debris block by block by block. And there‘s still a lot of debris fields, a lot of blocks where they simply can‘t get at them yet because the debris is so high, the damage is so severe, or there‘s a safety issue of a gas line that may have been ruptured that they haven‘t fixed yet. So they got to deal with the safety issues first.
And then compounding all of this, of course, even, for example, for the rescue personnel, issues of—we had a cell phone tower that apparently went down tonight, so there‘s no cell phone communication again. There‘s still issues as far as electricity and where the rescue workers stay. I mean, we‘ve gotten reports of hotel rooms all across the Gulfport/Biloxi region that are just completely filled. So it‘s just a huge number of logistical hurdles.
But if there‘s one glimmer of good news, Rita, that is the story essentially has become more a sort of a story of clearing away the debris, of trying to find the bodies and clearing away the debris. You do not have the evolving dangerous situation like you do in New Orleans, even though, of course, you‘ve got some 800,000 people in Mississippi that are still without power, without electricity, without water. But at least it‘s not a situation where the water is still rising and people are still being threatened—Rita.
COSBY: Well, that‘s good news. David, thank you very much.
And some amazing pictures of brave rescues just kind of keep coming in to us tonight. Rescuers are trying to save hundreds who are still trapped at this hour before it is way too late. Sadly, that includes the tiniest of victims, little babies brought into the world at one of the worst of times. LIVE AND DIRECT tonight from Birmingham, Alabama, is Jason Peterson. He‘s a nurse who airlifted babies from New Orleans to Alabama.
Jason, your story is incredible. Tell us about some of the conditions at the hospital. I understand, what, it was 100 degrees?
JASON PETERSON, AIRLIFTED BABIES FROM NEW ORLEANS: Oh, at least. It was just unbelievable heat that‘s in the unit where the nursery is, makeshift nursery. And all the nurses and staff are working just in T-shirts, rolling their scrub pants up and just doing the best they can do.
COSBY: And Jason, can you hear me? I think I lost audio on my end, everybody. But Jason, if you can hear me, describe for us in detail one of the lifts, if you could. We‘re having little technical problems. But describe for us what happened yesterday and also today.
PETERSON: Yesterday, we were requested to fly down by the neonatologists here in Birmingham and evacuate, really, as many babies as we could. I really did not know what we were getting into once we set out on this mission. But once we got there, the referring staff were in the impression we would transport only one baby. We were prepared and had the resources to transport four at one time. They were just—they were overjoyed, truly overjoyed with that information, as well as the fact that we planned on coming back again today, which we did. We transported four babies last night and then two today. Many others have gone to other hospitals, like Texas and the Baton Rouge area.
COSBY: And Jason, if you could, what does it look like there today? At least, what are you hearing about in New Orleans and also Alabama? What is the situation like?
PETERSON: Today—or just yesterday, on our fixed-wing approach into New Orleans, in my personal mind, I just kind of had a thought of, This is terrible. This is so saddening. Of course, we‘re still at a bit of an altitude. There‘s no ground access or very minimal ground access to Oshner (ph) Clinic Foundation, which we went to. And (INAUDIBLE) cooperative agreement with Alabama Lifesaver from here in Birmingham, has an aircraft down there. They shuttled us from the airport to Oshner via helicopter. That put us so much closer to the ground. And it‘s just heart-breaking to see the destruction and what these people are going through, random fires everywhere.
COSBY: All right, Jason, thank you very much.
COSBY: And again, you guys, we‘re, of course, having audio problems in the middle of all of this chaos. Totally understandable, though that seems to be the least of our worries.
Everybody, stick with us. We‘re going to have a lot more right after the break. Still ahead: Thousands of weak and desperate survivors are living in the worst of conditions and just trying to stay alive. Is help moving fast enough?
Plus: Why an NBC reporter found himself having to be rescued.
And some survivors are headed for Houston‘s Astrodome. Is it ready?
I‘ll ask the man in charge LIVE AND DIRECT.
And as we speak (ph), we will talk to the Army Corps of Engineers. He‘s (SIC) frantically trying to save New Orleans. You will not believe how big of a job it is. You can see some pictures of it there. Stay tuned, everybody.
COSBY: And the mayor of New Orleans stunned everyone tonight when he said that Katrina probably killed thousands of people in his city. The rescue efforts are still going on. NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla is in New Orleans right now, where he found himself needing his own rescue. This is incredible, Carl.
CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Rita, good evening. Yes, we wanted to look at hospitals in this city and see how they‘re faring with no electricity, no running water. We did find one, but getting there took us in a very different direction.
(voice-over): This is the scene on Napoleon Avenue, a neighborhood of stately homes flooded to the front door. Choppers above us, our crew drives until we have to walk.
(on camera): The water is getting too deep, and it‘s getting deeper. We‘re told there‘s a hospital about six blocks away, and we‘re going to try to make it there.
(voice-over): Each encounter gets more and more profound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got people in three-story houses that are still trying to survive out in the houses.
QUINTANILLA: An airboat offers to take us to the hospital, but it sinks in the maze of tight corners. We dig the boat out, and Stanley Beaudelon(ph), a volunteer who has brought four of his airboats to New Orleans, offers us a ride.
But just as we reach the front door, we meet Terrence (ph) and Victoria Tunsen (ph) swimming up to their chins, a young married couple who say they need to find their father stranded at home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My daddy‘s trapped in the house.
QUINTANILLA: Slowly, we reach their street, and it‘s suddenly clear this neighborhood is packed with people who never left. We finally see Victoria‘s father. He‘s built a raft out of the back door and uses it to get to our boat. So does the dog, Scoops (ph).
As we head back, we learn the hospital has no patients. They‘ve all been airlifted. But there are 1,000 employees and family members inside waving down at us.
Across Orleans Parish, 2,500 patients have been evacuated from hospitals. Finally, on dry ground, Victoria and her father are lucky. They‘ll try to get to family in Houston. But the hard part is all to clear: Missions like this are going to have to happen again, and again, and again.
QUINTANILLA: Now, once those residents reach high ground, they often realize they‘ve forgotten to bring anything with them. They have no food. They have no bottled water. They‘re survivors, Rita, but they‘re survivors with just the clothes on their back.
COSBY: And, Carl, what is the situation there? Is there a lot of tension? How dangerous does it also seem, because we‘ve heard some stories of just situations getting a little bit out of control?
QUINTANILLA: Yes, it gets a little bit tense, especially after nightfall, as you might imagine. There are no lights. The lights you‘re seeing me with are powered by our own electricity, our own diesel-fueled generators. And there‘s no moon.
So it‘s going to be very dark. And looting is a huge concern. In fact, the mayor tonight has asked 1,500 police officers to leave their search-and-rescue missions and focus on looters, who they say are moving closer and closer to heavily populated areas.
COSBY: Well, be careful there. Carl, thank you very much.
And in New Orleans, engineers are taking on something that they said they never have tried before. Just a few hours ago, they started plugging up a massive 300-foot hole in the levee, the first step in getting the water out of New Orleans.
On the phone right now is Colonel Richard Wagenaar with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Colonel, how daunting of a task? We‘re looking at some incredible pictures here of the storm surge and the water just coming in. I would imagine this is just overwhelming for you.
COL. RICHARD WAGENAAR, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Well, it‘s not overwhelming, but it‘s an extremely challenging task. We just found another 700-foot levee breach—or it‘s a flood-wall breach at another canal about a mile away.
COSBY: So it‘s about a mile away. How difficult does that make it now that you‘ve got another breach so close?
WAGENAAR: It‘s extremely difficult, considering you cannot access these breaches by land or by water. And we‘re going to have to go use helicopters right now.
COSBY: Tell us about the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers. How many helicopters? How many men and women do you have there involved?
WAGENAAR: I‘ve got about 30 here at a district that have made it back into New Orleans or were here originally. We have big teams in Vicksburg and in Baton Rouge working on solutions.
I‘ve got people on the site right now. We‘ve had helicopters throughout the day, but, you know, that seems to change as priorities—search-and-rescue is probably the number-one priority right now. And so those helicopters have had to come and go based on mission changes.
COSBY: How long is your effort going to take? As you point out, first, they‘ve got to do the search-and-rescue. Just a lot of people, we understand, even some in the attics—even you‘re obviously near the water. Some bodies, unfortunately.
How long until you can really get in and really undertake your task?
I would imagine it‘s going to take, what, weeks, months?
WAGENAAR: I would hope that, once we get something that we know truly will work to plug the holes, it will take two to four days at maximum to close those holes. After that, draining the city will take months.
COSBY: It will take months.
WAGENAAR: Yes, it will.
COSBY: How long do you think, sir? When we talk about months, are we talking one, two? Are we talking six months?
WAGENAAR: Early estimates before the storm were approximately three to six months.
