Saturday, September 10, 2005

A small ray of hope: Death toll not so dire (

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A small ray of hope: Death toll not so dire
Scorned FEMA chief is sent back to Washington

By Bruce Nolan
Staff writer

Eleven days after Hurricane Katrina plunged New Orleans into agonies of flood, panic and chaotic evacuation, authorities finally began searching house-to-house in once-flooded neighborhoods Friday for those who did not escape.

Early results retrieved far fewer bodies than officials expected.

That led one key official to hope the death toll might be much less than 10,000, Mayor Ray Nagin's early estimate that quickly became an unchallenged benchmark.

That figure was based on the speed with which Hurricane Katrina flooded the Lower 9th Ward and other poor, densely populated neighborhoods as the storm roared past on Aug. 29 with winds of at least 105 mph.

The estimate became more credible as thousands of traumatized refugees slogged into the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during the next two days, bearing nightmarish tales of pushing bloated bodies out of the way or passing them sprawled on rooftops.
But in the first day of organized searching, there seemed some reason for hope.

"I think there's some encouragement in what we found in the initial sweeps that some of the catastrophic death that some people predicted may not, in fact, have occurred," said Terry Ebbert, chief of homeland security for the city. (more...)

Grace E. Lee