Daring Rescue Missions in New Orleans
This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," August 30, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tuesday night, flooding threatens to destroy the city of New Orleans. Two levees are broken, and the governor has ordered everyone to evacuate. But countless people are trapped. Rescuers and helicopters and boats are racing to save lives before it’s too late.
Joining us live on the phone is Captain Bruce Jones with the U.S. Coast Guard (search), he has been on several rescue missions over the past 24 hours. Captain, first of all, tell me what you’ve seen.
CAPT. BRUCE JONES, U.S. COAST GUARD: Well, what we’ve seen is absolute devastation in large portions of New Orleans (search) and the greater metropolitan area, with entire neighborhoods submerged, homes under water up to the rooftops, personnel trying to get out of their homes, hundreds and hundreds of people. We’ve rescued over 500 people from rooftops just within the last 30 hours by helicopter.
They’re continuing to emerge from their attics and windows. They’re attempting to wave us down with their arms or cloth or sign flashlights at our helicopters out there now, at night. We’ve seen people hacking holes in their roofs. They’re obviously in their attics, trapped by the rising water, and had some tools to get out. We’ve put rescue swimmers down to homes where people were trapped inside, and our swimmers have hacked holes in the roofs to get people out.
VAN SUSTEREN: If you rescued about 500 in the last 30 hours, is there any way to estimate how many you still have to go? I mean, is there some sort of system of tallying them? Has someone been flying over and counting, or is that just an impossibility?
JONES: Well, it’s impossible to know how many remain. Our crews, who landed just before sunset, reported several hundred people still on rooftops just in one area of eastern New Orleans. And they continue to emerge. We fly over neighborhoods, and an hour later, more people are there who weren’t there before. They clearly were in their attics or in their second stories, and as the water rises, they’re coming out of their windows or they’re finding a way to get out of their house, and then they’re on the rooftops, waiting for assistance.
VAN SUSTEREN: In some instances, is every family member able to make it to the roof? What if you have disabled people? Have some had to be left behind?
JONES: We’ve had many rescues of elderly, disabled people, of infants and children. We’ve not left anyone behind in that situation. However, the rescues typically take much longer in that case. We rescued a 450-pound woman today who had had recent major surgery. She had stitches from — basically, from stem to stern, and had gangrene set in just within the last few days of not having any medical attention. We’ve had other people with broken backs, with broken bones, with severe lacerations, and elderly people who simply are becoming dehydrated and ill with the passage of time since the hurricane.
VAN SUSTEREN: What’s the biggest danger to your rescuers?
JONES: The biggest danger to our crew is our rescue swimmers, who deploy in extremely hazardous conditions, with debris, downed wires and trees, hacking their way again through attics and windows to reach disabled and elderly survivors. All of our rescue swimmers are scratched and bruised, but I can tell you every one of them is raring to go. It’s all I can do to order them to get some sleep before they go out again.
VAN SUSTEREN: Can this be done at night, or is this a totally daytime operation?
JONES: We are absolutely operating 24 hours, around the clock, with our helicopters. Our crews are out with night-vision goggles right now, hovering at 50 or 75 feet over the debris fields or homes, picking people of rooftops and taking them to safe areas for being taken care of by local emergency workers.
VAN SUSTEREN: When someone needs to go to the hospital, are the hospitals overloaded at this point?
JONES: The hospitals are very overwhelmed. They’ve — earlier this afternoon, they began telling us when we brought injured people in, if they weren’t in a life-and-death situation, to take them somewhere else. They simply couldn’t handle it. So that’s been a problem. This afternoon, we were asked to transport 16 infants who were in critical care units from Baptist Memorial Hospital up to Baton Rouge (search) because the water was rising in the hospital and they feared the power would go out and their medical services equipment would no longer work. So we arranged for the National Guard (search) to take those 16 infants up to Baton Rouge.
VAN SUSTEREN: How determined, sir, are you and your colleagues?
JONES: Oh, we’re absolutely determined. They’re raring to go, the crew. Again, it’s all I can do to get them to take a few hours of rest before they continue. And I should say, in addition to the many Coast Guard air crew that have been working around the clock in the last 30 hours, we now have extensive assistance from the Navy, from Customs, from the National Guard. The USS Bataan (search) called this afternoon and sent two H- 53s to help us.
So the rescue effort is continuing. I think the demand is actually growing as the water continues to rise and more people emerge from their homes who rode out the hurricane. And this effort is just beginning.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.
Watch "On the Record" weeknights at 10 p.m. ET
Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2005 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc., which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.