Guest: Harry Shearer, William Jefferson, Ivor Van Heerden, Warrick Dunn
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: President Bush orders thousands more troops to secure what‘s left of New Orleans. As thousands of exhausted, angry survivors board buses amid reports that the death toll might be in the thousands.
Good evening and welcome to THE SITUATION. I‘m Tucker Carlson, joining you live from Canal Street here in New Orleans, wearing the same shirt I wore last night. We‘ve been all day here. Survivors are proceeding to leave the city. They have left in great numbers. And as they do leave, it becomes clear the subhuman conditions they‘ve been living in. We‘ve seen some amazing things in the last 48 hours in the city: dead bodies, filth of undescribable magnitude. We‘re going to tell you all about it over the next two hours.
We‘re going to begin tonight with someone who has been here really since the beginning, and that‘s NBC News‘ Don Teague, who joins me now.
Don, what do you know?
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tucker. Well, by this morning, authorities said they had evacuated 35,000 people on buses from downtown New Orleans. They continued moving people out of the city throughout the day. And amazingly, a couple of hours ago, we discovered that both the convention center and the Superdome are now empty.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mighty Mississippi, where Mark Twain once piloted steam ships, this river, he said, will always have its own way. And today, if that‘s true, it‘s good news. Experts say early indications are, even Hurricane Katrina did not block this key navigation channel.
Despite the devastation along the river banks, the waterway was open for business today. But only limited shipping was allowed through. And this is one of the biggest reasons. At the mouth of the river, an island called Pilottown. It‘s in ruins. All of the 54 homes and buildings here are either gone or destroyed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been around for 100 years.
SANDERS: Christopher Blash (ph) is one of the 30 pilots who are responsible for navigating every ship that enters or exits the river here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don‘t even have any infrastructure to contact each other and organize efforts. We‘ve got ships moving right now, though, we‘ve got them going.
SANDERS: The big muddy is sometimes called the “Nile of the New World” because it‘s the busiest waterway in the United States.
(on camera): A quarter of all the grain grown in the United States is exported. And of that, more than half of it makes its way out of Mississippi, the area that was affected by Hurricane Katrina. Not one ship can come or go without the help of a pilot, the pilots who once based their operation here, on call 24 hours a day.
(voice-over): Still unclear, not what you can see but what can‘t be seen, submerged navigation hazards that will take weeks for Coast Guard to find. Tonight, as the song says, that old man river will just keep rolling along.
Kerry Sanders, NBC News over Pilottown, Louisiana.
TEAGUE: And obviously that was NBC‘s Kerry Sanders with a report that was coming up a little bit later in the show. I can tell you that here, downtown, the amazing thing is those hundreds of buses that showed up today really were efficient at pulling people out of the convention center, which was the last mass area where they had people. And the security has gotten better here as well. We have spoken to some residents here. Some people, one man in particular, who has been holed up above a restaurant here for five days, basically watching the restaurant. He‘s a waiter there. He says he thinks it‘s finally safe enough to leave. He‘s trying his best to get out of here tonight—Tucker.
CARLSON: Now, Don, the convention center, I know you‘ve been there, we went today, really some of the worst conditions—or the worst conditions I‘ve ever seen in this country, worse than the sewer. Horrible, horrible. That convention center backs up to the river. I‘ve been wondering for two days why didn‘t authorities evacuate survivors from the convention center by boat, was there ever talk of that, do you know?
TEAGUE: To be honest, I don‘t know if there was talk of that or not, because we‘ve never had authorities to talk to here. The authorities who have been managing this thing have been miles away. And we, just like the people living in this city, when we go to someone for help or information, we‘re going to a cop on a street corner or a firefighter or maybe a National Guardsman coming through.
And they all, basically the same thing, say, we don‘t know. You know, they‘ve been doing their best. They‘ve been doing what they can do. But it has been very difficult to get information here. We‘re professionals at getting information, so imagine the people who are just struggling to survive here.
CARLSON: I‘m really glad to hear I‘m not the only who has had that experience. It‘s still not clear at the end of the week who is in charge. Do we know how many people have died? I know people are still continuing to die. We saw at least one today. Do we have any aggregate number on that, any final tally?
TEAGUE: Well, not even close to that, Tucker. But the governor of Louisiana today said, and reiterated what the mayor here said a couple of days ago, that potentially thousands of people. They expect the death toll will be in the thousands from the New Orleans area. That is a tragedy that I don‘t think anyone in this country would have expected to see here or anywhere in the country, especially with something that you saw coming.
