Corpses, Guns Found in New Orleans Homes By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer
35 minutes ago
Soldiers and police confiscated guns from homeowners as they went house to house, trying to clear the shattered city of holdouts because of the danger of disease and fire. Police on Friday also marked homes with corpses inside, with plans to return later.
As many as 10,000 people were believed to be stubbornly staying put in the city, despite Katrina's filthy, corpse-strewn floodwaters and orders from Mayor Ray Nagin earlier this week to leave or be removed by force. By midmorning, though, there were no immediate reports of anyone being taken out forcibly, police said.
Police are "not going to do that until we absolutely have to. We really don't want to do that at all," Deputy Chief Warren Riley said.
Some residents who had previously refused to leave — whether because they wanted to protect their homes from looters, they did not want to leave their pets behind, or they simply feared the unknown — are now changing their minds and asking to be rescued, police said.
"They realize they're not going to this awful situation like the Superdome or the Convention Center," Riley said. "As days go by, it seems less and less likely that we'll have to force anyone."
He added: "I don't know of any incidents where people are being belligerent."
Some residents said they left under extreme pressure.
"They were all insisting that I had to leave my home," said Shelia Dalferes, who said she had 15 minutes to pack before she and her husband were evacuated. "The implication was there with their plastic handcuffs on their belt. Who wants to go out like that?"
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jason Rule said his crew pulled 18 people from their homes Thursday. He said some of the holdouts did not want to leave unless they could take their pets.
"It's getting to the point where they're delirious," Rule said. "A couple of them don't know who they were. They think the water will go down in a few days."
Police and soldiers also seized numerous guns for fear of confrontations with jittery residents who have armed themselves against looters.
"No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons," Riley said.
On Thursday, in the city's well-to-do Lower Garden District, a neighborhood with many antebellum mansions, members of the Oklahoma National Guard seized weapons from the inhabitants of one home. Those who were armed were handcuffed and briefly detained before being let go.
"Walking up and down these streets, you don't want to think about the stuff that you're going to have to do, if somebody's pops out around a corner," said one of the Guardsmen, Chris Montgomery.
The floodwaters are slowly receding, but the task of gathering rotting corpses and clearing debris is certain to take months. Police went door-to-door checking for bodies or anyone in need of rescue. Houses where corpses were found were marked so that authorities could go back later.
The mayor has said the death toll in New Orleans alone could be 10,000, and state officials have ordered 25,000 body bags.
At two collection sites, federal mortuary teams gathered information that might help identify the bodies, such as where they were found. Personal effects were also being logged.
At a temporary morgue set up in nearby St. Gabriel, where 67 bodies had been collected by Thursday, the remains were being photographed and forensic workers hoped to use dental X-rays, fingerprints and DNA to identify them.
Dr. Bryan Patucci, coroner of St. Bernard Parish, said it may be impossible to identify all the victims until authorities compile a final list of missing people.
Decaying corpses in the floodwaters could pose problems for engineers who are desperately trying to pump the city dry. While 37 of the 174 pumps in the New Orleans area were working and 17 portable pumps were in place Thursday, officials said the mammoth undertaking could be complicated by corpses getting clogged in the pumps.
"It's got a huge focus of our attention right now," said John Rickey of the Army Corps of Engineers. "Those remains are people's loved ones."
Some 400,000 homes in the city were still without power, with no immediate prospect of getting it back. And fires continued to be a problem. At least 11 blazes burned across the city Thursday. Three buildings were destroyed at historically black Dillard University.
Also Thursday, Congress rushed through an additional $51.8 billion for Katrina relief, and President Bush pledged to make it "easy and simple as possible" for uprooted storm victims to collect food stamps and other government benefits.
To counter criticism of the slow federal response to the disaster, Vice President Dick Cheney toured parts of the ravaged Gulf Coast, claiming significant progress but acknowledging immense obstacles remained to a full recovery.
Meanwhile, Democrats threatened to boycott the naming of a panel that Republican leaders are proposing to investigate the administration's readiness and response to the storm. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said it was like a baseball pitcher calling "his own balls and strikes."
Democrats have urged the appointment of an independent panel like the Sept. 11 commission.
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