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New Orleans Rescue Efforts Continue Following Hurricane Katrina

Rescue efforts continue in New Orleans, where tens-of-thousands of people remain stranded. Adding to the discomfort, the lack of electrical power, food, and clean water are roving gangs of armed delinquents who are sometimes interfering with the relief operations.

Convoys of supply trucks, electrical service repair vehicles, and rescue vans, trucks and ambulances are streaming up and down the highway that connects Baton Rouge to New Orleans. There has also been a stream of displaced people flowing out of New Orleans to Baton Rouge and city officials believe the population of the capital will double in the next week or two as a result.

Meanwhile, the situation in New Orleans is growing more desperate. Mayor Ray Nagin says thousands may have died, but his estimate cannot be confirmed because 80 percent of the city is flooded and much of it inaccessible.

Officials believe many people may have been trapped in the upper floors or attics of their homes by flooding that occurred after levees, weakened by the hurricane, broke in at least two places.

More than 28,000 National Guard troops from around the country are helping in the rescue effort in the Gulf coast region devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

In Baton Rouge, U.S. Senator from Louisiana Mary Landrieu says the people involved in this national response to the disaster remain determined despite the obstacles.

"I can tell you that our deputies and all our military personnel are under a great deal of stress and strain as they continue to stabilize the situation," she said. "There are great places where things are improving, there are some places that are very difficult all over the region. This is not just for Louisiana. There are situations in Mississippi and Alabama that will come to light today."

One of the more troubling problems facing rescue workers are criminals roving New Orleans with firearms, many of which police believe were stolen from stores in the days following the hurricane.

There are reports of shots being fired at a rescue helicopter and of rescue vehicles being stolen by armed men. Gunmen have wounded at least one city policemen who was trying to prevent looting and have fired shots into a police station.

President Bush has called for a crackdown on such crime and Senator Landrieu assures citizens still stranded in and around the city that the crime spree and other difficulties will be overcome.

"Nothing will suspend the evacuation effort, nothing will stop the United States military and all the federal, state and local assets from getting through this operation," she said.

Meanwhile, officials are working to remove refugees from the leaky, hot, and filthy New Orleans Superdome stadium, where about 25,000 people sought shelter as Katrina approached the city earlier this week.

The Superdome refugees are being taken 560 kilometers west to another such stadium, the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. Officials there are making preparations to provide comfortable living conditions for the displaced residents of the Big Easy, a nickname New Orleans once had.

Officials say it could take up to 20 days to evacuate everyone from the stricken city and many months to restore services and assess damage to buildings and homes.