Katrina: People Dying at New Orleans Convention Center
CNN reports that numerous people displaced by Hurricane Katrina at dying at the New Orleans convention center.
Thousands of people forced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina have crammed into the New Orleans convention center, where they’ve had no food, no water and no word on when help would come. And people are dying. CNN’s Chris Lawrence described “many, many” bodies, inside and outside the facility on New Orleans’ Riverwalk. “There are multiple people dying at the convention center,” he said. “There was an old woman, dead in a wheelchair with a blanket draped over her, pushed up against a wall. Horrible, horrible conditions. “We saw a man who went into a seizure, literally dying right in front of us.” People were “being forced to lived like animals,” Lawrence said — surrounded by piles of trash and feces.
He said while he has seen police SWAT teams drive by in armored vehicles, no one has stopped to talk with the refugees. People are asking, ‘Where are the buses? Where is the plan? Where is the help?” he said. More people were arriving at the center, walking south along Canal Street. The route north to the Superdome is blocked by chest-deep water. The convention center was used as a secondary shelter when the Louisiana Superdome was overwhelmed.
As reports indicated a mounting death toll in New Orleans, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said that “we understand there are thousands of dead people” in Louisiana, according to media reports. Meanwhile, boat rescues in some areas of flooded out New Orleans have been curtailed because of violence, officials said Thursday. “There are isolated incidents where security has become an issue for our rescue efforts but only isolated incidents. FEMA is not suspending operations,” said Natalie Rule of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington.
The Coast Guard also said it is avoiding areas where there are reports of gunfire. “We’re having to hold off going in until we’re assured that the areas are safe to transit,” said USCG Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Carter. “We’re following the lead of FEMA on that.” He added, “We’re not shut down. There’s a wide area where we’re still doing rescues. There’s still plenty of people out there.”
Widespread looting and random gunfire have been reported across the city. Police told CNN that groups of armed men roamed the streets overnight. Officers told CNN they lacked manpower and steady communications to properly do their jobs — and that they needed help to prevent the widespread looting and violence now prevalent in the city.
A police officer working in downtown New Orleans said police were siphoning gas from abandoned vehicles in an effort to keep their squad cars running, CNN’s Chris Lawrence reported. The officer said police are “on their own” for food and water, scrounging up what they can from anybody who is generous enough to give them some — and that they have no communication whatsoever. Police also told CNN they were removing ammunition from looted gunshops in an effort to get it off the streets. The head of Acadian Ambulance Service, Richard Zuschlag, said Wednesday that a generator was stolen from his command center and an ambulance was tipped over as his workers tried to evacuate hospitals.