September 29, 2005

Too Hot to Cook

Left work at 7:30pm and noticed the temperature was sitting at 82 degrees. We are in what's called a Santa Ana condition. Instead of our nice cooling ocean breezes, in the afternoon, we get hot desert winds that fan brushfires. When it's like this, there are absolutely no cooling breezes. So, you are left to cook in the hot, dry heat. It dries up your sinuses and makes it hard to breathe. It doesn't cool off at night, so the next morning, there is already a cushion of heat for the sun to build on. Hence, each day is hotter than the next. When it's like this, the house gets so hot, that you notice the temperature go up in a room, when someone turns on a light. The last thing you want to do is turn on the oven. I was wondering what to make for dinner. EVerything I could come up with, involved using the stove. Screw it! I went around the corner to Rally's and order up a couple of combo meals. There is no way I want to heat up this house anymore than I have to. And, you know it's hot outside, when one would rather have the windows rolled up with the A/C blasting, instead of running with the windows down. The outside air is too hot.

Posted by Valkyre at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2005

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

We went to see this, this afternoon. I give it a two skeleton thumbs up! It was really good. A nice original plot, which is something that one doesn't see in Hollywood lately. What with all the remakes lately.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2005

Sept. 23rd 1986 - Sept. 23rd, 2005

19 years!

Happy Anniversary Mike!

Posted by Valkyre at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

Exit Katrina, Enter Rita

This one is up to a Class 5 and is headed for the Gulf Coast. There are some reports that have this as one of the worse to ever hit. Galveston Texas, which is in her path, is only 8 feet above sea level. The people who are in the areas most likely to be hit seem to be obeying the evacuation orders. I guess we've learned from Hurricane Katrina.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2005

Slow News Day at FoxNews

Must have been a slow day for FoxNews on Monday. I don't normally watch the station. My boss just loves the show. He turns it on as soon as he gets to the kennel. I can't stand watching it. However, I walk out earlier today and notice three columns of smoke on the horizon. Not good. I thought at first, that maybe there was three separate fires. Had some nut gone around and set three different locations on fire? I walked into the house and turn on the TV. Unfortunately, the people who installed the satellite dish where I work, seemed to have disconnected the TV antenna, so we can't watch local news. So, I put it on FoxNews to see if maybe they might mention what's going on. I thought that they would be talking about Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, but usually they have a "crawl" going at the bottom with some news tidbits. Lo and behold, the TV comes on and they are headlining with "Power out in downtown Los Angeles!!!!" Yes, it seemed that the city of Los Angeles had lost power in certain areas. The downtown area was dark, which means people were stuck in elevators. Traffic lights were out all over the place. So, this took precedence over the fact that 45 dead bodies were found in a hospital in New Orleans. That was reduced to a crawl under the images of Los Angeles intersections with their signals out. Yes, they seemed to think it was important to fly over some major intersection in West Los Angeles. Why? I don't know. If they were hoping to see 10 car pile-ups, or people shooting each other, they didn't get it. They were so desperate for something, that they started following a police car with their helicopter. Ooh! A police car! Maybe he's racing to the scene of an accident!!! He gets to one of the intersections, with the traffic light out, and blocks it. Why? Because a couple of fire engines were racing through. The police car was running a blockade. Fire engines!!!! Oh boy! They had something now! So, the helicopter starts tailing the fire engines. Do they race to the scene of a 15 car pile-up? Nope, they pull up in front of a building. Looks like it might have been a convalescent hospital. Something along those lines. No big deal. So, they really have nothing to report. They actually seemed shocked at how well behaved us Angelenos were. With the signals out, drivers were treating the intersections as four way stops and were quite courteous to the others drivers. For the most part, LA drivers are pretty good. And, when incidents like this happen, we do behave. I guess we must have really disappointed FoxNews. By the way, the "three fires" were local refineries doing "burn offs". This is some procedure they undertake during power outages.

Posted by Valkyre at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2005

September 11, 2001

It's hard to believe that it's been four years.

Posted by Valkyre at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

Hats Off to These Heroes!

I was trying to think of a way to honor those heroes from 9/11. How about a salute to the heroes of Hurricane Katrina. These are some of them.

Article here

For doctors, days of unending ordeal followed hurricane
Working without power or adequate equipment, they delivered babies, tended the sick and ducked gunfire.
By Marilynn Marchione
The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Dr. Jessica Lee fought the urge to panic.

All week long, women stranded by Hurricane Katrina had been giving birth in primitive conditions at New Orleans' University Hospital, their only after-effect a colorful story to tell their children someday.

Now one was in trouble.

She was 24 and scared. She had given birth once before by Caesarean section because the baby's head was too big, and doctors believed one would be needed again. With no power or running water, the doctors couldn't safely operate, so for days they had given her drugs to delay labor.

But by Friday morning they could fool nature no longer. Labor was progressing and no rescuers were in sight.

This one isn't going to have a happy ending, Lee began to fear. Where were the helicopters?

Disasters always spawn heroes.

On Sept. 11, 2001, many of them wore dark blue uniforms that said FDNY.

On Sept. 1, 2005, many wore hospital scrubs that said MD, RN and EMT. Thousands of health care workers stayed with patients in devastated hospitals after the storm struck. Thousands more rushed in to help.

They are people like Dr. Norman McSwain, a legendary, 68-year-old Tulane University trauma surgeon who on Sept. 1 waded through fetid floodwaters to get out word that thousands of people were trapped in hospitals running out of food and water.

And Dr. Rich Tabor, a 38-year-old Bethlehem, Pa., emergency medicine physician who got partners to cover his shifts and paid $520 out of his own pocket for a plane ticket to Louisiana, where he climbed into an airboat and went door-to-door with rescue workers.

And Barry Albertson Jr., 42, a paramedic from Easton, Pa., who missed his 7-year-old son's first peewee football game to join a caravan of ambulances making the 30-hour trip to New Orleans.

And Dr. Lee Garvey, 48, an emergency room doctor at Carolinas Medical Center who dropped everything to staff a state-of-the-art mobile hospital that provided the only trauma care for seven devastated counties in rural Mississippi.

"We're here because this is what we live to do," Garvey said, "trying to offer something to these people."

Lee's ordeal began at 6 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, as the hurricane approached. The 31-year-old resident in obstetrics and gynecology wasn't summoned to work but took duty for a colleague who had a young baby and wanted to evacuate.

By 2 a.m., with the storm in full force, half a dozen women at University had given birth, two by C-section. Things went OK until Tuesday night, when the main generator on the first floor flooded. A couple of smaller ones on upper floors were used to power a few lights and fans, but it was dark even in daytime. The temperature inside was over 100 degrees, Lee said.

Medical student Susan Seo scrounged food and batteries and helped carry patients down four flights of stairs to an intensive-care unit. Attempts to evacuate patients from the parking garage roof were foiled by gunfire.

"There were people shooting at the helicopters. The whole time I was like, 'How come the military's not here,' " she said.

Conditions grew steadily worse. Shots rang out in the hospital at night, and patients were moved to higher floors to escape looters.

