The devastated city of New Orleans is now bracing for the possibility of Hurricane Rita, which slammed into Florida early Tuesday and is now gathering strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The mayor of New Orleans has suspended plans to re-open parts of the city because of the threat of new flooding, if Hurricane Rita reaches the Gulf coast. The city's levees and pumps are still not fully restored from the damage of Hurricane Katrina. Over the weekend, some business people were allowed back into the badly damaged city.
Orleans Parish (county), in the same district as the historic French Quarter, was not affected by flooding. But like everywhere else in the area, it was hit hard by wind and rain from Hurricane Katrina. Sean Francione, owner of this bar and restaurant is relieved to see his building in good shape.
"We're waiting on the word as to whether we can run the water, and clean with the water, and serve the water, and as soon as that happens we feel like we can open up," said Sean Francione.
Henry Wong wasn't as lucky. The inside of his restaurant is damaged and he expects it will be some time before he can serve customers again. But he is glad his restaurant is still standing because another building next to it is in pieces. This native of Taiwan has lived in New Orleans for four years.
"We need to clean everything," said Henry Wong.
There is still no electricity and phone service to many homes and businesses. Mike Riccadelli is with an electrical firm from Connecticut that is going around this neighborhood trying to restore the electricity as quickly as possible.
"They don't want wires on the ground with kids around or people trying to clean stuff up," said Mike Riccadelli. "We don't want anybody getting hurt, you know."
Sean Francione brought in a generator to get electricity into his restaurant. Now he is cleaning up and getting rid of rotten meat. He is optimistic he will be up and running in a couple of weeks.
"The first thing that we're trying to do is getting open so we can help the people who are helping us, from the telephone people, from the cable people, electricity, soldiers, anybody who is working in the area," he said. "We want to be a place where they can come and relax and enjoy themselves during any time off they might have."
Business owners are only gradually returning to the city. Many blocks of stores and restaurants are still deserted.