UPDATE: Gulf Coast Health Emergency Declared; Thousands May be Dead

August 31, 2005

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told the media Wednesday that deaths in the greater New Orleans area from Hurricane Katrina could rise into the thousands, President Bush and his administration declared a public health emergency for all of the Gulf Coast.

According to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, the concerns are high about the potential for cholera, typhoid and dehydrating diseases as rising flood waters sit in the city and temperatures hover around 90 degrees. Reports of dead bodies in the water were also described by officials. Reports said rescuers were at times pushing dead bodies to the side in attempts to rescue those still alive.

Officials in Mississippi and Alabama also wondered how much higher their respective death tolls would go up on Wednesday and in the days to come, when teams are finally able to access all the downed homes and apartments. Mississippi officials have said at least 100 people perished in the Magnolia State. Electricity was out for more than 2.3 million people in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, and many roads remained off limits to do the flooding or falling trees.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco stated Tuesday evening that everyone inside the city of New Orleans needs to evacuate, including the nearly 30,000 people in the Louisiana Superdome. The numbers of refugees inside the building grew from Monday, and with a lack of air conditioning and toilets overflowing, tempers were reportedly on the rise inside. Officials were also attempting to attend to a number of people inside who needed medical attention.

Elsewhere in the city, thousands of National Guard troops were to be deployed on Wednesday to help local police following a day of looting. Cameras showed a pair of police officers taking part in the looting on Tuesday on nationwide television.

Katrina left her mark on several other states as she fell to a tropical depression on Tuesday. Bands of storms and tornadoes were reported across Georgia that caused at least two deaths, multiple injuries and destroyed a number of buildings. A tornado reportedly damaged 13 homes near Marshall, Va.

Editor’s note: Stay tuned to Insurance Journal for updated coverage on the property damages and rescue efforts. Related stories appear in National, Southeast and Texas/South Central news.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.