Be ruthless with looters, police and National Guard told

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The Independent US

Reports from several devastated communities said police had already arrested people for looting and 1,600 members of the Mississippi National Guard were being deployed, in part, to deter thieves. CNN showed gangs of looters in New Orleans trying to break into buildings.

A local television channel said police with automatic weapons were called to a grocery store after looters went on the rampage, pulling apart a cash dispenser and taking groceries. The store was ransacked.

Denise Bollinger, a tourist from Philadelphia, took pictures of the looters. She said: "It's downtown Baghdad. It's insane. I've wanted to come here for 10 years. I thought this was a sophisticated city. I guess not."

On Canal Street, the main road through the city's business district, looters opened the steel gates of clothing and jewellery stores, filled industrial-sized rubbish bins with clothing and jewellery and floated them down the street on plywood. One man, who had 10 pairs of jeans draped over his left arm, was asked if he was salvaging things from his store. "No," he said. "That's everybody's store."

Haley Barbour, the Governor of Mississippi, said: "I have instructed the Highway Patrol and the National Guard to treat looters ruthlessly. Looting will not be tolerated and rules of engagement will be as aggressive as the law allows."

Looting is believed to have started shortly after the storm passed. In Biloxi, local reporters listening on a police scanner, heard the Harrison County Sheriff, George Payne, angrily tell his deputies to make room in the county jail for thieves.