"The entire time, I was afraid of being raped. It was so violent, it was so dark, people had guns and nothing to lose," Seo said. "There's no food left, no water, everything was contaminated ... The smell was overwhelming."

Ten blocks away, the privately owned Tulane University Hospital and Clinic was getting help from its parent company, HCA. Private helicopters were evacuating patients, and doctors worried about the two public hospitals -- University and "Big Charity" -- which they could no longer contact because phones were out.

On Wednesday afternoon, Dr. L. Lee Hamm, chairman of medicine at Tulane, and Dr. Tyler Curiel, a cancer department chief, went in a third staffer's canoe to visit the other two hospitals. On the way, at least a dozen people tried to get to their boat, seeking rescue.

"I remember a man and a woman with a child in some sort of container," like a laundry bin to keep the child out of the water, Hamm said.

The doctors went first to "Big Charity," where Curiel's wife, Dr. Ruth Berggren, worked as an infectious disease specialist, then to University. At both, "patients were being treated with not even what you'd have in a field hospital," Hamm said.

There were no lab tests or X-rays -- critically important tools. Doctors were counting drips in intravenous lines to make sure patients got the right dose. Bystanders squeezed oxygen bags every 5 seconds to keep patients alive.

"You ask anybody and everybody that's willing to pitch in, and they wanted to," Hamm said. "There were lots of very young physicians doing a lot of heroic things."

Doctors managed to move about 150 patients and families on boats to the freeway where there were ambulances waiting. None of Tulane's patients died from storm-related reasons, but two of Charity's did. One was a cancer patient who couldn't survive the extra stress; another died in a helicopter as rescuers tried to administer CPR.

Women in labor were nearly hysterical. There were no fetal monitors, no power for pumps to give epidural anesthesia, and no running water for doctors to scrub their hands.

Four floors up, colleagues told her that patients and at least one evacuee with a gun had turned against a police officer, demanding information on when they'd get out. At least seven family members were forced out of the hospital by security guards because they were deemed a threat, Lee said.

"There wasn't a lot of logic going on," she said. "The patients were getting hostile. Under dire conditions, you don't know how people are going to act."

At Lee's hospital, University, one former nursing home patient died. Another death illustrated the violent backdrop against which the doctors worked -- a gunshot victim from the community who was brought in but couldn't be saved.

Around midnight Wednesday at University, Dr. Stacey Holman, a 27-year-old resident, assisted in yet another birth.

"I held up a flashlight and one of my colleagues did the delivery," she said.

All the time she wondered, "What if we have to do a C-section? Can we do it without endangering the mom's life?"

By Thursday morning, McSwain had seen enough. From one of the few working phones at Tulane, he sought help from the media, telling The Associated Press: "We have been trying to call the mayor's office, we have been trying to call the governor's office ... we have tried to use any inside pressure we can. We are turning to you. Please help us."

At dawn on Friday, Lee's fears were confirmed: Her 24-year-old patient's cervix was dilated and labor was progressing. With no functioning ultrasound equipment, doctors couldn't tell if this baby's head was too big, as the woman's previous child's had been. With no fetal monitors, they couldn't tell if the baby was in immediate danger.

While she pondered the risks, the clouds finally parted. The military arrived in force and Chinook helicopters swooped in, rescuing the roughly 350 patients who remained at Charity and University plus thousands of staff, family and refugees there and at Tulane.

Lee and her pregnant patient were airlifted to Slidell Memorial Hospital about 70 miles east near the Mississippi border. The woman gave birth to a healthy 7 pound 10.5-ounce boy at 12:53 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, after an emergency C-section that Lee and another doctor performed.

McSwain finally escaped the Tulane hospital Friday night. One of the last to leave, he would have turned out the lights. But the hospital already was a dark, waterlogged corpse. As was the city he left behind.

Posted by Valkyre at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2005

Forced Evacuations?

Well, it seems that the last holdouts in New Orleans may be forced out. The water that is still in the city is chock full of bacteria. Among other things.

Article here:

Police May Force Out Residents
Bacteria Counts Off the Charts, U.S. Warns; Congress to Probe Failures

By Scott Gold, Julie Cart and Stephen Braun, Times Staff Writers

NEW ORLEANS — Police officials threatened Wednesday to resort to forced evacuations by the end of the week to clear out residents who had not left, pointing to environmental tests warning of dangerous bacteria levels in the floodwaters.

As health authorities joined New Orleans and Louisiana officials in urging the city's estimated 10,000 holdouts to leave their homes, Bush administration officials said they would earmark $51.8 billion in new funding to speed help to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Amid simmering anger about the federal government's halting response, congressional leaders formed a joint House-Senate committee to investigate the breakdowns after the storm hit Aug. 29.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said the inquiry would scrutinize government performance across the board. "The initial response to Hurricane Katrina was unacceptable at the local, state and federal levels," he said.

Democratic lawmakers had pressed for an independent panel along the lines of the 9/11 commission, which found pervasive government failures leading to the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and the Pentagon. "I don't think the government should be investigating itself," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) said.

But Frist said he and Republican House Majority Leader J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) had settled on a bipartisan panel of senior congressional leaders to "do all we can to learn from this tragedy." The inquiry is to be completed by Feb. 15.

Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency — who is under fire for the agency's slow response to the flooding — said Wednesday that scores of police and volunteer firefighters from around the nation, as well as trucks loaded with donated water, were even now being prevented from entering New Orleans while troops conduct house-to-house searches.

"They can't just yet," Brown said during a briefing in Baton Rouge. "There is going to come this natural time when we will release this floodgate of cops and firefighters who want to help. It's the same for anyone who wants to volunteer — we have over 50,000 offers of donations from the private sector. It has to be coordinated in such a way that it helps."

Numerous state and local officials in Louisiana have accused FEMA of making the situation worse with red tape and a hesitant response immediately after Katrina slammed into the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

"I'm asking Congress, please don't send any more money to FEMA," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a staunch critic of the agency. "Send it directly to the local officials." But White House officials said $50 billion of the new aid package, supplementing $10.5 billion approved last week, would be routed to FEMA.

Ripples from the flooding, which left as many as 1 million people homeless and untold numbers dead, continued to shake the nation's economy. Louisiana emergency officials said Wednesday that the disaster could cost the state at least $100 billion. And the Congressional Budget Office predicted 400,000 jobs would be lost through the end of the year, with privately insured losses topping $30 billion.

The death count stood at 83 in Louisiana by Wednesday morning, and 196 bodies had been found in Mississippi. But there were growing indications that the toll could be staggering. A temporary warehouse morgue in rural St. Gabriel that had been prepared to take 1,000 bodies was being readied to handle 5,000. State officials said federal emergency teams had amassed more than 25,000 body bags.

The scope of the disaster became more apparent in St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans, which was hit last week by swells up to 40 feet high, parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez said. State Rep. Nita Hutter said that 30 people had died at a flooded nursing home in Chalmette when the staff abandoned elderly residents in their beds. Rep. Charlie Melancon has reported that more than 100 people died at a dockside warehouse while they waited for rescuers to ferry them to safety.

