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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Inside the Superdome; Katrina Debacle; Hurricane Hunters; Hurricane Ophelia; Who's to Blame?; Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescues

Aired September 14, 2005 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: It was as hot and as scary as hell. Tonight, Anderson goes inside the Louisiana Superdome where 25,000 people had waited for help, living in squalor as the shelter turned into a monstrous madhouse. The people are gone now, but what they left behind tells an extraordinary story.
Criminal charges against the owners of a New Orleans nursing home. Why did 34 people die under their watch? Why was there no evacuation? Tonight, new details about what happened and disturbing revelations about yet another nursing home.

Katrina washed eight domesticated dolphins out of an aquarium. Now at sea, fearful and huddled together and wounded, the race against the clock to save them.

We go inside the first hurricane to stalk the coast since Katrina. An extraordinary flight with the hurricane hunters right into the eye of Ophelia.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360: Hurricane Katrina: State of Emergency.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome again to 360. I think we got our audio problem solved.

We are coming to you from Audubon Park in New Orleans where an Oklahoma National Guard unit, mostly out of Stillwater and Oklahoma City, has set up camp. They are the first battalion of the 179th Infantry and 45th Infantry Brigade here to help the people of New Orleans recover.

Here is a look at what's happening right now "At This Moment."

Right now the air in New Orleans contains a mix of chemicals, including methanol, Freon and a by-product of gasoline. But in its report today, the EPA says the levels of toxins are well within safety limits. It says floodwaters, though, still pose a health threat.

The Army Corps of Engineers says about nine million gallons of water is being pumped out of the New Orleans area every day. If all goes well, New Orleans could be pumped dry by the end of October.

Parts of Long Beach, Mississippi are off limits tonight. Fire officials have used barbed wire fencing to cordon off the most devastated parts of the town. Officially, it's to keep out looters, though military police believe there may be a lot of bodies still in that area.

And the number of confirmed fatalities from Hurricane Katrina has risen to 707. Four hundred and seventy-four people have died in Louisiana alone. Those numbers are still expected to climb.

And numbers like those are a grim reminder of the tragedy that has happened here in New Orleans. But there is other news today that is encouraging, signs that this city and the surrounding communities are recovering, though still, of course, a lot of work to be done.

CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: I ain't started to get into the mode of how do we reopen the city.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has seen the signs that his wish, to get his city up and running, is one step closer to coming true. Three of the city's suburbs, Westwego, Lafitte and Gretna reopened for business today.

And there was even more hopeful news, the power was back on at the Port of New Orleans, meaning ships and the precious cargo they carry could soon be docking again, bringing a much-need economic boost to the devastated city.

Nearly all of the pumps designed to keep New Orleans dry are now working at full capacity. But that presents another potential problem. While they're helping drop the water level in the streets, removing about nine million gallons a day, the fetid floodwaters are being pumped into Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, both fertile waters for local fishermen.

Today members of the 82nd Airborne collected samples, and Louisiana state officials say they are continually testing the waters.

SECY. MIKE MCDANIELS, L.A. DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUAL.: Personnel are continuing to survey storm impact here, particularly industrial facilities, from planes and boats, to identify potential threats to public safety.

LAVANDERA: On streets that are dry, the cleanup is well underway, with members of the military sweeping away debris and cutting down damaged trees. But every day there seemed to be reminders of the human cost Katrina left in her wake. Today, confirmation of 14 deaths at yet another nursing home. No answer yet as to how the patients died, but this home was not flooded.

The east in Mississippi, we've seen so much of the damage done to people and their property. Now we're getting a clearer picture of the destruction Katrina brought to the shore. The battered beaches, the eroded coastline.

And while people along the Gulf Coast look forward to clearing away and rebuilding, in the nation's capital, a Senate committee began today to look back at what went wrong in response to Katrina.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We will critically examine the legal structures and authorities that define who is in charge of assets that must be brought to bear in such a catastrophic event. In its first major test since 9/11, however, this structure failed to meet our expectations.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We are following several stories tonight, including questions on whether a congressman by the name of William Jefferson in New Orleans abused his power by getting National Guard troops to take him to his home when the city was under lockdown after Katrina hit.

Congressman Jefferson was reportedly in the house for an hour, gathering his laptop computer, three suitcases and other items, while the troops waited for him outside. This was on Friday when there were still many people to be evacuated from this city.

A little north and east from where I'm standing, just a few streets away in fact, is the Louisiana Superdome. What was once home to 25,000 people during the days after the hurricane, it is quiet tonight. The hurricane survivors all have left. And the Superdome officials have been working to try to clean it up. There are still marks of the chaos that went on inside when all those people became victims of a failed rescue effort stuck in squalor conditions and unbearable heat.

