Mississippi Hard-Hit by Katrina
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Mississippi suffered some of the heaviest damage from Hurricane Katrina. The Gulf Coast areas around Gulfport and Biloxi are among the hardest hit. Federal and state authorities are rushing emergency supplies and assistance to the region, and search and rescue operations continue today in heavily flooded areas. Thousands of people remain in shelters, unable to return to their home. NPR's David Schaper is in Jackson, Mississippi.
And, David, tell us this morning, what is the latest?
DAVID SCHAPER (NPR News): Well, in the words of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour yesterday, `Mississippi was hit like a ton of bricks.' It got the full brunt force of Katrina. The fire chief in Gulfport, Mississippi, called it complete devastation there, estimating some 75 percent of the buildings suffered major roof damage. There are significant numbers of injuries and fatalities being reported in that area of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.
To some people in Mississippi, it may have been a bit of a surprise. I'm told not quite as many people evacuated the area as did in New Orleans and other parts further west, because that's where they anticipated the storm making landfall. But the storm made landfall to the East of New Orleans and passed overland up through the eastern half of Mississippi.
I'm also hearing about substantial damage in cities further inland like Hattiesburg and Meridian, even up towards Tupelo in the northern part of the state as wind gusts were clocked at 70 to 100 miles an hour even 100 miles inland from the Gulf.
MONTAGNE: And it appears this morning, sadly, that Mississippi has most of those who di--who have died so far in the hurricane.
SCHAPER: Yeah, there are some wire and newspaper reports this morning of as many as 50 people killed with as many as 30 or more being reported killed in one apartment building in Gulfport, Mississippi. But the Mississippi Emergency Management Authority is only confirming three deaths so far, and that was late in the afternoon yesterday. But officials at that point did fear that the number could climb today as they reached some of the more heavily damaged areas today. And it does appear that the casualty figures will rise.
MONTAGNE: And with a huge rescue and recovery operation going on, what do you know about what will be happening today?
SCHAPER: In Mississippi, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA, is beginning search, rescue and recovery operations with teams that left the state capital here in Jackson last night to head to the Gulf area. I understand they did arrive in places like Gulfport and Biloxi last night, and this morning they're hoping to use helicopters and planes, even boats, to survey the damage, to look for those who still might be stranded by yesterday's hurricane. It's going to have to be a massive relief effort. The damage reports coming in are just hugely substantial.
MONTAGNE: And you're there in Jackson, Mississippi, not as hard-hit as Biloxi, for instance, but what--look around you, and what does it look like there?
SCHAPER: Well, here in Jackson there are trees down all over the place and really throughout the state of Mississippi. As I drove down here last night and through the day yesterday and surveyed some of the damage myself, there's trees down over roads. Many of the roads are impassable because they're either blocked by trees or, as you get further south, you know, the storm surge flooded out roads completely. There's a lot of local flooding, because the rain totals have been heavy, and there are just huge areas without power. Electricity has been out really from Florida into Louisiana and as many as a million people or more still may be without electricity. It's going to take a long time for them to get a lot of the electricity restored.
MONTAGNE: David, thanks very much. NPR's David Schaper in Jackson, Mississippi.
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