***scroll down for updates, more charitable relief info, looting/prison riot status, definitive clarification about reporting on “martial law,” midnight update and declaration of tomorrow’s Day of Prayer***
Inmates at a prison in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans have rioted, attempted to escape and are now holding hostages, a prison commissioner told ABC News affiliate WBRZ in Baton Rouge, La.
Orleans Parish Prison Commissioner Oliver Thomas reported the incident to WBRZ.
A deputy at Orleans Parish Prison, his wife and their four children have been taken hostage by rioting prisoners after riding out Hurricane Katrina inside the jail building, according to WBRZ.
Officials are expected to hold a press conference regarding the riots at 9 p.m. ET.
A woman interviewed by WBRZ said her son, a deputy at the prison whose family is among the hostages, told her that many of the prisoners have fashioned homemade weapons. Her son had brought his family there hoping they would be safe during the storm.
The LA Times on the prison riot and continued looting:
The fabric of civil order was frayed. The Superdome changed from an arena of sports heroics into a grim experience for about 10,000 refugees. Three hospital patients died in the dome and another death was reported by officials. One suicide was also reported, but could not be independently confirmed.
Inmates took over a local jail and looting continued for a second day.
“It’s downtown Baghdad,” Denise Bollinger told the Associated Press. The tourist from Philadelphia watched looters and snapped pictures in amazement. “It’s insane. I’ve wanted to come here for 10 years. I thought this was a sophisticated city. I guess not.”
“It’s downtown Baghdad,” said tourist Denise Bollinger, who snapped pictures of looting in the French Quarter. “It’s insane.”
…”It’s like being in a Third World country,” said Mitch Handrich, a registered nurse manager at Charity Hospital, where nurses were ventilating patients by hand after the power and then the backup generator failed. Some 300 patients had yet to be evacuated, but the babies in intensive care had been flown out.
“We’re just trying to stay alive,” Handrich said.
It’s 904pm EDT and none of the cable news networks are carrying the press conference. I’ll update when I hear anything new.
The indispensable New Orleans Times-Picayune blog posts about the police officer shot by a looter:
The New Orleans police officer shot in the head by a looter Tuesday was expected to survive, officials said.
The officer, who has not been identified, was in surgery at West Jefferson Medical Center after being shot in the forehead, police said.
The officer was shot by a looter after he and another officer confronted a number of looters at a Chevron store at Shirley and Gen. DeGaulle.
Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies on the scene arrested four people in connection with the shooting. One of the looters reportedly was shot in the arm by an officer during a shootout.
Adversity brings out the best and worst in people. Hugh Hewitt’s call for a blogger relief fund has been engaged by countless bloggers. N.Z. Bear is working on a special page for the event, set for this Thursday. He will:
1) Set up a registration page where bloggers planning to join in can say so, including providing information (if they like) about where they are blogging from and the charity they suggest donations to.
2) Make the database as publicly accessible and available as I can, so that anybody else who wants to create an aggregation page or otherwise use the list can do so.
3) On the day of the event, I’ll create a dedicated community page for it, and run that as TTLB’s front page.
Other suggestions are welcome, and I’ll try to think of how else I can help during the day today. I should have the registration page up and running tonight…
Meanwhile, over at the Daily Kos, one diarist and some of his commenters are going absolutely insane with their Bush hatred and blaming him for wanting to kill off black residents of New Orleans.
I pray other liberal bloggers will rise above this muck and join the blogger relief effort.
Jeff Jarvis asks some somber, sober questions: Should New Orleans be rebuilt?
Does it make sense to rebuild homes and offices in a place that can be destroyed all too easily, putting thousands of lives at risk? Is that the right thing to do?
And… Is that the best use of our tax and insurance dollars? Everytime the Mississippi floods up river, there are those who say that we should stop paying to rebuild that which has been destroyed before. And, in fact, we have invested government money in moving people away from certain danger so we can stop paying to rebuild. It’s an investment in their safety.
I’m not suggesting that what’s left of New Orleans should be bulldozed and abandoned. But I will suggest that, indeed, the city may need to be reinvented. How?
Perhaps it should go with its strengths and be rebuilt as a tourist destination before all its restaurants have branches in Vegas. Perhaps it should be smaller and rather than investing in rebuilding, the money should in some cases be spent on relocation.
What should become of New Orleans?
I agree with commenter Frank Martin:
Good question, but the wrong time to ask it. The hurricane has passed, but the disaster is only getting started. You don[']t ask people to pick out new drapes while the fire department is still putting out the fire.
1020pm EDT update: Still no news on the prison riot press conference. Local and state officials having a separate presser to update recovery/relief efforts. There are 36,700 people in shelters right now. Mind-boggling. Live local ABC feed here.
1040pm EDT. Finally some comments on the looting and it’s not reassuring. A state police official, Col. Henry Whitehorn of the Louisiana State Police, says: “Based on what I’ve seen on the news, there’s a lot of chaos.” Oooo-kay. No condemnation of the looting. No warning to looters that they will pay consequences. Col. Whitehorn complains about communications problems with first responders. Regarding the prison riot situation: People “are on the scene.” He also confirms that a New Orleans cop was shot by a looter, but provides no further details.
Another official alludes to “unrest” at the Orleans Parish Prison. No further info.
11pm EDT update: Drudge flash…
The Pentagon late Tuesday ordered five Navy ships and eight maritime rescue teams to the Gulf Coast to bolster relief operations as worsening conditions overwhelmed the initial response.
