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The latest on Katrina's aftermath


• Rebuilding: Vital signs
• Gallery: Landmarks over time
• Storm & Flood: Making history
• I-Report: Share your photos

Check here for the latest information from the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast region and other affected areas. Items are time-stamped when entered.

Nagin: 180,000 residents to return to New Orleans in next 2 weeks

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says he will announce a "phased repopulation" plan Thursday that will bring 180,000 residents back into the city in the next two weeks.

Nagin also told CNN's "Larry King Live" that the storm recovery operation now "seems to be falling into place" and that the death toll in the city will be "a lot lower than expected." (Posted: 9:35 p.m.)

Gov. Blanco: 'We will rebuild'

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- More than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina savaged her state, Gov. Kathleen Blanco rallied "the brave and resilient people of Louisiana" Wednesday night, vowing to rebuild the state so that more than 1 million residents uprooted by the storm can come back home.

"I will not rest until every Louisiana family and community is reunited," Blanco said in a televised address before a joint session of the state Legislature in Baton Rouge.

"I want the world to know what we know -- we are brave, we are resilient and we will prevail."

To those evacuees scattered around the country, the governor had a message -- "I am telling each and every one of you, we want you back home."

Blanco also had a firm message for anyone suggesting that New Orleans should not be rebuilt because of its vulnerability to flooding. "Bluntly put, New Orelans and the surrounding parishes may be ravaged, but our spirit remains intact," she said. "Hear this and hear it well -- we will rebuild." (Posted 8:28 p.m.)

Death toll continues to rise

(CNN) -- The official death toll from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath now stands at 707.

Here is the state by state breakdown:

-- Louisiana: 474

-- Mississippi: 218

-- Florida: 11

-- Alabama: 2

-- Georgia: 2

(Posted 7:53 p.m.)

Residents, businesses slowly resume life in New Orleans suburb

GRETNA, La. (CNN) -- While some residents never left their homes in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna, others returned Wednesday to clean up and assess storm damage to their homes and businesses.

The city did not suffer the same damage as nearby areas, which were flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Still, Tim Goodwin, owner of the Beau Cheveux Salon in Gretna, found himself cleaning out flood soaked furniture and carpet from the business he founded in 1991.

"This is my livelihood. This is what I do. I'm 44. Who wants to start over another career, you know,?" Goodwin told CNN.

Long-time Gretna resident John Jay rode out the storm in his home and considers himself "blessed" that he survived.

"When you're old, you're stupid," he said of his decision to stay behind. (Posted 7:45 p.m.)

Lousiana death toll at 474

BATON ROUGE, La.(CNN) -- The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said Wednesday that coroners have confirmed 474 deaths resulting from Hurricane Katrina), up from 423 Tuesday.

The state counts any death that is determined to have been caused as a result of Hurricane Katrina, such as drowning deaths or people on life support who died when power was cut off. (Posted 6:33 p.m.)

9/11 commissioners say Katrina response shows lack of action on its report

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Members of the former 9/11 commission blasted Congress and the Bush administration Wednesday for inaction on some of its recommendations, which the former chairman said could have saved lives in the aftermath of the Katrina hurricane.

"If Congress does not act, people will die -- I cannot put it more simply than that," said former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, referring to what could happen in the next major disaster or terrorist attack.

He said it is a "scandal" that more has not been done to improve the job of first responders in the four years since the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

"Hurricane Katrina pointed out serious flaws in our emergency preparedness and response. And what is frustrating to us is that (these are) many of the same problems we saw in 9/11 and the response to that disaster," he said. (Posted: 12:57 p.m.)

New Orleans school teachers get last checks

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- New Orleans public school teachers received paychecks Thursday, but those checks are the last ones the instructors will see until the city's schools reopen, according to representatives of Alvarez & Marsal, a New York-based firm that had been working with the school system on restructuring.

When the schools will reopen is a question even the school board can't answer.

"We're going to open the schools," said managing director Bill Roberti. "We're hoping to reopen sometime this school year, but we're not sure if it will be this semester."

The city's 56,000-student system was already in trouble before Hurricane Katrina. The board said earlier that it would run out of money in September, and Katrina's unwelcome visit to the city makes the situation far worse for everyone. (Posted: 12:02 p.m.)

EPA lists toxins found in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- The Environmental Protection Agency said air quality samples taken last week in New Orleans showed high levels of some toxins, including ethylene glycol, used as a coolant, and isobutylene, a byproduct of gasoline and other fuels.

Neither product was over federal levels, but isobutylene can cause severe irritations of the eyes and nose, a complaint many relief workers have experienced.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Tuesday that he would reopen the parts of New Orleans -- including the French Quarter -- as early as next week, pending a positive written report from the EPA. CNN has yet to reach the mayor for comment on the results EPA released Wednesday.

The agency also found very high levels of coliform bacteria and high levels of lead in water samples, but said the lead results were well under safe limits. The agency has not, however, released any information about substances such as PCB, which is a highly carcinogenic compound that was widely used in electrical transformers. (Posted: 12:02 p.m.)

3 New Orleans suburbs reopen

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- The New Orleans suburbs of Westwego, Lafitte and Gretna reopened for business Wednesday morning, officials said, following partial flooding of the towns from Hurricane Katrina.

Electricity, sewage and water service were all working in Westwego, a town of about 11,000 just south of New Orleans, the mayor's office reported. Gretna's population is about 17,400 and Lafitte's is about 1,500.

Gretna, Lafitte and Westwego are in Jefferson Parish on the west bank of the Mississippi River. (Posted: 10:30 a.m. Updated 10:45 a.m.)

Disaster offers chance at rebuilding New Orleans for 'all people'

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- As horrendous a disaster as Hurricane Katrina cast onto New Orleans, the disaster itself provides a "historic opportunity" for revitalization, the president of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau told CNN Wednesday.

Stephen Perry said that in the city Katrina tried to kill, "it's all about opportunity."

"We have an historic opportunity in the United States to create a living, urban laboratory for revitalization," he said. "This is an opportunity to rethink the social ills that beset nearly every major urban environment in America, to think about how do you rebuild real neighborhoods with the right kind of schools for all people -- not just for people with means."

The French Quarter -- "probably the most historic and mixed-use district in America" -- he said, was "only slightly damaged. It's going to be back really in a matter of ten days." (Posted 8:37 a.m.)

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