Bush will return to New Orleans to make a new inspection on Monday, the White House said on Sunday.
He will be confronted by a gruesome landscape of scattered corpses that are expected to number in the thousands.
No one knows how many people were killed by Hurricane Katrina and how many more succumbed waiting to be rescued.
But the bodies are everywhere – hidden in attics, floating in the ruined city, crumpled in wheelchairs, abandoned on motorways.
Echoing the mayor’s prediction, governor Kathleen Blanco said she expected the toll to reach the thousands. And Craig Vanderwagen, rear admiral of the US Public Health Service, said one mortuary alone, at St Gabriel prison, expected 1000 to 2000 bodies.
The last refugees from the
The last refugees at the Superdome and the convention centre climbed on board buses on Saturday – six days after Katrina struck – bound for shelters, but the dying continued.
Touring an airport triage centre, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a doctor, said “a lot more than eight to 10 people are dying a day”.
Most were those too sick or weak to survive. But not all.
Charles Womack, a 30-year-old roofer, said he saw one man beaten to death and another commit suicide at the Superdome.
“One guy jumped off a balcony. I saw him do it. He was talking to a lady about it. He said it reminded him of the war and he couldn’t leave,” he said.
Three babies died at the convention centre from heat exhaustion, said Mark Kyle, a medical relief provider.
Hillary Snowton, 40, sat on the pavement outside the Superdome with a piece of white sheet tied around his face like a bandanna as he stared at a body that had been lying on a chaise lounge for four days, its stocking feet peeking out from under a quilt.
The city was only cleared out six
“It’s for the smell of the dead body,” he said of the sheet. His brother-in-law, Octave Carter, 42, said it has been “every day, every morning, breakfast lunch and dinner looking at it”.
When asked why he did not move further away from the corpse, Carter replied: “It stinks everywhere.”
A woman lay dead in a wheelchair on the front steps. A man was covered in a black drape with a dry line of blood running to the gutter, where it had pooled.
By mid-afternoon, only pockets of stragglers remained in the streets around the convention centre, and New Orleans paramedics began carting away the dead.
Nita LaGarde, 105, was pushed down the street in her wheelchair as her nurse’s 5-year-old granddaughter, Tanisha Blevin, held her hand.
The pair spent two days in an attic, two days on an interstate island and the last four days on the pavement in front of the convention centre.
LaGarde’s nurse, Ernestine Dangerfield, 60, said LaGarde had not had a clean adult diaper for more than two days.
“I just want to get somewhere where I can get her nice and clean,” she said.
Some waded through neck-high waters, fought off gangsters or watched people die. All of it made 25-year-old Reginald Davis angry.
“It wasn’t fit for a dog. I had the worst experience I’ve had in my life”
Survivor Reginald Davis
He heard the screams of rapes at the Superdome. He walked through faeces. When his leg became infected, he says, no one would help.
“It wasn’t fit for a dog,” he said. “I had the worst experience I’ve had in my life.”
Dan Craig, director of recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said it could take up to six months to get the water out of New Orleans, and the city would then need to dry out, which could take up to three more months.