Hurricane Katrina's LA Damage Update - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Hurricane Katrina's LA Damage Update

Whole areas of New Orleans are under water Tuesday Whole areas of New Orleans are under water Tuesday

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

UPDATE, WED, 8:00 AM: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has instructed law enforcement and the US military to forcefully evacuate city residents who refuse to leave.

But a police captain calls it "an absolute last resort" and says the forced removal of citizens has not yet begun. He says people are still being reminded police may not be able to rescue them if they stay.

Nagin's emergency declaration comes after some citizens bluntly told authorities that they would not leave their homes and property. The evacuation order targets those still in the city unless they have been designated by government officials as helping with the relief effort.

UPDATE, TUE, 9:45 AM: As the waters in New Orleans are pumped back into Lake Pontchartrain, authorities are bracing for another dose of tragedy to be revealed.

The Army Corps of Engineers is pumping water out, after closing a major gap in the levee that breached during Hurricane Katrina, flooding 80-percent of the bowl-shaped city.

While pumping is likely going to take weeks, officials are expecting to find a layer of toxic sludge and bodies once the water is gone. The mayor says 10,000 dead wouldn't be unreasonable.

Meantime, rescue crews from as far away as California are trolling the evacuated city for stragglers. But rescue workers note they can't force people to go. The mayor says water won't be handed out to the holdouts anymore.

UPDATE, TUE, 9:30 AM: Don't count out Mardi Gras just yet. This past weekend, about two dozen people in beads, hula skirts and wigs danced down Bourbon Street in a symbolic show that life must go on. And Arthur Hardy, who publishes the Mardi Gras Guide, says he can't imagine the city surrendering its partying ways.

Such talk might seem disrespectful, with thousands of people believed dead and authorities still unable to collect bodies floating in canals and hidden in attics.

But New Orleans has always loved a good time. And when the pre-Lent celebration, ending with Fat Tuesday, comes around next February, floats could be parading down streets now covered in water.

One resident says, "It's New Orleans. We'll always have something to parade for."

UPDATE, MON, 7:00 AM: The man overseeing the military effort in New Orleans says, it looks like fewer than 10,000 people remain in the city. Lieutenant General Russel Honore tells ABC the number is based on aerial reconnaissance.

Appearing separately on NBC, Honore said New Orleans is "not a city under siege." He says his native city "needs help from the big people in America" - as well as from its technology, in order to "get back on its feet."

Honore says the search-and-rescue effort still needs to be completed, and food and water needs to be provided to a huge area of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He says, "There are people there that need help. We will do the best we can to get it to them."

UPDATE, FRI, 8:00 AM: The President says progress is being made. He says efforts are under way to get help to those taking refuge at the convention center in New Orleans.

But he acknowledged blistering criticism of the relief effort by saying "the results are not acceptable."

As he prepares to depart for a tour of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, Bush assures people "we'll get on top of this situation." He says millions of gallons of water and tons of food are on the way.

A second big Houston facility is now being used to house evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. A city spokesman says they've begun putting refugees at the Reliant Center adjacent to the Astrodome, which the fire marshal has declared full.

The decision not to accept more evacuees at the dome came after about eleven-thousand people were allowed inside the stadium that once was home to the Astros and Oilers. A spokeswoman for the Red Cross says people are "packed pretty tight" on the floor of Astrodome floor.

There have been a few arrests, including some people who've fought over cots. Thirty guns have been seized. The governor of Texas says some refugees are being offered shelter at an arena in Dallas and a city-owned facility in San Antonio.

UPDATE, FRI, 7:30 AM: New Orleans hurricane victims asking "what next?" have their answer.

An explosion at a chemical storage facility jolted residents awake early Friday. Red and orange flames outlined a city, where corpses rot along flooded sidewalks and bands of armed thugs roam the streets.

A series of smaller blasts followed at the facility located near the Mississippi River. Acrid, black smoke could be seen even in the dark. No word on casualties.

An angry Mayor Ray Nagin has told a New Orleans radio station that federal officials "don't have a clue what's going on."

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency made the rounds of network morning TV Friday, promising "dramatic improvements."

UPDATE, FRI, 6:10 AM: The explosion that jolted New Orleans awake, occurred in a chemical storage facility near the Mississippi River, east of the French Quarter. That word comes from Harbor Police.

A series of smaller blasts followed the first explosion.

At least two police boats are on the scene.

UPDATE, FRI, 6:00 AM: A series of explosions has rocked the riverfront a few miles south of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

The explosions appeared to come from an area on the east bank of the Mississippi River, near a residential area and railroad tracks.

At least two police boats were at the scene.

The first explosion sent flames shooting into the pre-dawn sky. A series of smaller blasts followed and then acrid, black smoke that could be seen even in the dark. The vibrations were felt all the way downtown.

All this has happened amid continuing lawlessness in the city swamped by Hurricane Katrina. The governor has ordered in hundreds of battle-hardened troops just back from Iraq. Governor Kathleen Blanco says the troops "know how to shoot and kill."