I went inside the Superdome today. Here's what I saw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Entering the Superdome two weeks after the storm, you still are warned, wear gloves, wear a mask, don't stay too long.

(on camera): This is incredible.

(voice-over): The Superdome is now empty. The evacuees long gone. Left behind, piles of waste, mountains of trash.

CAPT. CASEY GEIST, 82ND AIRBORNE: It's horrible.

COOPER: Capt. Casey Geist of the 82nd Airborne has been to Iraq, but he's never seen anything like this.

GEIST: But I thought this was a hundred times worse than Iraq. The convention center and the Superdome were just horrid, you know.

COOPER: Two weeks ago, some 20,000 evacuees were living here with no electricity and no way out.

(on camera): Things here in the Superdome were relatively calm, relatively peaceful until the air-condition broke. And when that happened, and it started to get hot, people started to get desperate and terrible desperate things happened.

GEIST: The facts that people were here, they were doing drugs, people were having sex out on the floor, shooting up, raping. I mean, it just seemed like, you know, just madness, uncontrollable madness.

COOPER (voice-over): City officials failed to provide enough police protection, failed to get buses to evacuate the people until days after the storm.

(on camera): It's hard to imagine anyone living here for a day or two, let alone you know three and four and five days. I mean, the smell now is pretty terrible after two weeks. You can only imagine how bad it was on that first day.

(voice-over): Cleaning crews are now working around the clock, sweeping and raking, cleaning up the mess. The work is dirty, conditions disgusting. Amidst the refuse, hints of the horror, cans of juice, empty wheelchairs, a football left behind.

GEIST: Mardi Gras football.

COOPER: Officials are trying to decide what to do with the Superdome. There is so much damage it may get torn down.

(on camera): A lot of people who were here I think are concerned about is that they don't want this to be forgotten. They don't want this place just to be cleaned up and everything swept away and the memories swept away. What happened here is horrific. And the people who were here want it remembered because they never want it to happen again.

(voice-over): The Superdome, long a symbol of this city, is now a symbol of something far worse, of flooding and failures, of promises made and people let down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Well what happened at the Superdome has stirred up a lot of emotions in this country, of course. And a lot of questions about what exactly went wrong, how it happened? How could local, state and federal authorities let this debacle happen? Who should ultimately get the blame?

There's also been a question of race. Would relief have come faster if this disaster happened in a mostly white community? Many questions tonight. We are trying to get some answers.

Joining me now from Washington for an exclusive interview is Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Sen. Obama, thanks very much for being with us. Today, you asked for the president to appoint a watchdog to oversee federal spending in the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast. Why do you think this oversight is needed?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Well, look, we just voted for $60 billion worth of funding to go down to the Gulf Coast. And I think that one of the good things about this past couple of weeks, in the midst of this tragedy, is seeing how generous the American people are. They don't begrudge spending that money, but they want to make sure that it's spent well.

And right now, we've got $50 billion of that funding going to FEMA, the same agency that did a less-than-impressive job right after the disaster. It would be 12 times their existing budget. And so we've just got to make sure that this money is well spent helping the victims of this tragedy, as opposed to lining the pockets of contractors.

COOPER: Some critics, though, will say, look, you know the important thing is to get aid fast, quickly. And we all know, you know, that has been an issue these last two weeks. So the people who will oppose this will say, you know, isn't this just adding another layer of bureaucracy?

OBAMA: Well, no, there's no layer of bureaucracy. What we're doing is we're putting a CFO, a comptroller in the White House that is overseeing how this money gets spent. That CFO then has to report to Congress on a monthly basis, simply to let us know how are we devoting our funds? Is the money going directly to the victims? Is it well spent?

Let me just give you a story from the last hurricane, Hurricane Francis in Florida where we had FEMA pay for 30 funerals of people who didn't even die. They put money into Miami-Dade County, which was 100 miles north of where the hurricane hit. And then, of course, we've got the situation in Iraq where we're still missing $9 billion worth of spending.

So we want to make sure the money is going where it's going to do the most good, but we're not talking about setting up an entire separate bureaucracy. This is something that would work part and parcel with those departments that are charged with reconstruction.

COOPER: Wanted to return to hurricane response for a moment. A recent CNN-"USA Today" poll, when asked if efforts were slow because the victims were African-Americans there is a glaring disparity between the way African-Americans in the United States and white Americans in the United States see this. Twelve percent of whites say yes, 60 percent of African-Americans say yes. Why is there still that huge divide that still exists?

