Mayor: Katrina May Have Killed Thousands :: By BRETT MARTEL, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago :: NEW ORLEANS - The mayor said Wednesday that Katrina probably killed thousands of people in New Orleans — an estimate that, if accurate, would make the storm by far the nation's deadliest hurricane in more than a century. "We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water," and other people dead in attics, Mayor Ray Nagin said. Asked how many, he said: "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands." The frightening estimate came as Army engineers struggled to plug New Orleans' breached levees with giant sandbags and concrete barriers, while authorities drew up plans to clear out the tens of thousands of people left in the Big Easy and all but abandon the flooded-out city. There will be a "total evacuation of the city. We have to. The city will not be functional for two or three months," Nagin said. Most of those storm refugees — 15,000 to 20,000 people — were in the Superdome, which had become hot and stuffy, with broken toilets and nowhere for anyone to bathe. "It can no longer operate as a shelter of last resort," the mayor said. Nagin estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people remained in New Orleans, a city of nearly half a million people. He said 14,000 to 15,000 a day could be evacuated. The Pentagon, meanwhile, began mounting one of the largest search-and-rescue operations in U.S. history, sending four Navy ships to the Gulf Coast with drinking water and other emergency supplies, along with the hospital ship USNS Comfort, search helicopters and elite SEAL water-rescue teams. American Red Cross workers from across the country converged on the devastated region in the agency's biggest-ever relief operation.
769 Dead, 307 Hurt in Iraq Bridge Stampede :: By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 26 minutes ago :: BAGHDAD, Iraq - Trampled, crushed against barricades or plunging into the Tigris River, more than 700 Shiite pilgrims died Wednesday when a procession across a Baghdad bridge was engulfed in panic over rumors that a suicide bomber was at large. Most of the dead were women and children, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said. It was the single biggest confirmed loss of life in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion. Dr. Swadi Karim of the Health Ministry operations section said 769 were killed and 307 injured. Tensions already had risen among the Shiite marchers because of a mortar attack two hours earlier near the shrine where they were heading. Then the crowd was slowed by barriers about a quarter of the way across the Two Imams Bridge, Interior Minister Bayn Jabr said on state-run TV. "Pushing started when a rumor was spread by a terrorist who claimed that there was a person with an explosive belt, which caused panic and the pushing started," Jabr said. "Some fell from the bridge, others fell on the barricades" and were trampled to death. The barriers are meant to keep Sunni and Shiite extremists out of each other's neighborhoods at opposite ends of the bridge. The two-lane, 300-yard-long bridge was littered with abandoned hundreds of sandals lost in the pushing and panic. Children who had plunged 30 feet off the bridge floundered in the muddy waters, trying to reach dry land. Survivors were rushed in ambulances and private cars to hospitals. Thousands raced to both banks of the river to search for survivors, and bare-chested men jumped in to try to recover bodies. Scores of bodies covered with white sheets lay on the sidewalk outside one hospital whose morgue was jammed. Many were children, old men and black-gowned women. Sobbing relatives wandered about, lifting sheets in search of their kin. When they found them, they would shriek in grief, pound their chests or collapse. Casualty figures from official sources varied because survivors were taken to several hospitals, and officials were scrambling to establish accurate tallies.
Katrina Triggers Memories in Tsunami Zone :: By CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press Writer, (08-31) 10:02 PDT BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) -- For Raju Danny, waking up to images of water surging into New Orleans on the morning news was especially painful. The 26-year-old was tossed around by last year's tsunami and lost his wife to the raging torrents. "I felt tears welling up when I saw that so many people had died," the waiter said Wednesday during a break from serving rice and fried chicken to customers in this seaside. "I would like to help, but all I have is my prayers." Though the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami was a far more deadly disaster than the one triggered by Hurricane Katrina, people in Asian nations hardest hit by the killer waves — from Indonesia, to Thailand, to Sri Lanka — were shocked by what had happened. "God has made us equals in birth, life and death," said Nimal Premasiri, 51, who lost his wife and daughter when waves "as big as elephants" crashed into their packed commuter train in Sri Lanka. Katrina has flooded large parts of New Orleans and several other counties along the Gulf Coast, submerging thousands of houses and killing at least 110, though officials were still tallying the dead and expected the toll to keep climbing. The tsunami killed or left missing more than 200,000 people, triggering a massive international emergency response and a huge fund-raising drive that saw millions of people worldwide donating money. People in Indonesia's Aceh province, which lost a staggering 130,000 people, recalled in particular the massive humanitarian effort undertaken by the US military following the disaster. Within days, US choppers were dropping off water and emergency supplies to stranded villagers, and returning with injured survivors who were taken to hospitals. "At that time America helped us a lot, and they were genuine too," said Reza Saputra, a 19-year-old student. "One of their helicopters even crashed here." In Sri Lanka, where the tsunami killed 31,000 and left tens of thousands homeless, several people also said pictures of the devastation caused by Katrina brought back vivid memories. "When I see the images from Katrina, I can easily identify myself,' said Chulie de Silva, a World Bank executive who lost her brother in the tsunami. "We were just (like) them on Dec. 26. At least they had warning, we had none."