Archive for Friday, September 2, 2005

Anarchy, unrest fill city

Red Cross shelters full; 1.8 million without power

September 2, 2005


— Federal and local authorities struggled Thursday to regain control of this ruined and lawless city, where tens of thousands of desperate refugees remained stranded with little hope of rescue and rapidly diminishing supplies of food and drinking water.

"This is a desperate SOS," New Orleans' beleaguered mayor, Ray Nagin, said at one point in the day.

The chaos that has gripped New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina also showed signs Thursday of spreading to Baton Rouge and along the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast, as weary refugees continued their slow and confused exodus to higher ground. Fresh waves of National Guard troops began pouring into the region in an attempt to quell the unrest, but large swaths of New Orleans and other sodden areas remained essentially ungoverned.

By the end of the day, the American Red Cross announced that its hurricane shelters in seven states were full, with an estimated 76,000 refugees at facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Arkansas. The official death toll in Mississippi climbed to more than 100, while officials in Louisiana repeated warnings that thousands could be dead in New Orleans alone. The Energy Department said about 1.8 million customers remained without power because of Katrina.

Those left behind in the Crescent City, including many with diabetes and other worsening health conditions, clung to rooftops, gathered on overpasses and bridges and huddled on islands of dry ground waiting for help that never came. Parents carried small children while grown children carried their elderly parents through the flotsam. Corpses floated in fetid waters and laid amid the crowds of refugees, while helicopters airlifted hundreds of seriously ill patients to a makeshift field hospital at the city's airport.

At the storm-damaged Superdome, faltering efforts to transport up to 23,000 refugees to the Astrodome in Houston were temporarily halted after a gunshot was reportedly fired at a military helicopter and authorities continued to struggle with incidents of looting, carjackings and other violence.

The deepening crisis prompted urgent pleas for help from local officials and residents, many of whom pointedly criticized the federal government for a meager and slow response.

In Washington, President Bush and his aides said the government acted as quickly as possible and announced a range of stepped-up response plans, including promises of thousands of extra troops and billions of dollars for recovery and rebuilding efforts. Congress returned early from its summer recess to consider emergency legislation for up to $10.5 billion in immediate aid.

Bush urged Americans to curb gasoline consumption to ease the impact of refineries crippled by the storm. He also warned Gulf Coast residents, including those searching for water and food, not to break into businesses or commit other crimes during the crisis.

"There ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this," Bush said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"If people need water and food, we're going to do everything we can to get them water and food," Bush said. "It's very important for the citizens in all affected areas to take personal responsibility and assume a kind of a civic sense of responsibility so that the situation doesn't get out of hand, so people don't exploit the vulnerable."

The calls for calm came amid increasing signs of unrest among the refugees who remain stranded in New Orleans and continued engineering difficulties that have kept 80 percent of the city flooded for more than three days.

Late Thursday, a team of local contractors hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began driving a set of steel pilings into the 700-foot breach in the 17th Street canal levee, the principal source of floodwaters in Katrina's aftermath. State officials said the breach will be closed by Saturday, enabling engineers to start draining the city dry - providing that the pumps can be put in working order. Corps officials apparently scrapped earlier plans to bring in sand bags and other items by barge or helicopter.

One of the most squalid and desperate situations unfolded Thursday at the city's fetid Ernest M. Morial Convention Center, where thousands had assembled over the preceding two days but which, as of Thursday evening, still had no visible government presence. A half dozen buses arrived at one point to take a small number of refugees, but none had come since, according to the stranded residents and tourists.

The center itself, dark and powerless, was rank with sewage and trash and avoided by most of the crowds, who milled around outside. As many as seven corpses laid out in the open amid wailing babies and other refugees, according to witnesses and news reports, including one dead man covered in a blue tarp in the middle of a street.

Desperate refugees at one point broke into the center's food service area to retrieve water and other goods, and the crowds have been roiled by fights and at least one gunshot, according to interviews. Some food rations finally arrived Thursday, dropped by helicopter.

With no buses in sight earlier Thursday, Nagin gave the refugees permission to march across a nearby bridge to dry ground in search of aid. The mayor also issued a plea for help on CNN: "Right now we are out of resources at the convention center and don't anticipate enough buses. We need buses. Currently the convention center is unsanitary and unsafe, and we're running out of supplies."

Later in the day, thousands remained at the center while hundreds more wandered roadways looking for a way out. Some were lucky enough to be picked up by National Guard trucks.

"This is a horrible tragedy and an unconscionable way to treat human beings," said Davonna Good, of Sacramento, Calif., who spent two days at the convention center site.

Throughout the ravaged city, frustrated residents complained that no one seemed to be in charge.

