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Majority still in city are refusing rescue

NEW ORLEANS — Clinging to the side staircase of her Basin Street apartment, a 92-year-old woman wailed continuously as her would-be rescuer jumped from an aluminum fishing boat, waded through waist-deep water, and implored the woman to leave her small home and seek shelter.

"It won't do no good if you die here," said John Bayer, a Baton Rouge welder who had volunteered to patrol the waterworld of New Orleans.

The woman shook her head vigorously. "You tell them I'm going to hang in here," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "I'm not leaving my household."

Bayer rubbed her back gently, wished her luck, and scrambled back in the boat to look for more survivors in this poor neighborhood outside the French Quarter.

During three hours of patrol, Bayer's boat picked up eight people. Nearly three times that number ignored or rebuffed the efforts of the floating rescue crew.