Dallas makes desperate plea for help
11:16 AM CDT on Saturday, September 3, 2005
By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News
Dallas City Officials made a desperate plea for help Saturday morning, saying that, within hours, they will have far more Hurricane Katrina evacuees than they can possibly manage.
[Click image for a larger version] AP
A baby naps on the sidewalk in front of the Louisiana Superdome on Friday.
Meanwhile, officials in Mesquite announced Saturday that the evacuee staging area there, overwhelmed with hurricane survivors, said they could no longer handle the busloads and was shutting down. Dallas police scrambled to set up a new area, and as of 11 a.m., said it would likely be near the Convention Center.
The number of New Orleans evacuees at the Dallas Convention Center and Reunion Arena doubled overnight, and as of 10:30 a.m., at least 105 more buses – carrying thousands of needy people -- were headed for the city.
“We have asked [the Governor’s office] to cease the flow to Dallas,” Asistant City Manager Ramon Miguez said. “We need help. We have advised the state that we are fast approaching capacity.”
On Friday morning, Dallas officials were told to expect 25 buses, Mr. Miguez said. By Friday afternoon, that number had grown to 50. At 6 a.m. today, Mr. Miguez said, the number had grown again – this time to 150.
Currently, a total of about 6,600 evacuees have registered at the Convention Center and Reunion Arena. Total capacity for the two facilities is about 8,200, Mr. Miguez said, a number that will be reached in a matter of hours.
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Coverage from WWL-TV in New Orleans
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• DiscussLive: Reporter Lee Hancock takes your questions Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.
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Gulf Coast Crisis special report: 1 | 2 | 3
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• En español
City officials are working fast to try to reroute some of the buses. The city of Bonham has agreed to take 1,000 evacuees. Tarrant County has not yet reached capacity. And Tulsa has room for 5,000. Dallas officials also want more help with evacuees from surrounding suburbs as well as the state and federal goverment, Mr. Miguez said.
“There’s no presence here,” he said, referring to state and federal authorities.
And Police Chief David Kunkle said if aid doesn’t come soon, Dallas is going to have a crisis on its hands.
“We’re not going to be able to handle this unless we get immediate assistance,” he said.
A fleet of air-conditioned buses rolled up to the city's devastated convention center Saturday to begin evacuating an estimated 25,000 people who have been waiting for days amid the stench of garbage and rotting corpses.
Thousands of people began pushing and dragging their belongings up the street to more than a dozen buses, the mood more numb than jubilant.
Yolanda Sanders stood at a barricade clutching her cocker spaniel, Toto. She had been at the convention center for five days.
“I had faith that they'd come. I feel good that I know I can get to my family,” she said. Sanders didn't know yet where they were taking her, but “anyplace is better than here. People are dying over there.”
Thousands from the Superdome were taken to Texas on air-conditioned buses, but early Saturday the operation was halted — with as many as 5,000 in the stadium still to be evacuated five days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
Lt. Kevin Cowan of the state Office of Emergency Preparedness said the evacuations were stopped so authorities could focus on getting people out of the convention center. Jennifer Washington was among the frustrated evacuees who waited for buses to come.
“At first they said 6:30 this morning, then they said 9,” said Washington, 25, who has not been able to find her four children in the aftermath of the storm. Buses arrived later in the morning.
Helicopters were taking the sickest people from the center, and two of the city's most troubled hospitals were evacuated Friday after desperate doctors spent days making tough choices about which patients got dwindling supplies of food, water and medicines.
“We're just trying to ease their pain, give them a little bit of dignity and get them out of here,” said Lt. Col. Connie McNabb.
A Saks Fifth Avenue store billowed smoke Saturday, as did rows of warehouses on the east bank of the Mississippi River, where corrugated roofs buckled and tiny explosions erupted. Gunfire — almost two dozen shots — broke out in the French Quarter overnight.
As the warehouse district burned, Ron Seitzer, 61, washed his dirty laundry in the even dirtier waters of the Mississippi River and said he didn't know how much longer he could stay without water or power, surrounded by looters.