The NEW YORK TIMES plans to report later tonight: One Navy amphibious assault ship, the Bataan, with six Sea Stallion and Sea Hawk helicopters that could be used for search and rescue missions.
The ships will carry food, fuel, medical and construction supplies, as well as hovercraft that can be used for evacuation and search-and-rescue missions.
The Navy was also considering sending the hospital ship Comfort.
Important: The New Orleans Times-Picayune blog clarifies the “martial law” questions that have been swirling throughout the day…
The state Attorney General’s office on Tuesday sought to clarify reports in some media that “martial law’ has been declared in parts of storm-ravaged southeast Louisiana, saying no such term exists in Louisiana law.
But even though no martial law exists, Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s declaration of a state of emergency gives authorities widespread latitude to suspend civil liberties as they try to restore order and bring victims to safety. Under the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act of 1993, the governor and, in some cases, chief parish officials, have the right to commandeer or utilize any private property if necessary to cope with the emergency.
Authorities may also suspend any statute related to the conduct of official business, or any rule issued by a state agency, if complying would “prevent, hinder or delay necessary action” to mitigate the emergency.
It also gives authority the right to compel evacuations, suspend alcohol and weapons sales and make provisions for the availability and use of temporary emergency housing.
The law gives mayors similar authority, except they do not have the right to commandeer private property or make provisions for emergency housing, according to a background brief prepared by the state Attorney General’s office.
As promised, Chuck Simmins’ donation tracking page is up. So far, American corporations have donated some $10 million to help their fellow Americans. In addition, the American Red Cross has raised $100,000 on-line in the last two days.
Question on many readers’ minds:
Where are Hollywood and the Live Aid people?
Answer: Nowhere to be found yet.
Meanwhile, Instapundit is collecting a heap of excellent charitable relief links. Bookmark the post and send him more recommendations.
12am EDT midnight update:
Laura Curtis weighs in on the East Bank levee break and apparent bureaucratic wrangling.
Amy Welborn: “I’m not there, and all I know is what I watch on television and read on the web, but I have this terrible feeling that what Katrina started human beings are going to finish off tonight and afterwards, unless the military gets in there, totally and fast.”
The Anchoress: “I am praying that America can bring herself to shine, as she always has, through this disaster.”
Speaking of prayer, the governor of Louisiana has declared tomorrow a Day of Prayer:
“As we face the devastation wrought by Katrina, as we search for those in need, as we comfort those in pain and as we begin the long task of rebuilding, we turn to God for strength, hope and comfort.
“I have declared August 31, 2005, a Day of Prayer in the State of Louisiana.
“I am asking that all of Louisiana take some time Wednesday to pray. Pray for the victims and the rescuers. Please pray that God give us all the physical and spiritual strength to work through this crisis and rebuild.
“Please pray for patience for those anxiously waiting to hear from family members or to get word about their homes. Pray for the safety of our hard-working rescuers and those they are bringing to safety.
“I know, by praying together on Wednesday, that we can pull together and draw strength we need; strength, that only God can give us.
“In my prayers, I will also thank God for the strong and resilient people of this state and how they are working to meet this challenge.”
Please join in. (Let’s just hope Michael Newdow and the ACLU chill out for once.)
The Washington Post’s Wednesday edition spotlights charity and military mobilization efforts…
The Air Force, Navy and Army began mobilizing troops and equipment to augment National Guard units, including helicopters with night-search gear and amphibious watercraft with civilian teams for rescuing stranded citizens. The Navy and U.S. Merchant Marine readied five ships in Norfolk and Baltimore: the hospital ship USNS Comfort, as well as helicopter-carrying vessels and ships that can carry landing craft, construction equipment, Humvees, forklifts, food, fuel and water-purification equipment.
For the first time, the Pentagon yesterday created a joint domestic task force — headed by a three-star general and based in Mississippi — to coordinate emergency operations by Guard and active-duty forces across four states. Driving the U.S. military response was the realization of the “sheer magnitude” of the catastrophe once dawn broke, said Michael Kucharek, spokesman for U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs.
The Red Cross had opened more than 200 shelters yesterday in concert with FEMA, which mobilized before the storm when President Bush designated Louisiana and Mississippi disaster areas. That allowed FEMA rescue workers to bring in water, ice and ready-to-eat meals before Katrina hit.
While rescue units pulled stranded residents from floodwater yesterday, a 50-member FEMA team was in Louisiana, making plans to buy, order and move hundreds of thousands of mobile homes into the area. FEMA will reimburse flood victims for rental housing, FEMA spokeswoman Natalie Rule said. The need was made more urgent yesterday when Louisiana officials decided to evacuate the Superdome, a city-designated shelter damaged by wind and flooding and made miserable for its inhabitants by a lack of electricity and clean water.
“We were very well-prepared, but it’s not going to be a breeze,” Rule said. “This is a very large, large disaster, and it’s going to require a lot of teamwork and patience.”
The Salvation Army said its relief costs for Katrina will probably exceed the $30 million spent on Florida hurricane relief last year.
And The Truth Laid Bear’s Blog for Relief Day registration page is now up.
Previous Katrina coverage:
Katrina: From bad to worse in New Orleans
Katrina: Death toll rises
Katrina: Superdome update
Katrina: The military steps in
New Orleans underwater
The destruction begins
Katrina blogging: Dire outlook
Hurricane Katrina: Relief efforts
Hurricane Katrina blogging (Florida)
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