Homeowners face rebuilding delays

Roberta Stewart picks through the muck layering the first floor of her home, her bare legs splattered in mud, her eyes surveying the putrid mess from behind a gas mask. Now that Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters have ebbed, she asks, who will help her rebuild?

“The (builder) I was going to use, who I trust, is in Fort Worth because he lost his house,” Stewart says. “I’ll have to find another contractor.”

That could be a tall order.

With hundreds or even thousands of builders wiped out by Katrina – their tools lost and workers scattered – homeowners looking to rebuild quickly are in for a shock.

The scope of home destruction is so sweeping that it will likely stretch rebuilding for years. It took more than a decade to reconstruct all the homes destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, after it hit Florida in 1992. Katrina destroyed 10 times as many homes as Andrew.

The difficulty of rebuilding could be exacerbated because Gulf Coast contracting has long been the province of small, independent companies without the deep pockets to recover quickly. That has spurred out-of-state contractors to pour into the region, increasing competition for labor and driving up prices.



String of suicide bombings kills at least 60

Three suicide attackers exploded a string of near-simultaneous car bombs in a mainly Shiite town yesterday, killing at least 60 people and wounding 70. Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed five U.S. soldiers fighting in a hotbed of Iraq’s insurgency.

The attacks were part of a new surge of violence ahead of an Oct. 15 referendum on Iraq’s constitution, whose passage is crucial to prospects for starting a withdrawal of American troops. The U.S. ambassador was struggling to negotiate changes to the charter in hopes of winning Sunni Arab support.

Sunni insurgents have vowed to wreck the vote, declaring “all-out war” on the Shiite majority that dominates Iraq’s government. Moderate Sunni Arab leaders called on their community to vote against the charter, saying it will fragment Iraq and leave them weak compared to Shiites and Kurds.


SIDI RAIS, Algeria

Turnout low for peace plan referendum

The pain remains just beneath the surface of this dusty town on the doorstep of the Algerian capital, the scene of one of the bloodiest massacres in an Islamic insurgency that voters yesterday were asked to put behind them.

Few here rushed to cast ballots in the national referendum on a peace plan that absolves many of the insurgents and sidesteps questions about the thousands who disappeared in more than a decade of violence that left an estimated 150,000 dead across the North African country. By noon, four hours after polls opened, the two dozen security officers in and around the Sidi Rais primary school voting station far outnumbered the trickle of voters.



Wildfire forces hundreds to evacuate valley

A wind-whipped 17,000-acre wildfire raced across hills and canyons along the city’s northwestern edge yesterday, threatening homes and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate.

Some 3,000 firefighters aided by aircraft struggled to protect ridgetop houses along the Los Angeles-Ventura county line, a rugged, brushy landscape west of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Officials said the blaze was 5 percent contained as it burned toward such communities as Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Calabasas and Agoura.



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