No, we didn‘t have a week‘s warning, but there was a day‘s warning. You know, the media was here in time to know that there was a hurricane coming. And we knew where to go to be at the hurricane. So you would think that some of the authorities in charge of moving the resources in to try to help would know where to go as well. Those questions will be answered over the months if not years to come.
CARLSON: Yes. You would think that the federal government could be at least as organized as MSNBC. That has occurred to us, too. Don Teague, thanks a lot for everything.
CARLSON: As we said, large, very large number of refugees moved out of the city today. We‘ve got a report on that now from NBC News‘ Hoda Kotbe.
HODA KOTBE, NBC NEWS (voice-over): Just drive anywhere in this region and you‘ll see them. Lonely figures, they are making their way out of New Orleans the only way they can, by foot. In the early morning light, they cast a dark shadow on relief efforts that, for them, never came. They are modern American nomads fleeing the anarchy.
(on camera): Are you OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
KOTBE (voice-over): The first person we met was a man was a man with a legendary Louisiana Cajun name, Ricky Breaux, spelled B-R-E-A-U-X. He arrived soaking wet after he swam a mile across a canal to reach dry land.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then once I got there, I kind of threw away due to my other stains, and put my soap in my bucket.
KOTBE (on camera): So this is all you got?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
KOTBE: Right here in this bag?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all I have.
(voice-over): He knows where he came from, a small town just outside New Orleans where he has deep roots. But he has no idea where he‘s going.
KOTBE (on camera): Hey y‘all, where did y‘all come from?
(voice-over): And just as we were talking to him, along came a makeshift family, an eclectic group of young people who worked in the French Quarter, bartenders, tattoo artists, even a horse and buggy driver. They were trying to make their way out of New Orleans for five days and got caught in one squalid dangerous makeshift shelter after another.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were dead people in the neutral ground, they wouldn‘t clean up the bodies. There was sewer everywhere.
KOTBE: Like all of them, Megan Goebel (ph) hadn‘t been able to get in touch with her family out of state.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys don‘t have a cell phone, do you?
KOTBE: Luckily, our cell phone worked this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it‘s ringing.
KOTBE: And her father, a pastor in Ohio, answered.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy? We‘re walking down the interstate. Can you come and get us? We‘re in New Orleans. We‘re looking for a safe spot just to get out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you!
KOTBE: At least now, the group had a plan. A church van with her dad behind the wheel was coming to the rescue.
We saw these four in the distance fending for themselves. These four, though, had been tending to hundreds of victims. Three were nurses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘ve been finding—we‘ve been taking care of patients. This is a life-changing experience. It‘s very disheartening.
It means just that no one had come to help us
KOTBE: Dotty Perlotta (ph), who walked for miles on a bloody foot along with her 15-year-old daughter and two other nurses, were at one of the area‘s flooded hospitals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s no possible way for anybody that hasn‘t been down there in it to know what it‘s like. There‘s no way.
KOTBE: Mike (ph) knows his home is gone, so they‘re all trying desperately to get to a relative‘s house about 50 miles away. But with a gash in his leg, they were barely making it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll get there sooner or later, can‘t take more than five or six days. I‘ve got my feet on dry ground. I have got to get to see my family.
KOTBE: A med tech traveling with “DATELINE” tended to their wounds and helped them flag down an ambulance. It was another group who found that taking a chance by going off on their own was better than waiting for help that might not arrive.
CARLSON: Well, as we‘ve been saying all week, as terrible as the storm damage here in New Orleans has been, it didn‘t get the worst of Hurricane Katrina, other parts of the Gulf Coast did, including Biloxi, Mississippi. Our Ron Mott is there now.
Ron, is it frustrating to the survivors of Katrina in Biloxi that New Orleans and Louisiana are getting the attention they are and not many people are talking about Biloxi. Has that come up?
RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I haven‘t heard that come up, Tucker. Good evening to you. A lot of people here probably had the best day since Hurricane Katrina came through here on Monday, because they‘re beginning to see some basic services come back. You can see all the damage that they have to contend with. This is going to be a daily reminder of what happened here on Monday. The cleanup has begun. A lot of the little areas around the downtown area, the streets have been cleaned out, a lot of the workers from businesses downtown have been brought in, they‘ve been cleaning out their stores and businesses and trying to just get back to normal here.
But I want to show you some gas lines from earlier today. We sat out there and watched the people for three hours, some of them, to get their cars refueled and fill up the gas tanks. One man told me that he came yesterday to stand in a line. Took him about five hours and then they apparently ran out of gas or they shut down because of the curfew here.
