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Homeland Security

New Orleans Evacuates Before Gustav

By Barry Wood
New Orleans
31 August 2008

Local officials in and around New Orleans have ordered a mandatory evacuation of more than one million people living in the metropolitan area, which was devastated three years ago by Hurricane Katrina. VOA's Barry Wood reports from New Orleans that approaching Hurricane Gustav could be even more devastating than Katrina.

Tens of thousands departed New Orleans in an orderly manner Saturday and early Sunday. City streets are now mostly empty of traffic and people.

Sobered by the devastation they witnessed three years ago, most city residents heeded the mayor's late Saturday warning to leave while they still could. They have left in buses, cars, trains and by air. Freeways leading out of the city remain jammed as the more populated suburban areas join the evacuation.

The president of Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans, Aaron Broussard, had a message for people who refuse to evacuate.

"It means that you are totally on your own in regards to all resources to sustain life," Broussard said. "Count on no parish or state services. None will be provided. You will be completely on your own. You are likely to be without power. You are likely to be without water."

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says Gustav is likely to be the storm of the century.

The massive hurricane is currently headed north over the warm Gulf of Mexico towards New Orleans and the gulf coast where much of America's off-shore oil production takes place. The storm is expected to arrive late Monday.

Government authorities are determined to avoid a repeat of the chaos and delay associated with Katrina, which killed at least 1,400 people. New Orleans, which is largely below sea-level and protected by a series of dikes called levees, is particularly vulnerable to floodwaters. Eighty percent of the city was flooded during Katrina.

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