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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Miles and Miles of Devastation; Gridlock after Sandy Cripples NYC; Thousands Trapped in Hoboken; President Obama, Gov. Christie Tour New Jersey Shore

Aired October 31, 2012 - 20:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone.

We are here in Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the river from lower Manhattan. So is the National Guard. They arrived late last night. They've been busy. The crisis far from over.

All across the area police and rescuers are still hard at work, so are power company crews, transit workers, nurses and doctors and e- mass workers. So many people doing heroic work tonight, so many more just trying to do simple things like getting from point A to point B. For example, across the Hudson River to work, or across the East River.

All day today with subways out, rush hour was more like a pilgrimage. Thousands of people one step at a time. That should improve a little bit by tomorrow. There is news tonight on bridges, airports and power problems, and almost every minute new pictures of the destruction keep coming in.

This is a marina full of boats washed ashore in New York's Staten Island. But these pictures are one thing and people another. Fourteen people died on Staten Island, we know that now. Three more are missing right now.

Again this is not over yet. We're going to cover all the angles tonight, starting with President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): With the election near but the disaster now, two political rivals joined hands and got to work. They saw a shoreline battered beyond recognition. Almost beyond belief. Mile after mile of destruction. Home after home. Life after life.

On the ground, at a local shelter, no political complications. Just simple need and promises from each man to meet it.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Christie, throughout this process, has been responsive. He's been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm. And I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before. So I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to ask you to back up, please.

COOPER: In Hoboken, New Jersey, that meant the National Guard. Nowhere to be seen until late last night, was out in force today. Rescuing people who were stranded and getting hungry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We couldn't have survived one more night without, you know, food, water.

COOPER: In New York's fifth borough, Staten Island, police choppers did rooftop rescues. At sea, the Navy is moving three warships into the New York-New Jersey area, capable of serving as offshore helicopter bases. This is still a fast-moving emergency.

Proof this afternoon evacuations at another major New York hospital, Bellevue. Seven hundred patients on the move.

Elsewhere in the city, though, it seemed like no one moving.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: I think anybody that try to drive around New York City today realized there were a lot of cars on the road, traffic is very heavy.

COOPER: New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announcing bridges into Manhattan are open but limiting most incoming cars to three occupants or more. As for subways, limited service tomorrow but a lot of work ahead.

Kennedy Airport up and running. LaGuardia still closed. That crane now they say it's tied down and secure. But elsewhere no progress. Only a clearer view of the loss. Here on New York City's Breezy Point, more homes destroyed than first thought. And on the Jersey Shore a simple fact comes home to the mayor of Seaside Heights.

MAYOR BILL AKERS, SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY: We're at ground zero. We're taking baby steps right now then we'll sort it out at the end. But right now just trying to -- you know, just kind of get some kind of semblance of what was.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And there's a lot of people in Hoboken tonight wondering when will electricity is going to be restored here. We're just a couple of blocks from city hall. That's kind of the main area where the National Guard is. And this is an area where actually our Gary Tuchman yesterday was involved in a rescue of two people.

The water, there are two cars stranded here and the water was up to about the headlights yesterday. So you get -- it's now basically up to kind of midway on my shins, almost at my knees. So you get a sense of how much the water has gone down. But it's strange, things are -- there's all these photographs floating throughout the water. Here's a photo of somebody's pet that I just pulled out of the water.

There's photographs all around. People's possessions just kind of in this water and this is an inner section. There's water all around here. I'm standing actually on a storm drain and all throughout the day, Brian Todd who was here, was witnessing volunteers, just citizens coming out, some of them had skink holes, and they were basically just trying to clear out the storm drain and they were actually pretty successful in terms of clearing some of these streets of water.

There's a lot of water, though, that remains in Hoboken. There are a lot of water still to be pumped out.

There's also late-word tonight that New York's LaGuardia Airport is going to open tomorrow. That is certainly good news. As for limited subway service, that also resumes tomorrow here in New York. No trains will be running south of 34th Street. There's no power south of 34th Street, an area that includes the financial district, though that did reopen today. The Stock Exchange.

Superstorm Sandy has crippled the nation's biggest transit system. Some subway stations remain under water, particularly those down town. There's catastrophic damage to underground tracks and equipment. They've never seen anything like this. Saltwater, really corrosive. The MTA says it is too early to tell when full service is going to return or even if every subway line can even be fixed.

