“Hell on earth” is how parts of the US south coast have been described as Hurricane Katrina slams into the mainland. New Orleans is bracing for a potentially catastrophic direct hit, but even if that does not happen flooding will be a major problem. Some areas are already under nearly two metres of water after the pumps that protect the low-lying city failed under the onslaught. “It’s pretty rough right now, it’s blowing branches out of trees, tree branches are all over the place, all the streets are loaded with them. It looks pretty bad right now,” one resident said. “I haven’t ever been through anything like this. I used to live in Pennsylvania, so I’m not used to anything like this, so I’m pretty nervous,” a young woman said.