New Orleans mayor reopens city neighborhood

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday resumed his plan to allow residents back into the devastated city after Hurricane Rita spared most of it.

But Nagin urged senior citizens and children to stay away and said residents and business owners should consider carefully whether it is safe to return.

"With Hurricane Rita behind us, the task at hand is to bring New Orleans back," Nagin said in a statement. "We want people to return and help us rebuild the city. However, we want everyone to assess the risks and make an informed decision about re-entry plans."

Under the plan, residents in the least damaged neighborhood of Algiers, on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, were allowed to return starting at 10:00 am (1500 GMT) Monday "to do inspections and cleanup," according to the statement.

He also allowed business owners of the historic French Quarter, Uptown and Central Business District to return.

The rest of the city, however, remained under mandatory evacuation, the statement said.

Nagin suspended his resettlement plan last week as Hurricane Rita threatened the city while rumbling over the Gulf of Mexico. He had hoped to bring back 182,000 of the city's half-million residents over 10 days.

New Orleans was not directly hit by Rita, but the hurricane's outerbands pushed water over a fragile levee in the city' east side, re-flooding the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. The rest of the city was spared, however, the AFP reports.

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