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AT THIS HOUR
Storm's Death Toll Jumps To 47; This Morning: 14 Infants Being Evacuated By Air; Beaumont Residents Line Up For Drinking Water; Officials: 136K Homes Flooded In Houston Area; Houston Mayor Calls For "Army" Of FEMA Workers; ICE Officers, Border Patrol Helping With Rescues; Hidden Dangers Lurking In Floodwaters; Hurricane Irma Churns Toward East Coast. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired September 1, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Kate Bolduan.
One week since Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast and images of the widespread damage are now revealed by the receding floodwaters. These pictures of washed out roads, overflowing rivers, and submerged countryside are just a couple hours old.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire department. Anybody in here?
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WHITFIELD: The falling waterline has also revealed another death toll, 47 people now confirmed dead as first responders go door to door searching for victims. Desperate choices in Beaumont, Texas. One hospital begins evacuating its patients as taps run dry for the city's 135,000 people.
Administrators deciding, they couldn't care for the sick and injured without clean and running water. This morning 14 babies will be flown out.
Let's get the latest on the evacuation at Baptist Beaumont Hospital. That's where we find CNN's Miguel Marquez in Beaumont. What's happening, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are waiting for the first of those helicopters to come in and take some of those babies away. Interestingly, they think they have an incoming helicopter bringing in somebody who is injured.
That's something that Baptist Beaumont Hospital is asking other emergency crews not to do, but there is an ongoing emergency here with the water crisis. So, you still have injured people coming into the hospital here. The babies that are being air lifted today, three of them are healthy. Eleven, though, are premature babies. We got a look at a few of those babies in the neonatal center unit here a little while ago and the nurses caring for them.
Some of the parents, amazingly enough, you know how protective and possessive parents are of newborn babies and in particular prematurely-born babies, some of the parents are stuck in floodwaters and cannot be here to go with their babies when they are evacuated.
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DR. SNEHAL DOSHI, NEONATOLOGIST, BAPTIST HOSPITAL: I would think for all parents, it's terrifying for us as well, but we are doing the best we can and under the current conditions.
You know, the parents, some of them can be here and be able to come see their infants. Some parents are stranded. They haven't seen their infants for days. So, we are just calling them and letting them know every couple hours how their babies are doing, giving them updates and reassuring them that they need to take care of themselves right now and we'll take care of their babies.
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MARQUEZ: Now, perhaps one of the most incredible stories I have heard is a woman who was pregnant with twins, she was trapped in the floodwaters. She had to be air lifted out by the Coast Guard. She was brought here to Baptist and delivered her twins. One is healthy, the other one had to go to the NICU. All three, mother and two kids will be transferred at some point today. That's a lot of flying for brand-new born babies. Amazing.
WHITFIELD: It is indeed, all three of them really fragile at this state. All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.
All right. Now, let's go to another scene right there in Beaumont. The city has actually just opened a water distribution center, much needed. Our Kaylee Hartung is there as residents are lining up. So how long are these lines thus far?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, that announcement went out from the city of Beaumont just 40 minutes ago that they were opening up this water distribution site. Already, there are cars lined up down St. Helena road here as far as I can see back up against I-10.
I want to bring in Officer Haley Morrow from the Beaumont police who is helping to organize this effort. Officer, first of all, if you could explain to people exactly where we are when they are in need of these resources.
OFFICER HALEY MORROW, BEAUMONT, TEXAS POLICE: Right now, we are at I- 10 in St. Helena. This is the 1700 block of I-10 east in the city of Beaumont. If you will go to our Beaumont police Facebook page, we have put a press release with a nice map that described exactly how you can get here.
As you can see it is flowing extremely efficient. I didn't coordinate this effort. There are so many different people. The city of Beaumont parks and recreations, street and drainage, police department and the fire department. The Texas National Guard is here.
And so, it's a collaboration. This is the first official water distribution site that the emergency management, emergency operations center in the city of Beaumont is starting.
