Guest: John Scott, Al Sharpton
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, THE SITUATION: The last refugees leave the New Orleans Superdome. The evacuation in the Crescent City finally well under way. But the death toll in southern Louisiana beneath New Orleans may rise well into the thousands, as the flood waters stagnate and buildings burn.
Welcome to a special live report from the city of New Orleans here in on Canal Street on the edge of the French Quarter. I‘m Tucker Carlson, looking at a shot right over my right shoulder of a—what was a car rental outlet totally destroyed by the falling of a building behind it. Like many buildings here in the old part of New Orleans, it was precarious in the first place, old and kind of crumbling. And now it has indeed crumbled.
The good news from this city tonight, most of the refugees, that has become a controversial term here as many residents of New Orleans resent, understandably, being called refugees, it is, after all, their own country and their own city. But that is, in effect, what they are. They are refugees. They are people leaving a zone that looks very much like a war zone. They are being forced from where they live to a place they know not where.
At this point they‘re just getting on busses, getting on helicopters and leaving. So I think we‘re going to use the term refugee. We don‘t mean it in a pejorative way, of course, at all. But that is simply what they are.
And many of them are leaving tonight, as we said, leaving sites that are only now becoming clear. They are leaving New Orleans Convention Center, which is right down this street, not far from where we are standing, and they‘re leaving the Superdome, which is probably about a mile-and-a-half or two miles from where I‘m standing right now.
And it‘s becoming clear as they have gone just how filthy, how inhumane, really, the conditions were there. We walked through the New Orleans Convention Center today. Found things that, hard to believe, take place in America.
Now we go to Marty Savidge—NBC News‘ Marty Savidge, who has been here for a long time, really since the beginning—Marty.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Tucker, the long nightmare at the New Orleans Convention Center has come to an end, but not without one last very difficult day.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): For the desperate, the fastest way out of hell was straight up. In the parking lot of a building that has come to symbolize suffering, helicopters swarmed to carry victims away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to be there a long time before we had food and water. They let us down. There‘s a lot of people died that they let die.
SAVIDGE: But before they could fly, they had to get through the gates. A split-second selection process, carried out by doctors, EMTs and paramedics. The gatekeepers of life and death.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still have to check them in.
SAVIDGE: They scan the frantic crowd that pushes in while armed soldiers struggle to hold it back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This whole thing is a heartbreak.
SAVIDGE: Lieutenant Colonel Connie McNabb (ph) is in charge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our triage is just like we would in a hospital. We can‘t do very much but with the most critical ones, we try to at least stabilize.
SAVIDGE: An elderly woman arrives on the hood of a Humvee. Days of heat and little else have taken their toll. She‘s certain to get through. But things aren‘t so certain down the street.
(on camera): This is the line for everybody else to get out. Many people have been in it since 10:00 last night, hoping against hope to get on one of those.
(voice-over): Once they pass through the gates, some burst into tears or just slump in relief. Many of these people have never been this close to a helicopter, let alone flown in one. But then again, in New Orleans, this has been a week of firsts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, God.
SAVIDGE: The bodies still remain outside of the convention center,
along with a huge mountain of trash, the inside is just filthy with human
waste. And scrawled on a cardboard sign, it reads “the shelter from hell”
CARLSON: Thanks, Marty. It is the shelter from hell, truly.
While there are many, many people still wandering the city looking for loved ones, looking even to find a way out, the evacuation of refugees is by no means complete. NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla has been here for days covering that story.
Here he is.
CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We first came to this neighborhood on Wednesday and went back today to see how things were going. We saw choppers flying low now, perhaps doing searches. But no relief officials in sight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are still a lot of people trapped back there, too.
QUINTANILLA: A dump truck rolls up. A city worker says he‘s taking his boss to check on his house. He lets us ride along. Within minutes we realize this neighborhood has mobilized on its own, rescuing neighbors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People back there dying, we are trying to get them out.
QUINTANILLA: Our truck driver doesn‘t want to stop for them.
(on camera): Sir, you‘ve got a huge dump truck. You can get these people to that street in 15 minutes.
(voice-over): He finally agrees.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t mind.