OBAMA: Well, listen, there was, obviously, a lot of anger and anguish across America among whites and blacks, but it was particularly acute in the African-American community. Some of the response, I think, has to do with the anger and concern of what happened.

But I also think part of it is a definitional problem. Because in the African-American community, there's a perception that even if there was an active malice on the part of these various agencies, there seemed to be a general indifference towards how people without automobiles, people who did not have the ability or the resources to check into a hotel, how they would get out.

And I think that in the African-American community, at least, there's a perception that inner city communities have generally been abandoned. This is just one more bit of evidence about indifference. And part of what I think our task is...

COOPER: But let me...

OBAMA: ... is to rebuild the trust. And that is something that I think the president still has the opportunity to do.

COOPER: It's interesting, though, because you're focusing on the federal government response saying that you know they thought people were detached from the realities of the inner city and thought people had SUVs and could just go check into a hotel.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

COOPER: But the mayor of New Orleans...

OBAMA: Anderson, I'm not focusing on the federal government. I think the perception, generally across the board, is the government failed them.

COOPER: OK.

OBAMA: And you know one of the things that...

COOPER: But the mayor...

OBAMA: One of the things...

COOPER: I'm sorry, go ahead. Go ahead.

OBAMA: One of the things I'm not interested in doing is necessarily fixing blame. I am interested in fixing the system. And I think that's what all Americans, African-Americans, as well as whites, as well as Hispanics, want to see happen is making sure we're prepared for the next time out.

COOPER: But some who will listen will say, well look, the mayor of New Orleans is African-American. He knew there were a hundred thousand people in this city, in his city who didn't have access to automobiles, and yet didn't really have a plan in place to get the buses that they had to pick up people and get them out of town. I mean, I know you say you're not about pointing blame, but should he share in that in -- I mean, do you think he's cut off from the realities of the African-American populations in his city?

OBAMA: Well what I can say is is that local, state, federal officials working together did not seem to have a good plan to get those folks out.

One of the things that we've done, I introduced legislation this week to say that every state, local official working with the federal government has to have a plan to get out folks who are disabled, folks who are poor, folks who don't have access to automobiles and typically use public transportation. So I think there's enough blame to spread around.

We do have to get it right. What I was trying to explain is I think the general response that came out and the reason that there might be some discrepancies between how blacks and whites perceive the problem.

COOPER: Sen. Obama, appreciate you being on the program. Thank you very much.

OBAMA: I really enjoyed it. And you've done a great job reporting -- Anderson.

COOPER: I've been lucky to be here. Thank you very much.

Coming up next tonight on 360, President Bush has taken responsibility for the government's failure to respond after Katrina hit and Michael Brown has resigned as head of FEMA. Well what about the guy, Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, facing new questions tonight over a memo he wrote. Was he really the one responsible? Take a look at that.

Plus, hurricane hunters, we take you along on their reconnaissance flight as they track Ophelia off the coast of North Carolina.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back, we're in New Orleans at a camp set up by Oklahoma National Guard who are doing such important work here over the last several days.

Even as we speak, sensible people along the Carolina coast are doing whatever they can to get out of Hurricane Ophelia's way. Then there are a few, not saying they're not sensible, just that they are a very special breed who are doing whatever they can to get directly into Hurricane Ophelia. Or they're doing it for all the rest of us, because the more we know about the deadly winds they chase the better.

CNN's Rick Sanchez has been out with some of these hurricane hunters into the first storm to threaten our coast since Katrina. Fasten your seat belts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yesterday afternoon, Tropical Storm Ophelia is hovering off the coast of North Carolina. Her winds are less than 75 miles an hour. Her eye is not well formed. On the heels of the monster Katrina, that's good news. The last thing anyone wants is another hurricane strike. With Katrina in mind, CNN has learned President Bush has called North Carolina's governor to be sure the state is ready for anything. CAPT. JOHN WAGNER, FLIGHT COMMANDER: This little arrow right there is pointing toward Myrtle Beach. We're going to go right up to about right here.

SANCHEZ: Capt. John Wagner will pilot this C-130 J. Hercules from Atlanta to an area off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, then off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its' a crisscross maneuver designed to collect data that will be passed on to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The findings essential for forecasts.

TINA YOUNG, FLIGHT METEOROLOGIST: Try to figure out how far out we would need to be to do that drop safely.

SANCHEZ: Flight meteorologist Tina Young confers with her commander on the best angle of entry into the storm. The plane will descend from 10,000 feet to 8,000 to better deal with the expected drop in pressure.

