Guest: Rodney Alexander, Mark Levitan
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Well, the cavalry has finally arrived and New Orleans is practically a ghost town. But now a rescue chopper crashes in the same area where just a few hours ago we were reporting that gunmen shot at contractors who were sent to repair a bridge. The Fallujah-like firestorm ended up killing five people.
Our reporters are live with the very latest on the rescue effort from New Orleans to Biloxi and all across the Gulf Coast region. I‘m Joe Scarborough and this is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina, “Crisis and Recovery.”
Breaking news right now out of New Orleans, Louisiana, tonight, here‘s a look at some of the stories coming out of that hard-hit city. Nobody is calling it the Big Easy anymore.
A very close call just an hour ago when a civilian helicopter contracted by the Army crashed in New Orleans. Now, reports are tonight that both crew members walked away safely. And earlier this evening, police shot and killed four looters after they opened fire on the officers. Let‘s get the very latest from NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla. He‘s in New Orleans tonight—Carl.
CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Joe. As you know, an exceptionally chaotic day for the city of New Orleans, not just with fires in neighborhoods like this one, but also sporadic shootouts, especially in rough neighborhoods. It‘s part of a violent day that we were able to witness firsthand.
QUINTANILLA (voice-over): Chasing these alleged suspects, police today were forced to stop escorting a convoy of rescue boats. The suspects and an officer are injured.
(on camera): It‘s this kind of urban warfare that makes life even more difficult for those trying to rescue and deliver relief. How are they supposed to get to people when they‘ve got to go through gunfire on their way there?
(voice-over): These construction workers will poke a hole in a levee, allowing millions of gallons of water to drain, but their police escort had to leave to provide backup at the firefight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re more or less stuck right here in the middle right now.
QUINTANILLA: Not every holdout is violent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill them (ph), kill them (ph).
QUINTANILLA: Rescuers listened for the stranded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello!
QUINTANILLA: But often meet the stubborn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What am I going to do? I‘m going to go down to the Superdome and stand up and burn up down there? I‘m nice and cool now.
QUINTANILLA: As rescuers mark evacuated streets, avoiding obstacles above and below, even firefighters carry guns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there are gangs roving around different parts of the city.
QUINTANILLA: In a catch-22, the sporadic violence actually discourages some from leaving. This man being rescued may be gone for months so his wife hounds him to lock the house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you closing that door?
QUINTANILLA: Concerns about security among the rescued and the rescuers as New Orleans struggles to keep order.
QUINTANILLA: Now the one police officer we were able to talk to after that firefight said he has seen five since Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Now he said today‘s was the worst—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Carl, thanks a lot for the report. Boy, I tell you what, this is a city under siege right now. I can‘t believe that image of that one man, he‘s standing up on top of his roof and he says he‘d rather stay up on top of his roof with his ground five feet under water than go with authorities and go into the Superdome. That tells you about how much confidence the people of New Orleans have in those that are trying to rescue them tonight.
NBC‘s Don Teague is also in New Orleans tonight. Don, get us up to date with the very latest.
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Joe. I want to show you what‘s happening behind me. Scenes like this have happened throughout the day. We have watched boatloads of victims arrive here in the Garden District as the operation to rescue this city continues.
TEAGUE (voice-over): In 48 hours, downtown New Orleans has gone from uncontrolled chaos to a state of lockdown. Most streets deserted except for a few holdout residents. They‘re seemingly outnumbered by soldiers and police officers who have taken over. In flooded areas, the rescues continue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is ground below zero.
TEAGUE: The daily tally of those pulled from submerged homes still in the hundreds. Rescuers saved these people this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is water everywhere, up to the roof, up to the ceiling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Up to the ceiling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty feet, that and to the roof.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were fighting for our life.
TEAGUE: The death toll too is rising and taking its toll on those trying to save lives. At least two New Orleans police officers have committed suicide, 200 more have reportedly walked off the job. But this city will survive on its faith and hard work.
They‘ve already started cleaning up the monumental mess left by the storm and its victims.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s not a lot we can do but we‘re doing what we can.
TEAGUE: And hotels are bringing in their own power and preparing to reopen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like we‘re moving forward.
TEAGUE: If for no other reason than to prove a point.