QUINTANILLA (on camera): OK. What‘s happened essentially is boats have started to converge on us from all directions, and without us really knowing it, we‘ve become a mini evacuation point in the middle of the water.
(voice-over): Some are grateful, others exhausted. Our producer Mark Hudspeth (ph) and several men help the neighbors into the truck, including Helen Lawson (ph). Helicopters evacuated her family but she was too heavy.
(on camera): How hard was it to watch them go away?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said my prayers and hoped that everything is all right.
QUINTANILLA (voice-over): We make the short ride back. Complete strangers prop open the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring it on down, bring it on out.
QUINTANILLA: And they‘re free.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right! Nothing is impossible.
QUINTANILLA: Why are all these able-bodied people still here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason I‘m not going to the convention center is because right now I‘m not the priority. The priority are the people in the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of elderly people.
QUINTANILLA: A handful of heroes just rescued 10 people. It took two hours and they barely moved a quarter of a mile.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Y‘all are going to be in my prayers.
QUINTANILLA: Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, New Orleans.
CARLSON: Well, many of the rescues from New Orleans and the surrounding parishes this week have been from rooftops to which people fled as the waters rose. We are joined by Lieutenant John Scott, who is a pilot and who has commanded 163 of those rescue missions so far.
Lieutenant Scott, thanks a lot for joining us. Are you there?
LT. JOHN SCOTT, U.S. COAST GUARD: Yes, sir.
CARLSON: It‘s remarkable, 163. Is it your sense that there are still people awaiting rescue?
SCOTT: Unfortunately, yes. From our viewpoint, we can see people on rooftops. We can see people in the water. But flying in a helicopter it‘s very noisy. And we heard from other people that we picked up once they got inside the helicopter and were able to tell us, they would tell us that there were other people in buildings next to us that are unable to get onto the roof.
And so we‘re kind of stuck in a position where we know there‘s people inside buildings but we don‘t have any way of finding out that they are in there until someone tells us.
CARLSON: And how do you know where to go? I mean, is there some central database of people waiting to be picked up or do you just fly over and look for people who need your help?
SCOTT: Well, that is how it worked when we first got there on Monday. We hit Air Station New Orleans and touched base there, and then went out flying right away. And there were so many people on rooftops, the first few days, that you didn‘t have to get direction. There was plenty of people to be saved. And we‘d fly as long as we could, until our crew day ran out and we couldn‘t fly anymore.
And you go back at the end of the day and land, knowing that you could still be doing more, but you just can‘t, because you can only fly so long before your body just gives out.
CARLSON: Now you‘re not flying in the desert here, you‘re flying in an urban environment, to say the least, with downed power lines and trees and all sorts of obstacles on the ground. How dangerous is that?
SCOTT: It‘s very dangerous, especially for crews from Houston. We are not familiar with the area, and the first day we got in there along with the weather and then flying into the night, it was pretty nerve-racking. And then on top of that you have helicopters all around you going every which direction, and you didn‘t know what to expect and it was very cautious trying to maneuver through the area and find people.
CARLSON: I know you‘re of course a military pilot. We‘ve interviewed a couple of pilots who are just freelancers who happen to own helicopters and have flown here. You have all these helicopters in the air. Who keeps track of them? Is there an air traffic control that keeps you from running into each other? How do you do that?
SCOTT: The first couple of days there wasn‘t anything. It wasn‘t until the end of the second day that Navy tower was up. But that‘s only a small portion, and that‘s to the south. By the third day, the tower at the international airport was up and running, and by the fourth day, approach control, who controls a larger part of that area, was up and running, as well.
But for the first three days it was pretty much everyone, you know, trying to maintain separation from other aircraft on their own.
CARLSON: That sounds really frightening. Now at this point, say today, tell me about the condition of the people you‘re pulling off rooftops. I mean, it has been a long time they‘ve been out there. How sick are they?
SCOTT: Well, the first few days, most people seemed fine, and they just seemed happy to be off of their roof. But towards the end, the last few days, people are—you know, they are being subjected to 98-degree temperatures, 100 percent humidity, sitting out in the sun all day.
