BLOGGING THE HURRICANE, Day 4: Congressman Says 100 Die After Being ‘Rescued’

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By: Greg Mitchell

For the fourth day, we will be providing updates all day from, and about, newspaper Web sites and operations in the afflicted cities along the Gulf Coast, latest news at the top.

***

11:45 PM ET. From the Times-Picayune:

“About 100 people have died at the Chalmette Slip after
being pulled off their rooftops, waiting to be ferried
up the river to the West Bank and bused out of the
flood ravaged area, U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon,
D-Napoleonville, said Thursday.

“About 1,500 people were at the slip on Thursday
afternoon, where critical supplies like food and water
are scarce, he said. Melancon expressed serious
frustration with the slow pace of getting these items
to the people waiting to finish their journey to
safety.

“Many of those at the slip were evacuated from a shelter set up at Chalmette High School that suffered massive flooding as the waters rose during Hurricane Katrina.

“Melancon said people are being plucked out of their water-surrounded houses, but the effort to get them out of Chalmette and provide them with sufficient sustenance is the
problem.

“While he did not directly criticize the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, Melancon said they are
ultimately responsible for making sure that people are
taken care of. ?That is where the buck stops,? said
Melancon at a briefing at the state Office of
Emergency Preparedness.”


10:50 PM ET. From the Times-Picayune:

“An angry Gov. Kathleen Blanco demanded that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., apologize for his statement that it might not make sense to rebuild New Orleans. It was ‘unthinkable,’ Blanco said, that Hastert would ‘kick us when we?re down. I demand an immediate apology.'”

***

9:55 PM ET. From the Times-Picayune site (it is actually publishing a print edition tomorrow):

“State lawmakers and local officials who have made tours of the flooded areas have reported that bodies are floating in the streets but are being ignored in favor of having a fleet of more than 300 boats rescue survivors.

“‘It is not a pretty sight,’ said Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who has toured the stricken area participated in some rescue missions.

“Gov. Blanco estimated as many as 200,000 to 300,000 area residents may have remained at their homes and refused to evacuate, heightening the death toll.

“‘I know there are dead bodies,’ Blanco said, declining to estimate how many may be lost. ‘It could well be thousands. It is a difficult thing for people.'”

***
5:25 PM ET. From a Times-Picayune site, a note from Deanna McLendon, a copy editor at the paper who has been evacuated to a sorority house at L.S.U.:

“I am a 30-year-old sorority girl. Homeless courtesy of Katrina and evacuated from the Times-Picayune office with one cubic foot of belongings, I?m the newest ? and other than the house mom, oldest ? resident of the Delta Zeta sorority house at LSU. For the next month, I?ll be living in a room surrounded by photos of pledge classes and formals, fraternity mixers and sisterhood retreats ? just like I did a decade ago as a Delta Zeta at the University of South Carolina. Eleven years after I pledged, I?m still witnessing ? and unbelievably grateful for — true sisterhood. Wonder if I?ll be invited to a fraternity party?”

***
5:05 PM ET. From the Times-Picayune site:

“Looters set fire to Oakwood Shopping Center in Terrytown today. The fire was reported at 12:56 p.m., and firefighters fought the blaze for more than an hour before giving up, said Bryan Adams of the Terrytown Volunteer Fire Department.

“‘There’s just no water and the fire was out of hand,’ an emotional Adams said, adding that crews had to fight the blaze with one hose and water from a canal. ‘I’ve lived in this communitiy all my life –45 years. It’s tough.”

***
4:30 PM ET. From the Washington bureau of the Times-Picayune:

“House Speaker Dennis Hastert dropped a bombshell on flood-ravaged New Orleans on Thursday by suggesting that it isn?t sensible to rebuild the city. ‘It doesn’t make sense to me,’ Hastert told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago in editions published today. ‘And it’s a question that certainly we should ask.’