YOUNG: We're looking at the steering winds all the way around the storm, so we'll be doing drops in the max wind bands around the storm. We call those feeder bands.

SANCHEZ: That information is acquired using these drop songs (ph), tubes that are released from the plane with small parachutes attached. What they find is the temperature at the water level below Ophelia is 83 degrees. The heat creates energy and strengthens the storm. The millibar pressure is at 989. That's a substantial drop, which means the eye is forming into a tighter spiral.

The hurricane hunter also finds that Ophelia's winds have increased to 75 miles an hour. The information is immediately e- mailed to the National Hurricane Center. The conclusion is unanimous, Ophelia has gained power. It's once again a full-fledged hurricane.

WAGNER: As we just found out, the Hurricane Center upgraded it back to Hurricane Ophelia.

SANCHEZ: I ask the navigator, Jim Jeter, why the continual crisscrossing of the storm. He explains it's about creating a grid to mark the center of the storm and track its movement.

JIM JETER, FLIGHT NAVIGATOR: That's right, the winds are circulating. And at some point in the center there is no wind, and that's where she barks it and that's where we hope we find the lowest pressure.

SANCHEZ (on camera): That's almost eerie, isn't it?

JETER: It is.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): One of the things that's different about this hurricane is that it doesn't seem to want to move. Charts show it moving at zero to three miles an hour. They hardly get much slower. But after Katrina, it's hard to take this or any other hurricane for granted.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, on board hurricane hunter off the coast of North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well for the view from outside the storm now, at its business end you might say, we go live to CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano who is in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

Rob, what's the situation where you are?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'll tell you what, we're getting the northern fringes of the eyewall of this storm. And just to add a note to Rick's piece, those hurricane hunters, they do a priceless job bringing back that data so the National Hurricane Center can put together their forecast.

This one has been difficult to forecast, that's for sure. It's done all sorts of loopy-loops. But now, a strong Category 1 storm, and on the move towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

We're on a pier right here at Atlantic Beach. (INAUDIBLE) 80 to a 100 yards into the ocean and (INAUDIBLE) about 20 yards earlier this evening. Take a look at this video. Ripped away by the Atlantic Ocean. We watched it hour by hour the columns, support columns begin to buckle. And then, sure enough, it started floating away, being swallowed by the ocean. We expect this pier probably to continue to be taken out like Lincoln Logs, but we will be able to (INAUDIBLE) when that happens.

The surf behind me, obviously, is just unbelievable. We had high tide over two hours ago, but the tide really hasn't receded, because now, even as the tide goes out, we're starting to get the storm surge, not to mention the winds. The winds, the waves and the water continue to erode away at this beach.

What's different about North Carolina, the Outer Banks, as opposed to the Gulf of Mexico, the Outer Banks have these sand dunes which go anywhere from 5 feet to 15 feet that protect the inland areas. So you really got to get a huge storm surge to get inland flooding.

COOPER: Rob.

MARCIANO: But the bays and sounds inland actually are expected to get a worse storm surge with this persistent east wind slow-moving part of this storm, Anderson, that continually pounds North Carolina. And that's gong to be the -- that's what is going to do us in.

COOPER: And areas around the coastal areas have been evacuated, ordered evacuation by the state and local authorities. We will continue to follow the storm.

Rob, thanks.

Coming up next, though, tonight on 360, Hurricane Katrina and the blame game. While the man on the right, Michael Brown, has resigned from FEMA, it's the man in the middle, Michael Chertoff, who is under fire now. We'll investigate.

Also tonight, neglect in New Orleans. We'll have a report on another nursing home where those unable to help themselves died waiting for someone to help them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And we are live back in New Orleans. You're looking at some Oklahoma National Guard troops who are lining up for their first hot meal. Something they, no doubt, will be very excited to have here. They have been doing remarkable work here.

Moving more from a search and rescue mode now to helping recover the remains of people who have died here and restoring those people to their dignity and restoring them to their families. As more people have been recovered after Katrina, more questions are being raised about exactly who was in charge of the operation in those early days.

So much attention has been paid to the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, who resigned on Monday. But now a memo has surfaced about a man, Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security, and whether in fact he really was the man in charge.

Here is CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the worst of Katrina, as survivors and victims piled up on the coast, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote a memo that is now raising questions. Did he use his department's extraordinary power to move as much relief as possible to the region quickly? Or did he delay decisions and lose precious hours, maybe days?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Michael Chertoff is the head of the agency. He has to absolutely bear part of the responsibility for the inaction of that agency.