As federal disaster mortuary response teams began collecting bodies and loading them into a refrigerated truck, Rodriguez said on New Orleans television station WWL that at least 67 corpses — included those from the nursing home — had been found.

"There's going to be more than that," he said wearily.

Sections of St. Bernard that were submerged several days ago were nearly dry Wednesday, but they were covered by a black film of oil sludge. In the 9th Ward of New Orleans, floodwaters receded and Navy officials said search and rescue units were able to scrap some operations.

Police and military officials were focused on saving the lives of those still holed up in the shells of eroding houses and apartments. New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin is counting on a toughly worded evacuation order he signed Tuesday night to persuade thousands of residents to leave.

Nagin instructed police and National Guard troops "to compel the evacuation of all persons from the city of New Orleans, regardless of whether such persons are on private property or do not desire to leave."

But Art Jones, a senior official with the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Louisiana State Police troopers and National Guard units in New Orleans had no plans to participate in forced evacuations.

"We personally will not force anyone out of their homes," Jones said at a briefing, adding that "for their own common sense, they should get out as quick as they can."

Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, has authority over National Guard troops in the state, and the federal Posse Comitatus act prevents active-duty troops from performing any domestic law enforcement unless authorized by the president.

Mark Smith, a spokesman for Louisiana Homeland Security, said Nagin would have to formally request state authorities to allow National Guard troops to join forced evacuations. So far, Smith added, Nagin has not made that request.

"It is still up to our discretion whether we would support the request," Smith said. "We are not required by law to provide military troops to force people from their homes."

Without help from Guard units, the toughened stance would be left to New Orleans' exhausted, demoralized police force, which has shrunk to 1,000 officers after more than 200 desertions in the last week.

With help or without, senior police officials said, they are ready to compel people from their homes.

Supt. Eddie Compass said the mayor's threat had already persuaded "thousands of people, who want to voluntarily evacuate at this time."

"Once they are all out," Compass said, "then we'll concentrate our forces on mandatory evacuation." He added, choosing his words carefully, that police preferred to use the "minimal amount of force. If you are somebody who is 350 pounds, it will take more force than if you are somebody who weighs 150 pounds."

The order applies to the inundated eastern wards and the lightly damaged French Quarter and Garden District. It exempts Algiers and other communities south of the Mississippi River, known as the West Bank, which were largely spared from flooding. The mayor has said that standing water still covers 60% of New Orleans.

People removed from their homes would be placed in police custody but not arrested, officials said. They would be taken to military staging areas, then airlifted to shelters in other states.

Police Capt. Marlon Defillo said officials were worried about people in several public housing projects in eastside wards, including Lafitte, B.W. Cooper and St. Bernard.

Scores of people have taken refuge above floodwaters on upper floors in structures that can be reached only by boat, he said.

Mike Ferebreni, 42, was still clinging to his home in the lower 9th Ward, where the water level was low and damage minimal. With plenty of food and water, Ferebreni said he would eventually leave, but grudgingly. He fears that once easygoing citizens like him are gone, police will have to take on hard cases who have a tendency toward violence.

"It's going to be a free-for-all," he said.

During the last visit by police, Ferebreni said, officers told him health officials were going to cloud the city with a toxic spray to kill mosquitoes. That was enough for him.

But floodwaters polluted by sewage, bodies, garbage and silt pose a far more immediate danger, environmental and public health officials warned Wednesday.

Preliminary tests of the water showed dangerous levels of bacteria that threaten anyone who comes in contact with it, Environmental Protection Agency officials said. "Every single one of the samples hit the maximum," EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said.

The E. coli and coliform bacteria counts were so high they exceeded the ability of testing equipment to measure them, Johnson said. Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, was blunt in her warning: "For the evacuees who haven't left the city yet, you must do so."

CDC officials also confirmed that at least four flood victims had died of bacterial infections caused by the water in New Orleans and other hard-hit towns. They appeared to have been infected with Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, a water-borne pathogen related to the bacteria that cause cholera.

In other developments related to Katrina's aftermath:

• Fires continued to burn intermittently throughout New Orleans. Fire Supt. Charles Parent said that 57 blazes had erupted during the last week and that firefighters had responded to 111 gas leaks.

Officials have doused the fires but allowed the leaks to vent, concerned that if they were stopped up, the pressure could ignite explosions.

• Hundreds of cash-strapped evacuees lined up at the Louisiana Department of Social Services in Baton Rouge to apply for temporary food stamp allotments. More than 100,000 families have applied in the last week, a massive increase over the usual rate of 1,300 per month.

At the same time, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the federal agency would hand out debit cards worth $2,000 to every adult victim of Katrina.

• Flood walls held at New Orleans' 17th Street Canal and London Street Canal levees as water continued to slowly flow out of the city back into Lake Pontchartrain. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Dan Hitchings said 23 of 148 pumps were operational. The agency has installed three portable pumps and 160 more are being prepared, he said.

Gold reported from New Orleans, Cart from Baton Rouge and Braun from Washington. Also contributing were Times staff writers Richard Fausset and Greg Miller in New Orleans, Nicholas Riccardi in Baton Rouge, James Gerstenzang in Washington and Marla Cone in Los Angeles, as well as Times researcher Lynn Marshall in Seattle.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2005

Goodbye Little Buddy!

I knew him as Gilligan, Mike knew him as Maynard G. Krebs from the TV show Dobie Gillis. He was my favorite character from Gilligan's Island.

Bob Denver, TV's Gilligan, dies
New, 1 p.m. A TV show dismissed by critics in the 1960s as inane found new audiences over and over in syndicated reruns and reunion films.
By The Associated Press

Bob Denver, whose portrayal of goofy castaway Gilligan on the 1960s TV show "Gilligan's Island" made him an iconic figure to generations of TV viewers, has died. He was 70.

He died Friday at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital in North Carolina of complications from treatment he was receiving for cancer, his agent, Mike Eisenstadt, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

His wife, Dreama, and children Patrick, Megan, Emily and Colin were with Denver, who also had undergone quadruple heart bypass surgery earlier this year.

"He was my everything and I will love him forever," Dreama Denver said in a statement.

Denver's signature role was Gilligan, but when he took the role in 1964 he was already widely known to TV audiences for another iconic character, Maynard G. Krebs, the bearded beatnik friend of Dwayne Hickman's Dobie in the "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," which aired on CBS from 1959 to 1963.

Krebs, whose only desire was to play the bongos and hang out at coffee houses, would shriek every time the word "work" was mentioned in his presence.

Gilligan on the other hand was industrious but inept. And his character was as lovable as he was inept. Viewers embraced the skinny kid in the Buster Brown haircut and white sailor hat. So did the Minnow's skipper, Jonas Grumby, who was played by Alan Hale Jr., and who always referred to his first mate affectionately as "little buddy."

"As silly as it seems to all of us, it has made a difference in a lot of children's lives," Dawn Wells, who played castaway Mary Ann Summers, once said. "Gilligan is a buffoon that makes mistakes and I cannot tell you how many kids come up and say, `But you loved him anyway.'"

