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September 01, 2005

A BLEAK REPORT FROM NEW ORLEANS: A colleague sends this email. (Click "read more" to read it).

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Dear Colleagues,

I'm not sure how many of you know Bill Quigley. He is an amazing person, law professor at Loyola New Orleans, head of their clinic there. . . .

Anyhow, Bill's wife is an oncology nurse in New Orleans, and therefore decided she could not evacuate but would need to stay with her patients at the hospital. Bill apparently decided he would do likewise. Below is an interview with him about the situation in that city as of early Wednesday morning.
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BILL QUIGLEY: This is sort of the nightmare scenario that everybody was really worried about, but the problem for New Orleans is that everybody who had their health, had money and had a car, they left. Okay, so we have probably 100,000 people trapped in the city right now, maybe 50,000 or 60,000 people in the Superdome who are there without electricity, without flushing toilets, without food, without water. And they are people who had to walk over there or take a bus, because they didn't have a car to get out.

There are people in nursing homes, there's people in these little hospitals all over the place.

And then there's still -- YOu can see when you're looking out the window at night, you can see flashlights in the water where people are walking around out in the neighborhoods completely dark. You see a flashlight where somebody's walking down the water. As you said, tomorrow night, you are not going to see those flashlights, because tomorrow night, they expect that we're going to have nine to 15 feet of water. So those people that are walking out there with flashlights, they're not going to be there.

And the hospitals are full. The hospitals are turning people away, because they don't have enough food and water to be able to take care of the people who are in the hospitals. So, the boatload of people that came apparently to the hospital this morning or this afternoon, a father, a mother and two little kids came in a boat, and the people at the hospital turned them away, sent them away, because they didn't have room for them. Another 20 people walked up to the parking lot -- parking garage. They had been in the Holiday Inn downtown. That Holiday Inn lost electricity, lost everything. So those people just left, and they have been wandering around the city looking for a place to stay, and the security guards had to turn them away. They sent them back into the flood waters because they didn't have enough food or water or that to even be able to take care of necessarily the people that are here.

So who's left behind in New Orleans right now, you are talking about tens of thousands of people who are left behind, and those are the sickest, the oldest, poorest, the youngest, the people with disabilities and the like, and the plan was that everybody should leave. Well, you can't leave if you're in a hospital. You can't leave if you're a nurse. You can't leave if you are a patient. You can't leave if you're in a nursing home. You can't leave if you don't have a car. All of these things. They didn't have - there was no plan for that.

And so, we are talking about somewhere in the neighborhood, I think, of 100,000 people probably in the metropolitan New Orleans area that are still here. And the suggestions from local officials are, you know, in the suburban parish next to us, they announced on the radio -- we have one radio station, have no TV, have no cell phones. Nothing. The only calls we are able to get are the calls that come in. And the suggestion was that people should take a boat over toward the interstate, and then they would pick them up there.

But, you know, these people don't have a car, people who live in an apartment with their mother, you know, people who are sick. That's why they couldn't leave. They don't have cars. They certainly don't have boats!

And so, there's a huge humanitarian crisis going on here right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Quigley, I wanted to ask -- this is a bit of an odd question. You're a law professor. We usually talk to you about the crisis that's going on in Haiti, where you have been a number of times and represent, among others, Father Jean-Juste, who is in prison there. How does what you are seeing in New Orleans right now, how does it compare to Haiti?

BILL QUIGLEY: Well, you know, I had always hoped that Haiti would become more like New Orleans, but what's happened is New Orleans has become more like Haiti here recently. You know, we don't have power. We don't have transportation. At this point, I think, at least the people in the hospital have some fresh water, but they're telling people you can't drink the water out of the taps. So there's people wandering around the city without water, without transportation, without medical care. So in many senses, we have about a million people in the New Orleans area who are experiencing, you know, what Haiti is like.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen any National Guard?

BILL QUIGLEY: There are apparently some National Guard who are on the roof, who are helping with the helicopters. We have seen one or two here or there. There's been reports that there's thousands of them that are coming in, but again, I don't know how they would get in. People are not able to - you know, the communication system is so bad that for a large part of the day, the mayor, the chief of police, the governor and those people couldn't call the one working radio station. And so they had to walk into the radio station to be able to talk to the people who are out here trying to figure out what's going on.

So it is really a disaster, and the people who aren't in New Orleans, I know, are dying to get back to their houses. But the people who are in New Orleans are, in all honesty, dying, and there could be a lot more casualties unless there's a lot of help real fast.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Quigley is a law professor at Loyola University. He was speaking to us from the hospital he is staying at, Tenant Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, where his wife Debbie is an oncology nurse. After we spoke to him early this morning, the electricity, backup electricity, went out at the hospital.

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So there you have it. A pretty bleak picture.