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Offline nacho

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Cassander's Glassbottom Boat Companion Thread
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2005, 12:20:58 AM »
A City of Despair and Lawlessness
Thousands Stranded in New Orleans; Troops Pour In

By Sam Coates and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 2, 2005; A01

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 1 -- 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.

The chaos that has gripped New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina 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 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 above 100, and Louisiana officials repeated warnings that thousands could be dead in New Orleans. The Energy Department said about 1.8 million customers remained without power due to 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 and grown children carried their elderly parents through the flotsam. Corpses floated in fetid waters and laid amid the crowds of refugees. 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 as many as 23,000 refugees to the Astrodome in Houston were temporarily halted after a gunshot was reportedly fired at a military helicopter. 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 what they said was a meager and slow response.

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

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 immediate aid. Late Thursday night, the Senate approved $10.5 billion in assistance, and the House will meet on Friday.

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 added. "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 those who remain stranded in New Orleans. Continued engineering difficulties 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 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 -- if the pumps can be put in working order. Corps officials apparently scrapped earlier plans to bring in sandbags and other items by barge or helicopter.

One of the most squalid and desperate situations unfolded 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 was avoided by most of the crowd, who milled around outside. As many as seven corpses laid out in the open around 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, 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 keep order.

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

"There was 75 to 100 people surrounding the helipad and several of them had guns," said Richard Zuschlag, chief executive 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. He said that an estimated 1,500 remained at three more medical facilities and that rescue operations were being severely hampered by security issues.

"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 predicted to make their way to Louisiana's capital. Police have implemented a 10 p.m. curfew for fuel purchases, and there have been reports of attempted carjackings at gas stations. Officials are struggling with widespread power outages and water shortages from the storm.

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

At a briefing for reporters, Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, 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, yesterday, 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, Maj. Dalton Cunningham. He warned that some staff members and refugees still trapped by floodwaters in the organization's 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."

Offline nacho

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Cassander's Glassbottom Boat Companion Thread
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2005, 12:31:00 AM »
Displacement Of Historic Proportions

By David Von Drehle and Jacqueline Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 2, 2005; A01

The largest sudden displacement of Americans since the Civil War reverberated across the country from its starting point in New Orleans yesterday, as more than half a million people uprooted by Hurricane Katrina sought shelter, sustenance and the semblance of new lives.

Storm refugees overwhelmed the state of Louisiana and poured into cities from coast to coast, crowding sports arenas, convention centers, schools, churches and the homes of friends, relatives and even strangers. Red Cross officials reported that every shelter in a seven-state region was already full -- 76,000 people in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Hundreds of miles from New Orleans, hotels were jammed or quickly filling.

Rich and poor alike, they found themselves starting over. The former began buying new houses and leasing new office space. The latter waited in lines for a bar of soap or a peanut butter sandwich.

Katrina has scattered more than twice as many people as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and unmoored more people in a few days than fled the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Estimating from Census data, roughly 150,000 of the displaced lived below the poverty line even before they lost everything. Far more than 50,000 of them are past retirement age.

Cities and hamlets, charities and individuals, stepped up to help. In Washington, District officials made plans to open a shelter in the D.C. Armory, and 415 retired veterans were moved from the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Miss. to a similar facility here.

"The biggest issue we're faced with is handling the volume of people," said Margaret O'Brien Molina, a spokesman for the Southwest region of the American Red Cross. "Just identifying their needs is so complex."

In Baton Rouge and other Louisiana cities, the influx was dangerously straining services, officials warned. Armed guards were stationed at food distribution sites, and Baton Rouge police chief Jeff LeDuff said the city's hospitals might have to be barricaded to prevent desperate storm victims from continuing to swamp emergency rooms. The city's sanitation system is overloaded, garbage collection has soared, gasoline is scarce.

"Instead of water flooding in, we've got people flooding in," said Mike Walker of the East Baton Rouge Parish Council. "The levee of people broke."

Where to go? What to do? They needed food, water, medicine, beds, showers, toilets, clothing, jobs, schools, friends, diversions. Where to begin?

For many of the impoverished refugees from the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, the first step into the future led to a strip mall near the Astrodome, which transformed into a bazaar of free ham sandwiches, water, diapers, baby formula and other supplies brought by volunteers.

Gaynell Warden, 46, stood in her pajamas , 350 miles from home -- make that former home. For now and the knowable future she lives in a new town of 25,000 comprised of cots in an old stadium. "My son is missing. I don't know if he's dead or alive," she said.

Allen Porter, 18, sat in a hotel lobby in Hot Springs, Ark., 530 miles from his former home. His parents were out looking for a condominium while their son tried to sort out the confused picture that had seemed so clear and glittering just days before. Senior year, top of his class at Jesuit High in New Orleans, Porter was a bit annoyed when his mother insisted on evacuating. He packed his iPod, "Wuthering Heights," and his applications to places like Princeton, Yale and Virginia. Now his high school was reportedly under 13 feet of water, deep enough to drown his transcripts, and his khaki-clad buddies were scattered to the winds.

"It could get lonely over time," he mused via the Internet.

