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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK
New Orleans residents return home
Danny Newchurch returns to his home in the Algiers district of New Orleans
Danny Newchurch is among the Algiers residents returning home
Residents of New Orleans have begun to return to parts of the city, a month after Hurricane Katrina struck.

People have been allowed back to the Algiers district, across the Mississippi from the low-lying centre.

It was spared the worst of the flooding brought by Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which struck further West on Saturday.

However much of New Orleans remains flooded as a result of Katrina. It will be some time before residents can return is large numbers, officials say.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy in New Orleans said those arriving on Monday found complete devastation.

I knew it was going to be horrible but I still had to see it with my own eyes
Maria DeMaggio
Maria DeMaggio, wearing a mask to protect herself against the smell, searched in overturned, rotting wooden cupboards for her dead mother's wedding ring.

"I knew it was going to be horrible but I still had to see it with my own eyes," she said.

"This was all my mum's stuff - all the stuff she loved. I hate to see any of this just go."

Working services

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin began to reopen Algiers last week, but the plan was suspended as Rita was approaching the Louisiana-Texas border.

He had originally hoped to bring back about 180,000 of the city's half-million residents.

On Monday the mayor said in a statement: "With Hurricane Rita behind us, the task at hand is to bring New Orleans back.

"We want people to return and help us rebuild the city."

However, he added, "we want everyone to assess the risks and make an informed decision about re-entry plans".

The mayor urged elderly people and children to stay away.

Algiers, unlike much of New Orleans, has working power, water and sewer services, AFP news agency reports.

Some shops have already reopened.

'Own risk'

An information sheet handed to those returning said: "Welcome home!", but warned: "You are entering the city of New Orleans at your own risk."

If my brother and father had not gone to rescue my uncle and grandma, she would have died of dehydration
Cheryl, San Antonio, Tx, USA

Business owners in several other areas would be allowed to inspect and clean up their property, officials said.

However much of the city remains under the mayor's evacuation order.

Elsewhere, along the coast of Texas and Louisiana, the emergency services are beginning to count the cost of Hurricane Rita, which struck on Saturday.

There is reported to be little loss of life, after the storm missed major population centres, but a great deal of flooding and damage to property.

Low-lying towns and villages in the immediate path of the hurricane have been devastated, and hundreds are still feared stranded.

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