Katrina gets stronger, New Orleans evacuates
Reuters | August 28, 2005
By Russell McCulley
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents fled inland on Sunday as Hurricane Katrina strengthened into one of the fiercest U.S. storms ever seen and barreled toward the low-lying Gulf Coast city.
With Katrina expected to hit around sunrise on Monday, Highways out of Louisiana's largest city, much of which lies below sea level, were jammed and gasoline stations and convenience stores reported long lines for water and other supplies after city officials ordered 485,000 people to leave.
Mayor Ray Nagin warned the hurricane's storm surge of up to 28 feet could topple levees and flood the city's historic French Quarter when it makes a second, and more powerful, assault on U.S. shores after killing seven people in Florida on Thursday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I had better news for you but we are facing a storm that most of us have feared," Nagin told a news conference after reading out a mandatory evacuation order. "This is a threat that we've never faced before."
In the French Quarter, shopkeepers sandbagged art galleries and boarded up bars and restaurants in preparation for the storm. Police and fire officials took to the streets with bullhorns, alerting residents of the coming danger.
Those who could not join the exodus were advised to head to about a dozen shelters in the city, one of which is the Louisiana Superdome, home to the National Football League's New Orleans Saints.
Max Mayfield, director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center, described Katrina as a "perfect" hurricane. It had grown into a Category 5 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson, with winds near 165 mph (270 kph) just before 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) on Sunday, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Katrina was about 150 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and heading northwest at 13 mph (21 kph). Hurricane force winds could be felt 105 miles out from the center.
Katrina had a central pressure -- a measure of a storm's intensity -- of 902 millibars, which would make it one of the four strongest storms on record. The Labor Day hurricane of 1935 that hit the Florida Keys, killing some 600 people, was the strongest with a minimum central pressure of 892 millibars on landfall.
"The lower the pressure, the stronger the winds and that is exactly what is happening here with Katrina," Mayfield told
15 INCHES OF RAIN POSSIBLE
The hurricane center warned of destructive winds along the Gulf Coast from the Florida-Alabama border, through Mississippi and west into Louisiana, and said Katrina could bring up to 15 inches of rain.
Its track would take it through key U.S. oil and gas areas in the Gulf of Mexico, and Katrina seemed likely to affect already sky-high gasoline prices. Oil rigs were evacuated and casinos along Mississippi's coast were closed.
It also endangers the port serving New Orleans, one of the most important in the world, and could do billions in damage to the city's tourism infrastructure.
Tourists on the Gulf Coast scrambled to join the mass exodus but many were left trapped as rental cars were snapped up quickly. Authorities in New Orleans said they would commandeer vehicles and private buildings if necessary.
"About all you can do at this point is pack the car with as much as you can carry, place the rest of your belongings as high in the house as you can and then get the heck out of here," said Cathe Jackson, whose house is one block from the water in Biloxi, a casino-resort town on Mississippi's coast.
President Bush declared an emergency in Louisiana and Mississippi and a major disaster in Florida, measures that allow federal aid to be deployed.
"We will do everything in our power to help the people and communities affected by this storm," Bush said from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. "We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf Coast communities."
The last Category 5 to strike the area was Hurricane Camille in 1969. Camille, which just missed New Orleans but devastated parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, killing more than 250 people. Hurricane Andrew, which destroyed the city of Homestead south of Miami in 1992 and ranks as the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, also was a Category 5.
(Additional reporting by Mark Babineck and Erwin Seba in Houston, Alice Jackson in Biloxi, Mark Felsenthal in Washington and Michael Christie in Miami)
Katrina Pummels Mississippi's Gulf Coast; Weakens Over Land
Bloomberg | August 29, 2005
Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Mississippi Gulf Coast with winds as high as 140 mph before weakening as it moved across the state and toward Tennessee. New Orleans was spared a direct hit.
The center of Katrina, now a Category 1 storm with winds of 75 mph, was about 30 miles (51 kilometers) northwest of Laurel, Mississippi, moving to the north at about 18 mph (29 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center at 4 p.m. local time. The storm, which pushed oil prices to a record, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands along the Gulf Coast.
Katrina moved through southern Mississippi on a path that will bring the storm into western Tennessee by tomorrow. The storm's surge caused flooding, trapped people in buildings and caused an unspecified amount of damage, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said today.
``This is the worst that's hit the New Orleans and Gulf area probably since Camille,'' Major Dalton Cunningham, Salvation Army Divisional Commander for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, said in an interview from Jackson, Mississippi. Camille killed 256 people when it hit the Gulf region in 1969.
An earlier projected path had Katrina directly striking New Orleans, some of which lies 20 feet below sea level. Officials and area residents -- millions of whom fled for higher ground -- had been concerned the storm would cause flooding that would overwhelm the city's system of levees and pumps. Katrina lashed the city with winds as high as 135 mph.
``It looks like a war zone, with tree branches down everywhere,'' John Hazard, 44, said today from the uptown New Orleans home of his brother-in-law Bill Hines.
The projected three-day path for the storm shows it crossing into Kentucky by 1 p.m. tomorrow and into the Great Lakes region a day later.
Areas of Harrison and Hancock counties, on the Gulf Coast, are under water, Barbour said. Water was reported as high as the second floor of the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, the Sun-Herald reported on its Web site. There are no casualty or property damage estimates yet and officials can't go rescue people trapped until the winds die down, Barbour said.
Inside the Superdome
New Orleans, just 100 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico, has 500,000 residents within a metropolitan area of 1.3 million people, and depends on pumps and levees to keep dry. The hurricane center warned of storm-surge flooding in Louisiana of as much as 28 feet.
About 10,000 people sought shelter inside the Superdome football stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana State Police spokesman Kevin Cowan said in a telephone interview from Baton Rouge. The storm blew off two parts of the stadium's roof, each of about 2 feet by 6 feet, Social Services Department spokesman Irby Hornsby said.
``The structure of the roof is still there, it's probably just the stuff covering the structure that's peeled away,'' Hornsby said. ``I just hope that this is the worst of it.''
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, said county emergency coordinators have determined there are no structural problems with the roof.
Buildings collapsed in New Orleans and five floors of windows blew out of Charity hospital in the city, the Times- Picayune reported on its Web site. There is ``widespread'' flooding in Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, said Sergeant Kathy Flinchman, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Police Emergency Operations center in Baton Rouge.
`By No Means Over'
``Katrina is by no means over,'' Blanco said in a press conference. ``Stay safe. It's too dangerous to come home. The roads are flooded. The power is out. The phones are down and there is no food or water.''
Storm surges were estimated to be as high as 15 feet to 18 feet near New Orleans and 10 feet to 15 feet in Gulfport, Mississippi, Sisko said. As much as 12 inches of rain fell in southeastern Louisiana, he said.
``Now you're getting the reports about people who are stranded in parts of the cities, certain buildings that are collapsing, breaches in one part of our levee system, so it's just gathering all the information now and trying to make an assessment,'' U.S. Representative William Jefferson, a Democrat who represents New Orleans, said in a televised interview.
Entergy Corp. and Southern Co., owners of electric utilities along the Gulf Coast, said almost 1.1 million customers from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle were without power today.
As of 11:30 a.m. Central time, 742,500 customers in Louisiana lacked power, said David Caplan, spokesman for New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. Another 52,600 customers were without power along the Mississippi coast, he said.
Atlanta-based Southern had 188,264 customers without power at its Alabama Power unit -- mostly in Mobile -- at noon, according to spokeswoman Betsy Shearron. Another 82,509 customers in the Florida Panhandle lacked electric service, said John Hutchinson, a spokesman for Southern's Gulf Power unit based in Pensacola.
BellSouth Corp., the largest provider of local-telephone lines in nine southeastern states, said it lost 72,972 local- telephone lines after Katrina. BellSouth, the No. 3 U.S. local telephone provider, expects significant network damage along the Gulf coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, BellSouth spokeswoman Nadine Randall said in an e-mail statement today.
Katrina may rival the 1994 Northridge earthquake as the third most costly U.S. catastrophe, according to preliminary forecasts of insured losses.
The storm's estimated cost for insurers such as Allstate Corp. will probably be $9 billion to $16 billion, said Eqecat Inc., a storm modeler. Eqecat cut its estimate from as high as $30 billion as Katrina veered east of New Orleans, sparing the city a direct hit.
``People are breathing a sigh of relief that the storm has lost strength and that New Orleans appeared to be on the weak side of the storm,'' said Ray Stone, vice president of catastrophe operations at St. Paul Travelers Cos., the second- largest U.S. commercial insurer.
President George W. Bush today declared parts of Mississippi a major disaster area. He signed an emergency declaration for Louisiana yesterday, freeing up federal disaster aid.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown said Bush will sign a disaster declaration for the region affected by Katrina, which will give FEMA the authority to help Louisiana recover from the storm.
Crude oil for October delivery rose $1.12, or 1.7 percent, to $67.25 a barrel at the 2:30 p.m. close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier oil jumped as high as $70.80 a barrel, the biggest increase in 29 months. Natural gas, heating oil and gasoline climbed to all-time highs as well.
Investors are concerned Katrina will rupture pipelines, rip rigs from their moorings and disrupt production for weeks. Hurricane Ivan last September cut the region's oil output by as much as 80 percent.
The storm shut 1.4 million barrels of daily oil output, or 92 percent of normal Gulf production, according to today's report from the Minerals Management Service in Washington. It shut 8.3 billion cubic feet a day of gas production, or 83 percent of the total amount of gas produced in the Gulf.
