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Encore Presentation: "CNN PRESENTS: Sudden Fury: In Katrina's Deadly Wake"
Aired June 11, 2006 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: One unexpected turn and a relatively minor storm became a monster. Welcome to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Anderson Cooper reporting from Waveland, Mississippi, ground zero in one of this nation's worst natural disasters in history.
When Hurricane Katrina came ashore in Florida, it was, as I said, a relatively minor storm, the wind speed barely strong enough to make it a hurricane.
All of that changed in the blink of an eye. Within 24 hours, the storm started heading southwest and moved from a Category 1 to a Category 5, fueled by the warm waters of the Gulf and it was heading straight toward Mississippi and Louisiana.
In the next hour, we're going to take you into the path of destruction Katrina has left behind. We'll show you the lives that have been forever changed and we'll try to understand what lies ahead for the shattered city of New Orleans.
It wasn't expected to happen this way. Early Monday morning, Hurricane Katrina plowed into the Gulf Coast with a storm surge close to 30 feet high. Ferocious and pounding rain ripped rooftops from homes, drove boats onto land, swamped neighborhoods, obliterated entire communities.
For some, like Biloxi resident Jerry Stillwell, the extent of Katrina's fury was a shock. He and his wife tried to ride out the storm at home.
JERRY STILLWELL, HURRICANE KATRINA SRUVIVOR: That part of the building, the house, just started to float. We floated - as we floated, this house in front of us collapsed.
COOPER: Others like the (INAUDIBLE) were nervous. Four generations of the family fled their homes in Slidell, Louisiana, a small town flattened by Katrina.
Now they were a family hell bent on getting home to assess the damage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) had three foot of water in the house. Look at these trees. Oh, God.
COOPER: Two weeks before the deadly storm wrecked havoc on residents along the Gulf Coast, Katrina was nothing more than a harmless wave, one that formed off the coast of Africa and then disappeared completely in the mid Atlantic Ocean. But 11 days later, on August 24, the system resurfaced as a tropical depression.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It lost its identity and then it kind of came back and then tropical depression number 12 came in behind it.
COOPER: Tropical depression 12 gathered strength while churning in the Bahamas, quickly becoming a tropical storm. What was once an innocuous group of clouds and showers began morphing into one of the most destructive forces on the planet.
MYERS: You have to have high pressure aloft, no wind shear. You have to have very warm water. You have to have the right amount of spin for the storm just to take place originally. And you have to have good out flow (ph). You couldn't get a Category 5 hurricane without absolutely perfect atmospheric conditions.
COOPER: Those perfect conditions were about to come together on Thursday evening, August 25. Twelve days after the tropical depression gathered steam in the warm Atlantic waters, the storm made landfall on the South Florida coast as a Category 1 hurricane named Katrina.
Residents there experienced a bit of grim irony. It was exactly 13 years ago Hurricane Andrew, one of the deadliest storms in history, plowed into the same area. Katrina socked parts of South Florida with torrential downpours, flooding and heavy winds. At least nine people were killed in its wake.
MYERS: I think Florida picked up about as much damage as you can get with a Category 1. I think Florida was hit pretty hard.
COOPER: And Katrina wasn't finished. When the storm moved out of South Florida and back into the Gulf, meteorologists predicted Katrina would take a northwestern turn, hitting Pensacola and Destin, along Florida's Panhandle. But the hurricane surprised forecasters by changing course and taking a sudden turn to the southwest.
MYERS: It kept going left, kept going left. In fact it even drifted a little bit south. And then it finally made its right-hand turn. And then the longer it waited, the more Florida was out of the picture and the more Louisiana was in the picture.
COOPER: As the storm began slowing moving across the Gulf, it strengthened and headed toward the Louisiana coast. Forecasts predicted a Category 4 hurricane hitting Sunday or Monday. Governors from Mississippi and Louisiana declared a state of emergency. It now appeared New Orleans would sustain a direct hit.
