HOUSTON -- At
least 25,000 of Hurricane Katrina's refugees, a majority of
them at the New Orleans Superdome, will travel in a bus convoy
to Houston starting Wednesday and will be sheltered at the
40-year-old Astrodome, which hasn't been used for professional
sporting events in years.
Emergency Management Agency will provide 475 buses for the
transfer, and the Astrodome's schedule has been cleared
through December for housing evacuees, said Kathy Walt, a
spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Cornelius, administrative coordinator for the Harris County
Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told The
Associated Press that initial plans were being made early
"We are planning on being able to do a full
shelter operation for 25,000 people," he said.
engineers struggled without success to plug New Orleans'
breached levees with giant sandbags, and Gov. Kathleen Blanco
said Wednesday the situation was worsening and there was no
choice but to abandon the flooded city.
is an engineering nightmare," said on ABC's "Good Morning
America." "The National Guard has been dropping sandbags into
it, but it's like dropping it into a black hole."
Blanco said she wanted the Superdome -- which had
become a shelter of last resort for about 20,000 people --
evacuated within two days, along with other gathering points
for storm refugees. The situation inside the dank and
sweltering Superdome was becoming desperate: The water was
rising, the air conditioning was out, toilets were broken, and
tempers were rising.
Cornelius said the refugees would
be bused to Houston, but all would not necessarily be on the
road at the same time. He said specifics of the transport and
housing for the refugees were still being worked out with Red
Cross and state government officials.
"We want to
accommodate those people as quickly as possible for the simple
reason they have been through a horrible ordeal," he said.
Perry talked to Blanco early Wednesday and agreed to
the plan, Walt said.
Texas also is looking
at the possibility of using the Ford Center in Beaumont for
some long-term housing for other evacuees from Louisiana who
may be staying in hotels, motels and campgrounds.
"Obviously from Governor Perry's standpoint, Texas is
going to lend a helping hand and take care of those who have
been devastated," Walt said.
As the waters continued
to rise in New Orleans, four Navy ships raced toward the Gulf
Coast with drinking water and other emergency supplies, and
Red Cross workers from across the country converged on the
devastated region. The Red Cross reported it had about 40,000
people in 200 shelters across the area in one of the biggest
urban disasters the nation has ever seen.
toll from Hurricane Katrina reached at least 110 in
Mississippi alone, while Louisiana put aside the counting of
the dead to concentrate on rescuing the living, many of whom
were still trapped on rooftops and in attics.
day after the Big Easy thought it had escaped Katrina's full
fury, two levees broke and spilled water into the streets on
Tuesday, swamping an estimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped,
below-sea-level city, inundating miles and miles of homes and
rendering much of New Orleans uninhabitable for weeks or
"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before
people can come in," Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's "Good
Morning America, "and the other issue that's concerning me is
have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead
bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue."
The sweltering city of 480,000 people -- an estimated
80 percent of whom obeyed orders to evacuate as Katrina closed
in over the weekend -- also had no drinkable water, the
electricity could be out for weeks, and looters were
ransacking stores around town.
To repair one of the
levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain, officials late Tuesday
dropped 3,000-pound sandbags from helicopters and hauled
dozens of 15-foot concrete barriers into the breach. Maj. Gen.
Don Riley of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said officials
also had a more audacious plan: finding a barge to plug the
Riley said it could take close to a
month to get the water out of the city. If the water rises a
few feet higher, it could also wipe out the water system for
the whole city, said New Orleans' homeland security chief,
A helicopter view of the devastation
over Louisiana and Mississippi revealed people standing on
black rooftops, baking in the sunshine while waiting for
"I can only imagine that this is what
Hiroshima looked like 60 years ago," said Mississippi Gov.
Haley Barbour after touring the destruction by air Tuesday.
All day long, rescuers in boats and helicopters
plucked bedraggled flood refugees from rooftops and attics.
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said 3,000 people have been
rescued by boat and air, some placed shivering and wet into
helicopter baskets. They were brought by the truckload into
shelters, some in wheelchairs and some carrying babies, with
stories of survival and of those who didn't make it.
"Oh my God, it was hell," said Kioka Williams, who had
to hack through the ceiling of the beauty shop where she
worked as floodwaters rose in New Orleans' low-lying Ninth
Ward. "We were screaming, hollering, flashing lights. It was
Looting broke out in some New Orleans
neighborhoods, prompting authorities to send more than 70
additional officers and an armed personnel carrier into the
city. One police officer was shot in the head by a looter but
was expected to recover, authorities said.
A giant new
Wal-Mart in New Orleans was looted, and the entire gun
collection was taken, The Times-Picayune newspaper reported.
"There are gangs of armed men in the city moving around the
city," said Ebbert, the city's homeland security chief. Also,
looters tried to break into Children's Hospital, the
governor's office said.
On New Orleans' Canal Street,
dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and
jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise.
acknowledged that looting was a severe problem but said that
officials had to focus on survivors. "We don't like looters
one bit, but first and foremost is search and rescue," she
Officials said it was simply too early to
estimate a death toll. One Mississippi county alone said it
had suffered at least 100 deaths, and officials are "very,
very worried that this is going to go a lot higher," said Joe
Spraggins, civil defense director for Harrison County, home to
Biloxi and Gulfport. In neighboring Jackson County, officials
said at least 10 deaths were blamed on the storm.
Several of the dead in Harrison County were from a
beachfront apartment building that collapsed under a 25-foot
wall of water as Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast with
145-mph winds Monday. Louisiana officials said many were
feared dead there, too, making Katrina one of the most
punishing storms to hit the United States in decades.
Blanco asked residents to spend Wednesday in prayer.
"That would be the best thing to calm our spirits and
thank our Lord that we are survivors," she said. "Slowly,
gradually, we will recover; we will survive; we will rebuild."
Across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, more than 1
million residents remained without electricity, some without
clean drinking water. Officials said it could be weeks, if not
months, before most evacuees will be able to return.
Emergency medical teams from across the country were
sent into the region and President Bush cut short his Texas
vacation Tuesday to return to Washington to focus on the storm
Also, the Bush administration decided to
release crude oil from federal petroleum reserves to help
refiners whose supply was disrupted by Katrina. The
announcement helped push oil prices lower.
which was downgraded to a tropical depression, packed winds
around 30 mph as it moved through the Ohio Valley early
Wednesday, with the potential to dump 8 inches of rain and
spin off deadly tornadoes.
The remnants of Katrina
spawned bands of storms and tornadoes across Georgia that
caused at least two deaths, multiple injuries and leveled
dozens of buildings. A tornado damaged 13 homes near Marshall,
The Astrodome helped put Houston on the map four
decades ago. It still stands but is dwarfed by Reliant
Stadium, the Houston Texans' newly constructed home.
The Astrodome opened in 1965, 10 years before the
Superdome in New Orleans.