Katrina hikes oil over $70 mark; National Guard police New Orleans

Oil prices hit new record highs, crossing $70 a barrel in Asian trading, as Hurricane Katrina threatened the Gulf of Mexico region and Bush urged residents of New Orleans to comply with a general evacuation order. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana and Mississippi. (AFX, Aug. 28) Chevron and Exxon have both shut offshore oil and gas production and evacuated staff, and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port closed its pipeline to refineries. (Bloomberg, Aug. 28)

AP, meanwhile, offers this grim account from New Orleans:

For thousands of this city’s poor, homeless and frail, just getting into the massive Louisiana Superdome and hunkering down was the hardest part.

The sickest among them didn’t flee the wrath of hurricane Katrina on Sunday as much as they hobbled to safety on crutches, canes and on stretchers. Others lined up for blocks, clutching meagre belongings and crying children as national guardsmen searched them for guns, knives and drugs….

Then Katrina’s rain began, heavy and steady, drenching hundreds of people still outside, along with their bags of food and clothing.

Eventually, the searches were moved inside to the Superdome floor, where some people wrapped themselves in blankets and tried to sleep. In the designated medical area, people in wheelchairs lined the corridors. Hundreds of others sat on the loading docks, their possessions around them, waiting to be taken elsewhere…

Gen. Hunt Downer of the National Guard estimated 25,000 to 35,000 refugees were in the dome, though arena official Doug Thornton said it was closer to 9,000 in the stands, with more on the floor.

The 77,000-seat stadium, home to the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and New Year’s Sugar Bowl game, provided few comforts but at least had bathrooms for the refugees and food donated by several charities.

“They may be here for a while,” said Gen. Ralph Lupin, the national guardsman in charge of the shelter. “The electricity will be out after the storm; streets will be almost impassable. So once they get here, they’ll have to stay for the duration.”

Guardsmen made able-bodied people clasp their hands behind their backs while they patted them down, feeling the seams and hems of clothing, then ran metal detectors over them. The backpacks, suitcases and plastic grocery bags that held their belongings were searched.

See our last post on the global oil shock.