'It's like they're punishing us'
Those words are proving sadly prescient in New Orleans, which in a week's time has gone from one of the world's most beautiful cities to Hell on the Mississippi. Armed gangs now control the city's streets, overwhelming the comparative handful of police trying to keep order, and hospital evacuations stopped today after snipers opened fire on the National Guard.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people remain stranded on the streets or rooftops or in cramped refuges like the Louisiana Superdome, the Riverwalk, or the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where the bodies are beginning to pile up as the city's food and water supplies continue to dwindle. Looting is widespread, with some people taking advantage of the crisis to steal weapons and expensive items but with many others desperately seeking food and water to stay alive.
Rescuers and relief workers are doing everything they can on the ground and in the air, but there just aren't enough of them to reach everyone who's in trouble, and anger toward city, state, and federal officials is growing. "They've been teasing us with buses for days," one refugee said. "It's like they're punishing us," another said. Publishing online today from its new home in Houma, La., the New Orleans Times-Picayune editorialized that "[v]irtually everyone in public safety has failed the people left in New Orleans who are trying desperately to survive."
The Bush administration right now may well be doing what it can in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, but some area residents blame the president for what they see as an inadequate response. A refugee outside the city's convention center expressed his outrage today: "You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people. You can go overseas with the military but you can't get them down here."