TV critics were less kind, dismissing the show as inane. But after it was canceled by CBS in 1967, it found new audiences over and over in syndicated reruns and reunion films, including 1981's "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island." (It also led to the recent TBS reality series "The Real Gilligan's Island.")

One of the most recent of those films was 2001's "Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three Hour Tour in History," in which other actors portrayed the original seven-member cast while three of the four surviving original members, including Denver, narrated and reminisced.

"Gilligan's Island" writer-creator Sherwood Schwartz insisted that the show had social meaning along with the laughs: "I knew that by assembling seven different people and forcing them to live together, the show would have great philosophical implications."

Denver went on to star in other TV series, including "The Good Guys" and "Dusty's Trail," as well as to make numerous appearances in films and TV shows.

But he never escaped the role of Gilligan, so much so that in one of his top 10 lists -- "the top 10 things that will make you stand up and cheer" -- "Late Show" host David Letterman once simply shouted out Denver's name to raucous applause.

"It was the mid-'70s when I realized it wasn't going off the air," Denver told The Associated Press in 2001, noting then that he enjoyed checking eBay each day to keep up on the prices "Gilligan's Island" memorabilia were fetching.

"I certainly didn't set out to have a series rerun forever, but it's not a bad experience at all," he added.

Posted by Valkyre at 07:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2005

Now the Clean Up Begins

This is just in New Orleans, though. There are tiny towns that have been wiped off the map. Article here:

New Orleans Begins Grisly Cleanup

Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- With the last weary refugees rescued from the Superdome and convention center, New Orleans turned its attention Sunday to gathering up and counting the dead across a ghastly landscape awash in perhaps thousands of corpses.

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

"I think it's evident it's in the thousands," Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said Sunday on CNN, echoing predictions by city and state officials last week about the death toll.

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.

"We need to prepare the country for what's coming," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on "Fox News Sunday." "We are going to uncover people who died hiding in the houses, maybe got caught in floods. It is going to be as ugly a scene as you can imagine."

Chertoff said rescuers going house to house have encountered a significant number of people who have said they don't want to evacuate.

"That is not a reasonable alternative," he said. "We are not going to be able to have people sitting in houses in the city of New Orleans for weeks and months while we de-water and clean this city. ... The flooded places, when they're de-watered, are not going to be sanitary."

Sunday morning, a woman's body remained lying at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Magazine Street - a business area in the lower Garden District with antique shops on the edge of blighted housing. The body had been there since at least Wednesday.

As days passed, people covered her with blankets or plastic.

By Sunday, a short wall of bricks had been built around her body, holding down a plastic tarpaulin. On it, someone had spray-painted a cross and the words, "Here lies Vera. God help us."

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 treated at the airport 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.

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.

On Sunday, utilities planned to send trucks into the city to assess storm damage for the first time since Katrina struck. Morgan Stewart, a spokesman for electricity provider Entergy Corp., said the National Guard would escort the company's vehicles.

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

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 and many other states.

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 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.

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."

Dan Craig, FEMA's director of recovery, 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.

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."


Associated Press reporters Kevin McGill, Robert Tanner, Melinda Deslatte, Brett Martel and Mary Foster contributed to this report.

Posted by Valkyre at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2005

Bus Carrying Evacuees Overturns In Louisiana

Haven't these poor people had enough?

Article here

Bus Carrying Evacuees Overturns In Louisiana
Relief Trucks Roll In To New Orleans

UPDATED: 7:12 pm PDT September 2, 2005

Louisiana State Police say one person is dead after a charter bus carrying evacuees overturned Friday afternoon in Opelousas, La.

The accident happened on Interstate 49 at Creswell Lane. The bus was transporting evacuees from the New Orleans Superdome to Dallas, CNN reported.

The newspaper Daily World of Opelousas reports on its Web site that at least 10 people have been taken to hospitals. Several suffered critical injuries.

A state police trooper said the driver lost control of the vehicle, but details are not known yet.

Meanwhile, after days without regular meals, thousands of hurricane evacuees are finally getting food, courtesy of the National Guard.

A convoy of more than a dozen military trucks loaded with water and Meals Ready to Eat began filing down Convention Center Boulevard in New Orleans under heavy Humvee escort.

Despite going without regular food and water for up to five days, the sometimes-unruly crowd marched in an orderly fashion into the parking lot and broke into six single-file lines.

Most people seemed grateful for the water and military meals. But not everyone was happy with the way the National Guard was running things. At least two people complained that the soldiers would give them rations only for themselves, even though they said they were caring for senior citizens.

Both the Superdome and convention center have been powderkegs of angry, desperate humanity -- with fights, filth and feelings of abandonment. But New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass received a hero's welcome Friday as he rode past the crowd with a bullhorn, offering reassurances.

"We got 30,000 people out of the Superdome, and we're going to take care of you," he said.

He also warned that if anyone disrupted the relief effort, troops would be forced to stop distributing food and water and leave.

But an incident Friday at the Superdome has caused some hurricane evacuees to wonder if others are getting special treatment.

The evacuation of Katrina victims onto buses for Texas was interrupted briefly, allowing 700 guests and employees from the adjacent Hyatt Hotel to move to the head of the evacuation line and board school buses.

"How does this work? They are clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?" asked Howard Blue, an evacuee.

Blue attempted to join the Hyatt group but was denied a place. As he rejoined the thousands of others enduring subhuman conditions, National Guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.

One hotel guest said the group was heading to the airport, but that could not be confirmed. The guest said the Hyatt told its patrons they would have water and phones by nightfall.

Trying to survive in the Superdome has been tough for the healthiest hurricane survivor. But those who are sick, injured or in need of medicine have really been hurting.

"Everybody's in pretty dire straits," said Kenneth Avery. He saw many small children who are sick, and a pregnant woman who was ready to deliver.

One woman said her newborn is running a fever, and small children in her area inside the dome all had rashes.

Becky Larue, of Des Moines, Iowa, and her husband were vacationing in New Orleans when the storm hit, and have been at the dome since Saturday. She's down to her last blood pressure pill.

Larue said she was waiting for evacuees "to start injuring themselves just to get out of here."

The Rev. Isaac Clark, a 68-year-old minister who's stranded with thousands of other evacuees at the New Orleans Convention Center said, "We are out here living like pure animals."

"We don't have water. We don't have food. We don't have help," Clark said.

Alan Gould, a man who is an evacuee inside the convention center, told CNN that women and small children are being raped and killed. He called it genocide.

He said officials keep giving them the runaround, saying "Help is coming. Help is coming. Help is coming." But he said people just keep dying.

The New Orleans police chief said 15,000 people are trapped in the city's convention center. And he said some are being raped and beaten.

A 23-year-old woman tending to her 4-year-old daughter said, "God is punishing New Orleans" for its corruption and crime.

At least seven bodies were scattered outside the convention center. People desperately called for help, chasing after reporters, sometimes pleading and sometimes threatening.