And so, we want to be as efficient as possible. Right now, we are running at about eight cars a minute. So, it's going really well.
HARTUNG: As we see all these cars lining up, what do people need to know as they arrive to make this continue to run efficiently?
MORROW: The best thing you can to do is be patient. Right now, it's going very smoothly, but again we just put it out 40 minutes ago so we know people are scrambling to get here. We have a lot of water. I don't have an exact number.
[11:05:07] But those resources are coming in and we are distributing. So, follow the directions of the personnel who are out there directing the traffic. We need you to move as close to the vehicle in front of you.
Be aware that these Texas National Guard and the people who are loading the water will be walking towards your vehicle. Do not stop. Do not get out. When they tell you to pull up and you stop, if you have a trunk that you want it in, pop the trunk, roll the window down. We are trying to make it as quick as possible, put the water in, and move on.
HARTUNG: Where are these resources coming from?
MORROW: They are coming from the state. Honestly, I don't even know. They are coming from everywhere. We are just trying to coordinate it. We have so many different people who are calling us saying we are on our way, what can we do.
We are having to refer a lot of donations to local charities because with the emergency management, there's a lot of logistics and things that have go into setting up an operation like this.
HARTUNG: Officer Morrow, thank you for all that you are doing.
MORROW: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: So, Kaylee, real quick, maybe you can ask Officer Morrow, I have a family member there in Beaumont that I talked to just two hours ago and they didn't know about the water distribution site, nor do they have the means in which to now drive to a location like that?
So, could you ask Officer Morrow if there will be other locations or even deliveries? What do you do for people who are unable to drive to that location, who are in desperate need of fresh water?
HARTUNG: Officer Morrow, we have one more question for you. What about people that can't get to the site? Are there plans for delivery or other distribution sites that will be opened?
MORROW: Right now, our top priority was just getting this open. We understand. We are getting calls. We know there are people out there that aren't able to get to this facility. They are working on that. Again, our main priority was to get something going so that we can get citizens water.
So, we are working on that. Again, we are going to publish a press release as more -- if more resources come in. We are hoping to open up more locations. But, again, we are trying to get this one up and running and we'll assess from there and try to help people out.
HARTUNG: So, the Beaumont police Facebook page, a great resource for people to look to for directions -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. The word is out. Thank you so much, Kaylee and Officer Morrow. I appreciate that. Lots of folks in dire need, not just in Beaumont, but of course, in surrounding areas in South Texas.
So, let's check in with Nick Valencia in Houston in a neighborhood hard hit. There are people behind you. It looks like some of the water has receded, but that doesn't mean the problems have gone away. What's going on?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looks like some of the water has receded, Fredricka, but that's actually back wash from the boats that have come in to try to rescue these people that are still stranded a week later.
It was just a short time ago, as we were getting prepared for this report, that we saw the Houston Police Department emerged from that water back there that is still in some parts waist deep. They were with a group of people that had been stranded there since the storm hit.
One of them was Isaac Dubulla (ph), whose been stranded there with his family. He is running out of food and water. He called the Houston Police Department to help him and rescue him. We spoke to him for the first time as he was touching dry land for the first time in more than a week.
So, I mentioned that Isaac was telling me he was running out of food and water. That is what we are hearing from a lot of people. We know that some parts of Houston are cleaning up. We know that some parts of Houston have dry land.
But this is not the case here in Barker Cypress. We went in yesterday with a man named Ryan Short (ph) for the first time as he was going back into his apartment complex to try to get back his boy's little bike. His boy is 2 years old and having a tough time being displaced. So, Ryan Short (ph) went back in there to try to bring some sense of normalcy to his son's life. When we walked into that apartment complex, we were waist deep in water. In some cases, this is the question for the electricity department here. In some places, the electricity is still on.
We saw an air-conditioning unit that was still on, spitting out water. It was one of the most eerie things our crew has seen in the last week since reporting here from South Texas.