TEAGUE: Well, Joe, as you know, there is a strong resolve here to survive and for residents that means making New Orleans the great city once again that it‘s always been—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, Don. Greatly appreciate it. You know, I just looked at that image of somebody sweeping leaves to the side, it reminds me of when hurricanes come through here and the monumental task that we face in Florida and yet what we faced in Florida over the past several years, it just bears no resemblance to the hell the people of New Orleans are going to be going through, I would guess, for the next two, three, possibly five years in trying to reclaim their city.
Now President Bush is going to be paying a visit to the Red Cross. Actually he paid a visit to the Red Cross this morning, and as you know a lot of people are very angry with the White House‘s response and by state leaders‘ response to Katrina.
But now the White House appears to finally be jumping into action. Ros Jordan is at the White House with the very latest on the president and on his day.
Ros, what‘s the latest at the White House?
ROSILAND JORDAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, the latest is that the president is getting up very early tomorrow morning to head back to the disaster region, specifically Louisiana and Mississippi, so he can see firsthand how the recovery effort is going.
He did say several times this past week that it was unacceptable, the results of what had been done so far, even though he was careful not to downplay or denigrate the efforts of the recovery workers themselves.
The president today, as you noted, did pay a visit to the Red Cross headquarters here in Washington to thank the volunteers who were giving up a holiday weekend, we should remember, to try to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
After he toured, he did speak very briefly to reporters and he said that it‘s important for all Americans right now to contribute something to relief effort for the victims of Hurricane Katrina if it‘s simply a matter of their time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people‘s lives have been affected. I know much of the country is focused on New Orleans, Louisiana, but parishes outside of New Orleans have been ruined. Up and down the coast of Mississippi, communities have been destroyed, so we need more manpower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: Now, Joe, as you indicated, there has been widespread considerably bitter criticism of the Bush administration‘s response to Hurricane Katrina. Many people asking, both Democrats and Republicans alike wanting to know, did the federal government do everything it could have done before Hurricane Katrina crossed the Florida peninsula and entered the Gulf of Mexico?
The government‘s response right now is we did do everything that we thought was reasonable, given what we knew about the storm at the time. The flood that happened in New Orleans early Tuesday morning was unforeseen even though there is considerable evidence suggesting that the federal government knew that there was a real probability of the levees breaking in New Orleans, leading to the massive flood in New Orleans.
The government is saying it is trying to do everything possible, sending in active duty troops to help with the rescue effort, sending in billions of dollars to try to start paying for the recovery, something that is probably going to run into the hundreds of billions of dollars by the time this is all over, if indeed it is ever over.
And trying to also deal with the political perception that perhaps because the people who live in New Orleans are largely minority and largely poor that perhaps they weren‘t as much of a priority. So the administration does have its hands full trying to counter this perception—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I‘ll tell you what, Rosiland, they have—and this is my opinion, not yours, but they have a long way to go to counter that perception. This has obviously been the president‘s worst political week of his presidency. And so I‘m sure they are going to be all deployed down there for some time. Rosiland Jordan at the White House, thank you so much. I greatly appreciate the report.
Dramatic rescues continue in New Orleans tonight. We have got NBC‘s Michelle Hofland down there again joining us. Michelle, get us up to date with the rescue efforts.
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, military and civilian rescue crews, Joe, today descended on the floodwaters in and around the New Orleans area. And out of those flooded homes and out of all these rescues a number of very interesting stories.
There is one person that we spoke with just after he walked out of—off the boat and out of the floodwaters where he has spent six days. This man‘s name is Roux Merlot. He tells us that he intended on staying there, he always wanted to live through a hurricane and experience a hurricane, so he loaded up on four cases of water, lots of food, cigarettes, he was ready to go.
And he kept track of all of his information, a diary of his experiences there. He said that at one point he took a whole day to blow up an air mattress and that he put that into the water because it was five or six feet deep, he was living in mid city New Orleans, used a broom and used it as a boat to float around and talk to his neighbors and make sure everyone was doing all right.
He describes that there was one neighbor who had a boat who was driving around, got a hold of the man who owned the grocery store and was buying food for all the people and delivering it to everyone in the neighborhood.
He said though that today he had his plan that this was the day that he was going to leave. He said it was really smelling in his house and that actually he had kept fairly clean, he had his bathtub that he‘d filled up, he was washing and shaving every single day, but knew that this was the day to get out.
