30 August 2005

$26 Billion

We send Smoke and Prayers for the safety of all who fell in the storm's path...


'Up to 80' Dead in US Hurricane
A huge rescue operation is under way along the US Gulf Coast after a hurricane killed up to 80 people in a single county and swamped New Orleans.

Harrison County in Mississippi bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina as it slammed into two coastal towns, Biloxi and Gulfport, before heading inland.

Mississippi media earlier recorded a death toll of 54 for the state.

Thirty people are said to have died in one beachfront apartment complex in Biloxi, drowned or crushed by debris.

Beyond Mississippi, an Alabama road accident killed two and an unknown number of bodies were seen floating in the flood waters of New Orleans.

Large parts of Biloxi, where roads are impassable and telephone lines down, may have been destroyed in what Mayor AJ Holloway described as "our tsunami".

"The flooding is just everywhere... New Orleans, all through Mississippi and Alabama," said Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"All those low-lying areas are just devastated."

Damage estimates of more than $25 billion suggest it could be the US insurance industry's most expensive natural disaster ever.

Forecasters have warned of heavy rain as the storm heads north towards Tennessee and Ohio. Tornado warnings are in force in some areas.

US government workers and aid workers have joined the relief effort:

* the American Red Cross mobilised thousands of volunteers for its biggest-ever natural disaster effort, to be led from Baton Rouge, Louisiana

* the Environmental Protection Agency sent emergency crews to Louisiana and Texas because of concern about oil and chemical spills

* the Coast Guard closed Gulf Coast ports and waterways and positioned craft in the area for search-and-rescue operations

* the agriculture department announced that food and food stamps would be distributed in affected areas

* the Pentagon sent out emergency coordinators to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi to provide communications equipment and other help

* the Health and Human Services Department sent 38 doctors and nurses to Jackson, Mississippi, along with 30 pallets of medical supplies

Remote areas

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour told reporters the county's death toll could reach 80 as rescuers reached cut-off areas.

"We know that there is a lot of the coast that we have not been able to get to," he said.

The governor also warned that looters would be treated "ruthlessly".

The hurricane brought 105mph (170km/h) winds to Mississippi, where Governor Barbour told reporters it came in "like a ton of bricks".

Katrina was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed through the eastern part of the state, with wind speeds of 60mph (97km/h).

The storm swept ashore on Monday after moving across the Gulf of Mexico.

At least two oil rigs were set adrift. One in Mobile Bay, Alabama, broke free of its moorings and struck a bridge.

'Devastated city'

Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans said a huge rescue effort was under way in his city, which was 80% under flood water though the historic French Quarter escaped major damage.

"We have just about everyone you can think of out there trying to rescue individuals from their roofs," he said.

"We have an incredible amount of water in this city. Both airports are under water. We have an oil tanker that has run aground and leaking oil. We have houses that have been literally picked up off their foundations and moved."

The mayor added that bodies had been spotted floating in the water.

More than a million people were evacuated from the New Orleans area as the hurricane approached.

Flood waters surged across the western part of the city after a vital flood defence gave way but the storm weakened after making landfall, sparing New Orleans a direct hit.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/30 15:27:10 GMT


'I Can't Find My Wife's Body'
Witnesses have been speaking of scenes of devastation after Hurricane Katrina tore through the US Gulf coast - in one case sweeping away a woman sheltering with her husband at their family home.

One of the worst affected areas appears to be Mississippi's coastal town of Biloxi, where some 30 people were reported to have died at a beachfront apartment complex.

Biloxi resident Harvey Jackson said his wife, Tonette, was missing after surging waters hit their house.

"The house just split in half. We got up the roof and the water came and just opened up, divided," still visibly shaken Mr Jackson told America's ABC television.

"My wife, I can't find her body, she gone."

"I held her hand tight as I could and she told me 'you can't hold me'. She said, 'take care of the kids and the grandkids'," Mr Jackson said.

"We have nowhere to go. I'm lost, that's all I had, that's all I had. I don't know what I'm going to do."

'In rescue mode'

Emergency crews have been working frantically in the affected states to save hundreds of people trapped by floodwaters.

Bryan Vernon spent three hours on his roof after a levee along a canal on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain gave way.

"I've never encountered anything like it in my life. [The water] just kept rising and rising and rising," Mr Vernon said.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said his worst fear was "that there are a lot of dead people out there".

Biloxi Mayor AJ Holloway described the hurricane as "our tsunami".

"We are still in the search and rescue mode," Mr Holloway told the Biloxi Sun Herald newspaper.

Local rescue crews awaited reinforcements from the federal government and other states to shore up assistance, officials said.

They said it would take days if not weeks before the full impact of the hurricane on the region would be known.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/30 13:09:07 GMT


New Orleans Awakes To Turmoil
By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, New Orleans

As the high winds began to ease, the people who had decided to stay in New Orleans and checked into hotels for safety emerged to see just what Hurricane Katrina had done.

This historic area around the French Quarter and the few blocks of downtown fared quite well.

There is a lot of debris, and many of the fronts of buildings have been ripped off.

Signs and canopies lie tossed by the wayside, windows are blown in, metal signs ripped from brickwork, palm trees and traffic lights are down but on the whole there is not much water.

People here began to think that maybe New Orleans had got away with it. But those who had remained at home had a different story to tell.

Downtown is now an island of slightly higher ground in an area which is mostly below sea level and was flooded by torrential rain which had nowhere to go and breached storm dams.

In some areas the water is a metre, two metres, and in some places as much as three metres deep.

Power problem

Because New Orleans is shaped like a bowl it is going to be very difficult to get that water out quickly.

Many homes are under water, and there are people wading through some of the shallower waters with their belongings on their heads.

The power of the storm was astonishing. It was throwing around heavy items, moving cars and the infrastructural damage to the whole city is huge.

There is no power and the phone lines are down, hampering rescue efforts. The city is lit up by the lights on top of the police cars and the ambulances working to find and help those most in need.

Billions of dollars will have to be spent to clear up after this deadly storm. It will be two months before everyone has electricity again.

Around 200 people had to be rescued from their rooftops and police say a number of people were killed. The number of dead or injured and the damage done will become clearer as the clean-up operation begins.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/30 14:04:31 GMT



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