Read this: the LiveJournal of a New Orleans resident who is still there, working to keep 800,000 websites up-and-running with a diesel generator on the 9th floor (hauling diesel up the stairs) whilst barricaded in against the looters (and, it seems, the police and military) – and reporting the actual situation on the ground, as relayed to him by friends and supporters elsewhere in New Orleans.
The situation is utterly chaotic and the authorities are going to have some really difficult questions to answer. Remember, George Bush Sr.’s popularity ratings fell dramatically after the public perceived a slow response by his White House in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, with forces at that time maintaining the new and controversial no-fly zones in Iraq.
As a taster, here’s a recent entry relating the situation as described to him by his friend "Bigfoot":
It’s been 3 days, and the buses have yet to appear.
Although obviously he has no exact count, he estimates more than 10,000 people are packed into and around and outside the convention center still waiting for the buses. They had no food, no water, and no medicine for the last three days, until today, when the National Guard drove over the bridge above them, and tossed out supplies over the side crashing down to the ground below. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.
There are many infants and elderly people among them, as well as many people who were injured jumping out of windows to escape flood water and the like — all of them in dire straits.
Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids.
The people are so desperate that they’re doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.
The buses never stop.
Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area — Saulet Condos — once they tried to get cars from there… well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.
He reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is "horrific".
He says it’s the slowest mandatory evacuation ever, and he wants to know why they were told to go to the Convention Center area in the first place; furthermore, he reports that many of them with cell phones have contacts willing to come rescue them, but people are not being allowed through to pick them up.
via the LinkBunnies.
Update: the BBC’s Alistair Leithead reports from the Convention Centre and reinforces much of what Bigfoot says.
Further update: the BBC’s Robert Plummer reviews the likely economic impact of Hurricane Katrina. As usual, the poorest will be the hardest hit but all Americans will feel the impact in some way. And, as we all know, if the Americans sneeze, the world catches cold.