What he said though was on the boat ride as he was leaving he was surprised at the number of people who were refusing to leave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROUX MERLOT, EVACUEE: One lady was determined not to leave between Murat and South Alexander on Canal Street. She was on a rocking chair on her porch. We had to leave her because she was not moving.
A guy from the Marines went up to go talk to her and she goes, I‘m not leaving. We winded up leaving her and leaving her on the porch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOFLAND: He said though that on his boat—he was so surprised there were 40 people just on his boat alone. He couldn‘t believe all the people that were going and begging the people to come with them but that he said that even the people who were reluctant to leave their homes really were grateful once they‘d been on the boat and relaxed and were on their way to dry land.
One other brief—quick rescue to tell you about, yesterday some people came up to us and said that they had just left a school and they had left behind women and children and elderly.
They tried to care for them but they knew they had to get help because no one knew they were there. So we contacted the National Guard, got them in touch, and then today we spotted a whole bunch of people gathered near the convention center. We asked them where they had been rescued from and they said, we were in this school.
It was the exact same school that we had told the National Guard. What they told us is that late yesterday the National Guard descended on them. They had chopped a hole in the roof of the school with an axe that they found in the school, were waving American flags outside the window.
The National Guard descended on them, airlifted out—apparently the National Guard couldn‘t believe the number of sick and elderly, got the sickest and the people that really needed the help out last night, dropped in tons of food, some MREs and things and water for the people in there. Then today they went back and rescued all the rest of the people. So those people are safe tonight.
But, Joe, today begins the grim, grim task for the people around here to rescue—to recover the bodies of the people who died in the Hurricane Katrina and the floods. The governor now fears that the death toll could be in the thousands. Back to you.
SCARBOROUGH: And what a grim, grim recovery process that‘s going to be. Michelle Hofland, as always, thanks so much for your report in New Orleans.
And, you know, LSU again is projecting tonight that as many as 10,000 souls may have been lost when this hurricane came onshore, the floodwaters rose up, and those levees broke. And of course we had reports, the National Geographic in 2004 and other science magazines going back four or five years, predicting this exact thing would happen. And yet our government did nothing.
Now when we come back, we‘re going to be hearing from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. His department of course has faced a storm of criticism for their slow response of aid to the people of New Orleans. And today, he took a first-class grilling from Tim Russert. That‘s coming up after this break.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, I spent most of last week in hard-hit Biloxi, Mississippi. And I‘ve just got to tell you of all the hurricanes I‘ve been through since 1978, all the damage I‘ve seen not only as the resident of northwest Florida but as a reporter that‘s gone around the state and the Gulf Coast region and as a member of Congress, and helped—and as a part of recovery operations, I‘ve just never seen anything that‘s even come close to what they experienced in Biloxi and other areas around there.
Right now in Biloxi is Mike Taibbi. He‘s there with the very latest. Mike, what do you have for us?
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: With the military helping hand, this city of 55,000 is ever so slowly beginning to pull itself up off the mat but it may never reach its full height again.
(voice-over): Laden with supplies and gear, hovercraft from the assault ship Iwo Jima hit the beach at Biloxi, even as the stricken city you some saw some power restored. And this Army Air National Guard helicopter scoured the most isolated corners of the coastline, finally getting food, water, ice and baby supplies to those in need.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the most supplies we‘ve had to distribute. This is fantastic now.
TAIBBI: But morgue teams are also getting ready to begin the process of identifying the dead, likely hundreds of victims by one official estimate. And then there is the loss of whole chunks of the city‘s history and its immediate future. Because of the growth of casino gambling, Biloxi‘s 6,000 hotel rooms and 1,000 condominium units were going to triple in the next few years. Not now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were on the verge, we were on the cusp of just a whole new level of growth. And those things, you know, they are just all on hold right now.
(on camera): At the moment, only two of the nine ruined casinos is even hinting they night soon have a plan to reopen and then not for six months at the very least.
Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Biloxi, Mississippi.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much, Mike. Greatly appreciate it.
Now Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, he may have made a mistake this morning when he appeared on NBC‘s “MEET THE PRESS.” He took a beating from Tim Russert. Why don‘t you take a look right now.
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”: Are you or anyone who reports to you contemplating resignation?
