Dozens dead, communities smashed, floods rise, as Katrina crisis deepens
Rescuers battled a humanitarian disaster after storm surges whipped up
by Hurricane Katrina killed dozens and a canal breach sent a new
deluge into already swamped New Orleans.
At least 80 people were feared dead along the coast of the southern
state of Mississippi, where glitzy casinos, plush homes and shrimp
fishing businesses lay in ruins, after a storm surge up to 30 feet (10
metres) high crashed ashore on Monday.
Helpless authorities in New Orleans meanwhile watched as surging
floodwaters gushed through a 200 feet (600 metre) hole in the 17th
Street Canal defences, indundating a low-lying city already 80 percent
"Some 700 people have been brought to dry ground during the night,"
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco told reporters.
But in the absence of reliable casualty figures and reports of bodies
floating in the water, she warned: "We know that many lives have been
More than a million people were without power across Mississippi,
Louisiana and Alamaba, water supplies were compromised and collapsed
communications left large areas cut off from the outside world,
Damage estimates soared into the billions of dollars and oil prices
raced to the historic level of 70.85 dollars per barrel on anxiety
over the damage to US production facilities.
"This is our tsunami," said A.J. Holloway, mayor of the 48,000
population city of Biloxi, where a tidal surge swept away bridges,
sent boats crashing into buildings and flooded entire neighborhoods.
Authorities said at least 50 people were known to have been killed in
Biloxi alone. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said that the death
toll in wider Harrison County could be as high as 80.
At least 30 of the dead were in a single Biloxi apartment complex
demolished by the storm.
Back in New Orleans, famed for its French Quarter and Mardi Gras
celebrations, engineers tried to stem rising flood waters surging
through a canal breach from Lake Pontchartrain into the northern part
of the city.
"The water is going to keep coming in until it reaches the level of
the lake. I don't know what they are going to do," police Lieutenant
Julie Wilson told WWL-TV.
Pumping stations, which normally keep the low lying city free of flood
waters were not functioning owing to a city-wide power cuts, after
waters submerged power lines, or fallen trees knocked out supplies.
Two parishes were put under martial law to deter looting, while police
halted anyone trying to get into the city from outside, following a
mass evacuation on Monday.
Two people were reported to have died in floodwaters as they tried to
return to their homes. Swamped highways, unsafe raised expressways and
severed telephone links left the city effectively cut off to the
Ray Nagin, mayor of 1.4 million people said late Monday that at least
80 percent of the city was underwater.
Hurricane victims clung to the roofs of their homes waving bits of
material to attract helicopters on rescue missions. Boat crews
meanwhile picked gingerly around submerged live power lines, gas pipes
and underwater debris.
"The devastation is greater than our worst fears. It is just totally
overwhelming," Blanco said. "We need to save as many people as we can
save, and that is our mission for today."
Evacuees some with broken legs and arms were taken to the storm
ravaged Superdome sports arena, where more than 20,000 people were
packed, amid rising tensions.
CNN reported that one man, apparently crazed by frustration, jumped
from the second level of seating to his death, while toilets were
overflowing and temperatures were rising in the absence of air
Three feet of water (one meter) had flooded areas outside the arena
and waters had encroached on the downtown area, reports said.
As the scale of the disaster became clear, the White House said
President George W. Bush would lop the last two days off his vacation
and head back to Washington on Wednesday to coordinate relief efforts.
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