Survivors reveal Superdome horror

Survivors reveal Superdome horror
September 4, 2005 – The bedraggled crowds may have left the Superdome, but the dead remain where they fell.

Tired, hungry and traumatised by days spent under the damaged roof of a once-gleaming football stadium, the refugees of New Orleans have spoken of a nightmarish week living among the crazed and the desperate.

Stories of rape, murder and suicide have emerged.

Medical teams delivered babies in filthy conditions, with human faeces never far away and fresh water in short supply. At least three were reported to have died.

Amid the filth and the crime, some snapped.

“One guy jumped off a balcony,” said Charles Womack, a 30-year-old roofer who was beaten and injured during his time at the Superdome.

“I saw him do it. He was talking to a lady about it. He said it reminded him of the war and he couldn’t leave.”

Deadly night-time

Fear ratcheted up the tension, with disturbing reports of mistaken identity emerging from the chaos. Police and national guardsmen were accused of killing innocent people.

“They killed a man here last night,” Steve Banka, 28, told the Reuters news agency before he left on Sunday.

“A young lady was being raped and stabbed.

“And the sounds of her screaming got to this man and so he ran out into the street to get help from troops, to try to flag down a passing truck of them.

“He jumped up on the truck’s windscreen and they shot him dead,” Mr Banka said.

Another man died in mysterious circumstances on Friday as a police car passed the New Orleans Convention Center, where equally squalid conditions forced many to sleep outside among streets full of rubbish.

More than 24 hours later, his body, like so many others, had not been moved.

“Right where he fell,” Larry Martin told the Los Angeles Times. “Like roadkill.”

On Saturday morning Africa Brumfield, 32, sat with relatives near the corpse of a young man in streets around the convention centre.

He had died on Friday night as he walked in the street.

“There is rapes going on here. Women cannot go to the bathroom without men. They are raping them and slitting their throats,” she told Reuters.


Inside the Superdome, a National Guard soldier charged with keeping order confirmed the brutal reality of life after Katrina.

“We found a young girl raped and killed in the bathroom. Then the crowd got the man and they beat him to death.”

As Saturday ebbed past, an endless fleet of yellow school buses offered the dispossessed a passage out of their nightmares.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Derek Dabon, 29, said as he queued for a security check.

Hillary Snowton, 40, sat with a white sheet wrapped around his face to shield himself from the smell of a dead body that lay, untouched, just metres away.

He had watched the body lie there for the past four days, decomposing in the sultry Louisiana climate.

He didn’t see the point in moving away from the corpse, he told the Associated Press.

“It stinks everywhere.”

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