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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 22:23 GMT 23:23 UK
Katrina home couple deny charges
Salvador and Mabel Mangano leave court
The Manganos said nothing as they left court on Wednesday
The owners of a US nursing home where 35 people died after apparently being abandoned during the Hurricane Katrina disaster have denied manslaughter.

Salvador and Mabel Mangano, who ran St Rita's home outside New Orleans, also denied cruelty charges.

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the couple by patients injured at the nursing home and the families of people who died there.

Last year's storm claimed almost 1,700 lives in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The couple are charged with "intentionally or through criminal negligence" mistreating or neglecting 64 patients.

The Manganos were first arrested by police in Louisiana about two weeks after the 29 August 2005 storm but the grand jury in the case was not able to convene for months because of damage to government buildings and displacement of residents.

The couple said nothing as they left the courthouse in Chalmette, Louisiana, escorted by police after Wednesday's brief appearance.

Bus offer

The elderly residents died in the rising flood waters after the couple allegedly discounted evacuation orders and repeated warnings as the hurricane approached.

The owners allegedly turned down an offer from local officials to take the patients out by bus and did not call in a contract ambulance service.

The Manganos argue that their hurricane plan - to keep frail residents in place with food, water and generators - was a responsible course of action, and that if the levees had held, the tragedy would have been avoided.

Lawyers in the case have been subject to a gagging order.

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