TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: New Orleans Social Breakdown

New Orleans Social Breakdown

Holbrook Mohr (
Tue, 30 Aug 2005 17:27:17 -0500

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The first several articles in this
issue of the Digest for Wednesday are devoted to the _massive_
destruction in New Orleans as well as Gulfport and Biloxi, MS, not
just the physical destruction and loss of lives, but the rioting
and looting going on as well. The telecommunications networks are
mostly out of order as well. PAT]

Water Continues to Rise in New Orleans
By HOLBROOK MOHR, Associated Press Writer

Rescuers in boats and helicopters struggled to reach hundreds of wet
and bedraggled victims of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast on
Tuesday, while New Orleans slipped deeper into crisis as water began
rising in the streets because of a levee break.

The magnitude of the disaster -- and the death toll in particular --
became clearer with every tale of misery. Mississippi's governor said
the number of dead in one county alone could be as high as 80.

"At first light, the devastation is greater than our worst fears. It's
just totally overwhelming," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the
morning after Katrina howled ashore with winds of 145 mph and engulfed
thousands of homes in one of the most punishing storms on record in
the United States.

Bill Lokey, an official with the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
called Katrina "the most significant natural disaster to hit the
United States."

In New Orleans, water began rising in the streets Tuesday morning,
swamping an estimated 80 percent of the city and prompting the
evacuation of hotels and hospitals. The water was also rising
perilously inside New Orleans' Superdome, and Blanco said the tens of
thousands of people now huddled there and other shelters would have to
be evacuated as well.

"The situation is untenable," Blanco said at a news conference. "It's
just heartbreaking."

Because of two levees that broke Tuesday, the city was rapidly filling
with water, the governor said. She also said the power could be out
for a long time, and the storm broke a major water main, leaving the
city without drinkable water. Also, looting broke out in some

New Orleans lies mostly below sea level and is protected by a network
of pumps, canals and levees. Officials began using helicopters to drop
3,000-pound sandbags onto one of the levees, hoping to close the

All day, rescuers were also seen using helicopters to drop lifelines
to victims and pluck them from the roofs of homes cut off by
floodwaters. The Coast Guard said it rescued some 1,200 people.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said hundreds, if not thousands, of people
may still be stuck on roofs roofs and in attics, and so rescue boats
were bypassing the dead.

"We're not even dealing with dead bodies," Nagin said. "They're just
pushing them on the side." A reporter saw an example of this, with a
dead human being floating in the way of their rowboat; using a stick,
the body was shoved aside, along with the cockroaches and red ants
which were crawling all over it.

National Guardsmen brought in people from outlying areas to New
Orleans' Superdome in the backs of big 2 1/2-ton Army trucks.
Louisiana's wildlife enforcement department also brought people in on
the backs of their pickups. Some were wet, some were in wheelchairs,
some were holding babies and nothing else. Superdome was to be only a
stopover, a transfer point, since authorities had earlier decided the
many thousands of people who had taken shelter there in Superdome
would have to be evacuated also; water had begun to enter that place
as well.

Nevertheless, it was clear the death toll would rise sharply, with one
survivor after another telling of friends and loved ones who floated
off or disappeared as the floodwaters rose around them.

"I talked with paramedics that are on the scene and the devastation is
so great that they won't quit counting (bodies) for a while," said
Mark Williams, operations supervisor for an ambulance service along
the Mississippi coast. On Monday, paramedics made feeble efforts to
assist some residents; now today the same paramedics are busy attempting
to evacuate Charity Hospital by taking the old, very sick patients over
to Superdome, where they will wait with thousands of other folks until
eventually they figure out a way to evacuate everyone who is left and
still alive.

Along the coast, tree trunks, downed power lines and trees, and chunks
of broken concrete in the streets prevented rescuers from reaching
victims. Swirling water in many areas contained hidden dangers. Crews
worked to clear highways. Along one Mississippi highway, motorists
themselves used chainsaws to remove trees blocking the road. Animal
carcasses floated along in places in the acrid, filthy water.

Tens of thousands of people will need shelter for weeks if not months,
said Mike Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management
Agency. And once the floodwaters go down, "it's going to be incredibly
dangerous" because of structural damage to homes, diseases from animal
carcasses and chemicals in homes, he said.

An estimated 40,000 people were in American Red Cross shelters along
the Gulf Coast.

Officials warned people against trying to return to their homes,
saying that would only interfere with the rescue and recovery efforts.

Looting broke out in Biloxi and in New Orleans, in some cases in full
view of police and National Guardsmen. On New Orleans' Canal Street,
the main thoroughfare in the central business district, looters
sloshed through hip-deep water and ripped open the steel gates on the
front of several clothing and jewelry stores.


