In New Orleans the floodwaters are slowly starting to recede, but as they retreat they reveal the horror that has lain beneath for the last week. Bodies are everywhere, sharing the slimy waters with survivors who are taking to whatever can float when they hear the motors of search vessels approaching.
House to house searches are being organised to look for missing persons, with family members joining the teams to guide them. Some are lucky, others are heartbroken when they finally get to their relative’s flooded homes.
What is abundantly clear is New Orleans is ruined, and today Louisiana’s largest newspaper published a open letter to President Bush demanding he fire every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The paper says thousands could have been rescued but were not, and the government should feel ashamed.
Anger at their plight remains high among those who stayed. Contractors trying to repair flood defences under an armed police escort were fired on this morning, and police fired back, killing five or six of the attackers. The police and rescue services are also feeling the strain as they penetrate deeper into New Orleans’s flooded centre and discover the scale of the horror. Two police officers have reportedly committed suicide. The Mayor is screening officers for trauma, and removing some from duty for psychological evaluation.
Evacuees from Louisiana are now being sent further a field, to Houston in Texas for example, and other states even further away are offering help for refugees.
Some people who had to endure the squalor and danger of New Orleans’s Superdome are now in Houston’s Astrodome. In all over a quarter of a million Louisianans are in Texas, either in hotels and motels across the state, or in temporary shelters. The Governor has warned the state is close to capacity, but the Astrodome has done its best to make its guests welcome, where a Nation of Islam choir has been singing for the huddled crowds.