National Guard troops prepared to hunt Thursday for thousands of people still clinging to life in ruined New Orleans, as the White House sent more money and top officials to Hurricane Katrina's destruction zone.
The New Orleans stragglers were but a fraction of the million people displaced by the August 29 storm in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Their fate in what was once one of the United States' favourite party cities was playing out in the spotlight.
Officials have said perhaps 10,000 people remain in the flooded city surrounded by a toxic soup of rubbish, human waste and floating corpses. The survivors have been without water and electricity in oppressive heat for more than a week since levee breaks flooded most of what had been home to 450,000 people.
Eddie Compass, the New Orleans police chief, said there were residents who wanted to leave and just waiting for help.
But some were staying in defiance of Mayor Ray Nagin's mandatory evacuation order. "Those that don't want us to find them, they hide," said Gregg Brown, a South Carolina game warden helping in the search.
Robert Johnson, 58, said he had no money and nowhere to go, and wanted to stay to protect his home. "If I'm gonna be miserable I'd better be miserable right here," he said.
The misery was unrelenting. Pumps worked to gradually drain the bacteria and chemical-laced oily water away from the city, but far more were out of commission than working. As much as 60 per cent of New Orleans remained under water.
Teams trying to find the thousands feared killed in the storm and its aftermath resorted to tying floating corpses to trees or fences for future recovery. A morgue set up outside the city stood ready to receive more than 5,000 bodies.
US President George W. Bush asked Congress Thursday for US$51.8 billion for the recovery, on top of US$10.5 billion approved by Congress last week. Federal disaster spending hit about US$2 billion per day over the weekend and could stay above US$500 million for some time, his budget director said.
The Congressional Budget Office said 400,000 jobs could be lost and the nation's economic growth slashed by up to one percentage point by the disaster.
Source: China Daily