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News about the hurricane disaster

September 30, 2005 | Page 4

Leaving prisoners to die in the flood

HUNDREDS OF prisoners were abandoned in the New Orleans jail as the city was inundated by the flooding following Hurricane Katrina.

According to Human Rights Watch, inmates in one of several buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison said there were no guards or prison personnel from the day to that the hurricane hit until they were evacuated four days later--and the flood waters were at chest level the entire time.

"Of all the nightmares during Hurricane Katrina, this must be one of the worst," said Human Rights Watch researcher Corinne Carey. "Prisoners were abandoned in their cells without food or water for days as floodwaters rose toward the ceiling."

What's more, some 517 inmates are missing from the list of people evacuated from the jail. Neither state officials nor representatives of the Orleans parish Sheriff's Deparment, which ran the jail, have commented on the fate of the missing prisoners.

Many of the prisoners held at jail had been arrested for minor offenses like criminal trespass, public drunkenness or disorderly conduct, and hadn't even been brought before a judge.

Inmates told Human Rights Watch that they had no food or water from their last meal over the weekend of August 27-28 until they were evacuated on September 1. The jail was without lights and sealed in without air circulation, and the toilets had backed up, creating an unbearable stench. "They left us to die there," one prisoner, Dan Bright, said.

Though locked in, the prisoners managed to break some windows and hang burning clothing and signs calling for help from them. But it was still days longer before the evacuation was finished.

Even jail guards admitted to Human Rights Watch that the situation was "complete chaos," in the words of one. Asked what he thought happened to the missing prisoners, the guard said: "Ain't no telling what happened to those people."

Destroying food sent for the victims

THE U.S. government will destroy hundreds of tons of food aid shipped by Britain for survivors of Hurricane Katrina, according to Britain's Mirror newspaper.

According to the paper, tons of the British military's "ration packs" like those distributed to troops stationed in Iraq have been condemned as unfit for human consumption--and could be headed for a Food and Drug Administration incinerator to be destroyed. According to British officials, the food was impounded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture--under regulations covering imported meat products put in place after the mad cow disease scare.

"This is the most appalling act of sickening senselessness while people starve," an aid worker told the Mirror. "There will be a cloud of smoke above Little Rock soon--of burned food, of anger and of shame that the world's richest nation couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery and lets Americans starve while they arrogantly observe petty regulations.

"Everyone is revolted by the chaotic shambles the U.S. is making of this crisis. Guys from UNICEF are walking around spitting blood. This is utter madness. People have worked their socks off to get food into the region. It is perfectly good NATO-approved food of the type British servicemen have. Yet the FDA are saying that because there is a meat content and it has come from Britain, it must be destroyed."

Britain isn't the only country that shipped food aid to the hurricane-affected region, only to have it judged unfit. Officials from Spain, Italy and Israel have protested rulings that their contributions were barred under U.S. regulations, according to the Mirror.

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