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Desperate begin boarding buses

Evacuation of New Orleans convention center could take days

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A bus takes some of the evacuees away from the New Orleans convention center.

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NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- A string of buses arrived Saturday morning at the New Orleans convention center to take away some of the 30,000 people who have relied on its shelter since Sunday.

A similar scene unfolded at the Superdome.

With no food, water or any kind of sanitation, the convention center's stranded have spent six days living in squalor, many of them trying to defy the putrid combination of intense 90-degree heat, death and feces. (Watch a report on the health risks post-Katrina -- 2:18)

Each day more deaths are reported.

Of the 42,000 people estimated by FEMA to have been evacuated from the city as of Saturday, about 4,000 were from the convention center.

Some on commercial buses were driven to Arkansas. Others who were taken on the less comfortable school buses were first taken to New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport, then flown to Arkansas.

Military officials said the complete evacuation of the convention center would take several days because of the number involved. Tens of thousands of people took shelter there.

Food has arrived, as people awaited their chance to get on a bus out.

For most, their only possessions are what they wear.

"They want to shower. They want fresh clothes," reported CNN's Jeff Koinange.

National Guard Lt. Col. Jerry Crooks told The Associated Press that troops had served more than 70,000 meals outside the convention center and had another 130,000 on hand. The arrival of food and water has calmed the atmosphere, Koinange said.

Meanwhile, lines to get on the buses were hours long.

Officials walked through the streets looking to help some of the most vulnerable. Elderly and infirm people were taken on wheelchairs or shopping carts to the bus lines; others on stretchers, Koinange said. "These streets have been people's homes bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, bedrooms, you name it." (Watch the latest on the circumstances there -- 2:30)

The stench is reminiscent of the refugee camps in the world's poorest nations.

Portable toilets began arriving Saturday afternoon.

"The comedy of errors continues across the city," said Koinange, noting that the equipment was arriving after thousands of people had been evacuated.

The city's skyline Saturday morning was choked with black smoke from two major fires. (Full story)

Some families that remained set up housing in the middle of the streets, sleeping on found mattresses; some had laid blankets over cords or string to create some sort of shade.

President Bush on Saturday vowed to improve the federal response and help all those in need. (Full story)

Federal officials said there is good progress in getting help to the victims of Katrina. (Full story)

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