Hospitals across the city faced deteriorating conditions Tuesday after two levees broke, sending water coursing through the streets of the Big Easy. An estimated 80 percent of the below-sea-level city was under water, up to 20 feet deep in places, with miles and miles of homes swamped.
As floodwaters rose around Charity Hospital, the rescuers needed their own rescuing.
Charity's backup generator was running out of diesel fuel. Nurses hand-pumped ventilators for patients who couldn't breathe. Doctors canoed supplies in from three nearby hospitals.
"It's like being in a Third World country. We're trying to work without power. Everyone knows we're all in this together. We're just trying to stay alive," said Mitch Handrich, a registered nurse manager at the state's biggest public hospital.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said 2,500 patients would be evacuated from hospitals in Orleans Parish, but it wasn't immediately clear where they would be moved.
Police were working to get more generators to Charity and its 300 patients. The most critically ill would be evacuated first, with the rest to go later this week.
Outside Charity, water was 3 to 4 feet deep in the street. Inside, halls were dark and slippery. Workers ferried supplies up and down darkened stairs. Everyone needed flashlights.
And yet the injured kept coming.
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