Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans in chaos, rescue plan under fire

By Mark Babineck
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans fell deeper into chaos on Friday with gangs roaming the streets and corpses rotting in the sun a full four days after Hurricane Katrina lashed the city and exposed federal aid efforts as a failure.

A long military convoy of emergency supplies finally rolled into the flooded city on Friday morning, the first sign of significant relief after days of delays and broken promises.

Most of the victims were poor and black, largely because they have no cars and so were unable to flee the city before Katrina pounded the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday. The disaster has highlighted the racial and class divides in a city and a country where the gap between rich and poor is vast.

The U.S. response would be a moral test, said U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings a Maryland Democrat and former head of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"Many of those now in such dire circumstances were already living in poverty and destitution even before the hurricane came. They had no ability to evacuate and now their very survival depends upon the response of this country," he said.

The scenes of destruction and mayhem resembled a major Third World refugee crisis, angering politicians and local residents who said the lack of aid was unacceptable in the world's richest country.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management AgencyFederal Emergency Management Agency' said 14,000 Guard troops were on the ground along the Gulf coast and he expected 30,000 there in the coming days.

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