Rigs Break Free
Photo Left: 28 August 2005 2310Z A beautiful satellite presentation of the eye while below winds roar at 155mph!
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said today that Bush is prepared to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the U.S.'s emergency oil stockpile, to assist energy producers and refiners in the path of Katrina.
Transocean Inc., the world's largest offshore oil and natural-gas driller, said its semi-submersible Deepwater Nautilus rig broke free from its moorings in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of Katrina. Alabama officials today closed a bridge that spans the Mobile River after it was hit by a oil drilling platform that broke away from its moorings.
Disruptions to Gulf natural-gas production are being felt as far away as Detroit and New York state after El Paso Corp. and NiSource warned power plant operators, manufacturers and gas utilities to curtail gas consumption because of shortfalls in Gulf supplies.
The storm damaged some roofs of buildings at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Michoud facility in New Orleans, where the company assembles the external fuel tanks for space shuttles, spokesman Evan McCollum said in a telephone interview from the company's space operations headquarters in Colorado.
Moody's Investors Service said today it placed the ratings of Premier Entertainment Biloxi LLC on review for a possible cut because of the effect Katrina likely will have on the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi, the company's only casino asset, which is scheduled to open in the third quarter.
The Salvation Army can feed 400,000 people in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, Cunningham said. The organization has 72 food trucks and two 54-foot mobile kitchens that can serve 20,000 meals a day, he said. The Salvation Army will direct the kitchens where the Federal Emergency Management Agency says they must go, he said.
Katrina was earlier a maximum Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds as high as 175 mph. It would have been the most powerful hurricane heading for the U.S. since 1992's Andrew, which hit south Florida.
The storm swept through southern Florida last week as a minimal hurricane, killing at least nine people and cutting power to more than a million homes.
Tracy Watson, a botanist who lives in New Orleans, left the city yesterday to stay with friends in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The trip that normally takes her 11 hours took her 15, she said. Before leaving, Watson said she spent about three hours boarding up windows in her greenhouse to protect more than 100 plants and flowers, some of which she uses in her work.
``It's my garden and greenhouse I'm most worried about,'' Watson said in an interview. ``I have thousands of dollars in plant life back there. I've brought as much with me as I could but really, it could never be enough. Now I just wait, and hope.''
MARTIAL LAW DECLARED: Situation Deteriorating
CBS News | August 30, 2005
MARTIAL LAW DECLARED: Situation Deteriorating New Orleans, LA (CBS) - Martial Law has been declared in New Orleans as conditions continued to deteriorate. Water levels in The Big Easy and it's suburbs are rising at dangerous levels and officials stated they don't know where the water is coming from. Residents are being urged to get out of New Orleans in any way they can as officials fear "life will be unsustainable" for days or even weeks.
Gulf Coast residents were staggered by the body-blow inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, with more than a million people sweltering without power, miles of lowlands under water and unconfirmed reports of as many 80 people dead in Mississippi alone.
"We heard one report of 30 dead at just one apartment complex on the beach in Biloxi," said CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta. Much of the devastation is being blamed on a storm surge.
"It's not like when you see big tornadoes or hurricane force winds come through and the house is blown away," said Acosta. "A storm surge rises up to the house and clears out everything in its path, moving furniture and cars around."
The Ohio Valley could see severe flooding from Katrina Tuesday.
"Katrina is now moving to the north," said CBS News Hurricane Analyst Bryan Norcross. "It is a tropical storm now moving into Tennessee. But the big rain event today is going to be in the Ohio Valley, all the way from Missouri on up to Louisville towards Cincinnati and then it will spread through the northeast."
Even with Katrina swirling away to the north, two different levee breaches in New Orleans sent a churning sea of water coursing through city streets.
Col. Rich Wagenaar of the Army Corps of Engineers, said a breach in the eastern part of the city was causing flooding and "significant evacuations" in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes. He did not know how many people were affected by the flooding.
Authorities also were gathering information on a levee breach in the western part of New Orleans. Jason Binet, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said that breach began Monday afternoon and may have grown overnight.
Emergency personnel faced flooding problems of their own.
"We had a 30-foot rise from the bay, which came into the building, about 12-foot high," Capt. Houston Dorr of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, based in Biloxi, said on CBS News' The Early Show. "It never got to the second floor but we were on our way up to the third floor if it came in higher."
Dorr told co-anchor Harry Smith the patrol did what it could, despite its own problems.
"The water downed trees, houses moved. We were mostly worried at the time who we could rescue, so many people were trapped in their houses, but it was just total devastation," Dorr said.
"It's bad," agreed Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown. "This storm is really having a catastrophic effect throughout the South."
Brown cautioned the emergency won't end once the waters recede.
"We will find a lot of structural damage in those homes, disease from animal carcasses, the chemicals in homes, that sort of thing," he told Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "It's going to take a long time to clean up and make it safe for people to get back to their neighborhoods."
The federal government began rushing baby formula, communications equipment, generators, water and ice into hard-hit areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, along with doctors, nurses and first-aid supplies.
The Pentagon sent experts to help with search-and-rescue operations.
"This is our tsunami," Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway told the Biloxi Sun Herald.
Katrina knocked out power to more than a million people from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, and authorities said it could be two months before electricity is restored to everyone. Ten major hospitals in New Orleans were running on emergency backup power.
"It will be unsafe to return to the coastal area for several days," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told evacuees Monday. "Be patient. Don't be in a hurry to go back."
According to preliminary assessments by AIR Worldwide Corp., a risk modeling firm, the property and casualty insurance industry faces as much as $26 billion in claims from Katrina.
That would make Katrina more expensive than the previous record-setting storm, Hurricane Andrew, which caused some $21 billion in insured losses in 1992 to property in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.
Mississippi's economy was also dealt a blow that could run into the millions, as the storm shuttered the flashy casinos that dot its coast. The gambling houses are built on barges anchored just off the beach, and Barbour said emergency officials had received reports of water reaching the third floors of some casinos.
After striking the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane, Katrina was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed through eastern Mississippi, moving north at 21 mph. Winds early Tuesday were still a dangerous 60 mph.
At New Orleans' Superdome, where power was lost early Monday, and holes opened in the roof a few hours later, some 9,000 refugees spent a second night in the dark bleachers. With the air conditioning off, the carpets were soggy, the bricks were slick with humidity and anxiety was rising.
"Everybody wants to go see their house. We want to know what's happened to us. It's hot, it's miserable and, on top of that, you're worried about your house," said Rosetta Junne, 37.
A 50-foot water main broke in New Orleans, making it unsafe to drink the city's water without first boiling it. And police made several arrests for looting.
In a particularly low-lying neighborhood on the south shore of Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain, a levee along a canal gave way and forced dozens of residents to flee or scramble to the roofs when water rose to their gutters.
"I've never encountered anything like it in my life. It just kept rising and rising and rising," said Bryan Vernon, who spent three hours on his roof, screaming over howling winds for someone to save him and his fiancée.
"Let me tell you something, folks. I've been out there. It's complete devastation," Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said Monday. He estimated that 75 percent of buildings in Gulfport have major roof damage, "if they have a roof left at all."
In Mobile, Ala., the storm knocked an oil rig free from its moorings, wedging it under a bridge. Muddy six-foot waves crashed into the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, flooding stately, antebellum mansions and littering them with oak branches.
"There are lots of homes through here worth a million dollars. At least they were yesterday," said a shirtless Fred Wright. "I've been here 25 years, and this is the worst I've ever seen the water."
Crisis Grows As Flooded New Orleans Looted
Associated Press | August 31, 2005
By ADAM NOSSITER
Helicopters dropped sandbags on two broken levees as the water kept rising in the streets. The governor drew up plans to evacuate just about everyone left in town. Looters ransacked stores. Doctors in their scrubs had to use canoes to bring supplies to blacked-out hospitals.
New Orleans sank deeper into crisis Tuesday, a full day after Hurricane Katrina hit.
"It's downtown Baghdad," said tourist Denise Bollinger, who snapped pictures of looting in the French Quarter. "It's insane."
The mayor estimated that 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded, while a countless number of residents were still stranded on rooftops.
Hospitals were running out of power and scrambling to find places to take their patients. At one clinic, broken glass littered some areas and patients and staff had fallen on floors slick with floodwaters.
"It's like being in a Third World country," said Mitch Handrich, a registered nurse manager at Charity Hospital, where nurses were ventilating patients by hand after the power and then the backup generator failed. Some 300 patients had yet to be evacuated, but the babies in intensive care had been flown out.
"We're just trying to stay alive," Handrich said.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said that everyone still in the city, now huddled in the Superdome and other rescue centers, needs to leave. She said late Tuesday she wanted the Superdome _ with no electricity or air conditioning _ to be evacuated within two days.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering putting people on cruise ships, in tent cities, mobile home parks, and so-called floating dormitories _ boats the agency uses to house its own employees.
Rescue teams were still picking up people throughout the city Tuesday, leaving them on island-like highway overpasses and on a levee to wait to be moved again. Eventually, they will end up in the Superdome, where 15,000 to 20,000 people have taken refuge, said Louisiana National Guard Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau. One person died at the Superdome attempting to jump from one level to a lower one.
Among the evacuees are 5,000 inmates from New Orleans and suburbs that need to be moved. Officials were trying to figure out how.
The historic French Quarter appeared to have been spared the worst flooding, but its stores were getting the worst of human nature.