But for the most part, people here taking this all in stride. Also, they‘re getting more ice and more water. We want to show you some of that activity today as well, lines much shorter and much faster at these stations. We saw quite a few actually in place that were not in place two or three days ago. And as hot as it is, these are some of the most important items that people were happy to get. Folks coming in from Volusia Country, Florida, the sheriff‘s deputy there spoke with us.
Let‘s take a listen to what he had to say about why people are coming out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there‘s nothing they can do right now. Most of them don‘t have power, water or anything else. And the big deal is they‘re out here helping their neighbors and it‘s calming them some to be out here helping everybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOTT: A lot of folks at home cooped up. They wanted to just come out and be a part of the cleanup effort, the rescue effort here. One man came up to me, I assume he thought I was an official working the line, here. He says, I want to help. I said, well, I‘m not the one to tell you yes or no. He jumped right in and started helping.
So I think the folks here are developing the spirit of community, help one another, get through all of this. And the return of basic services, more power coming on here, people are taking this all in stride and for the most part getting along.
Tucker, back to you.
CARLSON: That is really nice to see, Ron. I noticed in the tape we just put up, your tape, some of the people loading ice into the back of cars had T-shirts that said “inmate.” Are they prisoners and are there federal authorities on the scene also to help or are they relying on inmates?
MOTT: Yes, there were about three or four, that I could count, inmates from the Harrison County Jail. There were sheriff‘s deputies here from Harrison County to oversee that process. But those folks are also presumably in those prisons, very hot. They wanted to get them out to be part of this rescue effort as well. They were very happy to help. So it‘s really a community spirit developed here in Biloxi. And folks say they‘re just going to get through this any way they can—Tucker.
CARLSON: Ron Mott in Biloxi. That‘s really nice to hear. Thanks. Well, next, the federal response. When we come back we‘ll talk to the congressman from the New Orleans area and ask him when help is coming, why it didn‘t come sooner, what next for the city. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: You can see the background over my right shoulder there. That‘s a liquor store right on Canal Street not far from the Harrah‘s Casino, a pretty well-known liquor store, here, actually. It was looted shortly after the hurricane. We interviewed someone today who said all week he has seen people go into the liquor store, spend an hour and come stumbling out through the broken windows.
There isn‘t actually much looting here in the French Quarter. We‘re on the very edge of it on Canal Street, almost nothing in the quarter itself has been broken into, miraculously. I‘m still not exactly clear why. It seems like there were policeman in the French Quarter throughout this crisis in contrast to the rest of the city, most of which was abandoned by authorities, particularly the police.
Well, next up, we‘re speaking to Congressman William Jefferson, the congressman from right here. He joins us now by phone. Congressman Jefferson, are you there?
OK. We‘re having technical difficulties. The phone system is still not fully up and running here in New Orleans. So instead we‘re going to cut and we‘ll come back to Mr. Jefferson. But to Harry Shearer, the great Harry Shearer of Los Angeles, well-known, of course, for his work on “The Simpsons” and many movies, also a long-time part-time resident of the French Quarter here in New Orleans.
Harry, are you there?
HARRY SHEARER, WRITER, ACTOR, DIRECTOR: I am indeed, Tucker. And it‘s good to hear you say that the French Quarter was mainly not looted because reports Thursday and Friday were saying that there was widespread looting in the Quarter.
CARLSON: Yes. I think we went through every street. I know we went through every street in the French Quarter today on foot. And there was a book shop that was looted. There were a couple of convenience-type—convenience stores that had broken windows, people stole cigarettes and beer, but for the most part none of antique stores on Royal Street, none of the art galleries, for instance, was looted, is in remarkably good shape.
But what do you think, as you watch from afar, your city under siege?
SHEARER: It‘s a mixture of—you know, the first reaction after you get through being stunned, it‘s an oscillation between deep sadness, fortunately, everybody I know got out and is taken care of and is OK, and rising outrage and anger. I mean, what we‘ve been watching all week I guess should be called the “Late Late Show.”
And I want to focus on a lot of people are talking about FEMA. Something that just stuck in my craw, when the levee breaches, the flood wall breaches at the 17th Street and the Industrial Canal happened on Tuesday, the ones that nobody could have predicted, and throughout Tuesday, the mayor and the governor were saying, we had an agreement from the Army Corps of Engineers to start sandbagging that breach Tuesday morning as soon as it happened.
And midday Wednesday, I heard a spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers saying on another news channel, we‘re filling sand bags now. That little detail just stunned me out of my seat.
CARLSON: But I mean, isn‘t even on a more macro level, the whole thing is surprising. I mean, you‘ve been coming here for many, many, many years. Isn‘t it a topic of dinner table conversation—I know it is, because I‘ve heard it at dinner in this city, what might happen if a serious hurricane were to hit this city, and that it might become submerged.
