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Picking Up the Pieces after Hurricane Katrina

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Picking Up the Pieces after Hurricane Katrina

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Picking Up the Pieces after Hurricane Katrina

Picking Up the Pieces after Hurricane Katrina

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Hurricane Katrina may have spared New Orleans the worst of its wrath, but residents are still reeling in the wake of the biggest storm to hit New Orleans in living memory. Across the Gulf Coast, communities are reporting destruction and death.

ED GORDON, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Ed Gordon.

A day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast with disastrous floods and high winds, conditions are worsening. Most of New Orleans is without power, and the city's mayor says 80 percent of New Orleans is underwater. I spoke with NPR's Greg Allen, who's in downtown New Orleans. He described the conditions on the ground.

GREG ALLEN reporting:

Stopping the floodwaters from coming in is going to be more work than many had anticipated. There have been at least two breaches of levees and floodwaters continue to rise, and officials say they're not exactly sure why the floodwaters are rising, but they're working to determine the problem, and then when they know why the water is rising then maybe they can do something about it.

GORDON: Greg, one of the concerns, obviously, after the fact, is making sure that people are safe and that people were able to get out of their houses. How is that going?

ALLEN: Well, the big concern, of course, has been rescuing people who were trapped in their houses from floodwaters. We hear calls to--emergency officials are getting calls and radio stations are getting calls from people who are trapped on the second floor of their houses and their attics, with dwindling food and water supplies. And so they're working, first of all, to rescue people, and that, of course, is the first priority. But now, today, they've actually renewed the call for evacuation. They've been saying all along it's too early to come back, but they're saying to people who did not leave and think that they've weathered the worst of the storm it's not--the emergency is not over, and they're asking people who are still in the city to consider leaving while there still is a way to get out.

GORDON: Greg, with that kind of water, obviously, public health concerns is huge. What's happening in that respect?

ALLEN: I don't think they've even gotten to that part yet, Ed, about what to do about sanitation. They're still trying to stop the water and to stop people from being drowned, basically, and to rescue those who are in harm's way. They are working to get the pump--the first priority is to get the pumps working again, and that is still an ongoing process. I'm not exactly sure where that is. One concern might be that until the pumps really come online you won't be able to stop the rising waters. So that's got to be the first line of defense here right now.

GORDON: Greg, yesterday many people were evacuated to the Superdome there, the football stadium, and by all accounts it took a hit yesterday and many people saw on the news where the roof literally, portions of it, blew away. Tell us the latest there.

ALLEN: I'm sure there's a lot of people at the Superdome who are wondering if they made the right choice, but officials say over and over again that they did. It's not a comfortable place at the Superdome. I mean, you're talking about a place with no power, I think a place that holds 70,000 people, with just emergency power, so there is some light, but there's no air conditioning; hot, sweaty. People, I think, can come and go in and outside, but then it got very wet when the roof was basically shredded by the storm. So they have been distributing food and water there, and so you're getting the basic necessities taken care of there, but that's about it. So it's not a comfortable place to be at all, and I'm sure many of the people there are wondering whether today's the day they're going to go home. It looks to me that, with the emergency happening as it is, they're going to be in the Superdome for another day or two at least.

GORDON: Mm. Well, as you say, it's just starting. NPR's Greg Allen in New Orleans with the latest. Thanks.

ALLEN: Sure, Ed.

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