In New Orleans

Troops Escalate Urgency of Evacuation

Miles Smith is moved to a wheelchair after rescuers brought him to the convention center. Officials are trying to avoid force but want the city emptied of residents.
Miles Smith is moved to a wheelchair after rescuers brought him to the convention center. Officials are trying to avoid force but want the city emptied of residents. (By Carol Guzy -- The Washington Post)

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By Timothy Dwyer and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 9, 2005

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 8 -- Outside Kajun's Pub, between the relatively dry French Quarter and the heavily flooded Ninth Ward, bar owner JoAnn Guidos loaded up her 1991 Ford Econoline van with clothing, liquor and other necessities Thursday morning. After holding out for 10 days, Guidos and her friends were finally leaving New Orleans and heading to high ground.

The beer was still cold, thanks to a working generator, and hopes for customers were strong as the flood-ravaged city fills with thirsty soldiers and emergency workers.

But on Wednesday night, Guidos said, armed federal agents identifying themselves as U.S. marshals confiscated her weapons and ordered her and six friends to leave by noon Thursday.

"When you get 15 M-16s pointed at you and they line you up against the wall, it's kind of scary," said Guidos, 55.

With floodwaters continuing to recede and cleanup efforts beginning in earnest, police and the military set out on an aggressive door-to-door campaign here Thursday, urging remaining residents to leave or be removed by force.

The former Big Easy took on the air of a military encampment, as thousands of reserve and active-duty troops began patrolling the city and assisting police in search-and-rescue missions. Houses were marked with codes indicating whether any residents -- living or dead -- were found inside. Emergency workers intensified efforts to divide the city into grids in order to methodically retrieve an unknown number of corpses still in the floodwaters or entombed in ruined homes and businesses.

Although the mayor issued a forcible evacuation order, Louisiana and federal officials said they remained hopeful that most stragglers will leave voluntarily when faced with urgent warnings about dwindling supplies and hazardous floodwaters.

"We need everybody out so we can continue with the work of restoring this city," Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen, the U.S. Coast Guard chief of staff who has taken over the federal response in New Orleans, said early in the day on CBS.

P. Edwin Compass, the superintendent of police, said there are thousands of people remaining in the city but that authorities are determined to get everyone out. He said as little force as necessary would be used but that staying is not an option. Anyone with a weapon, even one legally registered, will have it confiscated, he said.

"No one will be able to be armed," Compass said. "Guns will be taken. Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns."

The evacuation effort, however, appeared haphazard at best. Affluent areas that were not flooded, such as parts of the Garden District and Uptown, appear to be a low priority for mandatory evacuations.

In the dry neighborhood of Marigny Triangle, residents lounged in lawn chairs while listening to music blaring from "Radio Marigny," an impromptu outdoor music station. The area remained largely untouched by floodwaters, and residents say they see little reason to leave.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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