New Orleans mayor issues 'desperate SOS'
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New Orleans mayor issues 'desperate SOS'

Reuters | September 1, 2005

NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has issued an urgent plea for relief, saying the flooded city lacked food for thousands of Hurricane Katrina's refugees and buses to evacuate them.

"This is a desperate SOS. Right now we are out of resources at the Convention Center and don't anticipate enough buses.

"Currently the Convention Center is unsanitary and unsafe and we are running out of supplies for 15,000 to 25,000 people," he said in the statement read by CNN.

Gunshots and mayhem were hampering the evacuation of the city and more troops were ordered in to assist and control crowds of desperate survivors trying to escape the hurricane's destruction.

Shell-shocked officials tried to clamp down on looting in the historic jazz city reduced to a swampy ruin by Monday's storm. Bodies floated in the streets, attackers armed with axes and steel pipes stripped hospitals of medicine and authorities said they could still only guess at how many people had died.

"We don't have numbers. It could be in the hundreds, or the thousands," US senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said of the statewide death toll. "I think it's going to be shocking."

Federal disaster declarations covered 234,000sq km along the US Gulf Coast, an area roughly the size of Britain. As many as 400,000 people had been forced to leave their homes.

Violence broke out in pockets of New Orleans among the wandering crowds grown hungry, thirsty and desperate to escape the flooded city and 32C temperatures.

"We want help," people changed outside the city's convention center."

Boat rescues were delayed because of the danger and police rescuers shifted their focus to fighting looting and other crime that gripped the city.

A national guard official said as many as 60,000 people had gathered at the increasingly squalid Superdome stadium for evacuation.

But the evacuation was suspended after reports that someone fired at a military helicopter sent to ferry out survivors. A National Guard soldier was shot and wounded in the arena on Wednesday.

Nearly 5000 national guard troops were mobilised in Louisiana. The military said the number would rise to 21,000 by Friday and 30,000 in the next few days, mostly in Louisiana and Mississippi but also in storm-stricken parts of Alabama and Florida.

Convoys of police and state trooper cars raced down Interstate 10 toward New Orleans with lights flashing, and state police from around the nation were on the way.

"We will do what it takes to bring law and order to our area," an angry Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco said.

"I'm just furious. It's intolerable."

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