Looters Hit Hurricane-Damaged Retailers in Mississippi, Louisiana

Early reports in from the Gulf Coast, including areas in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast indicate that retail establishments have already fallen prey to looters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Mississippi's Governor Haley Barbour said that the National Guard will be responding decisively to acts of looting.

"To me looting is about the equivalent of grave robbing; we're not going to stand for it," Barbour told reporters for Gulfport, Miss.'s Sun Herald newspaper.

The newspaper, which is based in one of the areas hit most severely by Katrina, reported that the Mississippi National Guard's Harold Cross was also warning looters of the repercussions. "If you are in the business of theft, this might not be the time to play your trade," Cross was quoted as saying on the Sun Herald's storm blog.

"As soon as the wind subsided, looters struck. They stole cars, radios, liquor, furniture, generators and anything else they could fine," wrote Sun Herald reporters Don Hammack, Anita Lee, Joshua Norman and Margaret Baker for a story to be published on Tuesday.

The Associated Press has already indicated that looting has also become a problem in parts of New Orleans and surrounding areas, where flood water inundated low-lying areas, destroying windows and blowing out doors to businesses.

Curfews have been implemented in many of the storm-ravished areas to curtail looting, but with damage that tore off roofs and store fronts, and with law enforcement focused primarily on responding to victims of the storm, looting is expected to be a continued problem.

KTRK, the ABC television affiliate station in Houston, Texas, has reported that looting has become an issue at residential locations in the Houston metro area as well: "Some evacuees received disturbing phone calls from the security alarm companies saying that people were looting their homes," said a report on the station's website.

The Mississippi's coastal casinos had already closed shop well before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, and their facilities are believed to be secure, though many are severely damaged. As of midnight on Monday, no reports had yet been made of any attempted lootings at the area's gaming establishments.