"The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked," Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson said. "We're using exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used for search and rescue while we still have people on rooftops."
As Sen. Mary Landrieu flew over the area by helicopter, a group of people smashed a window at a convenience store and jumped in.
At a drug store in the French Quarter, people were running out with grocery baskets and coolers full of soft drinks, chips and diapers. One looter shot and wounded a fellow looter, who was taken to a hospital and survived.
Only rooftops were visible in several neighborhoods and the occasional building was in flames.
On a grassy hill in the Carrolton neighborhood, a group of people watched the water quickly rising in the street, about a foot an hour by some estimates.
William Washington had gone to bed in dry house Monday night, well after the hurricane had passed. The water came up Tuesday after the levee broke, and by afternoon his home was flooded.
"We're trying to get to the Superdome," Washington said as he waited with neighbors. "We're waiting for the National Guard. The radio mentioned that they would pick people up."
With hundreds, if not thousands, of people still stranded in flooded homes, attics and rooftops across the city, rescue boats were bypassing the dead to reach the living, Mayor C. Ray Nagin said.
"We're not even dealing with dead bodies," Nagin said. "They're just pushing them on the side."
A few more feet of water could wipe out the entire city water system, said Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security chief.
The intestates are impassable, the bridges may be unstable and no one knows if the buildings can withstand the damage brought by Katrina, the governor said after flying over the region.
"We saw block after block, neighborhood and neighborhood inundated," Blanco said, her voice breaking with emotion. "It's just heartbreaking."
Sean Jeffries of New Orleans had already been evacuated from one French Quarter hotel when he was ordered out of a second hotel Tuesday because of rising water.
The 37-year-old banker _ who admitted to looting some food from a nearby supermarket _ said the hotel guests were told they were being taken to a convention center, but from there, they didn't know.
"We're in the middle of a national tragedy," he said as he popped purloined grapes in his mouth. "But I know this city. We will be back. It may take awhile. But we will be back."
Gulf Coast Declared Health Emergency
Associated Press | August 31, 2005
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
Federal officials declared a public health emergency for the entire Gulf Coast Wednesday, calling life in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina "very dangerous." They rushed food, medicine and water to the victims as part of a wide-ranging government rescue-and-relief response.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said his agency is concerned about potential disease outbreaks and was sending medical experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He urged residents of the coastal area to boil water and follow food safety precautions as well as to avoid situations that might lead to carbon monoxide poisoning from electricity generators.
He also said that mental health personnel were being sent to the area.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said: "The situation in all affected areas remains very dangerous."
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said his agency is working to restore highways, airports, seaports and oil pipelines in the region. And he said generators are being moved to pipeline pumping stations to restore the flow of oil to the region.
Environmental Protection Agency director Stephen Johnson said anti- pollution standards for gasoline are being eased throughout the country until Sept. 15, a step expected to ease shortages of the fuel.
Katrina leaves millions without power
Associated Press | August 30, 2005
More than 2.7 million electricity customers were still without power on Tuesday after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the U.S. Gulf Coast and moved into the Tennessee Valley.
Katrina crashed into southern Louisiana as a Category 4 storm Monday morning with maximum sustained winds near 140 mph. The remnants of the storm are located over the Ohio Valley.
Entergy Corp., with 1.1 million customers without power in Louisiana and Mississippi, warned customers to expect a long and difficult restoration that could take weeks. Some government officials in Louisiana and Mississippi said it could take a month or more to restore full electric service in some of the hardest hit areas.
To avoid damaging equipment, Entergy shut at least two power plants on the Mississippi River near New Orleans, including the 1,089-megawatt Waterford 3 nuclear reactor and the 825 MW Michoud natural gas and oil-fired station, and started to shut the 1,263 MW Grand Gulf unit in Mississippi.
The company stopped reducing power at Grand Gulf as the hurricane-force winds veered away from the site.
One MW powers about 800 homes, according to North American averages.
Southern Co., which restored power to more than 130,000 customers in Florida and Alabama, reported 825,000 customers were still without power across its service territory, with all 195,000 customers out in Mississippi, 551,000 still out in Alabama and 79,000 out in Florida.
Cleco Corp., which serves about 265,000 customers in Louisiana, said about 80,000 customers were without service Tuesday morning.
In addition to the publicly traded utilities, Katrina also left more than 239,000 customers without service at the municipal and cooperative utilities in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy.
As Katrina pounded its way across the Tennessee Valley, the Tennessee Valley Authority reported at least eight damaged transmission lines and cut power to about 300,000 customers served by distributors of TVA power in Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama.
In Florida, FPL Group Inc.'s Florida Power and Light subsidiary restored power to nearly 1.3 million of the 1.4 million customers affected by the hurricane as Katrina crossed the southern part of the state on August 25-26.
In a release, FPL Group Inc. said it expects to restore service to all customers by Friday night.
Entergy's subsidiaries own and operate about 30,000 MW of generating capacity, market energy commodities and transmit and distribute power to 2.6 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Southern's subsidiaries own and operate more than 39,000 MW of generating capacity, market energy commodities, and transmit and distribute electricity to more than 4 million customers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
TVA owns and operates more than 31,000 MW of generating capacity, sells electricity to local distribution companies serving 8.3 million consumers in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia, and markets surplus power to energy companies in neighboring grids.
FPL's subsidiaries own and operate more than 31,000 MW of generating capacity across the United States, market energy commodities, and transmit and distribute electricity to more than 4.3 million customers in Florida.
Louisiana governor calls for evacuation of New Orleans
Financial Times | August 31 2005
By Sheila McNulty
Kathleen Blanco, governor of Louisiana, called on the city of New Orleans to evacuate as waters continued to rise. ”We absolutely must evacuate the people in the dome and other shelters in the city,’’ she said on CNN. ”It’s a logistical nightmare.”
The US military on Wednesday added Navy ships, including two helicopter assault vessels and the hospital ship Comfort, and search troops to a relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
US authorities were battling to shore up heavily damaged levees in an effort to save New Orleans from almost total submersion as the city, 80 per cent of which lies below sea level, fills with water.
Police are struggling to contain widespread looting and officials fear the lack of basic sanitation or fresh water will lead to disease.
In Mississippi, authorities put the death toll at 100, but said they expected the number to be much higher as search and rescue operations continued.
In the markets, by mid-morning in London on Wednesday, Nymex West Texas Intermediate was again creeping back towards the nominal record high of $70.85 a barrel hit on Tuesday as speculators expected US oil inventories to be squeezed. WTI for October delivery stood at $70.50 a barrel, up 69 cents from Tuesday’s close. Gasoline futures moved up more than 3 per cent to $2.57 a gallon, also a new record.
The damage from Hurricane Katrina has been worse than expected, initial assessments showed on Tuesday, prompting a new rise in oil prices to record levels and raising concerns about the cost of insurance in the Gulf of Mexico.
Industry sources said that one big underwriter had already stopped providing business-interruption insurance in the Gulf and others warned that rising storm losses would lead to premiums so high that insuring platforms could become uneconomic.
Damage assessments on Tuesday suggested that it could take a week to restart refineries hit by the hurricane at a time when supplies already are tight.
The commercial impact will continue to be assessed on Wednesday as stores and businesses struggled to clean up after the hurricane. New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said in a television interview that about 80 per cent of the city was flooded.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said “miles and miles of homes“ were under water. “Some neighborhoods will need total rebuilding,“ she said.
Retail stocks traded lower on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday as traders considered the cost of lost business.
Wal-Mart said on Tuesday that 70 of its stores were still closed on Tuesday afternnon, down from 123 earlier in the day.
Merrill Lynch said in a research note the impact on retailers was likely to be broad based as consumers trimmed spending if petrol prices rose further. “We do not anticipate a wholesale retrenchment, but we could see more trading down and less discretionary expenditures,“ Merrill said.
Other commodities felt the impact on Tuesday, as cotton futures settled at three-week highs after the hurricane lashed fields in Alabama and Mississippi, while coffee prices rose sharply after Katrina damaged coffee warehouses in New Orleans.
There are fears that the human death toll may rise into the hundreds as search and rescue teams extend their operations on Wednesday. Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, said at least 80 people were feared dead in his state alone, while in New Orleans, Louisiana, bodies were seen floating in the floodwater. Local officials declared martial law in New Orleans and south-east Louisiana to assist with the relief effort.
George W. Bush, president, cut short his holiday to return to Washington on Wednesday to help monitor federal efforts to help the rescue and reconstruction effort. “We've got a lot of work to do,” he said.
More than 1m people between Louisiana and Florida were left without electricity and power companies said it could be two months before service was fully restored.
Some companies estimated it might be a week or longer before they resumed refining operations in the area hit by the hurricane that blew through the heart of US oil country on Monday.
“If we can put offshore production up again, but we have no refineries, the oil will be worthless,” said Adam Sieminski of Deutsche Bank.
Initial reports point to sustained outages at several refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi. Nine refineries in the two states are shut, reducing capacity by 1.774m barrels of crude oil a day, about 9 per cent of the US's total capacity.
The extent of the damage to underwater pipelines and anchoring systems was unknown but the discovery of at least two rigs that had broken their moorings indicated the probable extent of the industry's problems. Insurance companies estimate the damage from Katrina could be $26bn almost as much as the total from last year's four hurricanes in the Gulf. Oil companies have become increasingly vulnerable to hurricane losses as they move further offshore into the Gulf of Mexico.