The prospects were frightening. The historic city sits in a depression that dips as much as nine feet below sea level. There would be nowhere for flood waters to drain and there were questions whether the city's system of levees that keep New Orleans dry would hold.
DR. WALTER MAESTRI, DIR., JEFFERSON PARISH EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: This is the one agency in government that not only is allowed to pray; it's demanded. We've got calluses on our knees in this business.
COOPER: Over the weekend, the unthinkable: Katrina grew even stronger and was now a Category 5 hurricane. These incredible photos taken by a hurricane hunter pilot showed Katrina's eye wall during the heights of the storm. By Sunday afternoon, August 28, an unprecedented order from the mayor of New Orleans, a mandatory evacuation.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: We are facing a storm that most of us have feared. I do not want to create panic but I do want the citizens to understand that this is very serious.
COOPER: Bumper to bumper, stagnant rivers of taillights, waves of cars fled the storm's impending approach.
MICHAEL BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR: You have about 36 hours now to understand how serious this storm is and to make your preparations to keep your family and to keep your business safe. You've got to do that now.
COOPER: And for some 10,000 residents who wouldn't or couldn't leave, the giant Louisiana Superdome became a shelter of last resort.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm kind of worried because this line is so long.
COOPER: Residents and tourists, now refugees preparing for the worst.
COL. TERRY EBBERT, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS: It's going to be very unpleasant. We're not in here to feed people. We're in here to see that when Tuesday morning comes, that they're alive.
COOPER: By Sunday night, the city appeared a virtual ghost town. Boarded up, shut down, New Orleans braced for a catastrophic blow.
But when we return, Katrina veers off its projected path, taking a deadly detour.
SUZANNE RODGERS, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: Debris is flying off the roof, coming into the rooms. It sounded like a boom. I was scared. Very, very, very scared.
COOPER: Monday morning, shortly before dawn, Katrina makes landfall.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Already you can see blown out windows in the building across the street from us. The wind is howling and circulating throughout this - the corridors and streets. What we're seeing here is this water coming up from the drainage system as Hurricane Katrina continues to beat its path at our door.
Come on. Let's go this way.
This is what it's like in downtown New Orleans right now. Even the hurricane-force winds... (INAUDIBLE)
COOPER: Just before the storm comes ashore, a fleeting bit of good news. Katrina loses strength and drops to a Category 4 hurricane, but sustained winds are still howling at 145 miles per hour, essentially the same destructive fury as a tornado but on a much wider scale.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The winds are just incredible here in New Orleans. We can see the roof of the Superdome has been shredded.
COOPER: Katrina remains unpredictable. A last-minute jog shifts the eye of the storm to the east. New Orleans appears to have avoided its nightmare scenario as Katrina barrels full force into the Louisiana Mississippi border.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Easily winds now sustained 80-90 miles an hour, gusts to 110, 120.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're about five, six miles inland and still we're getting hit with winds well over 100 miles an hour.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that. Look at that. The entire thing is coming apart.
MARCIANO: We could only imagine what it was going to be like when we went to go check out the damage along the coastline.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much of Gulfport, Mississippi, 70 miles east of New Orleans is now flooded. The downtown street, U.S. 90 along the beach probably six feet of water. This is basically right now like hell on earth.
COOPER: Reports of destruction continue to pour in from Biloxi, Gulfport and even as far away as Mobile, Alabama.
DOUG LINDSAY, REPORTER, WAWS-TV: Take a look around. This is downtown Mobile and we're possibly eight blocks away from Mobile Bay right now. So the storm surge is coming in strong. Can you get out?
COOPER: For whatever reason, some stayed behind and tried to ride out the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) actually scared.
COOPER: Others narrowly escaped with their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were literally racing against the water. The current was pushing the water up into the house. So it was beyond devastating.
NICKY NICHELSON, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: (INAUDIBLE) is washing over our heads, over our heads. Here's my dreams (ph).
