Two US planes carrying a team of experts from Germany's Technisches Hilfswerk, the federal agency for technical relief, have left for the Gulf Coast. US President Bush accepted Berlin's offer of help on Sunday.
Help is greatly needed in the submerged remains of the city
The German technical relief team is expected to spend the next few weeks in the ravaged region helping with clean-up efforts in the wake of hurricane Katrina. The 89 experts, who are accompanied by a five-person medical team, are equipped with 15 high performance pumps, capable of pumping 175,000 liters of water per minute.
Dead bodies float down the flooded streets
Berlin, which is funding the Technisches Hilfswerk mission, is also planning to send between 20 and 30 specialists from the Bundeskriminalamt, the Federal Criminal Bureau, to help with the difficult task of identifying the bodies of Katrina's victims. Government spokesman Bela Anda said Germany would be sending some 40 tons of food to the US.
The situation in New Orleans remains critical.
Following an evacuation order issued by the city mayor, Ray Nagin, National Guard troops in the southern city are looking for thousands of people still thought to be trapped in the ruins of their homes of the city once famed for its party atmosphere.
Hide and seek
As many as 10,000 stragglers, who are surrounded by a toxic soup of garbage, human excrement and corpses, have been without water or electricity for more than a week. And although many of them are waiting desperately for their turn to be rescued, others have resigned themselves to the ruling to clear the city.
"Those who don't want us to find them, they hide," Gregg Brown, a South Carolina game warden who is involved in the search, told the Reuters news agency.
One New Orleans resident told reporters that he had no money, nowhere to go and that if he was going to be miserable, he'd sooner be miserable where he is.
Although Washington has accepted help from abroad, pressure over the president's handling of the catastrophe continues to mount. While the Senate Homeland Security Committee has already launched one inquiry, the Democrats are demanding an independent probe into the government response to the Gulf Coast storm.
Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, has said any inquiry should look into whether the president's long summer holiday at his Texas ranch influenced the government response.
President Bush is under fire for his handling of the disaster
Bush's majority Republicans only agreed on Wednesday to a joint Senate-House of Representatives investigation to look into the actions of "all levels of government." Bush, who has also promised to lead his own inquiry, would not say whether any aides would be fired over the slow response that he has admitted was unacceptable.
He admitted that any inquiry will have to look at the links between federal and local authorities in handling such disasters -- hinting that the federal authorities should take a stronger hand.
Politics at play
Both Ray Nagin, and the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, have accused Washington of holding up the rescue.
A survey conducted by the newspaper USA Today said 25 percent of Americans criticized local authorities and 18 percent the state of Louisiana for the chaos. But the president doesn't escape. Forty-two percent of those asked said he had handled Katrina "badly" or "very badly". Thirty-five percent backed Bush's effort.
A tiny patch of wreckage
Republicans have accused Democrats of playing politics with their attacks and diverting attention from the rescue effort.
Democrats, meanwhile, also seized upon what they say are clumsy remarks by the Republican speaker in the House, Dennis Hastert, who was forced to retract comments questioning whether rebuilding New Orleans was worth the cost and by Barbara Bush, the president's mother, that the "underprivileged" of Louisiana were better off in their emergency shelter in the Houston Astrodome stadium, and that it was "working very well for them."