** "The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked,"
said Jackie Clarkson, a New Orleans councilwoman. "We're using
exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used
for search and rescue."

Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley said that in one case, a looter shot
and wounded another looter, and the mayor was asking for martial law
to be imposed. **

People were seen running down the streets with bags of food and
clothing taken from stores. When asked, most of them insisted they
were not 'looters' but were simply looking for ways to feed and clothe
their families.


More than 1,600 Mississippi National Guardsmen were activated to help
with the recovery, and the Alabama Guard sent 800 of its soldiers to
Mississippi as well.

In New Orleans, a city of 480,000 that was mostly evacuated over the
weekend as Katrina closed in, those who stayed behind faced another,
delayed threat: rising water. Failed pumps and levees apparently sent
water from Lake Pontchartrain coursing through the streets.

The rising water forced one New Orleans hospital to move patients to
the Superdome, where some 10,000 people had taken shelter, and
prompted the staff of New Orleans' Times-Picayune newspaper to abandon
its offices, authorities said. Hotels were evacuated as well as the
water kept rising.

Downtown streets that were relatively clear in the hours after the storm
were filled with 1 to 1 1/2 feet of water Tuesday morning. Water was
knee-deep around the Superdome. Canal Street was literally a canal. Water
lapped at the edge of the French Quarter. Clumps of red ants floated in the
gasoline-fouled waters downtown, sometimes feasting on dead animals
and other garbage.

"It's a very slow rise, and it will remain so until we plug that
breach. I think we can get it stabilized in a few hours," said Terry
Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief.

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi said there were unconfirmed reports
of up to 80 deaths in Harrison County -- which includes devastated
Gulfport and Biloxi -- and the number was likely to rise. An untold
number of people were also feared dead in Louisiana. At least five
other deaths across the Gulf Coast were blamed on Katrina.

"We know that there is a lot of the coast that we have not been able
to get to," Barbour said on NBC's "Today Show." "I hate to say it, but
it looks like it is a very bad disaster in terms of human life."

As for the death toll in Louisiana, Blanco said only: "We have no
counts whatsoever, but we know many lives have been lost."

At the Superdome, someone died after plunging from an upper level of
the stadium, Ebbert said. He said the person probably jumped.

The biggest known cluster of deaths was at the Quiet Water Beach
apartments in Biloxi, a red-brick beachfront complex of about 100
units. Harrison County, Miss., emergency operations center spokesman
Jim Pollard said about 30 people died there.

"This is our tsunami," Mayor A. J. Holloway of Biloxi, Miss., told The
Biloxi Sun Herald.

Joy Schovest, 55, was in the apartment complex with her boyfriend, Joe
Calvin, when the water began rising. They stayed despite a mandatory
evacuation order.

"The water got higher and higher," she said, breaking into tears. "It
pushed all the doors open and we swam out. We grabbed a lady and
pulled her out the window and then we swam with the current. It was
terrifying. You should have seen the cars floating around us. We had
to push them away when we were trying to swim."

Teresa Kavanagh, 35, of Biloxi, shook her head is disbelief as she
took photographs of the damage in her hometown.

"Total devastation. Apartment complexes are wiped clean. We're going
to rebuild, but it's going to take long time. Houses that withstood
Camille are nothing but slab now," she said. Hurricane Camille killed
256 people in Louisiana and Mississippi in 1969.

The hurricane knocked out power to millions of people from Louisiana
to the Florida Panhandle, and authorities said it could be two months
before electricity is restored to everyone.

Oil prices jumped by more than $3 a barrel on Tuesday, climbing above
$70 a barrel, amid uncertainty about the extent of the damage to the
Gulf region's refineries and drilling platforms.

By midday Tuesday, Katrina was downgraded to a tropical depression,
with winds around 35 mph. It was moving northeast through Tennessee at
around 21 mph.

Forecasters said that as the storm moves north over the next few days,
it could swamp the Tennessee and Ohio valleys with a potentially
ruinous 8 inches or more of rain. On Monday, Katrina's remnants spun
off tornadoes and other storms in Georgia that smashed dozens of
buildings and were blamed for at least one death.

According to preliminary assessments by AIR Worldwide Corp., a risk
assessment company, the 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.

Anne Anderson said she lost her family home in Gulfport.

"My family's an old Mississippi family. I had antiques, 150 years old
or more, they're all gone. We have just basically a slab," she told
NBC. She added: "Behind us we have a beautiful sunrise and sunset, and
that is going to be what I'm going to miss the most, sitting on the
porch watching those."

Associated Press reporters Mary Foster, Allen G. Breed, Brett Martel, Adam
Nossiter and Jay Reeves contributed to this report.

On the Net:

National Hurricane Center:

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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