“Hastert’s comments came as Congress cut short its summer recess and raced back to Washington to take up an emergency aid package expected to be $10 billion or more. Details of the legislation are still emerging, but it is expected to target critical items such as buses to evacuate the city, reinforcing existing flood protection and providing food and shelter for a growing population of refugees.

“The Illinois Republican?s comments drew an immediate rebuke from Louisiana officials.

?’That?s like saying we should shut down Los Angeles because it?s built in an earthquake zone,’ former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., said. ‘Or like saying that after the Great Chicago fire of 1871, the U.S. government should have just abandoned the city.’?

***
4:10 PM ET. From Times-Picayune top story:

“Fights and fires broke out, corpses lay out in the open, and rescue helicopters and law enforcement officers were shot at as flood-stricken New Orleans slipped toward anarchy Thursday. ‘This is a desperate SOS,’ the mayor said.

“Anger mounted across the city as thousands of storm victims grew increasingly hungry, desperate and tired of waiting for buses to take them out.”
***
4:00 PM ET. From the Times-Picayune forum used to search for missing friends and family, an unusual message from a man named Dick Bresciani in Boston:

“I am a vp of the Boston Red Sox. One of our ex great people and pitchers Mel Parnell lives on 700 Turquoise St. We are unable to reach him by phone and are concerned. Is there any way you can contact him for us? Thank you.” He then gave his phone and email.

Parnell was one of the great all-time pitchers for the Bosox.

***
3:15 PM ET, from the Times-Picayune:

“The Times-Picayune announced today that it plans to resume printing a newspaper tonight in Houma. Since the hurricane struck on Monday, the paper has published three electronic-only editions on its affiliated Web site, Nola.com.

“It aims to print roughly 50,000 copies Thursday night, using the printing facility of The Houma Courier, for distribution on Friday in Baton Rouge, and New Orleans metro areas that are now occupied and accessible.

“A missing persons forum on www.nola.com, started on Wednesday morning, had more than 4,000 posts by the end of the day. The site has also launched forums called Volunteer and Homes Available”. Between Sunday and Thursday, hundreds of thousands of people visited www.nola.com, resulting in more than 72 million pages viewed.

“Staffers have been working on streets of New Orleans and surrounding areas, in the air, at the Houma Courier, in temporary offices at LSU’s Manship School for Mass Communication, the Network Technology Group on Florida Boulevard and in other places in the devastated region.

“The status of The Times-Picayune’s printing plant is unknown.
During the months of September and October all Times-Picayune employees will receive regular paychecks, regardless of whether they perform work, The Times-Picayune announced to its work force today.”


***
1:35 PM ET. Shortest item of the day, from the Sun Herald in Biloxi:

“Sun Herald employees, please call 1-800-346-2472 and let us know you’re OK. “

The blog at the site also carries this advice from the coroner:

“If people find a body, don’t try to move it because of health risk and decomposition issues. Alert local police, fire or rescue personnel to it.”
***

12:30 PM ET. From the Times-Picayune:

“Polly Boudreaux, clerk of the St. Bernard Parish Council, issued an urgent plea Thrusday morning for help for the devastated parish. Boudreaux, breaking into tears during a telephone interview with WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, said the parish is wiped out.

“Much of the parish remained underwater, she said, and efforts to get news out have been unsucessful. And many residents still needed to be rescued. She said little outside assistance has been able to reach the parish. ‘We are not seeing it. We need help,” she said, her voice cracking.

“Boudreaux said shelters set up at Chalmette High and St. Bernard High School for people not able to evacuate Katrina, were underwater and heavily damaged. She said parish government officials are holed up at Chalmette Refinery. The parish government building is underwater.

“She said parish officials have made pleas for help from the outside. ‘It never came,” she said. ‘We just never saw it.'”

***
11:45 AM ET. Just what they needed, from the Sun Herald in Biloxi:

“Here?s bad news today for the hard-hit Gulf Coast area ? heavy rain could fall this afternoon and evening in a few heavy thunderstorms across the region.

