Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Quarter to reopen Monday. Death count: 474

NEW ORLEANS — Although the cleanup will likely take months, Mayor Ray C. Nagin said the tourist-friendly French Quarter and central business district may reopen as early as Monday after the Environmental Protection Agency said the foul-smelling air in the city was not overly polluted.

Nagin said he expects about 180,000 people to return to the city within a week or two, when power and sewer systems are restored. Some retailers should be operating by then, as well as two hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard and other rescue teams continued searching for bodies by boat and helicopter in areas that were still under several feet of water. A few homes in the area bore spray-painted marks indicating that bodies were inside.

The body count in Louisiana climbed to 474 on Wednesday, and it was expected to rise further as state and federal officials went about the tedious task of collecting bodies and identifying them through DNA tests. The total death toll in five states reached 710.


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