New Orleans is pulling from an almost complete collapse of public order, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The newspaper cited a “sharp reduction in the menacing bands of idle refugees, many of them intent on looting.” Thousands of National Guard troops will join the Louisiana guardsmen already deployed to the hurricane-stricken city. The city’s flirtation with chaos was not over: a medivac helicopter was scared off by gunfire as it attempted to airlift patients from a downtown hospital, and a shopping mall was reduced to charred rubble after looters broke in and set fires throughout the sprawling complex.
A state police commander said some troopers had resigned rather than accept an assignment to go into New Orleans. “They lost everything and don’t feel it’s worth going back and taking fire from looters,” said the commander. Violence was not limited to New Orleans. “I’m supposed to be cleaning up after a storm and I have to have sheriff’s deputies walking around on the roof with AK-47s and machine guns,” said Jefferson Parish Emergency Operations Director Walter Maestri. Basic cleanup operations, such as clearing downed trees, were on hold, and relief agencies, including FEMA and some private groups, had either pulled out or threatened to do so because of the dangers to their workers.