CARLSON: I mean, this is not esoteric knowledge. Everyone knows this, right?
SHEARER: That is correct. And there are academic studies up the wazoo about it. I read on a blog this afternoon a piece by a guy who had done a lot of studies about this and said that there were—in Miami at the Hurricane Center, there were cabinets full of surveillance studies that scientists risked their lives to do that the Hurricane Center didn‘t have the budget to go through and analyze the data.
CARLSON: Let‘s—I mean, can we talk about something that hasn‘t gotten a lot of attention over the last couple of days, and maybe now is not the time, but I can‘t resist, and that‘s the city government of New Orleans, famously colorful, has a reputation for being, I‘ll say it, corrupt, very corrupt. I don‘t know—I don‘t have evidence if that‘s true or not.
SHEARER: Well, don‘t just pick on—don‘t just pick on the city. You know, the last three insurance commissioners of the state are all in prison.
CARLSON: Well, that‘s a good point. Do you think that played a role?
SHEARER: I don‘t know. I know that this mayor was elected as a reform mayor, that he spent his first two years in office, with the aid of federal authorities, doing a—I can‘t necessarily say massive, but a fairly well-publicized cleanup.
I think it goes beyond corruption. I think the same question that‘s being asked at the federal level has always been asked at the city level, which is a question of competence. You know, were we seeing people doing the best they could? And were they the best people for the job?
And certainly corruption plays a part in that. But I think it goes beyond just a question of corruption. I mean, we love our corruption down there. Never forget that the bumper sticker for Edwin Edwards, when he was running against David Duke, the ex-Ku Klux Klansman, for governor, was, “vote for the crook, it‘s important.”
CARLSON: That‘s right. And it is true that incompetence always hurts the poor the most. And that has been a principle on display these last couple of days. Harry Shearer in Los Angeles, thanks a lot for joining us.
SHEARER: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: Well, we go now, as promised, to Congressman William Jefferson, who joins us by phone.
Mr. Jefferson, are you there?
REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON (D), LOUSIANA: Yes, I‘m here.
CARLSON: Thanks a lot. What do you make of the cleanup efforts, how do you think it‘s going?
JEFFERSON: Well, it‘s picked up in the last 24 hours, let‘s just say. It‘s just been a tough experience before that. I mean, the biggest deal was to try and rescue people and make them—and we‘re still in a rescue effort. I‘m watching helicopters fly above my city. It‘s absolutely stunning. I‘m astounded that we—with these conditions that are prevailing here that they are, and we‘re trying to pick people out of the water and off their rooftops and from their homes, and it‘s just extraordinary. But we‘re here and we are working at it.
CARLSON: At what point, Congressman, did it become obvious to you that this rescue operation ought to be federalized, when did you think that first?
JEFFERSON: Well, I talk to the mayor pretty much every day. And he was frustrated, completely and totally frustrated about a lack of a chain of command that was reliable. He was made promises and then things didn‘t happen. And, you know, the buses here dispatched, so many busses, and they weren‘t there or the number wasn‘t correct. And we were going to have people filling in the breach in the levee and that didn‘t happen.
There were studies being done as we were trying to get action taken. And so there was a need to have a very orderly chain of command here that - - where you could set expectations and meet the expectations. And that‘s what I think we‘re working with now.
CARLSON: Do you think in retrospect, I know nobody likes to second guess, but sometimes it‘s useful, in retrospect, it would have been helpful if the governor, say, on Tuesday or even Wednesday, had publicly called for the Department of Defense, say, to come in and take over?
JEFFERSON: Well, I don‘t know. I think that it took the president coming down here and him listening to everybody and getting the point of view of all the folks who are involved to get that really done right. If we had turned to the Department of Defense, I don‘t think the president would have had as total an appreciation for all the things we‘re going though down here.
I do, however, believe that there should have been a plan earlier for how to get after this without having to have the president (INAUDIBLE) or (INAUDIBLE) of government intervene. It should have been a more routine matter. Now I understand there was nothing routine about this storm or about the flood, but what I‘m saying is the Corps of Engineers has tremendous expertise, they go all over the world solving problems.
And to not know—to not have a plan to fill the breach of a levee break seems to me something that, as the president said, it‘s unacceptable and it should not have been something we suffered through.
CARLSON: Do you think, Congressman—maybe it‘s early to guess about this, but do you think that people will be held accountable? I know when we have had other national tragedies, the kind of idea has been, well, we‘re not going to cast blame or point fingers, do you think finally someone is going to, say, lose his job for mistakes that have been made?
