"A couple of my homies drowned, two houses underwater, so much I gotta digest, trying to keep on a smiley face," a devastated Choppa told SOHH.com as he assesses the loss in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Mississippi and Louisiana officials are rushing to help save lives and combat looting while local stars including Lil Wayne, Baby and Choppa plan to rebuild and contribute relief efforts.
Reports say Hurricane Katrina is set to become the worst natural disaster to hit the United States. Experts say up to 1 million people could become homeless. Katrina is likely to surpass the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which claimed between 8,000 to 12,000 lives. According to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the death toll "is in the thousands" so far. It will take weeks before accurate numbers are revealed. Mississippi already counts 110 deaths. Officials say thousands of homes and businesses have been demolished and food, water and power supplies are hard to come by. Katrina is also set to become the costliest natural disaster ever in the U.S.
The city of New Orleans, home to Cash Money's Lil Wayne, Juvenile and Mannie Fresh as well as Master P's No Limit family, was flooded when levees protecting the city ruptured. According to Chuck George, Chief Meteorologist of KOLD 13 in Tucson, Arizona, "the levees that protected New Orleans were never intended to withstand more than a Category 3 hurricane. Katrina pulled water from the Gulf of Mexico eastward into Lake Pontchartrain and the extra water resulted in very fast flow through the canals that carry the water through New Orleans and back into the gulf. That extra flow resulted in breakage of the levees."
Reports say the flooding caused massive amounts of people to be stranded and contagious diseases are prone to spread in the devastated areas. The city is reportedly 80% under water with some areas drowned in water 20 feet deep. With the conditions making it difficult to come by food, many have resorted to looting grocery stores and businesses to survive. The looting is presently escalating at a rapid rate. Looters are said to use garbage cans to sail away with food, TV sets, clothes and guns. There have been reports of car jacking, police officers claim to have been shot at and police say a man in Hattiesburg, Mississippi killed his sister, shooting her in the head over a bag of ice. President George W. Bush vowed a no tolerance policy against looters. About 4,000 National Guard troops were sent to New Orleans to combat the looting.
Meanwhile, the Hip-Hop world has been shaken by Katrina's deadly impact. Lil Wayne's daughter and mother are presently still in the depleted New Orleans. Other Cash Money members also have relatives stranded in the N.O. "My family was affected by the hurricane. I am waiting to see what the damage is," Wayne told SOHH.com. When trying to contact Mississippi's own David Banner, SOHH.com found a recorded operator message saying, "Due to the hurricane in the area you are calling the call cannot be completed at this time.
For Chopper aka Young City, the loss is devastating. The former Making Da Band star is assessing the damage, having lost possessions and friends.
"I got a lot of food on the table (meaning mad sh!t on his mind) so much I gotta digest. A couple of my homies drowned," Choppa tells SOHH.com.
The 19 year old rapper, the main breadwinner for his family and on the cusp of enjoying his newfound success, reports that the homes of his mother, grandmother and one of his homes was destroyed by water.
"[I] Just put a movie theatre in the house...now that's ruined," says Choppa. "Cash Money's Houses were also underwater... they live on the same block as me. I'm in the process of relocating my family to Cali [California], Atlanta, Houston and Memphis."
The Scream Tour 4 featuring Bow Wow, Omarion, Pretty Ricky, Bobby Valentino and Marques Houston was slated to stop by the Mississippi Coliseum in downtown Jackson. Instead, the concert was canceled and the venue served as a shelter filled with evacuated residents from nearby areas.
With large parts of Louisiana and Mississippi still under water, relief efforts are coming from all angles. Weezie said that he and Baby will likely start relief efforts once they secure their loved ones' safety. Houston's Astrodome is set to take in 25,000 refugees previously packed in New Orleans Superdome. The operation was set to begin today, but was halted due to gunshots and fires outside the arena. Buses are on the way to take the refugees from New Orleans to Houston. Reports say that 78,000 people are presently in shelters since the storm hit. FEMA sent over 50 disaster assistance teams to the devastated areas. The organization also sent over 25 urban search and rescue squads amounting to over 1,000 people to help save lives. The United States Coast Guard is also conducting searches. The Coast Guard is working in conjunction with local officials and local assets. They have rescued up to 2,000 people to date.
The National Guard presently has 11,000 Guardsmen helping governors and local officials with safety and disaster relief efforts. FEMA is also working with the Army Corp of Engineers and local officials to repair breeches in the levees in hope to stop the flooding in New Orleans. The Department of Transportation is also sending in 400 trucks to move 1,000 truckloads containing 5.4 million meals ready to eat, including 13.4 liters of water,10,400 tarps, 3.4 million pounds of ice, 144 generators and 20 containers of prepositions disaster supplies with 135,000 blankets and 11,000 coats. More relief efforts are expected to follow.
Despite the heavy burden he is bearing, Choppa is "trying to keep on a smiley face" and stay strong for his family. The rapper has already donated $100,000 to the Red Cross and is interested to do a benefit concert.
"In N.O., they always said that one day the city would be underwater. We never pictured this one...never like this."