UPDATE: Official Katrina Death Toll in Louisiana Nears 60; Many Homes Still to be Searched

September 3, 2005

In what has and will in the weeks to come be only described as a grisly job, search and rescue teams announced Sunday that 59 deaths in Louisiana have been confirmed as a result of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Bayou State and surrounding Gulf Coast a week ago.

Officials have reported to the media that the toll could very easily rise into the thousands when all is said and done. Although flood waters stopped rising several days ago, many areas remain flooded and rescue operations were still ongoing Sunday.

Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams, which include experts for the identification of human remains, are in Louisiana along with refrigerated trucks and portable morgues to handle the bodies.

While New Orleans survived Katrina’s initial hit, it was the devastating flooding when several levees broke that officials say may ultimately have killed thousands when all is said and done.

While Houston’s Astrodome was filled with refugees, several other Texas cities offered to take in Louisiana residents who had nowhere else to go and were being bused to the Lone Star State.

In a sad twist of fate, a bus moving evacuees from the Superdome overturned on a Louisiana highway over the weekend, killing at least one person and injuring many others.

Helicopters were removing the sickest people from outside the convention center, and two of the city’s most troubled hospitals were evacuated late Friday as doctors spent days determining which patients got decreased supplies of food, water and medicines.

On Friday, President Bush took an aerial tour of the city and responded to complaints about a slow government response. Congress in a late-night session on Thursday gave approval to a $10.5 billion disaster aid package.

The President also toured Mississippi and Alabama. Reports say the death toll in Mississippi has surpassed 125 and will likely go higher as many homes still remain to be searched.

Power was slowly being restored to different areas of the states, but many people likely face the prospect of not having electricity for weeks to come, if they were fortunate enough to have had their homes survive Katrina in the first place.

Insured estimate losses continued to be updated heading into the weekend. Katrina’s direct impact has increased, as announced by Risk Management Solutions (See National news).

On the day of Katrina’s landfall on the Gulf Coast, RMS released a
preliminary estimate of $10-25 billion for insured losses.

Updated estimates are based on more detailed information from aerial and ground reconnaissance on wind and storm surge damage, as well as updated reports on damage to offshore platforms that sustained Category 5 winds as Katrina passed through the Gulf of Mexico.

Katrina can be viewed as two loss events: the direct impact from the wind and storm surge, and the subsequent flooding that occurred in New Orleans as a result of the levee breaks starting on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

RMS and others are continuing to assess the estimated loss associated with the New Orleans flood, and reportedly expect the insured loss estimate to increase as the extent and duration of flooding are better defined.

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