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Hurricane Katrina Death Toll in Hundreds, Lower Than Expected


Officials say they are recovering fewer bodies from the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina than the thousands they had originally expected. Meanwhile, relatives continue searching for their loved ones among survivors scattered across the country, nearly two weeks after the storm wiped out the city of New Orleans and other areas. As recovery efforts continue, President Bush traveled to the region for the third time to assess progress.

Last week, as news pictures showed corpses floating in the water or abandoned in the streets of New Orleans, authorities there predicted a death toll in the thousands. Recovery efforts are far from over. The official death toll from Katrina at the moment stands at about 400.

Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, who was named last week to take charge of U.S. government relief efforts on the ground, told the Fox News Sunday program he did not have any expectations of the death toll.

"I've been involved in enough of these operations," Admiral Allen says. "The worst thing you can do is guess on what the outcome might be. You just need to get in and work the problem on the ground. I will say this. We are finding many fewer fatalities than we had expected."

Admiral Allen told ABC's "This Week" program he is focusing on trying to help clean up New Orleans, which was 80 percent flooded following Katrina.

"First of all, we have to get water out. We have to do environmental testing," Admiral Allen says. "We have to know what the condition of the infrastructure is, and it's all very, very different. The electrical grid is very different from the natural gas supply lines. That's very different from the pumping system that keeps the city dry, and very different from the sewage system."

Meanwhile, in light of a new threat against the United States from the al-Qaida terrorist group, Admiral Allen said he has heard of no threats to the Gulf Coast area. "None that I'm aware of," he says.

The commander of active duty U.S. troops involved in hurricane relief, Lieutenant General Russel Honore, said his soldiers will not take part in forcing people to leave New Orleans, despite the flooded city's evacuation order.

"Federal troops will not be involved in the direct evacuation, of anyone from their home, in any way. That is a local and state law enforcement task," Lt. General Honore says.

In an interview with CNN's Late Edition, General Honore added that U.S. military units have continued to provide food and water, and other aid, to residents who refuse to leave.

Nearly two weeks after Katrina struck land, many families are still searching for their loved ones. Efforts to unite relatives include notices like this one that appeared Sunday on CNN.

"My name is Charles Rubio. I'm from Washington, DC. I grew up in New Orleans. I was born there. I have not heard from my sister and my brother in law, Eloise and Alvin Adams."

The thousands of survivors who were hurriedly evacuated from New Orleans were sent to communities throughout the United States. The president of the American Red Cross, Marty Evans, said her organization has shelters for the displaced in 17 states.

"Right now, we have about 89-thousand people in Red Cross shelters," he says. "And that's down significantly from last week, where we had as many as 150,000 in Red Cross shelters."

Ms. Evans said that, besides those people living in the shelters, the Red Cross is also helping hundreds-of-thousands others affected by the storm. She estimated that as many as one-million people will need assistance, and that her organization has set an initial fundraising goal of one-billion dollars. So far, the American Red Cross has raised nearly $580 million.

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