Two men exchanged gunfire early Sunday on the city's always-crowded Bourbon Street in the celebrated French Quarter and nine people were shot in the crossfire, including two who were critically wounded, police said.
Images captured from a surveillance camera above a bar showed people running down the famous street in the chaos of the shooting at 2.45am (7.45pm Sunday, NZ time), NOLA.com The Times-Picayune reported. Police and emergency workers responded immediately and attended to victims as other revelers looked on.
New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas said six victims were hospitalised in stable condition. The other victim's condition was not available. Some of them were from out of town, but their names have not been released.
The victims were shot two blocks from historic Jackson Square and just around the corner from the popular Pat O'Brien's piano bar. Preservation Hall, a music venue dedicated to preserving New Orleans jazz, is also nearby.
Serpas said at a news conference in the French Quarter that the victims were shot "by two cowardly young men trying to hurt each other."
"What happened was two young men got angry at each other and shot at each other," he said.
Bourbon Street is a nightly swirl of bright neon and tourists, usually with beverages in hand. A blend of jazz joints, strip clubs, bars and restaurants, Bourbon Street has everything from four-star dining to sex shows.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Sunday pledged a swift response from law enforcement.
"Our No. 1 priority is to keep New Orleans safe," Landrieu said in a statement. "These kinds of incidents will not go unanswered ... I am confident that between video evidence and eyewitness accounts, we will bring the perpetrators to justice."
Police have not determined whether the shootings might be gang-related, Serpas said. He called on residents, businesses and witnesses who may have video footage, including any from surveillance cameras, to contact police.
It was the third major shooting on Bourbon Street in the last three years.
On the Saturday before Mardi Gras, four people were treated at a hospital after a shooting. During Halloween in 2011, one person was killed and seven others were injured after gunmen opened fire on each other.
Andrew and Timothy Wiese, brothers from Daphne, Alabama, near Mobile, were walking down Bourbon Street on Sunday with cocktails in their hands. They said they were stunned to hear news of the shooting. They had been on Bourbon Street until a little after midnight.
"We might be cutting tonight a little shorter," Andrew Wiese said.
Built on higher ground than most of the city, the French Quarter was spared the worst of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, mostly suffering scattered wind and water damage.