New Orleans A Lot Less Flooded

Two photos show the changes to New Orleans in the two weeks since Hurricane Katrina. At right is a view of damage from looking from the west towards downtown New Orleans, Tuesday morning, Aug. 30, 2005. At right, the same scene as flood waters recede on Sunday, Sept.11, 2005. (Smiley Pool)
AP/Dallas Morning News
Bodies are being collected, water is still up to the rooftops in many neighborhoods, pollution is everywhere, and most city services are still not working, but inch by inch, New Orleans is getting less flooded and more functional.

CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reports floodwaters are dropping by about 6 to 12 inches per day.

President Bush arrived in town Sunday, spent the night on the USS Iwo Jima, and will get his first up-close look at the destruction in New Orleans on Monday. He'll then fly to Gulfport, Miss., one of numerous cities and towns in Mississippi which took a heavy hit from Katrina's rampage through the Gulf Coast exactly two weeks ago.

Starting Monday, businesses owners in the central commercial district will be able to get temporary passes into the city so they can retrieve vital records or equipment needed to pay employees or otherwise run their companies.

Floodwaters which covered 80 percent of New Orleans at the worst of the deluge now cover 50 percent of the city, with pumps diverting the toxic mess bit by bit into adjacent Lake Pontchartrain.

The official death toll in Louisiana is now 197, with an unknown number of bodies yet to be found underwater and in flooded or isolated buildings.

Mississippi's death toll stands at 214 and is expected to go higher because rescue efforts have given way to recovering the dead buried under tons of rubble.

Sunday, recovery workers pulled an unspecified number of bodies from Memorial Medical Center, a 317-bed hospital in uptown New Orleans that closed more than a week ago after being surrounded by floodwaters.

Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, commander of active duty troops engaged in hurricane relief, reiterated Sunday the number of dead would be "a heck of a lot lower" than initial projections of 10,000 or more.

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport reopened for cargo traffic Sunday, and plans to open to limited passenger service starting Tuesday.

Trash collection began over the weekend and the city's main wastewater treatment facility is expected to be back on line sometime on Monday, according to Sgt. John Zeller, an engineer with the California National Guard.

As hundreds of thousands of hurricane evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi attempt to build new lives - some permanently, others temporarily - in dozens of states around the nation, doctors are carefully monitoring people in dozens of shelters for outbreaks of serious and infectious diseases.

Short term, doctors are watching for signs of viral diseases that could be linked to exposure to contaminants in the floodwaters. Long term, Commander Fransisco Averhoff of the U.S. Public Health Service says they're looking for the slow and silent killers, like tuberculosis.

Averhoff says the people who are sick are whisked away to hospitals for treatment. A big concern is having sick people in a shelter where they are living in close quarters.

As rescue teams reach flooded homes, says Honoré, they have recovered fewer bodies than first feared.

"Many people in the Astrodome are now linking up with family and friends," said Honoré. "That's a good sign, and there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Mayor C. Ray Nagin, asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether New Orleans could stage Mardi Gras in February 2006, said he hasn't thought that far ahead but "it's not out of the realm of possibilities... It would be a huge boost if we could make it happen."