Inside The Superdome

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‘And Now We Are in Hell’

There are four levels of hell inside the refugee city of the Superdome, home to about 15,000 people since Sunday. On the artificial-turf field and in the lower-level seats where Montrel sat sweltering with her family, a form of civilization had taken hold — smelly, messy, dark and dank, but with a structure. Families with cots used their beds as boundaries for personal space and kept their areas orderly, a cooler on one corner, the toys on another, almost as if they had come for fireworks and stayed too long.

The bathrooms, clogged and overflowing since Monday, announced the second level of hell, the walkway ringing the entrance level. In the men’s, the urinal troughs were overflowing. In the women’s, the bowls were to the brim. A slime of excrement and urine made the walkway slick. “You don’t even go there anymore,” said Dee Ford, 37, who was pushed in a wading pool from her flooded house to the shelter. “You just go somewhere in a corner where you can. In the dark, you are going to step in poo anyway.”

Water and electricity both failed Monday, and three pumps to pressurize plumbing have been no match “when the lake just keeps pushing it back at us,” said Maj. Ed Bush, the chief public affairs officer for the Louisiana National Guard.

“With no hand-washing, and all the excrement,” said Sgt. Debra Williams, who was staffing the infirmary in the adjacent sports arena, “you have about four days until dysentery sets in. And it’s been four days today.”

Bottled water was too precious to use for washing; adults get two bottles a day. Food, mostly Meals Ready-to-Eat, is dispensed in a different line. Many refugees told of waiting in line for hours only to be told no food was left.

Within the skyboxes, on the third level of hell, life was dark 24 hours a day, a place for abandonment and coupling. Also up there was “a sort of speakeasy,” said Michael Childs, who had some beer in an empty Dannon water bottle. “You got to know where to go,” he said, and grinned. “And you just put your bottle under the spigot. It is disgusting in here, and I lost everything I had, and I’m glad to have found a little beer.”

(via Steve Gilliard)
Update:
The LA Times has another story about the Superdome.

5 Comments

  1. Or prevent it. Something like 50% of New Orleans levee funding has been cut in the past few years (to pay for the Iraq war – but don’t rescind those precious tax cuts!). And Bush in another one of his “crisp clear decisions” opened up the federally protected marshes around New Orleans to commercial development. For every two miles of marsh it reduces the level of flooding by 1 foot, but he sees no reason to protect it. Unlike his father and Clinton did during their presendencial tours.

    Ever feel like you’re in a Bizarro world? A president that speaks in monosyllables, a press that prints dogma and spin as fact while people who have the audacity to search for truth labeled as “traitors”. I think that fits the DC alternate universe pretty well doesn’t it?

  2. Lines are already forming at the pumps.

    It’s times like these that I’m thankful to be on a college campus, relatively isolated, and don’t have a car up here.

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