FOREMAN: Chertoff sent his memo to other cabinet members on the Tuesday after the stormy Monday. In it, he declared Katrina an incident of national significance, a specific term that triggers the highest level of federal help. He appointed FEMA Director Michael Brown as the point man and Chertoff's team publicized the news.

THOMPSON: Well, as you know, we are here today in the shadow of Hurricane Katrina, which I think is one of the worst storms this country has experienced.

FOREMAN: But now, as critics ask why these decisions were announced four days after the National Weather Service said Katrina would be catastrophic, Homeland Security is saying its own announcement of the secretary's actions was inaccurate.

Now they say Katrina was officially an incident of national significant well before Chertoff wrote that memo declaring it. They say the storm automatically acquired that designation when the president declared a national emergency before Katrina hit shore.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday I signed a disaster declaration for the state of Louisiana. And this morning, I signed a disaster declaration for the state of Mississippi.

FOREMAN: Another line in Chertoff's memo mentions the White House's Katrina task force. He writes, the Department of Homeland Security will be part of the task force and will assist the administration. The national response plan, which was designed to guide a federal response to disasters, pointedly says the Homeland Security secretary is to lead the federal response. The secretary's office says he was doing just that and the memo reflects only additional plans to help long-term recovery.

(on camera): In short, the secretary's office is saying this memo just doesn't matter. It was merely an administrative note to make sure all the departments knew what was happening.

(voice-over): Still, the national response plan so carefully crafted after 9/11, plainly gave Secretary Chertoff the most direct power over federal resources before, during, and after Katrina.

BUSH: And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility.

FOREMAN: And while President Bush is accepting blame for delays and FEMA Director Michael Brown is out of his job, it is not yet clear exactly how Secretary Chertoff was using his power during some desperate hours.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well stay tuned on that story. We'll continue to investigate.

I just want to show you a shot that Fray (ph), our cameraman, has on a different angle. Oklahoma National Guard troops. This is a dog that they have found, a dog that was abandoned by his owner and, well, actually her owner, I should say. I'm going to ask you what they named the dog? Of course it's pretty obvious, they named the dog Katrina. But they are taking care of this dog here and want to make sure the dog ends up in a good home.

Still to come on 360, echoes of a hospital under siege. A place where doctors struggled to keep people alive as snipers shot from the outside. We'll take you back inside Charity Hospital. The first time we've gone back inside.

Plus, in just a few minutes Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco will hold a formal address. Her first one since blasting out the federal government. We'll bring it to you live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome again to 360. We're coming to you live from New Orleans. Here is a look at what's happening right now at this moment.

The lights are on in some parts of New Orleans. Electricity has returned to some neighborhoods, including the port of New Orleans and the central business districts. Meanwhile, three of the city's suburbs have reopened for business.

Public school teachers for New Orleans are looking for another means of income. They have received their last paychecks until the city's schools reopen. When that will happen, of course, nobody knows. About a quarter of Louisiana's teachers were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Congressional lawmakers are planning to get their own firsthand look at the devastation. Today Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Democratic Leader Harry Reid announced they will lead a 14-member congressional delegation to the Gulf coast on Friday.

And many children are still without their parents tonight. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Kids says about 2,000 children are separated from their parents because of Hurricane Katrina. Imagine that, nearly 2,000.

Governor Kathleen Blanco, the Governor of Louisiana, is holding a live news conference right now. Let's listen in a bit.

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, (D) LOUISIANA: -- in our nation's history. Tonight, foremost in our thoughts are the families who will were, literally, ripped apart by the storm. Over the past few days, I have met brothers separated from sisters, mothers and fathers searching for children, and children who have seen things no child should have to witness.

As a mother, a sister, and a daughter, my heart goes out to every family and we all know that family stretches beyond blood to embrace the neighborhoods and communities that form the fabric of our lives. To the displaced people of St. Tammany, Washington, Tangipahoa, St. Charles, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. Your loss is our loss. As your governor, I pledge that I will not rest until every Louisiana family and community is reunited.

(APPLAUSE)

The destruction is almost beyond comprehension. We've lost hundreds of our loved ones. Entire communities have been destroyed. Businesses wiped off the map. Families separated. More than a million people displaced from their homes. But even as we continue to recover from the worst national disaster in our nation's history,the people of Louisiana stand tall, and I am proud to stand with you.