Right behind me what you see, Fredricka, is a row of people that have showed up this morning to try to get a ride on one of these civilian boats. These boats have come from as far away as places like San Antonio, Austin, Texas, they are not waiting for the police to try to help them out.
Though, in some cases, as I mentioned, the police are here. But, these civilians are taking it upon themselves to help out perfect strangers. We are looking at this as another boat is launched into the water.
I spoke earlier to one man who says, you know, he just saw the desperate need that these people have here, specifically in this Barker Cypress neighborhood, which edges between Houston and Katie, Texas.
We are hearing harrowing stories of people being able to go back. They have limited time. In some places only able to grab their medication that they have and then leave.
We understand there are also people that are still stranded in those apartments. Some of them in some cases don't want to leave. They are afraid of looters. They are afraid of people coming to ransack their apartment.
[11:10:10] In other cases, people just really are trying to cling on to their home while everything else is falling apart around them -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: So understandable. There are lots of fears and colossal needs. So, there's a lot of patience also being packed throughout. All right. Nick Valencia, we'll check back with you in Houston.
So, thus far, there have been at least 72,000 rescues in Texas. The Coast Guard is playing a vital role in those efforts.
Joining me right now on the phone is Vice Admiral Carl Schultz. He is commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic area. So glad you could be with us. We have been watching these unbelievable heroic rescues taking place.
The skies are a bit clear today. Does that mean that the pace of rescues is going at about the same clip as it has in the past couple of days?
VICE ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ, COMMANDER, COAST GUARD ATLANTIC (via telephone): Good morning, Fredricka. I'm on the ground here down in Port Arthur, Texas. The rescues are definitely underway. We -- you know, little the sun shining here today and the water has receded some, but I think it's still a very dynamic situation.
There's cresting of the rivers here at about 2:00, 1:00 or 2:00 this afternoon. We are watching that very carefully. We have dozens of boat crews pushed to that area as a contingency. You will see Coast Guard helicopters and National Guard and state helicopters in the skies today continuing to look for folks, to assess the situation.
It's very dynamic. We have about 3,000 rescues that the Coast Guard has been involved here in the last 48 hours. We have a lot of Coast Guard men and women on the ground to help manage the incidents, supporting the locals and the state, and the county officials.
A lot of great Americans, Texans helping Texans. I have seen the fire department. I have seen the County Sheriff Marine Units. I have seen the Cajun Navy in Texas in the parking lots. They are pushing out in the water today. It's very dynamic. We are trying to find out where folks are to make sure we are getting rescuers out as need presents itself.
WHITFIELD: You all are doing an amazing job. So many people are so grateful for all you are doing as well as good Samaritans. You know, as of tonight, it will be a week, you know, since that storm hit. When you do pluck people from their rooftops, what kind of condition are they in, generally?
SCHULTZ: Well, Fredricka, I think it's the full continuum. You know, depends on when you get to folks, but I think folks that are leaving their places, you know, as the situation is unfolded, I think initially some folks were reluctant to leave.
But I think as they realize the magnitude of the flooding or the direness that the word is out there's no water, hopefully that will be the local officials working very hard on that.
You know, our rescue swimmers have encountered, tragically, unfortunately, some folks where they are beyond, their life expired, to people that the immediacy is not quite as extreme as other place. So, it's a whole continuum of situations there.
WHITFIELD: And you are and your Coast Guard are very experienced in rescues of so many different calibers. Given that this is particularly unique, does this take a particular emotional toll on you and those who serve?
SCHULTZ: Well, I tell you, I think that's a great observation, Fredricka. We have chaplins down here that talk to crews when they get back. Folks are tired. It is my job and the local regional commanders to make sure we are getting our folks a hot meal, a few hours of rest before we put them back out there.