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: You know, Tim, what we‘re contemplating now is the fact that we are very, very much in the middle of a crisis. There‘s a bit of a sense that you get that some people think it‘s now time to draw a sigh of relief and go back and do the after-action analysis, and there‘ll be plenty of time for that. We obviously need to look very closely at things that worked well, and many things did work well, and some things that didn‘t work well, and some things did not work well.
But we have to remember that we have an enormous challenge ahead of us, and there‘s not a lot of time to get ahead of it. We have basically moved the population of New Orleans to other parts of the country, or we‘re in the process of doing so. We‘ve got to feed them. We‘ve got to shelter the people. We‘ve got to get them housing. We‘ve got to educate their children. We have to de-water the city. We have to clean up the environment. We‘re going to have to rebuild. Those are enormous, enormous tasks, and we can‘t afford to get those messed up.
So what I‘m focused on now and what I want my department—in fact, what the president has ordered all of us to be focused on now is, what do we need to do in the next hours, in the next days, in the next weeks, and the next months to make sure we are doing everything possible to give these people succor and to make their lives easier?
RUSSERT: Mr. ...
CHERTOFF: We will have time to go back and do an after-action report, but the time right now is to look at what the enormous tasks ahead are.
RUSSERT: Many Americans believe now is the time for accountability. The Republican governor of Massachusetts said, we are an embarrassment to the world. The Republican senator from Louisiana, David Vitter, said that you deserve a grade of F, flunk. How would you grade yourself?
CHERTOFF: You know, Tim, again, I‘m going to—the process of grading myself and grading everybody else is one that we will examine over time. I will tell you that my focus now is on what is going to go forward. What would really be—require a grade of F would be to stop thinking about the crisis we have now so that we can start to go back and do the after-action analysis.
There are some things that actually worked very well. There are some things that didn‘t. We may have to break the model that we have used for dealing with catastrophes, at least in the case of ultra-catastrophes.
And let me tell you, Tim, there is nobody who has ever seen or dealt with a catastrophe on this scale in this country. It has never happened before. So no matter what the planning was in advance, we were presented with an unprecedented situation.
Obviously, we‘re going to want to learn about that. I‘ll tell you something I said when I—a month ago before this happened. I said that I thought that we need to build a preparedness capacity going forward that we have not yet succeeded in doing. That clearly remains the case, and we will in due course look at what we‘ve done here and incorporate it into the planning. But first we are going to make sure we are attending to the crisis at hand.
RUSSERT: So no heads will roll?
CHERTOFF: Tim, in due course, if people want to go and chop heads off, there will be an opportunity to do it. The question I would put to people is what do you want to have us spend our time on now? Do we want to make sure we are feeding, sheltering, housing and educating those who are distressed, or do we want to begin the process of finger-pointing?
I know that as far as I‘m concerned I have got to be focused on, and everybody else in this government, and the president has made this very clear, we have got to focus on moving forward to deal with some very real emergencies which are going to be happening in the next days and weeks because of the fact that we have to deal with an unprecedented movement of evacuees.
RUSSERT: Senator Vitter, the Republican from Louisiana, said the death toll could reach 10,000 because of the lack of response. Do you agree with that number?
CHERTOFF: You know, I understand, first of all, Tim, that—and I‘m clearly including myself among this group, many, many people are frustrated and very distressed by what happened here. Obviously, every minute matters in a situation like this. I think I said that we are racing the clock. But even with that sense of frustration and being upset, I don‘t think that I‘m in a position to start to speculate and guess about what the numbers will be.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, I agree with the secretary that every minute does count. That‘s why it was so frustrating over the past week to see the federal government, the state governments and the local governments dragging their feet when you knew, you knew that every hour that passed by that the poorest, the weakest, the oldest, basically the people that needed the most help would be the ones that would be suffering and possibly dying.
That delay did cause deaths and I don‘t want to see people‘s heads roll. The secretary saying there are a lot of people out there that want to see heads roll. I don‘t want people‘s heads to roll. I just want them to do their job.
We pay the director of FEMA, we pay the head of the Homeland Security Department to protect us in our time of need. And when you have a situation like this hurricane, it gets no more serious than that, and that‘s why their feeble response is such a disgrace. Somebody does have to get fired.
