These were the words said by President George W. Bush as Air Force One flew over parts of the devastated areas of New Orleans and the Mississippi coast line.
“We’re dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in our nation’s history,” Bush said later in a televised address from the White House, which most victims could not see because power remains out to 1 million Gulf Coast residents. The federal government dispatched helicopters, warships and elite SEAL water-rescue teams in one of the biggest relief operations in U.S. history, aimed at plucking residents from rooftops in the last of the “golden 72 hours” rescuers say is crucial to saving lives.
The words became even more grim as Mayor Ray Nagin speculated that thousands were feared drowned in New Orleans.
With thousands feared drowned in what could be America’s deadliest natural disaster in a century, New Orleans’ leaders all but surrendered the streets to floodwaters Wednesday and began turning out the lights on the ruined city — perhaps for months. Looting spiraled so out of control that Mayor Ray Nagin ordered virtually the entire police force to abandon search-and-rescue efforts and focus on the brazen packs of thieves who have turned increasingly hostile. Nagin called for an all-out evacuation of the city’s remaining residents. Asked how many people died, he said: “Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands.”
If the mayor’s death-toll estimate holds true, it would make Katrina the worst natural disaster in the United States since at least the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, which have blamed for anywhere from about 500 to 6,000 deaths. Katrina would also be the nation’s deadliest hurricane since 1900, when a storm in Galveston, Texas, killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people.
CNN discusses the tragedy that was the ‘Heartbreak and destruction in small towns and large’ that is being experienced all over the entire Gulf area.
I truly believe that apart from 9/11 this is one of the most significant events that has ever hit this country. Anybody who tells you this disaster is going to be rectified in a matter of months hasn’t seen the situation.
We did see tree removal trucks, electric trucks. So help is beginning to come in. We even saw, and this was a very strong image, Air Force One, or what we believed was Air Force One. That was a powerful image to us because we’ve been out of communication, unaware really of what’s happening in the outside world. This was a sign that you’ve heard, that you’ve heard and listened.
According to the AP, Mayor Ray Nagin ordered New Orleans Police Ordered to Halt Looting.
Mayor Ray Nagin ordered 1,500 police officers to leave their search-and-rescue mission Wednesday night and return to the streets to stop looting that has turned increasingly hostile as the city plunges deeper into chaos. “They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals, and we’re going to stop it right now,” Nagin said in a statement to The Associated Press.