Millions of riders depend on the subway obviously each day. A few commuters train lines went back into service this afternoon, but for the most part, commuters relied on buses, cars and cabs if you were lucky enough to find them and they weren't gouging you for prices. There's gridlock as bad as we've ever seen in New York.

Take a look at this. A live picture right now. A live shot of Columbus Circle just south of Central Park on the west side. By the way, Central Park still remains closed. It has been like this all day. One massive traffic jam and of the reasons is because that crane is still dangling over an area on 57th Street so there's a whole area, about seven blocks, which is blocked off, and that's creating that massive traffic jam around -- on the circle.

Jason Carroll joins me now from the Queensborough Bridge, which connects Manhattan and Queens.

Jason, what's the latest in terms of people trying to get in and out of Manhattan, because I talked to you earlier today and most people just -- have given up trying to get a vehicle. They were just walking.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, and that's still what they're doing now, Anderson. It's been an incredibly frustrating day for thousands of commuters who've been making their way across the Queensborough Bridge where we are. You can take a look behind me through the traffic, through the stall of traffic, people still making their way across the bridge even at this hour, even at 8:00. It's the only way for a lot of these people to get home.

Across the street over here, we can show you that line that I showed you a little earlier, still here, people waiting sometimes three, four hours for a bus to show up. You can see right now they're waiting patiently, but I want to also show you, Anderson, some video that we shot just within the past 40 minutes or so where you could see that people lost their patience.

There was a crush of people jamming, trying to get inside one door, or trying to get inside, trying to get onto one of the buses that have pulled up. People got a little bit frustrated. There was some yelling going back and forth, some tempers were lost. Eventually those who needed to get on the bus did in fact get on the bus. But you could just see how tempers are really running a little short here, as people are trying to deal with everything going on.

Again, no subway service. No train service today. Buses running and doing the best that they can. I spoke to a UPS worker just a little while ago who basically summed it all up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: Tell me about the commute for you today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I walked, from Queens Boulevard over here.

CARROLL: And put that in perspective for me. What kind of walk was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A marathon. A marathon. Walking that (INAUDIBLE). A marathon. That's what you can call it today.

CARROLL: What are we talking about in terms of hours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About two hours of walk. And no buses, nothing. We need the train service. Bring it back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: He really summed it up, Anderson. Basically saying a marathon, that's what it felt like. A lot of people experiencing that as they head home and they're going to do at least an hour walk on their way home but as bad as it's being flipped today, tomorrow promises to be just a little bit better.

COOPER: Yes, well, let's hope each day is getting just a little bit better. But it's not going to come soon enough for a lot of folks. Particularly below 34th Street in Manhattan. It is very frustrating down there. No cell service. No Internet service. No lights. Whereas above there is and restaurants are open and people kind of -- more of a semblance of normal life. As we said a moment ago, another New York hospital, Bellevue, is now -- right now, tonight, scrambling to move hundreds of patients to safety. We're told the evacuation should be completed by noon tomorrow. One of the challenges is where to take these patients. Evacuations at a couple of other hospitals are already taxing the system, as you know. NYU Langone Medical Center near the East River in the 30s had to move patients during the storm Monday night after a generator has failed. Bellevue is just a couple of blocks south of NYU. Its generators have been providing power for close to 48 hours. But the pumps that provide fuel are now under eight feet of water in Bellevue's basement.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been on that story all day long. He joins me now.

Sanjay, this evacuation has been going on all day. Is it still going on right now?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is still going on Anderson, it is expected to go on through the night. I mean this is going to be a continuous thing.

One thing I want to point out, you can still see some of the ambulances -- I don't know if -- behind me here, Anderson, but there's also these buses that are starting to come in as well. And what this means, and this important from a medical standpoint, is that they get the sickest patients out first. The most critical patients out first.

Some of the patients who are not as critical may not even require ambulance services per se. Might be able to get transported on some of these buses eventually so they're sort of on standby mode. But this has been a continuous process. At one point there was up to 50 ambulances sort of in this alley here behind me just in and out taking these patients back and forth -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, that's what's so, you know, disturbing especially for people in lower Manhattan who don't have electricity. NYU Langone now is not an option. Bellevue is not an option. St. Vincent closed down last year. So there's really not a hospital in lower Manhattan to take care of emergency cases.

GUPTA: I know. It's pretty remarkable. If you look at Bellevue alone, and just look at the numbers, about 125,000 emergency room admissions a year. And that is over 300 psychiatric beds in the hospital, one of the largest in the -- in the state. So it's a real concern and they want to get the operations up as soon as possible.