We need accountability, we need to know what went wrong so the next time a hurricane hits my hometown or your hometown or anywhere up or down the Gulf Coast or up East Coast, we‘ll know that we‘ve got efficient operators out there like, face it, Jeb Bush.
When Jeb Bush is in the middle of a hurricane you know you‘re going to get taken care of. Unfortunately the only thing we know right now is that we‘ve got government officials that are just going to be pointing at each other for the next five, 10 years, trying to take the blame off of their shoulders.
But if you‘re the president of the United States or you‘re the governor of Louisiana, you‘re the governor of Mississippi, got bad news for you. A guy named Harry Truman had it right when he said, “the buck stops here.”
A lot of frustration, a lot of devastation. But there is good news. Out of the devastation we are beginning to see some rays of hope. Like one that—one woman that NBC‘s Ron Mott met in Biloxi. Take a look at that story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You‘ll be taken care of.
RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not even the most graceful pirouette can match the gritty beauty of the move made by this ballet teacher on Saturday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went in front of mayors, I went in front of police chiefs, anybody that couldn‘t help, I went, next. I just couldn‘t take it anymore. So look what one person can do.
MOTT: Bloodworth (ph) and a partner organized five dozen doctors and nurses from Alabama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘ve got it covered here, don‘t worry.
MOTT: Complete with medical supplies, snacks and a hearty dose of hope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here to offer transport to them.
MOTT: To help people in Mississippi left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why am I here? Because of the human suffering and everything. It was just breaking all of our hearts and we wanted to do something.
MOTT: Bloodworth says the volunteers along with other supporters paid the tab for this literal grassroots outreach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a treat them and leave them mission. It is an urgent rescue effort to take people away right now both physically and emotionally from all this devastation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I‘m glad to get out of here and get a decent place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Air conditioning, your own room, bed.
MOTT: Four hundred fifty storm victims are being evacuated to an air conditioned shelter in Georgia, a welcomed escape from this stifling school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s devastating. People have lost loved ones, they can‘t decide whether they should stay in these hellholes or they should go back with us to civilization.
MOTT: On Thursday Bloodworth rolled into another southern Mississippi town, evacuating more than 300.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are dying. That‘s all I can say, they‘re dying.
MOTT: A ballet teacher not willing to dance around the issue anymore is moved to action.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.
Ron Mott, NBC News, Biloxi, Mississippi.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, that‘s actually—that happened I believe the day or two after our group from Pensacola dropped supplies off there and it was a hellhole in that school in which of course we brought you that news earlier.
A little update, a sad update on the story. That before those people were evacuated, 20 -- you got dysentery because they were drinking out of—and it was just a rusty pipe. It was a rusty pipe. That‘s all they had to bathe with, all they had to drink water from the opening days of this. And because of it, 20 hospitalized for dysentery, that according to the Associated Press this weekend.
Now when we come back, much, much more as we continue to trace the chaos and the recovery that occurred after Hurricane Katrina. When we come back you‘re going to be—see amazing video from MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby, who toured the damage in New Orleans by helicopter earlier today.
SCARBOROUGH: I remember the first days after this hurricane hit there were some people reporting on Bourbon Street, they were pointing at shutters and making a big deal about the fact that some wooden slats were falling off of shutters on Bourbon Street.
I said, you really need to get above the scene. If you want to get perspective on a hurricane you can never do it on the ground floor. You have got to get up in the air and when you do, you understand the extent of devastation. Well, that‘s exactly what we found out later.
We‘ve got the helos up and by the end of Tuesday we saw just how horrendous the situation was in Biloxi and New Orleans and across the entire region. MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby got up in the air today. She joins us now from FEMA headquarters in Baton Rouge.
Rita, tell us about what you saw today, some incredible moments up there, huh?
RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT”: It really was amazing. And as you point out, we‘ve been covering this the past week or so, covering the storm. But nothing is like seek it firsthand. And I‘ll tell you, it brought tears to my eyes, Joe, to see that this is the 35th largest city in America and now it is really under water. You can see some of the pictures.
These are actually refugees. We actually went on a search and rescue mission and we actually saved a number of refugees. Some of these folks who were out in the hot temperatures, scorching hear, no water for days.
But when we went up in the chopper, just gut-wrenching to see, Joe. I mean, you could barely see the rooftops of some homes and it‘s just astounding. I mean, I‘m amazed that almost—so many people got out alive. And of course we also saw some dead bodies, so many people did not get out alive.