COSBY: All right. Well, we wish you a lot of luck there. It obviously does look like a big task.
Colonel, thank you very much.
WAGENAAR: Thank you.
COSBY: And tonight, thousands of refugees are evacuating New Orleans, which we were just showing you some pictures of. They‘re evacuating on buses.
They‘re leaving the uninhabitable conditions of the Superdome, heading more than 300 miles to the Houston Astrodome, where at least there is running water and there‘s also electricity. You can see some of the buses right there.
On the phone right now is Shea Guinn. He is the president of SMG Reliant Park, which manages the Astrodome. And there you can see—this is incredible, some of the pictures we‘re looking at here. This is the before-and-after picture of the Superdome, just the damage.
I don‘t know if you can see the pictures. Shea, can you see these pictures on the screen?
SHEA GUINN, RELIANT PARK: No, I can‘t. I‘m on the floor of the Astrodome right now.
COSBY: What have you heard? I can just tell you just incredible damage to the roof right there. It looks like the parking lot is pretty well decimated. What have you heard about the conditions that the people are leaving from, heading to your area?
GUINN: We manage the Superdome in New Orleans, as well. And, you know, the reports coming out of there, you know, it was not a good condition. They were doing everything they could to essentially batten down the hatches. And you know, as we all know, it finally came to the point where they had to get them out of there.
COSBY: How massive a task is this going to be? Because we understand, what, 500 buses. As we‘re looking at the pictures of what they had to leave from, this is over a year ago some of the pictures. Actually a little less than a year ago, some of the pictures at the Superdome.
Then also the pictures of it now. You can see folks—these are folks who actually I think are boarding the buses as they head out on a long trek.
How massive of an ordeal is it going to be? And I would imagine food, water, a lot of supplies that you have on hand?
GUINN: Yes, as soon as we got the notice early this morning, we‘ve been mobilizing with state, local, federal officials, and the Red Cross, and a number of other agencies to essentially create a city for 25,000 people inside the Astrodome.
We are bringing cots in with the Red Cross. We are setting up food operations for food tonight when they get here. We will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for all of them here.
The air-conditioner is obviously up and running and on. We are bringing in supplies for water for them. And we‘re going to do everything we can to take care of them and help them out, along with the Red Cross and local medical organizations.
We‘re setting up medical triage. We also are setting up areas for children and infants that are coming in and doing everything we can to help these people out, because the situation they‘ve been in has been untenable.
COSBY: Oh, well, Shea, good luck to you. And, in fact, I‘m going to be headed to Houston in just a few hours. So I‘m probably going to see you tomorrow night there. Thank you very much.
And still ahead tonight, everybody, New Orleans‘ hospitals are in a desperate situation as they figure out what to do with all of their patients. Some of them are too sick to move.
Many people who rode out the storm lived in rural and poor areas. Can rescuers get to them in time? I‘ll ask the director of the Mississippi Homeland Security Department. He‘s coming up LIVE & DIRECT, as we look at these amazing pictures from Hurricane Katrina.
COSBY: As if conditions are not scary enough in the disaster areas, everyone is worried that the shortage of food, water and gas could have normal people turning to violent means in order to survive. Harry Lee is the sheriff of Jefferson Parish, which is just outside of New Orleans. He‘s on the phone with us tonight.
Sheriff, how are you keeping things peaceful there? Sheriff, can you hear me?
SHERIFF HARRY LEE, JEFFERSON PARISH, LOUISIANA: Yes.
COSBY: Sheriff, can you hear me?
LEE: I can hear you.
COSBY: Yes, Sheriff, if you‘re with us—Sheriff, if you can hear me, this is Rita Cosby. What is the situation like from your vantage point, in terms of keeping the peace, keeping things coordinated?
LEE: We‘re having some lack of coordination problems down here. What‘s happening the last few days, the rescue effort has been taking place. And I fully understand that, when you pluck somebody off a roof, and you have to take them to an island of safety.
The only dry place in the area is Jefferson Parish, which is just west of the city of New Orleans. Everything to the east and to the north has been devastated, still under water. So I fully understand that the National Guard is doing a great job of picking up these people, but they‘re dropping them into Jefferson Parish in large numbers.
And they‘ve made no plans or no coordination with us about what we‘re to do with them once they get here. I don‘t have food for them. I don‘t have water for them. The electricity and the water have been cut off since the storm.