“A lot of underwriters are reviewing their positions in that area, deciding whether they want to write the business,” said Tim Fillingham, who runs Aon UK's energy practice.
Insurance analysts on Tuesday put the insured losses at anything between $12bn and $25bn.
“It is likely Hurricane Katrina will be the largest insured loss from a single event since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the largest US hurricane loss since Hurricane Andrew in 1992,“ Fitch Ratings said.
Standard & Poor’s said the storm was likely to hurt third-quarter US GDP, shaving a few points off its forecast of 3.7 per cent growth. However, it noted that building and other repairs to hurricane-related damage in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and other affected regions should boost GDP in subsequentquarters.
Additional reporting by Richard Beales in New York
New Orleans shelters to be evacuated
Floodwaters rising, devastation widespread in Katrina's wake
CNN | August 31, 2005
New Orleans resembled a war zone more than a modern American metropolis Tuesday, as Gulf Coast communities struggled to deal with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Deteriorating conditions in New Orleans will force authorities to evacuate the thousands of people at city shelters, including the Louisiana Superdome, where a policeman told CNN unrest was escalating.
The officer expressed concern that the situation could worsen overnight after three shootings, looting and a number of attempted carjackings during the afternoon. (See video of the looting -- 1:25)
Officials could not yet provide accurate estimates for fatalities or time needed for recovery in the area and are focusing, instead, on widespread search-and-rescue operations.
The death toll from the storm so far is estimated at 70 -- mostly in Mississippi. Officials stressed that the number is uncertain and likely to be much higher. (See aerial video of the aftermath -- 3:02)
"A lot of people lost their lives, and we still don't have any idea [how many], because the focus continues to be on rescuing those who have survived," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco told reporters Tuesday.
Elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, authorities used boats and helicopters to reach stranded residents and search for survivors.
The storm ripped ashore in Louisiana on Monday morning with winds topping 140 mph before scourging Mississippi and Alabama.
The U.S. Coast Guard said its crews assisted in the rescue Monday of about 1,200 people stranded by high water in the New Orleans area, and thousands more were rescued Tuesday morning.
Waters rising in New Orleans
New Orleans was left with no power, no drinking water, dwindling food supplies, widespread looting, smoke rising on the horizon and the sounds of gunfire. At least one large building was ablaze Tuesday. (Full story)
Mayor Ray Nagin told CNN that at least 30 buildings had collapsed, but that no attempt had been made to determine a death toll.
"There are dead bodies floating in some of the water," Nagin said. "The rescuers would basically push them aside as they were trying to save individuals."
Nagin said that as of late Tuesday "a significant amount of water" is flowing into the bowl-shaped city and sections of the city now dry could be under 9 or 10 feet of water within hours.
"The bowl is filling up," he said.
Frustration was also rising among people who now find themselves refugees in their own city.
Thousands of people were being housed in the Louisiana Superdome, where toilets were overflowing and there was no air conditioning to provide relief from 90-degree heat.
Nagin estimated the number of people in the Superdome at between 12,000 and 15,000 people as of late Tuesday. He said they could be there for a week unless evacuated sooner.
Blanco said officials are making plans to evacuate people from the Superdome and other shelters, but she did not say when that might happen or where they might be taken.
The city's main public hospital, Charity Hospital, was no longer functioning and was being evacuated, Blanco said.
Also under way was the evacuation of more than 1,000 people from Tulane University Hospital with the help of the U.S. military, hospital spokeswoman Karen Troyer Caraway said.
"It's an unbelievable situation," she said. "We're completely surrounded by water. There's looting going on in the streets around the hospital."
Hundreds of people were looting businesses downtown, throwing rocks through store windows and hauling away goods.
National Guard troops moved into the downtown business district, and state police squads backed by SWAT teams were sent in to scatter looters and restore order, authorities said late Tuesday.
Nagin told Mississippi television station WAPT a police officer was shot and wounded when he surprised a looter Tuesday, but the officer was expected to recover.
The biggest problem facing authorities, they said, was an inability to communicate.
Nearly all of the parishes in the New Orleans area -- Orleans, St. John the Baptist, Plaquemines, St. Tammany and Jefferson -- have curfews in place.
Inmates from a flooded parish jail were relocated to a freeway on-ramp, where they sat out in the sun, under the watch of armed officers.
Nagin said 80 percent of the city was under water, which was 20 feet deep in some places. (See video of knee-deep and rising water in the French Quarter -- 1:19)
Water from Lake Pontchartrain was pouring into the downtown area from a levee breach, rising steadily throughout the day. (Map)
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported two major breaches in the levee system that protects New Orleans, much of which lies below sea level.
Authorities warned that efforts to limit the flooding have been unsuccessful, and that residents may not be able to return home for a month.
"The Corps Of Engineers has attempted to fix the situation under emergency conditions," Blanco told CNN. "They're not the best conditions, and probably too little, too late."
Getting anything into New Orleans will be difficult because of the damage to two bridge spans seven miles long that carry Interstate 10 over Lake Pontchartrain, linking the city to points east.
"This is a tragedy of great proportions, greater than any we've see in our lifetimes," Blanco said. "We know many lives have been lost."
The governor also said it was "impossible to even begin to estimate" how long it will take to restore power and drinking water in New Orleans.
Death toll rising in Mississippi
Katrina has inflicted more damage to Mississippi beach towns than did Hurricane Camille, and its death toll is likely to be higher, the state's governor said Tuesday. (Full story)
Camille killed 143 people when it struck the state's coastal counties in 1969 and a total of 256 after it swept inland.
"There are structures after structures that survived Camille with minor damage that are not there any more," Gov. Haley Barbour told reporters in Jackson.
Katrina destroyed "every one" of the casinos that raked in $500,000 per day in revenues to state coffers, Barbour said after a helicopter tour of the affected areas.
"There were 10- and 20-block areas where there was nothing -- not one home standing," he said.
Barbour would not give a confirmed death toll, but said it was likely to be higher than previous reports of 50 to 80 dead.
Jason Green of the Harrison County Coroner's Office said funeral homes in Gulfport had received 26 bodies since the storm passed Monday.
In the small town of Bay St. Louis, search and rescue crews put paint marks on homes known to contain bodies, because there weren't enough refrigerated trucks to remove the corpses.
In Biloxi, an employee of the city's Grand Casino was awed by the extent of the damage.
"I was a senior in high school when Hurricane Camille hit, in 1969, and I have never seen destruction of this magnitude," said Scott Richmond.
Part of the city's sea wall was washed away, and nearly every downtown building had extensive damage to its first level.
State emergency management officials said 80 percent of the state's residents had no power.
In Biloxi, a 25-foot swell of water crashed in from the Gulf of Mexico Monday and inundated structures there.
Up to 30 people are believed to have been killed when an apartment complex on the beach collapsed in the storm.
Distraught resident Harvey Jackson told a local television station about losing his wife in the floodwater as they stood on their roof. (Watch the video report of a husband whose wife slipped from his grip -- 1:07 )
"I held her hand as tight as I could and she told me, 'You can't hold me.' She said 'Take care of the kids and the grandkids,' " he sobbed. (Victims left with nothing)
Streets and homes were flooded as far as 6 miles inland from the beach, and looting was reported in Biloxi and in Gulfport, officials said.
•In Mobile, Alabama, the storm pushed water from Mobile Bay into downtown, submerging large sections of the city, and officials imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew. (Full story)
•The impact of Katrina on U.S. oil production and refinery capabilities may be worse than initial reports estimated and could lead to a national gas crisis in the short-term, analysts warned Tuesday. (Full story)
•President Bush was returning to Washington two days ahead of schedule to help oversee Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, the White House announced. He will fly Friday to Louisiana to tour parishes ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said. (Full story)
•The U.S. military Tuesday started to move ships and helicopters to the region at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid in rescue and medical needs, military officials said. (Full story)
•Katrina was downgraded to a tropical depression Tuesday. As of the 11 p.m. ET update from the National Hurricane Center, the storm was pushing through the Ohio River Valley, causing flood watches in several states.
Pentagon sending five ships to help hurricane relief operations: report
AFP | August 31 2005
The Pentagon is sending five ships, eight maritime rescue teams, helicopters, hovercraft and relief supplies to the southern region devastated by Hurricane Katrina, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
In a decision late Tuesday, the US Defense Department dispatched a Navy amphibious assault ship from Texas, while four other vessels were expected to sail from Norfolk, Virginia, within 24 hours, a spokesman for the Northern Command told the daily.
The assault ship is carrying six helicopters, while the other vessels will be loaded with food, fuel, medical and construction supplies, as well as hovercraft that can be used for evacuation and search-and-rescue missions, the spokesman Mike Kucharek said.
At the same time, eight 14-person civilian Swift boat rescue teams are being flown from California to Louisiana aboard Air Force C-5 cargo planes, he added.
The Pentagon on Tuesday set up a special command at Camp Shelby, Mississippi to coordinate military relief operations, which will be headed by three-star Army Lieutenant General Ruseel Honore, the daily said.
Entire coastal communities in Louisiana and Mississippi have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina when it made landfall Monday with 225 kilometer (140 mile) per hour winds and torrential rain.
Most of low-lying New Orleans was under water from the hurricane and from a broken levee holding back Lake Pontchartrain. A majority of its half a million residents have been evacuated.
Authorities in Biloxi, Mississippi, which sustained widespread damage from the storm are estimating the death toll in the hundreds, as rescue crews up and down the Gulf coast are facing extreme difficulties in reaching victims.
