We talk a lot about how disasters bring out the best in people, and that’s often true. Certainly it’s the case among the vast majority in Katrina’s wake today.
On the other hand, this particular disaster has also brought out the absolute scum of the earth, and given them free reign for a time:
Late Tuesday, Gov. Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher described a disturbing scene unfolding in uptown New Orleans, where looters were trying to break into Children’s Hospital.
Bottcher said the director of the hospital fears for the safety of the staff and the 100 kids inside the hospital. The director said the hospital is locked, but that the looters were trying to break in and had gathered outside the facility.
The director has sought help from the police, but, due to rising flood waters, police have not been able to respond.
Bottcher said Blanco has been told of the situation and has informed the National Guard. However, Bottcher said, the National Guard has also been unable to respond.
[New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas] said looting has also escalated and an atmosphere of lawlessness has developed as police resources have been almost entirely devoted to search-and-rescue operations for people trapped by floodwaters on roofs and in attics. “Widespread looting is taking place in all parts of the city” – from uptown and Canal Street to areas around the housing projects, Thomas said.
“People are going in and out of businesses at Louisiana and Claiborne (avenues), taking clothes, tennis shoes and goods,” Thomas said. “It is inconceivable to me how people can do this.”
“People are leaving the Superdome to go to Canal Street to loot,” Thomas said. “Some people broke into drug stores and stole the drugs off the shelves. It is looting times five. I’m telling you, it’s like Sodom and Gomorrah.”
More unfortunately, at least some elements of the notoriously-corrupt New Orleans police force are getting in on the looting themselves:
At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was announced over the radio.
While many people carried out food and essential supplies, others cleared out jewelry racks and carted out computers, TVs and appliances on handtrucks.
Some officers joined in taking whatever they could, including one New Orleans cop who loaded a shopping cart with a compact computer and a 27-inch flat screen television.
From New Orleans’ best columnist, Chris Rose, now one of over a million refugees on the road:
We had catfish and pulled pork in a barbeque joint in Natchez and the folks there – everyone we have met along our three-day journey