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Mayor Announces Plan to Return 180,000 Residents to New Orleans

Mayor Announces Plan to Return
180,000 Residents to New Orleans

By William Yardley


More than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated this city and prompted a mass evacuation, Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced a plan on Thursday for as many as 180,000 residents and business owners to return — at least during the daylight hours.

Nagin, emphasizing that city services were still minimal, said that residents in certain areas could return to collect belongings and assess damage to their property, but they would be asked to leave at the end of each day.

The tentative re-entry plan calls for residents to be allowed into Algiers by the weekend. The city’s downtown will be open to business owners on the weekend. Uptown would be accessible by the middle of next week and the French Quarter the following Monday. All are areas of the city that suffered less damage from the storm.

“Our strategy is to repopulate the city in the safest areas first and to get enough critical mass going so that the economics of this center city start to flow,” Nagin said. “Then, simultaneously, we will be involved in probably the biggest urban reconstruction project in the country’s history.”

But the mayor and other city officials conceded that the details of how the plan will work are still unclear, as is how the curfew will be enforced.

City Attorney Sherry Landry acknowledged that some residents might try to stay, and she said that those who were out on the streets after dusk might be escorted from the city by military personnel.

Nagin said he hoped to have a computer system at entry points that would track re-entering residents by Social Security number, date of birth and address.

“Everyone will want to come,” he said.

On Thursday, as the death toll from the storm statewide rose to 558, few traffic lights in the city were working. Most water was undrinkable. A makeshift 911 system was still being run by military personnel. Floodwaters and sludge remained a health risk.