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Water and debris thwart New Orleans restoration


FLOODWATER AND debris from Hurricane Katrina continued to hamper efforts to plug levee breaches, and to restore power and water supplies to New Orleans, this week.

Much of the city's damaged water and sewerage infrastructure remained inaccessible as NCE went to press.

Some damaged levees were hard to reach because of floding and storm debris, although other major breaches have had temporary repairs.

This was despite the fact that efforts to remove flood water had begun to succeed after levee breaches were plugged.

New Orleans Sewage & Water Board general superintendent Joe Sullivan said that, despite the floodwater falling as much 300mm per day, many sewerage and water pipes were still inaccessible.

'Until the water goes down enough that we can patch up our system, we won't be able to get enough pressure for a good test to chlorinate, ' he said.

'This means that until further notice, all water will have to be boiled before being drunk.

'Drinking water is flowing now, but we lost pressure when oak trees were blown over and pulled pipes out of the ground.' The US Army Corps of Engineers has also been forced to base its levee repair strategies on those sites that were the easiest to reach.

'We started on the 17th street canal first because we knew about it first, ' said Corps of Engineers New Orleans District commander and district engineer Colonel Richard P Wagenaar.

'We didn't know about the London Avenue breaches until 24 hours later and access was even worse to that site.' Wagenaar added that there were too many levee breaches to count in Plaquemines and St Bernard parishes. Work there has yet to be carried out, but access to these sites was particularly poor. Gravity was gradually letting water flow out from these areas into the Gulf of Mexico.

The location of power distribution lines in narrow backyards surrounded by broken trees has hampered the restoration of power to homes free of floodwater.

A Louisiana State Department of Transportation & Development spokesman said that the department was prioritising repairs to badly damaged bridges in New Orleans, as the rest of the highway network was relatively undamaged.

The other priority was to restore the city's traffic signalling system.

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