Flames Rage On the Waterfront In New Orleans

While thousands of people waited to be evacuated from the squalor of flood-stricken New Orleans, two major fires raged along the waterfront on Saturday.

Without water, firefighters were helpless. They were forced to abandon efforts to fight a blaze that threatened to consume an upscale riverfront mall, where looters had been seen earlier.

Fifty-foot flames also engulfed an industrial district along the Mississippi River and threatened to spread from warehouse to warehouse.

Black smoke covered the skyline of a city where firefighting resources are stretched thin.

Although much of the city is covered with fouled waters, the hydrants are dry. Firefighters told CNN the mall fire started about 9:30 a.m. "under suspicious circumstances."

Police watched the Shops at Canal Place building, attached to the Wyndham Hotel, as it burned.

Earlier, a CNN crew saw looters leave the shops carrying filled Gucci and Brooks Brothers bags.

In a rare live radio address Saturday, President Bush said more than 7,000 additional troops will be sent over the next 24 to 72 hours to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

"Where our response is not working, we will make it right," he said.

On Friday, a bus carrying 50 evacuees overturned north of Lafayette, Louisiana, killing a man and injuring 12 people, a Louisiana State Police spokesman said.

Thousands of people remained Saturday at the Superdome and Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans after a day that saw one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history.

As many as 5,000 people remained in the Superdome, according to the Texas National Guard, and about 2,000 people remained at the convention center. Hospital evacuated

At New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport on Saturday, babies slept on flattened cardboard boxes as hundreds of evacuees waited to be airlifted.

The last 200 patients, who had waited in primitive conditions, were evacuated from Charity Hospital on Saturday, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported.

The hospital has no power, no water and no food. The bodies of patients who have died had been stored in stairwells because the hospital's morgue is flooded.

Although bodies have been spotted for days throughout the city, New Orleans officials have no death toll, instead focusing on rescuing the living.

Anger at slow response

Many Americans were outraged by what they perceived to be a slow response from the federal government. Some questioned whether race was a factor in treatment of the largely black evacuee population.

For five days, tens of thousands languished inside New Orleans' Superdome, with no food and water. Some died as rampant violence was reported.

"Certainly I think the issue of race as a factor will not go away from this equation," the Rev. Jesse Jackson told CNN on Friday.

"We have great tolerance for black suffering and black marginalization," he added. "And today those who are suffering the most, in fact, in New Orleans certainly are black people."

Jackson, who was in New Orleans helping with the relief effort, described appalling conditions: "Today I saw 5,000 African-Americans on the I-10 causeway desperate, perishing, dehydrated, babies dying," he said. "It looked like Africans in the hull of a slave ship. It was so ugly and so obvious."

Earlier Friday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized the pace of relief efforts, saying response was slow because those most affected are poor.

At an NBC benefit for hurricane victims, rapper Kanye West said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

Astrodome bursting with people

About 15,000 people have been evacuated to Houston's Astrodome, which officials say is filled to capacity. Two other shelters were opened nearby that can hold an estimated 26,000 people.

President Bush visited Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana on Friday, and then returned to Washington and signed a $10.5 billion disaster relief bill. The amount includes $10 billion in supplemental funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $500 million for the Pentagon for its hurricane relief work.

After first calling relief efforts "not acceptable" the president later said he was satisfied with them.

In his radio address on Saturday, the president acknowledged that people are "not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans -- and that is unacceptable."

Officials involved in relief efforts are dealing with a multitude of issues:

  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport has processed 40,000 people, with priority given to the sick and injured, one official said. (

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated Friday that it will take 36 to 80 days to drain the city.

  • Texas officials said nearly 154,000 evacuees have arrived there.

  • Mississippi's Gov. Haley Barbour said the number of confirmed deaths in the state stands at 147, although he expects that to increase.

    Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is coordinating military efforts, said getting food and water to the people at the convention center was difficult. "If you ever have 20,000 people come to supper, you know what I'm talking about," the three-star general said. "If it was easy, it would have been done already."

    New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was somewhat mollified after harshly criticizing the lack of federal government's response to the crisis Thursday night. He praised President Bush after they toured the region Friday with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.


    The president was "very serious" and "very engaging" during his time in New Orleans, Nagin said. "He was brutally honest. He wanted to know the truth."

    On Friday the president also took an aerial tour of storm damage in Alabama and walked through a neighborhood in Biloxi, Mississippi, to inspect storm damage.

    Nine stockpiles of fire-and-rescue equipment strategically placed around the country to be used in the event of a catastrophe still have not been pressed into service in New Orleans, five days after Hurricane Katrina, CNN has learned.

    Other developments

  • State officials have spotted a "major" oil spill in the Venice area of the Mississippi Delta region, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said Friday. A department news release said two tanks capable of holding 2 million barrels appeared to be leaking. The statement did not give the precise location of the spill. Venice is about 75 miles southeast of New Orleans.

  • The Association of Oil Pipelines says that all major oil pipelines in the region are up and running at limited capacity.

  • The U.S. Air Force will send 300 troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan to help their families cope with emergencies on a hurricane-devastated airbase in Biloxi, Mississippi, a spokesman said Saturday.

  • Tulane University canceled its fall semester and contingency plans are being made for thousands of college students enrolled at universities in New Orleans.

  • Offers of support have poured in from all over the world. Many countries have offered condolences and made donations to the Red Cross, including Britain, Japan, Australia and Sri Lanka, which is still recovering from last year's tsunami.