Superdome Refugees to be Relocated to Houston

Alex Chadwick speaks to Los Angeles Times correspondent Scott Gold, reporting from outside the Superdome in New Orleans, where about 20,000 sought refuge from Hurricane Katrina and the rising floodwaters. Officials plan to relocate the victims more than 300 miles away to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

The National Guard has been trying to plug the largest gap in the levee where the floodwaters have been pouring in, dropping sandbags, 3,000-pound sandbags, from helicopters. Scott Gold is reporting from New Orleans from the Los Angeles Times, and we spoke earlier.

Mr. SCOTT GOLD (Los Angeles Times): Attempts to drop giant sandbags into the main breach of the levee system appears to have failed. Water continues to pour heavily from Lake Pontchartrain into the city.

CHADWICK: What about the rest of the levee system? I mean, these things are--they go on for miles and miles. Is anyone looking at the--kind of general conditions? Is there a possibility of more breaches?

Mr. GOLD: There is that possibility. Many of these are very large concrete structures, but so was the 17th Street Canal, where the main breach is. That's an enormous concrete structure and about three blocks of it have collapsed, and pieces of it are still coming off as the water rushes through.

CHADWICK: Scott, you say that you're near the Superdome. Have you been inside the Superdome?

Mr. GOLD: I have. It's a very unpleasant place to be. People there are very hot, very tired, many of them are in shock, many of them are dehydrated, toilets are overflowing, the air conditioners stopped. The backup generator that they're on right now is showing signs of faltering and could go out at some point today.

CHADWICK: What are the prospects for actually moving people out of there?

Mr. GOLD: It depends a lot on what happens to the water level, whether they're able to block that breach, whether they're able to get any of the pumps back on to lift some of the water out of the city. If you can lift enough of the water out of the city then you can start to bring in large troop carriers and things like that from the Army and the National Guard and, theoretically, they could take all the people out of the Superdome and some of the other shelters. But there are now 25,000 people inside the Superdome, so even if they're able to start the process, it's going to take a long time.

CHADWICK: It sounds just utterly desperate.

Mr. GOLD: People are desperate. It is a very grim day here in New Orleans.

CHADWICK: Let me ask you about civil order. Have you seen civil order is reasserted, or is looting still going on?

Mr. GOLD: Police have come out in force and attempted to kind of retake some of the streets, particularly Canal Street, which is one of the streets that runs along the French Quarter. There are other areas that are completely deserted and dry, oddly, kind of not a good combination right now because there are people looting there at will with no one to stop them, no one to chase them off.

CHADWICK: Covering this situation in an American city, it just sounds completely astounding to me.

Mr. GOLD: It is. I think everyone is really only now starting to understand the scope of this and how long it's going to take to recover and what may have happened. I mean, there are still plenty of areas, it's important to keep in mind, where, you know, rescue workers haven't even been able to get in yet to even start assessing what's happened. So we don't even really understand yet the extent of the damage, and already, of course, it's clear that it's a terrible situation.

CHADWICK: Scott Gold, reporter for the Los Angeles Times, speaking with us from New Orleans.

Scott, thank you.

Mr. GOLD: Thank you.

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