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Evacuees wait as relief efforts build

Military efforts begin amid suffering at convention center, hospitals



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Disasters (General)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Thousands of people faced the prospect of spending another night outside of a New Orleans convention center, as a stream of buses worked to move out the 30,000 evacuees who have been stranded there for days amid mounds of trash and human waste.

Authorities with the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Saturday that 4,000 people had been bused from the Ernest Morial Convention Center.

A huge convoy of buses and military vehicles brought food, water and medical supplies to the convention center Friday afternoon. (See the squalid refugee-camp conditions at the center -- 2:30)

The evacuees headed to the staging area in an orderly fashion when the buses returned Saturday morning, leaving behind the mountains of trash.

Elsewhere in the city, a helicopter hovered above power lines in one flooded neighborhood, dropping food and water to survivors. One man waved in thanks after wading into the contaminated, waist-deep water to get some supplies.

Outside the metropolitan area, attention turned to Katrina's rural victims Saturday.

"Because we've been so busy in New Orleans, we forgot about the country people, and we're trying to address them now," said Richard Zuschlag of Acadian Ambulance Service.

Besides Orleans Parish, the military has established a strong presence in Jefferson Parish to the south, but hasn't begun a systemic search for survivors outside of the metropolitan area, he said.

Saturday, St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack Stephens in Chalmette made an urgent request to an ambulance service pilot to ask the military to send food and water to about 2,000 people in the town about five miles southeast of New Orleans.

Authorities said that they have evacuated some 42,000 people from New Orleans proper by bus, air and Amtrak trains. They also said that three Carnival cruise ships were on their way to the area to serve as temporary housing. Most of the evacuees have been moved to shelters in Texas.

Heavily armed law enforcement units were patrolling the city to restore order after reports of gangs prowling the city, looting, raping and killing at will.

A New Orleans police sergeant said Friday that he'd seen bodies riddled with bullet holes.

The Louisiana State Patrol said that there were no confirmed reports of violence overnight. (CNN's Bill Schneider on the question: Who's in control? -- 2:14)

A fire at the Shops at Canal Place, at the foot of Canal Street near the Aquarium of the Americas, started "under suspicious circumstances" since the building has no electricity or gas, firefighters told CNN.

The firefighters battled the blaze throughout the day aided by four water tankers that had been sent to New Orleans from Mississippi. Earlier, people could be seen leaving the building carrying shopping bags filled with merchandise.

Fifty-foot flames also engulfed an industrial district along the Mississippi River and threatened to spread from warehouse to warehouse. (Watch the fires sweep along waterfront -- 5:05)

Although much of the city is covered with foul water, there is no water pressure. An attempt to bring water tankers and fireboats into the area was unsuccessful.

Bush: 'We will make it right'

In a rare live radio address Saturday, President Bush said more than 7,000 additional troops will be sent over the next 24 to 72 hours to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. (Full story)

"Where our response is not working, we will make it right," he said.

Bush visited hard-hit areas Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana on Friday before returning to Washington to sign a $10.5 billion relief bill. (Full story)

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters on Saturday that government officials did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood the city of New Orleans.

"That perfect storm of combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight," Chertoff said.

He called the disaster "breathtaking in its surprise."

But government officials, scientists, and journalists have warned of such a scenario for years.

Many Americans have expressed outrage over what they perceived to be a slow response from the federal government.

Some questioned whether race was a factor in treatment of the largely black evacuee population.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Saturday in Houston that race played a role, and called President Bush's response to the crisis "inexcusable." Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have criticized the pace of relief efforts, saying response was slow because those most affected are poor. (Full story)

Hospital evacuated

At New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport on Saturday, babies slept on flattened cardboard boxes as hundreds of evacuees waited to be airlifted.

CNN's Ed Lavandera described a "thunderous buzz" of helicopters delivering evacuees to the airport, where they were getting medical treatment before being moved on to more permanent shelters.

"The hallways are filled, the floors are filled. There are thousands of people there," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told The Associated Press during a visit to the airport. "A lot more than eight to 10 people are dying a day. It's a distribution problem. The doctors are doing a great job, the nurses are doing a great job."

The last 200 patients, who had waited in primitive conditions, were evacuated from Charity Hospital, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported. (Full story)

The hospital has no power, no water and no food. The bodies of patients who have died had been stored in stairwells because the hospital's morgue is flooded.

Although bodies have been spotted for days throughout the city, New Orleans officials have no death toll, instead focusing on rescuing the living.

Residents in Harrison County, Mississippi, complained about the slow pace of the removal of bodies.

People in one Biloxi neighborhood showed CNN the body of their neighbor, wedged under a porch. They said emergency officials are aware of the body and told them not to remove it.

In another Biloxi neighborhood, residents said they found 25 bodies washed up from the floodwaters. (Watch report on growing frustration in Mississippi -- 2:16)

Other developments

  • About 15,000 people have been evacuated to Houston's Astrodome, which officials say is filled to capacity. Two other shelters were opened nearby that can hold an estimated 26,000 people. (Watch evacuees react to Texas hospitality -- 2:13)
  • The U.S. Air Force will send 300 troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan to help their families cope with emergencies on a hurricane-devastated air base in Biloxi, Mississippi, a spokesman said Saturday. (Full story)
  • Offers of support have poured in from all over the world. Many countries have offered condolences and made donations to the Red Cross, including Britain, Japan, Australia and Sri Lanka, which is still recovering from last year's tsunami. (Full story)
  • CNN's Sean Callebs, Sanjay Gupta, Ed Lavandera, Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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