So they‘re in the elements, the worst that you could ever ask for, and on top of that they are sitting on top of shingles which are made out of asphalt, soaking in all that heat, and they don‘t have water. So you can just imagine how bad that is day after day, you know, all day long.
CARLSON: We‘re not able to get any clear numbers or even real sense of the casualties following this catastrophe. Do you have a sense? You‘ve been all over looking down.
SCOTT: It‘s hard for me to give you a sense of casualties, because the majority of the people we see are able-bodied and they‘re up on the roof. As far as the people that are unable to get our attention or are being rescued by boats or other sources, it‘s hard for me to give you that answer.
Like I said, the majority of the people that we saw were able-bodied.
CARLSON: Lieutenant John Scott, you are doing amazing work and dangerous work, we should point out, thanks a lot for joining us tonight on the phone. We appreciate it.
SCOTT: You bet, sir.
CARLSON: When we come back, we go to Leanne Gregg, who is standing by live in Gulfport, Mississippi, another place along the Gulf Coast that is just slammed by Hurricane Katrina. In fact, we‘re going to go to Leanne Gregg right now. We can‘t wait.
Leanne Gregg standing by live in Gulfport, how is it there?
LEANNE GREGG, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tucker. In the middle of all of this devastation today, for the first time, we were able to see some signs of progress and hope. An example was at a homeless shelter. We were there earlier in the week. Such desperation, there was no food, no water, no medicine. There were sick people and it was such a feeling of disorganization and a lack of hope.
Today, even a small donation of some food allowed the people at the shelter, 400 people living there, they were able to have a barbecue, a makeshift barbecue with a grill they had rigged up. They don‘t have any charcoal. So they used wood. They were grilling some fish. And you could just see the mood was lifting. There was a sense of family, of unity. We are all in this together. And as one woman put it, it doesn‘t matter if you‘re rich or you‘re poor, none of us have anything. We‘re here surviving. We‘re in this together.
So along with those small donations of food and water for a dinner at the shelter, also there are some large, massive relief efforts going on here. FEMA, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the military, they are all helping. Of course, 20,000 troops are across Mississippi and Louisiana, 7,000 more are on the way. They are doing everything here in Gulfport, from directing traffic to helping with security efforts. They are building roads, they are clearing debris from the beaches, they are looking for bodies in the water.
So those massive efforts are under way. There are still a lot of problems here. The gas lines, one of them, fuel is a huge problem. One woman I spoke with today said she couldn‘t wait in the gas line because she didn‘t have enough fuel. She would run out of gas before she was able to go get the water and the ice that they needed, because her husband was ill and she had to have those things.
So still, it‘s very desperate here, there‘s no electricity, no phone service, very limited cell service. Of course all of those things, electricity. But for the first time today also the emergency workers of the command center, I saw that the mood maybe had lifted slightly. A look in the eye that just didn‘t look quite as—quite like as much despair as it did earlier in the week—Tucker.
CARLSON: Now, Leanne, as you know, the security situation here in New Orleans has been, in parts of the city anyway, just awful and desperate, and many crimes, many of them violent, have been committed in the absence of law enforcement. What is the security situation like in Gulfport? Has it been OK?
GREGG: It has not been good. They have had a lot of looting. They‘ve had a lot of young people who are rummaging around, and a lot of people with weapons. And we‘ve heard shots fired various times. And the police have come by, they have said, be careful. We haven‘t had any problems directly. But we hear it‘s happening. They have made several arrests. And they are continuing to do that. But not in any way at the scale that is going on in New Orleans.
CARLSON: All right. Leanne Gregg standing by in Gulfport, Mississippi, tonight, live. Thank you very much.
CARLSON: Well, as you can hear, there is a helicopter overhead.
Those relief efforts continuing even now at about 8:15 local time.
When we come back, President Bush, he weighed in again today on the tragedy here on the Gulf Coast. We‘ll tell you what he said. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: . has that.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: God bless you.
ROSILAND JORDAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Surrounded by his defense and homeland security chiefs, President Bush had more praise for the relief effort, but he said again, the government let victims down.
BUSH: Many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans, and that is unacceptable.
