More Help Is On The Way

National Guard Spcl. Shawn Lundy helps a Hurricane Katrina victim evacuate to a bus from the Convention Center in New Orleans Saturday. AP

Planes, trains and buses delivered refugees to safety on Saturday as the evacuation of this ruined city finally appeared to pick up steam.

Buses had evacuated most people from the frightening confines of the Superdome by early morning. At the equally squalid convention center, thousands of people began pushing and dragging their belongings up the street to more than a dozen air-conditioned buses, the mood more numb than jubilant.

More than 50,000 people had been trapped for days at the two filthy, sweltering buildings, suffering from a lack of food, water or medical attention. Help came too late for a number of them. Dead bodies were a common sight, in wheelchairs, wrapped in blankets or just abandoned.


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Although glimmers of hope did begin to show, signs of distress still permeated the scene as fires belched ribbons of smoke over the city and sporadic gunfire echoed through the night.

At Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, thousands of people remained in a triage center, many of them dying for lack of medical care.

"The hallways are filled, the floors are filled. There are thousands of people there," said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who was at the airport. "A lot more than eight to 10 people are dying a day. It's a distribution problem. The doctors are doing a great job, the nurses are doing a great job."

President Bush is ordering additional active duty forces to the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast region, he said Saturday.

"The enormity of the task requires more resources," the president said. "In America we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need."

Bush said 4,000 active duty troops are already in the area and 7,000 more will arrive in the next 72 hours from the Army's 82nd Airborne from Fort Bragg, N.C., and 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas and the Marines' 1st and 2nd Expeditionary forces from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The decision came after the president met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and others involved in planning the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Bush took the rare step of delivering his Saturday morning radio broadcast live from the White House Rose Garden to make the announcement.

He acted a day after visiting the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast.

At the New Orleans Convention Center, Jennifer Washington was among thousands of frustrated evacuees who spent another morning waiting for buses to come.

Since the cavalry arrived in New Orleans on Friday, more than 25,000 residents have been evacuated, Mike Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a briefing Saturday in Baton Rouge.

Both the number of people left in the city and the death toll remained unknown, because people continued showing up at evacuation sites and dead bodies were still being counted, Brown said.

"There are people in apartments and hotels that you didn't know were there," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Graham said at the briefing.
  • Joel Roberts

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