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083105mspressentotal3 (Page 2)
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THE MISSISSIPPI PRESS
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2005
Rescuers climb over dead
By BRETT MARTEL
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Rescuers
along the hurricane-ravaged
Gulf Coast pushed aside the
dead to reach the living Tuesday
in a race against time and rising
waters, while New Orleans
sank deeper into crisis and
Louisiana’s governor ordered
storm refugees out of this
drowning city.
Two levees broke and sent
water coursing into the streets
of the Big Easy a full day after
New Orleans appeared to have
escaped widespread destruction
from Hurricane Katrina. An
estimated 80 percent of the
below-sea-level city was under
water, up to 20 feet deep in
places, with miles and miles of
homes swamped.
“The situation is untenable,”
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. “It’s
just heartbreaking.”
One Mississippi county alone
said its death toll was at least
100, and officials are “very, very
worried that this is going to go a
lot higher,” said Joe Spraggins,
civil defense director for Harrison County, home to Biloxi and
Gulfport.
Thirty of the victims in the
county were from a beachfront
apartment building that collapsed under a 25-foot wall of
water as Katrina slammed the
Gulf Coast with 145-mph winds.
And Louisiana officials said
many were feared dead there,
too, making Katrina one of the
most punishing storms to hit
the United States in decades.
After touring the destruction
by air, Mississippi Gov. Haley
Barbour said it looked like
Hiroshima after the atomic
bomb was dropped.
New Orleans Mayor Ray
Nagin said hundreds, if not
thousands, of people may still
be stuck on roofs and in attics,
and so rescue boats were
bypassing the dead.
“We’re not even dealing with
dead bodies,” Nagin said.
“They’re just pushing them on
the side.”
The flooding in New Orleans
grew worse by the minute,
prompting the evacuation of
hotels and hospitals and an
John David Mercer/Mobile Register
Rooftops and bare foundations sit surrounded by the debris of damaged and destroyed homes and businesses in Biloxi Tuesday, following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall along the Gulf Coast on Monday. Across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, more than one million residents remained
without electricity, some without clean drinking water Tuesday. In devastated Biloxi, areas that were not underwater were littered with tree trunks,
downed power lines and chunks of broken concrete. Some buildings were flattened.
audacious plan to drop huge
sandbags from helicopters to
close up one of the breached levees. At the same time, looting
broke out in some neighborhoods, the sweltering city of
480,000 had no drinkable water,
and the electricity could be out
for weeks.
With water rising perilously
inside the Superdome, Blanco
said the tens of thousands of
refugees now huddled there and
other shelters in New Orleans
would have to be evacuated.
She asked residents to spend
Wednesday in prayer.
“That would be the best thing
to calm our spirits and thank
our Lord that we are survivors,”
she said. “Slowly, gradually, we
will recover; we will survive; we
will rebuild.”
A helicopter view of the dev-
astation over the New Orleans
area revealed people standing
on black rooftops baking in the
sunshine while waiting for rescue boats. A row of desperately
needed ambulances were lined
up on the interstate, water
blocking their path. Roller
coasters jutted out from the
water at a Six Flags amusement park. Hundreds of
inmates were seen standing on
a highway because the prison
had been flooded.
Sen. Mary Landrieu quietly
traced the sign of the cross
across her head and chest as
she looked out at St. Bernard
Parish, where only roofs peaked
out from the water.
“The whole parish is gone,”
Landrieu said.
All day long, rescuers in boats
and helicopters pulled out shell-
shocked and bedraggled flood
refugees from rooftops and
attics. The Coast Guard said it
has rescued 1,200 people by
boat and air, some placed shivering and wet into helicopter
baskets. They were brought by
the truckload into shelters,
some in wheelchairs and some
carrying babies, with stories of
survival and of those who didn’t
make it.
Biloxi residents fought for life in swamped apartments
By HOLBROOK MOHR
The Associated Press
BILOXI — Joy Schovest swam for her life,
fighting Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge and
its angry winds, brushing aside debris and
floating cars to reach higher ground.
Behind her, at least 30 of her neighbors in the
Quiet Water Beach apartments were dying,
trapped in their crumbling two-story building
as it was swept away with much of this Mississippi Coast community Monday.
“We grabbed a lady and pulled her out the
window and then we swam with the current,”
said Schovest, 55, breaking into tears. “It was
terrifying. You should have seen the cars floating around us. We had to push them away
when we were trying to swim.”
The tragedy at the apartment building represented the biggest known cluster of deaths
caused by Katrina.
Joe Spraggins, civil defense director for Harrison County, home to Biloxi and Gulfport, said
the county’s death toll was at least 100, and
officials were “very, very worried that this is
going to go a lot higher.”
