3
Sep
2005

Police fire warning shots at tourists trying to escape New Orleans

{Preface}

For those who complain that police aren't doing anything in response to the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, in the interest of equal time, I reprint an article to show that police are doing something -- shooting to kill or wound "looters" and "fir[ing] warning shots at tourists trying to escape New Orleans." -- Barry Schier

{Article}

Police fire warning shots at tourists trying to escape New Orleans

Fri Sep 2, 2:24 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - Frightened Japanese, European and American tourists told how police fired over their heads to end their attempt to leave New Orleans.

Stranded since Hurricane Katrina hit the city on Monday, the 200 tourists were thrown out of their hotel on Thursday morning and said they were confronted by police as they attempted to get to buses to take them to safety.

Turned back to the centre of New Orleans, where looters were still roaming the lawless streets, the tourists huddled together on their suitcases under a pavilion next to the Mississippi River.

The hotel in the French Quarter told the tourists to leave saying their safety could no longer be guaranteed.

They said police gave them conflicting information. At one stage they were told to head to the Superdome arena or the city's convention center where deadly shootings and rapes have been reported among the thousands of refugees.

Later, the tourists were told to make their way to a highway overpass where buses would take them to safety.

The tourists dragged their suitcases through a notoriously dangerous inner city neighborhood, got drenched in a thunderstorm and were then turned back.

"All of a sudden, police cruisers rushed in with sirens blaring," said Patty Murphy, a 57-year-old saleswoman from Massachussetts. "They were shooting over our heads telling us to go back."

The tourists, one walking on crutches, then trekked back to the relative safety of the Canal Street ferry terminal which faces the police command centre.

It has been a desperate four days for the visitors who had no power or water in the hotel. At one stage they chartered buses to get them out of town only to be told the vehicles had been commandeeered by the National Guard.

"We are lost," said Ryo Gotanda from Chiba, Japan as she ate a military ration pack handed out by police.

"We are tourists we don't know how to get around how to protect ourselves, it is like being in a jungle," said Gotanda, who studies in New York.

The worst part, she said, was walking through the tough inner-city neighborhood. "People were staring at us, waving clubs. I was scared, for the first time in my life I thought I would die," said Gotanda.

Many tourists said they felt tremendous sympathy for the people who had lost everything in the disaster. But they also questioned the lack of organisation by authorities.

"It is incredible that a country as powerful as the United states with its huge military cannot do better than this," said 18-year-old Aitor Fuste from Barcelona.

The tourists spent the night under the concrete pavilion hoping they would be safe and trying their best to comfort each other.

"We are obviously very happy to be alive," said Genie Whitfield, from Leitrin, Ireland, who was on her honeymoon in New Orleans.

She and her husband had tried to get out before the hurricane but all the flights were booked.

"It has been quite an experience but if we have kids ... we definitely won't call them Katrina," she said.

A 94-year-old local woman, Alicia Schultz, joined the group. She was carted around on a hotel trolley by her son Wenteslaus who told of an action packed four days.

"She had to walk about a quarter of a mile from her home, then she was put in a boat. She was supposed to get on a chopper but it never came."

"We eventually made our way to the convention center where my mum got knocked out during a fight," he said.

"She has been out in the sun and the rain for 72 hours. She's a little disoriented," said Schultz, while his mother chatted happily with tourists and other residents waiting under the pavilion.
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