By Mark Babineck
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Lethornia J. Whiticar was lying all alone in the end zone of New Orleans' famed Superdome stadium, very sick and in great need of help.
As relief supplies finally began arriving on Friday and other evacuees scrambled for a seat on a bus out of the flooded and devastated city, there was nothing Whiticar could do but wait.
"I want to get out of here, but I need fluid pills because I just can't stand up right now," the 52-year-old diabetes sufferer said as he lay in the end zone, his feet bloated.
A military convoy with food and emergency supplies finally reached New Orleans on Friday, but a health emergency is raging after Hurricane Katrina tore in from the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week, sending deep floodwaters surging through much of the historic city.
Thousands are feared dead, and the city's hospitals are without electricity or key medical supplies, struggling to keep critically ill patients alive.
Conditions are appalling at New Orleans' two main emergency shelters -- the Superdome and the convention center -- with abandoned dead bodies on the ground or propped up in chairs.
The stench of human feces and urine was overwhelming, and many sick people waited listlessly on the ground or in wheelchairs to be fed and evacuated. Many complained about the federal government's slow response to the disaster.
"They left us here to die," said Tony Hatcher, a 48-year-old who looked around and pointed out a woman with a half-bandaged open sore on her left leg and a boy with bad skin condition on his arms. Neither had received medical attention.
Katrina's victims were predominantly black and poor, a fact that was not lost on many.
"We are throw-away people," said Sherman Wright, 69, who abandoned his home as flood waters rose dangerously high on Monday and still has no idea if anything is left. "Our politicians are not doing an damn thing for us."
Federal and state officials still have very little idea how many people are dead or where the bodies are, and experts warn of a huge health threat posed by toxic floodwaters, human waste in the streets, low supplies of clean drinking water and New Orleans' customary heat.
"We have a recipe for disease and we want to avoid that. It would make a devastating tragedy even worse," Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt told the CBS "Early Show" on Friday.
"Many of the hospitals are dysfunctional. We are rushing to develop medical shelters. We anticipate over time to move as many as 10,000 beds into that area," he said, adding that the government has set up 10 medical shelters up in the New Orleans area, the first of a planned 2,500.
Hopes for relief were raised on Friday afternoon as troops brought food supplies into the city and prepared to start distributing them. More people were also loaded on buses to go to new shelters in neighboring Texas.
The mood began to change and some of the tension eased, but there was still resentment over the government's slow response and the way evacuees were treated.
Terri Dorsey said the response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington had showed authorities could handle a major disaster but it had not happened this time around.
"Why don't they take care of us?" she said, sitting with two grandchildren and a grandniece in front of the convention center. "They just got out to us yesterday. They dropped things to us out of a helicopter like we were animals"