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Katrina update: New Orleans is dry

From AFP:

New Orleans is dry, US Army engineers said after pumping almost a quarter of a trillion gallons of water from the storm-soaked city.

The Army Corps of Engineers has "essentially completed unwatering the metropolitan area of New Orleans," corps spokesman Alan Dooley told AFP.

"The city is dry, except for small pooling," Dooley said. "It's when you get down to it that you realize the back side of a block is six inches lower than the front."

Pumping stations that normally work to keep water out of New Orleans, which is a few feet below sea level, were operating to drain remaining pockets of water, according to the corps Task Force Unwatering Team.

It took 43 days of around-the-clock work to patch broken levees and pump out floodwater left by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the corps reported.

Flood walls around the city have been raised to 10 feet (three meters), and the corps was still facing the job of fortifying the levee system, according to Dooley.

"The next steps are all the things that pertain to bringing the levees back to pre-Katrina strength," Dooley said. "That's a lot of earth moving, removing barges from on top of levees. There is much work to be done."

The corps "mission" is to restore the federal levee network to pre-storm condition by June 2006, according to Colonel Richard Wagenaar of the corps.

"I am confident the US Army Corps of Engineers will meet and exceed the significant engineering challenges we face," Wagenaar said in a written release, adding that they "will once again make this city a home to the families and businesses of New Orleans."

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