limyaael: "I'm gathering a list on my LJ of writers/artists who are doing creative things for charity, or selling creative projects whose proceeds will go to charity- both fanfiction and original fic, drawings, music mixes, necklaces, website designs, poems, reference photos, icons, and other things. If you know someone who's making a creative effort and whom I don't have in the list, come over and pass the link along!"
Houston Center Helps Parents Find Children
[9:00 am CST]
By PAM EASTON, Associated Press Writer
HOUSTON - In the midst of trying to find her husband and three youngest children, hurricane Katrina survivor Lisa Stewart temporarily lost her three oldest children in the cavernous Astrodome.
She found them Friday at a very human version of a "lost and found" department — a makeshift center where volunteers work to reunite children with their parents.
That's the center where children arriving bewildered and parentless get a big hug and a smile from volunteers. They also have a chance to play games to take their minds off all they've been through since the hurricane flooded New Orleans and forced masses to rush for safety in buses. Some children became separated from their parents during the exodus.
"When they come in, I grab them and I hug them and I ask them if they are thirsty," volunteer JoAnna Clark said. "The stories are unbelievable."
Stewart's trip to the lost children center came after she left her children aged 6, 7 and 12 with someone on the Astrodome floor so she could scour the crowd for her husband's familiar face. He had their 3- and 4-year-olds and 7-month-old. Police found the older children and took them to the center.
Stewart and her husband had decided in New Orleans to split up the family to make it easier to manage.
"They were taking the children and the babies and I had six of them," Stewart said of the bus preference system at the Superdome. "I didn't want to take all six, because I knew it would be hard on me with six children and trying to keep up with them. I took the big ones and he took the small ones."
Stewart, 30, thought her husband would be on the bus directly behind her, but "it didn't happen like that."
The volunteers at the center have a routine for the children they see. In addition to the compassionate welcome, they are asked their name and any details about when they last saw their mother or father.
"Some of them can give us a name," Clark said. "Some of them can't give us a name."
"One child was able to say that was his mommy and I said, 'How do you know?'" Clark recalled of one of the half dozen children reunited with a parent Friday. "He pulled up her sleeve and it had his name tattooed on her arm. So we knew that that was his mommy."
If the parents can't be located within a reasonable period of time, the children are placed in foster homes by Child Protective Services.
"We need to make sure someone is taking care of them, so they are not there alone," CPS spokeswoman Estella Olguin said late Friday. "It is really providing temporary shelter for these children until their parents can find them."
Digital photographs are being taken of each child at the center, she said. The photos and any information obtained will be placed in the agency's database, as well as the database of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"These kids need to be with someone familiar after all they have been through," Olguin said.
Once off the bus, the children are evaluated by doctors and those who are alone are taken to the center, where they can find toys, stuffed animals, snacks and volunteers excited to greet them.
The reunions with parents aren't always happy.
Clark said one mother became overwhelmed after her reunion and told them she couldn't care for her child.
"They are so desperate that some parents have come and said, 'Just take my child,'" Olguin said. "They just don't know what to do. It is usually that they just need someone to talk to and they reached their breaking point. We know that is usually just a cry for help and we talk with them."
Olguin said the goal is to get as many families back together as possible.
While there are only a handful of children at the center, the volunteers have a very long list of children who have been reported missing. Parents leave their children's names and other vital information, hoping that they will show up on another bus.
"We have a list of probably 500 kids that are missing," Clark said. "The list goes on and on and on."
"There are children everywhere out there that are lost," Clark said. "The scary thing is the list of children we have that are lost — not the children that are here, but how many people can't find their children."
In New Orleans, desperation blights stranded poor
[9:00 am CST]
By Mark Egan
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Friday night in New Orleans was never like this.
Known for its raucous Mardi Gras festival, distinctive jazz, Francophile culture and unique architecture, New Orleans is still in crisis from floods that devastated the city following hurricane Katrina, leaving thousands homeless and desperate to leave. And on some less glamorous streets, the stench of death permeates everything.
As dusk fell on Friday evening, a woman's bloated and brutally distorted figure lay prostrate on the corner of Jackson Avenue and Magazine Street in a poor neighborhood.
The black woman lay, arms flaccid, feet splayed, one shoe gone, her face distended from swelling and her chest swollen as gas filled her decaying corpse. Someone had covered her body in a plaid blanket in an anonymous gift offering some dignity.
A woman across the street shouted at photographers taking pictures of her, "She's been there for five days, since Monday." Then she approached to beg for bottled water, or anything at all that might help.