TUCHMAN: We met a woman in Bay St. Louis. She stayed in her bed and breakfast with seven other people. She said she decided to stay because that bed and breakfast survived Hurricane Camille. She figured it could survive this. She realized how wrong she was.
NICHELSON: The house literally crumbled.
TUCHMAN: While you were in it.
NICHELSON: While we were in it, crumbled, just crumbled.
TUCHMAN: And they all held onto the limb of a nearby tree, a huge tree for hours. And the waves were hitting the branch and what were you thinking?
NICHELSON: I started to pray a lot. I truly didn't know if we'd make it.
COOPER: Those who stayed behind struggle with tragedy and loss.
JENNIFER MAYERLE, CORRESPONDENT, WKRG-TV: How are you doing, sir?
HARVEY JACKSON, LOST WIFE IN HURRICANE KATRINA: I'm not doing good.
MAYERLE: What happened?
JACKSON: The house just split in half.
MAYERLE: Your house split in half?
JACKSON: We got up on the roof, all the way to the roof. And water came. And the house just opened up and divided.
MAYERLE: Who was at your house with you?
JACKSON: My wife.
MAYERLE: Where is she now?
JACKSON: Can't find her body. She's gone.
MAYERLE: You can't find your wife?
JACKSON: No. She told - I tried. I hold her hand tight as I could. And she told me, you can't hold me. She said take care of the kids and the grandkids.
MAYERLE: Where are you guys going?
JACKSON: We ain't got nowhere to go. I'm lost. That's all I had. That's all I had.
COOPER: By late afternoon, Katrina's deadly power begins to wane and the storm heads inland. But as the rain subsides, a harsh reality sets in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody in the attic in these houses.
COOPER: The nightmare has just begun. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can see multiple people up on their rooftops trying to get help and Lord only knows how many are inside their homes.
COOPER: As the skies begin to clear over the Gulf Coast, the extent of Hurricane Katrina's wrath is slowly revealed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This area is completely under water. I'm looking at about five feet of water everywhere we look, absolutely under water.
COOPER: The devastation, numbing. From Louisiana to Alabama, block after block after block of communities utterly destroyed, neighborhoods, houses, lives, all ripped apart by Katrina's fury.
GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: I would say 90 percent of the structures between the beach and the railroad in Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach and Pass Christian are totally destroyed. They're not severely damaged. They're simply not there.
COOPER: If the scope of the damage is best comprehended from the air, its emotional toll is felt on the ground. Families missing loved ones.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't know where my sons are or how they're faring or what they're doing or nothing. I wish they would contact me.
RYAN SAMUELS, NEW ORLEANS EVACUEE: I'm looking for Gail Denny (ph). I'm looking for Anita Denny. I'm looking for Sylvester Francis (ph). I'm looking for my uncle, Thomas White.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my dad and I won't see him again.
COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) dreams shattered.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you stay? Do you pack up? Do you leave? It's like, what do you do?
COOPER: In Biloxi, Mississippi, Katrina's 125 mile-an-hour winds and a storm surge estimated at 30 feet combined to wreak incredible havoc.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were sitting there in the storm and we did not even know, have any idea of the destruction going on around us. When we got out and saw the destruction, we just thanked God we're alive.
COOPER: Cars rearranged in piles as if a child had put them there. Where houses once stood, foundations and rubble left behind, mere hints of what was there before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's nothing left. All I found that belonged to me was a shoe. COOPER: In Gulfport, one of Mississippi's main economic engines, the damage is equally horrific. Casinos that were the lifeblood of the local economy lay in ruins.
That building wasn't there 48 hours ago. That building was about half a mile or so to the east. That has been picked up by this storm and deposited over there.
Katrina's eye passed directly over Slidell, Louisiana, located on the eastern edge of Lake Ponchartrain, north of New Orleans. There an estimated 90 percent of homes are either damaged or destroyed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were telling our folks, don't come home. There's nothing here. There's no stores open. There's no gasoline. There's no lights. There's no - there's nothing.
