Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2005

Staggering death toll expected

Survivors leave city to the dying

September 4, 2005


— Thousands more bedraggled refugees were bused to salvation Saturday, leaving the city of New Orleans to the dead and dying, the elderly and frail stranded too many days without food, water or medical care.

No one knows how many were killed by Hurricane Katrina's floods and how many more succumbed waiting to be rescued. But the bodies are everywhere: hidden in attics, floating among the ruined city, crumpled on wheelchairs, abandoned on highways.

The last refugees at the Superdome and the convention center climbed aboard buses Saturday bound for shelters, but the dying goes on.

While the official death toll has barely been started, the numbers are expected to eventually be staggering. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that officials know "there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water and other people dead in attics - minimum hundreds, most likely thousands."

Mississippi has confirmed its death toll has reached 147, but Gov. Haley Barbour said, "We don't know how many fatalities there are. The official count is really meaningless."

Federal and Louisiana teams of morticians were activated on Friday and temporary morgues were being made ready for the state's dead.

"We've asked for morgues from the federal side and the state side. That's happening," said Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco on Saturday.

Craig Vanderwagen, rear admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service, said one morgue alone, at a St. Gabriel prison, expected 1,000 to 2,000 bodies.

Touring the airport triage center, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a physician, said "a lot more than eight to 10 people are dying a day."

Most were those too sick or weak to survive. But not all.

Charles Womack, a 30-year-old roofer, said he saw one man beaten to death and another commit suicide at the Superdome. Womack was beaten with a pipe and being treated at an airport triage center, where bodies were kept in a refrigerated truck.

"One guy jumped off a balcony. I saw him do it. He was talking to a lady about it. He said it reminded him of the war and he couldn't leave," he said.

Three babies died at the convention center from heat exhaustion, said Mark Kyle, a medical relief provider.

First signs of hope

But some progress was evident. The last 300 refugees at the Superdome were evacuated Saturday evening, eliciting cheers from members of the Texas National Guard who had been standing watch over the facility for nearly a week as some 20,000 hurricane survivors waited for rescue.

How to help

The Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross is collecting donations locally. Peoples Bank also said it would donate $10,000 to the Red Cross and serve as a collection point.

People donating to the Red Cross can use a credit card by calling 843-3550. They also can mail a check or money order to the Red Cross at Douglas County Red Cross, 2518 Ridge Court, Lawrence, 66046. Donations also can be made online in various ways at

Douglas County Red Cross officials would prefer to receive checks and money orders by mail instead of having cash brought to the office, although they will accept that, too. The office, however, is not open this holiday weekend.

The Red Cross also is receiving calls from many people in the county wanting to offer their homes as refuge for displaced hurricane victims, Blocker said. The Red Cross, however, doesn't handle that aspect of the relief effort, she said. She suggested checking online at

About 92 cents of each dollar goes directly to emergency relief services, said Jane Blocher, the local chapter's executive director.

The Salvation Army also is accepting donations. You can use a credit card and call (800)-SAL-ARMY or go online to Checks can be mailed to The Salvation Army, 3637 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo. 64111.

The convention center was "almost empty" after 4,200 people were removed, according to Marty Bahamonde, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

At the convention center, where earlier estimates of the crowd climbed as high as 25,000, thousands of refugees dragged their meager belongings to buses, the mood more numb than jubilant. Yolando Sanders, who had been stuck at the convention center for five days, was among those who filed past corpses to reach the buses.

"Anyplace is better than here," she said.

"People are dying over there."

Nearby, a woman lay dead in a wheelchair on the front steps. A man was covered in a black drape with a dry line of blood running to the gutter, where it had pooled. Another had lain on a chaise lounge for four days, his stocking feet peeking out from under a quilt.

By mid-afternoon, only pockets of stragglers remained in the streets around the convention center, and New Orleans paramedics began carting away the dead.

A once-vibrant city of 480,000 people, overtaken just days ago by floods, looting, rape and arson, was now an empty, sodden tomb.

The people responsible for securing and preserving the bodies to be later identified had not collected a single body out of New Orleans by Saturday because of the more pressing need to rescue the living.

"There is no emergency. The dead ones, they can wait," said Jack King with the Texas Disaster Response Team, a volunteer group that was waiting in Texas for the word to go in and help.

The exact number of dead won't be known for some time. Survivors were still being plucked from roofs and shattered highways across the city. President Bush ordered more than 7,000 active duty forces to the Gulf Coast on Saturday.

"There are people in apartments and hotels that you didn't know were there," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Graham said.

