More areas of New Orleans that largely escaped flooding from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will be formally reopened starting today, Mayor C. Ray Nagin said.
The areas include the French Quarter, the central business district and Uptown, with its historic Garden District. Business owners will be allowed in today, and residents on Friday.
“The reentry started Monday and is going very well -- exceedingly well,” Nagin told legislators at a hearing Wednesday at the state Capitol. “Everything you hoped to happen is happening. Algiers is alive and well and breathing.”
On Monday, Nagin opened the Algiers neighborhood, which has electricity and clean water.
The mayor said police checkpoints would be pulled back so that only areas that were badly flooded would remain off limits. Homes in those areas were heavily flooded, and most are probably beyond repair.
Electricity has been restored to some dry parts of the city, but the water is not yet drinkable. Nagin disagreed with the head of the state’s Health Department about the condition of the city’s water, insisting that residents could now wash in it, though they shouldn’t drink it.
“The two things that are absolutely necessary to ensure public health -- clean drinking water and proper sewage systems -- simply are not available in the east bank area of New Orleans at this time,” said Dr. Fred Cerise, secretary for the state Department of Health and Hospitals.
Other hurricane-related developments Wednesday included:
* FEMA officials in Houston, saying they were caught off guard by the number of people still in need, closed a relief center early after some of the hundreds of hurricane victims in line began fainting in triple-digit heat. FEMA spokesman Justin Dombrowski said the agency wanted those who did not need help right away to wait a few days before coming to the center.
* With most of its best equipment in Iraq, the National Guard has about one-third of the helicopters, trucks, radios and other supplies it needs at home, the Guard’s top commander told a House panel. Gen. H. Steven Blum said radio equipment was so outdated that Guard members had to convey messages in person, by helicopter and boat, so units could communicate with one another after Katrina.