Mississippi Coast Areas Wiped Out

This neighborhood in Waveland, Miss., damaged by winds and flood surge from Hurricane Katrina, in seen in this aerial photograph Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005. (AP Photo/The Sun Herald, David Purdy)
As officials say that every structure up to a half mile inland from Mississippi's shore was obliterated by Hurricane Katrina, word comes of a small town that seems to have felt Katrina's wrath hardest.

The storm virtually wiped Waveland, Miss., off the map, prompting state officials to say it took a harder hit from the wind and water than any other town along the coast.

Rescue workers there Wednesday found shell-shocked survivors scavenging what they could from homes and businesses that were completely washed away. The air smelled of natural gas, lumber and rotting flesh.

"Total devastation. There's nothing left," said Brian Mollere, a resident who was left cut and bruised. Katrina tore his clothes off and he had to dig in the debris for shorts and a T-shirt.

The town of 7,000 about 35 miles east of New Orleans has been partially cut off because the U.S. 90 bridge over the Bay of St. Louis was destroyed. There is no power, no phones, no way out — and nowhere to go.

Areas all along Mississippi's Gulf Coast were declared public health emergency spots, due to unsafe drinking water, CBS News Early Show anchor Harry Smith reports from Bay St. Louis, Miss. At least 121 people are known dead from the storm.

And looting isn't only a problem in New Orleans, Smith reports. All along the coast, especially in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, looters are taking goods.

In Waveland, Katrina dragged away nearly every home and business within a half mile of the beach, leaving driveways and walkways to nowhere. The water scattered random reminders of what had been normal, quiet lives: family photos, Barbie dolls, jazz records, whiskey bottles.

State officials are now estimating that 90 percent of the structures from the shoreline to one half-mile inland are totally destroyed, CBS News correspondent Jim Acosta reports.

Hurricane Katrina has spread the suffering among the rich and poor alike, turning waterfront mansions along the Gulf Coast into million-dollar junkyards.

Homes along Beach Boulevard in Pascagoula, Miss., are now little more than concrete slabs heaped high with debris. One woman says she and her husband are digging through the rubble of their place, hoping to find the family silver.

A neighbor says Senator Trent Lott's home was among those hit. He says there's nothing left.

Gov. Haley Barbour tells the Early Show's Harry Smith that "The streets are totally covered with lumber, debris, shingles, furniture and clothes so that you can't see any asphalt for miles around."

It is the total destruction of certain areas of Mississippi that is overwhelming rescue workers, Barbour told CBS.

"This calamity overwhelmed the system. It's just as simple as that. We're making a little progress every day, and we're going to keep a little progress every day," he said.

A woman stocking up at one of the few grocery stores still open in Pascagoula bought some bleach, salt, detergent and a six-pack of Red Dog beer. And she says if she had a whole case, she'd drink it, too.

All over the state, rescue teams continued efforts to find survivors and survey the damage. Ambulances roamed through the passable streets of devastated places such as Biloxi, Gulfport, Waveland and Bay St. Louis, in some cases speeding past corpses in hopes of saving people trapped in flooded and crumbled buildings.

Tempers were beginning to flare in the aftermath of the storm. Police said a man fatally shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice in Hattiesburg, Miss.

President Bush flew over New Orleans and parts of Mississippi's hurricane-blasted coastline in Air Force One. Turning to his aides, he said: "It's totally wiped out ... it's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."