BRETT MARTEL, Associated Press Writer
The governor of Louisiana says everyone needs to leave New Orleans due
to flooding from Hurricane Katrina. "We've sent buses in. We will be
either loading them by boat, helicopter, anything that is necessary,"
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. Army engineers struggled without success to
plug New Orleans' breached levees with giant sandbags, and the
governor said Wednesday the situation was worsening and there was no
choice but to abandon the flooded city. There are no exceptions to
"The challenge is an engineering nightmare," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said
on ABC's "Good Morning America." "The National Guard has been dropping
sandbags into it, but it's like dropping it into a black hole. It has
As the waters continued to rise in New Orleans, four Navy ships raced
toward the Gulf Coast with drinking water and other emergency
supplies, and Red Cross workers from across the country converged on
the devastated region. The Red Cross reported it had about 40,000
people in 200 shelters across the area in one of the biggest urban
disasters the nation has ever seen.
The death toll from Hurricane Katrina reached at least 110 in
Mississippi alone, while Louisiana put aside the counting of the dead
to concentrate on rescuing the living, many of whom were still trapped
on rooftops and in attics.
A full day after the Big Easy thought it had escaped Katrina's full
fury, two levees broke and spilled water into the streets on Tuesday,
swamping an estimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level
city, inundating miles and miles of homes and rendering much of New
Orleans uninhabitable for weeks or months.
"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in," Mayor
Ray Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America, "and the other issue
that's concerning me is have dead bodies in the water. At some point
in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease
Blanco said she wanted the Superdome -- which had become a shelter of
last resort for about 20,000 people - evacuated within two days, along
with other gathering points for storm refugees. The situation inside
the dank and sweltering Superdome was becoming desperate: The water
was rising, the air conditioning was out, toilets were broken, and
tempers were rising. Many of the temporary residents of this shelter
of last resort have begun arguing with each other and becoming violent.
At the same time, sections of Interstate 10, the only major freeway
leading into New Orleans from the east, lay shattered, dozens of huge
slabs of concrete floating in the floodwaters. I-10 is the only route
for commercial trucking across southern Louisiana.
The sweltering city of 480,000 people -- an estimated 80 percent of
whom obeyed orders to evacuate as Katrina closed in over the weekend
-- also had no drinkable water, the electricity could be out for
weeks, and looters were ransacking stores around town, firing guns as
needed to scare away any resistance to their tactics.
"The logistical problems are impossible and we have to evacuate people
in shelters," the governor said. "It's becoming untenable. There's no
power. It's getting more difficult to get food and water supplies in,
just basic essentials. We had thought frail and sick people would be
safe in Superdome, but that is unrealistic also. Still, Charity (Hospital)
and other such institutions are moving their patients over to
Superdome, under the assumption 'something is better than nothing'."
She gave no details on exactly where the refugees would be taken. But
in Houston, Rusty Cornelius, a county emergency official, said at
least 25,000 of them would travel in a bus convoy to Houston starting
Wednesday and would be sheltered at the 40-year-old Astrodome, which
is no longer used for professional sporting events.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was considering putting people
on cruise ships, in tent cities, mobile home parks, and so-called
floating dormitories -- boats the agency uses to house its own
To repair one of the levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain, officials
late Tuesday dropped 3,000-pound sandbags from helicopters and hauled
dozens of 15-foot concrete barriers into the breach. Maj. Gen. Don
Riley of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said officials also had a
more audacious plan: finding a barge to plug the 500-foot hole. Right
now, Pontchartrain, and the Mississippi River are simply swapping
their contents back and forth, via New Orleans; the fast rise of the
water level has slowed down somewhat, as water seeks its own level.
Riley said it could take close to two months to get the water out of the
city. If the water rises a few feet higher, it could also wipe out
the water system for the whole city, said New Orleans' homeland
security chief, Terry Ebbert.
A helicopter view of the devastation over Louisiana and Mississippi
revealed people standing on black rooftops, baking in the sunshine
while waiting for rescue boats.