(APPLAUSE)

We all know that there were failures at every level of government, state, federal, and local. At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here. And as your governor, I take full responsibility. Now, before I talk about the work ahead, I must offer thanks on behalf of--

COOPER: Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana. One of the things that the state is considering doing is condemning a hospital, Charity Hospital. It's an old institution in the city of New Orleans. Since 1736, it has been treating patients. It is the oldest continuously operating hospital in the entire United States. The Big Charity people here call it. It is quiet and empty now. It was finally evacuated late last week. A process that doctors and nurses had to suspend for a time while they came under sniper fire. Dr. Sanjay Gupta was there. He saw it with his own eyes. The job is done now, 250 patients who were trapped there without electricity and water. They are gone. Those who work there are now trying to rebuild. And the bodies of those who died there are still inside that building.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice over): Outside New Orleans, Charity Hospital, you can still see banners hung by desperate patients. Send armed rescue. Help. Inside, the patients are gone, the halls dark. Filled with soldiers and medical personnel cleaning up an impossible mess.

(on camera): The men of the 82nd Airborne, Charlie 573, and the nurses and doctors who stayed throughout this disaster are trying to get the hospital up and running again. The morgue is still flooded. There are as many as 50 bodies down there right now. When they get that cleaned up and secured, they hope to open this hospital, at least partially, by Sunday.

They're pumping water --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. They're pumping water out right now at approximately 12,000 gallons per minute.

COOPER (voice over): The smell from the morgue is sickening, but few working here seem to notice. Dr. Keith van Meter (ph) and his team were on duty around the clock trying to keep stranded patients alive.

DR. VAN METER (ph), CHARITY HOSPITAL: There were no elevators.

COOPER (on camera): So wait. So there are no elevators. So you got patients on boards that you're carrying at the same time you're trying to keep them alive on a ventilator with a hand pump?

VAN METER (ph): Correct. Correct.

COOPER: That's incredible.

(voice over): Dr. Mike Udanette (ph) worked in this room without electricity and only basic supplies.

(on camera): You had nurses, doctors who just have to stand there and hand-pump air into these people's lungs to keep them alive?

DR. MIKE UDANETTE (ph), CHARITY HOSPITAL: Absolutely. We had pretty much a slew of people that were willing to help. The resolve in the hospital was unbelievable.

COOPER: And what was the worst moment?

UDANETTE (ph): The worst moments -- and I can say this is when we thought that there were people coming to get the patients out, and then we found out that that, in fact, wasn't true.

COOPER: Do you think you'll ever look at this room, this hospital the same way?

UDANETTE (ph): No, not the same way, because there's always the thought of what we did for six incredible days. And that is the only word I can use to describe those days is absolutely incredible. So I don't think you can ever walk into an area where, you know, you had such a big tragedy happen outside around you, and then you have to make something happen inside to take care of those folks. And it would be hard to look at the same. But it would be brilliant to see it back up and running, because it serves such a great need for the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.

COOPER (voice over): The state may condemn this hospital, but the doctors here hope that's not the case. They want to reopen. They want to rebuild. A rebirth, they say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we can restart and practice a day's medicine in here again, it would make the past a little bit healed.

COOPER: Charity Hospital's slogan seems more appropriate now than ever before. Where the unusual occurs and miracles happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Miracles, indeed.

Coming up next on 360, more nursing home deaths. Just days after three dozen people were found dead from neglect, more are found dead in another nursing home and Louisiana's top cop is vowing to hunt down those responsible.

Also tonight, a race against time. We'll show you what is being done to save some dolphins in danger from the storm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're back in New Orleans at a camp set up by the Oklahoma National Guard. They're loading up some of their vehicles after a long day of work.

And you have probably heard by now of Salvador and Mabel Mangano. They are owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home just east of New Orleans where 34 elderly patients died during Hurricane Katrina, drowned in their beds in some cases. And the first major criminal case that has related to the storm's death toll, Louisiana's attorney general charged them with negligent homicide.

Now, their attorney says his clients are innocent. And that they've been waiting for a signal that never came from authorities of their parish. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM COBB, ATTORNEY FOR MANGANOS: We never received a mandatory evacuation order from St. Bernard Parish. And, unlike what the attorney general has said previously, my folks were in the facility with the patients throughout. They saved 52 lives of folks in this storm. And their reward for doing that from the attorney general is to be arrested.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, St. Rita's is not the only nursing home now under investigation. On the northern edge of New Orleans, at least 44 elderly people died in the Lafon On Nursing Home, while waiting to be rescued.

CNN's Drew Griffin joins us live from New Orleans with details -- Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Anderson, the numbers get a little confusing in the heat here. But it is 14 people who died there. And CNN has confirmed that the attorney general is investigating what happened at the Lafon Nursing Home.

