Skip to comments.Rescuers in New Orleans encounter violence, other obstacles - drinking, looting, shooting
Posted on 09/05/2005 2:43:49 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
NEW ORLEANS - Police killed several men who shot at Army contractors; helicopters divided the city into grids and searched for waving survivors; and officials warned that the recovery of the dead would be ghastly.
One week after Hurricane Katrina roared ashore, the latest issue for rescuers is residents who still refuse to leave.
At least 59 bodies had been collected from Jefferson and Orleans parishes, including 10 at the Superdome. But identification of the dead, with corpses bloated and medical records submerged, was expected to be a major problem.
The U.S. Public Health Service said one morgue alone, at a St. Gabriel prison, ultimately expected 1,000 to 2,000 bodies.
"It is going to be about as ugly of a scene as I think you can imagine," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Jefferson Parish, still partly flooded, has decided to allow residents back in to check on their property beginning at 6 a.m. today. Residents with a valid ID showing an address will be able to stay up to three days to assess damage and retrieve belongings.
Tales from those in New Orleans Sunday ranged from the inspirational to the depressing. A woman described dancing and cooking jambalaya for nearby nursing home residents for days until a helicopter arrived. A man said he was finally letting rescuers take him away because neighborhood youths had cleaned out everything he owned.
Police shot and killed at least five people Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors traveling across a bridge on their way to make repairs, authorities said.
Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley told the Associated Press that police shot at eight people carrying guns, killing five or six.
The gunmen were firing at 14 contractors who were traveling across the Danziger Bridge under police escort, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.
They were on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to help plug the breach in the 17th Street Canal, Hall said.
None of the contractors was killed, Hall said.
The same bridge was the scene of a civilian helicopter crash, but the two people on board escaped with only cuts and scrapes.
Still, many people were choosing to stay in their homes, confounding a flotilla of flat-bottomed boats carrying a patchwork of city, state and federal emergency workers. The boats also dealt with gunfire and fear of water contamination.
"They tell us, 'We're OK, just keep bringing us in food and water,' " said Jimmy Breen, an emergency response official from New Mexico. "But that obviously is not a solution to the problem."
Deaths and danger
About a block away from a makeshift command center for a Federal Emergency Management Agency-coordinated operation, a bleached and bloated corpse floated on its back in the water, arms outstretched. Someone had pulled a stained T-shirt over the face of what appeared to be a middle-age man.
By late afternoon Sunday, 84 people had been extricated at the FEMA location. Ten were immediately taken to a medical facility for nonlife-threatening problems including dehydration and respiratory difficulties. The rest were put in midsize Army trucks to be moved to the convention center initially, and eventually out of the city.
The task force Breen headed included about 45 boats, 75 vehicles and just under 200 people, he said. That was a microcosm of operations across the city that evacuated hundreds Sunday.
One airboat was dispatched with New Orleans police armed with shotguns and M-16s to respond to a report that an evacuating boat heard shots and believed it was under fire several blocks away. The officers returned without having found a shooter.
The fear of the unknown motivated many of those who refused entreaties to leave flooded areas, residents said.
"There are at least 30 people at the Samuel L. Green school, and they won't leave, because they don't know where they are going to be sent," said Karl Holliday, 30, who limped off a boat Sunday with a badly sprained ankle. "But they better get some National Guard in there, because people are drinking a lot, and it is going to get a lot worse."
Dr. Louis Cataldie, medical director for emergency medical services in Louisiana, said there was an unconfirmed report that as many as 100 bodies had been located in St. Bernard Parish.
The bodies are taken to mobile morgues set up in two parts of New Orleans, he said. They're examined and then stored until relatives can be found.
The 10 dead at the Superdome had all been on respirators.
"If you were ill before the storm and you were on a respirator and the power was knocked out then I count that as a storm-related death," Cataldie said.
Violence grips community
The 9th Ward, one of the most flood-damaged parts of the city, has been violent. A small parking lot is full of police cars, all with broken windows, some with doors pried open.
National Guard troops patrolled various areas, searching damaged buildings, but could do little but talk to people they found in the alleys and doorways.
Kenneth Crawford, 47, had stayed at his home, but he said youths he recognized from the neighborhood had been systematically robbing him.
They took his tools, his stereo, his lawnmower and pried the air-conditioning unit from his window. He figured they were stockpiling items somewhere to fence later.
In the 8th Ward, a helicopter from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada picked up 25 people from the Annunciation Inn retirement home.
Raquel Jackson, 33, was glad they were leaving. She lives across the street from the home and had been caring for the residents since the storm hit.
She, her friends and family who live with her cooked, guarded and entertained them.
She said she danced for them in high-heeled shoes and made them laugh. She got on the helicopter Sunday, too.
At the Audubon Zoo, only three of 1,400 animals died.
