TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: On Move Again, Katrina Evacuees Now Flee Rita

On Move Again, Katrina Evacuees Now Flee Rita

Michael Graczyk (
Tue, 20 Sep 2005 17:25:27 -0500

By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer

They waded through the chest-high floodwaters in the streets of New
Orleans. They were plucked from their rooftops in the rescue baskets
of helicopters. They survived the hell of the Louisiana Superdome and
a 350-mile bus ride to Texas.

Now, just a few weeks after getting settled at emergency shelters in
Houston, Hurricane Katrina evacuees are on the move again to escape
another storm.

"This reminds me of the Israelites marching in the desert," Norman
Bethancourt, 51, said as he waited for a bus to take him from Reliant
Arena to Ellington Field, where he and the other refugees were set to
board planes bound for a military base in Arkansas.

About 1,100 evacuees -- down from a high of nearly 10,000 -- living in
Houston's two largest shelters, Reliant Arena and the George R. Brown
Convention Center, began making their way to Fort Chaffee, Ark., as
Hurricane Rita strengthened into a hurricane and lashed the Florida
Keys with heavy rain and strong wind.

Forecasters said Rita would continue to gain strength as it crossed
the warm Gulf of Mexico and would probably come ashore in Texas over
the weekend.

Houston officials said moving the evacuees was necessary because the
shelters might not hold up in a major hurricane. They hoped to have
everyone moved by Tuesday night.

The evacuees carried little. Some had a backpack, others a plastic
bag. A few had pillows. One girl, tears streaming down her face,
carried a stuffed toy in a little cage.

"A lot of people didn't want to go," said Wayne Sylvester, who was
wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed: "I Survived Katrina." "It looks
like the storm is following me. Choice is you don't have a choice."

Many of the evacuees were not happy about leaving for Arkansas and
were looking for somewhere else to go.

"Hell. It's been pure hell," said Lisa Banks, 33, who was outside
Reliant Arena with her four children, ages 8 to 15. "I'm not going to
Arkansas. I feel like a rag doll, people throwing me around."

Seated on chair, she kept a black plastic garbage bag nearby. It was
filled with towels. Banks, who was airlifted with her family out of
their home in New Orleans, had hoped to settle in Houston, find a job
and a place to live.

I don't know what's going to happen next," she said. "We really don't
know what to do. We were supposed to get housing here."


"No," she said adamantly. "Arkansas is not a good place for me."

"I don't even know where that's at," said Michael Russell, as he ate
his lunch of macaroni and cheese and a sausage while he waited for his
brother. They hoped to get to Hammond, La., not Arkansas. Both are
from New Orleans.

Texas officials also were planning to move Louisiana evacuees out of
shelters in Corpus Christi and Beaumont. In all, some 4,000 were
headed for Arkansas and 3,000 to Tennessee.

At Reliant, Carmelita Speed, 25, clutched a box of tissue and
periodically dabbed at tears. She reluctantly was going to the plane
and Arkansas.

"I hope and pray it isn't like the Superdome," Speed said, describing
how for days there she "slept on the ground, or on cardboard."

Her boyfriend, Roland Mitt, said: "I'm running out of patience. I'm
upset. I'm mad. I'm disgusted. All of the above."

"I just want to live peacefully and have a happy life," Speed said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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