UPDATE, THU, 10:40 AM: Fights and trash fires are breaking out at the Superdome, adding to the chaos in huge crowds of people desperate to get out.

Angry refugees hoping to escape the stifling confines of the dome are packed shoulder-to-shoulder up to the barricades where heavily armed National Guardsmen stand. Despite the violence, a National Guard commander said the evacuation hasn't been affected.

But medical operations at the dome clearly have been. One doctor said he's evacuating his team as fast as he can. An Air National Guard nurse who worked all night in the dome's special needs medical facility saw the scene outside and said she "wouldn't go out in that crowd for anything."

Medical personnel are exhausted. Doctor Mary Darken said, "We all just try to rest when we could, and that isn't very often."

UPDATE, THU, 10:00 AM: Fists are flying and trash cans are on fire as tensions grow outside the Superdome.

The scene at the massive New Orleans arena is chaotic as authorities attempt to evacuate the thousands who had massed inside because of Hurricane Katrina.

The airborne evacuation of the sick and injured was put off temporarily following a report of a shot being fired at a military helicopter, although the federal government says it doesn't know about any such incident.

The air ambulance service that was supposed to transfer some of the worse-off evacuees says it won't fly near the dome until security is restored.

A Louisiana National Guard official says other evacuations to Houston are moving ahead. The intent was only to transport those inside the Superdome. But thousands of others have been streaming toward the buses that'll head to Houston.

UPDATE, THU, 8:00 AM: An ambulance official says the evacuation of the Superdome in New Orleans has been suspended because it's too dangerous.

The head of Acadian Ambulance, which is evacuating the sick and injured from the stadium, says the evacuation won't resume until security officials "gain control of the Superdome." A National Guard official says thousands of people have rushed toward the dome, to try to get on buses taking people from the stadium to the Astrodome in Texas.

The Acadian official says a medi-vac helicopter pilot reported an armed mob when he tried to land Wednesday night at a hospital in the city's outskirts. The pilot didn't land. And the official says medics are calling for help, because they are scared of armed people outside the Superdome.

UPDATE, THU, 7:30 AM: A medical official says the evacuation of the Superdome in New Orleans has stopped, because of shots fired at military helicopters.

Stay with us, information is still coming.

UPDATE, WED, 10:00 AM: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing nearly 500 buses for a convoy that will begin Wednesday, traveling the 350 miles to Houston.

A spokeswoman for Texas Governor Rick Perry says the Astrodome's schedule has been cleared through December to serve as a shelter for evacuees.

WED, 9:30 AM: Refugees will be moved from the Superdome to the Astrodome.

An emergency management official in Houston tells The Associated Press that plans are in the works to take at least 25,000 of Hurricane Katrina's refugees, mostly from the New Orleans Superdome, and shelter them in the Houston Astrodome.

The Astrodome, which was built 40 years ago, hasn't been used for professional sporting events in years. Plans call for the evacuees to be carried in a bus convoy. They wouldn't necessarily all be on the road at the same time.

Rising floodwaters in New Orleans prompted Governor Kathleen Blanco to order the Superdome and the city abandoned.

In Grand Isle, Louisiana, it's a good day - nobody died. Survivors sheltered in trees, coffins rose out of the ground, boats are on the highway, homes are off their stilts, the muddy beach is littered with debris and most of the homes were torn apart by Hurricane Katrina but nearly everyone evacuated in plenty of time.

The police chief says that of five holdouts, two took to the trees and three went to the town hall after their homes blew apart. He sums it up as "one good day. No fatalities.''

WED, 5:00 AM: There's little good news for flooded New Orleans Wednesday morning. The Army Corps of Engineers says efforts to repair levee breaches have failed so far. Workers will try to plug the holes with huge concrete blocks and look for a barge to fill a gap.

Major General Don Riley says it could take close to a month to pump flood water out of the city. An estimated 80-percent of the below-sea-level city is under water - n some cases, up to 20 feet under.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is continuing rescue operations. Louisiana's governor has ordered storm refugees to leave the city. Kathleen Blanco says she wants the Superdome evacuated within two days. At least 15,000 people are housed in the stadium, but there's no electricity and no air conditioning.

Tuesday: Crews hope to plug a broken levee in New Orleans with 3000-pound sand bags dropped from helicopters.

The city is below sea level, and the network of pumps, canals and levees isn't keeping up with the rising water. Many pumps weren't working at all Tuesday morning.

Rising water has sent patients from one hospital to the Louisiana Superdome. A knee-deep moat surrounds the stadium and downtown streets are swamped. The water is fouled with gasoline, debris and floating islands of red ants.

The top homeland security official in New Orleans says bodies have been spotted drifting in the floodwaters.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco says the devastation being seen Tuesday morning "is greater than our worst fears." She describes it as "totally overwhelming." Blanco says there are no casualty figures yet, but that "many lives have been lost."

She says 700 people were rescued overnight from flooded areas.

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