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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Chaos, Crime, and Confusion

Efforts to evacuate people from the Superdome to the Astrodome had to be halted this morning because someone shot at a military helicopter, and fires were set near the Superdome, making it impossible for the buses to get close.
The evacuation of the Superdome was suspended Thursday after shots were reported fired at a military helicopter and arson fires broke out outside the arena. No injuries were immediately reported. (FoxNews is now reporting that an NG soldier was shot, but it's not sure if he was in the chopper or not- B)

The scene at the Superdome became increasingly chaotic, with thousands of people rushing from nearby hotels and other buildings, hoping to climb onto the buses taking evacuees from the arena, officials said. Paramedics became increasingly alarmed by the sight of people with guns.

Richard Zeuschlag, chief of the ambulance service that was handling the evacuation of sick and injured people from the Superdome, said it was suspending operations "until they gain control of the Superdome."

Shots were fired at a military helicopter over the Superdome before daybreak, he said.

He said the National Guard told him that it was sending 100 military police officers to restore order.

"That's not enough," said Zeuschlag, whose Acadian Ambulance is based in Lafayette. "We need a thousand."

Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard said the military _ which was handling the evacuation of the able-bodied from the Superdome _ had suspended operations, too, because fires set outside the arena were preventing buses from getting close enough to pick up people. (FoxNews is now reporting that it looks like bus ops are resuming- B)
From what I can see from the video on the news, the Astrodome will not be enough to hold these people. Organizers say they can take in 25,000 people, and there are far more than that waiting for a chance to leave. There were almost 25,000 people in the Superdome alone- there are thousands and thousands of people wandering the streets, trying to find a way out.

One thing that is painfully obvious is that NO is a logistical nightmare. If there was a plan for this kind of catastrophe (and you have to think there was one), it didn't work. There is no command structure. No one knows what to do or where to go. Granted some of it should be common sense, but community leaders should know better than to trust that people will use common sense during a crisis (there are people who still don't want to leave, even when they are told that it will be months before they will have anything vaguely resembling normal life).

A guy is sharing his experiences in this live journal, and he has a NOPD officer staying with him. It does not look good.
Security has become a major concern now, because the NOPD is ineffective and the looters terrorists are roaming the streets. Word is now that they're lighting buildings on fire, but I can't confirm that. Anyway, we have to run guard shifts and patrol and it limits our downtime.

It is a zoo out there though, make no mistake. It's the wild kingdom. It's Lord of the Flies. That doesn't mean there's murder on every street corner. But what it does mean is that the rule of law has collapsed, that there is no order, and that property rights cannot and are not being enforced. Anyone who is on the streets is in immediate danger of being robbed and killed. It's that bad.
One thing that he points out, and I find confusing, as well, is that the mayor told everyone to leave in plenty of time- they KNEW it was going to be a big storm. Now, all of these people didn't leave (some for legitimate reasons, but most of them because they "started too late" or "oh, we'll just ride it out") and now they're mad because there isn't enough help for them. Even if the people had legitimate reasons for staying, why in the world did they not stock up on supplies?

And then there are all the thugs who are looting (food and drink is one thing- tennis shoes and guns are another), selling their stolen wares on the street, robbing and sometimes murdering innocent people who are just trying to make it to safety. It's a war zone... no, actually it's worse than a war zone... in a war, there are two sides, fighting for something. In NO right now, there are evil animals preying on the innocent, terrorizing people who have already been scared beyond anything they could imagine.

I continue to pray for those still in NO (and the rest of the Gulf Coast battered by Katrina). My prayers also go out to the relief workers, trying to help these people.

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