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Misery in Mississippi

Editor's Note: CNN correspondents report back on what they are seeing in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Challenging job ahead for coroners

Dead bodies are being stored in refrigerated trucks in Biloxi, Mississippi.


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New Orleans (Louisiana)
Disasters and Accidents

Posted: 4:10 p.m. ET
CNN's Ted Rowlands in Biloxi, Mississippi

They continue to find more and more bodies. The coroner in Harrison County here is completely overwhelmed. They're using mortuary employees to help out with duties to collect the bodies.

The residents are telling people where the bodies are. CNN crew was shown a body here in Biloxi by neighbors. The body was under a porch and the neighbors said they talked to law enforcement but were told not to touch the body, but it's still there.

It is a very, very difficult process. There's no electricity here. They're taking the bodies and putting them in white vans, semi or cooler trucks, and that is where they are sitting now. (See Ted Rowland's report on the conditions in Mississippi -- 2:16)

The identification process is going on simultaneously but as every day goes on, that process gets more and more difficult.

It is going to be a long rest of the weekend into next week collecting bodies, and they're technically looking for signs of life. We haven't heard reports of anybody being rescued but they're still looking actively for signs of life.

People still streaming into New Orleans airport

Posted: 4:05 p.m. ET
CNN's Ed Lavandera in Kenner, Louisiana

We've been reporting here since Tuesday night and in the first 24 hours, it was kind of slow. In the last 72 hours though, we've seen a nonstop stream of people arriving.

Some people are being brought here from the convention center. Others are coming from the street, from neighborhoods, from hospitals, nursing homes -- it runs the gamut all over the city. Just when you think you couldn't possibly bring more people to the airport, more people arrive.

The aviation director told me there were ten helicopters landing every minute, dropping a dozen or so people off. They are using luggage carts to transport them around the airport. This is a much more organized process.

It looks chaotic, but officials believe they've got things moving in a much better direction. When people come off the tarmac, those that need medical attention are taken into the triage that has been set up here. A few hours ago, we were able to get hard number as to the number of people here. There were about 5,000. I suspect that number has gone up significantly in the last few hours.

Inside the terminal, there are hundreds of people waiting to catch these flights out and it has become a very desperate scene. They're being taken all over the country, from Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and I heard some are even going to Colorado.

A FEMA official told me that they are doing a nationwide bed count in hospitals to figure out where they had space to put people. They're doing the best they can to keep track of manifests and who's getting on which flights to go where. That is a process that officials acknowledge that they are behind on, and it's very possible that could create more chaos in the days to come.

The elderly are laying on stretchers inside the terminal. We've seen Senate Majority leader Bill Frist making his way throughout airport. He is a doctor and has been helping out with the medical technicians here on the ground.

But officials here tell me this scene could continue to play out here at airport, anywhere for the next day or so to as many as four days from now. It's impossible to tell right now.

Some newborns evacuated without mothers

Posted: 11:33 a.m. ET
CNN's Elizabeth Cohen in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

We followed a group of nurses, mothers and babies who were trying to get out of New Orleans. There was a huge effort led by a private ambulance company called Acadian Ambulance Company to airlift these babies out.

This helicopter arrived at The Women's Hospital in Baton Rouge with precious cargo -- 29 newborn babies rescued from a downtown New Orleans hospital. Most of them were without their mothers though. Jordan was one of the lucky ones. His mother, Tori Abrams, made it onto the same helicopter. She gave birth a week ago at Louisiana State University Hospital in New Orleans. She tried to explain her ordeal to us on camera, but it was too difficult.

She told us the conditions inside the hospital were miserable. There was no electricity, no air conditioning, no working toilets. The nurses warned that soon they would run out of formula for the babies. She was worried for her son. In New Orleans, conditions were so bad, the hospital staff was unable to check out the strange lump behind his ear. Doctors here in Baton Rouge did an ultrasound and then admitted him for more tests. The nurse reassured her, while others did what they could to search for the babies who had arrived alone.

And now Tori and Jordan have a place to go once they leave the hospital. A local church is taking them in, as well as several other mother/baby pairs.

Doctors say all the 29 babies survived the ordeal. The babies, even the preemies, survived the harsh conditions in New Orleans and the transport to Baton Rouge, surprisingly well.

People have not slept in days down there, and they have done everything they can for the babies. And that's why those babies are here. The credit goes to them.

Also, three days ago we met a mom who was missing her 5-year-old son. What happened was that she was pregnant and in labor in her home in New Orleans.

She jumped in the water and swam for 30 minutes, not to get help for herself, but because her 5-year-old son was having asthma attacks.

Well, she and her 5-year-old got separated. She ended up at The Women's Hospital in Baton Rouge, where she gave birth. She had no idea where her 5-year-old son was. We later learned that a friend of hers had taken her son to the Astrodome in Houston. They saw our story on CNN and they contacted Women's Hospital. Soon mother and son will be reunited.

Whose fault is it?

Posted: 9:06 a.m. ET
CNN's Jeff Koinange in New Orleans, Louisiana

I'm standing at the New Orleans Convention Center now. All around me, there are thousands of people who have literally been camped out here for the last six days. They have been living right here in these streets. This is their bedroom, their bathroom, their living room and their kitchen.

A meal center has been set up and they're feeding people all day long. If you want two meals or five, you will get them. If you want ten bottles of water, you will get them. I just saw a man walking with a carton full of water.

Let me give you a sense of what it's like living in the streets of New Orleans and living right outside the convention center. Some of these people have walked miles and have literally lost everything. These are the only possessions they have. (See Jeff Koinange walk through the streets of New Orleans -- 2:45)

It's unbelievable. Some of their complaints are, "How can we be allowed to stay like this and live like this for so long? Whose fault is it?"

They're trying to lay the blame. At the end of the day though, these folks have made these streets their homes for now but they want to get out of here. They want to shower. They want fresh clothes.

The National Guard is patrolling up and down the streets. The security situation seems to have been stabilized and the people can walk about freely because the troops are on the ground.

If you feed these folks and get them water, they will be fine as long as you guarantee them you will get them out of here. That is the bottom line. That's why you find the situation so calm right now. Two days ago and even 24 hours ago, it was a totally different situation.

I've seen this situation in countries around the world. People sitting, starving for days, they'll get angry. Give them a bit of food and give them creature comforts, if you will, they will be quiet and stabilize. Then move them on to the next phase. It did take five days to get this thing going. Hopefully now, lessons will have been learned from this.

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