Louisiana locked down; New Orleans could become a "toxic soup"

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ivor van Heerden, Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center and director of the Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes, is warning that floodwaters resulting from Hurricane Katrina could carry toxic waste from the "Industrial Canal" area in New Orleans - the site of many chemical plants. Van Heerden has, for four years, studied computer models about the impact of a powerful hurricane.

"These chemical plants [could] start flying apart, just as the other buildings do, so we have the potential for release of benzene, hydrochloric acid, chlorine and so on." said van Heerden; "we're looking at a bowl full of highly contaminated water with contaminated air flowing around and, literally, very few places for anybody to go where they'll be safe."

Van Heerden itemized problems people returning to the city would find: "no sewage, no drinking water, contamination, threat of rapid increase in mosquitoes, roads are impassible, downed power lines everywhere, trees, debris from houses in the roads, no way to go shopping, no gas." The water has also released fire ants and thousands of snakes, many being venomous, from their normal habitats.

"If you came back, you would be coming literally to a wilderness," van Heerden said. "Stay where you are, be comfortable; nothing's going to change. If your house is gone, it's gone. If you come back in a day or a week, it's not going to make any difference."

CNN is reporting "huge police roadblocks" leading into New Orleans and that their news truck was not allowed to enter the city. The CNN correspondent said the other side of the roadblock looked like "a scene out of hell".

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This audio file was created from the text revision dated 30-08-2005 and may not reflect subsequent text edits to this report. (audio help)