A Midland teenager has described the "pure torture" of the five days he spent in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.

Stuart Bird, aged 18, told how he dodged rubber bullets, was threatened with being shot and saw an apparently dead woman being dragged along the floor at the Louisiana Superdome.

Now reunited with his parents at their home in Rugby, Stuart (pictured) said the poverty and the way people were being treated in New Orleans was "disgraceful" and added he and his friends could not believe they were in the world's richest country.

"I heard there was a headline in a newspaper saying 'Third World America' and that is absolutely true. The poverty there was unbelievable. I hated every single second of being there, it was pure torture."

Stuart said the moment Hurricane Katrina actually hit was the easiest part of his five-day ordeal.

His hotel in Canal Street, in New Orleans' famous French Quarter became a shelter and they rode out the storm from their third floor room.

"We watched the white winds and the rainfall but the building was really strong. It was the easiest part of the the whole thing.

"But from there on the floodwaters began rising and the hotel started to smell. We heard about rapes and a shooting on our corridor.

"Eventually we were picked up in a boat by the army and taken to the stadium."

He confirmed widespread reports of the lawless, threatening atmosphere at the Superdome, where he had to queue for 14 hours before being evacuated to Houston, Texas.

"The Army arrived but even then it took them time to get organised.

"There was a riot at one point and we had to duck when the police fired rubber bullets into the crowd, I was punched in the back by someone who said I was taking his place, I saw a lifeless middle-aged woman who must have been dead considering the way she was being dragged along the floor by two men.

"A man next to me told me he had a gun and was going to shoot white people. He had a baby in his arms and there was something pointed in the baby's blanket but I don't know if that was his arm or a gun."

Stuart, who is on a gap year after leaving North Warwickshire and Hinckley College in Nuneaton, said there were some moments of trust between the different people there.

"A black woman standing next to me was getting tired and she asked me to hold her baby.

"She could have chosen anyone to ask but she came to me, a white lad. It was the first time I have ever held a baby and it really moved me."

Eventually, Stuart and the friends he had been travelling around the United States with got on a coach to Houston where things were better organised.

He was able to contact his worried parents Ian and Rosemary and was then given hotel accommodation and flights home by the British Consulate.

His ordeal lasted from Monday to Saturday morning when he boarded his flight home. Stuart, who wants to study sports development at university next year, said the whole experience had left a lasting mark on him.

Meanwhile, Warwickshire-born casino worker Mike Healy, who has been missing since the hurricane, has finally made contact with his family in the UK.

The 48-year-old had been in the ravaged area of Gulfport, Mississippi but he is now staying with friends 12 miles inland.

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