The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Police told to clear toxic New Orleans
‘Probe later, save lives’

New Orleans, Sept. 7 (Reuters): New Orleans police will try to force Hurricane Katrina’s survivors to leave the fetid city today as the political storm grows over the botched response to the crisis and cost estimates rise to as high as $150 billion.

Flood levels in some areas were said to have dropped 30 cm but mayor Ray Nagin said 60 per cent of the city was still under water, hampering efforts to recover the thousands of people feared killed in the hurricane and its aftermath.

Nagin said floodwaters also threatened those still clinging to the life they knew before Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast last week, with garbage, oil and putrefying bodies floating in the stagnant pools inundating New Orleans.

After days of trying to change the minds of some 10,000 people who have refused to leave, authorities began to enforce a mandatory evacuation today.

Police superintendent P. Edwin Compass said his men would evacuate residents, if necessary against their will. “We’ll do everything it takes to make this city safe. These people don’t understand they’re putting themselves in harm’s way,” Compass said.

But die-hard inhabitants of a city mainly known for jazz and Mardi Gras before it became a disaster area of Third-World proportions say they fear evacuation to parts of the country where they have no family or means of support.

Martha Smith-Aguillard, 72, said she was brought against her will to an evacuation point at the city’s wrecked convention centre. Her foot was swollen after she trod on a rusty nail and she said she needed a tetanus shot. Nonetheless, she refused to board a government helicopter.

“They manhandled me and paid no mind to what I said. I ain’t never been in no helicopter in my life, or no airplane, and I’m 72, I ain’t starting now,” she said.

“I’m not going to get that tetanus shot, so I guess I’ll just have to die,” she said, adding: “We’re all going to die and if I’m going to die, it's gonna be right here in New Orleans.”

President George W. Bush said he would lead an investigation into the emergency operation, but he resisted demands for an immediate probe. “There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right, and what went wrong. What I’m interested (in) is helping save lives,” he said. Bush’s response to the crisis was rated “bad” or “terrible” by 42 per cent of Americans surveyed for a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll.

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