The man heading the military operation in New Orleans said if the emergency work were easy, it would have been done already.

Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore told CNN the high water near the convention center and Superdome is making it tough for troops to get in. But he said they have been unloading trucks full of food and water -- and will go restock when they're empty.

Honore said they'll also clear areas for helicopters to conduct medical evacuations.

The commander said he knows people in the area are frustrated at the pace, and he is, too. But he downplayed talk of mass criminal activity in New Orleans, saying most of the people massed on the streets are families just waiting to get out of a bad spot.

At Least 147 Dead In Mississippi

President George W. Bush has seen firsthand hurricane destruction in Mississippi, where officials have raised the death count to at least 147.

That figure is expected to rise drastically in coming weeks as authorities pull more bodies from the rubble.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said that "if you see the devastation, you wonder why it didn't kill a million people."

For those trying to drive out of the area, a gas shortage continues to cause headaches.

Some people have been waiting in mile-long lines and coasted on fumes.

In some areas, people lined up at stations that didn't even have gas, just hoping a tanker would arrive.

Bush: Hurricane Damage 'Worse Than Imaginable'

President George W. Bush visited several storm-ravaged cities along the Gulf Coast Friday, and he said the damage is "worse than imaginable."

But later, he said "there's been a flow of progress" following the destruction brought by Hurricane Katrina.

The president spoke to reporters after completing a visit to the devastated areas of the Gulf region. Bush said he's "not going to forget" what he's seen, and said, "We're making progress."

The president said some of the folks in Louisiana parishes are "wondering whether people are paying attention to them. We are."

Bush drew applause when he predicted that a "greater city of New Orleans" would arise from the destruction.

Earlier, Bush walked through a Biloxi, Miss., neighborhood hit hard by Katrina, trying to console people who lost their homes, and everything else but their lives, to Hurricane Katrina.

In Biloxi, Bush spoke with a tearful woman who told him, "We don't have anything." They stood alongside the ruins of homes that had been reduced to pieces amid fallen trees and other debris.

He walked through the debris with the woman and a girl, his arms around their shoulders, and told them to "hang in there."

The president warned that gas supply problems will continue through the weekend because of damaged refineries and pipelines.

Bush also acknowledged criticism of the government's actions after the storm, saying he's satisfied with the response but not the results. He stood next to the governors of Mississippi and Alabama while saying the government has a responsibility to "clean up this mess." And he specifically vowed to bring order back to New Orleans.

The Pentagon is promising 1,400 National Guardsmen, and Congress is rushing through an initial aid package of $10.5 billion. Bush is expected to sign the measure into law late Friday.

In front of cameras in Mobile, Ala., Bush received a briefing on the situation from the governors of Mississippi and Alabama and other emergency officials.

"It's as if the entire Gulf Coast was obliterated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine," he said.

Before leaving the White House, he said the efforts to provide food and water to survivors, and to stop the lawlessness in New Orleans, had not been good enough. He said, "The results are not acceptable."

First lady Laura Bush visited an evacuation center Friday inside the Cajundome in Lafayette, La. She said she's seeing proof that not all parts of Louisiana are in terrible shape.

Mrs. Bush told reporters the center "doesn't really look like what we're seeing on television." The first lady said "some things are working really, really well in Louisiana."

She said about 6,000 people are having basic needs met inside the center, and she's urging more volunteers to show up there and at locations around the Gulf Coast.

After at first steering clear of a question about the federal response to Katrina, the first lady later said the response hasn't been the kind the government had in mind. "We know we can do it better," she said.

At least one prominent Republican is critical of Bush and his administration for their response to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged Bush to appoint Rudolph Giuliani to head relief efforts. Gingrich told The Associated Press that no one is better prepared for the job than Giuliani, who was mayor of New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

Gingrich said the pace of the federal disaster response puts into question Homeland Security and Northern Command planning over the last four years. He rhetorically asks why the government believes it's prepared for a nuclear or biological attack when it can't respond to an event that was predicted days in advance.

Black members of Congress are angry about what they see as a slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina. The Congressional Black Caucus, the National Urban League and other African-American organizations charge that help lagged because those most affected are poor.

Many also are black, but the lawmakers did not hurl charges of racism.

"There will be another time to have issues about color," Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones said.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois said too much focus is on the looting instead of the needy.

Elijah Cummings, a congressman from Maryland, said citizens and governments must come together with a "force equal to that of Hurricane Katrina."

Relief Trucks Roll In To New Orleans

The National Guard arrived in New Orleans in force Friday with food, water and weapons, rolling through the floodwaters in a vast truck convoy with orders to retake the streets and bring relief to the suffering.

"The cavalry is and will continue to arrive," said one general.

A convoy of amphibious vehicles carrying the relief supplies is making its way through the flooded streets of downtown New Orleans.

The trucks began arriving Friday at the New Orleans Convention Center, where 15,000 to 20,000 hungry and desperate evacuees had taken shelter -- many of them seething with anger so intense that the place appeared ready to erupt in violence at any moment.

A mix of cheering and swearing greeted the National Guard. As a convoy of trucks swarmed through downtown, some near the city's convention center threw up their hands and screamed "Thank you, Jesus!"

Others weren't as pleased. Michael Levy said "Hell no," he's not happy to see the Guard, saying troops should have shown up days ago. Levy said he'll be pleased when 100 buses arrive to evacuate people.

Levy said people at the center have been sleeping on the ground "like rats." And he said if he had his way, New Orleans would be burned down.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers said it will be at least a matter of weeks before all the standing water can be pumped out. And it's also looking into breaching some levees bordering Lake Ponchartrain to let some drain that way.

Commander Carl Strock said the timetable depends on just how much pumping capacity can be restored, and whether any more storms pop up. He said experts will have to keep an eye on the Atlantic before popping holes in any levees and compromising more flood protection.

Strock acknowledged that complete funding for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project would have allowed the Corps to get water out of New Orleans faster.

However, he said even if certain water and flood-control projects in New Orleans had been fully funded, they would have been no match against Hurricane Katrina.

The budget of the Corps has been trimmed by the Bush and other administrations several times to free up money for other White House priorities.

Airlines Evacuate New Orleans Residents

The nation's major carriers have begun flights meant to airlift more than 25,000 people stranded in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

The evacuees will be taken to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and other sites picked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

New Orleans' Public Hospitals Seek Help

The morgue at New Orleans' Big Charity facility is full, and it's under water.

Spokesman Don Smithburg said the morgue is holding 12 bodies, and another five are stacked in a stairwell, which also is flooded. Other bodies are elsewhere in the public hospital.

Smithburg said some doctors and nurses are at the breaking point, and giving each other intravenous fluids to be able to continue functioning.

But rescuers are now inside Charity Hospital, which is New Orleans' largest public hospital and trauma center. Gunshots had prevented earlier efforts to evacuate more than 220 patients.

Evacuations have resumed under the watchful eye of the military. All of the babies at Charity have been moved out.

