***scroll down for updates…Louisiana Gov. requesting federal troops…looting in Biloxi…hospital evacuations…someone looted a Dyson vacuum cleaner…”Finding vs. looting…”***
Darkness is descending on New Orleans, literally and figuratively. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, the N.O. Times-Picayune blog reports that the local children’s hospital is under siege:
Late Tuesday, Gov. Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher described a disturbing scene unfolding in uptown New Orleans, where looters were trying to break into Children’s Hospital.
Bottcher said the director of the hospital fears for the safety of the staff and the 100 kids inside the hospital. The director said the hospital is locked, but that the looters were trying to break in and had gathered outside the facility.
The director has sought help from the police, but, due to rising flood waters, police have not been able to respond.
Bottcher said Blanco has been told of the situation and has informed the National Guard. However, Bottcher said, the National Guard has also been unable to respond.
Things are spiraling completely out of control–and contrary to some naive observers, the crimes are not just being committed by people desperate for basic food and sustenance. Earlier, the Times-Picayune blog reported:
Those trapped in the city faced an increasingly lawless environment, as law enforcement agencies found themselves overwhelmed with widespread looting. Looters swarmed the Wal-mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, often bypassing the food and drink section to steal wide-screen TVs, jewelry, bicycles and computers. Watching the sordid display and shaking his head in disgust, one firefighter said of the scene: “It’s a f—- hurricane, what are you do with a basketball goal?”
Police regained control at about 3 p.m., after clearing the store with armed patrol. One shotgun-toting Third District detective described the looting as “ferocious.”
“And it’s going to get worse as the days progress,” he said.
In Uptown, one the few areas that remained dry, a bearded man patrolled Oak Street near the boarded-up Maple Leaf Bar, a sawed-off shotgun slung over his shoulder. The owners of a hardware store sat in folding chairs, pistols at the ready.
Uptown resident Keith Williams started his own security patrol, driving around in his Ford pickup with his newly purchased handgun. Earlier in the day, Williams said he had seen the body of a gunshot victim near the corner of Leonidas and Hickory streets.
“What I want to know is why we don’t have paratroopers with machine guns on every street,” Williams said.
Like-minded Art Depodesta sat on the edge of a picnic table outside Cooter Brown’s Bar, a chrome shotgun at his side loaded with red shells.
“They broke into the Shell station across the street,” he said. “I walked over with my 12-gauge and shot a couple into the air.”
The looters scattered, but soon after, another man appeared outside the bar in a pickup truck armed with a pistol and threatened Depodesta.
“I told him, ‘Listen, I was in the Army and I will blow your ass off,’” Depodesta said. “We’ve got enough trouble with the flood.”
The man sped away.
“You know what sucks,” Depodesta said. “The whole U.S. is looking at this city right now, and this is what they see.”
In the Bywater, a supply store sported spray-painted signs reading “You Loot, I Shoot” and “You Bein Watched.” A man seated nearby with a rifle in his lap suggested it was no idle threat. At the Bywater studio of Dr. Bob, the artist known for handpainted “Be Nice or Leave” signs, a less fanciful sentiment was painted on the wall: “Looters Will Be Shot. Dr. Bob.”
Reminds me very much of the chaos that ensued after the Los Angeles riots, in which Korean grocery store owners were left to fend for themselves and it was up to good Samaritans to try and quell the violence.
Video of Wal-Mart looted.
9am EDT update: Donald Sensing writes on Louisiana Gov. Blanco’s planned request for federal troops:
Louisiana Gov. Blanco just said live on FNC that she will ask President Bush to send federal troops to conduct law enforcement in New Orleans and environs. It’s hard to see Bush refusing. This step moves the city closer to actual martial law. The president has the authority under Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus when “public Safety may require it.” Historically, suspension of Habeas Corpus has been considered an indicator of martial law, as Abraham Lincoln did in the Civil War.
We’ll have to wait to see what enforcement authority the federal troops will have when they arrive. I am guessing that the units sent will be military police from either or both of the regular Army and the Army Reserve.
And they’re looting in Biloxi, Miss., too:
An AP reporter along the beach in Biloxi, Mississippi, says it “looks like a free-for-all,” as looters come running out of souvenir shops, loaded down with merchandise. He saw two men riding go-carts taken from an amusement park near the beach. Two men were pushing a large plastic garbage can with wheels—so full that it took both of them to drag it down the street.
10am EDT update: I am trying to get an update on the Children’s Hospital situation from Governor Blanco’s office and will report back with any news.
Meantime, Rick Moran’s blog essay on law and order during disasters is good reading: “The compact of civil societies.”
And here’s news of the dire medical crisis facing the region, via the Houston Chronicle:
Nearly 200 medical patients are expected to arrive in Houston today as part of a massive air evacuation from New Orleans’ storm-crippled hospital system.
More than 150 veterans and their families will arrive at Ellington Field and be transported to the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. The Methodist Hospital is getting 20 other patients and Texas Children’s Hospital is getting 17, said Andy Icken, executive vice president of Texas Medical Center.
Federal officials said the evacuations of perhaps 2,500 patients began Tuesday. They are necessary because at least seven hospitals — many surrounded by water — in Orleans Parish were threatened by the loss of power generators and other problems.
One critically ill patient at Louisiana State University’s Charity Hospital, a teenage car accident victim on a ventilator, was being taken by boat to the Louisiana Superdome and is scheduled to fly to Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital by helicopter. The power generator at the New Orleans hospital was running out of fuel.
Likewise, the VA center in New Orleans began evacuating nine ventilator patients when it became clear the backup generator was going to run out of fuel, said Bobbi Gruner, a DeBakey spokeswoman.
Hugh Hewitt calls for media restraint and looking for info:
I would appreciate any pointers to (1)coast guard bloggers, (2)civil engineering blogs that are discussing the levee breaks, and (3)word on whether the elevators in the many high rises in downtown New Orleans have been checked for trapped people.
1050 EDT update: Silflay Hraka notes that it’s not just civilians looting and highlights a female looter who stole a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Because clean carpets are so vital during the worst natural disaster in American history.
Jason Smith: What to do with the looters
11am EDT update: Wonkette highlights disparate Associated Press captions on “finding” vs. “looting” photos and suggests that racism is involved. Lots of other readers are sending me the photos, too, making the same point. There’s one slight problem with the implication that the AP was overtly racist in labeling one of the photos “looting” and the other “finding.” The race of the woman in the “finding” photo is indeterminate. She looks Hispanic or mixed. I agree it’s still a curious editorial choice of words and I’d love to hear AP’s explanation. But seems to me that it’s not as black and white as some people are making it out to be.
La Shawn Barber and her commenters share thoughts on the looting phenomenon.
Looting/finding update: Xrlq spots an even more fundamental error–the photos are from two different news agencies–AP and AFP.