DENVER — Busloads of refugees from Hurricane Katrina arrived Sunday at Colorado Community College System dorms on the former Lowry Air Force Base, bringing tales of horror and many of them carrying only the clothes on their backs.
Theodore Brown, 53, said he tried to go to the convention center in New Orleans, but went back to his 12-story apartment building. Friday night, he was rescued from the roof.
“Water was up to my hip. They were looting and shooting at people,” Brown said.
Brenda Lomax, a 60-year-old woman from Greta, La., said she was forced to leave her 89-year-old mother behind because she refused to leave.
“I don’t know where my mother is. My son got his family out of the water, and then he went back in. I don’t know where he is. No one knows where I am,” she said, clutching a Red Cross bag filled with soap, a comb, a towel and toiletries.
Brown said bodies were tied to trees to keep them from floating away, and there were bodies in his apartment building. Lomax said there were reports that the bodies of three babies were placed in a cooler at the convention center where she and Brown initially went for help, but she didn’t see them.
Buckley spokesman John Spann said at least three more flights expected in the afternoon were postponed until today, but he didn’t know why. A Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Robert Dula of Lafayette, La., was among the 125 who landed at Buckley. He said he was rescued from a rooftop in New Orleans at 4 a.m. Sunday and found himself in Denver by noon.
“I was plucked off the roof this morning by an Air Force Jolly Green and in a couple of hours we were in the air,” Dula said, as he was being photographed and registered in a trailer brought in to process the refugees.
They flew into Buckley Air Force Base and are the first of an estimated 1,000 hurricane victims expected by Wednesday. The victims, some of them in wheelchairs, were given a medical checkup before being sent to college dorms, where a hot lunch was waiting.
Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the department of human services, said officials were trying to find supplies overnight, including shopping at Wal-Mart.
“We have a mental health assessment as well as a physical health assessment, and they have clothing waiting for them,” she said.
Inside the school’s gym, the refugees were processed and given bags of soap, a towel, shampoo, a comb and toiletries by the Red Cross.
Qwest Communications set up a bank of at least 50 phones so the evacuees could call their loved ones, company spokesman Michael Dunne said.
Rep. Debbie Stafford, R-Aurora, said she was trying to arrange long-term shelter for some of the refugees. She said she was also trying to reunite some of the people with their pets, who were also brought to Colorado. “What we are looking at is helping with the animals. Cats and dogs are coming in.”
Dan Hopkins, spokesman for Owens, talked with the refugees as they came in and said many of the people seemed stunned by what they had been through. “My impression is that they are all shell shocked to be here,” Hopkins said.