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Katrina Update: New Orleans Neighborhoods Re-Open

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Katrina Update: New Orleans Neighborhoods Re-Open

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Katrina Update: New Orleans Neighborhoods Re-Open

Katrina Update: New Orleans Neighborhoods Re-Open

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New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has announced the city will re-open some of the most colorful and least flood-damaged neighborhoods to residents over the next couple of weeks. But there is no way to measure if residents are complying with the limited return policy.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, when it's against the law to go home, but you're determined to get there anyway, a New Orleans woman tries to figure out how to get back in. Plus, President Bush's speech.

First, the lead. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says he expects about a quarter of a million people to return in the next six months beginning tomorrow when the mayor's announced some businesses can reopen. Residents in a few neighborhoods are supposed to start coming back next week, but many New Orleanians are not waiting. Reporter Martin Kaste is in New Orleans. He's working on a piece for "All Things Considered" tonight on the return of people to New Orleans. He's a got a preview here with us.

Martin, welcome back to DAY TO DAY. And how many people are trying to get back in?

MARTIN KASTE reporting:

Well, I think it's a trickle. You know, it's hard to count these things, but what you encounter when you go to these neighborhoods that have just drained, especially the middle class or well-to-do neighborhoods, such as Lakeview, very close to where the 17th Street Canal broke, there what you find is that some of the water is down to about street level. Cars start appearing, driving in from nearby suburbs or from Baton Rouge. Officially, this is still a lock-down area, but the spirit is quite cordial when the National Guard run into these people. They sort of talk to them and they kind of try to assess out whether they're really the property owners. They say it's pretty easy to tell. In theory, they're supposed to escort them out, but often what happens is they let them take out a few things. Credentials and permits are a very mooshy thing around here. There's no central authority that issues these permits. You know, you can come in with a press badge. You can come in saying you're press, and that does not necessarily always jive with reality. So it's--these soldiers are kind of confronted with a problem, 'cause they don't want to harass people who are coming back to look at their homes. At the same time, it's hard to tell just how legit their reasons for being here really are.

CHADWICK: But people are trying to get back in, and they are encountering National Guards and police. Is it different when they see police? Are police arresting them? They're supposed to really not allow people in, right?

KASTE: Yeah. It's a big city. It's got a big circle around it in terms of a perimeter to guard, and it's also--what's complicating things enormously is the fact that some of the suburbs, which are really just contiguous with the city, are officially opened. So that's a, you know, that's probably 100 cross streets right there. You know, there's so many contractor trucks out there, there are so many people driving around with all the companies that have been hired to restore some of these companies. You don't stand out. If you're roaming the streets of New Orleans, there are a hundred reasons you could be there legitimately. So illegitimate presences are harder to detect.

CHADWICK: If people are trying to get back in, are they just going to check quickly or are people actually trying to stay? I guess maybe it varies.

KASTE: Yeah, I don't think anyone's really trying to stay yet in the parts of New Orleans that you saw most on television. Anything that was flooded is just unappealing as a place to be. You don't--it smells. You know, you've seen interior flooded homes there. You know, they're very sad and they're disastrous and you don't want to be there. I think there are people trying to get into and stay to places, like Algiers on the other side of the river, which never flooded. I think there are quite a few people over there. A lot of them never left; others have come in. And they're there if they're willing to sit in the dark. Actually in Algiers now, you have power, too. You know, it's pretty liveable.

CHADWICK: So what about food, water, power?

KASTE: You bring in your food or you could cross the line over to Jefferson Parish now, you can buy food in some places. You can cross the causeway now over into Mandeville, which is a suburb on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. You can get things in here. If you're willing to live simply, you can live in your home if you're not flooded.

CHADWICK: Reporter Martin Kaste in New Orleans. Martin, we'll listen for your report tonight on "All things Considered." Thank you.

KASTE: Thanks, Alex.

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