At least 55 killed by Hurricane Katrina; serious flooding across affected region

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Damage by Katrina
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Thirty people died in the Gulf of Mexico resort of Biloxi when Hurricane Katrina demolished a water-side apartment block, Harrison County emergency operations center spokesman Jim Pollard told AP. However, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has yet to confirm the news.

At least another twenty have died across the rest of Harrison County; this number is expected to rise. The Governor of the state of Mississippi has asked people to stay away from the area for several days. The towns of Biloxi and Gulfport took the brunt of the hurricane's 140mph+ winds after it veered away from New Orleans as it made landfall.

Three more people have been killed by falling trees and at least two died in traffic accidents resulting from the hurricane. Hundreds of people have been rescued by boat and helicopter from the roofs of houses cut off by flood water.

The hurricane has caused a storm-surge — the force of the winds has piled the waters of the Gulf of Mexico against the coastline, causing widespread flooding reaching at least a mile inland in places.

A levee on the Lake Pontchartrain canal has broken in two places, causing massive flooding. Some parts of New Orleans are now under 20 feet of water. Flooding seems to have reduced to increasing at a rate of one inch an hour and Army Corps of Engineers are on the scene of the breaks. At aproximately 10:00 PM Central city officials confirmed that a major floodpump has failed, which could result in an additional nine feet of floodwaters.

The western part of New Orleans has been flooded after a two-block long stretch of the 17th Street Levee gave way on Monday afternoon. Much of the city lies below sea level and depends on flood defences to keep it safe. One hospital — that has 1,000 patients inside — has been surrounded by the water. The vice-president of the center has described seeing whitecaps on the waves of the water in a street outside.

A water main pipe has failed, meaning that tap water has been contaminated with flood water, and is no longer safe to drink.

The mayor of the city has described seeing "bodies floating in the water."

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Some 10,000 people remain in the Superdome stadium, despite the electricity supply failing leaving the indoor stadium in darkness. The coverings of the concrete roof of the structure have been stripped away by the wind.

Electricity supplies to 1.3 million people across the south eastern parts of the US have been damaged, and it could be months before power is restored to all affected.

Two oil rigs have broken free of their moorings in the Gulf of Mexico, and a third drifted into a bridge in Mobile Bay, Alabama.

Katrina has now been downgraded to tropical storm status as it moves northwards across the US, and wind speeds have dropped to 60mph. The current death toll does not include the 11 killed in Florida when Katrina struck there last week.

Sources

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