Doctors at Charity and the city's other public hospital, University Hospital, have faced horrific decisions between life and death. They had no provisions and no electricity, and they were having to choose which patients received whatever food, water and medicines were available. Both hospitals had more than 1,000 patients.

At University Hospital, about 500 family and staff members have joined 110 very ill patients, along with hundreds of others from the general community needing evacuation. Emergency radio communication with University has been lost.

At last word, staffers were begging for help. They were rationing a liter of water a day and had minimal food.

Mayor Angry

The once-glorious city of New Orleans is in ruins and its people in chaos from Hurricane Katrina.

For those who sought refuge in the New Orleans convention center, it became just another part of the nightmare. There are reports of rapes, beatings and fights in the convention center, where at least 15,000 people have sought safety.

Police Chief Eddie Compass said hotels have sent away their tourists and the displaced people are "walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."

But when he sent in 88 officers to quell the situation at the building, they were driven back by a mob. He said, "They were beaten back within 30 feet of the entrance."

Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, is seething over what he sees as the government's slow response to his city's disaster.

Nagin went on WWL Radio Thursday night to say the feds "don't have a clue what's going on." He added, "Excuse my French -- everybody in America -- but I am pissed."

Nagin said that there are many drug addicts who are searching for a fix. He said that's why they are breaking into drug stores and hospitals.

"What you are seeing is drug-starving, crazy addicts that are wreaking havoc and we don't have the manpower that we can deal with it," Nagin said.

Nagin is angry, and wants people to flood the offices of the president and the governor with letters calling for help. He thinks not enough is being done to help the evacuees.

"Get off your a---s and let's do something and let's fix the biggest g

Posted by Valkyre at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

Legitimate Charities for Hurricane Katrina Help

• FEMA Charity tips: »

• Red Cross: 1-800-HELP-NOW or »

• Network for Good »

• McCormick Tribune Foundation Hurricane Katrina Relief Campaign: »

• Episcopal Relief & Development: 1-800-334-7626 or »

• Mercy Corps »

• United Methodist Committee on Relief: 1-800-554-8583 or »

• Salvation Army: 1-800-SAL-ARMY or »

• Catholic Charities: 1-800-919-9338 or »

• National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster: »

• Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: »

• The Humane Society of the United States: »

If you intend to donate to help victims of Hurrican Katrina, these are some of the legitimate charities. Please be careful who you give your money to. There are some shitty people out there who are buying up "Hurricane Katrina" domain names for the purpose of using this tragedy to make money, or harvest PayPal account information. I think anyone who does this is shit, and should be shot on site.

Information from Scam Busters about some of the scams going around.

Posted by Valkyre at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

Snipers Firing at Medivac Helicopters?

What has gotten into these people. New Orleans seems to have been taken over by a roving gang of thugs. It's terrifying to see the images from the aftermath of this hurricane.

From todays Los Angeles Times

A City Descends Into Chaos
By Ellen Barry, Scott Gold and Stephen Braun, Times Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- The rushed mobilization of federal troops to the storm-desolated Gulf Coast was outpaced Thursday by New Orleans' rapid descent into chaos. Sniper fire threatened hospital evacuations and a mass bus caravan to Texas, corpses were found outside the city's decaying convention center and weakened refugees collapsed amid enraged crowds on city streets.

At nightfall, heavily armed police and National Guardsmen took positions on rooftops, scanning for snipers and armed mobs as seething crowds of refugees milled below, desperate to flee. Gunfire crackled in the distance.

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin implored federal officials for immediate aid. "This is a desperate SOS," Nagin said.

About 5,000 people filled the city's convention center and the trash-strewn streets outside on a city plaza where tourists once strolled. Outside the dank, cavernous hall, where temperatures soared and lights winked out, seven corpses lay sprawled, covered by blankets. Other deaths were reported nearby, and there were an increasing number of accounts of rapes and beatings, city officials said.

The Mississippi river city's swift downward spiral overwhelmed beleaguered New Orleans emergency officials and posed a stark crisis for the Bush administration and federal troops converging on the flooded Gulf region.

"I know this is an agonizing time," President Bush said of despairing flood victims in the Gulf Coast region, which he planned to visit Friday for the first time. "I ask their continued patience as recovery operations unfold."

Congress rushed a $10.5 billion down payment in relief aid for Hurricane Katrina's millions of victims Thursday as thousands of National Guardsmen converged on bases and staging areas across the flood zone.

As the situation deteriorated, dismayed New Orleans officials and strapped authorities elsewhere in the Gulf coast begged for immediate aid. Some grumbled openly about the relief effort, insisting the Bush administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have endangered lives by moving too slowly.

"This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace," said Terry Ebbert, the head of emergency operations for New Orleans. He said it had taken too long to evacuate the Superdome. Army engineers have also been criticized for failing to act quickly to plug gaping breaches in the city's levees, still leaching tons of water Thursday.

Fresh National Guard troops arrived three days after the hurricane hit to find New Orleans police overwhelmed and in some instances, outgunned by snipers who holed up in abandoned apartment buildings and storefronts.

An attempt by New Orleans police to take control of the Convention Center collapsed in a shoving match as an angry mob ran off a team of officers who tried to force their way inside. "We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," said Police Chief Eddie Compass, who confirmed the attempt to quell the crowd. "Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."

Louisiana National Guard soldiers chased refugees and stragglers away from the intersection of Loyola Avenue and Girod Street in the heart of New Orleans. An unseen sniper holed up in a nearby building fired sporadically at soldiers and pedestrians.

"We think he's in one of those high-rises," Sgt. Matthew Gautreau said, nodding over his shoulder. "He's been shooting all morning."

In the flood-swept city center, another distant gunman, hidden in a high-rise, terrorized doctors and patients at Charity Hospital as staff worked feverishly to evacuate critically-ill patients.

"Sniper! Sniper! Sniper!" Nurses screamed as shots drove them back into Charity's emergency room.

Respiratory therapist Blake Bergeron was among a group of staffers and National Guardsmen forced to retreat when their truck was fired at just after 11 a.m. Bergeron heard two or three shots and heard bullets ping into the floodwaters.

"The solders shouted for us to get down," he said.

Later, hoping the coast was clear, medical teams again tried to carry patients outside. But more bursts sent doctors scurrying in retreat. Inside, nurses provided ventilation by hand to patients too ill to breathe on their own, substituting bellows-like oxygen bags for mechanical ventilators. At nightfall, several seriously-ill patients were evacuated by boat. But the boats soon returned, forced to retreat because promised rescue vehicles were not there to meet them.

By then, several of the sickest patients had died, said Dr. Ruth Bergeron. "They just brought a dead body down from the third floor," she said grimly.

The dead also lay under a punishing sun outside the Convention Center. At least seven bodies were scattered outside the hall, a squatter's hell for those downtown after their recent rescue from sodden attics and isolated rooftops. The dead lay among sullen refugees, hungry, thirsty and provoked by rumors of bus caravans that never arrived.

An old man lay dead in a chaise lounge in a grassy median. Infants wailed around him. Nearby, an elderly woman lay stiffened in a wheelchair, covered by a plaid blanket. Another corpse was at her feet, wrapped in a white sheet.

