Final Katrina death toll put at 972 as search is called off

A private company is on call in Louisiana if more corpses are found. "There might still be bodies found - for instance, if a house was locked and nobody able to go into it," said Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

As schoolchildren are starting to return to classes and New Orleans accelerates its efforts to recover from Katrina, job losses are taking their toll.

Mr Nagin said that up to 3,000 employees - half of those on the city's payroll - will lose their jobs because of the damage done to New Orleans' finances. "I wish I didn't have to do this," the Mayor said. "I wish we had the money, the resources to keep these people."

He said only non-essential workers would lose their jobs and no firefighters or police would be made redundant.

Yesterday, the Justice Department waived part of a new bankruptcy law for some victims of Hurricane Katrina, saying they would not have to go through credit counselling before filing for bankruptcy. The stricter bankruptcy law, which makes it harder for heavily indebted Americans to wipe out their obligations, was passed by Congress last spring and goes into effect on 17 October.

Meanwhile, former president Bill Clinton met residents from the New Orleans area who are staying in a shelter in Baton Rouge's convention centre. The evacuees, many of whom have been sleeping in the concrete hall for more than a month, complained of lack of showers, clean clothes, privacy and medical care.

Mr Clinton is working with former president George Bush to raise money for victims.

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