In case it goes away...
Officials Helpless Against Looters By KEVIN McGILL, Associated Press Writer
25 minutes ago
NEW ORLEANS - Authorities frantically tried to restore order Wednesday to the devastated city as brazen looters ransacked stores and houses for food, clothing, appliances — and guns.
Thieves chased a state police truck full of food. The New Orleans police chief ran off looters while city officials themselves were commandeering equipment from an Office Depot.
Officials tried to balance security needs with saving lives.
"We're multitasking right now," said New Orleans Police Capt. Marlon Defillo. "Rescue, recovery, stabilizataion of looting, we're trying to feed the hungry."
Gov. Kathleen Blanco appealed to the White House to send more people to help with evacuations and rescues, thereby freeing up National Guardsmen to stop looters.
"We need to free up the National Guard to do security in the city," Blanco said.
Meanwhile, city officials were taking advantage of the state of emergency to empty an Office Depot, which already had been looted, of supplies they needed for a temporary command center. During a state of emergency, authorities have broad powers to take private supplies and buildings for their use.
At 4 a.m., while officials were loading up routers and other technical equipment, Police chief Eddie Compass "starts screaming -- he had to chase some looters out that were coming in to loot some more," Defillo said.
City security chief Greg Meffert said he was awakened to help form a human chain to quickly unload a state police truck filled with food.
"The truck was about to be attacked by looters. ...It had state troopers in it," he said.
In the city's Carrollton section, which is on relatively high geround, looters commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break the glass of a Rite-Aid pharmacy. The crowd stormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water and food that it dropped from their arms as they ran. The street was littered with packages of ramen noodles and other items.
Defillo said looters were also taking guns and ammunition.
"We're very concerned about that," Defillo said. "We will maintain order. Let me say that. We will stabilize the situation."
Gunshots were heard throughout the night in Carrollton.
Defillo said an officer and a looter were wounded in a shootout. Defillo had no word on their condition. Three or four others were also arrested, he said.
One looter shot and wounded a fellow looter, who was taken to a hospital and survived.
Staff members at Children's Hospital huddled with sick youngsters and waited in vain for help to arrive as looters tried to break through the locked door, Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher told the newspaper. Neither the police nor the National Guard arrived.
Authorities planned to send more than 70 additional officers and an armed personnel carrier into the city.
In the meantime, city authorities were putting a higher priority on rescuing victims and repairing the levee breach that was spilling water into the streets.
"One of our fears is if we don't stop the breach, that we will put good people's lives in jeopardy and they would lose theirs, too," the governor said. "We are concerned about essentials. We are asking for more military presence in the city to control the situation better.
On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Miss., people picked through casino slot machines for coins and ransacked other businesses. In some cases, the looting was in full view of police and National Guardsmen.
The historic French Quarter appeared to have been spared the worst flooding, but its stores were getting the worst of human nature.
"The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked," Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson said. "We're using exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used for search and rescue while we still have people on rooftops."
Sen. Mary Landrieu (news, bio, voting record)'s helicopter was taking off Tuesday for a flyover of the devastation and she watched as a group of people smashed a window at a gas-station convenience store and jumped in.
At a drug store in the French Quarter, people were running out with grocery baskets and coolers full of soft drinks, chips and diapers.
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