Besides the emergency teams sent by the Pentagon, The New York Times also reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had sent 23 disaster medical assistance teams.
The Department of Transportation has dispatched 390 trucks carrying water, ice, tarps, mobile homes, generators, forklifts and disaster supplies to the flood damaged areas, the daily said.
And the Department of health and Human Services has sent dozens of public health officers and loads of medical supplies to the stricken region.
The Pentagon also said that the governors or Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi had called up some 10,000 members of their National Guards and were expected to mobilize more.
Other neighboring states, including Arkansas and Texas were also calling up their National Guards to assist in the relief operation, the newspaper said quoting Pentagon sources.
White House to Release Oil From Reserves
Associated Press | August 31, 2005
By EILEEN PUTMAN
The Bush administration will release oil from federal petroleum reserves to help refiners affected by Hurricane Katrina, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Wednesday.
The move, which was expected later in the day, is designed to give refineries a temporary supply of crude oil to take the place of interrupted shipments from tankers or offshore oil platforms affected by the storm.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service said Tuesday that 95 percent of the Gulf of Mexico's oil output was out of service. Oil prices surged back above $70 in European markets on Wednesday but slipped quickly to $69.56 after disclosure of the decision involving the release of supplies from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Eight refineries were shut down due to Katrina _ half of them producing gasoline.
The government's emergency petroleum stockpile _ nearly 700 million barrels of oil stored in underground salt caverns along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast _ was established to cushion oil markets during energy disruptions.
The production and distribution of oil and gas remained severely disrupted by the shutdown of a key oil import terminal off the coast of Louisiana and by the Gulf region's widespread loss of electricity, which is needed to power pipelines and refineries.
The Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to avert a severe supply crunch, announced it would temporarily allow the sale of higher- polluting gasoline in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi because those states can't provide enough fuel to consumers that meets Clean Air Act requirements.
The agency also said those states will be allowed to use motor vehicle diesel fuel with a sulfur content higher than the 500 parts per million standard for the next two weeks through ozone season.
President Bush, meanwhile, was returning to Washington on Wednesday to oversee the federal response to Katrina. He planned to chair a meeting of a White House task force set up to coordinate federal efforts, across more than a dozen agencies, to assist hurricane victims.
Bush also was expected to visit the ravaged region by week's end, but details on that trip were in flux as the White House worked to make sure a presidential tour would not disrupt the relief and response efforts.
Bodman, speaking on CNBC, said the decision to release reserves was made late Tuesday.
"In a word. It is going to be done," Bodman said. "Last evening it was approved and I think you'll be seeing an announcement about it later in the day. So we are doing everything we can to be responsive."
He said the reserve was contained in five sites, four of which are operative. The site in New Orleans is not.
Bodman said it was too early to say how much oil would be released.
He said his department was dealing with inquiries from three companies about getting oil from the reserve. On Monday, Citgo Petroleum Corp. asked for 250,000 to 500,000 barrels to ensure that its Lake Charles, La., refinery doesn't run out.
"There is an issue with respect to getting electrical power so that we can operate the various pipe lines that supply fuel to the rest of the country," he said, noting that these facilities "deliver finished products, diesel and gasoline, to the Northeast and to the Southeast."
"Our job is to get the infrastructure going again," Bodman said. "To the extent that we have delays in getting these pipelines functioning, then were are going to have the potential for gasoline shortages." Bodman said the administration will "do everything we can do to get fuel available to the rest of the country."
Of tapping the SPR, Bodman said: "Technically it's called an exchange of oil that we deliver today and that we will get oil back plus some interest, if you will, in the future. We will be tapping that today."
Interviewed on the Fox News' "Fox and Friends First," Bodman was asked if price gouging is taking place.
"I would like to believe that in this time of crisis that all of us are going to pull together to try to deal with this very difficult circumstance and situation that's confronting not just this region, but this country," he replied. "We're hopeful of that, but if we have some bad actors, we have a mechanism to deal with it."
Sewage in Floodwaters Carries Disease
Associated Press | September 1, 2005
By JOHN HEILPRIN
WASHINGTON -- Sewage and chemicals are mixed into a potentially toxic bathtub soaking New Orleans, posing the threat of disease for residents forced to wade in Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters.
"Probably the more immediate health risk to the people is that whatever was in the sewer is in the water," said John Pardue, director of the Louisiana Water Resources Research Institute at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. "Whatever bacterial or viral diseases that people put into the system before the flooding is now in the water."
Meanwhile, scientists say they're alarmed by how much of the region's environmental defenses against future hurricanes and other big storms have become seriously compromised.
Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey who flew over the Gulf Coast from Florida to Louisiana said Thursday that most of the Chandeleur chain of barrier islands _ the first line of storm defense for eastern Louisiana and western Mississippi _ appears to be gone. What is usually a continuous line of dunes is now just marshy outcrops, said Ann Tihansky, a hydrologist with the survey. "It's unbelievable," she said, after reviewing the results of an aerial video survey.
"It just makes the coastline more and more susceptible because more of that storm surge can move further inland," said Glenn Guntenspergen, a U.S. Geological Survey landscape ecologist who has studied the effect of hurricanes on Gulf Coast ecosystems.
With the loss of the islands and wetlands that buffer the region, he said, "It becomes less and less likely for the systems to be able to recover from these kinds of storms. The systems as a whole are rapidly losing their ability to recover."
Along with the sewage in the floodwater is a witches' brew of chemicals from a variety of sources, including leaking fuels and oils from gas stations and submerged cars, paints and solvents from small businesses and household cleaners and pesticides from peoples' homes.
But the biggest chemical plants and refineries to the south and east of the city were spared a direct hit by the hurricane. If that had happened, breaches in large tanks and other industrial facilities might have spewed heavy petroleum, hydrocarbons and chlorine gas.
"From the perspective of chemical or environmental contamination, it could have been much worse. One advantage is that we have so much water in the city and that dilutes out the chemicals," Pardue said. "People shouldn't have an irrational fear of chemicals in the water. I'm more concerned about the viral and bacterial things. There's going to be a lot of gastrointestinal and public health issues."
Besides the broken sewage systems polluting the floodwaters, breached drinking water systems are no longer functioning.
Sam Coleman, a regional director for EPA's Superfund toxic waste division in Dallas, said he could not predict how long it would take to clean, disinfect and then test the hundreds of small community drinking water systems that no longer work because of the loss of power.
"Personally, I've never seen anything like this," he said. "No one has quite seen it this bad."
Relief workers confront 'urban warfare'
Violence disrupts evacuation, rescue efforts in New Orleans
CNN | September 1, 2005
Violence disrupted relief efforts Thursday in New Orleans as authorities rescued desperate residents still trapped in the flooded city and tried to evacuate thousands of others living among corpses and human waste.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown said his agency was attempting to work "under conditions of urban warfare."
Police snipers were stationed on the roof of their precinct, trying to protect it from armed miscreants roaming seemingly at will.
Officers warned a CNN crew to stay off the streets because of escalating danger, and cautioned others about attempted shootings and rapes by groups of young men.
"This is a desperate SOS," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said in a statement Thursday afternoon, with thousands of people stranded at the city's convention center with no food, water or electricity -- and fading hope. (See video on the desperate conditions -- 4:36 )
Residents expressed growing frustration with the disorder evident on the streets, raising questions about the coordination and timeliness of relief efforts.
"Why is no one in charge?" asked one frustrated evacuee at the convention center. "I find it hard to believe."
Government officials insisted they were putting forth their best efforts and pleaded for patience, saying further help was on the way.
One displaced resident at the Louisiana Superdome issued a warning to authorities who may be headed to the stadium, where up to 30,000 people sought refuge after Monday's Hurricane Katrina and now await evacuation to Texas by bus.
"Please don't send the National Guard," Raymond Cooper told CNN by telephone. "Send someone with a bullhorn outside the place that can talk to these people first."
He described scenes of lawlessness and desperation, with people simply dragging corpses into corners.
"They have quite a few people running around here with guns," he said. "You got these young teenage boys running around up here raping these girls."
Elsewhere, groups of armed men wandered the streets, buildings smoldered and people picked through stores for what they could find.
Charity Hospital, one of several facilities attempting to evacuate patients, was forced to halt the effort after coming under sniper fire. (Full story)
Recovery efforts also continued Thursday in Mississippi, where Katrina smashed entire neighborhoods and killed at least 185 people.
"We got hit by the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told CNN Thursday.
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco gave the grim news that "thousands" of people died in the hurricane and its aftermath in New Orleans and surrounding parishes, though she said no official count had been compiled.
Brown said those who ignored the city's mandatory evacuation order bore some responsibility.
"I think the death toll may go into the thousands and, unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," he told CNN. (Full story)
Stranded people remained in buildings, on roofs, in the backs of trucks or gathered in large groups on higher ground, with little knowledge of when -- or if -- help would come.
Despite the deteriorating conditions in the city, hurricane survivors from neighboring Plaquemines Parish have started streaming into the city, according to Nagin.
"We are overwhelmed and out of resources, but we welcome them with open arms and will figure this out together," the mayor said in a written statement.
Police officers told CNN that some of their fellow officers had simply stopped showing up for duty, cutting manpower by 20 percent or more in some precincts.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday that 4,200 National Guard troops trained as military police will be deployed in New Orleans over the next three days, which he said would quadruple the law enforcement presence in the city.
