Looters taking advantage of Katrina devastation

CTV News
Aug. 31, 2005

With much of New Orleans under water in the wake of hurricane Katrina, there were reports of massive looting in the city's downtown Tuesday.

Looters were grabbing whatever they could, carrying big garbage cans full of clothing, jewelry and other goods as they waded through hip-deep water down Canal Street -- the main thoroughfare in the city's business district.

In some cases the looting took place in full view of overwhelmed police officers and National Guard troops.

Police informed CNN correspondent Adaora Udoji of three different shootings related to the lootings at downtown apartment buildings.

"(Authorities) are very concerned that the situation will deteriorate as it moves into nighttime," Udoji reported.

"They advised us to be very careful, and advised us not to go into the downtown area."

At a drugstore in the French Quarter, people were seen running out with baskets and coolers full of pop cans, bags of potato chips and boxes of diapers.

The crowd scattered when a young boy noticed police and screamed: "86! 86!" -- the radio code for police.

One man who had an estimated 10 pairs of jeans in his arms was asked if he was trying to save items from his store.

"No," the man shouted, "that's EVERYBODY'S store."

Another woman dismissed the suggestion that she and her husband were stealing from a supermarket as she left with a bag full of items.

"It's about survival right now," she told AP.

"We got to feed our children. I've got eight grandchildren to feed."

Residents weren't the only people raiding abandoned stores.
Two police officers stood guard outside a drug store on Canal Street as Ritz-Carlton Hotel employees packed large laundry bins full of medication, snack foods and bottled water.

"This is for the sick," Officer Jeff Jacob said. "We can commandeer whatever we see fit, whatever is necessary to maintain law."

Looting was also a problem Tuesday in Biloxi, Miss., where people picked through slot machines in the city's ruined casinos.

"`People are just casually walking in and filling up garbage bags and walking off like they're Santa Claus," Marty Desai, owner of a Super 8 motel, told AP.

Prison riots

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said late Tuesday that her office hasn't been able to verify reports of a prison riot and hostage-taking at a New Orleans jail.

Orleans Parish Prison Commissioner Oliver Thomas told an ABC News affiliate that inmates at the prison have rioted, attempted to escape and are now holding hostages.

Thomas told WBRZ News in Baton Rouge, La. that a deputy at the prison, his wife and their four children have been taken hostage by rioting prisoners after riding out the hurricane inside the jail building.

Blanco said downed communications systems have made it impossible to confirm the report.

"I do know that this morning we were trying to transfer prisoners form Jefferson (Parish Jail) and Orleans to other state prisons, because there's no electricity, no food," she told CNN.
"I'm not sure exactly what's going on."

Martial law

Meanwhile, local television stations reported that martial law has been declared in some parts of New Orleans, including the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines.

Due to the quickly deteriorating conditions, no one but emergency personnel was being allowed into the city.

The declaration allows the military to assume control over civilian forces, and is imposed to restore order in times of war and emergency

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