September 3, 2005

Survivors describe week of horror in New Orleans

By Paul Simao

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana (Reuters) - Thousands of New Orleans
residents streamed north on Saturday, escaping the violence
that gripped the city in the days after it was devastated by
Hurricane Katrina.

Women spoke of the terror they felt as gangs of thieves and
rapists roamed the streets and temporary shelters night after
night, plucking victims -- some of them children -- at whim and
with no fear of police intervention.

"They took what they wanted and nobody stopped them," said
Tanika James, 27, who was among a large group of refugees who
arrived in Baton Rouge and other parts of Louisiana on Friday.
"It was the most scared I (have) been."

Like many of the 6,000 hurricane survivors who have sought
shelter at a domed arena in Lafayette in southwestern
Louisiana, Michael Davis, 18, said the orgy of violence that
erupted in the state's largest city had left him with a numbing
sense of loss.

"The New Orleans I knew ain't no more," Davis said.

"There were bodies floating everywhere. Lots of them. Some
had bullets in them," Davis said, as he described his escape
from a neighborhood that was immersed in more than 10 feet (3
metres) of water earlier this week.

The U.S. government, which has been criticized by state
officials, black leaders and others for being caught
flat-footed by the lawlessness in New Orleans, sent more troops
into the predominantly black city on Saturday.

At the same time, federal authorities were continuing to
evacuate tens of thousands who remained trapped in New Orleans
with scant supplies of water, food and other necessities.

Those who have been evacuated have found temporary shelters
in sports arenas, convention centers and other converted
facilities, many in Louisiana and neighboring states but some
as far away as Utah in the western United States.

There are even plans to house some on cruise ships.

The luckier ones are finding shelter in private homes.

"I'm here to take in a family," said James Tilghman, who
traveled to a Red Cross shelter in Lafayette on Saturday from
nearby Broussard, Louisiana. "I can't afford to sit there and
feed them for months, but I can do my part."

Tilghman said he had been appalled by the violence in New
Orleans and was concerned that some of it might spill over into
his community with the arrival of more survivors. "I'm totally
against guns, but I bought one this week," he said.