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Water receding noticeably in New Orleans
Updated: 2005-09-07 07:09

The Pentagon, meanwhile, began sending paratroopers from the Army's storied 82nd Airborne Division to New Orleans to use small boats, including inflatable Zodiac craft, to launch a new search-and-rescue effort in flooded sections of the city. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, division commander, said about 5,000 paratroopers would be in place by Tuesday.

Boat rescue crews and a caravan of law enforcement vehicles from around the country also searched for people to rescue.

"In some cases, it's real easy. They're sitting on the porch with their bags packed," said Joe Youdell of the Kentucky Air National Guard. "But some don't want to leave and we can't force them."

Nagin warned: "We have to convince them to leave. It's not safe here. There is toxic waste in the water and dead bodies and mosquitoes and gas. We are pumping about a million dollars' worth a gas a day in the air. Fires have been started and we don't have running water."

Nagin said some dry sections of the city may have running water within 36 hours. The system needs to be flushed out before that can happen, he said.

Early Tuesday, fire broke out at a big house in the city's historic Garden District — a neighborhood with lots of antebellum mansions. National Guardsmen cordoned off the area as firefighters battled the blaze by helicopter. In all, firefighters battled at least four major fires in New Orleans by midafternoon.

At the same time, the effort to get the evacuees back on their feet continued on several fronts.

Patrick Rhode, deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said evacuees would receive debit cards so that they could begin buying necessary personal items. He said the agency was going from shelter to shelter to make sure that evacuees received cards quickly and that the paperwork usually required would be reduced or eliminated.

"We're eliminating as much red tape as humanly possible," Rhode said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

The Air Force late Monday concluded its huge airlift of elderly and serious ill patients from New Orleans' major airport. A total of 9,788 patients and other evacuees were evacuated by air from the New Orleans area.
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