Friday, September 02, 2005

How much worse can it get?

"Get off your asses and let's do something and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country," Nagin said. "People are dying. They don't have homes, they don't have jobs. The city of New Orleans will never be the same. And it's time." - ray nagin, mayor, new orleans.

At least seven dead bodies were scattered among the thousands of storm evacuees who'd been waiting for days outside the New Orleans Convention Center. One man, pointing to a dead woman in a wheelchair, said, "I don't treat my dog like that. I buried my dog." An old man lay dead in a chaise lounge in a grassy median, as hungry babies wailed around him.

The Coast Guard said that when helicopters tried to take people out of New Orleans hospitals, they were shot at by people demanding that the choppers come to rescue their own family members.
In coastal Mississippi, refrigerated mobile morgues cruised around like garbage trucks, picking up bodies left on sidewalks and in front yards. Family members tried to treat the bodies with respect, wrapping them in curtains or sheets they can find in the debris.

For those who sought refuge in the New Orleans convention center, it became just another part of the nightmare. Police Chief Eddie Compass said some of the thousands trapped there are being raped, and others beaten. He says hotels have sent away their tourists and are being "preyed upon." The chief says he sent in officers to quell the situation, but they were quickly beaten back by an angry mob.

The street outside the New Orleans convention center is choked with dirty diapers, old bottles and garbage, and it smells of urine and feces. People chanted, "Help, help!" as reporters and photographers walked through. The crowd got angry when journalists tried to photograph one of the dead bodies, and covered it over with a blanket. A woman, screaming, went on the front steps of the convention center and led the crowd in reciting the 23rd Psalm.

A visiting sheriff's detective from Florida says he saw people wave down a squad car near the convention center last night. The car slowed down, and the crowd swarmed -- causing the officer to drive off and return with other officers. He says the officers told the crowd, "Everybody down, or we're going to shoot" -- and the people scattered.

One looter sobbed as she took items from a store's shelves and put them into plastic garbage bags to take to her shelter. She was taking children's clothing and snack foods, but couldn't find any water. Another woman on a bicycle rode up to a drug store and asked if people were being arrested. When told that they weren't, she said she was a diabetic and that she needed test strips.

A tourist trapped in a New Orleans hotel says "No one really knows what to do." Susan Dewey says "The people who are left are just going and breaking into stores." She says you see people dragging bags of shoes, then later, "you would see piles of shoe boxes." Dewey thought she'd found a way out when she banded with hundreds of other tourists to hire ten buses for $25,000. But, after waiting hours, they learned government officials had commandeered the buses to evacuate others.

There are also acts of kindness. One woman was seen using a broken-up soda carton to fan a woman in a wheelchair, trying to keep her cool. In an apparent bid to lift her spirits, she kept asking the woman if she wanted ice cream, or a cola. Someone commandeered a golf cart from the convention center and drove off, carrying the woman in a wheelchair.

For the evacuees arriving at the Houston Astrodome from New Orleans, a shower in one of the stadium's four locker rooms was a welcome relief. But for Audree Lee, it was a relief as well to hear the voice of her teen-age daughter for the first time since the storm. She says she and her daughter both cried, and that the girl asked about her dog. She says, "They wouldn't let me take her dog with me...I know the dog is gone now."

Reporters and politicians in the area devastated by the hurricane are being begged by survivors to pass information to their families. Louisiana's Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu had a pocket full of scraps of paper on which he scribbled down phone numbers. This morning, he contacted a woman whose father had been rescued, and told her, "Your daddy's alive, and he said to tell you he loves you." He says the woman started crying and said, "I thought he was dead."


At 9/02/2005 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

News media get past logistical hurdles to report on storm's aftermath
As conditions in New Orleans continued to degenerate yesterday, the news media seemed to have overcome, for the most part, the worst of their logistical hurdles and confronted the harrowing spectacle before ...
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