The Coast Guard has been like the men and women from all the responding agencies at all the levels of government. They are all tired. They are all, you know, a couple days, a week into it. They are committed to getting out there on the streets, on the water ways, supporting Texas, supporting Texans.
We are in this fight until things settle down. Again, the rescue part is where we are now. We are going to be transitioning to a very challenging recovery piece. The Coast Guard has a lot at stake in that.
We have opened ports in Corpus and Houston with some restrictions. This area, where I'm on the ground, the golden triangle is one of the pivotal regions to the nation in terms of petrochemical and refinery. So, we are way ahead on that.
And right now, as an example, up on the (inaudible) river, there's a ship tied up, 700-foot ship. They have tugboats holding it at the dock as waters flow down from up state to stabilize that.
In the coming days, we hope to return to normalcy here and get the industry going again because that all vital to America.
WHITFIELD: Vice Admiral Karl Schultz, thank you so much. Thanks for your time and thanks for all that you and other members of the service are doing. Thank you so much.
SCHULTZ: Thank you, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Another government agency helping with rescues is Customs and Border Patrol. Joining me right now by phone is lead coordinator, Jud Murdock. He is the agency's field director for Houston. Good that you could be with me, Coordinator Murdock.
[11:15:05] So, people might be surprised to learn that Customs and Border Patrol is actually involved in these rescues. Do you often get involved in rescues and operations of this caliber?
JUD MURDOCK, HOUSTON FIELD DIRECTOR, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PATROL (via telephone): Yes, ma'am. Good morning. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is involved in these events on a routine basis especially in times of natural disaster.
For this event, we brought in more than 50 boats and more than 20 aircrafts to assist in the search and rescue. We have rescued over 1300 people and 30 pets. It's been a real proud moment for us to be able to help the people here in Houston and Beaumont as well.
WHITFIELD: Texas being a border state, I have to ask you, undocumented immigrants, you know, plus their friends and loved ones have expressed a lot of concern that asking to be rescued means risking deportation. So, what is the policy? Are you asking people about their immigration status before being rescued or during rescues?
MURDOCK: So, Fredricka, our priority mission, in a life and safety mission is to save lives. When we are rescuing people, we are not checking documents or asking for id. We get them in the boat or aircraft and get them to safe haven.
WHITFIELD: President Trump's homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, was asked about these concerns yesterday and this is what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BOSSERT, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: In terms of immediate lifesaving, no individual, human being should worry about their immigration status, unless they have committed a crime on top of coming here illegally, when it comes to getting food, water and shelter. So, the authorities won't be conducting any routine swipes or searches inside those shelters.
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WHITFIELD: So, how can you expound on that comment that there shouldn't be any worry about people's immigration status unless they have committed a crime. How do you probe? How do you find out about their background without intimidating or placing fear in people who want to be rescued?
MURDOCK: Again, when we are rescuing somebody, we are not concerned about their identity, we are concerned about getting them to a safe haven.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much, Jud Murdock of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Appreciate it. All the best in continued rescues for so many people who are in desperate need.
All right. Coming up for us, the hidden dangers lurking in Harvey's floodwaters from snakes to mold. The longer the water stays, the greater the threat. Details on that straight ahead.
Plus, another major hurricane is gaining steam in the Atlantic. Where it could hit and when. That's next.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. This morning as many in Houston return to see what's left of their flooded homes, they could be exposed to a growing health risk lurking in the waters. The EPA is warning those in the flood zone that the potentially toxic water is the biggest threat to public health at this time.
Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins me live now from Houston. To what degree, Elizabeth?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, we were on those floodwaters yesterday. They were brown and murky. So, watch as we set out to figure out what exactly is in them.
COHEN (voice-over): Countless people have waded through these floodwaters, some for hours. Now, the question is, what's in it, alligators, hoards of fire ants and many things you can't see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's start sampling. COHEN: We asked Lane Voorhies, the senior scientist at a Houston water testing lab to investigate.
(on camera): What do you think is in this water?