COOPER: At first, the damage in downtown New Orleans seems almost superficial in comparison. The roof of the Superdome is shredded, but its structural integrity intact. And in the French quarter, a feeling they weathered the storm relatively unscathed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing, making a delivery? (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These were going to spoil tomorrow and so we're bringing them to the people who were stuck here from the hotel.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Once this hurricane went through and it seemed that the brunt of it was in Mississippi, everyone in New Orleans was breathing a sigh of relief. Oh, well, we took a punch from this, but it's nothing we can't recover from.
RICK EICHMAN (ph), FRENCH QUARTER RESIDENT: French Quarter residents are pretty hardy types. We're going to start cleaning up and getting the show back on the road.
MATTINGLY: There were people down there already talking about cleaning up, getting ready for the big party again on Labor Day, people making plans to get the tourists back into town already.
COOPER: But in other parts of the city, an ominous sign of the misery and danger yet to come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The devastation that we're seeing as we make our way towards the downtown New Orleans area is absolutely astonishing, completely under water in the entire residential area.
COOPER: Most notably, the eastern side of the city where victims of the storm struggle to stay alive.
MESERVE: I am looking over a scene of utter devastation, an entire neighborhood, the water has come up to the eaves of the houses and I am told this is not the worst of it, that beyond this, part of the Upper Ninth Ward I'm told (INAUDIBLE) main part of the ward further down is even worse. The water is over the houses. This is a life and death situation. I think by the end of the night we're going to find a lot more deaths than we ever imagined.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you upstairs?
COOPER: As afternoon turns to night, the search for survivors begins to uncover a grim reality, hundreds and thousands of people trapped by Katrina's waters.
MARK BIELLO, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: I jumped on board one of these boats with three civilians, had brought up their own boat. When we got out there, you could hear screams of people still being trapped in the attics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we came across people on the rooftops, people punching holes in the attic spaces because the water has filled up, all the way up to their attics and there were many disabled folks, elderly folks. There was one gentleman in his 70s who was a double amputee clinging on their trees at 6:00 this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody, anyone at all realizes how many people there were that were trapped in the attics from the rising flood waters.
COOPER: As darkness falls, the magnitude of the task at hand begins to sink in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We stand in the dark. You can hear people yelling for help and no one can get to them. It's a totally different (INAUDIBLE)
COOPER: When our story continues, another sound in the night, something still unseen which would change everything for New Orleans.
MESERVE: It is just unbelievable. I told you earlier today I didn't think that this had turned out to be Armageddon. I was wrong.
COOPER: Welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper in Waveland, Mississippi.
When Hurricane Katrina came ashore here early in the morning of Monday, August 29th, the winds were howling, 145 miles an hour. There was a massive storm surge, a wall of water destroying homes.
A number of people here in Waveland had decided to ride out the storm in their homes to not heed the mandatory evacuation orders. Those were decisions that they would come to regret.
COOPER (voice-over): All along the Gulf Coast, in Louisiana, in Mississippi, in Alabama devastation and misery. Hurricane Katrina's heartbreaking magnitude reflected not only shattered homes and flooded streets but in the faces, the emotions and the stories of those left in Katrina's wake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The house just started to float.
COOPER: Those like Gary Stilwell, who waited too long to get out of hard hit Biloxi.
GARY STILWELL, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: We watched the tsunami and we said "Look at this." We're the ones that always say why didn't they get out of town? Some people stay. Some people go.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Where did your bedroom used to be?
STILWELL: Over here.
COOPER: Gary spoke to CNN's Randi Kaye as he sifted through what was left of his two-story Victorian home, a home that had survived every storm since the 1800s, survived that is until Katrina.
STILWELL: Within a span of about an hour or so water just rose and all of our furniture started to float.
KAYE: And what did you think when that water was coming up as fast as it probably did?
STILWELL: Somewhere in there I kept figuring it was going to subside somewhere.
COOPER: But it didn't and Gary, his wife and their three pets were stuck, forced to ride it out quite literally.
STILWELL: This house in front of us collapsed.
