Rescuers in the US are struggling to reach survivors of Hurricane Katrina, while they face the grim task of counting the dead. Eighty percent of New Orleans is covered with water, and there are similar scenes elsewhere on the US Gulf Coast. With fears that hundreds of people have been killed, Louisiana’s Governor Kathleen Blanco summed up the feeling of residents. “The magnitude of the situation is untenable,” she said. “It’s just heartbreaking.”
Officials have been desperately trying to plug holes in their water defences, and police have been battling to control widespread looting. Thousands of National Guards are being sent in to restore order. Gun-toting citizens and shopkeepers have also set up their own patrols.
With gales up to 230 kilometres an hour, Katrina slammed into Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and western Florida. A large number of buildings at the coastal resorts of Biloxi and Gulfport were wiped away – the governor of Mississippi compared it to a nuclear detonation. Hundreds of thousands of people have nothing to go home to. “We raised seven children here,” said one resident. “My wife and I are 73 and 74 and yesterday this hurricane wiped us clean. Every one of my children lost everything they had.”
More than a hundred people are confirmed dead, but the toll is likely to rise. And the looming crisis: what to do with the growing number of evacuees left homeless.