“The good news is that the heavy rain will be widely scattered.

“A weak frontal system is sagging southward toward the Gulf today, and it will serve as the trigger for showers and a few thunderstorms.

“David Eversole, of the National Weather Service office in Mobile, said any storms could produce rainfall rates of up to two inches per hour. ‘The scattered thunderstorms may periodically hinder hurricane relief efforts,?’ Eversole said.”

***
11:05 AM ET. From the Times-Picayune, via AP:

“Gunfire and arson blazes disrupted the evacuation of 25,000 people from the Superdome on Thursday, as National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured into New Orleans to help restore order across the increasingly lawless and desperate city.

“The first of 500 busloads of people who were evacuated from the hot and stinking Louisiana Superdome arrived early Thursday at their new temporary home — another sports arena, the Houston Astrodome, 350 miles away. But the ambulance service in charge of airlifting the sick and injured from the Superdome suspended flights after a shot was reported fired at a military helicopter. Richard Zuschlag, chief of Acadian Ambulance, said it had become too dangerous for his pilots.

“The military, which was overseeing the removal of the able-bodied by buses, continued the ground evacuation without interruption, said National Guard Lt. Col. Pete Schneider. But Schneider said fires set outside the arena were making it difficult for buses to get close enough to pick people up.”



***

10:00 AM ET: A chilling first-person account from the Times-Picayune:

“Lucrece Phillips? sleepless nights are filled with the images of dead babies and women, and young and old men with tattered T-shirts or graying temples, all of whom she saw floating along the streets of the Lower 9th Ward.

“The deaths of many of her neighbors who chose to brave the hurricane from behind the walls of their Painter Street homes shook tears from Phillips? bloodshot eyes Tuesday, as a harrowing tale of death and survival tumbled from her lips.

“‘The rescuers in the boats that picked us up had to push the bodies back with sticks,'” Phillips said sobbing. “‘And there was this little baby. She looked so perfect and so beautiful. I just wanted to scoop her up and breathe life back into her little lungs. She wasn?t bloated or anything, just perfect.’




? AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Irwin Thompson
People walk along Interstate 10 near the Superdome Wednesday morning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided about 500 buses to transport Hurricane Katrina refugees from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome.



“A few hours after Phillips, 42, and five members of her family and a friend had been rescued from the attic of her second-story home in the 2700 block of Painter Street, she broke down with a range of emotions. Joy, for surviving the killer floods; pain, for the loss of so many lives; and uncertainty, about the well-being of her family missing in the city?s most ravaged quarters.

“In a darkened lobby of the downtown Hyatt hotel turned refuge, she hugged an emergency worker closely; a handful of his sweaty blue T-shirt rippling from each of her fists.

“Phillips? downstairs neighbor, Terrilyn Foy, 41, and her 5-year-old son, Trevor, were unable to escape, Phillips said. By late Monday the surging waters of Lake Pontchartrain had swallowed the neighborhood. The water crept, then rushed, under the front door, Phillips said, then knocked it from its hinges. In less than 30 minutes, Phillips said, the water had topped her neighbors? 12-foot ceiling and was gulping at hers.

“‘I can still hear them banging on the ceiling for help,’ Phillips said, shaking. ‘I heard them banging and banging, but the water kept rising.’ Then the pleas for help were silenced by the sway of the current, she said.”

***

9:45 AM ET. The blog at the Sun Herald in Biloxi is back, with reporter Don Hammack explaining that a generator had crashed, and then he did. But this morning:

“I just rolled off the sleeping bag behind my desk that my good friend Lou Connelly left with me yesterday. It’s amazing how thankful you can be for little things.

“Let’s get back to work…. Please remember to check out our messsage boards and post there to get and give information about the area.”

***

9:30 AM ET. The Times-Picayune has once again managed to put together an online edition, filled with stories and many graphic photos. Today it runs 15 pages in PDF files. The banner head is: HITTING BOTTOM.

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