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New Orleans will force evacuations

Superdome, refuge for thousands, may be torn down

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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- New Orleans' mayor ordered law enforcement agencies Tuesday night to remove everyone from the city who is not involved in cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina, whether they want to go or not.

Mayor Ray Nagin instructed all public safety officers "to compel the evacuation of all persons ... regardless of whether such persons are on private property or do not desire to leave," according to a written statement from his office.

The order did not apply to people in Algiers on the West Bank side of Orleans Parish.

Many residents have refused to leave New Orleans despite a mandatory evacuation and warnings from government officials that staying in the flooded city represents a health risk.

In Washington, White House and congressional sources said Tuesday that the Bush administration plans to ask Congress for $30 billion to $50 billion to aid in the next phase of the recovery effort. (Watch a report on the storm's political fallout -- 2:09)

The request, which would add to the $10.5 billion already approved, will be made as early as Wednesday, they said.

House hearings examining the government's response to Katrina were canceled by Republican leaders who instead want a still unspecified "congressional review" by a joint House and Senate panel, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, said late Tuesday.

That development followed a busy day in the capital, with lawmakers from both parties criticizing the governmental response and vowing to investigate.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, told reporters that "governments at all levels failed."

President Bush met with his Cabinet to discuss the relief efforts, saying he would be leading an inquiry and would be sending Vice President Dick Cheney to the region. (Full story)

Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the military had 58,000 troops in the region by Tuesday, including 41,000 from the National Guard and 17,000 active-duty personnel.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the deployment would not hamper the military's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We have the forces, the capabilities and the intention to fully prosecute the global war on terror while responding to this unprecedented humanitarian crisis here at home," he told reporters.

Holding out

Rescue workers say many holdouts have insisted on staying in their homes or makeshift residences rather than obey the mandatory evacuation order Nagin first put into effect on August 28, the day before Katrina crashed ashore. (See video on people who refuse to leave -- 2:51)

Some said they were concerned about their property being looted, while others were unaware of disaster's full extent, worried about their pets or concerned that conditions would be even worse in shelters.

The standing water in New Orleans is contaminated with E. coli bacteria, a highly placed official in the New Orleans mayor's office told CNN on Tuesday.

U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said conditions in the city are "really unsafe at this point." (Full story)

The city's deputy police chief, Warren Riley, said Monday the holdouts numbered in the thousands.

Nagin told reporters Tuesday he wanted everyone out of the city "because it's a health risk."

"These citizens will have to be removed for their own good," Police Superintendent Eddie Compass told CNN.

The mayor also fiercely denied rumors that he had ordered relief workers to stop delivering water to those who refused to evacuate.

The toxic nature of the water is evident from the smell of garbage, human waste and rotting corpses, and the slick sheen of oil, gasoline and other chemicals on the surface.

"I understand wanting to stay in their homes, not wanting to give up on New Orleans," Nagin said.

"But we have a very volatile situation. There's lots of oil on the water, gas leaks where it's bubbling up, and there's fire on top."

Nagin said he wanted to reassure the holdouts that it was "OK" to evacuate.

"Leave for a little while. Let us get you to a better place, and let us clean it up," he said.

Nagin said most of the survivors that rescuers are finding now are elderly and in desperate need of emergency medical care.

Aftermath widespread

The disaster area left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina covers the Gulf Coast from southeast Louisiana to Mobile, Alabama -- and at least 150 miles inland. The storm crushed houses, leaving some towns little more than wood piles.

The storm surge along the Mississippi coast reached more than 20 feet in some areas and knocked out power for most of the state as a diminishing Katrina continued its destructive trail northward last week.

Tuesday, more than 350,000 customers were still without electricity. All but one of Mississippi's major highways have reopened.

Other states were shouldering some of the burden by taking in evacuees and sending crews to help in search-and-recovery, cleanup or shelter operations.

The Louisiana Superdome was so heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath that it likely will have to be torn down, a disaster official working with the governor's office told CNN.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the initial assessment of the famed dome indicated the damage is "more significant than initially thought."

Katrina sheared away much of the roof's covering, and rainwater began leaking into the stadium when it was being used as a shelter of last resort for thousands of residents stranded by the storm.

The Superdome is the home of the New Orleans Saints professional football team. The NFL season begins this weekend, and it is not clear where the Saints will play.

Slow drain

Two operational pumping stations are lowering the water levels, Nagin said, but water still covers about 60 percent of the city.

"I saw water levels drop significantly in certain areas of the city," the mayor said Tuesday after a flyover.

"I'm starting to see rays of light all throughout what we are doing," he said. "We are starting to accumulate accomplishments."

The Army Corps of Engineers estimated it would take between 24 and 80 days to pump floodwater out of New Orleans and its surrounding parishes, much of which are below sea level.

Even with all that water, firefighting was difficult. Fire Chief Charles Parent said the city was being hit with "several large fires a day," including four Tuesday.

Water to fight fires comes from helicopters snagging bucket-loads from lakes and canals, and also from the West Bank of the Mississippi River, where the hydrant system still works. There, firefighters fill giant tankers and drive them to the fires. (Watch video of aerial water drops -- 3:49)

"Fires are getting a good head start on us because of delays in detection," Parent said. "There's nobody out there to call 911, and once somebody does see it there's no 911 system."

Nagin said Tuesday that officials hoped to give the city running water again "in a day or so," but cautioned that it would have to be boiled.

Meanwhile, search-and-rescue teams encountered the living and the dead out on the fetid waters.

Jennings Ewing, the leader of a team from the Texas General Land Office, told CNN that many of the "stragglers" who want to stay in the city think the water will "go down in two or three days."

Electricity is slowly coming back online, said Entergy New Orleans executive Dan Pack.

Other developments

  • Public schools in New Orleans and neighboring St. Bernard Parish may be shut down for the entire school year due to damage from Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana's Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard said Tuesday. Many students whose families evacuated have begun to register for schools in other states or other parts of Louisiana, he said.
  • With the National Flood Insurance Program expected to pay out billions of dollars in claims to cover the flood damage in Louisiana and other hard-hit states, homeowners that are suddenly interested in the extra protection may be forced to pay more for coverage. (Full story)
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