And it‘s just—it is incredible, just the overwhelming amount of devastation, the overwhelming amount of damage. And, Joe, as you can see here, it‘s not just a little isolated area. This is a vast area. One of the guys I was flying with, and I was with the Texas National Guard, they estimate it‘s about 10 square miles, thousands upon thousands of homes.
And when you see it, Joe, it is gut-wrenching. You don‘t know—I can‘t even imagine these people coming back to their homes, what their homes are going to look like, even the ones that are barely standing, they‘re broken, holes all over the place, and know that so many of these people are not going to have anything to come back to.
It‘s going to take forever. The first step is building up the levee, getting the water out, but it‘s going to take months if not years to rebuild that city, or at least to be back to some sense of normalcy.
SCARBOROUGH: Rita, it had to be surreal for you to be up there in the helicopter. If you could, take Americans inside the helicopter, talk about the men and women that were performing the rescue operation, what was the mood of the people in the helicopter, what were your thoughts as a reporter there?
COSBY: Yes, you know what, Joe, these people—I‘m glad you brought that up because these guys and women are just incredible. And the chopper that we went on, as I mentioned, with the Texas National Guard, we actually had three members of the Guard with us, they‘re based out of Austin, Texas.
We also had two border patrol agents heavily armed, you can see them there. And they had to be because remember some of these choppers are taking fire. They prepared me and said, Rita, we may come under heavy fire at certain points. This is still urban search and rescue operation. They go into some of the parking lots and the deeper areas where there is a high concentration of still some people. And they said, get ready for the worst.
Luckily we didn‘t encounter it. But in addition to that, they also have an emergency medical technician who takes care because now after six days, even the best person, even the person who is the most healthy going into this is exhausted, tired after no food, no water, just intense heat. And they also saw some people who are in pretty bad condition.
One of the guys that we picked up, and we‘re going to show you tomorrow night on our show, had a huge gash in his head. Lots of pretty severe injuries from people who were just trying to get out—you know, just like the tip of the iceberg, trying to get out with their lives.
But the men and women in these choppers, Joe, dedicated, firm, so proud to be there. These guys are from the Texas National Guard. I also interviewed the head of the Louisiana National Guard. And that in and of itself is an amazing story.
Half of those guys have not been located yet. They believe they‘re alive but have not been able to communicate with each other because their main headquarters has been decimated, all their homes have been decimated, and these guys aren‘t thinking about their own homes. They‘re up in the chopper with us going on search and rescue missions. So talk about dedication and Americans helping Americans.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I‘ll tell you what, that is—we, obviously, Rita, have been let down. I‘m speaking for myself and not you. A lot of people believe we‘ve been let down by our government, not only the federal level but on the state level, but you know firsthand because you saw it today and you‘re going into New Orleans tomorrow, you‘re going to see it firsthand tomorrow, that these crises, even if our politicians and bureaucrats bungle around, the heart of the American people, I mean, we‘ve got great hearts and they really are—it‘s going to bring out the best in them, isn‘t it?
COSBY: It definitely is. And that‘s a really uplifting moment. And in fact, when with they were rescuing the people that we showed you there a little bit ago, you could see the guys were so excited, oh, good, we have some live ones. We have some live ones. And when you saw them come in, they said, oh, good, they‘re in good condition. They look like they‘re pretty good, they‘re able to walk on the chopper.
They‘re physically looking at them, getting an assessment. And they called in and said, good news, we‘ve got 12 live ones and they‘re in great spirits. And those people said, thank God the U.S. military came to our rescue. It was a great moment.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank God, indeed. Thank you so much, Rita. Can‘t wait to get your report from New Orleans tomorrow night at 9:00.
COSBY: Thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Congressman Rodney Alexander of Louisiana joins us now by the phone. Congressman, I belief you‘re from the fifth district, right?
REP. RODNEY ALEXANDER (D), LOUISIANA: That‘s right, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: That is a big district, represent, I think, 20 or so parishes. Tell me about what you‘ve been seeing today.
ALEXANDER: Well, we‘ve been in evacuation centers today, just staying in touch to see what the needs are that we can help with.
SCARBOROUGH: How are the people doing?