It has the good fortune of being located on some of the city's highest ground, but it also had a disaster plan for the animals that seemed to work better than the city's plan for humans. The only fatalities so far were two otters and a raccoon, zoo curator Dan Maloney said Sunday.
The biggest problem is the low-flying helicopters that scare the animals, said assistant curator Rick Dietz.
Reporter Andrew Guy in Baton Rouge and wire services contributed to this report. Chronicle reporter Dan Feldstein compiled this report in Houston.
Just wanted to give everyone an update from the region. When I wrote last time, I mentioned that God would eventually bring something good from all of this, and it is already happening - less than a week since the storm hit - read on....
While it will take years for people's lives to even resemble what they did 7 days ago - the stuff we're all watching on TV is pretty much how it is down there. I'm in touch daily with our BellSouth employees, many of whom have also lost their homes, schools, churches - basically everything in the storm. Our company has built (in four days) two tent cities (Gulfport MS and Baton Rouge) for our employees and their families who have been displaced - where they can come and sleep, get showers, food, emergency loans etc. That's great - but what's even better is that even though they've lost everything - they're still working to get lines of communication back up and running so that people can contact their families in the region. Presently, we're still over 1 million lines out - the customer problem reporting systems that I work on are struggling to keep up with all of the trouble reports coming in. Three of our central office call switching centers in Louisiana are still under water, and shots have been fired at our technicians working to restore service - go figure. All in all, it's going to be quite a while before many people can call out or be called. With the aid of mobile cell towers (on trucks), cell service is quickly being restored - but with no power, people can't charge their phones, so you know. I'm just mentioning all of the phone stuff in case and of you have friends or relatives that you're trying to contact but can't reach - it may be a while.
What good can come from this? I think it's all of the immense generosity that we're seeing take place. Our church is sending 40 volunteers with tents down to MS this week to help people rebuild their homes and clean up. People are taking complete strangers into their homes. Also, over the years our church has acquired a few adjacent homes to use for overflow classroom space - and now we're converting them back into houses with the goal of housing at least two refugee families for a year (or more). The Middle School where my son attends has already enrolled three new families who are living in a motel nearby. Everyone is doing something - maybe it takes such a catastrophic event for people to realize what's important in their lives - God, family, friends - and not so much material possessions and "stuff" which can be here one day and washed away the next.
I just returned from the Gulf region tonight. I saw many, many, military caravans, power company caravans, Red Cross caravans, etc. - I think the whole world is headed in to help.
It's just surreal.
OK, thanks for the Baghdad update. But how are things looking in New Orleans?
Samuel Delaney, I read of book of short stories by him. Very good writer. I might just add Dahlgren to my Amazon shopping cart. Thanks for the tip!
It is also time to re-read "A Confederacy of Dunces", soon to be a major motion picture, starring Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin.
It's a very strange book. Very well written. But very strange.
Consider yourself fore-warned ;-)
Thanks, I put that one on my wish list.
Good. It deals with survival and can teach the reader a lot.
Doesn't sound right. What about the 2 suicides, the 2 babies dead from dehydration and the 2 girls raped and killed. I've heard as many as 30 dead in the Superdome.
Yaeh. Just tryin to survive.
Is Katrina the USA's Chernobyl? A symbol of a coming end? I sure hope not.
You gotta admit that NOLA has a certain style.
EFFORTS by Hollywood actor Sean Penn to aid New Orleans victims stranded by Hurricane Katrina foundered badly overnight, when the boat he was piloting to launch a rescue attempt sprang a leak.
Penn had planned to rescue children waylaid by Katrina's flood waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch.
The actor, known for his political activism, was seen wearing what appeared to be a white flak jacket and frantically bailing water out of the sinking vessel with a red plastic cup.
When the boat's motor failed to start, those aboard were forced to use paddles to propel themselves down the flooded New Orleans street.
Asked what he had hoped to achieve in the waterlogged city, the actor replied: "Whatever I can do to help."
With the boat loaded with members of Penn's entourage, including a personal photographer, one bystander taunted the actor: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?"
OK, great picture. That picture needs to be posted in every thread that mentions Sean Penn's name.
LOL...whatever dreams of a political future this DUmmie had are now sunk, too, because video of this escapade and his pro-Saddam speech in Baghdad before the war would make hilarious campaign commercials for his opponent. Penn will have to try to find some remake of a remake to "star" in back in Follywood.
I notice many lib Follywood types are circling the TV cameras like buzzards during this disaster, garnering free publicity in a bid to kick-start sagging careers. Al Gore even made it to the NO airport on Saturday during the massive airlift of the sick, as though that was helpful. That's liberal compassion for you.
Oh, good grief.
That photo of Penn is a keeper! All that is missing is the Skipper smacking him over the head with his hat.
Sean Penn - what an idiot! Truth is that he probably had no intention of getting anywhere near New Orleans. After hearing of people being shot at, his boat "accidently" was unplugged. This way he can run around thumping his chest, all the while never actually putting himself at risk.
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