“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.Three elderly people reportedly died while being evacuated from New Orleans. Katrina rampaged through Florida last week, killing seven people, before gaining speed over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and northwest Florida are all at risk. Thousands of New Orleans’ most vulnerable residents who could not escape have huddled in the Louisiana Superdome football stadium. Reports say Katrina has ripped away a large section of the building’s roof. About a million people fled the region as the hurricane approached, causing major traffic jams.