Pentagon officials said the first contingent of 100 military police officers would arrive at Louis Armstrong International Airport at 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET) -- combat-ready for immediate deployment in New Orleans.
'Unsanitary and unsafe'
Blanco said Thursday she has requested the mobilization of 40,000 National Guard troops to restore order and assist in relief efforts.
A humanitarian catastrophe unfolded at the convention center, where thousands of increasingly frustrated people waited for help amid dead bodies, feces and garbage.
Numerous bodies could be seen, both inside and outside the facility, and one man died of a seizure while a CNN crew was at the scene.
A National Guard helicopter dropped food and water Thursday afternoon, although the amount was far short of enough to meet the needs of the throngs that had gathered.
Nagin advised those gathered at the center to march over the Crescent City Connection bridge to the west bank of the Mississippi River to find relief in neighboring Jefferson Parish.
"The convention center is unsanitary and unsafe, and we are running out of supplies," said Nagin, adding that officials did not expect to have enough buses for evacuations.
Brown told CNN Thursday evening that federal officials only found out about the convention center crisis earlier in the day, and that he had since directed that "all available resources" be made available there.
Boat rescue teams looking for Katrina survivors told CNN they had been ordered to stand down Thursday by FEMA officials concerned about security.
However, FEMA issued a statement from Washington denying it had suspended operations, though the agency conceded there had been "isolated incidents where security has become an issue."
Homeland Security Secretary MichaelChertoff said that the Coast Guard has rescued about 3,000 people from flooded areas in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes.
At the city's airport, a field hospital set up by FEMA was "overwhelmed" with patients, a medical team commander said.
Equipment normally used to move luggage was instead ferrying patients to a treatment center and to planes and buses for evacuation.
"I do not have the words in my vocabulary to describe what is happening here," said Ozro Henderson. "'Catastrophe' and 'disaster' don't explain it."
Outside the Superdome, throngs of people waiting for a bus ride to Texas completely covered an outside plaza, where they waited in the heat and rain.
Buses ferried displaced residents to Houston's Astrodome, which will serve as a shelter until FEMA can come up with more permanent housing.
"We're finding more and more people coming out of the woodwork," Brown said. "They're appearing in places we didn't know they existed."
Blanco said more school buses would be brought in from across Louisiana to increase the pace of the evacuation.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it expected to complete the sealing off of the 17th Street Canal, where a flood-control levee breached.
Explosions, Fires All Over Lawless New Orleans
Associated Press | September 2, 2005
By ALLEN G. BREED
An explosion at a chemical depot jolted residents awake early Friday, illuminating the pre-dawn sky with red and orange flames over a city awash in corpses and under siege from looters. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Vibrations from the blast along the Mississippi River and a few miles east of the French Quarter were felt all the way downtown. A series of smaller blasts followed and then a pillar of acrid, black smoke.
To jittery residents of flood-devastated New Orleans, it was yet another fearful sign of collapse in a city that has been plunged into lawlessness and despair since Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore Monday morning.
Congress was rushing through a $10.5 billion aid package, the Pentagon promised to send in 1,400 National Guardsmen a day to stop the looting and President Bush planned to visit the region Friday. But city officials were seething with anger over what they called a slow federal response to a disaster that may have killed thousands.
"They don't have a clue what's going on down there," Mayor Ray Nagin told WWL-AM Thursday night. "They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn _ excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed."
In Washington, President Bush answered the criticism of the government response to the disaster by saying "the results are not acceptable" and pledged to bolster relief efforts with a personal trip to the Gulf Coast.
"We'll get on top of this situation," he said, "and we're going to help the people that need help."
Thursday saw thousands being evacuated by bus to Houston from the hot and stinking Superdome. Fistfights and fires erupted amid a seething sea of tense, suffering people who waited in a lines that stretched a half-mile to board yellow school buses. The looting continued.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco called the looters "hoodlums" and issued a warning to lawbreakers: Hundreds of National Guardsmen hardened on the battlefield in Iraq have landed in New Orleans.
"They have M-16s and they're locked and loaded," she said. "These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will."
At the Superdome, group of refugees broke through a line of heavily armed National Guardsmen in a scramble to get on to the buses.
Nearby, about 15,000 to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at New Orleans Convention Center grew ever more hostile after waiting for buses for days amid the filth and the dead.
Police Chief Eddie Compass said there was such a crush around a squad of 88 officers that they retreated when they went in to check out reports of assaults.
"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," Compass said. "Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."
By Thursday evening, 11 hours after the military began evacuating the Superdome, the arena held 10,000 more people than it did at dawn. Evacuees from across the city swelled the crowd to about 30,000 because they believed the arena was the best place to get a ride out of town.
Some of those among the mostly poor crowd had been in the dome for four days without air conditioning, working toilets or a place to bathe. One military policeman was shot in the leg as he and a man scuffled for the MP's rifle. The man was arrested.
By late Thursday, the flow of refugees to the Houston Astrodome was temporarily halted after about 11,000 people had arrived _ less than half the estimated 23,000 people expected.
"We've actually reached capacity for the safety and comfort of the people inside there," American Red Cross spokeswoman Dana Allen said. She said people were "packed pretty tight" on the floor.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that Dallas would host 25,000 more refugees at Reunion Arena and 25,000 others would relocate to a San Antonio warehouse at KellyUSA, a city-owned complex that once was home to an Air Force base. Houston estimated as many as 55,000 people who fled the hurricane were staying in area hotels.
The blasts early Friday rocked a chemical storage facility along the river, said Lt. Michael Francis of the Harbor Police. At least two police boats could be seen at the scene and a hazardous material team was on route. Francis did not have any other information.
While floodwaters in New Orleans appeared to stabilize, efforts continued to plug three breaches in the levees that protect this bowl- shaped, below-sea-level city, which is wedged between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.
Helicopters dropped sandbags into the breach and pilings were being pounded into the mouth of the canal Thursday to close its connection to the lake.
At least seven bodies were scattered outside the convention center, a staging area for those rescued from rooftops, attics and highways. The sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement.
A military helicopter tried to land at the convention center several times to drop off food and water. But the rushing crowd forced the choppers to back off. Troopers then tossed the supplies to the crowd from 10 feet off the ground and flew away.
"There's a lot of very sick people _ elderly ones, infirm ones _ who can't stand this heat, and there's a lot of children who don't have water and basic necessities to survive on," said Daniel Edwards, 47, outside the center. "We need to eat, or drink water at the very least."
An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.
"I don't treat my dog like that," Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair. "You can do everything for other countries, but you can't do nothing for your own people."
Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA just learned about the situation at the convention center Thursday and quickly scrambled to provide food, water and medical care and remove the corpses.
The mayor lashed out at the government, saying: "I have no idea what they're doing, but I will tell you this: God is looking down on all this and if they're not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price because every day that we delay, people are dying and they're dying by the hundreds."
Across the city, law and order broke down, and the rescuers themselves were being shot at.
Tourist Debbie Durso of Washington, Mich., said she asked a police officer for assistance and his response was, "'Go to hell _ it's every man for himself.'"
FEMA officials said some operations had to be suspended in areas where gunfire had broken out.
Outside a looted Rite-Aid drugstore, some people were anxious to show they needed what they were taking. A gray-haired man who would not give his name pulled up his T-shirt to show a surgery scar and explained that he needs pads for incontinence.
"I'm a Christian," he said. "I feel bad going in there."
Hospitals struggled to evacuate critically ill patients who were dying for lack of oxygen, insulin or intravenous fluids. But when some hospitals try to airlift patients, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben- Iesan said, "there are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, `You better come get my family.'"
To make matters worse, the chief of the Louisiana State Police said he heard of numerous instances of New Orleans police officers _ many of whom from flooded areas _ turning in their badges.
"They indicated that they had lost everything and didn't feel that it was worth them going back to take fire from looters and losing their lives," Col. Henry Whitehorn said.
World stunned as US struggles with Katrina
Reuters | September 2, 2005
By Andrew Gray
The world has watched amazed as the planet's only superpower struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with some saying the chaos has exposed flaws and deep divisions in American society.
World leaders and ordinary citizens have expressed sympathy with the people of the southern United States whose lives were devastated by the hurricane and the flooding that followed.
But many have also been shocked by the images of disorder beamed around the world -- looters roaming the debris-strewn streets and thousands of people gathered in New Orleans waiting for the authorities to provide food, water and other aid.
"Anarchy in the USA" declared Britain's best-selling newspaper The Sun.
"Apocalypse Now" headlined Germany's Handelsblatt daily.
The pictures of the catastrophe -- which has killed hundreds and possibly thousands -- have evoked memories of crises in the world's poorest nations such as last year's tsunami in Asia, which left more than 230,000 people dead or missing.
But some view the response to those disasters more favorably than the lawless aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"I am absolutely disgusted. After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering," said Sajeewa Chinthaka, 36, as he watched a cricket match in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
"Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world's population is."
SINKING INTO ANARCHY
Many newspapers highlighted criticism of local and state authorities and of President Bush. Some compared the sputtering relief effort with the massive amounts of money and resources poured into the war in Iraq.
"A modern metropolis sinking in water and into anarchy -- it is a really cruel spectacle for a champion of security like Bush," France's left-leaning Liberation newspaper said.
"(Al Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden, nice and dry in his hideaway, must be killing himself laughing."
A female employee at a multinational firm in South Korea said it may have been no accident the U.S. was hit.
"Maybe it was punishment for what it did to Iraq, which has a man-made disaster, not a natural disaster," said the woman, who did not want to be named as she has an American manager.
