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Thousands dead in New Orleans

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Hurricane Katrina is thought to have killed hundreds, probably thousands of people in New Orleans, the city’s mayor, Ray Nagin, has said.

Nagin said there were significant numbers of corpses in the waters of the flood-stricken city, while many more people may be dead in their homes. {{more}}

There would be a total evacuation of the city, he said, warning it could be months before residents could return.

President George W Bush said the area could take years to recover.

Cutting short a holiday in Texas to take charge of the federal recovery effort, Bush said the government was dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in US history.

“This is going to be a difficult road, the challenges we face on the ground are unprecedented, but there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll succeed,” he said.

Bush, whose Air Force One plane flew low over the affected area, was taken aback by the scale of the disaster.

“I can’t tell you how devastating the sites were,” he said.

With conditions still deteriorating, the government has declared a public health emergency along the whole of the Gulf coast, to speed up the delivery of food, water and fuel to the region.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said 1,700 truckloads of essential supplies were on their way there.

Medical shelters are being set up offering 10,000 beds, while the US military is providing dozens of rescue helicopters and boats.

The Pentagon has ordered 10,000 extra national guardsmen to Louisiana and Mississippi.

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