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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK
Hurricane ruins thriving casino town
By Daniel Lak
BBC News, Gulfport, Mississippi

The destroyed Grand Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi
Casino gambling provided thousands of jobs in Gulfport
Gulfport, Mississippi, was once a tourist town, filled with beach-goers and gamblers drawn to the casinos on barges permanently moored just offshore.

Now, not a building along this coast has been left unscathed by Hurricane Katrina.

The casinos fared even worse. Their colossal steel frames and hulls are now well inland, hurled across streets and parks by the waves.

One of the casinos that used to be anchored off-shore has been lifted right out of the water.

This badly damaged massive pink carcass, eight stories tall and 700ft (230m) long, is now sitting in a car park 200 yards (182m) inland from the beach.

Nearby, there are a couple of boats, again lying several hundred yards inland.

They are stacked up along with trailer trucks and all sorts of vehicles from the casino. It is a complete mess here.

And of course every house in the area is damaged as well. Debris from the surging waters is everywhere, much of it the personal belongings of the thousands of people who have lost their homes.

Nothing is working here. There is no water, no electricity, no refrigeration, no grocery stores.

No petrol is available from the ground because it is all pumped up by electricity - we brought ours in with us from Florida, about 150 miles (241km) away.

Massive task

Everyone else is just making do with the emergency aid that is starting to flow now.

But the task is massive and it has not even begun to reach the many people who need it here.

A ruined beachfront apartment complex in Gulfport, Mississippi
Most of the inhabitants have fled their homes
Officials are still looking for survivors and finding them all of the time, including at least two children who lost their parents.

More than 100 are feared dead, 30 in one block of flats in the neighbouring city of Biloxi alone.

Hardly anyone is left in their homes, they have either fled or had their properties destroyed. Many are looking for shelter, wandering about dazed.

People will try to get home now but the police will not allow them back because there is a 24-hour curfew. That is leading to confrontations with the police.

It is going to take days, weeks, months or more before they get this back to normal. Casino gambling here provided jobs for 14,000 people.

Mississippi's gulf cost casinos generated $500,000 (270,000) a day in gambling taxes alone and every single casino has been wrecked.

Every single hotel is uninhabitable. Anyone from out of town who is here covering this has been sleeping in their vehicle. We did that last night.

The wreck of this town is unbelievable.

See the National Guard relief effort in progress


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