A convoy of five sport utility vehicles passed by, each packed with police training rifles with laser sights on the scant few residents out walking. They sped past the corpse without taking any notice.
Such bodies still litter New Orleans and they stand as a testament to the depth of the disaster here. After all, The Big Easy is renowned for celebratory funerals with marching jazz bands and quirky cheer - a death here is supposed to be both happy and sad at once.
At the nearby Superdome, where thousands who had lost everything in the floods camped out this week awaiting evacuation, another black woman's bloated body lay in full view face down in shallow floodwaters even as hundreds of National Guard troops were stationed there to keep the site secure.
While water has receded from some parts of the city, even those districts now free from deluge are strewn with debris. In the Garden District where multimillion-dollar Greek Revival mansions still stand, the deserted streets are littered with downed trees, destroyed cars and garbage. Nearby boutiques are boarded up, with "Looters Will Be Shot" painted on their facades.
In the downtown business district, U.S. Marshals guard a nondescript building, setting up their headquarters and base of operations at the almost 20-story-high BellSouth building.
One federal agent who asked not to be named said the building is the hub for all long-distance telephone communications for the Southeastern United States.
Without the technology housed in that one structure, he said, there would be no long-distance calls in the region -- something that would blight commerce even further and a dynamic making the bland concrete edifice "a vital national security interest."
On the corner where that building stands, a frantic woman approached a federal officer and pleaded to be allowed past, saying, "I heard there were evacuation buses at the Superdome." In her arms was a 5-year-old child, his naked, black back scarred and pitted with welts and burn marks, his arms wrapped tightly around her neck.
She was let through and joined scattered groups of families trudging with their few remaining possessions toward the stadium.
As the evening light grew dimmer they desperately walked on in search of an elusive seat out of town, just like tens of thousands still stuck in the city.
Gulf Coast Jobless Rate Could Be 25%
Convention Center Evacuation Begins
By ROBERT TANNER, AP National Writer
[10:30 am CST]
NEW ORLEANS - A fleet of air-conditioned buses rolled up to the city's devastated convention center Saturday to begin evacuating an estimated 25,000 people who have been waiting for days amid the stench of garbage and rotting corpses.
Thousands of people began pushing and dragging their belongings up the street to more than a dozen buses, the mood more numb than jubilant.
Yolanda Sanders stood at a barricade clutching her cocker spaniel, Toto. She had been at the convention center for five days.
"I had faith that they'd come. I feel good that I know I can get to my family," she said. Sanders didn't know yet where they were taking her, but "anyplace is better than here. People are dying over there."
Thousands from the Superdome were taken to Texas on air-conditioned buses, but early Saturday the operation was halted — with as many as 5,000 in the stadium still to be evacuated five days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
Lt. Kevin Cowan of the state Office of Emergency Preparedness said the evacuations were stopped so authorities could focus on getting people out of the convention center. Jennifer Washington was among the frustrated evacuees who waited for buses to come.
"At first they said 6:30 this morning, then they said 9," said Washington, 25, who has not been able to find her four children in the aftermath of the storm. Buses arrived later in the morning.
Helicopters were taking the sickest people from the center, and two of the city's most troubled hospitals were evacuated Friday after desperate doctors spent days making tough choices about which patients got dwindling supplies of food, water and medicines.
"We're just trying to ease their pain, give them a little bit of dignity and get them out of here," said Lt. Col. Connie McNabb.
A Saks Fifth Avenue store billowed smoke Saturday, as did rows of warehouses on the east bank of the Mississippi River, where corrugated roofs buckled and tiny explosions erupted. Gunfire — almost two dozen shots — broke out in the French Quarter overnight.
As the warehouse district burned, Ron Seitzer, 61, washed his dirty laundry in the even dirtier waters of the Mississippi River and said he didn't know how much longer he could stay without water or power, surrounded by looters.
"I've never even had a nightmare or a beautiful dream about this," he said as he watched the warehouses burn. "People are just not themselves."
On Friday, President Bush took an aerial tour of the city and answered complaints about a sluggish government response by saying, "We're going to make it right." Flatbed trucks carried huge crates, pallets and bags of relief supplies, including Meals Ready to Eat. Soldiers sat in the backs of open-top trucks, their rifles pointing skyward.
In what looked like a scene from a Third World country, some outside the convention center threw their arms heavenward and others hollered profanities as camouflage-green vehicles and supply trucks finally rolled through axle-deep floodwaters into what remained of New Orleans.