JORDAN: So the president said he was ordering 7,200 more active duty troops from the Army and the Marines into the region to help restore order and to expand the search for people missing or trapped.
And he made a promise.
BUSH: We will complete the evacuation as quickly and safely as possible. We will not let criminals prey on the vulnerable. And we will not allow bureaucracy to get in the way of saving lives.
CARLSON: Well, for families here in New Orleans, families who had to evacuate the city, and that means almost everyone, the question is, what to do about school? The schools here are closed, they are closed in many parts of Louisiana. What to do with your children? Many people are moving out of state and enrolling them in other parishes. NBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell spoke to the secretary of education today.
Here it is.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After touring Louisiana, the first lady issued a special plea for the children.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: It‘s really important for parents to keep their—let their kids keep going to school, get them in school, don‘t let them get behind, and also give them a sense of normalcy for their day.
O‘DONNELL: But many children are homeless, and for 200,000 children, there are no schools left.
MARGARET SPELLINGS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: I think we‘re going to have a national issue. These children will end up in nearly every school district, certainly in every state in the country.
O‘DONNELL: Margaret Spellings is the secretary of education and one of the president‘s closest advisers.
(on camera): How long do you think children in New Orleans will be out of school?
SPELLINGS: Oh, clearly it will be months. I mean, we have to assess, as I said, looks like about half the facilities are unavailable. Are they going to be building a school district for 70,000 kids? Are many of those families going to leave permanently? We don‘t even know that yet.
O‘DONNELL: You‘re a mom. What has been your personal reaction to the pictures we‘ve seen?
SPELLINGS: Just shock and you know, to think about what I would feel like—I can‘t even say, if I ended up in the Astrodome with my kids. OK. Stop.
O‘DONNELL: No, it‘s important.
SPELLINGS: You have to know, I really have a feeling for them. I‘m from Houston, so to see all those pictures in the Astrodome, I know how big it is. I‘ve been in the Astrodome 100 times.
O‘DONNELL: And that Astrodome is full.
SPELLINGS: And it is full. You know, so when I hear the Astrodome is full, you think, my God, the Astrodome is full.
O‘DONNELL: Given that, adults can be tough, you know, they can weather this stuff. But for children, this is much harder.
SPELLINGS: They are resilient. I think this is why starting school is so important, is that grown-ups are going to have to try to get their lives back in order. And you know what we can do is help get school started so that they can have some normalcy, some structure.
CARLSON: Well, everyone here—almost every person who lived in this region knew this was going to be a bad hurricane. Many people left—most people left. But some stayed. They have been called foolish. They have been called foolhardy. But you have to admit they are brave. “DATELINE NBC”‘s John Larson caught up with a family who stayed in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Here‘s his report.
JOHN LARSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Look at this. Holy cow.
(voice-over): It‘s bad enough in the day. But Katrina‘s destruction at night is otherworldly. We took a ride through Gulfport, but it could have been any of a dozen towns.
(on camera): There‘s no power, there‘s no lights. You can‘t tell which are inhabited. But for the most part this is a ghost town here.
(voice-over): Mile after mile, one abandoned neighborhood after another.
(on camera): There‘s a lot of sort of Civil War-era mansions along this coast. Not anymore.
(voice-over): What used to be inside many of the most expensive homes here is now often outside. Like elsewhere, there has been looting here. There were few police in the first few nights. Now there are more. And every once in a great while you see a person.
(on camera): How is it going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey.
LARSON: You doing OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Thank you.
(voice-over): And this is when we met Sy Fanneka (ph), who rode out the storm with his wife, Georgia Anne (ph). The Fannekas told us how looters had been in all their neighbors‘ homes, how Georgia even fired the gun Sy gave her to scare one off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I‘m an eighth-grade school teacher. This is not—my husband is very trained in using guns. But he wasn‘t here. I was on guard. So I raised the gun straight up and I shot one time.
LARSON: But mostly they told us how theirs is the only house left standing, and how they barely escaped with their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s an ocean with wind driving the waves with all this debris. It‘s indescribable. I think it would be comparable to being downriver when they were sending the logs down the rapids.
