Help Arrives, Too Late For Some

Hurricane Katrina evacuees Rosita Smith, left, and her great niece, Jada Rosa, 2, smile as they leave the Superdome in downtown New Orleans, La., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005. Hurricane Katrina evacuees were being transported out of New Orleans. AP

Thousands more bedraggled refugees were bused and airlifted to salvation Saturday, leaving the heart of New Orleans to the dead and dying, the elderly and frail stranded too many days without food, water or medical care.

Meanwhile, President Bush ordered more than 7,000 active duty forces to the Gulf Coast on Saturday, as the Bush administration intensified efforts to rescue survivors and send aid to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast in the face of criticism it did not act quickly enough.

"In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need,'" President Bush said.

Already, the Coast Guard has rescued 9,500 people in addition to the thousands and thousands aided by local authorities, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at a news conference. More than 100,000 people already had received humanitarian aid, he said.

No one knows how many were killed by Hurricane Katrina's floods and how many more succumbed waiting to be rescued. But the bodies are everywhere: hidden in attics, floating among the ruined city, crumpled on wheelchairs, abandoned on highways.

And the dying goes on — at the convention center and an airport triage center, where bodies were kept in a refrigerated truck.

CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts reports that at least 30 patients have died at the airport since Wednesday.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Saturday that she expected the death toll to reach the thousands. And Craig Vanderwagen, rear admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service, said one morgue alone, at a St. Gabriel prison, expected 1,000 to 2,000 bodies.

Touring the airport triage center, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a physician, said "a lot more than eight to 10 people are dying a day."

Most were those too sick or weak to survive. But not all.

Charles Womack, a 30-year-old roofer, said he saw one man beaten to death and another commit suicide at the Superdome. Womack was beaten with a pipe and being treated at the airport triage center.

"One guy jumped off a balcony. I saw him do it. He was talking to a lady about it. He said it reminded him of the war and he couldn't leave," he said.

Three babies died at the convention center from heat exhaustion, said Mark Kyle, a medical relief provider.

CBS News Correspondent John Roberts reports that the National Guard made a substantial dent in the 30,000 storm victims who'd lived in squalor at Convention Center.

"We should all go to heaven because I feel like we've lived though hell," one woman said.

Capt. Joel Lynch just got back from a tour of duty in Iraq.

"It wasn't that bad in Baghdad," he told Roberts.

Some 20,000 refugees had been waiting for rescue for nearly a week at the Superdome, with as many as 25,000 more at the New Orleans convention center. National Guard Lt. Col. Bernard McLaughlin said the number may have been closer to 5,000 to 7,000. Most were finally taken out by bus and helicopter on Saturday.

At the convention center, thousands of refugees dragged their meager belongings to buses, the mood more numb than jubilant. Yolando Sanders, who had been stuck at the convention center for five days, was among those who filed past corpses to reach the buses.

"Anyplace is better than here," she said.

"People are dying over there."

Nearby, a woman lay dead in a wheelchair on the front steps. A man was covered in a black drape with a dry line of blood running to the gutter, where it had pooled. Another had lain on a chaise lounge for four days, his stocking feet peeking out from under a quilt.
  • Joel Roberts

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