Worsening Conditions Forcing Stadium Evacuation, Official Says
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 30 Desperate for fresh air, dozens of refugees from Hurricane Katrina slept on the walkway surrounding the Superdome as conditions inside worsened and thousands more people were brought to the stadium even as Louisiana's governor said Tuesday that the huge emergency shelter and others would have to be emptied.
"Conditions are degenerating rapidly," Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said Tuesday night in announcing that the estimated 20,000 refugees there would be evacuated to other shelters within two days. "It's a very, very desperate situation."
Refugees had flocked to the Superdome on Tuesday in scenes that seemed biblical in scope, and the population had doubled from Monday, when few realized that the flooding -- and the ranks inside the NFL stadium -- would increase dramatically.
They came loaded in the backs of fatigue green and desert tan Army trucks. Some arrived atop commandeered U-Haul trucks, while others were dropped off after being ferried from rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters. Many more just walked or waded.
The refugees were bedraggled, bereft of belongings and scared, but, despite the filthy restrooms, overflowing trash cans and sweltering conditions, they were grateful for shelter.
Mary Stewart, 80, slid off the back of a National Guard truck with nothing but the clothes she wore, her purse and the shoe on her left foot.
"I was so scared, I don't feel I have any entrails anymore," said Stewart, who spent a harrowing night in the attic of a beauty salon in the city's flooded Ninth Ward.
Beauty salon employee Kioka Williams, 23, said they had to hack through the ceiling to reach the attic as the water rose.
"Oh, my God, it was hell," she said. "We were screaming, hollering, flashing lights. It was complete chaos."
The eight people in the salon were rescued early Tuesday by a police boat.
"I almost died in the night water," Willie Anderson, 49, said as he arrived at the Superdome. He had spent the night in his attic in the inundated Ninth Ward.
As a respite from the sour and stifling air inside the Superdome, the Guard allowed evacuees to go out on the concourse, where it was cooler.