Mayor: Everyone Must Evacuate

A crew of 82nd Airborne soldiers and Coast Guardsmen pull up to a landing area with three evacuees they rescued from a flooded area of New Orleans, Tuesday, Sept.6, 2005. (AP Photo/News and Observer, Chuck Liddy) AP/The News & Observer

To the estimated 10,000 residents still believed to be holed up in this ruined city, the mayor had a blunt new warning: Get out now — or risk being taken out by force.

As floodwaters began to slowly recede with the city's first pumps returning to operation, Mayor C. Ray Nagin authorized law enforcement officers and the U.S. military to force the evacuation of all residents who refuse to heed orders to leave.

The city faces the new threat of floodwaters that have become a toxic stew of chemical and biological waste, and growing concern over oil and gas leaks, reports CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts. Authorities fear an explosion, with no running water to fight fires.

"Helicopters attack them like forest fires, filling up in the Mississippi, dropping load after load on the flames," reports CBS News correspondent John Roberts.

Police Capt. Marlon Defillo said that forced removal of citizens had not yet begun. "That's an absolute last resort," he said.

Nagin's order targets those still in the city unless they have been designated as helping with the relief effort. Repeated calls to Nagin's spokeswoman, Tami Frazier, seeking comment were not returned.

The move — which supersedes an earlier, milder order to evacuate made before Hurricane Katrina crashed ashore Aug. 29 — comes after rescuers scouring New Orleans found hundreds of people willing to defy repeated urgings to get out.

They included people like Dennis Rizzuto, 38, who said he had plenty of water, food to last a month and a generator powering his home. He and his family were offered a boat ride to safety, but he declined.

"They're going to have to drag me," Rizzuto said.

That's a sentiment Capt. Scott Powell, of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, has heard before as he tries to evacuate people by air boat.

"A lot of people don't want to leave. They've got dogs and they just want to stay with their homes. They say they're going to stay until the water goes down," he said.

Although many states and cities across the country have sent police and firefighters to New Orleans, evacuating the city's holdouts may be best left to the Crescent City's own emergency workers.

"When we were down in the French Quarter trying to get some of the people out there yesterday, the people that lived there didn't give particularly a kind eye to someone from the outside saying you have to get out," reports CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan. "But when someone from the New Orleans police department showed up, they understood, they chatted a little bit. They both have something in common, unfortunately, in these circumstances."

The flood of political recriminations and maneuvering is under way, reports CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras. Democrats are calling for an independent commission.

In Washington, D.C., President Bush and Congress pledged Tuesday to open separate investigations into the federal response to Katrina and New Orleans' broken levees.

"FEMA worked well during the Clinton administration as an independent agency with someone in charge who had a lot of experience responding to emergencies," said New York Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton on Wednesday. She is calling for FEMA's removal from the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Scott Benjamin

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