LARSON: As waves crashed through the first floor, they retreated to the second, and then another house hit their own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is when we really got scared, because this was at the height of the storm. And now we‘re seeing—our the south wall is collapsing.
(on camera): And your second storey is gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the second storey.
LARSON (voice-over): Sy raced downstairs, blew out his back door with a shotgun. That released the debris and water pressure inside, tearing the house apart.
The Fannekas then tied themselves together, thinking they might swim for a huge tree outside. It was just as much a desire that if they were about to die, they would die together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we can tie ourselves together. And if we can make it to the tree we can tie ourselves to the tree. And if not, we will be together.
LARSON: We did visit the Fannekas again, this morning, as they were packing to leave. After days alone, their friends had come to help them move, and their son had just arrived. He was home from college.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a sign of life. It was like, OK, life is going to go on and there are going to be people. And it‘s not going to be just us. We‘re not going to be living in a cave. We are not prehistoric people. And we‘re going to have a normal life again.
CARLSON: Well, this is a story, of course, of human suffering, of human triumph, of sadness, but it is also a story about politics and according to some, it‘s a story about race. We will be talking with Reverend Al Sharpton when we come back. He was in Houston, Texas, today. We‘ll ask him about that and what this means politically. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back to New Orleans. Of course the cameras are here, most of them. But a huge component to the story is unfolding seven hours down I-10 to the west, in Houston, Texas, that‘s where thousands of refugees from this city and surrounding areas have been bused in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Our next guest was there today talking to people who had fled the city. It‘s the Reverend Al Sharpton. He joins us now from Florida.
Reverend Al, you there?
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: I‘m here.
CARLSON: Tell me what you saw today in Houston.
SHARPTON: Well, it was absolutely devastating to me. I walked around the Astrodome and talked to scores of people that had left—finally left New Orleans. And the stories they told, how they have been unable to find out if other family members are alive, how they lost everything.
I saw children, babies that now are going to be orphaned. It‘s just heartbreaking. I‘ve been all over the world, Tucker, from Rwanda in ‘94, to Haiti, to Sudan. And to think that we would see this in our own nation is something that I had never even imagined.
And I was glad on a good note to see the faith community there, Reverend James Dixon (ph) and others rise up with Congresswoman Lee and Congressman Green and start a program, Healing Hands, where at a rally today, this morning, I asked ministers to stand up and pledge that tomorrow they will go to their pulpits and ask their parishioners to provide homes for a lot of them that are in the overflow.
And I think the Houston community has come out, Mayor White and others, with a real, real great shot in the arm of morale for these people that are providing housing, they are providing a lot of things, they are working with authorities.
So with all of my criticism of what did not happen, what is happening in Houston from a community level, as well as the agencies, I think is good. But to hear the stories, to hold those children—one woman was nine months pregnant. And she says, I‘m getting ready to bear a child and I‘ve lost all my children, it was just enough to keep tears flowing and your heart throbbing.
America must respond and must make sure this never happens again.
CARLSON: Amen. I agree with that completely. One of the most disturbing things that I saw today in our travels through the city was in the 9th Ward, which, as you know, is not entirely poor but partly poor section of the city, most of which is now under water.
And in talking to people there it became clear that one of the rumors that is spreading in that part of the city is that authorities are attempting to starve the occupants out. That is a direct quote from someone we talked to who lives there. The people there believe that the authorities so despise them that there‘s a kind of conspiracy against them and are attempting to starve them out.
Do you think that those in leadership, in the community here in New Orleans and elsewhere, ought to dispel those rumors because they are untrue and they make people unhappy and distrustful of government at a time when they need to trust government?
SHARPTON: Well, I think that what those in leadership should do is encourage people not to give up, not be given to conspiracies that are not there. But you also—the best way to have people deal with that is to give them tangibles to solve their problem.
You must remember, these people for four days didn‘t know if anyone in the world was ever coming, and then they are brought there, they‘re laid out in cots now in the Astrodome and other places around Houston and Austin and San Antonio, and they don‘t know anything other than what they are being told, which was little or nothing.
