Thu, Sep 01, 2005 - Page 1 News List

New Orleans reels under worsening floods, looting


Along the Gulf of Mexico coast, there was simply no time to even count the dead. Engineers scrambled to plug two broken New Orleans levees and rescuers searched for survivors clinging to both hope and rooftops as the swirling, tea-colored water continued to rise.

The flooding in New Orleans grew worse by the minute on Tuesday, prompting Governor Kathleen Blanco to say that everyone still in the city, now huddled in the Superdome and other rescue centers, needs to leave. She said she wanted the Superdome evacuated within two days, but it was still unclear where the people would go.

"The situation is worsening," Blanco said on ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday. Asked if New Orleans would have to be evacuated, she said, "I don't think we can do anything else right now."

To repair damage to one of the levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain, officials late on Tuesday dropped 1,350kg sandbags from helicopters and hauled dozens of 4.5m concrete barriers into the breach. Major General Don Riley of the US Army Corps of Engineers said officials also had a more audacious plan: finding a barge to plug the 130m hole.

"The challenge is an engineering nightmare," Blanco said. "The National Guard has been dropping sandbags into it, but it's like dropping it into a black hole."

Riley said it could take close to a month to get all the flood 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.

The US Navy is sending four ships carrying water and other supplies, while medical disaster teams and Red Cross workers from across the country converged on the devastated Gulf Coast region. The Red Cross reported it had about 40,000 people in 200 shelters across the area.

All day long, rescuers in boats and helicopters plucked bedraggled flood refugees from rooftops and attics. Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu said 3,000 people have been rescued by boat and air, some placed shivering and wet into helicopter baskets.

Looting broke out in some New Orleans neighborhoods, prompting authorities 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, said Sergeant Paul Accardo, a police spokesman.

On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Mississippi, people picked through casino slot machines for coins and ransacked other businesses.

Oil will be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to offset production losses in the Gulf of Mexico, the Energy Department said yesterday.

also see story:

Survivors recount Katrina's ferocity

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