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New Orleans faces double 'nightmare'

City tries to plug levees, evacuate Superdome

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Reese Pursell stands ready to defend his Canal Street business in New Orleans.

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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- New Orleans faced two crises Wednesday that Louisiana's governor called nightmares: stopping rising floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and evacuating survivors of the deadly storm.

"We've got an engineering nightmare trying to fill the breach of the levee where the waters are pouring into the city," said Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco on Wednesday. "I think they've been working on it all night, and they'll continue to work on it all day today."

The rising flood waters overwhelmed pumping stations that would normally keep the city dry. About 80 percent of the city was flooded with water up to 20 feet deep after the two levees collapsed. ( See the video of water surging into the saturated city -- 1:53 )

Blanco also said planners were working on evacuating between 12,000 and 15,000 people who sought refuge at the city's Superdome sports arena.

Inside the sports arena, toilets were overflowing and there was no electricity or air conditioning to provide relief from 90-degree heat. (See the video of conditions in the dimmed and damaged stadium -- 3:53)

"Well, it's a logistical nightmare," Blanco said. "We have identified other shelters in other parts of the state. Communities are ready to receive these people to help them out."

"They've been running buses in through the night. We're going to get them out, either by boat, lift them out by helicopter, or if we can walk them to the buses, we'll do it. Whatever is necessary, whatever measure is necessary is what we'll do.:"

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Wednesday that his complaints Tuesday about "way too many fricking ... cooks in the kitchen," were prompted by frustration. (Full story)

"I was expecting the levee to be plugged [Tuesday] with three-thousand pound sandbags. It didn't happen."

Nagin said command center officials would come together Wednesday to "start to work in synergy."

Engineers have been working to plug a 200-yard breach near the 17th Street Canal, allowing Lake Pontchartrain to spill into the central business district. (Map)

An earlier breach occurred along the Industrial Canal in the city's Lower 9th Ward.

Three shootings, looting and a number of attempted carjackings were reported in New Orleans on Tuesday. (Watch video of looters grabbing diapers, Snickers and clothes -- 1:25)

National Guard troops moved into the downtown business district, and state police squads backed by SWAT teams were sent in to scatter looters and restore order, authorities said late Tuesday. (Full story)

Bush to tap oil reserve

Also Wednesday, in a move aimed at easing concerns about the disaster's effect on the nation's fuel supplies, Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the White House will tap the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Bodman said in an interview on CNN that officials have not determined the amount of crude oil that will be drawn from stockpiles, but that it would be a loan to refiners.

An official announcement was expected Wednesday afternoon, he said.

The impact of Katrina on U.S. oil production and refinery capabilities may be worse than initial reports estimated and could lead to a national gas crisis in the short-term, analysts warned Tuesday. (Full story)

The death toll from the storm is estimated at 70 -- mostly in Mississippi. Officials stressed that the number is uncertain and likely to be much higher. (View the video of boats stacked in the forests -- 3:02)

Katrina has inflicted more damage to Mississippi beach towns than did Hurricane Camille, and its death toll is likely to be higher, the state's governor said Tuesday. (Full story)

Camille killed 143 people when it struck the state's coastal counties in 1969 and a total of 256 after it swept inland. (Watch video of what empowers hurricanes -- 2:50)

"There are structures after structures that survived Camille with minor damage that are not there any more," Gov. Haley Barbour said in Jackson.

Katrina destroyed "every one" of the casinos that brought $500,000 per day in revenues to state coffers, Barbour said after a helicopter tour of the affected areas. (See scenes of tragedy and devastation -- 1:30)

"There were 10- and 20-block areas where there was nothing -- not one home standing," he said.

Streets and homes were flooded as far as six miles inland from the beach, and looting was reported in Biloxi and in Gulfport, officials said.

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