Mayor: Katrina Death Toll May Hit 10,000

New Orleans mayorRay Nagin says the death toll from Hurricane Katrina may top 10,000.

Mayor: Katrina Death Toll May Hit 10,000 (AP)

One week after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region, miles-long lines of vehicles crawled into Jefferson Parish on Monday as residents were allowed to return to salvage what was left of their homes. New Orleans’ mayor warned that 10,000 people may have died.


A week after the storm, a definitive death toll remained elusive. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warned on NBC’s “Today” that “it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have 10,000” dead.

Despite the grim estimate, he was more upbeat than in previous days, when he railed against the federal government and broke down sobbing during a radio interview. “We’re making great progress now, the momentum has picked up. I’m starting to see some critical tasks being completed,” he told NBC. “The 17th Street canal is about or was about 84 percent closed in yesterday afternoon. We have more troops arriving, so we’re starting to make the kind of progress that I kind of expected earlier.”

Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that fewer than 10,000 people remained in the city, based on aerial reconnaissance. “This is not a city under siege,” he added on NBC. “This city needs help from the big people in America and its technology to get back on its feet. We are focused on the future. We have to finish the search-and-rescue and provide food and water from an area from Mobile (Ala.) to the east side of New Orleans, up to I-20 in Mississippi. This is a pig-big piece of terrain. There are people there that need help. We will do the best we can to get it to them.”

The toll from Katrina will be horrific, but the truth is we have no idea how many people were killed and likely won’t for quite some time. Indeed, given that the most likely victims were quite poor and off the radar screen, we may never know the precise number.

Coincidentally, we’re now learning that the death toll from the 1986 Chernobyl leak was a tiny fraction of that originally feared.

Chernobyl Death Toll May Be Less Than Feared (AP)

Fewer than 50 deaths have been directly attributed to radiation released in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, and the final toll could be thousands fewer than originally feared, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Monday. However, anxiety caused by fear of death and illness from radiation poisoning is causing major mental health problems among the affected population and such worries “show no signs of diminishing and may even be spreading,” the agency said, citing a new report compiled by 100 scientists.

The report said the final death toll attributed to radiation could reach 4,000, an estimate supported by all the agencies and affected governments, said Dr. Fred Mettler, a scientist who helped compile the report on behalf of the Chernobyl Forum, a group that includes the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, seven other U.N. agencies and the governments of Ukraine — where Chernobyl is located — Belarus and Russia. Ukraine has previously said it had already registered 4,400 deaths related to the accident, and early speculation following the radiation release predicted tens of thousands would die.

The 600-page report says a lack of accurate information about the accident’s consequences has made the mental health impact “the largest public health problem created by the accident.” “These problems manifest as negative self-assessments of health, belief in a shortened life expectancy, lack of initiative and dependency on assistance from the state,” the agency said in a statement.

Community leaders and health care workers ought to receive better information about the accident’s effects so that they can help counter false fears, it said. “Persistent myths and misperceptions about the threat of radiation have resulted in ‘paralyzing fatalism’ among residents of affected areas,” it added. The report also says there is no evidence of decreased fertility following the accident, nor of any increase in congenital malformations.

Given the more direct nature of the devastation from Katrina, we won’t have to wait nineteen years to get a reasonable estimate. But early estimates of disaster totals are usually wildly high.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Binfo says:

    Nagin is the one who caused all of these deaths. Bush was on top of this from the get go. The liberal Mayor and GOvernor hoarded all of the FEMA relief aid to make themselves look good. Any excessive deaths are the responsibility of Nagin.

  2. bryan says:

    I’ve been amazed at the constant call for numbers from the press. This story is only one example. Every time someone is interviewed, I hear the question: “any idea how many victims.” To be honest, Nagin is just pulling numbers out of his butt at this point. It’s not inconceivable that there are more than 10,000 dead. But it’s also not inconceivable that there are fewer than 3,000.

    Remember that the initial estimates from 9/11 were upwards of 5-6,000 as well, or even higher.

  3. ChrisH says:

    Binfo, when you write things like: “Bush was on top of this from the get go.,” my only response is to ask you if I can please have some of what you are smoking, because that must be some real good stuff to take you so far away from reality.

    By the way, my political affiliation is undeclared, so any attempts to call me a liberal moonbat, or whatever it is folks who think Bush can do no wrong call the “other” side, will sail over my head and cause me no harm.


  4. DC Loser says:

    Dang those nasty liberals wanting to show dead bodies to make Bush look bad.

  5. john cooke says:

    almost from the git-go when everything out of controll the mayor of New Orleans and the Gov. of La. began blasting the federal gov.(Pres. Bush) when it was evident they were the fault. I can see it from the mayor, I have never seen a black person take the blame for anything, its always whitey’s fault. They should tar and feather that piece of crap and run him out of town.

    john cooke
    glendale, mo

  6. Sub_Hunter says:

    As is quite often the case, the REAL number will never be known. Reason: unless someone shows up to claim the body, the government will not include it in the body count. I know this for a fact because I worked for SBA/FEMA during Hurricane Andrew and I saw stacks of bodies collected after the storm that were never claimed. Since they were “illegals” hired to pick crops, no one came around to claim the body and as far as anyone else was concerned, the death did not happen. That’s why the death toll was so low in a major metro area and why no one wants to have the real answer published.