Ragtag armies of the desperate and hungry begged for help, corpses rotted along flooded sidewalks and bands of armed thugs thwarted fitful rescue efforts as Americans watched the Big Easy dissolve before their eyes.
About 4:35 a.m. Friday, a series of massive explosions along the riverfront a few miles south of the French Quarter jolted residents awake. The cause of the blasts or the extent of any possible damage was not immediately known.
An initial explosion sent flames of red and orange shooting into the pre-dawn sky. A series of smaller blasts followed and then acrid, black smoke that could be seen even in the dark. The vibrations were felt all the way downtown.
The explosions appeared to originate close to the east bank of the Mississippi River, near a residential area and rail tracks. At least two police boats were at the scene.
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