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Sniper fire halts hospital evacuation

Gunmen fire at medical workers and patients at Charity Hospital

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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- The evacuation of patients from Charity Hospital was halted Thursday after the facility came under sniper fire twice.

A physician at the hospital said that despite the incidents staff members and patients were eager to get out after three days with no water and electricity and sparse food rations.

"A single sniper or two snipers shouldn't have to shut down a hospital evacuation for two hours now," Dr. Ruth Berggren told CNN. "I look outside, I'm not seeing any military." (See a video report on the sniper's attack -- 1:06 )

Berggren's husband, Dr. Tyler Curiel, witnessed both incidents.

"We were coming in from a parking deck at Tulane Medical Center, and a guy in a white shirt started firing at us," Curiel said. "The National Guard [troops], wearing flak jackets, tried to get a bead on this guy. "

The first incident happened around 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET) as Curiel and his National Guard escorts headed back to the hospital after dropping off several patients at nearby Tulane Medical Center to be evacuated by helicopter.

Charity shares a helipad with Tulane Medical Center, which is across the street.

They were traveling in a convoy of amphibious vehicles, and Curiel said the vehicle behind him was targeted.

About an hour later, another gunman opened fire at the back of Charity Hospital.

"We got back to Charity Hospital with with food from Tulane and we said, 'OK the snipers are behind us, let's move on,' " Curiel said. "We started loading patients [for transport] and 20 minutes later, shots rang out."

The National Guard soldiers told staff to get away from the windows, and evacuations were halted.

Berggren, an infectious disease specialist at Charity Hospital, said that since then she had heard nothing about resuming evacuations.

She said about 200 patients still need to be evacuated. All of the patients in intensive care have been evacuated.

Charity Hospital has no electricity and no water, and the only food available is a couple of cans of vegetables and graham crackers.

Evacuations by boat were halted after armed looters threatened medics and overturned one of their boats.

Widespread looting and random gunfire have been reported across New Orleans. Police told CNN that groups of armed men roamed the streets overnight. (Full story)

Officers told CNN they lacked manpower and steady communications to properly do their jobs -- and that they needed help to prevent the widespread looting and violence now prevalent in the city.

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