Porter was probably wise to take the long view, because the few lessons available in upheaval of this scale suggest that the metropolis flung apart by the hurricane may still be in pieces years from now. More than 300,000 Japanese were left homeless by the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and some were still in makeshift camps three years later. Closer to home, the sudden influx of125,000 Cubans in the 1980 Mariel boatlift was only partially absorbed by families and volunteers across the country; some of the refugees remained in camps into the late 1980s.

Herbert McKnight, 44, had no intention of waiting for New Orleans to be restored. "The way I'm looking at it, I don't have a job and I don't have a home," he said in Houston, where he and 20 members of his extended family were among the tens of thousands of displaced people occupying virtually all of the city's 55,000 hotel rooms. An accountant, McKnight said he was desperate to find work and move into an apartment in Houston.

Mostly, though, it was a matter of coping with the here and now.

Internet bulletin boards buzzed with offers of spare bedrooms and pleas for volunteers. "I have 11 family members arriving," a harried host in Maryland began, and "a rental property in Capitol Heights, MD to put them in. . . . However, it is currently undergoing renovations and is not quite habitable yet . . . I need donations."

And: "I am in Kewanee, IL. a small rural community in Illinois. . . . I can fit 2-4 comfortably . . . 6-8 in a squashed condition."

School boards in state after state dropped their normal admission rules to make room for more than 100,000 school-age children from New Orleans and other storm-wrecked communities. Colleges and universities offered to reopen their rolls to take in some 50,000 displaced students.

But for some of the hardest-hit evacuees, such concerns seemed light years away. Those who were not moved to the Astrodome fanned out across Louisiana, swelling cities and towns to the bursting point and sorely testing the capacities of their neighbors.

In Sorrento, approximately 50 miles northwest of New Orleans, there was "looting everywhere, all over the place. There is chaos everywhere right now," said Police Chief Earl Theriot. "There's a bunch of fights. All our shelters are full. The gas rationing is getting out of hand."

Theriot spent part of his day dealing with the death of an elderly woman on a bus full of nursing home patients who were traveling without any attendants or medical personnel.

Up the road in Alexandria, where the sometimes surly storm-tossed were being housed in an abandoned Wal-Mart, police chief Daren Coutee issued a plea for authorities in New Orleans to search each evacuee for weapons before sending them along.

In Baton Rouge, city officials said that 20,000 refugees are being housed in official shelters, but they believe that's just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands more are thought to be staying in private homes, hotels and other facilities. And they are braced for more.

Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.) said he planned to ask for temporary housing facilities from the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and private companies and realtor groups. "Portable barracks, mobile homes, vacant commercial structures -- whatever can house people in humane conditions," he said yesterday.

More than 800 people are currently sleeping on blow-up beds on a gymnasium floor at Louisiana State University-Shreveport, where their living quarters aren't much larger than an average car. All of their belongings -- perhaps some clothes, toiletries and an old a photo album -- are stacked by the beds. There's no other space for storage. Beds are crammed in like puzzle pieces, covering nearly every bit of the hardwood floor.

Some residents plan to live in the gymnasium for at least the next month.

"When my family first came here, I was like 'No way. I'm not staying at a shelter. I'm not going in,' " said Latrice Alexander, 35, who fled here from New Orleans on Sunday. "I sat in the parking lot for like an hour and refused to come in, and now this place is basically home.

"It's tough. When you want to shower, there's usually a line of 10 people in front of you. There's never anything to do. You get up. You eat. You take a walk. Then you come back to your little bed."

The scene is repeated in towns and cities across thousands of square miles.

By mid-day yesterday, more than 1,000 refugees had found Starkville, a university town in northeastern Mississippi, according to Duane Tucker, disaster chairman for the local Red Cross chapter. "All the hotels in town are full, we've got people staying with relatives, and about 40 people from New Orleans living in a church shelter." And the problem is likely to worsen as middle-class families in hotels run out of money.

"I can't see the end," Tucker said.

A major city, thrown to the winds. No one spared. Not the prosperous DeLongs, a Garden District family of lawyers and university administrators now dispersed from Texas to the District. And not the huddled masses in the Astrodome, suffering from dehydration, diarrhea, malnutrition and other problems.

In Houston, Harris County Chief Administrator Robert Eckels hoped that the Astrodome would not be a city for long. "This is not a place you want to be living for months with that kind of crowd. We want these folks to move on." Still, plans are being hatched to open a school there. And Walker, the Baton Rouge council member, is predicting that his city of 217,000 could double in size as refugees come to realize that "they have no place to go back to for years."

"This is not a one-day or a one-year crisis. This is changing people's lives," said Baker, whose district includes Baton Rouge. "This is a societal problem of a magnitude that America has never seen."


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Cassander's Glassbottom Boat Companion Thread
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2005, 01:52:51 AM »


The following is the result of an interview I just conducted via cell phone with a New Orleans citizen stranded at the Convention Center. I don't know what kind of garbage you're hearing in the mainstream media or in the press conferences from the city and state officials, but here is the truth:

"Bigfoot" is a bar manager and DJ on Bourbon Street, and is a local personality and icon in the city. He is a lifelong resident of the city, born and raised. He rode out the storm itself in the Iberville Projects because he knew he would be above any flood waters. Here is his story as told to me moments ago. I took notes while he talked and then I asked some questions:

Three days ago, police and national guard troops told citizens to head toward the Crescent City Connection Bridge to await transportation out of the area. The citizens trekked over to the Convention Center and waited for the buses which they were told would take them to Houston or Alabama or somewhere else, out of this area.

