Panamanian refugees fleeing the fighting took cover in soccer stadiums, churches and schools in Panama City. "They had water, but we're very short of food," said a Red Cross worker. He said U.S. Army units were handing out rations but that it was not enough.
Some refugees pleaded for medicine.
Sometimes the medicine was for injuries inflicted by fellow Panamanians. Dorita Alvarez, a resident of the middle-class El Dorado neighborhood in eastern Panama City, said she encountered violence from her countrymen Wednesday morning while she was driving home from her office with a friend.
She and the friend were stopped by a mob of about 25 people. "They pulled me out of my car by my hair and stole my car," she said. "They started to beat my friend, who has fair hair and blue eyes. He kept saying, 'Hang on! I'm a Panamanian.' "
Miller reported from Panama City and Meyer from Los Angeles. Staff writer Tracy Wilkinson in Los Angeles and Times researcher Anna Virtue in Miami contributed to this story.