The overwhelming majority of those stranded in the post-Katrina chaos were those without the resources to escape - and, overwhelmingly, they were black.

"The first few days were a natural disaster. The last four days were a man-made disaster," said Phillip Holt, 51, who was rescued from his home Saturday with his partner and three of their aging Chihuahuas. They left a fourth behind they couldn't grab in time.

Tens of thousands of people had been evacuated from the city, seeking safety in Texas, Tennessee, Indiana and Arkansas.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry warned Saturday that his enormous state was running out of room, with more than 220,000 hurricane refugees camped out there and more coming.

Emergency workers at the Astrodome were told to expect 10,000 new arrivals daily for the next three days.

In Washington, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced that more than 10,000 people had been flown out of New Orleans in what he called the largest airlift in history on U.S. soil. He said the flights would continue as long as needed.

Thousands of people remained at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, where officials turned a Delta Blue terminal into a triage unit. Officials said 3,000 to 5,000 people had been treated at the triage unit, but fewer than 200 remain. Others throughout the airport awaited transport out of the city.

"In the beginning it was like trying to lasso an octopus. When we got here it was overwhelming," said Jake Jacoby, a physician helping run the center.

Airport director Roy Williams said about 30 people had died, some of them elderly and ill. The bodies were being kept in refrigerated trucks as a temporary morgue.

At the convention center, people stumbled toward the helicopters, dehydrated and nearly passing out from exhaustion. Many had to be carried by National Guard troops and police on stretchers. And some were being pushed up the street on office chairs and on dollies.

Nita LaGarde, 105, was pushed down the street in her wheelchair as her nurse's 5-year-old granddaughter, Tanisha Blevin, held her hand. The pair spent two days in an attic, two days on an interstate island and the last four days on the pavement in front of the convention center.

"They're good to see," LaGarde said, with remarkable gusto as she waited to be loaded onto a gray Marine helicopter. She said they were sent by God. "Whatever He has for you, He'll take care of you. He'll sure take care of you."

LaGarde's nurse, Ernestine Dangerfield, 60, said LaGarde had not had a clean adult diaper in more than two days. "I just want to get somewhere where I can get her nice and clean," she said.

Around the corner, a motley fleet of luxury tour buses and yellow school buses lined up two deep to pick up some of the healthier refugees. National Guardsmen confiscated a gun, knives and letter openers from people before they got on the buses.

"It's been a long time coming," Derek Dabon, 29, said as he waited to pass through a guard checkpoint. "There's no way I'm coming back. To what? That don't make sense. I'm going to start a new life."

Hillary Snowton, 40, sat on the sidewalk outside with a piece of white sheet tied around his face like a bandanna as he stared at a body that had been lying on a chaise lounge for four days, its stocking feet peeking out from under a quilt.

"It's for the smell of the dead body," he said of the sheet. His brother-in-law, Octave Carter, 42, said it has been "every day, every morning, breakfast lunch and dinner looking at it."

When asked why he didn't move further away from the corpse, Carter replied, "it stinks everywhere, Blood."

Dan Craig, director of recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said it could take up to six months to get the water out of New Orleans, and the city would then need to dry out, which could take up to three more months.

A Saks Fifth Avenue store billowed smoke Saturday, as did rows of warehouses on the east bank of the Mississippi River, where corrugated roofs buckled and tiny explosions erupted. Gunfire - almost two dozen shots - broke out in the French Quarter overnight.

In the French Quarter, some residents refused or did not know how to get out. Some holed up with guns.

As the warehouse district burned, Ron Seitzer, 61, washed his dirty laundry in the even dirtier waters of the Mississippi River and said he didn't know how much longer he could stay without water or power, surrounded by looters.

"I've never even had a nightmare or a beautiful dream about this," he said as he watched the warehouses burn. "People are just not themselves."

J-W Wire Services contributed to this report.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 7 months ago

One would think after viewing New Orleans situation on TV the federal government would realize that the problems mounting with machine gun rapidity were going to require big time assistance. Most of the city's resources were under water and it was being stated time and again. Obviously Washington D.C. was not paying attention or they did not give a damn.

A CNN newscaster question tells it all: "Why did CNN seem to have a better communication system than did Homeland Security?" Inexperience and not paying attention.

Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials

By Manuel Roig-Franzia and Spencer Hsu Washington Post Staff Writers Sunday, September 4, 2005; A01

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 3 -- Tens of thousands of people spent a fifth day awaiting evacuation from this ruined city, as Bush administration officials blamed state and local authorities for what leaders at all levels have called a failure of the country's emergency management.

