The Shot Heard 'Round the World
WWLTV, New Orleans: The evacuation of the Superdome was temporarily disrupted Thursday after a shot was reported fired at a military helicopter. An air ambulance service official said that helicopter transfers of the sick and injured were suspended.
The Superdome became increasingly chaotic, with thousands of people rushing from nearby hotels and other buildings, hoping to climb onto the buses taking evacuees from the arena. Paramedics became increasingly alarmed by the sight of people with guns.
Thursday morning, a seething sea of tense, unhappy, people packed shoulder-to-shoulder up to the barricades where heavily armed National Guardsmen stood. Trash fires burning outside the Superdome.
Terry Ebbert, Chief of Homeland Security for New Orleans called FEMA a "disgrace": This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace," he said. "FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans. Walter Maestri of Jefferson Parish says he never once saw a FEMA official. The Federal Emergency Management Administration is a utter failure.
Meanwhile, around the New Orleans Convention Center has become an outdoor morgue as children and infants wail.
It's hard to believe this is New Orleans. We spent the last few hours at the New Orleans Convention Center. There are thousands of people lying in the street. We saw mothers holding babies, some of them just three, four and five months old, living in horrible conditions. Diapers littered the ground. Feces were on the ground. Sewage was spilled all around. These people are being forced to live like animals. When you look at the mothers, your heart just breaks.
Some of the images we have gathered are very, very graphic.
We saw dead bodies. People are dying at the center and there is no one to get them. We saw a grandmother in a wheelchair pushed up to the wall and covered with a sheet. Right next to her was another dead body wrapped in a white sheet. Right in front of us a man went into a seizure on the ground. No one here has medical training. There is nowhere to evacuate these people to. People have been sitting there without food and water and waiting. They are asking -- "When are the buses coming? When are they coming to help us?" We just had to say we don't know.
The people tell us that National Guard units have come by as a show of force. They have tossed some military rations out. People are eating potato chips to survive and are looting some of the stores nearby for food and drink. It is not the kind of food these people need. They are saying, "Don't leave us here to die. We are stuck here. Why can't they send th buses? Are they going to leave us here to die?" [CNN]
3:20 p.m. Mayor: New Orleans Slipping Toward Anarchy
New Orleans is slipping toward anarchy, and the mayor is appealing for help. As the mayor puts it, "This is a desperate S.O.S." In a statement to CNN, Mayor Ray Nagin said resources at the Convention Center, where thousands of refugees have gathered, are nearly depleted. Nagin said the facility is unsanitary and unsafe. Around New Orleans, fights and fires have erupted, and corpses are openly scattered throughout the city. Rescue helicopters and law enforcement officers have been targeted by gunfire.
4:15 P.M. - (AP): Police say storm victims are being raped and beaten inside the New Orleans Convention Center. About 15,200 people who had taken shelter at the convention center to await buses grew increasingly hostile. Police Chief Eddie Compass says he sent in 88 officers to quell the situation at the building, but they were quickly beaten back by an angry mob. Compass says, "We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten." He says tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon.
7:30 p.m.: Bodies Piling Up Outside Convention Center
At least seven dead bodies were scattered among the thousands of storm refugees 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 longue in a grassy median, as hungry babies wailed around him.
The street outside the 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.