2
Sep
2005

Anarchy in the USA

The Sun

By EMILY SMITH US Editor in New Orleans and CLODAGH HARTLEY

HURRICANE-ravaged New Orleans descended into a lawless hell last night.

Gangs armed with looted automatic weapons freely roamed the flooded US city, robbing homes, businesses — and hospitals.

Innocent civilians were at the mercy of the gun gangs as anarchy reigned — and even cops came under fire when maniacs walked into the city's police HQ firing their AK47 rifles.

Others shot at firemen battling to put out a blaze at the Oakwood Shopping Centre.

They also shot at an Army helicopter helping in the evacuation of
25,000 people who had sought refuge in the city's Superdome.

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Brusard said: "We have descended into hell. This is complete and total lawlessness."

Earlier a National Guardsman at the Superdome had been wounded by a gunshot.

The rescue operation had to be cancelled — leaving those at the stadium trapped in squalor.

The hunt for survivors of Monday's storm — feared to have killed thousands — was suspended as cops were ordered to hunt down looters instead.

Last night New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin made an urgent plea for more aid to help stricken citizens.

He said: "This is a desperate SOS. Right now we are out of resources and don't anticipate enough buses. We are running out of supplies."

Mr Nagin's pleas came as President Bush ordered in 10,000 more National Guard troops to boost the 10,000 already there. He vowed "zero tolerance" of lawbreaking.

Congress is expected to convene an emergency session in the next few days to pass a $10billion relief package.

With the ever-growing risk of disease from stinking water up to 20ft deep in places, many who failed to escape before the storm hit were in despair yesterday.

Rev Issac Clark, 68, said: "We are out here like pure animals. We don't have help."

Scenes of horror lay around every corner. Daniel Edwards, 47, pointed to an elderly woman dead in her wheelchair — a blanket thrown over her — and said: "I don't treat my dog like that."

Next to the woman another body lay wrapped in a sheet.

Elsewhere the body of an old man lay on a settee on a grass bank.

Around him hungry babies wailed. Mr Edwards said: "You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people. You can go overseas with the military but you can'tget them down here."

Armed gangs trying to get their hands on drugs attacked hospitals — already struggling without power.

Doctors and nurses had to fight them off.

A patient at a Ronald McDonald care home told how it was attacked by a mob.

Joseph Winn said: "They came in the windows saying they wanted the TVs, the furniture, everything.

"I told them we were a charity but they said, `Charity doesn't exist here anymore'."

The driver of an old folks' bus was carjacked by gunmen who threatened to kill him. Vital food, water and medical supplies were stolen en route to hospitals.

Nursing home boss Peggy Hoffman said: "Now we'll have to equip our department heads with guns and teach them how to shoot."

Half a million people fled as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the city — but 40,000 are estimated to have been left behind.

There were Third World-style scenes yesterday as crowds fought to get on buses from evacuation centres where they had been taken.

Many, including mums with children and the elderly and sick, had spent a night with no shelter.

They included thousands packing the muddy banks of a once busy motorway. They pushed, begged and cried out to officials to let them on to just a few buses waiting to take them away.

Leon Nunez, 80, was worried about his diabetic wife Muriel, 79, who lay unable to move after no food for days. He said: "I'm worried we will die waiting.

Meanwhile disabled people were trampled in the stampede for coaches. The sick begged for help, including wheezing children whose asthma drugs were swept away by the storm.

Arthur Dennis, 37, said: "Why do I feel like I'm going to die before I get on a rescue bus?"

He had been trapped on a roof for three days with no food or water.

Arthur said: "I saw dead bodies floating by with the snakes. But it's almost worse here. People are getting violent."

Meanwhile the mobs were getting closer as across the city gunshots rang out and fires raged.

Thugs smashed their way into a Walmart superstore and used dustbins and inflatable mattresses to float away food, clothes, TV sets — and stolen weapons.

There were similar scenes in other devastated towns on the US Gulf Coast, including Biloxi and Gulfport.

Those evacuated may not be allowed to return to their homes for months — by which time there could be little left.

Conditions in the huge refugee camp at the Superdome were becoming unbearable last night — fuelled by heat and humidity.

Angry crowds tried to flee but were held back by troops. Fights broke out — and there was horror when at least seven bodies were spotted in the water outside.

Around 20 British tourists are among those there.

Wayne Henry got a text message from son Peter, 20, late last night telling him he had endured the "worst two days of his life".

//www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2005400726,00.html


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