JEFFERSON: Well, I don‘t know. You know, there are a lot of mistakes to talk about here. The biggest one being—our delegation every year pushed for more and more money for flood control. We already have every study in the world that tells us what we need to do to protect ourselves down here. And we don‘t do it because of budgetary issues, no one thinks it‘s important enough or not national enough. I don‘t know.
But our delegation has been crying about this forever and we‘ve been pushing hard on it. And we‘ve made some progress. But it never is enough. And frankly, the cost of fixing this problem now is going to just dwarf what it would have taken to do preventive measures.
There will be a lot of fixing of the blame, but I think, you know, by and large, I‘m talking about the Corps now, but they‘re getting it right now. They‘re applying themselves, they‘re putting a lot of folks in there who have a plan to pump out the city. And I‘m confident the Corps has it right now. My point is they should have had it right from the very beginning.
CARLSON: Congressman, we are in the 9th Ward today in New Orleans, a poorer part of town, part of which is flooded. We are in the non-flooded part today. And we spoke to residents who said they still, still today.
JEFFERSON: You found another part.
CARLSON: . about three hours ago.
JEFFERSON: You found another part of the 9th Ward?
CARLSON: Yes, we sure did. And residents there said they still had not seen a single policeman or anyone in authority since before the hurricane. We talked to two different people who said that. Is there anything you can do to get law enforcement in there? There were two fires burning uncontrolled, no one on the scene when we were there. Can you do something?
JEFFERSON: Well, yesterday we made an agreement with the president and with all of his people there, the Homeland Security people, all the rest, and General (INAUDIBLE) and today General Honore and all of them, that we would have active duty soldiers and the National Guard soldiers out here kind of taking care of the rescue and the Coast Guard, taking care of the rescue efforts and taking care of getting the people and moving them out.
And then our police officers are back kind of doing their job of getting around town and making sure things are secure. We‘re going to have 9,000 or so regular Army people in here. We have now about 7,500 or so National Guard people. So the numbers are coming and we‘re getting it where we need it.
But—and of course, you know, as the president points out, it had been a long, long time, but when you‘re down here and people are desperate for food and water and desperate to be taken out of a bad situation, I mean, every minute is an hour for them. And we just have to—and every life is precious, and we just have move a little more just faster.
Right now, we‘re getting it together. I believe the Corps is applying itself, they‘re fixing the 17th Street Levee. I went over there yesterday and I saw what they were doing. They were working around the clock on that. And when this chain of command thing gets in place and we can actually rely on a promise, then I think the frustration will go away and we can start focusing on the big issues about getting our—getting the.
CARLSON: I think we may have lost the congressman. That was Congressman William Jefferson who represents this city. Thanks a lot, Congressman, if you can hear me.
We‘ll be joined next by Rita Crosby, who is in Louisiana, in Baton Rouge. She‘ll bring us an update from there when we return.
CARLSON: We‘re back from New Orleans, this is THE SITUATION. We went this morning to the New Orleans Convention Center down by the river where thousands of survivors have been living for the past four days. It was a scene of really almost indescribable filth and squalor. The stench, you could smell it from five blocks away. There were some few people there—still there, mostly older people, people who are injured, some children waiting to be evacuated from the scene.
Out in front of the building, right in the middle of the street, we came upon the body of a middle-aged man, he appeared to be about 40 years old. He had a wedding ring on, work clothes, bearded, and he was dead. He was lying on his back with his eyes open in the street. We‘re not going to show you the footage because it‘s just too disturbing. But he was lie thing, about five feet away from children and he had apparently been there since 11:00 p.m. last night.
We spoke to one of the—several people who were there who had seen what happened. Here‘s what he said happened to the man who was lying dead in the street, here‘s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE WILLIAMS, EVACUEE AT CONVENTION CENTER: He stopped and a gentleman made a move toward the car, for whatever reason. The officer opened the door, and shoots him one time and drives off. And that was it.
CARLSON: After shooting they just drove right off.
WILLIAMS: Yes. And they came back—a city vehicle came back two hours later, covered him up. And another two hours later, a gang of policemen came and did like an investigation, I guess. And they talked with a member of his family. And she gave him the information and thing (INAUDIBLE). And that was that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Well, we should note that when large groups of people gather under any circumstances, rumors start. That‘s how urban legends begin. But in this case, we talked to a number of people who told exactly the same story. They had seen the police, the New Orleans city police, shoot this man and kill him. We‘re not going to say that that‘s true. We weren‘t there. We didn‘t catch it on film. But people who appeared to me, anyway, to be credible, said they witnessed it.
