The death toll from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is expected to reach the thousands in what is considered one of the United State's worst natural disasters, according to US authorities.
In addition to deaths resulting from the wrath of last week's hurricane, thousands will be affected by Katrina's aftermath, as disease and other hygiene related deaths mount.
According to US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, an untold number of people may have died of hunger or thirst in their homes or even in temporary shelters following the hurricane.
"I think we need to prepare the country for what's coming," Chertoff told reporters.
The lack of clean drinking water in parts of the Gulf Coast region and standing flood waters with decomposing bodies and human waste in the streets of New Orleans could cause a rash of infectious diseases, including West Nile virus and the often fatal E. coli bacteria, according to Xinhua.
US President Gearge W. Bush has been criticized for moving too slowly to help storm victims in its aftermath.