"A lot of the people I work with think this way. We spoke about it just the other day," she said.
Commentators noted the victims of the hurricane were overwhelmingly African Americans, too poor to flee the region as the hurricane loomed unlike some of their white neighbors.
New Orleans ranks fifth in the United States in terms of African American population and 67 percent of the city's residents are black.
"In one of the poorest states in the country, where black people earn half as much as white people, this has taken on a racial dimension," said a report in Britain's Guardian daily.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, in a veiled criticism of U.S. political thought, said the disaster showed the need for a strong state that could help poor people.
"You see in this example that even in the 21st century you need the state, a good functioning state, and I hope that for all these people, these poor people, that the Americans will do their best," he told reporters at a European Union meeting in Newport, Wales.
David Fordham, 33, a hospital anesthetist speaking at a London underground rail station, said he had spent time in America and was not surprised the country had struggled to cope.
"Maybe they just thought they could sit it out and everything would be okay," he said.
"It's unbelievable though -- the TV images -- and your heart goes out to them."
(With reporting by Reuters bureau around the world)
Angry New Orleans Mayor Says Feds Don't Have A Clue
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."
The mayor of New Orleans is seething over what he sees as the government's slow response to his city's disaster.
Ray 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. He said that federal officials "don't have a clue what's going on."
"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."
The mayor said he needs troops and hundreds of buses to get evacuees out.
He said that it was laughable that some officials had mentioned possibly having school bus drivers brought to New Orleans to help with the evacuation.
"I'm like, 'You have got to be kidding me.' This is a national disaster, get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses to New Orleans," he said. "This is a major, major, major deal."
Nagin accused state and federal officials of "playing games" and "spinning for the cameras." He said he keeps hearing that help is coming, but "there's no beef."
He called for a moratorium on press conferences. He said he doesn't want any more press conferences there until there is actual manpower on the ground helping his city. He said that he is tired of hearing that thousands of troops are on their way because they are just not there.
Earlier, he issued a "desperate SOS" on behalf of the thousands who are stranded at the convention center. He also gave the go-ahead for them to march across a bridge to a dry area of the city and look for whatever relief they could find.
At least seven bodies were scattered outside the convention center. People desperately called for help, chasing after reporters, sometimes pleading and sometimes threatening.
Congress is rushing through an aid package of more than $10 billion and the Pentagon is promising 1,400 National Guardsmen.
Evacuee: It’s Genocide
One evacuee said the victims have been left "like pure animals" with no care.
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.
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.
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."
The Rev. Isaac Clark said, "We don't have water. We don't have food. We don't have help."
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.
Louisiana's governor is declaring war on looters and others who've turned the streets of New Orleans into scenes of chaos and fear.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said 300 National Guard troops have arrived in the city fresh from duty in Iraq. She said they "know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will."
The Guard troops are carrying M-16s, which Blanco describes as "locked and loaded."
Within the angry crowds of people trying to flee the city, shooters have targeted police officers, a security person at the Superdome and possibly a military helicopter evacuating hospital patients.
A Louisiana state police commander said many New Orleans officers have quit, saying they weren't going to risk their lives to fight looters.
Meanwhile, evacuees chanted "We want help!" Thursday outside the New Orleans convention center. Many have been there for days, without food, water or sanitary services. At least seven corpses are there as well.
Those at the convention center are increasingly hungry, desperate and tired of waiting for buses to return them to the fresh air of civilization.
As the mayor asked for buses, he also made an apparent effort to defuse what could be an explosive situation. The mayor said people will be allowed to march across a bridge to the city's unflooded west bank, for whatever relief they can find.
At the hot and stinking Superdome, there's a snarl in the effort to evacuate storm evacuees to Houston. More people keep arriving, swelling the number from 20,000 to 30,000. A National Guard captain said people are coming from around the city, hoping to get a ride out of town.
Lines to board buses to Texas stretch for nearly half a mile. Fights are breaking out, and one military policeman was shot in the leg in a scuffle for his rifle.
A New Orleans official is calling the situation a "national disgrace."
Fights and fires have erupted and corpses are openly scattered throughout the city. Rescue helicopters and law enforcement officers have been targeted by gunfire.
National Guard Moves Into Louisiana
The National Guard wants hurricane-ravaged New Orleans to know the cavalry is coming.
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum of the National Guard said 7,000 National Guardsmen are arriving in Louisiana Friday "to save Louisiana citizens."
He said the only thing they'll be attacking is "the effects of the hurricane," but adds they are prepared to "put down" the violence "in a quick and efficient manner."
Blum said a huge airlift of supplies is due Friday, signaling "the cavalry is and will continue to arrive."
The National Guard's assurances come amid stinging criticism from the mayor and others who say the federal government has bungled the relief effort. People haven't had food, water, medicine or power since the storm struck Monday.
Bush: Results Are Not Acceptable
President George W. Bush is admitting efforts to help Hurricane Katrina's victims have fallen short.
Leaving the White House to tour the stricken Gulf Coast, he declared, "The results are not acceptable."
However, Bush is vowing to "get on top of this situation" and to "help people who need help."
Bush is flying to Mobile, Alabama, for a briefing from emergency chiefs, then getting a helicopter tour of flattened coastal communities. He plans to walk through one of the hardest-hit: Biloxi, Mississippi.
But in New Orleans, which has been hit by looting and is mostly under water, Bush will just fly over and land at the airport several miles from the city center.
On departing the White House, Bush said he wants to thank rescue workers for their efforts -- and assure Katrina's victims that the administration "will deploy the assets necessary."
Explosions In New Orleans
A series of explosions has rocked the riverfront a few miles south of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
The explosions appeared to come from an area on the east bank of the Mississippi River, near a residential area and railroad tracks. At least two police boats were at the scene.
The first explosion sent flames shooting into the pre-dawn sky. A series of smaller blasts followed and then acrid, black smoke that could be seen even in the dark. The vibrations were felt all the way downtown.
All this has happened amid continuing lawlessness in the city swamped by Hurricane Katrina. The governor has ordered in hundreds of battle-hardened troops just back from Iraq.
Astrodome Declared Full; Evacuees Sent To Other Shelters
After accepting more than 11,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees, officials say the Houston Astrodome is full. So, they've begun sending buses to other shelters in the Houston area.
The total of 11,000 inside the Astrodome is less than half the estimated 23,000 people who were expected to arrive by bus from New Orleans.
Buses that continue to arrive are being sent on to other shelters in the area and as far away as Huntsville, about an hour north of Houston.
Meanwhile, by unanimous consent of those present, the Senate has approved $10.5 billion in aid for the hurricane victims.
The House will meet Friday at noon to speed the measure to President George W. Bush's desk.
A skeleton crew of Senate leaders was all that was needed to speed the measure through by voice vote Thursday night.
Although the Astrodome is full, the state of Texas is rolling out an even bigger welcome mat for evacuees. Officials are agreeing to take another 25,000 displaced residents, bringing the grand total to 73,000.
The cities of Dallas, Houston and San Antonio will become new homes for storm evacuees, many from hard-hit New Orleans.
Already, the Astrodome in Houston and Dallas' Reunion Arena have been converted into giant shelters. Now, a warehouse in San Antonio and its Joe Freeman Arena will also be used to house people.
San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger hopes for a system in which evacuees can get their needs resolved in one central place. He says he hopes to restore "some dignity which these circumstances have taken away from" storm evacuees.
The American Red Cross is also running shelters in other Texas cities.
Doctors Appeal For Help
Doctors at two public hospitals in New Orleans have called The Associated Press to plead for rescue. The physicians say they are nearly out of food and power and have been forced to move patients to higher floors to escape looters.
Dr. Norman McSwain said he and his colleagues at Charity Hospital have turned to The AP as a last resort. McSwain said he tried calling the mayor and the governor, using any "inside pressure" possible, to no avail.
McSwain said there is minimal water. The food amounts to fruit bowl punch. The scene is similar at University hospital.
Another doctor, Lee Hamm, said somehow the two public facilities have been forgotten -- or ignored.
Mississippi Death Toll Hits 126
Mississippi's death toll from Hurricane Katrina has reached 126 as more rescue teams spread out to search for the living.
All along the 90-mile coast, emergency workers are performing the grisly task of retrieving bodies.
Some of the dead are lying on streets and in the ruins of obliterated homes that stretch back blocks from the beach.
Tons of rotting shrimp and chickens blown from containers at a shipping dock were dumped into the water and onto the tattered landscape.
As many as 882,000 homes or businesses are still without electricity. Some won't have power for weeks -- or longer, state emergency officials said.
Even in northern Mississippi, locals and stranded evacuees wait for hours to buy gasoline at upward of $3 a gallon.
There were complaints that a few stations were selling gas for up to $6 a gallon.
Tiny Hamlets Do Nothing But Wait For Help
Some of the places that are worst off after Hurricane Katrina are tiny places with names such as Bond, Thomasville, Maxie and Star.
They're Mississippi hamlets miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The few people who live amid the pines in the small houses and single-wide trailers are mostly black and poor. They have no food, water, electricity or gasoline after getting a direct hit from Katrina.
Red Cross trucks and the National Guard and the local power trucks are roaring right by. They're heading for places where there are larger numbers of victims.
A woman in Bond saod "people back here are going to starve" if someone doesn't stop soon. In Thomasville, a woman whose family has been cooking meals on a barbecue grill said they're "learning to do without."
