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Registered: 03/06/04
Posts: 2,546
Loc: Colorado
Last seen: 5 years, 1 month
Finally help arrives for katrina victims.
    #4616157 - 09/03/05 01:45 PM (12 years, 5 months ago)

I found this article to be quite touching in explaining what the scene was like today.

NEW ORLEANS - Planes, trains and buses delivered refugees to safety on Saturday as the evacuation of this ruined city finally appeared to pick up steam.

Buses had evacuated most people from the frightening confines of the Superdome by early morning. At the equally squalid convention center, thousands of people began pushing and dragging their belongings up the street to more than a dozen air-conditioned buses, the mood more numb than jubilant.

More than 50,000 people had been trapped for days at the two filthy, sweltering buildings, suffering from a lack of food, water or medical attention. Help came too late for a number of them ? dead bodies were a common sight, in wheelchairs, wrapped in blankets or just abandoned.

At Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, thousands of people remained in a triage center, many of them dying for lack of medical care.

"The hallways are filled, the floors are filled. There are thousands of people there," said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who was at the airport. "A lot more than eight to 10 people are dying a day. It's a distribution problem. The doctors are doing a great job, the nurses are doing a great job."

Since the cavalry arrived in New Orleans on Friday, more than 25,000 residents have been evacuated, Mike Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a briefing Saturday morning in Baton Rouge.

Both the number of people left in the city and the death toll remained unknown, because people continued showing up at evacuation sites and dead bodies were still being counted, Brown said.

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

At the convention center, Yolanda Sanders stood at a barricade clutching her cocker spaniel, Toto. She had been waiting to be evacuated for five days.

"I had faith that they'd come. I feel good that I know I can get to my family," she said. Sanders didn't know yet where they were taking her, but "anyplace is better than here. People are dying over there."

Helicopters were removing the sickest people from the center, and two of the city's most troubled hospitals were evacuated Friday after desperate doctors spent days making tough choices about which patients got dwindling supplies of food, water and medicines.

"We're just trying to ease their pain, give them a little bit of dignity and get them out of here," said Lt. Col. Connie McNabb.

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

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."

On Friday, President Bush took an aerial tour of the city and answered complaints about a sluggish government response by saying, "We're going to make it right." Flatbed trucks carried huge crates, pallets and bags of relief supplies, including Meals Ready to Eat. Soldiers sat in the backs of open-top trucks, their rifles pointing skyward.

In what looked like a scene from a Third World country, some outside the convention center threw their arms heavenward and others hollered profanities as camouflage-green vehicles and supply trucks finally rolled through axle-deep floodwaters into what remained of New Orleans.

National Guard Lt. Col. Jerry Crooks said troops had served more than 70,000 meals outside the convention center and had 130,000 more on hand. Watching the caravan, Leschia Radford sang the praises of a higher power.

"Lord, I thank you for getting us out of here!" Radford shrieked. But on Saturday, hope was overtaken by frustration as people continued to wait. A dead man lay on sidewalk under a blanket with a stream of blood running down the pavement toward the gutter. People said he died violently.

"We're hurting out here, man. We got to get help. All we want is someone to feel our pain, that's all," said Tasheka Johnson, 24.

About a dozen people who headed down the street to look for food and water said they were turned back by a soldier who pulled a gun.

"We had to get something to eat. What are they doing pulling a gun?" said Richard Johnson, 28.

The soldiers' arrival-in-force came amid angry complaints from local officials that the federal government had bungled the relief effort and let people die in the streets for lack of food, water or medicine as the city was overtaken by looting, rape and arson.

"The people of our city are holding on by a thread," Mayor Ray Nagin warned in a statement to CNN. "Time has run out. Can we survive another night? And who can we depend on? Only God knows."

The president took a land and air tour of hard-hit areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Friday, and admitted of the relief effort: "The results are not enough." Congress passed a $10.5 billion disaster aid package, and Bush quickly signed the measure.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the military presence helped calm a jittery city.

"We are seeing a show of force. It's putting confidence back in our hearts and in the minds of our people," Blanco said. "We're going to make it through."

Guard members carrying rifles also arrived at the Louisiana Superdome, where bedraggled people ? many of them trapped there since the weekend ? stretched around the perimeter of the building. Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, commander of the National Guard, said 7,000 Guard members would be in the city by Saturday.

All the victims in the Superdome were supposed to have been evacuated by dawn Saturday, but shortly after midnight, the buses stopped rolling. Between 2,000 and 5,000 people still in the stadium could be there until Sunday, according to the Texas Air National Guard.

Within minutes of the soldiers' arrival at the convention center, they set up six food and water lines. The crowd was for the most part orderly and grateful.

Diane Sylvester, 49, was the first person through the line. "Something is better than nothing," she said of her two bottles of water and pork rib meal. "I feel great to see the military here. I know I'm saved."

With Houston's Astrodome already full with 15,000 storm refugees, that city opened two more centers to accommodate an additional 10,000. Dallas and San Antonio also had agreed to take refugees.

One group of Katrina's victims lurched from one tragedy to another: A bus carrying evacuees from the Superdome overturned on a Louisiana highway, killing at least one person and injuring many others.

At the broken levee along Lake Pontchartrain that swamped nearly 80 percent of New Orleans, helicopters dropped 3,000-pound sandbags into the breach and pilings were being pounded into place to seal off the waters. Engineers also were developing a plan to create new breaches in the levees so that a combination of gravity and pumping and would drain the water out of the city, a process that could take weeks.


Associated Press reporters Kevin McGill, Allen G. Breed, Brett Martel and Mary Foster contributed to this report.

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