We‘re struggling here. And there‘s no way we can get these people—and, we‘re impotent at the local levels and the state level. We just do not have the resources, so we‘re going to have to rely on the national resources.
I think that they have the ability to get these people out of the area totally, not only out of the city of New Orleans and out of Jefferson Parish, but in different states where they can be relocated, because they‘re going to be refugees for a long period of time. There‘s nothing to come home to.
And we can‘t take care of them here, because we have nothing for them. We don‘t have food. We don‘t have shelter. We don‘t have clothing for them. We don‘t have anything for them. And it‘s a really bad situation.
COSBY: Yes, Sheriff, you know, as we‘re looking at some incredible pictures, I can‘t imagine what you‘re dealing with now, no food, no running water. How many people do you have, basically, in your county, sir?
LEE: Well, probably the metropolitan area is four or five parishes, 1.7 million.
COSBY: And how many do you have tonight?
LEE: A lot of them left, because the target of the storm was right at that 100-year storm, the killer storm that we‘re always predicting. And a lot of people were wise enough to leave early on.
But there are a lot of people who were not. People were trapped in their attics and the water—the horror stories about people—they‘re looking out to see the water—and they can just see the water rising.
We have a canal that drains north. Everything in Jefferson Parish, the water has to be pumped out, so the main canal between Orleans and Jefferson Parish is on 17th Street Canal.
Yesterday, there was a big break in the levee on the New Orleans side. And although they survived the storm, because the waters (INAUDIBLE) level, the water came back from Lake Pontchartrain back into New Orleans.
And I flew over it yesterday. And the water was above the roofs. And there were many people still trapped yesterday. And still today, we‘ve not gotten them all off the roofs.
And maybe they did in New Orleans, because I haven‘t been in touch with them the last few hours. They‘ve not began rescuing—I mean, recovering the bodies that were lost. We‘re still rescuing them.
And these people are just backing up in my jurisdiction. There‘s nothing I can do to help these people. What we have to do is we have to get them out of this area totally and get them relocated in an Army base or some makeshift place. But right now, there‘s nothing on the horizon.
And if FEMA has such a plan, they haven‘t shared it with me. I don‘t know what we can do with these people. Early on, about three hours ago, they told me they were going to bus them to an area just north of Baton Rouge, which is about 80 miles from here.
And they have everything, the basic necessities. They have water, and food, sanitary facilities, all of those things they have up there. But they‘re bringing them from New Orleans, which I fully understand they have to, because of the emergency, and they‘re dropping them in my lap. And there‘s nothing I can do with them.
COSBY: Well, Sheriff, I do hope that you get some help tonight. And I do hope that those folks get out of there. And I‘m sure that they‘re very appreciative of you taking them in. And I hope that somebody is watching—some of the federal folks who can get you some food and water in your county or desperately needed areas, sir.
Thank you for being with us. Please keep us posted.
And, even though thousands of people have been ordered out of New Orleans, and also many of them are moving into where the sheriff is, people are still trapped in the flooded city. On the phone right now is John. He‘s a hospital worker at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. If you‘ve been watching our show all week, John was with us a few days ago.
John, what is the situation there like now? You and I have been talking for a few days. I understand it is quite dangerous, quite scary?
JOHN, TRAPPED IN NEW ORLEANS HOSPITAL: Well, we‘ve been out of electricity since 5:00 a.m. Monday. We lost generators Tuesday morning. They‘ve been saying that we‘re going to be evacuated, but nothing has been done thus far.
I know that the nurses and the doctors are doing everything they can with what we have, but, you know, this hospital needs to be evacuated. There are a lot of critical patients, you know. There are probably about 52 in the emergency room and another 50 in critical care.
You know, I‘m not a doctor. I can‘t tell you, you know, exact statistics here, but this is a very bad situation. And these people need to be evacuated. It seems like we‘ve been forgotten about here.
COSBY: Are they aware that you‘re there, John? Are the federal authorities aware? And is there—is it basically almost a state of panic and confusion at this point? I would imagine Monday‘s a long time.
JOHN: I‘m sure the people know that Charity is here. You know, this is a state hospital. I don‘t know what needs to be done. I‘ve seen Army trucks, you know, go passed us doing other things, but nobody has come here to evacuate anybody.
You know, Tulane University Hospital is right across the street. And they were gone as of yesterday. So I don‘t know how that...
COSBY: Well, I hope somebody is watching tonight. I hope somebody is watching and that they get you and the other folks out of there. I understand, John, too, that, since we talked, a couple people have passed, unfortunately?
