New Orleans Braces for Staggering Death Toll
Officials are preparing for thousands of dead
By Der Spiegel

09/05/05 — — Over the weekend, New Orleans’s rescue operation turned into a recovery mission to find the city’s dead. There are still no firm estimates for the exact death toll — but most agree it will be out of the ballpark, at least for a natural disaster in an industrial nation. United States Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt is expecting that 1,000 to 2,000 body bags will be filled. But the city’s deeply stressed out mayor, Ray Nagin, who infamously called on President George W. Bush to “fix this goddamned crisis,” offered up a staggering figure in interviews.

Here’s his equation: The city has close to 500,000 residents and if you conservatively assume that 5 percent remained in New Orleans after the flooding, the numbers could go through the roof. “So you probably have another 50-60,000 out there,” he said. “You do the math, man, what do you think? Five percent is unreasonable? Ten percent? Twenty percent? It’s going to be a big number.” Louisiana’s Republican Senator, David Vitter said he believes the figure will exceed 10,000.

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