"We've been trying to get out," said Cornelius Washington as he walked along a highway overpass near the Superdome. "No one is giving the who, what, where, why and when. When they give us information, it's about what they're not going to do."

Amid signs of growing lawlessness, with looters roaming the city with impunity, heavily armed state and local police made a show of force in some places. Police in body armor and carrying shotguns and assault rifles were posted in the French Quarter and other parts of downtown to try to keep order.

Angry crowds have repeatedly shot at rescue services. Pilots with a private rescue service were fired on when they tried to airdrop supplies at Kenner Memorial Hospital on Wednesday evening.

"There was 75 to 100 people surrounding the helipad and several of them had guns," said Richard Zuschlag, chief executive officer and chairman of Acadian Ambulance Services. "The pilot became concerned that that was an unsafe environment to land in and so he went on to anther location."

Zuschlag said his company, with 25 civilian choppers, rescued 500 patients from New Orleans hospitals Thursday but that an estimated 1,500 remained at three more medical facilities and rescue operations were being severely hampered by security.

"Both mornings we have tried to go to Charity Hospital by boat and each time we have been shot at so we determined it wasn't safe. The doctor there has 500 people inside his hospital, and he is going berserk."

Ninety miles away in Baton Rouge, officials scrambled to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees that are predicted to eventually make their way to Louisiana's capital. Police already have implemented a 10 p.m. curfew for fuel purchases amid reports of attempted carjackings at gas stations, while local officials struggle with widespread power outages and water shortages from the storm.

In Texas, officials announced they could accommodate up to 75,000 refugees from Katrina, including thousands being bused to Houston from New Orleans' Superdome and others to be housed in Dallas and San Antonio.

At a Pentagon briefing, Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the commander of a hastily formed military unit called Task Force Katrina, said National Guard forces - now numbering 4,700 in Louisiana and 2,700 in Mississippi - will be strengthened to a combined 24,000 over the next three days. Eventually, 30,000 troops should be in the region, officials said.

A total of about 7,200 active-duty forces have been dispatched, most of them Navy personnel aboard seven ships. Early Thursday, the Pentagon announced that among the ships would be an aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, to serve as a floating command center for relief operations. Additional assets that defense officials said might be sent include field hospitals, reconnaissance aircraft and more evacuation vehicles.

But it is Guard troops who are central to law enforcement aspects of the relief effort because of legal constraints on active-duty forces performing such functions. By late Thursday, the number of Guard forces in Louisiana and Mississippi was due to top 13,000. Another 12,000 were expected by the weekend.

But among those complaining about the pace of National Guard efforts was a top Salvation Army official, Major Dalton Cunningham, who warned that some staff and refugees still trapped by floodwaters in the group's own building in New Orleans could die if the timetable for rescuing them did not change.

Cunningham said a Guard representative told the group Thursday afternoon that it could be days before they would evacuate the 200 or so people stranded in the Salvation Army building on South Claiborne Avenue.

"They said they're doing it by quadrant, and we'll just have to take a number and get in line," Cunningham said. "They are there without food. Some were on dialysis and needed medical attention. ... Their lives are threatened. I'm not even sure they'll be alive when we get there."


cowboy 12 years, 3 months ago

This response rolling out in Louisiana and Mississippi demands the scorn of all US citizens. If a staff of a couple hundred CNN folks can canvass this area why can't FEMA. Where are the troops , Gaurd , aid workers , food drops , Huey's . I listened as the Charity Hospital staff pleaded for evac services. Bush and all the pol's involved should resign immediately as they have failed in thier first responsibility.

I listen as the pol's say many of these folks chose to stay. The abject poverty that is present in the south is prevalent and a lot of these folks can barely make it thru a normal day much less a crisis like this.

There was no planning prior to the storm and after this situation is cleaned up there should be hell to pay for those responsible !

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

As usual, Arminius, you are still swimming in that river in Egypt.

And a picky note to the editors-- please learn the diffenrence between the terms "anarchy" and "chaos." I think the anarchists are as unrealistically idealistic as the libertarians, the laissez-faire capitalists and the hard-core marxists, but their vision is not to bring about chaos, and this hurricane has not brought on anarchy.

cowboy 12 years, 3 months ago

Arminius , just listen to the disconnect between the pol's speeches , press conferences , and the actual situation on the ground in this area. The excuses are hollow ass covering excuses only. They are in denial , ass covering mode. It has nothing to do with republican /liberal or any other terms you wish to label people with.

Perhaps CNN should be in chargwe of FEMA !

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

And Bush didn't politicize 9-11? Don't bother answering-- I don't need any more of the true-believer BS.

There is nothing more appropriate to politicize than the inability of the govt to cope with catastrophes such as this.

The only terrorist-induced catastrophe that might rival this one is a direct nuclear strike on a US city, and the war in Iraq has done nothing to lessen that likelihood.

