Widespread looting blamed for disrupted rescue efforts in New Orleans, Louisiana

Thursday, September 1, 2005

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This audio file was created from the text revision dated 2005-09-01 and may not reflect subsequent text edits to this report. (audio help)

The Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, has ordered most of the local police force to stop rescue efforts and shift their efforts to prevent looting [1]. At the same time, FEMA has reportedly been blocking aid shipments into the city on the grounds that it is too dangerous.

A rescue helicopter attempting to retrieve stranded people from New Orleans' Superdome stadium was reportedly shot at; but this has not yet been confirmed. A member of the National Guard was reportedly shot, but was not seriously injured. Official reports say that one New Orleans police officer was shot in the head, but was expected to survive. Other reports say that police stranded on the roof of a hotel were being fired upon by looters in the streets. Meanwhile, reports from many blogs and grassroots journalists about police officers looting cars and stores have started to filter up to the mainstream media [2].

Food, diapers, and other supplies are the target of most looters. Some are reportedly taking non-essential and luxury items, such as TVs and computers. Reportedly, gun and pawn shops are also a popular target for looting.

Earlier today, buses were taking the most vulnerable away to the state capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge. Evacuees in the Superdome are also being moved by bus to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.

US President George W. Bush, in an interview on ABC television, condemned the looting, saying "I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this."

A hospital in Gretna was evacuated after a supply truck carrying food, water and medical supplies was stopped at gunpoint. Spokesman Stephen Campanini estimated there to be approximately 350 employees in the hospital, along with between 125 and 150 patients. Campanini said, "There are physical threats to safety from roving bands of armed individuals with weapons who are threatening the safety of the hospital."

Despite this, some of the other rumors of looting have proven to be false. One of the most prevalent was the story that armed looters laid siege to the Children's Hospital. The Times-Picayune reported that this story was false.