Hopes Rise Out Of Muck In N.O.

Emily Martinez inspect here devastated house 14 September 2005, for the first time since she left it 17 days ago before Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.
As floodwaters recede from New Orleans' hard-hit east side, a grim scene of destruction has been revealed: Block after block of once-flooded neighborhoods are covered in a slimy, putrid muck and dotted with ruined cars, snapped utility poles and collapsed houses.

Although the cleanup will likely take months, Mayor Ray Nagin said that parts of the city will reopen early next week and the tourist-friendly French Quarter the following week after the Environmental Protection Agency said the foul-smelling air in the city was not overly polluted.

Nagin said he expects about 180,000 people to return to the city within a week or two, when power and sewer systems are restored. Some retailers should be operating by then, as well as two hospitals.

"To anyone who even suggests that this great city should not be rebuilt, hear this, and hear it well, we will rebuild," declared Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Blanco pledged a united effort to rebuild areas ravaged by the storm.

"We all know that there were failures at every level of government: state, federal and local. At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here, and as your governor, I take full responsibility," Blanco told lawmakers in a special meeting of the Louisiana Legislature.

In other developments:

  • The Coast Guard and other rescue teams continued searching for bodies by boat and helicopter in areas that were still under several feet of water. A few homes in the area bore spray-painted marks indicating that bodies were inside.
  • The body count in Louisiana climbed to 474 on Wednesday, and it was expected to rise further as state and federal officials went about the tedious task of collecting bodies and identifying them through DNA tests. "It's going to take months, maybe years," said Dr. Louis Cataldi, the coroner for Baton Rouge Parish. "This is not going away."
  • President Bush planned to make a prime-time address from New Orleans on Thursday to offer new federal spending for the monumental task of helping hurricane victims rebuild their lives. CBS News will broadcast and CBSNews.com will provide a live Webcast of the speech at 9 p.m. EDT.
  • A new CBS News/New York Times Poll shows 56 percent of Americans are less confident, after Katrina, in the government's ability to respond to disaster or terror. "Some of the failures that we saw, lack of communication at different levels of government, are things in a post-9/11 world we, frankly, can't tolerate," said White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett Thursday on CBS News' The Early Show.
  • Almost 80 percent of homeowners in Mississippi and Alabama don't have the separate federal flood insurance that would have covered losses like those arising from Katrina, reports .