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Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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3,000 layoffs in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — Mayor Ray Nagin said yesterday the city is laying off as many as 3,000 employees, or about half its work force, because of the financial damage inflicted on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

Nagin announced with "great sadness" that he had been unable to find the money to keep the workers on the payroll.

He said that only nonessential workers will be laid off and that no firefighters or police will be among those let go.

"I wish I didn't have to do this. I wish we had the money, the resources to keep these people," Nagin said. "The problem we have is we have no revenue streams."

Nagin described the layoffs as "pretty permanent" and said the city will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to notify municipal employees who fled the city because of Katrina.

The mayor said the move will save about $5 million to $8 million of the city's monthly payroll of $20 million. The layoffs will take place over the next two weeks.

Insurance

Property-loss claims may hit $34.4 billion

NEW YORK — Hurricane Katrina is likely to result in at least $34.4 billion in personal and commercial property-loss claims, according to the first publicly released survey of the nation's insurers.

ISO's Property Claim Services Unit said yesterday the preliminary estimate of damage to homes and businesses in six states would make Katrina the costliest U.S. natural disaster ever, surpassing the inflation-adjusted $20.8 billion in losses from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Several risk-assessment companies earlier released projections of insured losses from Katrina, with totals ranging from $14 billion to $60 billion.

Bankruptcy

Justice Dept. waives new law's provision

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department temporarily waived a provision of a tough new bankruptcy law to aid people filing for bankruptcy in Louisiana and Mississippi because of Hurricane Katrina.

The department said yesterday that applicants in those areas would not have to undergo credit counseling before they file. Some observers had said the new law, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, would cause hardships for hurricane victims.

Energy

Natural-gas output curtailed for months

WASHINGTON — Heavy damage by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita means it probably will take months to return offshore natural-gas production to normal levels.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton said yesterday that while the production shortfall will mean high prices for natural gas this winter, there should be no widespread shortages of the fuel. The Gulf Coast produces about one-fifth of the natural gas used in the U.S.

Noting that a year ago Gulf oil and gas producers recovered fairly fast from Hurricane Ivan, Norton said at a news conference, "We are not seeing this kind of quick recovery this time around."

Evacuees

Clinton visits Baton Rouge shelter

NEW ORLEANS — Former President Clinton met yesterday with dozens of New Orleans-area evacuees staying at a shelter in Baton Rouge's convention center.

Clinton, who is working with former President George H.W. Bush to raise money for victims, shook hands and chatted with the evacuees, some of whom have been sleeping on cots in the Rivercenter's vast concrete hall for more than a month and complained of lack of showers, clean clothes, privacy and medical care.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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