National Guard Lt. Col. Jerry Crooks said troops had served more than 70,000 meals outside the convention center and had 130,000 more on hand. Watching the caravan, Leschia Radford sang the praises of a higher power.
"Lord, I thank you for getting us out of here!" Radford shrieked.
But on Saturday, hope was overtaken by frustration as people continued to wait. A dead man lay on sidewalk under a blanket with a stream of blood running down the pavement toward the gutter. People said he died from violence.
"We're hurting out here, man. We got to get help. All we want is someone to feel our pain, that's all," said Tasheka Johnson, 24.
About a dozen people who headed down the street to look for food and water said they were turned back by a soldier who pulled a gun.
"We had to get something to eat. What are they doing pulling a gun?" said Richard Johnson, 28.
The soldiers' arrival-in-force came amid angry complaints from local officials that the federal government had bungled the relief effort and let people die in the streets for lack of food, water or medicine as the city was overtaken by looting, rape and arson.
"The people of our city are holding on by a thread," Mayor Ray Nagin warned in a statement to CNN. "Time has run out. Can we survive another night? And who can we depend on? Only God knows."
The president took a land and air tour of hard-hit areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Friday, and admitted of the relief effort: "The results are not enough." Congress passed a $10.5 billion disaster aid package, and Bush quickly signed the measure.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the military presence helped calm a jittery city.
"We are seeing a show of force. It's putting confidence back in our hearts and in the minds of our people," Blanco said. "We're going to make it through."
Guard members carrying rifles also arrived at the Louisiana Superdome, where bedraggled people — many of them trapped there since the weekend — stretched around the perimeter of the building. Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, commander of the National Guard, said 7,000 Guard members would be in the city by Saturday.
All the victims in the Superdome were supposed to have been evacuated by dawn Saturday, but shortly after midnight, the buses stopped rolling. Between 2,000 and 5,000 people still in the stadium could be there until Sunday, according to the Texas Air National Guard.
Within minutes of the soldiers' arrival at the convention center, they set up six food and water lines. The crowd was for the most part orderly and grateful.
Diane Sylvester, 49, was the first person through the line. "Something is better than nothing," she said of her two bottles of water and pork rib meal. "I feel great to see the military here. I know I'm saved."
With Houston's Astrodome already full with 15,000 storm refugees, that city opened two more centers to accommodate an additional 10,000. Dallas and San Antonio also had agreed to take refugees.
One group of Katrina's victims lurched from one tragedy to another: A bus carrying evacuees from the Superdome overturned on a Louisiana highway, killing at least one person and injuring many others.
At the broken levee along Lake Pontchartrain that swamped nearly 80 percent of New Orleans, helicopters dropped 3,000-pound sandbags into the breach and pilings were being pounded into place to seal off the waters. Engineers also were developing a plan to create new breaches in the levees so that a combination of gravity and pumping and would drain the water out of the city, a process that could take weeks.
International press dismay at Katrina chaos
New Orleans crisis shames Americans
Coast Guard Rescues 9,500 in Gulf Coast
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
[1:15 pm CST]
WASHINGTON - Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said Saturday the Coast Guard has rescued 9,500 people in Gulf Coast states ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and 100,000 people already had received humanitarian aid.
Speaking after President Bush ordered 7,200 more soldiers and Marines to the Gulf Coast to carry out federal relief efforts, Chertoff told reporters that the federal government would "break the mold" on lending emergency assistance. He said he was heading to New Orleans to oversee the next phase of relief efforts.
"Many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans, and that is unacceptable," Bush said. "In America we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need."
Chertoff said the relief effort, which many have criticized as too slow, would be intensified and that the federal government would take a more prominent role than it has in responding to other natural disasters.
"This is probably the worst catastrophe, or set of catastrophes certainly that I'm aware of in the history of the country," he said, adding that military and civilian efforts were gaining new momentum in New Orleans.
"The situation is improving hour by hour," he said. "Nevertheless we are not satisfied."
300 US airmen bound from Iraq, Afghan to Mississippi
By Will Dunham
[11:15 am CST]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military will send home from Iraq and Afghanistan more than 300 Air Force airmen based at an installation in Mississippi battered by Hurricane Katrina to allow them to assist their families, officials said on Saturday.
The airmen, both active-duty airmen and reservists, will end their deployments early and return to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, to help their families and aid in base recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Air Force said in a statement released in Qatar. They will not be participating in the broader relief effort in the region, officials said.