You mentioned this whole notion about the fuel pumps. And it's important because the generators were up high, away from the water, but the pumps that pumped oil to those generators were down low. When they pumped some of the water out today from the basement they found that those pumps much were more damaged than they realized. And that's what sort of prompted this evacuation.

One thing I just want to share with you, Anderson, just a little piece of color that they told me about is that in order to keep that -- that generator running on the 13th floor they essentially had to create this bucket brigade of National Guard folks up 12 flights of stairs. Bucket after bucket. It takes about 40 gallons or so an hour, they say. And they just had to keep fueling that generator over the last, you know -- more than a day really. So it was a remarkable scene that are taking place in there -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wow, that's incredible. Sanjay, appreciate the reporting all day long. For the residents here of this damaged and water-logged city it was the equivalent of the cavalry, come into the rescue late last night, the National Guard arriving the early hours of this morning. If you remember when we are on the air last night, Gary Tuchman had just reported on the mayor who is desperate for the National Guard to come in.

And at the end of his report he got word they were in fact coming. They arrived after the 1:00 hour. Forty-five guard troops in a convoy of 18 vehicles. The troops got right to work, rescuing people who were trapped in their home by flood, bringing them by truck to dry land, being extra careful with the smallest Hoboken residents.

The Guard said it's rescued about 350 people by this evening and helped deliver desperately needed food and water. Gary Tuchman has been out here for a long time. A lot of folks very relieved to see these National Guard troops.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very relieved. About 45 troops are here. They have about 18 vehicles, including five ton- ton trucks of Humvees. And we have some very encouraging news tonight. I just went out with them for an hour and a half going all throughout the city of Hoboken, and I can tell you the water has receded a great deal.

COOPER: That's great.

TUCHMAN: It's my judgment right now, by looking at this, that anyone who is able-bodied in this city is able to leave on their own. The water is now -- the deepest water we saw in this city behind us was about two feet deep. And most of the sidewalks are relatively clear now. So some elderly and some infirmed people might not be able to leave.

And at one point today we went into an apartment complex where old people lived because the had heard reports, the National Guard troops, that they wanted to get out. We went in there, they were all playing cards, they're playing dominos.

COOPER: That's great.

TUCHMAN: And they did not want to leave.

COOPER: Well, it's interesting, though. You were here some 24 hours ago basically -- or actually no, it's earlier today, was it, for the rescue?

TUCHMAN: It was last night.

COOPER: All the days are blended together now.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes. But you were out with the mayor going basically in a front loader and it was -- in this place that you saw two people being rescued from these vehicles.

TUCHMAN: Well, literally right here. And we drove five blocks from the water to get here. So it shows you how everything has receded because one block away from here there's no water whatsoever.

COOPER: Right.

TUCHMAN: But yes, three people were in these vehicles. I was with the mayor in a front loader, and we were able to rescue three people in this vehicle.

COOPER: Incredible. And that was where the police officer was literally carrying the person over the shoulder, was that --

TUCHMAN: The police officer picked up a woman and two men. Not all at once, one as a time.

COOPER: Right. We showed the video last night on our program. Incredible.

TUCHMAN: And put them in the front loader.

COOPER: Yes.

TUCHMAN: It's really encouraging, Anderson, that right now, it does not look like -- and I must emphasize to me, going through this, it does not look like a life-threatening situation anymore in Hoboken.

COOPER: Well, that's certainly good. But it's miserable still for a lot of people. I mean without electricity, a lot of people really here don't have much information. They're kind of -- there's actually some people gathered here kind of watching us just to get some facts of what's going on. Even in Manhattan people just kind of cut off.

Late-word tonight that Governor Chris Christie has taken action tonight to try to boost fuel supplies in the state, waiving certain licensing rules, making it easier for local sellers to bring in diesel and gasoline from out of state. But it's very difficult to find gas as can imagine.

When we come back, what the governor and President Obama saw today as they toured some of the hardest areas in the state of New Jersey.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We are live in Hoboken, New Jersey. An area still out of power. The good news from Hoboken tonight, the water which had been over about 50 percent of Hoboken, has been receding a lot throughout the day. I'm standing in an area where there's probably about maybe a foot at most of water, an intersection near city hall.

But our Gary Tuchman has been out throughout the city of Hoboken, he has said, the water has dropped significantly over the last 24 hours.

Rooftop rescues after superstorm Sandy on Staten Island in New York. Similar to the scenes in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. The aviation and the scuba team of the NYPD used a helicopter to lift people to safety and who were stranded in their homes by flood waters.

