With hundreds, if not thousands, of people still stranded in flooded homes, attics and rooftops across the city, rescue boats were bypassing the dead to reach the living, Mayor C. Ray Nagin said.
''We're not even dealing with dead bodies,'' Nagin said. ''They're just pushing them on the side.''
A few more feet of water could wipe out the entire city water system, said Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security chief.
The intestates are impassable, the bridges may be unstable and no one knows if the buildings can withstand the damage brought by Katrina, the governor said after flying over the region.
''We saw block after block, neighborhood and neighborhood inundated,'' Blanco said, her voice breaking with emotion. ''It's just heartbreaking.''
Sean Jeffries of New Orleans had already been evacuated from one French Quarter hotel when he was ordered out of a second hotel Tuesday because of rising water.
The 37-year-old banker -- who admitted to looting some food from a nearby supermarket -- said the hotel guests were told they were being taken to a convention center, but from there, they didn't know.
''We're in the middle of a national tragedy,'' he said as he popped purloined grapes in his mouth. ''But I know this city. We will be back. It may take awhile. But we will be back.''
(c)The Associated Press