We do know this. This man‘s body was in the street for many hours, many hours. We also know his name, because it was taped to his chest. Somebody had come and written his name and his wife‘s name and their address on a piece of paper and taped it with electrician‘s tape right to the man‘s chest.
But he lay there in a pool of blood in front of children and in front of all the other refugees and survivors filing by for many hours. It tells you the condition of this city. It‘s not something you see in America very often, thank God. But it‘s something that we saw today. It was shocking.
Well, joining us now from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Rita Crosby, who comes from Houston who spent the last couple of days in Houston, which is, of course, a destination of many people who have survived the floods here in New Orleans.
Rita, I don‘t know if you can hear me, but if you can, what was that like with thousands of refugees streaming into Houston, Texas?
RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT”: It was really an incredible sight. As you point out, I left Houston actually a few hours ago, I‘m now in Baton Rouge. But, Tucker, that sight in Houston was incredible. There were more than 15,000 people wall to wall. What happened in the Superdome they promised would not happen again at the Astrodome in Houston, 15,000 people packed into that place.
But at that point, getting food, getting water, getting clothes, so some good news coming out of Texas; and good news coming out of here as well in Baton Rouge, which is the command center. We‘re standing in front of this building here, basically 600 representatives from 75 different agencies, including the FBI, including FEMA, including all the branches of the military. All of them are overseeing the rescue and the relief efforts.
First, some very grim news to report. This is coming essentially from Louisiana‘s governor who came and said to us just a few hours ago that the death toll she expects will be, in her state alone, not hundreds but thousands of people. And when you look at all the damage that you‘re seeing here, you can see how some of those who stayed on could never have survived.
In fact, U.S. officials are telling me that in Louisiana alone, they believe that the death toll will reach approximately 10,000 to 15,000 people, again, 10,000 to 15,000 people. One U.S. official telling me, and again, that is a staggering amount. Some have been victims of violence.
Several buildings in New Orleans have been set on fire, as you can see
there, by many deviants, many gang leaders who are in and about the area we
are told, who are also armed and they are taking shots at officers and
also, these evacuees,
FBI agents here are telling me, Tucker, that they have covert sniper teams on the ground to take back the city. And they say—they tell me, quote, “they will do whatever is within the legal limits to make that happen” as they want control and order back in the city. And they seem to be making some significant headway in the last 24 hours.
Meantime, the pictures and stories of hope and survival. Many of the search and rescue teams leave out of here, they have tremendous success. In fact, the Coast Guard alone has saved 9,500 people this week. What an amazing amount. And we‘re also seeing some familiar faces come to the scene.
Louisiana‘s governor has asked former FEMA director, James Lee Witt, there is the man, you see him there, to be the liaison to FEMA. The current FEMA director, who has been sort of in and out of this area, has been taking a lot of heat. A lot of people saying that they should have responded a lot quicker, that he was ill-prepared, that the whole federal agency structure was ill-prepared and saying that they should have for seen what was happening, should have foreseen, looked at some of the predictions, some of the dire straits that even a guy who I think you‘re going to have later on in the show, a professor at Louisiana State University and some others were predicting, dire circumstances, saying the federal management agency and others turned a blind eye, didn‘t want to see it. So a lot of heat coming to FEMA and some other agencies.
But folks here at least saying good news, relief is on the way. And I‘m sure you‘re seeing it there firsthand, Tucker.
CARLSON: We sure are. What we‘re not seeing in at least one very large, poor neighborhood we were in today is a police presence. I‘m glad to hear that help is on the way. But again it should be noted that today is Saturday, many days after this hurricane struck. And still there are neighborhoods where, according to eyewitnesses we spoke to right in front of their own homes, the police have not yet been. Rita Crosby, live in Baton Rouge, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
Well, one of the parts of the state of Louisiana hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, a place we were the other day, Slidell, Louisiana, that‘s on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain from here. Not that far as the crow flies, but very difficult to get to at this point because of bridges that are out. NBC‘s Jennifer London is there.
Jennifer, how is it there?
JENNIFER LONDON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. We‘re coming to you along Interstate 10 in Slidell, Louisiana. This interstate has been shut down since Hurricane Katrina ripped through this area on Monday. It has been transformed into the nerve center for the sheriff‘s department‘s rescue operation for St. Tammany Parish.
And they tell us this is very much a rescue operation. They are hopeful that despite the fact that it‘s been five days since the storm ripped through this area, they can still find survivors. In fact, the sheriff‘s department says in the past three days they have rescued 160 people. So they continue today to go door-to-door. They have some help from the Louisiana National Guard. They are also going door-to-door. They tell us they are pulling survivors from inside homes and also from along the water. Keep in mind, much of this area is surrounded by the Louisiana bayou.
