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Hundreds feared dead in Katrina's wake
Updated: 2005-08-31 07:00

Most of the deaths appear to have been caused by the storm surge, which swept as far as a mile inland in parts of Mississippi.

Hundreds of people climbed onto rooftops to escape the rising water that lapped at the eaves. They used axes, and in at least one case a shotgun, to blast holes in roofs so they could escape through the attics.


Police took boats into flood-stricken areas to rescue some of the stranded and others were plucked off rooftops by helicopter. The Coast Guard helped rescue 1,200 in New Orleans on Monday night and thousands more all along the Gulf Coast on Tuesday.

"We've been pulling them off sometimes four at a time, sometimes as many as 12," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Larry Chambers. "People are being taken to the nearest dry spot then the helicopter's going back and picking up more people."

In New Orleans, "We probably have 80 percent of our city under water; with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet," Nagin told television station WWL. "Both airports are under water."

New Orleans is a bowl-like city mostly below sea level and protected by levees or embankments. The levees gave way overnight in places, including a 200-foot (60 meter) breach that allowed the lake waters to pour into the city center.

The U.S. military planned to use helicopters to drop giant sandbags filled with gravel into the breach in an attempt to fill it.

Pumps failed and floodwaters threatened downtown and the historic French Quarter.

"This is a horror story. I'd rather be reading it somewhere else than living it," said Aaron Broussard, president of New Orleans' Jefferson Parish.


In Mississippi, water swamped the emergency operations center at Hancock County courthouse. The back of the building collapsed and "Thirty-five people swam out of their emergency operations center with life jackets on," Mississippi's Sun Herald newspaper said.

The local hospital appealed for more doctors and nurses to treat the wounded. Hancock County emergency workers went from house to house and put black paint on those where people died, CNN said. They planned to return later to pick up the bodies but did not have enough refrigerated trucks.
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