They haven‘t been watching television. They haven‘t been listening to radio. They have been called refugees in their own land. So it‘s easy for people to feel like the world is against them, their government is trying to starve them out, when there has been no evidence to the contrary, which is why we must be on the scene, we must talk to them. But we must come to provide things.
We are talking about setting up an orphan program for some of these young people. We are talking about churches providing shelter. We must have solutions. You just can‘t come in and tell them, don‘t believe nonsense when nonsense is all they are getting.
CARLSON: What is going to happen, did you get a sense today, to the refugees—I think refugee is a descriptive term. I‘m going to continue to call them that, and I mean no offense by it. That‘s what they are, they are people who have been forced from their homes.
But to the ones who have—the people from New Orleans who have been bused to Houston, some know no one in Houston, have no family there, they, of course, have no jobs there, they have got no money, they have nothing, what is going to happen to them?
SHARPTON: I think that that is why it was important that we come in and organize the churches and organize community leaders, because some of them will have to assimilate into Houston, at least for the next few months. They are going to have to work in that community. They are going to have to put kids in school in their community, and they are going to have to try and recreate a life, which is next to impossible for many people. But they have no choice.
And I must say, Tucker, the reason why many of them are offended with refugee—I understand you are saying these people are seeking ref he refuge, but it gives the inference that they are not home citizens, tax-paying citizens that are a victim of a catastrophe. They are not people looking for charity. They were in their homes. They were at their places...
CARLSON: Well, of course, of course not.
SHARPTON: . and they were forced out. These are not refugees looking for help.
CARLSON: Reverend Sharpton.
SHARPTON: These are evacuees.
CARLSON: Well, as you know, having—I have been to a refugee camp with you, and as you know, most refugees are displaced through no fault of their own, something happened to them. And of course we mean no offense by it at all. These people absolutely are victims. Reverend Al Sharpton joining us tonight from Florida, having been to Houston, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
CARLSON: Coming up, we‘re going to show you some tape we shot earlier today. We‘ve met a lot of people here in New Orleans and in other parts of the state of Louisiana. But one couple we met wandering down the street outside the convention center really inspired us. These are people who have in a sea of suffering suffered especially. You‘ll meet them when we return.
CARLSON: Welcome back to MSNBC‘s live coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We are here at what may not have been geographically the epicenter of the storm, this wasn‘t landfall, but on a humanitarian basis, this was the very center.
There has been a lot of suffering in this city. And when you are here, totally cut off from the rest of the country, much less the world, it‘s hard to remember that other people are watching, too, that the rest of the world has been responding to what is happening here.
NBC‘s Charles Sabine joins us from London to explain how the rest of the world has responded.
UNIDENTIFIED BBC ANCHOR: Help finally arrives for New Orleans.
CHARLES SABINE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the images of Katrina‘s destruction have unfolded across the world, so viewers have reacted with shock and bewilderment. Not so much at the ferocity of the natural disaster, but that the scenes are coming from within the most powerful country on Earth.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A Third World nightmare unfolding in the world‘s richest nation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can‘t believe a country as powerful and as rich as America cannot respond to its people‘s needs.
SABINE: President Bush has been widely characterized as late to act. Socialists have claimed the fact that the majority of victims are African-American has exposed the social divisions of a superpower. There have been gestures of help, from the European Union freeing up oil reserves, to tsunami-struck Sri Lanka, donating $25,000 of aid.
America‘s closest ally wishes it could do more.
TONY BLAIR, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: This country will stand ready to help in any way that we can.
SABINE (on camera): But more than anything, the world has been stunned by this week‘s events, in the words of one British newspaper: “The sight of a superpower humbled is itself humbling.”
Charles Sabine, NBC News, London.
CARLSON: A superpower humbled. Painful words to hear. Well, if you have been watching a lot of the coverage of the rising flood waters here in New Orleans, the obvious question is, why can‘t they just pump the water out as you would with your basement? Well, it‘s a little bit more complicated than that.
In fact, quite a bit more complicated than that, as NBC‘s Robert Bazell explains.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relief is finally arriving here.
