Violence, Looting — And Despair

(CBS/AP) Fights and trash fires broke out at the hot and stinking Superdome and anger and unrest mounted across New Orleans on Thursday, as National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured in to help restore order across the increasingly lawless and desperate city.

"We are out here like pure animals. We don't have help," the Rev. Issac Clark, 68, said outside the New Orleans Convention Center, where corpses lay in the open and evacuees complained that they were dropped off and given nothing.

An additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the country were ordered into the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast to shore up security, rescue and relief operations in Katrina's wake as looting, shootings, gunfire, carjackings and other lawlessness spread.

That brought the number of troops dedicated to the effort to more than 28,000, in what may be the biggest military response to a natural disaster in U.S. history.

In other developments:

-Officials declared a public health emergency along the Mississippi coast due to unsafe drinking water, and surveyors say the town of Waveland, 35 miles from New Orleans, was completely obliterated by Hurricane Katrina.

-President Bush will visit the region Friday, perhaps remembering that his father took a hit in 1992 when people thought he didn't respond quickly to Hurricane Andrew, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante.

-Former Presidents Bush and Clinton, who helped after the Asian tsunami, will work on raising funds for this disaster's relief.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told CBS News' The Early Show the looting in New Orleans "is outrageous" and pledged "there will be public order in the streets."

But not yet.

The Superdome, where some 25,000 people were being evacuated by bus to the Houston Astrodome, descended into chaos.

Huge crowds, hoping to finally escape the stifling confines of the stadium, jammed the main concourse outside the dome, spilling out over the ramp to the Hyatt hotel next door — a seething sea of tense, unhappy people packed shoulder-to-shoulder to the barricades where heavily armed National Guardsmen stood.

Fights broke out. A fire erupted in a trash chute inside the dome, but a National Guard commander said it did not affect the evacuation.

Shots were fired at air ambulances trying to evacuate sick and injured from the Superdome, and the private company stopped its flights.

"Hospitals are trying to evacuate," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, spokesman at the city emergency operations center. "At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, "You better come get my family."

Officials warn that dozens of patients in the flooded downtown hospitals are at now at risk of dying if they can't be evacuated.

University Hospital in downtown New Orleans has very little food or water and no electricity, and is not scheduled for evacuation until after the Superdome and Charity Hospital. By that time, Dr. Oscar Ballester tells CBS Radio News, it will be too late for some of the patients.

"There are patients that are not being dialyzed and they may die in the next day or two. They have not been dialyzed for four or five days, when they should be dialyzed three times a week," Ballester said.

Ballester and other hospital staffers fear they've been forgotten.

"We hear from the radio that we are already evacuated, and nobody has moved from here," he said.

Ballester's daughter said in e-mail that her father is an insulin-dependent diabetic, and without proper food or medication, in danger himself. She also said people trying to take refuge in the hospital "are growing increasingly agitated and have begun fighting and my dad and his wife [also a doctor] now have to fear for their safety, on top of their health."

Tenet HealthCare Corp. asked authorities late Wednesday to help evacuate a fully functioning hospital in Gretna after a supply truck carrying food, water and medical supplies was held up at gunpoint.

Some Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue operations were suspended in areas where gunfire has broken out, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said in Washington. "In areas where our employees have been determined to potentially be in danger, we have pulled back," he said.

But an angry Terry Ebbert, head of New Orleans' emergency operations, watching the slow procession from the Superdome, said the FEMA response was inadequate.

"This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control," Ebbert said. "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans. We have got a mayor who has been pushing and asking but we're not getting supplies."

He said the evacuation was almost entirely a Louisiana operation. "This is not a FEMA operation. I haven't seen a single FEMA guy."

Outside the Convention Center, the sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement. Thousands of storm refugees had been assembling outside for days, waiting for buses that did not come.

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

"I don't treat my dog like that," 47-year-old Daniel Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair. "I buried my dog." He added: "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't get them down here."

CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan says the refugees want to know where the aid is — and so do reporters, "because it seems like at times there are more of us [reporters] out here on the streets than there are emergency workers and rescue workers."

Mayor Rudy Nagin said that it will be two or three months before the city is functioning again and that people would not be allowed back into their homes for at least a month or two.

Visit CBSNews.com for more on Hurricane Katrina.


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