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Grim discovery as Lower 9th reopens

Feds seek better housing for Katrina evacuees

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New Orleans (Louisiana)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- As residents of New Orleans' hardest-hit district lined up for miles to see what was left of their homes Wednesday, one man made a grim discovery.

His grandmother's body was still inside her home in the Lower 9th Ward more than six weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

"I'm never going to forget this the rest of my life, man. That's all I can say," Paul Murphy said.

It was his first chance to visit the neighborhood east of the French Quarter since the August 29 disaster.

Under Mayor Ray Nagin's "look and leave" plan, some Lower 9th Ward residents were allowed to return to their homes Wednesday to inspect damage and collect their valuables. They had to leave by 6 p.m. because curfews remain in effect for much of the city.

Murphy, a 22-year-old restaurant cook, said his family had been told Mary Beth Hawkins died in the storm and that her body had been removed from her home on Lizardi Street.

Murphy said police took the body away after he and his friends found it.

"I'm never coming back here, because this is terrible," said Murphy, who has resettled in Atlanta, Georgia.

Authorities in Louisiana said Wednesday they had recovered the bodies of 1,025 victims of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and the entire Lower 9th Ward.

Katrina is also being blamed for more than 200 deaths in Mississippi, where a massive storm surge smashed homes more than one mile inland.

In New Orleans, search and rescue teams have marked homes with spray paint to indicate whether human remains were inside.

Markings left on the siding of Hawkins' home indicated it had been searched in mid-September.

"You can see the footprints to where they went in there," Murphy said.

Residents of the Lower 9th Ward, a mostly poor black neighborhood east of the French Quarter, streamed across the St. Claude Avenue Bridge that connects the district to the rest of New Orleans, during the daylong opening.

Keith Calhoun and his wife, Chandra McCormick, found little left at their home, but they recovered a box of family photographs from her mother's home.

"This is not good at all," McCormick said. "But we have each other. And we have our family, and that's going to keep us going."

They have temporarily settled with their two children in Texas, but said they plan to return to the Crescent City.

More permanent housing sought

Authorities are trying to find more permanent housing for 22,000 people who remain in emergency shelters.

The head of federal relief efforts, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, said he didn't know how many others were staying with relatives or in hotels.

He said the ideal plan would be to allow people to live on or near their properties while they rebuild.

Allen said he and other officials also are working with the state governments of Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama to find temporary housing for evacuees there.

Six hundred units, such as rental housing, have been identified in Louisiana for temporary living, he said.

As for New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward, Allen said, "It will be a long time before the recovery work is done there."

CNN's Mike Phelan and Alina Cho contributed to this report.

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