About 42,000 people had been evacuated from the city by Saturday afternoon, with roughly the same number remaining, city officials said. Search-and-rescue efforts continued in flooded areas of the city, where an unknown number of people wait in their homes, on rooftops or in makeshift shelters. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the flooding -- 250,000 have been absorbed by Texas alone, and local radio reported that Baton Rouge will have doubled in population by Monday. Federal officials said they have begun to collect corpses but could not guess the total toll.

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 7 months ago

This is a problem in Washington D.C. Experience is not required to in order to be appointed to a position. Cabinet members likely have no any background regarding their position except being good friends,a business executive a large donor or in this case know someone.

Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be `asked to resign'

By Brett Arends Saturday, September 3, 2005 - Updated: 02:01 PM EST The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA. The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.

 ``I look at FEMA and I shake my head,'' said a furious Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday, calling the response ``an embarrassment.'' 
 President Bush, after touring the Big Easy, said he was ``not satisfied'' with the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina's devastation. 
 And U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch predicted there would be hearings on Capitol Hill over the mishandled operation. 
 Brown - formerly an estates and family lawyer - this week has has made several shocking public admissions, including interviews where he suggested FEMA was unaware of the misery and desperation of refugees stranded at the New Orleans convention center.

Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado. We do disciplinary actions, certification of (show trial) judges. We hold classes to train people to become judges and stewards. And we keep records,'' explained a spokeswoman for the IAHA commissioner's office.This was his full-time job . . . for 11 years,'' she added.

Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures. ``He was asked to resign,'' Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.

Soon after, Brown was invited to join the administration by his old Oklahoma college roommate Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA until he quit in 2003 to work for the president's re-election campaign.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 7 months ago

(CNN) -- The assistant secretary of the Army resigned Wednesday, with congressional aides saying Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had him fired for questioning proposed budget cuts for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Pentagon said Assistant Secretary of the Army Mike Parker resigned from his post and expressed appreciation for his contributions. But congressional aides said Rumsfeld wanted Parker fired after his testimony to Congress last week.

The White House declined comment. But a senior Bush administration official would not dispute the report that Parker, a former congressman from Mississippi, had been asked to leave.

"The administration expects its staff to support its budget," the official told CNN.

The head of the Army's civil works division, Parker was "terribly honest" in his testimony to the Senate Budget Committee, congressional aides said.

Parker said Bush's proposal to provide the Army Corps of Engineers with approximately $4 billion -- down about 10 percent -- was not the right number. The corps had requested more than $6 billion. The assistant secretary told lawmakers that the cuts would mean canceling $190 million in already contracted projects.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, the committee's chairman, called the decision to let Parker go "a serious mistake."

"Assistant Secretary Parker came before the Budget Committee and answered questions put to him honestly and directly," Conrad said. "That is precisely his responsibility in our constitutional system.

"The administration will cost itself credibility with Congress if it attempts to suppress the truth from its own representatives who testify before Congress."

A senior Bush aide said that when the budget is final, you "want everybody to support it." Parker, the aide said, "doesn't appear to agree with the president's budget."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

Nagin and the city administration of NO may very well deserve some blame in the aftermath of the this hurricane. But one thing I can predict with certainty-- you will never accept that Bush and his administration are in any way responsible for anything, anywhere, anytime.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

As I have said, there is likely plenty of blame to go around in this disaster. But it's quite obvious that the guy at the top has been the biggest fu**up of all, again, and you're still making excuses for him.


shanefivedyes 12 years, 7 months ago

Why does the goverment, dems. reps. or any other for that matter need to shoulder all the blame? When a little personal planning could have prevented this large loss of life.And why is it that some of us whine, run to and try to blame the goverment for everything that happens under the sun. I would like to suggest that we jerk the pacifier's out of our big mouths and learn to take care of ourselves and others and stop depending on goverment for everything including someone to blame.....

laughingatallofu 12 years, 7 months ago


Yes, I think it would be good for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice to drive the buses. For Bush, at least, it would be the first real job that he's held in his career.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 7 months ago

Well Kevin,

The epidemic of scandal involving Republicans in high places has yet to be resolved. The Iran-Contra mess and :

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

I'm absolutely devastated by your indignation at my heartless and ill-thought-out remarks. This impressive display of debating skill has now finally convinced me that Bush is God, and you are his vice-Archangel (Rove being #1, of course.)

I humbly genuflect in your general cyber-direction (with eyes repectfully diverted, of course.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

So, conservativeman, do you and Kevin ever compare your orgasms after a hard day of sucking up to Bush?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.