Residents of some hard-hit New Orleans' neighbourhoods returned home for the first time on Wednesday, but many came only to salvage what they could from wrecked houses, without power or drinking water.
Most police and military roadblocks and checkpoints had been removed to allow thousands to visit, although the city's worst-hit area, the mostly poor and black Ninth Ward, was still partly flooded and off limits.
Moving trucks and piles of ruined furniture, appliances and garbage dotted the newly reopened Lakeview area as residents cleaned out mould-caked homes.
"We are trying to salvage as much of our furniture as possible," said Rick Dolese, 56, as he showed off destroyed 19th-century armoires and other antiques in his house, which had been flooded with 2.4 metres of water.
Troops patrolling the city, devastated after Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29 killing hundreds of people, said activity had picked up.
"It really surprises me in some of the areas because houses are destroyed and uninhabitable, but there are still people coming in trying to live it out," said Zach Bokum, 21, of the Illinois National Guard.
In the latest sign that parts of New Orleans are simply beyond repair, officials announced that the city's Charity and University Hospitals were unsalvageable and would be closed.
"The Charity and University Hospital buildings were issued their 'death warrant' by Katrina and the cataclysmic floods it spawned," said Donald Smithburg, chief executive of Louisiana State University's Health Care Services Division.
"Even before the storms, these old facilities were on the ropes," he added in a statement.
Charity Hospital, which was built in the 1930s, became a focal point for concern about Katrina's victims as it struggled to evacuate patients during the chaos after the hurricane.
Eighty per cent of low-lying New Orleans was flooded after the storm surge from Katrina broke through levees. Hurricane Rita, which struck the Louisiana-Texas border on September 24, caused more flooding, which persists in some areas.
More than 230,000 unemployment insurance claims - 16 times the normal volume - have been processed by the Louisiana Department of Labour since Katrina struck, state Labour Secretary John Warner Smith said.
Source: China Daily