Shoot to kill
September 3, 2005
US TROOPS have been ordered to shoot to kill to stop the anarchy that has overtaken hurricane-devastated New Orleans.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said the 300 troopers from the Arkansas National Guard had been authorised to open fire on "hoodlums" who terrorised the flooded city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The deployment came amid intense criticism of the Bush Administration for a tardy response to the disaster, which is feared to have killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands stranded and homeless.
"These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle tested, and under my orders to restore order in the streets," Ms Blanco said.
"They have M-16s and they are locked and loaded.
"These troops know how to shoot and kill, and are more than willing to do so if necessary. And I expect they will."
Four days after the killer storm slammed into the US Gulf Coast, New Orleans was plagued by gun battles and rapes. Gangs of looters and carjackers roved the streets, and bodies lay in the open.
Horror stories emerged from the Superdome, including of killings, child rapes, and thugs openly smoking crack cocaine.
It started as a refuge for 20,000 but turned into a "concentration camp" in debilitating humidity and the rank smell of backed-up toilets.
A National Guardsman was shot outside the Superdome, and a shot was also fired at a Chinook helicopter taking part in the operation to move refugees out of the stadium.
"The last few days were utter hell. We were treated like animals," said Baron Duncan, who took shelter in the stadium.
About 10 Australians fled the Superdome yesterday and were cowering in the foyer of the Hilton Hotel.As thousands finally escaped the Superdome horror on a bus convoy to Houston yesterday, the New Orleans Convention Centre became a second flashpoint.Up to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at the centre to await buses grew increasingly hostile.
Police Chief Eddie Compass said he sent in 88 officers to quell the situation, but they were quickly beaten back by an angry mob.
"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," he said.
"Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."
Two Victorian women are believed to be at the Convention Centre.
Sharon Whyte, of Kilmore, said her mother, Pamela, and cousin Karen had not had fresh water since Tuesday.
Outside the Convention Centre, the footpaths were packed with people desperate for food, water or medical care. At least seven bodies were outside.
An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead on a grassy median strip as hungry babies cried around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered with a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.
The street was choked with sewage, dirty nappies, bottles and rubbish.
People chanted, "Help, help!" and a woman led the crowd in reciting the 23rd Psalm.
Hospitals were evacuated after power ran out, and helicopters ferrying patients and babies drew gunfire.
"This is a war zone," said Melissa Murray, 32, a Louisiana state corrections officer helping in the relief effort.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued an urgent plea for help for up to 20,000 refugees stuck in the convention centre, which he said was "unsanitary and unsafe" and running out of supplies.
"This is a desperate SOS," Mayor Nagin said.
Governor Blanco said up to 300,000 survivors might still be stuck in the disaster area, and at least 40,000 uniformed troops were needed for New Orleans alone.
Armoured personnel carriers patrolled Canal Street, which borders New Orleans' famous French Quarter district of bars and clubs.
At a city airport, scores of people, many of them seriously ill, waited for flights out to shelter and proper medical care.
President George W. Bush said looters should be treated with "zero tolerance", and also urged Americans to conserve petrol.
"Don't buy gas if you don't need it," he said.
With several refineries on the Gulf Coast shut, retail petrol prices soared to records.
Prime Minister John Howard yesterday announced a $10 million donation to the hurricane relief operation.