"I can only imagine that this is what Hiroshima looked like 60 years
ago," said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour after touring the
destruction by air Tuesday.
All day long, rescuers in boats and helicopters plucked bedraggled
flood refugees from rooftops and attics. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch
Landrieu said 3,000 people have been rescued by boat and air, some
placed shivering and wet into helicopter baskets. They were brought by
the truckload into shelters, some in wheelchairs and some carrying
babies, with stories of survival and of those who didn't make it.
"Oh my God, it was hell," said Kioka Williams, who had to hack through
the ceiling of the beauty shop where she worked as floodwaters rose in
New Orleans' low-lying Ninth Ward. "We were screaming, hollering,
flashing lights. It was complete chaos."
Looting broke out in some New Orleans neighborhoods, prompting author-
ities to send more than 70 additional officers and an armed personnel
carrier into the city. One police officer was shot in the head by a
looter but was expected to recover, authorities said.
A giant new Wal-Mart SuperCenter in New Orleans was looted, and the
entire gun collection was taken, The Times-Picayune newspaper
reported. "There are gangs of armed men in the city moving around the
city, some attempting to act as police officers while others are
simply looting and pilaging" said Ebbert, the city's homeland security
chief. Also, looters tried to break into Children's Hospital, the
governor's office said.
On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters ripped open the steel
gates on clothing and jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise. In
Biloxi, Miss., people picked through casino slot machines for coins
and ransacked other businesses. In some cases, the looting took place
in full view of police and National Guardsmen.
Blanco acknowledged that looting was a severe problem but said that
officials had to focus on survivors. "We don't like looters one bit,
but first and foremost is search and rescue," she said.
Officials said it was simply too early to estimate a death toll. One
Mississippi county alone said it had suffered at least 100 deaths, and
officials are "very, very worried that this is going to go a lot
higher, based on corpses seen floating in the water" said Joe
Spraggins, civil defense director for Harrison County, home to Biloxi
and Gulfport. In neighboring Jackson County, officials said at least
10 deaths were blamed on the storm.
Several of the dead in Harrison County were from a beachfront
apartment building that collapsed under a 25-foot wall of water as
Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast with 145-mph winds
Monday. Louisiana officials said many were feared dead there, too,
making Katrina one of the most punishing storms to hit the United
States in decades.
Blanco asked residents to spend Wednesday in prayer.
"That would be the best thing to calm our spirits and thank our Lord
that we are survivors," she said. "Slowly, gradually, we will recover;
we will survive; we will rebuild."
Across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, more than 1 million
residents remained without electricity, some without clean drinking
water. Officials said it could be weeks, if not months, before most
evacuees will be able to return.
Emergency medical teams from across the country were sent into the
region and President Bush cut short his Texas vacation Tuesday to
return to Washington to focus on the storm damage.
Also, the Bush administration decided to release crude oil from
federal petroleum reserves to help refiners whose supply was disrupted
by Katrina. The announcement helped push oil prices lower.
Katrina, which was downgraded to a tropical depression, packed winds
around 30 mph as it moved through the Ohio Valley early Wednesday,
with the potential to dump 8 inches of rain and spin off deadly
The remnants of Katrina spawned bands of storms and tornadoes across
Georgia that caused at least two deaths, multiple injuries and leveled
dozens of buildings. A tornado damaged 13 homes near Marshall, Va.
The governor of Louisiana, the Mayor of New Orleans and various other
community leaders urged everyone remaining to "gather up what you can
of your possessions (at SuperDome or wherever) and please evacuate;
you will be taken in a bus convoy or by boat or helicopter to a safe
place, most likely Houston."
Associated Press reporters Holbrook Mohr, Mary Foster, Allen G. Breed, Adam
Nossiter and Jay Reeves contributed to this report.
On the Net:
National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: To me it seems unrealistic to expect
any restoral of telecom service in the near future for New Orleans. PAT]