Guard Troops Restore Some Order to Big Easy

The security situation seems to be improving with the arrival of more National Guard troops.


It appears that today's stepped-up rescue effort in New Orleans has been successful. There are no longer people in the Superdome waiting to be evacuated, and rescuers have reached other parts of the city. We turn now to NPR's John Ydstie. He's at the New Orleans Convention Center where thousands of hurricane victims had been waiting for rescue.

Hello, John.

JOHN YDSTIE reporting:

Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: What's the situation there now? We've been hearing that people there at the Convention Center were very desperate.

YDSTIE: Well, after days of bad news here, all of those refugees who came here for refuge from the flood and then spent most of the past five days without food and water, all of them are now gone, so that's good news. As we drove into town this afternoon, we came by the Convention Center and we saw a convoy of buses pulling up, and followed them thinking that we were gonna see masses of people getting on them, but by about 3:30 this afternoon, the people were gone, and we watched the buses drive away empty. The Arkansas National Guard, which arrived here last night, then swept the building. There were rumors that there might be gangs holed up in the buildings, but found no one, and now what we have here simply is a huge, huge mess. The street is totally trashed, as you can imagine, with thousands of people living here with no facilities and not much help over the last few days. There are convention chairs strewn all over the street, garbage bags--I saw a life preserver, an empty bottle of champagne, empty water bottles. It's a huge, huge mess.

ELLIOTT: But you're not seeing many people?

YDSTIE: What we're seeing is National Guardsmen and police. Several squads of National Guardsmen have marched down in front of us. I see a heavy military truck right now with a Guardsman sitting right on the top with his AK-47 ready. But it's--I don't want to give you the sense that, you know, things are tense here. I think things are probably more euphoric than tense. People are glad that this situation has finally come to an end.

ELLIOTT: You do get a sense now that the city is really emptying out, and that the National Guard troops are there and there's a sense of order in the place.

YDSTIE: Yes, you do. The truck is just driving by us now. That's what you're hearing. But, yes, the Superdome is now evacuated. The Convention Center is now evacuated. We talked to a couple of doctors who had come over here to help out. They said they were on the I-10 causeway bridge last night. There were about 5,000 people there, but they were going fast. I would guess that that probably is going to be evacuated soon. We did see some school buses down on Poydras where a convoy that was just going to hot spots trying to find people, and there are a few people straggling in the streets, and we stopped to talk to a couple of them. One of them was--seemed kind of deranged, appeared to be kind of a homeless guy. The other two guys, while they seemed destitute, claimed that they had homes and they didn't want to get on a bus and leave because they had homes here. One of them claimed he was going back to his home to sleep tonight. But it makes you wonder, if it's a mandatory evacuation, why the buses, which were a block and a half away, aren't picking up these guys.

ELLIOTT: Quickly, do you know if rescuers are still trying to reach people in their homes who might be in their attics or roofs?

YDSTIE: I have heard that. I have not actually seen it. What I have seen is helicopters hovering over residential areas, but the authorities still say they're in a search and rescue mode and still looking for people who might be trapped in their homes.

ELLIOTT: Thank you. NPR's John Ydstie reporting from New Orleans.

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