“I've never even had a nightmare or a beautiful dream about this,” he said as he watched the warehouses burn. “People are just not themselves.”
On Friday, President Bush took an aerial tour of the city and answered complaints about a sluggish government response by saying, “We're going to make it right.” Flatbed trucks carried huge crates, pallets and bags of relief supplies, including Meals Ready to Eat. Soldiers sat in the backs of open-top trucks, their rifles pointing skyward.
In what looked like a scene from a Third World country, some outside the convention center threw their arms heavenward and others hollered profanities as camouflage-green vehicles and supply trucks finally rolled through axle-deep floodwaters into what remained of New Orleans.
National Guard Lt. Col. Jerry Crooks said troops had served more than 70,000 meals outside the convention center and had 130,000 more on hand. Watching the caravan, Leschia Radford sang the praises of a higher power.
“Lord, I thank you for getting us out of here!” Radford shrieked.
But on Saturday, hope was overtaken by frustration as people continued to wait. A dead man lay on sidewalk under a blanket with a stream of blood running down the pavement toward the gutter. People said he died from violence.
“We're hurting out here, man. We got to get help. All we want is someone to feel our pain, that's all,” said Tasheka Johnson, 24.
About a dozen people who headed down the street to look for food and water said they were turned back by a soldier who pulled a gun.
“We had to get something to eat. What are they doing pulling a gun?” said Richard Johnson, 28.
The soldiers' arrival-in-force came amid angry complaints from local officials that the federal government had bungled the relief effort and let people die in the streets for lack of food, water or medicine as the city was overtaken by looting, rape and arson.
“The people of our city are holding on by a thread,” Mayor Ray Nagin warned in a statement to CNN. “Time has run out. Can we survive another night? And who can we depend on? Only God knows.”
The president took a land and air tour of hard-hit areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Friday, and admitted of the relief effort: “The results are not enough.” Congress passed a $10.5 billion disaster aid package, and Bush quickly signed the measure.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the military presence helped calm a jittery city.
“We are seeing a show of force. It's putting confidence back in our hearts and in the minds of our people,” Blanco said. “We're going to make it through.”
Guard members carrying rifles also arrived at the Louisiana Superdome, where bedraggled people — many of them trapped there since the weekend — stretched around the perimeter of the building. Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, commander of the National Guard, said 7,000 Guard members would be in the city by Saturday.
All the victims in the Superdome were supposed to have been evacuated by dawn Saturday, but shortly after midnight, the buses stopped rolling. Between 2,000 and 5,000 people still in the stadium could be there until Sunday, according to the Texas Air National Guard.
Within minutes of the soldiers' arrival at the convention center, they set up six food and water lines. The crowd was for the most part orderly and grateful.
Diane Sylvester, 49, was the first person through the line. “Something is better than nothing,” she said of her two bottles of water and pork rib meal. “I feel great to see the military here. I know I'm saved.”
With Houston's Astrodome already full with 15,000 storm refugees, that city opened two more centers to accommodate an additional 10,000. Dallas and San Antonio also had agreed to take refugees.
One group of Katrina's victims lurched from one tragedy to another: A bus carrying evacuees from the Superdome overturned on a Louisiana highway, killing at least one person and injuring many others.
At the broken levee along Lake Pontchartrain that swamped nearly 80 percent of New Orleans, helicopters dropped 3,000-pound sandbags into the breach and pilings were being pounded into place to seal off the waters. Engineers also were developing a plan to create new breaches in the levees so that a combination of gravity and pumping and would drain the water out of the city, a process that could take weeks.
Can you supply a link, there could be some interesting reading in that article but the links are cold.
You may have to register, it's the front page of the Dallas Morning News.
I did not nead to register but that will more than likely change.
Old trick of arfcom and other forums. If someone has to register, use
username arfcom and password arfcom, that way others can guess
the login name of these things.
You can read the story without registering by going to their front page
www.dallasnews.com(be sure your pop-up blocking software is up to snuff, they are lots of pop-ups that Mozzila/Firefox won't/can't block. I use MS IE).