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Three Months After Katrina New Orleans Still In The Dark

File photo of a swamped New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans (AFP) Nov 30, 2005
Three months after Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans looking like a war zone, Celeste Robinson fought back tears as she pleaded for help.

New Orleans is struggling and many inhabitants who stayed through the devastation or have returned to rebuild are desperate. Others are refusing to come back until action is taken.

"Just give us light," Robinson, 54, pleaded Tuesday before New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

"I'd love to come back home," Robinson said in a meeting marking the three month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

She wants to return to her devastated neighborhood, but there is no electricity in the area.

Much of the legendary jazz city on the US Gulf coast still lacks power and other basic services, few schools have reopened and the police headquarters is being run out of a hotel.

Officials say they are doing all they can but residents are becoming impatient, and some have criticized a decision to go ahead with the Mardi Gras carnival when the city's poor lack affordable housing.

Robinson, who has a son serving with the US military in Iraq, wept openly as she testified before Nagin and other officials at a town hall meeting in the Sheraton Hotel here.

Nagin started the public forums soon after Katrina crippled the city. The meetings afford hundreds of displaced New Orleanians a chance to publicly air their losses and grievances.

Nagin sat and listened Tuesday at the head of a table flanked by aides, utility representatives and government officials listening to apparently endless complaints.

The city's main power company does not expect to restore electricity and gas to most of New Orleans until the end of January.

With the winter cold looming, more than half of New Orleans still has no gas service, a primary source of heat.

At night, entire neighborhoods resemble darkened conflict zones, as motorists use full headlights on major roads for better light. Many areas are without gas stations, public transportation and some lack sufficient water pressure for firefighters.

Most of the city's 462,000 residents have not returned since Katrina and there is little housing for those who have come back.

Delivery of some 7,000 government mobile homes has been delayed by communication problems between federal and city officials. By November 29, only 762 trailers had been delivered and hooked up to utility services.

Although some private schools have reopened, few public schools are back in operation.

The city's criminal justice complex was damaged by floodwaters, and the police department is being run out of a Bourbon Street hotel.

Eighty percent of police officers and firefighters are homeless and live with their families in hotels or on government-funded cruise ships docked in the harbor.

In a city famed for its cuisine, only 18 percent of 3,700 restaurants and delis have reopened, up four percent from a month ago, according to the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

The annual carnival season has been cut from 11 days to eight days, concluding with Mardi Gras on February 28.

Casetta Williams, 40, a mother of four children told the mayor that it was an "insult" for the city to hold Mardi Gras when it could not provide affordable housing for working class families like her own.

"If it wasn't for poor people, you wouldn't have a city," Williams said.

She said her family has been sleeping in tents or government-funded hotels since their Ninth Ward home was flooded by Katrina.

Although her husband works for the city, she said, she and three of their children were not allowed to stay with him on one of two cruise ships housing city employees and their families.

Eloise Williams, 65, whose youngest son was murdered less than a month before Katrina, said the debris in her Algiers neighborhood is mounting.

She has no phone, and her private utility company has billed her for electricity she says she never used.

"There's a whole lot of things keeping us from functioning as human beings," Williams complained.

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Winter Trebles Illnesses In Pakistan Quake Zone
Muzaffarabad (AFP) Nov 30, 2005
Winter weather in Pakistan's quake zone has tripled the number of people treated in hospital, with more than 1,000 a day seeking help for pneumonia and other ailments, officials said Wednesday.

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