Some incredible images to see. And again down on Staten Island three people right now are missing. We know that 14 people have lost their lives on Staten Island alone, at least 54 across the entire affected area. Fifty-four fatalities so far.

And as we're seeing both at ground level and especially from the air, perhaps the very worst physical destruction is along the Jersey Shore. There's no doubt about that. Today as you saw a bit -- at the top of the broadcast, President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie toured the destruction. More on that now from Jessica Yellin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crisis makes unexpected political bed fellows.

CHRISTIE: I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state.

YELLIN: President Obama returned the favor.

OBAMA: He has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before.

YELLIN: Obama and Christie, on board the presidential helicopter, to view the storm ravages coast. Touring a shelter for residents who lost everything.

OBAMA: The FEMA director is going to be -- he's here right now. He's going to be coordinating (INAUDIBLE) assistance.

YELLIN: And walking a neighborhood among the hardest hit. Among the surprises? A president not known for displaying affection certainly showed it this day.

OBAMA: We're going to get help. Hope you get it all together. All right? I promise. I promise. You're going to be OK.

YELLIN: And Governor Chris Christie, one of Mitt Romney's top campaign attack dogs.

CHRISTIE: Let's give you the plane ticket back to Chicago you've earned.

YELLIN: Went out of his way to burnish President Obama's leadership credentials.

CHRISTIE: He has sprung into action immediately to help get us those things while we were in the car riding together. This is our sixth conversation since the weekend. And it's been a great working relationship.

YELLIN: The storm's political map on the plus side for the president acting as emergency responder-in-chief.

OBAMA: You know, I've instituted a 15-minute rule essentially on my team, you return everybody's phone calls in 15 minutes. You know, whether it's the mayors, the governors, the county officials. If they need something we figure out a way to say yes.

YELLIN: Demonstrating a well-funded federal government can help.

OBAMA: Part of the reason we're going to be able to respond quickly to all of this is because they helped make sure that FEMA financing was in place.

YELLIN: And leaving aside campaign jabs for post-crisis unit.

OBAMA: You see neighbors helping neighbors then you're reminded about what America is all about.

YELLIN: On the downside, if power isn't restored for hundreds of thousands of Americans they could vent their frustrations at the ballot box.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: So how voters might react to this on election day, what turnout will really look like. To consider the crass politics of all of this, superstorm Sandy hit two battleground states. They're New Hampshire and Virginia. Now the way this could really hurt President Obama is by depressing the early vote. He's counting on early voters to really boost his totals. Well, neither New Hampshire nor Virginia in-person early vote. So let's look at the states. So really in those states, I should point out, it all comes down to election day turnout.

Let's look at the states, it did devastate. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, those are all blue states where the president is already positioned to win -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Jessica, the president begins campaigning again tomorrow, is that correct?

YELLIN: Yes, he is on the road tomorrow. He's in a -- I should tell you he's in -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And -- YELLIN: Go ahead. He's in Colorado, Nevada.

COOPER: Go ahead.

YELLIN: And Colorado, Nevada and one other battleground state then he heads to Ohio.

COOPER: And Vice President Biden, he has been out on the campaign trail and he's kind of playing the role of the attack dog right now calling a new Romney campaign ad, quote, "an outrageous lie." Tell us about that.

YELLIN: He is swinging against this new ad that the Romney campaign has put up that says, in part, President Obama, and I'm going to quote this, quote, "sold Chrysler to the Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China." Now them spiting words when you're campaigning in auto states Iowa and Ohio. What Vice President Biden is doing is challenging the facts in those ads, in that ad.

The words, Anderson, are literally correct but very misleading. The truth of the matter is, in the auto bailout President Obama allowed for the company Fiat, which is owned by the Italians, to buy Chrysler. So that part is true. But they are now making some Jeeps in China for the Chinese market. The ad, because of graphics on the ad, make it seem as though they are taking American jobs and moving them to China. The CEO of the company has said no, that's not true. Those American jobs are staying right here in America.

Bottom line, it just shows how much that auto bailout really helps President Obama with those auto voters in Ohio and Iowa. The president's support among non-college white men in those states is much higher than any of the other states -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hmm. Interesting. Jessica, appreciate that.

More now on the federal response. I spoke about it earlier with U.S. senator and one-time Hoboken resident, Bob Menendez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: What's your biggest priority right now?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, getting electricity back up. I think we've done a pretty good job on search and rescue. There may be still some elements of that. Not even here in Hoboken, but I think for the most past the National Guard has done a great job. But getting lights back up. You know, you travel to the city, travel to other places, you know, getting electricity on changes people's quality of life, gets business up again, maybe gets kids back into school. So it's critical. That's one of the things I said to the president earlier today.