The only remaining evidence of the Quiet
Water Beach apartments was a concrete slab
surrounded by a heap of red bricks that were
once the building’s walls. A crushed red toy
wagon, jewelry, clothing and twisted boards
were mixed in with the debris. The four-lane
road that separated the building from the
beachfront was buckled and covered with rubble.
“This is all that’s left of my house,” said nearby resident Jack Crochet, 56, shaking his head
and looking at the rubble. “It’s never going to be
the same. It’s over.”
The storm also inflicted a punishing blow to
Biloxi’s waterfront casinos, down the beach
from the apartment building. At least three of
the floating barge casinos were tossed from
their moorings by the storm’s 25-foot wall of
water, their barnacle-covered hulls coming to
rest up to 200 yards inland.
Aerial footage showed the Grand Casino
landed on the side of a busy highway. “I think
it will have to be cut into pieces simply to be
moved out of there,” Gary Loveman, chairman
of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., told CNBC.
At the Treasure Bay Casino, people examined
the slot machines to see if they still contained
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coins, and looting broke out in other areas of
Biloxi.
“People are just casually walking in and filling up garbage bags and walking off like they’re
Santa Claus,” said Marty Desei, owner of a
Super 8 motel in Biloxi. “I haven’t seen anything like this in my whole life.”
The lucky ones in the Quiet Water Beach
apartment building and other vulnerable areas
of Biloxi described a scene of pandemonium
as they fled the rising water. When asked why
they ignored evacuation orders, some said they
did not think the storm would be that bad;
others would not give a reason.
Apartment tenant Landon Williams, a 19year-old construction worker, said he and his
grandmother and uncle ran from the crumbling building as the storm hit. As they later
swam through the swirling water and debris,
“we watched the apartments disintegrate. You
could hear the big pieces of wood cracking and
breaking apart.”
He said the winds flung two-by-fours and
drywall.
“I lost everything. We can’t even find my
car,” he said. “I’m looking through this wreck-
age to see if I can find anything that’s mine. If
not, I’m moving on. I think I’ll move on to
North Carolina and do some work over there. I
can’t take it here anymore — not after this.”
Williams said six of his neighbors in the
building who remained behind also survived.
“As the second story collapsed, they climbed
onto the roof and part of it floated away and
they floated to a house that made it,” he said.
Paul Merritt, 30, surveyed the damage in
Biloxi with his 18-year-old wife and their 3month-old son, Brandon. He said the water
rose to the second story of his townhouse, which
is less than a block off the beach.
“I’ve never seen destruction of this magnitude,” Merritt said. “You see this stuff on TV
and you hope that it never happens to you.
Everything’s gone.”
Ida Punzo rode out the storm with a friend
and two neighbors in her 130-year-old home on
the beachfront in Biloxi. The first two floors of
the old house were almost completely gone,
but she survived.
“It was a miracle,” Punzo said. “This place is
held together with God’s spit. We’re not supposed to be alive.”
BRIEFS
Navy sending three ships to Gulf Coast
WASHINGTON — The Navy
is sending three ships to the
Gulf Coast with water and other supplies for those hit by
Hurricane Katrina, but officials
are urging service members
not to try to return to their military bases in New Orleans.
Navy bases in Gulfport,
Miss., and New Orleans were
evacuated and suffered heavy
flooding and wind damage.
Officials are gearing up to fly
over the bases to get a
detailed assessment of the
damages.
Meanwhile, Rear Adm.
George Mayer, commander of
Navy Region South, issued a
statement extending the evacuation for Naval Air Station
New Orleans and the naval
support base there, saying
only personnel specifically
contacted for the recovery
effort should go back to the
city.
The two bases were flooded,
with as much as three feet of
water, and there was no power
or utilities.
In Gulfport, many of the
buildings were damaged.
The three amphibious ships
will be leaving from Norfolk,
Va., in the next few days. The
Pensacola Naval Air Station in
Florida will be a base for the
relief effort.
Hurricane Katrina forces
Tulane-Southern Miss
postponement
IRVING, Texas — The
Tulane-Southern Mississippi
game that was supposed to be
played Sunday in Hattiesburg,
Miss., has been moved to the
Saturday after Thanksgiving
because of the problems
caused by Hurricane Katrina.
“We have been in contact
with the administrators for both
universities and we all agree
that the focus of our attention
should be on the continued
safety of the student-athletes,
coaches and the lives of those
affected by this storm,” Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said Tuesday.
“Playing a football game is not
our highest priority at this
time.”
Tulane and Southern Miss
were scheduled to end their
seasons Nov. 19. Now, their
opener will become their finale
on Nov. 26.
ESPN2, which was to carry
Sunday's game, told the conference it will still try honoring
those plans.
— From Wire Reports
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