UPDATE: New Orleans Evacuations Continue; Military Moves in to Control Looting, Riots

September 1, 2005

In what New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called ‘A Desperate SOS,” city, state and federal officials worked into the evening Thursday trying to evacuate refugees from the Louisiana Superdome, who are headed to Houston’s Astrodome 12 hours to the west by bus.

Several other Texas cities, including San Antonio, were being set up to stage refugees who have nowhere to go following Hurricane Katrina’s deadly hit on Louisiana earlier in the week. Authorities can’t get an accurate toll of the dead in and around New Orleans due to the high waters, but several television stations showed bodies on Thursday laying on sides of roads.

Across from the Superdome, chaos took over outside the New Orleans Convention Center, where a number of refugees told the media that they had felt abandoned, with no buses or help available. Reports of gunfire, fires and rapes were reported in the area of the Superdome during the day.

A military heliocpter reportedly tried to land at the convention center a couple of times to drop off food and water. But the rushing crowd forced the choppers to stay airborne. Troopers then threw the supplies to the crowd some 10 feet off the ground and flew away. One New Orleans hospital was reportedly under armed guard to prevent people living on the streets from entering and taking supplies or seeking refuge.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco appealed for calm and said that officials expect thousands of deaths when everyone is eventually accounted for.

President Bush was to tour the hurricane devastated Gulf Coast region on Friday and has asked his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and former President Clinton to head a private fund-raising campaign to help victims recover, much like they did during last December’s deadly tsunami in southeast Asia.

For those that did escape the city and parishes before Katrina struck last Monday and are staying with relatives in other states, concerns remained for what they would find of their homes when they are eventually allowed to return, which could be weeks or months.

Meantime, officials were concerned of major health problems in the New Orleans area, as flood waters continued to lay throughout the city, some with dead bodies floating in them. Cholera, typhoid and other potential diseases could result from the standing water, as temperatures continued to hover around 90 degrees in the late August heat.

Officials in neighboring Mississippi and Alabama were still in a rescue mode, trying to find citizens buried beneath collapsed homes and businesses. One Mississippi report estimated the death toll in the Magnolia State at more than 126.

Nearly 2 million customers were reportedly without power in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

In Georgia, Gov. Sonny Perdue vowed to crack down on any merchants who were price gouging customers, especially at gas stations. One Georgia station was reportedly selling regular unleaded gas on Wednesday for more than $5.50 a gallon.

Editor’s note: Stay tuned to Insurance Journal for updated coverage on the property damages and rescue efforts. Related stories appear in National, Southeast and Texas/South Central news.

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