COOPER: You've been going nonstop. What was your meeting like with the president today and Governor Christie?

MENENDEZ: Well, you know, great coordination between the state, the federal government, you know, the administration. But, you know, I said to the president, we have to think outside of the box. You know, can we use military transport? You know, some of the national utility companies that he met. Say, can you come to New Jersey and help them out? Great. Can we transport them in a C-130? Can we look at the Department of Energy and say, can you help the utility companies dry up the substations and help us get the substation generating? That would open up a lot of electricity to use chunks of people.

So just thinking outside of the box and cutting through the bureaucracy and getting it straight to the relief.

COOPER: Do you have any idea of when power may be restored in Hoboken?

MENENDEZ: I don't know specifically about Hoboken. We've been on with the utility company. Part of their worry is the wires that were down underneath the waters so they throw the switch on and they can get it going. What happens to those wires, they ended up going live then. So I think with the water having receded, dramatically receded, and have been pumped out from where I was here this morning, that hopefully, tomorrow might be the day in which they can actually get the -- if this is not located on a substation that is not working, then they could deal with it because of -- the wires would have been exposed.

COOPER: There was a lot of -- you know, the forecast of this, a lot of people chose not to evacuate. They didn't heed mandatory evacuation. Were you surprised given by the strength of the storm?

MENENDEZ: You know, I paid attention to the warnings, and -- but the strength of the storm, you know, when I was in Little Ferry, in Moonachie, yesterday, they weren't in the, you know, zone where they were told to leave. And the levee that's never breached ultimately had storm surges that went beyond any expectations. So a hundred year storm meets and defies all the expectations and that's actually what happened in this one.

So we have, you know, massive flooding in places like those communities. And flooding we've seen here in Hoboken. We've also seen massive movements down in the southern part of the state. Along the shore area. You actually see big shifts being moved right on to, you know, land and into people's yards and trashing into people's homes.

You see elements when I was in Pleasantville which is right outside of Atlantic City, a row of homes in which the back has been ripped out. It looks like a dollhouse. You look right inside and there's the person's home. But not just one home. A row of them. So the surge ultimately being I think was far beyond any expectations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That's U.S. senator and one-time Hoboken resident, Bob Menendez. Tonight we have new developments on just how much damage there has been especially to the Jersey shore. The loss is staggering. The work that lies ahead overwhelming.

Just ahead, we're going to go to one of the places that took one of the worst hits. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We are live tonight in Hoboken, New Jersey. We're at an intersection just a few blocks from city hall. We're just kind main area where the National Guard has been staging.

They arrived as you know late last night. They've been involved in more than 350 rescues they say so far in the last 24 hours or so. It is a really eerie scene though here in Hoboken.

In this area basically in this intersection as far as the eye can see, there is water, it's not very deep. At this point, it's now basically just kind of up to my ankles or so and there is a lot of garbage and a lot of kind of debris floating around here.

There are a lot of photographs floating around. Looks like some people -- you feel bad that these people's photographs are floating around and I keep trying to put them up here and I'm not sure that anyone is going to get them.

The water in this area has really receded an awful lot. When Gary Tuchman was involved in a rescue here yesterday, the water was up to about that headlights here, about three people were rescued by police in this spot when Gary was here with the mayor.

But the water really has gone down. That is one of the bright spots here in Hoboken because that was the mayor, Dawn Zimmer's greatest concern about 24 hours ago. There is a huge volume of water about 500 gallons or so that needed to be pumped out.

We've seen citizens just coming out. Some of them with ski poles in an area like this, there is actually drainage -- some drainage right here. You can see a fish right here. There is a little tiny fish floating around on the intersection, but there's a drainage pipe right here.

People would come and just try to clear it out, citizens volunteering doing in their own time to try to get the water to go down. That's been actually quite beneficial in a number of these areas.

I want to check in though with our Michael Holmes from CNN International who is in Toms River, New Jersey and have seen a lot of the destruction there -- Michael.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, you remember those aerial drops of the barrier islands that we saw the day after the hurricane hit. Well, today we were able to get on the island and see from a ground level the destruction brought by Sandy and I can tell you it is considerable.

These areas are extremely popular with tourists. They go there thousands and thousands and thousands every summer. Well, when Sandy hit the full brunt hit some of those houses, dozens of these -- hundreds of them had been destroyed or knocked off their foundation.