COSBY: And some have been born? Tell us about that.
JOHN: Well, I‘ve just heard what, you know—what the rumor mill is giving me is that three people have already passed. And, you know, there have been a few deliveries also.
You know, the situation here is bad. I mean, this is something where, you know, a lot of illnesses are going to be borne from the—gosh, I‘m—you know, I‘m—I can‘t describe it. I‘m sorry. I‘m sorry.
COSBY: Well, John, I can imagine you are just totally overwhelmed. And I‘m praying that someone is watching tonight, hopefully someone in the federal government, and they can come in and get you guys some help. We‘ll try to do whatever we can to get the word out about all of you in there.
And we will check in with you tomorrow night. And I hope you have some good news for all the folks in there. Keep up the great work that you‘re doing. And we‘ll try to get the message out.
And still ahead, everybody, keeping the peace, protecting property, and getting aid to hurricane survivors. Is the government up to this unprecedented challenge? You can tell there are a lot of people like John still in dire need. We‘re going to go to Mississippi next. We‘re going to follow this state wall-to-wall. That is coming up, LIVE & DIRECT.
COSBY: For emergency workers along the Gulf Coast, a desperate search is on at this hour to find survivors and get them to safety. Joining me now on the phone is Ed Worthington. He‘s Mississippi‘s homeland security director.
Director Worthington, first of all, I understand you just got an update in terms of deaths and also damage. What are you hearing from your area?
EDWIN WORTHINGTON, MISSISSIPPI HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: Well, Rita, we‘ve got obviously extreme damage, as the governor has mentioned before. It‘s a catastrophic event. But, you know, we‘ve got emergency services, and law enforcement, National Guard, public works, you know, diligently working on this whole effort.
And the word here is patience. You know, this is a very, very difficult situation for any state to be in. And certainly Mississippi, as the governor has mentioned numerous times, has been devastated by this event.
COSBY: Now, I know that President Bush, of course, toured your state from the air today from Air Force One. I understand that you also toured quite a bit of it. What are your perspectives in your beautiful state right now?
WORTHINGTON: Well, I think, you know, the governor mentioned this afternoon—and certainly, I agree with the governor in this particular event—it‘s not just the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast, obviously, is the hardest hit, but the entire state of Mississippi, at least 80 percent of the state, has been affected by this storm or this catastrophic hurricane.
You know, I‘m in Jackson. I‘m just north of Jackson, which is about 160 miles from the coast. And we sustained considerable damage to businesses in Jackson, as well as residence. And my own residence was damaged, as well.
COSBY: Yes, what happened to your own house? I understand, what, a tree?
WORTHINGTON: Yes. Quite a large tree, actually, fell through the roof of the house. But that pales in comparison to what we‘re facing on the coast right now. And, again, patience.
We have got emergency managers down on the coasts. I‘ve got people down on the coasts from homeland security. The highway patrol commissioner is down there, as well. We‘re doing everything we can to bring relief to that area.
COSBY: Well, Director Worthington, our prayers and thoughts are with you. And glad to hear that you‘re getting a lot of help, too.
WORTHINGTON: Well, the cooperation between the federal government...
COSBY: Thank you very much. We‘re looking at some more dramatic pictures.
And again, he was talking about the coordination, because, indeed, it sounds like there is a lot of coordination. Help is on the way, which is the good news.
Coming up next, everybody, who would have ever believed that one of America‘s most important cities would have to be totally evacuated? Where will all of them stay, and what happens to them next?
And here‘s how you can help. Take a look.
COSBY: Of course, all eyes are on the hurricane destruction, but there is some other news to report to you tonight here from Aruba.
There was a big hearing held today for the prime suspect in the Natalee Holloway case. We saw Joran Van Der Sloot going into court, asking if he could be let out of jail, where he has been for almost three months. I spoke with his attorney. And he said that the judge told him that he basically needed more time to make his decision.
But again, everybody, we‘re back to Hurricane Katrina, the big story. The amazing pictures that we‘re seeing tell a story of despair and also of hope, as people are working together to help each other through the crisis on the Gulf Coast.
Here are some of those incredible images that will forever be etched in our minds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to be a difficult road. We‘re dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in our nation‘s history.
There‘s a lot of work we‘re going to have to do. The country stands with you. We will do all in our power to help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And, everybody, I‘ll be in Houston tomorrow night with the flood victims. But right now, let‘s go to Biloxi with Joe Scarborough—
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