By Mark Egan
29 minutes ago
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - With the rotors of President George W. Bush's helicopter sounding overhead, New Orleans' poor and downtrodden recounted tales of murder, rape, death threats and near starvation since Hurricane Katrina wrecked this city.
Ending days of abandonment since the hurricane struck on Monday, the U.S. National Guard handed out military rations and a bottle of water to thousands of evacuees -- the first proper meal most had eaten in days.
But as the masses lined up outside, herded by Army troops toting machine guns, inside the convention center where these people slept since Monday was the stench of death and decay.
Leroy Fouchea, 42, waited in the sweltering heat for an hour to get his ration -- his first proper food since Monday -- and immediately handed it over to a sickly friend.
He then offered to show reporters the dead bodies of a man in a wheelchair, a young man who he said he dragged inside just hours earlier, and the limp forms of two infants, one just four months old, the other six months old.
"They died right here, in America, waiting for food," Fouchea said as he walked toward Hall D, where the bodies were put to get them out of the searing heat.
He said people were let die and left without food simply because they were poor and that the evacuation effort earlier concentrated on the French Quarter of the city. "Because that's where the money is," he spat.
A National Guardsman refused entry