ALEXANDER: Doing great. We need some help from doctors, nurses. We need blood and money, but other than that, Joe, things are going pretty good in north Louisiana and central Louisiana.
SCARBOROUGH: Now tell me about the evacuees that you‘re seeing there. Are most of them directly out of downtown New Orleans, are they from some of the surrounding parishes?
ALEXANDER: Most of them came from New Orleans. We started getting a lot on Monday down in the central part of Louisiana, and on up until today and last night in north Louisiana, but we‘re having some outstanding help, people here. I represent one of the—well, the ninth-poorest congressional district in the entire country. And people those that have little are opening up and sharing what they have with those that have nothing. So it‘s heart-wrenching but we‘re seeing some good things going on.
SCARBOROUGH: No doubt we are seeing some great things. We‘re seeing the American people step forward and doing what they do best, helping their brothers and sisters in time of need.
I want to ask you though, if you can, comment on Senator Vitter‘s comments regarding the response time. He gave the federal government an F. How do you grade the federal government‘s response, and the governor‘s—the governor of your own state, Governor Blanco‘s response to this tragedy?
ALEXANDER: Well, there‘s no doubt about it, Joe, we‘re going to have to go to the drawing board. This has been a failure. But I wouldn‘t want to point fingers at anyone. We‘re all at fault. We were not ready for this. And it‘s quite apparent that things have to change because it‘s just not working. And if New Orleans had received the impact that Biloxi received, well, we could have 100,000 people perhaps dead.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘ll tell you what, it‘s such a grim, grim scene right now. Congressman, thank you for being with us and all the hard work that you‘re putting on out there, going to all these shelters. I‘ll tell you, these people need some encouragement from government officials. I‘m glad you‘re able to get out there and do it today.
Now coming up next, we heard about 100,000 possible deaths, well, we have got grim news about the number of people who were killed in this catastrophe. Early projections say the death toll may actually exceed 10,000 people. We‘ll be back with more of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
SCARBOROUGH: Everybody is trying to guess how high the death toll is going to climb and how long it‘s going to take to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Mark Levitan is the director of the Hurricane Center at Louisiana State University. And he joins us now by phone.
Mark, thank you for being with us. You know, I heard some of your group‘s projections before the storm hit and thought that they were a bit too dire. It ended up you all were right all along. So the big question is tonight, how many people may have lost their lives in this storm?
MARK LEVITAN, DIR., LSU HURRICANE CENTER: It‘s going to be a frighteningly—we‘re afraid it‘s going to be a very large number. We were actually asked to develop some estimates for the governor‘s office this morning and provided some very preliminary information, although we were told it was confidential at that point. And at this point without checking with them I probably shouldn‘t discuss that any further.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, tell me how—again, while this storm was coming up onshore, you all again actually had projections talking about the possibility of the levees breaking, and it seems like you had it down to a remarkable science. Now talk about how you put this information into a computer, quantify it and come out with information on how many people may have died in this storm.
LEVITAN: OK. The storm surge modeling that we did was—the assumptions that are implicit in that actually does not include levee failures. It includes levee overtopping but we have no way of estimating or knowing or modeling if there will be a slope stability failure, if a sea wall will fail, a floodgate will fail, so the initial assumption was made in all of the model runs we did, actually the flooding that was shown was only estimated due to overtopping. OK.
Now, the methodology used to develop flood casualty estimates in general is a procedure where we would take an overlay, you have to estimate first the number of people who would be in place when the surge came and the flooding came. So you have to take estimates of how many people evacuated, how many people were in the Superdome, other places at the times when the floodwaters hit so you have an idea how many people were still in their houses.
And then you would overlay that with the information from the flood models and now as we‘re getting it from some of the measurements and the actual floods. And then you combine—I‘m sorry?
SCARBOROUGH: No. I‘m sorry. We‘ve got to go to break. But you combine all that and come up with your numbers. And again, Senator Vitter talked about the possibility of as many as 10,000 people dying. We look forward to hearing from the state of Louisiana on your group‘s research. Because, again, you guys have been dead on from the very beginning.
Mark Levitan, thank you for being with us. We really do appreciate it. Our coverage of Hurricane Katrina, “Crisis and Recovery,” is going to continue right after this short break.
