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State: More than 50 dead in Mississippi

Governor describes 'catastrophic damage' along coast

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Mississippi
Nic Lott
Haley Barbour

GULFPORT, Mississippi (CNN) -- Hurricane Katrina's strike on Mississippi killed at least 54 people Monday, 50 of them in one county, state officials said, and caused what Gov. Haley Barbour called "catastrophic damage" along the coast.

The death toll was expected to rise in other states, as well. (Full story)

According to Kelly Jakubic with the Harrison County Emergency Operations Center, an estimated 50 people have perished as a result of the storm, with 30 confirmed deaths at the the St. Charles apartment complex, near the beach in Biloxi.

Separately, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in Jackson had confirmed four Katrina-related deaths, a spokeswoman said.

According to Lee Stokes, the four other fatalities occurred in Warren, Leake, Pearl River and Hinds counties.

Barbour said casino officials have been unable to assess damage along the coast because U.S. 90, the main road through Gulfport and Biloxi, remained submerged in places.

"Between the wind and the storm surge, we know that we've had unprecedented damage on the coast, and we think there's a likelihood that the inland flooding will also produce major damage," he told reporters at a Monday news conference.

Barbour urged Mississippians not to try to travel. Most roads south of Interstate 20 -- which stretches from Meridian west to Vicksburg -- are either closed or impassable at points, and emergency crews are unable to access many areas, he said.

"You don't have any business driving anyway, unless it's an emergency," he said.

Nic Lott, another Emergency Management Agency spokesman, said parts of Interstate 59 were closed. "We're just urging people to stay in their homes," he said.

Some people no longer had homes to go to. "All I found that belonged to me was a shoe," said Suzanne Rodgers, who said her two-story brick building overlooking Ocean Springs beach near Biloxi was completely swept away.

More than 500 National Guard troops were en route to join 175 other troops already there to provide security and help with rescue operations, he said.

Search-and-rescue missions were under way in the coastal counties of Jackson, Harrison and Hancock Monday evening, Stokes said.

"There's just no phone lines. We're using satellite communications," she said. "Cell towers are gone a lot, and lines are jammed statewide on regular lines."

At least 200,000 power customers in Mississippi were without electricity, and rural electric cooperatives were reporting "massive" damage.

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