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Starting fresh

Editor's Note: CNN correspondents report back on what they are seeing in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities hit by Hurricane Katrina.

New home in Houston


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New Orleans (Louisiana)
Disasters and Accidents

Posted: 7:15 p.m. ET
CNN's Sean Callebs in Houston, Texas

It's interesting how the people here have changed over the past few days.

When the first buses started coming in, the people getting off looked traumatized. They'd look right through you with almost hollow eyes. They were virtually all dehydrated and exhausted.

Over the past several days, people have gotten through to them. They've gotten clean clothes. Many evacuees told us they have decided that they want to make Houston their permanent home. A lot of people don't want to go back to New Orleans because they've been embraced by the City of Houston so much, and because their jobs are gone, everything is gone.

A lot of them said they don't want to go back and look at what they've lost. They're going to start over fresh.

Rescue 'ticket'

Posted: 6:24 p.m. ET
CNN's Drew Griffin in New Orleans, Louisiana

I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a "ticket." Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn't believe these people were afraid they'd be charged for a rescue.

An 'overwhelming' task

Posted: 4:35 p.m. ET
CNN's Ted Rowlands in Biloxi, Mississippi

With 500 Marines and up to 4,000 Navy personnel available for deployment, "Camp Restore" is up and running along the beach of Biloxi, Mississippi.

Thousands and thousands of families have had their homes completely destroyed. People that may have evacuated before the storm are coming back to the region to find absolutely nothing left of their homes. Military personnel are tending to them day by day.

Meanwhile, the search and recovery effort continues here along the Gulf Coast as well. Search crews are going through piles of rubble and looking for signs of life or for bodies. It is an overwhelming and at times gruesome task.

'We saw two bodies floating on the water surface'

Posted: 3:21 p.m. ET.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour in New Orleans, Louisiana

On Canal Street, just about a half-mile away from where all the press is, it is still inundated. There's up to four, five, six, seven feet of water in some areas.

Earlier today, we rode through the city on an amphibious vehicle. It's built as a recreational vehicle, and the people who own it have come down here with a few of them to help in the relief effort.

We rode around, and still, eight days into this disaster, we saw two bodies floating on the water surface; horrible, dirty, rancid, black and green water. We saw people trying to get out of this water. (See CNN's Christiane Amanpour reporting on rescue efforts in New Orleans -- 2:14)

One man was wading with a small bag of things he had managed to keep. He came on this vehicle that they were using as a bus to collect as many people as possible to bring to dry land.

Another man was floating on a tire, and actually swimming in the water. He refused to come on board, saying that he didn't have to and that he wouldn't, because he had two dogs that he simply wasn't going to leave.

He kept saying, "I am responsible for them. It's as simple as that. I'm not coming on board."

Military presence in New Orleans

Posted: 3:00 p.m. ET
CNN Radio's Ed McCarthy in New Orleans, Louisiana

The shocking thing is to see the military rolling in on New Orleans streets with tanks and M16s, and you think: Am I in the United States right now or am I in some country where there's a civil war going on? And that's certainly what it feels like.

I saw firemen on the side of a bridge just sitting there and holding rifles. I saw SWAT team members, apparently. They had masks, black hooded masks, so you can just see part of their eyes and nose and that was it. They were standing at the street corner near Lafayette Park.

Reporter reminded of Mozambique flood

Posted: 12:46 p.m. ET
CNN's Jeff Koinange in New Orleans, Louisiana

United States Coast Guard helicopters are busy making dramatic rescues of citizens from the roofs of waterlogged buildings across this flooded city. It reminds me of a similar scene five years ago in the southern African nation of Mozambique, where severe flooding left half the country submerged in water.

African villagers were forced to seek higher ground and many were living in trees for days before elite pilots from the South African Air Force made daring rescues. I remember one woman in particular who'd just given birth in a tree. Her name was Maria and she named her daughter Rosita.

I remember those pictures because I was there covering that story and never imagined I'd ever see anything like it again ... until now, five years later. Only this time it is in the most unlikely of places -- the civilized streets of America, not the remote villages of Africa.

Survivors feeling relief, worry

Posted: 11:12 a.m. ET
CNN's Keith Oppenheim in Houston, Texas

Houston has turned into a place where hurricane victims show a mix of emotions -- relief, worry, confusion.

During the weekend, I walked into a church, the Spring Branch Church of the Nazarene. Folks there were throwing a barbecue lunch with brisket and sausage. No shortage of cholesterol there.

Everyone one I met in the church had a story. (See CNN's Keith Oppenheim reporting on the lives of evacuees in Houston -- 2:34)

John Gibson is a contractor for Shell Oil. He says his car got broken into. Then he fixed it. Then it got stolen. He later finds the car, only to leave with his neighbors carrying a shotgun and a pistol. John says he was just afraid. Now he sits in a church with all the food he wants. He can't get over the contrast between one side of humanity and the other.

At a different table, Catherine Scott is sitting with her family. Her house in Chalmette, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans, has water up to the roof. She and her 11 relatives are going to get a reduced-rate apartment in Houston. Catherine's a nurse. She says she'll look for a job. Her daughter Jessica already got work at Wal-Mart. She says it's possible the family will not move back.

At another church, the Christchurch Baptist Fellowship, I walk into a nursery where kids are playing. I talk to a 7-year-old boy, Matthew Johnson. What a kid, raspy voice, big expression. He tells me that he's "got no home now. I want to go home and watch my own TV, but I can't watch TV, cuz, where's the TV?" It's his way of saying that everyone at the shelter is nice, but it isn't home.

Like a lot of newcomers to Houston, he can hardly figure this thing out.

New Orleans airport empties

Posted: 11:08 a.m. ET
CNN's Ed Lavandera in Kenner, Louisiana

The last four nights my photographer and I have been sleeping in tents on a little patch of green grass in the shadow of the airport's control tower. Our "camp site" was directly underneath the buzzing helicopters' flight path.

For most of the week, there have been thousands of people jammed into the airport. The crowds even spilled into the street. After several nights of only four or five hours sleep, I woke up Sunday morning to discover the terminal virtually empty. It was surreal.

As night descended on the airport, we watched Jesse Jackson talk to those evacuees waiting for the last ride out of New Orleans. Then a few hours later they were mostly gone.

Cleaning crews are already picking up the huge mounds of garbage all over the airport. The airport looked like Bourbon Street after Mardi Gras. Of course, these last few days have been far from fun and entertaining.

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