SCARBOROUGH: What a gripping week this has been. I‘ve never seen anything like it before in my life. Again, and I‘ve lived in the Gulf Coast for most of my life. But I want to leave you tonight with some of the sights and the sounds of what‘s just been a hellacious week for millions of Gulf Coast residents impacted by this storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These walls are going to start coming in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. It‘s coming up now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see, this id just incredibly dramatic, this is Mother Nature at her worst right here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we are, Tim Reid and myself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the downtown Biloxi area. It looked like the storm surge came all the way through this area. That was highway 90. The integrity of the highway has been washed out from underneath, and it‘s pretty much destroyed.
This is the back end of the Hard Rock Casino, which was still under construction, but you can see it‘s just fallen off into the water now. You can see some of the barges from the port area were just washed inland a quarter mile. All of the casinos that we saw along the coast that, as you know, were floating on the water, were basically just picked up and deposited inland.
The Holiday Inn, which was next to the Coliseum, one of the casinos, was dropped literally on top of the Holiday Inn, absolutely crushing it.
That‘s right from—I think it‘s formerly a Kmart right there. If you remember the aquarium, that‘s the aquarium right there that was in the port at Gulfport. It‘s completely destroyed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll tell you, we really weren‘t prepared for all of the damage just en route down to Gulfport.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Imagine families of young children reusing disposable diapers. Imagine grownups without bathrooms, without any chance of food or water. Imagine that at this late date this evening, rescues are still going on. Boats are still going up to the roofs of houses with axes, with saws and knocking to see if there‘s any sign of human life.
Imagine a thoroughly modern American city where the mayor today guessed that maybe they have hundreds, maybe thousands dead, and imagine that while I am talking to you there is a fire burning not far from us down the street, not a drop of water to fight it.
Everyone has the same fears here. I would say there is tension between the haves and the have-nots. But these days in this region all people fall into the have-not category.
The president confirmed this will take years to recover from. America has been hit very hard, what may be the most expensive, the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But there is no lifeline, and many honestly believe this is where they will die.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my mother, she needs heart medication, and she needs to get to a hospital immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mother suffers from congestive heart failure, her (INAUDIBLE) are so (INAUDIBLE) now. I need to get her out of here.
SAVIDGE: This woman is over 100 years old, sitting in the heat in the chaos. There are people here who barely seem alive, even children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look how hot he is. He‘s not waking up very easy.
SAVIDGE: Some have already died waiting to be saved with just notes for next of kin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I (INAUDIBLE) to pay you money to stop to talk to nobody.
SAVIDGE: Looted alcohol, heat, and frustration send tempers flaring. And with no police here, they have to settle disputes themselves. Finally when an officer does appear, he only honks his horn to clear a path.
(on camera): Can you do anything to help these people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have people coming to help.
SAVIDGE: Who is coming?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Orleans International Airport is now a huge triage center, the sick stacked on luggage conveyors. At baggage claim inside, it‘s a sea of misery and desperation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a nightmare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The medical staff is overwhelmed, 91-year-old Mark Judot (ph) called out to me, all he wanted was something to eat and drink.
I am just going to do very little sips here for you, OK? There. Mark, what you are eating, believe it or not, is the food that they give to the soldiers, did you know that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You are just going to take a little bit, see that? Just a little bit, OK? How is that, good?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not everyone survives. I slept in the airport next to the evacuated patients. I woke up next to those who didn‘t make it through the night.
BUSH: I‘m not going to forget what I‘ve seen. I understand that the devastation requires more than one day‘s attention. It‘s going to require the attention of this country for a long period of time. I believe that the great city of New Orleans will rise again and be a greater city of New Orleans.
CHERTOFF: The United States, as the president has said, is going to move heaven and earth to rescue, feed, shelter, and restore life and health of the people who are currently suffering. The situation is improving hour by hour. Nevertheless, we‘re not satisfied.
The fact of the matter is this set of catastrophes has broken any mold for how you deal with this kind of weather devastation, and so we‘re going to break the mold in terms of how we respond.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the people of New Orleans, have experienced a human catastrophe of historic proportions, with the hope that I hope people throughout the United States will also offer to us, we will rise again.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I see Americans across the spectrum, Asians and blacks and whites and Latinos helping each others, because you may be a hyphenated American, an African-American, or a German-American, or a Mexican-American, but you‘re American in this country. And that‘s what you‘re seeing is Americans are pulling together to help Americans.
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