And if he goes after the operators of that home, he'll be going after Catholic nuns who stuck it out with those patients and tried to save them. We visited the Lafon Nursing Home today. And outside, you can see remnants of what happened there.

There was no flood, unlike St. Rita's in St. Bernard Parish. What killed these people was the wait -- the wait to be rescued after the storm. They were literally stranded there with no power, limited water supplies and perhaps no electricity to run any of the equipment that some of these elderly people might need to stay alive.

The nuns stayed there with them. And during that wait is when 14 of the patients died. The sister who runs that nursing home confirmed that to us. She is in Texas. And now she understands that her nursing home is under this investigation by the attorney general.

She would not elaborate any more on what happened inside there. In fact, she wanted to keep her phone lines clear because she, Anderson, is still dealing with victims families who are just now learning that their loved ones perished inside that home -- Anderson.

COOPER: Drew, what happens next? I mean, where does this investigation go? How long is it going to take?

GRIFFIN: Well, the investigation into St. Rita's as you knew, took very little time before charges were filed. In fact, just days or so.

Now, we understand the attorney general has confirmed that he is investigating this. The nuns who operate this home, they are scattered about the country. They had to evacuate themselves after all of the people in their home were rescued, so we don't know the state of the investigation. We just know that it is targeting these 14 deaths inside this nursing home.

And we've learned there are other investigations, Anderson, smaller in number of other incidents where nursing home patients passed away.

COOPER: Drew griffin, thanks very much for that. Coming up next tonight on 360, keeping the peace. We take you on patrol with the New Orleans Police Department S.W.A.T. team. It is a CNN exclusive.

Also tonight, dolphins in danger. Pushed into the Gulf of Mexico far away from the aquarium that is their home. We'll tell you about the rescue effort.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We are here in New Orleans at a camp set up by Oklahoma National Guard. That is their first hot meal since they have been here. And it is quite an exciting night I can tell you in this camp for those men and women.

Just a couple of days after Katrina hit, there was the looting, a sight many of us will never forget. On those nights, members of the New Orleans Police Department S.W.A.T. Team found themselves walking the dark streets of the city guided by the muzzle flashes of thugs with guns. Thankfully, it is not that bad anymore. There are still areas of danger in the city, but law and order more or less has been restored.

CNN's Jeff Koinange went on patrol and gives us this exclusive look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 10:00 pm. And members of the New Orleans Police Department S.W.A.T. Team are going through a last minute briefing before hitting the streets, streets that more than two weeks after Katrina, can still be very dangerous at night.

They're joined by teams from the US military as well as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remind you, we use pit bulls down here for protection so --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could have to do what you gotta do.

KOINANGE: He tells us his unit has received several dozen calls in recent nights, made numerous arrests, that as the water recedes from neighborhoods, armed thugs move in to steal. S.W.A.T., with the backup it's not getting, is determined to take back the streets. Determined to restore law and order in what was fast becoming a lawless land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get a line. And give me odds and evens.

KOINANGE: They are not taking any chances. The looters still out there are said to be heavily armed, having stolen guns and other weapons from several ammunition stores.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Go on spec three. Everybody go on Spec three.

KOINANGE: Tonight, they are patrolling the sixth district. A place they've aptly nicknamed Mogadishu Mile. Seen on many a running gun battle between looters and law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Federal Express van riding around, and documents -- it's a stolen van they looted. So if you see a Federal Express van, we're going to challenge that. Alpha Squad, let's walk out.

KOINANGE: They move out in single file, weapons at the ready just in case. We agreed to walk the Mogadishu Mile with them. The only night sounds are the men walking and dogs barking. The only lights in the streets coming from their weapons. A helicopter hovers overhead, a bit of air support for the ground troops. In some neighborhoods, they, literally, go building-to-building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One guy down on the corner.

KOINANGE: Back on the streets the patrol splits up. Some continue door-to-door, while others set up checkpoints.

(on camera): I've just been handed one of these night vision goggles to take a look through to see what they see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger that. Stand by, and let me check with ICE.

KOINANGE: The team behind me will be out till dawn, when they will be replaced by another S.W.A.T. Team. It will be around the clock patrols with no end in sight. Jeff Koinange, CNN, on patrol with S.W.A.T.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: In a moment we'll have more on a rescue of dolphins with Gary Tuchman, but first let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Hey, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Anderson.

We're going to take you straight back to the North Carolina coast which is getting pummeled by Hurricane Ophelia right now. We will be talking with the governor who is warning that the effects of this storm may be felt for 48 hours.

