Many residents have refused to leave New Orleans despite a mandatory evacuation and warnings from government officials that staying in the flooded city represents a health risk. Some said they were concerned about their property being looted, while others were unaware of disaster's full extent, worried about their pets or concerned that conditions would be even worse in shelters.
Mayor Ray Nagin instructed all public safety officers "to compel the evacuation of all persons regardless of whether such persons are on private property or do not desire to leave," according to a written statement from his office.
Nagin said most of the survivors that rescuers are finding now are elderly and in desperate need of emergency medical care. The toxic nature of the water is evident from the smell of garbage, human waste and rotting corpses, and the slick sheen of oil, gasoline and other chemicals on the surface.