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New Orleans torn apart by Katrina, America's 'greatest natural disaster'
by UK Independent (reposted)
Tuesday Aug 30th, 2005 5:48 PM
A semi-submerged New Orleans had in effect ceased to function last night, as America struggled to come to grips with the devastating onslaught of Hurricane Katrina. The storm has probably killed hundreds of people, and laid waste a 150-mile stretch of the US central Gulf coastline in what may be the greatest national disaster in modern US history.
Yesterday Katrina's remnants brought drenching rains, high winds and killer tornados to a swath of the central US as the system moved to the north-east. But sections of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama may remain virtual ghost lands for weeks or longer, populated by expanses of debris, downed trees and crumpled homes.

Nowhere is more stricken than New Orleans, most of which lies below sea level. At first the city seemed to have dodged the worst of the storm. But overnight one of its protective levees buckled beneath the weight of water from nearby Lake Pontchartrain and broke open in two places.

At least four-fifths of New Orleans is under water, in some places 10ft deep or more. With hundreds, if not thousands, of people still stranded in flooded homes, attics and rooftops across the city, rescue boats were bypassing the dead to reach the living, Mayor C Ray Nagin said. "We're not even dealing with dead bodies," Mayor Nagin said. "They're just pushing them on the side."

There is no electricity, no gas, virtually no telephone lines, no food arriving in the city, and almost no drinking water. To all intents and purposes the "Big Easy", beloved the world over, has ceased to function.

Before Katrina struck New Orleans with her 100mph-plus winds on Monday morning, 80 per cent of its inhabitants had heeded official advice to leave the city. Kathleen Blanco, Louisiana's governor, now says she is considering ordering a total evacuation. "Unfathomable and catastrophic," was how she described the situation, warning it will be "weeks and weeks" before people can come back.

New Orleans, in short, stands on the brink of the "apocalyse scenario" depicted by those who have long warned that its protective system of levees and canals was no match for a storm as powerful as Katrina. Stripped of its defences, they said, the city could be transformed by such a disaster into a giant basin of water with nowhere to escape, full of sewage, human and animal bodies and effluents from the chemical plants near the city, a breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease.

Barring a speedy reprieve, swaths of New Orleans may have to be rebuilt from scratch.

First, however, many of those who chose to stay have to be rescued. Yesterday afternoon helicopters and flat-bottomed boats picked up hundreds of people trapped on the roofs of their homes, now tiny islands in the muddy brown waters. Rescue operations were set to continue through the night. The famous Canal Street thoroughfare had become exactly that by the afternoon, as the water level continued to creep higher.

Last night army engineers were preparing to try to plug the breaches, one of them 200ft long. Only then can the city's pumping system ­ itself apparently affected by the storm ­ remove the standing water.

In the meantime the death toll looks set to mount. Officially, only 59 people are known to have lost their lives as a result of Katrina. But the final total seems bound to be many times higher. In the lagoon city of Biloxi and outskirts, an emergency mannagement official said the death toll had already exceeded 100. Thirty people perished in one incident alone, when a record 25ft storm surge swept away a beachside apartment complex.

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by update
Tuesday Aug 30th, 2005 6:17 PM
The pumps at the last pumping station just failed, the National Guard was unable to get giant sandbags to block up the levey and in the next 12 hours nine more feet of water will fill the eastern part of New Orleans including the French Quarter. The mayor has said the giant sand bags never arrived and the helecopters were diverted for something else dooming the city (although another news report says they did arrive but didnt work)
by slashdot
Tuesday Aug 30th, 2005 6:28 PM
"It looks like New Orleans is going through something very close to the worst case scenario right now. This somewhat prescient study, written well before the hurricane, describes some of the challenges (engineering and otherwise) facing New Orleans. 'In this hypothetical storm scenario, it is estimated that it would take nine weeks to pump the water out of the city, and only then could assessments begin to determine what buildings were habitable or salvageable. Sewer, water, and the extensive forced drainage pumping systems would be damaged. National authorities would be scrambling to build tent cities to house the hundreds of thousands of refugees unable to return to their homes and without other relocation options.' The hypothetical is looking awful close to reality right now. What can be done about draining and rebuilding New Orleans in light of the massive flooding, and what can be done to prevent and/or lessen such disasters in the future?"
by tens of thousands dead
Tuesday Aug 30th, 2005 11:12 PM
Entire City Will Soon Be Underwater the bowl is filling up.
Nagin said the sandbagging to stop the breach was scheduled for midday, but the Blackhawk helicopters needed to help did not show up. He said the sandbags were ready and all the helicopter had to do was "show up."

"Hey, sorry the blackhawks didn't show but we needed them to hunt for Saddam's nookular bombs, ya know?"

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