Copyright ©2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Federal officials now acknowledge that the death toll from Hurricane Katrina will climb into the thousands, but it will be weeks before the number of dead is known. First, the gruesome task of going block by block, door to door, looking for people who might still be alive, answering pleas for help written on rooftops. In Waveland, Mississippi, where the eye wall of Katrina came ashore and wiped away virtually the entire town, a search-and-rescue team from Virginia Beach, Virginia, is sloshing through the ruins. Producer Giselle Grayson followed the team as they looked for homes where people could still be trapped.

Unidentified Man #1: This area was hardest hit--10-4. Copy. Thanks. As you look to your left, you'll see this is just debris fields of what were structures.

Unidentified Man #2: Most of the people on the team have quite a bit of experience. One of our first real deployments was the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. And on 9/11, we were at the Pentagon.

(Soundbite of search-and-rescue operation; dog barking)

Unidentified Man #3: We should probably get this under there. It will come right off.

Unidentified Man #4: Did they tell you where to move the plywood?

Unidentified Man #5: Let's hold off right now till the engineer takes a good look at this structure.

(Soundbite of dog barking)

Unidentified Man #5: We've got a one-story house. About midway through the house, the building has collapsed. Also, I want to get into the attic and check that, 'cause if they went to high ground, they could be in the attic, and he's barking on that.

(Soundbite of dog barking)

Unidentified Man #6: Come on, let's go! You got stuff wrapped around your shoe.

(Soundbite of radio static; banging noises; dog panting)

Unidentified Man #7: All you guys can check all the way back to the other end of the house. The wind's blowing that way and ...(unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #5: We ran the first dog through; he bark-alerted indicating that someone is in there. Of course, if they're in the attic area, they could be in a small space somewhere. We're bringing in a second dog now to confirm. If we confirm that, we would get a second bark or a hit, then we're going to go ahead and start working this as a live rescue.

Unidentified Man #8: If we end up moving, it could roll forward into the walls. So--OK, I just want to make sure you guys got a way out.

Unidentified Man #9: OK.

Unidentified Man #8: All right.

(Soundbite of chain saw)

Unidentified Man #10: I think I need to talk to some people at home, remind them what this actually can do, 'cause we've--well, the United States in general has been really lucky about not having a hurricane that did this type of damage. And they've done it in resort communities and a lot of people kind of said, `Well, that's what you get for building on the seashore.' And now that it's happened in an area like this where it's people's normal homes, it's not their vacation home, kind of--it's a little different perspective on the whole thing.

Unidentified Man #11: Load up!

ELLIOTT: Todd Cannon, Bernie Denke, Tim Reilly and Mike McAndrews, searching for survivors in Waveland, Mississippi.

The good news is that at this house, they found no signs of life or death. They'll continue working today as long as there's light.

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