Residents of some hard-hit New Orleans' suburbs returned home for the first time on Wednesday, but many came only to salvage what they could from wrecked houses, without power or drinking water.
Most police and military roadblocks and checkpoints had been removed to allow thousands to visit, although the city's worst-hit area, the mostly poor and black Ninth Ward, was still partly flooded and off limits.
Moving trucks and piles of ruined furniture, appliances and garbage dotted the newly reopened Lakeview area as residents cleaned out mold-caked homes.
"We're trying to salvage as much of our furniture as possible," said Rick Dolese, 56, as he showed off destroyed 19th-century armoires and other antiques in his house, which had been flooded with 8 feet (2.4 metres) of water.
Troops patrolling the city, devastated after Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, killing hundreds of people, said activity had picked up.
"It really surprises me in some of the areas because houses are destroyed and unlivable, but there are still people coming in trying to live it out," said Zach Bokum, 21, of the Illinois National Guard, reports Reuters.
Mayor Nagin has been asked whether there is a disconnect between his re-entry plan and the living conditions. During a news conference on Tuesday, the mayor mentioned the re-entry plan and announced the layoffs of 3,000 city employees, all while standing in front of a backdrop that read "Bring New Orleans Back!"
"How can you bring New Orleans back, and tell people to come back," a reporter asked, "but you can't even keep city government running?"
"Well, the reality is this city will not be the same for a while," Mayor Nagin said. "I didn't say bring it back today. I said we're going to bring it back. This is going to take some time."
The mayor has said that he did not know which buildings would have to be torn down and what would be left standing. The Louisiana Charity and University hospitals cannot be salvaged. In the Lower Ninth Ward, many houses have been so damaged that piles of wood are all that is left where walls should be, informs the New York Times.