We saw entire houses that had been lifted up and dumped in the middle of the streets still intact. Sinkholes that -- one of them had a full size pickup in it and up to its windows. One of the problems was being gas leaks on these islands and fires caused by those gas leaks.

We saw an area of a size of probably three football fields where all the houses had been burnt to the ground and the gas fires were still burning. It must have been dozens of houses destroyed. There are still efforts on going to get all of those gas leaks switched off.

When we're walking around there today with the police chief, you could smell the gas in the air. You could hear it hissing from the wreckage of the houses. And also when you think about the sand dunes that used to protect that shoreline, some of them -- they are gone.

They are gone. The water smashed into them. The rivers of ocean water running through the street taking the sand with it. It is quite a sight, Anderson. You can't imagine how much work is going to be needed to be done to get that place back on its feet.

COOPER: Yes, it is going to be a lot of work, a lot of weeks and months, many, many months. Michael Holmes, appreciate the reporting.

Joining us now by phone is John, the borough administrator of Seaside Heights. And we've see some of those aerial shots. The devastation is just extraordinary in Seaside Heights and the surrounding areas. How is the rescue and recovery operation going at this point?

JOHN CAMERA, BOROUGH ADMINISTRATOR, SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY (via telephone): The devastation is unbelievable and sadly, as we are slowly starting with actually clean up and reconstruction of some of our infrastructure. We know it is hard both for the media, but particularly for all of our property owners that want to get over to see their properties and do what they can.

It's just I can't stress enough how dangerous the situation is over there. There are pieces of building facade half on, half off. There are gas leaks all over. There is no way. There is no electricity. There is no water. There is no way we could leave or let people start coming over at Seaside Height. The emergency management police and fire and public works guys that we have had over there throughout the whole time our guys never left the Seaside Heights. Never left island, they stayed through the whole thing.

They have done numerous rescues. They could not handle it if there were also other people now coming into town. So we have to keep the town isolated and we have had help, utility crews come in. We're going to have more of that and we are slowly starting to rebuild because it's all we can do.

But I can't tell you enough. A, when I went over there how bad it was because I was not there through the hurricane. I was with my family off the island and when I went back in, I couldn't believe it until I saw it.

Besides everything you have seen. There is the actual asphalt along some of the roadways by the ocean has been lifted up and the houses all the way on the bay side have had three and four feet of water that run through and just broken through the wall and it is really amazing.

But, what is the most amazing as I said is that through it all, many of them are volunteers, but our emergency management personnel and others, they stayed through it all, did numerous rescues and did an outstanding job of trying to prevent.

We can't guarantee anything at this point. We have not been in every house, but they have been -- have prevented many, many casualties both to human life, animals and to property, of course. So --

COOPER: Well, with all of those -- no, no I appreciate the update. The images are so startling. It is good to get some first- hand accounts of what it's like on the ground. Do you feel like you are getting all the help that you need? I mean, the president, Governor Christie have promised aid. Do you feel like you have what you need at this point?

CAMERA: Certainly we don't have over there operating what we need at this point. We understand that the entire state has been devastated by this. We have been getting help, we appreciate the help we are getting and we do believe we will get all the help we need.

And honestly, we believe we will rebuild Seaside Heights probably not -- as our mayor said -- our mayor also road through the whole thing there, has been on top of every aspect of the devastation and now the rebuilding.

He said you'll never see the same Seaside Heights again. We will rebuild, but we expect to do it better and some things will be different and we'll have to make this catastrophe into an opportunity and we do anticipate plenty of help from the state and federal government.

I cannot say we have all of the help that we need because nobody can get over it yet. We know there are many, many, many places that have to deal with it. So we'll take all the help we can get. We appreciate it, but we could certainly use more.

COOPER: Well, John our thoughts and prayers are with all the folks there who are suffering and have lost so much. We will continue to check in with you. John Camera, appreciate it.

Up next, a giant crane still hangs a thousand feet above Midtown Manhattan street, another casualty of Sandy's wind. We are going to hear from an expert on how to make this dangerous situation safer. We'll be right back.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My God, my God. My God, my God. It hit my car?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was the scene in Montague, New York, which is on heavily damaged Long Island. That was from Long Island, Wantagh, New York. Three trees fall one right after the other. One car parked in a driveway crushed there.

In other places we know at least two people died when they were crashed in a car. Another terrifying moment as Sandy bore down with this one. In Manhattan, that we all watched and had been covering so closely, the arm of that construction crane on top of a high rise swung backward, broke in Sandy's gale force winds.