In other parishes, in some of the outlying areas, St. Bernard‘s Parish, for example, we are being told the situation there is so bad that folks are desperate to get out. And they are finding a way out by finding boats, vessels, we‘re told. They‘re taking to the water and they are seeking refuge here in Slidell.
The concern with that is what to do with these folks. Slidell is already so inundated by such a high number of evacuees that they want to make sure that they can care for the people that are already here while also caring for new folks that continue to arrive on a daily basis.
Just yesterday alone, they say 75 people arrived here by boat. And today, another 32 people also arrived here by boat. So that is what they‘re dealing with. Also, keep in mind there is still no running water. The lights are not back on and the phone services are not working.
They also are starting to do some mobile outreach where they are going door-to-door, not only to search for folks but for folks that they know are there that have been stranded. They are taking them and they are taking them water, getting these basic human services to these folks is of the utmost concern.
They say that while they are hopeful that they can find survivors, the sheriff also says that he is fearful that in the upcoming days as they do get to some of these outlying areas and they are able to start searching through the high debris piles, that they may find some more bodies. The sheriff‘s department is not releasing any casualty figures as of right now. That‘s the latest from Slidell, Louisiana. Now back to you.
CARLSON: Jennifer London in Slidell, a town that was just absolutely creamed, in some places almost wiped off the map, by this hurricane earlier in the week. Well, when we return, we‘ll talk to an NFL player who is all but demanding that his fellow professional athletes get involved in the reconstruction efforts here in New Orleans. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back to our live coverage of THE SITUATION from New Orleans. You can see behind me restaurant, liquor store, part of a building that simply collapsed during the hurricane. Frankly, not many buildings in, at least, this part of town, collapsed under the strain of the hurricane, but that one absolutely did, crushing cars in a rental car agency in—kind of amazing.
Well, the question people are going to be asking for many months, possibly years from now is the obvious one. Why didn‘t they do more since they knew something like this could have happened? Well, our next guest has a very good reason to ask that question himself since he had conversations about this with authorities what might happen to New Orleans. His name is Ivor Van Heerden, he joins us now from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Mr. Van Heerden, thanks a lot.
IVOR VAN HEERDEN, LSU HURRICANE EXPERT: Thank you.
CARLSON: . for joining us. What is the answer to that question, and to what extent were authorities aware large portions of the population here might need to be evacuated?
VAN HEERDEN: Well, July last year, FEMA funded an exercise known as the Hurricane Pam Exercise, Here at the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness. And that exercise was to try and come up with plans on how to deal with just such a scenario. That is, a hurricane that came in and totally flooded New Orleans.
So 12 days were spent putting it together. We went over the scenario as we understood it, which included the need to rescue 30 people—I mean, the need to rescue 300,000 people. And we pointed out if you rescued 30,000 a day, which is a huge task, it would take about 10 days.
We discussed the public health impacts, that the longer people are out there, the more they would suffer. We discussed the chemical leakage. And we stressed the need to consider creating a refugee camp, a tented sort of village, for these people, because this is one of the best ways to deal with such of a large number.
CARLSON: Well, as you know, Mr. Van Heerden, that didn‘t happen.
Refugees were camped out next to I-10 under overpasses living in the mud.
Why wasn‘t there a tent city? It seems an obvious solution.
VAN HEERDEN: I don‘t know. You know, certainly I know the state has done its absolute utmost, our National Guard, the governor, our police force. That‘s a question I can‘t answer. But I‘m sure many are going to be asking that in due course.
All I can say is, we prepared a CD, we gave that CD to White House staff. I briefed a White House member. We briefed FEMA. We fully participated—a number of researches from LSU participated in all aspects of the exercise. I sat down with the search and rescue team for a couple of days. So we really tried to pass on all the information we had.
CARLSON: Now, we‘ve been hearing a lot since we‘ve been in the state and in this city about contamination, particularly of water. It‘s hard not to get wet if you‘re in hurricane-smashed parts of Louisiana right now, but we‘ve really tried not to for fear we‘ll get sick from the water. How contaminated could that water be, do you have any sense?
VAN HEERDEN: It‘s highly contaminated. If you just think about sewage, chemicals, you look at it from the air, there is a sheen no matter where you look. There are pipelines that have ruptured, anything organic in it has now been putrefying, fermenting for days. It‘s highly organic matter, it‘s sure to be loaded with all kinds of bacteria and viruses.
CARLSON: Given how many people have been spending many hours wading through this water, I sense we‘re going to see some sort of, potentially anyway, public health crisis. Ivor Van Heerden, joining us from Baton Rouge tonight, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.