We're also working on the story of a truck driver who has taken in more than a half dozen of his relatives. They happen to be evacuees from New Orleans. Would you believe his act of mercy is getting him kicked out of his apartment? We'll have that story and a lot of interesting stories out of New Orleans tonight. We hope you'll join us at the top of the hour. Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Paula, thanks very much.

In a moment we're going to have a story about a rescue of dolphins who were stranded by the storm. This is a dog by the name Katrina rescued by the Oklahoma National Guard. We'll tell you more about her also coming up later tonight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You know, when you think of the damage that floodwaters can cause you probably don't think of animals that swim in water as being in much danger. But eight dolphins that were washed out of there aquarium are fighting to stay alive. CNN's Gary Tuchman reports tonight from Biloxi, Mississippi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): We're on a rescue mission. Before the hurricane, this was Gulfport, Mississippi's Marine Life Oceanarium. Now it's destroyed, and eight of the dolphins were washed into the Gulf of Mexico. But take a look to the left of the boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're coming.

TUCHMAN: The dolphin trainers and experts from NOA (ph) have made an amazing discovery. The dolphins not only survived, they're all together in the Gulf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just shocking that we found all eight of them together, because even at the aquarium they weren't all housed together.

TUCHMAN: But now it's a race against time. These dolphins have always lived in captivity. They can't survive more than a couple of weeks in these waters. They are skinnier, and were injured in the hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's on the net, right?

TUCHMAN: The trainers jump out to feed the dolphins and provide antibiotics.

(on camera): The goal is to get these dolphins on the mat behind me, but right now even if they got them on the mat they couldn't bring them back, because the waters here are too deep.

(voice over): They're trying to coax the dolphins into shallower waters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, the most important thing is to try to keep them comfortable. They recognize the training staff. They are comfortable with the training staff.

TUCHMAN: There were six more dolphins at the aquarium. They are safe, because they were put in hotel swimming pools a little farther inland. The hope was the other eight could survive in this 30-foot tall tank, a tank that made it through Hurricane Camille. But it was no match for the 41-foot storm surge. So the dolphins got swept out to sea.

(on camera): What are the names of the eight dolphins still out there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well we got Tony, Kelly, Shelley. We have three captive ones that are Alija and Noah. And then, of course, we have Jim.

TUCHMAN: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jim is the oldest one. She's 40 years old.

TUCHMAN: Forty years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In human terms, it's about 90 years.

TUCHMAN (voice over): They were not able to capture the dolphins Wednesday. So they will try again Thursday, as they spend another night in contaminated waters among predators they know little about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: The dolphin trainers are reasonably sure they will be able to capture some of these dolphins, but they are not at all sure that they will be able to get all of them. Tomorrow, they will start trying to pull the dolphins up on the boat, and we will be there with them -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary, great story. Another animal story to tell you about. These guys are from the Oklahoma National Guard. They found -- this dog was left by its owner who evacuated. They basically adopted it. first of all, what are your names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specialist Spagilica (ph).

COOPER: Your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specialist Crenshaw (ph).

COOPER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specialist Hubbard (ph).

COOPER: OK. So, first of all, how did you come up with the name Katrina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty obvious.

COOPER: What is going to happen to the dog now? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dogs going to probably live out the rest of its life in our armory in Stillwater.

COOPER: Really? So you're going to take the dog home with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

COOPER: That's cool. I mean, you've seen a lot of dogs. What's this like for you guys being here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's surreal. You know, it's like nothing else. And I think all of the people that are down here from Oklahoma are happy to be here, they're happy to help out. And help all of the people in the New Orleans area.

COOPER: Well I know you guys had a sign you wanted to hang up, hi, Mom, and also. OSU (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) commander's an OU graduate, so he's real happy about that.

COOPER: Is that right? Oh, that's cool. And how's Katrina doing? She seems in pretty good shape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's good. She get's a bath a day. Of course it's out in the field just like us.

COOPER: Well I noticed, this is your first hot meal today, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it? It is, isn't it.

COOPER: Is she getting a little bit of it. I saw some people tossing her a few things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's like the pickiest eater ever. But I mean, we have dog food for and stuff. We've had the vet, actually at the zoo, has taken a look at her --

COOPER: That's great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and given her a clean bill of health.

COOPER: Well that's cool. I appreciate what you guys are doing down here, not only with, obviously, Katrina, but in a lot of other important matters. Thanks, very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No problem.

COOPER: All right. Take care.

That's it for us tonight. Join me again from 10:00 to midnight Eastern Time along with Aaron Brown for our Special Coverage: State of Emergency. Right now CNN's prime time coverage continues with Paula Zahn. Hey, Paula.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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