Katrina: disaster, death, damage

Hurricane Katrina caused much pain and damage. Hundreds of people were feared dead, and floods reportedly stranded hundreds of others.

As levees and pumps failed, surging waters flooded more than 80 percent of a city that has lived below sea level and has fought off the danger of a deluge from the Mississippi River. Local officials declared martial law yesterday to cope with the emergency.

"The situation is untenable," said Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco. "It's just heartbreaking."

One Mississippi county said that its death toll was at least 100, and officials are "very, very worried that this is going to go a lot higher," said Joe Spraggins, civil defense director for Harrison County, home to Biloxi and Gulfport, according to Forbes.

Thirty of the victims were from a beachfront apartment building that collapsed under a 25-foot wall of water as Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast with winds that sometimes exceeded 140 miles per hour. And Louisiana officials said many were feared dead there, too.

New Orleans was plunged further into crisis yesterday when flood waters poured through a gaping breach in a storm-damaged levee, leaving 80% of the sunken city under water and forcing authorities to declare a state of martial law, National Post reports.

The emerging catastrophe in the storied Louisiana city came as one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history unfolded along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. At least 80 people -- and possibly hundreds more -- have been killed in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, while tens of thousands are homeless and stranded without food or water.

Such a toll would make Katrina one of the most punishing storms to hit the United States in decades. After touring the destruction by air, Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour, said it might have looked like Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped, Forbes says.

Water spilled from several breaches in the city's levees, including the one next to the 17th Street Canal, at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. Nagin estimated that the breach was two or three city blocks wide.

Officials' immediate concern was blocking the breach with sandbags. After that, the focus was to be on the failed pumps that move water out of the city. Even when they are functional, Nagin said, they can reduce the water level in the city by only an inch or an inch and a half per hour.

Photo by Telegraph.

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