NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco seemed at odds with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Wednesday, hours after the mayor ordered the mandatory evacuation of the crippled Crescent City by force if necessary.
As floodwaters caused by Hurricane Katrina began to slowly recede with the ruined city’s first pumps returning to operation, Nagin late Tuesday authorized law enforcement officers to force the evacuation of the estimated 10,000 residents who refuse to heed orders to leave.
But in a Wednesday interview with FOX News, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she had not signed off on the decision.
“The mayor certainly has ordered that but the governor, and that would be me, would have to enforce it or implement it. We are trying to determine whether there is an absolute justification for that,” she told FOX News.
“I think the most important thing driving that decision would be the possibility of disease. If indeed the disease problem is evident, is inevitable, we’ll have to move to the next stage,” she said.
And developments suggest that “next stage” may come soon. Floodwaters in New Orleans contain bacteria associated with sewage that are at least 10 times higher than acceptable safety levels, making direct contact by rescue workers and remaining residents dangerous, the first government tests confirmed Wednesday.
Five deaths in Texas and Mississippi have already been attributed to contact with the toxic water, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.