It's been 3 days, and the buses have yet to appear.

Although obviously he has no exact count, he estimates more than 10,000 people are packed into and around and outside the convention center still waiting for the buses. They had no food, no water, and no medicine for the last three days, until today, when the National Guard drove over the bridge above them, and tossed out supplies over the side crashing down to the ground below. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.

There are many infants and elderly people among them, as well as many people who were injured jumping out of windows to escape flood water and the like -- all of them in dire straights.

Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids.

The people are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.

The buses never stop.

Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area -- Saulet Condos -- once they tried to get cars from there... well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.

He reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is "horrific."

He says it's the slowest mandatory evacuation ever, and he wants to know why they were told to go to the Convention Center area in the first place; furthermore, he reports that many of them with cell phones have contacts willing to come rescue them, but people are not being allowed through to pick them up.

I have "Bigfoot"'s phone number and will gladly give it to any city or state official who would like to tell him how everything is under control.

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Cassander's Glassbottom Boat Companion Thread
« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2005, 10:51:51 AM »
Fires, violence, Astrodome closed.

Fifth Day of Disaster Begins With Fire
President Bush Says Relief Operations "Are Not Acceptable"

By Peter Slevin, Fred Barbash and Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 2, 2005; 9:48 AM

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 2 -- A spectacular looking fire, apparently in a warehouse, lit up the New Orleans riverfront a few miles south of the French Quarter Friday morning setting off a round of what turned out to be unfounded media speculation about possible "toxic clouds" and prompting a plea from a local official for an end to the rampant rumor mongering that has hit the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

While the fire glowed in the sky and then spread a giant plume of smoke upriver, Walter Maestri, head of emergency management for Jefferson County, came on talk radio four hours after the explosions and said "it was not the major incident we thought it was."

Several hours later, President Bush headed to the devastated region to survey the damage. As he was leaving the White House, Bush told reporters that he believes the relief operations so far "are not acceptable."

But he said he wanted to "assure the people of the affected areas and the people of this country that we'll deploy the assets necessary and get the situation under control."

New Orleans was swept all night by unconfirmed reports of gunshots and random violence, spread on talk shows, TV and the Internet, with no one in authority appearing to know anything one way or the other.

The situation prompted a plea from Maestri Friday morning.

"There are a myriad of rumors out there," he said on WWL talk radio. "Everybody knows that this and that is happening. Everybody is hearing this and that. We don't know. We've got to stop dealing with rumors. We're afraid of the dark right now and everything's dark. Please, all citizens of Jefferson Parish, we're not holding anything back. What we know, we're sharing."

Jefferson Parish is just west of New Orleans on the Mississippi.

Other officials appeared distraught and confused.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin came on a local talk show and in a rambling interview -- that was replayed over and over through the night -- cursed and yelled and ultimately dissolved in tears.

"Get off your asses and let's do something," he said at one point.

"I'm at the point now where it don't matter," he said. "People are dying. They don't have homes. They don't have jobs. The city of New Orleans will never be the same."

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D), interviewed this morning, said she had heard about the reports on a TV station Web site of about 100 people dying while waiting to be rescued in the Chalmette area of the city but she was not able to confirm any of that information. "Miles, I cannot confirm that for you," she told CNN's Miles O'Brien. "Anything can happen and it has. . . . I don't even know what today is."

Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management, made the rounds of the morning talk shows and was grilled aggressively about the situation. "By Sunday, I'll have 30,000 National Guard troops . . . We're securing the city," he said on NBC's "Today" program. "We're going to fix the problem and stop that lawlessness. . . . It's a growing and continuing disaster. . . . I think we'll start seeing major improvements over the next several days."

Meanwhile, after accepting more than 11,000 Hurricane Katrina refugees, wire services reported that Houston's Astrodome was full and had been closed to any new arrivals of refugees.

TV images of the Astrodome showed row after row of cots, covering the entire floor of the huge facility. From above, it looked like old pictures of Civil War field hospitals.

"We've actually reached capacity for the safety and comfort of the people inside there," American Red Cross spokeswoman Dana Allen told the Associated Press. She said people were "packed pretty tight" on the floor of the Astrodome.

Buses that continued to arrive were being sent on to other shelters in the area and as far away as Huntsville, about an hour north of Houston.

To the extent there was confirmable news, it was coming not from authorities but from national TV networks, which showed footage of a large fire at Chartres Street along the Mississippi River at about 5 a.m. EDT.

Chris Lawrence of CNN reported on the fire from a rooftop on a police station, where he said officers were "barricaded" because of people "shooting at the station.

"It's very hard to tell [what's happening]," he said. "The Fire Department can't get near the building without a police escort."

The New Orleans airport, meanwhile, was being converted into a major military staging point for the arrival of supplies and troops.