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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Britons describe hurricane ordeal
New Orleans Superdome
The rubbish-strewn Superdome
Britons returning from New Orleans have described the horrifying conditions there.

They were among the thousands forced to seek refuge from the floods that engulfed the city following Hurricane Katrina.

Some 96 Britons still remain unaccounted for.


Student Michelle Andrews, 20, said she had been sheltering on the 17th floor of a New Orleans hotel when Katrina hit.

Michelle Andrews met at the airport by her father Steve
They just turned us away and said we would have to fend for ourselves
Michelle Andrews

"We just lay down in the corridors as these thick white clouds just closed in on us. It was Hell."

But after the hurricane passed, the hotel asked Ms Andrews, from south Wales, and the friends she was travelling with to leave.

"We went to a convention centre where the National Guard was based - but they just turned us away and said we would have to fend for ourselves."

The group ended up sleeping rough on a 30ft-high covered walkway before being found by an Australian television crew and rescued.

"Every day we woke to more dead bodies and people with guns. There was polluted water everywhere and the smell was awful. And there was no electricity. It was so dark."


Nurse Teresa Cherrie, 42, and her partner lorry driver John Drysdale, 41, said they had flown to the US on 27 August, after their travel company told them the "tropical storm" would only last a day.

We got told to go ahead and enjoy our holiday
John Drysdale

"We never had any idea of what we were getting into. We got told to go ahead and enjoy our holiday," Mr Drysdale said.

The couple, from Renfrew in Scotland, fled from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, where they were forced to scavenge for food, while hiding from armed gangs.

"We were getting followed about... they were saying, 'They've got water, they've got water'," Mr Drysdale said.

Ms Cherrie said they would send a cheque to reimburse a store they had looted.

"We only took some water and we took some food and some tins and a carton of cigarettes."


Jenny Sachs, of Sheffield, told how soldiers had to smuggle her out of the Superdome in secret.

She was one of about 30 Britons who, realising they could not escape the city, had fled to the stadium for shelter.

The military got us out, which we were all thankful for
Jenny Sachs

"It has hit me more now I am at home, when you can have clean water, how bad it was," she said.

She said people had been raped and that others were beaten up.

"A guy was brought in who had seven stab wounds and was covered in blood."

The military told all non-US citizens to stay together for safety, Ms Sachs added.

They later told them they would be secretly smuggled out in groups of 10 under cover of darkness as it had become too dangerous for them to remain in the stadium, she told BBC News.

"When we were leaving, people were going 'Where are you going?' and giving us looks.

"But the military got us out, which we were all thankful for."


After looters had broken into New Orleans' Ramada Hotel, bus driver Ged Scott, 36, of Liverpool - stranded with his wife Sandra, 37, and their seven-year-old son, Ronan - had waded waist-deep through the filthy water to barricade the hotel's doors, he told BBC News.

People wait to be evacuated from the Superdome
I could see bodies floating in the water
Ged Scott

"It was like wading through an open sewer.

"It reeked to high heaven and made you want to vomit.

"Outside I could see bodies floating in the water."

Mr Scott told BBC News he had ripped wires attached to speakers from the walls of the flooded hotel bar and tied tables and chairs together as makeshift barricades.

Hotel guests had already managed to chase one group of looters from the building, he added.

They had then taken turns patrolling the hotel's corridors with a torch, Mr Scott told BBC News.


Radio Merseyside presenter Mike Brocken, from Chester, was on holiday in New Orleans with his wife and teenage daughter when the hurricane hit.

The family stayed in the hotel for the first few days and then decided to move to the Superdome, as looting was becoming widespread in the city.

I approached two members of the National Guard and they said to stay outside because they knew it was hell in there
Mike Brocken

"The situation was becoming more and more dangerous all the time - it was horrific really and by Wednesday dinnertime our hotel had run out of diesel for its generator so everything was closing down.

"We were going to go inside the Superdome. I approached two members of the National Guard and they said to stay outside because they knew it was hell in there."

Mr Brocken said members of the National Guard took him and his family "under their wing" and saw that they were placed in the baseball stadium.

"Everyone talks about the National Guard in rather derogatory ways historically, but I've got to say that but for them, and one man in particular, I may well have lost my family."


Charlotte Scott, 19, from Reading, and her sister Rebecca, 20, were met by their parents at Gatwick after being evacuated from the Superdome.

