New Orleans prison inmates desperate to get water fell out of cell
windows onto razor wire where they hung for hours waiting to be rescued, according
to a sheriff's deputy.
Luis Reyes, who guarded a prison during Hurricane Katrina and the days
after, said that some detainees drowned in their cells as flood waters rose.
In an interview with AFP, Mr Reyes said many prisoners broke out of their cells
because there were just not enough guards to control the Community Correctional
Centre during the chaos after Monday's storm.
It took three days to evacuate the prisoners and for most of that time
no food or water was given to the inmates, Mr Reyes said.
There were about four floors to the building with 100 prisoners on each floor.
The crisis reached a peak after the levees protecting New Orleans broke on Tuesday
and flood water poured in.
"At one stage the inmates at the bottom tier had water up to their
chests. There are dead inmates in there still. When the guards were doing their
last sweeps there were one or two here and there," said the 33-year-old
Thousands of people are believed to have died along the US Gulf Coast following
Troubles erupted in the correctional centre on Wednesday, according to Mr Reyes.
"The inmates said they did not want to take over the jail they
just wanted food and water. We had nothing to give them because basically everything
was under water."
He said that in a nearby prison building, "the inmates started
jumping out of the windows onto the razor wire and they were hanging there until
we could get to them.
"But the scary thing for me was running up the buildings because the inmates
were breaking out of the cells and were tearing holes in the walls.
"They had been escaping throughout the night because we were so shorthanded.
People just did not come in. There was no plan for this situation.
"They were hanging out of the windows and trying to get water.
Some of the inmates were so desperate for water that they tied their t-shirts
together and lowered a boot into the diseased water that they had just relieved
Eventually the prisoners were grouped together on a bridge where at one stage
there were between 4,600 and 5,000 inmates waiting to be evacuated out of the
The detainees were eventually driven away in trucks on Thursday with the help
of prison officers brought in from other towns. But the New Orleans officers
and their families were left behind, Mr Reyes said.
"They were left with food and water but they were angry at being abandoned.
They spent the night sleeping on the concrete overpass with about 100 other
people who had been stranded," he said.
Relief eventually arrived on Friday, Mr Reyes said.
He said he survived on a handful of cereals each day for five days