Louisiana officials accused of blocking rescue volunteers

Friday, September 2, 2005

State Police in Lafayette, Louisiana, have been accused of hindering attempts by private citizens to rescue people trapped by floodwaters in New Orleans. The accusations were contained in an unconfirmed report received via email by Jason Robideaux, an attorney from Lafayette.

The email was written by a person who claimed to be part of "a group of approximately 1,000 citizens pulling 500 boats" heading into New Orleans to rescue people still stranded in places such as hospitals. The email claimed that the members of the flotilla were ".. experienced boaters, licensed fishermen and hunters, people who have spent their entire adult life and teenage years on the waterways of Louisiana."

The email reports that a Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries (DWF) agent ordered them to turn around and go home.

"We then specifically asked the DWF agent that we (and other citizens in the flotilla) be allowed to go to the hospitals and help evacuate the sick and the doctors and nurses stranded there. We offered to bring these people back to Lafayette, in our own vehicles, in order to ensure that they received proper and prompt medical care," the email said.

"The DWF agent did not want to hear this and ordered us home. We complied with the DWF agent's orders, turned around and headed back to Lafayette along with half of the flotillia. However, two of my friends were pulling my other boat, a smaller 15ft alumaweld with a 25 hp. The DWF agents let them through to proceed to the rescue operation launch site," the email continued.

The email also reported hundreds of DWF agents who were not being utilised.

"My two friends were allowed to drive to the launch site where the La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries were launching their rescue operations (via boat). They reported to me that there were over 200 DWF agents just standing around and doing nothing. My friends were kept there for approximately 3 hours. During that time they observed a large number of DWF agents doing nothing. After three hours had passed they were told that they were not needed and should go home. They complied with the DWF's orders and turned around and went home to Lafayette," the email said.

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.