45 Bodies Are Found in a New Orleans Hospital
By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: September 13, 2005
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NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 12 - The bodies of 45 people have been found in a flooded
uptown hospital here, officials said Monday, sharply increasing the death
toll from Hurricane Katrina and raising new questions about the breakdown of
the evacuation system as the disaster unfolded.
Officials at the hospital, the Memorial Medical Center, said at least some
of the victims died while waiting to be removed in the four days after the
hurricane struck, with the electricity out and temperatures exceeding 100
Steven L. Campanini, a spokesman for the hospital's owner, Tenet Healthcare,
said the dead included patients who died awaiting evacuation as well as
people who died before the hurricane struck and whose bodies were in the
Mr. Campanini said the dead might have also included evacuees from other
hospitals and the surrounding neighborhood who gathered at Memorial while
waiting to evacuate the city.
Repercussions from the storm continued to echo in Washington, where the
director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, a
walking symbol to many people here of government failure in the crisis,
resigned. Mr. Brown was relieved of his role in the day-to-day disaster
operations here on Friday. (Related Article)
President Bush, meanwhile, toured the ghostly streets of the city standing
in the back of an open-air truck flanked by the mayor of New Orleans and the
governor of Louisiana, who have been sharply critical of the federal
In Baton Rouge, 1,000 people from the devastated St. Bernard Parish, just
east of New Orleans, crowded the State Capitol and were told that memories
of their community might be all they have left.
Flights were set to resume at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International
Airport, and city officials said they were creating a new command center
downtown at a closed hotel.
Mr. Bush's appearance with Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans and Gov.
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, both Democrats, suggested that at least some of
the bitterness over the response to the disaster had lifted.
On Mr. Bush's most recent visit to the stricken area, on Sept. 5, Ms. Blanco
learned that he was making the trip from news reports.
The president, in a brief question and answer session with reporters after
his tour on Monday, said that government coordination in rebuilding the city
and the region was paramount and that local vision should determine the
direction of the reconstruction. "It's very important for the folks in New
Orleans to understand that, at least as far as I'm concerned, this great
city has got ample talent and ample genius to set the strategy and set the
vision," Mr. Bush said after his 40-minute tour. "Our role at the federal
government is, you know, obviously within the law, to help them realize that
vision. And that's what I wanted to assure the mayor."
Mr. Bush also returned to accusations that racial discrimination was
involved in government's response to the hurricane, saying "the storm didn't
discriminate" and neither did the rescuers.
Mr. Nagin and Ms. Blanco have said federal delays in sending aid had
compounded the damage of the storm and heightened the anarchy in the days
after the storm, when tens of thousands of people were trapped for days at
sites like the Convention Center and the Superdome without food or water.
Mr. Nagin said in a radio interview Monday, when asked about his meeting
with the president, "If anything, he told me he kind of appreciated my
frankness and my bluntness."
The news that 45 bodies had been found at Memorial was also a reminder of
how much else, in the physical structure and in the human toll, might yet
On Monday, the authorities elevated the statewide death toll from Hurricane
Katrina to 279; of those, 242 were from the New Orleans metropolitan region.
In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour said the toll there was 218.
In Baton Rouge, there were more reminders of the thousands of people who may
have no community to return to at all.
More than 1,000 displaced residents from St. Bernard Parish crowded the
State Capitol to learn about the state of their devastated houses. No one
has been permitted to re-enter the area to retrieve belongings or examine
their houses. News of the meeting traveled by word of mouth and Web sites,
and people lined up for blocks outside the Art Deco Capitol, where Gov. Huey
P. Long was assassinated in 1935. Some drove from Houston.
Local officials did not try to hide the bad news.
"You will not recognize St. Bernard Parish," the parish president, Henry J.
Rodriguez Jr., told hundreds of residents in the marble foyer of the
Capitol. "All you will have left of St. Bernard Parish is your memories."
Mr. Bush also saw the devastation first-hand on his tour of New Orleans. His
tour passed by smashed cars, tree branches and rubble.
For most of the ride, Ms. Blanco, Mr. Bush and Mr. Nagin stood in a military
truck and had to duck under low wires and branches. At one point, Vice Adm.
Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, who succeeded Mr. Brown last week as head
of hurricane relief, removed his Coast Guard cap to shield Mr. Bush from a
City officials said they had moved most of the makeshift emergency
operations command center that they had set up at City Hall since the storm
arrived across the street to a battered Hyatt hotel, where power has been
restored and Mayor Nagin keeps a suite.
In Ballroom E on the third floor of the hotel, 100 computer stations were
set up at pods of circular tables to handle 24-hour work by groups like the
New Orleans police, 82nd Airborne Division of the Army, the Coast Guard,
National Guard and public health officials.
Edward Minyard, a contractor with Unisys who is in charge of setting up the
center, said the operation was very likely to grow to as many as 500
positions, meaning as many as 1,500 people working in shifts around the
In Harrison County, Miss., in the Gulfport-Biloxi region, a list of 600
missing persons was distributed by the coroner's office, though authorities
emphasized that the people on the list were not necessarily missing. The
names are of people who have been sought by family members.
"We have rescued everybody that we think could possibly be rescued," said
Joe Spraggins, the head of emergency management for the county.
Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, which began running commercial
flights at the end of last week, expects to return to its regular flight
schedule in two weeks, Colonel Spraggins said.
Delta, Northwest and AirTran Airlines plan to begin operating limited
schedules on Tuesday, he said. Northwest said it would resume scheduled
commercial service to the New Orleans airport on Wednesday, with its first
inbound flight in 10 days scheduled to arrive from Memphis at 10:44 a.m.
Repairs began on Monday on the Twin Span Bridge on Interstate 10, connecting
New Orleans and Slidell. Within 45 days, the eastbound span is to be
repaired, providing one lane of traffic in each direction.
Reporting for this article was contributed bySewell Chan in Baton Rouge,
La.; Michael Luo and William Yardley in New Orleans; and Campbell Robertson
in Gulfport, Miss.