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Stranded Spain MP describes Katrina chaos

From Al Goodman
CNN

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The situation at the center is steadily deteriorating, Muņoz said.

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(CNN) -- A Spanish member of parliament stranded in New Orleans has described a dire situation at the city's Convention Center, including dead bodies inside the building.

Lourdes Muņoz Santamaria, her husband and his 10-year-old son were on vacation in New Orleans and were unable to get a flight out of the city before Hurricane Katrina struck.

They ended up at the New Orleans Convention Center, where Muņoz used a pay phone to make several calls to a journalist friend in Madrid to describe the conditions. (See the video report of thousands stranded among filth and corpses -- 2:54)

The journalist, Montserrat Boix of Spain's state television TVE, said Muņoz told her the situation at the center was steadily deteriorating and that authorities were unaware of the magnitude of the problem.

According to Boix, Muņoz said dead bodies were inside the center and others were outside, with no one removing them.

Muņoz also told Boix there was no water at the center, and that when a few evacuation buses pulled up to the center Wednesday, there was a scramble to get aboard and only the strongest made it, because no authorities were on hand to direct a more-orderly evacuation.

Later, Muņoz described the situation to CNN partner station CNN+ in Madrid.

"It's everyone for himself. The police and army pass by the center, but here no one is organizing anything," she said.

"There's no food or water, the people are becoming dehydrated.

"It's been more than 24 hours without any help. There's been looting at the shopping center next door and there's been a lot of violence," she said.

"There are people injured because last night (Wednesday) there were stampedes in the dark because the people were waiting for buses and only five came.

"Then there was a stampede over a loud sound -- someone said it was a shot fired. There was screaming. People can't see anything at night. There are people bad off, without any help."

The local residents stranded at the center, she said, "are starting to doubt their government. We've been here more than 24 hours without being able to move. We all came here because they said we'd be evacuated in planes or buses or boats and that it was too dangerous to remain in homes."

Munoz said some people at the center thought about going across town to the Superdome to try to get evacuated from there, but police on the streets wouldn't let people leave the area. (Watch the video report on FEMA's scaled-back evacuation plans -- 2:34)

Muņoz estimated there were thousands of people at the center. She told Boix she and her family moved to an upper floor of the center because of what they regarded as aggressive tension on the lower floor.

Muņoz said she has been in frequent contact with the Spanish Embassy in Washington but that U.S. authorities are not permitting embassy personnel to enter New Orleans.

Muņoz, 35, is an MP from Barcelona for Spain's Socialist Party.

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