COOPER: The Stillwell's were trapped in the second floor of their home as it washed across the street. They drifted about a quarter of a mile before the house got lodged in a tree. As their home crumbled around them, Gary and his wife scrambled to escape and somehow they managed to climb into their boat, which had floated right along with them. Their lives were saved but the life that they have know, the life they loved was now gone.
STILWELL: We've lost our (INAUDIBLE) you know. This is, you know, as any couple or family, you know, your home is kind of your mark. Now, it's stretched all over.
COOPER: Some stay, some go. Sadly, in the end their stories sound remarkably similar. Unlike the Stillwell's the Odobare (ph) family, all four generations, fled their homes in Slidell, Louisiana. CNN's Drew Griffin caught up with them in Hattiesburg, Mississippi as they waited out Katrina and readied themselves for what they might find when they got home.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Katrina was already blowing at their backs as the Odobare family fled Slidell, Louisiana. Their town sits on the north end of Lake Pontchartrain. Staying would have been a disaster. Leaving has turned into one. Four generations now crammed into this hotel room. There was no power, no phones, no television.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's falling right now big time.
GRIFFIN: Their only communication two-way radios that buzzed with horrific rumors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every road going into Slidell is under water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't say it that way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what they just told Allison (ph).
GRIFFIN: Hattiesburg, Mississippi was supposed to be far enough off the coast to be out of Katrina's path. Allison Odobare sits in the hotel's dark lobby, listens as windows blow out, as doors blow open, as the hotel around her seems to crumble. Their plan is to wait it out, then go home, but to what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are 15, about 15 feet off the ground and he said there's water underneath everybody's houses. He said "I don't know how much higher it's going to get."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we had tried to head back.
GRIFFIN: Tuesday, the morning after, there is no news. They leave almost at dawn to head south and this is what lies ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long you been sitting here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About an hour.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any move?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We moved about 100 foot.
GRIFFIN: Interstate 59 from Hattiesburg to Slidell should be little more than an hour's drive. This journey will take most of the day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just going to get worse later on, you know, the traffic.
GRIFFIN: Time passes, nothing moves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) nowhere to drive.
GRIFFIN: Bret Odobare takes his truck and his father's chain saw to the front of the line. Three hours later the road ahead is finally cleared.
They have now made it at least to Slidell. It looks like a war zone. Allison's parents' home is across a swollen creek. Katrina spared nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look three foot, I had three foot of water in the house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two or three feet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at these trees, oh God! Woo, woo! But I'll tell you what, Tony, you got a house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I got a house.
GRIFFIN: What did survive was the boat. With roads washed away, Allison and her husband Bret will go the final leg of this journey by water to see what, if anything is left of their home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just my family (INAUDIBLE) staying.
GRIFFIN: The trip is bleak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that boat! Look at that boat up in there! Look at it man! (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got a roof off that house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look there's another one gone. I don't know. It don't look too good, Al. Stay down, you hear? Hang on, sit down, relax.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Relax?
GRIFFIN: The Odobare's live just around the bend. Allison almost can't bear to look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All it is...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see our house. It's there! It's there!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's there! Oh, my God it's there!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh God it's there!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's there. It's there.
COOPER: But across Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, much of what was once there is now gone.
Coming up, the Big Easy sinks into despair.
COOPER: Welcome back a special edition of CNN PRESENTS.
COOPER (voice-over): For decades this leafy New Orleans neighborhood tested nature fearlessly standing on some of the lowest ground in the city, ten feet below sea level and protected by this levee wall. That was before Katrina. This is now.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: The City of New Orleans is in a state of devastation. We probably have 80 percent of our city under water.
COOPER: The reason -- a second disaster, less than 24 hours after Katrina's landfall two ruptures in a levee system punishing a city surrounded by water on three sides.
ZARRELLA: And once the levee broke there was a whole new ballgame. Then the bowl started filling up with the water.
COOPER: Under water and under siege these pictures taken after Katrina just a snapshot of a city submerged.