A collection of scenes that have amazed, impressed, and horrified us over the past few days:
- 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."
- The relative calm of night was disrupted early Friday with a series of massive explosions on the riverfront a few miles south of the French Quarter.
- Congress rushed a $10.5 billion recovery bill to President Bush, who called the relief effort the biggest in U.S. history.
- Texas agreed to triple to 75,000 the number of evacuees being taken in from Louisiana. Houston officials temporarily stopped admitting people to the Astrodome late Thursday after accepting 11,325. Others will be housed in the adjacent Reliant Center, where the Houston Texans play football.
- President Bush planned a tour of Gulf Coast communities battered by Hurricane Katrina, a visit aimed at alleviating criticism that he engineered a too-little, too-late response.
- Asia-Pacific nations - including tsunami-battered Sri Lanka - promised Friday to send money and disaster relief experts to the United States to help deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
- Lawmakers demanded an investigation into gasoline prices after thousands of motorists called a government hotline to complain of price gouging. The Energy Department reports more than 5,000 calls, though there was no way to immediately determine how many of the allegations were valid.
- Crude oil prices eased slightly Friday and gasoline futures fell for the first time in a week as several energy facilities on the Gulf Coast resumed operations. Crude oil contracts from November thru February - traditionally high demand months - were all trading above $70 a barrel.
- The military expects to put 30,000 National Guard troops on duty in the Gulf states as demands grow for more security and relief assistance, officials said.
New Orleans Mayor Fumes Over Slow Reponse
Associated Press | September 2, 2005
A day before President Bush headed to the hurricane-ravaged South, Mayor Ray Nagin lashed out at federal officials, telling a local radio station "they don't have a clue what's going on down here."
Federal officials expressed sympathy but quickly defended themselves, saying they, too, were overwhelmed by the catastrophe that hit the Gulf Coast region on Monday.
Nagin's interview Thursday night on WWL radio came as President Bush planned to visit Gulf Coast communities battered by Hurricane Katrina, a visit aimed at alleviating criticism that he engineered a too- little, too-late response.
Bush viewed the damage while flying over the region Wednesday en route to Washington after cutting short his Texas vacation by two days.
"They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn _ excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed," Nagin said.
Nagin said he told Bush in a recent conversation that "we had an incredible crisis here and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice ... I have been all around this city and that I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshal resources and we are outmanned in just about every respect."
In an interview Friday on NBC's "Today," Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown stood behind the massive federal relief effort that's under way.
"I understand the mayor's frustration. ... We have been having a continuous flow of commodities into the Superdome, there were five trucks arriving last night to feed well over 50,000 people.
"We're also diverting supplies to the convention center which I learned about yesterday and that area. ... This is an absolutely catastrophic disaster," he said.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who like Nagin is a Democrat, was less confrontational than the mayor.
"When the system goes down, this is pretty much what you get," she said on CBS' "The Early Show." "We don't get into the blame game. We just work with what we got."
Hunger and rage
NY DAILY NEWS | September 2nd, 2005
By TAMER EL-GHOBASHY
NEW ORLEANS - A great city has descended into chaos.
In much of New Orleans yesterday, food and water remained in short supply. Medical help was nowhere to be found. And answers were impossible to come by.
Then hope ran out and it was the biggest loss of all.
At the city's convention center, a frustrated and angry mob rioted, furious that they had been dumped at a place where there was no food, no water and no one in charge.
At the Superdome, fights broke out in the huge crowd that assembled on an upper parking deck. The crowd jostled for position and hoped eventually to get on a bus to somewhere - anywhere.
A man who asked for a cigarette got beaten with a pipe.
"People are hysterical. I'm scared. I'm upset," said Gloria Charles, 53, a school custodian.
Charles had walked to the Superdome in waist-high water with her five daughters, six grandkids, six nieces and nephews. They took turns keeping her mother, a 72-year-old amputee, afloat on an air mattress.
Her mother was taken away a day earlier for medical treatment.
"Now we're going to Houston" to the Astrodome, said Charles. "Where will she be?"
As if things weren't bad enough, a rumor soon shot through the crowd that another hurricane was brewing in the Atlantic. It even had a name: Hurricane Leo.
The anxious lines of people pushed against a National Guard barricade, sweaty and screaming and wishing it was all a bad dream.
But compared to the convention center, the Superdome was at least controlled chaos.
Daily News photographer Mike Appleton and I heard there was a riot under way at the convention center and headed over there.
As we walked past the Windsor Court hotel, we were stopped by a female state trooper. "Y'all came over here without guns? Don't go there. Don't go there unless you have a machine gun around your neck. We pulled our troops out because the civilians have taken over. We don't have the manpower to deal with them," she said.
But Mike and I decided to press on. This is a story the world needs to hear.
We passed a family next - three women and two men - frying chicken on a street corner. One of the men, wearing a 9-inch knife on his belt, wished us luck.
"Y'all better be strapped," he said as we walked by - strapped being slang for armed. The scene at the convention center was wild; the fury palpable. The people looked far more desperate and far more desolate than those at the Superdome.
"There's nobody of authority here," said A.G. Norton, 48. "They left us here under the impression that they weren't going to put us in the Dome because of the conditions there. But what about the conditions here?"
There was no food or water and not a cop or a soldier to be seen. And overnight, I was told, 10 people had died.
I was skeptical of the claim and a man took me to a massive refrigerator in the center's kitchen.
Eight bodies were inside, though there was no power to keep the refrigerator on. I found the other two corpses around the back, on a loading dock.
The body of an elderly woman sat in a wheelchair covered with a red-and-blue checkered cloth. Her feet stuck out and had blood on them. Next to her was a woman wrapped in a white sheet.
A little while later, we heard the thump-thump-thump of a helicopter and a Black Hawk dropped from the gray sky into the parking lot. The mob rushed the copter, swarming it before it even had a chance to land.
The soldiers inside opened the doors and pushed out cases of water and boxes of MREs - meals ready to eat. People pushed. People yelled. The old folks and kids grabbed what they could. The young men made out best, though some were willing to share their bounty. Others just kept what they had claimed and shouldered their way through the crowd.
Claudia Sims, 54, watched from the side, her six grandkids all around her. They hadn't eaten in 24 hours.
"I can't compete with these people," she said.
One of her little granddaughters waded into the throng and came back with a smile on her face.
"Grandma, I got food!"
In her tiny hand was her bounty - a single MRE.
Three minutes after landing, the copter lifted off and rose into the air.
I have seen such scenes before, but always on television and always from faraway places. In Third World nations, but not here.
As I watched the copter go, I thought to myself:
Can this really be happening in America?
Radio host: No doubt 'End Times' here
World Net Daily | September 2 2005
A national talk-radio host believes the severity of Hurricane Katrina is clear evidence that civilization is now in the "End Times" described in the Bible.
"I don't think there's any doubt," George Noory said this morning on his "Coast to Coast AM" program. "I think we're in it. I really do."
While Noory explained he did not mean an imminent end to all life on Earth, he referred to the book of Revelation in the New Testament, saying current events are "the beginning of the end."
"I cannot imagine the grief and the horror that the people in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are undergoing," Noory said. "I see it, I hear it, but you know what, unless it happens to you, it really doesn't affect you.
"In this particular case, eventually it's going to affect everybody in the United States in some form or fashion. And as you see the price of oil going up, as you see shortages, as you see the price at the grocery store going up, you're going to realize just how serious a tragedy this really is.
"It's time to rethink the priorities of this country first and foremost and I always have in this strange mind I have, I always wonder, why did this have to happen now? Think about that for a moment. If you believe that there are no coincidences, why would this happen? I mean why would divine Providence want this to happen to us now?"
Katrina's storm surge and flooding have some recollecting the post-Christmas tsunami which killed 200,000 people and left up to 5 million in need of basic services in a dozen Indian Ocean nations.
At that time, some people reflected on the End-time warning from the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus stated: "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring ... ." (Luke 21:25)
Noory was joined on the program by former NASA consultant Richard C. Hoagland, who called the flooding situation of New Orleans a "nightmare" and a "disaster waiting to happen."
"This is such a biblical-proportion catastrophe," Hoagland said. "What I am appalled by is the lack of forethought and preplanning to save people from the inevitable. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that someday this city, sitting in a bowl, would have this happen to it, with catastrophic consequences."
Regarding efforts to lower the water level in the Big Easy, Hoagland said, "It is like trying to bail out the Atlantic Ocean with not even a teacup [but] a toothpick.
Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?
'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues
Editor & Publisher | August 30, 2005
By Will Bunch
PHILADELPHIA -Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of the city, the waters may still keep rising in New Orleans late on Tuesday. That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until it's level with the massive lake.
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."
The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.
The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.
There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:
"That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."
The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late.
One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.
The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."
Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."
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It's sickening that the U.S. government has already spent hundreds-of-billions (with a big "B") of American taxpayer dollars on the illegal Iraqi invasion, but up until now refused to spend the small amount of chump change required (60 million) to protect the American citizens living on the southeastern coast. Something is very, very wrong in Washington. We need to stand up against the Bush Administration's raping of the American taxpayer. The same is true of the Democrats as well. Their all in bed together. They are stealing OUR money to accomplish their own agendas. The Iraqi conflict has absolutely nothing to do with freedom. America's ROE (Return On Equity) is pathetic. What do American taxpayers have to show for all their hard-earned tax dollars? Thousands of dead bodies floating in Mississippi and Louisiana.
New World Orleans
Americans are Being Brainwashed