Nursing home owners charged with manslaughter during Hurricane Katrina

The owners of a nursing home outside New Orleans have been charged with manslaughter over the deaths of 34 people during Hurricane Katrina.

The married couple who ran St Rita's home are accused of ignoring mandatory orders to evacuate residents, whose bodies were found last week.

The discovery of the bodies bring the death toll in the hurricane-affected states to above 600, according to Scotsman.

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti charged Salvador Mangano and his wife Mable with 34 counts of negligent homicide for not doing more to save their elderly patients.

"The pathetic thing in this case was that they were asked if they wanted to move them and they did not," he said. "They were warned repeatedly that this storm was coming. In effect, their inaction resulted in the deaths of these people."

Their lawyer, Jim Cobb, said his clients were innocent. He said the Manganos were forced to make a difficult decision as the hurricane approached, whether to evacuate the patients, many of them elderly and on feeding tubes, or keep them comfortable at the home through the storm.

The case comes after 45 bodies were found at a flooded hospital in New Orleans on Sunday. The owners said they had been critically ill patients who died in stifling heat after power was cut off, and insisted they could not have been evacuated in time. Amid the tragedy, there were also clear signs of progress.

The New Orleans airport reopened to commercial flights, the port resumed operations, and the mayor said dry sections of the city - including the French Quarter and the central business district - could be reopened as early as Monday.

On photo: Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti.

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