Katrina death toll reaches 55

At least 55 people are reported to have been killed as Hurricane Katrina lashed the US coast on the Gulf of Mexico in what could prove to be the most expensive storm in US history.

Three people were killed by falling trees in Mississippi and two died in a traffic accident in Alabama.

"The state today has suffered a grievous blow," said Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour, reports Guardian.

According to Bloomberg, at least 50 people may have died in Harrison County, which is on the coast, Pollard said, citing a “preliminary report.” Five people died in other parts of the state, including one who may have been in Harrison, another agency spokesman, Heath Carpenter, said in an interview from state capital Jackson.

The streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, are flooding after breaches of a levee in the city, possibly due to sandbags piles collapsing, Trooper Doug Pierrelee, a spokesman for Louisiana state police, said in a telephone interview today. The city's French quarter is underwater, he said.

Most of the city was flooded with levels ranging from ankle deep to as high as 15 feet (4.6 meters), the height of many roof linings, Lieutenant Kevin Cowan, spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said on the telephone early today.

Louisiana emergency preparedness officials said plans were in the works to fix the broken levee.

The high waters flooded thousands of homes and forced many people into their attics and on to their roofs.

Police took boats into flood stricken areas to rescue some of the stranded, while others were picked up by helicopter.

People used axes and in at least one case a shot gun to blast holes in roofs so they could escape their attics. Many who had not yet been rescued could be heard screaming for help, police said.

"This is a horror story. I'd rather be reading it somewhere else than living it," said Aaron Broussard, president of New Orleans' Jefferson Parish, informs Reuters.

Photo report here

Photo: the AP

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