ROBERT BAZELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Even as the National Guard begins to relieve some of the human chaos in New Orleans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This entire area flooded from Hurricane Katrina.
BAZELL: . much of the city remains under many feet of water. That‘s because Katrina demolished levees designed to protect the city from flooding. And officials acknowledged the flooding will remain for a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a catastrophe like this nation has never suffered before, and we don‘t have any experience of this level.
BAZELL: For hurricane experts, the flooding is no surprise. They always warned New Orleans could not stand up to a giant hurricane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the United States there is nothing that competes with New Orleans in terms of vulnerability.
BAZELL: That is because the city, as we have all heard by now, was built on a swamp between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. As a result, New Orleans is a bowl, with huge areas below sea level, shown light blue in this map. A cross section shows how even under normal circumstances, the force of gravity is constantly trying to push water into the city.
Once Katrina punched giant holes in the levees, the city quickly flooded and it only stopped Wednesday when the water level in the city rose to the level in the lake.
(on camera): Twenty-two pumps can drain as much as 29 billion gallons of water a day out of New Orleans. But the storm knocked them all out. The result is that the bowl called New Orleans is full.
(voice-over): The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the levees, which have been there since the early 1700s. Critics have long charged that the effort is underfunded. Today the head of the Corps said it was no surprise the levee broke, though the levees have been upgraded over the years they were never designed to with stand more than a Category 3 hurricane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact it has been through a number of Category 3 hurricanes. The intensity of this storm simply exceeded the design capacity of the levee.
BAZELL: That‘s why with powerful Katrina on its way, officials ordered an evacuation. But real-life experience showed many people don‘t have the desire or the means to evacuate. Officials learned that from Hurricane Betsy, which flooded New Orleans in 1965, and Hurricane Ivan, which just missed the city last year.
Shirley Laska (ph) of the University of New Orleans, who studies disaster relief, says the disaster unfolding now should have been avoided.
: Public officials want to deny that it will happen on their watch. Oh, yes, it will happen, but it won‘t happen today. It won‘t happen in this hurricane season.
BAZELL: The water is there. And it will no doubt damage many buildings beyond repair. The Army Corps of Engineers says it is an unprecedented challenge, because of all the difficulties they are confronting. Some Corps officials say it could take up to 80 days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred-foot gaps, 3,000-foot gaps. Pump efficiency, how many pumps we can get on, availability of electricity. There are so many variables. I would be reluctant to put a number up that I would then have to live with.
BAZELL: And only after the water is finally drained will we have an idea what the Big Easy of the future will be.
CARLSON: Boy, if you‘re looking at that water on television, it‘s so hard to tell just how dirty it is. The stench is unbelievable, filled with chemicals and gasoline and oil and rotting food, raw sewage. It‘s repulsive.
Well, there are many survivors of Hurricane Katrina of course, and each one has a story. David Shuster, who has been in Biloxi, Mississippi, all week, found a particularly compelling one.
Here it is.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We first met 75-year-old George Rockwell (ph) at Biloxi‘s largest shelter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I have a daughter in Baton Rouge named Van Goodspeed (ph). Let her know that I did survive.
SHUSTER: In the shadow of Keesler Air Force Base, his entire identity, including papers, proving his status as a 25-year veteran who served in Vietnam, those papers have been washed away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are in a briefcase, and then even if they got wet, they can be dried out.
SHUSTER: So we invited Rockwell to ride with us to his home for a look. At his house, a simple trailer, he pointed to his Katrina escape route.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kicked this window out and I didn‘t get all the glass, so I cut myself a few places when I swam out of there.
SHUSTER: Rockwell grabbed onto a plastic swing set.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This part of it was sticking out of the water. So I grabbed a hold of that.
SHUSTER: And he clung onto this perch for three hours. He couldn‘t see much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was wearing these glasses and they were covered with mud.
SHUSTER: But he saw that truck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the water was up to “makes moving easier.” I thought it was kind of ironic that that sort of a message would be sent to me, that I was moving, all right.
SHUSTER: When the water finally receded, a neighbor helped Rockwell to that house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s where you spent your first two nights?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first two nights there, yes, with six other people and a dog.