It's hard to fathom a place once known for its lively atmosphere, its distinct culture now facing destruction of an unprecedented magnitude, an unknown number of missing and dead and potentially toxic floodwaters on the rise. One of the breaches, the length of a football field. The intended Band-aid -- 3,000 pound sandbags.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) there on the left side looking straight and away it goes. One child has been loaded right now.
COOPER: With waters rising the stranded take to their rooftops, the Coast Guard to the air, the lucky saved by the drop of a metal basket, lifesaving rescues that would unfold 1,000 times over within the first 24 hours. Meanwhile, others make use of fishing boats.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There were a number of state wildlife officers in flat boats going out from a flooded on ramp at I- 10.
COOPER: Taking to the debris filled waterways that once were streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that we just hit?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A street sign.
COOPER: This rescue worker has to give up his first boat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was my first boat I started out in yesterday. The saltwater got to the motor. It won't run now.
COOPER: A man is spotted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You going to hang out or you want to go in?
COOPER: But he refuses any help.
MATTINGLY: We saw two other men who were sitting in recliners on their porch on the second story deciding that they were comfortable enough and they didn't want to leave and a day later I have to wonder what happened to them as the water continued to go higher. There were a lot of people making very bad decisions and unfortunately who knows how many paid the ultimate price?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ready to go in?
COOPER: Yet another man clinging to his porch railing is more than ready for a lifeline.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This keep rising.
COOPER: The next stop, a woman so distraught and exhausted she collapses inside the boat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you all right?
COOPER: She's rushed away but where these victims are headed, while not worse, it's far from good.
MATTINGLY: Calling it a rescue really isn't quite accurate because they were just moving people from languishing on their roofs to languishing on the expressway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laying on the concrete on the street.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laying down (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: And in downtown New Orleans the situation growing dire. Outside the Superdome and the Convention Center, a refugee population getting restless.
CROWD: We want help. We want help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these people you see is dying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No food, no water in almost 90 degree heat inside, we got small children and sick and elderly people dying every day.
COOPER: Prisons and hospitals forced to find higher ground.
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People came up to us and asked us, well, you know, is there any way you could help me find my mother? I don't know where she is.
Or, another woman walking up to a police officer she was in tears shaking. Her mother, a dialysis patient, hadn't had her treatment in a couple of days. She's very ill and the policeman said there's nothing he could do and the woman just collapsed. "My mother's going to die" she said. "I'm going to watch my mother die."
COOPER: A city cut off from the world locked in survival mode.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad around here, people trying to even survive. COOPER: Erupting in looting and violence, law and order lost in the aftermath of the storm.
UDOJI: We saw people with grocery carts stacked to the top with televisions with Nikes, with athletic wear, with food, I mean grabbing just about anything that they could put their hands on and were standing there talking to a police officer who's watching us pull our cars and he's out of this hotel and he's telling us "There's nothing I can do." It was just him.
COOPER: A frustrated mayor of New Orleans sends out an SOS and lashes out at the lack of federal relief.
NAGIN: Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and let's do something and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the hotel, pushed them down the steps at the hotel and I need you to get them to the hospital.
MESERVE: You have people of course who lost their lives but there are others who have lost everything they own. They can't get to their jobs. Their jobs probably aren't there. The businesses can't rebuild because there's absolutely no infrastructure.
COOPER: The catastrophe so long feared is now a reality, with most roads impassable and tens of thousands stranded with no clear way in or out. Their anger over the lack of help...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) where the policemen at?
COOPER: Reaching a breaking point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breathe man, live! Breathe man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, don't give up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breathe in.
COOPER: Next, will life ever be the same?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There ain't nobody going to help the poor people of them areas, nobody.
COOPER: Welcome back to a special edition of CNN PRESENTS.
