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Thursday, October 13, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mardi Gras will roll out again

NEW ORLEANS — Mardi Gras organizers promised yesterday to roll out the city's signature celebration in February despite the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Tourism officials, float builders and parade hosts appeared before the City Council to insist that the annual pre-Lent celebration return this winter.

Mardi Gras organizers said about 25 groups are planning to stage their parades, about a half-dozen fewer than normal. Besides that, they offered no specifics on scaling back the celebration.

Mardi Gras generates as much as $1 billion in economic activity and draws an estimated 1 million people each year.

Evacuees

More than 22,000 still wait in shelters

BATON ROUGE, La. — Three days before the federal government's self-imposed deadline for emptying shelters of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, more than 22,000 people are still waiting to get out, the head of the relief effort said yesterday.

The number in shelters across the nation peaked at more than 270,000 on Sept. 8, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen said. The federal government had set an Oct. 15 goal for getting everyone out, but it's doubtful that that deadline will be met, Allen said. He stressed that nobody would be forced out of any shelter on Saturday.

Long-term temporary housing still must be found for at least 400,000 other Katrina evacuees now living in hotels or with friends or family.

Safety study

Katrina floods not as toxic as feared

The floodwater that covered New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was not unusually toxic and was "typical of storm water runoff in the region," according to a study published Tuesday.

Most of the gasoline-derived substances in the water evaporated quickly, and the bacteria from sewage also declined over time, the scientist leading the study said. The water's chief hazard was from metals that are potentially toxic to fish. However, no fish kills have been reported in Lake Pontchartrain, where the water that once covered 80 percent of the city was pumped.

"What it most looks like is the storm water that is present in New Orleans every time it rains," said John Pardue, an environmental engineer at Louisiana State University, who headed the team whose research was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Rebuilding

Returning residents warned of bodies

NEW ORLEANS — Paul Murphy returned to the New Orleans house where he was reared to salvage mementos from his childhood, but instead discovered his grandmother's body.

Murphy, 22, who returned to the city's Lower 9th Ward yesterday, on the first day the neighborhood was opened to residents, said he thought his grandmother had been evacuated before Hurricane Katrina brought 12-foot floodwaters into the district.

Louisiana called off the search for bodies in New Orleans last week, although the city's coroner warned that families returning home may discover the bodies of loved ones.

Compiled from The Associated Press, The Washington Post and Reuters

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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