The poor planning that led to the disaster in Iraq is now being perpetrated on home turf. Enjoy the ride-- only 3 1/2 years to go.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

Arminius, do you suppose "Cowboy" even is aware that the liberal administration in charge of new orleans opened the jail doors before Katrina hit? that is what Saddam did, and should not be what an american mayor does! no wonder there was so much lawlessness! why couldn't these whining new orleans city administrators have shipped these jail inmates out and kept them secure before the storm hit, they had enough warning.
instead, they just opened the jails' doors.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

Got a link on that prisoner release? Google search turns up nothing. Likewise for the foreign hotel guests.

I know you're just grasping at straws, Arminius, but a get-out-the-vote drive is fundamentally and vastly different from a complete evacuation in an emergency situation, and clearly beyond the ability of a city mayor to implement (but not of a US president.) But the 78% vote for Kerry (and not for Bush) may give some indication why Bush chose instead to finish out his vacation (he does have to get on with his life, after all.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

Perhaps there is enough blame in this disaster to be shared at least in part by the mayor and city government of one of the poorest cities in the country, but your comparison of a get-out-the-vote drive and a total, emergency evacuation only gets more stupid with each repetition.

Jeez, dude, your man Bush got caught in a major screw-up, again, and all you can do is spin ever more furiously.


bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

sorry, bozo the way I access info, I did not get a link on the prisoner release, it was reliably reported in the first 24-hours after the flooding started in NO, then nothing.

arminius is right, if Nagin were a politician like rudy giuliani (sp?) or Condi Rice, instead of following the likes of Jessie jackson or "mad" maxine waters, more of his city's residents would be alive today. after the 9-11 attack, immediately after, Rudy took charge. there are buses submerged in NO today which Nagin could have taken over for emergency city use in the evacuation.
given the circumstances of this "double disaster" GwB has done as much as possible. I wish relief had reached them sooner but that does take time to organize, transport, and communicate. we cannot expect fast-food emergency response when the disaster is so large.
also, the NO PD were apparently prevented from shooting Looters! there, I ref Nagin's own statements. if early on the PD had shot some looters and those who were shooting at them, then the city would have remained under better control; thank you political correctness. NO has had the worst record for murders for a major city in america for several years! in part because NO PD has had its hands tied by Nagin et al.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

The prisoner release was an apparently short-lived urban myth (although it will likely continue to be spread by posters furiously trying to defend this administration in its latest demonstration of incompetence.) But that doesn't mean that this disaster won't have its effects on the criminal justice system in NO. Here's the real story.--

As evidence floods, criminal cases likely collapse Basement also housed thousands of appeals

By Michael Perlstein and Trymaine D. Lee

New Orleans criminal justice officials cringed Wednesday at another disaster evolving in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: the possible long-term collapse of the city's criminal justice system.

With the flooding of the police department's evidence and property room in the basement of police headquarters, evidence and records in hundreds of criminal cases appeared to be irretrievably lost, police spokesman Marlon Defillo said.

Evidence in the most serious, pending cases, from murder to rape to robbery, was housed in the basement, Defillo said. "We lost thousands of documents and untold evidence," Defillo said. "We lost everything."

The floodwaters in the basement of criminal court at Tulane Avenue and Broad Street also inundated old evidence in thousands of old cases under appeal. The lost evidence could reopen cases that otherwise had little chance of getting back into trial court.

"We're in serious trouble," Defillo said.

Officials averted a separate crisis by transporting about 3,000 inmates out of Orleans Parish Prison. Under heavy armed guard, inmates who lined Interstate 10 above the flooded surface streets were loaded onto buses from the Dixon Correctional Center and other state lockups.

While the inmates were successfully evacuated, the ongoing shutdown of criminal court could lead to the unavoidable release of dozens of suspects awaiting charges. By law, suspects must be tried within 30 days of a misdemeanor arrest and within 45 days of a felony arrest or they are automatically released from any bond obligation.

Even with the potential long-range problems facing the court system, officials were more concerned Wednesday with citywide crimes and looting sprouting amid the storm's chaotic aftermath.

Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security director, said police received numerous reports of armed groups of marauders robbing scores of people throughout the hard-hit parts of the city. Authorities were unable to patrol the most lawless areas of the city, and it appeared police had little chance of investigating much of the unchecked crime.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

As big a disaster as 9-11 was, there is absolutely no comparison to what is happening along the Gulf Coast. Giuliani merely did what anyone in his position would and should do. While the Bush and Giuliani administrations sought to conceal the extent of the environmental damage in the aftermath of the attack on the twin towers, the deaths from that damage will take place over decades-- the immediate deaths in the Gulf Coast region are likely greater, possibly much greater than in 9-11. Most of them are very poor, and the government will likely not reward their surviving family members with millions in cash payments as was done for the already wealthy families of 9-11 victims.

