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Last Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Nervous wait for New Orleans man
Mike O'Brien MP (left) and James Hanna
James Hanna (right) is hoping to return to New Orleans soon
A Warwickshire-based American book dealer is waiting anxiously for news of friends in hurricane-hit New Orleans.

James Hanna, the guiding light behind a project to transform the town of Atherstone into a book-trading centre, came to the UK from the US city.

He still has property in New Orleans' French Quarter, as well as friends in the city and has yet to hear from them following Hurricane Katrina.

Mr Hanna told BBC News he was hoping to return to the US as soon as possible.

Antique furniture

"I have lots of friends over there and a property in the French Quarter," he said.

"It's one of the highest areas of the city. I got a phone message after the hurricane to say the area had avoided the storm. But I think the flooding has now included the French Quarter.

"There are some friends I've still not been able to reach.

I suspect the looting is a case of the have-nots trying to get something
James Hanna

"But most of them went to other cities like Baton Rouge, which is about 50 miles from New Orleans, some have gone to northern Louisiana.

"The belongings I'm most worried about are some pieces of antique furniture made in Pennsylvania in the 1750s. They're in storage in New Orleans, but there's not much I can do about it."

Mr Hannah, who is trying to earn Atherstone a similar reputation for book-trading to the one enjoyed by Hay-on-Wye, said he had experienced hurricanes before.

"It's a tragedy. I've been though several hurricanes and you start taking it lightly as they usually stay off the Gulf Coast."

Guns fear

He added: "The French Quarter has been spared time after time.

"I was there when Hurricane Camille hit about 30 years ago. That shattered the Gulf Coast and killed scores and scores of people. I suspect that this one's going to be as bad."

He added: "I've got mixed feelings (about not being there). I don't think there's much I could do if I was.

"I'm going to wait until all of this Army thing is over (before returning to the US) - they've deployed troops to maintain order.

"There's a housing project next to the French Quarter which is pretty dangerous anyway and full of guns.

"I suspect the looting is a case of the have-nots trying to get something."

He said going back was "not worth getting killed for".

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