USA

Local and federal officials, aid agencies, charities, and rescue crews were working in high gear to assist suddenly homeless people along the Gulf Coast, thousands of whom were clinging to whatever they could find above the floodwaters in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Monday's storm left a scene of devastation similar to last year's Indian Ocean tsunami. In New Orleans, waters from Lake Pontchartrain flowed over broken levees, which authorities desperately sought to repair with giant sandbags. (Above, a man rows a styrofoam boat along the city's famous Canal Street.) Eighty deaths were reported in Biloxi, Miss., alone, but fatality estimates were called "probably way too low" by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chert-off. In other developments:

• More than 7,500 National Guard troops were ordered to help control looting, remove mountains of debris, and deliver aid.

• To help offset lost offshore oil production, the government released emergency supplies of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve's underground caverns along the Gulf Coast.

• The Navy sent four ships loaded with relief supplies.

• The Red Cross said it was temporarily housing about 40,000 people in shelters across the area. Others unable to return to their homes were being bused to shelters in Houston.

President Bush cut short his month-long stay in Texas to return to the White House and oversee the federal response to hurricane Katrina. Bush is expected to visit the region by week's end.

Concerned about the possible conversion of inmates to radical, terroristic ways, the FBI will conduct "threat assessments" of prisoners nationwide before their release, the Associated Press reported, citing an an agency letter.

Police and drug-control agents made 427 arrests in a cooperative, 200-city effort to clean up the methamphetamine trade Tuesday. More than 200 pounds of the drug and 56 processing laboratories were seized in Operation Wildfire. Many local law-enforcement officials have identified "meth" as their No. 1 problem.

The attorneys general of Calif-ornia, Oregon, and New Mexico filed a lawsuit in San Francisco, alleging that the Bush administration violated federal law by opening up 90,000 square miles of untouched forests to development without completing an environmental impact study.

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