Mayor Ray Nagin says significant areas of New Orleans will begin to reopen this weekend, almost three weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast on August 29.
The announcement was part of Nagin's plan to allow some 182,000 residents to return to their homes and businesses after they fled what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called "the most destructive hurricane to ever strike the U.S."
NOAA spokesman Greg Hernandez said Thursday the determination was based on various criteria, including damage, CNN informs.
The mayor's announcement came hours before President Bush, in a nationally televised address from New Orleans, vowed to use the might of the federal government to rebuild New Orleans and other devastated areas. (Full story)
Nagin said New Orleans will soon take major strides in overcoming the damage.
"The city of New Orleans, starting on Monday, starting this weekend, will start to breathe again," the mayor said a during a news conference.
"We will have life. We will have commerce. We have people getting back into their normal modes of operation and the normal rhythm of the city of New Orleans that is so unique."
By September 26, the city's historic French Quarter will be open for business, the mayor said.
"The French Quarter is high and dry, and we feel it has good electricity capability," he said.
Authorities said they are being careful about restoring electricity because of the potential of fire in the tightly packed quarter.
"If fire breaks out, we could lose a significant amount of what we cherish in the city," Nagin said.
During the weekend, business owners will be allowed into certain areas in the central business district, Algiers and Uptown.
During the next week, residents in those areas will be allowed to return.
Residents will have to abide by a dusk-to-dawn curfew, and the military will provide a security perimeter around the areas.
Nagin also said residents should not bathe in or drink tap water on the city's east bank because of contamination.
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