A state of emergency has been declared along the entire US Gulf Coast as it is now feared Hurricane Katrina has claimed thousands of lives.
Officials believe scores of bodies are in the flood water that has submerged 80 percent of New Orleans. But authorities have put aside counting the dead to concentrate on saving the living, many of whom are still trapped on rooftops. Army engineers have rescued around 2,000. But they are having less success plugging a massive gap in the failed floodwall with the city’s waterways blocked by loose barges, boats and large debris. Huge amounts of aid and medical supplies are ready to be delivered but getting it in is proving to be a logistical nightmare with military helicopters often the only means of support. Local officials have compared it to last year’s Asian tsunami. Katrina struck Louisiana on Monday with 225 kph winds, slamming into the coasts of neighboring Mississippi, Alabama and western Florida. A large number of buildings at the coastal resorts of Biloxi and Gulfport have been wiped away. More than 100 people are confirmed dead, but the toll is certain to rise. The urgent question now is what to do with the growing number of evacuees left homeless.