Katrina. In its wake, untold personal tragedies, lives lost, lives turned upside down. Imagine your home gone. Imagine your neighborhood gone. Imagine your entire city gone. There are questions, lots of questions, where do I go from here? How do we rebuild our lives? An entire city what will it cost? How long will it take? BARBOUR: We're not going to solve that with the snap of a finger. But little by little we'll get back to where it's tolerable.
MICHAEL BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR: When I look at some of the neighborhoods and realize the length of time that it's going to take to get those neighborhoods ready for people to come back in, which is going to be weeks and weeks if not months, it's a very sobering thing to think about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Old people, I want you up here.
COOPER: There are immediate needs like food and shelter for those left homeless by Katrina and those who, for now, are unable or forbidden to return to what is left of their homes.
GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, LOUISIANA: You know we don't have any answers right now on what we will do with folks once we stabilize the situation. We're in a crisis mode.
COOPER: Four days after Katrina hit, convoys of federal aid and military troops finally start rolling in.
LT. GEN SILVEN BLUM, CHIEF, NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU (voice-over): We expect 3,600 to arrive today so that we can help with security, support the civilian law enforcement.
COOPER: It's just the beginning of the unprecedented army needed for relief and recovery.
PAUL MCHALL, ASST. DEF. SECY. FOR HOMELAND DEFENSE: It's all hands on deck. We anticipate providing a 500-bed mobile hospital.
NORMAN MINETA, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We have shipped 13.4 million liters of water.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are 5.4 million meals ready to eat or MREs, 135,000 blankets and 11,000 cots and we're just starting.
COOPER: There are environmental and health issues to consider, contaminated drinking water, diseases spread by insects, snakes and other animals.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're racing the clock in terms of possible injury. We're racing the clock in terms of illness. We're racing the clock in terms of food and water.
MIKE LEAVITT, HHS SECRETARY: We are gravely concerned about the potential for cholera and typhoid and dehydrating diseases that could come as a result of the stagnant water and the conditions.
COOPER: With any natural disaster come concerns about natural resources, like oil. Katrina has set oil rigs adrift. Pipelines have been disrupted. The Gulf Coast provides nearly one- third of the nation's heating oil. Prices at the gas pump are already skyrocketing. RAY CARBONE, PARAMOUNT OPTIONS: We've seen severe flooding in the refineries, which means it will take them much longer to get up and running again and refining the crude oil into gasoline and/or heating oil.
COOPER: There is no way to know for sure just how great an impact the destruction of Katrina will have on the nation's economy. But early estimates indicate the storm may turn out to be the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Insurance companies predict as much as $25 billion in claims and that estimate could be low.
ROBERT HARTWIG, INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTE (voice-over): In many cases when the water is up to the roof or in some cases over the roof of that home, in fact, it will be less expensive to rebuild that home if it's simply rebuilt from the foundation up.
COOPER: For devastated city and state governments, every day brings untold losses of tax revenue. For example, estimates are that Mississippi is losing up to a half million tax dollars a day generated from just one source, casinos.
CHRISTY BARSTOW, LONG BEACH, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: I don't have a job from what I understand. Where I work with Casino Magic is gone.
COOPER: It's an economic disaster for all, local governments, businesses, residents with no end in sight. There are oceans of debris to sift through, levees to shore up, buildings to tear down, homes and businesses to reconstruct, highways to put back together, lives to rebuild.
BARBARA BARHONOVICH, BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: We just have no job, no home, no vehicle. All we have is our life.
COOPER: And there's the chilling question of whether New Orleans can ever be rebuilt. Can a metropolis 80 percent under water be restored to what it was, a distinctive American southern city, a city of jazz, Creole, Mardi Gras, the Big Easy? It is a daunting task.
BUSH: This recovery will take a long time. This recovery will take years. The folks on the Gulf Coast are going to need the help of this country for a long time. This is going to be a difficult road.
COOPER: All because one storm took one surprising turn, one sudden swing to the southwest out in the Gulf of Mexico, a change in course that led to perhaps the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, a catastrophe that many had feared and even more had warned about. A deadly hurricane which left in its wake the hardest question of all: could this have been avoided?
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