The mass of metal boom was like dangling 1,000 feet over Midtown. It is still there. Police cordoned off several blocks. People were evacuated. Tonight that boom is still dangling. You're looking at live shot of the crane just a couple of blocks from our CNN Headquarters.

Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that engineers have determined the crane is securely fastened to the building. That's the good news. He also said they'll have to construct another crane on top of the building in order to take down the broken one.

Joining me now is Richard Graham, a crane and construction expert. He is also owner of Diamond Back Hoist and Rigging. Mr. Graham, appreciate you being with us.

So the city now says the boom of that crane is secured clearly not to the point that authorities are going to let people back in the area. It's still cordoned off, but perhaps more secure than it was. There are still a number of variables in all of this. What do you make of the situation? I mean, how safe is this?

RICHARD GRAHAM, CRANE AND CONSTRUCTION EXPERT (via telephone): Well, hopefully the city engineers have inspected the upper tie end assembly, which in effect is holding the entire crane in the air. If that is secured, the next will be securing the boom itself to prevent that from detaching and falling to the ground.

COOPER: And the only way to get this thing down is basically to build another crane, a second crane on top of the tower to dismantle the first one, is that correct?

GRAHAM: That's correct, Anderson. Typically, what would happen, a derrick would be assembled and attached to the building itself and that derrick would in turn dismantle the tower crane and remove the damaged components and possibly replace them or remove the entire tower crane.

COOPER: What do you think happened here? I mean, was this just an error -- because usually cranes kind of weather vane and that is how they are able to last through these high winds. What was the mistake here?

GRAHAM: It is hard to say looking at the video. All electric tower cranes have a weather vane function. Some of these weather vane functions are electrically controlled, which means they are relying on the electricity to complete that function.

Possibly the weather vane function was not releasing the brakes on the crane as they should have been. Looking at the video, the boom itself was pointed up toward the wind. Had the crane been rotated 180 degrees in the opposite direction, we probably wouldn't have this conversation now. I don't think there will be any damage at all.

COOPER: Well, it's still creating havoc in Midtown, around 57th Street because that whole area is cordoned off. There's a lot of traffic all around there, traffic jams all day long and also people still evacuated from the surrounding buildings.

Richard Graham, I appreciate your expertise and you talking to us. Other pieces of the metal did not survive at all. Generations of Americans, not just people from New Jersey have memories of summers along the Jersey Shore especially the amusement parks.

Here is another look at what is left of that roller coaster in Seaside Heights where we were just talking to the administrator. The roller coaster is now sitting in the Atlantic Ocean. The boardwalk gone.

Just up the coast from there is the community of Belmar, one of so many along the shore where lives have turned upside down by Sandy. Here is Randi Kaye.

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RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If ever this Belmar, New Jersey neighborhood needed an angel, they found one. They call him Saint Michael here. His real name is Michael Irwin. For the last two days, he has been boating people to and from their homes working 12 hour shifts.

MICHAEL IRWIN, BELMAR, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: There are a couple of people that had to get out. Our neighbors, Ron and Pat, we got out and their dog. Chuck we got out and there are a couple of other people we got out to other families. To make sure they got to dry land.

KAYE: Lucky for his neighbors, Michael is a surfer and a kayaker so he had a wetsuit. He was also a boy scout so he says he is always prepared.

(on camera): This is known as the 8th Avenue neighborhood and the water that we're in right now, this is normally a street or an avenue is about four feet deep. So luckily most of the residents not all of them, but most of them did evacuate before Hurricane Sandy even hit.

(voice-over): Irene McCann evacuated to her son's house, but now that she has returned she needs Michael's help to reach her home.

(on camera): How much damage is in your house?

IRENE MCCANN, BELMAR, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: We are pretty high up almost to our porch. We have a very tall, high porch. We are right down the corner here. The house with the red trim down there and it is right up. The cellar is gone. The hot water heater furnace everything is gone. My husband's tools, everything.

KAYE (voice-over): This is a tight knit community where neighbors help neighbors even the councilman, Brian Magovern, came by in his kayak to see how everyone is doing.

BRIAN MAGOVERN, BELMAR COUNCILMAN: The situation is the worst I've ever seen it. I have lived here in Belmar for 60 years, nothing has ever come close. At 8:00, I called my wife and said what is that white stuff in the lake and it was a wave. And then pretty soon, within the next couple of minutes, our house was inundated by the water.

