A week after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Monday pressed on with the search for the living and the dead from the catastrophe as US President George W. Bush planned a second visit to the devastated US Gulf Coast.
Emergency teams searched flooded homes and streets for bodies as authorities said Louisiana's official death toll of 59 could rise into the thousands.
City officials said rescuers in boats and helicopters were still pulling hundreds of people from rooftops, homes and buildings and police said they were getting 1,000 or more emergency calls for help each day, many from people still trapped in their homes and attics by floodwaters.
Local officials believe thousands remain in the once-vibrant city despite mass evacuations before and after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast last Monday.
The death toll across the Gulf Coast was not known. But bodies were everywhere: floating in canals, slumped in wheelchairs, abandoned on highways and hidden in attics.
"I think it's evident it's in the thousands," Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said on Sunday, echoing predictions by city and state officials last week.
Authorities were slowly regaining control of New Orleans after days of murder, rape and looting that horrified the United States and the world.
Lights were also going on in some neighbourhoods of the stricken city as the local power company began restoring electricity.
Bush planned to visit relief efforts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Poplarville, Mississippi, on Monday local time - his second trip to the devastated region in less than a week.
His administration has been criticized heavily for its slow response to the flooding.
Criticism from foreign countries
South Korea and Australia voiced frustration Monday that US relief efforts had prevented them from rescuing their citizens caught up in Hurricane Katrina.
South Korea said strict security, bad communications and a lack of transport were hampering attempts to account for up to 2,500 South Korean expatriates living in chaotic New Orleans, while Australian tourists felt abandoned by their government.
Chun Tae-il, former head of the Korean Association of New Orleans, said two suburbs in the city that were home to South Korean expatriates and Korean-Americans were now under water.
"Not one Korean in New Orleans will be able to escape losses," he told Yonhap news from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he had been evacuated.
Seoul said it had only been able to send officials into New Orleans on one occasion since Hurricane Katrina struck a week ago. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said officials from Australia and Britain had only been granted access on Sunday.
Up to 50 Australian tourists were in New Orleans when the hurricane hit and some described the city's Superdome, where tens of thousands of people gathered to shelter, as like being "in a third world country in a maximum security prison."
Many of the Australian tourists were rescued from New Orleans by Australian media, some in armed convoys to protect them from the gangs that began raping and looting soon after the disaster.
Around 2,700 Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans had been in the areas affected by Katrina, said Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.
The Pakistani Embassy in Washington had set up an Emergency Response Unit to assist nationals affected by the hurricane and was ready to send a team of doctors and paramedics into the area.
Influx of internal refugees
Government and emergency officials in New Orleans said it was not the time to assign blame for the troubled rescue efforts but to focus on the challenges ahead.
"We are going to have to go house to house in this city. We are going to have to check every single place to find people who may be alive and in need of assistance," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said.
Hundreds of thousands of internal refugees from the disaster in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were dispersing to states across the country as they confronted the challenge of how to rebuild shattered lives.
Texas alone was accommodating 139,000 people in public shelters, while 100,000 were in hotels. Others were in private shelters run by churches and other groups or with Texas family and friends.
Texas Governer Rick Perry voiced concern about the state's ability to cope with the influx and said he was seeking to airlift some of the refugees to other states such as Utah, Michigan, Iowa and New York.
"There are shelters set up in other states that are sitting empty while thousands arrive in Texas by the day, if not the hour," he said.
Police officers kill themselves
Amid the desperation of Hurricane Katrina, two police officers have committed suicide with their own weapons and dozens have turned in their badges.
Deputy Police Chief WJ Riley identified two officers who killed themselves as Sergeant Paul Accardo, the department's spokesman, and Patrolman Lawrence Celestine.
"Both of them," Riley said, shaking his head slowly. "Used their own guns."
Several dozen of the city's 1,600 police officers have failed to report for duty, and some have turned in their badges. Published reports put the number as high as 200.
But Riley declined to comment on those figures, saying more than 100 officers may have been trapped in their own homes or unable to reach command centres.
Source: China Daily