updated 9/10/2005 8:54:42 PM ET 2005-09-11T00:54:42

The harbor showed signs of life Saturday as the Coast Guard allowed limited commercial traffic for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

The storm had hurled industrial equipment, lumber and other debris into the city’s bay, dumping pollutants into the water and making the area hazardous for ships.

“Getting these waterways open is the top priority for me,” said Lt. Josh Rose of the Coast Guard’s waterways management branch.

Many fishing and shrimping boats also returned to the bay for the first time Saturday after being docked in protected waters. They had been stuck behind a broken draw bridge, which was finally opened Friday night, allowing fishermen to seek repairs.

Despite the progress, many shrimpers said it’s unlikely they will be back to work this year. Much of the seafood-processing infrastructure along the Gulf Coast has been destroyed.

Damage assessment hits a toxic snag
Divers on Saturday also had to scrap plans to survey the water’s debris and the underwater damage to the city’s bridges. They called off the dive after peering into the polluted water.

Authorities said results of tests on the water would be available Sunday, and divers will decide then whether to go down.

About 131,000 homes and businesses remained without power Saturday following the hurricane that left at least 211 people dead in the state. Those lacking electricity were coping with temperatures in the 90s.

“My biggest concern now is the heat,” said Jamie McCloud, 28, of Waveland. She has been keeping her four children cool by wiping them off with a cloth dipped in water cooled by ice.

At Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, officials estimated it will take $500 million to repair the military complex and base housing. The base’s medical center, which is the second largest in the Air Force, is shut down, except for emergency services operating out of tents in the parking lot.

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