NEW ORLEANS – Storm refugees still stuck at the Superdome (search) on Friday faced knee-deep trash and blacked-out bathrooms. "This was the worst night of my life," one mother said.
The conditions stayed miserable even as the crowds shrank after buses ferried thousands to Houston a day earlier. While the evacuation resumed Friday, the press of people on the bridge outside the arena was just as great as before.
Capt. Andrew Lindgren with the Air National Guard said about 8,000 to 10,000 people remained in the Superdome. Most of them are jammed on the ramps leading out.
Friday's evacuations began about 9 a.m., halted for about an hour and then resumed at about 11 a.m. Authorities estimated they could move about 1,000 of them an hour when the buses are in place.
Tina Miller, 47, had no shoes and cried with relief and exhaustion as she walked toward a bus. "I never thought I'd make it. Oh, God, I thought I'd die in there. I've never been through anything this awful."
The arena's second-story concourse looked like a dump, with more than a foot of trash except in the occasional area where people were working to keep things as tidy as possible.
Bathrooms had no lights, making people afraid to enter, and the stench from backed-up toilets inside killed any inclination toward bravery.
"When we have to go to the bathroom we just get a box. That's all you can do now," said Sandra Jones of eastern New Orleans.
Her newborn baby was running a fever, and all the small children in her area had rashes, she said.
"This was the worst night of my life. We were really scared. We're getting no help. I know the military police are trying. But they're outnumbered," Jones said.
People brought tables and chairs from restaurants and anything else they could find to make conditions a bit more livable. On one row, people had staked out their space with a row of blankets and used brooms to sweep it clean.
"We're just trying to keep a little order. It's bad. We're trying not to let it get any worse," said Michele Boyle, 41.
As for the bathrooms, "I'm trying not to eat anything so I won't have to deal with it," she said.
Those who did want food were waiting in line for hours to get it, said another refugee, Becky Larue, of Des Moines, Iowa.
Larue and her husband arrived in the area Saturday for a vacation but their hotel soon told them they had to leave and directed them to the Superdome. No directions were provided, she said.
She said she was down to her last blood pressure pill and had no idea of when they'll get out or where to get help.
"I'm really scared. I think people are going into a survival mode. I look for people to start injuring themselves just to get out of here," she said.
James LeFlere, 56, was trying to remain optimistic.
"They're going to get us out of here. It's just hard to hang on at this point," he said.
Pets were forbidden on the buses. On Thursday, when an officer confiscated a dog, a little boy cried out "Snowball! Snowball!" until he vomited.
National Guard officers said dogs were being taken to a stairwell in the New Orleans Center, a shopping mall near the Superdome, and given food and water. They feared some of them might have escaped, and two small dogs were seen wandering nearby streets.