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Search for Storm Dead Continues in New Orleans


Officials in New Orleans are continuing to collect the bodies of those killed in Hurricane Katrina as the search for survivors goes on. Local officials report some improvements in conditions nearly two weeks after the killer storm hit.

New Orleans police continue their door-to-door search for hurricane survivors, urging those still in the city to leave but so far not using force.

Daryl Allen, a sergeant in the Louisiana National Guard, said "we've not been given an order yet that it is mandatory. If it were mandatory, then we at that point could begin to just take folks out in a very systematic way door-to-door."

More than half the city remains under several meters of water. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Ken Ralston says rescuers patrolling in boats are having a hard time finding their way around. "The force of the water just blew the houses right off their foundations. So if you look at a street map and you think you are trying to follow a street, you are not on a street. There is no such thing as a street back here anymore," he said.

Officials still expect the death toll in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana to rise above its current 300, but they doubt it will reach earlier estimates of as many as 10,000 in New Orleans alone.

City Police Chief Eddie Compass says things are getting better on a force where some officers deserted their posts during the flooding, hampering efforts to stop looting and violence. He says there have now been 200 arrests since the storm and the city is once again under control. "We've seen a change. We are getting a lot of supplies in. We are getting a lot of support in. We are getting our logistics up. We are getting buildings erected. There is a process of getting some kind of permanent housing for my officers. So I am very encouraged by what I am seeing," he said.

Public opinion polls show plenty of blame to go around for what went wrong in the first efforts to respond to the storm. One poll says state and local officials are more to blame than President Bush for the slow response.

Still, Mr. Bush is now seeing some of the lowest ratings of his presidency with 60 percent of Americans disapproving of his overall performance. Pollsters say it is a combination of factors including the war in Iraq, record high gas prices, and the hurricane.

Democrats and some Republicans have focused particularly on the work of Federal Emergency Management Chief Mike Brown who did not call for more than 1,000 Homeland Security officials until hours after the storm reached shore. It then took two days for those officials to reach the hardest-hit areas.

Mr. Brown Friday was replaced as the principle federal official on the ground. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen has now taken charge of those duties. He says one of his first concerns is for the safety of rescue workers operating in water poisoned with toxic chemicals and human waste. "I think we need to be very careful when we talk about how we should re-enter these neighborhoods. There are areas where we may have hazardous materials that have been stored there that were released by the water," he said.

President Bush makes his third trip to hurricane damaged areas Sunday after a moment of silence marking the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

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