LANE VOORHIES, A&B LABS: Based on sampling we have done in previous flooding events, storm events, we are sure there will be various bacteria, sewage related, things like E. Coli form, fecal strep.
COHEN (voice-over): And that's not all.
(on camera): So now we are testing for metals?
VOORHIES: Yes. This bottle would be for the various heavy metals, the regulated metals that are immediate health hazards.
COHEN: So, like arsenic, lead?
VOORHIES: Yes, arsenic, lead, cadmium.
COHEN: This water is everywhere.
COHEN: So, that means the contamination is.
VOORHIES: The potential for contamination is everywhere.
COHEN (voice-over): But what does it mean for the people who are in the water? We asked Dr. Brent Kaziny, an emergency medical specialist.
(on camera): So, if you are walking through this water, you cannot see what you are stepping on. It will be very easy to cut. What would you worry about next?
DR. BRENT KAZINY, TEXAS CHILDREN HOSPITAL: There's obviously a lot of, you know, fecal material and sewage and things like that in this water.
COHEN: What worries you the most about what's in this water because a lot of people spend a lot of time in this?
KAZINY: The most concerning thing that you could see could be things like, you know, (inaudible) which can cause things like (inaudible) fasciitis. That such a really --
COHEN: Flesh eating bacteria?
KAZINY: Yes, exactly.
COHEN (voice-over): The first wave of the disaster, flooding and rescues. The second wave, the health concerns that come in the aftermath.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: Now, Fred, we will be getting those test results back in the next day or two. We'll let you know what's in them -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: My gosh, so frightening. A lot of dangers. All right. Thank you so much, Elizabeth Cohen in Houston.
So, as Houston grapples with the aftermath of Harvey, another hurricane is churning in the Atlantic. It's Hurricane Irma. It's now a Category 2 storm.
Chad Myers is tracking Irma in the CNN Weather Center. Chad, does that mean it is losing steam or has the potential to grow?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It had an eyewall replacement cycle, Fred, overnight. So, it did lose a little bit, but I am so glad that you called it an it. Harvey was not a boy, Irma is not a girl. All hurricanes are its. They have boy and girl names, they are its.
Here is Irma out in the middle of the Atlantic. To be very honest, it is closer to Africa than it is to America. We are moving toward the west. It could become a Category 3 storm again and I think it likely will.
[11:25:03] A couple things going against it now. It is fairly far to the north. This is 20 degrees north latitude. That water is not nearly as warm by about four or five degrees as it would be if we were ten degrees farther to the south, that explosive type of water in the Gulf of Mexico that made Harvey so explode.
Now the forecast is for the storm to turn to the left a little bit. That's concerning because then, it's going to make a run toward the U.S. If it stays on the northward track, then it's probably more likely a gutter ball between Bermuda and the U.S., North Carolina.
So here is the American model. The red here, pretty certain is going to be in here. After we get past that, the certainty is less because the air in the models goes far, far, far. The farther you go out, 120 hours or 240 hours, you could be 1,000 miles one way or the other.
So, the trend is taking you toward Bermuda. Now the European model that we look is keeping it on that left track to the Leeward Islands and maybe toward the Turks and Caicos. Then it turns to the right late in the forecast.
Does it actually turn? We hope so. This will be a big storm. There's another one behind it, too, Fred. I don't think it gets in the way, but I'm happy that this is so far north. I'm not so happy that this one right here is where it is.
Fifty percent chance of developing in the next five days. It is more to the south, which is more in the warm water, which is more likely attract, you know, to the Caribbean or up the east coast.
So, we'll keep watching for you. Nothing to worry about right now. It's still days away at least a week before any kind of land fall, but just so you know it's out there. WHITFIELD: Yes, nonetheless, keep us posted. Appreciate it. Thanks, Chad.
All right. Coming up for us, they survived the storm, but many their precious belongings did not. The emotional accounts from survivors as they return to their flood ravished homes.