YOU LOOT.. I SHOOT; 1000s Feared Dead While Disease Risk Grows in the Heat No Food, Water or Power as Thieves Ransack Stores the Evacuation of New Orleans to Finish by Weekend Flooding to Keep the City under Water for Two Months
Byline: From RYAN PARRY
IT'S the smell that hits you first. Wading through the murky, tea-coloured water laced with rubbish, human waste, petrol and dozens of chemical pollutants, the stench is unbearable.
In 100 degree heat the water coursing through New Orleans has created a city of hell.
There's no food, little water, the power is out and no one can escape.
And as the water covers the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there's very little hope.
The death toll is rising and fears are that thousands have died.
Plans began last night to evacuate the city - virtually cut off from the outside world - all the road bridges linking the city are down.
Up to 40,000 are trapped and homeless without food, water and power.
Fears of disease - as bodies rot in the water - and the danger from alligators, displaced by the flooding, add to this nightmare scenario.
Experts said it could be two months before the water disappears.
But the immediate danger yesterday was from armed looters. National Guard troops and State police squads, backed by SWAT teams, were drafted in to restore order. Hundreds of looters waded through waist-deep water to ransack shops, ripping down steel gates to grab clothes, food and jewellery.
A giant Wal-Mart was broken into, and the entire gun collection taken. One shopkeeper had put up a sign outside his store: "You loot - I shoot." Homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert, warned: "There are gangs of armed men moving around the city."
At a drugstore in the French Quarter, people were seen running out with baskets full of fizzy drinks, bags of crisps and boxes of nappies.
The crowd scattered when a young boy noticed police and screamed: "86! 86!" - the radio code for police. One man who had around 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 denied having a bag full of items. "It's about survival right now," she said. "We got to feed our children. I've got eight grandchildren to feed."
New Orleans was said to have escaped the worst when Katrina's 145mph winds and rain struck on Monday. But the flood levees - designed to protect the city burst.
Now the situation for survivors is deteriorating by the minute - and they are getting more desperate.
Medics transformed part of the Superdome, a giant 70,000 seater sports stadium, into a triage centre, but yesterday water lapped at the edges of the arena. …