"I don't treat my dog like that," said Daniel Edwards, 47.

Many of the dispossessed who sat slumped in the city center were from New Orleans' poorest neighborhoods, people with no way out and no place to go. Those with means, with money and families elsewhere, were long gone. The poor were left, begging for a ride to anywhere.

They had survived the storm and flood in old housing projects. But bereft of food and water, dragging hungry, wailing babies, they were miserable and sullen, prey to rumors about buses that never came.

Dierdre Duplessix, 32, left the B.W. Cooper Housing Project on Thursday morning with a neighbor, Lovely Peters, 32, and Peters' three children. They had escaped from a fire escape on a waterlogged mattress.

"They had maggots," Duplessix said. "They had dead cats and dogs in that water," she said. For a moment, she brightened. "God is so good. We made it. We're on dry land."

And then she started crying.

At the Superdome on Thursday morning, gunshots fired at Chinook helicopters trying to move the injured prompted officials to delay a long-awaited mass bus evacuation to Texas. About 23,000 refugees have been penned up for days in the dilapidated stadium, and some were boarding buses Thursday for northern Louisiana, the Houston Astrodome and San Antonio, the latest community to agree to house the evacuees.

Late Thursday, officials at the Astrodome closed the arena to further arrivals after accepting more than 11,000 people. They said taking more people would be unrealistic.

The director of an air medical evacuation service said Thursday that his agency had halted helicopter flights to and from the Superdome after at least one shot was fired at a helicopter and medical workers were jostled and threatened by angry crowds.

Richard Zuschlag, chairman of Acadian Ambulance Service in Lafayette, La., said the flights would not resume until authorities established order inside the Superdome. His agency operates 25 civilian helicopters and coordinates with the U.S. military for medical evacuation flights. The agency continued to operate emergency rescue flights elsewhere around New Orleans.

Dr. Charles Burnell and Toby Bergeron, a paramedic, said several gunshots were fired at helicopters -- both military and commercial -- during the 24 hours they spent treating refugees at the Superdome. They treated a National Guard military policeman who was shot in the leg with his own automatic rifle while trying to break up a scuffle. Officials said an arrest had been made.

"People were screaming at us, trying to get through the barricades," said Burnell, 37, who works at a hospital in Lafayette. Bergeron, 33, of Rayne, said medical personnel twice had to move their triage area because of hostility from some people among the thousands gathering in and around the Superdome. "The (National Guard) MPs were trying hard, but they finally said they couldn't guarantee our safety."

Later Thursday, another helicopter trying to drop off food and water was forced to retreat by the rush of the crowd. Troopers inside dumped their supplies before flying off.

Outside the storm-scarred Superdome, a 20-year-old woman collapsed amid crowds of exhausted refugees clutching suitcases and plastic bags filled with their life's possessions.

"She's not breathing!" someone screamed. Louisiana State Trooper Jason Martell cradled the woman, carrying her away from the gawking crowd with other officials. He tried to revive her. The woman's eyes fluttered, but her pulse vanished. In seconds, she was gone.

"She was like jello when I picked her up," a stunned Martell said.

Lives were on the line all throughout the flood zones in New Orleans, southern Louisiana and Mississippi. South of New Orleans, in obliterated St. Bernard Parish, scores of refugees were perched on flooded rooftops and apartment house balconies, waving makeshift banners pleading: "Help us!" Along obliterated beaches on the Mississippi coast, survivors picked through piles of rotting garbage for food.

Stray gunshots and threats from evacuees led some rescuers to suspend boat searches along New Orleans' swollen waterways. "In areas where our employees have been determined to potentially be in danger we have pulled back," confirmed Russ Knocke, Department of Homeland Security spokesman.

Mayor Nagin said the city verged on total breakdown. "Right now we are out of resources at the Convention Center and don't anticipate enough buses," he said. "We need buses. Currently the convention center is unsanitary and unsafe and we're running out of supplies."

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said she had requisitioned hundreds of school buses from around the state to transport evacuees. And she asked federal officials for "no less than" 40,000 troops and was assured "if we need them, we'll get them."

Congressional leaders agreed to cut short their summer recess to act on a Bush administration request for $10.5 billion to cover pressing emergency needs. Congress was expected Friday) to give the funds final approval.

Nearly 10,000 National Guardsmen were being airlifted into bases in Louisiana and Mississippi and military planes were landing with tons of tarpaulins, food, ice and 144 portable generators to jump-start paralyzed hospitals and shelters.

All day, thousands of active-duty and National Guard troops massed at staging areas in Louisiana and were trucked into positions around the city center and other facilities patrolled for days by weary New Orleans police.

"We are establishing security there," said Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, who is heading the massive federal task force of active-duty and National Guard troops converging on the flood zones.

Both Blanco and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., said Thursday that thousands had likely died after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. "We understand there are thousands of dead people," the Democratic senator from Louisiana said at a news conference in Baton Rouge. "We know there are elderly people who died. We know children have died."

In Mississippi, bodies stacked up in a temporary morgue in Biloxi, while rescue teams said they had saved some hurricane survivors after getting cell phone text messages from inside mounds of rubble.

"It's crazy what technology can do," said Larry Fisher, director of homeland security for Hinds County, which includes Jackson. "At this point, I'll take a smoke signal if it means we can save someone."

Barry and Gold reported from New Orleans as did Times staff writers Alan Zarembo, David Zucchino and Steve Chawkins; Braun reported from Washington with Edwin Chen, Mary Curtius, Nicole Gaouette and Paul Richter, and Tony Perry reported from Houston. Times researchers Lianne Hart in Baton Rouge, Jenny Jarvie in Atlanta and Lynn Marshall in Seattle also contributed to this report.

Posted by Valkyre at 12:19 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005

Getting Worse

The more that time passes, the more information gets through. They are now saying that Hurricane Katrina may be the worse national disaster since the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. As far as lives lost.

From todays Los Angeles Times:

New Orleans Death Toll May Soar; Survivors Desperate; Looters Brazen

Mayor says thousands of bodies could be found in the city, where 90% of homes are submerged. Troops and ships are ordered into the region.

By Scott Gold, Lianne Hart and Stephen Braun, Times Staff Writers

NEW ORLEANS — The city's police and emergency officials worked desperately Wednesday to prevent complete social disintegration as widespread looting continued for a second day and cresting floodwaters hid untold numbers of dead.

Though the flooding appeared to stabilize, 90% of New Orleans' homes were underwater, officials said. Repair crews readied 20,000-pound sandbags to plug gaping breaches in the city's levees, but officials bickered over the slow progress.

Bus caravans started to move 23,000 exhausted Superdome refugees to shelter in Texas. A few hundred people left Wednesday, and the full-scale evacuation was to begin at midnight. On a stretch of interstate near the stadium, a mob of flood victims began an anarchic march of their own, abandoning the ruined city.

Federal officials dispatched National Guard convoys and U.S. warships to the Gulf Coast to aid in rescues and deliver supplies.