KAYE: And Michael has his own troubles too.

IRWIN: When it came like 7:00 or something like that, within a half an hour, we were flooded.

KAYE: He took us by kayak to his house.

(on camera): This is your house here behind us.

IRWIN: Right there.

KAYE: Are we in your front lawn?

IRWIN: In my driveway.

KAYE: So your front lawn and driveway you are standing in it.

IRWIN: Right.

KAYE: You are also in about three feet of water.

IRWIN: I'm in four feet of water.

KAYE (voice-over): Michael says he has about six feet of water in his house and no power or heat, which is no surprise considering the amount of water here.

Ocean Avenue is just a few blocks away and the ocean dumped water into nearby Sober Lake, which overflowed into Michael's neighborhood. One look at this submerged car and you can see the water won't be receding anytime soon. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wow. Any idea, Randi, when that neighborhood might get some relief?

KAYE: Not soon enough, Anderson. They don't expect their power to be on for at least another five to seven days. There is a curfew in place now from 7 at night until 7 in the morning.

But the problem here, as you can see, as far as you can see is the water. That is because the ocean, the Atlantic, is just at the end of this neighborhood so the water is just sort of locked in here. It is not going out with the low tide.

But the good news is, Anderson, that tomorrow they are going to be bringing in these massive pumps and they can pump we're told about 40,000 to 60,000 gallons of water out of Silver Lake, which is also at the end of this neighborhood, per minute, 40,000 to 60,000 gallons per minute.

So they are hoping that if they get some water out of the lake, some of this water here on the avenue will then make its way to that lake and they will be in better shape.

COOPER: Yes. Yes, so many places in need right now. Randi, thanks. When we come back, the victims of Sandy and the sometimes razor thin margin between life and death.

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COOPER: Here in Hoboken, there are good blocks and there are bad blocks just as across the river, there are blackout streets and streets that have lights.

Just as up and down the coast, some homes fell and others still stand. The acts of nature are act of chance, what survived and who survived sometimes it just comes down to that, it's a chance to a matter of seconds or a second thought.

Tonight, right now, a look at some of the victims of this massive storm. There are a lot of people whose names we don't know, whose stories we don't know, but we know some of the people are trapped by fate.

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COOPER (voice-over): Jesse (inaudible) and her close friend, Jacob Bogelman were out for what her family says was a quick walk in Brooklyn Monday night. They were walking her dog, Max. Neighbors say an enormous tree suddenly was uprooted by the force of the storm and pinned them both beneath its weight.

Their bodies weren't discovered until early yesterday morning. Jessie was the daughter of John Cast, the executive director of a New York City advocacy group, "New York City Communities for Change." On its web site today, Jesse was eulogized as an amazing young woman. She was just 24 years old. Her dog, Max, was hurt but survives.

Lauren Abraham was a makeup artist, also 24. In her Queens neighborhood of Richmond Hill, the storm brought down a power line and it began to spark. The streets were drenched with rain and somehow Lauren touched the line according to police. Rescuers were unable to reach her for half an hour.

On the flood ravaged streets of Staten Island, an off-duty police officer began taking his family to safety from inside his home. The 28-year-old Arthur Caspershock faced flood waters racing into this house.

According to an official, police account he had taken seven people including a 15-month-old from the attic to safety and was going back in to check the basement. He never came out. His body was recovered 12 hours later.

And as those same flood water surged through Staten Island streets, an absolutely horrific event unfolded. According to the "New York Daily News," a mother had managed to unstrap her two children, Brandon aged 2 and Connor aged 4 from their car seats as the water hit their SUV. Police would only confirm to CNN that the two children are missing. The mother's sister told us that the mom knocked on doors for help but was turned away.

But there were a hundreds of rescues throughout the storm that led to happier endings. In Northern Virginia, this little girl was inside an apartment building when the roof blew off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did it sound like when that roof blew off?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It sounded like it was cracking like --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, very scary. Did you have any idea what was happening?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Like the fire department came on knocking and told us to evacuate because the roof was going to fall and then I started getting scared and I started hurrying up and packing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It is so sad. We are really just beginning to learn the names and the lives led by so many of the people that have died in this storm. In the coming days, we hope to bring you more of them. We think it is important that you know their names and that we honor the lives that they lived. We will be right back.

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COOPER: There is a lot more we want to tell you about. We'll be back one hour from now, another live edition of 360 at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, live here from Hoboken. We want to tell you what's happening to this entire region, the latest on the devastation. PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT, though, starts right now.