BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – More areas of New Orleans that escaped flooding from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will be formally reopened starting today, Mayor Ray Nagin said.

The areas include the French Quarter, the Central Business district, and Uptown with its historic Garden District. Business owners will be allowed in today, and residents on Friday.

“The re-entry started Monday and is going very well – exceedingly well,” Nagin told legislators at a hearing Wednesday at the state capitol. “Everything you hoped to happen is happening. Algiers is alive and well and breathing.”

On Monday, Nagin opened the Algiers neighborhood, which has electricity and clean water.

Nagin said checkpoints where officers stop people will be pulled back today so that only areas that were flooded will be off limits. Homes in those areas were heavily flooded and most are likely beyond repair.

If all goes well, as of Oct. 5 only the Lower Ninth Ward, which was hit especially hard by the flooding, will be cordoned off, Nagin said.

Electricity has been restored to some dry parts of the city, but the water is not yet drinkable.

The mayor disagreed with the head of the state’s Health Department about the condition of the city’s water, insisting residents could now wash in it, though they shouldn’t drink it.

“The two things that are absolutely necessary to ensure public health – clean drinking water and proper sewage systems – simply are not available in the east bank area of New Orleans at this time,” said Dr. Fred Cerise, secretary for the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Many residents of the city have returned ahead of Nagin’s official timeline, and the mayor appeared eager Wednesday to get more of them back.

Nagin complained that state opposition was feeding a misperception about New Orleans, saying: “We’re fighting this national impression that we’re tainted, we’re not ready.”

Yet a handout from the mayor’s office to returning motorists struck a more cautious tone than Nagin himself.

“You are entering the city of New Orleans at your own risk,” it reads, before going on to detail health hazards from water, soil and air, and advising residents to bring in food.

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