New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said today the death toll in Orleans Parish alone could be in the hundreds and possibly thousands in the wake of Hurricane Katrina-induced flooding that has submerged the city.
“We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water,” and other people dead in attics, Nagin said. Asked how many, he said: “Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands.”
The death toll in neighboring Mississippi officially stands at 110.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kathleen Blanco has ordered the evacuation of the city.
“We’ve sent buses in. We will be either loading them by boat, helicopter, anything that is necessary,” she said.
Army engineers struggled without success to plug New Orleans’ breached levees with giant sandbags, AP reported, and the governor said the situation was worsening and there was no choice but to abandon the flooded city.
“The challenge is an engineering nightmare,” Blanco said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “The National Guard has been dropping sandbags into it, but it’s like dropping it into a black hole.”
Said Nagin on the same program: “We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in, and the other issue that’s concerning me is have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue.”
Nagin believes it will two to three months before power is restored to New Orleans.
Fox News reported the level of Lake Pontchartrain has decreased slightly, giving officials some hope of dealing with the unprecedented amount of flooding.
Those wishing to contribute to hurricane relief efforts can donate to the American Red Cross online or by calling 1-800-435-7669.