US troops brace to harvest the dead of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

US troops brace to harvest the dead of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans began counting its dead yesterday as US troops turned to the gruesome task of harvesting bloated corpses from the hurricane-torn city’s flooded streets and homes.

Seven days after Hurricane Katrina triggered the worst natural calamity in US history, officials prepared the country for a heavy death toll that is expected to number in the thousands across the devastated US Gulf coast. “It is going to be about as ugly a scene as we’ve witnessed in this country, with the possible exception of 9/11,” Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said, referring to the 2001 terror attacks that killed nearly 3 000.”I think we need to prepare the country for what’s coming,” Chertoff told Fox News Sunday from a suburb of flooded New Orleans.”I really want to tell people that we have got some tough days ahead of us.”Senior medical officials said 59 bodies had been collected in New Orleans so far, but cautioned that was just a fraction of those killed.”It is a small number that everyone of us knows is going to grow,” said Dr Fred Cerise, Louisiana Health and Hospitals Secretary.Before the grisly hunt for the dead began in earnest, US troops scrambled to move out thousands of survivors still eager for evacuation amid the largest refugee operation ever seen in the United States.A house-to-house search for residents who opted to weather Katrina at home raised the prospect of a possible showdown when Chertoff suggested they would be evacuated whether they liked it or not.”We are not going to be able to have people sitting in houses in the city of New Orleans for weeks and months while we de-water and clean this city with the hope that we’re going to continue to supply them with food and water,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press programme.Even as he spoke, residents of one evacuated New Orleans suburb were thronging police checkpoints in a bid to return to their homes.Chertoff made the rounds of talk shows as part of a public-relations blitz launched by President George W.Bush’s administration to counter widespread criticism of its response to Katrina.Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fanned out across stricken areas on Sunday and Bush planned his second tour in three days yesterday.Chertoff defended the administration’s handling of the crisis and stressed the immediate need was to deal with recovery and the needs of hundreds of thousands of refugees rather than getting bogged down in assigning blame.”We are basically moving the city of New Orleans to other parts of the country,” he said.Authorities have estimated it would take several months to drain the one-time bustling jazz capital.Relief and rescue efforts picked up steam over the weekend, with New Orleans’ two major refuges cleared Saturday of the last of tens of thousands of survivors who had spent days trapped in squalor and fear.The horrors of the past week also took their toll on the local emergency services, and Mayor Ray Nagin said several New Orleans police and firefighters had been even driven to suicide.- Nampa-AFP”It is going to be about as ugly a scene as we’ve witnessed in this country, with the possible exception of 9/11,” Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said, referring to the 2001 terror attacks that killed nearly 3 000.”I think we need to prepare the country for what’s coming,” Chertoff told Fox News Sunday from a suburb of flooded New Orleans.”I really want to tell people that we have got some tough days ahead of us.”Senior medical officials said 59 bodies had been collected in New Orleans so far, but cautioned that was just a fraction of those killed.”It is a small number that everyone of us knows is going to grow,” said Dr Fred Cerise, Louisiana Health and Hospitals Secretary.Before the grisly hunt for the dead began in earnest, US troops scrambled to move out thousands of survivors still eager for evacuation amid the largest refugee operation ever seen in the United States.A house-to-house search for residents who opted to weather Katrina at home raised the prospect of a possible showdown when Chertoff suggested they would be evacuated whether they liked it or not.”We are not going to be able to have people sitting in houses in the city of New Orleans for weeks and months while we de-water and clean this city with the hope that we’re going to continue to supply them with food and water,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press programme.Even as he spoke, residents of one evacuated New Orleans suburb were thronging police checkpoints in a bid to return to their homes.Chertoff made the rounds of talk shows as part of a public-relations blitz launched by President George W.Bush’s administration to counter widespread criticism of its response to Katrina.Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fanned out across stricken areas on Sunday and Bush planned his second tour in three days yesterday.Chertoff defended the administration’s handling of the crisis and stressed the immediate need was to deal with recovery and the needs of hundreds of thousands of refugees rather than getting bogged down in assigning blame.”We are basically moving the city of New Orleans to other parts of the country,” he said.Authorities have estimated it would take several months to drain the one-time bustling jazz capital.Relief and rescue efforts picked up steam over the weekend, with New Orleans’ two major refuges cleared Saturday of the last of tens of thousands of survivors who had spent days trapped in squalor and fear.The horrors of the past week also took their toll on the local emergency services, and Mayor Ray Nagin said several New Orleans police and firefighters had been even driven to suicide.- Nampa-AFP

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