VAN HEERDEN: Thank you.
CARLSON: Well, this city, New Orleans, has produced many, almost countless famous people from Louis Armstrong to our next guest, Warrick Dunn of the Atlanta Falcons. He joins us now by phone from Tampa, Florida.
Warrick, are you urging—it has been reported to us that you are urging your fellow NFL players to donate money to the relief efforts here in New Orleans, how is that going?
WARRICK DUNN, LOUISIANA NATIVE: Well, it‘s starting to come together. What I tried to do is to challenge the players around the National Football League to submit at least $5,000, and (INAUDIBLE) thanks players. And I think we can do that and get the guys to ride together, we can definitely do a lot with that money. And it will be a group effort. So it‘s starting to come together. We‘ll find out more as the week begins. And hopefully by the end of the week we‘ll have this money together and we can start helping people.
CARLSON: Good for you. Now you‘re from New Orleans. Do you know the status of your family member whose are here, if any?
DUNN: Well, I was born in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge. So I have a lot of family members, I have a grandfather who still lives there and a bunch of cousins and aunties and uncles and stuff like that. So the vast majority, I know they‘re safe. We still haven‘t heard from a few people. And I know my grandfather, which I was worried about, I know he‘s doing fine now.
CARLSON: That‘s a blessing. Warrick Dunn, thanks for what you‘re doing.
DUNN: All right.
CARLSON: I know New Orleans appreciates it. I hope you can come back here soon.
DUNN: Well, I hope so. I just think people are definitely looking at the situation, saying the city will never recover, you have to try to rebuild the city. I don‘t like the fact that the government took forever to come in and save people and rescue people. And I don‘t like calling citizens in this country refugees. We‘re not a Third World country. So it‘s an embarrassment from the fact of how this whole situation has been going over the last few days. So we need to try to correct some things.
CARLSON: Hey man, it is an embarrassment, and of all the cities in this country that are maybe not as interesting, this is a genuinely interesting and a genuinely great city, and there‘s no question it will be rebuilt thanks to people like you. Warrick Dunn, thanks a lot for joining us, from the Atlanta Falcons.
DUNN: Thank you. Appreciate it.
CARLSON: Now one of the reasons this city is so well-known to people across America is, of course, the French Quarter, we‘re standing right on the edge of it on Canal Street, which is one of the borders of the Quarter. And, of course, the French Quarter is famous for its watering holes, for its bars and its restaurants and its clubs. We took a long walking tour to the quarter today to find someplace to get a drink, frankly, bottled water in my case, beer for the crew, and we found a single bar open.
It turned out to be a strip club. Strippers had evacuated along with anybody—everyone else. But the bartender was still there. Here‘s what it was like.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I manage the apartment building above it. And the guy who owns the bar, his name is Russell (ph), gave me the keys and said whatever we need from the bar, keep it. So we decided, well, let‘s go down, sit and have a drink in the bar. Well, we‘ve got a little bit of ice left because ice machines hold ice for three or four days, so we‘re about out of ice.
CARLSON: Have you served a lot of beer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we‘re not really serving anybody. We‘re just
sitting down here, relaxing and trying to, I guess, chill and get over the
· what‘s going on because I don‘t know how much longer we are going to be to hold out if we run out of water. We have plenty of food. But water is the problem.
I lived through Betsy. It wasn‘t this bad. And the storm wasn‘t that bad. It wasn‘t really the storm coming through. It‘s what started after the storm. When the canals, the levees breached, and like I told him, the failure of the government to get people down here to help us out. Because I remember in Betsy, we had food the next day after Betsy came through.
We have got to get these people in shelters and get them out. I can survive. You know, I have water, I have food, I have a good, sturdy building. But these people can‘t survive. You know, they don‘t have any income, they don‘t have any water, they don‘t have any food.
And it took them—there‘s still people in the Superdome. This has been four or five days and they can‘t get the people out of the Superdome to Texas.
CARLSON: It‘s a resilient bunch here in the French Quarter in New Orleans. You know, if there‘s a single bar open, everything is going to be OK in the end for the French Quarter and the city of New Orleans. And we think there will be.
Coming up, we‘ll have some of the most powerful images of this week cut together in a pretty amazing montage. There has been no shortage of great pictures and we‘ll show you the best. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Remarkable images that have been captured the last week in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast, some of them will never leave me, some of them will haunt me, actually, including the man we saw today on the sidewalk outside the convention center, dead, untended, his dignity completely gone, seemed to symbolize a system, a cliche, but in this case completely true, that had failed him utterly. NBC News has collected some of the best images from the past five days. We show you a montage of them now. Thanks.
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