As water continues to be pumped out of New Orleans, authorities have announced about 180,000 residents should be allowed to return next week. A massive clean-up operation is underway to remove the sludge and debris left behind, as recovery teams collect more bodies. The official death toll from Hurricane Katrina across the Gulf Coast region has risen to 711.The mayor of New Orleans says repairing power and water supplies are top priorities in preparation for the returning evacuees.
While mobile homes have already been provided for some of those who have lost everything, a much more comprehensive reconstruction plan is awaited. President George W Bush, facing unprecedented criticism over his administration’s handling of the crisis, is expected to announce some formal government programmes in a speech from New Orleans early on Friday morning.
Tragic stories are still emerging from the region. In a nursing home near New Orleans, rescuers found the bodies of 34 elderly patients. Criminal charges have been filed against the owners. Dozens have also been found dead in at least two other nursing homes and a hospital ward.