The Absence of Evidence Isn't Evidence of Absence

In my column from today, I quoted a good Guardian article about New Orleans violence rumors:

And while the floor of the convention centre toilets were indeed covered in excrement, the Guardian found no corpses.

Well, the British rag might not have found any dead bodies, but the New Orleans paper sure did:

"That one with his arm sticking up in the air, he's an old man."

Then he shined the light on the smaller human figure under the white sheet next to the elderly man.

"That's a kid," he said. "There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut."

He moved on, walking quickly through the darkness, pulling his camouflage shirt to his face to screen out the overwhelming odor.

"There's an old woman," he said, pointing to a wheelchair covered by a sheet. "I escorted her in myself. And that old man got bludgeoned to death," he said of the body lying on the floor next to the wheelchair.

Brooks and several other Guardsmen said they had seen between 30 and 40 more bodies in the Convention Center's freezer.

Whole horror here.

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  • ||

    That's not a terribly convincing story. What-a-guardsman-says-somebody-told-him-he-heard.

    Let's keep these stories in the "maybe" box for now.

  • ||

    If true, major kudos to those who had the strength and clarity to but those bodies in the freezer. Matt, this isn't "horror", just the opposite, in fact.

    Like joe says, put this in the "maybe" box.

  • ||

    Well, joe, it seems clear from the NOLA story that there were dead bodies in the convention center. Who knows how they got there or how they got dead, but it kind of discretis the Guardians reports of no dead bodies.

  • ||

    Of course there were dead bodies in the convention center - lots of people died there. We can put that on in the "yes" box.

    But were they killed by gangs of rapists? I still don't think we can say. Gangs raping 5 year olds and cutting their throats sounds pretty urban legendy to me.

  • ||

    However, all of last week did seem like a bad John Carpenter film come to life so who knows. We should send in Snake Pliskin to exact vengance for the children.

  • ||

    Snake Pliskin? I thought he was dead.

  • ||

    Is it obscure in here, or is it just me?

  • ||

    He gets that a lot.

  • ||

    Speaking of which, whatever happened to the frequent H&R poster known as "Call Me Snake"?

  • ||

    Sitting in the UK watching a special on Katrina showing pictures taken on Friday with three bodies clearly shown on the floor in the convention centre.

    Heh - but at least the Guardian got its reversing-the-CW story...

  • R C Dean||

    If true, major kudos to those who had the strength and clarity to but those bodies in the freezer.

    There wasn't any power. Why would anyone put anything in the freezer?

    Little details like this make me skeptical.

  • ||

    Because the freezer seals? It keeps the bodies isolated from the living people?

  • ||

    My guess is that since a freezer seals, it helps with the smell, even if there's no cooling.

  • ||

    jinx.

  • ||

    There wasn't any power. Why would anyone put anything in the freezer?

    Hmm. The freezers would at least have the virtue of being a fairly large container that is at least airtight.

    Which is not to imply that, with all the stories coming out of NOR, I have any idea what to believe.

    Over the weekend, I almost speculated aloud, "How long before we hear stories of cannibalism breaking out?" shortly before we did. (I've been having flashbacks to Lucifer's Hammer by Niven & Pournelle.)

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    They actually talked about the freezer and why they put bodies in there as a part of the write-up.

    I'm skeptical of some of this but I am also unsurprised that there would be crime and violence associated with a complete breakdown of civilized society. Aside from that, over the course of a week a few people will die from natural causes or stress associated with the upheaval.

  • ||

    Aside from that, over the course of a week a few people will die from natural causes

    I thought of that while watching the news coverage emphasizing bodies and death. I'm curious, if you have, lets say, 50,000 people who are predominantly poor, statistically, how many would die in any given week, even without extra stress? Any life insurance actuaries here?

  • ||

    The crude mortality rate for Louisiana is just over 900 deaths per 100,000 population over the course of a year.

  • ||

    I've lived in NOLA. This story is quite believeable. Such a major tragedy for such a tragic city. Sigh.

  • ||

    From the article:

    "Arkansas National Guardsman Mikel Brooks stepped through the food service entrance of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Monday, flipped on the light at the end of his machine gun, and started pointing out bodies.

    "Don't step in that blood - it's contaminated," he said. "That one with his arm sticking up in the air, he's an old man."
    Then he shined the light on the smaller human figure under the white sheet next to the elderly man.

    "That's a kid," he said. "There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut."

  • ||

    Speaking of which, whatever happened to the frequent H&R poster known as "Call Me Snake"?

    Excellent question Stevo. I really miss that bastard.

  • ||

    Convention centres Freezers ???
    And just why would the convention centre have freezers , let alone put bodies in there when there is NO POWER !! . Of course no sign of the stiffs now every live body has been evacuated from the convention centre

    Never any real proof of larger numbers of bodies just the few you would expect when the sick and dying are bought together.
    A metro area the size of NO has normally 200 or so dead people every week from all causes, natural, accidents, murder and so on. There has been very little evidence of people killed by the flooding after the hurricane passed. Only stories about what someone told someone else but didnt see

    Only 2 corpses seen floating , all media used the same pictures.

    This will be next weeks big story , where have all the bodies gone , allready the blogs are saying FEMA will just use mass graves to hide the size of the tradgedy.

  • ||

    They actually talked about the freezer and why they put bodies in there as a part of the write-up.

    True. I eventually got around to looking:

    Brooks and several other Guardsmen said they had seen between 30 and 40 more bodies in the Convention Center's freezer. "It's not on, but at least you can shut the door," said fellow Guardsman Phillip Thompson.

  • ||

    Here's something I haven't heard brought up in a while:

    NO has a lot of people buried above ground, right? So, before the storm, people predicted that bodies might float up out of their coffins. So, is it possible that some percentage of the many bodies in the streets of NO are just people who died before the storm? Or am I being hopelessly optimistic?

  • ||

    DukeofURL wrote: "Never any real proof of larger numbers of bodies just the few you would expect when the sick and dying are bought together. * * * Only 2 corpses seen floating , all media used the same pictures."

    Confirmed 83 corpses in New Orleans alone as of Tuesday morning: http://www.theadvertiser.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,16520829%255E1702,00.html

    And it might be added that according to news accounts, rescue workers aren't even attempting an organized effort to pick up the bodies yet.

  • Laurie Fosner||

    The mayor of New Orleans, when interviewed a few days ago, said that the majority of looting/murders/etc., were done by drug addicts who have had no way to stave off their withdrawal symptoms. But it's also clear that everybody can't see everything so just because some saw some stuff and others didn't means nothing.

    What's more, the lack of food and water and any sign of government rescue efforts for the first four or five days of this disaster, would tax the compassion of anyone. I think it's a mistake to focus on the behavior of the victims--the cruel and unusual circumstances in which they find themselves simply must be taken into account. This does not excuse rape/murder or looting of big screen TVs, but until we have context (i.e., actual numbers of incidents like those reported here vs. numbers of law-abiding, respectful citizens) we can't really comprehend the reality of it.

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