SHUSTER: Inside his trailer we saw the floating couch that kept Rockwell above the storm surge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water was about up to there when I finally decided to abandon.
SHUSTER: And then we looked for his most valuable papers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The all-important briefcase. Is that it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s it. Thank God for that.
SHUSTER: The briefcase, as you can see, was covered in mud and water.
Back outside, the moment of truth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like there is some sort of ID. I don‘t want to touch it because I don‘t want to rip it. Probably all needs to dry. It looks like you have some stuff in there that would be helpful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SHUSTER: The documents will make rebuilding George Rockwell‘s life a little easier. And now with his briefcase, this survivor is moving on and looking ahead.
CARLSON: It‘s a great story. David Shuster comes off as a good guy on television because in real life he really is.
We are standing in the street today in New Orleans, looking for people to interview. And down the street about half a block we saw a woman—an older woman in her 60s pushing a man in a wheelchair. She approached us and asked us where the helicopters were, they were hoping to leave the city. We asked her her story. She told us this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After this storm happened, we had to first fight our way out of our house because we were trapped in the house. By the grace of God, a boat came through there and got us out of there. Because I was about ready to take a swim out.
And the next thing I know, we got in the boat, they brought us to Franklin on-ramp. From the on-ramp we got on the bridge, and we had to walk the entire bridge to the dome. That‘s where they told us they was letting everybody go to the dome. We got to the dome. They refused to let people in the dome.
They had all the medical charity hospital units sitting right there on the side of the bridge, wouldn‘t give nobody no assistance, nobody no nothing. How do you have all these medical people out here, all these policemen out here and nobody can‘t give you no assistance?
They can‘t even tell you where to go get assistance. This is pathetic. My feet look like boots, man. I‘m sitting up here in pain. Man, this is hell. You think the storm was bad? Sitting up in this place at night, pitch black, no power, these people shooting—man, I saw so many bodies come out this place, I have seen more come out of this place than I saw in the morgue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Young kids, young children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, they had people shooting in there, fights breaking out. We were up here thinking that the dam had—some river gate had bust open, somebody hollered the water was coming, man. Man, they just -- I‘m surprised I‘m still alive, man. I‘ve got nine lives I guess, 10. It‘s something, man, because I didn‘t believe I could have—I made it through all this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: . I‘m all right, because I know they‘re worried about me. Camille, Michael and Gary, I‘m all right, baby. Mama will be home. Love you all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made it.
CARLSON: Imagine being trapped inside a shelter here. It‘s hot, over 100 degrees, wet, people using the floor as the latrine. It‘s dark, shots ring out, you hear screams. And somebody says “the water is rising.” you believe you‘re going to drown, but there is nothing you can do about it because you‘re in a wheelchair. That was their experience. They seem remarkably calm and hopeful and happy regardless. Amazing.
When we come back we will introduce to someone else we met, a Vietnam veteran, a man who seems like many here, surprisingly, remarkably hopeful about the future and grateful to his government. You may be surprised by it. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. Many of the survivors we‘ve met can be forgiven for feeling bitter and hopeless. And they even have very little to feel hopeful about. But every once in a while you run into someone who, for reasons that are almost inexplicable, is filled with hope and filled with gratitude. Our cameraman Mark French (ph) was walking down the street today and ran into one such man.
Here‘s what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) from the beginning, how we conceive ourselves, even though we are separated from (INAUDIBLE), we fought. When we ran out of wars, nobody wanted to fight us (INAUDIBLE). This country wants to fight everybody. We didn‘t have anybody to fight. Nobody wanted to fight us.
So we said, what the hell, north-south, blue-gray, let‘s go at it against each other, we ain‘t got nobody else to fight. Then we can settle the savior problem. So it has been that way ever since.
My message to my country, my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, I love you.
CARLSON: Amen. The lesson of Hurricane Katrina, its aftermath, pretty obvious. Government failed at all levels: local, state, and federal. But there is time for it to redeem itself. Rebuild this city. Rebuild this region. That‘s the measure of what you‘ve done.
Thanks for joining us tonight. We‘ll be back covering this, every moment of it. Good night.
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