In addition, nearly 100 airmen due to deploy from Keesler to Iraq and Afghanistan will remain at the base, with their positions overseas filled by others in the Air Force not affected by the hurricane, the Air Force said.
"We're robust enough (in manpower) that this wouldn't upset anything. But it's the right thing to do to bring them back," said Lt. Col. Patrick Barnes, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon. Barnes said there were roughly 20,000 Air Force personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the U.S. Central Command region.
Keesler Air Force Base took a direct hit from Katrina but its staff and their families survived unharmed in a shelter, the base said. Half the base was under water, with critical functions operating on backup power.
"We are facilitating the effort to expeditiously replace airmen directly affected by this catastrophe with other Air Force personnel," Air Force Brig. Gen. Allen Peck, Combined Forces Air Component deputy commander, said in a statement. "They can't effectively perform the mission if their heads and hearts are focused on the safety and welfare of their loved ones."
Air Force personnel with family living in the hurricane-ravaged region who are not assigned to Keesler must request emergency leave through normal channels, officials said, and leave will be granted on a case-by-case basis.
Army Lt. Gen. John Vines, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said on Friday that 10,000 U.S. ground troops in Iraq are from the region affected by Katrina. But he said that only those who have had a family member killed or hurt will be permitted to return home.
"The problem is that the security mission goes on here. And if we take some out, those that are left are at some risk. It increases their risk," Vines told reporters at the Pentagon.
Officials said a combat brigade of about 3,000 soldiers from the Louisiana Army National Guard, mobilized to active duty to fight in Iraq, were about to come home as part of their regular rotation schedule. Vines said the unit's return may be accelerated by about a week.
A list of needs presented to President George W. Bush by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco included the return of a Louisiana-based combat team from Iraq to help with disaster relief.
"We have never needed them so much," she said.
Late addition from dzturtlepower:
Hate to shoot down your bubbles but the gas prices are NOT due to panic.
My brother is a mechanical engineer on the oil pipelines for a major oil company (I won't say which for security reasons). The refineries in the Gulf Coast are operating at 60% efficiency -- about half of what our country is capable of producing (and usually DOES produce) is simply not happening. Yes, gas prices sky-rocketed overnight. *That* was not due to oil companies -- that was due to the people that sell your gas anticipating the future:
AKA -- the gas we're currently pumping in has been traveling in pipelines from the South for the past week and a half. BEFORE the hurricane. By the end of this weekend, that gas will be entirely depleted and will be missing the gas/oil that *should* have been pumped into them but wasn't, due to the hurricane and the lack of working refineries.
There will not be a total shortage. But there WILL be one, and it will hopefully clear up by Sept 11 or so. But for a few days, we will be screwed.
The only thing you can do to protect your car at this point is make sure you're at 3/4 tank full like, today, and only buy gas from commercial stations -- NOT because they're better, but because those pumps are the ones that will be kept FULL. When oil lines start going dry, they mix with dirt and water and the people selling your gas are not going to pay any attention to this, as long as they can charge you a lower price. So even if it costs more, it will save your engines and you a LOT of grief to buy Exxon, Marathon, Shell, BP, any of those, directly from the company pumps.
What's even scarier is that this was as detailed of information as my brother COULD give me -- the rest of the information about the shortage is being kept under wraps (as in, my brother's email at work is now being monitored and they're on a security level akin to level orange terror threat -- which is not a good sign).
So good luck, stay safe, don't get pissed at the oil companies because they *are* doing their best with the available resources, and be warned of dirty gas.
ETA2: I probably should have said this earlier, but I'll say it now: DO NOT GET INTO A POLITICAL FIGHT ON MY JOURNAL, OR SO HELP ME GOD. I feel strongly about my politics, but so do a lot of other people who read this journal, and out of respect for difference of opinion, I'm just reposting these articles largely without commentary, even though some of them upset me on a political level. I think I can be forgiven a joke here and there, mostly because that's what y'all read the journal for in the first place. But I believe in questioning both sides of the fence, and I hope anything I say will be seen in that light. (Dude: Newt Gingrich is questioning his side. It can be done.) I believe that you can question the powers that be without being specifically partisan, and that you can criticize someone you previously liked (or admire someone you previously hated). But at the end of the day? It's my journal. You want to get vehement about something, you take it to your own, and DO NOT get into fights with other posters, or I will freeze threads, and I've already done it twice.