The damage in New York was to an area which had relatively few residences. Refugees were on the level of a few thousand, while in the Gulf disaster, especially in NO, the refugees are in the hundreds of thousands, and a large percentage of them will never return home.

And please, don't let Bush put Condi Rice in charge down there. He tried that with Iraq, and she bailed out after only a few months, with disastrous results (pun intended.)

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

"all ready wealthy families of 9-11 ..." if not a racist, he certainly subscribes to class warfare! how about these 9-11 families 'had more to lose' often because of somebody's enterprise, risk taking, and sweat? wow.

sorry I did not get back here sooner Bozo, and I use that term only because you sign yourself that way. I remember Bozo the clown, he was actually funny and actually did understand what he was doing! I did not get back sooner, because I actually have a life; two lovely women who love me dearly have birthdays in the first ten days of this month! and I might add they love me in part because of my conservative values, they're not the kind of ladies who appreciate moral relativism.

now, thanks for posting that article but it appears it was written at some days removed from the events which I heard currently reported at the time. I am glad some prisoners were treated securely. however, I still believe the report I heard.

Nagin's "mandatory evacuation" was not mandatory, and only came after actually getting calls from the head of the national hurricane center, and the president himself pleading for this evacuation. still, Mayor Nagin did not take hold of hundreds of transit and school buses which could have transported over 20,000 otherwise immobile residents in one sweep. have a few sweeps, you empty out the city. these buses are pictured in a rather now famous Yahoo news photo, half submerged. NO PD is already underpaid, demoralized, and he did not employ them to 'force' his "mandatory evacuation" so called. the president declared state of emergency two days before Katrina hit. guess it is still his fault anyway; after all, he caused the hurricane itself, did not he do so?

black helicopter, foil hat alert!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

Two women, eh? Is this a three-way thing, or do you have seperate residences set up for each of these conservative babes?

The payoff to the wealthy families of 9-11 isn't that big a deal-- but they all likely had life insurance that would have paid off quite well. The government payoff was largely unnecessary, and was purely a PR measure so that both Congress and the Prez could appear to be doing something. It'll be interesting to see which wealthy people they figure out how to pay off in the aftermath of Katrina to get some good PR for the dismal performance up to now.

With respect to the prisoners, I'd tell you to believe whatever you want, but obviously you already do, and the facts be damned. And so far, I've found just as much evidence to support the rest of your criticism of Mayor Nagin-- which is to say none. So, as he he has been saying, "Where's the beef?"

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

I wasn't aware that any of my posts had been removed, and if they were, whatever. But gnome brought up his lady friends, not me, and I was just going along with the small talk, since it seemed important to him to discuss something totally irrelevant to the situation in NO.

And you're doing the same schtick you always do, Kevin. So what if there is a picture of 1000 drowned busses? It still doesn't mean that the mayor had the authority or the ability to get them on the road to evacuate anyone. And if he did, then he deserves to be held accountable for his miserable performance along with Bush, and probably the La. Governor, as well.

I say let the chips fall where they may, and all you have to say is it's everybody else's responsibility but Bush's. But that's the story of his life, so why would his supporters expect any different of him now?

But for once, I can say you are right about something. You successfully spotted a typo in one of my posts. What a guy!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

One more time, I'll try to spell it out for you, although I know your only response will be that Bush is infallible, and any inadequacy in his response was somebody else's fault.

Th system is badly flawed on all levels. The Homeland Security Administration is a joke, and when FEMA was subsumed into it, it was left a poor step-child to the politcally favored "war on terror."

I suspect that Mayor Nagin, like most big-city mayors, was too busy sucking up to the movers and shakers and their pet projects to make sure that their could be a coordinated and effective response to a major disaster like this. Likewise for the Governor and her predecessor. They should all be held accountable.

But the major buck stops at the top with Bush. End of story.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

"Karl Rove couldn't have said it better ..." wow, this passes for a logical argument against what you said Arminius?!? Amazing, apparently an admission that Bozo really doesn't have a response, just more hot air.
and, Bozo, you really flatter me, "separate residences ..." I guess I should well have assumed my comment would be misunderstood in the era of Clinton; how about this, one wife, and a woman who is like a daughter to me? now that is a pretty fine life, instead of being tied to an eye-dimming screen for hours on end spewing empty hot air into the comments section of LJWORLD.COM. I would rather spend time with loveliness that has values.
Arminius, you said every word I would have, if I were here, thanks man.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

p.s. my original comment about two women who love me was only to explain why I am not sitting on top of this board twenty-four hours a day! I actually have a life! eek eek...

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