The immense scale of the disaster spawned after Hurricane Katrina struck Monday, and the pressing burden of new emergencies, continued to threaten thousands of the dispossessed in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, where survivors scavenged for food and shelter and were at risk for dehydration as they waited on rooftops to be rescued.

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin predicted that "at minimum, hundreds" and "most likely thousands" of city residents lay in underwater graves. "We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water," he said.

Despite the urgency of the situation for victims in need of rescue, Nagin ordered the city's police force Wednesday night to discontinue such missions and return to the streets to counter waves of looting that had turned violent.

"They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals — and we're going to stop it right now," Nagin said. The mayor said 1,500 police officers, nearly the entire department, were being redeployed on the city's remaining stretches of dry land.

At flood-swamped Charity Hospital, looters with handguns forced doctors to give up stores of narcotics. Wal-Mart gun racks and ammunition supplies were stripped.

Thieves commandeered a forklift to smash the security glass window of one pharmacy, fleeing with so much ice, water and food that they left a trail behind them. Brazen gangs chased down a state police truck filled with food, and even city officials were accused of commandeering equipment from a looted Office Depot.

"It started with people running out of food, and you can't really argue with that too much," Nagin said. "Then it escalated to this kind of mass chaos where people are taking electronic stuff and all that."

The fraying conditions of life in the flood zones could be measured in the sighs and short tempers of frustrated public officials. Nagin found a measure of hope in the decision by Texas officials to house thousands of flood refugees in the Houston Astrodome. But he turned grim as he echoed mounting reports from police and National Guard troops who said bodies were floating in the waters.

Nagin said medical examiners were setting up a temporary morgue and would soon begin a methodical search for those who drowned, trapped in bedrooms and attics or carried by the currents.

A New Orleans television station reported that one woman waded through the floodwaters, floating her husband's body downstream to Charity Hospital on a door.

Nagin said officials would be able to fully deal with the crisis only when there was "total evacuation of the city. We have to. The city will not be functional for two or three months," he said.

The mayor added that residents would probably not be allowed back into their homes for at least a month or two.

During another long day, rescuers concentrated on the living. Helicopters darted over Chalmette Medical Center in inundated St. Bernard Parish, southeast of the French Quarter, trying to evacuate more than 300 patients, medical staff and refugees who clambered to the roof for safety. Other hospitals throughout the city were on the verge of shutting down as supplies of generator fuel dwindled.

"The situation is grave," said Donald Smithburg, chief executive of the Louisiana State University hospital system.

Two LSU hospitals in New Orleans "are desperately short of raw materials," Smithburg said. "We have no power, no water, no toilets, and we don't have fuel to operate our generators…. We're simply out of juice. Now it boils down to transporting the rawest materials, fuel, so we can buy another few hours or another day."

More ruptures were found in the city's overwhelmed levees, but the swelling floodwaters had finally leveled with the storm surges flowing from Lake Pontchartrain. The Army Corps of Engineers planned to drop 20,000-pound sandbags by helicopter over the porous dikes and to float in barges carrying massive concrete highway barriers that will be wedged against the gaps.

Late in the day, the Corps appeared to alter its plans, saying crews would slice notches in the tops of levees to allow water to flow out of the city and into Lake Pontchartrain. The lake level is already receding — 2 feet since Tuesday — and at the 17th Street Canal, they hope to wedge in sheet pilings to stem the flow.

"That's the plan now," said Mike Rogers, director of programs for the Mississippi Valley division of the Corps. "It can change," he added.

Four amphibious warships dispatched by President Bush were heading toward New Orleans with stores of provisions, medical supplies and equipment to aid in rescue efforts, medical treatment and even shelter for thousands of homeless residents.

"Our first priority is to save lives," said Bush, who returned early to Washington from vacation at his Texas ranch. "We're assisting local officials in New Orleans in evacuating any remaining citizens from the affected area."

The armada sent to the Gulf Coast included the Bataan, which will conduct rescue missions; four ships to direct disaster response; and the Comfort, a hospital ship.

More than 10,000 National Guard troops from other states were also being deployed, Bush said, joining 18,000 Guard personnel already stationed in the area. Most were being used to patrol government facilities and aid police in search missions and treatment of those brought to safety.

The Pentagon also authorized Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the Northern Command, to lay plans for possibly deploying active-duty troops — a move that can be ordered only by the president under the rarely used Insurrection Act.

Looters moved freely through New Orleans' shuttered shopping districts Wednesday, wading through floodwaters with mounds of clothing, jewelry and stolen guns. On the few spits of dry land, there were carjackings. One furious city resident surrendered his pickup truck to a machete-wielding assailant.

Nagin acknowledged that there were too few officers to stop the crime wave.

"We are going to try to contain the looting," he said. "But we know that we are not going to be able to stop it."

Federal authorities said they were investigating whether looters had struck at Wal-Mart stores, stealing guns and ammunition that were then used for street crimes and further escalated the looting.

Justice Department officials confirmed that they also were working with local authorities to investigate cases of price-gouging in the New Orleans area and other hurricane zones, including sales of gasoline and water at inflated prices.

Louisiana National Guard 1st Sgt. John Jewell said Guard snipers had been sent in to flooded Charity Hospital to try to find looters who were seen racing through the facility with pistols.

The Guard patrols were a welcome sight for police, who are "multi-tasking right now," said New Orleans Police Capt. Marlon Defillo. "Rescue, recovery, stabilization of looting, we're trying to feed the hungry."

Looters also swarmed through stores in the Mississippi coastal town of Gulfport, where Hurricane Katrina demolished the city police station.

Across the numbed Gulf Coast states, 1.5 million people made do without electricity, food, water and functioning toilets.

More than 60,000 people were reportedly left homeless in New Orleans. They slept in the sun on the interstate near the Superdome, where they waited for the buses that would take them to Houston and northern Louisiana.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said many Superdome refugees would be housed temporarily in the Astrodome, a former venue for professional football and baseball, until other housing could be found. And their children, Perry said, would be welcomed into Texas schools. "We're going to get through this together as one American family," he said.

Inside the Superdome, where officials said one despairing man committed suicide Tuesday by leaping from an upper ramp, the air reeked of urine, feces and sweat, and the floor was puddled from roof leaks.

"People are trying to keep things clean," said Terry Broussard, 47, who moved outside. "But it's getting worse and worse."

Thousands of lost people with nowhere to go began trudging in a march of desperation west along Interstate 10.

Many came from the poorest neighborhoods of east New Orleans, streaming out of several housing projects and the submerged 9th Ward.

Many milling refugees were turned away Wednesday when they tried to force their way into the Superdome. But with its roof tattered by Katrina's winds and its toilets overflowing, the stadium was being abandoned. "We cannot accommodate anyone else in the Superdome," Nagin said.

"It's very hot. There is no shade. We need to get provisions to them," he said Wednesday night. "They have zero."

Nagin said he hoped the evacuation of the Superdome would take only a day. Refugees were to be bused to six locations, including Lafayette, La., as well as Houston.

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