Crews search for New Orleans bodies

Forensic workers and body-sniffing dogs have searched New Orleans in earnest for corpses as crews cleared away mounds of trash and debris left behind by residents fleeing Hurricane Katrina.

National Guardsmen walk through a flooded street
National Guardsmen walk through a flooded street

Officials on Sunday were working to identify remains processed bodies around the clock at a field morgue set up in St. Gabriel, a small community between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A chain-link fence covered in black plastic hid the operation from onlookers.


“The ability to capture useful information from that body diminishes from week to week, month to month,” Terry Edwards, the morgue’s director, said on Saturday.


The confirmed toll in Louisiana stood at 154, including some patients on life support who died when power went out, but the toll was expected to climb as crews collected bodies trapped in houses and floating in murky water.


The American Red Cross said it is looking for 40,000 volunteers to help Gulf Coast residents recover from the hurricane.


Long-term recovery


Spokesman John Degnan said they would be dispatched to hurricane-stricken areas to assist with long-term recovery, as well as other parts of the country where victims have been relocated.


Operations continue as remaining residents are rescued

Operations continue as remaining
residents are rescued

The Red Cross has 675 shelters housing more than 160,000 people.


Police and military officials have been marking the location of bodies with global positioning devices and paint on the outside of houses.


At the convention centre, the chaotic site where thousands initially took refuge before being evacuated a week ago, bulldozers pushed heaps of chairs, sleeping bags and other discarded items into giant piles. Dump trucks were hauling the debris away.


Tow truck drivers started picking up scores of abandoned cars littering the streets while other workers unloaded food and supplies for employees working in telephone company Bell South’s downtown office.


Clean up


At the Parc St. Charles hotel, workers went floor to floor cleaning up. “There’s a lot of spoiled meat, a lot of bacteria that needs to be cleaned up,” said Bob Allen, who was supervising the job.


At the Superdome, where thousands first sought shelter only to be trapped inside by the floodwaters, water levels had dropped markedly. Water that once submerged cars parked around the dome had dropped to about a foot high.


A group of police, doctors and National Guardsmen inspected Charity Hospital, where doctors and patients had been stranded in rising waters.


New Orleans remains underwater (file photo)

New Orleans remains under
water (file photo)

Doctors hoped to be able to reopen the hospital to help treat skin infections, dehydration and other illnesses, said Dr Jeffrey Kochan, who is overseeing medical services in New Orleans.


But they found the basement full of water, meaning electricity could not be restored. Kochan said they would inspect the city’s other hospitals.


Thousands of residents continue to defy orders to leave the city, but security forces were not forcing anyone to go. Mayor Ray Nagin warned earlier that residents could be forcibly removed, but authorities have not taken that step.


Police Chief Eddie Compass said 200 arrests had been made since the hurricane despite the 300 officers missing from his 1750-strong force. “We’ve been almost crime-free for the last four days,” he said.


Body bags


Searchers were picking up bodies throughout the city.


A team in white protective suits pulled at least eight body bags from Bethany Home, a century-old centre for senior citizens.


Crews work to restore power in Slidell, Louisiana, on Friday

Crews work to restore power in
Slidell, Louisiana, on Friday

At the grand stone entrance of City Park, in the heart of New Orleans, workers took out two bodies: one partially submerged in water and another covered in a blanket and marked with orange paint indicating searchers had previously reported it.


Crews from Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams, a group of volunteer medical professionals called in by the federal government for disasters, processed the bodies and took them away in refrigerated trucks.


The US Army Corps of Engineers said most of the city could be drained within a month. Power and other utilities remain out in most of the affected region.

Source : News Agencies

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