Charlotte and Rebecca Scott arrive at Gatwick
Charlotte (L) and Rebecca Scott were among the Britons flown home

Charlotte said: "Conditions in there were just horrible for anyone and everyone; most people just wanted to survive.

"The smell was horrendous. You just wanted to throw up the whole time.

"Throughout the three days we just grouped together because none of us knew what we were in for. I saw a couple of people getting taken away by the Army and others were getting angry."


Jamie Trout, 22, of Sunderland, told BBC News the five "horrific" days he and his two female friends had spent in the Superdome, before being freed by the US National Guard, had been "like something out of Lord of the Flies".

"It was very dangerous - rioting, looting of vending machines, racial abuse, absolutely terrible sanitary conditions."

They had been "intimidated by large groups of men" and, Mr Trout added, he had feared he would be killed.

The girls were terrified to go to the toilet
Jamie Trout

The group had heard a child had been raped and found in the toilets with a broken neck, Mr Trout told BBC News.

"That was a really hard time. It made us all feel sick.

"The girls were terrified to go to the toilet."

The group had called the British embassy in Washington from a mobile phone, Mr Trout added.

But embassy staff had told them to contact the British consulate in New Orleans

When they had pointed out it was "15ft under water", the embassy staff had simply repeated they should contact the consulate, Mr Trout told BBC News.

"That was obviously very difficult to take."


Ed Whitaker, 22, of Bristol said: "It was hell on Earth.

"The last couple of days in the dome became completely chaotic and it was too dangerous to even queue for food.

"There were National Guard soldiers there giving a couple of items out a day - but we ended up giving up.

"Once the power and water went then everything got messed up."


Will Nelson, 21, who spent five days in the stadium where up to 30,000 people took shelter from rising flood-water, described the situation as "chaos".

He said the atmosphere was "desperate" and "everyone was running out of food".

Mr Nelson told BBC News there were rumours of rapes and stabbings amidst the thousands packed into the stadium, as well as suicides.

Will Nelson

The Loughborough University graduate, who had been travelling in the US after working in Camp America, said: "There were mothers with their children lying in corridors in filth and the toilets and water stopped working.

"The smell was disgusting and there were old people just sitting down in the road as well as the sick."

He had been staying in a hostel in the city when he was told to evacuate to the stadium as Hurricane Katrina swept in from the Gulf of Mexico.

Foreign travellers in the Superdome had herded together for safety, after warnings from US air force personnel.

"There were 40 or 50 of us. The lads were on the outside and the girls were on the inside and we just made sure that we didn't leave any of our bags."


Adam Friend, 21, of Exeter, ended up in the stadium after being unable to evacuate the city before the storm.

Adam Friend (right) was stranded with his friend Russell Porter

Speaking from Dallas, Texas, he told BBC News: "Me and my friend were touring America. We couldn't get out of New Orleans. Everything closed down on Saturday so we were stuck.

"We went to the Superdome to get some shelter and all hell broke loose in there. I wouldn't want my worst enemy to go through what we've had to go through in there."


Peter Henry, 20, who had also been in New Orleans after working in Camp America, also described appalling conditions.

I saw between 50 and 100 people fighting over a bottle of Coca Cola
Peter Henry

"By Tuesday night you heard of some suicides, people had jumped from balconies, or people being pushed, there were all sorts of rumours flying around. I honestly didn't think I was going to wake up on Wednesday morning."

Rioting and looting had broken out when food supplies had run out, Mr Henry added.

"I saw between 50 and 100 people fighting over a bottle of Coca Cola.

Mr Henry left on Friday and was bussed to Dallas, Texas, where he was met by his father Wayne, who had flown over from the UK to try and find his son.


Former Royal Marine Darryl Hill - originally from Amersham, Buckinghamshire - runs a hotel in New Orleans.

"This far outweighs anything I saw when I was with the British forces in various hostile areas," he told BBC Radio 4's PM.

"The lack of support we've had, the lack of supplies flown in ... now they are starting to arrive, but it has taken over a week. I think there should have been a much quicker response from the hierarchy."

Mr Hill said some of what he had seen was "so raw and heart-touching it is hard to describe and hard to live with".

"I saw a young lady, she had just given birth and she had to carry her new-born over her head.

"The water was up to her breasts and she was just walking through the water, crying for help."

Watch Britons tell of their Superdome ordeal


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