8/31/2005

CNN.com - Floodwaters, tensions rise in New Orleans - Aug 31, 2005

Infrastructuture is the first area neglected by greedy administrators, because it usually takes more than 4 years for the neglect to hit and by that time the guy is gone. But Bushco got re-elected so now they are having to take the blame for their own greed 4 years before. Will they admit responsibility ? Never! -- law

Governor: 'This is a tragedy of great proportions'

Wednesday, August 31, 2005; Posted: 5:28 a.m. EDT (09:28 GMT)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- National Guard troops moved toward the French Quarter in an effort to stop rising unrest in flood-stricken New Orleans late Tuesday as police reported looting, attempted carjackings and shootings near the city's main shelter.

A day after being pummeled by Hurricane Katrina, the Crescent City had no power, little drinking water, dwindling food supplies and water rising in the streets.

Water levels continued to rise downtown after sections of two levees collapsed, leaving 80 percent of the city under water as deep as 20 feet in places. (See photographer's account of coastal damage -- 3:29 )

Authorities warned that efforts to limit the flooding have been unsuccessful, and that residents may not be able to return home for a month.

"It's a difficult, difficult situation," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco told CNN. "The Corps Of Engineers has attempted to fix the situation under emergency conditions. They're not the best conditions, and probably too little, too late."

Water from Lake Pontchartrain was pouring into downtown from levee breaches, rising steadily throughout the day along Canal Street, the main thoroughfare that separates the central business district from the French Quarter. (Map)

Coast Guard crews in helicopters continued to pluck people stranded on the roofs of their inundated houses, while state and local rescue crews used boats to reach residents marooned by the floods. (Watch the video account of unanswered screams -- 1:57)

Wildlife and Fisheries workers rescued more than 3,000 people Tuesday, Sen. Mary Landrieu told a reporter.

More than 1,200 people were rescued Monday, and a Coast Guard spokesman said Tuesday night that rescuers "really have no idea" how many people remain stranded.

Two major medical centers, Charity Hospital and Tulane University Hospital, had to be evacuated because of rising water and power outages.
Widespread looting

Hundreds of people were looting businesses downtown, throwing rocks through windows and hauling away goods from stores. Some looters were brazenly trying on clothes in the street. Police said the looting was happening citywide.

Landrieu said she "can understand" how some people might loot to get food or water, but said she had no tolerance for people motivated by avarice. Such lawlessness "is the worst kind of behavior."

By mid-afternoon, officers armed with automatic weapons could be seen on downtown streets, and sporadic gunfire could be heard, although the source was unclear.

A police officer told CNN that three shootings, widespread looting and a number of attempted carjackings had been reported near the Louisiana Superdome, where more than 20,000 people were holed up in the city's shelter of last resort.

National Guard troops were moving down Canal Street in an effort to restore order to a business district that had been hard-hit by looters earlier Tuesday.

Helicopters were moving 200 critically ill patients to other hospitals because rising water was threatening to take out backup generators, she said.

Patients were being carried to the roof of the hospital's parking garage and airlifted one or two at a time, she said.

"We've got rising water in the hospital," she said. "It's an unbelievable situation. We're completely surrounded by water. There's looting going on in the streets around the hospital."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was moving 39 disaster assistance medical teams into the area, FEMA officials in Baton Rouge told CNN.

Smoke could also be seen on the horizon Tuesday afternoon, with at least one large building ablaze.

While the source of the fires was unclear, one plume of smoke was coming from an area on the west bank of the Mississippi River where oil and chemical storage facilities are located.

Floodwater also submerged the Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish jails. Inmates were relocated to an elevated freeway on-ramp nearby, where they sat in the sun under the watch of armed officers.
'It was hell'

Many of those rescued from roofs were being added to the crowd at the Superdome, prompting officials to open the nearby New Orleans Arena to provide additional shelter.

The arena seats about 17,000 people; the Superdome can seat more than 69,000. (Full story)

A survivor who made it to the Louisiana Superdome in downtown New Orleans described bashing a hole in the roof of her home with an ax, The Associated Press reported.

"Oh my God, it was hell," Kioka Williams, 23, told the AP. "We were screaming, hollering, flashing lights. It was complete chaos."

Overwhelmed by the scale of the destruction, officials in Louisiana were not even attempting to estimate how many people may have lost their lives.

Only two deaths were being blamed on the storm so far, but that toll is expected to rise significantly.

"This is a tragedy of great proportions, greater than any we've see in our lifetimes," Blanco said. "We know many lives have been lost."

The governor also said it was "impossible to even begin to estimate" how long it will take to restore power and drinking water in New Orleans.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported three breaches in the levee system that protects New Orleans, much of which lies under sea level. (See video explaining where water flowed when the levee gave way -- 2:11)

A floodwall at the 17th Street Canal and Lake Pontchartrain collapsed Monday night after water overtopped the structure and undermined it.

Earlier, during the storm, a breach occurred along the Industrial Canal in the eastern part of the city, sending a cascade of water into the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood, where many of the rooftop rescues were taking place.

The corps said it planned to take "all assets available" into the city to plug the breaches, including rock, gigantic sand bags and cranes. Fixing the levee breaks is "essential" to removing water from the city, the corps said.

Major routes into the city were cut off as well. Two seven-mile bridge spans that carry Interstate 10 over Lake Pontchartrain suffered catastrophic damage, with concrete sections torn apart along both the eastbound and westbound spans. (See video of the bridge collapse -- 1:58 )

All airports in the area were closed to commercial service and may remain closed Wednesday, said Roland Herwig, an FAA spokesman.

One runway at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, west of the city, opened Tuesday, but only for emergency relief flights, he said.

"We'll have to see," Herwig said. "We're taking it a day at a time."

The entire downtown area of Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans in St. Tammany Parish, was under 15 feet of water, emergency management officials said.

Tim Whitmer, chief administrative officer of Jefferson Parish, which includes part of metropolitan New Orleans, said parish President Aaron Broussard had ordered the parish off-limits until next week.

"Jefferson Parish is closed," he said. "It's just not a place to be."

CNN.com - Floodwaters, tensions rise in New Orleans - Aug 31, 2005

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