Authorities said their sweep of New Orleans for the last voluntary evacuees was nearly complete, with officers ready to carry out the mayor's order to forcibly remove thousands who remain.
"The ones who wanted to leave, I would say most of them are out," Detective Sergeant James Imbrogglio said.
Between 5,000 and 10,000 residents are believed to be left in the city, where toxic floodwaters have started to slowly recede, but the task of collecting rotting corpses and clearing debris will likely take months.
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jason Rule said his crew pulled 18 people from their homes on Thursday.
He said some of the holdouts did not want to leave unless they could take their pets.
"It's getting to the point where they're delirious," Rule said. "A couple of them don't know who they were. They think the water will go down in a few days."
Police Chief Eddie Compass said officers would use the "minimum amount of force" necessary to persuade those who remain to evacuate. Although no one was forcibly removed on Thursday, some residents said they left under extreme pressure.
"They were all insisting that I had to leave my home," said Shelia Dalferes, who said she had 15 minutes to pack before she and her husband were evacuated.
"The implication was there with their plastic handcuffs on their belt. Who wants to go out like that?"
As searches for the living continued, the grim task of retrieving corpses intensified under the broiling sun. Officials raised the death toll in Louisiana to 118 Thursday, though New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has said up to 10,000 could be dead in that city alone. State officials have ordered 25,000 body bags.
Authorities are now faced with the challenge of how to identify bodies that may be bloated and decayed beyond recognition. At two collection sites, federal mortuary teams were collecting information that may help identify the bodies, such as where they were found. Personal effects were also being logged.
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush vowed to stand by evacuees displaced by Hurricane Katrina "for the long haul," and warned lawmakers, who have already poured more than US$62 billion into the devastated Gulf Coast, that they'll need to spend even more.
Congress rapidly and over-whelmingly voted on Thursday to fulfill an urgent plea for US$51.8 billion, adding to the US$10.5 billion that was approved last week for hurricane victims. After signing the bill, Bush said, "We will continue to help people rebuild their lives and rebuild the region."
Bush vowed to cut through red tape hampering victims from claiming federal medical, food and housing benefits, as government officials worked to issue US$2,000 debit cards to some evacuees and clear up confusion about claiming the money.
"We have much more work to do, but the people who have been hurt by this storm need to know that the government is going to be with you for the long haul," Bush said.
Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, called the debit cards "a good start" yesterday but said evacuees will need a lot more money.
"We need to be able to get them the cash they need to be able to live and survive, even in the near term, because many of these folks live paycheck to paycheck," Vitter told CBS' The Early Show.
The president also designated next Friday as a national day of prayer and remembrance for Katrina's victims.
Democrats immediately urged Bush to rescind the order.
"Hurricane Katrina took away their jobs, now President Bush will take away their wages when they find new jobs," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
The military last week sent “no small number” of Marine Corps officers to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Island, 東沙群島) following reports of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drill targeting the islands scheduled for this month. In an interview with Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Magazine published on Saturday last week, PLA National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光) confirmed that the Chinese army was planning to stage a simulated invasion of the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea this month. The islands comprise three atolls, with Pratas Island, at 1.74km2, being the largest. They lie southwest of Taiwan proper in the South