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Unanswered: Helicopters fired? Flight suspension order?

According to Shots at helicopters shrouded in a 'fog', the official word from the Air Force, Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and Louisiana Air National Guard is that they haven't been able to confirm any incidents of shots being fired at helicopters. The same goes for "members of several rescue crews who were told to halt operations".

The storm created so much confusion that government officials cannot even agree on whether they ever issued an order to halt flights or other rescue efforts...
On the morning of Sept. 1, Mike Sonnier was directing rescue helicopters at his company, Acadian Ambulance, when one of his pilots called to say the military had suspended flights after gunfire was reported in the air near the Louisiana Superdome.
[He shut down flights...] Sonnier said that when he checked with the National Guard about two hours later, he was told it was OK to fly. At that point Acadian resumed operations. Even today, it's not clear whether a military order to stop flying was ever actually made.

Then, they include a USCG quote reprinted in "Sep 1: Charity, University hospitals situation" and say this:

...But that initial report proved hard to confirm. Two Coast Guard spokesmen who were asked in recent days about helicopter shootings said there were no incidents of any Coast Guard personnel or vehicles taking fire.

That's a bit at odds with the previous link.

''We don't know of any shots ever fired directly at us,'' said Capt. Bob Mueller, commander of the Guard's New Orleans station. "But there were a number of reports of shots fired in the air. There were two occasions where all helos were directed to land. I believe those orders came from the Superdome. Our flatboats did stand down Sept. 1.''
Lt. Pete Schneider, a spokesman for the National Guard, which was handling Superdome evacuations, said it was a civilian who told guardsmen in the area that shots had been fired. Schneider said flights continued despite the danger...
But a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, contradicted that statement, saying Superdome flights were temporarily suspended because of gunfire.
The confusion affected more than just helicopter crews. Florida Task Force 1 was using boats to reach the stranded but not on Sept. 1.
Because of reports of gunfire, a FEMA support team ordered the Florida task force to stop work for the entire day unless law enforcement protection could be found, task force leader Dave Downey said.
That help never came. Meanwhile, thousands of people were stuck in attics and on roofs of flooded houses in New Orleans.
''We had just had a very successful day before,'' when they rescued 400 people, said Downey, whose crew manned boats. "It definitely slowed down our rescue efforts . . .
...FEMA sent mixed messages in recent days on whether rescue efforts were placed on hold.
''If, on the ground, if they were in middle of a search and they were being shot at, for safety reasons, they may have temporarily put that search on hold,'' said Deborah Wing, a FEMA spokeswoman in Washington.
Later, she said by e-mail that no operations were ever suspended, despite "reports of gunfire.''
Some who were in New Orleans that day described moments of real peril. Tyler Curiel, a cancer doctor at Tulane University Hospital, said a sniper shot at him and his military escorts in the street as they evacuated patients from Tulane and Charity hospitals.
Curiel said the gunman was in a nearby parking deck shooting at Charity's emergency room about noon Sept. 1.
One month later, Downey, of Florida Task Force 1, isn't sure the decision to halt operations was the right one...

Sep 1: Charity, University hospitals situation

This is an AP report from Thursday, Sep. 1. "Two New Orleans hospitals plead for help":

Doctors at two desperately crippled hospitals in New Orleans called The Associated Press Thursday morning pleading for rescue, saying they were nearly out of food and power and had been forced to move patients to higher floors to escape looters.
"We have been trying to call the mayor's office, we have been trying to call the governor's office ... we have tried to use any inside pressure we can. We are turning to you. Please help us," said Dr. Norman McSwain, chief of trauma surgery at Charity Hospital, the largest of two public hospitals.
Charity is across the street from Tulane University Medical Center, a private facility that has almost completed evacuating more than 1,000 patients and family members, he said.
No such public resources are available for Charity, which has about 250 patients, or University Hospital several blocks away, which has about 110 patients...
[conditions described]
"Hospitals are trying to evacuate," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, spokesman at the city emergency operations center. "At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking pot shots at police and at helicopters, telling them, 'You better come get my family."'
Richard Zuschlag, president of Acadian Ambulance Service Inc., described the chaos at a suburban hospital.
"We tried to airlift supplies into Kenner Memorial Hospital late last evening and were confronted by an unruly crowd with guns, and the pilots refused to land," he said.
"My medics were crying, screaming for help. When we tried to land at Kenner, my pilots got scared because 100 people were on the helipad and some of them had guns. He was frightened and would not land."

Regarding Zuschlag, see the discussion in "Who said a sniper fired at a helicopter? Where is the evidence?"

