Katrina killed ‘Up to 80’ people

A huge rescue operation is under way along the US Gulf Coast after a hurricane killed up to 80 people in a single county and swamped New Orleans.

Harrison County in Mississippi bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina as it slammed into two coastal towns, Biloxi and Gulfport, before heading inland.

Mississippi media earlier recorded a death toll of 54 for the state.

Thirty people are said to have died in one beachfront apartment complex in Biloxi, drowned or crushed by debris, reports BBC.

According to Miami herald, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said that at least 20 buildings collapsed, including a small apartment complex. Countless windows shattered in high-rise buildings, the curtains of hotel rooms billowing in the wind.

Floodwaters breached at least two of the city's crucial flood-control levees, Nagin said, and three pumps failed. Portions of the historic, tourist-intensive French Quarter were battered, but little flooding was seen and the area fared reasonably well.

Hours after the storm hit, about 200 people remained atop their roofs in New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward, driven there by 10-foot floods.

Nagin said he was grateful the damage wasn't even worse, but he pleaded with residents not to return prematurely to whatever was left of their homes.

“Please be patient,” he said. “There's nothing for you to come back to right now. There's water everywhere. . . . When are we going to get life back to normal? I don't know.”

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