Yet another Crescent City Connection account

This one was posted on Sep. 8 and is called "Surviving hurricane no vacation for tourist":

On Aug. 30, the group tried to rent a bus, but the plan fizzled.
"We heard FEMA confiscated the buses for their own use," he said.
The streets were becoming more dangerous, with looters roaming around. "We could hear gunshots in the distance," [Clarkston MI resident Michael McCarthy] noted.
While other parts of the city were flooded from broken levees, McCarthy's group was not affected.
Nonetheless, on Thursday, Sept. 1, the hotel closed.
"The staff gave us a bottle of water, encouraged us to go to the convention center, and wished us luck" he said.
About 50 hotel guests, including the 12 from Michigan, left together "for safety reasons," McCarthy said.
As they were walking, a police officer advised them not to go to the convention center. Then another officer steered them toward a ferryboat loading dock, across from a police command building.
Hearing hot meals were being served over a bridge, the group was headed that way when they spotted thugs wielding golf clubs.
"The locals said, 'They're letting the white people out,' " McCarthy recalled. "I felt very, very bad."
The group wasn't all white, he reports. "We had people from Holland, Brazil, Turkey, Chile and Australia, and several African-Americans."
As McCarthy's group crossed the bridge, a police officer fired a shot over their heads. The group turned back and stayed overnight on the loading dock. McCarthy stuffed his credit cards in his sock. He learned later there had been a riot of some kind near the bridge.
The situation felt "very primal," he said. If they had to go to the bathroom, the people did so outdoors, he said.
On Friday [Sep. 2], the group was taken by bus to a staging area in Jefferson Parish, about 30 miles outside of New Orleans. From the bus, McCarthy saw "all these poor, desperate people trying to get out of the city," he said.
At the staging area, the group found itself part of a crowd of 15,000.
"I never have seen such filth in my life," McCarthy said of the debris. He avoided the two portable toilets.
But McCarthy noticed a flurry of activity at this location.
"Helicopters were landing every 10 to 20 seconds, taking people out and bringing supplies in," he said.
The bedraggled group was given military meals and water, and at nightfall two buses came to give them rides.
"One of the parishes had heard about our plight and had donated the buses," he said. "People thought we were getting preferential treatment and we may have been."
McCarthy could hear shots being fired as the buses pulled away. "People in the camp had weapons," he said. "We all ducked down, but nobody was hurt."
The group - referred to in the local press as the "stranded tourists" - was taken to Alexandria, La., where they found a hotel around noon on Saturday.
On Sunday at 6 a.m., the group flew out of the state, landing in Detroit around 8:30 a.m.
Looking back, McCarthy stresses the tourists had it "a lot better" than the locals did.
"Those poor people sat in deplorable conditions surrounded by rotting corpses and violent looters."
..."FEMA, New Orleans and the state are all partially to blame. There is enough blame to go around..."

Canadian SAR team describes rioting, looting

From this:

...On Thursday [Sep 1], the team was in Kenner, La. -- a small city of about 75,000 on the Mississippi River's East Bank -- where police described the violence and looting as "out of control."
USAR is working with Louisiana State Troopers, as well as the National Guard.
"It's far too dangerous for even the state troopers and police to wander out," said USAR member Brian Inglis in a statement Thursday on his team website, vancouver.ca/usar.
"It's absolutely crazy, the devastation is unreal -- the gunfire, the shooting, the looting is like something you see in a movie. "
Acadian Ambulance Service says it was greeted by an armed and angry crowd as it tried to airlift supplies into Kenner Memorial Hospital late Wednesday.
Richard Zuschlag, president of the ambulance service, said his medics were "crying, screaming for help," and that his pilots "refused to land."
Inglis said the team won't be performing any search and rescue operations for at least the next eight to 12 hours until authorities bring the situation under control.
"Unfortunately, from time we were given orders to move from Lafayette at 4:30 a.m. this morning up here, the lid has blown off this place."
Kenner has about 190 officers patrolling the city, according to Kenner police spokesman Steve Caraway...

"Looting" vs. "finding"

On August 30, Yahoo News printed two photos of people wading through water: the first of a black man with a garbage bag full of stuff he obtained by "looting", and the second of a white couple with bread and soda that they obtained by "finding" those items.
This trivial difference was immediately seized upon by the left as proof of racism.
From Van Jones: "This is the kind of shameful bias that keeps the country divided, even during awful tragedies like this."
From Byron Williams: "The journalistic double standard is so obvious it does not warrant comment, but there is something more important than the apparent racism."
Snopes has demolished the claim of racism by printing the comments of the photographers involved.
Links to other sites that showed these pictures will be provided later.

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